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My Only Angel

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"Honestly, I don't think I feel a spark with any of them. They're all nice lads, and I can see being friends with most of them… but I've definitely not been swept off my feet."

Henrik flopped on the bed, with a mischievous look on his face.

"No prizes for guessing who you fancy then?" he laughed, his eyes not quite matching his chirpy words. He gazed at the paused screen, where Fox sat speaking to the camera. 

"I know, I know," Lucas grinned sheepishly while closing the laptop. "But it's hard to tell just from watching. I'm sure we'll both be surprised when we get in there."

"Fair point!" Henrik rummaged around for his phone. "I like the look of Lottie too but I'm not convinced she wouldn't eat me."

Lucas snorted, as he began scrolling through his own feeds. There wasn't much new info - Fox was a fan favourite along with Bobby, people were suspicious of Hope and Noah, Priya would be in high demand with the glossy mags when she exited, and the memes around Gary and Rocco were going strong.

He hadn't been able to find out much about Fox - her job description seemed intentionally vague and there were no friends stepping forward to grab headlines on her name.

Mindlessly scrolling didn't do much to calm his nerves, and he felt his anxiety starting to flare. He fished for his headphones, opening spotify on his 'relax' playlist.

Henrik started giggling, probably lost in memes again, and Lucas was glad he wasn't going in tomorrow by himself. He'd been a bit taken aback by the young Swede at first, not used to someone who spoke their mind so directly, but they got on well. Unfortunately they seemed to have similar taste in women, both keen to impress one girl in particular. 

Still, hopefully Fox would get the spark she was looking for. It was with embarrassment that he'd admitted even to himself how much he was looking forward to seeing her in the morning. It's not like she was the only woman in the villa but… Lucas couldn't explain it, not really. 

He needed to meet her.

~~~

Henrik had barely got back out of the pool he'd cannonballed into on arrival, when a happy greeting sounded behind them both.

"Hey there!" Fox grinned, completely at ease as she welcomed them. Wearing a striking bikini, both men found it a little difficult to get their words out. 

Lucas introduced himself, as did Henrik, and he noticed the other man puffing up his chest a little.

"The others are still asleep, though I'm sure they're not far behind me," she explained.

"You didn't wake them?" Lucas smirked. "How cheeky! I love it."

She beamed at him, biting her lip slightly and his nerves started to recede, replaced by something else.

"You've gotta tell me," she continued to both of them, "how bad are the memes?"

Doing their best Rocco impressions (not hard to be fair), he watched her reaction closely for any sign of protectiveness towards her current partner. Instead he realised she was letting her gaze linger on him with a smile. 

Before he could react the other girls were upon them. Drowning in bikinis was not a bad way to go, and both men laughed at the onslaught of questions.

Lucas tried hard not to cringe when questioned about his 'poshness', an attribute often used as one of his major drawbacks, and something that Henrik had soon realised was a dangerous area for jokes. As they all made their way to the firepit for further questioning, he realised Fox was the only girl that hadn't smirked at that conversation, instead only smiling and then looking… concerned? 

Huh. About my being 'posh'... or could she tell I was uncomfortable? 

~~~

Arriving at the date location, Lucas had a little time to reflect on the previous discussion at the fire pit. Gary was obviously uncomfortable with the new arrivals but he didn't seem jealous so it would probably pass. Bobby was fun, Ibrahim seemed a little reserved, Noah was cool but hidden behind Hope, and Rocco was definitely feeling threatened. 

He smiled to himself a little at that. As for the girls, both Priya and Fox had definitely seemed interested with Fox again seeming to pick up on his discomfort, this time reassuring him and giving a little flirt later on for good measure. 

Even if the previous was my imagination, that definitely wasn't. 

He also noted that both Lottie and Priya seemed to look to Fox a lot of the time, as did all of the guys including Noah. Henrik had definitely been soaking up more female attention, and his very unique brand of humour had certainly won everyone over.

It still felt surreal, seeing the Villa and everyone in it up close, but he didn't mind being the centre of attention as long as everyone was in good spirits. 

Now all he had to do was pick three girls for dates, and drink wine in the Spanish countryside. Life was not bad at all.

~~~

He didn't know why he was so annoyed. Obviously Henrik would pick some of the same girls, and they'd be juggled so the dates took up the same amount of time. 

Still, he couldn't help glancing over at Henrik's table during the first dates, as Fox laughed at the Swede's over the top flirting.

"You look worried," Hope smirked as she leaned forward, her eyes twinkling a little.

Shit. 

"It's just so weird being here," he covered with a laugh. "I feel like I've stepped into a television!" 

"I know exactly what you mean!" Hope launched into a long explanation of her work in television and something about… squids? He couldn't quite remember. 

~~~

"Wow, you look amazing," he rose to greet Fox as she smiled at him warmly.

She was wearing a bold red dress, and seemed perfectly at ease as they sat down. 

"Aww thanks, Lucas," she blushed slightly.

"Um," he hesitated, his words disappearing from his mind as his nerves took hold. 

She smiled at him, encouragingly, as he floundered. 

"Are you glad I picked you for this date?" he asked. 

Whyyyy. I'm an idiot. 

"There's nowhere I'd rather be right now." 

Is that politeness or flirting? 

It was his turn to blush as he realised she wasn't at all phased by his slight awkwardness. Recovering, the rest of the date went smooth as silk as Lucas felt back on his game, asked a question a friend had recommended, and he even got confirmation she wasn't feeling her current coupling. 

A kiss on the cheek before she turned to leave, sent his thoughts back into a tailspin.

"At the end of the day, I'm only here because I want to find the right person," he began, before she left. "And I know it's early days and everything, but I really feel that might happen-"

Noooo, way too full on! 

"-Not that I'm saying it might be with you or anything!-" 

That's worse! 

"Not that that, like, wouldn't be be nice if it happened, or-" 

KILL ME NOW 

"I'm just trying to say, it's not like I'm saying that…" 

Fox laughed, and put her hand to his chest to signal him to stop.

"It's cool, I get it, " she smiled at him, stopping his mind from yelling obscenities at himself and making his heart flutter beneath her palm all in one. 

"Thanks," he laughed in relief. "Wow, that was embarrassing. I bet they'll put that disaster on TV and everything."

"I thought it was cute," she reassured him with a blush.

"Ah, well that's all I needed to hear," Lucas grinned, as choirs of angels broke out in his mind. "Thanks for the date, Fox." 

He drummed his fingers on the table as he watched her walk away, and smiled to himself. The date hadn't exactly gone as he'd planned but perhaps that was a good thing. He could do smooth and suave, but it often resulted in his awkward side not being received well. And the less said about his anxious side the better.

Fox seemed to have her own field of calm, and an exceptional skill at reading him. He knew from watching a previous challenge that she was a good judge of character and honesty, but very few people had looked at him and seen him so quickly.

He'd been hoping for a spark but instead he felt the pull of something far stronger… and scarier. He could only hope she felt it too. 

~~~

"Lucas, Henrik! Come on in!"

The men beamed at Fox as she cut through the social barriers of the villa that evening. It wasn't that the others hadn't been welcoming - Noah in particular had made an effort to keep them included - but she was a natural at keeping everything flowing and noticing when anyone needed a little help.

Gary was turning a game into a hive of innuendo, and while normally Lucas would laugh along, the crane enthusiast's tension was grating against his own anxiety unpleasantly.

Fox seemed a little more distant from Gary than she'd been in previous days, or at least on the show highlights, and he wondered if Lottie had made her move on him yet. Henrik had confirmed to him with a sigh that the Australian was definitely taken, even if her prospective suitor didn't yet know it.

It was odd, coming in with some prior knowledge but not really being able to use it, or know what was genuinely true and what had been edited into a narrative.

As Hope and Noah followed Gary onto the lawn, Lucas asked Fox if she'd chat with him up on the roof terrace. It was quieter up there, and comforting to get away from the claustrophobia of the ground floor.

"Sorry to get you away from the party," Lucas rubbed the back of his neck as he leaned against the wall. "I wanted to say thank you for making me feel so welcome. I don't want to be stepping on anyone's toes though. But it means a lot, so thank you-" 

I already said thank you argh

"-which I've now said too many times and now it sounds weird… what am I like?"

A total, utter-

"You're totally welcome," she smiled before adding with a cheeky wink, "and definitely not stepping on any toes." 

"I appreciate that so much," he grinned in relief. "Both parts. It's weird coming in when everyone is already coupled-"

"Fox?" Rocco called from below. "Where you at?"

"Speak of the devil," Lucas gave a small scowl.

"Oh?" she asked with a glint in her eye. "I thought the devil was in front of me."

"Ha!" he laughed, blushing. "I like that. I'd better go find the other newbie and make sure he's not standing in a corner staring into his drink."

He paused before going down the stairs.

"Talk again soon?" he asked, hopefully.

"Count on it," she grinned.

~~~

Rocco was very easy to wind up. It's not that he was a bad guy per say, and in other circumstances Lucas might have - okay no, we'd never have got on, let's be real. 

But he had the distinct feeling Rocco was already looking for another partner, and he knew from Noah's quiet information that Fox had not in fact done any bits with the guy. So there was no harm surely in pushing him that bit further along, right? 

Priya was enjoying their back and forth, and he noticed her waving to someone approaching. Calculating his odds, he shut Rocco down particularly hard before confessing he was just teasing him. 

He turned to see an amused Fox watching them both. 

"Lucas was just telling us all about his plans to travel and help people around the world for Doctors Without Borders," Rocco explained.

"Rocco thinks his food truck is the same thing," added Lucas, with a slight smile.

"Motorbike or truck, what's the difference?" scowled the food truck owner.

"Neither are bad obviously," Fox replied with a raised eyebrow before turning to Lucas, "but I do think it's amazing that you want to join Doctors Without Borders."

Priya agreed as Rocco scowled further. 

"I bet I could take you to places you've never been," he crooned at Priya, as the air turned distinctly frosty. 

Fox rolled her eyes, before looking at Lucas with a smile.

"I'm more interested in the places Lucas could take me," she smirked. "Did I hear you say you own a motorbike?"

"Sure do," Lucas replied, grinning. "I'd love to take you for a ride sometime, if you're up for that." 

Yes! Smooth. 

He threw her a wink, delighted at her cheekiness. Rocco made his excuses and left, though Lucas barely noticed due to the celebration in his mind. 

"Well that was…" he trailed off.

"That was Lucas," Priya sighed. 

"I'm sorry babe," Fox turned to her friend with genuine concern. "He's so focused on himself, he doesn't even realise when he makes women uncomfortable."

"You're not bothered by it?" Priya relaxed and Lucas realised that he hadn't seen how tense she'd become in the last minute. 

"I'm not bothered with him to be quite honest," Fox smiled at her. "Only on your behalf"

"Aww, you sweetie," the girls hugged before Priya's phone beeped loudly. 

~~~

"Does anyone mind if I have a turn?"

"Listen to how polite he is!" Hope cooed. "You go ahead, honey."

With a slight blush, Lucas picked the top card from the pile. The game was essentially 'Kiss and Tell' as the guys and girls competed to answer questions by kissing the right person on the opposite team. 

"The girl who was once kicked out of a club for dancing on the tables…" 

The boys huddled together.

"Surely that could be any of them," Gary laughed. "I think only Hannah definitely wouldn't have done that!"

"It's gotta be someone who'd also get kicked out for doing it though," Bobby mused.

"And someone loud enough to be caught," Noah trailed off. "Though otherwise I'd say it would probably be Fox." 

"Really?" asked Ibrahim, "She's pretty out there but she's not really attention seeking I'd say."

"It's not attention seeking if you're drunk though," Gary hesitated. "Uh, not that I'd know or anything. At all."

"She is a really good dancer," mused Bobby.

"How do you know that?" asked Henrik.

Bobby tapped the side of his nose with a wink. Lucas felt the stirrings of jealousy before remembering that Fox had said to camera she could see Bobby being her new best pal. 

"I could see Fox doing it," Rocco supplied, snapping him back to the present. "Or Marisol. Or Lottie. Or-"

"Alright mate, we get the idea!" Lucas smirked. 

"It's a tough one," summarised Noah, "but given the odds I'd say… give it a shot."

As the boys went back to their spots, Noah threw him a surreptitious wink. 

"Ladies, are you ready?" asked Lucas, putting on his best swagger as he strolled straight over to Fox and leaned in for a kiss.

His heart was hammering in his chest at how close they were, his nerves swept aside by the mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

She closed the gap and kissed him softly, short enough to not be scandalous, but lingering far longer than the pecks she'd given Gary on the previous rounds. 

Up close she smelled like spring, somehow fresher and clearer than even the Spanish sunshine. He pulled away with a smile, slightly flushed.

Oh, I'm sunk. 

"Good answer, but wrong!" Priya announced.

"What? How?" Bobby put on his best exaggerated shocked face.

"Obviously it's Hope," laughed Priya.

"I should have seen that coming, to be fair," Noah smiled innocently as Lucas passed him with a grin. 

Marisol picked the next card, tasked to find the boy who got a monthly back, sack and crack wax. The guys already knew this one, and Lucas wondered whether they'd guess the innocent looking Bobby correctly.

Instead, Marisol broke away from the discussion and marched straight over to Rocco, pouncing on him for a full open-mouthed kiss.

"Did you not hear us saying it definitely wasn't Rocco?" Hope asked incredulously. 

As everyone spun towards Fox for her reaction, she simply shrugged her shoulders.

"What? It's just a game," she dismissed the attention on her with a smile. 

The other girls were decidedly less impressed, and Lottie's temper was beginning to crack.

The next card was Rocco's, challenging him to find the girl who cancelled a romantic weekend with her boyfriend to console a friend stood up on a blind date.

Lottie sneered that it clearly wouldn't be Marisol as it had to be someone who put her friends before men. 

I've got a bad feeling about this. 

Lucas leaned forward to hear the deliberations but Rocco was already walking to the other side where he announced the answer was obviously someone who was "passionate, fiery and always true to what she wants." 

He kissed Marisol, at length, as the stage went quiet. They were kissing hard, tongues and hands everywhere. Nobody knew where to look, but Lucas's eyes met Fox's across the stage. Her jaw was clenched but she rolled her eyes with a shrug. 

He realised she wasn't too surprised. 

Huh. 

Lottie looked at her angrily.

"Uh, nope," Fox offered. "Correct answer was me."

"Babes, that's hardly the point!" fumed Lottie. "These two are using the challenge to get off with each other! You should-" 

"Uh, guys," Bobby interrupted Mount Lottie before she fully erupted. "Emotions are running pretty high but we could do one more card. Shall we carry on?"

"Sure," agreed Fox, looking appreciative. "Let's do it."

Bobby grinned with delight and ran to the stack of cards, flicking through them before pulling one out. He handed it over to Fox, whispering something to her before walking back to his position.

"Okay I'm looking for the boy who has…" she turned the card over and laughed, "been caught out naked in public." 

"Wait - what?" Lottie burst out laughing, followed by everyone else. 

The girls huddled up whispering, and Lucas could just make out Lottie agreeing it could be any guy given the mystery of what happens on lads nights out. His heart started to race again.

As the girls went back to their positions, Fox walked towards him confidently.

"You really think it's me?" he smirked.

She nodded her head, while mouthing the word, "no". 

She leaned forward and pressed herself against him, sliding her hands up his back. He wrapped his arms around her waist, tipping her back slightly and taking her weight as she gently nipped his lower lip. Their tongues met as he growled softly, pulling her against his body more tightly. 

He really didn't want to stop this kiss, but he reluctantly lifted her back to her feet properly, pulling back with a smile of delight at her slightly dazed expression.

"Completely succulent," Henrik announced, earning a laugh from Ibrahim, before the Swede announced the answer was him.

Something about a swamp monster and a park warden and Lucas didn't really care, his gaze kept returning to her as she laughed at Henrik's story, her hair still a bit mussed from their kiss.

He really needed to kiss her again.

~~~

It wouldn't be accurate to say the boys were hiding indoors that evening, but it wouldn't be entirely wrong either. Lucas looked out from the kitchen as a glammed up Fox walked past, heading towards the daybeds were Marisol sat.

"Is it all gonna kick off do you think?" Gary asked, popping up beside him.

"Nah," Lucas shook his head, "I don't think that's Fox's style."

"No, but it is Lottie's style," said Bobby with a grimace. "It's not her fight but she'll take full offence on her pal's behalf, whether wanted or not."

"She loves her mates," Gary was quick with the reply, and more than a bit defensive.

"Can't disagree with that," smiled Bobby, "and I'm not exactly Rocco's biggest fan. Grafting on people is one thing but it's not too much to expect some honesty."

"Especially with Fox," Lucas growled.

"She doesn't forgive dishonesty," Noah spoke up, his voice rumbling through the room. "She mentioned that after the 'two truths and a lie' challenge."

Lucas turned round with interest - a lot of the daily conversations had been omitted from the broadcasts as he'd discovered.

"We were chatting about trust and honesty and that kind of thing," Noah continued, "and she said of all the things that hurt, dishonesty is the one she can't look past. Because she can't forgive someone if she can't fully 100% believe what they say."

"It's a good policy to have," Lucas frowned. "Everyone makes mistakes, but lying is another matter."

"Yeah, I'd agree with that," nodded Bobby, "and I know I joke about that stuff, but honesty is important to me. Dishonesty leads to hurt feelings at best, and broken hearts at worst."

He sighed.

"Depressing topic though, let's talk aliens again!" 

~~~

From his seat at the fire pit, Lucas saw Marisol storm down the roof terrace stairs and back into the main Villa. Soon enough the other girls passed, all but Fox.

He was just about to get up and head to the roof terrace when he saw her approach. She was wearing the sparkliest outfit he'd ever seen, a silver playsuit that fitted like a minidress with an incredibly deep neckline.

"Damn," he whistled. "You look deadly beautiful."

"That's me," she laughed playfully, "a killer queen."

"Guaranteed to blow my mind?" he quipped.

"Bingo," she smirked. 

"There's a bit of a frosty atmosphere round here tonight," he pretended to shiver, warming his hands by the fire. "Come and join me?"

She smiled, and walked in to sit down along from him.

"What are you doing all the way over there?" he grinned. "I meant, come sit next to me."

She laughed and scooched along to sit next to him, sticking her tongue out cheekily. He moved closer still, so their legs were just touching. She sighed, and seemed a little smaller than usual.

"So, what are you up to?" he asked. "I thought you'd be at the centre of all the drama tonight, but I'd like it if you had time to hang out here with me." 

He was pretty sure he was reading the signs correctly, and very sure he was managing to be almost completely smooth with minimum awkwardness. But given that Rocco had been so pushy, he was mindful of giving her an out at anytime.

"It's a beautiful night," she smiled, looking up at the stars before bringing her eyes back to his face. "Why wouldn't I want to spend some time with someone like you?"

He blushed a little at that. 

Why am I blushing so much, I never blush!! 

"All this drama is doing my head in," she continued, her hand drumming on her thigh restlessly. "There's no escape."

Lucas swallowed down his next line and looked at her more closely. Her shoulders were incredibly tense, and her body stiff.

"I'm all ears if you want to talk about it?" he asked, noting the automatic "no" forming on her lips. "I really don't mind, in fact I'm happy to help."

She blinked at that and looked at him more intently.

"Maybe… yeah actually," she replied, "that'd be good. I have to watch what I say with the girls. They're great but they can pounce on any misstep."

"How are you feeling about everything?" he asked, trying to ban his medical professional voice from taking over.

"Contradictory," laughed Fox. "Which, I know, off to a great start."

"Complex situations give complex feels," he offered.

"Is that the technical medical term?" she joked, and he grinned in response. "I feel both annoyed and relieved. I'm relieved that Rocco finally gave up on making it work with me, even though telling him point blank didn't work previously." 

She crinkled her nose, adorably.

"And it feels petty to also then be pissed off," she continued, "but he could have just told me. And Marisol could have just told me. It's not like I'm the kind of person who blows up in anger. I just…"

She trailed off, looking at the ground.

"Would have appreciated the heads up?" he offered. 

"Exactly!" she let out a sigh of relief. "Exactly. If I'd known I wouldn't have even blinked, it's not like I had feelings for Rocco and it's fairly obvious, um-" 

She blushed, and looked away.

"-that my attention had been caught elsewhere. Erm. So yeah, it's just the not telling me that has caused unnecessary drama. For other people as well as me."

Lucas couldn't help the smile that had broken out on his face, but he tried to shrug it aside. 

"Well," he gathered his thoughts, "other people's upset isn't under your control, and you being upset by the dishonesty is just as valid. Moreso in fact. Regardless of where your attention was. Or is."

She looked at him, tilting her head slightly in thought.

"Huh," she said, her shoulders relaxing. "Thank you, that actually helped."

She smiled, seeming more like herself again. 

"Y'know, when you came to sit down I was going to offer to take your mind off things," he grinned.

"Well you'd done that already, mister," she laughed.

He breathed deeply, preparing himself.

"I know you have a lot of mixed feelings right now," he paused, frowning a little. "I don't want to make things more difficult for you, but I need to say this…"

She turned towards him further, and he noted she was still relaxed before he continued.

"I can't stop thinking about that kiss we had before…"

He trailed off with a soft smile, his heart hammering in his chest. She smiled at him, and reached out to touch his hand. He threaded his fingers with hers, feeling lightheaded at just a hand hold.

"Well, I just want to say," she responded, "that you look amazing tonight."

"You really think so?" the surprise left his mouth before his brain could stop it and he blushed furiously. "Thank you, that means a lot."

More blushing, jeez. 

"And also," she squeezed his hand, "I'll get things squared away with Rocco properly tomorrow. And then we should revisit that kiss."

"I like that plan," he grinned. "Being out here in the firelight, it's been a weird kind of day - for us both - but this definitely makes it better."

She beamed at him, and stood up.

"It definitely does," she agreed, standing to leave. "Sweet dreams, tiger." 

~~~

Chapter Text

With the prospect of being judged by the girls later to see who was most datable, Lucas found himself the next morning playing wingman to Henrik as the Swede attempted to impress Lottie on the lawn.

Seeing Fox approach in a banging yellow cut-out swimsuit, Henrik went into high gear.

"I always make sure first dates aren't too expensive," he began, as she sat down in the beanbags next to them. "I don't like to make anyone feel like they have to spend money on me. You can't beat a hike up a mountain."

"Where do I sign up?" she grinned. "You can't keep me away from nature for too long."

"I'll show you the ropes someday!" Henrik promised, with his usual hyper enthusiasm. "You'd make any view a better one, Fox." 

"She would," Lottie smirked. "I love a bit of an adventure…" 

Fox winked at her, making her laugh.

"My kind of adventure is trooping around the city looking for a great pop-up restaurant," Lucas began. "And, like, I'm not being funny, but imagine sitting across the table from Fox. What could be better? Good wine, good conversation, good food, and you're all good!" 

So many goods, good grief. 

"Well, there are other people in the villa you know," protested Lottie as Fox blushed.

"I'd love to eat out with Lucas," she replied. "I mean not eat out eat out, actual eat out… oh my god."

Ha! She is adorable. 

She gave up with a laugh and Lottie couldn't help but join in. "Fox!" 

"The honour would be all mine!" Lucas replied, adding with a wink. "Either way."

"Bet you only sprinkle a few diamonds at her on the first date, don't you, Lucas?" Henrik goaded him slightly.

"It's all about Moissanite stone these days, Henrik," replied Lucas without thinking. "It has a higher brilliance than the diamond, and sparkles more-" 

STOP STOP STOP 

Henrik looked amused as Lucas struggled to regain control over his mouth. 

"I mean, no! I don't… I don't buy-" 

"I'm teasing mate," Henrik smiled. 

"Money doesn't buy happiness," said Lucas darkly, "and it certainly doesn't buy love. Right, Fox?" 

This was absolutely not the way he wanted to do this conversation but there it was, the big question.

"No way," she said firmly.

"I knew you'd get it," he beamed.

"I've been at both ends of the spectrum," she explained, "one more extreme than the other. Money does make life easier in many respects, obviously. But it also makes finding genuine connections a lot harder. That goes for friends too."

"I'd never thought of it like that," said Henrik thoughtfully, "but that makes sense."

He turned to Lucas with a sad expression.

"Sorry, man."

"You know I can't be mad at those damn puppy eyes!" Lucas laughed, pulling him into a hug.

The Swede went back to trying to impress Lottie while Lucas shifted his gaze back to Fox as she sat looking thoughtful.

His head was a whir of emotions, as either that was the first time she'd revealed something more personal about herself, or the show had edited such things out. But the former seemed most likely, given Noah was the controller of all information flowing throughout the villa.

Nobody else in here seemed to have picked up on it due to regional differences, but Fox's voice was "posher" (ugh) than almost everyone else. He wondered which was the extreme she spoke of, and despite her voice he had a strong feeling that it was the opposite to his own experience.

Yet she was the only one who hadn't poked fun at him regarding class or money.

She is full of surprises... 

Gary crashed down in the beanbags next to them, missing every signal Fox threw at him to stop his compliment of her in the presence of Lottie.

Poor Henrik's hopes crashed and burned as the Australian goth lit up in Gary's presence.

"Alright, one of my rules," Henrik angled for a swift recovery, "is don't bring a girl back to your place if you can't make her a decent breakfast."

"That's a good one!" Lottie smiled.

"That's super sweet," added Fox. "I really respect that."

Henrik beamed as Gary mumbled about needing to learn to cook.

"For me, it's all about setting the bar with that first kiss," Lucas said innocently, remembering yesterday's challenge. "What do you think about first kisses, Fox?"

The other three all swiveled to catch her reaction and she laughed in delight.

"The first kiss is the deal breaker," she hammed up a thoughtful face, tapping her chin. "If I don't feel the fireworks then, when will I ever?" 

"Yes!" Lucas agreed, adding his own thoughtful pose by stroking an imaginary beard. "See, that's why it's so important."

Everyone cracked up, including Lottie who was still shaking her head.

"Kissing is only part of the dating thing," Gary began.

"It's also about trying to sweep a girl off her feet," Lucas interrupted.

"Yeah, exactly," grinned Gary, turning back to the girls. "Do you prefer a guy that takes his time or one that goes full on from the word go?"

"Well I have done my fair share of sweeping," Fox mused, "but I was definitely hoping to be swept off my feet this time around." 

"Hence Rocco?" Lottie asked, mischievously.

"Oh sure," Fox drawled with a smirk, "endless stories about yourself and absolutely no one else definitely gets me going."

Lottie snorted with laughter. 

"Well, maybe one day I'll have the honour, Fox," suggested Lucas, with surprising softness.

She blushed in response and Lucas tuned out a little from the conversation before snapping back to Henrik's words. 

"What's going on with you and Marisol?" he asked Gary.

"I'm not going to force things." 

"Oh, really?" Lottie asked, innocently, as if she wasn't at all concerned how Gary felt about his current partner. 

"Yeah, if it's not working then that's it."

"I feel you," Fox agreed.

Lucas smiled to himself, his nerves about the upcoming dateability judging somewhat quashed. 

~~~

"Mate! Bobby's made my eyes explode!" 

Lucas whipped round in shock, to be confronted with a tall Swede dripping in glitter and wearing bright red lipstick.

"Wha-"

"POP!" yelled Bobby from the dressing room. "The lipstick makes your eyes pop!"

"Same thing," Henrik shrugged with a bright red grin.

"Is this your… talent?" Lucas laughed in relief.

"Nooo, this is just accentuating my natural beauty!"

"Clearly!"

Henrik leaned in close and pointed at his eyebrows.

"THIS is my talent!"

"Oh my god…" 

"I KNOW!" Henrik ran off laughing, taking his dancing eyebrows with him.

Lucas sat racking his brains for inspiration of what his talent in the upcoming show could possibly be. 

Dancing eyebrows would be a relief at this point.

He'd figured out his entrance, and his speech, but he needed a middle act to really wow the girls. 

To wow Fox. 

He could strip, obviously, or do a sexy dance, or show off his strength but he was reluctant to do that for all the girls, or to risk relying too heavily on his looks. If he was going to break out his dance moves it would be for Fox alone, if she was comfortable with it. 

He went through to the dressing room to see if anyone had any ideas. Noah was writing, trying to perfect his speech, Ibrahim was playing with a Rubik's Cube, while Gary looked to just be chilling.

"Alright, mate?" Gary chirped.

"I'm stuck on the talent bit," confessed Lucas. "I can't think of something that sets the right… tone?"

"I get you," Ibrahim sighed. "Mine is needlessly complicated but I didn't just want to do a muscle act. Being fit doesn't really make me stand out in this place." 

"And that's why my talent is the best," Gary declared grandly.

"Yes," drawled Noah, drawn into the conversation, "eating an onion whole will definitely impress the ladies."

He grinned playfully while Gary beamed. Noah turned back to Lucas.

"What skills do you have?"

"A lot of it is fitness based," Lucas mused, "but like Ibrahim says, that's not enough to impress here."

He looked around suddenly.

"Hang on, where's Bobby?"

"He's off getting secret lessons," Ibrahim complained. "Noah asked Fox for help but I think she figured Bobby needed a bigger boost."

Lucas felt the familiar prickle of jealousy but he tried to calm it. He got on well with Bobby and he knew Fox thought of him like one of her younger brothers.

"What are you going to do?" he asked Noah.

"I have a knack for styling hair," the librarian revealed proudly. "I used to do my sister's all the time."

He paused, his face lit up with an idea.

"Of course!" he punched the air and leaned over to Lucas. "Your skill is your hands! You're a physio mate, your massage technique must be pretty good."

Lucas blinked. 

Um, why did I not think of that?

"You are a genius," he grinned. "I can absolutely do that. Though… I don't think everyone would be too happy with me touching their partners."

"So do it with Fox," Noah winked. "It's not like Rocco has any say at this point. Bobby's not gonna mind if you do Lottie, and you have my blessing to give Hope a shoulder rub too."

Smiling, Lucas relaxed. Massages he could practically do in his sleep, that was easy. And if he got anxious he'd just focus on Fox and her calming presence.

~~~

"Yass Queen!"

"Told you Henrik would be popular," Bobby beamed. "He's like a glittery Thor!"

Lucas could see the girls cheering, yesterday's drama forgotten as they were entertained by the guys hamming it up on stage.

Bobby tripped and hit the deck in Priya's revealing dress and rolled off to the side to huge laughs, and Lucas spotted him giving Fox a quick thumbs up as he scurried back behind the screen. 

Smart move leaning on the comedy... 

Coming after Rocco made Lucas's job a lot easier as the hippie was met by silence and Lottie sharpening her nails. He carefully crept round to the other side of the pool to wait for his name called.

"He's everyone's favourite bit of posh!" Gary roared, fulling embracing his emcee role. "It's Lucas!"

Lucas made an elegant dive into the pool, swimming across swiftly. When he got to the other side he lifted himself out of the pool slowly, flexing his glistening muscles as the water poured down him in the sunshine.

Putting on his best sultry expression, he was relieved to see all the girls ogling him shamelessly. Fox had her mouth open as she gazed, and he smirked at her sexily. 

Round one success! 

The other boys took their turns flexing down the catwalk and then it was on to the talents. Noah began by twisting Priya's hair into a French braid, thoroughly impressing all the girls. Rocco did a… 

Is that a rain dance? Jesus. 

Ibrahim impressed with a blindfold, Rubik's Cube, and a lot of crunches, while Henrik's dancing eyebrows were deemed creepy which in no way seemed to discourage him. As promised, Gary ate an onion, and unsurprisingly the judges were horrified. 

Lucas strutted out in an unbuttoned shirt, announcing he'd have to bring his talent to the judges in their seats which definitely piqued their curiosity.

"Ladies, it's time I reveal my secret power," he began, as he made his way to the table and behind the seats. "My magical hands."

He positioned himself behind Lottie.

"Lottie, might I be so bold as to offer you a shoulder rub?"

"You may," Lottie grinned. "It's been a stressful couple of OHHH-"

As he worked his thumbs firmly, finding the knots that needed undone, Lottie was - for once - rendered speechless, sitting with a blissed out expression on her face.

"Is that pressure okay?" he asked with a smile.

She mumbled positively in response, and when he removed his hands after a couple of minutes she let out a huge sigh of contentment.

"Me please!" cried Hope, and Lucas grinned in response, moving to her swiftly and giving her some faster work that had her melting in her chair.

"That's amazing," Hope managed, as he lifted his hands and moved to Fox.

He leaned in next to her ear and purred, "May I?"

"I'm all yours," she smiled, and his heart fluttered. 

This time he went from shoulders to neck, running his fingers up to the back of her head and down, and ever so gently, tracing his fingertips across the sides of her neck and throat.

Her breath stuttered happily as he moved from gentle touches there to very firm pressure on her back and shoulders, and she purred happily beneath his hands.

"Alas I am out of time," he reluctantly lifted his hands and walked back to the catwalk, "but Fox, you need a little more work on your neck. In my medical opinion of course, so I'd like to finish that later."

He threw her a wink as he went behind the screen again, holding the image of her happy smirk in his mind.

Bobby returned triumphantly not long after, having used both sleight of hand and his genuine genius at baking, and then it was on to the speeches which were surprisingly poetic.

Lucas wouldn't be the only one stumbling over his words at least, as the nerves seemed to take over most performances. Only Bobby pulled his off with complete confidence, but it was Rocco's speech that was the only one poorly received.

The hippie talked only of himself - surprise, surprise - and had the audacity to do it all while looking right in Fox's eyes. Lucas raised his eyebrow as he saw her scowl, an unfamiliar expression that betrayed her genuine annoyance.

He pushed down his own anger, mixing unpleasantly with his increasing anxiety, and walked out to begin his speech.

"I've not been here too long," Lucas began, "but I'd like to think I've already made a splash-" 

Zing! 

"-I've been lucky to never have known true hardship, which is why I take nothing for granted… not money, not friendships, and definitely not love-"

He hesitated as the anxiety started to constrict his lungs. He flicked his gaze to Fox, who gave him a warm smile, and he breathed deeply.

"-I've got the smoulder down to a fine art, but I've never been able to find anyone who could see past it. I just hope that the girl who truly sees me… that I make her as happy as she makes me."

Done. Finito. Success! 

Behind the screen again he focused on bringing his breathing back under control.

"Are you alright?" Henrik asked with concern.

"Yeah, I'm good," replied Lucas with a small laugh. "I just need to lie down after that!"

"I get you," Ibrahim said shakily, as he appeared back from the catwalk. "I never want to do that again."

"The judges are deliberating," Noah stage whispered while peeking around the screen. "Looks like it's a split vote so it might take a bit."

It was a few minutes before the call came. Lottie announced Bobby as the winner, who put on a show of excitement and fake tears but was clearly delighted all the same.

The boys all grinned at each other, impressed that the jokester had pulled off such a well-rounded performance. 

He gave a victory speech that focused almost solely on thanking and complimenting Fox for helping him. Lucas found himself smiling as he watched her being praised as such a good friend, not a flicker of jealousy in sight. He wondered what her special talent had been for it to impress Bobby.

He looked over at Rocco, surprised and annoyed to see him glaring furiously at her.

She was beaming at Bobby and blushing at being the unexpected centre of attention, and she laughed in relief when Bobby was suddenly thrown in the pool, tiara and all. 

~~~

The text had said simply to wait at the fire pit for the girls, and fresh off the high of the talent show, the guys were uncharacteristically quiet.

Lucas reflected that had anyone but Bobby, or perhaps Noah, won the talent show it would very likely have resulted in ego clashes, as everyone's nerves started to build. 

If this was a surprise recoupling, there were two boys too many and it didn't take much maths to work out what that meant.

Finally, the girls arrived and the guys stood to welcome them. Fox was dressed in red, a splash of colour amongst the worried faces. She and Bobby cracked a few jokes before the text alerts started ringing out.

The girls had to choose which boy was most likely to leave the island with a girlfriend, and which were least likely, with the latter vulnerable to be dumped from the villa.

Fox's eyes widened as she read out the text message, and several of the guys started fidgeting restlessly as it sank in.

Retreating to the bedroom so the girls had some space to confer, the guys distracted themselves by attempting to follow Rahim's comic book stories, as well as Henrik's plan to redefine the world of golfing.

Lucas lay back on his bed with his hands behind his head, lost in thought. He and Henrik were most likely to end in the bottom of the vote, simply by virtue of being the new guys. Though Rocco would probably also be joining them, given his sudden descent into unpopularity yesterday. 

If one guy was to be dumped, there was a decent chance it'd be Rocco instead of them. But there was no guarantee. And if two guys were dumped, which would even the numbers properly, at least one of them would be leaving.

"No sense in worrying before you have to," Noah rumbled, sitting on the next bed over. "It's a group vote but the girls have each got a chance to persuade the others on their choices. There's no way to know who will be at risk."

"Maybe," Lucas shook his head, "but chances are-" 

"Chances are chances," interrupted Noah, "and you've got Fox on your side. She'll be thinking three steps ahead, you'll see."

The librarian relaxed on the bed, and Lucas envied his calm. His insides felt like they were aflame, the panic heavy in his lungs as he focused on breathing and counting, bringing his errant thoughts back again and again.

I don't want to go. I should have made my move sooner. No, doing that wouldn't have been right. I don't want to go-

"That's them voting now," called Rocco, from his position by the window.

Two minutes later Gary's phone beeped.

"Time to gather at the fire pit for results."

The girls were already sitting as they walked back in, and both groups seemed a lot more relaxed. Fox met Lucas's eyes with a soft smile.

Priya's phone rang out, and she announced Noah as the boy most likely to leave with a girlfriend.

"Wow, I am shocked! Shocked!" joked Bobby. "Well, not that shocked." 

A beep sounded from where Noah and Hope stood hugging.

"That's me," sighed Hope. "The boys who were voted least likely to leave the island with a girlfriend were… Rocco, Henrik, and Ibrahim."

Lucas let out a breath he didn't know he was holding, and looked to Henrik in sympathy. He saw a flicker of relief on Fox's face. The other boys had gasped at Rahim's name. Everyone began talking at once, only to be cut off by a further beep from Hope.

"The three boys who were voted least likely," her eyes widened as she rushed her words, "will now face a public vote. The public will vote on which boy should stay and have another chance at love. The remaining boys will be dumped from the island."

Shit, so it is two that are going.

Priya began loudly complaining about Rahim's nomination, as Lucas made his way over to Henrik. He looked to see where Fox was, finding her stood to one side with Lottie who was muttering angrily. Marisol popped up beside them and Fox moved in between the two, de-escalating the situation from a potential fight successfully.

Lucas stayed up a while talking with Henrik while the others went to bed. It was only once his friend also hit the hay that he allowed himself to feel the relief and guilt that his name hadn't been called. 

~~~

The roof terrace was quickly becoming Lucas's favourite place in the Villa, guaranteeing some much needed quiet time and also giving him a birds eye view of the outside space. He sat facing the wall with his chin on his hands looking down.

Marisol and Rocco were busy with public displays of affection on the daybeds, and he rolled his eyes. Elsewhere he could see Gary and Lottie getting closer on the lawn, while Rahim looked utterly dejected despite Priya lavishing attention on him.

He sighed, realising this meant Henrik wasn't cracking on with anyone, but he couldn't fault him. It was a shame neither Priya or Lottie had gone for him, and surely the only time a Thor look-alike would strike out.

It could very easily have been him instead, and he thought back to Noah's words that morning. When the girls had turned their attention last night to the two new guys before voting, Fox had apparently said she didn't want to lose Henrik.

He knew Noah was right when he said she'd known what she was doing - the results alone spoke for themselves. But he couldn't dismiss his feelings of unease as he trawled through his memories looking for missed signs that it was his friend she was truly interested in.

And how did he know that she wasn't in fact who Henrik was with right now? 

Standing from his seat he went through some light stretches to clear his mind as he looked out across the countryside.

"Hey, stranger."

Not with Henrik then, phew. 

He turned, already smiling to find Fox at the top of the stairs, gazing at him with a soft expression. She was wearing an elegant bikini, in red which was a colour that suited her incredibly well despite her more angelic nature. 

"My word, Fox, you're looking fine in that," he swallowed hard.

She blushed her thanks, and stepped up closer.

"All alone?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

He rubbed the back of his neck, loosening some tension.

"I didn't realise how intense it would be in here," his thoughts poured out without permission. "Figured I'd come up here to get some air."

He willed his hand not to go to his neck again, and she stepped forward until she was right beside him, looking out at the scenery. 

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Lucas asked. "I just love the Spanish landscape."

"The view's pretty great from here too," she said innocently.

"Smooth talker," he smirked. "I like your confidence."

He threw her a wink, and moved closer. 

"I was actually hoping we'd get some time alone together," he hesitated, the uneasiness he'd felt before creeping back in. "I mean, if that's something you'd like. I know you told the girls you wanted Henrik to stay, but I figure that was maybe…"

He trailed off, unsure how to finish his thought.

"Tactical?" she offered with a smile, sitting down. He nodded, and sat beside her as she looked at him with increased intensity.

"It was tactical, yeah," she continued. "The two of you were most at risk as the new guys. I knew myself and Hope wouldn't vote for you to leave, and that I'd give you my high vote as well. But I also knew Lottie wouldn't vote for Henrik to leave, which left Marisol and Priya as unknowns."

She voted me most likely to leave with a girlfriend? 

She turned her body on the seat slightly, curling up with her legs under herself like a cat.

"Marisol was definitely going to vote to spite the rest of us and especially me, possibly not even consciously. She'd given a speech about how Rocco deserved another chance and it was kinda obvious nobody bought it. As for Priya…"

"It's a competition?" he guessed.

"Exactly," Fox grinned. "I've got no problem with any of them but at the end of the day, I'm still their rival so to speak. So I figured I'd try the old reverse move first and right enough, those two both then plead your case to stay along with Hope."

"That's very crafty," smiled Lucas, impressed, casually leaning his arm along the wall behind her. 

"Well I didn't get this name for nothing," she laughed.

"Now that's a question I definitely have! But first, and this might sound weird, I feel like I know a fair bit about you from seeing the show? Going by what I've seen, you tend to put the happiness of the group first and you have a really strong presence too. It'd be hard for anyone not to notice you."

She smiled at him, and he fought not to stumble over his words.

"But you've not had the chance to know much about me," he finished. "So, is there anything you'd like to ask me?"

Her face lit up as she thought, looking up at the sky.

"Hmm, let me think," she mused.

He rubbed the back of his neck again, and annoyed himself by doing so. He'd intentionally opened himself for questioning about absolutely everything which was the complete opposite of his comfort zone.

"Have you ever cheated?" she asked, breaking through his anxiety.

His brain whirred as he turned to look at her, but the look of kindness on her face soothed his nerves.

"I have to be honest here," he laughed awkwardly, before continuing with a frown. "Yes, I have. It was years ago. I was young and selfish. It's the worst thing I've ever done. I'd go back and change it in a heartbeat, if I could."

It was true. It had been a shitty way to end a failing relationship. Insecurities convinced him he was already being cheated on. That was an ongoing struggle in any relationship, but he'd ended them himself ever since, rather than being unfaithful.

"I assure you that's not who I am now," he risked a look at Fox. She'd raised an eyebrow at his confession but seemed happy (pleased?) by his obvious regret.

"What else do you want to know?"

"One wasn't enough?" she laughed, looking slightly impressed. "Let's see… most embarrassing moment?" 

"I can't get out of this, can I?" he laughed nervously, feeling himself blushing already. He told the story of how a date had mistaken a motorbike for his ride, leading him to pretending to own one for 6 weeks. 

"In the end, I just went, 'fuck it,' and bought one," he grinned sheepishly. "I'm enjoying this! Go on, ask me one more." 

"You are too cute," she beamed at him. "Okay, what's your life goal?"

Lucas grinned, happy she'd asked this particular question. Wanting to join Doctors Without Borders when he had more experience had been his long-term plan and something that was important to him. Doing something for the world and saving lives. 

"That's really noble," she replied, sincerely, and Lucas let himself feel a little pride at her words.

"That was a lot of fun," he smiled, hesitant to keep her any longer. "I feel like we're more even now."

He tipped his head back and closed his eyes briefly, enjoying the sun on his face and knowing he'd have to let Fox get back to the other Islanders.

He turned his head towards her to say so, before suddenly realising how close her face was to his. Her green eyes were actually green and grey close up, and either her pupils were slightly blown or she was part owl. 

He swallowed, as his heart threatened to jump out of his chest, and he prepared to make his-

She leaned forward and kissed him gently, her hands guiding his face as her fingers softly trailed down his skin. As she made to pull back, he dropped his arm from the wall and wrapped it round her, pulling her towards him, not so firmly that she couldn't resist if she wanted.

Instead she purred, kissing him harder, as all the blood in his head rushed to another part of his body. He growled quietly, possessively, and she raked her nails across his shoulders, the pressure hard even through his shirt.

She pulled back to gasp for breath and he knew he needed to let go, but instead he ran his tongue up the side of her throat and she moaned his name, quickly lifting herself on to his lap and gently holding his throat as she kissed him harder still.

He was desperately trying to control his lower body from abandoning all pretense of decency and his mind swam from even such a delicate hold of his throat. Lucas was used to dominating, to being in control, and he fucking loved that she'd taken the reigns, controlling the kiss and his body with ease.

She purred again, as she slowed their kiss and he growled as they finally parted. She stayed on his lap, resting her forehead against his as she regained her composure, stroking the back of his neck and head, where his hair was short enough to escape being gelled.

His heart was hammering in his chest, and he couldn't stop the goofy grin on his face. She pulled back and laughed at his obvious delight.

"I should get back to the others," she said, "before they send out a search party."

"Well, we can't have that," he laughed, helping her to her feet. "Tonight is not going to be much fun but… I'm really looking forward to the next recoupling."

Fox beamed at him, "Me too, tiger."

Once she'd disappeared down the stairs, Lucas checked nobody else was coming and broke out a quick happy dance. 

He could still taste her on his lips.

~~~

Chapter Text

The challenge area had been set up for the Mean Tweets event, and Lucas watched the different reactions as the Islanders realised this would be their first glimpse at what the public thought of them.

Bobby was resting his head on Fox's shoulder, as they sat chatting. Priya looked as hyped up as they did, and Fox joked about spilling tea, while some of the others looked nervous. 

Guess some of the stuff me and Henrik saw on the show might come out today. 

"Ever seen those celebrity mean tweets?" he asked Gary, innocently. "Absolutely savage."

Gary just grinned, despite there obviously being some tension between him and his partner Marisol. 

He really doesn't seem like a player. 

Lottie announced the two newer guys would be an honorary couple for the challenge, which they found hilarious.

"I could do a lot worse," Lucas grinned.

"Mate, you're prettier than most girls!" laughed Henrik.

Bobby moved up to the board beside Lottie and Lucas realised he'd forgotten the cheerful lad wasn't actually Fox's partner. Instead she was sat next to Rocco, but they seemed at ease together.

He'd heard from Rocco himself that Fox had managed her 'squaring things away' talk with him the previous morning, and that he'd apologised to her. He also got the impression there'd been some bullshit excuses on the hippie's part, but if Fox was content then that was all that mattered.

She'd seemed quietly competitive at the previous challenges he'd seen on the show, and he was curious to see if she'd continue that trend here.

Lottie opened the first tweet, which was about someone being as reluctant to open up as a jar of pickles. As the Islanders bantered amongst themselves he saw Fox joining in, but that she'd already written her answer.

He doodled on his own board, drawing a pickle with a huge face. Henrik giggled happily.

Everyone had of course correctly guessed Rahim, and the man's shoulders slumped.

"I knew this was why I was in the bottom three," he sighed.

"You do kind of look like a pickle," Fox offered, making Rahim explode in laughter.

"Fair play, Fox. Fair play."

Henrik turned to Lucas with a whisper. 

"She's an expert at keeping spirits up, huh?"

We're gonna need it if that sneaky kiss gets brought up… 

The next tweet was announced. 

"You can do better than him, [blank] <3" 

"That's, err… intense," said Hope, as Lottie stifled a gasp. 

He saw Fox hesitating with her chalkboard, before narrowing her eyes as she wrote. 

The answers were split between Fox and Marisol, but as the group realised the former had written her own name while sitting next to a red-faced Rocco, it was Henrik that broke the silence. 

"Wait, you wrote your own name? With Rocco sitting right beside you? That means you think you deserve better than him, right?"

"Err, Captain Obvious over here," Lucas stated loudly. "I'd say it was earned, given what happened."

She sent him a cheeky wink, and he beamed. 

"This is awkward," Lottie muttered.

"Eh," shrugged Fox, with a grin. Lottie couldn't help but smirk in return, relieved by her nonchalance. 

"What was the answer?" asked Marisol.

Bobby peeled off the sticker revealing the name, 'Marisol'.

"Oh," she said, flatly.

"Hold on a minute," Gary jumped to his feet with a flare of irritation. "Marisol can do better than who?"

"You, obviously," answered Rocco, as Fox raised an eyebrow at him. "You guys are coupled up."

"Only because we've not had a recoupling-" 

Gary jabbed his finger at Rocco. 

"-and everyone here knows it wasn't just her you were grafting on, either. You-"

"Chill out, both of you," Fox said sternly, and Gary immediately sat back down. "We're having fun so stop making a scene, yeah?"

Dang, I've never seen Gary not argue back at anyone before. 

"Well said," Hope nodded, as Rocco held up his hands to signal peace.

Unfortunately the next tweet was even more inflammatory. 

"[blank] treating [blank] like crap, yeah he was a tool but acting like a cow about it makes you just as bad darling xoxo"

Bobby whistled.

"They've got a point, ladies."

Rocco muttered something to Fox, and she glanced at Lottie before writing.

Lucas wrote down the names of Lottie and Rocco, as Henrik nodded.

"We might win this, darling," joked the Swede.

"You put your own name?" Lucas looked up at the surprise in Bobby's voice, as the man looked at Fox's sign. "That takes some guts, not gonna lie!"

"I've got a lot of respect for that," Lucas agreed with a smile. "Though it's definitely not the right answer."

He grinned as she stuck her tongue out at him, and he sent an answering wink. 

Everyone else had written Lottie's name, and he felt a little sorry for her as she seemed to shrink slightly as folk whispered. Priya started to argue with her and he saw Fox sit up straighter.

"Lottie had my back," she interrupted. "She was being a good friend."

Lottie gave her a grateful smile and Lucas realised that might be another reason Fox hadn't put her friend's name down. He suspected she knew fine well what the correct answer was. 

"Sorry hun, I know he messed you around," Priya rushed to explain, "but it's gone a bit beyond that now." 

"Girls! Let's drop it," said Hope firmly, and Fox flashed her a thankful smile. "What was the answer?"

The stickers were peeled off, revealing the names of Lottie and Rocco. Bobby hurried on to the next tweet.

"[blank] get out of there babe she's just playing you to get to the final!!" 

Henrik shot him a look of confusion, and Lucas shrugged. This wasn't something they'd seen before entering. Everyone was talking at once and there were a lot of nervous faces.

Some boards went up with 'Rahim' and the golfer sank back into his gloomy face. He heard Hope's gasp before he saw Fox's board: 'Noah'. 

Uh oh. 

The answer was revealed quickly this time, and he wasn't that surprised to see that Fox has been correct. 

Definitely competitive! 

Hope looked angry and devastated, and he heard Fox cut across her upset words.

"Hope, it's not something anyone here believes," she explained. "It's just guessing what the public are likely to think. And unfortunately strong women tend to be viewed less well than men are."

He saw Hope relax a little at that, and she let out a large sigh.

"So we're guessing public misconceptions as well as actual truth?" she asked, hopefully.

"I'd bet on it," smiled Fox.

"Thanks, babes."

It felt like the whole group relaxed again then, and Lucas idly wondered just how much devastation a real Hope explosion could cause. 

"This challenge is wild," he swung back on his chair.

"And we might win!" Henrik whooped. "I'm buzzing!" 

"We've got this, boo. Dream team right here." 

Fox laughed at them, shaking her head. Lottie revealed the next tweet. 

"I swear [blank] comments on everything that happens one way or another even if it has nothing to do with her." 

He looked over and saw that Fox had written something immediately while grinning, and he smiled to himself. 

A mix of names went up, including her nominating herself, and Lottie peeled away the sticker to reveal Fox's name.

The other Islanders looked at Fox with apprehension while Lucas smirked. He had of course also got it correct. 

"What?" she laughed. "It's bang on. Don't you guys ever get that? I've gotta express how I feel when I feel it. And besides, when I don't I end up having to run peace talks anyway."

Bobby laughed at that while some of the girls blushed knowingly. 

Henrik and Lucas high-fived their point. The next tweet about singing Wonderwall was so obviously about Rocco it was basically a free round. 

Lottie revealed another tweet. 

"Calling it now, [blank] is the biggest player on this year's Love Island, even more than Rocco."

"I think I've got this one in the bag," said Gary, smugly.

"Oh, lay off!" Rocco yelled, taking immediate offence. 

"Mate, you're already in the tweet," Gary rolled his eyes. "I'm talking about Mr Playboy over there."

Gary pointed straight at Lucas, who blinked in confusion before smiling.

"Don't know where you got playboy from," he drawled. "Aren't you the one who's slept with the most girls?"

He saw Fox looking thoughtful, before she turned her attention to the board and wrote a name down while Rocco whispered. He figured the playboy comment was down to his perceived poshness, but he felt anxious that it might reflect badly on him. 

Could she think I'm just a playboy? 

When all the boards were up, Lucas wasn't too surprised to see a near even split between his name and Gary. The latter had certainly put that thought front and centre for everyone. 

What he was very surprised to see was that Fox had written Bobby's name, and he cringed slightly as a stab of jealousy went through him as well as relief.

Why would she put Bobby as a player? Is Bobby a player? Did she have a thing with him? Has he been trying to win her over too? 

No stop, shut up. I know that's not right. She's guessing what the audience thinks again, it's gotta be. Right? Right. At least she didn't put my name. But does that mean Bobby-

He realised Henrik had been looking at him with concern, and wrenched his face back to cool and collected. The Swede nodded to himself, seemingly happy that his friend was back to normal. 

I hate fucking anxiety. 

He sighed, waiting for the answer. Lottie peeled back the sticker, revealing Bobby's name. 

"You're actually psychic!" Rocco gasped, as Fox laughed. 

Bobby steepled his fingers and grinned at the shocked faces, before letting loose his best villainous laugh. 

"Is it true?" asked Priya, hesitantly. 

"Who knows?" Bobby answered cryptically, "Tune in next time for the big reveal!"

Shit. 

"It's always the funny ones you've gotta watch out for," added Fox with a faux serious look.

Bobby winked and tapped his nose, before sighing at the still worried faces in front of him. He rolled his eyes slightly, looking to Fox. 

"Or…" she smirked, "it's likely that the idea of an eligible young bachelor being friends with multiple gorgeous women without the expectation he'll be rewarded with sex, is preposterous to a sizeable segment of the population."

Lucas tried hard not to let the relief show on his face. 

Get it together, man. 

"What?" Priya asked in confusion.

"People don't believe men and women can just be friends," Noah explained, "which means in their eyes, Bobby must be hooking up with-" 

He glanced around. 

"-at least 5 women, as evidenced by random snippets of him talking to his friends who happen to have boobs."

"My harem," Bobby sighed happily.

Lucas was impressed, and he could tell the others mostly were as well, minus a couple of still confused faces.

"Not psychic," Fox smiled. "Just extremely used to twitter."

Aha! 

He knew it. It was usual practise for Islanders to scrub their social media before entry, but she was the only name who seemed to have no evidence even of anything deleted. Which meant she either didn't use social media, or used a pseudonym. The latter had to be true.

"That's it, guys," Lottie announced suddenly. "Time to go."

"But th-" Bobby began.

"I said we're done," she snarled.

Everyone had turned to look, and the single card remaining was plainly obvious. 

"Oh shit," breathed Henrik, quiet enough that only Lucas could hear. 

"There's one left," Marisol pointed out. 

"I've read the tweet," Lottie replied sharply. "It's boring, so we're skipping it. Game over." 

It has to be about that kiss, she's making it obvious. 

"That's not fair," objected Hope. "We're just having a good time, right? And it's the last one. Best until last, I always say." 

"Come on, Lotters," Bobby soothed, "don't spoil the fun." 

"She said it's over, mate," Gary spoke up, angrily.

Yup, it's definitely about that. 

Bobby looked to Fox with a frown on his face. She sighed.

"Come on, we need to finish the game," Fox said firmly. "It's in the rules."

Bobby took the card out of Lottie's hands and turned it over. 

"I told you it was boring, but whatever," Lottie shrugged. "See you in the Villa."

She spun on her heel and left the stage, walking away quickly. Fox frowned, looking thoughtful. 

"Whoah," Bobby winced.

"Err, is she actually going?" asked Priya, gobsmacked. "What was that even about?!"

"Only one way to find out," Henrik said. "Show us the tweet." 

"Dude, you sound like you're in a movie," Lucas shook his head. 

"You know it, babycakes," winked Henrik.

There was laughter as some of the tension dissipated.

Bobby revealed the card. 

"That moment when [blank] couples up then sticks it on someone else first chance he gets."

And here we go...

Lucas watched Fox for her reaction, and saw her eyes immediately flick to Gary for a split second. 

"Oh. My. Days," Hope gasped.

Bobby cleared his throat.

"So do we still play the game, or…?" 

"I think we should," Hope answered immediately. "Let's keep the good vibes going." 

Fox raised her eyebrow at that, while Rocco looked to be pleading his innocence.

She's already figured it out, mate.

Most people had put Rocco, which was an obvious enough guess. Fox had put Gary, the same as Lucas and Henrik who had waited for all the other boards to go up first seeing as they knew the correct answer.

Bobby peeled back the sticker to reveal Gary's name.

"Figures," sighed Marisol. 

"Oh yeah, go ahead and pin it all on me, guys," Gary folded his arms, as Fox's expression darkened, "I'm not the one who swanned off with Rocco."

"Let's just move on," Fox suggested lightly, and he looked at her gratefully.

"Oh, so you just get off scot-free then, Gary?" tutted Marisol. 

"Settle down, everyone," Noah rumbled, his rare words immediately stopping everyone in their tracks. "We're losing two guys tonight, so let's put any other issues on the back burner for now. That means no bringing it up with Lottie until we have a better idea of what went down."

Everyone murmured their assent, as Bobby calculated the scores.

"The winners are… Fox and Rocco!" 

Rocco did a victory dance that made Fox chuckle as she checked her beeping phone.

"Jacuzzi and champagne!" she grinned. "Now that I like!" 

~~~

The guys were doing a good job of keeping Henrik and Rahim distracted as they got ready for the evening, until Rocco entered scowling.

"Uh, good jacuzzi then?" Henrik asked, confused.

"What?" asked Rocco, distractedly. "Oh yeah, it was great. Just would have been nicer with an apology."

"An apology?" Bobby blinked.

"She just wanted us to move on," Rocco complained as he started changing. "But if she's not gonna apologise, that takes time."

"I'm sorry," Lucas interrupted with a raised eyebrow, "but what it is you think Fox should be apologising for?"

Rocco glared at him.

"What she said in the challenge, obviously."

"She didn't say anything that necessitates an apology," Lucas growled. "Least of all to you."

"Oh, because you're so impartial," snarled Rocco.

"Settle down, mate!" cried Bobby, striding in between them.

"Fuck off, as if you weren't grafting on her too!"

Lucas stifled a growl, his jaw clenched. 

"You've lost it, pal," Bobby rolled his eyes at Rocco.

"That's enough!" Noah's voice boomed through the room, and Bobby backed off. Lucas and Rocco were still glaring at each other.

Noah came over, planting himself in front of Rocco.

"You need to let it go," the librarian stated. "Fox has a right to say she deserves better given you went behind her back. You probably even agree with her if you let your ego cool down."

Rocco deflated with a sigh, and sat down heavily.

"Yeah, I know," he nodded. "I'm just stressed and not dealing with it well."

"One way or another it'll be over soon," Noah said to the room at large. "So, no more arguing."

Lucas turned to look out the window, focusing on his breathing. Henrik stepped up beside him.

"This sucks, man," the taller man sighed. "We need to hang out when this is all over."

Lucas appreciated the change of subject.

"As long as there's no boulders involved, I'm in," he agreed.

"Deal!"

~~~

A phone beeped, breaking the tense silence. 

Some of the girls were holding hands on the other side of the fire pit as Noah read out his text.

"The first person to be dumped from the Island is… Henrik."

Fuck. 

"That's so whack," Lucas groaned, as Henrik hung his head.

Before anyone else could say anything, Priya's phone beeped loudly.

"The second person to be dumped from the Island is… Rocco." 

Rahim sighed with relief and hugged Rocco next to him. 

"Come on lads, I'll help you both pack." 

"Yeah, just a minute," Henrik answered, before walking over to sit next to Fox.

The others started walking back to the Villa, and Lucas shook the doubts from his head to follow them.

Henrik appeared just a few minutes later, with a sad smile.

"Just making sure Fox knew she was to look after you." 

Lucas pulled him into a bear hug.

In no time at all, everyone was standing outside the front of the villa, saying their goodbyes. 

This is all so fast. 

"Stay solid, man," Lucas smiled at his friend.

"Yeah, I'll try my best not to melt."

"Mate, you're already a melt. I like to think it's part of your charm." 

The two laughed and hugged each other as everyone else piled on. Henrik said goodbye to everyone, saving Fox for last.

"I'll miss you," he sighed sadly, and she smiled at him. 

"You've been kind of like a bus, in a way," she joked. "You turned up late, then left before anyone could get on."

Henrik laughed, wrapping her in his arms and lifting her from the ground, giving her perfect cover to wipe away her stray tears.

As Rocco appeared and rambled on about himself - again - Lucas felt a presence by his side, and smiled to see Fox leaning slightly against him. He wrapped an arm around her waist, giving her a reassuring squeeze.

He was crushed about Henrik leaving, but Rocco's departure meant both he and Fox were officially the only single people in the Villa. And the selfish part of him knew Henrik had been a rival as well as a friend. His brain was doing a celebratory dance. 

-"objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are," Rocco finished, grandly.

"That's a line from a song," said Fox with a light chuckle.

"Yeah, that's by Meatloaf," Hope agreed.

"Who?" asked Gary.

"Y'know, Meatloaf - the musician? Bat Out of Hell?"

"A Kiss is a Terrible Thing to Waste," added Fox.

"Not a Dry Eye in the House!" rushed Hope.

The two girls looked at each other and grinned.

"I'd Do Anything For Love!" they both yelled, and the Islanders laughed. 

"No!" Rocco snapped. "It's a label they put on cars. I'm not sure how you don't know that, to be honest. Or what a meat loaf has to do with philosophy…" 

"Pretty sure that's wrong," Gary mused, "Rearview mirrors make things look further away."

"It's on some wing mirrors for perceptions of sideways space," Lucas explained, earning a nod from Gary and further frustration from Rocco.

"It's his last day," smiled Hope, "let him have this one." 

The other Islanders hugged Rocco, before he turned to Fox.

"I hope everything goes well for you outside the Villa," she said kindly. "I'm sure you'll find someone special." 

"Yeah," Rocco smiled at her before unleashing more of his wisdom. "I think if the Villa's taught me anything, it's that I'm not looking for any old trout, you know?" 

Bobby's eyes widened as Lucas attempted to murder the hippie with his mind.

"I need, like… a rainbow fish," he continued, picking up his case. "I should probably get going." 

Rocco started to walk away before Marisol jumped on him for her goodbye.

Lucas realised Fox was shaking next to him, and turned to her with concern only to realise she was trying desperately not to crease herself laughing. Rocco calling her an "old trout" had given her a serious case of the giggles, and he grinned in response. 

As everyone made their way inside, Marisol looked to be the only one not heading for the bedroom, sitting on the couch with the weight of the world on her shoulders. 

"I'll be up in a bit," Fox smiled to him, before making her way over to the couches.

~~~

Lucas sat on his bed, staring at Henrik's pillow. The other Islanders were giving him space, which was nice but only resulted in him feeling pretty lonely for five minutes. 

Well this sucks. 

"Are you okay?"

Fox sat down on the bed beside him, looking at him with concern.

"I will be," he replied with a sigh. "I'm closer with the other guys now too, but to begin with it was easier for me and Henrik just to chat together. So we ended up getting a lot closer with each other than with anyone else-"

He smiled at her. 

"-well almost anyone else."

"Him leaving is hardest on you, then."

"It's not been an easy day for you either," he reached out to hold her hand.

"Well, there's a potential silver lining," Fox smiled. "We're both sleeping alone, so I figured maybe you'd like some company tonight? It'd have to be the day beds due to the rules-" 

"Yes!" he grinned sheepishly at his enthusiasm, and she laughed. "I'll meet you down there in a bit?"

As he gathered his pillow and duvet, Priya burst out of the bathroom.

"Guyth! I goth a teth!"

"Toothpaste, babes," Fox giggled.

Priya ran back into the bathroom before skidding back out again.

"Guys, I got a text! Tomorrow there will be a girls' choice recoupling!" 

Lucas started celebrating in his head. As long as nobody picked him by surprise, tomorrow he'd finally be with the woman he wanted. 

As long as Fox picks me. Which she will, right? I think. 

"But everyone is happy with their current partners, right?" Hope asked. 

"Not necessarily," replied Noah. "Don't worry yourself, duck."

"But Fox and Lucas will obvi-" Hope began.

"It's not just down to them," Marisol interjected. "There are other people wanting to change too. This is still a competition to find love, at the end of the day. We all need to put our own interests first. If you're not falling for them, get rid and move on."

"You don't need to talk like we're not here y'know," said Fox, raising an eyebrow and distracting from a gloomy looking Gary. 

"Sorry, babes," Hope replied. "I guess we're all just wondering how safe we are."

Fox stretched with a yawn. 

"PJs time," she announced, heading for the dressing room.

Lucas grinned, and made his way downstairs. 

~~~

"I'm confused, what do I compliment first? You or that stunning outfit?"

Stunning was the right word, as Lucas let his eyes travel every inch of her body. Fox had been wearing a t-shirt to bed previously when she was sharing with Rocco, but now she had a patterned satin teddy with black lace trim and-

Fuck me, that's more coverage than a bikini and yet somehow even sexier. 

She grinned at him as he regained his composure, and spread out the duvet while he fluffed the pillows. She slid into the bed next to him with a happy sigh, and he caught himself before he moved closer.

"Did you want to cuddle, or would you rather have your own space tonight?" he asked. "I make a great big spoon, but little spoon would be cool, too. Or no spoon! Because none is also just as cool-" 

Please. Stop. Talking. 

"-I mean, um. Y'know. It's all cool," he finished weakly. 

"I'd like to be little spoon," she laughed softly.

"Hopefully that's just your cuddling preference," he replied. "I always use a little spoon. Don't want to end up fighting to the death over silverware."

If I could hit my head into a desk right now please-

"I should really stop talking," he mumbled.

She moved over to him, smiling.

"Never," she said firmly, kissing him on the cheek, and turning to burrow down beside him.

His heart fluttered in his chest, and he cuddled himself around her. Threading his arm under her neck, he let her get comfy, and wrapped his other arm around her.

"G'night, Fox," he breathed, happily.

"'night, tiger," she murmured, already drifting off to sleep

~~~

Lucas woke, feeling a warm body moving against him. His mind briefly blanked on where he was, before he recognised the Spring-like scent he'd fallen asleep with.

He smiled sleepily as Fox stretched against him like a cat, and even made a cat-like noise as she did.

"Morning, kitty," he said softly, his voice still husky from sleep.

"Mm," she replied, "Good morning. Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, actually. I didn't think I would after yesterday… but you make an excellent spoon. Much better than Henrik, that's for sure."

She laughed softly, and he remembered the events of the previous night.

"I'm sorry about all of what happened with you and Rocco," he began, his temper flaring a little. "That wasn't okay. No one should act like that."

"Well, that I agree with," she mused, "but I'm over it. He gave me a proper apology just before he left, without the cryptic metaphors. To be honest I think he was trying it on, but eh. Over it."

"He what?" Lucas growled.

"He's gone, tiger," she turned in his arms to look at him.

"Yeah," he sighed. "I'm sure he's not a bad guy, but I am glad he's gone."

He pushed aside his irritation, and looked around.

"It's so much more peaceful out here than the bedroom," he turned back to look at her with a smile. "We should just spend all morning in bed."

She moved closer, letting her hand run down his chest over his vest top. His heartbeat skyrocketed.

"I can't remember the last time I had a good lie in," he babbled. "I never get the time. My shifts tend to start pretty early, there's a lot of patients to get through. You'd be surprised how many people need physiotherapy."

"I've had it in the past," she revealed. "Bad whiplash that took months to heal. It's the main reason I got into lifting weights actually, I had to rebuild that strength."

He brushed his fingers across the back of her neck, noting that she pressed into him more firmly as he did. 

"I don't tend to sleep in on my days off, either," he admitted, anxious to get it out there. "It would mess up my routine."

"You don't sleep in?" asked Fox, sounding surprised. "That's the same as me!" 

Celebratory dance, whoop!

"That's great to know!" he grinned with genuine relief. "My routine is a deal breaker for a lot of people…"

She purred against him, and he met her eyes, gazing at him intensely. He held his breath, wanting to be sure he wasn't overstepping. 

Smiling, she reached down to the duvet and pulled it up over them both. Running her tongue over her lips, she pushed down on his chest a little harder.

"Oh?" he smirked. "Well this is a good morning."

She ran her hand down his arm, and he caught her hand, pulling her close against him.

He leaned in, as slowly as possible as he let the tension build, and brushed his lips against hers. He could feel her heart hammering against his chest as he kissed her gently, before pulling back and tilting his head with a smile as she bit her lip.

His hand around her waist moved back up to cup her head and he kissed her again, deepening the kiss deliciously before reluctantly moving back again, his eyes smouldering.

"Bet the other boys won't kiss you like that," he growled.

"There are other boys?" she asked, innocently. "I hadn't noticed."

He tried and failed to cover up his goofy smile.

"That was amazing," she murmured.

"Kissing is an art," he replied. "A mix of danger and precision. I've dedicated a lot of time to mastering it."

"So basically, you've kissed a lot of people?" she laughed.

"Until I met you," Lucas didn't miss a beat, comfortable he was on safe ground.

"Melt," she smirked, and ran her finger down his jawline, tipping him into another kiss he hadn't expected.

She took control of the kiss, flipping from teasingly gentle to a faster and deeper passion, and back. He kept finding himself chasing her lips, as she pulled away ever so slightly, and the frustration stole his control over his own body.

Grabbing her, he moved her on top of him as she kissed him fiercely, grinding her body against his lightly in pace with her tongue. One hand still held his face gently, exactly where she wanted him. He moaned into her mouth, wanting much, much more before she broke away, her eyes sparkling.

He panted as she purred at him, and her hips still moved slightly, like a soft pulse.

"A good master always has more to learn," she winked, lifting herself off of him and moving back to tuck against his side with a happy sigh.

"Jesus christ," Lucas managed, hoarsely, earning himself a warm chuckle.

They stayed chatting for a while before reluctantly dragging themselves back inside to rejoin the others.

Fox kissed his cheek before they got back to the bedroom, and he was still buzzing as he flopped down on his bed. 

The girls were in the dressing room, and Noah raised an eyebrow from across the room.

Lucas gave a thumbs up with a grin, and the guys cheered. 

~~~

Chapter Text

"C'mon guys, that's enough of a break," Gary fussed. "Want to make sure I impress-"

Noah let out a huge cough as Rahim and Lucas laughed.

"Oh!" yelped Gary, spinning around. "Fox! Erm… come for a closer look, eh?"

"I thought you could use some tips," she laughed, shaking her head fondly.

"I told you your form was off, Gary," Rahim nodded. "Hey Fox, joining us today?"

"Yeah, I'll do a bit," she agreed. "Need to work off some steam."

Lucas narrowly avoided falling from the pull-up bar, but he was pretty sure nobody else had noticed. Other than the woman giving him a Cheshire cat grin.

He watched as Fox easily kept pace with Rahim, despite her complaints about how much she hated cardio. She moved on to the weights, instantly happier.

The guys chatted about the previous night, losing Henrik, and Rahim's relief at staying. Lucas realised that the other men included Fox in their guy's time conversations, even as they still worked to try and impress her as well as the other girls watching from the lawn.

Not that he was any different, casually moving to the dumbells and doing a strength routine that best showed off his arms and shoulders which she seemed to have a weakness for.

"How about I lift Fox?" Gary asked, suddenly.

Lucas narrowed his eyes but tried to keep the annoyance off his face. She was looking at Gary with confusion.

"Huh?"

"Yeah, go on!" Gary challenged. "I've always wanted to try and bench press someone. Are you up for it?"

She looked at her challenger with a sly smile. 

"How about I press you?"

Lucas couldn't help but laugh at Gary's expression. 

"What?" spluttered Gary. "Uh, no offence, but I may be a bit on the heavy-side."

"You should let her try," Noah piped up, and to Gary's credit he immediately caved.

"Fine, I'm always up for a laugh!"

Lucas watched in amusement as Noah and Rahim held Gary above Fox on the bench, lowering him like a massive barbell. 

He cheered her on, and Noah grunted encouragement. 

"Whoah!" 

The guys cheered at the successful press, and Rahim high fived her repeatedly. She laughed.

"Never challenge the mighty Fox!" 

Gary turned to her with a wink.

"Well I hope seeing us in action has made tonight's decision a bit easier for you."

"Alas, I cannot choose myself," she stuck her tongue out cheekily before hitting the pull-up bar.

Luvas grinned, but he could still feel the familiar unease that jealousy always seemed to stir up in his bones.

~~~

"Guys, I got a text!"

Whatever bantering the girls had been doing with Bobby seemed to have been resolved with Lottie's yell.

Lucas swam over and rested his arms on the side of the pool, waiting to hear the news. 

"Islanders, before tonight's recoupling the girls will have a chance to get to know the boys better. Each girl will take a boy of her choice out on a date this afternoon." 

Fingers crossed... 

Another phone notification noise rang out. 

"Oh, that's me!" Fox grabbed her phone. 

"Is it you?" asked Hope. "Are you going first?" 

"This is so perfect for you, hun," Lottie cooed. "You've been single for like, less than a day and you're gonna get back on the horse again."

Fox grinned to herself as she re-read her phone.

"Fox?" Hope asked, "Who are you picking?" 

"What?" 

"You were just, like, lost in thought."

"Oh," Fox blinked. "Sorry, I thought it was obvious. The boy I want to take on a date is Lucas."

The Islanders turned to look at him and he grinned.

"I'm flattered, I didn't think I'd be the first boy chosen."

"That's who I was going to pick!" Marisol objected.

Lucas looked at her in confusion, before glancing at Fox who didn't seem remotely surprised.

What's that all about? 

"Looks like Lucas is gonna be popular," said Lottie. 

"I'm afraid there's only one of me," he laughed awkwardly before turning to Fox. "Come on, babe. Let's go get dressed up and drink wine in the daytime."

She beamed at him, and they left to get ready. 

~~~

His jaw hit the floor, when Fox appeared in her outfit, giving him a twirl. She was wearing a white and silver two piece: a long mostly see-through skirt with a split to the top of her thigh, and a matching crop top with one-shoulder neckline, wrapping down her right arm. 

She looks like an angel.

Their date venue was a vineyard, and he reached for her hand, entwining their fingers. 

"Your dress sense is something else," he managed, "that outfit is blowing me away." 

"Why, thank you," she smiled with a blush. 

They reached their table, complete with picnic hamper, wine, and food.

Lucas pulled out her chair for her, making sure the sun wasn't right in her eyes. The afternoon sun behind her gave her a celestial halo.

"Look at this place!" he exclaimed. "It reminds me of the time I stayed at my friend's parents' chateau in the south of France and they made their own wine-"

Dude, no, stop. 

"-I mean… It's not as posh as it sounds," he floundered. "No-one looks posh when they're up to their knees in grapes."

He cleared his throat awkwardly, and Fox reached across to gently stroke the back of his hand.

"You don't need to do that," she said, firmly. "I like you - all of you. I've dealt with eejits of all classes and their defining feature isn't poshness."

She winked at him and he grinned, both in relief and at her leaning harder into her own dialect.

Relaxing again, he poured them both wine.

"What should we drink to?" he asked.

"To our first date," her eyes sparkled at him.

"The first of many, perhaps?"

He smiled as she bit her lip suggestively.

"I should ask," he mused, "why did you choose me?" 

NOPE

"For this date I mean!" he rushed. He sighed internally, willing himself to be more smooth.

She looked amused, and he knew she was aware it was a question he was supposed to ask rather than one he didn't suspect the answer to.

"I wanted to get to know you," she purred, and he beamed. "I like finding out more about you. Your accent for example, I know how the others are hearing it but I can't quite pin it down. It's like RP but… did you travel around a lot as a kid?" 

Lucas blinked in surprise. 

"Actually yes," he smiled. "My dad's work took him to various countries, and we went with him. Lots of different places, countless schools." 

"That sounds tough," she nodded.

"It got a bit frustrating, but I was able to keep up with my mates online which helped a lot."

"Ah the internet, my second home. I grew up without it though." 

"But you love gaming!" he was a bit shocked.

"Non-online gaming was a thing in the olden days," she winked, making him laugh. 

I just talked about my childhood like it was no big deal. How does she do that? 

He topped up their wine. 

"The whole Rocco situation was so hard to watch," he confessed. "It put a lot of stress on you. How are you feeling now he's gone?" 

Fox paused, looking thoughtful.

"I'm making up for lost time," she answered. "Now I can go on dates and maybe find someone I really like."

He smiled at her expression of extreme innocence.

"Maybe you already have," he smirked. "The other boys thought you two might be a good match at first. None of us knew he was playing you, and the other girls, like that. I wasn't going to slate the guy openly, being a new arrival, but I didn't think what he did was okay."

"Actually, I felt that you really had my back," she began. "And Lottie did too of course, though she stepped it into overdrive."

He refilled her glass with a smile as she spoke.

"I didn't think Rocco was a good match for me if I'm honest."

Lucas blinked.

"Which yeah, I know, I picked him on day one," she blushed. "But I didn't really feel any of the guys were right for me, as great as they are. I got the sense Rocco wasn't big into attachment, so I picked him to try and avoid hurt feelings."

She was picking at the tablecloth, her discomfort obvious, and he took her hand in his, massaging softly. She smiled.

"When Priya picked him, it didn't seem like he was her type either," she continued. "But perhaps she guessed that I was most likely to forgive. I got Rocco to pick me again, and pinned my hopes on new guys showing up."

He grinned at that.

"I guess Henrik and I had good timing then!"

"I realised pretty quickly I'd found a spark," she blushed. "So the whole situation could have been a lot worse. I hated the drama, and the sneakiness was just ugh. But I was less upset than the others." 

"I probably shouldn't have brought up the Villa," he realised. "This should be some time for us to get away from all that."

She smiled, and he saw her relax back into her seat. He leaned forward, conspiratorially. 

"Do you want to see some magic?" 

"Sure!" 

He took hold of both her hands, and looked into her eyes, waiting as all her attention focused on him. He smiled his best smile, dazzling and sincere. 

"Isn't this magical?" he asked, smooth as silk. 

She laughed in delight.

"Wow, that might be the smoothest thing I've ever seen." 

"But it worked, right?" 

"Oh hell yes."

Happiness swam across his body, and he realised just how comfortable he felt with the angel sitting across from him.

"You know," he murmured, "this is my favourite day so far. You're the most interesting person here. Since I met you by the swimming pool the morning you snuck out, I've just been wanting to get to know you better."

He filled their glasses again with the last of the wine.

"Since I've got you to myself, I have one question that I think tells a lot about someone."

"Go for it," she smiled. 

"What do you think is your best feature?"

"Hmm," she gazed off into the distance, deliberating. "I could say my sparkling personality - I'm often described as friendly and funny… but that's a more shallow read. I think my best feature is either my honesty or my loyalty." 

He smiled in surprise. She laughed. 

"So what do you think is your best feature, then?" 

"I think it's my loyalty too," he grinned, "I'd do anything for my friends."

"I thought you were going to say 'my incredible wit'," she joked. 

"So that's what you think my best feature is?" 

"No, I thought that's what you think your best feature is." 

He burst into laughter, and she grinned happily.

"First dates are usually a lot more awkward than this," he mused. "I think we might be getting to the end of it though. Which means it's time for me to pop the big question."

"Oh yeah," she looked genuinely surprised before blushing. "I'd kinda forgotten all that was going on."

Lucas couldn't hide his smile as he gazed at her, and fought to get his thoughts in order as he packed up. 

"What are you thinking about the recoupling this evening?" 

He held his breath. The answer seemed obvious but actually hearing it was different. 

"Well," she drummed her fingers lightly on the table, "I want to couple up with you. If that's something you want to do?" 

YES. 

"Yeah, of course!" he grinned, goofily. "Let's make it official." 

He stood and walked round to her side of the table, offering his hand as she stood up. She stretched with a cute noise, before turning to face him directly. 

"I think we have time for one more thing," he smouldered. 

Fox leaned in closer at the same time he did, the empty wine bottle knocked from the table and ignored. She had a gentle scent of fruit and forests, barely there but with complex notes. 

He delayed the kiss for a few seconds, stretching out the anticipation, before kissing her firmly as she melted in his arms. His heart was fluttering in his chest from both the kiss and happiness, and this time he was determined to leave her wanting more.

Pulling back, he smiled at the slightly dazed expression on her face. 

"Feeling alright?" 

"I think I need a minute," she laughed softly. 

Lucas put his arms around her, holding her against his chest. He could feel her heart beating fast, and guessed she could probably feel his similarly racing. 

He kissed her forehead.

"I'll tone it down next time, okay?" he said gently.

"Don't you dare," she smiled, as she pulled away. "I suppose we really should head back now."

"Yeah," he grinned, taking her hand in his once again. "But that was so worth being late back for."

~~~

"Spill! How was the date?"

Sitting on the couches drinking lemonade with everyone was a great end to the afternoon, and it sounded like everyone had been on a fun date.

He and Fox had been last to return despite leaving first, and Lottie couldn't contain her curiosity any longer. All eyes turned to Fox.

"Our date was hot," she winked, and he grinned at the raised eyebrows around him.

"Wow. Details please," demanded Marisol. "I know there's something you're not telling us. Look at how she's standing. Classic signs of someone with something to hide."

Annoyance flickered in him, but Fox simply stuck her tongue out and draped her legs over his lap. He smiled happily.

"Come on now," Noah rumbled, "give her a break. All I want to do is relax and drink this lemonade. We've got the recoupling this evening, I think there's going to be plenty of time to talk about who likes who then."

~~~

With his post-shower hair finally fixed back into position, Lucas lazed on his bed as the guys chatted, waiting for the girls to be ready for the recoupling.

He noticed Gary looking nervous, but everyone else seemed fairly relaxed.

"Roll call?" Noah asked the group, hopefully.

The other guys nodded, and Lucas sat up, wondering what that meant.

"Hope," said Noah.

"Priya," Rahim added.

"Lottie," Gary's voice was cracked.

"Fox," said Lucas, getting the gist.

"No confirmation," Bobby shrugged.

"So hopefully no drama for this evening then," sighed Rahim. "Depending on when Marisol picks."

"I don't think she'll cause an upset," said Gary, "the last week was pretty hard on her."

Lucas realised if there was any drama it would likely focus on him. Marisol had seemed annoyed that Fox had chosen him for her date, as if stealing Rocco hadn't been enough. In the corner of his eye he caught Gary looking at him with a worried expression before snapping back round to Bobby. 

Anxiety rushed through him, silencing his words. He stared at the ceiling, willing himself to relax while the guys carried on chatting.

Don't puke, don't puke, don't puke-

A phone beeped loudly. 

"We're up," Bobby announced. "Let's go." 

~~~

A lot of his nerves melted as the girls walked in, Fox throwing him a wink. He flashed her a brilliant smile, and breathed deeply. 

Hope's phone beeped first, and she shocked nobody by picking Noah after her speech. 

There was another loud notification sound. 

Lucas winced, only to recover quickly as he saw Fox stand up. He mouthed a "wow", reminded again of an angel standing in front of him. 

"A lot has happened this past week," she began, "which is why I didn't make this decision lightly. This boy is sweet - he looks out for me and always knows how to put a smile on my face."

He grinned, his nerves quieting inside as he listened. 

"Let's face it," she continued, "I was looking for that spark and we've definitely got chemistry, but I also think we just get each other. I can talk to him about anything, and I think we work well together."

She smiled at him gently and he felt his heart melting.

"I want to see where this could go," she finished softly. "The boy I want to couple up with is Lucas." 

He jumped to his feet and went to her for a hug. Her eyes lit up and instead he spun her into a kiss, dipping her slightly as he had done the very first day their lips had met.

Pulling back he saw her smiling brightly, and she took his hand to sit down beside him and wait for the rest of the event to finish. She settled against him, resting her head on his shoulder, and he kissed her hair. 

~~~

He leaned against the door frame of the dressing room, checking it was just Fox inside. She was sitting in front of her mirror wearing a gorgeous sheer red slip that more than highlighted her generous bust, with matching red lace shorts.

Taking a minute to compose himself, he couldn't get over how someone who looked so angelic in white could always look so incredibly sinful in red.

"Cat got your tongue?" she looked at him, smirking.

"If by cat you mean you, and by tongue you mean heart, then yes - guilty," he swallowed, still letting his eyes roam her body.

"Hey," she smiled.

"Hey," he laughed. Busted! "That outfit is incredible." 

"You are the sweetest!" 

"So," he rubbed the back of his neck, "I was kinda getting weird vibes from Marisol today. I'm not sure if they were aimed at me though."

"Yeah," sighed Fox, "they were aimed at me. She's had a tough week but…"

She motioned him closer, and dropped her voice.

"This is strictly confidential," she began, and he nodded, "but the night Rocco left, she kinda made a play for me."

His eyebrows shot up and she quickly continued.

"Not physically! Just asking if that's something I wanted. Which felt a bit off given the whole Rocco situation, but I am the only other bi girl in here right now."

She trailed off, and he wondered whether Marisol had actually been after Rocco in the first place or if it had all been a ploy to get a single Fox. He shook his head, leaning against the table.

"Well, I do feel for her in that case," he hesitated, "but she's just going to have to get used to the fact you picked me."

He smiled at her, and took her hand.

"Which, I just want to say, thanks for picking me."

"Hmm," she mused, tapping her chin thoughtfully, "however shall you show your gratitude?"

Caught off guard, Lucas blushed.

"Umm, I… I guess I'll…," he stuttered.

She laughed and placed a hand on his chest to stop him. 

"I was always gonna pick you." 

"Well, it's what I was hoping for, obviously," he smirked, regaining his composure. "But you never know, do you?" 

"Nope!" she laughed. "You never know what I'm gonna do next."

He grinned at her.

"Shall we?" 

She leapt to her feet and pulled him towards the bedroom. 

~~~

"Rawr!" Lottie purred, making Fox blush. "I need to steal your wardrobe."

The Australian went back to playfully arguing with Gary over which side of the bed was now hers. 

He felt a vibration in his pocket, followed by hearing the tell-tale notification noise.

"Guys, I got a text!" he blinked.

"Islanders, the Hideaway is open. Please pick one couple to spend the night there."

"It should be Hope and Noah!" called Lottie.

"I reckon it should be Fox and Lucas!" Marisol offered, and Fox flashed her a smile.

A peace offering maybe? 

"Yeah," Hope agreed, "do you want to go, Fox?"

His girl looked at him for his input and he waggled his eyebrows suggestively, making her laugh.

"Fantastic!" she grinned and Lucas smirked.

"Go on! Get in there," Noah shooed them out, as Priya started chanting their names.

They left the bedroom laughing, and raced to the Hideaway. 

~~~

Quiet, warm, soft lighting… this was paradise. 

"Look how big this bed is!" Lucas gasped, looking at the grandest bed he'd ever seen in his life. "It's unreal."

He flopped down. 

Oh my god, yesssss. 

His whole body relaxed instantly. 

"This is amazing!" he babbled, "I bet it's got like a proper expensive mattress. Have you ever bought a mattress?"

He was vaguely aware he was being a dork again, but as Fox lay down beside him with a happy purr, he was too relaxed to feel anxious.

"I have yeah," she laughed, "why do you ask?"

"That's so impressive," he answered. 

"It is?" 

"Absolutely!" he punched up into the air emphatically. "I think the day you buy yourself a mattress is the day you become, like, a proper real adult. Like, if you get a mattress, you know you've made it in life."

"That actually makes sense," she mused. "My biggest ambition growing up was to be able to get my own dog. So I've still to make it in life unfortunately!"

She laughed, as they burrowed down under the covers. 

"I love dogs," Lucas added happily.

"Ah, you have passed the major test then."

Sighing happily, he propped himself up on one side to see her better.

"It's really good to get a bit of headspace from the others," he smiled, running his fingers down her arm furthest from him. "Like, they're great and everything but… -"

He looked at her more intensely, as his fingers traveled across her waist, moving upwards.

"-sometimes you want to focus on what really matters."

"That's such a line," she smirked.

"Well, if you're gonna use a line," his fingers ran over her breasts, slowly, "this is the room to do it in."

Her breath stuttered slightly, and she leaned up to meet him, her lips stopping just shy of his. He ran his hand down to her hip and pulled her against him.

He could feel her breath upon his lips and he swallowed hard.

"I'm a little nervous, to tell you the truth," he confessed in a soft voice.

"You must have done this before," she smiled up at him.

"But never with you," he breathed, putting his lips to her shoulder and leaving a trail of warm kisses across her collar bone as she murmured her approval.

He stopped and looked at her, his eyes burning with emotions he couldn't, wouldn't, yet describe.

"You. Are. Everything." he growled, and she threaded her fingers through his hair, trying to minimise the space between them.

"Don't stop," she moaned, her voice cracking.

"Never," he growled, and resumed kissing his way across her body, teasing her neck, using his teeth lightly on her throat, before kissing her hard as their tongues chased each other.

Everything was different, and he kept rejecting his usual moves. Instead of pinning her hands, he groaned at the feel of her raking her claws down his back and arms; instead of hating his hair being played with, her fingers on the back of his head had him even harder against her; he thought to undress her and she shimmied out of her slip, and dragged his top off before he could blink; he dominated her with kisses only to have her easily shift the power and leave him gasping for more.

He was fighting to hang on to any control when usually he was completely in charge, and he was fucking thrilled. She moved her hips against him unpredictably, circling her way with a precision that had him moaning against her. She was everything

Needing to slow things down to avoid a fast ending, he kissed his way down her body, teasing with lips, tongue and teeth and delighting in how her body reacted. 

He slipped his fingers beneath her shorts, running along the underside of the band, before pulling them down. She was gorgeous, and he took his time teasing across her hips, and thighs, just occasionally dipping his tongue against her.

"So fucking wet, angel," he groaned, as she shuddered in pleasure.

Fox threaded her fingers through his hair again, guiding his head as she moved her hips seductively, getting exactly what she needed, and he felt himself hard and straining against the bed as his own breath stuttered.

He moved his tongue more quickly, alternating between flat licks and more pointed delivery, and she moaned his name quietly. He brought his finger down across her, ever so gently, before entering her with ease, and she arched her back with a loud, "Fuck!" and her hand dropping from his head to grab the sheets in pleasure.

She was addictive and he couldn't get enough - taste, feel, sight, sound, scent… He added another finger and felt her start to tremble.

Keeping his fingers inside her, he moved his thumb to replace his tongue, giving more control and pressure, and allowing him to move his body back above hers so he could watch as he pleasured her.

She bit her lip, trying to stay quiet and he licked up her throat making her groan.

"You're so beautiful," he growled, moving off of her and lying on his side with her pressed against him. "I want to hear you… please."

He bit her neck lightly, as he pressed his thumb harder against her, and she immediately broke.

"Fuck, Lucas, please," she gasped, pulling him into a hard kiss that stole his breath as he gave her everything he had.

She pulled back, arching herself as her head tipped back slightly, moaning his name.

"Come for me, angel," he murmured in her ear, and he held her gaze as she did, his heart hammering as he gently brought her back down to earth, nuzzling into her neck as she gulped in breath.

"That was…" she stuttered slightly, pausing as she gathered herself. "Fuck me!

She laughed, and he smiled against her before removing his hand as she moaned softly. He put his fingers in his mouth as she watched, pupils blown.

He felt her start to move down his body and he held her more tightly.

"Nope," he breathed. "Not letting go."

She purred happily and he gently moved her so she had her back to his chest, his arms wrapped around her as she cuddled into both him and the bed.

Caressing her skin softly with his fingers, a jolt from his lower body drew his attention to the fact that her body was still moving against his, slowly but firmly. He kissed her shoulder.

"You're one in a million, you know that?"

"You're not so bad yourself," she chuckled softly.

"Not so bad?" Lucas grinned. "I'll take it. What's it going to take to get up to 'good'?" 

"Just keep doing what you're doing," she purred, moving her butt against him suggestively, "and I'll let you know when you get there."

"Deal." 

He wiggled his way out of his boxers, and pressed himself back against her body, positioning himself so he just happened to tease where she was still sensitive.

She moaned her approval softly, circling her hips until he was panting against her, desperately holding on to what restraint he had. 

She tilted her head to him.

"Please tell me you brought a-" 

With a flick of his wrist, a gold square appeared in his hand, and she grinned before leaning back to kiss him. He held the kiss as he opened the packet and rolled the condom on, her arm lifted behind her to run her fingers through his hair again and he growled into her mouth.

She ran her hand back down her own body, moaning wantonly, and his restraint broke. He-

He gasped against her as he felt her fingers run across his heavy length, before gripping him firmly and guiding him into position but preventing him from driving forward.

He whined into her neck, trying to find purchase and he felt her laugh, rolling her body against him and allowing just the tip to enter.

"You feel so good," she moaned, circling her hips to let him only get that far again and again.

Lucas growled, not able to think straight, holding her tight but unable to stop the teasing.

"Please-" he moaned brokenly, and she immediately removed her hand, moving her hips back against him as he pushed into her with a loud growl.

She was so tight, and he fought with all his will not to snap his hips completely forward, wanting to make sure he didn't forget her comfort.

"You don't need to hold back, tiger," she purred, her hand back in his hair and driving him wild.

"Don't want to hurt you, angel," he breathed, kissing her shoulder softly.

"Mmm," she moaned her approval, before pulling back slightly with a smirk. "But I like it."

"Fuck!" 

His hips snapped forward, burying himself to the hilt as she hissed in pleasure. She ran her other hand down his arm, and entangled their fingers together as she moaned.

He fought against setting a brutal pace, going deep and slow, with kisses to match that left him breathless. This wasn't his go-to position but he wanted to be able to see her whole body as he moved, watching the pleasure ripple across her and learn all her reactions.

He shifted his angle slightly, and he saw her mouth open and her eyes lose focus. He started kissing her neck again and occasionally using his teeth, knowing it drove her wild. Untangling his hand, he moved his fingers down her body, circling a rhythm to match his kisses as she tightened against him, panting. 

"Beautiful," he growled, and she came hard, longer than before and crying his name. He slowed inside her, drawing his hands up her body and holding her close.

"I've got you," he murmured, as she struggled to find her words. "No rush."

He soothed her gently, still trembling in his arms, and he felt her slowly relax again and her eyes regain focus.

She turned and kissed him, softly at first but gradually increasing the passion as she moved her hips again. He started slowly, but guided by her kisses soon set a hard pace. He struggled to keep control over himself, and she pulled back from the kiss.

"Don't hold back," she purred. "I want you, all of you."

He looked at her, desperate but still unsure. She stroked his face and changed tactics, smirking at him cheekily.

"Show me what you've got, tiger," she growled.

Lucas felt his restraint break immediately as he fucked her hard and deep, biting her shoulder ferally, and sucking a mark that would last for days.

"Fox, fuck, I need you," his words game out garbled and growled, how much he wanted her, needed her, alongside a torrent of swearing as he felt himself building.

"So fucking good, darlin'," she moaned. "You feel so good."

"I'm gonna-" 

"Come inside me, Lucas," she growled, and his vision whitened out as he lost himself, brokenly breathing her name.

When he came back to himself he realised he was locked around her, but as he turned to apologise he saw her already gazing at him, smiling fondly, and his heart flipped.

"Wow," she said, sounding slightly dazed. "Okay, you have now leveled up to 'good'."

He laughed, disentangling himself and rolling over. After he'd sorted himself he lay on his back, and put his arm out, smiling when Fox cuddled up to him happily. They lay there for a while in comfortable silence, as his heart evened out again.

"Do you believe in fate, angel?" he asked softly, breaking the quiet.

"Mmm, no," she replied. "I'm the master of my own destiny."

"That's how I feel too," he smiled. "I've been told it's unromantic, but I am where I am because of the choices I made. Not because of some plan that I didn't get a say in."

She cuddled in closer, and he tucked some of her hair that had fallen forward behind her ear.

"I choose you," she said sleepily, and he felt as if his heart had just exploded with joy.

"And I choose you," he replied softly, stroking her hair. "Let's just spend the rest of the summer in here."

She smiled against his chest. 

"Y'know, I wouldn't mind that one bit." 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke with the sun warm on his face, and he revelled in the peace and quiet. Fox was still wrapped in his arms, breathing softly as she slept, and he couldn't seem to stop himself smiling.

Repositioning himself slightly to avoid poking her in their non-clothed state, he felt her stir next to him and do her cat-like stretch against his body.

"Morning," she greeted him happily. 

He rolled on to his back, relaxing, and she turned around, snuggling back into his chest. 

"Do we really have to go back to all of them?" he murmured.

"We can stay in bed a little longer," she yawned.

"Mmm," he growled happily, "I was hoping you'd say that. I've been waiting to get you alone for ages. Now it's like I can't get enough."

She laughed softly, and he ran his fingers carefully through her hair.

"What about you?" he asked. "How do you feel about things now?"

"I was planning to choose you," she smiled, and he could feel his heart thumping beneath her, "so I'm happy with how it all went." 

"You are, huh?" he grinned. "I guess it was obvious that I was wanting to couple up with you. I didn't actually really look at anyone else."

"Really?" she propped herself up, and her gaze was serious as she met his eyes.

"Definitely," he replied firmly, and she smiled brilliantly at him.

"It's funny," she mused, "I came here open to the idea of finding someone, obviously. But I never planned on doing any of… y'know, this?

"This?" he blinked.

"Yeah," she blushed, before dropping her voice, "doing bits!

He grinned as she blushed even harder. 

Adorable. 

"You cutie," he laughed gently. "I guess I must be special then."

She stuck her tongue out cheekily.

"Honestly," he continued, "I didn't either. Not until the season actually started at least. I came in already a bit smitten. I knew you were the one I wanted the moment I first saw you." 

His heart fluttered as she leaned forward and kissed his nose.

"I don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't been interested," he admitted softly. "I'm glad things seem to be going right for us both now." 

"Looks that way," she smiled. 

He cradled her face in his hands, threading his fingers into her hair, and kissed her slowly, luxuriating in the feel of her pressed against him.

Her hand travelled down his chest, tracing his skin lightly with her nails and he growled into her mouth.

Don't stop. 

Blood rushed down his body as her hand continued, teasingly skirting across his hips as his body attempted to grind the air without permission. He kissed her harder.

She didn't stop. 

Her fingers lightly stroked his length as he gasped in her mouth, her touch light and teasing. She gripped him more firmly, moving slowly, and he growled in pleasure. 

Fox broke the kiss, and looked at him with a smirk.

"Why don't we take this into the shower?"

"Someone will almost definitely catch us," he murmured, excitement in his eyes.

"That's a risk I'm willing to take," she purred.

She hurriedly pulled on her nightwear while he hunted down his that had been thrown from the bed. He grabbed her hand and sped quietly to the bathroom. 

Turning the warm water on, condensation fogged the mirror but not before she noticed the mark on her shoulder from the night before with wide eyes. He stood behind her, an arm crept round her front, and kissed where his teeth had claimed her, starting to apologise.

"I'm-"

She spun round in his arms to face him, and gazed at him intensely with pupils that were absolutely blown.

"I guess now you have to keep me," she purred with a smirk, and pulled him into the shower after her.

Mine. 

His jaw hung open slightly as she stood beneath the spray, lathering shampoo in her hair as water and bubbles cascaded down her body, highlighting every curve. 

Keeping eye contact, she switched places with him so he could do likewise and rinse, though he tried to cover up the fact he avoided getting his hair wet. Floppy-haired Lucas was not something he wanted to break out yet, and they moved past each other again so she could dip her head back and rinse her hair. 

The way her throat was open to him resulted in a strangled groan from his mouth, and she shamelessly chased the suds trailing down her body with her own hands. 

He stepped forward, touched a finger beneath her chin and drew her lips to his in a long lingering kiss. As he pulled back, he nibbled her lower lip, then leaned to whisper in her ear.

"You drive me wild," he growled. 

"Oh, I do, do I?" 

His mouth curled into a half-smile. 

"That explains the biting," she smirked. "You're, like, properly feral." 

He spun her around so her back was pressed against his chest, her front still warmed by the shower water. He licked over the place he'd marked already, and his finger trailed a line along her collarbone.

"Only for you," he growled in her ear. "Plus, I always like a bit of danger."

"You are a bit of danger," she moaned, her body rolled against his.

Before he caught up with her thinking, she lifted herself on her tiptoes, freeing his hard length from her back, and she slid back down his chest so that he was moving against her where she was wet in an entirely different way. 

"Fuck, yes…" he groaned, trying desperately to not sink into her despite his entire body screaming at him, and she moved sinfully against him, moaning softly. 

He hadn't seen her hand move down, but when she gripped him, he gasped in pleasure. Her hand shifted subtly and suddenly it was exactly right. He snarled her name, his hands caressing, squeezing, chasing across her entire body as he bit into her neck.

She keened in pleasure, chasing a rhythm, and he thrust his hand down, realising just how taut her body was against his already.

He began circling his fingers as gently as he could, kissing and nipping her neck and growling his worship of her.

"Fuck, tiger," she moaned brokenly. "Need you inside me…" 

He leaned across to grab the condom packet, propped up against the shampoo, and spun her around. Pressing her against the cool tiled wall, she shuddered as he kissed her hard, her nails raking down his chest as he got ready.

Fox purred into his mouth as he slid his hands down her sides, curving around her ass. She lifted up on her tiptoes, and he ran a hand down behind her right thigh, lifting her leg with his arm.

He lined himself up but paused, his dominance faltering as he met her eyes wanting to be sure.

"Lucas," she groaned as he gazed at her intensely, "please…" 

"Please?" he drawled, arching his eyebrow.

She licked her lips, struggling to lower herself but caught by the leg he had control of. She growled.

"Please… fuck me-" 

He crushed his lips against hers, the familiar thrill of dominance rushing through him mixed with something new, and finally pulled her hips down as he thrust up, burying himself to the hilt with a snarl.

She cried his name, loudly, her hips grinding against him, making him groan. With her slight freedom she began rising and sinking against him, and he matched her pace, throwing away his usual complete control in favour of how fucking good she felt.

There was hot pleasure pressing inside him and it was too soon, too much. He pulled back slightly to give himself more time, her quirked eyebrow answered by him lifting her entire body off the ground and pressing her harder against the wall.

She gasped, locking her ankles behind his back and wrapped her arms round his neck. She moaned wantonly as he thrust in at the new angle, biting her own lip with a hiss, and he felt her start to pulse around him.

Fuuuck me-

He was no longer sure what he was thinking and what he was moaning, and he set a brutal pace, pressing forward to kiss her wildly, stretching it out as long as possible. 

She raked her nails down his back, far harder than before, and he hissed in pleasure, kissing her deeper.

"Fuck, Lucas, I'm gonna…" 

Lost in the pleasure of her, he ravished her body, kissing, biting, fucking, and she came with a loud cry of his name. As she kept pulsing in pleasure, he lost his rhythm, thrusting furiously until he felt everything explode as he yelled and his vision spun. 

He leaned his forehead against hers, panting heavily as he held her still against the wall, and she stroked the back of his head gently, soothing him as he trembled.

"Oh my god," his voice shook, and this wasn't how he usually…

His thoughts kept trailing off. Everything was different.

She laughed, happily.

"But you can call me Fox," she grinned at him, and he laughed in return.

Lowering her to her feet he kept a hold of her, not sure which of them was more likely to fall. He brought his lips to hers and kissed her tenderly and slowly. His tongue pressed against hers softly as he tangled one hand in her hair, the other still holding her close by the waist.

He knew exactly what this kiss was saying, pouring all the emotions he couldn't yet voice into it. And when she finally broke away with a happy sigh, he saw her eyes shining.

"I guess we should be heading back now," he murmured, reluctantly. 

"It's time," she sighed. "And they definitely will have heard us."

Fox looked extremely un-bothered by that idea, and he grinned. At least it should be obvious to everyone that she was now unequivocally spoken for. 

~~~

Lucas sauntered over to the gym where the other guys had already stationed themselves. They were working out and chatting, while Bobby attempted to learn to hula hoop.

As he drew near, they all whipped their heads round and for some reason he was reminded of a pack of grinning hyenas.

"Good morning, mate?" Gary chirped.

"A very good morning, no?" Rahim grinned.

"A VERY very good morning?" laughed Bobby.

"Alright, alright," Noah smiled. "Give the lad a break, he probably needs to rest up!"

The guys fell about laughing and Lucas grinned at them brightly, taking up his usual spot on the pull-up bar. 

"You know I don't kiss and tell," he smirked.

"Yeah but you didn't account for kiss and hear!" Bobby waggled his eyebrows.

Lucas borrowed a move from his girl and stuck his tongue out playfully as he started exercising. 

Not that my arms actually need another workout today… 

"Fox looks happy," Rahim smiled. "I'm glad."

"Yeah, we all are," nodded Gary. "She's one of us, y'know?" 

"Even if she's also apparently a wildcat," Bobby grinned, looking at the scratches across his chest. 

Lucas beamed at them, and the conversation soon turned to the other relationships in the Villa. Gary was still nervous with Lottie, Rahim didn't feel completely sure of Priya's interest, and Bobby was stuck in another friendship couple, not that he was complaining.

As the boys worked up a sweat, Lucas found his thoughts repeatedly drifting back to Fox. She had made him feel very secure, and so he shouldn't be feeling the same anxieties as Gary and Rahim.

But as the guys had spoken, he couldn't help but remember that at least three of them had tried to graft on Fox to begin with, and his jealousy lay uncomfortably close to the surface.

~~~

Noah lazed in the pool unhappily, and Lucas realised it was his way of momentarily hiding from Hope. Not that she'd done anything wrong, but her excitement for the announced Ministry of Sound party that evening was evidently not shared by her partner.

"Not a fan of the clubs?" Lucas guessed.

"Librarians and clubbing don't tend to mix," Noah grimaced. "It's just… Hope loves to dance, and I'm just big, awkward, and clumsy."

Lucas blinked, a little taken aback.

"You know that doesn't matter, right?" he asked, as Noah looked at him, confused. "If you're single then knowing how to dance is definitely a good skill, but if you're in a couple you're essentially there to be danced on." 

"What do you mean?"

"Some guys can dance well," he explained, "but it's the minority, right? Meanwhile, the vast majority of women know exactly how to turn their man on. Just hold on to her and enjoy the ride." 

"Huh," the librarian digested this information. "Okay, that actually makes sense. I can do that." 

Noah grinned at him in thanks.

"You are a wise dude to have around," he laughed. "So I'm guessing you'll be more than a match for Fox this evening?" 

"Oh, hell no," Lucas laughed. "I can dance, and I'm used to girls dancing on me, but Fox is a whole other level. I may have a heart attack..."

~~~

Gary had asked him to spot him on the bench, and he'd cheerfully agreed. He soon realised the blonde had really wanted to talk to him one on one, as he divulged some of his anxieties about Lottie.

"She's just so hot and cold," he breathed out, lifting the bar above him. "Which means I end up being the same, which is not great for my mental health."

"It sounds like she gets a bit caught up in negative thinking," Lucas suggested. "You know, fearing the worst and then reacting to that instead of what's actually happening."

"That's," Gary grunted as the bar lowered, "maybe it. I guess I could try reassuring her more."

"Definitely can't hurt," Lucas guided the bar back up.

"I just really like her, y'know? And-" 

"Got company," he warned quietly. 

Gary sat up and wiped himself down, as Lottie and Marisol wandered across. Lucas grabbed a couple of dumbbells and sat doing lazy curls.

"Didn't you guys already work out today?" Lottie asked curiously.

"My chest needed a bit more work," Gary grinned. "I can never get on this when Noah and Rahim are working out." 

Lucas realised that Marisol's gaze kept lingering on him and he studiously ignored it. Instead he looked out across the lawn. Hope was still lazing by the pool, presumably with a happier Noah.

As he looked over at the daybeds he saw Rahim and Priya sitting together across from Bobby, who was calling Fox over. She lightly strolled over and he couldn't help but smile as he checked her out, in a killer yellow and white bikini. 

When she sat down next to her friend though, and the younger man scooched closer, he felt that familiar stabbing sensation in his stomach again. 

Shit. 

~~~

Lucas rolled his eyes in frustration as Gary once again refused to look at the instructions. The smoothie maker had gone on the blink, and they could probably just request a replacement but the crane operator was determined. 

He heard soft laughter behind him, and turned round smiling.

"Hey you," he greeted Fox. "Your outfit is gorgeous by the way, I adore it!" 

"You're so sweet," she smiled, kissing him on the cheek. 

"Um, do you know anything about machines?" he asked. 

"I know about machines!" huffed Gary. "Just let me do it!" 

"I didn't even want a smoothie that much…" Lucas sat next to the counter. 

"I'm afraid I only know tech, not mech," said Fox, thoughtfully, before leaning over next to him. "Wait, is that the manual right there?" 

"Don't be ridiculous," Gary growled, "I've got it." 

As Gary turned round, Fox mimed crab claws with her hands and Lucas stifled a laugh. 

Crabby indeed. 

He looked at her more closely as she watched Gary, and he realised her shoulders weren't right, tension was stiffening her posture. 

Something's wrong. 

Gary swore and Lucas turned his attention back to the manual. He read as far as one line out loud before Gary hissed at him to stop. 

"There's an O-ring missing," the blonde announced.

"That makes sense," Lucas nodded. "What's an O-ring?" 

Fox grinned at him as Gary turned back to them with a sigh. 

"Little bit of rubber shaped like a ring. Wonder who took it out of the box?" 

"Someone who's planning a rubber proposal?" Lucas quipped before internally cringing. 

Whyyy. 

There was a snort of laughter beside him, as Fox cracked up along with Gary. 

"Oh, is that what the kids are calling it these days?" Gary laughed. 

The boys bantered about whether it was more likely Noah had stolen it for Hope, or Rocco had taken it as a souvenir.

Lucas reached for Fox's hand, still concerned something was troubling her. She moved closer, and he drew her on to his lap where she settled happily. 

"Haven't seen Hope in a while," Gary mused. 

"Noah was in the living room by himself, too," added Lucas, and he felt Fox stiffen against him.

Gary noticed as well, and turned to her.

"Trouble in paradise? Have you heard anything, Fox?"

With the hand that was wrapped around her, Lucas gently stroked her thigh, in an effort to make her more comfortable.

She looked at him, then Gary, and seemed to come to a decision.

"I'm not supposed to repeat this," she sighed unhappily, "but the others are wondering if those two are for real. Priya suggested shaking things up a bit."

She laid her hand over his and entwined their fingers before continuing.

"She wants to try to turn Noah's head, and she said I should try, too." 

"What?!" Lucas growled, anger flickering within him. "You said no, right?" 

"Of course I said no," she reassured him, squeezing his hand. "I feel weird about the whole thing, honestly." 

"Yeah, I would too, a bit," sighed Gary. 

"Agreed," Lucas nuzzled her cheek.

Mine. 

"There has to be a better way of doing things," he continued

"I actually thought Priya was going to pick Noah, when she first came," Gary mused, "but instead she picked Rocco."

"But you're not upset with her?" Lucas asked Fox.

"Not at all," she smiled. "She had to pick someone." 

"You thought Priya was into Noah then?" he asked Gary. 

"Just had a feeling," the blonde man shrugged. "I think she and Rahim are good together, though." 

"He definitely fancies her," Lucas agreed. "Where's Priya now, anyway?" 

"Um," Gary looked round the garden, "possibly off cracking on with Noah? Maybe you should go find her, Fox?" 

"Actually," she replied, sliding off of Lucas's lap, "I think I need to go find Hope."

He let go of her hand, but still held her waist, softly stroking against her skin. 

"She's up on the roof terrace I think," he smiled.

"See you boys at the party, then?" she grinned, and Lucas was relieved to see some of the tension she'd been holding had dropped. 

"Bet you'll be stunning," he smouldered at her, his fingers reluctantly letting her go. 

"You know I always turn the dial up to stun," she winked saucily, and he swallowed hard watching her leave.

"Melt!" Gary laughed, and Lucas grinned, trying not to think about what he'd have done if his girl had been up for tempting Noah. 

~~~

Noah staggered across the bedroom and crashed down on his bed, pulling a pillow over his face and groaning.

The girls were all in the dressing room getting ready while the boys were alternately lazing about and attempting to spruce themselves up. 

"You okay, man?" Rahim sounded worried.

There was no answer from the pillow, and Gary walked over.

"We heard what was happening." 

Noah lowered the pillow with a sigh. He looked exhausted.

"I was not expecting any of it," he said, grimly, before looking over at Lucas. "I'm glad Fox had a word, this would have been a million times worse otherwise."

"What happened?" Lucas asked gently.

"Priya made a pass at me," he sighed, before noting Rahim's expression. "I'm sorry, man."

The golfer shook his head.

"This wasn't on you," he said quietly, before sitting down with a look of devastation. 

"I told Hope immediately," Noah continued, "and she'd already found out about it from Fox. But she's paranoid I kissed her back, as if I'm not capable of saying no."

Lucas realised Noah was annoyed with Hope as well as upset, and was uncomfortably reminded of his own jealousy. If someone made a pass at Fox, would he be able to believe nothing happened? 

I mean, yeah. But I'd also be completely paranoid. Fuck. 

"But I'm not giving in," the librarian said firmly. "Fox had a chat with me after and talked a lot of sense." 

Bobby, who had been uncharacteristically quiet stepped forward.

"I'm sorry, man," he began, twisting his hands. "This is partly my fault. I didn't fully appreciate the stakes. It's not all on Priya. And Fox straight up said she wanted no part in it."

"It's fine," Noah sighed again. "I just need to take some time to get my thoughts in order." 

The bedroom fell into silence, nobody prepared to push him on his somewhat cryptic words. 

~~~ 

From the garden, Lucas saw Fox, Priya and Bobby descend from the roof terrace, and his girl seeking Lottie out by the kitchen. 

Hope and Marisol had hit the party, dancing already, and it seemed like the girls had been given a wardrobe of silver dresses and gold tattoos to choose from. 

He sipped his drink, waiting patiently. He couldn't work out why Lottie was upset but then again, he rarely could. As usual Fox had found herself playing peacemaker, and given Hope's apparent good mood he could only assume it was working. 

He looked up to see Fox finally strutting towards the garden, her face lighting up at the music and her shoulders relaxing. She was wearing a sinfully tight outfit, a mini skirt with deep slits on each thigh, and a matching triangle cropped top with a dangerously plunging neckline. Everything was silver and glittery, and she sparkled like a diamond under the neon lights. 

As she hit the grass she started to dance, clearly into the thumping bassline, and he stood, thankful his tight trousers kept him in check. He'd planned to let her come to him, but he couldn't handle being patient right now.

Walking towards her he saw the tension dissolving from her body as she moved, her eyes closed as she ran a hand through her hair. He had never seen anyone dance so sexily and make it look so effortless.

She spun in front of him and he tapped her shoulder gently. 

"Mind if I cut in?" he smouldered, and she smiled in delight.

Taking her by the hand, he twirled her, his eyes hungrily travelling her body.

"Look at you!" he growled. "So beautiful."

He pulled her closer, and he saw her grin widen as she realised he was more than capable of keeping up with her. She turned with her back pressed against him as he moved his hips, his hand low against her stomach, just barely above where his mouth and hands had been only a few hours before.

She purred as she danced, grinding against him, and stretched her arm up and behind him to hold the back of his neck. He licked up the shell of her ear, holding back a groan as her breath stuttered.

His head was starting to spin and reluctantly, he turned her back to face him, kissing her gently and slowing their movements back to safer ground. 

"I hear footsteps!" they pulled apart at Marisol's cry, as all the Islanders stopped in their tracks. 

A blonde girl and a tank of a man suddenly appeared walking towards them all. 

New Islanders? Shit. 

"I can't believe I'm finally here!" the girl squealed.

"Hi, ladies," boomed the man next to her with a huge smirk. 

Marisol leaned over to Fox beside him and whispered excitedly.

"He's so fit!"

Lucas clenched his jaw. 

"Oh em gee! Hi everyone!" the girl screamed as she suddenly barreled in their direction.

Lucas hesitated in alarm, but she careered past him and launched herself at Fox who caught her in a hug with a gasp of laughter.

"I'm so glad to meet you Fox!" the girl yelled. "It feels like I know you already! I'm Chelsea and that's Jakub! We've seen every episode so far." 

"You've been watching us?" Hope asked. 

"That's right," Jakub smirked. "And let me just say one thing. If the boys here aren't up for the challenge of a real woman like Priya, I am." 

"Oh!" Priya blinked in confusion, as Rahim grimaced. "What else did you guys see?" 

"A lot!" giggled Chelsea. "I have so many opinions. But I think the big thing was that kiss." 

Hope spun round to face Noah, looking both fearful and furious. 

"What kiss?" she asked him angrily, and Noah shrugged. "Did you kiss Priya and lie to me?" 

Noah scowled immediately. 

"I told you, no! Stop accusing me of things!" 

"That's actually not what I'm talking about," Chelsea continued, oblivious to the tension.

Gary groaned, and Lottie looked sick as everyone looked at the new girl.

"Lottie, you were supposed to be Hannah's best friend in here-" Chelsea began.

God dammit. 

Frowning, Lucas felt Fox sagging against him a little. Blocking out the conversation he looked at her with concern, and put his arm around her waist, drawing her a little closer.

She gave him a weak smile, and he saw that her body was once again tense as the drama unfolded. He was annoyed, partly for himself but mostly on her behalf. Instead of a party, the night was going to end up being about this instead.

He kissed the top of her head. Looking back to the group he saw Jakub checking Fox out, and he glared at him, his jealousy crackling. 

Marisol exploded in anger at Lottie, and everyone took a step back. 

"What's all this then?" Jakub interrupted. "I thought we were having a party, and I've got some fit birds I wanna get chirpsing with." 

"Yeah, I think maybe we should give these guys some space." Rahim suggested.

"I agree," said Marisol. "I'm not in the mood to have my evening ruined." 

"All my party people, on me!" Jakub cried.

The Islanders made for the pool, and Lucas looked at Fox, unsure.

"You go ahead, tiger," she smiled at him. "I'll try and calm this down."

"You could come with me," he asked, knowing the answer already.

"Only if we want this to completely blow up," she pulled a face, before leaning up to kiss him.

He smiled at her. 

"Okay, angel," he said softly, "but come get me if you need me?" 

"I will." 

He wandered over to the pool, and saw Jakub turn back and look past him.

"Sweet garms, Fox!" the new boy called to her. 

"Aww, thanks Jakub," she answered cheerfully, not really looking.

Lucas growled to himself, at least over here he could be sure the tank wasn't grafting on her.

~~~

He couldn't help but glance up occasionally to look over across the lawn, as Priya paced in front of Lottie, with Fox and Chelsea standing to the side.

Everyone else was around or in the pool, and Jakub seemed to be amusing himself by flirting with both Hope and Marisol as the guys bantered. 

"We should go welcome the new girl, right?" Gary suggested. 

Rahim and Bobby swung round and gave their enthusiastic agreement.

"Sure," Lucas nodded, and they traipsed over in time to see Lottie storm off.

They stopped in their tracks, hesitant, as Chelsea came towards them, only to go to the drinks table and completely ignore them. 

"Gin o'clock, Fox?" she chirped. "Aww, no gin." 

"Actually, I think the guys are hoping to speak to you," Fox smiled in their direction.

"Well, the guys can wait then, can't they?" she winked at them as she unscrewed a bottle.

Lucas had to laugh at their confused faces. He saw Fox give Priya a hug before the estate agent walked back towards the Villa. 

Gary stepped forward, clearing his throat. 

"Good time to cut in, girls?" he asked. "Figured us lads were being a pretty weak welcome wagon for the new girl." 

"Aww, that's so cute!" Chelsea cooed. "You guys wanna get to know me?" 

"Well, yeah…" answered Bobby, a little dazed.

"That's adorable!" she grinned. "But I'm afraid it'll have to wait. My girl Fox and I were gonna have some bonding time. Weren't we, Fox?"

Without missing a beat, Fox smiled at her.

"Like, with silk stockings?" she asked innocently.

The boys erupted in laughter as Chelsea shooed them away.

"Well, that didn't go well," Bobby laughed as they stood at a distance.

"She clearly just has good taste," smirked Lucas. 

He looked across, and it seemed like Chelsea was talking a mile a minute at Fox who occasionally spoke to her firmly, but with a smile. At one point she held up her finger to stop the younger girl talking, and miraculously, she actually paused and listened, nodding her head.

Lottie suddenly reappeared, charging towards Chelsea, as Marisol appeared from behind the boys, walking over as she shook her head. The guys followed her, aimlessly. 

Uh oh. 

"No, don't look at her," Lottie was saying, with a rasp in her voice to match her cried out eyeliner. "Look at me. Why me?" 

Fox nodded and Chelsea turned back to Lottie, and looked her in the eye. 

"I'm really sorry, Lottie," Chelsea said. "It was never meant to be personal, but I don't want to make excuses for myself, either. I'm sorry."

Lucas raised an eyebrow, impressed, as he saw Lottie soften slightly.

Peacekeeper supreme!

Marisol cut in, and Fox tried to make her escape.

"I was hoping I could grab you, actually," Marisol said to her, and Fox's face fell.

Lottie walked away, and Gary caught up to her, catching her against his chest as she cried. 

"You too, Bobby," Marisol added, and Bobby acquiesced with a groan.

It would be just Rahim and Lucas left with Chelsea, and Fox looked over at her man with a raised eyebrow. He met her gaze and touched his heart and she smiled, crinkling her nose in the way that made him melt.

She disappeared indoors, and he sighed.

"Why don't we join the others by the pool?" he suggested, and he noted Rahim's look of relief as Chelsea agreed and skipped beside them. He suspected the new girl was a little brash for the quiet golfer to cope with.

Noah welcomed them back with a similar look of relief and Lucas soon realised why. The new guy was boring as shit. He smiled to himself, and hoped Fox would be left alone soon. 

~~~

The party had drawn to a close not long after, and Lucas found himself wandering a little aimlessly. Everyone but Hope and Fox had gone up the stairs to the bedroom, and he was waiting for them to finish so he could hopefully catch his girl.

He was trying not to eavesdrop but it was hard not to hear bits and pieces. He could sympathise with Hope's worries, and it seemed like maybe Noah hadn't been reassuring enough.

"Maybe Priya's right," Hope sighed.

"Every couple faces challenges and issues," he heard Fox saying. "But if you want it enough, you'll work through the hard times together. Falling for someone can be easy sometimes. But the rest takes some learning, for both people."

"That actually makes a lot of sense," Hope sounded a little reassured. 

"You're a warrior, babes." 

"Guess I am," Hope laughed, and he heard her getting up. "Thanks for the chat, babes. I'm gonna head to bed."

Lucas walked in as she was leaving, and she flashed him a smile. 

"Hey, tiger," Fox was curled up on the couch, and he beamed at her. 

He sat down sideways at the end of her couch, and opened his legs to make space in front of him. 

"Come here, you," he smiled, and she spun around, wiggling back against him with a happy if tired sigh.

"You can rest all your weight on me," he said, "just totally relax."

He leaned back slightly as she did, and he brushed the straps of her top off her shoulders and down her arms, before spreading his hands to massage her.

"Mmm," she purred in pleasure, "this I need." 

He concentrated as he worked, easing out the tension from her neck and upper back, and working his fingers across her head and shoulders as well.

She occasionally moaned in approval, needing a firmer press in some places than others, and he could feel and hear her relaxing and getting sleepier.

He finished with light movements, easing her into a state of pure relaxation. She was exhausted by other people, and the last thing he wanted was to demand anything further of her.

Wrapping his arms around her as she sighed happily, he kissed her softly over the fading mark on her shoulder. 

"Bed time, beautiful," he murmured, and she nodded her agreement.

Pulling himself out from behind her and hopping round, he put his arms under her before she could move and lifted her easily to his chest.

She laughed in delight, putting her arms round his neck.

"You do spoil me," she purred happily.

"Always," he smirked, carrying her to bed.

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke with Fox purring in her sleep beside him, cuddled into his arms. He extricated himself carefully and spent much of the morning keeping others from waking her.

She'd looked beyond the point of exhaustion the previous night, and he found an unexpected ally in Chelsea. As soon as the new girl heard Fox needed more sleep, she bundled everyone out of the room and made sure no one returned.

After breakfast and a shower he looked out to see everyone gathered round Jakub at the gym as he demonstrated his strength. The other guys seemed rather defeated, their workout abandoned. 

He stretched lazily and figured he should probably wake Fox, so she didn't miss too much of the day. Entering the bedroom he saw her looking out the window, still a little sleep-dazed.

He had fixed his hair though it was still somewhat damp and thus not completely flop-proof, but he was distracted as she turned and smiled at him. He walked straight over, wrapping his arms around her and kissed her forehead.

"Argh, you're all wet!" she laughed against him, her hands running up his arms and behind his neck. 

"I'm giving you a pre-shower," he chuckled. "Like a shower before you shower."

She met his gaze and stuck her tongue out, and he laughed, stepping back to look at her. 

"Damn, I love that outfit on you," he smirked, his eyes appreciating the satin and lace that she'd barely crawled into last night while half-asleep. 

"You're so sweet," she smiled, stretching a little.

He lead her by the hand back to the bed and crashed down on it, grinning when she flopped down beside him. 

"I do need to get up you know," she laughed, while showing no intention of doing so. 

He nuzzled into her, wanting to be close, and she stroked his arm, still damp from the shower. 

"What's your biggest regret?" she mused, looking thoughtful. 

"You mean apart from all the minutes of my life I've spent up till now not kissing you?" he drawled, with a smirk. 

"Obviously," she grinned. "What's number two?" 

"I'd say… Yasmin Ashraf."

"Ooh, who's she?" 

"She was the most popular girl in year six. All the boys wanted to go to the school disco with her. I never asked her because everyone said she was going out with Danny Metcalfe. Turns out that was just a rumour he started. I found out later that she fancied me. I was completely gutted."

Why am I still talking, shut up. 

He glanced at Fox but she had been listening intently.

"That's your biggest regret?" she smiled. "Not asking a girl out in year six?" 

"Yeah," he laughed. "Regrets are for people who don't know themselves. People who doubt their choices. Even the stuff with my family and school isn't a regret. I stand by what I did."

"That's pretty impressive," she looked thoughtful, "to be so self-assured."

"Mm," he shrugged. "Doesn't mean I don't get caught up in worries though. Or make mistakes. So, what's your biggest regret, then?" 

"Hmm," she rolled on to her back, lost in thought. "I guess if I had to pick something it'd probably be not trusting myself earlier. But then I think that's just something that comes with age." 

He propped himself up on his side listening.

"I spent a lot of years assuming everyone was somehow better at life than I was," she continued. "Y'know, smarter, more savvy, better at relationships… it took time for me to realise that wasn't true." 

"I get you," Lucas smiled.

"Whereas now I appreciate that I am in fact the best at everything," she winked, and he burst into laughter.

Confident Queen. 

He gazed at her, turning up his smoulder.

"You look so beautiful in the mornings," he murmured, his heart feeling warm and fuzzy. 

"I haven't even showered yet," she objected. 

"Doesn't matter," he traced his fingertips up her chest, "you're still perfect." 

He ran his fingers lightly up her throat, and placed a finger over her lips. 

"And I don't think I can stand not kissing you another minute," he growled softly, building tension before he made his move. 

She gazed into his darkened eyes and he felt her breath stutter slightly. She turned towards him and took his face in her hands, kissing him hard and pressing her entire body against his. 

He gasped in surprise at her turning the tables on him, and she found his tongue with hers, running her hands through his hair. He moved his own hands to the small of her back, feeling her grind against him.

He groaned as her fingers pulled at his hair slightly, and he pressed into her, letting her know exactly how hard she'd made him.

She pulled away with a slight whine from him, and he saw her looking at her fingers slightly confused.

"Oh, um," he blushed.

"Gel?"

"Gel," he dipped his head slightly, embarrassed. "It's because it's not long on…" 

She laughed, and met his eyes, kissing him again, teasingly. When she pulled away this time, he gasped a little, feeling dazed. 

"You okay there?" she smirked, and he hesitated before answering, regaining his composure.

"Yeah, that was just…" he broke into a goofy grin as he reached up to fix his hair a little. "I'm not used to being kissed like that." 

She grinned, wolfishly.

"Best get used to it," she purred. "This is how I roll." 

"I can tell!" he grinned. "It's bloody brilliant. I'm too used to taking a lead on things… My life just got a whole lot better."

Fox stretched before leaning over, and kissed him on the cheek.

"I'd best get ready, so I can go fix things," she sighed.

"People should fix their own problems," he growled.

"They should, but they won't, and we all have to live here," she stood, and he grumbled his reluctant acceptance.

"Catch you outside in a bit," he smiled. 

~~~

Lucas had become Gary's go-to spotter, and he oversaw the blonde's deadlifts as Hope, Noah and Rahim exercised. Jakub was now lounging on the grass, playing with a single massive dumbbell as the other girls watched transfixed.

He smiled as he saw Fox wander over, in a gorgeous checked bikini that instead of straps had an off-the-shoulder bardot fit. 

"Oi!" Gary huffed, bringing his attention back.

"Sorry, mate," he risked only occasional glances, focusing on the task at hand.

"Hey, Fox!" he heard Jakub rumble. "Damn, you look so good in that outfit."

He hoped Gary was too in the zone to notice how furious he looked. He heard Fox call Lottie and Priya away for a chat, and he tried to shrug his anger aside.

Get it together, dammit. 

"That's me done," Gary groaned after a few more lifts. 

Stretching his arms behind his neck, the younger man looked over and his jaw dropped.

"Lottie and Priya just hugged," he gasped. "We're gonna need a Nobel peace prize, stat."

Lucas laughed as he added more weight to the bar, and swapped positions so the thoroughly impressed Gary could spot him. He heard Fox calling Lottie away again, this time with Chelsea, as the Australian grumbled. 

He finished up just as the girls were returning, and Fox flashed him a smile. It seemed like fixing things had gone well. 

"Welcome back, girls," Jakub smirked, and before Lucas could move a loud text message notification rang out. 

"Oh em gee!" Chelsea squealed loudly. "I finally get to say it! Guys! I got a text!" 

Everyone gathered round, curious to see if a challenge was coming up.

She read her text: "Chelsea and Jakub, it's time for your first dates. You must each choose two Islanders." 

As she squealed, Lucas glanced at Fox with a worried expression.

He's going to choose Fox, I know it. 

The new girl made a show of picking, spinning with her finger out. 

"For my first date, I'm going to choose… Rahim!" 

The golfer looked startled and mildly terrified but with some persuasion from Priya he agreed.

"The second person I want to take on a date is… Lucas!" 

He looked up in shock, and met Fox's eyes for her reaction. Based on how she'd been with Rocco, he expected her to wave him off happily, and his stomach churned a little at the thought. 

Instead he saw that she was scowling, and he tried to hide his smile. 

"Promise I'll bring him back in one piece!" chirped Chelsea, and Fox simply raised an eyebrow, remaining silent.

"Your turn babes!" Chelsea said to Jakub, before turning to Rahim and Lucas. "We should go get ready." 

She walked back to the Villa, with Rahim in tow. Lucas lingered, with a sinking feeling. 

"Right, I've done a lot of big thinking about this," the tank announced, "and the first girl I'd like to take on a date is… Hope." 

Everyone started murmuring, and Hope shot Noah a panicked look. 

"It's just a date," said Noah. "Go have fun."

Lucas winced as Hope walked away in silence to go get ready in the Villa.

Meanwhile Jakub had already turned his attention to his second date, his eyes flicking between both Priya and Fox. Priya was tossing her hair over her shoulder, batting her eyelashes, while his girl looked a little bored. 

"You girls sure make it hard," Jakub rumbled, and there was a wheeze of laughter followed by a squeal as Lottie elbowed Bobby in the stomach. 

"Who're you stuck between, mate?" asked Gary.

"Priya and Fox," Jakub grinned at the two of them. "Who'll it be, ladies? Who wants to go on a date with me?" 

What if Fox goes because Chelsea picked me? 

Lucas held his breath, and smiled when he saw Fox shrug.

Priya grinned and said that she'd love to go on Jakub's date, before hurrying off to get ready.

Jakub still looked a bit put out, and Lucas walked round behind Fox, cuddling her from behind as he rested his head on her shoulder.

She made a happy noise against him, and the new guy sauntered back to the Villa looking somewhat displeased. 

"You okay?" he murmured, and she turned in his arms to look at him, putting her arms round his neck.

"I am," she smiled, genuinely, "just don't have too much fun on your date!"

He laughed, and kissed her forehead.

"I'd rather be with you," he promised, "and honestly, I think Chelsea would as well."

She grinned at that, and they headed inside.

~~~

Lucas had a headache. It's not that he didn't like Chelsea, she was fun and upfront and apparently a huge fan of Fox, but the girl literally never stopped chattering away. 

He drank his wine, doing his best to keep up, and soon realised that her affection for his girl was genuine. It was likely Fox was still a fan favourite, so it made sense for new arrivals to seek her out, but Chelsea seemed like a good sort.

He glanced over at Jakub's date, and it looked like Priya was also stuck in the listening role though she looked rather annoyed.

"I'm so glad Fox helped me with Lottie," Chelsea was chirping away. "I think she's the only person who can calm Lottie down and her doing that for me means so much you know? And I know you know, because you're with her, but oh my god, will she hate me for picking you? Because I only did as I guessed she wouldn't be upset but then am I just as bad as everyone else doing that-"

He rubbed his temples and sighed inwardly. His face was starting to hurt from his fixed smile, and he drummed his fingers before realising Chelsea was looking at him with an expectant face.

Shit

"Hmm?" he asked.

"Time's up!" she grinned. "We need to head back. Thank you so much for the chat babes, it helped so much!"

He smiled, blinking in confusion and headed back to the Villa. 

~~~

He knocked on the dressing room door, peeking round the corner to see if his girl was there. 

"Do you mind?!" Lottie grumbled. "There could be naked ladies in here!" 

"I did knock…" frowned Lucas, his head still thumping. 

Lottie rolled her eyes and he looked over to Fox, clad in a white wrapped mini dress with silver belt and long flowing sleeves. 

My angel. 

She met his eyes, and he saw concern appear on her face. 

"Mind if we chat?" he asked. 

"Sure," she smiled, and came over to him. 

"Can we go outside?" he murmured. "I need some fresh air."

She took his hand and he led them out to the fire pit, and sat down next to her. The firelight cast a flickering glow over her skin and white outfit, and he was suddenly reminded of the imagery of Persephone in Hell.

Am I her Hades? 

He shrugged the thought away, and she hesitantly stroked his cheek.

"Are you okay?" she asked, concerned. "You don't seem yourself."

"Headache," he smiled at her reassuringly. "Chelsea talks a lot."

"Aww, tiger. I've got stuff you can take when we go back in." 

He nodded in thanks, then took a deep breath.

"I know this is gonna sound like it's coming out of nowhere really fast," he began, "but I thought we should have a chat and make sure we're both on the same page." 

"Whoah, okay," she said, surprised. "Should I put a seatbelt on or…?" 

"No!" he reached for her hand with a smile, entangling their fingers. "Nothing like that. I mean, hopefully…" 

She tilted her head at him, and he continued.

"I wanna talk about where we're both at, how we're feeling about being coupled up, that sort of thing. How do you reckon the last few days have been?"

He saw a flicker of realisation on her face, and she smiled.

"I think we've been really strong," she said firmly.

"Good," he grinned. "That's what I was hoping to hear. Just as long as you know that I'm really happy, too." 

He dipped his head slightly, with a blush.

"Do you reckon you want to carry on getting to know each other then?" 

She met his gaze steadily.

"I want to be with you," she answered, and he smiled goofily, leaning forward to kiss her softly. 

Pulling back, he beamed at her.

"I'm so happy you said that," he laughed. "My heart was pounding out of my chest."

"I'm guessing your answer is the same then," she raised her eyebrow, teasingly.

"One hundred percent," he smiled. "I could say all the things about how you're exactly my type on paper, but honestly I think you've changed my paper. You're such a big personality, you know you're beautiful with and without glam, you care about everyone so much, and you're true to yourself. You keep me on my toes, and everything is just… different with you."

She blushed, and squeezed his hand, lost for words.

"I really like you, Fox," he murmured.

"And I really like you," she kissed his nose, and he grinned.

"So we stay together, of course?" he said with a hint of question. 

"Definitely," she winked at him.

He stood and offered his hand as she got up.

"By the way," he said, "you look bloody amazing tonight."

"Aww, thank you," she smiled, blushing a little. "I figured I should step it up given you'd been on a date."

"There's no comparison, angel," he growled gently. "Only you." 

He pulled her close to him and kissed her, a long lingering kiss that made her eyes sparkle as she pulled away.

"Speaking of which," she said softly, "painkillers time?" 

"Please, yes," sighed Lucas. 

~~~

By bedtime his headache had receded a fair bit, and he snuggled down in the duvet waiting for Fox. 

It seemed like most of the drama had been put to rest, and it had been a much needed quiet evening for everyone. The others were mostly already asleep, loud snores echoing across the room.

How is it even possible to snore that loudly? 

He grinned as Fox appeared from the bathroom, wearing the red sheer slip that stirred an immediate reaction beneath the duvet.

She met his eyes and got into bed with a smirk. As she settled beside him she ran her fingernails up his arm, light over his forearm then digging slightly into his bicep. 

He leaned in to kiss her but she shook her head and he paused. 

"Patience," she whispered firmly, and blood rushed down his body at her command.

"I want you so badly," he groaned, quietly. 

"I know," she purred. 

Fuck

"You are-" 

She put her finger to his lips, and his eyes glazed slightly in pleasure.

"No lines this time," she murmured. 

Tracing her fingers down his side, over his hard muscles, she skirted her fingertips under the waistband of his boxers, making him stifle a whine.

Hooking her fingers, she pulled them down.

"Can I speak yet?" Lucas rasped, desperately, as his heart thumped.

She leaned close to him, breathing softly against his ear. 

"No," she whispered, and he swallowed his growl, ridiculously turned on by her taking complete control. 

"Good boy," Fox purred, as her fingers wrapped around his length, making light movements.

Jesus christ… 

He put his hand over his mouth to stay quiet, and was rewarded with a firmer grip, as she shifted her position on the bed to get a better angle.

As her lips started to ghost down his body he suddenly realised where this was going, and he didn't know how the fuck he was supposed to stay quiet. 

Her hand still moved lazily on him, as he tried and failed to thrust despite her other arm holding him down. It was enough to make him growl in frustration... if he had been allowed to make noise. 

He tipped his head back suddenly in pleasure as she kitten licked his tip, and as she kissed and licked her way down he tried desperately to see her in the dark, wanting to see her gorgeous lips on him.

Lucas panted quietly and tangled his fingers in her hair, trying to guide her mouth to where he needed it. She wrapped her lips around the head, flicking her tongue underneath and he bit down on his hand, his other tightening in her hair.

He felt her purr against him as she allowed him to sink inside, and he tried again desperately to thrust only to still be held in place against the bed.

Fuck, fuck, fuuuuck-

She moved slowly, achingly slow, gradually licking his entire length as she swallowed, and he started trembling as he felt himself edging into her throat.

Despite his usual role of dominance, he rarely allowed himself to be deep-throated, aware that his length and girth was not comfortable for most, and a feeling that always had him holding back. 

With Fox he didn't have that last worry, and she didn't seem to notice the other as she took her time repeatedly sliding him down her throat, her tongue running along the underside. It took all his strength not to cry out.

She sucked and swallowed against him and he swore.

"Fuck!" he hissed, trying to be quiet, but he felt her still her movements and he knew he had to try harder. 

She started sucking again slowly, agonisingly slow, as her hand wrapped around his base, squeezing, and he panted around his hand, as he realised blocking his mouth was also making breathing more difficult.

He wasn't going to last long but she was working just that little bit too slowly, drawing him out, and he swore he was going to break. 

I can't-

The pleasure kept building to a familiar peak before she changed speeds and pressure, taking him back down before charging him up again. 

His body was as tight as a bow, and he fisted his hand in her hair in desperation.

"Please, angel," he whispered, desperately. 

Fox purred, swiping her tongue over his tip and changing her grip to just a finger wide. Her other hand moved down to cup him, and she relaxed her throat, giving control over to him.

He gasped as he thrust down her throat, feeling her swallow as he did, and the realisation that she was allowing him to fuck her deep and hard, unhinged his mind. 

Biting hard on his hand, the pain and pleasure mingling together was too much, and his eyes started blurring with tears.

He whimpered as he soared at last, and she sped up, squeezing and massaging harder, purring her approval as he fucked her mouth. 

His back arched as he came, feeling her swallow him down gently, and his head felt like it was exploding along with his body as he stayed as silent as possible.

She softly relaxed her mouth, kissing his stomach lightly before moving back up the bed. Turning to tuck herself by his side, Lucas caught her face in his hands and kissed her passionately, tasting himself on her tongue. 

He broke the kiss still panting, and she gave him a goofy smile, before kissing the stray tears that had escaped on to his cheek. 

"Good boy," she purred. 

He rolled towards her, pulling her into her little spoon position, and held her tight, breathing against her neck, until he recovered enough to speak. 

"I… I think my words are… broken," he managed softly.

She chuckled lightly.

"And my headache is gone…" he realised.

"You're welcome," she sighed happily.

He squeezed her tightly, kissing her hair.

"I'm so glad I met you, Fox," he breathed. "Mine...

"Yours."

~~~

Chapter Text

He woke the next morning to a conversation about made up words.

Chelsea was excitedly explaining how the last two arrivals - him and Henrik - had been tricked into thinking "succulent" was a legit slang word.

Though really, only Henrik had gone for it, but mostly because Lucas tended not to use much slang in the first place. Growing up it had been too difficult to learn local words and phrases like that in one place, only to have them signal him as an outsider in the next school when he forgot himself. 

Fox was sitting up in bed chatting, and he snuggled against her as she petted his hair. Much to his delight the conversation soon shifted to how weird Jakub was. 

A new word to trick Jakub didn't sound so bad.

"It would be nice to not be on the receiving end this time…" he smirked. 

Bobby and Rahim explained the options they'd thought up, then looked to Fox for a decision. Lucas smiled. 

Queen of the villa. 

She chose 'ding', defined as something as great as a text notification, which Bobby insisted was also the sexiest thing. Chelsea immediately started singing the word over and over again as Fox laughed.

~~~

Lucas paced back and forth across the lawn, restlessly. He knew what he wanted to do, but he was deeply unsure about the timing. 

It was way too fast, obviously. Normally. But time didn't work the same way in here, and the time he'd spent with Fox added up to a whole lot of dating time in the real world. 

But it was still fast, and it wasn't something he was usually ever keen to do at any point. Which made it scary in a different way. He sighed, unable to come to a decision. 

His girl emerged from the Villa, looking a little flustered.

Snapped out of his thoughts, he rushed over to greet her, and she smiled at him.

"Not interrupting anything, am I?" he asked. 

"Nope! Talking to you is more important." 

He beamed at her. 

"Bean bags?" 

"You have my attention," she purred happily. 

He threw himself down on a beanbag next to her as she stretched in the sun.

"Ahh," he groaned as he relaxed his body. "Sun, pool, and astroturf. The good life." 

"Indeed," she laughed. "If we had sea it would actually be perfect." 

"You live near the sea, right?" he asked.

"I do!" her face lit up. "Though at my end of the country practically everyone does." 

Lucas stretched, flexing in the sun as his scattered thoughts started to annoy him.

"You look totally ding by the way," he winked, in full approval of the black cut-out swimsuit that hugged her curves.

"Why, thank you," she smiled.

"You ever thought about sunflowers?" he asked. 

What

"What about them?" she replied with interest. 

"Like, I'm not exactly short, right?" he struggled to remember his point. "But I see a sunflower, and I'm like… damn, son. That flower is bigger than I am. That flower is winning, and I'm losing." 

Whaaaaat.

He saw her eyebrow twitch before she laughed, looking at him fondly.

"You are so not ready to hear about trees," she grinned.

He burst into laughter, feeling like maybe he did know what to do after all.

"You crack me right up," he smiled.

He opened his mouth to speak again, before tripping over more uncertainty. Clamping his mouth shut with a frown, he looked at her and swallowed. 

"Hey, have you ever thought about-" 

There was a sudden loud beep as Fox's phone went off and she jumped in surprise. The other Islanders were already running towards them. 

"Guys, I've got a text!" she confirmed. 

~~~

Lucas grimaced as they reached the talent stage. On one side there was a mud pit with a slide, and on the other a clean water pool with another slide. Mud was so not his style. 

"That's ding, that is," Jakub said, wrinkling his nose over the mud pit.

"You're still using it wrong mate," Rahim shook his head. "Mud ain't ding." 

"Yeah, I know that. I was just using it ironically, like." 

"You can't be ironic about ding," chirped Bobby. 

"Shame about this mud," Fox sighed, her eyes twinkling, "this outfit was totally ding." 

"You're always ding, Fox," Lucas smirked. 

"Aww, thanks tiger," she smiled at him. "Bit of mud isn't a big deal anyway." 

Jakub pulled a face, glaring at the mud. Lucas sighed inwardly, knowing what this meant for him. 

The aim of the game was to open, or not, a pile of envelopes containing secrets about the Islanders. If a player chose to open an envelope, it was mud time. Otherwise they got the clean pool, but no secret.

Whoever was cleanest would win, but looking around he could tell most people were keen to get the juicy gossip. 

His girl was competitive but he weighed up his options. Stay clean and maybe win, but also potentially be perceived as more like Jakub who was still preening himself, or be covered in mud but clearly stand out as more fun.

Ugh, mud. 

His phone beeped. 

"I'm first, I guess," he announced, and stepped up to the pile. The top envelope had 'Lottie' written on it. Without hesitation, he ripped it open. 

"Titanic, Little Women, and The Secret Garden make Lottie cry every time." 

Some of the Islanders looked shocked, as it didn't exactly fit the Australian's scary image. 

"Same, to be honest," admitted Fox. 

"You know then," Lottie nodded, launching into a description of the final Rose and Jack scene and making herself cry, as Fox sympathised. 

"Looks like you're first on the slide, Lucas," Chelsea reminded him. 

"Looks like I am!" he did his best not to frown, hesitating briefly before sliding slowly into the mud.

It was deeper than he expected, rising above his waist and splashing over his chest and arms. 

Oh no. 

"I've made a terrible mistake." 

Fox offered a hand to help him out with a grin. Her phone beeped. 

"My turn!" 

She held up an envelope with Gary's name. 

"Well, we've mudded already soooo," she tore open the envelope and read it out. 

"It's no secret that Gary loves his nan, but you know what he won't tell you? The time his mates switched her name in his phone with a girl he'd been chatting to on Tinder." 

The guys groaned in sympathy.

"Brutal!" Fox gasped.

After some chat, Marisol reminded Fox it was her turn in the mud. She cheerfully rushed to the slide and plunged down it. 

"Woo!" she yelled, and jumped out with a wide smile, completely un-bothered. 

Lucas laughed, and the afternoon continued with various mud slides and secrets spilled. Only Gary, Lottie and Jakub avoided the mud. 

"Lucas once went on a blind date with a woman who didn't speak English, and needless to say he doesn't speak Russian." 

Lucas groaned.

"We ended up just typing messages into a language app on my phone. It didn't go well." 

His phone beeped. Picking up the next envelope, he held it up with the name 'Fox' clearly written on it. He smirked at her. 

"We've really given up on this whole winning thing, haven't we?" she laughed. 

"Maybe I just want to get to know you better?" he grinned. 

"C'mon then," she encouraged him, and he tore it open. 

"Fox gave extra a whole new meaning when she held an entire funeral for a dead ladybird. Plot twist? It turned out to be a crushed M&M." 

She smiled, blushing. 

"How do those look the same?" Lottie laughed. 

"It was a red one!" 

That is too adorable. 

"I think it's really sweet you went to all that effort," Marisol smiled, "even if it was… misdirected." 

"You're like the kind of person who'd see a twig underneath a log," Bobby mused, "and be like, 'that log had a child'." 

Fox laughed, and met Lucas's focus as he gazed at her with what he was pretty sure were heart emoji eyes. Noah reminded him he needed mudding, and he reluctantly took to the slide again. 

"Aww, babe," Fox gave him a sympathetic look as he sat in the mud miserably.

"I don't even like mud baths at the best of times," he sighed. "And this is the wrong kind of mud."

"I'll help you clean up later," she smirked, and he cheered up considerably. 

They finished up the game, which featured an impassioned defense of the Loch Ness Monster from both Bobby and Fox. 

Lottie and Gary were announced as the winners, with the prize being a trip to the Hideaway, and Lucas kicked himself. Picking mud had been a very bad decision. 

Fox congratulated them, laughing, before coming to take his hand and smiling at him.

They made a muddy retreat back to the Villa.

~~~

Chelsea had run ahead of them, brandishing a pile of envelopes. She'd gathered all the unopened secrets and the Islanders rushed to the lawn to see what they were as they waited their turn in the shower. 

Lucas sat with Fox between his legs, distracting him from the mud drying on his skin.

Bleh.

Chelsea thrust an envelope at Fox with his name on it, and she sliced it open.

"Lucas once activated a clap-on light using only the power of his digestive system." 

He groaned and she half-turned to look at him, her eyebrows raised. 

"Oh… that," he blushed. "It's not exactly my proudest moment."

He hesitated before continuing. 

"I was staying over at a mate's house, a whole bunch of us. He had this clap-on light. You know, those ones that turn on when you clap your hands? I don't remember, but apparently I farted in the middle of the night and the sound of it switched the light on." 

He'd winced as he said it, but she burst out laughing.

"You're so funny," she giggled. "I love it." 

"Phew!" he grinned goofily in relief. "For a minute there I was scared I'd blown it." 

Fox leaned back against him and he stroked her arms, as Chelsea ploughed through the other envelopes. He was only half-listening until he felt her stiffen against him with sudden tension. 

Hope was scowling at Noah.

"Can we not make this bigger than it is?" the librarian rumbled. 

"Oh, this is big," Hope snapped. "We tell each other everything, or at least we used to. Why did you hide that you have an ex called Priya?" 

Uh oh. 

"Because it didn't feel important to say. Who cares what my ex was called? It doesn't mean anything." 

Lucas winced. 

The group argued, and Fox made a small attempt to calm things before Marisol stirred it up again. 

"I'll never want to meet another Priya at this rate," Hope spat. 

"Now that's just unfair," said Noah. 

"Why? I'm done with her trying to snake her way in with you!" 

Priya barked a laugh, and he felt Fox trying to move further back into him as if to hide. He frowned, wrapping his arms around her to try and reassure her. Her heart rate was way too high.

"He hasn't talked to you yet, has he?" Priya smirked at Hope. 

"Talked to me about what?" asked Hope, confused. 

"Priya-," Noah began angrily. 

"I want it out in the open," she interrupted. "Noah said this morning that he's thinking of picking me at the next recoupling." 

Oh boy. 

Everyone looked at Hope, as devastation registered on her face. She turned to Noah. 

"And just when were you planning on telling me any of this?" 

"For the record," Noah stated flatly, "I never said I was going to choose her. Just that I was… thinking about it. I didn't want to mess up what we have over something I wasn't sure about."

Jesus christ, man. 

"You're way beyond messing things up, babe," Hope replied sharply, getting to her feet. "I'm done with this." 

She marched back to the Villa as Noah leapt up to chase her. 

"Um," said Lottie. "We should, uh, go get ready for this evening. I guess?" 

The Islanders drifted apart in shock, and Lucas rested his head on Fox's shoulder.

"Are you okay, angel?" he asked with concern, and she sighed against him.

"Not really," she admitted. "I overheard some of Noah and Priya talking earlier. But I didn't want to eavesdrop, or be involved in more drama. And it seemed so unlike Noah… I'd half convinced myself I must have misheard." 

He nuzzled her neck, affectionately.

"It's okay to put yourself first," he reassured her. "Everyone drags you into their drama to fix it, and it's exhausting. And I agree, I didn't expect that of Noah to be honest."

She turned in his arms so she could look at him.

"I actually have a really hard time trusting guys," she revealed, twisting her hands together. "It's why I wasn't too bothered about Rocco, despite his lies. I didn't trust him in the first place." 

He waited for her to continue.

"Trusting guys is scary, and I've been hurt a lot in the past," she murmured. "Like, a lot. But I did feel like Noah was someone I could trust, and now I'm not so sure. I dunno."

She rested her cheek against his chest and he held her tight, kissing her hair.

She's more vulnerable than people realise. 

"Well, I've got you," he soothed, stroking her arm. "And if anyone hurts you, they'll have me to answer to." 

She laughed softly against his chest.

"Thank you, tiger." 

~~~

The fight was rumbling around the Villa as apparently Hope liked to argue on her feet. The two of them seemed to be taking turns following the other angrily, with Hope yelling. 

The other guys were hiding in the bedroom as they got ready for the evening, with only Gary in a great mood as he prepared for the Hideaway.

He hummed away to himself as he fixed his hair, and Lucas grinned at him.

"Excited are we?" he teased.

"Both excited and terrified," Gary laughed. 

"At least you'll escape Storm Hope," grimaced Bobby from where he lay, hanging upside down off the end of his bed.

"Yeah," Rahim sighed. "This isn't gonna be a great night for most of us."

"Have you spoken to Priya?" asked Lucas, wondering where this left that particular couple. 

"Not yet," the golfer shrugged. "Though I don't know that there's much to say." 

The boys gave him some sympathy and one by one ventured out into the rest of the Villa in search of girls, alcohol, or both. Lucas hung back - he'd asked Fox to come find him when she was ready.

Not long after, she stepped into the bedroom with a smile, seeing him lean against the bathroom door with the light behind him. 

"Can I just say," he growled, "I really love that colour on you." 

She was wearing a different white dress, this one with hanging feathered sleeves that looked more than a little like angel wings. He bit his lip as she walked towards him, smirking. 

He leaned down as she reached him, and she kissed him on the cheek.

"Why are you hanging out in the bathroom?" 

"I guess you didn't see what happened after she left the dressing room," he was referring to Hope, and he rubbed the back of his neck as he frowned. "They're arguing all over the Villa, it's awful. I'm just trying to wait it out." 

"In the bathroom?" she asked again, cheekily, wrapping her arms round his neck.

"It's genius," he said proudly. "This is the only place in the entire Villa that hasn't had any arguments. Nobody ever fights in here." 

"Huh," she said thinking, before nodding in agreement. 

"Genius, right?" he smirked. "So I reckon we've got some privacy." 

"Oh, we do?" 

"Nobody's coming. There's no one to interrupt. So, you wanna hide out in the bathroom with me?" 

She laughed warmly, placing a hand on his chest to push him backwards into the room. He closed the door behind her, trapping her between the wall and his body. 

He caught her eye, and saw she was biting her lip, nervously.

"You okay, angel?" he asked, gently.

She smiled at him, running her fingertips down his biceps.

"Just nerves suddenly," she confessed, before she smirked. "Plus, this feels all kinds of naughty." 

"Well, you know how I am with danger," he growled, pressing his body against hers. 

With her back to the cool tiles, she moaned a little at the temperature difference, and he kissed up her neck before brushing his lips over her ear.

"I've got you," he murmured, and she purred, her hands going back behind his neck to tangle in his hair.

He kissed down her neck and round to her throat, biting ever so softly as she purred her approval, her fingers slightly pulling at his hair and making him gasp. 

His lips moved to her mouth and he kissed her passionately, effortlessly lifting her legs around his waist so he had complete control. 

She locked her ankles behind his back and kissed him fiercely, as he spun round, carrying her to the counter. He sat her on the edge, still with her legs around him, and growled as he felt her twist her hips against him, moving until she was grinding against his length and making him moan.

He realised there was no such thing as complete control with Fox, and he started to thrust against her without meaning to. 

Her nails raked down his chest as she took off his shirt, and he hung his head low next to her ear as he began losing focus thanks to the precise rolling of her hips.

"What do you do to me?" he groaned, desperately.

In an effort to get back on track, in one swift movement he trailed his hand up her thigh, under her dress, and hooked her underwear to one side. She moaned low in her throat, and as he felt how wet she was he kissed her hard.

He entered her quickly with his finger, circling his thumb at the same time, and she broke the kiss with a loud curse, throwing her head back. He grinned, and dropped to his knees in front of her, replacing his thumb with his tongue as he fingered her hard. 

Her thighs were trembling as she moaned softly, and his eyes met her gaze as she looked down at him with fire in her eyes, biting her lip.

So fucking hot. 

He growled against her in pleasure, adding another finger and hooking them upwards as if they could meet his tongue. 

"Lucas, oh god, fuck," she babbled, crying his name into a whisper as she tried to maintain eye contact.

His heart felt like it'd beat out of his chest as he kept his eyes locked on her, no longer giving a fuck about noise or anyone else for that matter. His whole world narrowed to pleasing Fox, to prolonging her pleasure, and the taste of her that he couldn't get enough of.

Her voice was a song and he guided her towards a crescendo. He moaned in pleasure and she broke, snapping her head back with a cry, as her body pulsed on his tongue and around his fingers.

He slowed gently, standing back up as he licked his lips, and wrapping his arms around her. She was shaking, and he held her tight, murmuring praise and stroking her hair. As her eyes started to blaze again he kissed her, slow but deep, feeling her body regain strength.

Lucas pulled back with a soft smile, and stroked his fingers down her cheek. 

"Shower time?" he murmured, and she grinned her approval. He lifted her down to her feet as they undressed, kicking their clothes into a messy pile in the corner. 

Stroking his hands down her back, he skimmed her butt and lifted her with ease, as she laughed and held on, locking her limbs around him once more. 

He stepped into the shower, turning the warm water on, before resting her against the tiled wall, kissing her passionately. His hard length was pressed underneath her, and she wiggled her hips, making him groan as he struggled not to enter her. 

He broke the kiss and looked over to where he'd put a-

"Fuck," he growled. "I had a condom there but someone's nicked it." 

"Probably Gary," she laughed, and he realised that was likely spot on.

"I can go grab another…" he trailed off. They could still hear arguing nearby, and his chances of avoiding it weren't terribly high. 

I am going to fucking KILL Gary. 

Fox stroked the back of his head gently, and he turned back to her.

"Listen," she murmured, "I'm on birth control, and tested clear. You?" 

He looked at her wide-eyed. 

"Last tested six months ago," he answered, "clear and not been with anyone but you since. But…" 

"We don't have to," she smiled, "we can stop." 

He growled.

"Definitely not what I meant," he smirked. "I just want to make sure you're okay with it. Because I am more than okay with that." 

He laughed, resting his forehead against hers, and she grinned.

"I've got the implant, and I don't usually allow this but… I trust you. And I want you."

She captured his lips in a kiss and purred as he deepened it. The warm water was still spraying on them slightly, the shower full of steam. 

She trusts me. 

His head was spinning with emotions he didn't want to name, and he put all of it in his kiss instead, keeping things deep and slow.

He was hard against her, and he thrusted shallowly, teasing her before moving her down the wall slightly and changing his angle.

As he pushed inside her, as slowly as he possibly could, she broke the kiss, and lifted her head back with a gasp. 

Oh, god… 

He pressed kisses into her neck, murmuring praise against her.

"Feel so good, angel," he rasped, his voice husky. "Fuck, I-... I need you." 

His words were half choked, as he tried to stop his heart overriding his anxious brain, and he groaned in relief when she kissed him, her tongue pushing into him as he bottomed out inside her.

Fuck me, angel, I lo-

As he started moving he kept it slow and intense, gasping into her mouth as she moaned in pleasure, determined to make this last as long as possible. Everything was just so much

She licked the sweat from his brow, one hand still in his hair, and the other lightly resting against his neck with her thumb gentle on his throat. She kissed across his face to under his ear, and he buried his face in her neck, kissing and licking. 

"I love feeling you inside me, Lucas," she purred softly, and he groaned in response, biting down. "So fucking good." 

He shifted his angle slightly, and she cried his name, clenching around him. He growled, dropping his thumb to draw circles against her, as she panted. 

He was losing himself in the pleasure, fucking her deep and slow and feeling her properly, intimately, his mind was blown. He kept them in that moment as long as possible, the bathroom steaming around them. 

I need- I can't- Fuck-

She ran her hand out of his hair, and down his chest, her nails scratching hard. He growled, and her hand on his throat shifted a little, still light but making him groan. He wasn't going to last much longer.

"Harder, baby," she breathed, and he didn't have enough brain power to know where she meant so he did everything harder, fucking her more aggressively, his thumb moving more firmly, and he kissed her passionately as her body sang around and under him.

He could feel her shaking and he moved his thumb faster, chasing her orgasm, and she broke the kiss, gasping in pleasure.

"Fuck, Lucas, I'm so close-"

His thrusts were getting erratic but he clenched his jaw, focused on her body, and she held his gaze, closing her eyes only briefly as she came.

He groaned as she clenched and pulsed around him, and his hips were too erratic, he couldn't-

"Let me feel you come inside me, tiger," she purred in his ear, and he came on her command, emptying himself into her as he gasped her name over and over again.

When he came back to earth, she had her arms wrapped around him, softly stroking the back of his neck, praising him softly.

Fuuuck me. 

She laughed, and he realised he'd said it out loud.

"I think one of us might break if we go again," she smiled, as he pulled back to look at her.

He grinned, helping her slide own the wall and touch the ground again. He held on to her until he was sure she was okay on her feet. And that he was.

"I feel like a jellyfish," she laughed after a few moments, moving past him to rinse herself off properly.

He leaned back against the cool wall, letting his breathing come back to normal while he admired the view.

When she switched the shower off and came back to him, he reached his hand out to trace down the side of her face, and she swallowed at his serious expression.

"You are amazing," he told her, and kissed her forehead. 

Her eyes sparkled at him. 

"You're not so bad yourself," she winked, repeating back her words after their first time together.

He laughed, and stepped out, grabbing their clothes. 

Just as they finished dressing, they heard the arguing couple arrive right outside the bathroom door. Fox flashed him a panicked look, and he grabbed her hand and hauled her back into the shower, pushing the screen door shut behind them.

The room was full of steam, the glass was still fogged up, and Lucas put a finger to his lips. Noah stormed into the room and ran a tap, Hope quick behind him. 

"You think I'm just gonna step aside and watch you crack on with someone else like it's nothing?" she yelled. 

"Evidently not!" Noah barked. 

As the two continued arguing, Lucas snuck a glance at Fox who raised an eyebrow. He leaned in and began kissing her shoulder. She smiled, shutting the argument out and turning quietly in his arms to kiss him.

They made out softly, safe behind the steamy glass, until finally all was silent in the room. 

"I think they've gone," Lucas murmured. "Let's get out before they come back."

He helped her out the shower, then turned with a sigh.

"Today I learned… people definitely do argue in here." 

Fox finished adjusting her hair in the mirror and gave him a hug.

"But we still got that privacy," she purred, "and I for one had a very good evening." 

He grinned down at her, kissing her hair.

"The best evening yet," he smiled.

~~~

Chapter Text


Fox had gone to check on Priya, and gradually most of the Islanders had drifted to the bedroom. 

"Do you hear that?" Bobby asked suddenly.

"What?" asked Rahim.

"It's quiet. They've stopped." 

Lucas listened, and couldn't hear anything. Bobby was right, it sounded like the fight was over. He walked over to the window and looked out, seeing Noah, Hope and Priya on the lawn, alongside Fox.

There was a scream.

"Jesus christ!" he leapt back from the window.

They all rushed out, only to see Chelsea brandishing a phone. 

"Jakub got a text guys!" she squealed. "Is everyone here to listen?" 

"Lottie and Gary are at the Hideaway," said Lucas, trying not to show how alarmed he'd been by her yell. 

"Already?" Chelsea cackled. "Well one of you had better run and tell them before they get too cosy, cos what I'm about to tell you all changes everything! Like, everything everything." 

Fox raised an eyebrow.

"Get a load of this," continued Chelsea as she read the text aloud, "Islanders, tomorrow there will be a recoupling. The boys will be choosing." 

Lucas met Fox's eyes and he beamed at her.

"Oh my gosh," Hope exclaimed, looking worried.

Noah and Priya tried not to look at each other, while Rahim looked up at the sky, and Jakub eyed all the girls smugly. Lucas's stomach suddenly plummeted. 

Oh shit. 

~~~

Lucas woke to the sound of people arguing, and growled unhappily. He burrowed himself into Fox's side, as she was half sitting up, and was soothed by her gently petting the back of his neck as he reveled in her scent.

How she could smell of spring when she'd only just woken up was a mystery to him, and if it hadn't been for the noise of the other Islanders he could absolutely have fallen back asleep. 

From what he could gather without looking up, and he refused to look up, Gary had been caught sneaking back from the Hideaway and the others were trying to get him to spill the beans.

"Quieten down, folks," he heard Fox say. "Some people are still sleeping." 

He smiled against her, draping his arm across her body.

"A bit late for that!" Hope called cheerfully, and he swore into Fox. "It's time to get up! Another day in paradise." 

Why is she suddenly so cheery again? 

Everyone started clattering about and he gave up with a sigh, emerging from under the duvet and blinking in the light.

"Aww, babe," Fox said softly, kissing him on the forehead. "You look like a hibernating bear."

He put on his best growl and she laughed, making him grin goofily. 

Even bad mornings were better with her around. 

~~~

Chilling on the beanbags was the best way to spend the morning. Lucas and Noah were cheerfully chatting superhero movies with Rahim, who had some very passionate opinions about Captain America. 

Gary crashed down beside them, looking thoughtful.

"You alright, mate?" Rahim asked, as the conversation petered out.

It was highly unusual for Gary to be quiet, especially in the mornings when he was at his most hyper.

"Lottie changed her hair colour," he announced.

"Oh, cool," said Noah.

"Yeah, but…" Gary hesitated. "She asked me what I thought of it."

"Uh oh," Rahim winced. 

"Right?" continued Gary. "And Fox was there too but she looked away! I was on my own." 

"You would have been in trouble if she helped," Noah explained. "Hair changes must have genuine reactions only. Girls can tell." 

"Yup," agreed Lucas. "But the reaction also has to be the correct one too." 

"But then how do you know-" Rahim looked confused, and Lucas shrugged.

"If you have the right thing to say, you know your relationship is on the right track. If you don't, then you probably don't."

"That's actually… pretty wise," Noah looked impressed. "So did you have the right thing to say?" 

"Actually yeah," the blonde now looked immensely pleased with himself. "She said I was the sweetest and gave me a hug." 

"Which from Lottie is a standing ovation," Lucas grinned. "Well done, mate." 

"So you're sorted for the recoupling?" asked Noah.

"I think most of us are, right?" Gary replied, before seeing Noah and Rahim's frowns. "Or maybe not…"

"Well, I'm sorted," Lucas said firmly.

"As am I," said Gary. "Though I guess maybe we're the only ones. And then again… there's Jakub." 

"That's true," Rahim mused, "he's a total wildcard. He's said only to 'expect the unexpected' which means he could pick any of the girls." 

Lucas scowled, remembering Jakub's disappointment at not getting a date with Fox. 

"Maybe he'll pick Chelsea," Gary offered.

Lucas nodded, looking towards the Villa. 

He saw Fox wandering towards them, and sat up a little straighter. She was wearing a fun bubblegum pink bikini, and with her favourite sunglasses she somehow looked both effortlessly cool and a glamour-puss.

Gary whistled as she drew near. 

"That look is so hot I should put a few hazard signs up for the others' safety," he grinned. 

Uh, what? 

"Aww thanks, Gaz," Fox smiled as she sat in the beanbag next to Lucas. 

"Alright, Fox?" Rahim asked. 

"Yeah, what's up?" 

Lucas's mind was spinning. He knew Gary hadn't been grafting on Fox. He knew that. But his jealousy had roared into life as he realised any guy could pick her tonight before him.

They all liked Fox, and he wasn't so trusting of them as to think they wouldn't go for her if they thought they had a shot. And she was friends with all of them.

I feel sick. 

"Oh, you know, just chatting about the world and everything in it," Gary continued. "Like about trees and mountains and stuff. You know. Seasons. People. The future."

She quirked an eyebrow, knowingly.

"And the recoupling," Lucas confirmed with a weak smile. 

"That too," nodded Gary. "We were chatting about that quite a bit." 

"On recoupling day, all anyone ever wants to talk about is the recoupling," Noah sighed. 

Lucas turned to her with a soft smile. 

"I think you know who I choose." 

She winked at him, and he grinned, some of the tension rolling away from him.

Suddenly, Chelsea crashed down on the last beanbag with a squeal. 

"Oh, hi boys! Talking about me?" 

Fox laughed, amused by her younger friend. 

"Not exactly, no," Gary frowned. 

"Just talking about the recoupling tonight," explained Lucas. "We were talking about how-" 

"Wow, that's so interesting," Chelsea cut straight across him, and he looked at Fox with exasperation. 

"Tell me everything!" she continued. "What's the goss? Who's picking who? Who are you picking, Rahim? Are you going to pick me?" 

Lucas couldn't help but grin as Rahim floundered, and Fox attempted to stop herself creasing up with laughter. 

"I think you might pick Priya," Chelsea chirped without listening. 

"Maybe I'll-" attempted Rahim. 

"Oh em gee, you guys will make such a good couple. She's so fun, I love her. Gary, who are you going to pick? I think it'll either be Lottie or Fox. Is that right?" 

Gary's jaw dropped and Lucas glared at him. 

"Well, when you just come out and ask like that," Gary panicked, "maybe Lottie?" 

"Maybe?" echoed Lucas grimly. 

"Or maybe I'll pick you!" Gary pointed at Chelsea, with everyone now thoroughly confused. 

"Really?" she squealed. "That would be-" 

"Yeah but seriously though probably Lottie." 

Chelsea poked him in the arm with mock outrage. 

"You shouldn't lead a girl on like that!" she scolded. "What about you Noah?" 

"I think it's pretty clear who I want to pick today," the librarian replied, as the guys looked at each other in genuine confusion.

"Oh really?" cooed Chelsea. "Who? Is it me?" 

Noah sighed. 

"Yes, Chelsea. I'm going to pick you."

"I love this," she squealed. "All the boys want to pick me. Can you believe this, Fox?" 

"It's incredible how popular you are," Fox drawled.

"I know!" Chelsea was apparently oblivious to sarcasm. "I'm having a really good time."

Fox laughed, shaking her head before picking up her empty water bottle. 

"I need to go get some water," she smiled. "I'll see you guys in a bit." 

She walked across to the kitchen, as Chelsea continued to babble excitedly.

"Excuse me, gents," Lucas stood. "I've got a fox to catch." 

~~~

Fox was at the sink, filling her bottle, and he walked up behind her. His stomach was churning with anxiety and his lungs burned. 

"We should talk," he said softly. "You got a minute?"

"Of course," she turned around smiling, and he tried to keep his worries from showing on his face.

"Great! I didn't want to get the wrong impression and make the wrong decision later."

She leaned against the counter, listening.

"It's just," he hesitated, rubbing the back of his neck, "what with everything else going on, and all this chat recently…" 

Fuck, I don't know how to say this-

"What I really want to know is if you're serious or not." 

That's not how to say it! 

"I mean," he scrambled for words, staring at the floor, "do you want me to pick you at the recoupling later?" 

She stepped up to him and gently lifted his chin till their eyes met.

"I'm serious," she said firmly with a smile, "super serious. And I want you to pick me, as long as it's what you want to do." 

"Of course it is," he breathed in relief, and grinned goofily. "It's all I want." 

She stretched up and kissed him softly.

"Great!" he babbled. "That's great. I'll pick you again this evening then."

He hesitated, as his anxiety prickled. 

"I've just got one thing to ask, though. Apparently Jakub's been saying he was going to pick someone nobody was expecting. Do you think he's into you?" 

He bit his lip, worried, and she looked at him closely.

"I really don't think so," she said firmly. "He's barely spoken to me." 

"Oh, that's good to know," he felt a weight lift from him. "I'm really glad we had this chat. And the recoupling later is going to be great." 

Fox stroked his cheek fondly, and met his gaze.

"Listen, tiger," she said in a sure voice, "no matter what anyone else says or does in here, my choice is always going to be you. You can't get rid of me that easily." 

He pulled her into a hug, holding her tight, and buried his face against her neck.

"I'm an idiot, huh?" he asked.

"A doofus," she laughed warmly. "My doofus." 

~~~

"Guys! I've got a text!" 

The Islanders made their way to the kitchen to see what Hope had been sent. 

Lucas arrived to find tensions already sky high, as Jakub stood between Hope and Noah. Fox was standing behind the counter with the librarian, and Lucas threw her a wink as she saw him. She winked back, and he laughed happily. 

Hope read out the details of the Master Bakers challenge, the title alone making Bobby giggle. It was cake making time. 

Time to forget the rest, and have some fun with my girl. 

Bobby punched the air in delight and ran off ahead. Lucas leaned over to Fox as the others followed the resident baker.

"This sounds like a right laugh," he smirked. "I bet it'll have some kind of sexy twist. I'm well excited. Let's get cracking!" 

She laughed at his excitement, and took his hand as they left for the stage. 

~~~

Sexy twist indeed! 

Lucas stood with his hands tied behind his back, and Fox pressed in front of him facing the table. She had a blindfold on, and the other couples had been set up similarly at their own tables.

"Hmm," he whispered quietly in her ear, "I do like how you look in a blindfold."

"Ah, what a coincidence," she purred, "as I very much like the idea of you with your hands tied up." 

He laughed, blushing furiously, knowing that she had to feel that suddenly arise against her.

She hummed innocently, and gave a sly little wiggle against him.

God dammit. 

"Islanders, welcome to Master Bakers," Jakub's voice boomed. "Chelsea and I will be your judges today."

The judges explained the rules of the competition, as self-evident as they were, and they began.

"Argh, there is so much stuff," Lucas panicked, looking at the table of cake decorations. "I don't know where to start." 

"What's everyone else doing?" asked Fox. 

"Um, they've gone for the white stuff?" 

"Icing?" 

"Oh, yeah!" 

She laughed.

"Okay," he focused, "I'm gonna try and direct you…" 

Fox followed his instructions, finding the bowl and moving it across to the cake. He then directed her to spread the icing, but instead her icing-covered finger appeared in front of his mouth.

"Want to have a taste test?" she purred.

"Oh, hell yes!" he growled, gently enveloping her finger in his mouth, and licking.

She leaned back into him a little, moving her hips where nobody could see.

"That's delicious," he breathed, huskily. 

He saw Jakub glaring at them.

"Oops, we're getting dirty looks from Mr Judge," he laughed.

Fox started humming an innocent tune quietly.

"Okay, we have a nudist cake," he continued, making her giggle.

"What else have we got to use?" she asked. 

"There are some weird tube things with coloured stuff inside them." 

"Okay, we need those," she laughed at his description.

He guided her again, and she soon had the tube above the cake. 

Oh, it's coloured icing! Whoops. 

Suddenly white icing rained upon them, as Marisol hit her cake sending splatters of icing in all directions.

"Um?" Fox paused. 

"Nice shot, Marisol," he called. "You got Fox!" 

"Oops, sorry hun!" Marisol called over.

Fox laughed and started trying to write with her icing tube. 

"Hmm, it's not coming," she said, confused. 

"Maybe give it a shake?" he suggested.

She shook it up and down vigorously.

"Oh yeah, that's good," he growled.

She laughed softly, and kept shaking it.

"Nearly there, don't stop," he breathed in her ear. "Yep, it's coming. It's coming!" 

She burst out laughing and he did his best to look innocent. As she started writing, he squinted, trying to read.

"What are you writing, angel?" 

"Hang on, nearly done." 

"I'll rephrase," he chuckled. "What is it meant to say?" 

"Um, 'send nudes'," she whispered. 

"Filthy!" he growled approvingly.

He looked back at the table.

"Okay, just toppings to go. There's fruit, glitter and a bowl of melted chocolate." 

"Chocolate covers all sins," she chose, and followed his directions to get the bowl in place. 

She tipped the bowl slowly, drizzling the chocolate on to the cake. 

He swallowed hard, suddenly aware again of how close they were, the heat of her skin against his chest. She'd pressed back a little again, and he bit his lip.

"That looks and smells so good," he said, his throat rasping. "What is it with chocolate? It makes everything sexier."

"Mmm," she agreed. "I would prefer to be licking it off of you." 

"Maybe one day you can," he growled, and surreptitiously licked up the shell of her ear making her shudder against him. 

"Islanders, your time is up!" called Chelsea.

"We finished just in time," Lucas laughed, trying not to blush. 

"How does it look?" asked Fox, reaching for her blindfold. 

"It's not terrible, but it's definitely the cake that had the most fun being made. I actually think we did pretty well."

She blinked into the light and burst out laughing.

"It says 'snes dudes'! Henrik would love that. Nintendo for life baby!" 

He grinned happily as she untied his hands with ease. 

"Someone's familiar with this," he raised an eyebrow cheekily. 

She winked at him and he laughed. 

Looking around at the other cakes, they really hadn't done badly.

Gary came over to look at their cake. 

"Looks like someone got angry with it!" he quipped.

"It was an emotional journey," Fox said cryptically, and Lucas grinned. 

"It sounded like you had some fun while making it," Priya winked at Fox who looked as innocent as possible. 

The Islanders looked at the various cakes, before turning to the monstrosity in front of Hope and Noah.

"Um?" Lottie was lost for words. 

The cake had entire chunks of it missing. 

It looks like it lost a fight with a blender. 

"It looks like someone used it as a pillow to cry on," Gary gasped. 

"Speaking from experience, mate?" grinned Lucas.

"Sometimes we all need a little cry. Nothing wrong with that." 

"Agreed, but I'd recommend a pillow over a cake." 

The guys cracked up. 

"I might cry," said Noah sadly. 

"I'm sure you could save it if you-" Priya offered. 

"No," said Hope flatly, "it's beyond repair."

Lucas winced, and Fox squeezed his hand.

The judges got their attention, revealing they had a winner to announce.

"The winner is…" Chelsea began. 

"Hope," said Jakub.

"Wait, what?" Chelsea twirled around in confusion.

Oh boy. 

He pulled Fox back a few steps until the chaos died down. She turned in his arms with a smile, and stepped into his hug.

No more drama please. 

Soon, Hope and Noah left the platform hand in hand, and the others followed them.

When it was only them left, Lucas looked around at the cakes.

"I'm well hungry," he said. "All that cake decorating has given me an appetite." 

"I bet," she grinned. "Actually, I am too. I could totally go for some cake."

"I bet I could eat, like, three entire slices," he stated, with a challenging gaze. 

"Three slices? Come on hot shot, you can do better than that." 

"Oh yeah, like you could eat more than three slices." 

He grinned at her, a glint in his eye. She met his gaze, and puffed out her chest. 

"I could eat the whole thing," she said, grandly.

My competitive queen! 

"No way," he laughed. 

"Yes way," she stuck her tongue out. 

"Oh yeah? Your favourite t-shirt?" 

"Your favourite shirt?" 

"Deal." 

"Just watch me." 

She sat down, and he brought their 'snes dudes' cake over.

"I can't believe you're actually going to do it," he grinned. "This is amazing." 

Fox stared intently at the cake in front of her. 

"If I am to eat the whole cake," she whispered intently, "I must first become one with the cake." 

I love this girl.

She gave the cake a look of pure evil, and started eating.

Marisol wandered back before charging off to find the others so they could see the spectacle.

Lucas's head was still spinning from his realisation, but he couldn't stop grinning at Fox. Every time she moved to another slice, she first glared at it angrily, then ate it like she was murdering its soul. It was hilarious and adorable. 

First Noah, Jakub and Lottie arrived, cheering her on. She reached the halfway point.

Still eating she asked him for a-

"Right now?" he gasped. "In front of everyone? You really want to do it in public, like, now?" 

He smirked at her, knowing full well he'd misheard. 

"You know what they say," he drawled, "spooning leads to forking." 

He passed her a fork, grinning as she gave him a fake glare. 

Before long, all the Islanders were watching in awe. 

"Wow!" gasped Gary. 

"A legendary display of strength!" Jakub declared. 

"That's my girl," cheered Lottie. "You're smashing it babes!" 

"This is so impressive," Lucas enthused. 

They started a timed clap as she got to the very end, and as she downed the last bite she jumped to her feet and performed a victory dance. 

Cutting through the whooping and cheering, Bobby brandished a wooden spoon like a microphone.

"You've defeated the cake and saved the world, Fox! What's next for you?" 

"I think…" she stopped dancing, and looked slightly regretful, "I need to lie down." 

~~~

Lucas lay back on his bed, trying to stay calm as the guys waited to go to the fire pit. He felt like his emotions had been all over the place today, jumping from jealousy and anxiety to feeling loved up and secure, only to crash back to the former. 

His feelings for Fox were overwhelming, and he couldn't work out whether he needed to sort that out in his head and then talk to her, or reach out and talk it through with her. 

It didn't help that the recoupling tonight had everyone stressed. There was no roll call amongst the boys, nobody felt certain of what was going to happen. All of them had got ready in silence. And only Jakub seemed excited, which was rubbing against his nerves horribly.

He'd give anything for his calming playlist right now, but all he could do was wait. 

A loud notification beep sounded out. 

"Right, we're up," Gary announced, and they traipsed out to the fire pit.

Sitting down, Lucas realised Jakub had stopped on the lawn and was doing some kind of…

Uh, self-motivation? 

The tank of a man was throwing out strongman poses and grunting, and the girls arrived walking around him to get past. 

He saw Fox, wearing a forest green sequined mini dress with a deep plunging neckline, and an intriguing subtle pattern. He swallowed hard as he saw she had a matching collar wrapped tight around her throat. 

His legs were shaking with nerves, and the tension was blasting from all the guys around the fire pit. As the girls and Jakub walked in, Lucas couldn't even lift his head. The pressure was crushing him. 

What do I do if he picks her? I can't just explode, Fox doesn't need to see that, but-

A notification noise rang out. 

Jakub stood and Lucas prepared for the worst as his lungs burned. 

I knew it. He's first. 

"Alright," Jakub chirped. "I want to couple up with this girl because I think I see something in her that nobody else does. She's a great laugh, and I want to see where things could go with her."

Shit shit shit-

"I always say I'm not afraid to shake things up. I want to see where my journey takes me. So the girl I want to couple up with is…" 

Lucas looked up, and saw Jakub make direct eye contact with Fox, who was frowning.

Please, no-

"Hope!" 

Lucas gasped in shock, as did Rahim and a few others. Everyone looked astonished. 

Thank FUCK. 

"Whoah," Hope grinned. 

She walked over to Jakub, kissed him on the cheek and sat down. There was complete silence.

A phone went off nearby. 

Noah stood. It took him a few attempts to get his words out, but eventually he picked Priya.

Lucas's jaw dropped. 

What is happening? 

He looked at Rahim who looked monumentally pissed off. 

"Wait, what…" the golfer stuttered. 

"Easy, mate," Gary put a sympathetic hand on his arm. 

Lucas stared at the ground, his heart pounding. Noah choosing Priya meant that Rahim now needed to pick someone else. And he knew that the only other person the golfer had fancied in here was Fox.

Noah sat down with Priya. 

A loud beep sounded out. 

Relief flooded through Lucas as his phone buzzed in his hand. He leapt to his feet.

"My turn now," his voice cracked slightly. "This isn't a difficult decision by any means. This girl did me the honour of choosing me at the last recoupling, and I'm glad I get to return the favour."

He met her gaze at last, and she beamed at him. He breathed more easily. 

"There's no one else I'd choose," he continued with a smile. "The last few days with her have been amazing, and I'm looking forward to keeping that train rolling. The girl I want to couple up with is Fox." 

She rushed over to him and kissed him on the cheek. He sat down next to her and reached for her hand. 

"How are you feeling?" he said softly. 

"Amazing," she smiled at him, and his heart fluttered. "This is exactly what I wanted." 

He leaned over and kissed her gently, but with feeling. As he pulled back, she stroked her finger down his cheek. 

"Mine," she breathed, and he grinned at her, pulling her close.

Tuning back in to what was going on, he realised with a jolt that Rahim had picked Lottie. Gary sat looking devastated. 

What the hell is going on? 

When Gary's phone beeped he gave an extremely short speech, and picked Chelsea who squealed in delight, running to him and kissing him on the cheek. 

Bobby then stood and gave a lovely speech about Marisol. 

He really is a great friend. 

Marisol ended up blinking back tears of genuine happiness.

A silence fell across the group as the events of the night sank in. 

"It's..." Priya began, "it's a complete disaster!"

She burst into a fit of the giggles, and the others gradually joined in. It was too ridiculous.

The fact Jakub didn't understand the laughter only set everyone else off again. 

As the laughter died down, Rahim challenged Jakub for an explanation, and the drama began. 

Lucas leaned back in his seat and draped his arm along the top behind him. Fox turned and cuddled into him, still following the discussions but not wanting to take a speaking role. 

He wrapped his arm around her, stroking her shoulder as he zoned out. His nerves were shot, but he had Fox. That's all that mattered.

Noah and Hope broke up. Gary, Noah and Rahim were upset. What the girls thought - other than Fox - was beyond him.

The fact Noah had let Hope go bothered him immensely. It was obvious she had needed more reassurance from him, and Fox's hurt about no longer being sure she could trust Noah weighed heavily upon him.

They were likely better off apart, as Hope was clingy as hell, but Noah had taken her for granted. 

I highly doubt Jakub is any better though. At least he didn't choose Fox. 

As everyone left the fire pit in their new couples, Lucas led Fox over to the day beds. He sat down beside her, and hesitated before speaking.

"I know I'm being a pain," he began, rushing his words so she couldn't stop him, "but you're definitely happy I chose you just now, right?" 

"I am definitely very happy you chose me, tiger," she said firmly, squeezing his hand. 

He smiled at her apologetically, and she kissed him on the nose.

"Tonight was just really stressful," he sighed. "All the guys were on edge. For good reason I guess." 

"Things have been going really well with us," he continued. "I feel a bit bad for the other guys, because I'm with exactly who I wanted to be with. I just want to keep spending time with you, and hopefully everything else will get better." 

"It will," she reassured him. "Lucas, I'm in this for the long haul, okay?" 

His heart leapt in his chest and he grinned at her.

"Great!" he couldn't stop smiling. "It means the world to me to hear that." 

He leaned in to kiss her, and she put a finger to his lips to stop him.

"No?" he asked. 

Fox smiled, lowered her finger, and brushed her lips just barely against his.

"Yes," she purred, kissing him firmly as she leaned her whole body against him, his heart thumping against her chest. 

She wrapped her arms around his neck, sinking into the kiss and drawing it out as long as possible, until he gasped for air.

He leaned his forehead against hers as he got his breath back and smiled.

"Always keeping me on my toes, angel."

"You know it," she grinned, before looking around. "Everyone's heading in, we should probably go join them." 

He slipped his hand around hers, and walked back to the Villa. 

~~~

Lucas stretched out in bed as he waited, as the other newly formed couples worked out their new sleeping arrangements. His anxious thoughts from earlier were still far too close to the surface, and the tension in the room didn't help. 

Fox emerged from the dressing room, wearing cropped pjs and yawning loudly. He smiled at her arrival, holding the duvet up for her and she snuggled against him happily.

Bobby and Marisol were quarreling good naturedly about the former's tendency to use the words 'boo' and 'bae' which the latter did not approve of. 

Gary tried talking to Chelsea only to be told off. 

"Gary! Why are you always trying to talk to me at night! Talk to me in the morning like a normal person!" 

He felt Fox chuckle against him as Gary rolled his eyes in exasperation. He wouldn't have guessed Chelsea as someone Fox would be fond of, but his girl was one of the few who didn't find her frustrating in the slightest. 

As he heard Gary grumble, he wondered how he would have fared if it was Fox having to bed down with someone else. 

He moved down the bed a little, snuggling closer to her, and she lifted her gaze to meet his.

"Oh, hey there," he said gently. "I've got the bed all nice and warm."

"Indeed you have," she purred, her fingers running up his arm to lightly trace his neck, and round the back of his head. 

She kissed him softly, and he gave a quiet growl as his mind finally quietened.

When she pulled away, he was smiling, his eyes sparkling. 

"I don't know if I'll ever get used to this," he breathed. 

"I don't intend to stop," she smirked. 

"I dunno, Fox," he put his best thoughtful face on, "it's gonna take a lot of kisses. At least, like, a thousand. You'd better get started."

She laughed. 

"What did you think we were just doing?" 

"Oh yeah," he smirked. "Must be because I'm not used to them yet." 

He grinned, and kissed her. Pulling back, he could see how sleepy she was, and he rolled her in his arms into her little spoon position. 

"You're honestly the best," he smiled, against the back of her neck, as she purred. 

"Hey, Fox," he murmured, not yet ready to let go of her soothing voice. 

"Mmhm?" 

"Do you believe in aliens?" 

She laughed softly, and tangled her fingers with his hand that was wrapped around her.

"Sure do," she said. "I mean it's pretty statistically impossible for us to be alone in the universe. Even if it's just bacteria or something." 

"It's gotta be more than though, right?" he mused. "The universe is just too big." 

She made an agreeable noise.

"Plus we don't know what to look for," she pointed out. "I mean, our planet's life is carbon based, but other life may be totally different. Or on a scale we can't even recognise."

"Damn, so we could have had aliens here already and not know?" 

He felt Fox smile.

"Aww, do you want to meet an alien?" she asked. 

"I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to," he enthused. "It would be amazing!" 

"You are the cutest," she laughed softly.

"Hey, are you two done yet?" Hope yelled across the room."Some of us are trying to sleep." 

"Sorry, hun!" Fox called, as Lucas chuckled against her. 

She was soon asleep, purring happily in his arms. As he lay there in the dark, his mind plagued him with thoughts of all the ways the recoupling could have gone wrong. 

Please just let me sleep… 

~~~

He woke to the soft sound of Fox's voice, and opened one eye. Seeing her close, he smiled, then realised she was kneeling on the floor and dressed already. In red. 

Wha-

"Listen, we don't have much time," she whispered. "Don't tell anyone I told you this, but the girls are off in secret on some kind of mini-trip." 

"Oh, whoah," he was surprised, and his thoughts whirled. "Is everyone gone?" 

He looked round the room and saw that only the guys remained. 

"You lot are like cats, I've got no idea how you did that without making any noise."

"It helps that you guys all sleep like sacks of potatoes," she winked. 

"So where are you going?" he asked, concerned.

"We don't know," she explained, "just that we have to leave quickly and that it's a secret." 

A sliver of ice ran down his insides. He reached out to cup her face gently.

"I hope you're not gone for too long. I'll miss you." 

"Melt," she smiled fondly. 

"I know. But I mean it. It's always different when you're not around." 

He leaned forward while lifting the duvet and kissed her, gently pulling her onto him in the bed. He wrapped her in his arms, burying his face in her hair.

She hugged him tightly before pulling back to meet his eyes.

"You gonna be okay?" she asked, softly.

He nodded, staying silent for a few moments before cupping her cheek in his hand. 

"Being with you is just really perfect," he murmured. "I feel like I want to bundle you up and keep you forever." 

He frowned. 

"But like, in a way that's not weird. Do you know what I mean?" 

She stroked his cheek.

"Lock me up, tiger." 

He bit his lip and leaned up until he was breathing against her lips, his eyes smouldering. 

"I like the way you talk," he breathed, huskily.

He kissed her, long and slow, pouring all of his emotions in to it. When he pulled back, her eyes were shining in the low light.

"Can we just stay like this a little longer?" he murmured. "Just… a little longer."

He sighed, and she hugged him tight. He could hear the other guys starting to stir, and the sounds of the girls leaving the Villa. 

Not yet, not yet- 

She pulled away reluctantly, and kissed his forehead.

"I'm coming back to you, okay?" 

He nodded, his words stuck in his throat.

She gave his hand one last squeeze as she got up, and a wave before she left the room. 

He got up and went downstairs, flicking the kettle on. While waiting for it to boil, he wandered to the front door. It was still open and he leaned against the frame as the girls got into two big black jeeps. 

He just had time to blow Fox a kiss, and she blew one back, smiling. Then they were gone.

Shit. 

~~~

Chapter Text

Heading back to the kitchen he poured his water in his mug, as Bobby and Gary appeared looking confused.

"Where are the girls?" Gary asked.

Lucas shrugged, mindful that he wasn't supposed to know. His stomach felt like lead. 

"Something weird is going on," he said, and Bobby nodded. 

"If something's happening we'd better get ready," suggested Gary, cup of tea in hand.

Lucas followed them back upstairs with a sigh.

Whatever was going to happen, he didn't like it. 

~~~

"New Islanders?" Noah blinked.

"That's what it says," Bobby confirmed, reading over the text again. "And our girls are in Casa Amor."

House of love. Great. Fucking fantastic. 

"We're getting new girls then!" enthused Rahim.

"Yeah, and our girls will get new guys," Gary said glumly. "So if the new girls that turn up here are gorgeous, you can bet the guys over there are even better." 

How long… how long will they be gone? Being grafted on by fuck knows who? 

Noah sat down with his head in his hands. The text had come after they were all up and ready, back in the kitchen. Ideas of a fun 'guys only' morning had been smashed by the text. 

The general consensus earlier had been that the girls were out on a morning or day trip at worst, and Lucas had done his best to play along with that assumption, hoping the latter was true. 

Finding out instead that the girls had been shipped off to a house full of new hunky blokes merely confirmed all his worst anxieties and fears. 

"Okay, but it might not be that bad," countered Rahim. "The girls who are coupled up, even if things have been mixed around-"

He shot a glance at Gary. 

"-they're still loyal. They're not gonna drop you for someone they barely know."

"What?" Jakub snorted, joining the conversation. "Because a two week advantage is so big?" 

Noah scowled at him, and Rahim moved between them preemptively.

Two weeks, it has only been two weeks. Even less for me. Jakub is actually right

"And if Lottie is loyal," interrupted Gary, "which she will be by the way, what does that actually mean? She's coupled up with you Rahim, not me." 

"Let's not panic yet," Bobby said firmly, and the guys settled down. "For all we know our girls will be back tomorrow. Let's take this one step at a time." 

Lucas hadn't said anything. He sat at the counter, staring at his mug. His head was a mess. 

One step at a time.

A loud notification noise sounded out. 

"That's me," Noah announced, pulling out his phone. "Oh... We've got to pack up stuff for our girls so it can be sent to them-" 

"So much for them coming back tomorrow then," Gary sighed, and Lucas's heart sank. 

Shit. Shit! 

"-but we can include a gift from ourselves to the girl we're coupled with."

They traipsed back upstairs, and began packing.

Lucas soon realised the others were finding the task fairly difficult, but Fox was pretty organised. Or he was just better at knowing where her stuff was. He picked up her makeup bag, her bathroom and hair things, put in some pjs, and grabbed some day and evening outfits out of her wardrobe.

How long... Two days? Three? A week? Fuck. 

He wasn't going to not send her nice stuff, and he knew she'd be happiest when she felt like herself. Remembering her jewellery and sunglasses, he sat on the bed, packing everything neatly.

It was hard not to imagine her wearing the outfits, being complimented by other guys, free to relax without having to constantly reassure him… 

Fox was loyal, everyone knew that, and he shook his head to try and clear his thoughts. And she had gone out of her way to speak to him this morning while all the other guys were kept in the dark. She was coming back to him. 

He got his favourite shirt out of his wardrobe, not one he'd worn here yet as he usually wore it when he was just hanging out at home. It was red plaid, soft and cozy, and it reminded him of Fox.

And after all, it was hers - she'd won his favourite shirt fair and square yesterday. It felt like a horribly long time ago already. 

He spritzed some of his aftershave on the shirt, hoping she'd approve. He wondered if there was anything else he could include, and he smiled as he realised what would make her laugh. 

He grabbed a nice pair of his boxers and packed them in too, then fished some eyeliner out her makeup bag and surreptitiously tucked a note inside. Zipping everything up, he took it down to the front door of the Villa, then returned to the bedroom to help the other guys with an unhappy sigh. 

~~~

The new girls had arrived, walking across the lawn like a catwalk, and the quick speed dating rounds to get to know them had finished.

Lucas felt exhausted and irritable. He was trying to be nice, knowing how intimidating it was coming into the villa as a latecomer, but the harder the girls tried to impress, the more he was reminded that other guys were busy doing the same at the other Villa to his girl. 

He was the only one here currently partnered properly, other than Jakub perhaps, and he'd hoped that would clearly mark him as off limits. Apparently not, and he could be sure the other guys wouldn't be skipping over Fox. 

I hate this. I know she won't look twice at them. I know that. But I fucking hate it. 

Gary joined him in the kitchen as he filled his water.

"I feel like I've stepped into a glamour magazine," he laughed. "They're all trying so hard to impress, I've never had so many compliments in my life." 

"They're so agreeable," Lucas shook his head. "The flattery is insane. They giggle at my replies that aren't even funny." 

Gary laughed. 

"I tell you what, mate," he grinned, "I'd take any of these girls home to my nan." 

"I know what you mean," Lucas nodded. "They're all 'amazing'. Anything we say is automatically praised as genius. It's all a bit Stepford."

"I'm amazed none of them happen to be crane enthusiasts." 

"No one would go that far, Gaz." 

He laughed as Gary pulled a face. Rahim arrived, bustling about making smoothies. 

"Alright mate?" asked Gary. 

"Yeah!" the golfer grinned. "Shannon is very cool. A professional poker player! She really seems to get me… I don't feel as awkward as usual around her. And we have a lot in common with us both having to travel a lot for tournaments."

"Sounds like she's a bit of you," Bobby smiled as he wandered over. "During the speed dating she kept asking about you, it was kinda sweet." 

"What about you, Bobs?" Gary winked at him. "You're a single guy with a bunch of new ladies. Any sparks?" 

"We'll see!" 

"Gary was just saying he's disappointed at the lack of crane fans," smirked Lucas. 

"Is it so much to ask?" the blonde pulled a dramatic pose. "Lottie's probably just worked her magic to divert them from the Villa." 

The boys laughed. 

"I do wonder who's trying to impress her though," he added more seriously. "Some sexy goth dude, or a god damn musician." 

"They're probably all musicians," said Noah, arriving in a cloud of gloom. "Or intense and interesting artists." 

"Or models," added Bobby, his smile wavering. 

"Architects," Gary frowned. 

"Rich, handsome, confident…" Lucas trailed off. 

"What, like you?" laughed Gary. 

"Meh." 

Actually confident I mean. 

"Well as fun as you lot are," Rahim rolled his eyes, "I have a smoothie to deliver." 

As he headed off towards the day beds, Gary shook himself. 

"Workout time?"

"Hell, yes!" Lucas grinned, relieved at the idea of doing something normal. 

~~~

A few of the girls fluttered around as they began but they soon wandered off as they realised the guys were actually too focused on their routines to notice them.

Neither he nor Gary were looking to impress the newcomers, and both were trying not to think about what kind of guys might be showering compliments at Fox and Lottie. Noah was in a world of his own, barely speaking. 

As Lucas worked on his pull ups, he idly tried to remember the new girls' names, feeling guilty he hadn't really paid much attention.

Shannon, he knew, was the one currently delighting Rahim. Another had pounced on Jakub, and the tank seemed easily flattered after the lack of interest from the original girls. The one called Blake was the girl who kept buzzing around himself.

Three out of six ain't bad. Wait, but only two names. Whoops. 

As he went through his dumbbell routine, he couldn't stop himself from wondering what the new guys would be like. The new girls were all super glam, did that mean the new guys were super ripped? No doubt they were all extremely handsome. 

Some of the occupations of the girls here seemed tailored to target the Villa lads… it was surely no coincidence that their resident pro golfer was being charmed by a pro poker player. At least two of the girls did modelling, from what he could remember of the speed dates.

The same was probably true of these other guys, whether models, musicians, or goth hunks. 

If there is a male Lottie there then it's me who should be worried, not Gaz

Maybe they were all rich and gorgeous and not needing reassured every five minutes. 

Dammit

He focused on Fox saying she was his, and wished his anxiety would fuck off. 

~~~

The alcohol was flowing during the welcome party and Lucas was making the effort to join in. Blake kept appearing, but she'd backed off a little for now, choosing instead to gaze at him from a distance, and he felt relieved.

Jakub was mashing faces with his new girl, and he could see Noah scowling in the kitchen. Heading over, he saw the other guys felt the same, and the tension was through the roof. 

"Bit much, eh?" Bobby said to him as he arrived. "After he turned the Villa upside down at the recoupling, it's weird." 

"Not like he was the only one who did that," Gary was slightly worse for wear, and glaring at Rahim.

"Hardly my fault, mate," the golfer scoffed. "Given my girl had just been stolen." 

Noah had the decency to look embarrassed.

"Two rights don't make a wrong, mate," sneered Gary. "You've not even looked at Lottie this whole time."

"Well who else was I gonna choose?" Rahim rolled his eyes.

"Marisol was right there," Bobby said quietly. 

"I'd already been with her!" 

"So had I!" 

"Marisol was in a friendship couple," Gary continued. "She was the safe choice." 

"Oh sure," Rahim growled, "Cos that's what we came here to do, make the safe choice." 

"Guys, come on-" Noah raised his hands.

"Don't fucking dare," spat Rahim, and Noah stepped back in shock. "You didn't even try talking to me about Priya before all this." 

"I wasn't going to pick her!" the librarian exclaimed. "I wanted Hope." 

"You getting shafted didn't mean you had to screw me over," Gary cut back in. "You could have picked Chelsea even!" 

"I don't fancy Chelsea!" Rahim shook his head. 

"So you do fancy Lottie!" Gary growled.

"That's not what I said! I only fancied two girls and they were both taken. And now I've met someone else I like and it's all good, yeah?" 

Gary rolled his eyes, seething.

"Two girls?" Lucas gritted out, with a glare.

I fucking knew it. 

"Come on, mate," the golfer held his hands up. "I wouldn't have chosen Fox. She made it clear who her choice was." 

"And Lottie didn't?" Gary was on his feet with anger.

Noah leapt forward into the middle again, preventing any escalation.

"Look, last night was a disaster," he said firmly. "But we've got to deal with the current situation first. The new girls haven't done anything wrong and they deserve to have a good time." 

"Too right," Bobby agreed. "We're being pretty crap hosts." 

With a grumble, Rahim went looking for Shannon, and Bobby went to see what drinks the girls would like. Noah went over to the day beds, sitting down glumly.

"This fucking sucks," Gary muttered to Lucas. 

"I know," he sighed, stuffing his own anger back down. "But Fox and Lottie wouldn't want us all falling out." 

"Hah! True. I'm gonna get so told off," Gary laughed, and Lucas smiled, glad his bad mood had seemingly passed. 

Gary had a quick temper at times but it could disappear just as fast, and Lucas knew that he'd now be fine for the rest of the night. 

"Adding alcohol to the mix probably wasn't a good idea," he mused. 

"Probably to tempt us into cheating," said Gary. "Or I guess give a bit of courage to those looking to 'woo'." 

"Oh, is that what we're calling it now," Lucas snorted a laugh. 

"Maybe it'll help Bobby, he's the only one of us properly single. Well… other than Noah." 

Lucas glanced over at the librarian. He was looking pretty dishevelled, and had apparently stopped shaving. 

"He's not taking the breakup well, then." 

"Noooope," replied Gary. "Mind, if I'd been thrown over for Jakub, I'd probably be the same." 

"It was a weird one," Lucas shook his head. "I felt pretty awful being the only guy who actually got to pick properly." 

"Ah, you'd have been alright, mate. Thing is, Fox talks to all of us so we know fine well where she's at. The other girls are more of a mystery." 

Lucas was surprised, having not considered that angle. 

"Doesn't mean there aren't guys who wouldn't try," he frowned. 

"True enough," Gary conceded, and anxiety rushed over Lucas again. 

"I feel like we live in the kitchen now," he said, changing the subject. 

Gary laughed. 

"Let's go be charming!" he cried, shoving Lucas along with him.

~~~

Sleeping on the day beds isn't so bad. 

Lucas thought back to the night he'd slept out here with Fox, and smiled to himself. As expected, they had been told to pair up to share their beds, but Lucas had turned Blake down saying he was going to sleep outside by himself.

He wasn't entirely happy letting her take his place, still thinking of his bed as being Fox's, but he let it go. This whole thing was awkward for everyone. 

The night hadn't exactly gone well. He was in no mood to socialise, and with Gary's tactic of talking about Lottie at every opportunity, the two of them and Bobby had ended up just hanging out by themselves and moping over Fox, Lottie and the others. 

He frowned. Bobby at least should have been making the most of getting to know the new girls, but he didn't seem that bothered. He missed his friends, that much was obvious, and he was closest to Fox and Lottie but… 

Surely with five new girls one of them must appeal to him? Not that any had sparked his own interest. Even if he put his anxieties to one side, none of them had been particularly interesting to talk to, and none had made him laugh. 

Perhaps he and Bobby just had too similar taste in women, a thought that kept pushing into his mind. He knew the younger man had been crushing on Fox from the beginning. But his sadness this evening hinted at far deeper feelings. 

What happens if he tells Fox he's fallen for her? She definitely cares about him a lot. Fuck. 

He sighed up at the sky, wondering how his girl was faring. They'd probably had to couple up too, and he felt horribly anxious.

Who is she sharing a bed with? Some handsome guy with no baggage? 

And what if she was wondering what he was up to? He'd been labelled a playboy earlier on… Would she assume he'd be easily led astray? That could impact how she faced any temptations laid in her path. 

All day he'd been regretting that he hadn't talked about his anxiety and jealousy issues with her more. He'd thought he had time. And she had picked up on a lot of it by herself, far more than anyone else ever had.

She spent enough time being expected to fix people's problems. The last thing he wanted to do was add to that.

He curled on his side, snuggling a pillow, trying to banish his worries. 

I am a melt. 

~~~

Chapter Text

"Kettle's boiled!" 

Lucas made his way to the kitchen at the same time as Noah. He hadn't slept well and needed coffee, badly. Noah slammed cupboards as he got his breakfast.

"What's up, mate?" Lucas asked in confusion.

"None of us got much sleep," Gary muttered. "Couple of noisy buggers."

"I tell you what," sighed Noah. "Doing bits on the first night... it changes everything."

"No doubt," Gary nodded.

"Wait, what?" Lucas's jaw dropped. 

"Jakub and Emily," revealed Gary. "Doing bits last night. Big bits!" 

He shook his head as he sat at the counter.

"Bloody hell," Lucas breathed.

"Yeah," Noah looked slightly dazed. "I don't know how to feel honestly. I'm angry but I'm also relieved." 

"Because he's maybe not that into Hope after all?" 

"But he still caused chaos at the recoupling," Gary added.

Noah nodded with another sigh.

"It's whatever," he shrugged. "I don't want another day of arguing right now." 

The librarian grabbed his mug and wandered off.

"I'd say you made a good choice sleeping outside," Gary looked at him closely. "But it doesn't look like you slept much either." 

"It's weird sleeping by myself," shrugged Lucas, covering for the fact it was his racing thoughts that had kept him up. 

"Yeah, I get you," Gary nodded. "It's amazing how quick you get used to that. I even miss Lottie's snoring." 

"Oh, are we acknowledging that now?" Lucas laughed. 

"Just don't tell her!" 

"Is that why you came back early from the Hideaway that time?" 

"No," the blonde shrugged. "Still not sure what that was about honestly. Lottie woke me and told me to scram." 

"She is a mystery," mused Lucas. "She probably just had a prophetic dream or something." 

"Perils of dating a witch."

"Well, I'd take the snoring over hearing Jakub get it on." 

Gary grimaced. 

"Mate, it was awful. He wasn't even trying to be quiet. Honestly though, it did get me thinking." 

"Er," Lucas raised an eyebrow. 

"Not like that! It's just… I know some of my mates would have been expecting me to behave like that here. You don't get high numbers by not being a bit of a knob." 

"One night stands type stuff?" asked Lucas, and his friend nodded. "Yeah, it's not really the vibe you give off in here I've got to say." 

"Bit hard, when you can't leave in the morning," the younger man laughed. "But nah, I changed my ways a while ago. A lot of my friends are girls, and I just realised… I was pretty lonely." 

Lucas nodded. 

"Yeah, I feel that. I was getting more and more sure I'd be a bachelor forever. Not because of my age, but because I'm crap at relationships." 

Gary downed the rest of his tea. 

"It also…" he trailed off, and Lucas prodded him to continue. "I mean, if there's bits happening here, then surely at the other Villa…" 

He sighed heavily. 

There's bits happening there. Those guys will no doubt be even more up for it than the girls here. 

"I guess Marisol might be having fun," he continued with a weak smile, as Bobby wandered over, bleary-eyed. 

"Coffee?" he croaked, and Lucas flicked the kettle back on. "Cheers, pal. I don't mind people doing stuff in the bedroom if they're quiet, but I never want to hear Jakub again." 

"He'll probably blow it today," mused Lucas, his mind still on Fox. "He's not exactly great at keeping girls' interest."

"Yeah, that's true. Our girls were well impressed when he first turned up." 

Ogling him at the gym that day. Was Fox? She was busy fixing Lottie's mess. I wouldn't have seen. But I doubt it. 

"Fancy the gym Bobbo?" Gary chirped, and Bobby pointed at his coffee. "Bring it with you!" 

~~~

They crashed into the beanbags on the lawn, waiting for the text instructions. Lucas did his best not to frown, but a headache had already taken ahold of him. 

A challenge was maybe just what they needed as a distraction, and going head to head with the girls at the other Villa with a competition might be a laugh.

A notification rang out. 

"Tallest boy to kiss shortest girl." 

Or maybe not a laugh at all… 

Jakub leapt to his feet and after a brief exchange, a girl stood up. She rushed over to him, and he kissed her hard, and at length. 

Lucas raised his eyebrows as Gary gasped, and one of the other girls (Emily?) looked furious.

I know I said he'd blow it today but bloody hell. 

"Whoah, she looks just like Hope," Noah muttered, watching the kiss. 

Yay, drama. 

The next challenge arrived: "First underwater kiss." 

Emily leapt to her feet and grabbed Bobby, dragging him to the pool. He jumped in with her good naturedly and the others rushed over to see them make contact under water. 

Is Fox the shortest girl over there? No, Marisol and Chelsea at least are both shorter… 

"Nice one Bobs!" Gary yelled as they re-emerged. "That was well fast." 

Bobby grinned and flopped back on his beanbag. 

"Oldest girl and youngest boy to act out 5 sex positions." 

"That's you Rahim!" cheered Bobby. "Who's the oldest girl?" 

Shannon stood up with a grin, and they proceeded to act out their positions as Rahim got a fit of the giggles, slowing them down. 

Priya is older than Fox I think. 

"Give a lap dance."

Noah groaned at his text, before standing and looking at the girls. One of them waved and he did a very quick lacklustre dance for them. 

Lucas's lungs were burning as his mind kept flitting to the other Villa thinking of Fox doing the challenges. 

"Kiss for 30 seconds." 

Lucas looked at his phone in shock.

"Uh-" he stuttered, frozen where he stood. 

"I'll do it!" Blake cried, and ran over to him, crashing her lips against his.

Shit shit shit

He tried to kiss her back and she slipped her tongue in his mouth. 

"That's it son!" encouraged Gary. "Come on! That's ten seconds!" 

"They seem to be enjoying this," Jakub said loudly. 

Fuck-

"You're one to talk, mate," Gary replied before yelling at Lucas again. "Just think of the party! Nearly twenty seconds!" 

Lucas broke the kiss and took several steps back, shaking his head.

"Sorry guys," he muttered, sitting back down. He avoided Blake's eyes, and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. His lungs felt crushed in his chest and he wasn't sure if he was going to be sick.

Why did I kiss back? I should have… I wasn't ready- Fox has been gone a day and I've kissed another girl, what is wrong with me-

The next phone beeped. 

"Give a piggyback round the lawn." 

"Who wants a ride?" Gary grinned. He charged round the lawn happily. 

-Fox wouldn't blame me, I know that, I know- But she's doing this too, and she's competitive, fuck-

"Make a boy blush."

Emily made a beeline for Bobby again, though perhaps understandably given how often the Scot blushed anyway. She pulled him in for a kiss and he immediately went red as laughter broke out. 

-Who got the kiss challenge at the other villa? Did Fox? Did a guy kiss her? I can't fucking breathe-

"Everyone suck toes." 

"I blame this entirely on you, Bobby," Rahim groaned.

Lucas tried to pull himself together. He looked around and found a grinning Gary in his face immediately. He nodded with a forced laugh. 

The final challenge was the old Seventh Heaven, and some brief exercises for everyone else. Jakub and Siobhan ran to the cupboard, as Noah grimaced.

Fox definitely wouldn't do that one at least. Right? 

The panic was still rushing over him, reminding him that he'd kissed someone else. 

I should have stopped immediately. Fox would tell me I'm being a doofus, but if she kissed someone, I'd be heartbroken. 

Maybe she has kissed someone, thinking it's not a big deal. Because it shouldn't be but- I can't stand the thought. I never told her about my anxiety. I'm a fucking idiot. 

Once it was over, the girls left to get ready for the evening and the guys pulled their beanbags closer together. The Villa had lost with Casa Amor winning the cocktail party prize. 

So they completed all the challenges. Fuck. Does that mean-

"Ah well," shrugged Gary. "Win some, lose some." 

"I'm sorry-" Lucas began. 

"Don't sweat it," Bobby chirped. "They'll probably give us drinks still anyway."

"You might need to apologise to Blake though," added Rahim, "she looked a bit put out." 

Lucas sighed as the guys began teasing Jakub about his exploits. It was lighthearted but there was a sharp edge underneath. 

Noah cleared his throat. 

"Not to be negative, but is anyone else wondering how the challenge went for our girls?" 

Lucas frowned, looking at the ground.

Did the girls we're partnered with get the same texts at the other villa? That'd make sense… which means Fox would have got the thirty second kiss. And they won- 

"Well, Marisol probably had fun?" Bobby offered.

-she probably kissed one of the guys. She must have if they won. We only failed one task and lost. So they did them all.

"I trust Lottie," smiled Gary. "She might be unpredictable, but loyalty is important to her."

"I'm sure Hope enjoyed letting loose," Jakub added, leaning back in his beanbag with a challenge in his eyes.

Noah ignored him.

"You alright, Lucas?" he asked.

"What, me?" he looked up to see concerned faces watching him. "I'm fine. Fox is loyal."

Not that the guys at Casa Amor will care about that. Not that I told her a kiss would crush me. Not that-

"Damn right," Bobby grinned. "I don't think any of you need to worry. Just enjoy yourselves!" 

"You seemed to have a good time in the challenges," Rahim threw the Scot a sly look.

Why did I kiss back? What the fuck is wrong with me? But Fox must have kissed back. With a guy who doesn't freak out all the fucking time. 

"Pot and kettle, mate!" Gary laughed, studiously ignoring Jakub's angry face.

His phone beeped. 

"Ah yeah, we're getting a consolation prize of what sounds very much like a party." 

I need to pull myself together. I need to stop thinking. I need to-

Noah snorted.

"A literal win/win then!" 

The guys went to get ready, and Lucas tried to stuff his worries down as far as he could. He'd already been a killjoy, the least he could do was be friendly tonight.

~~~

"Hey, can I have a word?" 

Blake turned as he approached, and gave him a wary smile. 

"Sure," she agreed, and they drifted over to the fire pit away from the noise of the party.

"I just wanted to apologise for how I acted in the challenge," Lucas rubbed the back of his neck. "It kind of took me by surprise." 

"It's okay," she smiled at him. "It was a bit full on. I was just thinking it was fun, y'know?" 

"Yeah," he nodded. "I mean usually the challenges are, it's just… I know you girls are in a difficult position, wanting to get in the Villa. But I am spoken for, and I don't want to mess that up." 

"I get that," she gazed at the fire before looking back at him with a serious expression. "But babe, you don't know what goes on here when you're not looking. You shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, that's all I'm saying." 

He blinked in surprise as her words sunk in. 

"I'd best get back to my girls," she smiled, and he nodded as she sashayed away.

What goes on when I'm not looking? With Fox? What Fox does? 

His head spun. Obviously it could just be a ploy by Blake to try and win herself a place here. At the same time though, he was quite aware that he wasn't the only guy missing Fox.

But  Blake just left after saying that, she wasn't grafting on me… 

Would Rahim have chosen Fox if he hadn't picked first? Jakub had looked like he wanted to choose her as well. And then there was Bobby… 

He shook his head. He was being paranoid again. He trusted Fox, and he tried to focus on his breathing. 

But what about when Henrik left? He gave Fox a private goodbye… And Bobby might have had a crush on her but it's definitely far more than that now. Gary has been paying her compliments right in front of me. Jakub is clearly into her but she denied it...

Fuck, even Marisol was being nice to Fox recently but was still weird around me. Could she still be in the mix? How the hell do I compete with that? 

And right now... If the Villa is anything to go by, half the dudes at Casa Amor will be chasing her. And they won the challenges! Has she kissed someone else without feeling as miserable as I do?

The memory of Blake kissing him crashed back into his head. 

Maybe someone there actually deserves someone like her. I fucking don't. 

Fuck fuck fuck. 

He went to bed miserable, and barely slept. 

~~~

Chapter Text

"Guys, I got a text," Noah said quietly.

The girls were getting ready for the day in the dressing room as the boys lazed about the bedroom, nursing their sore heads from the night before.

"What's it say?" Gary groaned. 

"It's… a video!" 

Noah's surprise echoed round the group, and Lucas joined the others as they gathered to see Noah's phone. He hit play.

A new and extremely handsome guy appeared. 

"I've got to say, from watching the show, the person I've had my eye on is Fox." 

"For me it's all about Fox." added a young guy with blue hair. 

"Gotta be Lottie," a brooding, inked up fellow said confidently.

"Fox!" another handsome man, with a tattoo on his arm. "Or Hope!" 

The scene changed, showing Chelsea flirting with a tall, dark and seriously ripped man who looked like an actual model as they sat by the pool. 

Another scene change and the girls were cheering on Hope, talking about her kissing a guy.

It changed again, back to the first man that had appeared, dressed to impress at night, with no crowd in sight. 

"You're a vision, Fox," he said intensely, and Lucas caught his Irish accent this time around, "I could look at you for ages." 

"Aww thank you, Carl," Fox was smiling, and looked devastatingly beautiful in a strapless black dress. "You're sweet." 

"I was hoping we could have a chat," he continued softly, "see where our heads are at. I'm not going to beat around the bush, do you want to get together in here?" 

Lottie appeared next, talking to someone out of frame. 

"They're so adorable together!" she cooed, "She deserves this." 

It switched to a bedroom, where Hope was giggling at the man with the tattoo on his arm, looking happier than he'd seen her in ages.

"That is so cute!" she squealed. 

It flicked back to outdoors. The Irish pretty boy was sitting and it looked like Fox had to be in his lap she was so close. She lightly nibbled his ear, licking him as he gasped in pleasure. 

The video ended. 

The guys stood in silence. Lucas spun on his heel and stormed out the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. 

He didn't know where he was going, and he didn't particularly care. He got to the pool and dived in, swimming to the furthest end. He desperately wanted to punch something, to yell, scream, anything, and his vision blurred.

So stupid, I'm so FUCKING stupid. 

He'd let himself fall for her, deeply, in the space of just two weeks. Less than that. And now, in another villa, she'd had at least three men chasing her, doing everything they could to win her over.

His mind kept replaying the imagery of her making the Irish man sigh in pleasure. Every time his vision blurred, he splashed pool water across his face. 

I am NOT gonna fucking cry. 

Why had Fox been in the video so much. And Hope? Of all the girls they were surely the ones least likely to be disloyal, yet there had clearly been ample footage.

And at least Hope had the fucking decency to break up with Noah first. 

He heard a noise behind him and winced.

"Hey," Blake said softly, crouched on the grass by the pool. 

"Hey," he replied, keeping his back to her to hide his traitorous eyes.

"I'm sorry, babes," she said, sounding sad, "about the video. I did try to warn you, but I'm sorry." 

He clenched his fists, remembering her words the night before. 

Just how stupid have I been?! 

"I appreciate that," he said, carefully. "At least now I know." 

His voice cracked on the last word, and he started swimming, the only way to hide from everyone. He counted his lengths. Pushing himself further than usual, his mind steadily filled with numbers, pushing other thoughts aside. 

He only stopped when he realised someone else was in the pool. His muscles burned as he paused, seeing it was Noah.

"Sup," the librarian said, looking miserable.

Lucas sighed, and moved closer to talk to him.

"That video…" he trailed off. 

"Yeah," Noah swallowed. "Not what I expected." 

"Same." 

"Maybe we're missing context." 

Lucas raised his eyebrow and Noah sagged. 

"Yeah, I know," he sighed. "But grasping at straws is what I do best. Anyway, you gonna come rejoin us?" 

"Sure," Lucas nodded. "I've gone way over my usual lengths." 

He hauled himself out of the pool as Noah followed suit, and they headed towards the Villa.

~~~

There apparently wasn't going to be a challenge today, and everyone was hanging out in different groups, catching the sun. 

Lucas saw the roof terrace was finally free and headed up. It was always breezier up here, making it easier to breathe, and he tried to get his thoughts in order. Except the roof terrace also reminded him of her. 

He was exhausted. He'd slept poorly since the last recoupling, he'd eaten badly due to feeling anxious since Fox had left, and he'd pushed his exercise way too hard. The same thoughts kept circling again and again, an unbreakable cycle of upset and panic. 

Priya and Marisol hadn't been in the video, and Chelsea and Lottie had only featured briefly. It could be that the focus on Fox and Hope was to generate maximum drama, rather than a reflection of them actually doing more. 

And did he really think Fox would betray him? Loyalty was important to her, and she had told him that she'd been hurt before. She had never given him any reason to doubt her, and had reassured him plenty, more in fact than anyone else he'd dated in the past. 

I trust her. I do trust her. But… 

He sighed. There was an abundance of logic on one side but he couldn't forget the facts against her. The short timescale he'd known her for. The video evidence. And what Blake had said.

His stomach twisted and he breathed deeply, but his thoughts were spiralling. He knew what he'd seen. The Irish guy looked older, like himself, and well put together. Maybe he was more deserving of someone like Fox. 

She can do better than me. Maybe she should do better than me. But why did she act the way she did with me then? Was I just the best of what was available? Rocco number two? 

His eyes started to sting and he swallowed hard.

"Am I interrupting?" 

He whipped his head round to see Blake at the top of the stairs.

"Um, no?" he said in return, uncertainty in his voice.

"I just wanted to check you were okay," she smiled, walking over and sitting beside him. "Today has been so intense." 

"Yeah," he smiled weakly. "It can't have been much fun for you here, so far." 

"I'm here, and that's enough," she said lightly. "It's wild though, it still feels kinda unreal." 

"It wears off a bit in time," his voice was quiet. "I'll probably feel the same about the real world when I exit now." 

"Are you already thinking of exiting?" she asked in surprise.

"I don't know," he shrugged. "I wasn't, but now I'm not so sure." 

"You shouldn't leave because of someone else's actions," Blake was firm. "You earned your spot here." 

He blinked in surprise at her strong tone.

"Why did you come to the Villa?" he asked, curiously. 

"Well, I wouldn't turn down love," she laughed, "but I wanted to have fun. Meet new people, expand my horizons. I'm a musician so I don't always get time to socialise." 

Another musician, huh. 

"You've been watching the show then?" he asked, and she winced. 

"Yeah…" she hesitated. "But it's not the advantage I expected. Instead I know all this stuff about who's been snakey, and I can't warn people."

He frowned. 

"I wasn't really prepared for that side of it," she continued. "I'm just me, y'know? What you see is what you get. But on TV it was clear that some people have been trying hard to be someone they are not." 

His heart sank, but he tried to cover it. 

"I hope I'm not included in that?" he tried to smile. 

"Definitely not!" she exclaimed. "I felt really bad watching what she… Well anyway, I had a feeling we'd get on." 

What she…? Fox. Fuck. 

He found himself nodding. She was easy enough to talk to at least. And it's not like he'd be opening himself back up to anyone in a hurry. 

Or ever. 

"How are you feeling about everything?" he asked. 

"Nervous!" she laughed. "I mean, I don't know how long this situation lasts for. And then I might just get booted straight out again." 

She looked down at her hands sadly.

"It would suck to leave before I even got a chance," she sighed.

"Well, we don't know how it works," Lucas reassured her. "You might end up staying." 

She met his gaze with an intense look.

"I'd like that," she said softly. 

Before he could reply, she'd stood up and walked over to the stairs. 

"Thanks for talking to me, Lucas," she smiled. "You've really made me feel welcome here." 

She skipped down the stairs and he was left sitting looking out at the hills, his thoughts all over the place. 

~~~

"Blimey," Gary mumbled. 

The boys had been waiting on the lawn for the girls to appear that evening, and it looked like they'd gone all out. They appeared one by one, walking towards them like catwalk models, except for Shannon who strolled over to Rahim, cool as a cucumber.

Lucas downed another drink as his anxiety finally started to recede. He'd come here to have fun, and now he could dance the night away with beautiful women.

Alcohol solves everything. Sort of. 

Rahim had the boys shocked by revealing his superior twerking talent while the girls cheered loudly. Bobby stepped up with some pretty good robotic moves, and Gary windmilled his arms about happily. Even Noah danced around. 

Jakub and Siobhan were missing, for reasons it didn't take a genius to figure out, and Lucas found himself relaxing a little as his thoughts drifted into blurriness. As he poured drinks at the counter for some of the girls, Blake came up giggling, and revealed what she'd overheard from the bedroom. 

Lucas laughed at her impressions of Jakub doing bits, and her eyes sparkled at him.

"Listen," she said, leaning over, "I know stuff is weird at the moment. Like, this whole situation. But I wanted to ask you something…" 

"Go for it," he replied, trying unsuccessfully to stop knocking things over as he walked round to stand beside her.

Maybe that's enough drinks. 

"So, here's the thing," she said quietly, as if sharing a secret.

He leaned in to hear her better.

"Us new girls can only stay, if one of you lot picks one of us to be coupled up with." 

His eyebrows shot up. 

"Not like that!" she laughed, "I mean, it could be like that." 

She twisted her hands together.

"But otherwise, we get dumped from the Villa and that's our time here over." 

"Oof," he said, "that's pretty harsh." 

"I know!" she nodded enthusiastically. "And like, through no fault of our own!" 

He frowned as her words started to sink in.

"Fox is coming back anyway, right?" she asked, and he winced hearing that name.

"And I guess it's gonna be drama because of what she's been doing to you all this time," Blake continued. "But maybe you could just, take the upper hand in the situation?" 

"By choosing you?" he quirked an eyebrow.

"I mean obviously it works out well for me too," she laughed, tapping his arm playfully, "but I want to get to know you better as well. I'd do anything for my friends." 

She smiled at him.

"And remember," she added, softly, "Fox is probably going to return with her new man." 

Lucas sagged, as the realisation hit him.

I'm gonna have to see her walk back in, hand in hand with the man she's replaced me with fawning over her and looking at me with sympathy. Or being smug. 

I'm gonna look like a sad idiot, and everyone will support her because she's Fox. Fuck fuck FUCK. I can't deal with this, I can't, I cant-

He realised Blake was still talking and he held up a hand to stop her. 

"I think…" he hesitated. "I don't want to get into anything else, I want to make that clear."

She nodded. 

"But," he continued, "I think you're right. And if it helps you stay in the villa, then that would be a good thing right? It's me being helpful." 

"Oh my god!" she squealed and threw her arms around him. "You're amazing!"

He laughed, feeling both better about making a decision for himself, and queasy. 

What if she comes back by herself? Is that likely? Only if I ignore the video. She had her tongue on another man for fuck sake.

His lungs constructed tightly as reality slammed back into him with a vengeance. 

How am I going to stand seeing her with that guy? I could leave, but I haven't done anything wrong. Except for that kiss. Shit.

I've been so stupid. I've never let myself fall this hard before. I thought I loved her… 

Fuck. 

He looked at Blake, who had bounced away happily.

I can't stay here and watch Fox with her new man. I have to walk. The least I can do is help a newcomer first. And maybe… maybe I'll manage to stay if I do. Right? 

~~~

Chapter Text

"I'm glad you didn't sleep outside last night." 

"Well, I had to come back indoors at some point," he smiled at Blake, weakly.

Lucas didn't want to admit he'd barely slept anyway, but he suspected his eyes probably gave it away. There was nothing to distract his mind from his spiralling thoughts, so he'd ended up just laying in bed staring at the ceiling all night, before managing maybe an hour of sleep.

Everything still felt like a horrible nightmare. 

"You still feeling good about your decision?" she asked, uncertainly.

"Of course," he put the smile back on his face. "It's all good."

"I'm so pleased!" she grinned, hopping out of bed, to get ready for the day.

He sighed. Whether or not to help Blake was a moot point now. He could hardly disappoint her, and she'd done nothing wrong. And truthfully, he'd need someone to at least be on his side when he had to face his gir-

Not MY girl. Not any more. Fuck. 

As soon as all the girls had left for the dressing room, Bobby approached him. 

"Er, why is Blake so happy exactly?" he asked, looking suspicious. 

"It's…" 

Lucas trailed off, his bullshit answer dying before he could even speak it. He didn't need to lie. 

I'm not the one in the fucking wrong here. 

Lucas stood, and realised all eyes were on him. 

"I told Blake I'd pick her to stay in the Villa."

"You fucking idiot!" 

Bobby was snarling and Rahim leapt forward to hold him back with some difficulty. Nobody had ever seen Bobby angry, and he was literally spitting mad. 

Lucas rolled his eyes. 

"We all saw the video, mate," he said flatly. 

"I'm not your mate," Bobby yelled. "I'm Fox's!" 

"Oh, don't I know it," Lucas drawled sarcastically. "Come off it man, everyone knows you've been pining over her this whole time." 

"So?! Doesn't stop me from being her friend. She's crazy about you, and you're FUCKING HER OVER!" 

Lucas cringed, before rebounding in anger. 

"She's made her choice," he snarled. "I'm allowed to make mine." 

"Well, you're a fucking idiot.

"That's your opinion." 

"Not just mine!" 

Bobby glared at him and Lucas glanced at the other guys. They were all avoiding his eyes. 

"I knew it," he muttered savagely. "Even when she betrays me, you'll still all side with Fox."

Gary came up to him, with a soft expression. 

"It's not that, mate," he reasoned. "It's just, we don't know the full story yet." 

"Fox wouldn't be disloyal," Noah rumbled. 

"What, like Hope wouldn't be?" Lucas snapped, regretting it as soon as he saw the big man flinch.

"Hope broke up with me," the librarian sighed. "But I still trust her." 

"We saw it all in the video… we all saw it," Lucas shook his head, the anger dropping from him but the stubbornness remaining.

"I've made my decision," he stated. 

He didn't miss the sad expression on Gary's face as he walked into the bathroom. 

~~~

The shower didn't help. He turned up the pressure, the water pounding into him, but nothing ever stopped him thinking about her. 

He'd known they'd side with her. He knew it. Because she did deserve better, someone who wasn't trapped in their own head all the time. Someone whose relationship history wasn't a complete disaster zone. 

It didn't excuse the fact she'd let him fall for her, but he frowned at that thought. She didn't know he had. Maybe he'd just read into things more than he should have. 

He tried to remember their moments together, her words, but the video just kept playing in his mind, erasing everything else. 

The shower did one good thing, and hid his tears. 

~~~

He collapsed back on his bed, avoiding looking at anyone. He could feel Bobby's glare on him and he studiously ignored it. In truth his head was a mess, and he wasn't sure if he had a horrible hangover or was still drunk. It felt like both.

It's not Blake's fault though. 

A loud beep sounded out, making people groan. 

"Oooh, get in!" Gary cried suddenly. "Today is the last day the girls are away at Casa Amor. Brunch is waiting for us all on the lawn. We've to couple up and enjoy." 

"Does that mean they're coming back this evening do you think?" asked Rahim.

"Sounds like it," Gary grinned happily. 

Shit. I'm not ready for this. I can't face her.

The guys got up and started getting ready.

I can't do this. 

"You coming, mate?" Noah asked.

"Uh, actually, I didn't sleep," Lucas admitted. "I might try and grab a couple of hours?" 

Brunch with Blake was absolutely not what he needed right now. Noah looked at him closely.

"Oh jeez, you look awful." 

"Thank you."

Noah huffed a small laugh. 

"Alright, I'll let everyone know you've to be left to sleep for a bit." 

"Thanks, mate." 

Gary paused on his way past. 

"If you need to talk, just shout, yeah?" 

Lucas nodded and could tell Gary hadn't bought it. The blonde left with a deep sigh. 

He waited until everyone had left the room before hiding back under his duvet. Fox was coming back tonight. Blake was expecting him to save her. He was gonna have to deal with seeing his replacement all over his girl. 

Not my girl. 

This is the worst day. 

~~~

"So, how does this work?" 

The guys gathered as a group, nerves jumping between them. The text detailed the 'Stick or Switch' ceremony. 

It was a pretty simple process - each guy would say if they were sticking with their old partner, or switching to one of the new girls. The new girls that weren't picked would leave the Villa. Of the original Islanders, those who returned by themselves to find their partner had switched, would be single. 

"Right then," said Gary nervously. "Let's get out there." 

"Listen," said Noah suddenly. "Only make a decision you are sure of. If you have any doubts, don't risk it. Our girls will be waiting for us." 

Lucas knew this was mostly directed at him but he stayed quiet, his thoughts bitter. 

She won't be waiting. 

Both Noah and Gary had tried talking to him but he'd waved them off. He couldn't bear thinking about her, tonight would be hard enough. 

I thought I loved her for fuck sake. 

He'd tried to sleep but he'd only caught maybe a couple of half hours. But at least the pretence of sleep meant he was left alone. Alone with his thoughts.

Wow, who would ever want to leave such a sad sack? 

They hit the lawn and headed for the fire pit, where the new girls were already waiting, looking nervous.

Lucas jiggled his leg with nerves as he sat down, unable to meet anyone's face. 

Every time he'd been here before, she'd been there. Waiting on him. Smiling her reassuring smile that calmed him down, and had him feeling like everything would be okay. 

I think I'm actually going to throw up. 

A phone notification suddenly sounded. 

Bobby leapt to his feet. He gave a speech about how hard the situation was, how he wished everyone could stay, but that ultimately he needed to keep Marisol safe. He chose 'stick'. 

Still holding out for her then. Fuck, I can't even think her name without feeling ill. 

The next beep saw Noah standing. His speech was short and to the point. He chose 'stick'.

Grasping those straws. 

Ibrahim was next, and he gave a long speech about Shannon before announcing he was going to 'switch'. They sat down together.

Lucas's heart was pounding but he felt some relief that Ibrahim had switched. He wouldn't be the first. Fox kept popping into his mind and he was furiously trying not to think about her. 

His phone beeped, and he stood, shakily.

"This has been a hard decision for me," he began, not sure where he was going. "The last couple of days have been some of the worst I've ever experienced. I really wasn't expecting to be hurt."

He paused suddenly.

What do I do, I don't know, I don't know-

"Um," he stumbled, "but I can at least help someone else? So I switch. To Blake." 

She came flying towards him and wrapped him in a hug. He laughed in surprise then sat down with her beside him.

"Thank you so much, tiger," she beamed.

Lucas suddenly felt bile rise, and his lungs constrict painfully. He swallowed desperately, trying not to throw up, and tuned out completely as panic pulled him under and his vision blurred out. 

What have I fucking done? 

~~~

Chapter Text

The ceremony ended with a bang, as Siobhan took off screaming across the lawn, throwing pots, pans and utensils as Jakub - who hadn't switched - unsuccessfully tried to talk her down. Blake rushed away with the other girls to try and calm her.

Lucas grimaced as Gary came and sat beside him.

"You alright?" he asked softly.

"I- I don't know," he admitted.

His mind was just white noise, a ringing sound in his ears. 

"Well, what's done is done," Gary sighed. "We've got a text telling us to get in some jeeps out front." 

Lucas rose to his feet and followed his friend, barely aware of anyone else. 

~~~

To say they were packed in like sardines would be an understatement. They'd been instructed to get into the waiting jeeps to clear the Villa.

"Our girls must be doing their 'Stick or Switch' at the fire pit," Noah mused. 

Our? Not our. Dammit. 

"So where are we going?" Gary was nervous, and Lucas found himself getting even more anxious sandwiched between him and the door.

"Looks like the beach!" Rahim called from the front seat a few minutes later.

There were log seats scattered on that part of the sands, and Lucas sat down heavily as he looked out at the others. 

Rahim and Shannon were cuddled up, talking animatedly, while Noah was doodling in the sand with a stick. Gary looked agitated, Jakub was flexing, and Bobby was still completely ignoring him.

Blake was chattering away to him, and he tried to keep up with noncommittal noises, but all he could hear were the distant waves lapping on the shore. 

She loves the sea. 

~~~

It was hot and stuffy back inside the jeep. The Villa lights were shining out in the dark, but each of them had to wait for their text message before they could return.

Noah's phone went off first, and he leapt from the jeep, striding back into the Villa. 

The minutes stretched out before Gary's pocket beeped, and he left the jeep shakily, heading indoors. 

Rahim was next, meeting Shannon as she left the other jeep, and they walked inside hand in hand. 

Lucas felt strangely calm. As Gary had said, what was done was done, and the rest was out of his hands. He knew he was going to have to face Fox and the new man at her side. He swallowed hard. 

One step at a time. 

He heard the other jeep door shut and Bobby strutted back into the Villa. 

Two minutes later Jakub headed inside.

Lucas realised he was last, and opened the door to stand outside the vehicles. Blake came to meet him.

"You okay?" she asked.

"I don't know," Lucas shook his head.

"Whoever is in there and whatever happens, I'm on your side, okay?" 

He gave her a weak smile and held her hand. His phone beeped, and he opened the door. Walking through the villa, his legs felt like lead, and he could hear voices outside.

They got to the lawn and headed for the fire pit as he tried to keep his eyes unfocused. As he drew near he saw Marisol sitting happily next to a man he'd never seen before, and Bobby glaring at him yet again. 

"Hey guys," he called ahead. "It's so good to see you all again! This is Blake." 

"I'm so excited to meet you all!" Blake added. 

Lucas registered a figure in white behind the fire, and he knew he had to look.

It was Fox.

Sitting by herself. 

And looking utterly heartbroken.

~~~

He felt like he'd been stabbed in his stomach, his lungs, his heart… his breath rushed from him, and he couldn't break their gaze. He dropped Blake's hand, as he wrung his hands together. 

This isn't- This wasn't- This CAN'T be happening. 

Fox looked completely devastated, her eyes shining in the fire light, and he saw her struggling to speak.

"I… I thought we had something special," her voice threatened to break. "I- I don't understand."

Her jaw clenched as she tried to hold back her tears. 

No no no, I-

"What about everything we said before?" a tear escaped and she brushed it away angrily. "I thought we were good. More than good. I thought this was something we both wanted…" 

She trailed off, her words lost. Lucas was reeling at the devastation he'd caused.

"I- I knew this might happen," he struggled, trying to remember why he'd discarded it, "but I… I wasn't really prepared for it. I don't really know what to say." 

Fox stood, blinking angrily. 

Blake took hold of his hand and gripped it tightly. 

"This is Blake by the way," he added. "But you know that, I already said that." 

Shut up shut up shut up

Blake leapt forward, air kissing Fox on both cheeks. 

Fuck sake, don't 

"I'm sorry we're meeting like this," Blake purred her voice, and it grated in his ears, "I'd never choose to go behind someone else's back. In any other situation I would have come and talked to you first, but I couldn't. I'm sure you understand." 

Stop

"Babe, that sounds so like something Fox would say!" Chelsea interrupted. "Like, exactly!" 

Chelsea turned to Fox. 

"She kinda stands the same way as you too, babe. Don't you think, Marisol." 

I can't breathe

"It's true," the psychology expert confirmed. "They both stand in a way that says 'I love to put myself out there. I'm an all or nothing type of girl.'" 

Lucas's mind was spinning. All or nothing? That was true, that was exactly Fox. But, she hadn't been nothing with what she shared with him. She'd never been nothing-

"That's it babe. That's exactly what it's like," Chelsea clapped. "Isn't that funny? What a coincidence that Lucas would couple up with someone just like you while you were gone." 

What the fuck have I done? 

"Don't compare me to Fox," Blake snapped suddenly. "I'm not one of these girls who has to try all the time just to look good-"

There was a sharp intake of breath from several people. 

Stop 

"-That isn't Lucas's type either. I know Fox has been trying so hard this whole time, and all I did was be myself." 

Please stop

Lucas glared at her but her attention was solely on Fox. 

Chelsea gasped, and took a big step back.

"My mistake," she said coldly, a tone he'd never heard from the bubbly blonde before. "Clearly you are nothing like Fox."

Fox had remained silent, and as he met her gaze he realised she hadn't looked away from him at all. She'd batted away her tears, but some had still escaped, their trails shining in the firelight.

She got up and walked past Blake, still ignoring her, until she was directly in front of him.

Her voice was shaky, but there was an anger in it he'd never heard from her before. 

"Rocco would be proud."

The words smacked him in the gut, the last thing he ever expected to hear her say.

"But I guess at least now I have no more heart left to break."

She sobbed on the last word before walking past him, retreating to the Villa, and his world collapsed. He watched her until she disappeared, her feathery white dress making her look more angelic than ever. 

How could I hurt her like this? What the fuck is wrong with me? 

He hadn't just broken the heart of his own angel, he'd become a villain who had repeated the same betrayal as her ex. The same betrayal he'd voiced his anger about only a week before. 

His lungs crackled and burned as he tried to draw breath, his heart felt completely crushed. 

FUCK. How could I be so fucking stupid. I've fucked everything up. Everything. 

Lottie and Bobby took off after her, as the other Islanders murmured around him, going their separate ways. Gary gave him a sympathetic look before walking away, shaking his head. 

Blake did her best to comfort him, but given she'd just been dragging Fox's name through the mud, he didn't want her near him. He made his excuses and sought some fresh air… and an escape.

The roof terrace was the only place with even a hint of privacy, but standing in the place he'd kissed the woman he'd truly fallen for did nothing to ease the guilt and pain crushing his heart. 

He had nowhere to go. 

How did I get this so wrong? 

~~~

Chapter Text

"Fox!"

He heard Rahim calling warmly, and he cautiously looked down. Everyone had split into smaller groups, and the tall golfer was on the beanbags with Gary. 

As Fox approached with Bobby the guys both leapt to their feet, each wrapping her in a bear hug before she sat down next to them.

Lucas retreated back to the other side of the roof terrace, and leaned back on the seat. His head had been a mess for days but now he didn't even know where to begin. His anxiety had finally peaked, and he regretted every item of food he'd eaten that day after seeing it fly past in the other direction.

I can't fix this. I've broken everything. I've hurt her. I love her and I betrayed her and I hurt her. 

He tried to count numbers in his head but they all kept slipping away, the cycle of panic relentlessly spinning. 

He groaned. 

She didn't betray me. She didn't make a fool of me. Seeing her again, I fucking know that. But I did both to her. I-

"I thought I'd find you up here."

Fox's voice was soft and husky, but as he whipped his head round he saw there was no familiar sparkle in her eyes.

"There's not that many places I could have gone," Lucas rose to his feet, fidgeting with his hands. "I just wanted a moment to think."

"About me?" she smiled, weakly.

"Yeah," he looked down, his heart breaking at the fact that even now she had a read on him. "I wanted to make sure I knew what to say."

He hesitated, looking to the sky before he turned back to her and swallowed hard. 

Ask it. Don't ask it. Fucking ask it. 

"Tell me the truth - what did you actually think when you saw me walk back in with… with someone. Were you expecting it?"

"Why would I be expecting it?" she asked sadly, sitting down at the other end of the bench.

"I thought you'd recoupled too," Lucas sighed, sitting back down heavily. "We got this video message of you girls when you were away. And you were in it. It was mad. We saw the way you were talking to one of the guys. You were pretty much nibbling his ear!"

He scowled, trying to regain his composure. Fox waited, calmly, and his anxiety started to take over again.

Say something. 

"His face… he looked like he was loving it," he turned away. "You should have seen the state of Noah when he saw Hope grafting on all those boys. After I saw that, I was sure you were going to recouple." 

Please say something. 

"I just thought," he blinked, annoyed at the stinging in his eyes that threatened tears, "maybe I was more into it than you were. I misjudged the situation and I'm sorry. Do you get where I'm coming from?" 

"You don't trust me," she stated sadly.

I'm sorry

"I know it looks like that," his lungs burned, "but that's not what I was thinking. Would you… would you do things differently, now you know the outcome? Switch instead of sticking with me I mean."

"I'd do it all the same," the reply was firm with no hesitation. "I made the choice that was right in my heart."

I fucked this up.

"I wish I could say I'd done the same." 

His anxiety felt like it had reached up into his throat, strangling his words. She moved a little closer to him.

"The video message you saw," her voice was still soft but with a stronger edge than before, "we were sent one that was pretty similar. I saw you kissing Blake-" 

His lungs were on fire with anxiety now, the panic crushing his chest, and stealing his breath. 

"-and Jakub saying how you were enjoying it… But it was obvious it was the competition challenges from the day before. When we did it, I didn't volunteer for anything but I had to make a boy blush as fast as possible so I nibbled his ear and stuck my tongue in. 

"Hope had to kiss the same lad for 30 seconds. She ended up just pecking him really. It was the only time either of us even touched any of them the whole trip."

Fuck fuck FUCK. 

She moved right next to him and started rubbing small circles on his back. His lungs slowly started to open back up, just a little.

"I was loyal to you the whole time I was there," she continued. "And it wasn't hard, but it was uncomfortable as those guys were obviously grafting hard. Lots of implying you weren't to be trusted, that I didn't know what you got up to behind my back, and them not exactly taking no for an answer. I slept on my own the first night and behind a pillow wall the other nights."

She trusted me. And Blake lied. I'm so fucking stupid. 

She let out a shaky breath herself, as her hand continued to soothe his back and his breathing, her calming scent washing over him. 

"I missed you so badly, and I was looking forward to seeing you again so much," her voice broke a little, "and instead… I'm really hurt, Lucas. I truly thought we had something special, something bigger than this place. I never in a million years thought you'd hurt me."

"I'm so sorry, Fox," his chest hurt but his breathing was back under control, thanks to the woman who somehow knew how to ease him down from a panic attack even after he'd been a complete fucking prick who had betrayed her. 

And I never even told her about my anxiety. 

She moved away from him again, ready to leave.

Wait.

"I fucked up really badly," he blurted. "The new girls were grafting hard but I didn't use my head when I saw that video and I jumped to the wrong stupid conclusion. It was easier for me to believe that I cared more and had to protect myself."

"Lucas-" 

"It's not an excuse, I know that. I've been an idiot, Fox. I've not… I didn't do anything with Blake beyond the kiss in the challenge. You can ask the other guys. And I know she's already had a dig at you, but it's my fault. I believed stuff I shouldn't have. I don't know what to do now. I'm so sorry."

The anxiety was prickling round the edges again now that her calming presence had withdrawn, but he had at least said everything he knew he needed to say. Being so vulnerable was not something he was comfortable with. In fact, it was something he had never managed with anyone. 

He hadn't ever felt as strongly about a partner before. And maybe that had added to his poor reaction to the video that seemed to confirm he'd been made a fool of. But what to do now, having hurt the person he cared about most, and having managed to lead someone else on as a result, was beyond him.

Fox probably wasn't going anywhere. She'd been a fan favourite when he entered and he was even more sure she had grown in popularity since. But any good will he'd built up for himself he had just totally demolished. And dragged someone else into the potential firing line.

"Okay," she said quietly, after a long moment. "I honestly don't know what to say right now. This has been a lot, and I need time to think. I feel a bit like I'm in shock, and it's hard to clear my mind when my eyes won't stop bloody crying."

Lucas smiled sadly at that, flicking away one of his own tears that had managed to get through.

"I really don't know where my head is at," she continued, "but I have heard you. So thank you for telling me where you're at. I appreciate that."

She got up, heading to the stairs.

"Thank you," he said softly, and she stopped and turned round, "for stopping me spiral I mean. No one's ever been able to help me with that before beyond just leaving me."

"You're welcome," she smiled sadly at him. "I never stopped choosing you."

Fox disappeared down the stairs and Lucas put his head in his hands, hiding his tears. 

~~~

He hadn't slept all night, and that meant basically two nights with no sleep on top of two nights of pretty bad sleep. He slipped back into the bedroom once everyone was up, and crawled under the duvet.

He slept fitfully, waking often, but it was better than nothing. Blake had tried to rouse him but he'd said he just needed sleep, and gone quiet til she left.

Someone came in the room and sat down heavily on his bed.

"Brought you a cuppa," Noah announced.

He sighed, and sat up.

"Thanks mate," he said, genuinely grateful.

"So I figured I'd catch you up on today's news," the librarian began, and Lucas nodded. "We got a text saying the public are voting for their favourite couples, and the least popular couples will get dumped tonight."

"Oh, is that all?" Lucas sighed. 

My time is up then. 

"Well in other news," Noah smiled, "me and Hope are back together. So even if our couples get dumped, we'll be making a go of it out of here, or waiting on the other." 

"That's great, I'm really happy for you both." 

He tried to keep the flatness from his voice, but Noah didn't seem to notice either way. 

"Thank you! Fox helped… speaking of, I also brought this to show you." 

Noah held up a phone, and Lucas blinked in confusion.

"I mean, we all have phones," he said. 

"Not this one!" Noah smirked. "It's got the video message that the girls saw when they were away. Hope let me borrow it to show you. I know Fox has spoken to you already, but I think you should see it." 

Lucas nodded his approval reluctantly, and Noah handed him the phone. He hit play.

Footage of himself and Gary popped up, from when they were talking in the kitchen. 

Gary announced how he'd happily take any of the new girls to see his nan. 

"I know what you mean. They're all amazing," he saw himself say. 

But-

The scene changed to Noah marvelling that a girl looked just like Hope. It flipped to Rahim and Shannon getting cosy on the sun loungers.

He saw himself kissing Blake passionately. The camera panned to Gary cheering him on, and Jakub commenting on how he looked like he was enjoying it. The scene ended without showing that he'd pulled away, or that he hadn't instigated.

This is-

It cut to Noah talking about how doing bits on the first night changes everything, as if he was referring to himself, and then faded to black. 

Lucas sat stunned.

"That was…" he looked at Noah. 

"A load of bollocks?" the librarian asked. "It's all stuff we said and did, but cut to make us look terrible. You and me in particular."

"Like what we were shown of Fox and Hope," he groaned. "Except ours looks even worse..." 

"I know you're giving Fox space," Noah hesitated. "But given there might be multiple people leaving tonight, and given that she saw this and chose to stick with you despite it… I think you need to talk to her again." 

"Yeah. I do." 

~~~

He came across Blake first, and tried to break the news gently. It didn't go well. She attempted to make out that Fox had been mean to her but when she repeated the conversation Lucas realised it was all just movie quotes. 

Fox doesn't do mean, though she'd be in her right to fire back. And she doesn't lie to me

He accepted full responsibility for choosing to switch to her and for changing his mind. As she realised his heart had never changed in the first place, and that he no longer believed her lies, she gave in with a sigh, and stormed off. 

I mean technically she didn't lie outright to begin with, but I was only too eager to jump to conclusions. It's my fault. 

Before he could find Fox, the text arrived announcing the evening dumping event. The girls always left first to get ready.

I'm out of time. 

~~~

Lucas straightened his shirt in the mirror, frowning at his hair. Despite being trained to always go up, his hair now kept flopping forward and it was fucking frustrating.

Growling at his reflection he tried to get his thoughts in order before heading to the fire pit. All the couples were at risk of being dumped from the Villa and he was under no illusions about his own chances.

If he still had Fox by his side it wouldn't be an issue. Firstly because he was very sure she wouldn't be voted out, and secondly because it wouldn't matter if they were as they'd still be together. 

"Mind your back!"

Gary rushed past behind him, looking for whichever shoe had got lost this time. Everyone seemed slightly panicked, not knowing how the evening was gonna go.

I'm not gonna get the chance to make this right.

"Hey, man," Bobby came up beside him, and Lucas sagged despite himself.

"Um," Bobby continued, a little unsure, "I just wanted to apologise for… well, how I've been the past couple of days."

The older man blinked in surprise before realisation hit. 

"Fox has told you to be nicer to me, huh?" he asked, sadly.

"Well, yeah," Bobby smiled with a shrug, "but she's right. I wasn't being a good friend to you. I get stuck in my own head a lot, and I didn't realise what was going on with you til it was too late."

"You don't have anything to apologise for," he shook his head. "You were right, anyway."

"Yeah," Bobby let out a heavy sigh. 

"I'm glad to not be on your bad side anymore," Lucas gave a small smile. "Angry Bobby is a bit scary." 

Bobby laughed as he smiled at him, and went to bounce by the door, waiting on the text that would summon them. 

Lucas gave up on his hair. If it flopped then it flopped. It was pretty damn apt. 

~~~

Chapter Text

Standing at the firepit he could barely make out what everyone was saying as they stood waiting. Bobby was making some kind of joke as usual, and he had both Lottie and Fox laughing along.

Lucas was trying not to stare but she'd appeared in an off-the-shoulder dress of deep, dark red, an angel descended from on high into the colours of the devil. His heart thumped painfully. 

If Blake had still been talking to him he'd be getting an earful for looking, but she was pretty much ignoring him. 

He didn't blame her for being angry, though he did feel utterly shit about it. Apologies didn't really cut it and unfortunately Blake's digs at Fox hadn't won her any friends. The blame was his. 

A phone rang out loudly. 

He closed his eyes and waited for his name to be called out, struggling to listen to what else was going on. Noah and Hope were on the chopping block too, with Priya and Jakub respectively. The public were ruthless. 

"Blake and Lucas," Marisol announced at last, and he nodded. 

As they stood facing everyone, he was surprised to see Fox look at him sadly and touch her heart. He gave her a sad smile in return, as his own heart fluttered.

He wished he could have talked to her more. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference. But either way, his time was up.

I fucked myself over, and hurt us both. 

Chelsea and her new man joined them in the lineup. 

"Guys, guys, shut up for a second and listen to this!" Bobby was yelling, waving his phone around as he read the text. "Bobby, Lottie, Gary and Fox - the fate of the vulnerable Islanders is now in your hands. You must each couple up with one of the vulnerable Islanders standing in front of you. The remaining four Islanders will be dumped."

He glanced at Fox and saw her staring at Bobby in shock. Lottie's phone went off, and she conferred with Fox a little before stepping forward.

Staring at the ground, he willed his thoughts to quiet down. Fox could potentially save him. But would she? Should she? One of them would save Noah, he felt confident of that. The other choices were Jakub and Chelsea's partner. 

Fox was close to Chelsea, she might save her new man, as it was reasonably likely that Gary or Bobby would save Chelsea. 

"... Noah!"

The librarian stepped forward in relief as Lottie finished speaking, and he and Hope exchanged some words.

A phone beeped. 

Lucas's heart was thumping as he glanced at Fox, as she read her text and stepped forward. She looked incredible, and he averted his eyes. He couldn't look at her, not now. Instead, he looked at a fixed point in front of him. 

If she chooses for Chelsea, it's only my fault. 

"Obviously this isn't the easiest position to be in," she began. "Whatever I choose, somebody gets hurt."

She took a deep breath, and he stared into the ground. 

"Which tells me I should put myself first for once. When I look at the boys standing in front of me, one of them especially stands out. There's one person here, who I will always choose." 

Is she-

Lucas swallowed hard. He finally met her gaze and saw her looking at him with a small smile. 

"In the end," she continued, "I can only choose one person. So the boy I want to couple up with is… Lucas."

He smiled shakily, as there was a sharp intake of breath from next to him. 

"I don't know how to thank you," his words were husky, and he paused to look at the other guys standing up near him. "I'm sorry, lads."

He walked over to the angel he'd hurt, and stopped in front of her.

"Thank you, Fox," his voice cracked. "I wasn't expecting you to do that after yesterday."

She stepped closer to him, and he could feel the heat coming from her body.

"There's things we need to talk about," she said, "but I want us to be together."

She leaned up and kissed him softly, and he sank into the kiss, wrapping his arms around her. She pulled back with a smile and he kissed her forehead, sitting down next to her in a daze. 

"I didn't realise I meant that much to you," he murmured, as everyone else carried on. "But I'm so glad I do."

She entangled her fingers with his trembling ones, and looked at him, her eyes shining.

"Doofus," she smirked, and he grinned goofily. 

Gary had chosen Chelsea, and it was on to Bobby for his decision. 

"If you could choose, who would you want to stay?" Lucas whispered.

"I wanted Chelsea to stay," she smiled back. 

"She's such a good person. Also loud." 

Fox chuckled, and leaned against him slightly.

His heart was still racing and he couldn't quite believe what was happening. He'd been certain he was leaving the Villa tonight, having destroyed everything. Instead his angel had appeared in blood red, and saved him from damnation.

How? I don't understand… 

Bobby had picked Hope, and everyone rushed to console the Islanders being dumped. Fox went to support Priya, tearfully, and he momentarily thought he should speak to Blake but figured staying where he was would be wise.

The crowd started to drift towards the Villa to help with the packing. 

"I'm so glad you're staying you stupid prick!" Gary tackled him, lifting him to his feet in a bear hug and Lucas laughed in surprise. 

"Thank you," he grinned, "I think." 

"As soon as we got that text I figured Fox would save you. You're lucky she's not as big on revenge as Lottie!" 

"I can't quite believe it honestly," Lucas shook his head, as they wandered into the Villa. "I thought I'd fucked everything up." 

"That's cos you did, mate," Gary thumped him on the back. "But you've got a chance to make it right, so use it well." 

"You are surprisingly wise sometimes, Gaz." 

"Okay, you have to come visit my nan and tell her that." 

"Deal." 

~~~

He stood just behind Fox at the front of the Villa as the remaining Islanders waited to wave off those that were departing. 

Blake emerged first and stopped in front of them. 

"I'm sorry about how things worked out, Fox," she said sadly. "I hope we can be friends once we're all together again." 

"Um," Fox seemed a bit taken aback. "It was nice to meet you?" 

"I don't know if I'd say it was 'nice', but we might have got on really well. In different circumstances."

She turned to leave, saying goodbye to the others, and he felt his girl lean back against him slightly. He put an arm around her, and tried to pay attention as the others each came out and said goodbye. 

Blake leaving is my fault. And because of me, Chelsea lost Elijah too. I still can't believe I'm not leaving... 

He laughed against Fox softly when Jakub lazily hit on her during his goodbye, and felt her smile in return. His jealousy had caused more than enough trouble, and he kept it quiet. She dismissed the tank with ease. 

After Priya had said her goodbyes, everyone wandered back in through the Villa, some going straight to bed and others finding spots for private discussion.

~~~

Fox led him back out to the day beds, and he lay down beside her in a daze. The night was still warm, and everything was quiet.

And I'm still here. With her. 

He propped himself up on his side and looked down at her.

"Hey," he said softly. 

"Hey," she smiled, looking sleepy.

His hair flopped down and she blinked in surprise. 

She laughed suddenly as he blushed, and she stroked his hair back up again. 

"Um," he floundered, totally flustered, and she leaned up and kissed his cheek. 

"Your hair is cute like that, tiger," she smiled, "but I know it's not what you prefer."

I'm still her tiger. 

Emotions threatened to overwhelm him and he swallowed hard. She looked at him closely, stroking the side of his face, and sighed.

"You really haven't been taking care of yourself, huh?" 

"I've been a bit of a mess." 

"So we should probably talk a little at least before bed," she murmured.

"I'm so sorry, I-" 

She cut him off with a finger to his lips and his heart thumped.

"I know that part," she said softly. "And I believe you. I meant the stuff you haven't told me." 

He blinked at her, not sure what to say, and she squeezed his arm reassuringly.

"I'm talking about the anxiety," she explained, "and the jealousy. I knew there were issues there but I didn't realise how bad they were."

"I- yeah," he stuttered in surprise. "I was actually wishing I'd talked to you sooner about that…" 

He rubbed the back of his neck, and she brought his hand back down, rolling him onto his back and cuddling into his chest. He relaxed a little.

How does she know to do-

"They're hard things to talk about," she said softly. 

"I knew you'd figured some of it out," Lucas murmured. "People are usually put off when I suddenly switch from smooth to awkward. And you gave me so much more clear reassurance than, well, anyone I've ever known."

"I've dealt with anxiety a bit," she explained. "It was caused by something else, and it's gone now. But I have family members and friends who struggle with it."

She moved her hand back up to the side of his neck, petting gently, and he held her more tightly.

"I've never really spoken to anyone about it," he admitted. "But I've never felt driven to. Now…"

He trailed off, trying to find the right words.

"I need to talk to someone about it after this. A therapist I mean. I recommend it to patients all the time, I know better than this. I've never cared about it hurting me before but... I hurt you, angel. I need to work on it." 

Fox lifted herself on to her side, and smiled at him. Her eyes were sparkling again, and he swallowed hard. 

"Same goes for my jealousy," he continued. "I think it's part of the same thing but… it needs to stay on the right side of healthy."

He dropped his voice deeper as he spoke. 

"I want you to be mine. But I don't want to be flipping out when you leave my line of sight. Because I do trust you, despite my thoughts getting all twisted. I knew I was doing the wrong things even as my brain screamed at me."

"Seeing a therapist sounds like an excellent plan," she said softly. "You're a good guy, you don't need to self-destruct." 

He huffed a laugh.

"That's a nice way of putting it," he hesitated slightly. "Every relationship I've been in has blown apart. And that's partly because I never let my feelings get that deep, but it's mostly because walking away was always easier." 

"Well, you didn't walk away from me." 

"Not very far at least," he shook his head. "I thought I'd run out of time to fix things. And I didn't know how to even try."

She winked at him. 

"Fortunately for you, I'm the resident peacekeeper." 

He leaned up and kissed her. 

"I really thought I'd lost you," he whispered, shakily. 

"I told you, tiger," she stroked his cheek, "you can't get rid of me that easily." 

"Even so," he swallowed, "I am so sorry. The minute that challenge went sideways, I didn't make even twenty seconds or start it, but I kept making the wrong decisions. When I saw you sitting there alone and hurt…" 

He trailed off as his eyes stung painfully.

"I know, baby," she murmured, resting her forehead against his. "I could see it in your eyes, and you were honest with me when we spoke. I know. And the guys filled me in anyway. Challenges are just challenges, but I know you felt like you crossed a line."

He couldn't speak but he could see she was still gathering her thoughts.

"Coming back to see you with someone else did hurt," she said gently, "but once I realised what had happened and processed it all, it made a lot more sense. I'm just glad I was able to get you back. I forgive you, and it's in the past, okay?" 

She kissed him softly and he held her against him, cuddling her tight until he could talk again.

"Just like that?" he asked softly.

"I never stopped choosing you," he felt her smile against him. "That hasn't changed." 

"Thank you, angel." 

She yawned suddenly, and he laughed. 

"I'm exhausted," she smiled sheepishly. "Let's go to bed." 

Most of the others were already sleeping when he got into bed quietly, and Fox appeared just a couple of minutes behind him.

She was in her grey cropped pyjamas again, and she snuggled in against him in her little spoon position. He wrapped his arms around her and she fell asleep almost instantly.

He breathed in the scent of her hair as his thoughts finally started to settle. He'd fucked up so badly and she had just… forgiven him. Seen his anxiety and his panic, and found him underneath.

I need to get help when we leave. I want to be better for her. 

The image of her heartbroken face weighed upon him heavily. Fox began purring in her sleep in his arms, and he smiled. 

Sleep crept upon him at last. 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke in the morning feeling Fox move against him as she turned and cuddled into his chest. He moved his arms and pulled her in closer, with a sleepy smile. 

"Good morning," he murmured, his voice still raspy. 

"Morning," she purred. 

He could just about hear the birds singing outside over the noise of Noah and Lottie snoring away. He'd actually slept, and slept well, his anxiety banished. 

For a split second he'd wondered where he was when he stirred from sleep. Waking up with his girl in his arms again, he couldn't quite believe his nightmare was over. 

"You look gorgeous," he smiled.

"I'm just in my pyjamas," she laughed softly.

"And gorgeous." 

She squeezed him, smiling. His brain started to function properly. 

"You ever wake up and for a few seconds you have no idea where you are?" he asked. 

"You mean when you stare up at the ceiling and realise it's not your ceiling?" 

"Exactly! Then there's a moment of panic…" 

"... and you frantically search the room for something familiar and realise you're in the Villa." 

"I completely forgot I was in here," he frowned. "Though that could still be the sleep deprivation talking. And I was mostly sleeping, or not sleeping, outside lately." 

"How long did you go without sleep?" there was concern in Fox's voice.

"Only two nights. Well, three… four. I got a couple of hours here and there during the day. Sort of." 

"Aww, you doofus," she smiled against him. "Early night for you tonight." 

"Yes sir." 

"Good boy." 

Lucas's heart flipped happily.

"I think everyone's a bit drained," Fox stretched with a small yawn. "It's been a strange few days. There's been a lot to process." 

He gently brushed a strand of hair from her face.

"How are you doing?" he asked, softly. "You feeling alright?"

"Actually," she replied with a frown, "I can't shift this feeling, like something else is going to happen."

"I know what you mean," he sighed. "It's been non-stop drama lately. It's hard to switch off."

"I do feel better for waking up next to you though," she murmured. 

He shifted down the bed, turning to face her. 

"Thanks again for saving me, Fox," he said, quietly. "I don't expect things to go back exactly where they were. I'll start right from the beginning if that's what you want. I'm the one who changed things-" 

He was cut off by her lips on his, as she pressed her whole body against him. He gasped as his heart hammered in his chest, and her tongue met his. Tangling her fingers in his hair, she drew back, lightly biting his lower lip as she did.

"Nothing's changed," she growled, her eyes smouldering. 

Fucking hell. 

Lucas tried to speak but couldn't, his insides had turned to butter, and his pulse was banging loudly. His entire face emitted heat as he blushed.

"You're very cute when you're flustered," she purred. 

This is an actual role reversal, jesus christ. 

"W-why are you trying to make me flustered?" he stuttered. 

"I'm not trying," she smirked. 

He growled in approval, and kissed her passionately. She rolled onto her back and he moved on top of her, pinning her to the bed. She purred beneath him, running her nails down his back, and as he pulled back to breathe she ran her tongue up his throat making him shudder.

He realised he was grinding against her, rock hard, as she kissed down his neck, and he desperately tried to regain control over his body. 

How is she completely pinned and I'm still at a disadvantage? 

It'd be a big fat lie if he pretended he didn't love what she did to him. He was used to being totally in control and he wasn't sure he'd ever managed that with Fox.

His vision went white as she bit into his neck, hard, and he desperately stifled his groan in the pillow. She was sucking the skin where her teeth had been, claiming him, and he realised he was in serious danger of spilling in his boxers like a teenager.

She pulled back and he gasped before kissing her hard.

Suddenly the lights flicked on and they froze, blinking. Fox bit her lip trying hard not to laugh as he tried to slowly move off of her, wincing every time the movement kept him right on the edge of no return. Finally he was on his side beside her, and he tucked his head into her shoulder with a quiet laugh. 

A pillow flew past at the window. 

"Get stuffed! I need ten more minutes," grumbled Graham. 

"That purring woke him up," Marisol explained. "It's a cat right?" 

"Certainly sounds like it," agreed Rahim. 

"But we haven't got a cat!" said Fox, bewildered, and Lucas tried not to laugh. 

"It is a good morning though!" Chelsea chirped, leaping out of bed.

"A very good morning!" Gary was waggling his eyebrows at Fox, having apparently overheard their shenanigans. 

She stuck her tongue out as Lucas sat up in bed.

"I wouldn't mind lounging out in the sun," he said as he stretched. 

"Oh Lucas! You're up," Chelsea babbled. "Funny how we're both up. We must be on the same wavelength-" 

"I'm up," called Bobby. 

"So am I," Marisol added. 

"And me!" Gary and Lottie said at the same time. "Jinx."

"Literally everyone is up, Chelsea," Lucas grinned. 

"Okay but-" 

"It's gorgeous out there," he cut across her. "Fox, fancy a swim?" 

"Mmm," she smiled. "Maybe after breakfast in the sun?" 

"That does sound good," Marisol enthused. 

"I'll go for a swim with you, Lucas," Chelsea continued, oblivious. "I mean, if you're looking for someone to swim with. Or to watch you swim." 

"Nah," he smiled, "I'm gonna get breakfast with my girl." 

Fox grinned at him. 

Noah popped up, fully clothed, next to Lottie. Lucas scanned the room and saw Bobby had been sleeping almost out of his bed, the pillow wall between him and Hope a tad excessive. 

That's… kind of strange. 

Noah and Hope made bad excuses for basically going to make tea together, something that wasn't even against the rules.

"I'm making pancakes," Bobby announced, to cheers. 

Lottie volunteered to decorate with witchy symbols, and they headed to get ready with Gary praising the existence of 'magic pancakes'.

~~~

Lucas hit the beanbags next to Chelsea with a smile.

He let her babble on for a bit but she was definitely throwing him some flirty lines. 

"You know Fox thinks the world of you, right?" he interrupted after a while, and she flushed a little.

"Yeah," she sighed.

"So what's going on?" 

The blonde picked at the grass as she answered.

"I was really sweet on Elijah, y'know? And it's not that Gary isn't great, he totally is, but he's not a bit of me. And I don't want to sound ungrateful because he saved me and that's amazing, but then Fox saved you instead of Elijah despite him doing nothing wrong…" 

She trailed off as she looked back up at Lucas to see his raised eyebrow.

"Ugh," she sighed dramatically. "I know! I love Fox to bits. I'm doing that thing of putting my emotions on someone else. It's you I should be mad at, except not really cos you make her so happy, despite you being a total donut." 

"I mean that's pretty impressive self-reflection on the spot though," Lucas smiled.

"My brain goes too fast sometimes," she laughed. "But yeah. Thank you. A lot of people don't actually stop me when I'm careering off in the wrong direction. And there's been enough drama this week." 

"Now that I agree with!" he grinned.

Shannon came over and flopped on a beanbag. 

"How do you survive this sun?" she groaned.

"I'm not sure I will," Chelsea chirped. "I think I've burnt my bum." 

Lucas burst out laughing. Looking round the villa he saw Fox with the guys at the gym. She'd just easily pressed whatever weight it was and he could see Graham's mouth hanging open.

He grinned. Today was a good day. 

~~~

Fox was filling up her water bottle as he entered the kitchen. 

"Hey you, what's up?" she asked with a smile.

He grinned at her.

"Not much, I'm great!"

She tilted her head. 

"I don't think I've ever seen you grinning so much. You look like the Cheshire Cat." 

His grin widened, and she laughed. He came up and wrapped her in a hug.

"I am just ridiculously happy," Lucas enthused. 

"Oh you are?" 

"Mmhm," he pulled back with a smile. "I mean it doesn't hurt that Chelsea is going around telling everyone I'm your top pick in the Villa. Which I knew. But now I can look extra smug."

"Chels is like an information sieve," Fox laughed. "Can't tell her anything." 

"Fancy going up to the roof terrace?" he asked. 

"Sure!" 

He sat at the corner of the seats so Fox could lean back against him. She wiggled herself against him getting comfy, and he draped his arm around her once she settled.

"I had a word with Chelsea," he said, "as something was definitely up." 

"Yeah?" 

"She's just a bit sad at losing Elijah," he explained. "Talking about it helped I think." 

"Aww, well done you," she said, sounding impressed. "Just before we came back she seemed worried about Jakub potentially going too. I basically screwed her over twice."

Her voice had got softer as she spoke and he gave her a reassuring squeeze.

"It wasn't your fault," he said firmly. "And, y'know, I'm very glad you picked who you picked." 

He ran his fingers down her arm and kissed her hair. She purred quietly and he laughed.

"You know you're the cat, right?" he asked. 

"What do you mean?" 

"The purring everyone's started hearing again since last night. It's you." 

"Me?!" she turned in his arms, looking at him in confusion.

"It's your happy noise, angel," he smiled, "and it's louder when you're asleep. Not super loud. You started doing it after we'd been together a couple of nights." 

Fox opened and closed her mouth twice, surprise stealing her words. She laughed, and snuggled back against him.

"Nobody's ever told me I purr before," she mused. "And I mean I've had roommates. And shared my bed! Maybe I never did it til now." 

"You mean it's just for me?" Lucas asked with a grin. "Because I'm totally going to assume that now." 

"Must be," she giggled.

"Well in that case I'm glad you were purring again last night," he swallowed hard. "I don't ever want to be the reason you're crying instead again."

"I know, tiger," he felt her smile against him. "But you didn't do it deliberately, and you were honest with me. It's all good."

I'm not willing to forgive myself yet. But I'm extremely fucking lucky. 

"Were there any good points to Casa Amor?" he asked, trying to focus. "I've not actually spoken to anyone about it." 

"Hmm," she said, thinking. "Well Marisol had a good time, she and Graham clicked pretty early. He reminded me of Gaz at first. Priya and Chels had a lot of fun with their boy toys. Lottie was fine? Mostly, though she was obviously missing Gaz. Hope was, well, Hope..."

She trailed off a bit and he waited for her to resume. 

"I'm pretty gutted Priya is gone to be honest. I know she goofed up, and caused drama, but she was just trying to follow her heart. I think Hope might have been happier not going back to him."

"To Noah?" 

"Yeah," she nodded. "Not a slight on him, I'm just not sure they bring out the best in each other." 

"I get you. Noah was a mess without her, but they don't really seem to have discussed their problems so much as agreed to ignore them... something I'm rather familiar with."

"Hopefully, they'll come around. But yeah at Casa Amor the only person as mopey as Hope was me. I was a bit of a buzzkill." 

She huffed a laugh.

I should have known she'd be sad too. 

"Aww, I'm sorry. I can understand it not being that fun for you." 

She shrugged.

"I'm sure the guys are nice people," she sighed, "but they were so persistent. And I get why, but being asked every morning, evening and night if I'd changed my mind felt pretty uncomfortable…" 

Dang, the girls here weren't nearly that bad. 

"But getting your shirt was awesome," Fox turned and kissed his cheek. "Especially since it's rightfully mine." 

"My competitive queen!" he laughed. 

"That's what happens when you grow up with brothers," she smirked. "Although actually, I was competitive long before they came along. There's a big enough age gap that I helped raise them."

"Ah, so you're the cool older sibling?" 

"Of course," she grinned. "I'm the one who can complete all the last levels of games on high difficulty." 

"Okay, that we have to test," Lucas flexed a little, deliberately, "because my gaming credentials are impeccable."

"PC or console?" 

"Used to be PC when I gamed online with my mates as a teen, but xbox and playstation now." 

"Bring it on!" she grinned. "Your ass is grass." 

They stayed on the terrace, chatting for hours, until the sound of a beeping phone drew everyone downstairs.

~~~

So this 'Mr and Mrs' challenge is just how well you know your partner?" Rahim asked. 

"Wait, but I have to answer questions about Bobby," frowned Hope. 

"And I've got to answer questions about Lottie," Noah sighed. 

"I love it," Lottie cackled. "It's gonna be utter chaos." 

Gary and Graham started bantering about which of them would do better, and Lucas realised Fox had been onto something when she said they had some similarities. 

I'd never have guessed Gary would end up being such a good friend. He's the real deal. 

Bobby attempted to get Hope to stare into his eyes for thirty seconds to build their connection while she looked horrified. 

"What do you think, Fox?" Lucas asked as he sat down next to her. "Are we going to win this or what?" 

"We're gonna smash it!" she declared grandly. 

"Now that's what I wanna hear!" he laughed, high-fiving her. 

Each couple sat with boards in front of them, with points given for matching answers. 

Marisol announced the first question for the boys. 

"What did your girl want to be when she grew up?"

Lucas was up first. 

"Easy, the job she has now." 

Fox fist-bumped him with a grin. Most of the others were wrong, but a couple scored points.

The next question was for the girls

"Where did your partner have their first kiss?" 

Fox was called on first, and she laughed. 

"Behind the bike sheds." 

Lucas blushed furiously as the guys laughed. 

"What, it's the normal place!" 

The questions continued with the teams of Rahim and Shannon, and Lucas and Fox, way ahead of the rest. It wasn't a difficult quiz, but most other people weren't in their actual couples, and everyone cheered when Gary and Chelsea actually started collecting some points. 

A few times Lucas could have sworn Noah was letting his gaze linger on Fox, as Hope's usual scrutiny was blocked by distance. 

I'm probably just imagining it… 

Fox easily got Lucas's favourite food and celebrity crush, while he got her first pet and her pet hate. He grinned at her passionate fury against people who yelled at waiters. 

There was also the revelation that Bobby did Cardi B lip syncs and Fox demanded a demonstration at his next earliest convenience. 

And shockwaves were felt around the group as family-oriented Noah finally learned that Hope really, really didn't like children. Lucas gulped a bit at that, realising it wasn't a subject he'd yet broached with Fox. 

Finally Bobby announced the winners, and Fox leapt to her feet doing a victory dance. 

"Not that you're competitive or anything," Lucas grinned. 

Her phone beeped and she revealed there were ice lollies in the kitchen as their prize. He saw Gary and Bobby's eyes widen and before a word escaped them he legged it for the kitchen, Fox cheering him on.

"Sharing is caring!" Bobby yelled. 

~~~

Sharing turned out to be the theme of the afternoon, as the Islanders decided to continue playing the game, but this time with R-rated questions. 

Kicking things off, Graham asked the boys what the strangest place their girls had ever had sex was.

Lucas scribbled something down and waited his turn. 

"I've put 'Blackpool'," Gary revealed. 

"I don't think that's what he means-" Fox began. 

"It haunts my dreams!" cried Chelsea. "The room was opposite an illumination of the seven dwarves. It was like they were watching…" 

"Told you," said Gary, smugly. "I can listen too, you know. What have you got, Lucas?" 

"Uh, I put the woods?" he gambled, to laughter. "What, that's strange!" 

"Only to a city boy," Fox grinned. "Correct answer is a church." 

"Wait, what?!" Hope burst out laughing. "Fox!" 

"I love it," Lottie grinned. "So evil." 

"I mean I'm not religious," laughed Fox. "Plus it was in the doorway so that maybe doesn't count…" 

"The front door?!" Bobby gasped in mock horror. "So in public too. Tsk tsk." 

Fox grinned wolfishly. 

Rawr. 

"Okay ladies," Marisol asked slyly, "does your partner believe himself to be well-endowed?" 

The guys immediately tried to feign aloofness as the girls giggled. Answers were scribbled.

"Hope, what have you put?" Marisol grinned.

"Yes!" Hope grinned, and Noah smirked.

"Wait, this doesn't tell us if the guys are right though," Chelsea pointed out.

"Oh, I think our faces do," cackled Lottie. "But Hope is answering for Bobby remember, not Noah!" 

Noah's face fell as Bobby began giggling. 

"She's still correct," he blushed, as the guys cheered.

"I put yes as well," Lottie confirmed, looking at Noah and receiving a glare from Hope. "I mean, every guy does!" 

They went round the group, and Marisol called on Fox.

"I put yes," she said sweetly, flipping her board around to show the word 'yes' written beside an emoji shocked face.

Lucas turned red as everyone burst out laughing.

"Oi oi!" Gary yelled.

"No wonder you're so noisy!" laughed Lottie.

Oh my god... 

Fox smiled innocently. 

Next up was the girls guessing their boy's favourite sex position. 

"I think we can all probably guess…" Marisol grinned. 

"Err, you shouldn't assume," Bobby tutted. "The internet is full of bad ideas waiting to be tested out." 

"Fox, you're up first," said Lottie. "What's Lucas's go-to position?" 

"I mean there's so many," she pretended to count on her fingers. "At this point I could only guess, whichever is available with the lights on and not hidden under a duvet for once." 

Laughter broke out.

Lucas flipped his board around to reveal the words, "any with Fox" to cheers.

"Aww, you!" she leaned over and kissed him. 

"Damn, that's a smart answer," Graham said. 

All the guys looked slightly impressed, and Lucas smirked. 

"Marisol, what did you put?" asked Lottie. 

The law student casually flipped her board round and took a lick of her ice-lolly. 

"I put 'pushing her up against a wall'," she said, as Graham's jaw dropped. 

"Um… I put…" he floundered, blushing, "reverse cowgirl but that sounds much better."

Fox bit her lip at Lucas and he threw her a cheeky wink as she blushed. 

Definitely need to do that again… 

Gary demonstrated his dynamic 'Helicopter' sex position with the help of Bobby as everyone fell about laughing hysterically. 

They worked through some more questions before Lottie called the last round. 

"Fox, pick the last question!" 

"Hmm," she mused. "Okay, boys' most embarassing sex moment! And let's just skip to the answers." 

She grinned at Lucas and he groaned. 

"Oh great, thank you," he grumbled good naturedly. "This was when I was a lot younger. I was round her place and had to go pee. But I got confused on the way back and went into the wrong room."

He paused for dramatic effect. 

"I ended up in bed with her parents."

Everyone burst into laughter, and he blushed. 

"It wasn't funny!" he laughed in defeat. "I've never left a house so quickly in my life!" 

After a few more answers, Gary called time. 

"Hang on," said Bobby, "we never heard Hope's most embarassing sex thing from earlier!" 

"I already said…" Hope waved her hand. 

"No, you didn't," chided Lottie. 

Bobby scribbled on his board and showed it to Hope. 

"Is it this?" he smirked. 

"Bobby! Rub it out!" 

"Yeah, Bobs," Gary said with a wink, "give them their privacy." 

Bobby handed Gary the board and he took off with Noah in hot pursuit. He suddenly stopped, gobsmacked, looking at the board. 

"Noah, you saucy git!" he yelled. 

A few folk drifted off to get ready for the evening and the others lazed in the sun chatting.

Lucas lay down on the grass with his head in Fox's lap, and she played with his hair as she chatted with Chelsea and Lottie.

"Hey, tiger," she said softly, and Lucas opened his eyes to an orange sky. He blinked. 

"Oh," he smiled, realising he'd drifted off. "It's late already?" 

"Yeah, everyone has headed in to get dressed for the evening." 

He stretched with a groan before burying his head back into her lap. She laughed.

"'m comfy," he murmured, and she petted his hair. 

Suddenly, loud voices erupted from the Villa, and he felt her tense beneath him. He sat up in confusion, listening. 

"That sounds like Gary…" he couldn't make out what was going on, and turned to her with a sigh. "I should go intervene."

"And I should go get changed," she smiled, jumping to her feet and offering him a hand.

He got up, and drew her close for a hug. A crash from the Villa sounded, and he growled.

"Go," she shooed him, and he headed for the door, trying to work out what the yelling was about. 

~~~

Chapter Text

A cup of tea. They were fighting over a flipping cup of tea. 

There had been underlying tensions he knew, which was inevitable in such a small living space. He'd been so wrapped up in his own situation the past few days, he hadn't realised it had escalated.

Lucas had run through the bedroom, changing his clothes quickly, before skidding down the stairs and into the fray. 

Rahim had a hold of Graham while Lucas stood firm in front of Gary. His friend's temper had completely blown and he knew he just needed to wait it out for him to suddenly calm down again.

As Noah and the other girls gradually joined them, things declined rapidly - by the time Fox arrived with Bobby, the argument had spread to the entire group to include fingered fruit, crisp thieves, blocked drains, stolen eyeliner, and sweaty gym equipment. 

A loud banging sounded out as Bobby yelled, hitting his shoe on the counter, and everyone fell silent.

"What is wrong with you all?" he growled. "We were having an ace day and now you're all yelling in the kitchen."

"But the milk, Bobby…" Gary said, weakly. 

"It was me. I used the milk and didn't screw the lid on properly. I'm sorry if it ruined your cuppa."

Graham smirked and Gary looked embarrassed. As everyone talked over each other about their issues, Bobby announced that he had a way to fix things. 

"Wait, who's put you in charge of this?" asked Gary, still tetchy. 

"Listen pal," Bobby replied, leaning into his accent. "I've stopped more fights in kitchens than you've had hot dinners. I have an idea. Reconvene at the fire pit in ten minutes." 

~~~

"Why is Bobby taking so…" 

Lottie trailed off as Bobby came into view, wearing

Is that a tea towel on his head?! 

"That's my cape, Bobby!" yelled Lottie, attempting to look scandalised but with humour in her voice. 

Bobby had assembled a judge's outfit out of a black cape, and a tea towel for a wig, while brandishing a wooden meat tenderiser as a gavel.

Oh my god. 

"Order! Order in my court!" called Judge Bobby, as Fox giggled beside Lottie. 

Lottie tried to protest but Graham urged her to be quiet so they could get things over with. 

"Check out the bailiff," Gary smirked.

"I'm not the bailiff!" objected Graham. "I just want to get this over and done with." 

"The court will respect the authority of Bailiff Graham," Judge Bobby decreed.

Graham sighed, as Fox tried to stop laughing. Lucas grinned at Gary, who shrugged. 

"It's better than fighting in the kitchen, I guess," he whispered. 

"Fox is certainly enjoying it," Lucas smirked. "Maybe this will work." 

At any rate, Gary seemed in a better mood again, and ridiculousness was vastly preferable to everyone shouting at each other. 

"The first case on my list," Judge Bobby announced as he scrolled through the notes on his phone, "is the case of the bruised fruit." 

"That's my case," Rahim leapt up. "I'll be defending with the help of Shannon." 

"Who is the accused?" 

"We think Marisol did it." 

"And who will be defending Marisol?" 

"I will," said Fox, standing up. 

"Oh shiiiit," murmured Gary as he elbowed Lucas. "That's Marisol off the hook!" 

"Yeah?" Lucas whispered. "Because it's Bobby?"

He stuffed his jealousy back down, knowing it didn't matter if anyone else was interested in Fox.

She chose me. 

"Nah," Gary shook his head. "She's wicked sharp when it comes to reading people." 

Lucas nodded. That was definitely true. 

Rahim had finished explained how somebody's heavy fingers were bruising the fruit kept in the fruit bowl. 

"All evidence points to Marisol being the culprit," he finished. 

"Objection!" called Marisol. 

"Overruled!" declared Judge Bobby. "Bailiff Graham, escort the accused directly to jail!" 

"I'm not the bailiff!" Graham grumped. 

"And that's not how it works," pointed out Marisol.

"Order! Order!" called Judge Bobby, looking momentarily lost until he looked at Fox who winked at him. "Fox, can you offer a defense?" 

She stepped forward, cool and collected.

Also hot. That black strappy dress is amazing… 

"This is a witch hunt, Judge Bobby." 

There were gasps from the gallery formerly known as the fire pit seating. 

"That's a bit harsh," Rahim put his hands up in apology, and Lucas saw Gary grin. "I just want her to stop ruining the fruit." 

"And yet Marisol is the only suspect," Fox continued breezily. "But ladies and gentlemen, I ask you, who else among us has touched the fruit? Answer honestly please, and hands up." 

Gary put his hand up, as did Hope, Lottie, Graham, and Bobby. Lucas cheerfully put his hand up as well. 

"Wait, what?" frowned Rahim. "You're all just squeezing the fruit?!"

"As you can see," Fox smiled, "many are checking and unwittingly rechecking the same fruit, which means no one person can be held responsible." 

"Jury, your decision?" Judge Bobby looked to Hope, as Fox sat down, changing her seat to be next to Lucas. 

"The jury finds Marisol innocent! We all do it." 

"Yeah, I do it too. Judge Bobby rules that Rahim is the new ripeness checker. And fruit that isn't ripe goes to the bottom of the bowl. Nobody else has to check then." 

"Yes!" nodded Rahim. "No one fingers the fruit but me."

"And no one uses the verb 'finger' ever again…" Lottie scowled. 

"Thanks, babe!" Marisol flashed Fox a grin. 

"Hey you," Lucas murmured as he put his arm around Fox. "That was both impressive and sexy." 

Fox chuckled, letting her hand rest on Lucas's thigh as warmth shot through him at her touch. 

"The next case is…" Judge Bobby frowned at his phone. "Um, it has autocorrected to Haha in Drake?" 

"Ooh, hair in drain!" Chelsea leapt to her feet. "That's me. Objection! That's me!" 

Fox was laughing softly by his side, and Lucas grinned. 

"Can everyone stop using objection," said Marisol, frustrated. "That's not-" 

"Disorder! Disorder!" called Judge Bobby. "Bailiff Graham, can you handle this?"

"I've said I'm not-" Graham cut himself off. "Oh, fine. Marisol, you're going to have to lower your voice."

"Sorry, bailiff. It's just that lawyers…" 

Graham folded his arms sternly, and she trailed off, sitting back in her seat with a sigh.

"Anyway," said Chelsea, "Lucas accused us girls of clogging the drains with our hair but we've all got hair, so there is a possibility it could be your hair too!" 

"Hey wait," Lucas stood up. "I didn't say it was the girls hair. Although… I mean, it probably is."

"Why though?" asked Hope. "Why can't it belong to you lot too?" 

"Science!" declared Gary, standing up next to Lucas. "You've got more hair. We can see it, rolling around like tumbleweeds." 

"You want science?" Lottie smirked. "Men can go bald. And their hair can clog up drains."

"That's true," piped up Fox. "And a lot of men don't even realise until fifty percent of their hair has gone." 

The guys immediately started patting their heads in a panic, and Lucas groaned. 

"Check me!" muttered Gary, and Lucas patted the top of his head, unsure what he was supposed to do. "We, the men, demand you strike that from the record!"

"You don't get to say that," Judge Bobby shook his head. "I do. And we don't have a record." 

"Fine then!" cried Gary. "I will defend my lads." 

"Sustained," grinned Judge Bobby. 

Fox cleared her throat and Gary's eyes widened. 

Uh oh.

"Chelsea," said Fox sweetly, "would you like some help with the prosecution?" 

"Thanks Fox!" the bubbly blonde beamed, and the two girls conferred quietly. 

"We've got this!" Gary whispered. 

"No we don't," Lucas whispered back. 

"No we do not." 

"We want to call some hair witnesses," announced Chelsea, "and ask them some questions. Hopefully the answers will prove me right. I'd like to call Lucas as my first witness."

Lucas looked confused. 

"Um, I'm already here." 

"Good work!" nodded Chelsea before trying to be more stern. "This morning you used the shower."

"I use it every day, but go on." 

"And when you went in, did you notice any hair in the drain?" 

"No." 

"Really? Because there was definitely hair in the drain, and I remember thinking your hair looked really good." 

"Uh, thanks?" Lucas looked at Fox in confusion. 

"It looked lovely," continued Chelsea. "Really shiny. What kind of shampoo do you use?" 

What is happening? 

"Wait, is that your question?" he asked, totally lost. 

"Just tell the woman what shampoo you use," said Fox sternly. 

"Like… whatever's on offer?" 

"Thank you," Chelsea nodded. "And when you washed it, did you clear your hair out of the drain after?" 

"I didn't see anything in the drain. Maybe it was your hair you saw?" 

"It was so not my hair!" 

"Judge Bobby, if I can be honest," smiled Lucas, "I was too busy enjoying the shower to notice anything."

"I'm the same when I'm in the shower," Chelsea chirped, "I just totally zone out." 

Fox coughed and Chelsea seemed to return to courtroom. 

"Sorry," she shook herself. "That'll be the ADHD again. I swear it made sense in my head." 

"We love your chat Chels," grinned Judge Bobby. 

She beamed and turned her attention back to Lucas. 

"Right, so. Was it your lovely hair in the drain this morning?" 

"Pretty sure it wasn't," Lucas replied. 

"Oh, so it isn't Lucas," Chelsea looked flustered before turning to Fox. "Unless… is he lying?" 

"Nope," she shook her head. "He's telling the truth."

Lucas grinned at Fox. 

"Oh fudge," said Chelsea, looking defeated.

Fox whispered something in her ear. 

"You can go, Lucas," Chelsea grinned. "I'd like to call my next witness… Judge Bobby!"

Lucas sat back down, as did Gary. 

"Err, you did not help," smirked Lucas. 

"Mate, I have no idea how to defend against that!" Gary laughed. "We'll be here all night at this rate." 

"Nah, I think the prosecution has a plan." 

The court had decided the judge could be called.

"Judge Bobby, what were you doing in the shower the other day?" asked Chelsea, making Gary laugh. 

"Not like that!" said Judge Bobby. "I was watching Gary use a poking device he'd fashioned to unblock the drain." 

"Tell us what you witnessed." 

"He pulled out a massive lump of hair."

"The prosecution would like to note this is gross," Fox pulled a face. 

"Agreed," nodded Judge Bobby. "But sadly we must all hear of it." 

"I'd like the court to know I feel physically sick," frowned Lottie. 

"That just proves our point!" called Rahim. "The boys are always having to get the girls hair out of the drain!" 

"Err, no," Lottie waved her finger. "Our hair is long and you can see it, it's your short man hair that goes into the drain and blocks it." 

Bailiff Graham cleared his throat, and the two fell silent. 

"Tell the court what you said when you saw the lump of hair, Judge Bobby," commanded Chelsea. 

Lucas heard Gary quietly groan beside him. 

"I said…" Judge Bobby hesitated. "I can't remember what I said." 

"Objection!" called Fox. "The witness is lying!" 

Judge Bobby blushed. 

Haha, busted. Chelsea has a lie detector on her side. 

"Um, I remember now," he scrambled. "I said, 'Look Gary, it's all the hair you've lost since you came to the Villa!' Sorry, Gaz." 

Fox smirked as Gary leapt to his feet, glaring at the giggles from the gallery. 

"This has gone on long enough," he cried. "Judge Bobby, what's the final verdict here?" 

"It's everyone's hair," he declared. "Unless we have forensic evidence proving that it is one person, we need to accept we all shed hair. However, anytime someone snakes the drain they can get an extra shot of wheatgrass." 

The Islanders cheered as Fox sat back down next to Lucas.

"This place is mad," he laughed. 

"But your hair really is so shiny and soft," she smirked, and he growled happily as she petted the back of his head. 

"Well, you wielded the power of Chelsea very well," he smiled. 

"I never truly appreciated how useful 'confusion' is as an attack. Gotta rethink my Pokémon strategy." 

"You're such a cute dork," Lucas grinned. 

"Fox!" 

"Wha-?" she turned back to the court confused. 

Lottie was brandishing a pair of knickers at her. 

"These are so obviously yours," Lottie declared.

"Um, those could belong to anyone," pointed out Fox. 

"Well they're definitely not mine," grinned Gary, to laughter. "I go for something a little more conservative." 

"I'll defend Fox!" cried Hope, examining the knickers. "These are well nice." 

"Everyone knows how much you love your fashion," Lottie smirked. "This is clearly high end lingerie. Fox, after me you're the most forward person in the Villa. You'd definitely do bits on my bed." 

"I mean maybe," mused Fox as everyone gasped, "but unfortunately for me, you're straight, Lottie." 

The Australian cackled as giggles broke out. 

"True!"

"Seriously though, those aren't mine. They probably belong to one of the girls that left." 

"Ohhh, that makes sense," nodded Lottie. "Never mind Judge Bobby, case retracted!" 

"I knew Lottie was my only real competition," said Lucas softly, with a smirk.

"You and Gary lucked out," she winked. 

"Right, I'm tired," announced Judge Bobby. "Court is adjourned." 

He's not the only one. It's not even late and I'm exhausted

"Wait!" called Hope. "Aren't we forgetting something?" 

"The night time noise," nodded Noah. 

"We could squeeze it in…" Judge Bobby mused. "Show of hands, who wants to try the case?" 

There was an exact split in the vote.

"Deciding vote, Fox," said Judge Bobby, turning to her. "What say you?" 

"I'm tired," she stretched, "and it's always good to leave some mystery innit." 

"I suppose," Hope nodded. 

"The weird purring noise shall ever remain a mystery," sighed Noah. 

"I've got my suspicions," murmured Lucas, softly enough that only Fox could hear. 

She turned to him with a smirk and he winked. 

"Bedtime, mister." 

~~~

Not everyone had gone to bed yet, but as Lucas curled around his angel, he could barely keep his eyes open.

"You'd make one hell of a lawyer," he said softly. "That was impressive!" 

Fox chuckled. 

"This place is so weird," she laughed. "I think tonight actually settled some issues though. I'd say maybe we'll get one drama-free day but I'm not gonna jinx it."

He huffed a laugh against her hair, and she kissed the back of his hand that was wrapped around her.

"Sweet dreams, tiger."

"G'night, angel." 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas stretched lazily as he put the kettle on. Everyone was up bright and early this morning, and in a good mood.

It had been a strange night, but a fun one. Judge Bobby had indeed laid down the law, and tensions seemed to have eased.

He'd fallen asleep as soon as he had said good night, and he finally felt well rested. 

Bobby and Rahim were bantering about the best way to have their eggs, as Hope and Lottie cooed at Bobby's cuteness making him blush. 

"What about you, Fox?" Bobby asked. "How do you like your eggs?" 

"Ooh tough choice," she mused, curled up on her seat in the satin and lace teddy that Lucas loved. "I like them most ways, but scrambled is great. Mexican style with tomatoes and peppers in are lush." 

"That's your fave, is it?" Lucas smiled. "What the lady wants she gets." 

"Aww, you're making me breakfast? That's sweet." 

"I'm very sweet when I want to be," he smirked.

She leaned over the counter and kissed his nose before he got to work. 

As everyone tucked in, Chelsea paused, beaming. 

"I am totally loving the vibe in the Villa today. Everyone is just this big massive ball of positivity." 

"Too right," nodded Gary. "I could get used to life like this. No worries, no drama…" 

"Yeah, it's okay… I guess..." Graham sounded unsure. "It's just, when things are this calm on the boat it normally means a storm is coming."

Shannon gasped, looking out at the garden. 

"Who's that?" 

Two shadowy figures had appeared near the pool. 

"No way!" breathed Chelsea. "New people!" 

"Are they boys?" Lottie demanded. "Tell me they're boys." 

Tell me they're not-

"No, they're girls!" cried Bobby. 

As the Islanders rushed out they were met by the sight of two women - one tall and glamorous, and the other sporty looking with a cheeky grin. 

Gary, Graham and Bobby ran ahead to welcome them. 

Elisa and Jo introduced themselves and everyone gathered round as Graham and Gary tried to outdo each other in impressing the newcomers. 

What a pair of spoons. 

The taller Elisa fixed Lucas in her gaze. 

"You lot are way fitter in person," she smirked, and started to run her nail along his jawline. 

He stepped back in surprise with a slight scowl, but she'd already moved on.

Fox had been talking to Jo and hadn't seen their interaction, and she turned to Elisa with a welcoming smile. 

"Hey, I'm Fox-" 

"I know who you are, girl," Elisa grinned, and leaned over to whisper in her ear. 

He saw Fox raise her eyebrow slightly after a moment, but she was smiling when Elisa pulled back and moved on to Marisol. 

As Gary and Graham offered to take the girls on a tour of the villa, Marisol and Lottie had approached Fox. She shrugged and laughed, as they looked over at Graham preening. He had the decency to look embarrassed when he quickly looked over at them. 

Busted!

"So ladies, what's your deal?" Hope tried to take control of the situation. "Are you here to meet the one? Play the game? Stir things up?" 

Elisa smiled wryly and turned to Jo. 

"This is a bit awks," she shrugged. "I mean, the guys are right here." 

"In that case," said Fox, "why don't we go talk over by the loungers." 

Lucas smirked, seeing his girl outfox them, literally. 

The girls departed and the guys watched them leave.

"Try to be more obvious, please," Noah teased.

"Aww, c'mon," said Gary, folding his arms. "It's just fun getting new people isn't it? I'm not looking to get hexed." 

"Could spell trouble though," Lucas mused. "I mean it changes the numbers, and they might get to have their pick of us lot." 

"What was with you scowling at Elisa, mate?" Rahim looked curious.

"I just wasn't expecting it," shrugged Lucas. "Asking before touching a stranger's face is kind of a given." 

Bobby nodded.

"What do you think they're talking about?" he asked. 

"Probably asking the new girls who they fancy," Rahim suggested.

Lucas saw Hope suddenly stiffen, and heard Lottie cackle. 

Someone likes Noah then… 

He looked closely. Shannon seemed completely at ease, laying on a lounger. Fox was leaning against a post, nonchalantly. Marisol also looked relaxed. 

Maybe this won't be drama after all?

The girls broke apart and both Gary and Graham raced over to start the tour. As they came back towards the pool, Lucas circled round, heading for Fox. 

Before he reached her, a phone went off. 

"I've got a text," yelled Jo, reading it out. "Jo and Elisa, you've got some catching up to do. Pick your two favourite boys and get ready for your first dates." 

"Well, this is easy," Elisa spoke immediately. "I pick Lucas and Noah."

Lucas tensed up as everyone else looked at Noah in shock. 

"I'm going to pick Ibrahim," Jo drawled, "and Gary."

Gary flushed, looking at Lottie who was studiously checking her nails.

"Let's get ready!" Elisa strided indoors as if she'd been living there already, and the others followed.

Lucas saw Fox hanging back, and once the others were a little further away she came up to him looking concerned. 

"Are you okay?" she asked, leaning in to him with her hands on his biceps. "You look a bit stressed." 

He smiled as she circled her fingertips up his arms and onto his shoulders, and he kissed her forehead.

"Elisa took me a bit by surprise," he hesitated. "Like, she came straight at me to try and stroke my face. Which I know a lot of guys would appreciate but…" 

He trailed off, embarrassed. 

"Asking first is a thing," she nodded, and his tension dropped a little. "She was probably caught up in trying to make a big impression. She's a beauty vlogger so she knows what gets views."

Fox squeezed him into a hug.

"You're not worried about the date then?" he asked, softly.

Blake was hardly a distant memory, and he didn't want to endanger their relationship again.

"I trust you, tiger," she met his gaze with a smile, and he grinned. "Though I may also have told her to back the fuck up." 

He burst out laughing as she smirked.

"That's my girl." 

~~~

"Spit it out, Gaz." 

Lucas was doing up his shirt while Gary vibrated with negative energy next to him. 

"It's just weird isn't it?" the blonde asked. "Like it's exciting having new people and that, but I wasn't expecting a date. I'm already between Lottie and Chelsea and this is, I mean…" 

He trailed off helplessly. 

"Another complication?" Lucas suggested. 

"Yeah! It's meant to be fun when there's more girls than lads, but now there are feelings involved and it's all kinds of stressful. How are you so calm?" 

"Well, I spoke to Fox, which is the main reason I'm ever calm." 

Gary chuckled.  

"But it helps to think of this as being more like a challenge," Lucas continued. "When I first got here, me and Henrik had to have three dates each. It's not like they were all equal dates, y'know?" 

"Yeah I remember. Henrik picked Lottie. But that was before, well after… Before we were coupled up. And now I don't know where I'm at." 

Lucas thought for a moment.

"Maybe just try and divorce this from all that," he suggested. "You don't need to have all your answers immediately. Just enjoy the change of scenery or wine or whatever, then come back and take everything else one step at a time." 

Gary nodded, and seemed to calm slightly. 

"I don't need to have all the answers," he repeated. "Yeah. That helps!" 

He grinned. 

"Good!" Lucas smiled. "And if it helps we can talk about the other stuff later, yeah?" 

"I might just take you up on that." 

~~~

As Lucas waited with the guys on the lawn, he sidled up to Noah. 

"How do you think Hope's gonna cope with this?" he asked.

"Badly," the librarian grimaced. "But it'll be fine after, y'know? She just needs more reassurance I guess." 

"I know exactly, mate," Lucas nodded.

"I'm guessing you don't mean Fox?" 

"Hah, no. I mean me. But I'm working on it." 

"I'm glad," Noah smiled at him.

"Here they come," said Gary.

The new girls walked out ready for their dates, and Lucas's eyes immediately fell on the figure in white a little way behind them. 

Fox was wearing a white bikini he hadn't seen before, a halterneck with cut-out details and a circular window that definitely did not hide her bust. His jaw dropped, and he walked over to her, straight past his waiting date. 

"Fox- You- I-," he struggled to get his words out. "You look amazing. Have you got something planned?" 

"No," she replied sweetly, "just gonna work up a sweat." 

"I wish I didn't have to leave now," he groaned, his heart sinking. 

"Guess you'll have to hurry back," she purred. "I'll have a kiss waiting for you, tiger." 

She turned to go sit with the original girls, and he reluctantly caught up with Noah and Elisa. As he left the gates he looked back at Fox. When she winked his heart flipped happily, and he sent one back with a grin. 

 ~~~

Lucas could safely say he'd never been on a date with another guy before, but he and Noah took turns chatting to Elisa on the ride.

He was feeling slightly ruffled, partly due to his girl making him trip over his own jaw but partly- 

I'm pretty sure Noah was looking at her instead of Hope as well. But… maybe it's just my jealousy flaring up again? I'm the one on a date, the least I can do for Fox is keep that in check. 

Exiting the jeep, they were ushered into a building instead of the usual table and chairs in a field, and when they were presented with champagne he realised they were at a spa. 

Huh, at least I'll maybe get a good massage. 

Lucas was up first, and it was indeed for a couple's massage. He and Elisa went in to the changing rooms, and he was out again in a flash, fully set up on the table when she walked in. She was trying to get his attention but he was already relaxing and just lazily lifted a thumbs up.

He did feel a little bad for her, but given she'd picked the two guys who'd had to work hardest to get their girls back, she wasn't exactly on to a winning strategy.

The massage was okay but he'd be lying if he said he wasn't disappointed. Sure he had high standards, but given he kept getting tickled he was very much not relaxed. 

Elisa wasn't faring much better, trying valiantly to talk about her job and her fans, which was fairly interesting but her flirting was falling flat. 

This is just kind of boring. She probably doesn't care about the kind of geeky or funny stuff Fox can joke about with me.  

He was glad his angel hadn't been concerned about his date. Previously, the idea that she might not be jealous would have sparked his insecurity, but now he simply didn't want to cause her worry.

At the same time, knowing she'd warned Elisa off still gave him a very warm and fuzzy feeling. 

Huh. I was so desperate to know she was mine, but it's knowing that I'm hers that makes me feel most secure. 

There was a thump and a groan followed by a laugh. 

"You okay there?" he asked, tensing up even more.

"I fell off the table!" 

Elisa was cracking up and he burst into laughter. He wondered idly if that had been to get him to look up, but probably not. 

Nobody is that extra. 

Either way, he hadn't moved, and she soon started talking again. He found himself missing the familiar chatter of Chelsea. 

Drinking champagne out in the lounge suited him much better, as Noah and Elisa went for what he assumed was either a jacuzzi or sauna. 

It was weird having waiting time outside the Villa without a phone to play with, but he made do thinking about his time on the Island thus far. 

He missed Henrik. He was surprised how much he'd come to like Gary. Noah had helped him a lot but he still got a strange vibe now and then. He couldn't work out if that was the guy himself, or the relationship he was in. 

Rahim was cool, and he was fond of Bobby. Partly for how protective he was of Fox, but he was also just a good guy. He remembered how he'd been spitting mad at him for choosing Blake, and the fact that he'd been completely justified.

He got on well with Lottie though her moods were a mystery to him. Chelsea was good fun. Hope was… 

Someone I recognise as a fellow sufferer of jealousy. And I can sympathise but she reacts by being controlling rather than being an anxious mess. 

Lucas had spent less time with Hope, Shannon and Marisol. Fox seemed to be somewhat unique in being friends with all the guys. Though he supposed Bobby was the same in reverse. 

The younger man did prod his jealousy but he'd worked hard to stay on top of that one. He never wanted to be the kind of guy that made his girl feel uncomfortable for having male friends, and he knew Bobby would never cause her hurt. 

Mostly he thought of Fox, and of what would happen after this was all over. He'd never moved in with a partner fully before, or made a proper commitment. As long as she was on board, that was all going to change.

Which should feel scary. But it sounds amazing. 

He smiled to himself knowing he'd get called a doofus. 

"Having fun?" Elisa's voice cut through his thoughts and he blushed. 

"Just being a melt," he grinned, and she smiled back weakly. 

The ride home was quiet. 

~~~

The girls came rushing to meet them as they arrived back, and the other lads wandered over. Hope threw herself at Noah who caught her with a laugh, and he saw Gary making a beeline for Lottie. 

Dodge that hex!

He looked around and saw Fox at the gym with Marisol. The latter was doing some light dumbbell exercises while the former had the hula hoop out.

As he sauntered over with a smile, Marisol passed him as she headed back to the group.

"Enjoy," she winked, to his confusion.

He looked back up at Fox and realised she had two hula hoops. It was her favourite form of cardio but she usually used a fairly heavy hoop. This time she had two very light ones and she looked like-

She's dancing. 

Her body was moving in a fast but controlled rhythm as the hoops moved up and down her body. She lifted one arm and a hoop danced up to her wrist, the other down her legs then back up as the first hoop came down.

Her feet were moving as she danced, changing direction as her body rolled gracefully, and she was smiling to herself. 

Lucas was rooted to the spot, transfixed. Bad enough she was dressed in white - his new favourite - and with those strategic cut-outs, but this? 

Jesus christ. 

Her gaze fell on him suddenly and her eyes lit up. She lifted one arm up again and sent the top hoop to her fingers catching it, then caught the other mid hip-spin. 

"Hey you," she called, resting the hoops against the bench and walking up to him. 

The heat was radiating from her, her pulse jumping in her throat from her workout, and when he tried to say hello back, all that came out was a hoarse groan. 

She tilted her head slightly, then smirked in realisation, leaning forward and wrapping her arms around his neck. As she went up on her tiptoes, she ran her tongue across his skin, over the place she'd marked him the morning before, and he shuddered against her.

Lucas snapped, sliding his arms around her back and under her ass, and lifting her against his chest. She wrapped her legs around his waist, one ankle over the other, and he crashed his lips against her as he held her. 

She tasted sweet with a hint of salt, and he groaned into her mouth as his tongue swept along hers. He drove in deeper needing more, and he could feel her heart hammering against his chest as her fingers tangled in his hair, pulling just slightly to make him growl. 

He gasped for breath, seeing her eyes black with arousal as she panted, and he couldn't think as he crushed her lips to his again, he just needed to keep kissing her. 

Eventually, Fox started to gradually slow their kiss, taking control, and making her movements soft and sensual before pulling back with a happy sigh. 

He rested his forehead against hers, trying to remember what he'd been meaning to say to her. His mind was blank.

She giggled. 

"Sooo… good date?" 

She started to wiggle her way down and he helped her back to her feet with a shaky grin. 

"The dates were at a couples spa," he explained huskily, as he followed her back over to the gym. "We got champagne and massages." 

"Massages sounds good!" she said, tidying up. 

"I thought so too, but…" 

"Not up to your standards?" 

He grinned. 

"Exactly!" he shook his head. "I couldn't stop laughing because they tickled. Not the good kind of laughing." 

"Oof, that sounds awkward," she sympathised. "I'm no pro but I at least don't tickle when I don't meant to." 

"You can practise on me anytime," he smirked, and she laughed. "I'd rather have spent the day with you, angel." 

"Y'know, I definitely got that impression," Fox winked.

And we definitely need some proper alone time soon… 

As they were talking, Rahim had approached from across the lawn, and he started loading up the weights on the bench.

"Um, can I talk to you guys?" he asked, looking between them both.

"Sure babe, what's up?" Fox smiled, as Lucas moved round to spot him. 

"I could use a woman's opinion," replied Rahim.

"I'm all ears," Lucas grinned, and the golfer snorted.

"Ignore him," said Fox, sticking her tongue out. "You can always talk to me." 

"Thanks, Fox," the big man sighed, as he began explaining in between reps. "I really needed to hear that. I don't know how to handle this situation from the date earlier."

She sat down on the ground and stretched as she listened. 

"Gary had his date first so I checked out the spa a bit. Gorgeous view of the sea. I'll be honest, it was a bit of me." 

Buildings can be a bit of someone? Okay, I really don't get that phrase. 

"Then Jo and I had our date…" Rahim trailed off. 

"What's Jo like?" she asked. 

"Pretty cool," he enthused. "She's so open and chatty. She is a bit of an over sharer. I don't think she can help herself. It was just totally different to the last few days with Shannon. Maybe I was too into the chat…" 

He sighed heavily, and Lucas raised his eyebrows at Fox. Ibrahim continued. 

"So after the first bit of the date was over we..." 

He stopped talking and looked away, pursing his lips.

Oh shit. 

"Ah," said Fox. 

"I haven't said it yet." 

"But there was a kiss?" 

"No! I… She… uh," Rahim stuttered, before sighing again. "Okay, yeah. She kissed me. She leaned over across the table and kissed me." 

"What did you do?" Lucas asked. 

"Well, I pulled away, didn't I?" he replied defensively. 

"I believe you," Fox said firmly. "You're no player. I know you well enough to say that."

"Thank you. I swear she tried to kiss me." 

Fox sighed. 

"But that doesn't mean Shannon will believe you," she said. 

"Fuck," Rahim groaned. "I should just go and tell her now, right?"

"Yeah, I'd get in there first," she nodded. "You know what this place is like. Things don't stay secret for long."

Fox looked thoughtful. 

"But you've got a couple of things to answer for yourself as well." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Look, I know I'm not an expert on this," Lucas cut in. "But you've been with Shannon just under a week, yeah? It's quite a short period of time. But she deserves honesty if you're thinking of someone else." 

Fox smiled at him, nodding her head, and Rahim sat up. 

"You're right," he said, determinedly. "You're dead right." 

"I don't know that I have the answer to that question right now," he continued, standing up. "But either way, I'm going to talk to Shannon." 

And hopefully this won't be drama-

A loud screech suddenly rang across the whole garden. The unmistakable sound of Chelsea had stopped everyone in their tracks. 

"OH… MY… LIFE!" 

"Did you hear that?" Gary called. 

"France heard that," said Lottie. 

Chelsea's voice screamed out again. 

"OH EM GEE! I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY WOULD DO THAT!" 

"Who did what?" Hope asked. "What's going on?" 

Rahim looked at Fox with dismay. 

"It's coming from the dressing room. Should I…?" she asked. 

"Yes!" the golfer pleaded, grabbing her hand and the two of them disappeared inside with Lottie and Gary in hot pursuit.

Bobby popped up beside Lucas.

"What's going on?" he asked. 

"Drama," Lucas sighed. 

"Oh great, my favourite." 

Bobby scowled before brightening suddenly. 

"Still, if we don't know about it…" he mused, "then maybe we can just avoid it?" 

"It's worth a shot," said Noah, joining them. "Girls have all gone to get ready. Bedroom?" 

They headed indoors. Rahim was nowhere to be seen, and Gary was sprawled on his bed. 

"I went looking for him," he shrugged as they came in. "Doesn't want to be found I think." 

"Let's just get ready and head for the welcome party drinks," Bobby bounced, pulling his clothes on and off at the same time. 

The sound of raised voices drifted from the dressing room.

"You're ready enough, right?" Lucas asked, and they legged it for the living area.

~~~

Chapter Text

"S'up, Jo," Lucas greeted the new girl as she came to sit at the counter. 

"I am exhausted," she laughed. "This place is intense." 

"Tell me about it," agreed Bobby, sympathetically.

Graham came over with a grin.

"So BMX biking? Really?" he asked.

"Yeah," the blonde lit up. "I'm not long pro but I've been riding for years. It's such a rush." 

Lucas joined in with the sports chat, while Bobby listened.

"I kinda wish I did something like that," he said wistfully. "I played piano as a kid so I couldn't risk my hands." 

"You work in a kitchen now though," Graham pointed out. "That must be murder on your hands." 

"Don't start him-" Lucas was cut off by an excited Bobby, explaining his beautiful hands and extolling their softness, length and symmetry. 

"Hands can't be fully symmetrical, mate," laughed Lucas. 

"But mostly!" Bobby held his hands up in front of him. "See, I told you! My hands are so symmetrical."

"They look the same as mine," said Lucus, nonplussed. 

"Maybe you guys are hand twins!" Graham smirked. 

"My long lost hand brother!" Bobby put his hand over his heart dramatically. "I knew I'd find you." 

Shannon suddenly appeared, in a cloud of anger. 

"Boys, we need to have a chat." 

Uh oh. 

Bobby began singing merrily. 

"This hand is your hand… oh no, wait! That's my hand." 

"A serious one," she frowned, as the other girls appeared. 

"Guess that's our cue to leave!" Graham jumped to his feet. 

"No, the guys should stay," mused Lottie. "They might know more."

Bobby stared awkwardly at his hands as Lucas threw his in the air. 

"What is going on?!" he frowned, hoping it wasn't what he feared. 

"What are we supposed to know about?" Graham folded his arms, as Elisa appeared. 

"Chelsea…" she asked, in a dangerous tone. "What are they supposed to know?" 

"Um…" Chelsea floundered. 

"What is it?!" Elisa hissed, and Lucas winced. 

But why would she know? Maybe it's something else

Looking up he saw Fox arrive, in a silver belted minidress with sheer sleeves. His eyes widened as he saw just how short it was, and she winked at him.

The other girls were still arguing as Fox sailed through them, making her way to the counter and sitting across from him.

"What's going on?" Bobby whispered to her.

Fox rolled her eyes and mimed running away with her fingers.

"Save yourselves!" she whispered. 

Chelsea brought her a glass of champagne over and she beamed. 

"Thanks, babe," she smiled, before frowning a little when she saw how stressed Chelsea was. 

The formerly bubbly blonde turned back to the group, with a desperate attempt at her usual cheerfulness. 

"You know what they say, even if the glass is half full or half empty, it's still a glass that needs topping up!" 

"I've never heard anyone say that," Graham muttered, as Chelsea handed Elisa a glass. 

"I really thought I could trust you," the beauty vlogger sighed. 

"You can!" objected Chelsea. "I just thought she had a right to know…" 

"Yeah, but not everyone!" 

"I haven't told the boys yet."

"Told us what?" asked Lucas. 

This is ridiculous. 

Shannon snatched a glass from Chelsea. 

"That's not the real issue here. Jo, I need to know. Did you do it?" 

"What is it?" fretted Jo, standing up. "What's happened?"

"Don't play the innocent card," Shannon spat. "You know what you've done." 

"I don't- What's going on?" 

Fox sighed, and turned round in her chair. 

"Listen, Jo," she said gently. "Word in the Villa is that you kissed Rahim on your date."

So it is that. Why did the others not just say? 

"That's nonsense," Jo spluttered. "No, that never happened. I don't. I didn't. I never kissed him!" 

Fox turned back round on her chair, frowning. 

"Thanks for giving me the lowdown, Fox," Jo said. 

There was no reply. 

Lying is a bad move. 

"Did you kiss Ibrahim?" Shannon demanded. 

Graham clapped, completely missing or ignoring the atmosphere. 

"Nice one, Jo," he grinned. 

"Um," Lucas floundered as the silence stretched. "Rahim's a lovely lad." 

"I would never," Jo began. "I don't even-" 

"He's my lad, Lucas," Shannon was seething as she raised her voice, and Fox turned around in her seat again. "No one crosses…"

She trailed off as she met Fox's eyes. Graham looked confused. 

Heh, protective angel. 

"But you've only been together for like-" 

"Time is just a number," stated Shannon flatly. "Our feelings are strong."

"My bad…" Graham shrugged. 

"Oh I had no idea," scrambled Jo. "I didn't-" 

"Don't make the lie even worse!" spat Elisa.

"I'm not, I-" 

"I saw you, Jo-" 

When?

"-You kissed him." 

"That's rubbish! I didn't do anything like that, honestly."

This is fucking ridiculous.

"You can't prove anything!" yelled Jo. 

Lucas felt trapped behind the counter, and his temper was rising as everyone's volume had increased. 

Why should everyone else be held hostage in this drama?

"Uh maybe I could help?" Bobby said, and Fox turned round with wide eyes trying to signal him down. "I could mediate." 

Lucas put his hand on his shoulder, and spoke gently. 

"I don't think-" 

"No," Shannon cut across him with a snarl. "We don't need you right now."

"We don't want to spread this gossip any further," Hope snapped, chiding him. 

"I just wanted to make sure you girls were all okay," murmured Bobby, unhappily. 

Lucas glanced at Fox, and swallowed hard at the anger on her face. 

What does a Fox eruption look like? This is bad. 

"You need to leave," ordered Shannon. "The same goes for the rest of you guys."

"Why?" Graham bristled. 

"I can't have you stirring the pot and talking to Ibrahim before I've had a chat with him!"

"You haven't spoken to him about it yet?" Lucas groaned. "Then what the hell is all this about?" 

"No! I don't want to go accusing my guy until I know the facts." 

"You boys should go," Elisa joined in loudly. "There's too many cooks in this kitchen."

"Okay," Fox slammed her hand down on the counter as she stood, spinning round. "That's about fuckin' ENOUGH!"

The girls gasped, falling silent, as Lottie grinned in anticipation.

"Elisa," Fox began, in a voice that would not be questioned. "All Chelsea did was state the truth. If you didn't want everyone to know, then you should have talked to Shannon directly."

Elisa gaped.

"Shannon," his girl moved on, her accent broadening slightly. "I know you're upset, but you need to speak to Rahim. You're in a relationship wi' him, not anyone else. If you don't believe him, you need to work that out with him."

"Tha-" Shannon tried. 

"Jo," Fox continued, silencing Shannon. "The fastest way to resolution is always honesty. Nobody is entitled to your answers, but sayin' fuck all is infinitely better than lying." 

Jo nodded, and Fox picked up her glass, reaching her conclusion. 

I'm so in lo-

"This issue is between Rahim an' Shannon, and potentially Rahim an' Jo. Enough FUCKING arguing, go talk it out with the folk involved. We ALL live here and NOBODY needs to leave any room they don't want to. That said, I'm needin' some fuckin' air." 

She raised her glass. 

"Cheers."

Fox spun on her heel and walked out into the garden. The guys followed in awe. Lucas could hear the girls as he left. 

"You don-" Shannon was cut off by Lottie. 

"Nah, she's right. We're here for you and we'll support you, but either go speak to Rahim or get some space. This doesn't help anything."

There was silence, and then the door swung shut. 

Fucking hell!

Fox was sat on a beanbag, looking utterly relaxed if slightly embarrassed. 

"THAT was bloody magnificent," Graham grinned at her.

"Yeah, well," she shrugged. "They shouldn't have made Bobby sad." 

Bobby laughed and sank into a beanbag beside her. 

"Aww," he smiled. "You melt." 

"That was… amazing," Lucas beamed at her, sitting down. "I thought you were going to erupt and instead you just smacked everyone down." 

"That's how I erupt," she blushed. "It wasn't a bad one, when I'm really angry I get more and more polite." 

My girl! 

Bobby cackled as Graham raised an eyebrow.

"So less swearing?" the sailor asked, with a grin.

"Oh no," she shook her head. "That goes up a level. Swearing isn't impolite in my part of the world." 

Bobby fist-bumped her.

"Looks like Rahim and the other guys are on the roof terrace," Lucas squinted. "You think Shannon will talk to him? Or vice versa?" 

"Nope," Bobby sighed. 

"Y'know," mused Fox. "I think I preferred it when we got new boys." 

Lucas smirked. 

"And Chelsea," Bobby pointed out. 

"True!" 

"But Jakub," Lucus laughed. 

"Dammit." 

~~~

Graham had gone to see the rest of the lads, and Lucas had given Fox some space to chat with Bobby. 

His jealousy was very much present but he was doing his best to ignore it. The guy had seemed seriously down, despite his smile, and Fox was his closest friend in here. 

Eventually he saw the younger man heading inside, and it seemed like most of the Islanders had gradually drifted to bed. Fox walked towards him with her eyes sparkling. 

As the outdoor lights started to switch off, Lucas guided her towards the Villa before taking a left turn towards the day beds.

"A duvet?" she asked, raising an eyebrow and laughing. "I wonder how that got out here." 

"I maaay have moved around some things while I was giving you guys some room," he put his best innocent face on, and she playfully swatted his arm.

As she moved towards the bed he caught her in his arms, spinning her towards him. She put her hands against his chest in surprise, before sliding them round to his back.

He leaned forward and kissed her, dipping her backwards as he deepened the kiss. Without pulling back he guided her towards the bed and gently lay her down, holding most of his weight above her, and hiding them partly beneath the duvet. 

She dug her nails in lightly, raking her fingers up his back to tangle in his hair. He growled and broke the kiss only to press his lips in fluttering praise across her cheeks and nose. 

Fox giggled.

"You always surprise me, tiger," she said, amused.

"Well thank goodness," he laughed, brushing his nose against hers, "I thought it was just me being kept on my toes." 

She ruffled his hair fondly, and he leaned into her hand like a contented cat.

"Case in point," he murmured, "I've never let anyone else do that."

Her fingers froze momentarily as her eyes widened.

"Wait… you mean play with your hair? But I do that all the time!" 

"And I love it," he smiled reassuringly. 

Fox relaxed, and moved her hand round to the back of his head, softly petting as his gaze smouldered.

"So…" she hesitated briefly. "What's the difference?" 

Lucas looked thoughtful, as his hand drifted up to rest above her heart.

"The short answer is you," he smiled. "But the longer answer is that I always had to be in control before, and I mean really in control. I didn't want my hair messed up, and I didn't want to… have that vulnerability I guess." 

She smiled, her eyes shining.

"You are pretty fussy about your hair," she mused, and he huffed a laugh, "but I'm really glad you feel that comfortable being vulnerable with me." 

"I can't help it," he grinned, "but I didn't want to help it either. I'm not used to…" 

He trailed off, not sure of how much to say right then. 

"You've been surprising me since our first date," Fox murmured. 

"Oh?" he raised an eyebrow. "You mean the one you chose, or the one when I first arrived?"

"When you first arrived," she smiled, and he blinked in surprise, moving off to her side so they could talk easier. "I mean, that smoulder, oh my." 

Lucas smiled, as he thought back to the date.

I thought I'd flunked it.

"But as we were talking," she continued, "I realised the guy behind the smoulder was quite the dork and that was both intriguing and adorable." 

She kissed his nose as he blushed.

"Honestly, I thought I'd messed it up," he confessed. "When I'm in control, and y'know, 'smouldering', it often impresses. But when I get awkward… well. Different story."

He ran his fingers down and across her side as he spoke.

"Usually my cool side lasts longer," he dipped his head a little, cringing slightly.

"I'm glad it didn't," her voice was firm. "I love being with the whole you." 

His heart flipped in his chest, and he leaned forward to kiss her. She brushed her lips against his, teasing with her tongue, and he sank into her kiss. 

She lifted herself up to press against him, pushing him over and on to his back as he pulled her with him, growling. Running his hands down her sides he soon remembered just how short her dress was, tracing his fingers along the hemline.

Noises came from the Villa and Lucas realised not everyone had gone to bed. Fox broke their kiss and he whined slightly, frustrated by yet another interruption. She smirked at him, sitting upright as she straddled him, unbuttoning his shirt before grabbing his belt.

"Too many clothes," she purred. 

Ah, not an interruption then… 

He grinned, shimmying out of his trousers and boxers, before sitting forward, catching her in his lap. He kissed and licked up her neck as he unzipped her dress, and she pulled it over her head and out of the way.

There was a crash from indoors, and laughter. He froze and Fox stroked her nail along his jawline, obliterating the uncomfortable memory of the morning with scorching heat.

"We are so gonna get caught," he smirked, unhooking her bra and biting back a groan as she started moving in his lap against him. 

And I really don't care. 

He felt lightheaded with need, finally able to do what he'd been wishing for since that morning, since the morning before, since the many mornings ago that she'd left. He kissed her hard, unleashing all of his pent-up desire as she danced, rolling her hips.

She broke the kiss, gasping for air, before a look of frustration crossed her face. 

"Fuck," she sighed, "I didn't think that through". 

She started to lift off him and he tightened his embrace with a growl. She laughed. 

"I need to take these off, tiger," she pointed at her underwear.

"How much do you like them?" his voice was husky, and dangerous.

She met his gaze with a smirk.

"Not that much," she breathed.

He ran his hands down her body, stroking firmly as he went, sweeping across her curves. With his eyes still firmly on hers, he got to her underwear, and with a flick of his wrist and a quiet tearing sound, they were gone.

"Fuck, that is hot," she groaned, moving her hips again as his breath stuttered.

Lucas could feel her now, her heat and just how much she wanted him evident, as she rocked against him, making him moan as he kissed her. 

There were still noises now and then from the building but-

I really don't fucking care. 

His past self would have flipped them by now, taken control and exerted his dominance. Instead, he couldn't stop kissing her neck, her throat, her body, her lips.

Only her. 

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply, lifting almost entirely off of him and back again as she moved, dangerously close to him sinking in each time. He could feel her smile against his mouth, and his heart soared.

"How do you want me, angel?" he growled softly. "I need to make you feel good." 

She took his right hand and moved it down her body, where she wanted his fingers to work, and he smirked as he felt just how soaked she was for him. He dragged his fingers up against her in slow circles, her breath stuttering, and he moaned against her throat. 

"So fucking wet for me, beautiful."

She kissed him, deep and slow, and circled her hips making him gasp into her mouth. He was so hard against her, needing her desperately, but he wanted to drown her in pleasure first. 

His left hand danced down to her lower back, before massaging her expertly, increasing the pressure gradually in time with his other hand.

He changed his rhythm, finding the patterns that made her moan his name and tighten her body. She put her arms around his neck again as she arched her back from the pleasure of his massage, crashing harder against his fingers working her hard.

"Fuck, Lucas, I'm so close-" 

He growled as he kissed up her neck, feeling her lift up slightly and-

Fuuuuck 

"Fox…" he moaned as she sank herself upon him, realising that she had all the control as she lifted herself higher against him, preventing him from moving further.

She gasped, only letting him enter her so far, as his hands worked, and she clenched around him as he swore against her skin. He felt her start to tremble uncontrollably.

"Come for me, angel," he breathed against her ear, and she shattered with a cry, sinking fully down on him as she did. 

He yelled her name, senses totally blown by her climaxing around him and being suddenly inside her to the hilt, as she kissed him deeply, still moving against and around him sinfully.

Tangling one hand in his hair, she stroked his cheek, grounding him, and he rested his forehead against hers as she fucked him slow and deep, breathing soothing words until he came back to the surface.

He pulled her against him with a smile as she mewled in surprise, and gently rolled them so he was above her. 

Lucas kissed her hungrily before making both the kiss and his movements slow and sensual. She purred beneath him, her hands stroking him softly, and he poured all his emotions into her.

He didn't want to just fuck her, he wanted to-

He knew exactly how he felt about Fox and he was determined not to say those words. She'd given him a second chance, she'd forgiven him completely, but as far as he was concerned he still needed to make it right. He wanted to make sure she knew everything, every side of him, before he dropped those words and risked hurting her again. 

"Hey," she said softly, as his emotions threatened to overwhelm him. "I've got you, tiger."

He smiled, and peppered her face with kisses again, making her laugh. He didn't trust his words, instead moving his hand back down between them, kissing her body, her breasts, her shoulders, and he shifted the angle of her hips just slightly. 

Her pulse jumped in her throat as her breath stuttered, and he adjusted his position, increased the tempo of his thrusts, reaching deeper than before. As he moved his fingers more firmly, chasing her climb, he felt, he felt-

Everything

"Fox, I-" 

He cut himself off, burying his face in the crook of her neck as she broke around him, gasping his name. She held him tight, one hand petting the back of his neck, his hair, and the other holding him close as he trembled.

It's too much... I need… I-

He kissed her fiercely, groaning against her lips as he came inside her, everything getting blurry… 

~~~ 

"It's okay, baby…" 

Fox's soft voice was soothing him, as she stroked his hair softly, still holding him against her. 

He stiffened, panicking that he was crushing her, that he needed to-

"Don't move… it's okay, Lucas." 

His body relaxed instantly before his mind caught up. He was still inside her. His face felt damp. He was covered in sweat all over in fact. But there was cool air on his shoulders, and Fox's gentle voice guiding him home. 

Home? Her. 

He lifted his head from her shoulder to look at her, and she smiled, her eyes shining and her nose crinkled. With her thumb she wiped under his eyes tenderly. 

"Fox," he breathed.

"Hey you." 

"That's never happened before." 

"I know." 

He laughed shakily, as she nuzzled against him, kissing him softly, and after five or ten or some measure of minutes, he finally managed to extricate himself and flop onto his back. A brief moment and she was sat next to him again, smiling softly as she zipped her dress back up.

"We should probably sleep inside, tiger," she winked, and he grinned. "If I cuddle up here we'll never make it." 

He sat up and pulled her into a kiss. 

~~~

Chapter Text

"Hey." 

Lucas stirred sleepily, opening his eyes to see Fox crouched by the bed next to him, fully dressed. A jolt ran through him.

Deja vu? 

She smiled at him, and spoke softly. 

"The girls are off on a trip. Something about sun, swimming and-" 

He'd immediately stiffened, tension curling through him. The last time this had happened, she'd been gone for four days and he'd fallen to pieces. 

She interrupted herself mid-sentence, reaching out to stroke his hair. 

"It's just a day trip, tiger," she smiled reassuringly. "We'll be back this evening."

He untangled his arm from the duvet, drawing her close and leaning his forehead against hers. He collected his thoughts, and pushed his anxiety back down. 

"I hope you get some proper pampering," he murmured, "with minimum drama." 

She laughed softly. 

"Somehow I think the boys' day here will be more fun. But we'll see!"

He kissed her softly, hearing the other girls leaving.

"Have a good day, angel." 

"You too, tiger." 

She hurried off and he smiled despite the nerves still surging through him. He breathed deeply and tried to relax. 

~~~

"Lads, lads, lads!" 

The cheer went through the Villa as the boys whooped and celebrated. Lucas strongly suspected it was mostly because it meant the drama had literally left the building, and they could just enjoy the day without having to hide from screaming girls. 

He walked over to the kitchen after a lazy morning to refill his water bottle, as Gary came up behind him flicking the kettle on. 

"I don't know how one man can drink so much tea," Lucas grinned, and Gary laughed.

"Man's best friend down the docks! Plus I'm pretty sure it keeps me mellow." 

"Most of the time," smirked Lucas. 

"Hah! Fair. What about you though, you're pretty chill today." 

"What, with Fox being away?" 

Gary nodded. 

"I feel a lot more settled," Lucas explained. "Like after the mess I made, the least I can do is believe her when she says she chooses me, y'know?"

"Good stuff," the younger man nodded. 

"Not that it's completely gone, though. But reassurance goes a long way."

"Lottie gets a bit agitated about that kind of thing but I'm not the best at spotting it. She's definitely the person for me, but…" 

"It's more difficult?" guessed Lucas.

Gary nodded with a sigh, as he filled his mug.

"Want one?" he asked, and Lucas nodded, grabbing another mug. 

"I think that kind of thing is harder in here," Lucas mused. "There's a lot of extra pressure. But there's something to be said for just not being the boss." 

"You mean being whipped?" Gary smirked, and Lucas laughed. 

"Nah, just… not needing to always be in control." 

"Yeah, I get you. Trouble is, I'm already like that, or at least I think I am. I probably need to open up more with her, and that's really not easy for me."

"Oof, I know that song," Lucas pulled a face. "Honestly, I never managed that before at all. It'll maybe get easier with time? And when you're back with Lottie properly. She's a big softie under her shell." 

"Hah, don't let her hear you say that!" laughed Gary. "But yeah. I've never had a proper long term thing really. It's all new to me." 

"Snap," Lucas grinned. "I guess that's partly why we're here. Though the girls have more relationship experience overall I think."

"Yup, 'cause men are idiots." 

"I believe the term is doofuses," smirked Lucas, as Gary chuckled.

"Lottie is friends with a couple of her exes. Mind, so am I but they were casual things anyway." 

"Does it bother you?"

"Nah. Or, well…" Gary looked thoughtful. "I'd like it to not bother me."

"That's fair I think. I mean, I think that's something a lot of people have to work at." 

"What about you?" 

"Well, unsurprisingly none of my exes stayed in touch," Lucas huffed a laugh. "And the exes Fox still has as mates were either casual or not guys. Which shouldn't make a difference…" 

"No, I get you," nodded Gary. "Again, men are idiots. It's harder to trust a guy. A lot of my friends are women, and a lot of their boyfriends do not have a high opinion of me." 

"That does suck though." 

"Eh. My reputation will take time to catch up to who I am now. How Lottie will react is another matter."

Lucas considered for a moment.

"All you can do is be reassuring I think. And try not to take offence. If she's upset, it's not a sign she doesn't trust you, it's just her struggling with her own insecurity. At least, that's how it is for me." 

"You speak a lot of sense!" 

"Honestly, I'm just describing how it's been for Fox and me. And y'know, as guys who don't want to be complete wankers, it's worth remembering our partners have likely been through some awful stuff previously."

Gary nodded as Lucas continued.

"I mean, I've been an asshole in the past with sabotaging myself and breaking up with girls but… I know enough from my work, my colleagues, and the girls here to know that dating men is often fucking dangerous."

Fox has been hurt before, and finds it hard to trust men. And the thought of any guy hurting her… 

"Ugh, yeah," Gary sighed. "I've had to attend one too many breakups to be the safety buffer, or play the date interrupter, or change locks for mates."

"Yup," Lucas nodded, before shifting gears to lift the mood. "So you've realised that you'd already decided on Lottie then?" 

Gary laughed as Lucas gave his best shit-eating grin.

"Yeah, yeah. There wasn't that much doubt really. It's hard for me to figure Lottie out sometimes, but… she's more than worth the effort."

"I'm glad, man. You two make a good couple, and she's been head over heels for you since I arrived." 

"Really?" 

"Yes!" Lucas chuckled at Gary's shock. "Even Henrik worked that out within a day."

"Hah," the blonde laughed. "Well then. I'm well chuffed now!" 

~~~

Lucas walked outside stretching, only to see a large multicoloured foam monster run past.

"Wha-"

"POOL FLOATS!" the monster screamed in Bobby's voice as it jumped into the pool. 

"Mate, there's so many!" Rahim clapped him on the back. "C'mon to the pool!" 

The guys were busy chucking the floats about, finding the best ones. 

"I like the wee boat ones!" Bobby declared. "The log ones are fun to sit on too." 

After a bit of experimenting, and a lot of splashing, each man was perched on a float looking smug. 

"This is what it's all about," said Gary, grandly. 

"Is it?" Graham laughed. "I thought it was about ending up with the girl we really like!" 

Laughter broke out and Gary grinned. 

"Well, I'm pretty sure we know who I want to end up with," said Noah, and everyone groaned good naturedly. 

"Yeah yeah," said Bobby with a wink, "you and Hope, blah blah. What about you, Gaz?" 

"Lottie," replied Gary without hesitation.

"Really?" Rahim asked. "I thought you'd be torn between Lottie and Chelsea." 

"Chels is great, and I fancy her loads but… when I look at Lottie I see much more. A real future, y'know?" 

"I get you," nodded Lucas.

"I'm guessing you're set as well then?" Graham asked Lucas with a smile.

"One hundred percent." he replied firmly, aware of Bobby's eyes on him. "I've never felt this way about anyone before. She's my future." 

"That's amazing," said Rahim, genuinely, and Lucas grinned. "I don't even know who I'm gonna be coupled with next if I'm honest."

"You really like Jo then?" Gary asked.

"Yeah, a lot," he sighed. "But Shannon is a great person too… I don't have an answer at the moment." 

"Me neither," frowned Bobby. "I've made some amazing friends, that I absolutely want to stay in my life but… it just hasn't happened for me, I guess."

Lucas felt a stab of guilt go through him and he frowned internally. It's not like it was his fault, but he also couldn't pretend that he didn't see how compatible Fox and Bobby were. If he hadn't turned up while she was still with Rocco… he swallowed hard. 

"Well I'm set on Marisol for sure," Graham was saying. "She's incredible."

"It's definitely difficult for anyone coming in at this stage," mused Gary, "but I doubt we've had the last of the newcomers yet." 

"New girls would be good," Bobby grinned. 

"Mate, we literally just got two!" Gary laughed.

"Could be new boys next then," said Bobby, before putting on a pirate voice, "coming in to steal yer booty!" 

"Pfft," Noah snorted, "they'll have to fight through this fleet of Captain Noah to manage that." 

"Oh your fleet is it?" Gary smirked. 

"Avast King Garold!" yelled Bobby, crashing into his pool float. "Hand over yer booty!" 

Lucas laughed at the absurdity developing as grown men began steering their boat shaped pool floats into each other.

"You forget yourself Captain Long Bob!" Garold shook his fist. "Those who threaten my kingdom must answer to Sir Lucas Croft, raider of tombs!" 

"Why not Nathan Drake?" asked Rahim. 

"Who?" 

Lucas popped up at his side, wielding a pool noodle as a sword, and chaos rained. At some point he teamed up with Rahim, a skeleton pirate, after King Garold was sent to jacuzzi jail by order of King Graham. 

"That booty was mine!" Garold shook his fist dramatically, as he looked at the pile of pool noodles. 

"We must throw it over the waterfall at the edge of the world!" Skeleton Pirate Rahim declared. "It's the only way to appease the volcano!" 

"My booty!" yelled Garold. "You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!!" 

"You need another beer, Gaz?"

"Ooh, yes please."

~~~

The boys were sat on the beanbags idly chatting. There had been a unanimous decision that today was No Gym day, and they made the most of the opportunity to talk about movie villains, adventure golf, and all the other things various girls deemed 'boring'.

Lucas had grinned to himself as the boys had a little moan about the girls policing the conversation topics, knowing fine well they all knew Fox and often Lottie were exceptions. 

Just get Fox started on who the best Batman villain is again… 

Discussion soon turned to hopefully waiting for the girls to return. 

"I hope they're having a good day," Bobby said thoughtfully. "They could use it after last night." 

"Yeah," nodded Gary. "If they've spent today arguing…" 

He sighed.

I really hope not. One night was bad enough. 

They heard jeep doors slam from beyond the Villa, and ran to the front door to welcome the girls home. 

Oh my god, we're like pet dogs who've been left home alone all day. 

As Lucas enveloped Fox in a hug, he realised how tired she felt against him. Before he could say anything, a notification beep rang out, and she pulled away. 

"I got a text," Fox swiped on her phone. "Islanders, tonight you will enjoy a home-cooked feast prepared for you by one couple, chosen by our viewers."

"Awright!" yelled Bobby. "Pick me, pick me!" 

"Oh, I hope I get to make my spring salad!" Elisa added. 

Another text notification sounded and Fox read it out. 

"The couple preparing the meal tonight will be… Fox and Lucas." 

She blinked in surprise before meeting Lucas's gaze with a smile. 

"We got this!" he declared confidently. 

The Islanders swarmed indoors and headed to get ready.

~~~

Lucas leaned against the kitchen counter. He'd looked through the cupboards and fridge, and there was a wide variety to choose from. He was pretty handy when it came to cooking and he reckoned there were a few decent choices at different stress levels.

Fox had looked a bit drained when she'd returned, and he strongly suspected it had been a drama-filled trip. Not exactly the kind of day that made you want to spend ages in the kitchen cooking for everyone. 

"Damn!" he whistled in appreciation as Fox appeared. "That outfit is one of my favourites. You look stunning." 

She was wearing the feathery white dress she'd worn on her return from Casa Amor, the one night he hadn't been able to shower her with compliments. 

"You are too sweet!" she grinned, greeting him with a hug. 

"So, the kitchen's been fully stocked," he revealed. 

"Wow, so we have a load of options then?" 

"We can make anything we want," he smiled. "It's a big chance to impress everyone, but honestly I think they'll love anything. Are you much of a cook?" 

"Oh, I'm the best," she smirked, and he laughed. "I'm alright, though people always seem way too impressed." 

"Ace!" Lucas grinned. "I knew there was a reason I coupled up with you." 

"Oh, is that it!" she laughed. 

"I'm your sous chef then," he began before running through the options.

"Ooh," she said, stopping him midway, "something with prawns would be great. We were at the beach so I'm well up for some seafood." 

"Yeah, that'd be lush," he nodded. "Aiming high, angel, I love it." 

She laughed, and pulled out some other ingredients. 

"Let's make a sauce with parmesan, garlic and cream," she suggested. "Should keep the boys who eat like horses happy." 

"Wow, that does sound good," he smiled, impressed. "You're more of a great cook than an 'alright' one! This'll be amazing."

She blushed happily. 

He pulled a pot out the cupboard with a flourish. 

"Alright, I'm fairly sure I know what I'm doing here." 

"Is that so?" she asked cheekily. 

He put water on the stove as she rinsed the king prawns, murmuring to herself. He was pretty sure she was making them talk to each other about their impending doom, and he grinned.

"Could you chop those herbs and tomatoes, then the garlic for me?" she asked, pointing over at the board.

"Yup yup," he replied cheerfully, chopping fast. "What should I do next?" 

"Hmm," she mused as she worked, "how about giving me a shoulder rub?" 

"I love that idea," he drawled, coming up behind her and running his hands gently across her shoulders. 

She didn't seem to be finding the kitchen stressful but there was a lot of tightness, and he soothed those points as he massaged, earning himself some happy noises. 

"Yeah, you're holding some tension here…" he said softly, taking his time. 

"This feels amazing!" she purred.

"It's my pleasure. This is way better than cooking."

Fox laughed, adding the prawns to the water with a pinch of sea salt. He leaned against the counter casually. 

"I haven't even gotten to ask you yet," he said carefully. "How did the girls' trip go?" 

She exhaled loudly, pausing to answer. 

"It was stressful. Almost everyone had an issue with everyone else. Nobody knows where Rahim stands on things, and the whole 'gossip-sneezer' thing spiralled-" 

"Gossip-sneezer?" he asked, confused.

"It's a term Elisa is trying to make happen apparently," she rolled her eyes. "Chelsea is a gossip-sneezer for spreading gossip, despite the fact she was told it by Elisa. It's…"

"Ridiculous?" 

"Hah, yeah," she laughed. "Anyway, I had to step in and sort it out and now everyone is good. I think. Even Shannon seemed happy on the way back. We'll see how things go."

"Doesn't sound like a super restful day for you then," he said, sympathetically.

"It was on the beach at least," she smiled. "So after the drama, Lottie and I hit the sea which was bliss." 

"Good," he kissed her on the forehead, before taking the onions from her to chop.

"What did you guys get up to?" she asked, turning the prawns in the water. 

"Just guy stuff, really," he shrugged, distracted by a sudden onset of watery eyes. "These onions are vicious! I'm welling up. Isn't there meant to be some trick to stop onions from hurting your eyes?" 

"Top and tail them first," explained Fox, "then soak them in water. Helps a bit." 

She blinked rapidly. 

"Those are powerful ones." 

"How does your eyeliner always stay perfectly in place?" he asked, mystified.

"Oh, that," she waved a hand. "It's blowjob proof." 

Lucas snorted in surprise, narrowly avoiding chopping his hand. She chuckled. 

He threw the remaining ingredients in a pan with some oil, and the heat in the kitchen rose as they sizzled. 

"You know," he drawled, "it's kinda hot being in the kitchen together. Have you ever, y'know, in the kitchen before? I mean in the intimate sense. Obviously." 

Sigh, such smooth. 

"Oh I'm definitely a fan of the kitchen," she stepped closer to him. 

"Then why don't we get cooking for real?" 

Oh god why. 

She laughed at his line, lightly putting a hand on his chest. His heart thumped against her touch.

"Close your eyes," she murmured. 

"What are you going to do?" 

"Just do it." 

He closed his eyes, his eyelashes fluttering as his lips parted slightly. He swallowed hard, a tremble on his breath.

He could feel Fox's breath on his lips, and he panted in anticipation.

I can't take this… 

"Still here," she murmured. "This must be hard for you." 

He leaned forward slightly with a whine, but her hand pressed harder to his chest, stopping him in his tracks. 

"Down, boy," she purred. 

Fuck

"Please…" he begged, and her lips crushed against his, stealing his breath as her tongue danced with his. 

He pulled her close to him, kissing her fiercely as she alternated between deep and teasing, and he growled into her mouth. He was aware he needed to let them get back to it, but she let out a soft moan and he was done for.

Her fingers tangled in his hair as he bit her lip gently, and she made delicious noises against his tongue as he kissed her breathless. 

Hearing a tell tale bubbling sound, he stretched an arm out behind him, turning down the heat for the pot without breaking their kiss.

A few moments more and she moved away reluctantly, beaming at him. 

"Nicely done," she smiled, nodding at the stove.

"Gotta keep my boss happy," he grinned goofily as she turned and finished making the sauce. 

Lucas watched her work, his heart still racing from their kiss. Or rather, from Fox making him beg and from the kiss.

Hot damn. 

"It smells gorgeous," she said, sounding pleased. 

"It really does," he enthused. "I'm actually pretty impressed, we make a good team! You can tell when something's made with a bit of love, I think." 

He blushed.

"I agree," she stretched up and kissed his cheek. 

"I really enjoyed this," he smiled. "How did you like our first time cooking as a couple?" 

"Very much," she grinned. "It was fun!" 

He beamed at her. 

This really works. 

"Okay, plating up time!" 

~~~

"This is well fancy!" gasped Gary.

Everyone was sitting outside as Lucas and Fox appeared with the food. 

"I'll help!" Chelsea ran over to collect plates to serve. 

"This must have been a lot of work," said Hope, as all fourteen plates found their way to the table. 

"Wow, thanks so much you two," praised Rahim. 

"Yeah, thank you!" Noah raised a glass. 

Bobby asked what they were having and Fox smiled. 

"We've prepared king prawns with parmesan and roasted garlic cream sauce for you tonight." 

"Really? That sounds gorgeous," squealed Chelsea as Bobby looked impressed. 

"I don't like seafood, though," said Jo. 

"Oops, we didn't know that," said Fox with a frown. "Sorry, Jo."

Gary began extolling the virtues of big prawns, and everyone chatted happily as they ate.

Bobby rose to his feet grandly. 

"I'd like to propose a toast to Lucas and Fox, our culinary hosts for the evening!" 

"Thank you so much, you two!" Lottie cheered. 

"Lucas, you're a lucky guy!" continued Bobby. "Fox, you can do better!" 

Fox shook her head with a smile as everyone cheered before getting stuck in. She leaned into Lucas and squeezed his hand.

He swallowed down his anxiety, as the compliments rolled in. 

It was just a joke. But not entirely wrong. 

"It's really nice!" Marisol was saying. "At least one of you must cook often, Fox?" 

He answered before she could play herself down. 

"She is a great cook," he smiled.

"Too right," said Chelsea, "this is delicious!" 

It really is. 

"Aww, thanks everyone," Fox blushed. "Lucas did more than his share too, he was the perfect sous chef."

"Oh you," he grinned. 

Cooking is definitely the first time I've seen her play her own talent down though, that's interesting. 

"I was wondering how those power dynamics would work out," Marisol mused. "I'd learn a lot about a couple if I watched them in the kitchen. Was it a good couples experience?" 

"The pressure of having to cook for this many people could definitely be stressful," Fox answered, looking thoughtful. "But it was really fun!" 

"We were chatting about that too," he added. "We make a great team I think." 

"Very interesting," smiled Marisol. 

"Glad we have the Marisol seal of approval," he grinned. 

"You should be," she laughed. "It doesn't come easy." 

Lucas noticed Jo was eating the prawns quite happily.

But I thought she said… 

"So no distractions in the kitchen then?" Lottie asked cheekily. 

"You mean kitchen bits?" Bobby put his best shocked face on. 

"Kitchen bits!" laughed Graham. "That's perfect, Bob." 

Several Islanders started saying kitchen bits repeatedly as fast as they could. 

"Um, we got a little distracted," Lucas confessed. "But the head chef said she was all for kitchen bits."

Fox laughed, blushing, as Noah dropped his fork loudly. 

"So of course you had to get in some kitchen bits of your own," grinned Bobby, his eyes not quite meeting his smile. 

"That makes total sense, babes," Chelsea nodded.

"It was only a kiss," Fox stuck her tongue out.

"I still can't remember what song that reminds me of!" said Chelsea. 

"It's The Killers, babe," smiled Fox. "Y'know, 'coming out of my cage…'" 

The conversation was lost to the group excitedly performing an undoubtedly inaccurate rendition of the song. 

"Oh yeah," said Jo as the song ended, "we decided earlier on what Spice Girls we would be." 

"Which Spice Girl were you, Fox?" asked Noah. 

"Scary Spice is Lottie," said Chelsea, "Sporty is Jo, Hope is Posh, and Fox is Ginger!" 

"Because I could easily kill a man," Fox whispered to Lucas with a wink.

"You absolutely could," he deadpanned back. 

Why does Noah keep gazing at Fox though… 

"That sounds about right to me," Graham approved. 

"Sounds like you girls had a lovely time without us?" Gary ventured, looking to Fox. 

"We had some things to work through together," she kept her face carefully neutral, "but I'm glad it all got talked out." 

"I'm relieved," Rahim spoke up. "I was afraid there would be a lot of fighting about my date!" 

You cannot be serious. 

After a few beats of silence, Shannon spoke. 

"It's not like we didn't talk about that, babes." 

"Yeah," Chelsea chipped in, "Jo and Shannon fought about it almost the whole time." 

"Really?" Rahim's face fell. 

"Not about you, Rahim," said Lottie, carefully. "But about how to handle such situations." 

"We made up," Jo smiled. 

"And we also learned some of us have to think about what they say," said Elisa. "Even me, I guess." 

"Each of us is a different fruit," Chelsea announced, "but you never want to be the grape, you know?" 

What? 

"Exactly," nodded Gary. 

Lucas blinked in confusion. 

Rahim made a stumbling apology about not handling the situation well, explaining that he struggled to find his words when it was most important. 

"So, uh," he continued, "Jo and I did kiss on our date. It was unexpected, but it happened. I wish I had handled it better, and talked about it with both Shannon and Jo. I'm sorry to both of you." 

The girls accepted his apologies with a little awkwardness, as Fox sighed in relief. 

"I'm really glad you came out and said that, Rahim," she smiled. "It takes courage to be direct, with all these emotions at stake." 

"It takes confidence too, mate," added Gary. "You've really grown."

Rahim beamed at them both. 

"Some big decisions coming up for you, eh, mate," Graham said carelessly, as Shannon frowned. 

Sigh

"What else happened on the girls trip?" Rahim asked preemptively. 

"Fox really stepped up to help us clear the air," said Lottie. "So not only did she make this gorgeous dinner tonight, but she saved the day, too." 

"Lottie also helped out with the peacekeeping," Fox deflected, and Lucas moved his chair closer to put his arm around her.

She leaned into him gratefully.

"Tired?" he whispered, stroking her arm.

"Shattered," she smiled.

"Bed soon," he promised.

"Fox?" someone asked. 

"Mmm?" she stumbled, having tuned out of the conversation. 

"Girls are guessing what we got up to today," Gary grinned. 

"She'll never get it," Bobby winked, and Lucas knew without a doubt he was deliberately pinging her competitiveness. 

He smiled as she sat up straighter. 

Bingo! 

"I think Fox knows you guys quite well by now, so this should be good," he smirked. 

"I'll bet the boys were airing their fantasies," she declared after thinking for a moment, and Lucas grinned with pride. 

"What do you mean?" Lottie asked, confused. 

"Y'know," she waved a hand, "letting their imaginations run free." 

"I mean yeah, pretty much," Noah said, impressed. "Fox is right." 

"Wow, do tell," demanded Elisa. 

"Sit back, and let me tell ye a tale, lassies," Bobby began, and the other boys joined in as they revealed their afternoon adventures. 

Lucas contributed as Fox relaxed against him, listening.

"You guys are too cute," she smiled. "It sounds great though, I'm a bit jealous!" 

"It's so pure!" Lottie agreed. 

"I love men who are secure enough in themselves to be playful like that," added Elisa. 

"Oh em gee, same," Chelsea nodded. 

"Never be such a big man you can't have a good laugh with mates, you know?" grinned Gary. 

A loud beep erupted near Lucas's hand. 

Jesus christ!

"Oh!" Fox jumped, half at the noise and half at his startled reaction. "I got a text!" 

"Fox and Lucas, congratulations on treating your fellow Islanders to tonight's meal. Tomorrow night, the boys will choose who they want to recouple with, and the public will decide who picks first."

Lucas relaxed, and pointed at Fox with a wink. 

"I already decided," he smiled, and she grinned back.

"I'm ready, personally," said Hope. 

The Islanders chatted a while longer under the stars.

"Bed?" Lucas whispered to Fox, and she nodded with relief.

"I think I'm going to turn in," she announced. "I'm super tired."

"No wonder!" Chelsea chirped. "You worked hard, go get your rest."

Lucas stood, with a smile.

"And I'd best tuck you in," he said.

"That tomb raider sure is a gentleman," Gary grinned. 

~~~

Fox came out of the bathroom in her cropped pjs, yawning, and Lucas smiled softly as she got into bed. He held the duvet up for her to climb under, and she snuggled up to him happily. 

As she lay her head on his chest, he ran his fingers through her hair and held her close.

"This is the most relaxing thing," she murmured. "Your heartbeat is so calming." 

"It's usually racing when I'm around you," he smiled. "Today was a lot, huh? I never want to hear the words 'kitchen bits' ever again." 

She laughed against him. 

"Today was a lot," she agreed. 

"Was the place you went today far from here?" 

"Actually no, it was only about a ten minute drive. It was a wee cabaña on the beach with its own pool. Lots of sangria. Bombay mix for my favourite goth. Pampering supplies. And the sea! Best bit."

"That sounds pretty amazing," he kissed her hair.

"Yeah," she sighed. "It was just the arguing that wasn't. I don't understand people who love drama. But it's mostly sorted now…" 

She trailed off, uncertain.

"Mostly?" he asked, gently. 

She exhaled, unhappily.

"There's people who like drama, and then there's people who can just be… kinda mean?" 

"Mean to you?" he growled slightly, and felt her smile against him. 

"I don't want it brought up," she clarified, and he murmured his acknowledgement. "But during all their arguing, Jo accused me of a few things when I was just trying to calm things down. I didn't even realise she had a problem with me." 

"What was she saying?" 

"She implied I'm an attention seeker, and outright said that I'm a people-pleaser, and that I want to steal Rahim for myself."

"Wow, what?" Lucas snorted. "That's ridiculous, and out of order." 

That might be what shook her confidence this evening, but I think she's also maybe feeling safer to lean on me… 

She gave him a grateful squeeze. 

"That's what I thought. But at that point I just wanted everything to be done with. And once it was I just enjoyed the rest of the time in the sea with Lottie, and laying in the waves."

"Hmph," he sighed. "Well I'm glad you had that at least. Once we're out of here we can go have some drama-free days at the beach." 

Fox lifted her head up and turned to look at him with a huge smile.

"Yeah?" she asked, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

"Of course, angel," he kissed her forehead. "Hell, we can live at the beach if it makes you happy." 

Whoops-

Her eyes crinkled with happiness, and she lay down beside him, turning towards him. 

"You are the best," she said, sounding incredibly happy.

And I absolutely would, for that smile alone. 

He smiled, his heart fluttering. He reached out and tenderly stroked her face, and she leaned forward, kissing him softly. 

As she pulled back he frowned suddenly. 

"Argh, I've got an itch on my shoulder blade, right where I can't reach." 

"I can get it," she laughed. "Hang on." 

She reached over and traced her fingertips across his back. 

"There! It's right there," he said. 

Fox raked her fingernails into his skin firmly and he groaned in pleasure. 

"Ohhh, that's perfect. Now I know why you girls pay so much attention to your nails." 

"You didn't think it was for the aesthetic, did you?" she asked. "Every time I get them done, I'm like 'Mm I can't wait to use these claws on some dude with an itch who's too lazy to get it himself'." 

He snorted in amusement. 

"What would I do without you?" 

"Perish, probably." 

"Most likely."

He smiled as she yawned suddenly, setting off his own yawn which made her yawn again. 

"I think that's our sign to get some sleep now," he smiled. 

"Mmhm," she agreed. "It's too easy to stay up late talking to you. You're a terrible influence." 

He grinned as she turned over and settled into his arms. 

"Sweet dreams, angel," he murmured softly. "If I start stealing all the duvet, just give me a kick. But, you know, a gentle kick."

"We'll see," she joked, sleepily. "Night, tiger." 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke just as the first light of morning was starting to creep in. A quick glance around the room confirmed everyone else was still fast asleep.

A few minutes later he felt Fox stretch against him as she stirred, and he stroked her arm gently. She turned to face him with a warm smile.

"Today should be an interesting day," he said softly.

"Mmhm," she nodded. 

"Feels like the others are starting to think about life outside the Villa already." 

"Unlike yourself of course," she stuck her tongue out cheekily and he grinned, remembering his declaration to live on a beach with her if she so desired. 

"What's the first thing you'll do when you get back home?" he asked. 

"You think I'm going home soon?" 

"No, I think you and I could win, actually," he smiled. "But we'll all be leaving one way or another, right?" 

She nodded. 

"The first thing I'll do when I get home…" she looked thoughtful. "Pounce on you, if I'm honest." 

Lucas laughed, quietly. 

"So you're taking me home, yeah?" 

"Imma squish you in my suitcase," she grinned.

"I'm more than okay with that," he smiled, "though maybe not the squishing part."

"It's gonna be weird," she said sadly. "I like waking up next to you each morning."

His heart thumped in his chest as he stroked her cheek.

"I'm serious, angel, " he murmured. "One way or another, I want to be with you. Be sleeping in the same place as you." 

"Yeah?" she looked at him intently. 

"Yes," he said firmly, and she smiled.

"Good." 

She leaned forward and kissed him. He sighed happily when she pulled away. 

"For my part," he said, "I feel like I've learned a lot here. I didn't come here expecting to find The One, necessarily. But then I met you. And now, I'm starting to think more seriously about the future."

And I am definitely asking about us living together before this is all over, in the right order. 

Fox smiled at him brightly, and he gathered his courage. 

"What are your thoughts on marriage and kids? I mean, is that something you see in your future? Or want, I mean." 

Eep

She laughed softly, running her fingers along his side.

"Just the small questions then?" she smirked, and he relaxed with a smile. "Marriage isn't something I'm necessarily against, though I never really thought it was for me. I dunno, my thoughts might be changing on that. But I really don't like the whole wedding thing, not for me. It's so much money, and drama, and about other people, and just…"

She gestured with her hands. 

"Impersonal?" he suggested, his mind still racing at her words about thoughts changing.

"Exactly," she smiled. "And as for kids…" 

She bit her lip nervously, and he gave her arm a reassuring squeeze. She took a deep breath.

"I don't want kids," she said, dropping her gaze. "I like kids, I get on well with them. I even worked with them for a while, and they're the most interesting people. But I've never wanted kids of my own and I definitely don't see that changing." 

She had tensed up a lot, and Lucas leaned forward, kissing her forehead.

"Ditto," he said, and she looked up. "I've never wanted them, much to my family's disapproval."

Surprise and relief mingled on her face.

"It's usually a deal breaker question," she murmured. "And while I figured you weren't the broody type, guys never expect me to not want kids, even if they're not sure themselves." 

"Yeah, I get it the other way," he nodded. "Though it's not the same in terms of pressure, but people still don't believe me. I'm relieved!" 

"Ditto," she mimicked him with a grin, as she relaxed again. "I kinda just like having pets, y'know?" 

"Pets are good," he agreed. "Especially cats and dogs." 

"I've always wanted a dog but I love cats too. Both would be great!"

"I like that plan," he beamed. "And as for marriage, I was never really sure it was for me. But the idea of running off together sounds pretty sweet." 

She laughed.

"You gonna propose then, tiger?" she winked, and he burst out laughing.

That joke would have scared the crap out of me from anyone else before now, I'm such a melt. 

"Cheeky," he grinned. "Anyway, not to get all serious on you this early in the morning."

"I doubt we're the only ones who've been talking about life after the Villa. Two of the girls sleeping in this room might not be here tomorrow." 

"Oh yeah," said Lucas, surprise in his voice. "I hadn't realised that. I was just thinking you're not in any danger. I'm selfish like that." 

"I'll allow it," she smirked. 

There were rustling noises coming from the other beds as people began to stir. 

Fox moved closer to him, and whispered even more quietly. 

"I'm guessing this recoupling will go more smoothly?" 

"Yeah," he nodded. "I can't say all the guys are decided, but there are no overlaps at least." 

Shannon's voice suddenly broke through the quiet. 

"I didn't say I wanted her to go home!"

"Mm… good morning," Noah's voice rumbled out, quite probably trying to distract from the outburst. 

"Has everyone been awake, whispering all this time?" Lucas laughed, sitting up in bed while Fox yawned beside him. 

"I might have been whispering, but I wasn't awake," announced Chelsea.

Nope, it's way too early to try and understand Chelsea logic. 

The lights flicked on, and there were groans from a few beds.

"Good morning," chirped Bobby, "to everyone except the scops owl who kept waking me up last night." 

"Scops owl?" Gary asked, confused. "Is that some kind of nickname for Hope, now?"

"What is a scops owl?" asked Hope. 

"It's a local species of small owl with a loud, distinctive call," Bobby explained. 

Fox sat up in bed, looking curious. 

"Oh, I've been hearing that!" cried Hope. "I thought it was an alarm." 

"Yeah, it sounds like… Twuu! Twuuuu, twuuuuu!" 

"We get it, I think!" said Lucas. 

"Wow, Bobby," said Fox, sounding impressed. "You really do sound like a scops owl." 

"You know what a scops owl is?" Lucas asked, bemused. 

"Yeah, I was mad on birdwatching when I was a wee kid." 

"Aww, cute little dork," he grinned, as Fox stuck her tongue out in reply and laughed. 

"I thought it was something Bobby made up," said Graham.

"Y'know, I should really take offense that you all only believe it when Fox says it," Bobby pouted. "I can't believe no one else heard it last night!" 

As it turned out, a few other Islanders had heard it, and Lucas was pretty sure this was the most times he'd heard the word owl said first thing in the morning. Or ever. 

"I can't believe that was an owl!" Jo said loudly. 

"Where?!" Elisa jumped from half asleep to standing by her bed, spinning in panic. "Get it off! Get it off!" 

"There's an owl?" asked Lottie. "Wicked!" 

Elisa jumped to stand on her bed, gathering her duvet off the mattress. 

"No, where is it, get it out, I don't want any owls, go owls, out!" 

Fox slid down the bed back under the duvet to hide her laughter. 

"Oh, Elisa, babes," Hope soothed, "there's no owl in here." 

"Oh, thank goodness!" Elisa sighed in relief, sitting on her bed. "Well, I'm awake." 

"Bobby was just doing an owl sound," explained Jo. "Because of the real owl that's been outside." 

"That makes sense." 

"Now I've heard Bobby's mating call, I've heard everything," Gary laughed, turning to Fox. "Is that how they do it up your way?" 

She grinned, sitting back up. 

"Nah, we just don't have as many daft city folk," she replied cheekily. 

"You know, Gary," said Bobby, tilting his head, "your bed head looks like some ruffled owl feathers."

Lottie cackled. 

"I used to say that same thing to Hope," Noah said. 

"Aww, babe…" Hope melted. 

"That's… such a specific coincidence," Bobby looked perplexed. 

"Morning looks are all about the bedroom eyes, if you ask me," Rahim piped up. 

"Definitely," nodded Chelsea. "I purposefully don't wash my eye makeup off before bed so that I can wake up with that smoky look." 

"If I do that I wake up looking like a panda," Fox sighed. 

"But I thought your eyeliner was blow-" 

Lucas cut himself off quickly as Fox grinned at him evilly. 

"Fox," he said quickly, "sexiest morning thing, go!" 

"Hm, I think it's sexy slowly waking up naked in bed with someone," she bit her lip at him and he smirked. 

"Totally. In clean, soft sheets."

"Exactly," she purred, and cuddled up to him. 

And doing it every morning, with the same person perhaps... 

"Aw, I just realised this will be our last time waking up together in this exact group," said Jo. 

"Yeah," Shannon nodded, "there's a recoupling tonight…" 

"But right now, it's still the morning isn't it?" Bobby jumped out of bed. "Why worry prematurely?" 

"All I'm thinking about right now is breakfast," said Gary. 

"Good shout, Gary," Bobby grinned. "We should have breakfast in bed, to make this morning memorable." 

"I'll help bring things through," Lottie got up. "It's the least I can do, after Fox and Lucas served that fab dinner last night." 

"I'll help too," said Lucas, turning to Fox. "What would you like, angel?" 

"Ooh, I could go for some pastries this morning if we have them," she said dreamily, sitting back with a happy sigh. 

"Sure, if you love to sleep on a bed of crumbs," Noah grumbled. 

"Who's going to be sleeping?" said Bobby, cheekily. "Er, because we'll be starting the day right afterward, I mean." 

"Also, you could just not drop crumbs," said Lottie. "C'mon, Lucas!" 

She headed for the kitchen. Lucas jumped out of bed and followed, stretching his arms. 

"This is amazing!" Lottie called through. "There are tons of pastries today!" 

The two of them went back and forth to the kitchen, delivering breakfast as everyone chatted enthusiastically, getting dressed for the day. 

"Hey!" said Lottie, stopping by Fox. "Oh my word, that bikini is to die for. Literally, could you leave that for me in your will?" 

Lucas looked up, seeing that his girl had changed into something dark blue, sexy, and definitely goth-approved. 

"You got it, babes," Fox grinned. 

As he finished bringing food through, Lucas struggled to follow the conversations, but it was something about… 

More birds? 

"Why does everything have to be about birds?" complained Elisa. 

"Twuuuu!" cried Bobby. 

"No! No, where is it?!" 

Lucas shook his head as he made his way back to bed, sitting on the edge with a smile. 

"And for the lovely Fox…" he passed over a plate with a croissant and some jam, letting his leg rest against hers as he did. 

He gave her a wink before settling into bed next to her. 

"Mind if I sit here?" 

She laughed, playfully. 

"Hmm, I suppose you may," she drawled, "as it's not a truly luxurious breakfast in bed experience if I don't have someone to feed it to me." 

He laughed. 

"You are a demanding customer, aren't you? Alright…" 

He smeared some jam on her croissant and held it out for her to taste. Fox leaned forward to take a bite, but instead her lips found his finger. 

He swallowed hard as she ran her tongue teasingly across his skin, and his heart thumped loudly as he met the smouldering look in her eyes.

From playful to predatory, holy shit. 

"Delicious," she said innocently. 

"I'm glad you think so," he smirked, his eyes sparking with excitement as she licked her lips. 

"I could get used to this. I feel like a queen." 

"Does that make me your royal attendant?" 

"Too right," she laughed. "I'll have you sort my crown out next." 

"What an honour! Thank you, Fox!" 

"That's Queen Fox to you!" she gasped, outraged. 

"Of course," he grinned. "I'm so sorry your highness." 

Fox descended into a fit of the giggles. 

"Oh em gee, you two!" called Chelsea. "Get a room!" 

Lucas looked round, realising by the number of raised eyebrows that their moment hadn't exactly gone unnoticed. 

"We're just messing around," he blushed. "There's nothing… inappropriate about it."

"Then why are you blushing, babes?" Chelsea laughed, making him blush even more. 

"Alas," said Fox, raising her hand to her forehead dramatically, "my subjects are revolting." 

He laughed, relaxing back beside her as Chelsea giggled. 

"You know what would make this a perfect morning?" said Jo. "Cartoons!" 

"Oh, I love that!" Rahim agreed. "I've definitely done morning cartoons over breakfast." 

"Can't beat the classics," said Fox, not fully paying attention as she spread her croissant. "Batman of the Future is the shit. And X-Men of course." 

"Oh man!" cried Rahim excitedly. "Batman of the Future was my jam. It was called Batman Beyond in the US which is how you can find it online now." 

As Rahim spoke, Lucas saw Jo's face darken. 

Uh oh. 

"I don't know," Jo frowned, "I think the cartoons made right now are far better." 

"It's definitely a lot easier to get hold of anime now," Fox mused. "Your One Punch Man-" 

Rahim gasped in delight. 

"Tokyo Ghoul and so on." 

"Wow, Fox," enthused Rahim, "I didn't know you watched anime too!" 

Jo narrowed her eyes. 

She's seeing competition where none exists. No wonder she accused Fox of wanting to steal Rahim, ugh. 

"Yeah, I-" 

Lucas nudged Fox as surreptitiously as he could, and she looked up to see Jo glaring at her. Jo looked away quickly, still frowning. 

"-I mean," Fox coughed, gaining time, and he could see her thinking quickly. "I love Bojack." 

"Hmm, that's really not my thing," Rahim shook his head. 

Jo looked triumphant.

Bloody hell. 

It wasn't lost on Lucas that Jo's behaviour was extremely familiar to him. He frowned to himself, realising that he'd often been no different when his jealousy got out of control. 

"Are these cartoons for kids?" Shannon asked, blankly. 

Hope began talking about how a cartoon tie-in could be good for the toy company she worked for. Fox sighed in relief as the conversation rolled away from her and on to hobbies in general and she was able to finish her breakfast. 

Lucas cringed slightly as he realised the conversation was now subtextually about how Shannon wasn't interested in Rahim's hobbies. 

"Thank you," Fox whispered, and Lucas kissed her forehead. 

"Don't you think it's important for couples to share interests, Fox?" asked Noah.

She blinked in surprise, then looked thoughtful. Shannon spoke out first. 

"Professional interests matter, but hobbies?" 

"I don't know if you have to be into the same things as your partner," Fox said carefully, "but it's important to support their interests, and feel like they support yours." 

"You can be supportive without wanting to hear about something all the time, too," said Shannon. 

"But it's better when you can talk about things, isn't it?" Noah asked.

Fox nodded, reluctant to be dragged back in. She cuddled up to Lucas instead, and he wrapped his arms around her. 

No wonder she gets worn out in here at times, bloody everyone has passed authority to her.

The Islanders were now discussing the mix of hobbies and interests between them. 

"What would you enjoy the most, Fox?" asked Rahim. 

"Anything with Lucas," she replied, lifting a lazy thumbs up. 

Lucas grinned. 

"Yeah, but doing what?" asked Noah. 

"Introducing him to my friends for starters," she said. "Not that couples need to share friends, but they're a protective bunch and I know they'll love him. Oh, and gaming of course." 

Lucas squeezed her happily. 

Wanting me to meet her friends is pretty huge! 

"Wow!" said Lottie. "Already thinking about taking him home to your mates, eh?" 

"I am very show off-able," he smirked, striking a pose and flexing a bicep. 

"And so modest," Fox chuckled. 

~~~

Lucas had finished clearing up and stepped outside into the sunshine. He lay down near the pool, planning on letting his breakfast digest before he did his lengths. 

He'd been informed by Noah that the bedroom was off-limits as Hope wanted to speak to Fox. 

Bit weird. 

Suddenly, Hope came bursting out of the Villa, running straight at him. 

"Hey! Lucas!" she yelled. "Guess what!" 

"What?" he sat up, confused. 

"Fox was just telling me-" 

Fox interrupted, appearing beside Hope and looking slightly bewildered herself. 

"I was just telling her about the recoupling tonight." 

"Oh, really?" he asked, still confused. "Um, something I should know?" 

What's happening? 

"Actually," said Hope, "maybe I'd better let Fox tell you herself." 

What's happening?! 

Hope backed away, and Fox sat down next to him with a sigh. 

"Everything okay?" he asked, trying desperately to stop his anxiety flaring.

"It's all good, tiger" Fox smiled at him reassuringly, and he started to relax again. "Hope was asking who I wanted to pick me at the recoupling tonight. I said you, obviously, and then she took off yelling that she was going to tell you." 

He laughed. 

"Well, it's a huge surprise to me of course!" 

She grinned at him.

"Hope likes to have chats with me before recouplings," she mused, "and I kinda suspect it's mostly so she can reassure herself I'm not after Noah." 

"Jesus, does every girl in here think you're after their man?" 

"Ugh, you get used to it," she sighed. "It's the name of the game here after all. I get it back home too, as a lot of my friends are dudes. Can be a red flag when people I date try and forbid me from seeing my pals."

Lucas nodded in sympathy. He might struggle with jealousy but he drew the line at trying to control anyone. 

"I grew up with brothers," she shrugged, "and I like geeky stuff and sport. Plenty of my non-dude friends do as well, and plenty of the guys don't. Gender stereotypes are ridiculous." 

"Bobby seems to get it the other way," said Lucas. "Though I've got to admit that seeing Jo earlier reminded me a lot of myself. Jealousy is a lot harder to recognise from the inside." 

And of course, I'm struggling with Bobby lately but that's mostly because he DOES have feelings for you… 

"At least you have recognised it," she smiled, "and you're working on it. Jealousy is a normal emotion, it's just what you do with it that matters." 

"Yeah, that's true," he mused. "And not communicating is definitely not the way to go. Speaking of communicating…" 

He lay back on the grass relaxing, and she lay on her side, beside him. 

"So, recoupling stuff, huh?" he began. 

"Mmhm?" 

I know this, but I need to just… check? Get reassurance. 

"This is absolutely definitely what you really want?" he asked, only slightly nervous. "This is probably going to be one of the last recouplings before we're all going home. It's a big decision."

"It's just…" he continued, hesitantly. "Am I really the one? Not just the 'he will do'? Like Bobby said last night, you could do better than me…" 

He saw her eyes soften with understanding at his last words, and she gently stroked his cheek. 

"One hundred percent," she said firmly. "You're the only man for me. There's only one person I want to pick me tonight, or any night, and that's you." 

"Good," he said, sighing in relief. "Because there's only one person I want to pick, and that's you. And you're serious about this? I mean, do you think we could go the distance? It's one thing to like someone in here, and another to carry over to a proper relationship on the outside..."

He was trying to get all his thoughts out in one go, and she listened patiently. 

"I mean, you're probably the most fun, outgoing person I know. You're kind, and sweet, and funny. You keep me on my toes in the best possible way. You're like…" 

He grasped for the right words. 

"You're like sunshine. And I could really do with more of that in my life. So if I pick you tonight, am I just picking you for tonight, or is it a step towards our future?" 

That's it, that's it all out there… 

Fox leaned closer to him, and ran her fingers under the chain he wore around his neck. She pulled it slightly as she answered, her eyes intense and sincere. 

"I'm serious, tiger. Very serious. We have something bigger than this place, and y'know, I thought I'd clicked with people before. But it was nothing compared to how I feel with you."

He smiled, his eyes shining as she continued. 

"My feelings won't change when we leave here. Not even when this is a distant memory. I don't know what my life will be like after this, but I do know that I want you to be there with me."

My heart's gonna burst

"And, Lucas," she pulled his chain a little harder, making his heart thunder in his chest, "I could not do better than you. You're mine. That makes you the best." 

She leaned forward and kissed him, softly at first but increasing in passion. He pulled her on top of him, deepening the kiss, trying to pour all his emotions into her, to show the strength of his feelings.

Yours

He tangled one hand in her hair, the other running along the bare skin of her back, and her fingers around his chain slid up to rest on the very bottom of his throat, above his collar bone. 

Yours, yours, yours. 

Growling into the kiss, he felt her grind her hips where he pressed hot and heavy against her. Her movements were teasing and he whined as she kissed his breath away. 

She pulled back and laughed at the goofy grin on his face, at odds with his blown pupils. 

"Such a tease," he smirked. 

"But I always deliver… eventually." 

She winked and made to get up. 

"Uh, you might not want to get up straight away," he blushed, holding on to her. "I don't really want the world seeing Lucas Number Two." 

Fox snorted with laughter. 

"I'm not sure me staying will fix that problem either," she smirked.

Lucas thought for a moment, before holding her firm against him, stretching one arm out behind him, and pushing himself into a flip that landed in a crouch before standing with her wrapped around him.

"Okay," she gasped, "that was impressive!" 

He grinned, and charged.

"OH YOU-" 

Fox was cut off as he launched into the pool, letting her go when they hit the water. 

"-fucker!" she spat water out, laughing. 

"I'm gonna pick you tonight for sure," he smiled, as she splashed him in revenge. 

"Yeah?" she joked, knowing fine well that was always the plan. 

"Yeah! I actually can't wait. You'll be there, looking all beautiful, as always. And I'll be like, 'I choose Fox!'" 

"Bliss," she smiled, shaking the water from her hair. 

She threw her arms around him, and he slipped back, laughing in surprise. 

"Careful!" 

"I'm just so happy!" she said with excitement. 

"Me too!" he laughed, spinning them in the water. "I can't wait for tonight."

She kissed him softly, and his heart sang. He pulled back, running his fingers down the side of her face, and was caught by the intensity of her gaze. For a moment he saw real vulnerability shining at him. He swallowed hard and she smiled, leaning her forehead against his.

"You make me really happy," she murmured.

"Good," he smiled, his voice husky. "You make me really happy too, angel."

And that wasn't just reassurance, that was all her. 

She kissed his nose and left him to do his lengths, and several underwater dances of celebration. 

~~~

Chapter Text

"Guys, I got a text!" Noah yelled from the lawn. 

The man was like a human foghorn. Lucas hauled himself out of the pool and strolled over. 

"At tonight's recoupling, one girl will get to choose who she wants to recouple with. She'll also get to make her choice before any of the boys. The lucky girl will be chosen by a public vote." 

"One of us gets first pick!" gasped Jo. 

"I hope it's me!" Hope yelled. 

When is it not? 

"I bet they vote for one of the new girls," mused Lottie. 

"You think?" asked Lucas. "I'd put money on Fox." 

He winked at her, and she smiled. 

"I'm just gonna close my eyes and hope for the best, no matter what," she said. 

"I guess you're right," Lottie nodded. "There's not a lot we can do about it from here, anyway." 

"C'mon, let's go and get ready," said Elisa. 

The Islanders headed indoors, with Lucas, Fox, Gary, and Lottie lingering.

"Okay," smirked Lottie at Fox, "but who do you really think it'll be?" 

"New girls are a good shout," she pondered. "Elisa is a wildcard. But really it depends on who's been saying what at the beach hut I'd guess."

"Or it could be straight up popularity," Gary added. 

"It seems a bit meaningless with most folk decided anyway," shrugged Lucas. 

"Yeah," Fox nodded. "The only use for it is either if Elisa picks, or I suppose any of the bi girls if they wanted to pick a girl rather than a boy." 

"I thought that was just you and Marisol?" asked Lottie. 

"No, there is another."

"Skywalker?" Lucas smirked. 

"Huh?" said Lottie, as Fox grinned. 

"We'll find out soon enough!" Gary shrugged. "Let's go look fancy." 

As they headed indoors, Lucas touched Fox's arm softly, and she turned to face him. 

"I won't keep you, angel," he smiled. "I just wanted to make sure you're feeling okay about tonight.

"Aww," she gave him a hug. "I'm excited, tiger. I can't wait! And it's precisely because you are keeping me." 

He laughed, and kissed her hair. 

"Damn right."

~~~

The atmosphere in the bedroom was relaxed as the guys got ready. After all the drama of the last recoupling, a week ago, this one looked set to go to plan. 

Lucas felt the familiar flickers of nerves but it was butterflies of excitement rather than any growing anxiety. His afternoon conversation with Fox had helped to forestall any of his usual last minute insecurities, and he smiled happily as he fixed his hair. 

"Ugh, I hate this bit," Gary was hovering, looking both excited and slightly ill.

"This is where you get Lottie back, man," said Lucas cheerfully. 

"Yeah, but it means dropping Chelsea," he sighed. "And she'll be fine but it still doesn't feel good, y'know?" 

"Yeah, I get you," Lucas sympathised before lowering his voice. "She and Bobby could make a good pair." 

"I hope so. I feel like I've gone through more girls than anyone else." 

"This one wasn't your fault though, you're just fixing the disaster recoupling that happened." 

"That's true!" Gary smiled. "I guess it's just…" 

He trailed off and Lucas turned to face him properly.

"I don't really know what to expect," the blonde sighed. "Like, obviously I know Lottie wants me to pick her. But I don't know where our relationship actually is at?" 

"That's stressful for sure," Lucas nodded. "But you've got time to figure it out… Just show her how happy you are and that'll go a long way I think." 

"Yeah. Yeah! Okay, let's do this!" 

"We all good, lads?" Noah's voice rumbled out.

"Yup!"

"Hell yeah." 

"Aye aye captain!" 

"Then let's rock," he said, heading for the door. 

"Y'know, you're supposed to become a dad before using dad phrases," Bobby grinned. 

"Let's be real, Noah is pure dad energy," laughed Gary, as they walked across the lawn. 

Lucas thought back to Hope revealing how much she disliked kids, and cringed a little. Maybe they could work past that, but it was a big issue that they both held very firm opposing opinions on. He wasn't sure that everyone banging on about how they had the perfect relationship was making for a very healthy couple. 

He shoved those thoughts from his mind as they all sat round the fire pit, and watched the girls arrive. 

He saw a silver-clad Fox smouldering at him and he smirked, his heart racing. She smiled and he was sunk, smiling back goofily while trying to look cool. 

"If there was a prize for best outfit today," he drawled, "you'd win it for sure." 

Yes! Smooth. 

"I don't think there is though…" 

Why do I not shut up! So close. 

She smirked at him and he grinned. 

A text notification rang out, and Graham jumped to his feet. 

"That's me," he said. "The results of the public vote are in. The girl who gets to choose who she would like to recouple with is… Marisol." 

Well that changes nothing. 

Lucas felt a small flicker of relief as the one unknown variable of the evening was unveiled. Marisol stepped forward and with a short speech, chose a beaming Graham. The group clapped as they sat down. 

"My turn," Noah stood after another loud beep. 

Another short speech, and he picked Hope. Bobby did his fake gasp, and laughed. 

So far so good! 

Lucas's phone beeped in his hand, and he stood. 

"I'm up now," he said, sounding a little nervous. "Okay, this might not come as a huge surprise to anybody, but it's still a big deal to me."

Fox smiled at him encouragingly, and he beamed. 

"Because in the time we've been coupled up, this girl has really changed the way I think about my future. As in, before, I didn't know she was going to be part of it. And now I hope-"

He paused. 

"I know she will be. The girl I want to couple up with already knows who she is. Fox. I choose, Fox."

He caught her in his arms, enveloping her in a hug. He held her tight and kissed her forehead, and as they moved to sit down together he realised she was flicking away some stray tears. 

Putting his arm around her, he intertwined the fingers of his other hand with hers.

"You okay, angel?" he whispered, as the rest of the recoupling continued.

She nodded and met his gaze, her eyes looking huge in the firelight.

"I'm just really, really happy," she smiled, blushing. "I've gone all soft!" 

He chuckled and held her close. 

"I won't tell anyone," he murmured, and she cuddled into him.

Gary had chosen Lottie, with the blonde grinning next to his very happy looking goth, and Rahim stood up. 

"I've given this a lot of thought," he began. "I mean, we're getting towards the final stretch now. So I think it's really important to know what you're looking for. You know, long-term." 

The silence was so deep, Lucas hardly dared to breathe. It felt like everyone was holding their breath. 

"That's why I'm choosing this girl," Rahim continued. "Because she makes me excited for the future we could have together. So the girl I want to couple up with is… Jo." 

Wow. Can't say I'm too happy about that. 

As Jo strode into his arms, there were widened eyes all round the circle. Shannon frowned, suddenly looking very alone. 

A final beep announced it was Bobby's turn, and he stood, looking uncomfortable. In front of him Chelsea, Elisa and Shannon were waiting, with only one of them able to be saved.

Lucas felt Fox tighten next to him.

"He'll pick Chelsea, I'm sure of it," he whispered, and she squeezed his hand. 

Bobby made his speech, saying if it was up to him of course he'd keep everyone. But he had to pick, and his choice was Chelsea.

Lucas sighed in relief, and he felt Fox relax against him, still a little tense. 

As the girls went to help Elisa and Shannon pack, and the guys headed to the front door, Fox squeezed his hand again.

"I'll catch up with you in a minute, tiger," she smiled, and as he looked behind her he saw Bobby was still sitting at the fire pit, looking pretty upset.

"Just yell if I can help," he nodded, and watched her walk back to her friend.

He swallowed his anxieties, and went indoors. Walking through the Villa he saw the lads were already standing outside the front door. 

"So you made your decision in the end," Gary was saying to Rahim, as Lucas joined them.

"Yeah," the golfer nodded. "I was trying to be logical about it all, but I had to go with my heart, y'know?" 

"Good for you," Graham clapped him on the back. 

As the other girls poured out the front door to wait and say their goodbyes, Fox and Bobby rejoined them. He still looked a bit down, but not nearly as sad as before.

Lucas felt his angel squeeze in next to him and he smiled, putting his arm around her. 

Elisa and Shannon emerged from the Villa with their suitcases. 

"Bye, everyone!" chirped Elisa, as she went around air-kissing everyone. "I'm so, so sad we didn't get more time to get to know each other. The last few days have been just the most special, amazing time. I'll never forget a minute of it. And it's all thanks to you lovely people. I'm gonna miss you." 

She came to a stop in front of Fox. 

"I'm especially going to miss you, Fox," she said, sadly. 

"Bye, Elisa," Lucas could just make out the note of surprise in her voice. "I'll miss you too." 

"Aww, you melt!" the vlogger grinned. "Don't let the pain distract you from Lucas." 

She took the handle of her suitcase, gave one last wave, and walked off down the drive.

"I'm so confused," Fox whispered to him. 

Me too. 

Before he could reply, Shannon spoke. 

"My turn to say goodbye, I guess. I can't match Elisa for speeches, but I really am glad I got to meet you all! So, um, bye. Take care of yourselves." 

Everyone said goodbye and Shannon reached for her suitcase before pausing, looking straight at Jo with narrowed eyes. 

"Actually, there is one thing I wanted to say before I go. I wouldn't be leaving at all if someone hadn't gone and coupled up with my partner. 

Uh oh. 

"Shannon-" Rahim was cut off as she held up one finger and he immediately backed down. 

Jo glowered. 

Shit. 

"All I want to say is," Shannon smiled, "it's cool. I came here to play the game, and I got outplayed, fair and square. 

Oh. Hooray! 

"So you're not angry?" Jo sounded doubtful. 

"I mean, it's not ideal for me, obviously. But the main thing is, I hope you and Rahim are happy together. I've always said we get what we deserve in here." 

Fox raised an eyebrow, before quickly looking neutral again. 

Ha! 

"Oh! Right," stumbled Jo. "Thanks."

"Thanks, Shannon," said Rahim, softly. "I'll miss you!" 

Lucas tried very, very hard not to glance at Jo. 

"I'll miss you too, handsome," Shannon smiled. 

She turned and walked away, following the path Elisa had taken. 

"Well, that was nice of her," Rahim smiled sadly. 

"I wonder if she really meant it," frowned Jo. 

"I think she was being sincere," said Fox, quietly. "It was nice of her to let her guard down like that."

Jo scowled, and began screeching. 

"So in her natural state, she's super laid-back and cuddly?" she spat. 

What the fuck? 

Most of the group had raised their eyebrows in shock at her sudden angry volume, and Lucas glared as he prepared to snap back, but Fox answered in the same calm and quiet voice.

"That's stretching it," she dismissed the notion, "but I think we just got to see Shannon's sweet side."

"That's so nice," said Rahim, before Jo could reply. "I'm glad she made an effort to leave on a positive note." 

Jo looked away, her face still angry. Lucas gave Fox a reassuring squeeze, swallowing his own anger. 

"Let's head back into the garden," Bobby said, Lucas noting his narrowed eyes at Jo just before his expression changed to something more Bobby-like. 

And if Bobby doesn't like you, you've definitely fucked up. 

As they walked back through the Villa, he saw the younger man make for the roof terrace. 

"I'll be back in a minute," he said to Fox. "I'm just going to check on Bobby." 

She smiled at him and wandered out onto the lawn as he hit the stairs. 

~~~

Bobby was sat slouched on the seat, and gave Lucas a nod as he sat along from him.

"You doing okay?" asked Lucas.

"Did Fox send you?" 

"Nah, I just thought you seemed a bit out of sorts." 

Bobby looked at him and smiled. 

"I appreciate that," he said genuinely. "It's just been a tough night. It was sort of easy mode for everyone else, but the final decision on who went home was down to me."

Lucas nodded in understanding. He knew how much Bobby hated people having to leave, much less feel like he was responsible for it. 

"And Chels is great," he continued. "I really like her as a pal y'know? But it's hard going through that and knowing at the end of the day, I'm still playing this game all wrong. It's not supposed to be Friend Island." 

"I'm sorry, man," Lucas sighed. "I think people maybe take your optimism for granted a little. You shouldn't feel like you need to hide away when you're struggling."

Bobby exhaled heavily. 

"It's not that simple," he said sadly, his eyes on the floor. "And as much as I like you, I can't really get into the reasons why with you in particular." 

Ah. 

There were a few moments of silence as Lucas worked out how to proceed.

"Well…" he began, "I'm pretty sure I already know at least one of the big reasons."

Bobby looked up guiltily, and Lucas smiled in reassurance.

"Honestly," he continued, "I'm just glad you don't hate me. I can't say I'd be capable of the same if it was the other way round. You're handling it a lot better than I would." 

Bobby laughed, but without much humour.

"Yeah, but that's just it. I dunno how much longer I can handle it. I think it'd be different out of here… this place makes everything more intense. Or maybe it's just her…" 

He trailed off, before looking up more intensely.

"I'd never try anything," he said firmly, tensing up. "I'd never upset her like that." 

"I know," Lucas nodded. 

"You do?" 

"Yeah. My jealousy is a pain, but she thinks the world of you. And I know you'd never hurt her."

Bobby started to relax again.

"It's just…" Lucas paused, thinking. "It's okay to think about your own wellbeing as well. If you need some space or whatever. Just be honest about it, because everything does get amped up and twisted in here, and I know how much she cares about you." 

"I'll think about it," Bobby smiled weakly. 

"Good," Lucas stood, and headed for the stairs. 

"Hey," said Bobby, "thank you. I appreciate this. You're a good pal." 

"I try," Lucas smiled at him. "Get some rest, and go easy on yourself, yeah?" 

"Yes, doc," Bobby grinned, genuinely, and Lucas smiled to himself as he headed for the kitchen.

Lucas 1 Jealousy 0!

~~~

"Hey, man," Rahim greeted him as he approached.

"Sup?" asked Lucas, watching him pour drinks. 

"I was gonna take drinks over to Noah and Fox on the day beds." 

"Oh, I can do that if you want?" 

"Yeah? That'd be great. I should really go find Jo." 

"No worries, it gives me an excuse to go see Fox."

Rahim left, thanking him, and Lucas poured a third glass before grabbing the two already done.

One in each hand, and one... balanced. Smooth. 

Approaching the day beds, he could hear Noah's distinctive rumble. 

"-I thought you were going to say, 'I'm over Lucas'. I was like, yikes! That was quick!" 

Uh, what? 

"Ha!" Fox laughed. "As if. I'm not looking to take him back to the fire pit for a do-over." 

Damn right. 

Noah laughed, a lot. 

Hmm.

"We don't really get enough-" 

Noah looked up and saw Lucas strolling over. 

"Hey guys!" Lucas smiled, trying to hide his wariness of Noah. "What's going on over here?" 

"Nothing much," Noah rumbled.

Lucas saw Bobby walking past, on his way to bed. It seemed like most people were heading in that direction. 

"I bumped into Rahim in the kitchen and offered to bring these out to you. I told him I needed an excuse to come and see Fox."

"Aww," Fox smiled, happily. "You never need an excuse to come see me, tiger." 

He kissed her on the cheek, then handed a glass each to her and Noah. 

"Cheers!" said Lucas. 

"What should we toast to?" Noah asked, looking to Fox. 

"We should toast to me and Lucas," she said, and Lucas grinned. "It's been a long week, but all's well that ends well. And this day has ended well for us, at least." 

"To Fox and Lucas!" Noah raised his glass. 

I cannot work this guy out. 

"It's getting pretty late," Noah stretched. 

"Yeah, I guess it's bedtime soon," said Fox.

"Actually, I was going to suggest…" Lucas smiled at her. "Angel, do you want to come up to the roof terrace with me? For a bit of quiet time. Just the two of us."

"That sounds perfect," her face lit up, "and super romantic." 

"Great," he put his best smoulder forward. 

"Have fun, you two," said Noah, a tad flatly.

~~~

Lucas led Fox by the hand up to their favourite retreat. It was quiet and peaceful, definitely a sign everyone had gone to the bedroom. 

"You never see this many stars at home," he said, slightly awestruck as he looked up at the sky. "It's breathtaking. It's like the whole universe has come out just to see us." 

"I've definitely got some places to show you back home, city boy," she smiled teasingly.

"I'd like that," he said softly, as he reached out and fixed a stray bit of her hair that had made a break for it. 

His hand lingered on her cheek, and she stroked her hand down his neck, before tracing down the inside of his shirt, by the undone buttons. She hooked her fingers into his shirt, and pulled him closer, pressing a gentle kiss to his mouth. 

He smiled against her lips, and moaned softly, wrapping his arm around her waist.

Need to get comfortable. 

Lucas chucked some pillows down on to the floor and angled some blankets to give them cover. He sat down, pulling her close and sighed happily, his body finally relaxing again. 

"I'm glad we came up here," he murmured. "It could be a good chance to… you know. Be alone. Together. If you get my meaning." 

Not smooth. 

She smirked in amusement, and he ran his fingers down her arm, making her shiver in pleasure. He knew without a doubt that his eyes were dark as sin, as he smouldered his gaze intensely. She swallowed hard as he winked, enjoying the effect he was having on her. 

"You're so bad," she purred. 

"You don't know the half of it," he said with a growl. "But isn't that what makes it fun?"

Her eyes darkened, and his breath caught in his throat. She pushed him firmly onto his back, surprising him, and he groaned as she pinned him beneath her, with his arms held down at his sides. Leaning over, she ghosted her breath on his lips before purring softly in his ear. 

"The badder the better." 

Fuck

"I've met my match, haven't I?" 

"You'd better believe it," she growled, licking up the shell of his ear. 

Jesus christ. 

She drew her hands up his arms, tangling one hand in his hair as she kissed him deeply. He wrapped his arms around her, pressing them tight together, feeling both their hearts racing. 

Fox traced her other hand down his chest, making short work of the remaining buttons and teasing her fingers beneath his waistband as he growled softly into their kiss. 

As she undid his belt and trousers, she began to move down his body and he caught her with a kiss.

"You don't have to-"

She cut him off with a bite to his neck that made him groan, as her hand teased his straining length through the material of his boxers.

"You mean," she purred softly into his ear, "you don't want to see me wrap my lips around your hard cock-"

He moaned, brokenly.

"-and have you fuck my mouth until you cum down my throat?"

"Fuck!" he pulled her into a bruising kiss, struggling to hold on to any semblance of control.

"Tiger, you're delicious," she murmured with a smirk, before resuming her way down his body, kissing his taut muscles, her hot breath ghosting closer… 

How can such a sweet voice be so fucking sinful? 

She pulled his trousers out the way, and brushed her lips across the hard shape of him, through the fabric and he hissed in pleasure.

Lucas had shifted onto his elbows so he was no longer lying down flat, and realised with a start that this time he was in fact going to see her as she-

Fuck, I'm not gonna last… 

She freed him from his boxers, her hand firm as she got rid of his clothes, and seeing that he was watching, gave him a cheeky wink as she ran her tongue from base to tip-

"Fuck," he moaned softly. "So fucking gorgeous…"

She wrapped her lips around him, tongue swirling as his brain short circuited, her other hand squeezing gently below, keeping him under her command. 

His hand was in her hair and he couldn't remember putting it there, but he was sliding into her inch by inch and her eyes met his and she was-

-vulnerable and predatory at the same time, so goddamn beautiful, fuuuuck

Her tongue felt bloody magical, and as she moved and started increasing the pressure, he realised he wasn't in control of what he was saying and moaning - half praise, half filth, full devotion - and she smiled against him, edging him into her throat.

"Fox! Shit! I- Oh god-" 

She swallowed and gagged and his eyes rolled back into his head as the pleasure rammed through him, but a split second later in panic he was pulling her up and off, even as her lips kept worshipping him as she grudgingly let him go with a pop.

"Angel, fuck," he gasped, "don't- don't want to hurt you-" 

Fox grinned at him ferally, licking her lips as she pushed him back down.

"Relax, tiger," she purred, "just gotta adjust for size…" 

This girl is going to kill me-

Her eyes were black and aflame as she reached for him again, bracing herself and swallowing him down completely in one go. 

"FUCK!" 

He couldn't take his eyes from her as she started a new pace, light teasing movements to short bursts of pressure and deep swallows down her throat. 

The need to pleasure her had been burning him up, but seeing her grin, her enthusiasm, her need to pleasure him, he was completely undone. 

"So fucking good, baby, fuck. You're amazing, I-" 

His hand tightened in her hair and he didn't mean to but she immediately obeyed, moaning around him and moving faster. What little control he had left was being chipped away as he started to thrust into her and she growled her approval, encouraging him.

Deepthroating had never been a thing for him before her, he'd never trusted a partner enough to believe they really enjoyed it, and it had always been about his control. He realised through his haze of pleasure and want and need, that this was also how much she trusted him, and a shock of happiness ran through him. 

She let him fuck her mouth hard, and he could feel her moan around him, her other hand loosening, and he was definitely-

"Angel, I'm so fucking close, I-" 

He wanted to be inside her but he didn't want to stop either, and she swallowed him harder, moaning softly in her throat against him as he swore.

He yelled her name as he came, fighting to keep his eyes on her, to burn the image into his mind, and he could swear he saw her smirk as she gently finished, giving one last cheeky wink.

Lucas pulled her towards him as he sat up, collecting her in his lap as he kissed her fiercely, his tongue chasing the taste of himself mixed with the taste of her, and he growled possessively, as if he'd claimed her. 

He pulled back, framing her face in his hands and brushing a stray piece of hair back. 

I must look fucking wrecked. 

"You could tear me apart," he breathed, and she wiggled in his lap cheekily. 

He could see the joking response form on her lips but all that came out was a wanton moan as her breath stuttered, and he realised with a start that she was very much not wearing underwear, that she had definitely enjoyed that, and that he was very soon going to be ready for round two. 

His fingers found the zip of her dress, and she pulled it up and off in one fluid motion. He had her bra off in a second, as she made short work of his shirt, and he wrapped his arms around her, feeling her hot against his chest. 

When he met her gaze again, her eyes were devastatingly intense and he swallowed hard, sweeping his hands across her back, as he kissed her neck, her shoulder, her collarbone, her chest, her breasts…

He moved his fingers down against her, where she was soaked for him, and her claws dug into his back, making him moan.

"I do like this solution to the underwear problem," he growled, deeply. "If I'd known that earlier we'd have got here a lot sooner." 

She huffed a laugh that turned into a whine as he dipped his fingers under her, feeling her grind against his hand. 

"I'm really glad I got to choose you tonight," he said softly, as his fingers teased and drew circles against her. "Honestly, I think I would have died a bit inside if someone else had snapped you up. But I'm not going to think about that right now. I don't want to think about anything. I just want to be right here, right now, with you."

With his last words he curled a finger inside her and she gasped, kissing him deeply.

"Yours," she murmured, her eyes blazingly intense and vulnerable at the same time. "Always."

Oh god-

His heart banged in his chest as he added another finger, his thumb tightening in pattern at the same time, and she whimpered in pleasure. He stroked her face with his other hand and kissed her tenderly, lavishing her with gentle praise from his lips, tongue, and fingers.

She was trembling and starting to pulse around his fingers, and he held her tight, murmuring praise in her ear.

"So good, angel. So beautiful. I've got you. Always."

"Lucas-" 

She shattered against him, but kept grinding as she moaned, repeating his name as her hands gripped his back and pulled slightly at his hair. He met her gaze again, and her eyes were so deep and bare and-

This is… this is everything. 

"Can I be inside you?" he murmured, his thumb gently pressing against her again, and she immediately clenched around his fingers.

"Yes," she purred softly, "please, please…" 

Fuck- I don't, I can't say it yet. I have to let her be sure. But it feels like… 

He withdrew his fingers as her breath stuttered, and shifted himself beneath her, lining himself up.

It feels like-

This time she didn't take the lead, letting him be gentle, but as he pushed inside her she kissed him deeply, and as he worked his way into her she ran her nails down his back, hard.

He growled in pleasure, obsessed with her love of marking him as her own. She began riding him properly, and he snarled as she shifted her angle slightly, making her even tighter around him. 

She leaned her forehead against his, bracing herself on his shoulders, and he moved his hand back down her body, circling where she was still sensitive as she gasped in approval.

In no time at all she was trembling again and he lifted his other hand to the side of her neck, framing her face as he met her gaze. Her eyes were almost completely black, her lips thoroughly kissed, and her hair in disarray from his frequent pawing.

"So beautiful," he praised softly, and he immediately saw the softer, more vulnerable angel looking at him, making him swallow hard, as his fingers moved faster, stuttering her movements.

"Lucas," she was repeating his name like a prayer as she soared, and his mind started to lose focus as she got tighter around him.

I've never… no one has ever looked at me like this. I think she-

"Come for me, angel," he moaned, and she snapped, her back arching as her hands went to his hair, and he desperately held on as long as he could as she came hard in his lap.

She scratched down his chest and he was done for, tumbling into his own climax and kissing her wildly to stop his moans being heard across the entire Villa.

He held her tight in his arms as they both sucked in air, and he laughed softly as she began kissing all over his face.

"Angel kisses," she smiled, her eyes sparkling at him. 

"My favourite kind," he beamed, unbelievably happy that she was staying in his arms. 

They stayed entwined together under the stars, kissing softly as the Villa slept. 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas had stopped the others from waking Fox that morning. They'd been up late, and it had been a long day. She looked so cute and relaxed sleeping, he figured an extra hour wouldn't hurt.

He felt like he had way too much energy, and the other Islanders looked on in amusement as he ran laps round the garden. 

Last night was definitely something worth celebrating. He was feeling more secure and settled than he ever thought possible, and his happiness was in overdrive. 

He hit the gym then had breakfast with the others before returning to the bedroom with two steaming mugs. He crouched down beside her, and softly stroked her cheek. 

"Fox…" he said softly. "Wake up gorgeous." 

Her eyelashes fluttered as she stirred, before doing her usual adorable cat-like stretch. She opened her eyes, and smiled at him sleepily. 

"Morning, sleepy head," he smiled. "I made you a cuppa." 

He passed the mug with the handle towards her, making sure a half-awake Fox didn't end up hurting her hand. 

"Mmm," she murmured, sitting up and taking the mug with a smile. "Thanks, tiger." 

She took a sip as she glanced around, blinking in confusion. 

"Wait… did I oversleep or something?" 

"No, don't worry, it's not that late," he reassured her. "You just looked too cute asleep, and I figured you maybe needed a lie in after last night's recoupling. It was pretty intense."

As was what came after… 

He settled down in bed beside her, cradling his mug and sipping carefully, trying not to bounce with energy. 

"I'm so glad we're, like, solid now," he rubbed the back of his neck. "I know I didn't make things easy on us, angel, but I'm so happy we're together." 

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, making him smile happily.

"It'll be so cool when we're out of here and we actually get to do real life couple things," he grinned. "Meet each other's friends and take turns doing the washing up. I can't wait!" 

She laughed at his excitement, and he stroked her hair, looking thoughtful. 

"When we get out I'd love to take you on a date," he smiled. "Your favourite kind of date, whatever that is." 

"Oh yeah?" 

"Yes! Where would be your total dream date?" 

"Hmm," Fox looked thoughtful. "I really like going to galleries and exhibitions, or out dancing. Ooh, or escaping into some amazing scenery, and just being the only two people there…" 

She trailed off dreamily. 

"You're a woman after my own heart," he beamed, with only a little surprise. "Art and dancing are both things I love, and I reckon my bike could help us escape everyone else. Maybe find a nice cabin, a log fire…" 

"Oh my god, if I could do the Homer Simpson drooling noise I'd be doing it right now!" 

He laughed, pleased. 

Cabin with log fire it is… 

"What about location?" he asked. "And we're talking dream scenario here, angel, no limits." 

"I'm probably supposed to say Paris," she mused, "where I would love to go back to, but if we're talking dream location it would have to be Finland and anywhere in Scandinavia. I've always wanted to go."

"Yeah?" he smiled at the unusual choice, and she nodded enthusiastically. 

"My favourite artist and writer was Finnish. And a lot of Scandinavian culture filtered into Scotland…" 

She blushed a little. 

"The northern lights would be spectacular from there too," he grinned. "And there'd be loads of fascinating places to check out. I like it!" 

That's our first overseas trip sorted, and then maybe Paris after that...

"Do you have any dream dates?" she asked.

"I'd love to go to an adult ball-pool bar!" 

"Oh my god," she burst out laughing. 

"We could play hide and seek in the ball pool pit, but I'll actually lose myself and won't be able to find the surface, so you'll have to swim to my rescue. And then someone will probably step on my toe and then you'll be guided by the sounds of my cry out from pain. Then because we're such a loveable couple… "

He trailed off, grinning as Fox collapsed into a full on giggle fit. 

"You are adorable when you're excited, tiger," she smiled once she stopped laughing. 

"I'm glad you think so!" he laughed, stretching his arms out. "Whatever happens on the outside, I just want to spend my time with you. I honestly don't mind what we do or where we go… as long as it's with you." 

"Aww," she cuddled into him, purring happily. 

Gary and Lottie wandered into the room. 

"I swear I saw it in here last, honey," Lottie said, rummaging through the drawers. 

"What are we looking for again, Tee Tee?" asked Gary. 

"My water bottle!" Lottie started throwing her stuff out the drawers. "Let's go check down in the kitchen, honey." 

"Um, what just happened?" asked Lucas with raised eyebrows. "Did they just call each other honey and… Tee Tee?" 

Fox laughed at his confusion. 

"I guess we're not the only ones using pet names," she mused, "though I'm struggling to guess where Tee Tee comes from… last syllable in her name, or her tea leaf reading maybe?" 

"Hah, well it's not like people would get mine I guess," he laughed. "I've never been called tiger before." 

"What else would I call a large powerful beast with a mesmerising and intense gaze that growls when he catches his prey?" 

Fox looked innocent, and he smirked, puffing up his chest a little. 

"Oh, so it's unique to me then?" he asked. 

"Of course," she said, putting her mug to one side. "I've never met a tiger before you." 

Rawr. I am glad. 

"That makes sense," he said, his eyes sparkling. "I never met an angel before." 

"Really?" she sounded surprised.

He put his mug down and turned towards her, stroking her cheek. 

"You were just so sweet, and shining," he smiled. "I felt drawn to you, and I couldn't explain it. When you kissed me during that challenge, when all the drama happened… that night you were wearing silver sparkles that were dazzling, especially in the fire pit where we talked."

She was listening, captivated. 

"And then the day and night when we had our date and became a couple properly, when you picked me, you were wearing white. Every time you wear white, you look like an angel. I don't know if you remember, but early on you joked I was the devil standing in front of you. And every time you wear red, it's like you've descended into hell to save me." 

She kissed him, running her fingers through his hair, and he could feel her smiling into the kiss. When she pulled back a little, she rested her forehead against his, her breathing shaky.

He realised she had teared up a little, and wrapped his arms around her.

"My angel," he murmured, holding her tight.

"You've made me all soft again," she whispered, and he laughed softly. 

"This might sound bad," he said quietly, "but I've never felt settled enough in a relationship to choose or use a pet name for someone before. In a weird way, it's a pretty big deal for me."

"Then I'm very honoured," she smiled, pulling back to look at him. "And I'm definitely gonna stop leaking from my eyes at some point…" 

He grinned, and kissed her nose. 

"Let's go down and show our faces," he said, energy still buzzing through him. "I'll wash your mug up if you're done." 

"I'll be there in a bit," she laughed, getting out of bed. "I've gotta go dry my face first! And, uh, get dressed." 

"I don't think anyone would mind seeing you au naturel," he winked, smiling at her giggles as he left. 

~~~

Lucas was washing up in the kitchen when Graham and Gary came through, deep in conversation.

Gary broke off with a grin as he spotted his friend. 

"Lucas! Exactly the man we need."

"Yeah?" 

"How many Alien films are there, and how many Predator films?" 

Lucas looked round to see Gary and Graham both staring at him intently. 

"I'm guessing the two of you disagree on the number?" he smirked. 

"Just answer the question," said Graham sternly. 

"Okay, give me a minute," he started counting in his head. "Six Aliens, four Predators, and two cross-overs." 

"Aha!" Graham looked triumphant.

"No wait," said Gary, "does that mean six Aliens or eight?" 

Lucas considered his options, then grinned evilly. 

"Both." 

"Fair do's," Gary laughed. "Coming to sit in the sun?" 

They headed to the loungers, where Lottie was already chilling with Bobby, Hope and Jo. Lottie had constructed handmade fans, and she fanned Gary who appeared to be suffering a bit in the extreme heat. 

Fox appeared with Noah and Rahim, and she came to sit next to him with a smile. Rahim winked at Fox, and Lucas raised his eyebrow. 

"A cloud!" Gary was pointing at the sky. 

"Ha!" Lucas snorted. "It looks like the aubergine emoji. Which looks like a-"

"We're aware of the shape of that emoji," Lottie cut him off, "Thank you, Lucas. 

He smirked as Fox laughed beside him. 

Graham suddenly sat bolt upright. 

"Did anyone feel that?" 

"Feel what?" asked Lucas. 

"That!" Graham looked at his hand. "I swear I just felt a raindrop." 

Several people swivelled to look at Fox or Bobby. 

"We're not flippin' Nessie!" she laughed. "I can't predict rain." 

"The Loch Ness monster can predict rain?" Lucas asked. 

"The Loch Ness monster doesn't exist," tutted Hope.

"How very dare you," Bobby gasped. "Slander! Blasphemy!" 

I'm pretty sure predicting rain is a wind up though, I need to ask again later. 

"It's not going to rain," Hope said firmly. 

Jo looked over at Noah. 

"What were you guys chatting about?" she asked. 

"Nothing, nothing," he shrugged. 

"So you, Rahim and Fox were all busy chatting about nothing?" she frowned. 

"Yup," said Noah. 

Not another Jo eruption please. 

Lottie changed the subject swiftly. 

"I hate sitting still," she announced. 

"I'm the same," Lucas nodded. 

"Especially today," Fox grinned, watching him drum his fingers on his thigh. "I like it every now and then. Keeps me sane amongst being busy all hours."

"Same here," said Hope. 

"I felt it again!" Graham grumbled. 

Fox looked up at the sky with a frown. 

"Hmm," she said so quietly only Lucas could hear. 

He looked up as well. It did… feel different? 

"It's not going to rain!" said Hope loudly in exasperation. 

"Looks like it's just you, Graham," said Gary smugly. 

"I don't know, hun…" Lottie was looking up. "Our resident fox is looking ready to run."

Bobby grabbed his stuff. 

"Yeah, that's good enough for me!" he yelled, legging it indoors. 

"What the-" gasped Gary. 

"He really doesn't like the rain," said Fox. 

The others were still chatting about weather, but with Fox looking so fidgety, and Bobby running inside… Lucas gathered their stuff just in case. 

"Uh oh," Noah rumbled. 

Lucas shivered. 

"Did someone just turn down the heating?" 

Fox leapt to her feet, taking Lucas by the hand, and the heavens opened. 

"Argh!" Noah was yelling behind them as the girls squealed. 

"The sky is melting!" laughed Lucas, as they got to the doors. 

"Told ya," said Bobby smugly, sitting warm and dry. 

~~~

The rain beat hard against the windows, as the Islanders looked out in disbelief. 

Lucas sat down on the sofa with a sigh. 

"I'm so not a fan of the rain," he grumbled. "Gets everything wet. And what do the birds do? How do they keep dry?" 

Fox smiled and went to sit down next to him, but he pulled her into his lap and she happily curled up against him. 

"Rain is soothing, if you're indoors," she said, quite happy. 

"That's true," he admitted. "I love being all cozy inside watching it rain."

Hah, I can literally never stay grumpy these days. 

"I hope it doesn't flood," said Lottie, sounding down. 

"I'll build a boat," Noah deadpanned. 

"Very funny," she smirked. 

The girls started complaining that there was nothing to do. 

"I mean if we spread out, I'm sure we could think of something," Fox murmured quietly, and Lucas stifled a laugh. 

"Aw, I always loved it when it rained on holiday as a kid," said Bobby. "That's when everyone would get the best games out." 

"We're not kids anymore, Bobby," Lottie scowled. 

Bobby looked down at the ground glumly, a little lost for words. 

"I guess…" 

Lucas could feel Fox about to say something but then a loud beep sounded from her instead. 

"I've got a text," she said, sounding surprised. 

"Islanders, it's time to put one couple's relationship to the ultimate test. You must choose one couple to go shopping for snacks for tonight." 

"Oh, that's so cool!" Lucas enthused. "I was just saying that I couldn't wait to do all that everyday normal stuff with you, angel." 

"Nice one!" said Gary. 

"Now is our chance!" smiled Lucas. "This will be a right laugh." 

"You are too adorable," Fox laughed. 

"Who died and made you two the queen and king of shopping?" frowned Jo. 

I mean yeah, but-

"I just think it would be nice for me and Fox to go out and chill," Lucas replied, trying to keep the sharpness from his voice. "It's been a tough week for her." 

"Aww, you," Fox squeezed him. 

"Yeah, I'm with Lucas and Fox," smiled Hope. "I think they should get to go." 

"Me too," Noah nodded. "They deserve it." 

Bobby nodded as well, before tapping his knuckles against the wall. 

"All those in favour?" he asked. 

Everyone except Jo shouted yes, and Fox blushed. 

"Then it's decided!" Bobby grinned. 

"Cool," smiled Fox. "Let's go shopping!" 

"Yay!" Lucas kissed her cheek. 

She jumped to her feet and pulled him up after her. 

"That's well unfair…" Jo complained. "Make sure you guys get me some nacho chips." 

Yeah right. 

"Ooh, some chocolate for me please!" said Bobby. 

Lucas steered his girl towards the dressing room so they could change, his glare over Jo disappearing in excitement. 

~~~

They ran into the shop dodging the rain, with Lucas still buzzing.

"We're here!" 

He'd stuck some trousers on, and a t-shirt under his shirt, while Fox had on some denim shorts and a black lace top.

Bootie shorts! 

The air was deliciously cold from the air con and Fox lit up at the temperature change. 

"Ohhhh, I'm back in my own climate," she sighed happily. 

He laughed, looking around to get his bearings. 

"I love going to supermarkets in other countries," he grinned. "They're always way more exciting than your local one back home." 

He started dashing down the aisles, radiating happiness. 

"Whoah," his voice sounded from ahead. 

Fox followed his voice, giggling. He met her with a wide smile. 

"It feels so good to be going somewhere new but normal," he mused. "I never thought I'd be so excited to come into a supermarket." 

"I think we're all getting a bit stir-crazy without realising."

"Cabin fever," he gasped in mock horror. 

"We're flipping our bandanas, been stuck at sea so long-" she sang quietly. 

"That we have simply gone bananas!" 

Fox burst out laughing, as Lucas looked immensely proud of himself. 

"I knew you were a man of taste," she grinned. "Although… I think that's soup, tiger." 

Lucas had been pulling things off the shelf to look at, and he put them back with a grin. Fox disappeared round the corner, then reappeared doing a spectacular skid. 

"That's the way to do it," he laughed. "So if not soup, what do we need? There's so much to choose from. Wait… crisps!" 

Fox picked up a bag of nachos. 

"Aww, do we have to?" he pouted. "She's so mean." 

"I think she'll be around for a while," she replied, petting his arm sympathetically. 

"Okay, let's get other crisps as well though. Now, the all important relationship question is… what's your go-to packet of crisps?" 

"Salt and vinegar!" 

"Blech. They hurt my tongue."

"Well that's good, it means you can have all the other flavours in the bag." 

"I'm crisps rich," he gasped. 

She laughed at him, clearly finding his high spirits today very amusing.

"But for now we'll go cheese and onion?" she picked up a large bag. 

"Yes! Excellent shout. You can always depend on a good packet of cheese and onion crisps." 

"Okay," he looked around. "What's next… fruit maybe?" 

"That would definitely be a hit." 

"We're lucky Rahim isn't here to feel up the fruit." 

"To finger it you mean," she laughed. 

He pointed at a huge pile of aubergines and waggled his eyebrows at her. 

"Oh my god," she shook her head with a grin. 

"You mean," he pouted, "you don't want some of this?" 

"Y'know, I think I'd rather have a pineapple." 

"Size isn't everything, Fox!" 

"You are terrible," she giggled. "But trust me, you don't want the girls to kill you." 

He laughed, grabbing a pineapple. 

"Let's get some strawberries too," he suggested. "And some whipped cream." 

He smirked, then tried to look innocent as she laughed. 

"Right," he said. "We've got nachos, crisps, pineapple, strawberries, cream… now what?" 

"Hmm," she mused, "now we need something from over there." 

He followed her over, and the shelves appeared to hold… more soup? 

"We came here for?" he asked. 

"A sneaky kiss," she grinned. 

Ohhh. 

"You want to get it on in the supermarket?" he smirked. "Public display of affection style?" 

She bit her lip, running her hand up his chest. His heart started hammering. 

"Count me in, angel," he growled. 

Fox had leaned towards him, her eyes dark, as her hand rested above his heart. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close and kissed her hard, urgently.

Her hand moved to the back of his neck, running into his hair, and he growled into her. He vaguely heard a few things quietly falling but he really didn't care, kissing her as passionately as he could without ripping her clothes off. 

She raked her nails down his neck and he moaned quietly, making her whine, desperate for more. 

He broke the kiss reluctantly, aware he wasn't going to be able to walk out of here if they kept going, and she growled, her pupils totally blown.

Fuck. 

"We are so going to get caught," he said, in a strangled voice, "but I really don't care." 

He crushed his lips back against hers, running his fingers through her hair, and this time there was definitely a quiet crash.

She pulled away, kissing him softly once more, then shook her head with a laugh, trying to think straight. 

"Whoops," she murmured, and he realised there were crisps, sweets and other food items strewn about the floor. 

"Ahem," he blushed, and helped her pick the stuff up quickly, shoving it back on the shelves. 

"I don't even understand how that happened!" she laughed. 

"Well, it was amazing," he grinned. "I think we've got enough?" 

"Oh hang on," Fox picked up some chocolate with a smile. "For Bobby." 

"Who knew food shopping could be such a laugh?" Lucas smiled. "Come on, let's go back to the Villa."

"Only if you stop trying to sneak those nachos back out of the basket!" 

"Aww." 

"Be nice," she laughed. 

"I make no promises," he stuck his tongue out. 

~~~

Chapter Text

"Finally, you're back! Did you get my nachos?" 

Fuck sake. 

Fox casually shook herself, flicking rain all over Jo and Lucas tried hard not to grin. 

"We sure did," he said, with a determined smile. 

He threw her the bag then called to Bobby that his chocolate had arrived. 

"Sweet!" 

"Everyone's going stir crazy because of the rain," Jo complained. 

"That doesn't sound fun," frowned Lucas. 

"Fox and Lucas are back, everyone!" she yelled loudly. 

"And we brought snacks," he announced grandly, as everybody else quickly appeared. 

He listed what they'd got, and Hope voiced her approval. He turned to Fox with a cheeky smile.  

"Should we tell them that we… you know…" he blushed, leaning close to whisper in her ear, "had a little kiss?"  

"You are too adorable," she laughed, before turning back to the others. "Me and Lucas might have had a cheeky kiss behind one of the aisles." 

"No way!" gasped Jo.  

"You guys had a sneaky kiss in the shop!" Hope grinned. "That's so cute and romantic."  

As they made their way back to the couches, Fox murmured to Lucas. 

"But we kiss here all the time?"

He smiled at her confusion.

"Yeah, but you have no idea how cute you are." 

Proving his point, she blushed adorably as she sat down next to Lottie. 

"All the snacks in the world can't stop the rain," said Lottie sadly. "Which is all I really care about right now. I miss the outside."

Lucas wandered over to the window to look out. The sky was still black, with no sign of respite. 

"Lottie, why don't we do something fun," Bobby offered, "like for a laugh."  

Lottie dismissed the notion and insisted that nothing could be done, deep in her gloom.  

"That's rubbish," he grinned. "We can play a game! A roleplay game." 

"That sounds sexy," she smirked, and Bobby blushed. 

"No, not like that! One where we become different characters."

Lucas saw Chelsea nudge Fox and whisper something, both of them giggling. 

So cute.  

"We can't just play pretend," Lottie insisted. "We're adults."  

Bobby was starting to deflate again in the face of such cynicism. 

"We're on a game show right now, hun," Jo pointed out. 

"You know what I mean!" 

"Aww, c'mon Lottie," said Fox, doing her best big puppy eyes. "Games like that are fun. Have you never played D&D?" 

Rahim looked excited, while Noah's eyes lit up and he sat forward with enthusiasm.

"Yeah!" he rumbled. "Loads of adults play games like Dungeons and Dragons and stuff." 

"I've heard of it," Lottie allowed, "but I've never played it." 

"It's pretty good actually," said Jo, winning Rahim's attention back. "Yeah, I'm with you on that, Bobby." 

Lottie gave in with a sigh. 

"It's just hard to switch off the adulting brain," she explained, before poking Fox. "But I can't resist that face." 

Fox looked smug, and Lucas smiled as he grabbed a cushion to put on the floor. Just as he went to sit on it, Bobby grabbed it from under him triumphantly. 

"Do you mind, mate?" asked Lucas, confused. 

"Lucas," said Bobby, in a serious tone. "You've got it. You're a genius."

"You're not wrong. But… why exactly? And can I have my cushion back?" 

He pouted for effect and saw Fox giggle. 

Bobby jumped on to the couch, standing with the pillow held out like a trophy. 

"I know the best thing you should always do on a rainy day to keep the boredom away," he proclaimed. "Let's make a blanket fort!" 

A what? 

Several people leapt to their feet with enthusiasm. 

"Um," Lucas hesitated, unsure. "What's a blanket fort?" 

Bobby inhaled in what appeared to be genuine shock. 

"You telling me you've never made a blanket fort, Lucas?"  

"Um…" 

Ah great, everyone is staring. 

His eyes met Fox's and she gave him a reassuring smile. 

"I travelled around a lot as a kid," he explained, feeling calmer again. "International school brat, remember?" 

"So you moved around a lot all the time?" asked Rahim. 

"Yeah, a fair bit." 

"Wasn't that tough?" Chelsea asked. "Not having, like, one place to stay, or one group of friends?" 

"Not really much I could do about it," he shrugged. "My dad travelled a lot for work and we went where he went. Every time I made a group of friends I'd be off to the next country." 

"So you didn't have any mates?" Rahim frowned. 

"I did, but we'd have to stay in touch online. We were all big into gaming so we played together online. That's how I spent most of my free time." 

"I still can't believe you've never made a blanket fort," said Chelsea. 

"I blame Fox entirely," Bobby joked, earning himself both a middle finger and a laugh from the accused. 

"Wait," mused Lucas. "I did help build houses in Argentina as part of a community project… does that count?" 

"Were they made out of blankets?" Bobby tried to sound stern. 

"No… People had to live in…-" 

"Then no, they don't count." 

Fox appeared beside him and kissed him on the cheek. He grinned, and as she leaned back against him he wrapped his arms around her. 

"That's unbelievable," Jo shook her head. 

"Come on, Lucas, seriously?" frowned Rahim. 

"Honestly," Lucas's voice had gotten quieter, "this is the first time I'm hearing those two words together." 

"Well, there's no time like the present," Fox said brightly, and he squeezed her gratefully. 

"Yeah, Fox gets it!" Bobby enthused. 

"I'm totally in!" agreed Rahim, as everyone else leapt up for the game. 

"Then it's time!" Bobby announced grandly. "I now realise that all the blanket forts I have built over the years have led up to this moment in time. It's time to pass on my blanket fort crafting wisdom to you, Lucas." 

Bobby held out his cushion. 

Um…  

"Take it, Lucas," encouraged Bobby. "Take the first stone for our castle."  

"Go on then, your majesty," Lucas grinned as Fox giggled. "Teach me your ways." 

"You've got to choose your roles in the kingdom first," said Graham. "In any good role play, you need to need to know your roles. And a safe word." 

Fox winked at Lottie who snorted in amusement. 

"Oh, you know, we'll need some cute fairy lights," Chelsea chirped. "I can't resist a good set of fairy lights, my room back home is covered in them."  

That went straight over her head, bless. 

"Good shout," nodded Bobby. "You and me, Lucas, will reign as king and king together."  

"I'm down for that," he laughed. 

"Whoah, deja vu," said Fox, and Chelsea giggled. 

"I was thinking the same thing!" she squealed. 

"What do you mean?" King Lucas asked, confused. 

"Just my imaginary Villa," explained Chelsea. "You two make a lovely couple of Kings. We shipped you together!" 

Fox laughed at the confusion still on the faces of both kings. 

"Chelsea dreamt about an alternate reality Villa. The only pairing she could remember was you two." 

Oh, that makes… well, some sense. 

"I shotgun the prison warden!" yelled Chelsea. 

Graham started building something with the cushions in the corner. 

"Chelsea," mused King Lucas, "you should be in charge of our ships if you ship us." 

"Oh, that sounds officially important," she clapped. 

"It is," grinned Fox. "It means you're head of the Royal Navy, Admiral." 

Admiral Chelsea squealed. 

"Fox, what do you want to be?" King Bobby asked. "We probably need a princess, knight or jester maybe." 

"Ooh," she said thinking. "I reckon I should be a knight. Someone's gotta protect the Kings and fight the dragons." 

"Ace!" enthused King Bobby, picking up a cushion and lightly tapping it to her shoulders as she stepped forward. "I hereby knight you, Fox, the Great Knight of the Villa!"  

"What about dark knight?" Rahim joked. 

"No Batmans allowed," Knight Fox stuck her tongue out, making him laugh. 

"What if I'm a bat who thinks he's a man?"

"Can I be in charge of the emergency services?" asked Hope. 

"I'll be the resident witch," Lottie decided. "Um, Lottie the Magnificent."

"I'll look after the library," said Noah. "You've got to have a good library in a castle." 

"Like Hogwarts!" King Bobby gasped. 

"And L-Space," nodded Noah. 

"Ook," said Knight Fox emphatically, as Librarian Noah grinned at her.  

Such a cute dork. 

"Who can I be?" asked Gary. 

"The dragon!" Admiral Chelsea squealed, and Gary puffed up his chest.  

"Oh yeah!" King Bobby enthused. 

"Does that not mean he'd attack the fort?" asked Lottie the Magnificent. 

"No, for Fox the Great Knight shall step out to defend her Kings," said Lucas.

"Indeed," Knight Fox posed impressively. "I shall have words with the dragon… Garius. And in doing so shall convey my best wishes to the elder dragon known as The Nan." 

Lottie the Magnificent snorted with laughter.  

"And all along," Garius the Dragon got into it, "the people discover that what I truly sought was a good friend." 

"I'm welling up," King Bobby brushed away some fake tears. 

"I just need to go and get something for my bit," muttered Graham before hurrying off. 

The others began discussing other features for the fort. 

Lucas grinned at Fox as she stepped back to him. 

"You can rule over me any day," he said, happily.

She leaned up and kissed him with a smile. 

Of course, she already kinda does, ahem. 

As cushions started piling up, Lucas guessed that things were probably meant to be more structured. 

This is a lot of people trying to do one thing… 

"How do we actually build this thing to start with?" he asked. 

"First we need an outside structure," said King Bobby, moving things back so there was a perimeter.  

"Yeah, I was thinking we could put the sun loungers on their side," Knight Fox suggested.  

"Oh, that's not a bad idea!" 

King Bobby sounded impressed, and both Man-Bat Rahim and Garius the Dragon went to fetch the loungers. 

"They need a bit of a dry-" King Lucas began, interrupted by Admiral Chelsea charging past him. 

"As Chief of the Royal Navy," she announced, brandishing a towel, "I've got this." 

"Perfect!" King Bobby was bouncing in excitement. "Let's line them up side by side." 

With a bit of back and forth, the loungers were moved into place.

"Are they to your liking, your majesty?" grinned Admiral Chelsea. 

King Lucas wiggled the loungers, making a show of testing them for strength. 

"Indeed," he declared. "These feel sturdy." 

The group continued to mess about building, until Graham returned to work on his section with chairs and belts. The fort would apparently feature a love shack, which clearly weirded some people out.

"I might add that no one asked for planning permission to build that," tutted King Lucas, breaking the tension somewhat.  

"All this thing needs now is a roof," said King Bobby. 

"I mean, it's got to be the usual right?" asked Knight Fox. "It's in the name." 

"Yes!" cried King Bobby, excited again. 

Librarian Noah ran for the bedroom, emerging again laden down with sheets. 

"Right, we need to put these on carefully," he instructed, "so we don't break it". 

"Is there anything else we need before we put the roof on?" asked King Bobby. "Once the roof is on it's well hard to make adjustments."

"I'm just going to get some rope," said Graham, disappearing again. 

"Rope?!" hissed Lottie the Magnificent, once he'd left. 

"Maybe Graham just wants to make a swing?" Admiral Chelsea suggested. 

"He probably has a different swing in mind, babes." 

"Huh?" 

Chelsea's mind must be a nice place. 

"Anyway, guys," King Bobby cleared his throat. "Has anybody got any other stuff they want to go in the fort?" 

"Chels wanted fairy lights," Knight Fox reminded them. 

"Yas!" she squealed. "I've already gone and taken some from outside." 

When did she…? 

Chelsea decorated the fort, humming to herself happily. Lucas was really beginning to understand why Fox liked her so much. 

"Aw, doesn't that look perfect," she cooed, and Fox smiled at her. 

"Right, okay," said King Bobby. "Let's put the roof on." 

With a bit of teamwork, the fort finally had its roof, and even looked a little like a fort. 

If you squint.  

"Right?" King Lucas wasn't entirely sure. "That feels like it's done."  

"Everyone…" King Bobby announced, "get in!" 

With much laughter everyone clambered inside, and miraculously the fort held together. 

"Well done guys!" enthused King Bobby, sounding extremely proud. "This is a great blanket fort. Especially for Lucas's first year reigning as king." 

"The fairy lights totally make it," said Admiral Chelsea.

"It'd be pitch dark otherwise," smiled Knight Fox. "I didn't realise how thick those sheets are." 

"Is it just me or is it getting a little too hot in here now?" Jo complained. 

The Islanders got out of the fort and emerged into brilliant daylight as the sun beamed once again through the windows. 

"Finally!" squealed Lottie, running straight outside. 

"But what about mine and Lucas's kingdom?" Bobby pouted. 

"We had a good reign, my sweet king," Lucas replied solemnly.

"And we can keep the fort up at least til the end of the afternoon," Fox nodded. 

"Alright!" said Bobby, happy again.

Lucas saw Rahim nudge Fox and whisper to her. Noah walked up to them, nodding his head. As everyone wandered outside, he caught up with Fox. 

"What's going on?" he murmured.

"Something weird," she whispered back, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. "But it's about to happen, so you'll see."

Curiouser and curiouser…   

As folk wiped the rainwater from the remaining loungers and sprawled out, Lucas sat back with Fox between his legs. It was her go-to sitting position, and as he wrapped his arms around her, he felt her relax with a happy sigh. 

"I love the smell of the world just after it's rained," he said. 

"Me too," she smiled. "It's like the world refreshed." 

"It's getting pretty warm though," he mused.

He and Fox were still more covered up from their shopping trip, though he was in no way going to suggest that she should change out of her booty shorts. 

"Watch out," smirked Lottie, "Lucas wants one of the weather girls' jobs." 

"I could never replace them," he gasped. 

"Speaking of our favourite weather girls," said Rahim, walking over to Jo.

I thought we meant the ones on television?   

"Here we go," Fox whispered, so quiet only Lucas could hear. 

"There's something I want to ask you, Jo," Rahim began. 

"Oh, sure," she replied, standing up. "What's up? Are you okay?" 

"Yes," said Rahim, firmly. "After some help from Fox and Noah-" 

He nodded at Fox, smiling. 

"-I finally have the right words. And as the sun sets on this rainy day… I realise there are only two things I know for certain in this world-" 

Oh my god, he wouldn't… 

"-First, I know the sun will rise again tomorrow-"

Oh god, he is! 

"-Secondly, I know that when I see that sunrise tomorrow morning, I want to see it knowing that you are my girlfriend."

Glancing around, Lucas could only see wide eyes and the occasional dropped jaw. 

"Really?" asked Jo. "You want me to be your girlfriend?" 

"More than anything, Jo. I really do. I want you to be my girlfriend and I want to be your boyfriend" 

Really?! 

"Of course!" cried Jo. "Yes! A thousand times yes!" 

They've been coupled up ONE day!

The two embraced and there were cheers. Lottie was looking at Fox in shock. Gary smothered his face in sunblock to distract from the fact that he was the only one who couldn't hide his emotions on his face. 

"True love isn't dead," said Lottie, and Lucas was no longer sure how to tell reality and sarcasm apart. 

"Yeah, get in there mate!" said the sun block creature. 

"Aw, I'm so happy for you guys!" cheered Chelsea, genuinely. 

"That's so…" Lucas fumbled, "so sweet." 

"I'm really happy that you're both happy," said Fox. 

Hah! Nicely done. 

"Thank you, thank you," beamed Rahim. "I just want to say, guys, I really couldn't have done it without Fox and Noah." 

"Aw, you guys helped talk him into it?" asked Jo. "That's so sweet!" 

"Yeah, it really was a great help." 

"No problem," said Noah. "There was no stopping you. You're the first couple in here to make it solid!" 

"Wow!" squealed Jo. "Because I was a latecomer, I didn't think we'd be the first." 

She looked smug. 

"That's amazing." 

Lucas shot Noah a look and the librarian shrugged helplessly. 

~~~ 

Gary and Bobby had asked Lucas to come help them with something. That something turned out to be a conversation on the roof terrace. 

"Mate, what the fuck?" 

Gary was gobsmacked, and Bobby looked shocked as well. 

"Gaz," Lucas shook his head, "you look like Mrs Doubtfire when he dunks his face in cake."

Bobby burst out laughing as Gary tried wiping some of his overzealous sun block away. 

"I'm serious though," Gary continued. "I don't want to be sat bitching about people, but what is Rahim thinking? That was crazy quick!" 

"I'm worried about him," said Bobby, quietly. "I mean, good for him if he's found The One and all that. That's great. But if he hasn't, there's going to be massive fallout." 

Lucas sighed heavily.

"Look, even if it doesn't work out, we're in the home stretch now. It should at least last til then. And maybe it'll, um, reduce the negativity a bit." 

He knew they knew what he meant. Jo's comments set everyone's teeth on edge. 

"Good point," nodded Bobby. "Ach, maybe we're worrying for nothing. Rahim deserves to be happy." 

"He does," Gary piped up. "That's why we're worried. But yeah. I guess he has always been the most romantically minded." 

"Has he?" asked Lucas, surprised.

"Like he hasn't had the opportunity to show it, but he definitely gave the impression that any girl who wasn't just into his looks was gonna be swept off her feet." 

"That makes sense," said Bobby. "He really fancied Priya but he could definitely tell she was more, uh, physically minded. And Shannon wasn't really romantic. And, um, anyone else he liked wasn't about him." 

He blushed. 

That'd be Fox, but yeah, she only liked him as a mate. 

"Well, him and Jo definitely have stuff in common," Lucas mused. "From hobbies to both being in professional sports…" 

"Yeah," Gary sighed. "It's just really quick, by anyone's measure. But whirlwind stuff can work out, right?" 

"I mean, by definition, anything in here is whirlwind isn't it?" asked Bobby. 

"I guess, kind of," Lucas answered. "But the amount of time you spend working on relationship stuff is way higher in here away from jobs and, well, everything else." 

"That's true," Bobby nodded before frowning. "I just hope it decreases drama rather than the opposite. I try and get on with everyone but Jo is…"

Hah, he's definitely not going to end that sentence! 

"It does kind of put the pressure on the rest of us," pointed out Gary. "Like Hope and Noah have been together since day one and he hasn't made it official. After this, the girls are all going to start dropping hints." 

"True," agreed Bobby. "I didn't expect Rahim to be first out of you all. Especially you two and Noah." 

"I just want me and Lottie to be stable for a bit, honestly. Casa Amor mucked us up, and I keep saying the wrong thing."

Lucas nodded, thoughtfully.

"No secret I messed shit up with Fox. I want to give her time so that she can be sure, y'know?"

"Fair enough," Bobby smiled. 

"Anyway, no sense in saying anything to Rahim," Gary shrugged. "It wouldn't be helpful anyway."  

"Absolutely," agreed Lucas. "We'll just hope for the best yeah?" 

As they wandered back down, Lucas realised Fox was no longer by the loungers. He glanced around the garden.

Huh, must be inside. Wait a minute… 

With a grin, he walked into the Villa and approached the blanket fort.

"Knock knock" he said. 

"Who's there?" asked Fox, slightly muffled. 

"Honeydew." 

He heard her laugh. 

"Honeydew who?" she asked. 

"Honey, do you know how fine you're looking?" he drawled, climbing into the fort.

"You are terrible," she grinned, from where she was laying down beneath the fairy lights.

He smirked, crawling towards her, and then over her, lowering his body weight only slightly as he pressed down the length of her body. Her breath fluttered in her throat.

"Hey," he growled. 

She cupped his face in her hands before pushing her fingers back along the sides of his head, stroking his hair. He hummed in appreciation, and she lifted up to press soft kisses to his throat and neck. 

As her fingers traced down across his shoulders and on to his arms, he encouraged her to meet his hands, entangling their fingers before raising her arms above her head, and pinning her wrists with one hand.

She moaned, grinding against him slightly, and he let more of his body weight fall, feeling her heart thump against his chest.

He kissed her softly, teasing, never quite giving her enough, and was rewarded by her whine of frustration. He knew perfectly well that she could break his hold on him, and the fact that she didn't turned him on far more than simple dominance via strength or bondage could.

He pulled back, smouldering, and the sight of her flushed cheeks, kissed lips, and blown pupils, had him hard as fuck. She licked her top lip slowly, as her gaze burned into him. 

Fucking hell. 

"So beautiful, angel," he growled, ghosting his lips up her neck.

She whined, needy, and he rasped into her ear. 

"Tell me what you want." 

"Fuck," she gasped, and he nibbled her ear. "Lucas, please… kiss me." 

Her 'please' sealed the deal, and he crushed his lips against hers, kissing her hard and deep. She moaned quietly in pleasure, and he couldn't help but grind against her.

Need you so fucking-

"Room for more?" 

They froze at Chelsea's words from outside the fort, as the voices of Bobby, Gary and Lottie became audible too.

Fox cleared her throat. 

"Uh, sure?" 

He looked at her in panic. 

"They'd come in anyway," she whispered. "Slide behind me." 

"Jesus christ," he muttered, as she giggled.

He lay on his side behind her, and she propped up on her side hiding him, or rather, hiding Lucas Number Two, far better.

He kissed her hair. 

"We are definitely picking that up later though," he murmured, wrapping an arm around her as the other Islanders emerged into the gloom, chattering away.

"Oh absolutely," she said, with only the subtlest wiggle against him.

He grinned. 

~~~

"Chocolate tax!" 

"You don't need to pay a chocolate tax, doofus!" 

"Yeah, but I know it's your fave," Bobby looked smug as Fox gave in, happily.

"This is well nicer with less people in it," chirped Chelsea. "This is like, the central court of the royal household, right?"  

"The retinue, I think," mused Lottie.

"Or the power behind the throne," Fox suggested, cheekily.

"Scandalous!" 

"But probably true," grinned Gary, as Lucas laughed. 

"A king did just bestow a gift upon a knight," Chelsea giggled. "Wait, the dragon is part of the power behind the throne?" 

"That makes sense," said Bobby. "Dragons are meant to be good at protecting gold." 

"And being wise!" Gary puffed his chest out. 

"Eh," Lucas grinned, as Gary pinged him with an empty crisp packet. 

"I just find it amusing that Chelsea was dreaming about Bobby and Lucas," smirked Lottie. 

"Not like that!" the bubbly blonde gasped as everyone laughed. "I think everyone was paired up differently but that's the only one I could remember. Anyway, me and Fox worked out the rest." 

"Oooh," Gary waggled his eyebrows, "spill!" 

"Not everyone!" giggled Fox. "But basically I suggested Elisa for Marisol, and Chelsea said it would have to be Lottie-" 

Lottie snorted. 

"-and Chels said Jo for Rahim, and I said Shannon-" 

Lucas huffed a laugh. 

"-and then for Noah I also put Rahim because they're both huge-" 

Everyone burst out laughing. 

"-and that was all of them," Fox emphasised a word at Chelsea who nodded with widened eyes, covered by the laughter still going on.

Hah, so Gary was probably mentioned. Good save! 

"But wait, what about the two of you?" asked Bobby.

"Hmm," mused Chelsea. "Well we're both paired with kings so maybe we just shared you with the other king?"

Fox laughed as Lucas lightly bit her neck from behind. 

Mine.   

"Yeah, that's fair," nodded Gary. "Not like anyone would oppose a king. But since I am a dragon, and we are the power behind the throne…"

He reached behind him. 

"Anyone fancy some stolen nachos?" 

~~~ 

"To be fair, maybe I didn't give Hannah much of a chance. Maybe things would be different if I had."

Sometimes you really are as thick as custard, Gaz. 

Lucas had been happily eating strawberries and cream outside in the late afternoon, with a Fox by his side and a few friends... and now there was going to be a potential eruption. 

"What?!" Lottie hissed at her partner. 

"Like, if things had been different," he shrugged. Something could have happened there."

Does he need a shovel for that hole? 

"I guess it's too bad for both of us she's not in the Villa any more," Lottie was barely holding on to her temper. "I lost my bestie, and you lost your soulmate." 

Gary stiffened as Lottie grabbed a handful of crisps, crunching them angrily. 

"Can't believe you'd admit that, Gary, in front of everyone," thundered Hope. "Poor Lottie." 

Fox was wisely staying quiet while looking universally sympathetic. 

All this because Gary called Hope Hannah by accident, why is he making it something much worse? 

Gary rolled his eyes. 

"It's just chat," he said dismissively. "I'll probably never see the girl again-" 

Oh, maybe he'll-

"-If anything, Lottie should feel happy that I didn't say someone who is in the Villa now. Then she'd really have something to worry about!" 

Ah, looks like he already had TWO shovels.

"Hun, just stop," Lottie said, as her anger gave way to sadness. "Stop. You're digging yourself into a whole lot of trouble." 

A notification noise suddenly sounded, and it was a welcome interruption.

"I've got a text," said Lottie, a little too calmly, before reading it out. "Islanders, tonight you will take part in a boys-v-girls sexy dance off. The winning team will be the one that raises their opponents heart rates the highest."

"Aw, this should be a laugh," said Jo, arriving with the other Islanders. 

"Whoah, okay," said Chelsea nervously. "I need to get my dancing gear on." 

There were more than a few stressed looking faces. 

"We've got time to practise as well as get ready," Fox smiled. 

As they split into their groups, Lucas smirked at her. 

"Prepare to be impressed," he drawled. 

"Oh I will," she winked. "I've been waiting for this one!" 

She sauntered off, and Lucas tried to work out whether she planned to destroy him or not.

Win/win either way! 

~~~

Chapter Text

The boys were in deep despair as soon as they were on their own.

"I can't dance!" wailed Rahim. 

"Me neither," said Gary and Noah.

Bobby and Graham implied they wouldn't even be able to try. 

"Okay, hold up," commanded Lucas, taking the lead. "You're overthinking this, I've seen most of you dancing before. You don't have to be a good dancer, you just have to get your girl's heart racing. At least some of you can manage that, right?" 

"Yeah, but in the bedroom, mate!" sighed Gary, exasperated. 

"Not just in the bedroom," he shook his head. "You really think they're all peeking at you in the gym to pick up bodybuilding tips?" 

"So we… lift weights?" asked Rahim, confused.

Bloody hell. 

"You display," he emphasised. "You move your body to show it off. You look like you're having fun. You grin. You wink. You flirt. And you make your girl feel like a queen." 

He caught Bobby in his peripheral vision, looking glum. 

"Or! You flip it the other way, and make them laugh. Like, really laugh. Because that raises their heart rate too." 

"Oh! I could do that," Bobby piped up with a grin. "Like a comedy dance. With jokes." 

Lucas fist-bumped him. 

"Well, I can twerk," mused Rahim.

"Do it!" yelled Lucas, and the golfer grinned. 

"Actually I could probably strip if I mostly stand still…" Noah suggested. 

"Mate, Hope would love that," grinned Gary. "I guess I could kinda do what I did at the talent competition? I wasn't really being serious but it was fun."

Before long everyone had at least some idea of what they were going to do.

"Wait, what about you?" Noah asked Lucas.

"Oh, I can dance," he grinned. 

The boys laughed. 

"I've got a text!" 

"What's it say, Bobs?" 

"There are costumes and props ready to pick up!" 

~~~

After a bit of practice, a lot of motivational speeches, some top tunes picked, and outfits decided, the boys sat on the roof terrace, waiting for their moment. 

The costumes and props had helped a lot. Gary was transformed with the help of a familiar hard hat and tool belt that would almost certainly have Lottie forgiving him on the spot. Rahim went for a bare-chested pirate look, while Bobby had picked a sexy chefs outfit. Graham had the sailor look down to a tee. 

Noah was of course a very convincing sexy librarian, and like Lucas had used mostly his own clothes with a few key props. Lucas was rocking the doctor look, which was essentially just a stethoscope over a white shirt, and some tight trousers - his own wardrobe - and a lot of attitude. But he'd done his tie under his shirt and nabbed some cuffs to hide under his shirt sleeves. Noah had bagged the rip-away trousers, and added some librarian style glasses.

Rahim had made sure nobody overdid it with the oil, particularly Gary, and everyone's confidence seemed pretty high. 

"How are you so calm?" asked Bobby. "Normally you're the restless one." 

Lucas smiled, stretching his arms.

"I get anxious when my brain's involved," he revealed. "But massage or dancing? I have total confidence in my body. It's what all the muscles are for." 

"So modest," Gary laughed, and Lucas grinned. 

"I'm gonna go first I think," said Noah, looking a little ill. 

"Sure," Bobby nodded. "Er, you alright?" 

"Just need it over with," the librarian groaned.

Lucas brought it home for one last speech. 

"Look lads, all the girls down there think we are amazingly hot. They haven't seen another lad in weeks. We are, all of us, sexy gods. So just go down and have fun! They're our mates, remember!"

"Huh," blinked Noah. "That actually helps. They are my mates!" 

The boys started chanting "Mates! Mates! Mates!"

This is the weirdest Magic Mike ever. 

~~~

Lucas peeked down as Noah prepared to make his entrance. The girls were all dressed normally, which was still incredibly glamorous, but meant they'd be changing into their outfits before it was their turn to dance. 

Giving nothing away... 

The boys cheered Noah on as he strutted into the fire pit, the beat of the music thumping. He dropped onto Chelsea making her squeal. 

"Secret moves!" gasped Gary beside him. "Hope's gonna be furious." 

Noah moved over to Hope, grinding on her and leaning in to lick up her forehead. Several of the girls squealed. 

"He's doing pretty well," Lucas whispered, feeling proud. 

"Fancy a dance, Fox?" Noah's voice carried up to the roof terrace. 

Wait-

"Only if you promise not to lick me," Fox laughed, poking fun. 

"You can lick me all you want, babes" said Hope. 

Noah was still turned towards Fox.

"Okay, I promise. No tongues." 

What the fuck man!

"Babe!" Hope was seriously pissed. 

Noah spun back to her, focusing his attention back where it belonged and carrying on with his routine. 

"Well, that was awkward," murmured Gary. "Fox was frozen." 

Lucas looked at his girl and he could see even from here that she'd tensed up.

Shit, she's probably worried about my reaction. 

He slowed his breathing down and relaxed his body. Fox had been looking forward to this, and he was going to do everything he could to make it amazing for her. 

Noah whipped his trousers off to whoops from the girls, and left the fire pit to arrive back at the roof terrace. He flopped on the floor, face first. 

"Jesus, are you okay pal?" asked Bobby with concern. 

"No," Noah groaned, "everything is blurry and I need to lie down. I'll be fine. Carry on." 

Is that an excuse- Nope, I'm calming down. 

"Okay I'm gonna go," said Gary, who had been bouncing up and down on the spot. 

He charged down the stairs, and nearly arrived before the music. He hammed it up wonderfully, and had the girls cheering as he danced on and around Lottie, slathering himself in more baby oil, before cartwheeling away. 

"Nice one, Gaz!" cheered Lucas, as his friend made his triumphant return. 

"Now or never," Bobby yelled as he took his turn. 

He did some full on comedy dance moves, and finished by spinning Chelsea around, faster and faster. He sat her back down, kissing her all over. 

Huh, that'll probably be the highest heart rate of all. 

The boys cheered as Bobby got back, out of breath. 

"That's probably the winner," Lucas grinned. 

"Really?!" asked Bobby, before realising Lucas was serious and looking immensely proud of himself. 

"Okay, show time," Lucas winked as he left the roof terrace, and the boys cheered for their dancing coach.

He made sure his outfit additions were in place as he waited for his cue, intent on sliding in at the right beat. The other guys had chosen somewhat at random, but he figured if he was gonna do this right, it could only be 'Pony'.

The slow beat would be perfect for his style of dancing - fancy hip work and some strength moves ripped straight from Magic Mike. 

He had kept his dance experience quiet, wanting to surprise Fox at some point, and it's not like he was a pro. He had a background in Latin dances from his youth, which were long out of practise. But he'd picked up some street moves and acro in his fitness routine, and he knew he could definitely make it sexy for the right person. 

And of course, given Fox's profession and the little dancing he'd seen from her, he knew she was going to have him on the ropes. 

He heard the click and slid into view almost right on the first beat. He sauntered towards the fire pit, smoulder in full effect, pacing his body rolls, alternating hand movements and hip thrusts on the beat, a good bit of gyration, and let his hips have fun as he danced.

He could hear the girls squealing as he gradually unbuttoned his shirt, and he smirked, deepening the smoulder. But most importantly, the only person he kept his eyes fixed on was Fox.

She was pinned by his gaze, biting her lip, totally transfixed even when Chelsea was thumping her on the shoulder in excitement. He kept his unbuttoned shirt on for now, knowing how weak it made his angel. 

As he got to the circle, she raised an eyebrow in a challenge. 

Oh, it's on! 

Getting closer, he flexed his arms cheekily as he moved, knowing it was her weak spot, before throwing himself down into a perfect dolphin dive in front of her. He heard her gasp, just, over the sound of another girl screaming and the boys cheering, and as he pushed up, he burned his gaze into her.

Instead of pushing himself fully back up, he gracefully flipped, his arms behind him, and into the babymaker, thrusting his hips upwards cheekily. 

"Fuck me!

Fox broke, completely, and he grinned, flipping himself back on to his feet, like it was no big deal, everything in perfect time with the music. She was breathing hard, cheeks flushed, as Hope yelled at her to close her eyes. 

Not gonna happen… 

He danced closer to her, pulling every sexy move he could think of, as he flung his shirt to the side, his slightly oiled up muscles rippling only for her. He was down to just a black tie and cuffs and he smirked as he heard her growl. 

Her pupils were totally blown, and he backed away before doing a scorching knee slide that ended between her legs, turning up his smoulder to maximum power. 

He leaned over, running one finger down the outside of her thigh, his body still moving. 

"Mind if I sit down here?" he growled, flexing his arms as he let his breath fall on her bare thigh. 

"I'm all yours," she managed, her voice husky.

"That you are," he dropped his voice into a deeper growl. "You're all mine." 

He jumped up and held himself above her body, as he pinned her legs between his knees, but instead of grinding, he rolled his body, and moved himself vertically. 

"Jesus christ!" yelled Lottie, excitedly. 

"Lucas has got it going on!" Chelsea screamed. 

"Oh my god," Fox laughed, blushing even more. "You're gonna kill them!" 

He grinned, settling in her lap and pressing the extremely hard bulge trapped in his trousers against her as he ran his fingers up her neck.

Her breath stuttered as she bit her lip, choking back a moan. He could feel her pulse, racing under his fingertips. 

"Fox!" cried Lottie. "Focus. Deep breaths! We've got to keep our cool!" 

Lucas leaned in to kiss her neck, knowing he'd totally and completely won, grinding slowly. He pressed soft kisses all the way up, before pitching his voice too low to be heard by anyone but her, and murmuring a moan into her ear. 

She hooked him by his chain, licking him on the neck, and he gasped. 

"Save your tactics for later, Fox!" Hope chided. 

He pulled back with a grin. 

"That still counts as a win," he winked, blowing her a kiss as he walked away, the guys cheering loudly.

He laughed as he heard Fox back in the fire pit. 

"Bloody fucking HELL.

He paused on the stairs, taking deep breaths and regaining his cool. His dance was more than successful but he was also ridiculously turned on. He jumped up and down on the spot, trying to shake some of it off. 

Worth it though. I totally won… I think. 

Rahim passed him with a laugh. 

~~~

"That was amazing!" Gary clapped him on the back when he eventually made it back up the stairs. "Like something out a film." 

"Proper Magic Mike," grinned Bobby. 

"Fox is a lucky girl," Noah smiled. 

I still can't figure him out. 

"You missed Rahim doing upside down twerking," said Gary. "I have no idea how he did that. Graham did great too." 

"We've got to go to the fire pit now while the girls get ready," Rahim announced, holding up his phone. 

"Ugh, how long will that take?" groaned Bobby.

"I suspect it will be worth the wait," Lucas grinned. 

~~~

Somehow, the boys seemed just as nervous as they had been before their own performances. He wondered how much was down to excitement, and how much was down to worry over who might dance on which lap. 

He highly doubted Fox would try teasing him with another guy, but he was determined to try and grin and bear it if it did happen. The girls were just trying to have fun, and them dancing on a guy was a lot less aggressive than a guy who wasn't their partner dancing on them. 

Although, if they do then the other girls might kick off… 

The guys had been attempting to guess what costumes the girls might have chosen, mostly basing their suggestions on their knowledge of sexy Halloween costumes. 

"I dunno, a sexy witch maybe?" mused Gary.

"Isn't that just…" Bobby grasped for the right words.

"Oh yeah," grinned Gary, "That's just her normal look!" 

"I suppose it depends what they had to pick from," said Rahim. 

"And what they already owned," Graham looked thoughtful. 

"By the way," Bobby drew attention to himself, "could we all try and stay cool if the girls choose different laps to dance on? Not fall out with each other I mean." 

Gary and Noah both nodded. Rahim looked sceptical. 

"I'm gonna try at least," Lucas shrugged, and Bobby beamed at him. 

Lucas looked up at the roof terrace as he heard giggles, seeing five girls peeking over, their costumes hidden. 

Who's missing? Jo? She must be first… 

The music kicked in and Jo strutted to the fire pit confidently. She was dressed up like a flapper, which suited her leaner build perfectly, and Rahim gasped. 

Swaying in front of her man, Jo suddenly turned and headed straight for Lucas, sitting on his lap and grinding. 

Um? 

Lucas looked up at the other girls and met Fox's eyes. She mimed shooting a gun, then a head shot with exaggerated brain splatter. He laughed before he could stop himself, and Jo glared at him. 

She leapt from him and finished her routine by dropping to the floor and twerking. As she left, Lucas could see that Rahim was both impressed and pissed off.

Great. 

A ghostly track started playing, and he reckoned this had to be Lottie. Sure enough, she appeared looking graceful in… 

I don't know how to describe that. 

She looked like she was wrapped in a black lace spiderweb that barely covered her, with dramatic dark makeup and killer heels. He glanced at Gary and saw a man about to expire. 

"Bloody hell," Gary moaned, and Bobby wolf-whistled. 

Lottie spent her attention on her own man, dancing slowly and throwing in some sleight of hand magic that had Gary's mind reeling. 

How is she doing that in that outfit? No sleeves… 

She finished with a satisfied smirk, and as she walked away, Gary slid on to the floor with a groan. 

"I'm dead," he croaked. "Killed by the sexy." 

Lucas noted that she hadn't even touched him which was pretty damn impressive. He heard the girls cheering her as she returned. 

A lively beat kicked in, sounding like… Carnival? 

Hope burst out in a fantastic headdress, complete with a barely there bikini and some feathered wings. She was a riot of colour, and her enthusiastic samba had the boys cheering.

She wasn't the best dancer but she had the confidence to pull it off and was clearly having fun. Noah's jaw had hit the floor. 

Hope danced the longest yet and the girls cheered her on, before she danced her way back.

"That was wicked!" beamed Bobby. "You think she'd let me borrow the outfit?" 

There was a longer wait now, and Lucas realised his leg was bouncing up and down with nerves. He sat forward a bit, trying to find his calm. 

Music kicked in and he recognised it as 'Heathens', which was an interesting choice. Looking up, he saw… 

Is that Chelsea?! 

The bubbly blonde had summoned Harley Quinn from the cinema screen, complete with pink and blue hair and baseball bat, and she skipped towards them. She stopped twice, dancing on the spot, and he could hear Fox leading the cheers from the terrace.

Bobby whooped in delight and as Lucas glanced over he saw that Rahim was gobsmacked as well. Chelsea was a great dancer, favouring feeling herself and twirling around the entire circle. She began firing jokes at them, some of them pretty funny, and the guys were enthralled. 

She did some chaotic breaks, which fitted her chosen character, and he realised it was a good way to channel her nerves. She blew them a kiss before spinning on her heel, and sprinting away. 

"Wow," gasped Rahim. "That was…"

"That was Chelsea," Bobby grinned. 

"Wow."

Two girls left… 

A sultry beat kicked in and Lucas looked up, his heart jumping into his throat. There was a flicker of disappointment as Marisol appeared, and he did his best to push it aside. 

Marisol looked pretty damn amazing, and he realised that her usual outfits definitely didn't do her justice. Her hair was slicked back in a high ponytail, and she was oozing confidence in a tight black catsuit. As she got closer he realised she had cat ears and a tail for good measure. 

She swayed her hips as she walked towards Graham, putting some salsa in every step, and her sailor had turned an incredible shade of red. 

The other guys were all openly ogling her and Lucas was struck by a sudden thought - if his purring angel had turned down that outfit, what the hell was she going to be wearing? 

I'm so dead. 

Marisol did a longer dance, as Hope had done, as her confidence transformed her into a sex kitten who completely dominated her totally gobsmacked man. The boys cheered loudly.

Sashaying away, there was only one dancer left to appear.

He could feel his friends grinning at him, but he was a mess of nerves. Jo had danced on him, did that mean Fox would dance on Rahim? What about Noah? And even if he tried to forget that, his excitement had him completely on edge. 

There was a sound like a gong, and as a slow, heavy beat played out, Fox came round the corner cooly, strutting towards the fire. She had a black leather bikers cap and matching fingerless gloves, what looked like a black body suit but with almost all of it ripped away, a tight choker, black booty shorts, and black fuck-me boots that came up just over her knee.

Those heels must be 5 inches… 

She looked like a biker's wet dream, and his jaw dropped. 

Oh my god, she's a literal Hells Angel! 

But she was also wearing his favourite shirt, the red plaid one he'd sent to her when she was in Casa Amor, unbuttoned and sexy-

and MINE. Fuuuck me. 

She was already dancing, her hands leading her body in a mix of sultry rolls, jazz and hip hop moves, and he felt his heart racing even faster than before. 

The boys were whooping loudly and the girls cheering, but her eyes never left his, and his smile widened. As she got closer he realised her hair was slightly damp, and her dark punk eye makeup was expertly smudged. 

So fucking hot. 

She paused a few feet away from him, running her hands up her body then into her hair, drawing one hand down her face and rubbing her thumb against her open mouth as she did so. 

Oh my god. 

"Damn," he stuttered. "Hot. Damn." 

Fox wasn't just pulling out some sexy moves, she was really dancing, moving exactly with the beat, doing slow motion hip thrusts that charged into fast choreography. 

She walked towards him, taking the shirt then hat off and throwing them to the side, before turning away - 

oh HELL those shorts are short

and gracefully flipping head over heels in a controlled and relatively easy move, but-

in 5 inch heels, holy shit!

Lucas gasped with everyone else, as she spun and sank into floorwork, dancing and arching her back suggestively, her hands running across her body, captivating her audience. 

Moving back on to her feet she prowled towards him, and opened his legs with her body.

"Bring it on, angel," he went for smoulder but it came out as a croak. 

As he leaned forward with a growl, her boot came up against his crotch and he exhaled sharply as she pressed into him.

"No touching," she purred her command, and he couldn't stop his moan. 

She retrieved her foot, spinning between his legs to face away from him, before dancing down low and moving her ass against him where he was already hard. His mind completely broke. 

Oh, FUCK

She leaned her body back against him, one arm up and round his neck, the other running down her front as she arched her back, and he groaned loudly.

"I- you- fuck-" his hoarse words were totally scrambled as he tried to speak, his pulse thundering in his ears. 

Unlike the girls who had encouraged each other to stay calm, the lads were wolf-whistling and yelling at him with a different goal in mind. 

"Get IN, son!" 

"Oi oi!" 

"Holy SHIT, mate!" 

Somehow she was suddenly facing him, his legs between hers as she danced in his lap, and she leaned back away from him, her body almost horizontal as she arched her back once more with a soft moan.

His hands were aching from his tight fists, still obeying her command even as things started to get more and more hazy. 

She rolled her body up, and ghosted her lips across his collarbone and neck, her breath hot but without any real contact, and he whined needily. 

"Angel, please…" he begged, breathily. 

She ran her hands through her hair, still grinding, and drew one hand down her face across her open mouth again, this time running against her tongue seductively. The song was coming to an end. 

Fuck- shit-

Sudden realisation struck. 

"You win!" he gasped, and her lips crashed against his as she kissed him hard, the boys yelling. 

Pulling back she barely managed to say, 

"You can move-" 

And his arms whipped around her, one hand thrusting up into her hair as he pulled her against him, holding her tight as he kissed her with a loud growl. He could feel her smiling against him, and she purred. 

The music had stopped, the girls were cheering Fox's name, and she made to pull away and get up only to find his arms weren't budging.

"Nope," he smirked. "Not letting go." 

She laughed, her eyes sparkling. 

The other girls arrived to cheers from the boys, as they made the most of the effect the costumes were having.

He dropped his voice to a whisper. 

"We should continue this in private later…" 

"Oh we will." 

Fox repositioned herself to sit sideways on him, making him whimper ever so quietly as she brushed against him, and he stroked her bare thigh, still smirking. She leaned in to his ear and murmured quietly so only he could hear. 

"Yours." 

And he shuddered, pulling her tighter against him. 

Jesus christ. 

She lifted his, her, shirt from behind her and he realised she'd clearly not thrown it too far, while the hat had disappeared elsewhere.

"How much of this is costume?" he croaked, suspecting he knew the answer.

"Just the hat and gloves," she grinned. "Though I have gloves like these at home, but not in leather. And with more spikes."

She made a face as she pulled them off and dropped them on the seat, and he quirked his eyebrow.

"Cows are just big puppies," she smiled. 

"Eh, I can live without leather," he kissed her on the cheek and she beamed at him. 

From domme to adorable. 

"That was actually one of the scariest things I've ever done in my life," said Chelsea.

"You were brilliant, babes," Fox flashed her a grin. 

Rahim was still staring at the comic character brought to life. 

"The jokes were hard to pull off," Chelsea smiled. 

"So is pulling off your trousers," added Noah. 

There was a loud beep. 

"Ooh, hang on," said Lottie. 

"Islanders, your heart rate results are in. Boys, your heart beat was on average 90bpm. Girls, your heart beat was 90bpm." 

"We tied!" laughed Marisol. 

"Whoah, I can't believe that," said Lucas, stunned.

"Yeah, that's, like, surely impossible?" Lottie asked.

"Improbable at least," mused Fox. 

"Guess we're all just as good as each other," said Noah. 

"I thought you stole the show, Fox," Graham grinned. 

"I mean, I can't disagree!" Marisol threw her a wink.

"Pff, we were all excellent!" smiled Fox. 

"We don't have to give these costumes back straight away… right?" asked Gary.

Lottie laughed, and the Islanders made their way to various secluded spots around the Villa. 

~~~

Lucas pulled Fox over to the beanbags, crashing down in one before scooching it closer and passing her some water. 

"You were so hot, angel," he smiled. "I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest!" 

"That challenge was pretty sexy all round," she smirked. "You're a great dancer!" 

"Yeah, you're not wrong," he grinned, flexing slightly and making her laugh. "You were by far the hottest person I've ever seen." 

"Mission accomplished," she purred. 

"I can't wait to watch that back," he said, dreamily. "I'm pretty sure I might have blacked out a couple of times." 

"Dang, you'd make a great hype man," she grinned. 

"Only for you," he smirked, before glancing around. "So… Maybe I've done something a little extra…" 

"Mmhm?" Fox raised an eyebrow as she drank. 

"Well…" he shifted around and pulled out a heart monitor from the challenge. 

She laughed, shaking her head, and he leaned forward. 

"Fancy seeing if we can get each other's hearts racing? Again, I mean. But this time somewhere a little more private… " 

"Hell yeah, tiger. Let's take it to the roof terrace." 

"You thinking what I'm thinking?"

"We'll see," she winked. 

~~~

"Right…" Lucas fiddled with the heart monitor. "Okay, so it says my heart rate is 70bpm. And yours is 64bpm."

Fox stretched out beside him, making herself comfortable on the cushions. Unfortunately there was only one blanket, as no doubt the others were in use elsewhere. 

"Hmm," he smirked. "What should we do to up those numbers a little?" 

"Oh, I don't know," she drawled lazily, laying on her back. "I guess kissing might be worth a try…" 

"Sure!" he grinned, the events of the day dramatically shortening his ability to tease things out.

He leaned over and kissed her softly, growling as her fingers ran through his hair. She kissed him slow, and he let the heat build until her touches became urgent with need. He moaned with delight. 

She rolled on top of him, and he tucked her loose hair back as she kissed him deeply. 

The heart monitor started beeping frantically.

Fox pulled away to grab it and passed it to him. 

"Phew!" he exhaled shakily, looking at the number on the screen. "We're both in the eighties now… is there anything else you'd like to do? Now we're free of interruptions from challenges and other people I mean." 

She huffed in amusement. 

"I think we had some unfinished business," she purred. "Several times over in fact." 

"I mean, yeah!" he stumbled. "I'd love to." 

She crushed her lips against his and he could feel her smiling at his awkward words, and a shiver of happiness swept over him. He ran his hands up and down the length of her body, rolling her back over so he was on top. She pushed his shirt open and he flung it to one side. 

He paused for breath and met her gaze with an intensity that burned. If he'd been smouldering earlier, this was liquid fire, and he saw her eyes darken as she bit her lip. 

Oh my god I'm on television. 

Why am I thinking about that now.

How can I not be thinking about that now! 

"Preposterous," he said out loud. 

"Um…?" Fox blinked in confusion. 

"Not you!" he rushed. "This whole situation. I've been trying to get you to myself all day, and now I finally have and just… We're still not alone. We're on TV. Being watched."

She grinned, wolfishly. 

"You mean it doesn't turn you on to think about it?" 

Fuck me-

"It didn't before," he growled, lowering his face above her throat, "but now you come to mention it…" 

Her breath stuttered as he kissed her neck, his lips moving slowly across her warm skin. She ran her claws down his back, moaning a little louder than usual. 

This girl is going to kill me. 

He kissed down her body, throwing a blanket above as he went, and wishing himself forward in time to when they didn't have to worry about spectators and he could watch her properly as he drove her wild. 

Undoing her shorts, he realised it was a top rather than body suit she was wearing and he grinned as he got rid of the clothes in the way, keeping her boots on. He kissed down her thighs, adding some licks and gentle bites that made her purr.

He knew beyond a doubt he was going to struggle to last and he reckoned they'd been interrupted about three times today and he was determined to fully pay that back. 

Lucas teased his tongue against her, moaning at her taste, how wet she was for him, and the sound of her breathing his name. He knew what she liked and he repeated those patterns along with experimenting and finding new noises of pleasure that she could make.

He hummed against her, and when he slowly brought his finger into play, he felt her whole body tremble around and against him. 

So fucking gorgeous… 

He fucked her slowly on his hand as his tongue pulled tighter patterns against her. Her moans were muffled now as she struggled to stay quiet and he groaned into her, adding another finger. 

When she broke, clenching and shaking, his name falling from her lips, he rested his cheek on her thigh, moving his fingers ever so slightly.

"You coming up, tiger?" she purred quietly, after she'd got her breath back. 

"Not yet," he growled, kissing up her thigh as he began all over again.

"Fuuuuuck," she breathed, pushing her fingers into his hair, and he laughed against her. 

What he needed was a whole afternoon dedicated to this, her tied up, her mouth begging, and him relishing in the taste of her, making her come again and again until she was an incomprehensible beautiful mess. 

As it was, he lost himself in pleasuring her, everything else barred from his mind, his entire world narrowed down to the taste, feel, sight, sound and scent of her.  

After four, or was it five times, of her moaning and gasping and screaming his name, he kissed his way back up her body, removing the rest of her clothes as he'd already done with his own. She looked gorgeous, her smudged makeup and slightly damp hair adding to her look of beautifully fucked. 

He realised her eyes were pretty glazed, her breathing heavy, and he pressed his body against her, murmuring praise into her ear as he stroked her arm softly. 

"I've got you, angel." 

He kissed across her cheek, still gently praising her, how beautiful she was, how she drove him wild, and she slowly came back to him.

"Hey," she smiled, running her fingers up the back of his neck. "You are incredible…" 

He grinned, kissing her slowly and letting her increase the tempo. As their kiss caught fire, she moved her hips against him and he moaned needily. It felt like he'd been hard for hours, if not all fucking day, and his hips bucked. 

Yeah, I have zero control 

"Fox," he breathed. "I don't- I can't-" 

His brain tripped over itself and he couldn't work out what he needed to say.

"I need you," he managed, which wasn't what he'd been reaching for. 

Lucas was holding himself back, and struggling to remember what he needed to ask. She stroked his face softly, meeting his gaze.

"Please," she purred, "fuck me." 

His hips snapped forward, and he buried himself inside her to the hilt, and it was so much, too much… 

She bit her moan into his shoulder, arching her back as she wrapped around him, and he snarled in pure pleasure, his body on fire. 

FUCK

As his brain righted itself, he started to stiffen in panic, but she grabbed him roughly, dragging him into a bruising kiss. He moved, the pleasure indescribable, unable to do anything but fuck hard, and fast.

She growled into his mouth, her claws tearing up his back, and he groaned loudly at the meeting of pain and pleasure. He felt her clench around him, and she broke from the kiss, her head tilting back. 

"Oh, fuck…" she hissed, gasping for breath. 

Jesus christ 

He hooked an arm under the small of her back, lifting her slightly, adjusting his angle and she shattered around him, moaning his name and making various pleas to whichever god might be listening. 

Oh my god-

"Fox, I- fuck-" 

His thrusts became erratic as his brain shorted out from how she tightened around him, and she traced a finger down his face and along his jaw, her gaze burning into him.

"So good, baby," she breathed. "Lucas, come inside me…" 

He came deep inside her with a loud cry of her name, collapsing on top of her, his body shaking. His breath was trembling as he twitched, his mind completely melted. 

She wrapped her arms around him soothingly, and he knew he was squashing her but he literally couldn't move. She petted his hair softly, telling him it was okay, and he wondered if he was saying his thoughts out loud again.

Fox laughed gently, and he realised he probably was. He shifted some of his weight to the side, and nuzzled into her neck, still buried inside her. He also needed a whole day dedicated to this, with snack breaks for his normally pretty short recovery time. 

"I like the sound of the calendar you're creating," she smiled, kissing his forehead.

He made agreeable noises against her, before whining a little until she resumed petting his hair with a giggle. 

"Wow," he managed at last, lifting himself off her with a huff of laughter. 

"Well, one thing's for certain," she drawled. "They won't be able to show that on TV." 

He grinned happily, and grabbed the heart monitor which was flashing. 

"Huh, it's 69bpm. What a number!"

"I think we broke it," she laughed. 

The monitor beeped loudly. 

"Hm, it's running out of battery," he mused. 

"It's not the only one..." she yawned. 

"Come on, let's get ready to sleep," he smiled. "I'll hide this monitor under the bed so no one knows we pinched it."

They got to the bedroom ahead of everyone else, and he guessed that the others had also been enjoying their post-sexy-dance-off time. People started to appear just as Fox made her way back from the bathroom. 

"I'm so glad you're wearing that again!" he grinned, as she snuggled up next to him in her red lace teddy. "You just look so good in it."

"You're such a sweetheart," she smiled, stroking his neck gently. "Hey, I had a really good day today." 

She kissed him softly, and he squeezed her tight, lengthening the kiss as she purred.

"Me too, angel," he said seriously, as he pulled back and met her gaze. 

He stroked his thumb across her lips and she stuck her tongue out cheekily. Lucas laughed, lifting his arm as she turned and buried backwards against him.

"Night, Fox." 

"Sweet dreams, tiger." 

~~~

Chapter Text

"Wha…" 

Lucas felt himself being shaken gently, and he blearily opened his eyes to see Fox awake and sitting in bed next to him. 

"Hey, baby," she whispered. 

"What's going on?" 

"I just got a text. I have to go on a date with some new Islander." 

Lucas sat bolt upright, scowling. 

"Urgh!" he tried and failed to calm himself, not wanting to alarm her. "What the hell?!" 

"I know, tiger," she shook her head. "But it's a text - I have to go."

"Yeah, I'm not annoyed with you." 

He kissed her on the cheek, gently, and she smiled. 

"This just really sucks," he sighed.

"I'll be back soon," she promised, and he gave her a weak smile before she left. 

Fuck

Not only was he annoyed at the idea of some other guy grafting on his girl, he was annoyed at his reaction as well. He trusted Fox, he was working on his jealousy, but waking up to that news… it felt like he'd plummeted backwards. 

And she took the time to tell me, so I didn't wake up and find her gone. Not that I thanked her. Fuck. 

Why would someone come in this late and pick her? They'd surely know she was settled and happy. He kicked himself again for not progressing things. 

He'd been sure of his feelings for a long while now, but after his fuck up during Casa Amor, he'd thought it best to wait, to give her time. To let her see the full him… and for him to be better.

But now his jealousy was back, some dick was grafting on her and-

He stuffed his pillow over his head. 

~~~

"You alright?" 

Lucas looked up from his brewing tea and saw the question was directed at Lottie. 

"Oh I'm great," she replied to Bobby with full sarcasm. "Love to wake up to find my guy is being whisked off on a surprise romantic date with someone else." 

"Yeah, but it's Gaz," Bobby emphasised. 

"Who gets excited at new people." 

"Only because they're new." 

"That's the problem!" 

Lottie sighed. 

"Sorry, Bobby," she shook her head. "I know you're just trying to cheer me up." 

"They'll be back soon," said Rahim, checking the fruit before turning to Lucas. "How are you feeling about it?" 

"Fine," he gritted out, his jaw clenched.

Rahim nodded before wandering off, and Lottie met Lucas's gaze by rolling her eyes. She came over and sat at the counter in front of him as the others decided to leave them be. 

"You'll be fine at least," she nodded. "Fox is the most loyal person in here." 

"Yeah I know," he sighed heavily. "Doesn't make it any nicer to know some guy is trying it on with her." 

Lottie nodded in sympathy.

"All we can do wait," she said, drumming her nails on the counter. "I guess we'll all find out soon." 

"I'm sure Gary will behave." 

Pretty sure.

"Well he knows what will happen if he doesn't," she smiled a very dangerous smile, before hesitating a little. "Is there a good way to stop that panicky feeling? I count numbers but it doesn't always work." 

Lucas nodded, realising belatedly that he probably should have brought it up with her previously. Like him, she needed reassurance, but unlike him she was a lot better at hiding it.

"Working through my senses sometimes helps," he explained. "Like I'll try and list four things I can see, three I can hear, two I can smell, one I can touch."

"So here it'd be…" Lottie looked around. "Like Lucas, counter, kettle, mug. Then um, arguing, birds… my pulse?" 

"Exactly. And you keep going, shifting your focus. If you get there early enough it can help. If I'm too far gone I usually try and do ridiculously complicated sums in my head." 

He paused, thinking.

"I guess the thing is, there's nothing that always works. But a lot of it helps a fair bit of the time, and that's something. There's one to do with breathing for different numbers but I can't quite remember it. Fox knows that one."

"Thank you," she gave a small smile. "I'm gonna try those. And I'll ask Fox later too." 

An argument boiled over between Hope and Noah over… a fucking toastie?! And everyone made themselves scarce sharpish. 

~~~

Lucas headed up to the roof terrace, knowing he could see the main garden entrance from there. It was also his happy place in the Villa - the air was fresher, the view was wider, and it reminded him of Fox.

Today though, he just felt ill. It was already late morning, and Fox and Gary had been gone for hours. He'd felt a little reassured when he heard Gaz had been summoned as well, but dates didn't usually take this long. Maybe they were just further away.

He tried to remember that he'd been whisked away by Elisa only a few days ago. But he couldn't help feel differently when it was another guy involved. He knew fine well a lot of the guys so far would have been only too happy to couple up with Fox.

Staring at the hills, he concentrated on his breathing. He hadn't been able to eat, knowing it'd just come back up, and he felt the familiar burn spreading in his lungs.

He ran through his senses, trying to calm himself. 

He needed to pull himself together. 

~~~

There were gasps from below, and he went straight to the stairs without even looking. 

"Look who I found!" Fox's voice rang out happily to the crowd that had rushed towards her. 

Wait, why does she sound happy? 

Halfway down the stairs his stomach dropped, and he froze. 

What the fuck… 

Of all the things Lucas could have possibly prepared for, this was not one of them. He unfroze, and caught up with the others, who were gaping at the newcomer who wasn't so new. 

Henrik stood beaming at him. 

"Buddy!" he ran towards his friend, and tried to hide his look of concern. "It's so great to see you again, mate!" 

"You can say that again!" grinned Henrik. "There was a point where I thought you were going home. I might have missed you!" 

It felt like ice had been poured inside him. After Casa Amor was when he could have gone home. If Fox hadn't saved him after he fucked up. And now Henrik had returned, to take her on a date?

Shove it down, shove it down-

"I'm so hyped that we get to be together again," Lucas said, looking him straight in the eye. "I see we still have the same taste in girls." 

He wrapped his arm around Fox, pulling her close, and he felt her relax against him.

She was tense? 

She looked stunning, in the sheer dark jumpsuit with roses swirling across it that she'd worn on the night they'd first shared a bed… the night Henrik had left. 

It was a total coincidence but it gave him a small boost nonetheless. 

"You understand, don't you?" Henrik asked him.

"Yeah, bro," he rubbed the back of his neck. "I get it." 

Not really, no. 

Fox leaned into him and he gave her a grateful squeeze. 

"It's good to have you back, man," he said. 

They hugged again, and as his brain whirled, he stood aside to let everyone else greet him properly, carefully letting himself be separated from Fox. 

His lungs were burning as he sagged a little. Acting the part was doable but never for very long, and he felt wrung out. He could tell Fox had her gaze on him, but he couldn't bring himself to meet her eyes.

I'm a mess. I need to get it together. I told her I wouldn't be like this again. 

Hope and Bobby rushed forward to welcome Henrik back, quickly followed by the other original Islanders, and the newer ones making their introductions. 

"Hey, Henrik," Lottie was the last to say hello. "So is Gary back yet, or what?" 

"Oh," said Fox, sounding surprised he wasn't here. "I'm sure he's right behind us. His date couldn't have been much longer. They probably just got delayed."

"Oh, I'll bet they did," she frowned, before smiling weakly as Fox squeezed her hand. 

"I'm sure they'll be back here any second," said Henrik, and Lucas couldn't help but notice that the Swede had positioned himself near Fox. "Oh, is that them now?" 

Gary emerged into the garden, with his arm around a red-haired girl. Fox and Lottie gasped in very different tones. 

"Is that…" Bobby whispered.

"It can't be…" said Rahim. 

"Hey everyone," said the newcomer, who looked kind of familiar. 

"Hannah?!" cried Lottie, before looking at Fox in a panic. 

Oh yeah, she was the other original girl, right? 

"Well, this is a surprise!" smiled Hope. 

"I know right?" chirped Hannah. "Life is like a box of chocolates." 

"I was gonna say more like a spicy wing roulette!" Bobby joked. "Look at you!" 

Lottie was whispering to Fox, who looked to be trying to reassure her friend. 

"I had my glow up," giggled Hannah, saying hello to everyone.

She spotted Fox suddenly and lit up as Fox grinned. 

"Babes!" Fox cried happily, and Hannah squealed before running to her for a huge hug. 

"Fox!" she yelled. "I missed you so much!" 

"You look well fierce," Fox smiled. 

Lucas felt like he was a million miles away. He was standing watching, a fake faint smile etched onto his face, but he could barely look away from Henrik. 

In the corner of his eye he saw Gary openly checking Hannah out, and he was sure he'd seen Noah gazing at Fox again, but he only dimly registered it. The only words he was able to fully take in were Fox's, as if she were the only radio station he could tune into. But he was still averting his eyes, focused on Henrik. 

His buddy didn't just look like he was checking Fox out, though he was certainly doing that. Repeatedly. He looked more like a man besotted. Heartsick. Love struck. Lucas needed these reunions to be done with so he could escape and process what the hell was happening. 

As everyone moved towards the fire pit, he vaguely grasped there was some drama with Hannah and Lottie, but he couldn't concentrate on it. The latter was glued to Fox, who guided her by the hand, and sat down next to her and Chelsea. 

He knew his girl had tried to catch his attention several times, and he knew… 

No, I don't know. I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. 

He sat down at the fire pit next to Gary. The Islanders were questioning both Henrik and Hannah, but it seemed like Hannah was up first. He heard her mention how 'funny' Casa Amor had been, and he winced. 

She was speaking more about her transformation, which didn't seem that drastic to his eye, but Gary was leaning so far forward he was about to fall over. 

Hannah spoke about her new look being down to - he parsed through her wordy explanation - growth? 

"So you're saying you didn't do it to get the attention of… Well, people who have maybe shown an interest in, shall we say, alternative girls?" 

His words came out way snarkier than he intended, all his usual filters failed, and Gary elbowed him discreetly, but pretty damn hard. 

"Hmm?" said Hannah with a smile. "I don't know what you're talking about. If I change my hair, I do it for myself." 

That's not what I… never mind. 

The girls headed inside as Fox and Hannah needed to change out of their date outfits, and Lucas listened in to the guys asking Henrik questions. 

It seemed like he'd been pretty busy since he left the Villa - magazine covers, photoshoots, brand deals, and parties. All outdoor sports themed, minus perhaps the last one. 

Asked to name his show highlights he also pointed to Casa Amor, as Lucas tried not to roll his eyes, and Chelsea's arrival. 

"So who have you got your eye on then?" asked Noah. 

"Well, that would be telling," laughed Henrik "But I'd say it's pretty obvious." 

Back the fuck off. 

There were raised eyebrows all round, but the Swede just laughed again, and the conversation moved on. 

What is this. Why would he come back gunning for Fox? He knows we're solid. Has he seen stuff I haven't? Am I a bigger pain than I realise? 

Henrik headed for the pool, changing en route, and the other guys followed. 

Not even gonna talk to me properly then. I thought you were my friend. Fuck this shit. 

"You coming?" Gary asked Lucas. 

No.

"In a bit," he smiled weakly. 

~~~

The girls were still inside and Lucas didn't know what to do with himself as he crashed down on a sun lounger. Between his panic and feeling crushed by Henrik's personality change, his mind felt like it was collapsing in on itself as anxiety ripped through his veins.

There was jealousy sure, and the accompanying uncertainty, but he knew Fox. He knew and trusted and believed her. But the way his jealousy had roared to life had made him panic, and now he was consumed by anxiety over his reaction.

This shouldn't be happening. I feel secure. I feel safe. So why did I panic? Why am I still trying to run away? 

He knew Fox would come and find him when she was done indoors. He knew she'd spotted that he was struggling. And he felt devastated that he was letting her down. That he couldn't bear to talk to her. 

She deserves better. I'm not good enough. I'm not-

Hope and Lottie emerged from indoors, with worried looks. Fox came out behind them, wearing a stunning leopard print bikini and stretching in the sun with a yawn. 

Lucas smiled for a brief moment despite himself, as she seemed to be in no rush to join whatever girls drama was happening, but his stomach was in knots.

She spotted him and headed over. 

"Hey, you," she smiled, sitting next to him. 

"Oh, hey," he managed, trying to distance himself while also panicking that he was distancing himself.

"How was the date?" he tried, unable to meet her eyes. 

"I wish it had been with you instead," she answered sincerely. 

A tiny smile threatened to sneak onto his face, and he turned away. 

What am I doing? 

She leaned forward and kissed his cheek.

"Hey," she murmured. "Talk to me. Is this because I had to go on a date with someone else?" 

He looked at his hands.

"Maybe…" 

Not good enough. I'm not-

"And perhaps because you feel bad about feeling bad?" 

He blinked in surprise, and she took his hand in hers, entwining their fingers as he met her gaze. 

"I love that you feel protective of me," she smiled, her eyes sparkling. "Must mean you kind of, maybe, care about me a little bit…" 

He tried to hide his smile but had to admit defeat. 

"Alright, don't let it go to your head," he smiled sheepishly. "I'm just not that into sharing." 

"No matter what happens in here, you're the one I will never stop choosing."

He rested his forehead against hers. 

"I know," he said, in a small voice. "I'm sorry."

"You've got nothing to be sorry for, tiger," she soothed, and he pulled back to meet her eyes.

"But I'm doing this whole… thing again," he sighed. "When you told me about the text this morning, my jealousy took over again, despite it being a good thing you woke me. And when you got back, I was trying to push you away while also being terrified that I was pushing you away!" 

He lifted his hand to rub the back of his neck, only to find her hand already there, her fingers pushing in to his hair. And he realised suddenly, as reassurance washed over him, that he couldn't remember when she'd first started doing that.

Fox had spotted his anxious behaviour, and turned it into something positive she could do for him. And she'd been the only person he'd allowed to touch him there, to have his vulnerabilities at her fingertips.

He looked at her with wide eyes, and she kissed his nose, resting her forehead against his again. 

"Jealousy isn't something you can just suddenly switch off," she said softly. "A little bit is normal, and when it is an anxiety problem that sometimes takes over, that's when it's something that needs some outside help. While we're in here you've been working really hard, but I know sometimes it's going to get too much." 

He blinked rapidly, his eyes stinging.

"And it's okay, Lucas. I've got you." 

He pulled her close, burying his head against her neck, and she happily cuddled him, holding him against her. All the remaining tension ran out of his body, as reassurance washed over him. 

I love you

"You're pretty amazing," he murmured. 

"Yeah, there's this guy who keeps telling me that." 

He laughed, pulling back and she grinned at him. 

"It's me that's gone soft now," he smiled, his eyes shining, and he kissed her gently. 

"I'll allow it," she winked. 

"It still feels…" Lucas struggled to voice his thoughts, and she ran her fingers in a pattern on his arm, grounding him. "It doesn't feel fair to you. That I get jealous and you have to deal with it."

"Jealousy is normal, tiger," she said gently. "I know yours spirals into anxiety, but it's not like I don't get jealous too." 

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. 

"You do?" 

"Of course!" she smiled. "I mean you think it's a coincidence that on the day you had your date with Elisa I just happened to wear my sexiest bikini, and just happened to be showing off with the hula hoops right as you got back?" 

"I…" Lucas was genuinely surprised, and he laughed. "I totally did not realise."

"Not to mention all the marks I leave on you so that everyone knows you're mine. Though I'm pretty sure you enjoy that too." 

She smirked and he growled his appreciation.

"It's hard for me to open up about that kind of thing," she murmured, swallowing hard. "But I'm gonna try harder too." 

He realised that the pattern she'd been tracing on his arm was a heart, and he stroked her face, feeling slightly awed. 

"I'm glad," he said softly. "Thank you for telling me, angel."

Her face lit up with a smile, and she curled up at his side as he stretched back on the lounger.

She draped an arm and a leg over him lazily, and he felt her relax from tense posture to her usual self. 

She was tense? Because of this, or did I just not notice earlier because I was stuck in my own head… 

Fox stretched with a feline sound, before sighing happily with her head against his chest. 

"Think we can spend all afternoon here?" he asked, smiling, wrapping his arm around her. 

"Oh, I really hope so…" 

~~~

All afternoon turned out to only last ten minutes, when Henrik appeared. 

"Hey, you guys," the Swede bounced into view, making Fox jump against him slightly.

Aww, must have been falling asleep… 

"Hey, man," said Lucas, his hand stroking her arm softly. 

"Mind if I grab Fox for a chat?" asked Henrik. "In private…" 

C'mon, dude-

"Not right now, Henrik," said Fox, sleepily. 

"Well, I'll be up there if you change your mind." 

"Mmhm…" 

Yup, definitely falling asleep again. 

He glanced at Henrik, who shrugged, looking disappointed, and walked off.

Maybe that'll be the end of it. But I don't think I'm getting my friend back. 

~~~

"Did you talk stuff over with Lottie?" 

As the boys got ready for the evening, Lucas took the chance to catch up with Gary. 

"About what?" Gary asked in confusion.

Lucas blinked. 

"Y'know, about your date with Hannah. She was kinda worried when you left, yeah?" 

"Oh, nah," he breezed. "Hannah's her best mate, it's all good." 

Bobby came over, rolling his eyes.

"She was still upset, man. Hannah did have a bit of a dig at her." 

Gary shook his head at them, looking at them like they were a pair of idiots.

"Look, Lottie just needs to trust me is all. It's fine." 

Lucas held his hands up in surrender, quietly making a note to keep an eye on him this evening with the welcome party booze flowing. Not that he'd do anything, but winding Lottie up was likely to happen by accident. 

He knew that Gary did know Lottie needed reassurance but when he got in a stubborn mood there was no shifting him. And unfortunately Lottie was likely to withdraw from him as a result. 

Like I was trying to. 

Gary left looking for his shoe. Yet again. 

"Must be weird having Henrik back?" Bobby asked him. "I mean, you guys were really close but he seems, er, different?" 

"Heh," Lucas smirked a little, "to be fair, he was grafting pretty hard on Fox back then too."

"That's true I guess..." 

"But yeah, it's a bit strange to be reminded we're all competitors rather than mates." 

He frowned, and Bobby shook his head.

"No, that might have been true back then but it's changed since. I guess that's what makes it weird having them come back." 

Good point. And if anything, I'd say he's avoiding me. 

"C'mon lads," Gary burst back into the room. "Let's get this party moving!" 

~~~

Gary's idea of getting the party moving was apparently hanging out with Hannah by the pool, while Lottie glared from the kitchen. Hannah had been throwing flirty lines at them both, as he kept an eye on his friend, but it all felt a little… 

Insincere? 

Either way, he ignored the ones directed at him and tried to walk the line of being aloof with her while not pissing Gary off. Lucas could hardly keep an eye on his friend if he stormed off. 

Fox didn't appear to be about yet, and he guessed that she was taking a little longer to get ready. She'd seemed a bit out of sorts when she'd headed in, though that was possibly because Lottie was literally hauling her along.

They'd spent a lazy afternoon together, chatting and cuddling as she drifted in and out of naps, but as soon as she'd left his side he'd seen her tense up again. Which meant it probably wasn't him that was the issue but he wasn't sure what was. For now he was content to watch Gary but he'd already decided his angel needed him more. 

A sudden huge splash had Lucas whipping his head round to see Gary and Hannah in the pool, fully clothed, giggling and splashing each other. 

Well, a chaperone can only do so much. 

He leaned over to say something to Gary and realised his mistake a split second too late. His friend grabbed him, flipping him head first into the water.

He surfaced with a laugh, spitting water out, and promptly dunked Gary under the water. They messed about splashing, as Hannah egged them on. Glancing round, he saw Fox approaching the pool.

She'd switched into a gold jumpsuit, tight as sin, and his eyes widened. She smiled when she met his gaze, kicking off her shoes, and sitting at the edge of the pool with her legs in the water.

Lucas looked closely as he was swimming over, noting her tense shoulders and that she looked… sad? 

It was an unusual look on Fox, and he came right up to where she was, working out how to help. He pulled himself up as close as he could, then shook his wet hair like a puppy, spraying her with water. 

"Bloody hell!" she burst out laughing, and he grinned, resting his chin on her lap. 

"You doing alright, angel?" he asked, softly.

"I'm okay," she said, running her fingers through his wet hair. "Better now." 

"Is that due to the water or me?" he winked, and she laughed. 

"You, doofus," she grinned. "Though I didn't expect to find a tiger in the pool." 

He lowered his voice so that only she could hear. 

"I was trying to keep an eye on Gary. But despite how it looks, I don't think there's actually anything to worry about."

"That's good at least," she smiled. 

At least. Hmm.

He leaned up and kissed her, growling as he felt her deepen the kiss. Pulling back reluctantly, he moved over to the side and hauled himself out of the water, jumping to his feet. 

She quirked an eyebrow, curious. 

"Right, I'm gonna quickly shower this chlorine off, change into clothes that aren't soaking, and then we can show these people how to dance, yeah?" 

He grinned at her, trying to radiate all the happiness he had, and she giggled, crinkling her nose.

My heart.

"I like that plan," she said, looking genuinely pleased, and he took off, determined to be back out as soon as possible. 

And this is why you always have multiples of your favourite clothes… 

~~~

As he stepped back outside, he saw Marisol pulling Fox into the circle of Islanders dancing on the lawn.

"C'mon, Fox!" she coaxed, "Let's see those moves!" 

Marisol suddenly spun out, before whirling back towards Fox, and he realised that his girl had pulled her into some quick little salsa twists. 

Fox was clearly used to leading, and Marisol shrieked and laughed with joy. Lucas paused to watch, and realised Graham had frozen in place, his jaw hanging open. 

"Great moves!" Graham croaked eventually. "You girls sure know how to dance!" 

Lucas grinned, about to move forward when-

Someone began clapping, approaching from the other direction. Fox turned around to see Henrik, and Lucas frowned as he watched her immediately tense up. 

He moved towards her, trying to work out if it was Henrik or his own potential reaction that could be stressing her out. 

"Don't stop on my account," said Henrik. "I'm enjoying the show."

"Oh, are we dancing?" asked Hannah, appearing beside the Swede. "I love dancing!" 

Chelsea squealed, as all the Islanders made it to the lawn, save for Lottie and Hope, still hovering in the kitchen. 

Lucas found his way to Fox and wrapped his arms around her waist, feeling her relax a little against him. The music switched, from what had previously sounded like Chelsea's playlist to something much more… metal?

Fox's eyes lit up, and she gave him a wolfish grin, before she spun in his arms, her back to his chest, and started to dance a whole new way. 

Jesus christ, woman.

Lucas was only too happy to be her dance pole of choice, delighted that she'd had her mind taken off whatever was worrying her. He moved his body with and against hers, running his hands across her curves, around her hips, and trying to think straight as she had fun grinding against him. 

"You're so sexy," he murmured, kissing her neck as they danced. "I love how you move."

She purred, lifting her hand above and behind to tousle through his wet hair, and he switched from soft kisses on her neck to subtle bites.

He was vaguely aware that other people were present, doing other kinds of dancing, but he was fully invested on narrowing his thoughts to his angel and no one else. 

She had turned back towards him, and she followed his hip work as he moved, throwing in her own suggestions. Her gaze was intense, broken only by sudden kisses and laughter, as they both enjoyed the thrill of dancing with a partner who could keep up with them, and turn them on so much. 

At one point Henrik brushed against Fox, dancing too close with a smouldering look, and Lucas gave a warning growl. He was pretty sure he should feel embarrassed at doing so, but all he could focus on was this dance. 

The two danced for an hour, though it felt longer, until they were both slick with sweat. Lucas pulled her into a hug, her back to his chest, and some of their neighbours cheered, clearly amused by the two of them. 

"I'm shattered," he laughed, as his muscles burned from the workout.

"Same!" she spun round and kissed him, gently. "We should probably head in." 

"Good plan," he nodded. "I'll grab some water on the way." 

"I'll maybe sit for a minute and cool off then come join you." 

He kissed her forehead, and left, hunting down their water bottles en route. As he got to the kitchen, he saw Lottie ready to pounce. 

"Not in the mood for dancing, guys?" he asked before she could speak. 

"I'm not in the mood for much of anything," said Lottie, twisting her hands together. "Gary hasn't even come to check on me." 

Lucas frowned. He knew Lottie was prone to worry too much, and he could absolutely relate, but it seemed like Gary really was the opposite of Fox when it came to reassuring an insecure partner.

"For what it's worth," he offered, "the time I was with them in the pool, it didn't seem like they are that into each other." 

Lottie raised an eyebrow. 

"That doesn't really fit with her having spent all evening with him," Hope pointed out. 

"Sure," he nodded, "but they're not talking about anything. It's all just kinda shallow. And from what I've heard, Hannah isn't shallow? And Gaz, contrary to his behaviour sometimes, isn't either."

"Well, we'll see," Lottie sighed heavily. "Even if she is just messing with me, him not talking to me about it doesn't exactly bode well for the future." 

And that, I don't have an answer for. 

Lucas nodded in sympathy, and headed to the bedroom. He knew he should shower after all the dancing, but having had one just over an hour ago anyway he decided he could go without. 

Also, I'm too tired so fuck it. Besides, I need to try and catch my angel to find out what's worrying her. For all that she reassures me, she finds it a lot harder to open up herself.

He sat in bed, stretching his muscles that were protesting the loudest, determined not to fall asleep until-

Fox came into the bedroom at the same time as a few other couples had noisily decided to hit the hay. She was wearing cute silver pyjamas which he couldn't help but remember she'd referred to as her 'comfort' pjs. 

She got into bed next to him, and snuggled into his side, burying her head against his neck. She was radiating stress, and he stroked her hair gently, trying to ease some of her tension.

Something is definitely wrong today. 

"Are you okay, angel?" he murmured, feeling her jump as someone crashed about looking for toothpaste. 

"I will be," she sighed quietly, before changing the subject. "I loved dancing with you, we should definitely do more of that." 

"We definitely will," he smiled. 

If something was bothering her, the noise in the bedroom wasn't going to help her talk it out right now. Instead he moved his fingers across her shoulders and upper back lightly, easing tension.

He felt her start to slowly relax, and her breathing deepen, and he smiled.

It's a good job my massage skills also make me a sleep wizard….

~~~

Chapter Text

The Villa was empty, and as he moved from room to room, he couldn't find or hear anyone. There was a high pitched whining noise, just on the edge of his hearing, and his lungs were being crushed by rising panic.

He didn't care where anyone was but his angel, and as he flung open the doors to the garden his relief at seeing a figure in white was smashed as he saw she was wrapped around someone else.

Desperate to get to her, he couldn't will his legs to move, and he didn't recognise the person with her, like he'd forgotten their name. He tried to yell but no sound came out but a gasp, and he couldn't draw air into his lungs.

He tried to scream, as the unknown person suddenly grabbed her by the throat, shaking her, as she became limper and limper… 

"-it's okay, baby, I'm here. I've got you, tiger. I'm here…" 

Lucas woke with a start, his throat raw and his hands fisted in the sheets, his mind still panicked even as he realised his body was already starting to unwind.

Fox was pressed against his side, one arm around him, her face nuzzled into his neck, and he wrapped her in his arms, burying his face in her hair.

She's here, I'm fine. I'm here, she's fine. 

His heart was thundering as he sucked in air and gradually loosened his grip on her, calming down. She pressed her lips to his neck, then lifted herself to look at him, gently caressing his face.

"Bad dream," he croaked. "I'm sorry I woke you, angel."

"I'm glad you did, silly," she murmured. "I don't want you stuck in nightmares." 

She leaned over and grabbed some water, and he took it gratefully, easing the pain in his throat. The room was loud with the noise of heavy breathing and snoring from the other beds. 

"Was I yelling?" 

"Trying to," she frowned. "I've only done that when I've woken from a nightmare of me being strangled." 

I mean, that's literally what mine was, right down to it happening to you... 

He reached his hand up to her face, and she leaned in to kiss him softly before brushing her nose against his.

"I dreamt you weren't safe," his voice was raspy, as he fought not to tighten his grip on her again, "which is a lot worse than anything happening to me."

Fox put the water back on the side before laying down on her back beside him. She guided him over so he was cuddled round her, and he sighed happily hearing her heartbeat against his ear.

"I'm safe," she promised, stroking his hair and kissing the top of his head. "Not going anywhere."

"My angel," he murmured sleepily, as she held him close.

~~~

"Nothing happened!" 

Lucas groaned as he got out the shower. Fox had left with the girls to get ready, and the boys were busy gossiping about the night before.

Some were making further futile attempts to talk some sense into Gary, but unfortunately that included assuming he'd grafted on Hannah, which drowned out the more understandable suggestions to simply reassure Lottie. 

He had a feeling there was only one person who could get through to Gary, but he wasn't going to ask Fox to help someone else until he was sure she was okay. She'd been out of sorts yesterday during the day and at night, but there had been no chance of privacy with the party raging. 

His nightmare was a distant memory, but his subconscious was obviously as worried about her as his conscious mind. 

As for the previous night's party, all the other guys save for Bobby appeared to have overindulged themselves with alcohol last night, and were now suffering. Loudly. 

"How are you so energetic this morning?!" Rahim moaned as Lucas came back into the bedroom.

"I was too busy dancing to drink," he grinned. 

"I was dancing too!" 

"Yeah but you were drinking in between," Graham winced. "As we all were save for Magic Mike over there." 

Gary laughed. 

"And now we know the real perks of learning to dance!" 

Lucas smirked, more than a little pleased with himself.

"If you just drank more water…" Bobby began. 

"Water is for fish," said Gary. 

"An' crabs." 

"And people without hangovers," said Noah, his head in his hands. 

"I've got a text!" yelled Jo from the dressing room, making them all wince. 

The guys wandered in, dutifully. Lucas saw Fox was ready in a super cute green checked crop top bikini, and he grinned as she winked at him. He headed over to crouch beside where she was sitting. 

"You doing okay, tiger?" she asked, a little concern on her face still.

"Very," he reassured her with a gentle kiss and she smiled, stroking her fingers through his hair as he crouched back next to her.

He watched her posture carefully, picking up on the lingering tension that was probably invisible to everyone else. 

"It's way too early for this," Bobby pouted, as people started yawning. 

"What's this challenge then?" asked Lucas, before adding cheekily, "If it's physical we may have to boycott it given the state of some people…" 

"No way…" Jo gasped, reading the text. "Islanders, tonight there will be a recoupling. Girls, it's time to choose once and for all which Islander you want to be coupled up with." 

Most people looked stunned, and the silence stretched. 

"Cool!" beamed Fox, and Lucas lit up. 

"Good news for me," he grinned, stretching up and kissing her again. 

Noah walked over to Hope and put his arms around her waist. 

"What? Today?" Chelsea squeaked. "And all the girls get to pick? Even the ones who aren't coupled up?" 

"Yes, Chelsea," smirked Hannah. "All the girls."

Lottie looked at Hannah. Lucas followed her gaze only to see Hannah looking at him flirtatiously. He raised his eyebrow with a frown, before laying his head in Fox's lap. 

Don't even think about it. 

"After this recoupling," Henrik mused, "we'll be in the same couples until we leave the Villa." 

"And it's ladies choice," said Hannah, smugly. "I don't know about you girls, but I'm excited." 

"Fox, can you come with me for a sec?" Hope asked. "I need to have a chat."

Lucas lifted his head reluctantly, and she fixed his hair back into place as she got up to leave. 

"Oh, I was going to make us breakfast…" he said, standing up next to her. 

"Aww, that's so sweet," she smiled at him, her eyes sparkling. 

"I'm trying to keep you sweet so you pick me at recoupling," he grinned. 

"You're the only one I'd ever pick." 

"And you're the only one I'd let pick me," he said, firmly, and not at all so someone else got that message loud and clear. 

"You two are so sweet it's sickening," Lottie smirked.

"But what if, hypothetically, someone else does pick a boy who's currently taken?" asked Hannah, innocently. 

Hypothetically is it? 

Lottie spun to glare at her. Before Lucas could speak, Fox answered. 

"Oh, in that case we'd be done."

Wait-

Chelsea gasped as Lucas gaped at his girl, and he saw realisation dawn in her eyes.

"Doofus," she laughed, kissing him on the cheek. "I meant we'd be done with the show." 

Ohhhh

He laughed. 

"Well, thank fuck for that!" he grinned, as she cuddled into him. 

"I'd best go catch Hope, tiger," she sighed, and he kissed her on the forehead before letting her go. 

The pre-coupling Hope summons, like clockwork. 

"Wow, mate," said Rahim. "You'd really walk out of here?" 

"For Fox? Yeah, of course. We've already made plans for what we're doing after this." 

Gary clapped him on the back with a grin. 

He spotted Henrik looking thoughtful, and hoped their friendship might finally get back to normal. 

~~~

"Yeah, but if you could have one superpower, what would it be?" 

"Wolverine claws!" 

"Wrong!" 

Rahim looked smug. 

"What do you mean wrong?" asked Gary. "That's a well cool superpower." 

Lucas was chilling in the beanbags as another geeky conversation was in full flow. Of all the things he expected when he arrived here, encountering fellow dorks had not been one of them. 

"It is if you have a superpower of healing as well," Rahim grinned. "Otherwise you're just gonna be dripping blood and bits of hand everywhere." 

"Okay that is gross," Bobby wrinkled his nose. "And also an obvious trap question. I'd choose super strength." 

"Yeah?" asked Noah. 

"Then I could finally rule over you all!"

"Deadpool has the healing thing too, right?" asked Lucas. 

Rahim nodded. 

"Yeah that's his main one, though he's also got his fourth wall breaking." 

"Knowing he's in a film?" asked Gary, as some of the girls appeared and sat down. 

"And comics, yeah," Lucas nodded. "I'd go for that I think. I see enough injuries daily, I'd rather avoid them myself." 

"Teleportation!" Bobby yelled suddenly. "I'd be all BAM 'hello' BAM home for lunch. Totally sportswear." 

"What about you Rahim?" asked Lottie. 

"Elemental control, it's the best one." 

"Controlling fire and water and stuff…" Noah mused. "Yeah, that's cool."

"I'd duplicate myself I think," said Chelsea. "I'd actually get done everything my brain thinks of in a day!" 

"Can you imagine two of Bobby?" Rahim laughed. 

"You can't recreate perfection," protested Bobby. 

"But that's the whole point, it's a clone. He'd be exactly like you in every way."

"Calm down now, Rahim. Not in every way… "

Bobby threw a wink at Fox with his last line, as she arrived having finally extracted herself from Hope. 

She laughed, and he leaned back looking pleased. Lucas smiled to himself. The two of them had spent less time together over the past few days, Bobby perhaps needing more space, and he was glad to see them laughing together again. 

Take that, jealousy. 

"Why are we talking about cloning Bobby?" Fox grinned. 

"Because in an ideal world more than one of you lucky ladies would be able to couple up with all of this." 

He posed complete with pout, and Hope tapped him on the arm. 

"Stop it! I'm eating."

Rude.

"Oh em gee, what if the clone tried to take over your life?" asked Chelsea. "I mean how would you know who was the original?" 

"Tell them something about yourself that no one else knows," Noah mused. 

"When I was seven," Bobby piped up, "I wet myself at a friend's birthday party. I had to spend the rest of the party in one of her dresses." 

"You've worn a kilt before though, haven't you Bobbo?" asked Gary.

"Yeah, I had no problems with it. The girl whose dress it was, that's a different story. Anyway, a clone would never know that about me."

"I think I'd have some kind of safety word," smirked Lottie. 

"I bet you would," Gary grinned. 

"Couldn't you tell from a secret birthmark or beauty spot?" asked Chelsea. 

"It's a clone," Lucas explained. "It'd have all the same birthmarks you had."

"Oh yeah…"

"Fox, what do you think?" Bobby asked. "Best way to spot a clone?" 

"Hmm," she looked thoughtful. "Ask them a security question I think." 

"It's the best idea," nodded Noah. 

"Only the original could know the answer," Fox continued. "Although, if the original was in love with someone, then the clones wouldn't necessarily be. So you could tell that way." 

"The clones would inherit that though," said Rahim. "Wouldn't they?" 

"Only in the Clone Saga," she laughed. 

"Poor Spidey," Rahim shook his head sadly. 

"Wait, Spider-Man has clones?!" asked Bobby. 

"Oh my sweet summer child," she winked at him, "preserve your innocence while you can." 

As Rahim launched into a lengthy explanation of some old Spider-Man plot before anyone could stop him, Lucas walked over to Fox and put his arm around her, leaning in close. 

"Hey, can we have a chat in private?" 

"Of course," she smiled. 

He led her over to the day beds, and she sat down next to him, curling her legs beneath her. 

"So the final recoupling…" he began. 

"Yeah, funny how time flies," she mused. 

"I thought it would be good if we talked about it," he looked at her thoughtfully, tucking back some of her escaped hair. "I've never been this happy with someone. You're such an amazing person, and I think we make a great team."

Fox beamed at him, and he continued. 

"I wanted to make sure you felt the same. Which, I mean, I know," he laughed. "But how do you feel about us being coupled up?" 

"I'm really happy," she smiled. "Ridiculously so." 

"Good!" he grinned, blushing slightly. "Like, I had gathered as much! But it's still a relief to hear you say it. Because there's no one else I want to be with." 

He took her hand in his. 

"I know I've not always been easy to deal with," he sighed, and she squeezed his hand. "And I can't put into words how amazing you've been about that. And even last night, when I woke up… You're just incredible."

She kissed him on the cheek, and he smiled, knowing she was letting him say everything on his mind. 

"I just really care. A lot. I don't want to lose you. I think we have something really special. A future beyond all this."

"I think so too," she smiled, but then he saw a shadow pass over her and she tensed.

"Hey," he said softly. "What's wrong?" 

She was silent for a moment, then exhaled loudly. 

"Some stuff from yesterday," she began quietly, "that… I need to talk about." 

He nodded and gave her a reassuring smile.

"What happened, angel?" 

"I was really pleased to see Henrik," her voice was soft. "He was your friend, and mine, and he'd been a fun guy to have around. But… he's been grafting on me way too hard. Being persistent despite me being clear, and me being with you - his friend." 

Lucas tried to keep his face neutral as he listened, ignoring his rising fear, and she seemed encouraged. 

She was probably worried about how I'd react… or overreact. 

"He was saying during the date… well it doesn't matter what he was saying, but it wasn't very respectful towards you. And then last night, after we danced, I took a minute by the fire pit to cool down before bed-" 

He tensed. 

Oh no, no-

Fox sighed unhappily. 

"He asked me to go up to the roof terrace for a 'bit of fun' and that you wouldn't have to know." 

"WHAT?!" his anger flickered into a red-hot snarl. 

"Nothing happened, but there were just little moments all day, and then that… I was really uncomfortable. And usually if I shut someone down that's it. But in here I felt kinda trapped, which made all those moments kinda upsetting. There wasn't any alone time to tell you, which made me feel worse." 

His temper was washed away in concern, as he saw how small Fox had seemed to become as she spoke. 

"Oh, sweetheart," he leaned towards her and she cuddled into him. "I'm sorry. I knew something was up, but I didn't realise… Are you okay?" 

She nodded against him and pulled away after a long moment, still looking worried. 

"I'm glad you've told me about this," he said gently. "You didn't have to, especially with how I was when you came back from your date-" 

Which definitely would have stopped her from telling me that afternoon, well done me. 

"-Thank you for trusting me," he smiled, before becoming far sterner. "I'll have a word with Henrik. His behaviour is out of order. At the very least he should have respected you being clear with him. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable, angel." 

"Thank you, tiger," she smiled, her tension only dropping a little. 

He stroked her arm softly. 

"I'm sorry I made it harder for you to talk to me," he began, and she cut him off.

"No, no - you didn't. It's not that."

She frowned, pulling her thoughts together.

"It's just… hard for me to feel weak like that. And to not try and blame myself? I know logically that I did nothing wrong but-" 

He swallowed hard, listening. 

"-it just brings up some bad memories of times when I was too mixed up to know things weren't my fault, and when I really was trapped, and… well, when bad stuff happened. Whereas here it's just 'drama' and-"

She interrupted herself, frustrated, and he bit his tongue to let her finish.  

"And I don't have to deal with it by myself now. Which is a good thing. So it's aggravating that I still find it hard to talk, y'know?" 

Fox looked at him helplessly, and his heart ached. 

"I do know," he murmured, scooching closer to her as she cuddled against him. "I can't imagine what you've been through, but I do know what it's like to know you finally have someone you can lean on, someone you can trust, and it still be hard to let yourself need that person." 

Lucas felt her relax more in his arms, and he kissed her hair.

"And I think both of us," he continued gently, "worry about burdening the other. So we try and tackle it solo but the other can still tell something is wrong. We just need to help each other be vulnerable sometimes, and try not to beat ourselves up when it's hard. It's not a weakness, angel, it's the opposite."

"You're pretty smart," she murmured, and he heard the smile in her voice.

He huffed a laugh.

"I learned a lot from a clever fox," he grinned, feeling the remaining tension disappear as she pulled back to meet his gaze.

"Thank you," she smiled. "I… needed this. I think the fact it brought up bad memories made me more upset than his actual actions. And the feeling of not being able to escape. Being listened to helps a lot."

"I'm glad, angel," he kissed her forehead. "Knowing someone's made you upset or hurt you… Obviously it makes me angry, but I'd never put that before your feelings. Your happiness is the most important thing to me, always." 

"You're gonna make me all soft again, tiger," she gave a small laugh as she wiped beneath her eyes. "I'll try talking to Henrik again as well. I don't know if he's just following what he's been told when he was sent back in or what. It just doesn't seem like him." 

"Either way, we'll fix it," Lucas said firmly. "But before that, I'm going to make you breakfast."

She grinned, happily, and his eyes twinkled. 

"French toast, perhaps?" 

~~~

The girls were having a meeting to discuss the recoupling, which meant the fire pit was out of bounds. It made sense given it was girl's choice tonight, and some of the guys wound up having a similar meeting almost by accident.

Chilling in the bean bags after a successful work out, it was Rahim who brought up the subject where Lucas sat with him, Gary and Bobby. 

"So, are we expecting any surprises tonight?" he ventured. 

"I don't know," Gary answered carefully. "I hope not."

"You do?" asked Bobby, curiously.

"Yeah, I've made it pretty clear Lottie's the one for me." 

Not entirely. 

Bobby sat back, looking pleased. Lucas was relieved, maybe the night wouldn't erupt in drama after all. The few times Hannah had tried to speak to him he'd been pretty cold which was only partly to discourage any interest she might have, and mostly because she did in fact rub him the wrong way. 

"Well, I'm pretty set," said Rahim with a smirk, "obviously. What with me having a girlfriend and all." 

The boys groaned, good naturedly.

"And Noah is set with Hope," Lucas continued, "and me with Fox."

"Graham with Marisol," mused Gary. "So that leaves… Henrik and you Bobs."

Bobby shook his head. 

"Chelsea and me are just mates," he deflated a little. "It's not really happened for me in here." 

Nobody quite knew what to say. 

"I'm sorry, man," said Lucas softly, not meeting his eyes. 

"Ach, it could be worse," Bobby breezed, "I'm still having a lot of fun, I have a bunch of new friends, and some of them happen to be smokin' hot ladies." 

Gary clapped him on the back. Lucas spotted Henrik walking across the lawn, and stood up.

"Excuse me gents," he said, "I need to see a man about a fox." 

He left the guys chatting beside him, and caught Henrik's attention as he walked over.

Calm, be calm, stay cool… 

"Oh hey," said the Swede, sounding surprised.

"Could I have a word?" 

"Sure!" Henrik grinned.

Okay, keep my volume down… 

"So, you know I was really glad when you walked back in yesterday," Lucas began calmly, deciding to cut straight to the issue. "It sucked when you left. But you've been really persistent with Fox, too persistent."

He saw a flicker of something cross Henrik's face, before his easy smile returned.

"Look, man," said Henrik, "I know your jealousy can get a bit-" 

"It's not about that," Lucas cut across him, and the other man stopped in surprise. "It's not about me. Fox sees you as a friend and you've made her really uncomfortable. And I don't get it, man. This isn't you!" 

"Did Fox actually say-"

"Yeah, she did," his anger flickered into a snarl. "I knew something had happened, not necessarily with you, because she seemed sad last night. And then this morning, she told me you'd approached her when she was sitting at the fire pit, and what you said…" 

Lucas took a deep breath to calm himself. A large part of him was roaring at him to escalate but he knew without a doubt that would only upset Fox more. The opposite of his goal. 

"She felt uncomfortable and upset, and that you hadn't listened to her turning you down. And that is the issue, but man, I also thought you were my friend."

Henrik swallowed, looking at the ground.

"I didn't mean to make her uncomfortable, or sad," he sighed, sadly. "I'll apologise for that and back off, that's not- that's not who I am. I got… I dunno. Carried away. When we came in together, we each knew there was one girl that we both liked. And, y'know, I was open to grafting on other girls, and you weren't." 

Lucas nodded, listening and trying to restrain his anger.

"And it worked for you," Henrik continued. "You got the girl. And I was happy for you but… when they offered me a second chance, I came in strong. Maybe, well… too strong. I guess I just wanted to know whether I'd ever stood a chance." 

Lucas sighed. He didn't like it, but he could at least see where Henrik was coming from before he'd gone off the rails. 

"You had that chance first time around," he said, not unkindly. "And there are other girls in here." 

Henrik gave a hollow laugh. 

"I'm not sure you're the expert on that topic," he pointed out. "It's tricky on the outside. You see what all the fans have been saying, and pretty much everyone is 'shipped' with everyone else. I saw the clips of me speaking to camera and how hurt she was after Casa Amor…" 

Lucas's anger growled uncomfortably in his mind, and he swallowed hard. Henrik trailed off, before shaking his head and meeting Lucas's troubled gaze.

"I apologise," he said, firmly. "I'll say so to Fox. The last thing I wanted was for her to feel uncomfortable with me. Or to risk my friendship with you, which I kinda just shoved out of the way. I've been a twat." 

Lucas exhaled, rubbing the back of his neck.

"I can't speak for Fox, obviously. But I think that's a good start at least." 

"I appreciate you talking to me," Henrik gave him a small smile.

"Sure."

Lucas watched his former buddy walk off, uncertain where this left their friendship. Realistically, they hadn't known each other that long, but he had really missed the younger man that he'd previously felt so protective of. 

Upsetting his angel though… that was a hard thing to try and look past. 

~~~

"It's pretty much a compatibility quiz, I think."

Fox explained the upcoming challenge to him after he and Henrik caught up with everyone at the fire pit.

"And we've got thirty minutes first to discuss, uh… absolutely everything?" he laughed. "I guess the challenge is to show if we've already learned things about each other over time though." 

"Yeah, I think we're good," she grinned. "I might go grab a snack first instead." 

"Excellent plan," he smiled before lowering his voice. "Oh, I had a word with Henrik by the way. We can talk about it properly later but the short version is that he's very apologetic, and he's going to apologise to you." 

She beamed at him, and kissed him on the cheek.

"Thank you," she smiled. "Both for talking to him and apparently not killing him." 

He barked out a laugh.

"Not yet," he winked, and she chuckled as she cuddled into his arms. 

Lucas rested his chin on top of her head, enjoying her need for closeness.

"You okay, angel?" he asked softly. 

"I am now," she stepped back with intense eyes and a smile that crinkled her nose. "Thank you." 

She spun on her heel to head for the kitchen, leaving him grinning goofily. 

"Didn't we just do this kind of challenge?" Gary was asking. 

"I guess this one must be different from the Mr and Mrs one," mused Hope.

"That was things like first kisses and first pets, right?" asked Hannah, and Rahim nodded.

"So this one is maybe… questions about the future?" he suggested.

"That makes sense," said Lucas. "Like, marriage, kids, goals… that kind of thing." 

Hope looked nervous, as did several of the guys. 

"It'll be a breeze then," Lottie smiled. 

"Oh, I don't know," mused Hannah. "These things often show up the glaring cracks in a relationship."

Lottie looked stricken and Lucas rolled his eyes.

Is this all she and Henrik came back for? 

~~~

Chapter Text

The challenge area was set up for the Happily Ever After challenge with what looked like a wedding arch, and a bucket of ice and champagne on a table.

"Subtle," Lucas quipped quietly, and Fox grinned. 

The questions were indeed to be about their future, with each couple earning one step closer to the goal if their answers matched each other. 

Lucas stretched, and put his arm around his girl as they got into position.

"Ready, angel?" 

"We're gonna smash it," she said confidently.

My competitive queen! 

The other couples were still sorting themselves out, and she leaned into him.

"Henrik caught me just before," she whispered. "He apologised, and I said we were good to move on."

"I'm glad," he murmured softly, giving her a squeeze. "If he, or anyone else makes you feel weird, just let me know, okay?" 

She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.

"And I'll only kill those you ask me to" he added with a wink, making her laugh. 

Hannah and Henrik stood at the front, as quizmasters, making sure everyone understood the rules. 

"First couple to reach the arch wins," Henrik concluded the instructions, before starting with the first question. 

"Couples, for your first holiday will you stay in the UK of go abroad?"

Lucas smiled as he wrote his answer. 

"Let's see," called Henrik. "Chelsea and Bobby, show us your answers!" 

The two flipped their boards over to reveal different answers. 

"What? The UK?" Chelsea cried. "You think we're staying home for our first holiday?" 

"That's four countries!" Bobby shook his head. "Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland." 

"Four countries I can't get a tan in!" pouted Chelsea. 

"Well, you two won't be going anywhere right now," said Hannah. "No step for you." 

"Let's see Noah and Hope," Henrik suggested.

Unsurprisingly the two of them had matching answers, picking abroad. They moved ahead a step. 

"Fox and Lucas," Hannah called, "show us what you've got." 

Lucas flipped his board round with confidence, smiling at their matching answer. 

"It's gonna be abroad," smiled Fox. 

"Yup," he grinned. "Finland, baby!" 

He winked at Fox, and she looked delighted. He'd already been planning it in his head, and he was absolutely going to surprise her with a trip to Moominland while they were there. 

"Take a step forward!" declared Hannah. 

Gary and Lottie gave their answers, based on her taking him back to Australia to meet her family and friends. They stepped forward.

Rahim and Jo got a step, though it sounded more like they were planning work holidays abroad. 

Graham and Marisol had different answers but only because they'd each gone for what they thought the other might prefer. 

That's pretty cute. 

"Next questions, Islanders," said Hannah. 

"Whose place do you spend the winter break at?"

Lucas thought for a moment, as this was kind of a trick answer. 

"Jo, what did you and Ibrahim decide?" asked Henrik. 

"His mum is an amazing cook," she answered, "so we're going to his." 

"Yeah, I love you babe," Rahim shook his head as they stepped forward, "but we're not eating your food." 

Right, I know I'm hardly an expert, but the L word after three days? Jesus christ. 

"Time to show us what you've got, Lucas," Hannah called. 

He flipped his board around to show his matching answer.

"Bit of a trick answer," he smirked. "Christmas is for visits, not staying over with folks. I put down my place as I'll take Fox somewhere nice." 

"Yup," Fox nodded. "Visiting family and friends is a must but it's a romantic time of year too!" 

"I think Hope and Noah might have some competition," smiled Hannah. "Take another step forward." 

Oh jeez, don't wind Hope up like that. 

She moved on to the next couple. 

"My place obviously," began Gary as Lottie's eyebrows shot up, "because my nan'll do her roast." 

"No way," she disagreed, "it's gonna be round mine." 

"Your place is in Australia! I am not having barbeque for Christmas dinner. It's meant to be all stuffing and turkey." 

"Well, this time it'll be ribs and shrimp!" 

Gaz, just take your nan to Aus, jesus. 

The rest of the group went through their answers. 

"It's still anyone's game!" hyped Hannah. 

Because there's only been two questions… 

"Fox and Lucas and Hope and Noah are in the lead," Henrik summarised. "With the other couples close behind."

"We'd be in the lead if someone wasn't so picky about their food," grumbled Lottie. 

"We all know the next big step in any relationship is getting a pet," said Hannah, introducing the next question. 

"Will you be a dog or a cat couple?" 

Easy!

Hannah and Henrik went round the couples, judging the answers. 

"Chelsea and Bobby," cried Henrik, "show us your boards!" 

Bobby flipped his to reveal the word 'dog' while Chelsea had written… 

"Guinea pig!" she yelled. 

Fox started giggling, and Chelsea flashed her a grin. 

"That wasn't an option," Bobby pouted. "You had to say dog or cat." 

Poor Bobby, Chelsea doesn't obey mundane human rules. 

"A guinea pig is probably more dog than cat," she offered. 

"But it's neither," Henrik shook his head. "Sorry guys." 

"Lucas, what did you and Fox say?" asked Hannah. 

He flipped his board round, smiling at their matching answers. 

"Doggo," Fox grinned.

"She's always wanted a dog," he laughed. "And I like that they're so expressive." 

"You've put an asterix, Fox, and an 'and', mate?" Henrik asked curiously.

"That's because cats are the plan too," she explained. 

"They're independent beings who rule the internet," he added solemnly. 

"You two are well impressive," said Gary, looking a little proud. 

Noah and Hope revealed their matching answers, though it didn't seem like the librarian had signed off on the enthusiasm for a handbag-sized dog.

Henrik introduced the next question, saying it was a big one. 

"Do you want children in the next 5 years?" 

Oof, easy for us but this might be drama… 

"Fox, what did you put down?" asked Henrik. 

"It was a no. I don't plan on having kids." 

A few of the guys looked shocked, but Lucas noted that none of the girls did. 

No doubt they've chatted about that but us guys… haven't, huh. 

"Same," Lucas nodded with a smile. "Pets all the way." 

Fox fist-bumped him happily. 

"Guess you can take a step forward," said Henrik. "Noah, what did you say?" 

"I said yes. I love kids." 

Hope hesitated before finally turning her board around, with a big 'No' written on it. 

Noah looked at her in shock. 

Uh oh. 

"But whenever we've talked about it…" he said, confused. 

"Whenever we talk about it you always talk about wanting loads of kids," she sighed. "It's so easy for guys to say that. If you had to give birth, or be pregnant for nine months, or put your career on hold, you'd change your tune." 

Yeah, they made a film about that. Called Alien. 

"Childbirth can be excruciating…" said Chelsea. 

"It doesn't just end there," Hope nodded, "it's a life-long job." 

"You're pushing something the size of a watermelon out of-" 

"Can we do without the imagery?" interrupted Jo. 

"Not if you actually do it," said Fox. 

"That's the reality," Hope agreed. 

"It's amazing," mused Marisol, "but it does change your body completely." 

"While you're pregnant," Gary frowned. 

"And after," said Hannah. 

"Some bodies go back to the same as before," Fox added. "Some don't. And some are, well… It's totally worth it for women who do want kids of course. But it's a major negative for those who don't..."

"It's really interesting," Hannah mused as Fox tailed off. "You boys should read up on it." 

"What do you think, Fox?" asked Hope. "About not having kids, I mean." 

He saw a flicker of realisation on Fox's face. 

The other girls maybe all do want kids… 

"It's completely fine to not want kids," she said firmly. "And just like those who do want them, some of us know our decision won't change. I just wish more people would respect that." 

He gave her a squeeze and she relaxed against him with a smile. 

"Me too," nodded Hope. "It's not something every woman wants."

"That's fair," said Noah, before going quiet again. 

"Well, something to think about," breezed Hannah, "as you two stay where you are." 

They continued for a few more rounds, and Lucas was pleased with how well they were doing. Even the ones they got wrong were fun, as they each learned more about the other. He was going to teach Fox how to tango, and she was going to coach him through Dragon Age in time for the next instalment. 

Henrik announced the next question, and Lucas guessed they had to be near the end of the quiz by now. 

"Moving in together is a big step for a couple. Whose home town will you live in?" 

Lucas picked up his chalk. This was a hard one as they hadn't actually come to a decision. Both places had major points in their favour but…

Wait, I actually do know this. 

He wrote down his answer as Henrik went round the group. 

"Fox and Lucas, you're up," called Hannah. 

She turned her board around, biting her lip. 

"I said we'd be in my hometown. Or, I mean, in that general bit of the country." 

"Which is perfect," he grinned, flipping his board, "because that's what I put. I don't mind where we are and it's easy for me to work anywhere, but Fox needs to be closer to the countryside and the sea." 

"Aww!" her eyes were shining as she tackled him with a cuddle. 

He caught her with a laugh. 

"You guys are too cute," beamed Lottie. 

"That's another step towards the finish line," Henrik confirmed. 

After a few more rounds, Gary and Lottie were ahead by one step. 

Henrik cleared his throat. 

"Okay, that was the last of the questions… Well done Lottie and Gary! You're our winners!" 

Lucas joined Fox in cheering loudly, and soon everyone was applauding them as Lottie turned red. 

"I can't believe this," Hope muttered. 

Good grief. 

"Fox and Lucas share second place with Noah and Hope," Henrik grinned. "Close behind we have Jo and Ibrahim. The least said about Chelsea and Bobby the better." 

Rude. 

"We did great!" Fox grinned, and Lucas fist-bumped her. 

"That was fun," he laughed. "I'm looking forward to a film-marathon Christmas now! Muppets and horror, a new tradition."

"Look at you two all in sync," said Hannah, looking at Lottie. 

"We're just a great couple, right hun?" said Lottie. 

"We're the whole package," Gary agreed, smugly. 

"It would be a real shame if the recoupling messed this up," Hannah mused, and Lottie's face fell. 

Give it a rest.

"And what do you mean by that?" asked Lottie, stiffly. 

"Nothing. Just what I said," Hannah waved her hand.

There was an awkward silence before Gary broke it. 

"Let's crack open this bottle and enjoy our prize." 

"Sounds like a great plan, babe," Lottie was trying her best to smile, but it was clear her victory had been ruined for her. 

I guess both of our friends returned just to cause trouble.

~~~

The couples were making their way back to the Villa, but Lucas held back. Fox wandered over to the edge of the platform to enjoy the view. 

"Are you disappointed we lost?" he asked with a wink as he came up beside her.

"Not at all," she laughed. 

He was always amused by how she could be so competitive but then be completely blasé about not winning. She just enjoyed the challenge. 

Fox turned, and he put his arm around her as he looked at the Villa. 

"This is a beautiful ending to a pretty great day, angel," he said softly. 

"It's been a great day," she smiled.

I can't not say this any longer. 

Lucas turned towards her and took her hand, looking into her eyes. 

"I'm feeling really good about the recoupling tonight," he said. "I know it's been a weird couple of days for you with the Henrik stuff-" 

He squeezed her hand, and she smiled. His heart was thundering in his chest. 

"-but all of today has really underlined what I've known for a while. That I'm with the right person, for the first time in my life."

Her eyes were shining, and he cupped her face in his hand, with a smile. 

"I love you," he said softly, firmly, finally. 

He saw her tear up immediately, and swallow hard with a smile. 

"I love you too." 

His face lit up and he pulled her close against him. Fox leaned up and kissed him, and he wrapped his arms around her, dipping her slightly. He could feel her heart pounding against him, his own pulse still racing. 

He deepened the kiss as her fingers surged into his hair, and he felt utterly and completely giddy. Eventually he broke the kiss and pulled back, but kept her in his arms.

"Wow," he breathed. 

"Wow," she laughed softly, carefully flicking away a couple of stray tears. 

"You're incredible, Fox," he ran his fingers down her arm before cupping her chin lightly, his eyes never leaving hers. "You're just… I mean… Wow."

She smiled at him, bright with happiness.

"Lucas at a loss for words?" she asked cheekily, and he laughed. 

"Yeah, there's a first time for everything. I'm not used to it!" 

He leaned his forehead against hers, and made an appreciative noise as her fingers caressed the back of his neck. 

"I've known for a while," he repeated his earlier words softly, "but I wanted to give you time to see… I don't know. The bits that put other people off. The sides of me nobody else got to see. The whole mess."

"You're not a mess, tiger," she said firmly, and he smiled. 

"Well, if I am a mess, I'm your mess now," he paused, hesitating for a moment before he spoke more quietly than before. "I've never been in love before." 

She kissed him, softly. 

"I know." 

He laughed, because of course she knew. She always did when it came to him.

"I've known for a while too," she said, beaming at him. "And I've never been more sure of anything."

Lucas couldn't help the goofy grin on his face, and she laughed happily. 

"Love you, dork."

"Love you, angel."

~~~

"Someone's happy!" 

Graham laughed as Lucas bounced around the bedroom, literally too excited to sit down. Lucas grinned. 

"Recoupling time remember," said Noah. 

"Oh yeah!" Lucas yelled loudly, dialing his voice back as Rahim winced from just a foot away as he ran past. "Shit, gotta shower!" 

The shower helped calm him down a little, and he hopped across the bedroom pulling his trousers on.

"Okay, spill," said Gary, consumed by curiosity. "You're completely hyper, and the girls were making all kinds of excited noises from the dressing room. What's going on?" 

Lucas paused, realising every guy was looking at him expectantly. He grinned. 

"I told Fox I love her." 

"Oh my god!!" Rahim squealed as Gary rushed over. 

"And?!" he demanded. 

Lucas grinned even wider. 

"She told me she loves me too!" 

"YES! Get in my son!" Gary fully lifted Lucas in the air with a massive bear hug as the other guys closed in. 

"I'm so happy for you both..." Rahim looked completely overcome with emotion.

"Lucky bastard," Graham clapped him on the back. 

"Congrats," said Noah, heading into the bathroom. 

"Totally succulent!"

Lucas looked at Henrik who was grinning at him, and pulled him into a hug.

Henrik's words had unfrozen Bobby, and he came over still laughing. 

"I'm glad for you, man," he said, hugging Lucas before lowering his voice. "Take good care of her." 

"I will."

"Aye."

Clothes mostly on, he finished fixing his hair in the mirror as Gary came over, still beaming.

"I'm so pleased for you guys," he said in a serious tone. 

"I could tell!" 

Gary laughed. 

"This place is so wild, mate," he leaned against the wall as Lucas poked at his hair. "It's nice seeing a couple that works so well together, amongst all the relationship mess in here. You're the real deal." 

"Well, we're not the only ones," Lucas noticed that his friend was looking a little on edge. "Even if the recoupling goes sideways, you and Lottie are doing good. You won that challenge today." 

"Yeah, I know. I think we'll be okay, though there's gonna be a few bumps in the road."

"You sure your nan doesn't fancy Australia?" 

Gary stared at him in shock. 

"I… hadn't thought of that," he looked thoughtful. "Maybe she would at that." 

She's probably already booked her ticket. 

Lucas paused, giving Gary his full attention.

"Lottie's had a couple of rough days," he said, watching the younger man's reaction. "She's a lot more vulnerable than most would guess, I think."

"Yeah," the blonde sighed. "I'm not great at picking up on how she's really feeling. And then I get stubborn about it as well. This place is getting to me if I'm honest."

"That's understandable, man."

"I'm guessing you or Fox sorted stuff out with Henrik today by the way? He's been less, uh, intense today." 

"Hah, yeah," Lucas nodded. "He's backed off." 

"Cool," grinned Gary. "I wasn't looking forward to dealing with angry Lucas."

The older man laughed.

"Pot and kettle, mate!" 

"Pff, I'm all bark, me. I was fully expecting to see a Swede being launched through the wall." 

Lucas snorted.

"Like yourself, I'm far more worried about provoking the full wrath of my better half."

"Oh jesus, don't even joke!" Gary laughed. 

~~~

Lucas could tell some of the boys were nervous at the fire pit, but he still felt like he was sitting on a cloud. 

There should be two little bluebirds flying above me, singing about how great life is now my brain has fully melted… 

The sight of the girls approaching brought him back to earth, or rather the sight of his angel dressed in white. She was wearing a punked up white crop top and a long, white, see-through skirt, slashed to the hip. 

He sighed happily as she smiled at him, and heard Gary laugh. 

A phone beeped, and the tension in the air rocketed. 

Hope stood up. 

How many times have Hope and Noah gone first? 

Hope gave a speech, Noah gave a speech, and finally they sat down.

Another phone beeped, and Fox stood with a smile.

No one else can choose me now! 

"Today I've been thinking about how important it is to have the right person by your side," she said firmly. The girls asked me earlier what I thought was important when choosing a partner, and I said that I'd been looking for someone who would be my rock, my best friend, and my partner in crime."

Lucas couldn't keep the goofy grin off his face. Her speeches were usually short, and hearing her words now… he felt like his heart was going to explode from happiness. 

"And that's exactly who I found. The person I'm choosing today is the man I love. My tiger. He brings out the best in me, and I think I bring out the best in him."

Fox's voice broke a little, and Lucas gave her an encouraging smile, his eyes shining in the firelight. 

I'm actually gonna cry- 

"He's my future. The person I want to couple up with, is Lucas." 

He jumped up and walked towards her, beaming. He paused, knowing exactly what he wanted to say. 

"When I first came to the Villa, I played the game all wrong. We were supposed to be thrown in here to charm all these gorgeous women, and instead I could only see one. I don't think I've met anyone quite like you, Fox."

He took her hand in his, and could feel her trembling. 

"People don't get past my exterior. But you're not like everyone else. You truly see me, and that's one of the things that makes you so special. I can't help but feel lucky. You could have picked any guy in here, but you chose me. And you kept choosing me." 

He squeezed her hand as she batted away a tear. 

"I always believed, or hoped the right person was out there for me… that one day I'd find love. I never thought it would be here, not til I saw you. I promise to try and make you as happy as you make me, angel."

He closed the gap between them and wrapped her in his arms. Rahim loudly blew his nose, wiping away tears, as everyone clapped. 

"I need a tissue!" wailed Chelsea. 

Fox laughed against his chest and he looked down to see her beaming tearfully. 

"I'm just so happy," she squeaked, and he grinned, leading her over to their seats as a phone rang out. 

Lucas was about to whisper something but he followed Fox's sudden wide-eyed gaze to see that Hannah had stood up. 

Lottie turned away, unable to watch. 

"Coming back into the Villa," Hannah began. "I understand how Priya must have felt-"

Except Priya didn't target an actual relationship. 

"-It's not been easy making this choice. I think that's how the best relationships start, with someone you just have a rapport with…" 

Gary's jaw was clenched. 

"And this boy has a special place in my heart. He knows how to make me smile, but he's also a good friend. The boy I want to couple up with is…" 

She's dragging this out but it doesn't sound like Gaz… 

"Bobby." 

"Did she say Bobby?" Lottie asked quietly. 

"Yep," said Chelsea with a sigh. "And this is why you should always have a backup plan." 

Bobby beamed and ran over to Hannah, picking her up and spinning her round.

"Han, when you came back into the Villa, I was over the moon," he smiled. "We've always had a special connection. I didn't realise how much I wanted us to be together until you said my name…" 

Lucas felt Fox relax beside him. Had Bobby spent much time with Hannah? 

I hope this works for him. 

"I'd been holding my breath," Bobby continued. "If you'd waited any longer I'd have passed out."

"You're so silly," Hannah laughed. 

They sat down together, and Lottie turned to her in surprise. 

"What are you doing?" she frowned. 

"I'm being a good friend." 

Fox stiffened slightly. 

Damn, that's basically admitting she didn't choose Bobby for his own self. 

There was another notification noise. 

"Lottie it's you," said Jo. "You're up." 

"What? Okay…" Lottie was totally lost, but as she stood up she took a deep breath. "I've been stood here so many times, and the boy I've wanted to couple up with has always been snapped up." 

Lucas blinked. She'd only been apart from Gary once since they first coupled up, during the disaster recoupling. 

That's why she needs reassurance. She sees things so negatively… 

"But now that I've got a chance to be with this boy… I'd be a fool not to take it." 

She was fighting back tears and Gary's face softened as he waited for her to continue. 

"I've not always handled my feelings the right way. I'm really sorry for that, Hannah."

She turned to Hannah who smiled at her. 

What the flippity fuck, Lottie didn't do anything wrong! 

"There is only one boy for me…" she powered through to her ending. "The boy I want to couple up with is Gary." 

Gary grinned, striding over and kissing her. 

"You're such a soft touch," he smirked. 

"No, I'm not." 

"And stubborn." 

"No, I'm not," she smiled. 

"When I first met you Lottie," Gary began, "I was a little scared. But I know when I've found someone special. And I can't wait for us to be a proper couple."

He swept her into his arms, and dipped her into a kiss as everyone cheered. 

As far as Gary speeches go that was a winner. 

They sat down, with Lottie next to Hannah who squeezed her hand. 

Another beep sounded. 

"Finally!" Jo exclaimed. "It's me. I didn't think me and this boy would get another shot at a relationship…" 

Lucas tuned out. Either everyone was speaking nonsense tonight or more people had been falling out with each other than he realised. 

Gary's words earlier about how few couples in here got on started to make a bit more sense. And the whole Hannah situation was baffling.

Fox had curled up next to him, feigning interest a lot better than he could manage. Maybe none of this other stuff made sense because he was happy up here on his cloud with her. 

And in five days time at the very most, they'd finally get some actual, genuine, literal privacy for themselves. 

His grin helped sell his applause as Jo and Rahim sat down, followed by Marisol and Graham. He wrenched his attention back to proceedings as he realised it was Chelsea's turn with only Henrik left. 

"Well you'd think I'd be upset, what with my partner being stolen," Chelsea began in her typical honest style. "But good things happen to good people. I say that because I've fancied the pants of this boy ever since he walked into the Villa." 

Henrik had turned bright red. 

"And though we don't really know each other," she continued, "I've got a good feeling about him. The boy I choose to couple up with is Henrik." 

The Swede gave a genuine smile, and stood up. 

"Since I came back to the Villa, you have been the one person who has always put a smile on my face. You're so positive and enthusiastic, it has really made my time in here fun-"

Huh, they actually make a pretty good match. 

"-Sometimes you go so fast I don't really understand what you're saying. But your energy when you're talking makes me smile." 

"Aww," Fox murmured softly beside him, smiling at her friends. 

"I'm really glad you're happy to couple up with me," Henrik beamed. 

He strode forward to kiss Chelsea on the cheek, only for her to pull him in and, as Chels would describe it, snog his face off. 

The Islanders whooped and whistled as a red-faced Henrik and a very smug Chelsea sat down together.

Haha, she's gonna eat him alive. But I think he could be good for her. 

With everyone successfully paired up, the couples drifted off to find their own space. 

~~~

Lucas flopped down on the day bed, resolving to leave talking about the other couples until later.

Or never. Never is good. 

Fox curled up next to him, and he pulled a blanket over as he wrapped an arm around her, sighing happily.

"Guess what?" he asked her softly. 

"What?" 

"I love you." 

She giggled against him, and propped herself up, kissing him on the cheek.

"I'm not ever going to get tired of hearing that, tiger." 

"Good," he grinned. "Because I really like saying it." 

"You are the cutest," she beamed at him. "Which is why I love you too." 

He grinned even wider. 

"Fuck, I'm just so happy," he laughed. "It was the last stuff I was holding back. And I kept wanting to tell you, but y'know, I'm a mess." 

He put a finger to her lips to forestall her protest, and she smiled. 

"Your mess," he grinned, and she laughed. 

"Good boy," she purred, and he blushed. 

"I'm so glad that was the last recoupling," he mused. "This one was the least stressed I've been, but my brain was still pulling up disaster scenarios. If you'd ended up with someone else, I wouldn't have been able to stand it." 

"If that had happened, we'd be out of here," she smiled.

"You'd really do that?" his voice was serious. "Give up fifty thousand to be with me?"

"I'm not gonna pretend the money wouldn't help my siblings a lot," she shook her head, "but they'd never want me to not be myself. And I wouldn't hesitate." 

She ran her finger down his cheek, smiling softly. 

"Money doesn't buy love, remember?" 

Lucas pulled her closer, touching his nose against hers, as his heart fluttered. He gently brushed some loose hair from her face, and kissed her softly.

He sat back with a huge smile, as she glanced around the garden.

"I guess we're here all alone," she drawled, before biting her lip.

He smirked, ready for mischief. 

"Indeed we are. Alone and all cozy… and the company's pretty good, too."

"Pretty good?" she purred, dangerously. 

He chuckled, lazily stretching his arms which just so happened to flex his muscles.

"Don't get too comfortable," her tone was still dangerous, and she moved closer, leaning her body against his. 

Lucas smouldered, his pulse skyrocketing, as she gazed at him intensely with darkened eyes. 

"I know that look," he growled. 

He pressed his lips to her neck, kissing a slow, soft line down to her shoulder and back up to her ear as she purred against him.

As he pulled back to make a teasing remark, Fox surprised him by kissing him fiercely. She ran her fingertips down his neck, and across his collarbone, before hooking her fingers in his chain to give the slightest pressure on his throat. 

He gasped against her as she kissed him harder, his thoughts of teasing thrown completely out the window.

"I want you," he attempted to growl but it came out as a groan of need. 

"Come and get me, tiger," she smirked, running her hand down his chest, hooking him by the waistband to pull him against her as her other hand kept hold of his chain. 

"Fuck!" 

He tore her clothes off, covering her skin in kisses, licks and fervent praise. She undid his belt and trousers, her hand teasing down into his boxers. She ghosted her fingers along his length, and he threw his head back only to feel her teeth on his throat. 

His felt over stimulated with her barely touching him, and his breath stuttered-

I can't- what- fuck-

Her hand in his boxers gripped him firmly, and he fucking whined as he tried to grind his hips, to find friction. She dropped his chain and his head snapped forward, his hands soaring up into her hair as he kissed her furiously. 

She started undoing his remaining shirt buttons, her other hand moving in time, and he broke, tearing his shirt off and rolling them so he was above her. The rest of her clothes disappeared, as did his, with him barely pulling his lips and tongue away from hers. 

Fox moaned into his mouth needily, as he was finally pinning her whole body, and he took his time grinding against her, feeling how wet she was for him. 

"Luc, fuck!" she mewled softly, as he chased her pulse with his lips. 

"Patience…" he laughed against her skin, finding his control at last. 

He shifted his weight to the side slightly, letting his hand caress down her body, making her purr. He kissed her deeply as his fingers continued their path, following lazy patterns that had her gasping against his tongue. 

The faster his fingers moved, the slower he kissed, and he felt himself pouring all of his emotions in to her as everything became more and more intense.

She started to tremble beneath him, and he began kissing her neck slowly, all gentle with no teeth. Her breath was stuttering as she tipped her head back, and he murmured praise as he felt her body thrum with pleasure. 

"So beautiful, angel. I love seeing you like this, just for me."

Lucas increased the pressure, barely, and she shattered, her back arching beautifully against him. He kissed her through it, as soft as his fingers trailing back up her body. He ran his fingertips down her arm, entangling his fingers with hers.

"Baby, please…" her other hand ruffled through his hair, and he pressed his weight down a little more, squeezing her hand against the bed. 

He pushed into her with a groan of pleasure, shallow thrusts that had him entering her again and again as her breath fluttered. She kissed his neck, as he broke out in sweat to match hers. 

This is… fuck-

He captured her lips with his, then pulled back to meet her eyes as he bottomed out. She bit her lip with a purr, and as he moved slowly, he felt his heart thumping.

"I love you," he breathed, and she crinkled her nose with her smile.

"I love you, Lucas," she purred softly, her eyes intense. 

This is… I've never… 

He went as slowly as he could, for as long as he could, covering her in kisses and praise. He traced his fingers down, again and again, to feel her come for him, under him, around him. 

"So good, baby," she breathed against him. "You feel amazing; you're so good."

Fuck, I-

Lucas realised that he definitely had a thing for her telling him he was good, as his thrusts started to miss his beats, his control stretched as far as it could go. She circled her hips against him as his head dropped against her neck, his forehead dripping in sweat. 

She kissed him, increasing the heat as everything started to become too much, he couldn't-

"Come for me, love," she breathed, and he chased the final high, yelling her name into the night. 

"Fox!" 

Everything was pleasure, warm and comfortable, and he'd rarely felt so totally and utterly at peace. She kissed him as he came back to himself, and he whined as she tried to pull away, holding her tighter.

She laughed softly as he burrowed his face into her neck, rolling them slightly so she wasn't squashed but keeping himself inside her. She wrapped her arms around him, purring happily. 

"I'm so lucky to have found you here," he murmured. 

"What can I say, you did well," she smiled against him. 

"Well, I don't like to brag about my skills, but…" 

She laughed.

"Not your skills. Mine."

"Oh, is that how it is?" he smirked. 

"I'm not saying I'm definitely magic, but it's a ninety-nine percent probability." 

She brushed her nose against his, with a cheeky smile.

He laughed. 

"You're adorable, angel."

She grinned, and he kissed her tenderly beneath the stars, feeling wonderfully content. 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke as various people chatted in the bedroom, getting their morning started. He reached out and realised Fox wasn't there, and for the first time felt no stab of anxiety at her absence. 

She often woke before anyone else, and he thought back to how that had resulted in her being the first to greet him and Henrik when they first arrived.

He'd been delighted by her cheekiness, and that the girl he'd hoped to meet had been the one to welcome him. She'd let her gaze linger on him back then, and he remembered his butterflies of nerves, anxiety and excitement.

That had been just over three weeks ago, but time moved differently in here, and it felt like months had passed. Everything was more intense as Villa time spent together equated to many real world dates every day. 

He couldn't truthfully say that his nerves and anxiety never bothered him anymore, especially when jealousy entered the picture, but he still felt those excited butterflies when he thought of her.

Getting up with a grin, he decided to have a quick shower then headed to see what was happening for breakfast.

~~~

"Tea's brewing, mate." 

"Thanks, Gaz," Lucas nodded. "What's cooking?" 

"Bobs is doing French toast and pancakes," said Gary, "and Rahim is doing something with fruit." 

"Anything needing done guys?" Lucas called over.

"Nah, it's good," Rahim came over, having done his part as Bobby put his thumbs up to signal he didn't need help. "Mostly just waiting on the girls now." 

Noah emerged, yawning, and crashed down on the sofa.

"Everything okay?" asked Gary. 

Lucas looked over and saw that Noah was looking a little rough. 

Sleepless night? 

"Me? Yeah, no worries," Noah shrugged, and Rahim raised an eyebrow at him. 

The librarian sighed.

"Lucas, can I ask you something?" 

"Sure." 

"When did you and Fox first bring up the kids question?" 

"Actually not that long ago," Lucas replied, after thinking back. "I was sort of muddled with not wanting to put too much pressure on progressing things, and I think she was worried what my reaction might be." 

"That you'd want kids, you mean?" asked Noah.

"Nah, she had a pretty good idea I didn't, but she wasn't sure if I was ambivalent about it. When you're someone who doesn't want kids, people can really hassle you about it. And for women, even if a guy says he's not bothered, often he'll still be shocked."

"That's true," nodded Gary. "I've got mates who said they hadn't really thought about it, but when a girlfriend said she didn't want kids it suddenly became a big deal." 

Noah was quiet, looking thoughtful.

"Some people do change their minds though…" he trailed off. 

"Sure, but some people don't," Lucas shook his head. "And I think when you're the one whose body would be doing all the work, if you say you definitely know either way then that's that."

"So you really don't want children at all?" asked Gary. 

"Nope," he paused before continuing. "Though if it happened by accident and Fox wanted to, obviously that's different. But I just always wanted a partner I could focus all my attention on. She likes dogs, I like cats, so we're gonna do that."

He grinned happily. Bobby wandered over, having overheard some of the conversation. 

"It's a real deal breaker issue," he sighed. "I can't imagine not having kids, but at the same time, if you fall for the perfect girl, and that's the one compromise... I dunno, honestly."

A perfect girl... like Fox, perchance. 

"It feels kinda premature to worry about it," Noah shook his head, "but it's a big thing to not have matching views on." 

"I feel you," said Gary. "I'm looking at a potential decision of two countries on opposite sides of the world to live in. Lottie is happy in England, but it's not something I can totally ignore either."

Some of the girls arrived, and Bobby headed back to start plating up. Lottie and Hannah were chatting away happily as Noah and Rahim went over.

Lucas turned to Gary.

"Am I missing something with Hannah and Lottie?"

"What do you mean?" asked Gary. 

"I wasn't here when Hannah was first time around," Lucas reminded him. "She was friends with Lottie, right? And partnered with you?" 

"Yeah, and then at the recoupling I picked Marisol, and Hannah went home." 

"And then you kissed Lottie, and there was drama when it came out… but I thought that'd made Marisol upset rather than Hannah?" 

Gary squirmed uncomfortably. 

"I mean, Marisol was a bit," he said. "But Lottie felt like she'd betrayed Hannah. Or broken Girl Code or whatever." 

"But she hadn't," Lucas objected.

"Well, I didn't think so," Gary agreed. "But I think Lottie's guilt did the work. And then when Hannah came back…"

She caused a shit ton of drama. 

He looked off into the distance before focusing on Lucas again.

"You were right," he said, "when you told me Lottie needed reassurance. I've not been great at that. And Hannah was trying to wind her up. But now they're best mates again which means my apology just got waved away, and honestly, I'm as lost as you." 

Lucas huffed a laugh. 

"Well as long as I'm not the only one who doesn't get it." 

Gary grinned and shook his head. 

"C'mon, let's eat." 

~~~

"Aww, thanks boys!" 

Fox came and sat down next to him with pancakes from Bobby and a cuppa from Gary, and Lucas took his time appreciating the view. 

She was wearing a black bikini with metal buckle details, alongside a matching choker and arm cuff. As the weeks had gone by her wardrobe had gradually got edgier and he was a huge fan.

He mouthed "wow" at her and she blushed, adorably. 

He sneaked some of the French toast he'd saved in case it had run out (it had) on to her plate when she wasn't looking. When he thought she wasn't looking. 

"Cheeky," she laughed. 

"It's your favourite, right?" 

"You are too sweet!" 

"Don't mention it," he grinned. "I mean seriously, I have a reputation to maintain." 

"Om nom nom," she said in a voice that sounded somewhat familiar… 

"You sound like a baby dinosaur!" he smirked. 

"Dang it, I was going for Cookie Monster," she shook her head sadly. "But baby dinosaurs are cute."

"You enjoy your breakfast like the Cookie Monster if you want to babe," he smiled. 

"You're not that bad, Fox," said Noah, misunderstanding. "I think it's cute." 

Lucas couldn't help but notice the intensity of Noah's gaze on Fox.

Watch it, mate.

"I'm adorable when I eat," she laughed. 

"Like a baby dragon?" Lucas suggested, casually draping an arm around her, and her eyes lit up. 

"Are we talking about Lottie?" asked Gary, loudly. "I heard the words baby dragon." 

"You think you're so funny…" Lottie smirked, and playfully swatted him on the arm as Gary grinned sheepishly.

"Alas, poor Garius," said Fox, leaning into Lucas as Gary laughed. 

"This is really nice, people," Noah smiled. "All of us, together, in our final couples." 

"Now all we've got to do is get through the next couple of days," said Bobby. 

"If you're coupled up with the right person, that should be easy," Gary replied, and Lucas nodded, his hand absently stroking his angel's arm. 

"It's not just that though is it?" disagreed Marisol. "You could be all loved up and still get dumped from the Villa." 

"Marisol's right," Lottie nodded, looking glum. "The public might just have taken a dislike to you. 

"That's so unfair," said Chelsea. "People that don't know me always think I'm well annoying."

"None of us know how we come across on telly," added Hope. 

That's not exactly true. Hannah and Henrik likely know how we're all being perceived, though both are a bit naive I guess… 

"Surely what really matters now is how your relationship grows with your partner," said Rahim, and Lucas nodded. 

"I think the most important thing is just enjoying the rest of the time we all have here together," Bobby smiled. "Not to be too cheesy, but you lot are like my family now." 

"Aww, babes," Fox ruffled his hair as she walked past to fill her water, and he grinned happily. 

The group continued discussing their final days. Lucas realised he hadn't given much thought to who would actually make it to the final, as he started clearing up. He'd never imagined getting that far when he first arrived, but he was pretty certain Fox would make it which meant he would too.

Either way, it would all be over soon, and as much as he was excited about starting their life together properly, it was going to be emotional to leave this place. 

He hoped they'd stay in touch with Gary and Lottie, as well as Chelsea and Henrik… but he wasn't super convinced by any of the other couples. Bobby and Rahim he wanted to stay in touch with too, but he couldn't see either making it to the final in their current couples.

Bit cynical, but also true. 

And of course the winners got the money, and he'd given that no thought at all, which he knew was purely down to his own privilege in that area. 

Noah and Fox both planned to help their siblings if they won. For Chelsea and Lottie it would go into their careers. He suspected Bobby would have given it to charity, or maybe invested in setting up his own bakery with the right encouragement. It was still a big lump of money even for those living an already comfortable life.

Lucas wondered idly if anyone would be tempted to take all the money. He was a little suspicious of both Hope and Noah, but he couldn't imagine anyone else doing so. 

And of course love or money was exactly the choice he'd always feared a partner making, except now it just didn't register as a fear at all. 

"We've got sunshine, a pool, and great company," Fox smiled at the group. "We should make the best of it!" 

I am so smitten, it's ridiculous. 

"An infinity pool!" beamed Bobby. 

"Fox is right," said Noah. "We should be enjoying this." 

"This is our chance to live it up!" Bobby grinned. 

"Too right," said Henrik, standing up. "I'm off to soak up this sun." 

"I'll come with you babe," Hannah jumped to her feet, and most people left to go laze in the sunshine. 

Fox turned around, smiling as she realised Lucas was watching her with a cheeky grin. She stepped towards him, running her fingers through his hair at the back of his head, just above his neck, and he growled happily.

"You know," he smirked, "one day someone else is going to try that and be shocked at how grumpy it makes me." 

And by grumpy, I mean full of rage. 

She laughed.

"Not everyone gets to pet a tiger, I'm very privileged."

He grinned at her, feeling those excited butterflies again. 

"So how are you feeling about this last stretch in the Villa?" she asked, curious. "You looked deep in thought when folk were chatting about it." 

"I'm a bit overwhelmed to be honest. It feels like we've been here for ages, and now everything is happening so fast… I'm actually feeling a bit emotional about it all." 

"Aww, babe," she gave him a long cuddle, and he sighed happily. 

"I feel better already," he smiled, his eyes twinkling. "You are looking seriously hot today by the way, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to keep my hands off you…" 

He smirked as she wrapped her arms round his neck again. 

"Who says you're supposed to keep your hands off me?" she purred.

"Hmm, excellent point," he smouldered, before running his hands down her back and round to her hips, lifting her effortlessly onto the counter in front of him, at perfect kissing height. 

Lucas growled low in his chest, pressing kisses along her shoulder and up her neck. He'd intended to kiss her slow, but his possessive streak was roaring through his veins and he kissed her hungrily, groaning as her fingers tangled in his hair, spurring him on. She tasted of coffee and her, and the harder he kissed the more he could only taste his angel.

Fox gasped for breath and he panted briefly, before she kissed him again, gradually slowing them back down to earth. She rested her forehead against his, her breath shaking.

"Bloody hell, tiger," she murmured. "The things you do to me."

He moaned softly.

"If you talk like that, everyone is going to get one hell of a show." 

She laughed as his heart fluttered, and kissed him on the nose. 

Hope suddenly appeared beside them, looking annoyed. 

"Uh hey, what's up?" asked Fox. 

"Ugh, I just…" Hope was radiating frustration, and she turned to him. "Could I borrow Fox for a sec, babe?" 

Lucas was a little taken aback. 

Yeah we're definitely not in the middle of anything here… 

"Err, I'm just going to put the kettle on," he said, retreating to the other side of the counter, raising an eyebrow at Fox, before turning to get a brew on. 

Fox jumped down as Hope sat at the counter and motioned for her to sit. 

Because I totally can't hear everything from here, yup. 

"You know when you're in a good mood and then suddenly not?" Hope asked her.

Yes, Fox is totally known for her sudden bad moods in here, duh. 

"Is this about Noah?" Fox asked, in a kind voice.

Lucas tried not to snicker. 

"Got it in one!" said Hope, grumpily. 

"What did he do?" 

"I made a toastie for Noah and I to share, and he starts cutting it up into little pieces." 

There was a silence. 

"And then what?" asked Fox. 

"That was it." 

Oh my god. 

"He… cut up your toastie?" 

"Into little pieces." 

I mean I guess that's kind of annoying. But you could just say you don't like it that way… right? 

"Did you say to him that you'd prefer he didn't, uh, cut it like that?" Fox asked. 

"I made it into this massive deal and Noah was just there like… 'What did I do?' Then he shrugged and put the plate down and just walked off." 

Actually, maybe I won't miss this place that much. 

"I just feel like I came off as all senseless and petty, and he didn't know how to respond to that," Hope sighed. "And now he's just wandered off. It makes me feel like maybe we're not as right for each other as everyone says." 

The sum might be wrong, but looks like we got a correct answer all the same, kids… 

"I guess this part was always gonna be a test," Hope added sadly. 

"Breakfast?" 

HAH! I love it. 

"No, being in our proper couples." 

But you've been together for- I mean- Wow. 

"I'm sure it'll get easier outside the Villa," Hope continued. 

"Are you already thinking that far ahead?" 

"Of course! It's not that far off, Fox. You reckon you and Lucas will go the distance?" 

That's not what she meant. She meant are YOU already thinking-

"One hundred percent," Fox answered happily. "This isn't just a summer romance. I'm looking forward to it." 

The power of love is a curious thing, duh duh duh, make a one man weep, make another man sing… 

"We can all see that, babe," said Hope. "I feel better now. I just needed to cool off a bit."

"I really fancy a toastie now." 

"Well if you need someone to cut it up for you, I know a guy." 

Fox laughed, and he heard footsteps. 

"You can turn around now, tiger. She's gone to find Noah." 

"Oh good," he grinned at her. "I'll switch my ears back on."

She giggled.

"It's a good job Hope wasn't looking at you, I could see you holding in laughter!" 

"Please," he said, with his best serious face, "do not mock the cruel dismemberment of an innocent toastie." 

"Dismemberment aside," she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "I could murder a toastie." 

He gasped, before laughing.

"I am feeling a bit peckish still," he nodded. "A toastie is a great idea!" 

He rummaged in the fridge to see what was available. 

"Right, what should we put in this toastie?" he asked. "We've got ham, tomatoes, jalapeños, pear, and… uh pineapple. There's chocolate spread as well."

"Hmm, cheese and tomato? Can't go wrong with a classic. Maybe some jalapeños too."

"That sounds like a killer combo, angel, " he grinned. 

"It'll be our first toastie," Fox said grandly, her eyes twinkling. 

"I will treasure this moment forever."

She pulled ingredients from the fridge as he raided the cupboards. 

"This is far too snackable in this form," she opened the bag of pre-grated cheese while he dealt with the tomatoes and jalapeños, mindful to wash his hands after. 

Accidental jalapeños is never fun. 

"Cheese me please," he grinned pointing at his mouth.

Laughing, she fed him a forkful.

"Om nom nom," he pulled off a convincing Cookie Monster impression, and she playfully batted him on the arm.

She added the cheese and popped the toastie under the grill.

"I like this," he said with a happy sigh. "You and me, in the kitchen, cooking… I could get used to it. What do you think?"

"I feel excited," she smiled, blushing a little. "When we leave here, we can take things to the next level. Just enjoy being a proper couple." 

D'aww. 

"I'm glad you said that because this is exactly where I want to be." 

"In the kitchen making a toastie?" she asked cheekily, making him snort. 

"No silly, with you," he laughed before looking thoughtful. "If you were a food, what would you be?" 

"Hmm, good question," she mused. "I would be… a superior form of Angel Delight." 

Lucas barked out a laugh as she did her best to look angelic.

"That is an impeccable answer, angel," smiling, he pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her waist. "I'd eat you right up." 

She looked up at him, and he felt as if his eyes had been trapped by hers. He wasn't sure who moved forward, but her lips brushed against his and he gave a small sigh of pleasure. 

He felt her smile against him, before she pulled away. He was about to protest when she dipped her head, running her tongue from his collarbone and up his neck. Lucas moaned softly, his fingers weaving into her hair. 

"You like?" she purred. 

"Mmm-hmm," he breathed, pulling her into a kiss.

Somehow every kiss they shared felt like the first time, as everything else melted away to leave only her.

When she finally pulled away, his eyes widened with realisation. 

"The toastie!" 

"It's fine," she laughed, pulling it out. "I turned the heat down."

"Okay firstly, you very much turned the heat up," he smirked. "But secondly, it's a good job it's only my brain that melts when we kiss." 

"That's why I turned the heat down before I kissed you," she winked. 

"You are far too clever for me." 

"Yup!" 

Fox cut the toastie in half, and popped the slightly bigger half on a plate for him. 

"There you go, tiger." 

"Aww, you gave me the bigger half," he grinned. "You're such a sweetheart."

He tested it and gave a thumbs up. 

"Totally nailed it, angel," he praised. "It's lush." 

"It's a classic for a reason," she smiled. 

"I'm a lucky man," he sighed happily, making her laugh.

"Because I can make a toastie?" 

"Hah, well that helps, but no. I meant because I have someone who I can do things with, that doesn't then blow up at me. Apparently a rare thing around here!" 

He waggled his eyebrows at her, not helping her fit of the giggles. 

"I dunno," she smirked when she recovered. "I quite enjoy a good blow." 

Lucas choked on his toastie. 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas fell onto the beanbag with mock exhaustion, having challenged Fox to a race outside. After he'd started running. Out the door. 

She sat down beside him and stuck her tongue out. 

"Cooking with you is fun," he grinned. 

"Just wait til we do the washing up together…" said Fox in a sultry voice. 

"Damn, it'll be mind-blowing," he laughed. 

She scooched closer and he put his arm around her so she could rest her head on his shoulder. 

"Do you reckon we could win this?" he asked, and she shrugged.

"I kind of don't care. I never expected to get that far, and as long as we're together I'm more than happy." 

"You know what," he kissed her hair. "You're absolutely right. It's not as important as you and me."

They lazed in the sunshine as his thoughts wandered.

"Apart from the immediate stuff," he began, "I mean like seeing family and friends, not having to hide under a duvet with me-" 

She giggled. 

"-what else are you looking forward to getting back to?" 

"Hmm, the obvious one is music," she mused. "As in, I need my Spotify back immediately. I had a couple of newer games queued on my PS4. Also Netflix…" 

She stretched with a grin. 

"Basically, my phone, my console and also being able to go out whenever I want." 

"Man, I miss my playlists for sure," Lucas agreed. "And I wonder what new shows we've missed while we've been in here."

"New Dark Crystal." 

"Shut. Up. Really?!" 

"Yeah a whole series was gonna come out." 

"I am going to be ALL over that," he said excitedly. "Or wait, even better-" 

"We'll be all over that," she smiled at him. 

"Bliss."

"I also just really miss being free to go out into the world and lose myself for a bit," she looked wistful. "Just head for the hills or the coast and have an adventure." 

"I think that's a feeling I've chased a lot if I'm honest. But I tend to go too large scale?" he thought for a moment, searching for the right words. "Like, I'd plan to escape somewhere and then before I knew it I'd be in a different country. Which is fun, but not really…" 

He trailed off, uncertain.

"As spontaneous maybe?" suggested Fox, and he nodded. "Travelling is great, but yeah, I wouldn't want to have to leave the country every weekend to satisfy my wanderlust. I'd be knackered!"

He laughed.

"I probably just need a helpful guide," he winked, "being a city boy and all." 

"True enough," she grinned. "It will be good to see folks again as well. Being away this long isn't super unusual but having no contact has been strange."

"What did your family make of you coming here?" he asked, curious.

"Oh, they're used to me doing mad stuff," she laughed. "It runs in the family. I don't think they were too worried about me as such… more just a bit worried I'd get messed around by someone I suppose."

Lucas nodded.

"Having a supportive family makes a world of difference," he smiled. "And hopefully your brothers won't want to kill me too much."

Fox burst out laughing. 

"No more than they ever do, tiger," she joked, before slightly softening her voice, "What about your family? Did they react okay?"

"Sort of," he shifted uncomfortably, and she moved over into his lap making him smile. "They wanted me to find a relationship I didn't mess up, but this wouldn't have been their chosen method."

"I'd be very surprised if they're not impressed by you," she murmured, as he held her close.

"They'll at least be impressed by you," he laughed. "But yeah, I haven't tended to make decisions they necessarily approve of. I'm my own person."

She kissed his cheek.

"I like this person," she smiled, and he nuzzled into her. "It'll be fun meeting each other's families. But we also get to be our own family now too."

He growled softly as she stroked his hair, drawing her into an intense kiss that made her moan before fluttering his kisses all over her face as she laughed. 

"I really like the sound of that, angel." 

~~~

Lucas finished his pull ups and took a quick breather. He'd assumed his routine would fall by the wayside in here but they got a surprising amount of downtime before the daily challenges.

He picked out the dumbbells he needed as Gary arrived. 

"Alright, mate?" his friend grinned, but he looked a little troubled.

Before Lucas could reply, Rahim came over as well. 

"Ugh, I need to do some squats," the golfer complained. "The one thing I hate." 

"I tend to zone out for them," Lucas admitted. "Everyone has at least one thing they can't stand." 

"Like Fox and cardio," laughed Gary. 

"Even then, she's got her hoops," Rahim shook his head. "Squats are impossible to make fun." 

"Just think of your booty," said Gary. "And remember how Jo nearly fainted when you twerked." 

Rahim laughed. 

"It's weird being here," Gary mused. "In normal life I'm fairly built, right? But in here, that's like the default." 

"There's a bit of variation," Lucas grunted, "but yeah I was thinking that earlier. They give us enough time to maintain our workout routines and I guess stay looking like eye candy on screen." 

"Honestly I think I've done more in here than I would on the outside," said Rahim, thoughtfully. "I'm used to relying on how I look, but in here… a lot of the girls rate other stuff higher." 

"Going just by looks on the outside is a fast track to one night stand town," Gary shook his head. "It doesn't get you a good relationship." 

"Yeah," sighed Lucas. "Opening up is what gets you good relationships, which is why I was so crap at them." 

Rahim blinked in surprise.

"I thought I'd cornered the market with that sob story," he grinned, and Lucas laughed.

"Nah, I just came across as a 'playboy' instead of an introvert," he put air quotes on the word playboy, making Gary groan. 

"You're never gonna let me forget that are you?" 

"Nope." 

"Better a playboy than a pickle, mate," Rahim pointed out as Gary laughed.

"Point taken!" 

"So what's different with you and Fox?" 

"She is," Lucas smiled goofily. "She saw past all the stuff I put up front, and refused to let me self-destruct in my usual ways. And for the first time, I didn't want to run away." 

He paused, thinking.

"I just know that whatever comes up, or whatever I'm thinking, I can talk to her or she'll help me talk to her. And I know that she feels she can always talk to me, or that I can help her too. No games, no drama."

"That's the dream," smiled Gary. "It's hard for me to open up with anyone. Casual stuff avoids that, for better and worse." 

It's still weird to think of Gaz ever being a player. 

"Yeah, I mean not trying to brag," Rahim nodded, "but I don't think any of us exactly lacked for offers. Well, at least until I opened my mouth in my case." 

Gary snorted.

"Oh sure, because I'm a regular Casanova, mate." 

"I don't imagine much talking was involved," laughed Lucas and Gary grinned.

"Did you never do casual then?" Rahim asked him.

"No," Lucas shook his head. "Nothing against it when everyone's on board, but for me it's more… I need an emotional connection. Which is a problem when you have trouble connecting with people emotionally." 

"I get you," the golfer nodded. "It's not something people expect guys to need for some reason." 

"I think everyone struggles with opening up," mused Gary. "Some just hide it better than others."

That's true. It was obvious to everyone I couldn't open up, but nobody other than me would know Fox finds it even harder. 

"And I think," the blonde continued, "that means everyone needs reassurance too. Just some of us aren't great at asking for it." 

"Yeah that's true," Lucas nodded. "It's why checking in with the other person is important. Especially if they're going quiet." 

"Yup," Gary winced. 

"Squats are done," Rahim cheered. "Thanks guys, that actually helped." 

"In that case, fancy spotting me on some deadlifts?" asked Gary. 

"Always, mate!" 

~~~

"I've got a text!" 

Lucas followed the boys over to the pool, where Fox and Chelsea had been chatting. 

"Did someone say text?" asked Rahim, and Fox held her phone up in reply. 

"What does it say?" Marisol asked. 

"Islanders, it's time to find what the public thinks of your couples in today's challenge. You will each be guessing what the public thinks about your pairings."

There was an eerie silence. 

"Well, I'm hyped!" Lucas grinned. "I've been desperate to know what the public thinks of me. The curiosity is killing me." 

"Call him Mr Vain," smirked Fox, before laughing. 

He winked at her as people started chatting now the tension had been broken. 

"This could get interesting…" muttered Lottie. 

Here's hoping it's not Mean Tweets part two. 

~~~

Hope and Noah were in charge of the challenge, standing slightly to the side of a semicircle of podiums on the stage. 

The banner above read Couple Trouble and Lucas really hoped it wouldn't start more drama. Hope explained that the public had answered a bunch of different questions about each couple. 

The Islanders simply had to guess which couple got the most votes for each question. Lucas gave Fox a squeeze as she stood next to him, board and pen in hand. 

As they waited for the others to sort themselves out, he started sneaking kisses across her shoulder.

"You're a proper kiss monster today," she giggled happily as he feigned innocence before sneaking another kiss.

Hope announced the first question. 

"Which couple is the loudest in bed?"

"I mean, it could be us," he murmured with a smirk, and Fox stuck her tongue out cheekily. 

"I think bed is the one place we've been quiet," she purred, and he blushed happily. 

"You're pretty loud in bed, babe," Gary said to Lottie. 

"What?" she gasped. "No, I always try to stay quiet…" 

"Oh, I didn't mean like as a sex thing," he grinned and made a loud snoring noise. 

"Stop it," Lottie hissed. 

"Sounds like a good impression of Noah as well," laughed Rahim. 

"Wait," Gary held up a finger, "was the question about sex noises or snoring?" 

"It doesn't say," said Hope. 

Fox wrote down 'Lottie and Gary'. 

"Yeah," Lucas nodded. "She really is loud. Though Noah sounds like a helicopter is flying past."  

Hope asked for everyone to flip their boards and reveal their answers. Most people had put Hope and Noah, with a couple opting for Lottie and Gary. 

"The public have spoken," Noah announced as he opened an envelope. "It's Lottie and Gary!" 

"I've got to hand it to them," said Gary. "You are very vocal." 

Lottie playfully jabbed him on the arm. 

"Cut it out." 

Hope moved on to the next question. 

"Who will tie the knot first?" 

Lucas wrote 'Jo and Ibrahim' with zero hesitation.

"And first to divorce," he whispered, resulting in a not very hard elbow in his side and Fox trying desperately not to laugh. 

"I'll put our names down!" she warned quietly. 

"You've cured my fear of commitment, angel. I would not mind." 

"Aww," she cuddled into him as he grinned. 

"And the public said…" Hope announced, "Jo and Ibrahim!" 

"Sounds like they're shipping us out there," said Rahim happily. 

"Called it," said Chelsea. 

Noah moved on to the next question. 

"Which couple will just be friends as soon as they're out of the Villa?" 

"Oh wow," Hope frowned. 

"Ouch," Fox murmured. 

"It's got to be Bobby, right?" Lucas asked her, in a whisper only she could hear. "He's friends with everyone, and unfortunately he's only been in friendship couples."

Fox shook her head.

"I can't put him," she whispered back. "He'll be gutted." 

Lucas nodded his agreement. Fox was competitive but she'd always spared her friends feelings when she could. Unfortunately there was no safe answer here.

She picked up the board and wrote, 'Chelsea and Henrik' with a frown, before adding, 'but no one really!' underneath.

Bless. 

Lucas gave her a reassuring squeeze. 

"Right, let's see those boards!" called Hope. 

Everyone but them had put Bobby and Hannah as their answer. 

"Whoah. Okay," frowned Bobby. "I see how it is."

He slumped a little, fiddling with his board.

Fuck, he really is gutted. Fox did the right thing. 

"The answer is…" Noah announced, "Chelsea and Henrik!" 

Lucas slammed his face into neutral while Fox managed to look completely blank even as he felt her vibrate against him. 

"Oh, well, that's news to me!" said Henrik sadly. 

"Aww babes, don't worry about it," Chelsea reassured him. "Friendship is everything to me. That's, like, the best ship to be sailing on really. You can't beat a good friendship."

Oof.

Henrik looked unconvinced.

"Okay, points only to Fox and Lucas there," said Noah. 

Bobby looked at them beaming, while Henrik looked a little hurt.

Dammit.

"Fox always gets these right, babes," chirped Chelsea. "It's mostly misconceptions, right Fox?" 

"You betcha," Fox smiled at her, as she continued to radiate tension beside him.

Henrik grinned, seemingly preferring this explanation to Chelsea's speech about friendship being better than a romance. 

Noah announced the next question. 

"Which couple is most likely to model in the nude for a life drawing class?" 

Uh, what. 

Several of the Islanders started giggling as the couples conferred. Fox quickly wrote 'Jo and Ibrahim'.

"You doing okay?" he whispered.

"Yeah, just totally caught off guard," she laughed softly, trying to shrug off her stress. "I didn't expect to get that one right accidentally."

"Allow me," he murmured, and moved to stand behind her, working his hands across her neck and shoulders.

She purred happily as he eased her tension away. 

"Everyone finished?" called Noah. 

Some people were still finishing up, but Lucas wasn't really listening, concentrating on his work and the very soft noises of contentment Fox was making beneath his fingers.

He looked up as everyone else started stamping on the platform in lieu of a drumroll. The public had apparently decided Jo and Ibrahim would be most likely to model nude. Chelsea had put Fox and him, which amused his angel greatly. 

Reluctantly, he finished up, pressing some kisses to the back of her neck, and moved back to Fox's side as she leaned into him contentedly.

"Your hands really are magic," she sighed happily. "I keep forgetting I have my own physiotherapist and personal masseur."

He beamed at her. 

"It's very rare I get referred to as a masseur instead of masseuse!" 

"I speak many completely singular words of French very well," she laughed. "Just none of them put together." 

"... moving on to the next question," announced Hope. 

"Which couple is most likely to cheat on each other?" 

Bloody hell. 

Fox looked to him for help. 

"There's really no good answer here," he murmured. 

He weighed up the options and wrote, 'Lottie and Gary' with a shrug. 

"I think that's what the public would think," he whispered, and she nodded. 

The boards were called and he flipped theirs over. Lottie frowned when she saw theirs. 

"I can't believe this," she sighed. 

"Actually," Hannah piped up, "I didn't think it was you." 

Lottie flashed her a smile as Lucas tried not to roll his eyes. Hannah's board had 'Jo and Ibrahim' on it, and Jo had a terrifying glare on her face.

"Actually," said Lucas, maybe slightly a little bit mocking Hannah, "neither of us do either, Lottie. But I think it's what the public might guess, just based on that silly numbers thing." 

He saw realisation pass over her face and she smiled at him. 

"Yeah, fair do's," Gary grinned. 

He's been really quiet all challenge. All day really. 

"Okay, so let's see what the audience think," Hope began. 

She opened the envelope, looking nervously at Noah. 

Hm, why so nervous... 

"The answer was Lottie and Gary." 

"Harsh," scoffed Lottie. "Come on then, what's next?" 

Noah announced the final question. 

"Which couple are the most committed to each other?" 

Fox wrote down 'Fox and Lucas' with zero hesitation, and Lucas grinned.

"You think the public think that?" he asked.

"I know it as fact," she smiled. "Whether the public see the truth or otherwise."

He pulled her in for a kiss. 

Noah called for the boards to be flipped. Unsurprisingly almost everyone had voted for Hope and Noah.

Ah yes, the only couple who actually broke up are surely the most committed… though it's not like we really have a chance given my idiocy during Casa Amor. 

Lottie had put down her and Gary, earning her a few confused looks. 

"Everyone knows I'm all about that," she shrugged.

"But didn't you just get voted most likely to-" Henrik was interrupted by Gary. 

"I did try to say that…" he shook his head. 

"Yeah, but it's not my problem that they're so wrong," she smirked. "I had to write what I know is my truth." 

"Fair enough," Henrik smiled. 

"Really?!" Jo was glaring at the board in front of Lucas. "I swear Hope and Noah have been like, joined at the hip since I got here."

Joined literally, not exactly the sure sign of a healthy couple. 

"Yeah," Rahim attempted to calm her, "hence why most people have voted for them…" 

Lucas rolled his eyes, not particularly giving a shit if Jo saw. 

"The public decided that the most committed couple are…" Noah opened the envelope, "Fox and Lucas!" 

Mwahaha. 

"I knew I should have put you!" cheered Chelsea, as Lucas squeezed Fox happily. 

Gary gave them a double thumbs up. 

"That's, um, all the questions…" Hope stumbled, looking displeased, and turned to count the scores. 

"We're going to win this," Lucas grinned excitedly. "We've got loads more points than anyone else!"

"You are adorable, tiger," laughed Fox. 

"And the winners are…" Noah paused for effect, "Fox and Lucas! You guessed the most correct answers." 

"Told you, angel!" 

He bounced with excitement as everyone cheered and Fox giggled. 

"What happens now?" asked Lottie. 

Fox's phone beeped and she opened the text. 

"Fox and Lucas - congratulations on winning today's challenge. Now it's your chance to unwind and forget about the world. You're going on a date together!" 

"Aww yeah!" she cried. 

"A date!" he grinned, then draped his arm over her shoulder and gave her a squeeze. "That's so needed. I can't wait!" 

~~~

"I think it's time Noah and I had a little 'couple trouble' of our own," Hope said as they returned to the Villa. 

"I'm not sure if that's sexy or worrying," Noah replied, looking more worried than aroused. 

"I'm gonna grab a cuppa," Lucas murmured to Fox. 

She kissed him on the cheek and he smiled, knowing that she knew he often needed some quiet time after group activities. He pulled her in for a longer kiss before she left. 

"Kiss monsters need kisses," he joked, making her laugh, and she kissed him on the nose. 

He was equally happy to spend his quiet time with her, but he'd seen her give Gary one or two thoughtful glances and figured she was going to track him down. 

If anyone can crack his shell, it's Fox.

Lottie and Hannah walked past on their way to the roof terrace, so he decided the couches would be a safe bet as he flicked the kettle on. He knew this was not technically a reason to add to his list of why he disliked Hannah, but he was adding it anyway. 

The challenges were always more pleasant with Fox, as either they had fun winning or they had even more fun losing. The cake decorating challenge had been a particular highlight-

My kingdom for some melted chocolate… 

-but some of the challenges were still clearly made for the drama factor. The Mean Tweets challenge was up there with today's one, though there seemed to be minimal fallout this time at least.

He poured his hot water as Bobby appeared. 

"Enough there for two?" the younger man asked. 

"Yup," Lucas grabbed another mug from the cupboard, and Bobby popped a teabag in. 

"That challenge was a bit rough," Bobby sighed.

"I was just thinking that. Reminded me of the Mean Tweets one, not long after I arrived." 

"That feels like forever ago… Time is weird in here." 

"Back when you were a player," Lucas grinned. 

"Hah! Yeah. I'd forgotten about that." 

Bobby was definitely looking a bit down in the dumps. 

"You doing okay?" asked Lucas, in a softer voice.

"Me? Yeah. Just not really a fan of those kind of challenges." 

Lucas nodded sympathetically. Bobby didn't do well when people were being turned against one another. And he suspected almost everyone thinking he'd be voted most likely to just be friends after the Villa had hit him pretty hard. 

I don't know whether to ask him about Hannah or not. It's weird if I don't though, right? 

"How are things with Hannah?" he risked it.

"Good!" Bobby replied quickly. "I mean, y'know…" 

He went quiet for a bit before speaking again.

"She's a friend," he shrugged. 

Shit

"No sympathy required," he added quickly. "It is what it is." 

He flashed Lucas a smile while picking up his tea and leaving, before Lucas could say a word.

Double shit. 

~~~

"Fox really reminds me of my nan y'know?" 

"Oh my god, dude." 

Lucas groaned good naturedly as a far happier looking Gary cheerfully crashed down beside him on the couch.

"I mean a less scary version, obviously. But like, I can talk about stuff with her, and she'll just make a little nudge here and there and boom! I'm feeling better." 

"Well, that I can agree with," Lucas smiled. "I was worried in the early days, as it seemed like everyone just piled up their problems for her. But then I got it." 

"Yeah?" 

"She just… makes your thoughts spill out, before you've even realised." 

"That's exactly it," Gary nodded. "It's a rare thing. But people do lean on her too much in here, I think. She can't exactly tell anyone to fuck off when she's gotta live with us all." 

"Also true. I've wound up helping here and there sometimes, despite my evil soul." 

Gary laughed, loudly.

"You're feeling better then?" asked Lucas. 

"Yeah. I need to chat to Lottie more I think. Be upfront about the fact I get insecure as well and that there's stuff going on beneath the surface. I don't mean to be an idiot, or to get stubborn… Sometimes I just need a hug but I need to man up and just ask for one." 

"I think she'll be pretty relieved to hear that, man," smiled Lucas. "She's quick to blame herself, and I know what that's like." 

"D'aww," Gary made to ruffle Lucas's hair, but his target jumped back and completely off the couch in horror.

"I wanna pet the pussycat!" pouted Gary melodramatically. 

"Yeah, that's a Fox-only thing, dude," Lucas put his hands up to prevent further attacks. "Nobody else touches the hair."

Gary laughed. 

"Fair do's, mate."

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas knocked on the dressing room door, trying to stop himself bouncing on the spot. 

"You ready, gorgeous?" he asked, popping his head round the door only for his jaw to drop. 

Holy shit. 

Fox was wearing the one colour she seldom wore at night, at least in the Villa - black. Or was it black? It looked almost like incredibly dark midnight blue. A slinky jumpsuit with a halter top and a neckline that plunged to her waist, resulting in very little skin coverage. 

He was dimly aware that she'd said something, that maybe other people were in the room, but he couldn't quite work out how to… word? 

No, that's not how words do...

As she walked towards him he saw she was wearing a black choker that looked like a buckled cat collar; she had her hair slicked back and dark eye makeup with her eyeliner that was blow- 

Word. Need to word good. 

Fox smirked as she got near him, placed her hand firmly on his chest and pushed him back outside the room with her. She closed the door behind her and as she turned, he realised the outfit was also backless.

Help. 

She turned back to him, and with a finger closed his mouth-

Oh man, I really did that-

And leaned against him, kissing him softly. This he remembered, even with his heartbeat thundering in his ears, and the very un-suave sweat he'd broken out in. 

Not to mention the rather obvious reaction in his trousers which she was definitely pressed against right now. 

She pulled back with a laugh.

"C'mon, tiger. We should at least try and get to the Hideaway." 

He grinned dopily and-

Wait, she's a lot closer to my height than… yup those are the boots she wore at the heartbeat challenge. I'm gonna die. Die happy. But die. 

He'd never quite got the phrase, 'I want her to step on me' before but now he completely understood and furthermore vehemently agreed. He tried to wrench his thoughts back to something, anything, that would let him actually manage to speak.

"So," he croaked, "do we know what this date is exactly?" 

"Not really, only that it's in the Hideaway but it's not an overnight thing. I'm pretty sure that means we're not allowed to, y'know, but we'll see I guess." 

Think unsexy thoughts, think unsexy thoughts… 

They entered the living space, where most of the boys were currently parked as they waited for the other girls to get ready. 

Gary wolf-whistled and all the guys turned to look. Well, gape.

"Bloody hell, Fox," cried Graham. "You look like a sexy assassin!" 

"I'm not sure there's anywhere to hide the guns," mused Henrik, quite seriously.

"Sexy assassins don't need guns," Rahim shook his head. "They can kill you with a look." 

"Oh that makes sense." 

"Pew pew," Fox winked with a finger gun. 

Noah and Bobby were just alternating between staring and trying not to stare. 

Lucas was waiting for the familiar stab of jealousy to kick in, but… it didn't arrive. Although he didn't exactly feel smug either. Just completely consumed by the woman beside him, as they left the main living space and slipped into the Hideaway. 

As soon as the door shut behind them, he didn't even register what was in the room, he just pounced on Fox, kissing her hard as he pinned her against the wall.

She smiled in surprise against him, then ran her fingers into his hair as she kissed him fiercely, moaning slightly as he growled against her tongue. 

He kissed her until he was breathless, his hands caressing her sides, then reluctantly broke the kiss, pressing his forehead against hers and breathing heavily. 

Sexy assassin indeed. 

"You okay there?" she smirked, her eyes sparkling.

He huffed a laugh.

"Yeah, I think I can actually speak again now."

She took him by the hand and led him over to what he hadn't taken in before - a three-tiered chocolate fountain, complete with champagne and strawberries. 

"This is exactly what I was wishing for earlier," he grinned, spotting two seats beside the table. 

He sat down, pulling Fox onto his lap beside the fountain.

"Delicious," he murmured, biting his lip as his eyes darted between the chocolate and his sinful angel. 

"Oh, is this how we're doing it, hmm?" she laughed. 

"Want to feed me a bit?" he smiled. 

She dipped a strawberry in the chocolate, and brought it to his lips, and he ate it in one bite.

"Definitely delicious," he smirked. "My turn." 

Lucas looked into her eyes longingly, and she ran her tongue across her lips. Her pulse was fluttering in her throat, as he reached forward and dipped a strawberry in chocolate. 

Without missing a beat, he lightly placed the tip between her breasts, running it up her chest in a straight line to her throat, as she swallowed hard. 

He offered the strawberry to her lips, which she bit in half, as he leaned forward and ran his tongue along the chocolate path he'd created. Her breath stuttered as he lapped at her skin, and he moaned softly against her as the taste of chocolate mingled with the taste of her. 

Fox threaded her fingers through his hair, purring in pleasure, and as he reached the top of the trail, he dipped another strawberry and ran it up her throat as she tipped her head back with a gasp. 

He made sure every drop of chocolate was gone, licking and kissing her skin, before guiding her face towards him and pulling her into a chocolate flavoured kiss. 

When he reluctantly pulled back, he smouldered at her darkened gaze, and her parted lips, and-

Fuck, I wish we had longer. 

"I just want to devour you," he growled, and she laughed softly.

"We can add it to the list of things to revisit when we're out of here, tiger."

"Yes please," he smirked, trying to clear his head. "I'm so glad we get to have this date together though. Just some private chill time is exactly what we needed after that challenge." 

"It was more stressful than I expected," Fox admitted, as she offered him another dipped strawberry. "Moreso on the other couples." 

"I think it was hard for some people to hear what the public thought of them," he mused, pausing for chocolatey goodness. "We obviously handled it pretty well though." 

"I'd guess for some people, it's about not really wanting to acknowledge their flaws… or their relationship flaws. So when they're confronted with them, it's a shock. You've been open about yours with me, and I'm getting there with mine." 

"You have flaws?" he raised an eyebrow. "I've not seen any." 

"Flattery will get you everywhere," she laughed. "But I definitely have flaws. I find it very hard to trust people. I appear to be an open book, but it's almost entirely a smokescreen. I may be somewhat opinionated-" 

He grinned widely, and she playfully batted his arm. 

"-and although usually I have no patience for drama, in here I've opted for a quiet life rather than telling people to fuck off."

He barked a laugh, and she stuck her tongue out. 

"My one minor eruption doesn't count," she smirked. 

"You've always been pretty open with me," he said thoughtfully. "And even more so recently." 

"You're an exception to my rules," she purred, and his heart thumped as she danced a chocolate-dipped strawberry across his collar bone, followed by her lips and tongue. 

Lucas moaned appreciatively as her fingers tousled through his hair again, pulling ever so slightly as she licked and kissed the chocolate from his skin, before kissing up his neck with gentle bites.

"Tease," he growled as she pulled back, answered by a cheeky wink. "I'm putting a chocolate fountain up there with a log cabin and art gallery for our first outside dates dammit." 

Her eyes sparkled as she smiled, and it occurred to him that this very simple date was one of the best he'd ever been on.

"I'm not sure you'd let me get out the door to start the date," she grinned, and he laughed. 

"Yeah, it might take us a while to manage that," he blushed, nuzzling into her neck. "I really love spending time with you." 

"Ditto," Fox replied happily.

"I'm not…" he hesitated, softening his voice, "too intense?"

Lucas saw her eyes widen slightly with realisation, no doubt guessing correctly that these were words once used against him.

"I love your intensity, tiger. I love when you're playful, when you're hyper, when you're soppy, when you're snarky, when you're a dork, when you're a kiss monster, when you're intense, and when you're a doofus. I love how much you are always you."

She punctuated each term with a kiss to his neck, his throat, his face, as his heart beat wildly in his chest. 

"And the fact you can be so intense makes me feel very secure, and safe, and wanted, and loved. You're perfect." 

"I'm glad you think so, angel," he deflected huskily, beaming at her.

"I know so," she purred, kissing him before he could deflect again, her hands stroking his hair as reassurance washed over him.

He kissed her long and slow, pouring his feelings into her, and appreciating the quiet space they'd been given even for a little while.

Lucas pulled back reluctantly with a sigh. 

"We're almost out of strawberries and time." 

"For now," she smiled, his heart soaring. 

"Last one," he said, offering her a bite. "Oh, you've got a little on your face…"

"Where?" 

"Hang on," he wiped it off delicately with his thumb, and went to teasingly lick the chocolate, but she drew him to her lips instead.

He felt heat slamming through him as she took him into her mouth, her tongue moving along his thumb, and gently sucked while her eyes looked utterly predatory. 

"Fuck-" 

He pulled her against him, her teasing tipping them both from romance to pure lust, and as she released his hand, he crushed his lips against hers, kissing her hard and deep. She lifted herself so she was sitting astride him, and he moaned into her as she began grinding her hips ever so slightly.

Fox ran her claws down his chest, his half open shirt no match for her passion, and she increased the pressure as he growled loudly. He caressed one hand across her open back, the other tangled in her hair. 

She was moving against him, changing her angle as she danced in his lap until-

She moaned wantonly in pleasure, rolling her hips against his hard length as he guided her at the small of her back. 

Fuuuck-

Lucas ran his tongue up her throat as she tipped her head back, and he growled loudly, desperate for more. He pushed her clothing aside and bit down at the juncture of her neck and shoulder, hard enough to leave a mark, small enough to be hidden when he let go of the material again.

Fox mewled in pleasure, her fingers pulling at his hair slightly as her breath shuddered. She kissed him again, before very gradually slowing the kiss and her movements, bringing them both back down to earth.

"I want you so bad," he breathed, as she rested her forehead against his, tenderly petting the back of his head. 

"Soon," she promised, and he kissed her softly. 

"Love you, angel," he murmured, and she beamed at him.

"Love you too, tiger." 

He helped her to her feet before standing, grinning as he fixed her hair while she petted his back into place. She giggled as he attempted to hide the most obvious sign of his arousal, and he winked cheekily. 

"Thanks for a lovely date, Fox," he kissed her forehead. "I guess we better get back to see the others."

~~~

"So, how did it go?" 

The question was innocent but it was accompanied by a huge smirk on Lottie's face.

Lucas looked at Fox with a smile, as they rejoined their friends. 

"It was really lovely. I mean, Fox was there, so I had everything I'll ever need." 

"Aww, you sweetheart," his angel kissed him on the cheek. 

Lucas sat on a counter seat, and Fox leaned back against him. He put his arms around her and rested his head on her shoulder, happily. 

"You guys are too cute," said Lottie. "I'm so jealous! I hope you guys had a chance to do some deep meaningful chatting." 

"Yeah," Graham smirked. "Did you get to do any deep chatting?"

"Okay, wow," Hope frowned. "That's not a phrase." 

"I love me a good deep chatting on a date," grinned Gary. 

"Oh, stop it you guys," Marisol chided. "You know what she means, and I totally agree. A good deep chat beats small talk any day." 

"Right?!" Lottie nodded. "Honestly, you start talking to me about what you do for work and I'm like, snore. But tell me about when your dog died and you cried for ten days and I'm all yours." 

"I'm always up for a deep, meaningful chat," said Fox, thoughtfully. "But not about pet deaths or I'll cry all over everyone."

"Yeah, I'm with Fox," Lucas smiled. "I love putting the world to rights on a date." 

But definitely no dead animals talk. 

Marisol nodded her approval. 

"I always write deep personal question lists in my phone so I don't have to make forced small talk." 

"A list?" asked Bobby. 

"Yeah, it's got things like… What bridges are you happy you burned? Do you trust anyone with your life? Do you think artificial intelligence will end up benefiting or destroying humanity? That kind of thing." 

"Now that's the kind of thing I'm going for!" cried Lottie. 

Two of those sound more like an interrogation. 

"You're so sweet," Graham grinned, kissing Marisol on the cheek. "Those are some seriously deep chat conversation starters."

Marisol blushed. 

"It's a bit embarrassing really… But I like to be prepared."  

"I have cute quotes on my phone," said Chelsea. "Maybe I should whip them out on a date next time." 

"There's nothing worse than, like, trying to think of things to say on a date," Marisol shook her head. 

"Ugh, yes," said Jo. "Small talk is the worst." 

"But the real test is not what you talk about on the date," said Graham, grandly. "It's how you end the date." 

"Oh, is it now?" Marisol quirked an eyebrow. "And how do you perfectly end a date?" 

"Always leave them wanting more," Fox winked, and Lucas grinned. "Preferably begging for it." 

Literally in my case… 

Marisol laughed with the other girls.

"Bloody hell," blushed Gary, while Lottie cackled.

"Exactly," Marisol smirked. 

"Back when I was, like, not as confident as I am now," said Bobby, "I had a funny end of date move."

"Oh, this ought to be good," Hannah smiled. 

"Spill the flour, Bobs," smirked Lottie. 

"Okay, so if I was out on a date and, like, I didn't know if she wanted to call me again…" 

Bobby bit his lip, his cheeks flushing red with embarrassment. 

"I used to leave my wallet in her bag, or like, just wherever we were sitting." 

Marisol and Graham laughed, while Hope looked horrified. 

"I'm sorry… what?" she gasped. "You'd purposefully lose your money?" 

"No, no," Bobby explained. "It wasn't my real wallet! I'd use an old spare one. Shove a few coins and a loyalty card to make it look real. And a note saying 'call this number if lost' of course." 

"Oh, that's genius," said Fox, realisation dawning. 

"Right?" he smiled. "Young Bobby wasn't the most confident, but he did have some smooth moves." 

"And if they don't return it, you know they're not terribly trustworthy anyway." 

Ohhh, that makes sense. That's kind of sweet. 

"But once I had someone bring it back, right? And she'd gone to my favourite coffee shop where I had the loyalty card and filled up the stamps enough. Just so I could get a free coffee!" 

"Aww, that is so cute!" Fox smiled. 

Marisol's phone beeped. 

"Oh, hey, I've got a text," she opened the message to read it out. 

"Islanders, the public have been voting for their favourite couple. The couple with the least votes will be leaving today. Please make your way to the fire pit immediately."

Everyone fell silent in shock. 

"It's a dumping," said Marisol, flatly. "Two of us are going home." 

"Right now?" Bobby shook his head sadly. 

"Well, that's one way to end a date," Graham crossed his arms, looking glum. 

The Islanders started to make their way to the fire pit. Lucas gave Fox a squeeze, and she purred.

"Nervous?" he asked, softly. 

She turned in his arms and took him by the hand.

"Actually no," she smiled, as they followed the group. "I'm happy if we stay, but I'm happy if we go too. As long as I'm with you, I'm happy." 

"Ditto," he grinned goofily.

~~~

They arrived at the fire pit to find the atmosphere understandably tense as everyone stood waiting. 

"This brings it all back," said Hannah sadly, as Bobby tried to comfort her. 

Lottie linked arms with her. 

"Don't worry, you guys have got this. I'm sure it won't be you." 

"Again," Hannah frowned. 

If Bobby goes, Fox is going to be crushed. 

Lucas felt his phone vibrate in his pocket as the notification beep sounded. 

"I've got a text," he announced, as all eyes turned to him. 

"Lucas and Fox - you have received the most votes. You will not be dumped from the Island today." 

"That's amazing!" he grinned, turning to Fox who looked completely shocked. "We're the number one couple, angel." 

She stepped towards him and he pulled her into a cuddle as relief washed through him. Going home didn't alarm him, but the uncertainty was never nice.

Another phone beeped as they sat down, and Noah stepped forward. 

"Noah and Hope, you will not be dumped from the Island today."

"Thank goodness," said Hope, sitting down beside Noah. 

Not a big surprise. 

A beep rang out. 

"This is so tense," Jo frowned. 

"That was my phone," said Rahim. 

"Jo and Ibrahim, you will not be dumped from the Island." 

Glad for Rahim but not for, well… 

"This is tense as-" Graham was interrupted by another notification alert. 

"Uh oh," Chelsea wrung her hands, before fishing out her phone. 

"Henrik and Chelsea, you will not be dumped from the Island." 

Amazing! 

Fox relaxed a little beside him as a phone sounded. 

"Whose was that?" asked Lottie, shakily. 

"Mine, hun," Hannah replied. 

"Hannah and Bobby, you will not be dumped from the Island." 

Bobby's safe. 

Fox let out a breath of relief, and yet another beep went off. 

"Lottie!" Gary was nervous. "That was mine." 

"Oh, I can barely look," the Australian was shaking like a leaf. "What does it say?" 

"Lottie and Gary, you will not be dumped from the Island."

Get in! 

"Thank goodness," Lottie squeaked. 

Lucas threw Gary a huge grin as he sat down, and his friend stuck his thumbs up. Everyone turned to look at Marisol and Graham. 

Graham's phone screen flashed as the notification sounded. He passed it to Marisol to read out. 

"Marisol and Graham, you received the fewest votes and are therefore dumped from the Island. You must prepare to leave the Villa immediately." 

This part is always so damn harsh. 

Everyone gathered to say goodbyes, with Lottie and Hannah retreating to the kitchen to recuperate. Jo and Rahim helped the leaving couple pack.

In what felt like minutes, they were outside the front door. Lucas hadn't got particularly close to either of them, but he joined Fox in wishing them well. 

It would be strange not to see Marisol around - she was an original girl but she had somewhat faded into the background after the drama of his first few days in the Villa. 

He suspected it was lack of engagement that hadn't won them as many votes, rather than commentary on their relationship which seemed fairly solid. By Villa standards at least. 

It had been a strange and draining ending to date night, but Lucas couldn't help but hang back a little so he could enjoy watching Fox leave to walk to the dressing room.

Her outfit really is utterly delicious. 

He blinked in surprise as he saw Noah stop her, then seemingly prevent her from moving past. She didn't seem alarmed, otherwise Lucas would have caught up immediately, but as she managed past the librarian he saw, without a doubt, that Noah was openly checking her out. 

What the fuck, dude.

It felt different from Gary wolf-whistling at her earlier, as she and Gary had a playful friendship, and he was doing it in full view of her. Noah checking her out behind her back… combined with all the little moments he'd given strange vibes regarding Fox…

Fox said she was having trouble trusting him, and I knew what she meant. But I really do need to keep an eye on him. If he upsets her I'll fucking kill him. 

~~~

"Feefrefldaing aleoougit Fofk?" 

… I should probably spit this toothpaste out, oh my god. 

Fox was giggling at him, and he put a finger up to signal to wait, and ran to the sink. As he walked back into the bedroom, people were apparently speaking about the empty bed. 

Lucas ignored the discussion in favour of sidling up to his girl, who looked utterly exhausted. 

"Sorry, angel," he murmured quietly. "I had toothpaste in my mouth. Which you could probably tell. I was just asking if you were feeling alright?" 

She smiled at him. 

"Hold on, you've got a little something…" she ran her finger lightly above his lip. 

"Toothpaste?" 

"Yeah," she grinned. "Gone now." 

"I thought you were going in for a kiss then!" he pouted, making her laugh before kissing him gently.

"My apologies, kiss monster," she beamed. 

I'm on a cloud of happy. 

"There is a spare bed now…" Lottie pointed out. "Maybe we should put whoever snores in it."

Everyone looked at her in surprise. 

"Wasn't it you who snored, Lottie?" asked Chelsea, innocently. 

"No, Noah drowns me out!" 

"You're both as bad as each other," said Hope.

Lottie turned her attention to the empty bed again, looking sad. It turned out most people were finding the sudden absence difficult to deal with.

Lucas got into bed, holding up the duvet for Fox to snuggle up beside him. She was wearing a slinky tropical-print satin two piece, and the material felt wonderfully cool against his skin. 

"Tensions are really high tonight," he murmured. "I am so ready for bed." 

The others were still loudly chatting about people leaving, and he felt Fox cuddle up extra close beside him.

He scooched down the bed, so he could look in her eyes properly, stroking her cheek. 

"You look beautiful as always, angel," he said softly.

She crinkled her nose happily, and kissed him tenderly. He pulled her against him, quietly, and kissed long and slow.

When he reluctantly pulled away, her eyes were shining in the dark, and his heart ached. She stroked his hair softly, and he kissed her on the forehead.

"I just want to cuddle," he murmured, "but there's something I've been meaning to ask."

"Sure," she smiled, lifting the duvet over them for some privacy as he moved in close again.

"You've probably noticed that I'm more than happy to let you take the lead in the bedroom department," he began quietly, wrapping his arms around her as she snuggled into him. "But I should have asked before if you have stuff I definitely shouldn't do."

"Like my hard limits?" 

"Mmhm, exactly," he smiled. "Which can be changed at any time of course. And there's stuff that I won't do ever, like choking, which as a physio is a huge no, or degradation or, uh, any bodily outputs beyond the norm." 

He huffed a laugh as he felt her grin against him, knowing she could tell he was blushing.

"Good," she murmured. "Those are some of my main ones, honestly. Choking and hitting of any kind, face slapping, degradation or humiliation, and spitting on me, that kind of thing. Too many traumatic memories-" 

His arms tightened around her briefly, his suspicions about her past horribly confirmed. 

"-and absolutely never ever will I use the word 'daddy', hella nope."

"I am on board with all of those," Lucas said softly. "And in unrelated news I'd like to kill the people behind those memories."

Fox squeezed him.

"I would not be opposed, tiger."

"What about just in general, with control? Like I said, I'm a big fan of you taking the lead. It's not something I have any previous experience with."

"Normally it's harder for me to do," she mused quietly. "Like, I feel more vulnerable being in control, even though I also feel safer? But with you… I don't know. I've never felt uncomfortable with you. And the fact you really like it is a huge turn on. 

"But I also like switching it up, which definitely runs the risk of bringing up bad memories. That risk wouldn't be there with you though." 

"Yeah?"

"I trust you, and you're just…" she grasped for the right words. "You put my happiness first, no matter what, and you always ask as you're doing things. You're so bright, my memories don't stand a chance." 

My heart. 

Fox pulled back a little and leaned up, and he met her with a tender kiss as his heart thumped. 

"This conversation being a good example," she smiled.

"I'm glad," he murmured. "I'm happy to do anything you feel good with, as long as I'm not hurting you."

"You should definitely keep biting me though, feral boy," she smirked, and he laughed.

"Noted."

"All the stuff I really like is more specific to you," she mused. "I really like hearing your noises, and the things you say. Your growls make me very weak, as do your bites and marking me a little. I love kissing you and feeling close. And just, y'know… everything that makes you you."

She ducked her head a little and he knew without a doubt she was blushing, and he kissed her hair. 

"I have the biggest grin right now," he hummed, and she laughed softly. 

"What about you? Is there anything I should avoid, or do more of?"

"Mm, same as your ones for hard limits," Lucas mused. "I like the way you just rest your hand on my throat or pull my chain a little… it's control rather than restriction. I very much like the biting and scratching and marking-" 

He growled a little, making her giggle. 

"-And like I said, a lot of the you being in control is new to me as I could never not be in charge before, but I really like it. Also, just being close and, um, when you tell me I'm being good? I, uh, I really like that."

He blushed in the dark as she kissed him softly.

"Noted," she smiled.

"And," he grinned, "you taste delicious and once we're out of here I want to just go down on you for hours." 

"Y'know, I'd be more than okay with that, tiger," she laughed quietly, nuzzling into him. "When we leave we can have a lot of fun trying out everything we like." 

"Mm, yes please." 

"So you'd really never been the submissive one before?"

"Nope," he smiled. "It was my way or no way. Not that I was selfish or anything, but even the thought of not being in control would have given me a major anxiety attack. But with you… firstly it means I know you're comfortable and feeling safe. And secondly it turns me on more than I knew was even possible."

"Oh man, you're gonna give me a massive ego," she laughed softly. "But I'm very glad. I love seeing you just let go."

Lucas tilted her head up for one last kiss, and she moaned softly as he deepened it, kissing her slow.

As she pulled back, she yawned suddenly, and he laughed.

"Time for sleep," he smiled, and she turned, cosying back into his arms. 

"Love you, tiger," she breathed, with a sleepy smile in her voice.

"Love you, angel." 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke unhappily to the sound of some kind of wailing that set his teeth on edge.

What the f-

The other Islanders were talking about it, which meant he unfortunately wasn't dreaming. He pulled his pillow over his head, but it did no good.

Opening his eyes, he begrudgingly flipped his pillow back and saw Fox sitting up in bed next to him. 

"What's going on?" he asked, voice still raspy with sleep. 

"I have no idea…" she frowned, looking as uncomfortable as he felt. 

"Isn't it obvious?" Lottie called with far too much excitement. "There are babies somewhere in the Villa!" 

" What?! " Lucas realised he'd exclaimed the same word at the same time as Fox, and she laughed. 

Everyone got out of bed, and followed the sound of wailing down to the living room.

"Babies!" yelled Noah from ahead. 

Fox was a step in front of him and she suddenly groaned. As he came up behind her he could see the room had several cots in it, each with a couple's name on them. 

Oh god, why. 

"Steady on," said Rahim, "they're not actual babies, Noah. They're just dolls making a terrible noise…" 

"Oh my goodness, Lottie," Noah ignored him in his excitement. "Yours is adorable!

"It's fierce is what it is," she grinned. 

"Really guys?" Rahim sighed.

The last of the Islanders arrived, heralded by Chelsea's loud squeal of delight. 

"Oh my god, babe! Babe, look at our precious princess!" 

"She's adorable," Henrik smiled. "Look at her little feet!" 

"I'm calling her Bubbly!" 

"Um, don't I get a say?" 

"Hi, Bubbly! Welcome to the family." 

Lucas saw Fox approaching the crib with their names on it warily. He went to join her, seeing her widened eyes before his eyes fell on the fairly strange looking doll in the crib.

She was wringing her hands, looking stressed, as she took a couple of steps backwards. 

"So, um," she looked at him with alarm, "something that may not have come up yet is that I kinda have a slight fear." 

She looks super tense, I don't think I've seen her this anxious before. 

"Aww," he said, cuddling her against him. "I'm not a fan either… but wait, I thought that kids didn't bother you that way?" 

"Not kids…" she swallowed hard, as she pulled back. "Okay, don't laugh, but I may be slightly actually quite a lot completely terrified of dolls." 

His eyebrows shot up in surprise, and he looked at the doll. 

Wow, this really is a particularly freaky looking kind of doll.

"I mean, dolls are pretty creepy at the best of times," he nodded, and Fox looked relieved. "Maybe we can kind of cover it up a bit? Put sunglasses on or something. Oof-" 

She pounced on him with a hug, and he grinned.

"Thanks, tiger," she smiled, her face softening. "Laughing is allowed now." 

He shook his head, still grinning.

"How about we call it Chucky?" he asked. "Embrace the creepiness?"

"Hey, yeah!" she smiled. "I like that idea. Chucky, the demonic terror." 

I helped! High-five to myself. 

"I think we should call our one Larry," Gary was saying. 

"Yeah, I think he suits that," agreed Lottie. 

"I've always liked the name Brenden," Noah smiled. "How about you, Hope?" 

"Um. Sure, whatever," Hope looked extremely uncomfortable and Lucas felt a pang of sympathy. 

"What do you want to name ours, babe?" asked Jo.

"I don't know…" Rahim mused. "It should be something we both love." 

"Well, I do like horror films," Lucas murmured to Fox, making her laugh.

"I enjoy a good monster flick," she grinned. "Chucky should count himself lucky he's not called Godzilla or the Babadook." 

It would make a great dog name though…  

Hannah and Bobby had shouted out a name at the same time. 

"Dale!" 

"Romeo!"

"Domeo?" 

"Rale?" 

The two frowned at each other.

Lucas prodded Chucky, looking only slightly appalled. 

"We're gonna have to look after this all day, huh," Fox sighed sadly. "Playing with a plastic doll isn't exactly top of my wishlist." 

Lucas smiled at her. 

"I'm so glad you get me, angel."

The crying in the room was getting even louder. 

"Can someone please shut this noise up?" grumped Hope. 

"It's not noise, babe," Noah protested.

Do his ears not work or…? 

"Could have fooled me," Hope frowned. "How do we get it to stop?" 

"Maybe we need to figure out what they want?" suggested Gary. "What's the key ingredient to raising a kid?" 

"What's that, Chucky?" asked Fox quietly. "You want to kill again? It's only a matter of time?!"

Lucas snorted with laughter, earning himself a glare from Lottie. 

"A heaped spoonful of love," Bobby answered Gary. "A dash of nurturing and care. And dad jokes." 

Noah picked up his doll and rocked him, which seemed to reduce the noise. 

"Shh, it's okay, little one. I've got you." 

Good grief. 

"Aww, Noah, you're a natural," Lottie cooed. 

"Nah, it's practise. I helped raise my younger sister."

"Great," said Hope. "Can you do it with all the others? My head's killing me." 

"Maybe Noah can take you in your strong arms and rock you," Bobby joked. "I know that'd cure my headache." 

Lucas heard a vibration near him followed by a beep, and Fox pulled out her phone. 

"Islanders, each couple has been given responsibility for their own bundle of joy. You must look after your doll as if it were the real deal for the rest of the day. Whichever couple can keep their doll the most happy and content will win a special prize." 

"Special prize?" asked Hannah. 

"I bet it's a party!" Bobby enthused. 

"Hmm, it's only for the winning couple though," Gary pointed out over Chelsea's excitement. 

With a sigh, Lucas picked up Chucky and rocked him. The doll stopped crying.

"My mum is going to have a heart attack seeing this," he laughed. "She'll be expecting me to run straight through the Villa wall to escape."

"Aww," Fox kissed him softly, while avoiding Chucky. "My hero."

He puffed his chest out with an exaggerated pose. 

"It's my duty to defend you from creepy dolls," he grinned. "And also to try and win." 

"I'm so glad you get me, tiger." 

The tension was still coming off her in waves, but she looked a lot less anxious than when she’d first entered the room. He realised that this challenge would have been a complete nightmare with anyone that didn’t understand it was a trigger issue for him. It’s not like he hated children, but a lifetime of pressure from family and friends regarding his own potential fatherhood and their refusal to accept his decision had worn his patience and nerves very thin.

Instead, he had a partner that both respected and supported his choice, but who was unexpectedly going to find this particular allegorical conception extremely hard. Lucas didn’t particularly have any deep seated fears or phobias himself, beyond the usual fairly logical ones of not being overly keen on great heights or small holes underground or screaming Chelseas, but he knew from his work that extreme fear could be powerful enough to manifest as physical pain.

Time to step up, tough guy.

Lottie had found clothes for the dolls and they tried to pick out what would hide Chucky the most.

"Okay," muttered Lucas, "channel The Sims…" 

Fox found a hat and dummy that covered up a fair amount, while he put the doll in a tee and dungarees which covered the bottom half completely and not at all because it made the doll look even more like Chucky. 

"Chucky looks great," beamed Fox. "Totally capable of murdering the other dolls for me." 

"Ohh, that's a winning strategy," he winked.

Looking around he saw that Hannah had dressed her and Bobby's doll like a fifty year old man for some reason, while Hope was horrified at Noah's doll wearing a 'mummy's boy' onesie. 

With it being time to get ready, Noah and Rahim left with their dolls, while the girls carried off the rest.

"Do you want me to take it?" he asked. "I don't mind, though our chances of winning this challenge will probably be halved." 

She reached up and kissed him on the cheek, making him smile. 

"I'm good to take Chucky, I think. He's not nearly as terrifying now he's deliberately terrifying."

"And yet I know exactly what you mean!" 

He grinned happily as she headed off. 

~~~

"I thought you'd be looking a lot more miserable, mate!"

"Nah, I'm good," Lucas smiled. "Fox and I found a way to make it fun."

"Good stuff," Gary grinned. "I just hope they don't cry all day. That noise is awful." 

Rahim nodded glumly from where he sat with two dolls in front of him. Noah had left his with him reluctantly to sprint to the shower. 

"It's gonna be a weird day," said Henrik.

"And a challenging one for some couples," Bobby frowned, before turning to Lucas. "I was surprised to see you getting into it so much!" 

"Well, not exactly into it," Lucas shrugged as he fixed his hair. "Just making it a better experience for Fox, y'know?" 

Bobby nodded. 

"That's the sign of a strong couple there," Rahim grinned.

"What about you guys?" asked Lucas. "This is a glimpse of your future in a way."

"Sort of," Rahim frowned. "Except the doll is more annoying and a lot easier to look after." 

"I'm too young to be thinking about any of this," Henrik shook his head. "And I'm not sure Chelsea knows exactly what she's talking about either. Also, she named it after alcohol!"

“Mate, you’re older than me!” Rahim laughed.

“And me,” added Gary.

“And barely younger than me,” Bobby chirped.

“Yeah, yeah,” drawled Lucas, “you’re all youngsters, don’t remind me.”

“Sorry grandpa Luc,” laughed Bobby, leaping to a safe distance.

"Jo seems pretty anxious," sighed Rahim, looking a little concerned. "I think she's worried I'll be disappointed in her or something."

“It’s gonna go fine for me,” Gary mused. “Lottie is well into it, and I think the less I do the more she’ll approve.”

Hah, he’s probably not wrong.

"It's fun for me," Bobby said before frowning. "Or it would be if I was in a romantic thing maybe. Hannah is just railroading everything."

"I think it's wicked," announced Noah, as he emerged from the bathroom. "This is right up my street." 

Lucas glanced at Gary who raised his eyebrows. Some of the couples had approaches that clashed, but none quite so much as Noah and Hope.

How can he be so oblivious to her discomfort? 

~~~

"Hey!" 

Lucas bounced over to Fox as she stepped outside. 

"Someone's in a good mood," she laughed.

"I've got my amazing girl, a serial murderer trapped in a doll's body, and sunshine," he grinned. "What more could I ask for?" 

She seems a good bit more relaxed. I’ll just take this thing as often as possible, radiate happiness, and uh, try not to break it...

He took Chucky from her and tied some sunglasses on to hide the eyes.

Weekend at Chucky’s it is!

"Perfect! How about we go for a stroll round the Villa?" 

"Sounds great!" she smiled. "How are the other boys coping?" 

"Bit of a mixed bag to be honest," he mused. "Most are finding it hard to take seriously because, well these are weird looking dolls. Bobby is feeling a bit down about being left out, I think. And Noah is just, uh, extremely into it." 

"Yeah, Hope is really freaking out," she sighed. "I think only Lottie really has a handle on what she's doing. And fear of dolls aside, I probably have the most experience." 

"Don't burst Noah's bubble," he winked, and she laughed.

"It does remind me a little of my brothers," she mused. "Those were tough times. It's one of the reasons we're so close now. The doll is much easier than the real thing."

"I can believe that," he nodded. 

They approached the kitchen, where Henrik was busy preparing breakfast. Lottie was feeding her doll, while Rahim was bouncing his on his knee. 

Would that not scramble its brain?!

"Hey guys!" said Rahim, as Fox sat down with a smile. 

"Why are you jiggling your doll on your knee?" Lucas asked. 

"It's something my parents used to do with me all the time." 

"That's really strange," he frowned. "Is it not, like, bad to shake babies?" 

Rahim's eyes widened as he froze. 

"I didn't think of that!" he lifted the doll above his head. 

"What are you doing?" asked Lucas, curious.

"Seeing if she needs a nappy change. Do these dolls even pee? ... Do they poo?! Mate, I don't want to clean doll poo!" 

Fox laughed as Lucas shook his head. 

"I doubt they do," he reassured the golfer. "But they could wet themselves. Those dolls have been around for years." 

"At least they won't attack pee," mused Fox. 

Both men turned to her with blank looks.

"Um, attack pee?" asked Rahim with a frown.

"Oh yeah," she nodded. "When you're changing a nappy, some babies keep some extra in the tank and their aim is spectacular. Right in the face." 

"Oh dear god," Lucas blanched.

"You're winding us up, right?" Rahim sounded unsure.

"Not at all. One of my brothers managed to land his arc of pee right in the health visitor's handbag."

Fox laughed at their stunned faces. 

"Guys, you're really not ready to hear about the baby poo explosions…" 

"Nope!" Lucas shook his head. "Please preserve my innocence." 

"I grant you mercy," she said grandly, and he kissed her on the cheek before grinning goofily. 

Chucky started to sniffle.

"Sounds like Chucky needs something," said Lottie as she came over beside them. 

"Yeah, probably feeding," said Fox. "There was a bottle right…?" 

She fished around and found it. Lucas handed Chucky over and he almost immediately stopped crying. The doll made a weird electronic sucking sound. 

"Bleh," said Fox, pulling a face. "I didn't even do this with dolls when I was a kid." 

"This day just keeps getting more and more strange," sighed Lucas. "Just when I thought that doll couldn't get any creepier." 

He tried to calm his grumpiness, realising that if he'd been paired with any of the other girls he would have had to hide his discomfort, whereas Fox was definitely still finding this harder than him. 

"I just realised, I don't even know how to change a nappy…" frowned Rahim. 

"I can show you later," Lottie beamed. 

"I think that's the feeding time over," announced Fox. "His thirst for food has been quenched."

"But his thirst for blood grows ever stronger," Lucas grinned.

Lottie glared at him as Fox laughed. 

~~~

"Hey guys!" Chelsea chirped, her doll resting on top of her.

"Hey, Chels," Lucas smiled. 

"Come sit next to me!" 

He and Fox made themselves comfy in the beanbags next to her and Hope, whose attention seemed to be fixed on Noah and Hannah at the pool. 

"I could use the company," Chelsea sighed. "This whole baby thing is well easy. Bubbly hasn't made a sound the whole day!" 

"No sound at all?" asked Fox. 

"Nope! Guess I'm just a natural." 

Fox glanced at him and he smirked.

Oh my god, she's broken it already! 

"Looking after the doll is pretty simple," Fox smiled. "We've been doing a great job." 

"Can't lie, Fox's been doing most of the work," said Lucas. "She's a pro." 

"You've done your fair share, tiger," she beamed at him, and he puffed his chest out a little, feeling pleased. 

"How're you finding today, Hope?" asked Chelsea. 

"Hmm…" Hope was still hyper-focused on Noah at the pool. 

"I said how are you doing with the baby challenge?" 

"Yeah. Totes." 

Chelsea sighed. 

"Hope!" she yelled. 

"Huh? Oh sorry, hun. It's just Noah. He's such a natural…" 

"Aaand we've lost her again," said Lucas, as Hope tuned back out. 

Fox stretched out on her beanbag, grumbling a little.

"You okay, angel?" he asked. 

"Too hot," she sighed, fanning her face.

"Here, I'll take our demon," he lifted Chucky over, and she blew him a kiss in thanks.

This thing gives out heat as well. The burning of evil. 

"Yeah, it's really hot today," said Chelsea. "Like, hotter than any other day we've been here. I feel like I'm going to burn to a crisp." 

"I'm so not built for this temperature," Fox sighed. 

Jo arrived at the beanbags with her doll, throwing herself down next to Lucas. 

"Hey gals!" she cried. "And Lucas." 

Yay. Ugh, I'll be nice. 

"Sup," he said. 

She ignored him, looking at Hope. 

"How're you doing, babe?" she asked loudly. 

"Oh! Hey, hun," Hope turned around. "I'm alright. It's just… when I see how good Noah is with Brandon-" 

"Brenden," said Chelsea. 

"That's what I said, Brandon."

"No, it's Brenden. With an E." 

"Brenden, right," Hope frowned. "When I see how good Noah is with him, it makes me realise… I'm so not into having kids. You know?" 

"Yeah," said Jo.

"You knew that already though, babe," Fox pointed out. 

"Yeah, but I guess I didn't expect the man I ended up with to be someone who really wants to be a dad," sighed Hope. "I've got my career, I want to have my own toy empire at some point."

She sat up a little straighter. 

"And nothing can get in the way of that."

"I think that's pretty amazing," smiled Fox. 

"Thank you," she beamed. "It may seem odd, but I've always loved toys and the worlds they unlock for children. Toys played a massive part of my childhood. It was hard to give them up as I grew older." 

"I just didn't give them up," Jo laughed. "I still buy models and that." 

"And pretty much only adults can afford the big Lego sets," said Fox, looking dreamy. "Hogwarts…" 

"The collectibles market is huge," continued Jo.

"... Ghostbusters HQ…" 

"I mean Noah collects models right?" 

"... the Death Star…" 

"Fox?" asked Chelsea. 

"We've lost her for a bit," Lucas grinned. "She's dorking out." 

D'aww.

"It's weird that there's a time where we're suddenly expected to give up toys," Jo mused. "Like, yep, no more imagination for you!" 

"Play is important," nodded Hope, "and even though I don't want children myself, I want to own a business that is responsible for making awesome stuff for them." 

They continued talking about the impact of kids on careers, with Jo planning to do both, and Lucas tuned out a little as he glanced at Fox with a smile. She was happily spacing out, enjoying not being the problem solver for once.

"... and like Hannah said," Hope was saying, "someone that good with kids will definitely end up wanting kids of their own."

"Well that's definitely not true," Lucas interjected, and Hope looked at him with interest. "Fox is amazing with kids, but she is very firm about never wanting them." 

"Huh," said Hope, "I didn't realise she had experience with kids."

Lucas nodded. 

"Noah isn't the only one who helped raise siblings, and she even looked after kids professionally for a while. Called them some of the most interesting people. Just doesn't want ones of her own." 

"Is that the same as you?" asked Jo.

"Oh no," he laughed. "I'm rubbish with kids, I have no clue at all. But I don't think the two things are always necessarily linked." 

"Fox," Hope called, and Lucas saw his angel snap back to focus on what was going on, "you also said that you're focused on things other than kids the other day. What do you think I should do?" 

Sigh. It's Ask Fox O'Clock again. 

"You live for your career," she smiled. "It makes you happy, and it's absolutely fine that kids don't. It's just as valid to instead want something else for your life." 

"That's exactly it," Hope beamed. "It's a relief to talk to someone who understands. I'm so sick of people telling me I'm going to change my mind someday." 

"I feel you," nodded Fox. "It's amazing how many people think my body is their business." 

"I totally get where you're coming from, babes," Chelsea broke her silence, "but I know I want at least five children. Especially after how good Bubbly is."

Lucas tried to cover his laugh with a cough. 

That doll is so borked. 

"You know you wouldn't be able to drink prosecco for those months you're pregnant, right?" he asked. 

"What about non-alcoholic stuff?" she asked. "I just like the taste." 

"Still a no. You're not supposed to drink anything carbonated. No bubbles." 

Chelsea gasped.

"So if you had five children, one after the other," he continued, "that'd be five years without any alcohol. Or bubbles." 

She was rendered temporarily speechless.

"I think you just destroyed her future," Fox winked.

Whoops.

"Hmm, this requires more thought…" sighed Chelsea. 

"The pregnancy aside," said Hope, "I don't even know how to hold a baby. They seem to burst into tears the minute I touch them." 

"Tell me about it," sighed Jo. 

"They can smell fear," Fox smirked. 

"Really?" asked Hope with alarm. 

Oh my god, Hope.

"No, I'm just playing," she laughed. "But if you're anxious or stressed, a baby will often pick up on that and think there's something to be anxious or stressed about." 

"Don't let Ibrahim know this," said Jo, "but I'm hiding from him. He's doing amazing and I know I'll just be a bit rubbish at it… and then he'll hate me." 

Hiding from him is worse. 

"Hiding from him is worse," said Fox, and Lucas smiled at their similar thoughts.

"Worse than if I pulled the doll's leg off or something?" she asked, and Fox nodded. 

"Look, you both want kids so that's not in the equation. This is just a doll. Right now, you're acting in a way that tells him you're not committed. Honesty is important."

"Dammit, why do you have to be right?" Jo softened a little. "Thanks, Fox." 

Hope looked back at Noah. 

"I'm going to go over there," she announced. "... just as soon as I've gathered the courage." 

She got up and headed indoors with Jo. 

"Well, that got heavy…" sighed Lucas, and Fox smiled at him. 

"You did a really good job," she beamed. 

"I did?" 

"You did." 

He grinned happily. A slow computerised cry came from in front of him. 

"Chucky is crying again," he said, with a slight note of panic. "Why?" 

"Maybe he's bored?" asked Chelsea, and Fox nodded. 

"Yeah, that could be it."

"As my niece's pyjamas says, 'An Active Child is a Happy Child'," Chelsea smiled. 

"Why do her pyjamas say that?" asked Lucas, looking perplexed. "Why not a swimsuit or something?" 

"Because…" Chelsea trailed off, her brow furrowed.

"Okay," sighed Fox. "How do we play with it? I mean, I know how to play with a baby but this thing is all just sensors and electronics."

"This is the weirdest day," he groaned. "But anything to stop this crying." 

"It's just playing with dolls," chirped Chelsea

"If I play with it though…" Fox looked at it warily. 

"I get you," he said sympathetically, "but look at Chelsea's face. I don't think we get away with not doing this." 

Chelsea giggled. 

"You two are too funny!" she laughed.

"Okay, I'll try," said Fox, still looking at the doll warily.

"You start then I'll step in," he smiled, and she relaxed a bit.

"Deal!"

"At least I won't be the only one making a fool of myself," he winked. 

"Let's do air toss, something I very much don't recommend with an actual tiny human being." 

She threw the doll up in the air, catching it on the way down. 

"Heh-heh-heh!" said the doll, and Fox looked horrified. 

"He likes it!" cheered Chelsea. 

"My uncle used to do that to me all the time," Lucas revealed. "He stopped after I chundered all over him…" 

Fox laughed, and managed a few more throws. 

I am an excellent fear defender! 

"Alright, I'll give this a go," he said, taking Chucky back. 

"Thank you," she said sincerely, as he started tossing the doll up in the air. 

Throwing higher seemed to result in more of the noises he assumed were supposed to represent happiness. 

"Hey, this is kinda fun," he grinned, throwing the doll even higher. "Trick shot!" 

He twirled Chucky in an arc but tripped as he ran to catch it again. The doll landed smack bang in the middle of his back as Chelsea gasped. 

Ow

"I think he's practising his murder strikes," Fox smirked, as she helped him up.

Lucas laughed. 

"At least I'm not in trouble," he grinned sheepishly.

~~~

It was peaceful up on the roof terrace, and there was a blessed absence of electronic baby voices.

"I hadn't realised how much I needed silence until now," said Lucas, sinking down onto the seats. "Oops. I guess I just kinda broke it by speaking." 

"Doofus," Fox smiled affectionately as she settled down beside him, and kissed him on the cheek.

He sat Chucky beside him, where the doll sat, menacingly. 

"We should take five minutes to ourselves," he suggested.

"Absolutely," she agreed, resting her head back with a sigh. 

"It's such a gorgeous day today," he smiled, watching her enjoy the breeze. "Nicer up here where the air is moving. It's like one of those days you just don't want to end." 

Fox smirked. 

"Um, because of the weather and company," he added swiftly. "Dolls not included." 

He looked at the doll. It hadn't moved. 

Just checking. 

"So how's parenthood treating you?" he asked, and Fox laughed. 

"It could be worse," she smiled. "I mean it's an object I'm terrified of representing a life choice I don't want-" 

He grinned. 

"-but you've made it pretty fun." 

"I'm actually enjoying today," he kissed her hair, and she snuggled against him. "That may not sound like much, but like, I really did not want to do this. Chucky is alright though. For a murderous doll." 

"I'm glad," she murmured. "I couldn't have done this with anyone else."

He smiled. His family really were going to be astonished by him not freaking out today. But helping Fox made him happy. And there was no stress of worrying about making mistakes, because, well. 

She gets me. 

"Thinking of our actual future," he mused, "if you won the money, what's the first thing you buy?"  

"I-" 

"But it has to be for yourself," he added quickly, realising his mistake. "No charity giving, no helping friends and family, debt is paid. Assume that's all been done. What's the first thing you'd buy for you ?" 

"Oof, that's hard," she looked thoughtful.

After a couple of minutes, he laughed. 

"Really?" 

"It's hard!" she stuck her tongue out. "I guess I'd maybe buy a couple of the more recent games I've been waiting to drop below thirty five quid?" 

"That-" 

"Oh wait! I could get a Nintendo Switch. I choose that. That would be awesome." 

"Oh my god," he laughed. "You'd win fifty thousand pounds and you'd spend three hundred on yourself. You are such a sweetheart." 

"Twenty five thousand," she pointed out.

"Eh," he shrugged. "If we don't win I know what to get you for Christmas now." 

She playfully swatted him on the shoulder.

"Tricksy!"

"Sneaky little hobbitses," he grinned, making her laugh. 

"What would you do?" she asked. 

"Take you on holiday! I'd find a luxurious resort near the sea, get room service everyday, use the spa and all that stuff. Just me and you." 

"That sounds pretty amazing," she purred, happily. 

Really, he just wanted to give her everything. She was always thinking of other people instead of herself, and he could think of nothing better than treating her like a queen. 

But he was equally sure that she'd be horrified by his usual gift giving tendencies. A luxury break however was technically for them both, and thus would make her happiest.

She snuggled against him in the sun, and he gently stroked her hair as he relaxed. 

Bliss

He took her hand, rubbing his thumb across the back, and she turned to look at him.

“Hey,” he said softly, leaning closer.

“Hey,” she smiled, her nose crinkling.

Fox brushed his nose with hers, making him smile.

"Guess what?" he murmured.

"What?"

"I love you."

She kissed him gentle and slow, purring against him, and he deepened the kiss, feeling everything else fade away. He growled happily as her fingers ran behind his neck and into his hair, indulging his possessive streak with the knowledge that she was his, and only his.

And I'm hers.

She broke their kiss with a happy sigh, kissing his nose as she pulled back, her eyes sparkling.

"I love you too, tiger." 

I should-

A loud splash from the pool followed by a shriek of laughter from Hannah snapped them out of the moment. 

Lucas sighed, before smiling at Fox. 

"It was nice to talk about something other than the dolls today," he said, standing and offering her his hand. 

"Hell yes," she replied, taking his hand. "I guess we should head back to the trenches."

She kissed him softly, and he picked up Chucky. 

"Whatever else this day throws at us, I'm glad I get to face it with you, angel." 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas wasn't entirely happy at leaving Fox alone with Noah, but he didn't have much choice when Hannah announced she was going to get water as well. 

The four of them had been by the pool, where Noah had been weirdly impressed by Fox's quick and capable nappy changing skills. 

I mean I'M impressed, but Noah already knows how to do it. 

He shook his head. Noah was too wrapped up in the baby challenge to try anything weird today, and even if he did, he was very sure it would only result in Fox pushing the librarian into the pool, or at the very least telling him about it. 

He'd briefly considered trying to be nicer to Hannah now that the recoupling threat was over, but seeing her be so dismissive of Bobby's feelings so far today had done little to endear her to him. He had a sneaking suspicion his angel had preferred the previous iteration of the original Islander, as the tight friendship trio of Fox, Lottie and Bobby remained unshaken.

Water filled, he headed for the living area to pick up more supplies for the ridiculous doll. Noah suddenly appeared from outside, walked over to the crib and dumped his doll in it, before stashing the other stuff underneath.

As he spun on his heel and walked back outside, Lucas followed curiously. A few other Islanders were dotted about, frozen as they watched Noah make his way back over to Hope. 

"Mate, what's going on?"

"Shh," Gary motioned him over. 

The two of them were standing just close enough to eavesdrop, with Fox stuck in between, and Lucas strained his ears to listen in. 

"What did you do?" asked Hope, looking worried. 

"I just put it back in the lounge," Noah shrugged.

'It?' He was calling the thing 'daddy's little man' a minute ago… 

"But what if it cries?" 

Hope was confused, as Noah sat down beside the pool again. 

"So what if it does? It's just pretend. We don't have to look after it if you're not feeling good about it."

"But you were so into it! I felt like you wanted to have a load of kids, and it was going to become a test of our relationship." 

"I don't know," Noah sighed. That feels like we're getting ahead of ourselves. I was just playing. If I'd known it was upsetting to you, I would have stopped."

Um, her upset was kind of obvious? This is like car crash television. 

"But you were so happy looking after it!" protested Hope. "Are you saying you don't care about having kids?" 

"I'm not really saying that," he shook his head. "That's a much bigger question, and it's something we have to work out together, over time."

Gary rolled his eyes. 

Yeah, not sure you can 'work out' a 'no' instead of just respecting her decision. 

"I'm sorry I upset you," the librarian concluded. "I didn't realise that's how I was coming across."

"You didn't upset me," said Hope. 

Bloody hell, people. Is there anything left in their relationship that isn't built upon ignoring their problems? 

The two of them hugged and apologised, while Fox finally managed to sneak away.

~~~

Lucas took Chucky back from a grateful Fox as they sat on the day beds. Lottie was fast asleep with her doll resting on her stomach. 

"Goo-goo-gah-gah," said the doll.

"What is that?" Gary groaned.

"I think it's the noise it makes when it's happy," said Fox. "Also not a noise a baby ever actually makes." 

"Well it makes me completely unhappy," he sighed. "These things can be so creepy."

He looked at Chucky who was quiet.

"And how come it's you of all people that's showing me up, mate?" he smirked at Lucas. "I thought you'd need convincing to even touch the thing."

"It's in all our best interests that Chucky stays murderously silent," Lucas grinned.

"You know what I mean!" 

"Well, it would only be difficult if I was with someone who wanted me to hide how I feel."

"And there will be a complete ban on all dolls anywhere we live," said Fox, sternly. "Oh and also no baby humans other than occasional future nieces and nephews." 

That's my girl. 

Lucas smiled happily, as Lottie snorted loudly in her sleep. 

"Wow, she's really tired," remarked Fox. 

"Yeah," Gary sighed, "she's knackered herself looking after Larry. She's putting me to shame. Earlier, I thought I'd sat on him. Turned out to be a bagel. My bagel."

Lucas attempted to stifle his laugh. 

"There was cream cheese everywhere!" 

Oh my god… 

"Do you see yourself having kids then?" Fox asked, distracting Gary from a highly amused Lucas. 

"One hundred percent, yes. The timing needs to be right, though. I want to make sure I can give them the best life."

"Aww, little goths running around will be extremely cute." 

"Oh jeez Fox, think of the makeup bills!" 

"Just wait til you have a house full of teen goths," she laughed.

Gary groaned.

"To be fair," mused Lucas, "they might all be super straightlaced in order to rebel."

"Oh good point," Fox smirked. "Really preppy kids that insist all cranes should only be operated by artificial intelligence…" 

Lucas snorted a laugh. 

"Noooooo," Gary did a quiet but theatrical version of the Darth Vader scream before laughing. "I'll just send them to their uncle Lucas for him to deal with." 

"God dammit." 

Lottie snorted again before mumbling in her sleep about Larry and plug sockets.

"She's dreaming about being a mum, bless," said Fox. 

"That's all kinds of adorable," Gary smiled, as his phone beeped.

"I've got a text!" he yelled, making Lottie jump up in fright.

At least Gaz's kids will learn not to ever be startled. 

"No you can't put a fork in there!" she yelled. "... Oh. I dozed off?" 

Everyone gathered round with their creepy dolls, and Gary read the text out. 

"Boys, it's time to get your tan on and make a splash as you head to the beach! Please hand your doll to your partner and head to the jeep outside." 

"Yes mate!" cried Gary. "Let's hit that water!" 

"A break would be nice," said Henrik, "but it feels a little mean to ditch the girls." 

"Are you alright to look after ours for a bit, Hope?" asked Noah. 

Well that didn't last long. 

"Um, yeah, no worries," she replied. "I should look after it for a bit. It's a challenge, after all." 

Rahim pulled his doll closer to him.

And another one falls. 

"It's gonna be hard saying goodbye to Sriracha…" he sighed. 

"Relax, Jo's got this. Right?" enthused Lottie. 

"Yeah, babe…" said Jo, looking terrified. "Of course." 

Lucas squeezed Fox's hand. 

"Sorry you have to look after Chucky on your own," he murmured, handing the doll over. 

"It's fine, tiger," she smiled, brightly. "Go have fun!" 

"Aww, thanks angel," he kissed her cheek. "I'll bring you back a seashell or something."

"I'll hold you to that," she winked. 

"Right, lads!" Gary called. "Let's get a move on!" 

The guys headed for the front door, propelling Noah and Rahim along with them, and piled into the jeeps.

~~~

They'd barely hit the beach and Henrik was already a small dot of joy crashing into the sea.

"Now that's my idea of a good time," yelled Rahim, running after him, closely followed by a screaming Bobby. 

Noah flopped down in the sun, sand angeling until he was comfortable with a happy sigh. Gary sat and began working on a sandcastle.

Lucas looked around and saw a long line of shells and pebbles slightly higher up the beach. 

Bingo!

He didn't know exactly what he was looking for, only that he'd know it when he saw it. This was pretty much the opposite of his usual gift selecting experience, but actually even more enjoyable. 

I never knew there were so many kinds of shell. And rocks! These patterns are pretty amazing… 

Every now and then he sat down to sift through those around him, soaking up the sun and watching the guys in the waves. Running into the sea was not without its appeal, but he'd rather be doing it with a hot fox than the whooping and hollering lads he could still hear even at this distance.

The last time he'd been at the beach it had been with Blake during the Casa Amor mess. He really wanted to overwrite that memory with Fox instead, but for now looking at shells was actually doing a pretty good job of keeping the anxiety at bay. 

Aha! That's it. That's the one. 

He twirled it in his palm, checking it wasn't damaged. It was small, probably a centimetre at most but exquisitely detailed. Conical, and jet black with a speckling of white dots, it looked like a Tim Burton creation, completely at odds with the shades of white, brown and orange of the other shells.

Hopefully it would cheer up his angel after having to deal with the creepy doll by herself. He opened his empty sunglasses case and popped it inside, wrapping it in the cloth that lived there. 

Perfect! 

He knew Fox wasn't actually expecting him to bring back a seashell, but he was feeling extremely pleased with himself. 

~~~

The seafaring boys were still cheerfully crashing about in the waves, and Lucas walked down the beach to sit near Gary who was nearing the end of his sandcastle creation.

"That looks pretty impressive!" 

"Cheers, mate!" Gary beamed as he finished carving decorative lines up the towers. "It's daft but it feels like forever since I've worked with my hands properly. This isn't quite the same, but it's something."

"You'd be good at those proper sand sculpture things," Lucas tried to remember ones he'd seen before. "Like, where it looks like a half dug-up dinosaur skeleton or a figure rising out of the ground. Ooh, or a dragon!" 

"I think I'd need more practise," the blonde laughed, "but honestly I'd be well into that. It's got me feeling very zen." 

Gary hesitated briefly before extracting himself from his work and crashing down next to Lucas.

"I think the Villa has been harder on my mental health than I was willing to admit," he said quietly. "Like, I knew it would be a big pressure but I didn't quite think through how it would be if I was in this long?" 

"Each week feels like a month in here," Lucas nodded.

"Yeah, exactly. And I've not been under any direct pressure as such, aside from the very early drama. But it's hard to clear my mind sometimes."

"I get you," the older man replied, before adding with a laugh, "I mean, the effects of stress have been pretty obvious with me."

"Yeah, I thought you might know where I was coming from," Gary grinned. "It's been getting harder for me to keep up good coping strategies."

"You mean instead of bad ones?" asked Lucas. 

"Yeah…" Gary trailed off, obviously finding it difficult to say what he was wanting to.

"Well, I feel that," said Lucas, softly. "I mean, I was the king of self-destruction for a long time and that has taken a few forms. Mostly relationship stuff but you've maybe noticed I don't tend to drink that much." 

Gary looked surprised. 

"I did, but I thought that was more of a health thing, what with your job and stuff." 

"Nah. I never had it develop into a full problem but it was pretty damn close. Alcohol can make anxiety go away. But it comes back even worse the next morning, and starts a circle that is harder and harder to break. Doesn't aid good decision making."

"Oh, shit," groaned Gary, "and the only time you were proper drunk here was the night after that stupid video message. Sorry, man."

"No apologies necessary," Lucas shook his head. "I made sure nobody knew… all part of being self-destructive. And you offered to talk to me but I wasn't having it." 

"Mine is gym addiction," Gary revealed quietly. "Fortunately I was never daft enough to get on cycles but I wrecked myself. Took some strong words from my nan and months of physio and therapy." 

Lucas listened attentively. This was a subject he was pretty well versed in, with a not insignificant number of his patients suffering from it. 

"And like, I'm mostly fine now. I keep a good balance, and I recognise when it's slipping. But it's hard here where sometimes there's literally nothing else to do when I'm feeling stressed, y'know?"

"Yeah," Lucas nodded, and he saw Gary looking relieved. "With my job it's something I see a lot, and there's a big focus here on how we look with a whole lot of downtime and only the gym to use. It's not the best combination in my opinion." 

"It's really not. I was definitely starting to slip, though I guess at least I recognised it. It was good talking to Fox about it all, turns out we have a fair bit of childhood stuff in common."

"She's very easy to talk to," Lucas smiled. "Things just slip out before you realise, and she's good at spotting when people need to talk. Since I fucked up I've gradually been able to tell her everything." 

"My nan would love her," Gary winked, making Lucas laugh. 

"Recognising it is the important bit I think though," mused Lucas. "Without that, you can't accept help, and you can't talk to other people. Recovery is never a straight line."

"Yeah," the younger man sighed. "It's a hard thing to realise though, that maybe I am sliding backwards."

"Mm, I don't think it's necessarily sliding backwards though. More like taking a wrong turn and having to find your way back to the right path. You've not lost your place on that main road."

"Huh," Gary looked thoughtful. "That's a good way of looking at it. And that fits with me realising I'm, well, going the wrong way I guess? Whereas if I was sliding backwards, I'd lose the ability to see that…"

"Exactly," Lucas hesitated slightly. "Going to therapy… that's actually something I'm planning on doing when we get out of here."

"Yeah?" 

"I recommend it to patients all the time but I always refused to go myself. I was too much of a control freak, and the idea of opening up? Impossible. But… my anxiety isn't in my control. It's completely out of it." 

"Therapy helped me a lot," Gary smiled. "And like, it's hard to talk about with other guys. Which is shit. Even Rocco opened up about going to counselling and I still stayed quiet. But when I do bring it up, it turns out a lot of people I know have gone as well." 

"Do you still go?" 

"Off and on. To begin with it was weekly for a long time. Now it's more just when I need it or if I haven't been in a while. Like an MOT for my brain."

"Hah! I like that," laughed Lucas as the other boys came trudging up to meet them, dripping happily. "We should ask the producers to give us a sandpit in the meantime. For health reasons." 

Gary laughed. 

"That was wicked!" Henrik grinned as the swimming group flopped down on the sand. "I needed that."

"How do you think the girls are managing without us?" asked Noah, crashing down next to them.

"Worried about Hope?" Rahim asked carefully.

"I'm sure she's fine," Noah shrugged, his body language disagreeing. 

"Lottie will be only too happy to help!" grinned Gary, getting up to add some last minute finishing touches to his sandcastle. 

"She definitely will," Henrik nodded. "I had no idea she was so broody!"

"Normally, I'd say Fox would help but…" Bobby trailed off.

"She struggles a bit with creepy dolls," Lucas shook his head. "And to be fair, those dolls are really eerie looking." 

"She's doing pretty well then," smiled Bobby. "Hannah is as well. Even if she calls ours by the wrong name." 

"At least neither of them are acting terrified of you," Rahim shook his head sadly. "I thought me and Jo were really strong, but today… well, it's not been the best." 

"Yeah, I feel that," sighed Noah. "I should have known it would upset Hope." 

"I don't think it's so much the doll that upset her," said Gary, from behind his sandcastle. "It's thinking about the future that had her worried." 

Noah frowned. 

"But do we really need to think about that now?" 

"Normally, no," said Lucas. "But if one person is a very firm 'no', then the only option is either to get on board with that or…" 

He trailed off, wishing he hadn't said anything. 

"Or?" Noah asked. 

Lucas shrugged. 

"Today's got me thinking about that actually," Bobby mused. "Like, I've always just assumed I would. I never thought about what I'd do if my partner really didn't want kids. Ideally I want both, but for the right person…"

He trailed off, and Lucas wondered again if he was thinking about a certain girl in particular. 

Fox and Hope are the only girls who've said they don't want kids. And maybe Marisol before she left. It can only be Fox… 

"Has it ended relationships for you?" Henrik asked Lucas.

"No," Lucas shook his head, "but only because it instead stopped them from starting. I try and bring it up early. And then once they realise I'm serious, often that's me kicked to the curb. Not always, but a lot of the time." 

"That's rough," said Rahim, sympathetically. 

"Nah, it's better knowing then than getting into something, although…" 

"Although?" Gary prompted.

"Well, I was already set on Fox by the time I brought it up with her. So if she'd really wanted them… it would be the first time I'd maybe think about making that compromise." 

"So people can change their mind," said Noah. 

"Of course. But it's easier for us to change our minds if we're not the ones who get pregnant. They've had to give it a lot more thought. It's their body." 

"Good point," said Bobby, before sighing. "I feel bad for the girls not getting a trip like this today. I hope they've had fun." 

Lucas nodded. He was sure his angel was probably fine, but he disliked having to leave her on a day that was a bigger struggle for her. 

"I'm just worried I won't know if Jo has had fun or not," Rahim sighed. 

"I think she's maybe worried about disappointing you," offered Bobby. "It's a big challenge to have so early in a relationship."

"Yeah, I guess that's true."

Sorting out communication before declaring love is definitely a less stressful approach. 

"Man, I'm gonna miss our deep chattings," Henrik laughed.

"We'll set up a group chat," Gary beamed. "One for us guys, one for the girls, and one for us all." 

"And one for the workout crew!" added Rahim. 

Hah, you mean most of the guys plus Fox then. No doubt there will be one for most of the girls plus Bobby too. 

"And we can all meet up," said Bobby. "Parties in every city!" 

"Totally succulent," grinned Henrik.

Lucas stretched happily in the sun. 

"It's so nice to have no drama," he sighed happily. "For a while there it felt like we were staggering from one crisis to another." 

"And now we're nearly at the end," mused Bobby. "How are you all feeling about it?"

"Pretty good actually," Gary smiled. "I never thought I'd make it but I think me and Lottie are actually in with a shot." 

Lucas nodded his agreement.

"Any extra day we get at the moment is a pleasant surprise," Henrik laughed. "But I think me and Chels might work. She's so positive and up for anything." 

"Yeah, I'm just happy to be here at this point," smiled Bobby.

"I'm looking forward to getting out," said Lucas, "but also not wanting to leave? The winning part I don't care about, because y'know, I'm a happy melt-" 

The guys laughed. 

"-but I'm going to miss a lot of this. It's weird. I'm gonna miss you all at night time but then also thank fuck we get privacy at last."

Gary barked a laugh, from beside his now quite spectacular sandcastle.

"I get you, man."

Bobby looked at the sandcastle, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

Lucas and Henrik yelled at the same time. 

"DON'T-" 

~~~

"I can't believe you did that!"

"I said I was sorry!" 

"But why Bobs?!" 

"It's what you do!" 

"No it's not!" 

"I had to conquer the castle!" 

"You fucking sat on it!" 

"That's how you do it!" 

"OKAY, ENOUGH!" 

Fuck me, it's Noah the human foghorn again. 

They sat in silence for the remainder of the journey back.

~~~

Chapter Text

As the guys made their way back through the Villa, Lucas could see most of the girls sitting outside on the beanbags. Fox was fanning herself, still struggling a bit in the extreme heat.

"Oi oi!" called Gary, loudly announcing their return. 

"Heya babe, how was it?" Hope asked, leaping up and holding out her doll for Noah to take. 

Gary and Bobby started relating their takes on the sandcastle saga, as Lucas made his way over to Fox who lit up at his approach.

My heart.  

"Hey, angel," he smiled, sitting down beside her and resting his head on her shoulder. "I missed you. Oh and Chucky of course." 

"Uh huh," she laughed, ruffling his hair fondly. 

"Sorry again for having to leave you," he said sincerely, and she kissed his hair. 

"No worries! It's not like it was your choice, tiger." 

"Thanks for understanding," he sighed happily, really wishing they could just have some time together by themselves again. "You're the best."

He took the doll from her, which still looked as creepy as ever, and noticed that despite Fox looking a lot more relaxed than earlier, she was still clearly relieved to not have to keep holding Chucky. 

"Oh!" he said, remembering and fishing in his pocket. "I believe this is yours."

He took her hand and opened her palm, before carefully putting the shell in the middle. Her eyes lit up.

"Oh wow!" she picked it up between finger and thumb to look at it closely. "This is beautiful!

"A unique shell for a unique queen," he grinned happily. "I figured there's probably a way to strengthen it and add it to a necklace. Kinda matching, sort of…" 

He trailed off with a blush and she leaned over and kissed him, purring in pleasure as his hand reached up to tangle in her hair. When she pulled away her eyes were sparkling.

"It's perfect - thank you, tiger," she beamed at him, and his heart fluttered as he grinned goofily at her.

He popped the shell back in his case to keep it safe.

"Remind me later to wrap it up and pop it in a ring box," she smiled, and he nodded.

“Yes sir!”

“Good boy,” she purred, and he struggled not to blush all the harder.

"Looks like Chucky's still in good shape," he said, turning his attention to the doll. "I hope it wasn't too much of a pain looking after it without me."

"It was okay. I had to give it another bottle but otherwise, Chucky was just quietly plotting. Still creepy, but I managed." 

"Of course you did, angel," he grinned. "It's because you're amazing. What did you get up to?" 

"Such flattery!" she laughed. "We had a race. I won. My Mario Kart skills were surprisingly transferable." 

"Nice one! I'm glad you still managed to have a good time. And you deserve all the compliments, nobody else is having to face their actual fears today."

Fox beamed at him, and his heart flipped happily. 

I am indeed a happy melt.  

"What about you?" she asked. "Were you involved in the sandcastle wars?" 

Lucas laughed.

"Nope, I stayed well out of that one," he smirked. "Beaches are for relaxing and while it really was an epic sandcastle-"

He lowered his voice conspiratorially. 

"-don't tell Gaz, but it's only sand! I reckon they all got too much of it in their pants for peace to prosper."

She giggled, glancing at the guys just as Gary was trying to surreptitiously tip more sand out of his shorts. 

"Told you!" grinned Lucas. 

"Has anyone seen Jo?" Rahim asked. 

"Not for a while, babes," said Hannah. 

"Yeah, where is she?" Hope looked around. 

"Uh oh…" Fox muttered quietly, and Lucas was pretty sure only he heard her.

Hmm, what's going on… 

"I'm here, babe," called Jo, with a strange look on her face. 

"What's wrong?" asked Rahim. "You seem upset?" 

"I'm just warm. That's all." 

A strange low noise started-

Fox suddenly spluttered, a cough caught in her throat. Lucas ran his hand up her back with concern. 

"Are you alright, angel?" 

"Yeah, just a tickle in my throat." 

She squeezed his hand. 

"So, how was it here?" Rahim was asking. 

"Everything's fine!" replied Jo, quickly. "I mean, it was fine, yeah. We chilled. Had some fun…" 

"That noise is back?" said Hope, just as Fox began coughing again. 

"Do you need to go lie down?" asked Lucas, getting worried.

He moved closer so he could cuddle her and rub her back more easily. 

"I'm fine!" she squeezed his hand, like she was trying to tell him something. "It just caught me off guard." 

What's going on? 

"Fox, do you mind keeping it down a little?" Rahim said, as Lucas glared daggers at him. "I'm trying to have a moment with Jo here." 

"Aww, you're so sweet babe," said Jo. "Come here!"

"I'm fine," Fox breathed quietly. "I'm covering for Jo." 

Ohhh

"Gotcha," he whispered, relieved. 

A low moaning noise caught the edge of his hearing and sure enough, Fox started coughing again, giving a masterful performance.

"You sound awful!" he cried. "Stay there." 

He dashed off as she tried not to look bemused behind her cough, and returned with a sun lounger and a water bottle with ice in it. 

"Here, lie down, angel," he fussed over her loudly. "It sounds like you're getting sick. Drink this, too." 

"Yes, doc," she croaked, and he noticed Jo walking away quickly with her doll as everyone was distracted. 

"Thank you!" she mouthed at Fox. 

The conversation moved on, and Fox took his hand and squeezed it with a smile. He grinned, shaking his head at her.

"You had me worried!" 

"Aww, I'm sorry," she frowned. "I didn't realise I'd have to be so loud!"

"As long as you're fine it's all good," he smiled, before dropping his voice low. "What were you covering up?" 

She sat forward and leaned into his ear with a whisper. 

"Jo melted her baby. Now it sounds like Barry White." 

Lucas tried extremely hard not to bark with laughter.

"That's amazing!" he managed to splutter, finally. "I love it!"

A phone beeped. 

"I've got a text!" yelled Hope. 

"Girls! You've had a tough day of it, but now it's your turn to lounge on the sand and splash about in the sea." 

"Great!" Bobby grinned. "I was hoping you girls would get the chance to have fun today. It didn't seem fair that we got to go to the beach and you didn't." 

"That's because it wasn't," frowned Hope. 

So gracious.  

Lottie's eyes were wide as she turned to Gary. 

"If anything happens to Larry…" she warned. 

"I'll be on the first flight out of here, don't worry," Gary held his hands up in surrender. "I'm not ready to experience your full fury." 

"You're the best, babe." 

Lucas turned to Fox with a smile. 

"You deserve to have fun! I'll look after our little murderous dude, no worries."

"I'm glad you're so keen," she grinned. 

"If I can keep the death toll at two at the most, I'll consider it a win," he winked. "But also, I'll try not to break the thing." 

"You're a star," she beamed. "Any requests?"

"Yes, I request that you enjoy yourself."

"Melt," she pulled him in for a kiss, and he growled happily. 

~~~

"Man, I could do with a beer."

The other boys mumbled their agreement with Gary as they sat in the living area, escaping the oppressive heat of outdoors.

"We could always dress the dolls up?" suggested Noah. "I mean, it beats doing nothing, right?" 

Lucas looked sceptical, as he gazed at the pile of baby clothes.

"I'm up for it," said Bobby, digging through the pile. "Dale looks like he's ready for retirement as is." 

"Yeah, why not," said Henrik, having a rummage. "Hey, there's dinosaur costumes in here!" 

Gary and Rahim started looking as well, and Lucas sighed.

"Ugh, fine." 

"GUUUUUUUR" 

Uh oh. 

"What the hell is that?" Bobby yelped, as a very deep growling noise sounded out. 

"It's…" Rahim was looking at his doll, appalled. "It's Sriracha!" 

"GUUUUUUUR" 

Oh my god though, that's hilarious. 

"What does it want?" hissed Henrik. 

"What happened to it?!" asked Noah. 

Rahim snapped his gaze to Lucas, and his target wasn't quick enough at wiping the amusement from his face.

"This is why Fox was coughing isn't it?" asked Rahim, sadly. 

"Sorry, man," Lucas held his hands up. "Jo asked her for help." 

Rahim looked glum.

"It's alright, mate," said Gary. "These things happen." 

"Sriracha could have a great singing career now," added Lucas, mischievously. 

"It's not the doll that worries me," Rahim shook his head, "it's that she felt she couldn't tell me, y'know?" 

"She's probably just getting a bit nervous," suggested Bobby. "This is a strange challenge." 

"Yeah," the golfer didn't look terribly convinced, as the boys turned their attention back to the pile of clothes. 

"Gaz, there's ripped jeans here, mate," called Bobby.

"I've found a proper posh shirt and trousers here," Henrik yelled, throwing them to Lucas. 

"The little animal costumes are well cute," Rahim smiled, cheering up a little. "Imagine how much fun it'd be dressing kids up for Halloween!"

"Baby pumpkins!" Noah sighed happily.

"You could dress them up as Slimer," said Bobby excitedly, "then dress yourself up as a Ghostbuster!" 

"Baby droids from Star Wars!" added Henrik.

"Little baby bats for Lottie," laughed Gary.

They turned to Lucas expectantly.

"Uh no, I'll be over here with Fox dressed as a sexy assassin or a catgirl or a sexy vampiric fallen angel…" 

He trailed off into his own delicious thoughts before realising a few of the other guys had done likewise. 

"Oi!" he snapped his fingers. "Not for you." 

"Suddenly babies aren't so appealing," smirked Gary, narrowly avoiding a baby-sized hat thrown at his head. 

There were multiple outfit changes, an impromptu catwalk show, and a general sense of madness. 

This never happened.

"That was fun!" Gary grinned. "Now we just need to change them all back so we don't get murdered when the girls return." 

~~~

"And… breathe." 

The day had started to cool a little and Lucas was currently entertained by the sight of the other lads trying to manage basic yoga poses.

Henrik had started them off with some fairly simple ones, which weren't a million miles away from his usual stretches. Bobby was doing pretty well. The others were most certainly not. 

"Okay boat pose, guys," said Henrik, demonstrating. "This is an easy one. Baby on your stomach."

"And… breathe." 

"Hyurk!" Gary tipped over again, swearing loudly. "This is hard!" 

"At least you can get in the poses in the first place," grumbled Noah. 

"At least your doll isn't growling at you!" sighed Rahim. 

As if on cue, Chucky started its weird electronic cry again. Lucas sighed. 

Probably… feeding time? 

He grabbed a bottle, holding it to the dolls face. It ceased crying and started making the horrible sucking sound.

Not disturbing at all...

He rejoined the yoga once Chucky had finished. 

"Tree pose, like this," said Henrik. "Find your balance, and… breathe." 

Gary tipped over, making Lucas laugh. His balance shifted, and he windmilled, almost dropping Chucky. He grabbed the doll out the air to put his arms back up high and-

Oh shit! 

He jumped out of the pose, staring in shock at the two legs in his hands. Gary roared with laughter. 

"Shut up!" Lucas laughed. "Where'd the rest of it go?!" 

He looked around for the rest of the doll as the other guys creased up behind him.

"Over there!" yelled Bobby, pointing to where the legless doll had landed. 

"Thanks, man!" Lucas grabbed the legs and tried to reattach them. "They won't fit! Any ideas?!" 

He looked up to see them all doubling up again.

"Oh my god," he laughed, trying to snap them into position. 

He sat down, trying to stop laughing to work it out. 

Ohh, there's little bits sticking out on the inside… 

The legs clicked back into place. He moved them, experimentally.

"And it never happened," he declared solemnly, to the backdrop of more laughter. 

~~~

"Hey boys!" 

Chelsea came running across the lawn, as the other girls wandered over. 

"Hey babe!" Henrik grinned. "We're just finishing up baby yoga." 

"Agh!" Gary fell over once more, which was unsurprising given Henrik had long run out of actual poses he knew and instead made up increasingly bizarre ones. "It's well hard." 

Lucas spotted a very relaxed looking Fox, and caught up to her with a smile. 

"Hey, angel!" he kissed her on the cheek. "Enjoy the beach?" 

"It was so much fun," she sighed happily.

"Mmm, you smell of the sea," he grinned, wishing once again that they had some privacy. "I'm glad you had a good time." 

"How were things here?" she asked, smiling. 

"We had a surprisingly good time. For the most part…" 

He sat down as everyone crashed down in the beanbags, and guided her onto his lap, enjoying the serenity she was exuding. 

"First we started by playing dress up. Not really my scene but I made Chucky look as quality as me. Then Chucky started to moan so I gave them another bottle. And we rounded off the afternoon with this yoga. Though that made all of them cry except Brenden and Bubbly."

"Aww, you did a great job!" 

"It was nothing. Really. I had a great time! Um, so yeah. That's everything…" 

"You sure that's all?" smirked Gary, and Lucas sighed.

"Oooh," Fox poked him in the chest cheekily. "What happened?" 

"During the baby yoga I got a little over-excited," he blushed, "and, um, somehow Chucky's legs came off. I have literally no idea how! I got them back on quickly, but yeah, that happened. It's like they're super fragile dolls or something."

"That's hilarious!" she laughed. 

"Hah! I thought so, too," he grinned, relieved. "The others were laughing too hard to help me out."

"To be fair, it was really funny," laughed Gary, as Bobby chuckled.

"I'm sorry for breaking it after I said I wouldn't though," Lucas murmured to Fox. 

"Don't be daft, tiger," she smiled. "I'm just happy you had fun. The girls thought you'd be hating it."

I’m the luckiest man on the planet, let alone in the Villa.

"I probably would have done if I'd been doing it with them." 

"I don't know, I think you'd be fine with Chelsea's doll," she giggled. 

"She really thinks she's crushing this," he chuckled. "I feel kinda bad. But it's also very funny." 

"You know," Fox put on a soft spooky voice, "maybe it was Chucky that 'took care' of Bubbly. And can we know for sure it was the sun that melted Sriracha's insides? I did suggest that he could kill the other dolls for me, and you mentioned he should keep his death toll at two…" 

He looked down at Chucky, who stared back at him with pure evil in his eyes. He swallowed. 

"I know you're joking but… I really hope we get to give this back soon." 

~~~

"So, this is goodbye, Larry…" Lottie sniffled slightly. 

"Are you okay, babe?" asked Gary. 

"Of course… I just had a really nice day." 

"There'll be plenty of other nice days," he reassured her, wrapping her into a hug.

All the baby belongings had been gathered back in the baby area, and people were saying their goodbyes to the dolls.

Lucas was trying to refrain from making jokes, as some people seemed genuinely emotional about it all. And he couldn't lie, he was feeling a little sad as well. 

"Bye little man," said Rahim, laying Sriracha back in the cot. 

The doll began its deep pitched growling.

"He knows already, right?" Fox whispered, and Lucas nodded with a smirk.

"I guess this is it," he said, placing Chucky in the cot. "I'm going to miss this doll, for some reason. I'm strangely emotional."

"Aww, tiger," she cuddled up to his side and he put his arm around her. "It's been an odd day, but you made it a lot less scary. I've really enjoyed it with you."

"I'm glad," he kissed her hair. "But yes, it's been a weird one. I'm happy to no longer be playing with dolls." 

"Oh hell yeah," she nodded. "Let's never do this again." 

Chelsea was cooing as she placed her doll back. 

"You made me so happy today, Bubbly! I'll always think about you when I have a glass of prosecco." 

"You were a great mother, babe," Henrik grinned. 

"I know!" Chelsea burst into tears.

Noah lowered Brenden into a cot, and Hope visibly relaxed. 

"Sleep well, Brenden," the librarian rumbled. 

"Bye!" said Hope. 

Hah

"Goodbye, little Romeo," said Hannah, as Bobby stroked their doll's head.

"Bye, Dale," he murmured, sparking another argument over the doll's name as Hannah glared at him.

Poor Bobby, he has not had a great day.

Lucas squeezed Fox's arm. 

"Hey, this day got intense at times," he said softly. "Did it, um, change how you feel at all?" 

"Well, I'm still scared of dolls," she laughed. 

"Creepy, creepy, creepy dolls. There's a reason they're in like, ninety percent of horror movies." 

"I don't think that stat is correct…" 

"Well, you could do the legwork to prove me wrong," he winked, "or you could just accept it. I know which option is easier."

"Don't make me set Chucky on you!" 

He gulped loudly, and she laughed. 

"As for babies," she mused, "there's no change. But it was nice seeing how much we helped each other, and us taking care of something together. You made it pretty special for me."

"Aww," he squeezed her tight. "I know I moaned a bit today. But I do feel we worked well together, angel. And it actually got me thinking…" 

She turned to him, curious, and his eyes sparkled.

"Chucky would be a great name for our dog," he grinned.

Fox smiled widely, crinkling her nose and jumping into his arms for a hug. 

"I love the sound of that," she squealed, as he caught her, laughing. 

"Today's been exhausting," Jo sighed. "I can't wait to shower and get ready for a baby-free evening. 

"Now that's a plan!" enthused Hope. 

As everyone drifted away to get ready, Lucas realised Fox was still hovering by the door. As he walked back along the corridor to her, he looked past her, following her gaze, and slowed to a standstill.

There was only one remaining occupant of the room, as Bobby stood over Dale's cot with the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

"Coming Bobby?" she called softly.

"Yeah…" he sighed sadly. "Just got to do one last thing." 

He leaned over the cot, touching his hand inside.

"Boop..."

Lucas saw Fox swallow hard as she turned, her eyes downcast. As she walked towards him she looked up when she neared, and offered a weak smile. He cuddled her against him, noting that Bobby still hadn't come past.

"You okay, angel?" he murmured, gently.

She nodded against him, sadly.

"I should go get ready," she kissed his cheek and headed up the stairs.

He thought briefly about turning back but figured Bobby probably needed some space.

Shit

~~~

Lucas headed to the kitchen to make a cuppa, needing to straighten out his thoughts before facing being sociable in the bedroom. His anxiety was doing its best to punch through, to convince him that Bobby had won over Fox's heart but he knew that wasn't true.

It was a worry. It always had been. But she had made her choice clear, and it was understandable that seeing her best friend struggle would make her sad too.

But as much as he could hold that knowledge, and know it was true, his anxiety and jealousy didn't care.

My brain needs an off switch.

The main goal Lucas had was to make his angel happy, but he couldn't magic away the hurt that seeing Bobby's sadness brought her. And there was a horrible twinge of guilt within him that he couldn't quite put to rest.

It's not my fault. But if I hadn't arrived here… He's head over heels for her, and she cares about him a lot. They're obviously compatible. It's not my fault. But if I hadn't arrived… 

He needed to be able to get a handle on these things, to stop his circling thoughts. Fox was the kind of person people fell for - she was warm, funny and charming. And while he'd never wanted for female attention, it was far rarer anyone wanted to actually fall for him.

Even in the Villa, other than his angel, he could only think of Marisol, Elisa and Hannah having made somewhat lazy attempts for his attention, based purely on his looks. And his response had been to freeze them out completely. And Blake of course, who had lied and needed to get a place in the Villa above all else. Who he'd barely spoken to. 

Meanwhile Fox was really good friends with Bobby, Gary, Rahim, and even Henrik, not to mention any Casa Amor guys, all of whom had made their interest known at various times.

And now it turns out that Bobby might even have been prepared to give up having kids to be with her… Can I say I’d be prepared to do the opposite if she had wanted kids? Or would she have given them up for me… would our relationship even be comparable with that difference? Probably not. But if Bobby would make that sacrifice…

He groaned out loud, frustrated at the futility of thinking in circles. It didn’t help that the one couple in the Villa who did have opposite stances on the subject of having children had basically refused to deal with the issue. How could he really know what he’d have done if it had turned out that Fox had wanted kids? He’d already had a fairly good suspicion that she didn’t, but then again it had still been a shock to the other guys when she’d revealed it.

And Noah and Hope had been together since before he arrived, with Noah completely shocked that Hope had a different view of her future than he did. Not that Lucas bought into the bullshit that the ‘Nope’ relationship was a good one for comparisons.

I guess maybe part of my assuming Bobby was out of the equation was to do with him wanting kids, and if that’s not a factor, then what advantage do I actually have?

He shook himself.

My jealousy needs to learn that I trust her and that's all that matters for fuck sake. And my insecurity needs to learn to believe her when she says I'm the only one she'd ever choose.

Lucas was annoyed by Noah's late interest, but he couldn't bring himself to feel the same way about Bobby. He liked the guy, and he was a great friend to his angel. And he knew, without a doubt, that Bobby would never hurt her. But paradoxically, that also made his anxiety see him as a larger threat.

He sighed as he headed to the bedroom, mug in hand. His feelings were too complex to work through properly.

Though… now I think about it, these thoughts alone would have given me an anxiety attack before now. So maybe that is progress. A little bit at least. 

The mess of feelings resulting from him seeing an upset Fox watching a sad Bobby begged to disagree. 

~~~

Chapter Text

The mood in the bedroom was pretty melancholy, though Gary was trying to up the mood. He bounced on his feet as Lucas approached, hopeful of some post-baby blues help. 

Lucas was at least amused by Gary's efforts. 

"I think everyone's just tired, mate," he shrugged.

"Ugh," Gary rolled his eyes. "Plenty of time for that later. There's only a couple of days left! We should be partying!"

"Good point," Rahim stretched, pumping his arms. "The night is young!" 

"That's what I'm talking about!" 

Lucas grinned as he fixed his hair, trying to push his worries down. He saw Bobby come in via the mirror, and the younger man had his trademark easy smile fixed back in place. 

Snap

"What was that?" asked Henrik suddenly. "Was that Chelsea? Asking for…" 

He stuck his head round the dressing room door. 

"Who's having sex?" he asked, as Gary ran after him. 

"I heard there was sex?" 

Rahim barrelled after him as Lucas laughed. 

"Sex?" 

"C'mon," Noah motioned to Lucas and Bobby, "Let's go rescue them." 

"Text?" he asked, as the remaining boys crammed into the dressing room. 

"Sex!" yelled Chelsea crossly, before gasping. "No, I mean, yeah! Text. Hannah's got a text." 

Lucas heard Fox's laugh and wiggled his way through. 

Holy moly, that's one way to sort my head out! 

She was in a very short leopard minidress, with buttons down the front, and shoes that were… that were… 

Those are bondage shoes right? The straps go all the way up… Jesus christ. 

When he met her eyes again, she was smirking at him and he couldn't blame her. With a chuckle, he sent her a wink just as Hannah read out her text. 

"Islanders, congratulations on being parents for the day. Some of you did better than others… It's time to find out who was the Yummiest Mummy and the real Daddy Cool. Please make your way to the fire pit for the results." 

"This'll be fun," Noah frowned. "Safe to say we won't be the winners-" 

Wow, dude. 

"-My money's on either Fox or Lottie." 

"Yeah, that makes sense," Bobby nodded. 

"What about me?" asked Chelsea. "Bubbly didn't cry all day." 

Lucas worked hard to keep a straight face. 

"Oh yeah, fair point," said Noah. 

"At least it's not a dumping this time," Jo declared loudly as they filtered out. 

"Would you stop jinxing things!" hissed Hope.

"You look incredible," Lucas murmured as he took Fox's hand, and she beamed at him.

"I front-loaded my wardrobe with my more mainstream stuff," she said softly, "now I'm reverting back to my goth form."

He spun her into a passionate kiss, pausing their journey, as he growled against her. When he pulled away, he grinned at her flushed face and darkened eyes, as they started walking again.

"Well I am a huge fan," he growled. 

"I can tell!" she smirked. 

~~~

"Babes, I don't know if you're aware but I feel pretty confident about this challenge." 

"You don't say," deadpanned Lottie, as Gary and Lucas grinned at Chelsea's optimism.

They were all sitting at the fire pit waiting for the incoming results. 

"Little Bubbly-" 

"Didn't cry once?" Hope interrupted. 

"Exactly!" said Chelsea, as Fox elbowed a snickering Lucas. "I guess some people are just natural parents, you know?-" 

Oh my god… poor Chels but this is too good. 

"-Like Noah!" Chelsea concluded. 

"I'd like to say again that I'm not a natural," Noah protested. "It's a skill like everything else, and one that can be nurtured."

"Yeah," said Gary, "but so is piano and that's something I've never been able to pick up." 

Lucas controlled his urge to laugh as he turned to Fox and squeezed her hand.

"Who do you think is going to win, angel?" 

"Us!" she smiled confidently. 

"You're right, I think we're in with a real chance!" 

Competitive queen!

His eyes kept straying to her legs, following the many straps that wrapped around to above her knees-

Hot fucking damn. 

He knew for a fact he wasn't the only one checking her out, but he realised with no small embarrassment that his arousal had left no space in his brain for jealousy or anxiety at the present moment. Still, it was a relief - the last thing he wanted was his angel to be worrying over him as well as her friend, and he was determined to keep her spirits as high as he could.

A text notification rang out and Noah stood up. 

"Islanders, the winners of today's baby challenge are… Fox and Lucas!" 

"Yass!" Lucas punched the air, and looked at Fox, beaming. "You did a great job, angel!" 

"As did you!" she laughed. 

"Congratulations," Noah continued reading, "you two have won an evening… in the Hideaway!" 

Lucas's jaw dropped as Fox grabbed his hand and made to run off immediately. 

"Whoah!" he laughed, delighted. "Steady on, angel! We've got to finish up here first… unfortunately." 

"Hmph," she grinned, sitting down and pouting innocently as he beamed at her. 

Rawr

"Wait!" cried Chelsea. "What about me? Bubbly was an angel all day.

"There's more…" Noah said, scrolling through his phone. "Chelsea, when you had a shower this morning, where was Bubbly?" 

"In there with me the whole time! I wasn't going to let her out of my sight." 

"Yeah. It says here that you broke the doll. Like… straight away. You technically came last." 

"Oh…" Chelsea looked devastated.

"That's when Chucky struck!" Lucas whispered with fake terror in his voice. 

"It was almost too easy…" nodded Fox, wide-eyed. 

"Okay, that explains a lot," Henrik mused. "Remember when you went to the loo and gave me Bubbly, babe? Well… I dropped it."

Chelsea gaped at him. 

"It didn't cry," he continued, "so I assumed I'd got away with it."

"I can't believe it. I ruined Bubbly!" 

After some reassurance from Lottie, Chelsea joined in with the laughter. 

She’s such a good sport.

Noah's phone beeped again. 

"Oh no," fretted Jo, as Noah began to read. 

"Fox and Lucas, congratulations on being the best parents in the Villa! As an extra reward, you will be immune from tonight's dumping."

"Oh shit," breathed Fox, as Lucas put his arm around her. 

"Wait, what?" Lottie looked shocked. "Did you just say dumping?" 

Noah nodded, as his phone beeped yet again. 

"Islanders, the public have been voting. The couples with the fewest votes will be in danger of being dumped from the Island. The couples with the fewest votes are…" 

This is so fast. 

"... Jo and Ibrahim... and Chelsea and Henrik. In your couples, please text who you think should be eliminated tonight."

There was a long silence. Lucas gave Fox a reassuring squeeze. 

"... Us?" said Chelsea quietly, turning to Henrik. "Babe, they don't like us."

"It's not that they don't like us, babe," he wrapped his arms around her. "They just prefer everyone else!"

Dude.

"... that sounded better in my head," he admitted. 

Jo and Rahim were staring blankly at the fire.

"This sucks," said Jo. 

"Mate, what an absolute load of bull," Gary groaned. 

Lucas sighed. The workout crew would likely be splitting up. He glanced at Fox and saw that although she was shaken, she was still fairly relaxed against him.

We both know who we're voting for… 

"Come on, angel," he murmured. "Let's go somewhere quiet." 

~~~

Fox sighed as she sat down next to him on the roof terrace, looking up at the stars. 

"At least it's finally cooled off," Lucas smiled, and she met his gaze. "Bad luck for those four tonight. Still, I'm relieved that it isn't us up for being dumped… It's so intense." 

He leaned back to put his arm around her, and she snuggled up.

"I hate this bit," she sighed. "Some are easier than others but… it never feels good." 

“Yeah,” he said softly, in a sympathetic tone.

He had a fair idea of who he wanted to stay, and he was sure Fox agreed, but it still felt like a pretty rubbish end to the day.

"Either Rahim and Jo or Henrik and Chelsea will go home tonight. What are your thoughts, angel?" 

"This sounds terrible, but I know who I want to go."

"Hah," he barked out a quiet laugh, and she straightened up, tilting her head at him. "I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling like that." 

She punched him lightly on the arm with a mock scowl.

"I thought you were gonna call me mean!" 

"Never," he smiled. "But we should go through the steps of the decision-" 

She nodded.

"-Before that though, what is your gut saying? Who should go?" 

"Jo and Rahim," she murmured, and he nodded.

"That's who I think too," noticing how relieved she looked. "Okay. Why do we think they should go?" 

"Well, tactically I guess they're our competition," Fox mused. 

"Good point. And if they're that committed to each other, they can be happy outside of the Villa."

"I really like Rahim. But Jo does tend to cause drama and arguments. Though she was better today."

"Yeah," Lucas nodded emphatically. "She's blown up at you a few times. And me. Though I'm usually not as blameless as you." 

He winked at her and she smiled.

"And even if she has been better today, she hasn’t ever apologised for being mean to you,” he scowled slightly. “I think we know what we want to do here. And at this stage it's always going to be difficult. Sometimes it does come down to who's yelled at you the most." 

"And if we stay…" she sighed, "I really hope we don't have to do this again. Because it's going to become impossible." 

Because of Bobby. And Lottie and Gary too but-

"Anyway," she shook her head. "I actually do think Chels and Henrik make a great couple. He loves her chat and positivity, and she loves his humour and calmness. They deserve a chance I think." 

"I agree," he nodded. "I think they really balance each other out. And they're both prone to saying the wrong thing, but the other one never really takes offence." 

He laughed, and Fox snuggled back into him again. 

"And although Henrik was weird with me," she murmured, "he apologised the next day. He's been completely back to his old self since." 

His own relationship with Henrik hadn't quite recovered fully yet, but it was certainly far better than his mutual dislike of Jo. 

"Well, everything adds up," he sighed. "But I think we're making the decision for the right reasons."

He picked up his phone and typed the names in, before looking at her. She squeezed his arm, and pressed send for him.

"I think we made the right call," he said, kissing her hair. "At least that bit is over… It was the right choice, right?" 

She stroked his cheek, and kissed him softly. 

"It was." 

He smiled, and took her by the hand. 

"Looks like the others are done too," he murmured as he looked over the wall. 

"Let's head back down, tiger."

~~~

"You guys took your time," Hope frowned. 

Lucas realised he and Fox were the last couple to return to the fire pit. 

"We didn't want to rush the decision," said Fox, truthfully. 

"I appreciate that, Fox," Rahim smiled, and Lucas felt her wilt a little at his side. 

"Same," said Henrik, in a shaky voice. 

"We put some real thought into it," Lucas nodded as they sat down. "And although there's no nice outcome from this situation, we did our best." 

Fox looked a little ill, and he squeezed her hand. 

This is always going to be harder on her. In this case we’re friends with the same people but she’s closer to Rahim than I am, and she’s closer to almost everyone...

"The fact you're still struggling with this means that you care," Hope reassured her, "and that's what is most important, hun." 

Rahim pulled Jo into a hug and kissed her cheek as a text notification rang out.

Noah stood back up. 

Is he getting every text tonight? 

"The couple that will be leaving the Villa tonight are…” he paused, waiting for the second text. “Jo and Ibrahim." 

Jo closed her eyes. Rahim sighed. Chelsea clapped a hand over her mouth, crying. Henrik held her to his chest. 

"Oh wow…" said Hannah. "I didn't think it would be you two." 

Fuck off. How is that helpful?! 

The Islanders gathered around the two couples. Lucas saw Fox squeezing Rahim's arm, and the golfer leaned in close to say something only she could hear. He ignored his flickering jealousy as he clapped Henrik on the back. The Swede looked completely shocked. 

A phone notification sounded, confirming the results, and asked the couple to leave. Noah and Hope left with them to pack up their stuff, as everyone else wandered towards the front door.

Chelsea was hanging on to Fox, still wiping away her tears as Fox murmured soothing words to her friend. As they stood outside, Fox took her over to Henrik, who wrapped her in his arms.

"I can't believe they're going…" said Gary. 

Lucas put his arm around Fox as Jo and Rahim exited the Villa. 

Rahim said his goodbyes as Gary tried to wipe away his own tears. Rahim gave Gary a huge hug, followed by lifting Fox off the ground in a bear hug. 

For once Jo didn't look jealous, and Lucas punched his own jealousy back down.

The leaving couple looked happy together, and really that was all that mattered. As they left, Gary let out a huge sigh.

"Anyone else need a cuppa?" 

~~~

Lucas was hanging out in the living area as he waited for Fox. He was fairly sure Chelsea would be needing her for a bit, so he had quickly changed into boxers and a tank top for bed, before happily grabbing a cuppa with Gary and Henrik.

"Tough night," the Swede sighed.

"I feel like I've been through the wringer, mate," Gary sighed. "That was proper glass case of emotion stuff there." 

"It's strange," mused Lucas. "We all knew what we were signing up for but it's so different at this end. Someone leaving… they really do leave a huge gap."

"Especially someone as big as Rahim!" laughed Gary, and Lucas grinned.

"I really thought it'd be us…" Henrik still sounded a bit shocked. "But people do love Chels." 

"You're not so bad either," Lucas smirked.

"I dunno if it's just me but I'm feeling well cheeky tonight," said Gary slyly.

"Oh, is that what we're calling it now?" joked Lucas. "It's probably the adrenalin of the dumping. All your body knows is that it was very stressed, and now it's not, so let's celebrate." 

"Like after a big climb," Henrik nodded knowingly.

"Well at least you've got the Hideaway, mate," Gary pouted at Lucas. "The rest of us are either gonna have to spread out or scar Hope for life." 

Lucas burst out laughing. 

Suddenly he saw Henrik's jaw drop as he looked past him, and he turned around to see Fox leaning against the door frame waiting on him.

"Uhhhh… bye," he managed as he dropped everything to go over to her, and he could hear the two of them chuckling as he did.

But he was one hundred percent sure they knew why. Fox was wearing a long negligee in garnet red, a halter neck with plunging neckline, a slit up past her thigh to under her breast… all in see-through lace that protected her modesty only by pattern and a matching coloured thong.

An angel in the colours of the devil...

She raised an eyebrow with a smirk as he got to her, and he spun her into his arms before lifting her to his chest like an old school Hollywood femme fatale as she laughed with delight, placing her hands behind his neck. 

"If I have to watch you walk in this," he murmured as he strode towards the Hideaway, ignoring the ogling boys, "we're not going to get any further than that doorway."

She laughed, stroking the back of his neck as he opened the Hideaway door. 

"In that case I'm glad I didn't break this out in the group bedroom!" 

He growled, lowering her onto the bed which was strewn with rose petals. 

"Now this is more like it," he smirked, his voice husky, taking his time as he appreciated the view. 

Fox stretched into a comfy and highly seductive position on her side, her hand resting lightly on her thigh, and he bit his lip. Even without touching her he was already torturously hard, and his focus narrowed until the rest of the world simply ceased to exist.

"You look so damn hot…" he growled, leaning over and running his fingers up her leg, hungrily. "I've been wanting you so badly all day."

He prowled up her body, caging her with his arms, and she rolled on to her back with a soft purr. He put his hand round behind her neck, lifting her into his kiss, deepened with need.

She wrapped her arms around him, her fingers warm on his skin, as she lifted her entire body to press against him, soft curves on hard muscle. He growled into her mouth as his fingers found the tie behind her neck, and he ran his other hand down her back to find a second tie.

Lucas unwrapped her, and she pulled his top off, both desperate to get rid of all barriers. He shrugged out of his boxers, kissing across her bare collarbone, and down to her breasts as he trailed his fingers down, hearing and feeling her moan in response. 

He pulled her thong away, throwing it to the side, and he brushed his fingers against her, hearing her breath hitch as he bit back a groan at how soaked she was for him. His own breath fell fast as he nuzzled into her neck, trying to find his control as he struggled to work out what he wanted, when he wanted everything

Her negligee was still wrapped around her waist, and he growled, his need for her naked greater than his need for her ridiculously sexy outfit.

She laughed against his neck, and pushed him onto his back firmly as she straddled him. He felt another spike of arousal shoot through him as she rolled her hips against him, teasing along his hard length, while pulling her negligee over her head and tossing it off the bed.

There was nothing separating them other than her lascivious movements, and he groaned underneath her, consumed by pleasure and a need for more, to taste her, to have her come undone, to feel himself inside her. 

Fox ran her hands through her hair as she moved, pushing it back from her face, and her back arched gracefully as she found exactly the right spot to grind against.

His breath faltered as he watched and felt her move, his hands caressing her body, under and across her breasts, feeling every movement that made her purr or moan into his touch. 

"Beautiful, angel..." 

She ran her hands down his arms, taking his hands in hers and placing them on the bed at each side, as low as his arms could stretch. He was pinned beneath her, his angel still dancing against him, teasing him mercilessly, his heart thumping even louder as he growled his intoxication, drunk on desire for her. 

With just a finger pressing down on each of his wrists, she leaned forward with a smirk, tongue running across her lips slowly, and he couldn't stop the moan that escaped his throat at the predatory look in her eyes.

"Lucas," she instructed firmly, "do not move your hands." 

Fuck, oh fuck-

She removed her fingers from his wrists and kissed him fiercely. His arms flexed to grab her, hold her, pin her, fuck her, but he forced himself to keep his hands where they were, growling into the kiss.

This woman is gonna fucking kill me-

She pulled away slightly, with a wolfish smile. 

"Good boy," she purred and he fucking whined as she leaned back, running her nails down his body, before caressing her own skin, as she dipped her fingers down and into herself, bringing them to her mouth and licking sinfully.

Jesus christ, I'm fucked-

She moved her fingers down again with a happy sigh, as she danced a pattern against herself, grinding against him, and began to moan.

"Fox- fuck- " he gasped, his body trembling as he held his hands in place, his mind getting dizzy with sheer arousal. 

"Let me hear you, tiger," she purred.

"This- fuck, it's too much," he whimpered, feeling her press harder against his tip, how wet she was for him, as her breathing shifted, her fingers moving faster. "Angel, I can't…" 

"You can, baby," she met his eyes with kindness as she started to shudder above him, and he knew, deep in his soul, that he trusted her completely. "Be good." 

"Fuuuuck. Yes." 

Lucas could see her getting close, about to climax on top of him, and he was desperate, and this was, this was… 

A lifetime of only dominating and she had him completely under her control through words alone-

She started to break, moaning his name beautifully, her breath stuttering, and she shifted her angle as she did-

"FUCK!"

He was suddenly inside her, and as she shifted vertically, he snapped his hips, fucking harder and deeper than he'd ever allow himself so early but he couldn't-

She leaned in as she came, moaning and gasping his name, her hands caressing him, and he lifted up to kiss her, his hands still stuck to the bed. She followed him back down, kissing deeply as she mewled into him, and he slammed inside her again and again as she clenched around him.

"Fuck, Lucas, so good, tiger…" she kissed down his throat and along his collarbone, dragging her fingers down his chest as she sat back up again and took control.

Every time she tells me I'm good, I lose myself deeper, fuck-

With a single finger she pushed his hips down and raised her eyebrow, and he swore loudly but complied immediately, glueing himself to the bed and giving her full control.

"So good for me, Lucas," she purred, and he felt himself falling deeper and deeper. "You drive me crazy, the sounds you make… You'll wait for me to let you come, won't you?" 

She started to move a different way, rolling her hips forward slightly as she lifted herself up and sank down in him, and his eyes rolled back slightly as he snarled in pleasure, unleashing a torrent of garbled praise, swearing and her name.

“Angel, fuck yes- Fox, I… So good, jesus- Love… Fucking christ-” 

What does she do to me? This is- FUCK-

She increased into a hard and deep rhythm and he really wasn't going to last. 

Too much- Too- Jesus fucking christ-

Before slowing back down but changing back into the movement that made him snarl while she pleasured herself, pulsing around him as she came, and

Fucking HELL-

“You feel incredible, baby. So good for me, my gorgeous tiger. All perfect and desperate and mine…” 

Yours, yours, yours-

Over and over again she took him to the edge and back as she climaxed around him, and he swore and gasped and keened at the praise she kept giving him, his mind completely blissed out under a warm haze, until they were both slick with sweat, and she kissed him hard, her fingers in his hair, and he needed, he needed-

"Angel, please," he begged, "please. Please, please...

She smiled at him, her eyes twinkling.

"You've been so good, tiger," she breathed. "You can move-" 

His arms whipped round her as he pulled her against his chest, fucking her deep as he loudly growled her name, his hand threaded through her hair, kissing her, praising her, loving her, needing her.

Fox alternated between kissing him and biting his neck, moaning and purring in pleasure as his head tilted back. He started to shake, finally chasing higher, higher than he’d ever reached before, and he looked at her desperately. She lightly ran her thumb around the bottom of his throat as she clenched around him.

"Come for me, Lucas," she commanded firmly, and he flew apart at the seams, yelping her name as he emptied himself inside her, his orgasm stretching out and consuming everything in waves of scorching fire.

He gasped for breath, his arms locked around her, as she nuzzled into his neck, praising him in a soft, soothing voice, guiding him back down from his high, bringing him home.

"You're amazing, tiger," she praised gently, making him hold her tighter against him with a small whine. "Such a good, perfect boy for me." 

After a while, as his breathing finally started to slow with her tender words and her lips on his neck, he surfaced from the hazy warmth he'd been lost in, feeling utterly content and sinking into the long, slow kisses she lavished on him. He ran his fingers gently through her hair, and she pulled back to look at him with a smile.

"I love you," he murmured, still a little overwhelmed.

"I love you too," she kissed him softly, and brushed her nose against his affectionately, before lifting herself off of him.

"Aww," he pouted, and she chuckled.

They did a quick clean up and as she flopped back down, he cuddled into her, resting his head on her shoulder. 

"That was…" he trailed off, trying to find the right words.

She laughed, playing with his hair gently. 

"I'll take that as a compliment!" 

"That was fucking incredible, Fox," he grinned. "I don't know how you do it."

"This is why people shouldn't knock the hula hoop," she joked, and he laughed.

"Doofus," he kissed her neck. "I meant, before you I was a total control freak in bed. Complete domination only. With you, not only do I not want to do that, but I couldn't even if I tried."

She shifted back a little, and he turned to face her as she ran her fingers down his shoulder, caressing his arm.

"Oh you absolutely could," she smirked, "but only if I allowed it." 

Lucas grinned goofily.

"My point," he drawled, and she purred happily.

"It's a big thing to be vulnerable with someone," she smiled. "And especially for you. I'm glad that you can be with me." 

"Me too. And I'm glad you can be with me too, angel."

She crinkled her nose with her smile, and he leaned forward and kissed her for a long moment, before sighing. 

"I do feel a little guilty tonight," he murmured. "I just mean, like, some of the others have had such a rough time. And we've found each other. We get to do this!" 

She nodded, petting him softly in sympathy before mischief sparked in her eyes.

"Do you mean we should be sharing the love?" 

"That's not what I meant," he laughed, as she smirked. "I'm only focused on you. Though I know I'm not the only lad who thinks you're the most beautiful person here." 

Her eyebrows quirked in disbelief, and he kissed her nose. 

Adorable

"It's so nice having some privacy," he said, changing the subject. "I wouldn't have wanted the others to hear that."

"You do have a reputation to maintain," she quipped, and he snorted. 

"Being your sex slave would still be a decent reputation," he grinned, unleashing a Fox giggle fit. 

He leaned forward and pressed fluttering kisses down her neck, and across her collarbone, as her laughter quickly turned into soft little moans, her fingers lightly tangling in his hair.

"Speaking of being your sex slave," he growled, as he rolled her on to her back and started kissing further down her body, enjoying the way she was already faintly trembling.

"Bloody hell, tiger," she murmured, breathily. "You really are the perfect man…" 

Fuck-

He'd lost count of how many times she'd climaxed on top of him, when he was in a warm cloud of desire and pleasure, but he had been desperate to taste her for days and he fully intended on making the most of their Hideaway time.

She was already sensitive, and he took his time kissing her everywhere but where she wanted his tongue most, drawing out her anticipation. He pressed kisses to her inner thighs, and soft bites that made her gasp deliciously. 

He let his warm breath fall across her and she moaned softly. He realised that his patience would run out far faster than hers, and he licked his tongue into her with a soft growl.

"Fuck!" 

Lucas hummed his appreciation at her cry, using his tongue to tease out every noise possible from her as she trembled in his arms. She was so sensitive, and he delighted in her sounds, her taste, her everything.

He brought his fingers in to play and masterfully urged her towards the highest point he could keep her at without tipping her over… yet. He watched her writhe above him, her body taut, and 

Yeah, this is definitely my favourite view of all time... as well as the last one I had. Fuck-

Fox had one hand in his hair, never pulling too tight, while her other hand had fisted the sheets, her back arching from the bed as pleasure curled through her, her mouth pouring a litany of praise, swearing, and incomprehensible appreciation until she finally broke. 

"Fuck, Luc- you're so amazing, please, baby-"

He immediately tightened his tongue with a happy growl, pressed his fingers harder, and felt her soar beneath him as she cried out his name with a sob. He guided her through it, her climax stretching out far longer than the earlier ones, then gently stilled his movements, and made a trail of sweet kisses up her body. She pulled him down on top of her as she wrapped herself around him, and he held her close, murmuring soft praise and his love.

"So beautiful, angel... I love you so much... I've got you, always..." 

Her heart was hammering in her chest, and he nuzzled into her neck, grounding her as her breathing gradually slowed.

"You are incredible," she breathed, and he met her gaze with a smile, kissing her stray tears away.

She pulled him into a deep kiss, and when he pulled back her eyes were shining at him.

"I love you," she said softly, her hand stroking the side of his face.

"I love you too, angel," he smiled, before lifting himself and pulling her against him in her little spoon position.

She sighed happily against him, utterly spent, and he couldn't remember ever feeling so happy and complete.

And loved. 

"Hey, angel?" he asked sleepily. 

"Yeah?" 

"I'm really happy we found each other." 

She kissed his hand, and he smiled. 

"Me too, tiger." 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke as the sunlight started to filter into the Hideaway, and he stretched gently, careful not to disturb his sleeping Fox.

She was curled against him, breathing softly, and every time he woke next to her, his heart turned mushy all over again. 

She's so adorable when she's sleeping. Wait, is it weird to watch her sleep? That's a creepy thing… no, Aerosmith wrote a song about it, it's romantic. Then again, Twilight. But Fox knows I'm here. 

He huffed a quiet laugh at himself, knowing what she would say.

I'm a doofus.

He lay there content to rest for a while, until he heard the tell tale sounds of the other Islanders starting to move around. Last night had pushed his worries from his mind, but the intrusion of noise on their peaceful bubble was an uncomfortable reminder that his anxiety was still lurking.

And if a night like that wasn't enough to stop his unwanted thoughts… 

I'm fucked.  

"Fox," he said softly. "Hey, angel. It's time to wake up."

"Hrrm?" she stretched against him with a tiny mewl, and he was smiling when she opened her eyes.

"It's morning," he kissed her cheek. 

"You're awake before me?"

"Mmhm."

"I was so comfy." 

"Aww, you're adorable," he grinned, hiding his anxiety behind the genuine happiness he felt, as she rolled onto her back next to him. 

"Hey," he said softly, leaning over her slightly, "last night was amazing." 

"It was," she crinkled her nose, making him melt. "It was great because I was with you."

"You are the sweetest thing, angel," his heart thumped. "I can hear the others getting up already. Which unfortunately means we should probably go join them." 

"We should," she sighed. "Oh just one thing-" 

She lifted up to kiss him, and he followed her back down with a smile, swiping his tongue along her lower lip and deepening the kiss. She ran her fingers through his hair as he gave a quiet growl.

"Now, we can go," she grinned. 

Rawr. 

He pulled his pjs back on, turned to take her hand, and realised she was back in her ridiculously sexy red lace negligee. 

"Damn, how did I forget you were wearing that?" 

Fox laughed, and he kissed her again, unable to resist. She purred, kissing him slowly as he deepened the kiss, stepping her back against the wall. He'd fully intended on being a perfect gentleman this morning but seeing her in that sinful red lace slightly unhinged his brain, and as she nipped his lower lip gently he growled loudly.

He took his time kissing down her neck, delighting at her fluttering pulse beneath his lips, as he pulled her negligee aside slightly and dragged his teeth over his previous mark, making her shudder against him.

"Fuck, Luc-"

He helped her take his top back off, moaning softly as her nails raked down his back, and as pleasure spiked through him he realised she was grinding against him. He growled his appreciation as her breath stuttered, her body catching fire. 

The feel of her through the lace kept his hands slowly sweeping across her body, dropping kisses to her breasts, and running his fingers down her thighs.

Delicious.

She kissed him hard and slow as his world narrowed back down to just the two of them, and as her hand brushed across the hard shape of him, separated only by the material of his boxers, he turned the kiss feral, pushing her up and into the wall.

Lucas trailed one hand up the inside of her thigh, revelling in her shivers of pleasure, and hooked her thong to one side. As he ran his fingers across her, he couldn't stop another loud growl bursting forth.

"So fucking hot, angel. So soaked for me."

She ran her tongue up his neck, nibbling his ear, and he bucked into her hand. Fox pushed into his boxers to grasp him properly, ghosting her fingers along his length as he whined brokenly, needing more.

He moved his fingers against her, and praise started falling from her lips.

"Lucas… Need you inside me, baby…"

He lifted Fox up against the wall, shoving his boxers out the way as her legs wrapped around him, and he pressed himself against her, teasingly, as he kissed her long and slow, swallowing her soft moans.

Lucas knew, vaguely, that they should hurry up and get back to the others, that hard and fast would be sensible, but what he wanted was the opposite. To keep everything slow and romantic, to take his time loving his angel, to give her all the attention she deserved. 

He trailed his fingers back down her body, drawing tightening patterns as she trembled against him, and kissed up her neck, murmuring praise, his adoration, and his love. Her breath started to shake, and he shifted himself slightly, slowly entering her as she gasped.

The faster his fingers moved, the slower he kept everything else, pressing tender kisses to her neck, pushing so very slowly into her as she quivered, and kissing her deep and languid as she started to pulse around him. He kept his thrusts shallow, deep enough only to heighten her pleasure just enough, to build her up gently.

At other times his control would have been stretched to breaking point, but after the previous night he was able to fully enjoy focusing purely on giving her as much bliss as possible, delighting in her husky moans and breathy gasps and her nails raking into his shoulders, marking him as hers.

Her head tipped back as she started to clench around him, and he ran his mouth up her neck with gentle bites that made her grip him harder, and this was… 

Perfection

Lucas pressed his fingers firmly and she flew to pieces in his arms, crying his name loudly as tremors rocked him inside her. He fluttered kisses across her cheek, and she tangled her fingers in his hair, pulling him into a deep kiss. She pulled back with a slight laugh.

"You okay, angel?" he asked with a soft smile.

"More than okay, tiger," she laughed, slightly dazed, before purring quietly, "You really are my good boy-" 

And he didn't mean to exactly, but he buried himself to the hilt with a moan of pure want, feeling Fox's teeth on his shoulder as she shuddered against him, her fingers tight in his hair as she hissed, completely overwhelmed.

Pleasure ripped through him like a fire, his heart pounding, as his thoughts collided with each other, unanchored in the warm haze pressing down on him. He felt his angel kiss up his neck, her hand going gentle in his hair, as she put her lips next to his ear.

"Move for me, tiger," she murmured gently, startling him into remembering what he was supposed to be doing. 

He pulled back and thrusted in slow, growling as he nuzzled into her neck, down to the place he'd marked her as his, as she praised him, loved him, told him how good he was.

Lucas pulled back to look at her eyes, sinfully dark, and he needed, he needed-

"What do you need, baby?" she breathed, stroking his cheek, pressing kisses to his jawline.

"I don't- Fuck…" 

I need… you? I need, I need-

"I don't know- I don't…"

"It's okay, tiger," she wrapped her arms around his neck, and he leaned forward, his forehead against hers. "I've got you. It's all good."

He adjusted his hold on his angel, pushing in deeper, her breath faltering, trying not to speed up as he felt himself getting closer and closer to the edge. His anxious thoughts struggled to push through the haze to make sense, but-

"Yours," he breathed softly, almost too quiet for her to hear. "I need to be yours." 

Fox dug her nails into his shoulder a little deeper, and he growled, thrusting into her harder as her eyes sparkled. She kissed down the side of his neck, and at the bottom pressed hard with her teeth for just a moment, making his hips snap without permission. 

"Fuck!-" 

"Y'know," she purred, meeting his desperate gaze and running her fingers around the bottom of his throat, her pressure ever so soft as he tried not to whine at her hold of him, his harder thrusts giving him away, "given how much you like me doing this, and the growls you give when I pull your chain a little... I wonder what you'd make of a collar."

"Christ," he breathed, his brain melting. "I, um, yes. We should try that when we leave."

"You'd look gorgeous," she kissed his hair, "and mine."

He couldn't help the whine that escaped him.

Yours. 

"Please," he breathed, turning the word into a growl of approval, pushing her harder against the wall as he kissed her long and deep. 

She broke the kiss, moving her lips down his neck to press at the same point as before with her teeth, and he gave a quiet moan as he climbed higher and higher. 

Lucas felt her smile against his skin before she bit down hard, and he nearly screamed her name as his orgasm tore him apart, lasting as long as her teeth and tongue on his skin, where she was marking him as hers and only hers.

"Yours, yours, yours," he babbled quietly, and she kissed his marked skin before meeting his lips in a long heated kiss as the adrenaline flooded through him.

"Mine," she purred when she broke the kiss. "You're mine, Lucas. My tiger. Always."

He held her tight, falling into soft slow kisses as his heart rate climbed back down and his mind slowly cleared. She was wrapped around him, grounding him with her kisses, and he knew without a doubt that his lingering worries, the idea that someone else falling for her could steal her away, had nothing left to cling to.

Her saying she was his had been what he'd clung to, and he needed that, his possessive streak roared for it. Yet it had never been quite enough. But knowing, really believing, that he was hers as well, completely calmed that part of his mind.

It wasn't something he'd ever needed before, but then he'd never allowed himself to need anyone else until now. His angel had walked straight through his walls of dominance and found something deep down that made him finally feel secure, safe, and loved. 

I'm hers. It doesn't matter what anyone else says or does or feels. She's mine, and I'm hers. 

"You are amazing," she smiled at him brightly, making his heart flip happily.

I never dreamed of having someone I could be this vulnerable and open with. Or even find out myself what I had to be vulnerable about… I've always been the one who told someone they were mine. I never-

"I love you, Fox," he said tenderly, between loving kisses that made her crinkle her nose in happiness.

"I love you, my tiger, more than anything," she nuzzled against his cheek, before adding with a smirk, "but I should probably get off the wall now before my back goes numb." 

He laughed, and helped lift her off both the wall and himself, holding on to her until they were both steady on the ground. They cleaned up, and she leaned against the wall fixing her hair as he hunted down his pyjamas. 

"So I think," he chuckled, "I was saying we should be getting back to the others."

"It's a good job we're early risers," she laughed, kissing him softly, and he dipped her a little as he slowed it down, smiling at her flushing cutely.

Even after all that. Adorable.

She took his hand and pulled him back into the main Villa and along to the bedroom. He opened the door and put on his cockiest swagger. 

"Well, look who it is!" called Bobby, a split second before his jaw dropped. 

There was a chorus of wolf-whistles and cheers, and a few eyes on stalks from the boys who hadn't seen Fox the night before. The girls of course had, and Lottie was leading the wolf-whistles.

"How's our loved up couple this morning?" chirped Chelsea. 

"Did things go bump in the night?" Hope quipped. 

"Ah, just use your imagination," laughed Fox. 

"That's no fun!" protested Chelsea. "We've already done that." 

"To be fair," Lucas smirked, "it was well beyond my wildest imagination." 

"Blimey," gasped Gary, blushing before he grinned. 

"Do you guys remember how packed this place was after Casa Amor?" Hope asked, looking around the room. 

Lucas felt the familiar ice running through him at those two words, and Fox guided him down to sit on their bed, cuddling him. He rested his head on her shoulder, and she stroked the back of his neck as he tuned out of the conversation. 

Maybe at some point he'd stop feeling ill when he was unexpectedly reminded of those few days, but the memory of hurting his angel was something it would take longer to put behind him. 

"It's weird to think about," Bobby was saying. "This place has been the only thing on my mind for ages" 

"I'm happy wherever you are," Fox murmured, and Lucas squeezed her. 

His phone beeped, making him jump. 

"Does anyone else get a sense of dread whenever a phone goes off now?" asked Lottie. 

"Yep," he frowned as he sat round so everyone could see him. "Especially when it's mine…" 

"Good morning, Islanders. Hurry up and get ready because there's some special, long-distance people waiting to catch up with you…" 

"Oh em gee, what?" squealed Chelsea. 

"Hashtag 'meet the parents'," Lucas added. 

"We're going to be chatting to people back home!" gasped Hope. 

"Nan?" Gary looked shocked. "This is amazing!" 

"Brucey!" yelled Lottie. "Quick! Let's hurry and get ready!" 

~~~

Almost as soon as the dressing room door closed behind the girls, Lucas was pelted with questions.

"You could have warned me she was wearing-" 

"Mate, did you get any sleep or-" 

"Will she step on me if I ask nice-" 

"Nope," he held his hands up with a grin. "You can get Fox to tell you if you're desperate." 

"Spoilsport," Gary winked at him.

"Who do we think is gonna message us then?" asked Bobby, changing the subject.

"Parents or friends I'd bet," said Noah. "I forgot my parents were watching…" 

"Hopefully it's my mum and my nan," grinned Gary. "My nan will have watched every show."

"Even doing bits?!" Henrik looked slightly horrified, but Gary just shrugged. 

"She'll just be happy I didn't try and shag my way across the island, mate!" 

The guys burst out laughing.

"I hope it's my parents and my pals," said Bobby wistfully. "We'll probably get a message from our partner's people as well." 

"You think?" asked Noah, frowning a little.

"I'd assume so," said Lucas, feeling a similar dread over what Fox's parents or friends might think of him. 

Not good enough, not good enough, not-

"They'll like the people we like," Henrik sounded confident. "And vice versa. If they don't, it's probably just the way the show has been cut."

That has some truth to it. And does it matter, given I'm hers? I don't want to be the cause of upset with her family though… 

"Shall I see if they're ready?" Bobby asked to general assent. 

He approached the door with his hand over his eyes. 

"You all decent?..." 

~~~

Lucas sat back in the Hideaway, as all the Islanders had been scattered across the Villa to receive their messages.

He strongly suspected he was about to get told off. 

<"Hi Lucas!! It's mum and dad. We just wanted to say how much we love you and how very proud of you we are. You've done so well! x" 

He felt himself getting emotional and smiled widely. He texted back. 

>"Thank you, that means so much. I thought you'd be telling me off! I'm looking forward to seeing you all again soon :) x"

His phone beeped. 

<"Dad says you were a huge DOOFUS. I used a stronger word! But we're so glad you found somebody like Fox. We love her to bits." 

He laughed. His mum had obviously just added a new word to her phone. 

<"I was so worried when you went in but you've grown so much. We can't believe you looked after a doll!! I think some of your aunties might have fainted x"

I will never hear the end of this… 

He texted back. 

>"Hah, I am a doofus. But I really love her. Everything with her is different, and I'm going to keep doing better for her. The doll was VERY creepy. But it still means no babies mum!! x" 

Honestly, I'm pretty sure she'll be so thrilled at me settling down, she'll probably be happy with dog and cat grandchildren. 

<"We can see exactly how you feel about her and that's one of the things we're so proud of. We know it's been harder for you in the past. KEEP HER!

<"We think Fox is just the sweetest. She cares so much and she really gets you. We're so glad to see you so happy, that really is the most important thing. And you can at least get a puppy for me to be grandma to!" 

<"We have to go now. Love you lots, and we'll see you soon xx" 

He wiped at his eyes, smiling. For his parents to be so positive meant a lot. They'd always been supportive, but they'd never been shy about criticism and his terrible relationship history had given them much to criticise, alongside his career choices.

He knew they'd love Fox. But them being so proud of how he'd tackled things, and saying his happiness was most important, had really punched him in the feelings.

His phone beeped in his hands. 

<"Lucas, we hope you enjoyed speaking to your parents. Please stay where you are as there are more people who want to talk to you…" 

Shit. It's gonna be Fox's family for sure. 

He swallowed hard. 

<"Hi Lucas! It's Fox's mum and her brothers." 

Oof, okay. Reply, make it friendly… 

>"It's so nice to meet you finally x" 

He jiggled his leg restlessly. 

<"So sweet! It's really nice to see Fox with someone who takes her seriously x" 

These messages are so concise and to the point! Adding the x was a good move. 

>"Thanks so much for saying that! I really care for Fox xx" 

He was breaking out in a sweat, waiting for the other shoe to drop. His phone vibrated. 

<"The Casa Amor stuff was so hard to watch. Her brothers were swearing at the tv! But I'm so glad you were honest with Fox. We trust her judgement and think she made the right choice xx" 

Lucas's heart was racing. He could only imagine what her brothers had been yelling. 

>"I messed up hugely, and I'm determined to get help for my anxiety. I don't ever want to hurt her, and doing so will always be my one regret xx" 

That could have been worse? They're understandably protective of her but seem to really respect her choices. 

<"Good stuff! We can all see how happy you make her and how happy she makes you. I really am so pleased. Though I can't believe what you kids get up to. Pretty scandalous! I had to turn off the TV! Haha xx" 

He blushed, deeply. 

>"Oh, wow. Yeah. I'm so sorry you had to see that! Xx" 

Haha, out of the frying pan into the fire. Her brothers are still gonna kill me, huh… 

<"Honestly though, we're so happy for you and Fox! You seem like a keeper xx Despite all the naughty stuff! xx" 

He beamed, and his fingers moved back over the keys.

>"Actually, could I ask your advice? I have an important question I want to ask Fox." 

<"Of course! Ask away xx" 

>"I know what I want to say, and how to say it, and I've never been more sure of anything. But it would mean a lot to get your blessing. I'd like to ask Fox to be my girlfriend xx

<"Yes! We all absolutely do give our blessing! Fox has been through so much in her life. She really deserves to be happy. And so do you. She's just been waiting on you xx" 

Excitement rushed through him. He'd known he would ask for a while, held back only by wanting to give her time to be sure.

But she really has just been waiting on me to catch up. And I'm already there. 

>"Thank you so much! That really does mean a huge amount to me. I just want to make her as happy as she makes me xx" 

His phone beeped one final time, and he opened a text full of…

That's a lot of emojis! Clown, dog… angel down there… a knife?? 

He squinted at the nearly full screen of emojis before realising maybe only Fox would be able to translate. Either way, it had been great news from both his parents and Fox's family, and he couldn't stop beaming. 

~~~

Lucas walked out into the garden with a smile. He spotted Fox on the loungers with Gary and Lottie, and cracked a huge grin. 

"Hey, angel!" he rushed over and pulled her into a hug as she laughed.

"I was wondering where you'd got to!" 

"My parents write long texts," he blushed.

"I know," she grinned. "I spoke to them too." 

"Yeah? Tell me all about it!" 

"Well, we-" 

His phone suddenly beeped loudly, and she stopped with a smile. 

"Oh! That's me," he realised, fishing it out his pocket to read her the text. 

"Fox and Lucas, please get yourself ready and meet at the front of the Villa for your last Love Island date… 

"Oooh," Fox's eyes lit up. "Our last date!" 

"Here," he clarified. "Last date here." 

She kissed his nose. 

"Of course, doofus," she smirked, and he laughed.

"Last one to get ready buys the other one dinner!" he yelled over his shoulder as he ran inside, hearing her run behind him and up the stairs. 

~~~

Chapter Text

My angel. 

From the moment she'd stepped out of the Villa to see him leaning against the jeep waiting on her, Lucas couldn't stop smiling.

Fox was wearing the outfit she'd worn the first time she'd picked him for a date, the white and silver two piece that made her look like a literal heavenly body. The long mostly see-through skirt with a split to the top of her thigh, a matching crop top with one-shoulder neckline, wrapping down her right arm; all of it now shimmered in the light of the low sun across the waves.

On the beach under the pink sky, her face rapt with her love of the sea… She was truly his angel.

He had cleaned up nicely himself, wearing a black shirt, a colour he rarely wore that had drawn her like a magnet to him, purring her appreciation. He definitely needed to make some wardrobe additions when they left the Villa, post haste.

She threaded her fingers with his, their hands fitting together, and Lucas sighed happily.

"It's like it was meant to be," he grinned goofily. "The final date. I can't believe we've made it this far."

"The final date, and the first of many more," she smiled, and he kissed her softly. 

He led her down to the shore, where a boat was waiting for them. 

"It's so strange that we've been abroad for our entire relationship," he laughed, "and this is the first time we're on a beach together." 

"Look out there," she pointed to table and chairs on a floating gazebo. "Wow." 

"Oh, wow!" he echoed. "I didn't notice all that. This will sound proper melty but I was too busy looking at you."

She laughed in delight and twirled in front of him, and he caught her with a grin, dipping her into a kiss. Her fingers rested softly at the back of his neck, as the soft sunlight sparkled around her.

Bliss.

"This is perfect," he whispered. 

"I think it's boat sailing time," she smiled, and he turned to the boat, sitting a little way out in the water. 

"Want a piggyback ride to the boat?" he asked, his eyes sparkling.

He could see the 'no' coming before she blinked it away with a smile, and jumped on his back.

"Whoah!" he laughed. "Trying to straddle me, angel?" 

"Just keeping you on your toes, tiger," she purred, wrapping her legs around him. 

Lucas strode through the water, grinning to himself. 

"Comfy back there?"

"Perfect!" 

He delivered her safely to the boat, smiling at her delight. 

~~~

"What a gorgeous place for a date," Lucas leapt from the boat and offered a hand to Fox. "Obviously it's not as gorgeous as you." 

"Mr Smooth," she smirked, before her eyes widened as she stood on the platform. "Oh! This is much more stable than I expected." 

"Were you worried?" 

"No, I just figured I'd have sea legs after and fall over on the beach." 

He laughed softly. 

"Well that's better than sea sickness at least! So you get wobbly after instead of during?" 

"Yup," she nodded. "I'm fine in most rivers until they become sea. Sometimes I'll be fine right after but then when I go to bed that night, the whole room starts going up and down. Worth it though."

"You like boats then?" he asked, pulling a chair out for her to sit. 

"Mmhm," she nodded. "Well, if I stop to think about it, I can get a bit nervy, but once I'm out there… there's seals, dolphins, whales if I'm lucky. And so many birds you don't see closer to land."

"The ocean does freak me out a little," he admitted with a blush as he sat down across from her. "Like, you literally have no idea what you could be sailing into... Or who!"

"Aww, tiger," she smiled. "I'll protect you from the sea monsters." 

He laughed. 

"I would like to see whales," he mused. "And actually, I'd like to see the rest with somebody who could tell me which birds are which beyond 'pigeon' and 'duck'." 

"I'd be happy to help," she grinned, "especially if you're seeing pigeons at sea! Is the rowing you do on rivers and lakes?" 

"Yeah," he nodded, "though if I'm honest, it's been a while…" 

He blushed. 

"I may have overstated that to try and impress someone." 

Fox chuckled.

"Well the only rowing I've done is on a rowing machine," she winked, and he grinned sheepishly. "And the ocean stuff, I prefer to let an expert do the work." 

"That sounds very sensible," he smiled, lifting the glasses over. "Would you like bubbles or water?" 

"Ooh, bubbles please!" 

"Nice," he grinned, popping the cork and pouring two glasses. 

"I've just realised I can never call this 'bubbly' again," she sighed, and he barked out a laugh.

"So, how did it go with my family?" he asked. "We haven't had a chance to chat about that."

"It went super well," she enthused. "We really seemed to get on. They're so lovely!" 

"Great! You know what this means?" 

"A proper Sunday brunch?" she grinned, and he nodded happily. 

Haha, they've already asked her! Visiting my family is going to be a lot less stressful from now on. 

"Smashed avocado, poached eggs, fruit smoothies," he detailed happily. "Some real coffee! The whole lot."

"Ohh, I miss real coffee…" 

A mischievous look suddenly swept across her face.

"Your parents did tell me one embarrassing story about you…" 

Uh oh. 

"Oh?" Lucas asked, trying to look innocent.

"Yup," she grinned widely. "About the time you were off sick from an old job and accidentally dialed into a work meeting while watching a racy 'romcom' scene as you swore at your phone trying to disconnect." 

She discreetly put air quotes around the word 'romcom' with a knowing look, and he flushed bright red. 

Oh my god…

"Yeah, that was- Um- Yeah. Embarrassing!" 

She was still grinning wolfishly but stayed quiet, giving him a sly wink. 

She knows that I know that she knows, but also knows my parents should definitely not know, and oh my god-

He pulled out his phone quickly, and opened his texts. 

"Do you want to see what your family were saying to me?" he asked, changing the subject. 

"Sure!" 

Lucas read out the messages, trying not to blush at his instigation of x's and her mum's mention of the 'naughty' stuff. Fox laughed, pleased at how well they'd got on.

"I also got this message at the end," he pulled up the text full of emojis and handed his phone over. "Which I don't quite get?" 

Her eyes flicked across the screen as she smiled, and then laughed. 

"This is from my brother," she explained. "Hang on… okay, he was impressed with you, thought you were well posh but genuine, and then… I left and you were a proper clown-" 

She laughed as he blushed hard. 

"He reckoned you should be… stabbed? No wait, oh dear god. Have your, y'know, chopped off, but then… aww-" 

Jesus christ. 

"He knows how brain demons work, and he sympathises. And then… your angel returned and you did the right thing, and now, you're part of the family, and a proper tiger." 

She smiled and pointed at the last two emoji of a crown and a tiger. 

"There's more in there," she grinned, "but that's the gist." 

"I'm very glad your brother no longer plans to castrate me," he smiled weakly, spotting that the knife emoji did indeed come after the male chicken emoji.

"Aww, babe," she reached across and squeezed his hand. "That's what brothers do best! But he has dealt with really bad anxiety as well, and seeing you as family is pretty damn huge. I'd imagine they both signed off on this one." 

He relaxed, grinning at how pleased she was. 

"Well, the returning angel bit was spot on," he topped up her glass and poured some water for them both. "I love how strong we've been together." 

Lucas leaned back a little, looking at her intensely. 

"You're looking lovely, Fox," he said softly. "I'm so lucky to be with you on the final date." 

"You're looking pretty handsome yourself," she smiled, and he grinned happily. 

"Thanks, angel. But seriously, I mean it. You're a good person inside and out. Beautiful, even. And, like, I don't mean you've got amazing eyebrows or perfect eyeliner, though you do! And obviously it's totally cool to do those things if they make you feel good. But being beautiful isn't about that."

"What's it about then?" she looked at him fondly, and he relaxed more. 

"It's about what you give back to the world. And how you treat others. Not how you look while you do it." 

"That, I can agree with," she nodded.

"I don't know if you remember," he said, taking her hand in his. "But way back on our first date, the day I arrived, I asked you a weird question." 

She looked thoughtful for a minute, tilting her head.

"Yes! You asked me where I imagine a future partner being. Like, if they were in bed, or a fancy hotel, or… I can't remember the other examples. And then you refused to tell me what your answer was." 

"Yeah," he nodded, "and you never asked me again, so I wondered if you'd forgotten." 

"Not forgotten," she said softly. "I just came to learn that wasn't the kind of thing you easily shared, and that if it was important, you'd do it when the time was right." 

"Dammit," he laughed, squeezing her hand. "I used to be this man of mystery, but you've somehow got hold of the annotated edition of Lucas that even I don't have." 

She smiled, her eyes sparkling, and he continued. 

"You told me you would see that person in your kitchen, right?" 

"I did," she nodded, "though really it was more just… seeing them in my space? But then that changed. I started seeing that person in spaces that weren't mine, but meant more to me. Like by the sea, or in my favourite venue-" 

Lucas swallowed hard, listening. 

"-and then it started to be in spaces that weren't even made yet. A log cabin. A new home. A shared doorway. A kitchen that wasn't just mine, but yours too."

"I really love you, Fox," he breathed, and she got up, and came to him, letting herself be pulled onto his lap.

She kissed him, softly, deeply, her fingers running through his hair.

"I love you too, Lucas. More than anything." 

"I never had an answer for that question before," he revealed. "I could picture people in different places but… I couldn't picture myself with them. I was always on the outside."

Her fingers moved on the back of his neck as she listened, and he felt relaxed, and safe.

"But then I saw you, and the picture flickered. And I met you, and I got to know you, and suddenly all I could see was you. Waking up together, on my bike together, taking you to the beach, playing with our dog…" 

He breathed out, collecting his thoughts.

"I never had a clever answer, or a clear one. But my picture is just to have you beside me. To not have me at a distance. And I guess that matches your picture pretty well." 

She beamed at him, and kissed his forehead. 

"We really do bring out the best in each other," she murmured. 

Ask the question, it's time. 

"I'm actually really glad I got to talk to your family earlier," he smiled. "They gave me some good advice about something…" 

He shifted in his seat slightly, and looked her straight in the eye. 

"I knew what I wanted to say. And how I wanted to say it. But I thought that it couldn't hurt to get their blessing. Especially as they know you so well. I'm just going to come out and say it...

"I knew I was looking for the whole shebang when I came on here. Love, fireworks, the lot. But I never thought I'd be lucky enough to find it."

He took her hand in his, and held her tight. 

"I've fallen for you. Hard. We've been so solid through everything. And I really want to show it to the world…"

He inhaled sharply, and felt her other hand move to the back of his neck again, as his body calmed. He smiled. 

"It's so unlike me to want to do this whole… you know. Commitment thing. I've never felt this way before. But I've never been more sure.

"Fox…" he cleared his throat, as she looked at him with her eyes shining. "Would you like to be my girlfriend?" 

"Of course," she replied with no hesitation, smiling widely. "I'd love to be your girlfriend, Lucas!"

"Yes!" he grinned cheek to cheek. "I'm so happy. We're official!" 

She leaned in to kiss him and his eyes fluttered shut as he kissed her intensely, wrapping his arms around her as his heartbeat thundered in his chest. 

After a few moments, he settled back, a little dizzy from the thrill of kissing her. 

My girlfriend! 

"That was our first kiss as an official couple!" Lucas smiled at her, blushing. "Such a proper nice place for it."

"It is," she laughed happily as she cuddled into him. 

"Thank you for waiting on me," he murmured, stroking her arm. "I've known it was what I wanted for a while, but I was paranoid I'd let you down."

"I knew it was a big thing for you, tiger," she said softly, still cuddled against him. "I was very happy to wait. What changed for you?"

"I worried that I'd panic," he explained, "that my anxiety would push you away. I needed to know you were mine, but it still wasn't enough to stop me worrying… not that someone could steal you away, but that my anxiety about it would destroy us."

"Well, I am yours," she pulled back to smile at him, "but you're mine, too. I'd never let anything or anyone, even you, come between us."

Lucas kissed her nose and grinned at her.

"And that's exactly what I needed to hear, even if I didn't know it. You persuaded my anxious brain that I was yours, and that's all that mattered. It doesn't mean I won't get jealous or anxious, I still need help for that. But it does mean I know for sure you're not going anywhere."

"Yup!" her eyes sparkled mischievously. "You're my boyfriend now, there's no escape."

"Bliss," he smiled. 

The sun was sitting low on the horizon, and a sea breeze began to pick up. Fox shivered against him slightly.

"You chilly?" he asked. 

"A little…" 

"Me too," he glanced around. "You know when I've seen places like this advertised, it usually comes complete with a massage." 

"Oh really?" her eyes twinkled.

"We could relax down on those cushions, huddle for warmth, and I could… relax you." 

Lucas waggled his eyebrows and she giggled, standing up. Grinning cheekily, he pushed the table and chairs to one side and lay down. He extended an arm up and she took his hand as he pulled her down on top of him into a hungry kiss. She made the softest moan, and broke the kiss, brushing her nose against his.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he murmured, biting his lip. 

"What are you thinking?" she purred. 

"I'm just being cheeky," he blushed slightly. "But if you're up for doing some bits, I'm totally down."

"Let's get sexy," she smirked, and he lifted himself up to kiss her softly, letting her deepen the kiss as she relaxed on top of him again. 

She trailed her hand in the water, and sat back, splashing him as he laughed in surprise. 

"Aww, now my clothes are wet," he pouted. 

"Mmhm, you'd best take them off," she grinned. 

He undressed with a smirk, before splashing her back. 

"Now I'm not the only one a little wet," he said smugly, and she quirked an eyebrow before leaning in close. 

"Oh I was way ahead of you there, tiger," she purred, and he laughed at her cheek. 

He kissed her fiercely as he undressed her, desperate to feel her skin against his. He pulled her close against him, as she gently rocked her hips, slowing their kiss into something far more intense. There was no need here for him to narrow down his focus, to block the outside world, because his angel was all there was, surrounded by her sea, quite literally in her element.

He gently moved her beneath him, pressing kisses across her face, her neck, her shoulders, her chest, as her fingers tangled in his hair and caressed his back softly. He danced his hand down her skin, slowly chasing her pleasure as her breath stuttered against him, with soft moans that made his heart pound in his chest. 

The platform was swaying with the momentum of their movements, the gentle silence of the waves, their breathing, and soft moans. She kissed a path up his neck, pulling him by his chain against her mouth, making him gasp as her back started to arch.

"Need you inside me, love," she whispered, and he moved his body higher, tangling his tongue with hers as he obeyed her words.

He moaned into her mouth as he entered, heard her growl in response, and met her darkened eyes, stroking her face in the light of the sunset.

"I love you, angel," his voice was tender, his emotions bare, as he pressed his fingers harder, and buried himself completely, keeping his movements slow. 

She smiled, crinkling her nose, and lifted herself up to meet him, even as she gasped his name. He crushed his lips against hers, holding her tight as she crested beneath him, and she pulled back to bury her face in his neck as he growled at the way she tightened around him.

"I love you, tiger," she murmured between gasps of air, her body on fire, and he kissed her hair, her face, her lips, everywhere he could reach, loving her endlessly. 

Lucas didn't want this to end, and the two of them spent as long as they could with slow movements, and her occasional cry of his name as he worshipped her. He felt completely at peace, his mind calm and filled with love for his angel, and happiness at feeling so content. This was all the softness and romance he'd been craving, away from the noise and drama of other people, and he couldn't wait until this was their everyday life. The location might be extraordinary but it wasn't what made this everything he wanted. 

When he couldn't hold on any longer, she wrapped herself around him, pouring out words of love just for him, and he came as he kissed her, to the sound of gently lapping waves.

"Wow," he breathed, stroking her cheek as her eyes shined. "It's not everyday you get to do that in the middle of the ocean." 

"I'd say we gave the sea monsters quite a show," she winked, and he laughed against her.

She met his lips and he sank into long deep kisses as his heart rate climbed back down, growling his contentment at staying put a little longer, and her fingers softly petting his hair. Having to leave here, to return to the others, didn't feel great but at the same time, there were only two more days to go until they'd have each other to themselves.  

She shivered slightly in the cooling temperature, and he lifted himself off her with a smile, fetching her clothes. 

"That was amazing," he sighed happily as they cuddled back together, warmer again. "I hope I didn't get any splinters…" 

Fox giggled as they watched the sky fade, the sun finally sinking down. 

"This is perfect," he murmured, a little sadly. "It's a shame it has to end. All good things do though. Nothing is ever really permanent. No matter how much we want it to be. So, we've just got to enjoy it all while we can."

She tilted her head in thought as she looked at him. 

"That sounds familiar…" she smiled, and he blushed. 

"Yeah, my bad," he grinned sheepishly. "I read Eckhart Tolle before I went on the show. He says you have to realise that the present moment is all you ever have." 

"Ah yeah, The Power of Now," she nodded, and he smirked cheekily. 

"I'm guessing you have an opinion on it?" he asked innocently, and she tapped his arm playfully.

"Maybe!" she stuck her tongue out. "Some of what he says is fairly good, but the present moment is as much of an illusion as the past and future. It's important to make the most of today, but also to let it go without remorse." 

"If everything is an illusion then…" he mused, "what do we have?" 

"Everything," she smiled. "It can be good to quieten the mind, to work on ourselves. But many don't have the privilege to stop and be able to focus on just themselves. Human society… it's pretty awful to try and survive when you have nothing. The good moments are what makes life worth living."

He nodded, reminded that there was a lot he couldn't help but take for granted. 

"To put it in self-help terms," she winked, "we are ripples in a pool that travels its own story. Today may end, but our present continues as we embark on a lifetime of moments together that we can't even imagine. And that is pretty amazing."

"Damn," he laughed, his sadness melting away. "That's proper hashtag deep stuff. But I get it. As long as my present is with you, I'm going to be pretty damn happy. And I am so excited for our future together."

"Me too, tiger," she beamed. 

Lucas nodded to the boat as he stood. 

"I guess we'd better be getting back," he smiled, offering his hand to help her up.

She stepped towards him and leaned up for one more kiss.

~~~

Chapter Text

Lottie and Bobby were on the beanbags, and as the new official couple came over to join them, Hope and Hannah crashed down as well. 

"Hey guys!" called Hope, launching straight into talking about herself. "We had this really cute little yacht thing take us around the Island. It was so romantic."

Today, on Hope Island… 

"How did your date go?" Lottie asked, nodding at Fox and Lucas. 

Before either could reply, Hope jumped in again. 

"I saw you guys from our boat!" she raised her eyebrows. "Saw you get a little frisky… "

Oh great, I'm so glad we didn't actually have any privacy.

"Oops," said Lucas, blushing uncomfortably. 

Hope laughed as Lottie rolled her eyes briefly, cheering him up again. 

"What else did you get up to?" asked Hope, and Lucas smiled at Fox. 

"Someone popped the question," she grinned, happily. 

"Oh em gee!" gasped Hope. 

"Really?!" Lottie yelled in excitement. 

"We're like, a proper thing now," Lucas felt a little giddy still. "Boyfriend and girlfriend! A proper couple!" 

Their friends cheered as Fox moved her beanbag closer so he could drape his arm around her.

"Nice one, guys!" Bobby smiled genuinely, and Fox beamed at him. 

I'm really glad Bobby is feeling better around her again. I don't think she's ever suspected he has more than a crush, or what the exact source of his sadness has been- 

"Speaking of the big Q…" began Hope, clearing her throat. 

"What's up?" asked Hannah. 

Lottie looked over to the kitchen, and Lucas could see Noah busy putting a brew on.

If they've made it official it's a bit strange he's not over here to tell folk. 

"Has Noah popped the question?" Lottie asked in a quiet voice. 

"Yeah, that's what I'm worried about," Hope frowned, twisting her hands together. "He just… seems to have forgotten about it." 

Ohh, that explains the weirdness. Damn. 

"Or maybe he's waiting for you to do it?" suggested Lottie. 

"I'm brave about a lot of things, but I just need this one to come from him. I want to know it's what he wants too."

"There's actually nothing wrong with doing the sweeping sometimes," said Lottie gently, looking to Fox for backup. 

"That is true," she nodded, "but… sometimes one person does have to wait on the other. It's a big thing, and for some people it's even bigger."

Lucas kissed her hair, and she made a happy noise. 

"I'm sure he's planning something, hun," Hannah said reassuringly. 

"I hope so…" Hope frowned again. "Maybe I'm hoping for too much."

"Yeah, I used to be the same-"

All of four weeks ago… 

"-Going with the flow is so much easier."

… okay fine, I've changed a lot in the same time period too. 

The conversation moved on to talk about how near the end they all were, but Lucas's attention kept drifting over to the kitchen. Why had Noah, the dictionary definition of commitment and settling down, dodged the final hurdle? 

~~~

Hope and Hannah had moved inside, Chelsea had nabbed Fox, and the three remaining Islanders moved over to relax by the pool. 

"It's a bit weird though, isn't it?" Bobby asked. "Like this whole time it's been the Hope and Noah story and now when we're right at the end, they're looking a bit wobbly." 

"I mean not the whole time," Lottie shook her head. "Early on we were all a bit sceptical about them. You do remember Operation Nope, right?" 

Bobby blushed, and squirmed awkwardly. 

"Yeah, I felt really bad about that," he sighed. "It seemed like just a prank at the beginning. Like, I assumed Noah was just going to be flirted with, not actually kissed…" 

"And Fox nearly got dragged into it," Lucas reminded him, with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah, that bit wasn't my idea," he frowned. "Like, I was all for telling her because I'd have told her anyway, but I didn't want her flirting with Noah-" 

Lucas nodded. Bobby had only been crushing on her back then, but it wouldn't have made sense for him to encourage his friend to risk her new couple. 

"-But Priya reckoned she and Fox would have the best chance of turning his head, which wasn't wrong." 

"I did wonder if Noah liked Fox," mused Lottie, "He looked to her a lot in the early days. But Priya kinda stole the show, bless her. She was such a sexy siren!" 

Bobby nodded his head as Lucas felt his jealousy flicker into life. 

All the guys seemed into her to begin with, but how did I overlook Noah? 

"Priya just went about stuff the wrong way due to her own insecurities," said Bobby. "But you're right, there were cracks between Noah and Hope from the beginning. I'd forgotten…" 

He looked at Lucas, frowning, as if deciding whether or not to say anything. 

"You're really not good at hiding stuff, man," Lucas smiled, hoping to get him to spill. 

"Hah, true," Bobby sighed, before continuing. "I don't want this to be a big thing, as we're close to the end and nothing actually happened… But Noah did tell me he'd nearly made a pass at Fox." 

WHAT?

"What? When?" demanded Lottie, as Lucas sat stunned into silence. 

"Operation Nope," said Bobby. "Fox spoke to him during it all, after she'd spoken to Hope and after Priya had made her move. She was just, y'know, being kind and giving him encouragement. Being a good pal." 

Lucas nodded, trying to shove down his anger before it switched into anxiety. 

Fox never said anything about him doing anything… 

"And he got up to thank her," the younger man continued, "and told her how fit she looked that day, and for a split second… Anyway, Fox gave him a hug and carried on. So he never did anything."

"Fuck," Lucas frowned. "Why did I not hear about this?" 

"Well Fox had no clue obviously," shrugged Bobby, "and Noah only told me when he was drunk during the last night the girls were away at Casa Amor." 

"Which is when I was wasted..."

And of course Fox didn't know. But if Noah upsets her, I swear to god... 

"Well that was a long time ago," said Lottie. "They split up after that and got back together. Plus they made it through the baby challenge. And y'know, you and me-" 

She nodded at Bobby. 

"-saved them both so they could be together. It still feels really weird that they haven't ever made it official."

"Maybe they're just not right for each other," Lucas suggested. "I'd imagine it would be hard to pull back at this late stage when everyone is telling you that you're in the perfect relationship." 

Lottie nodded, thoughtfully. 

Noah was all about encouraging me to go after Fox back then, which surely he wouldn't do if he liked her? But on the other hand, he was lining Priya up as his second option as she had shown interest while Fox was focused on me instead. But ever since he and Hope got back together, I've had this feeling… Fuck, I really don't get him at all. 

Bobby laughed suddenly, looking at the day beds.

"Those two are too cute," he grinned, as Lucas and Lottie looked over to see Fox and Chelsea doing their special BFF handshake.

Adorable. 

"I love it," laughed Lottie. "Especially the booty bump!" 

"I've got a feeling Chelsea is going to try and move in with us," Lucas shook his head good naturedly. 

"Ooh, so you're doing all that too?" Lottie cooed. 

"Yup," he smiled. "Would be weird going back to not waking up next to each other." 

Lottie nodded in approval. Lucas noticed Bobby had gone a little quiet again, but still. Baby steps. 

I do need to ask my angel officially about moving in together now we're a proper couple… 

"Hey guys!" Chelsea yelled as she and Fox came over and joined them. 

"Alright, you two," Bobby grinned. "What's up?" 

Lucas smiled and scooched closer to Fox, who kissed him on the cheek with a quiet purr. 

"We were getting all teary about it nearly being the final," sighed Chelsea. "Just feeling a bit sad about it all ending." 

She yawned and leaned on Lottie's shoulder. 

"I'm also, like, super tired."

"I feel that," Lucas agreed. 

"Me too," said Bobby. "I wish I had as much energy as those birds."

He pointed up to a few finches sitting in a nearby tree. 

"You don't want to be a bird, hun," Lottie smirked. "Bird life is tough." 

Lottie points at a finch. 

"Bullfinch," Fox whispered to Lucas, who smiled. 

"If she could talk she'd be like… 'You think you've got it hard being a human. It's all worms and dirt and sticks for me. All flapping day.'"

"Nah," Bobby pouted before pointing at another bird, "being a bird would be, like, amazing. Her mate would be, like… 'But, bro, what about the chicks? And, like, not to mention we can fly.'"

"Goldfinch," Fox murmured. 

Lottie rolled her eyes at Bobby, and replied via her bird. 

"Woah. Typical birdy talk, Gareth."

"Gareth?" Bobby raised his eyebrows. 

"Yeah, Gareth. That's its name." 

"Lottie's looks like a Lola," suggested Lucas. 

"Oh, yes," Lottie grinned. "Strong name."

"I bet you don't talk like that around your fiancée, do you?" cheeped Lola.

"Gareth the bird has a fiancée?" Lucas was getting confused. 

"Yeah, he gives off recently engaged Gareth vibes," Lottie smirked as Bobby laughed. 

"That's me," said Gareth. "Recently on my way to be hitched." 

"Did you get my congratulation stick?" asked Lola. "I left it by your nest."

Another finch landed by the two talking birds. 

"Ooh a siskin finch," Fox smiled, and Lucas grinned at his dork.

Fox cleared her throat.

"It is I, Big Daddy."

"I stan that name," Lottie laughed, as Lucas chuckled. 

The birds commenced a conversation about how Lola and Big Daddy were trying to wander off together while Gareth kept following them with his flower. 

"You want sum fuk?" asked Big Daddy, as Lottie exploded into laughter. 

Lucas lay down with his head in Fox's lap, listening contentedly. He'd passed by the three of them or just Fox and Bobby doing this many times, from narrating leaves in the final stages of a marathon across the garden, to the gradual hysterical breakdown of a butterfly being harassed by plants. 

As he listened to how Gareth had a controlling fiancée, Becky, that he felt trapped with, while Lola told him to leave her, he wondered exactly how much of this storyline was inspired by Noah and Hope.

Though Hope isn't controlling exactly, or at least, no more than Noah is. Huh, actually they're both controlling aren't they? Damn, there really is a lot of toxicity there… 

Fox's sex-crazed Big Daddy on the other hand was there purely for comedy value as she tried to persuade the other birds, furniture, and inanimate objects to 'lemme smash'. 

He laughed softly as she played with his hair, and let the bird talk wash over him. 

"... and they're gone," Fox was saying.

Lucas looked across and saw that the birds had indeed flown away. 

"That'll be us soon though, guys," sighed Chelsea. 

"In unhappy marriages?" Lucas blinked in confusion. 

"No! We'll all be flying the nest and moving on from here." 

"That's what you were upset about, wasn't it hun?" asked Lottie, and Chelsea nodded. "How about you guys, how do you feel about it?" 

"I'm really excited for whatever comes next," Fox smiled. 

"Yeah, I'll miss it here," Lucas agreed. "But this isn't the end, for sure."

"We'll get loads of chances to hang out after this," enthused Lottie. 

"Yeah, there will be so many parties and stuff," said Chelsea, looking more cheerful. 

"I suppose we should go join the others in the kitchen, yeah?" Bobby stood with a stretch. 

"C'mon tiger," Fox grinned, petting Lucas's hair back into place. 

~~~

Hannah was in the kitchen pouring water from the kettle into a mug. Bobby peered over. 

"What you making?" 

"Hot chocolate," she smiled. 

"With water from a kettle?" he frowned. "Don't you boil the milk first?" 

"Uh oh," murmured Fox with a smile. 

"No…" Hannah pulled a face. 

"That's a crime," Bobby tutted. 

"Milk is a crime against the world, Bobby," said Lottie. 

"Yeah," Hannah nodded, "and besides, boiling milk takes forever and you get that horrible weird skin on top. And it literally tastes the same." 

Not if you do it properly. Plus almond milk is amazing in hot chocolate. 

Bobby frowned again. 

"I am totally going to disagree with you there, Becky." 

Lottie snorted as Fox giggled, while Hannah eyed Bobby with suspicion. 

"Who the hell is Becky?" 

"Oh, just my ex-bird," said Bobby, his eyes twinkling, making Lucas laugh. 

Hannah looked at Lottie, wide-eyed as Noah came round the corner. 

"Did someone say birds?" he asked. 

Hannah slammed her mug down. 

"But it's so close to the finals!" she huffed. 

"It's okay," grinned Fox. "Becky wasn't down for doing bits." 

This is too good…

"That's so unfair, it's literally almost the final!"

"No, hun, don't worry," Lottie stepped in. "There are no new girls. We're talking about birds. Girls aren't birds."

"Sorry, what is going on?" asked Hope as she arrived. 

"We were just pretending to be the birds outside," laughed Fox. 

"We were doing voice-overs and stuff," Bobby grinned. 

"That's hilarious," said Noah. 

"Yeah, Fox got pretty dirty with it," smirked Bobby. "Her bird just kept wanting to have sex, like, all the time."

"I bet she did," Noah drawled, winking at Fox. 

Hold up-

"It was the birdfect distraction I needed to not be thinking about the final," said Bobby, before looking sad. "Damn it, I'm thinking about it again." 

"Birdfect?" Fox laughed. "Points for effort!" 

"Let's not get sad now, guys," Hope clapped her hands. 

I absolutely did not imagine that, what the fuck. And he stopped Fox in the hallway the other day, blocking her path then checking her out behind her back… 

He grafted on her during the heartbeat challenge, I know that for sure. I know I've caught him giving her intense looks several times. How many other moments have I missed? 

The Islanders were discussing party plans but Lucas was having trouble focusing on what was being said, as his mind reeled. 

None of these on their own are a big enough deal to mention though. Am I just being jealous? I'm not worried about him stealing her, only that he might upset her. Is that jealousy too? I don't want to ruin her final days. 

I don't think Fox knows, she was focused on Bobby there. But she has said she doesn't feel as comfortable around him ever since the Priya thing. Thank fuck, we're nearly out of here. 

Lucas glanced at Fox, only to find her looking at him with a worried expression. He wrapped his arm around her and gave her a squeeze, forcing his body to relax. 

I need to stuff this down right now, there's only a couple of days at most to go. He might be being weird but there are no more recouplings. I don't want to worry my angel needlessly. 

Gary had entered the kitchen and slammed his water bottle down on the counter. 

"We need a real world party planned, for sure!" he cried, looking at Lucas for input. 

"Yes, we have got to do a party!" he agreed, putting his best grin forward. "I have actually been dying to meet your nan, Gary." 

"Yeah, we've heard so much about her," smiled Lottie. 

"She'd be so up for a party," said Gary, clearly delighted. "And I so want to, like, show you all off as the best mates ever." 

"Aww, Gaz," Fox grinned, leaning into Lucas. "That's so sweet!" 

"Yeah, c'mere," cried Bobby, pulling Gary into a massive bear hug. "You know you're proper gold, you are." 

Gary smiled broadly. 

"Great stuff," said Hope. "Where should we have it?" 

"At the Villa?" Lottie suggested. 

"Or how about on a beach somewhere," mused Chelsea, getting Fox's enthusiastic approval. 

"You know what else we need?" asked Hannah. 

"What?" said Noah. 

"A theme!" cried Chelsea. 

"Oh, yeah," Lucas smiled. "We need a decent theme." 

"Like a twenties Gatsby party thing!" enthused Hannah. 

Bobby pulled a face. 

"Or something else!" he grinned. 

"Let me think," said Lottie. "... Fox, help me out here!" 

"Yeah, what do you think, angel?" Lucas smiled at her. 

Fox thought for a moment before answering with a wide grin. 

"A spooky midnight ball!" 

"Yesssssss!" Lottie was ecstatic. "You totally read my mind. Every now and again we'll do a spirit summoning and dance with the lost souls. And I'll do readings in a little one-wheeled caravan adorned with swords and pentacles." 

"Whoah, okay," laughed Lucas. "You've really thought that through." 

"Goth goals for life, baby," Lottie smirked, winking at Fox. 

"Whatever we do, I'm totally up for this," Chelsea smiled. 

Hope and Hannah discussed how it would be the end of an era. 

"Imagine if it hadn't been us lot," said Lucas, as one of his anxious thoughts spilled out. "At so many points, any one of us could have gone home. Or they could have sent different people in here, or…" 

Fox pressed a kiss to his cheek, and he looked at her, his eyes shining. 

"I guess I'm just trying to say that I'm glad I ended up with you lot in here. I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Oh you guys," Lottie sniffed, wiping her eyes. "This. I'll miss this. I won't find people like you guys out there. You've totally changed me for the better. I don't want things to change. I'm really going to miss us all."

"Oh, hun," said Chelsea, starting a chain reaction of hugs. 

"I'm glad it's not just me feeling emotional," Bobby smiled. 

"Group hug!" yelled Lucas, surprising everyone including himself. 

The Islanders pulled each other into a massive cuddle puddle. 

"I love you guys," Bobby smiled. 

~~~

Fox emerged from the bathroom as everyone was settling in bed. Lucas lifted the duvet for her with a grin.

"Have I told you how much I love that outfit?" he asked softly, as she lay facing him in her silk and lace teddy. 

"Hm, I believe it might be my boyfriend's favourite," she smirked, and he beamed at her.

"I think that might be my new favourite word," he grinned, his heart fluttering. 

"You alright, hun?" asked Gary, sounding concerned. 

Lucas glanced over and saw that Lottie was still sitting in her bed next to a worried looking Gary. 

"You look like you've seen a ghost, Lottie," said Hope. 

"You were right, Hope," Lottie nodded, "about what you said earlier. "

"I mean, I usually am." 

Lucas rolled his eyes, making Fox giggle softly. 

"It's so quiet in here," Lottie murmured. 

"Oh hun it must be really hard for you," cooed Hannah. "You've been in here since the beginning." 

So have most of the people in this room… 

"Fox, you're one of the originals too!" she continued. "How are you feeling?" 

Fox blinked in surprise. 

"It does feel weird," she said. "So many people have left, but I guess we'll all be seeing them again soon." 

"Yeah," Lottie agreed, "it's amazing we've lasted this long." 

Lucas nestled his head against Fox, with a quiet sigh, and she pulled the duvet up and over them for some privacy.

"You doing okay, tiger?"

"Yeah," he smiled as she stroked his cheek, before resting her hand on the back of his neck. "I was feeling pretty anxious earlier." 

She nodded. 

"Is it because we're near the end do you think?" 

"Partly," he really didn't want to bring up the Noah stuff until after they exited.

It's too near the end, I just want her to enjoy this. 

She snuggled closer to him as the room fell silent. 

"Only two more nights at most and we'll finally get our own room," she smiled, and he grinned at the thought.

"I love being close like this," he said softly, as she pressed against him. "Would you like to get closer and… you know? No pressure, obviously." 

Sigh, not smooth. 

She smirked, and ghosted her lips up his throat with a quiet purr. 

"Yes, please." 

I'm definitely not the smooth one! 

He slowly undressed her, taking his time as his hands caressed her skin, letting his mind fill up only with her. 

"You are insatiable," she purred.

"Oh, not at all," he winked, "I just enjoy being satiated very very much…" 

She chuckled, and kissed him gently. 

"I love seeing you like this," he murmured. 

She hooked a finger under his chain, and growled softly. 

"Why don't you show me what you're working with, tiger?" 

"You don't have to tell me twice," he answered, biting his lip. 

Lucas took plenty of time undressing, moving with complete confidence as he kept his gaze fixed on her as she appreciated the view, her fingers softly stroking his skin, and her eyes darkening. 

"Like what you see?" he smirked, pulling her close.

"Oh, very very much," she purred, before putting a finger over his lips.

His heart rate jumped, remembering a previous time she'd done so, and she leaned in to whisper in his ear. 

"The room is so empty though, we're both gonna have to be quiet…" 

He nodded, and decided he knew exactly how to play this. Moving slowly, he firmly pinned her beneath him using his entire body, and he stretched her hands above her head, under the pillow, holding her wrists in his left hand.

Her breath stuttered, her hips responding, and he pinned her harder, pressing her into the bed. He bit his lip as he watched her face, flushed already with parted lips, and he leaned in to whisper in her ear. 

"Angel, will you submit to me?" 

He felt her body tremble instantly, as she choked back a moan.

"Yes."

His dominant streak roared into life, spitting fire through his veins. He wasn't going to take this as far as he could - they both had to stay quiet, and truthfully Lucas preferred it when she flipped the tables on him.

But seeing her panting beneath him, so obviously turned on, as he slowly caressed her neck, over and across her breasts, and heading lower still, she looked… 

Fucking gorgeous. 

He cupped her lightly below, barely pressing upon her, as he used his teeth and tongue on her neck, down to her breasts and back, finding and teasing and biting every sensitive spot. 

"So wet for me, angel," he growled quietly, feeling her pulse race against his lips. "Be good and stay quiet for me." 

She gave the tiniest whine, and he lifted himself, flipping her beneath him so her front was pressed against the mattress, her hands back above her beneath the pillow. 

"Keep your hands where they are," he breathed his order, trailing his hand down her arms and resting it on her neck. "Move them, and I'll stop immediately, okay?" 

She nodded, her eyes slightly glazed, and he ran his tongue up her spine, making her shudder. 

He wasn't into choking, knowing from his work exactly how dangerous it could be, and that she had past trauma around it. Her own method of resting her hand with just the barest hold around the bottom of his neck or pulling on his chain was absolutely fine, as it was about control rather than restriction, but he knew he didn't have her measure of control. 

He shivered as he remembered her promise of a collar for him, and quickly realised he needed to put that out of his mind right now as otherwise, even after a day of sex, this would be embarrassingly short. 

Dominant past Lucas really wouldn't know what the fuck he was missing out on… 

Instead he had something else planned but first, he repositioned his right hand, feeling how wet she was as he pressed her body down against both his hand and the bed. He could feel her trying to thrust, to get some friction, but he held her more tightly and rewarded her only when she was still. 

When his fingers began to circle, her back arched deliciously, and he ran his left hand beneath her neck, wrapping his hand across her mouth. He felt her tighten immediately against his other hand, making him even harder, desperate to sink himself deep inside her.

"Remember you can move your hands at any point to stop, angel," he breathed against her ear, and he grinned when she winked cheekily at him. 

He gently pushed his finger into her, holding back a groan at how tight she was, and she licked against his left hand. He bent his middle finger between her lips, and she sucked him into her mouth, as he fucked her with his other hand. 

Jesus-

Lucas laid a path of bites and kisses across her shoulders and up her neck as he moved his right hand back, Fox protesting by sucking his finger harder, but as he started drawing circles again he saw her struggling to stay quiet. He lined up his aching length against her as his fingers pressed harder, feeling her tremble beneath him. He kept checking her hands were still beneath the pillow, watching her closely for any stress or tension, and revelling in her arousal. 

He pushed into her, as slow as he could manage, biting back his own groan. She was already clenching around him, tighter than sin, and he kept her on the edge with shallow thrusts, entering her over and over again, never deep, not allowing her that final release.

Normally he'd spend far longer on foreplay but circumstances conspired against him, so he took his time gradually increasing his depth, making sure he was teasing, not hurting. He knew already that pain was indeed something she sometimes desired, but without clear communication at present-

Something to revisit when we leave. If we can work out how I can do it with her if she wants it… I'm not sure I can hurt an angel. 

"Don't come until I tell you, Fox," he growled softly against her ear as he finally bottomed out, her eyes rolling back slightly.

Still circling his fingers, and pressing her into the bed, he moved again, fucking her deep and slow. He was drowning in pleasure, his mind filled with suggestions of making her come over and over again, under and around him, and he shuddered as she ran her tongue against his finger, wantonly. 

Fox was trembling from head to toe, his angle inside her driving her pleasure to new heights. Her soft moans started to escape, and he repositioned his left hand to keep her silent as his dominant side completely took over. 

He wanted to keep her like this as long as possible, right on the edge, lost in pure bliss as he teased her with his fingers and fucked deep inside her, tight and wet and-

Fucking mine. 

"So fucking beautiful," he whispered, pressing kisses across her shoulders and up her neck, his own breath stuttering. "My angel. Mine."

He felt her shudder at his words, and he bit down on her shoulder hard with the last 'mine', claiming her again, as his blood roared and she clenched harder around him. 

MINE. 

Lucas softly murmured praise against her ear as he kept his movements slow and deep, her trembling, her tightness and his angle combining to push him right to the edge as well as her. He drew them both out, as far as he could without snapping himself, until he was dripping with sweat and her eyes were completely dazed. 

He ran his teeth against her skin, making her contract around him, and rejoiced in her love of his feral side and that he could never, ever get enough of claiming her, marking her, embracing his need to bite down on that he loved the most. The inflicted silence was frustrating, he desperately wanted to hear her moan and mewl, to let out his own growls and snarls, secure in the knowledge that it drove her wild. 

She was shaking now, desperate, and he could see her eyes shining as she desperately tried not to climax beneath him. He picked up his pace, still slow enough to stay quiet as he pressed his forehead against her taut body, barely holding on himself, his body liquid fire. The odds of him staying silent when he broke were slim to none, the pleasure indescribable. 

So close-

"So good, angel," he growled softly. "You've been so good for me." 

He watched her swallow hard, her back arching deliciously against him. 

"Remember, no noise," he breathed, pressing his fingers against her firmly, as if he could meet where he was fucking her within. "Come for me, angel."

He swallowed back his own groan as her body immediately sang beneath him, forcing her even tighter around him, and he breathed her name, over and over again as she flew apart until

FUCK-

He slipped his hand from her mouth, pulling her back by the chin and crashing his lips against hers as he came, his orgasm short circuiting his mind and stretching on and on as he emptied inside her. Her hand flew back behind his head, not to stop him, but to wind through his hair, pulling his kiss harder, desperate, against her. 

When she pulled away for breath, he fluttered kisses across her shoulders, back, neck, hand, face and hair while he recovered, as she smiled, dazed. He ran his hands underneath her, holding her to him as he lavished her with soft kisses, until he was able to properly move. 

Fox stretched beneath him, feline-like, and he grinned, slipping himself out from her and moving onto his side, cleaning her softly and himself, before pulling her flush against him, caressing and kissing her deeply until she came fully back to him.

Of all the things he loved doing, this closeness, deep kisses, slow pleasure as their heart rates climbed back down, entangled together… this was his favourite. 

"You're amazing," he breathed, stroking her cheek. "You really are an angel." 

"Only for you, tiger," she said huskily with a smile. "That was incredible…" 

She pulled him into another kiss, just as a loud bird call sounded, and Lottie called out. 

"Whoah, what's going on over there?" 

Fox blushed cutely and Lucas huffed a laugh, kissing her forehead. 

"Big Daddy got sum fuk," quipped Bobby, and Fox burst out laughing. 

"It sounds like it!" cried Lottie. 

"Sorry Lola," said Lucas. "I didn't mean to steal your bird." 

Lottie cackled. 

"Let's all settle down now," called Hope, and the room fell quiet. "Gosh with fewer people here it sure is easier to get you lot to be quiet." 

A soft thump sounded. 

"Hey!" Hope yelled. "Who threw that pillow?" 

Lucas snickered, as his angel pressed herself against him, pulling him into another deep kiss. 

~~~

Chapter Text

Lucas woke up to the sound of people chatting. 

"What's going on?" he asked sleepily. 

"Nothing, tiger," said Fox softly. "Go back to sleep." 

She found his hand under the duvet and gave it a squeeze, tracing her thumb across the back of his hand. 

Ah, it's something then. 

"Mm, okay," he said, in the same sleepy voice, snuggling back down.

Bed sheets rustled as people got up. 

"Come on ladies," Lottie murmured, before she became inaudible to his ears. 

He heard retreating footsteps and peeked out to see Fox pretending to look for something in the bedside cabinet. As soon as the dressing room door shut, she turned back to him with a smile. 

"It's prom night," she whispered. 

"What, are you serious?" his eyes twinkled as he whispered back. "Am I going to get to see you even more dressed up?" 

"If you pretend I didn't say anything," she winked. "The girls have to go out shopping for outfits and it's supposed to be a secret."

"I reckon I can manage that, angel," he smiled. "It'll be well worth the reward! Thank you for telling me before you go." 

"Of course, tiger," she kissed him. "I've gotta go but I'll be back soon." 

"Have fun!" 

He smiled to himself as she left. Waking up to an empty bed wouldn't have provoked the same reaction as it used to, but the fact that she always told him before she left gave him such a massive boost.

His anxiety had flared last night and the more he could avoid it today, the better. He moved across onto her side of the bed, and fell asleep dreaming of spring. 

~~~

"Hey, I got a text!" Noah foghorned. "Hang on, where are the girls?" 

The boys woke up alone in their beds, blinking in confusion.

"What does the text say?" asked Lucas, trying to look puzzled. "That might explain it." 

Noah nodded, and swiped on his phone. 

"Boys, you have a top secret mission to learn some killer dance moves to teach the girls for tonight's Love Island Prom. The girls are currently away on their own mission but will return before noon." 

"Whoah!" cried Bobby excitedly. "Prom?!" 

"There's some dance step instructions included as well," said Noah. "Which maybe make sense to someone who isn't me." 

"Let's get some breakfast and get cracking!" Gary grinned. 

"Is prom actually a thing here?" asked Henrik, as Gary nabbed the shower.

"Not really," said Bobby. "Or maybe it is now at schools but not a few years back at least. Unless you were at posh school maybe?" 

He looked at Lucas with a smirk. 

"Nah," Lucas shook his head. "No school I went to had one. Just, like, the Christmas dance or similar, though that was longer ago. But prom as an adult sounds much better anyway!" 

"That's true, we can drink non-sneakily at this one," Bobby grinned. 

"And with beautiful women," added Henrik. 

"I can't wait to see what the girls are wearing," said Lucas dreamily. 

"That's a shout," said Gary, emerging still dripping wet as Noah ran to the shower behind him. "What do we wear?" 

"Like, the formal clothes you brought," Bobby explained. "Y'know, for the final if you made it. Nobody cares if guys wear the same thing twice. Which isn't exactly fair." 

Henrik nodded. 

"You did bring something formal, right Gaz?" asked Lucas.

"Er." 

"Mate, what were you gonna wear to the final?" 

"Just my slightly nicer jeans! They've got fewer rips." 

"Oh my god." 

~~~

This dance is going to be a farce. 

Lucas had tried everything. One-on-one demonstrations. He'd danced with a mop. Lined them all up and gone full drill sergeant. But it was hopeless. These men were not for dancing. 

"At least we probably won't have to dance this way for long," he sighed. "They'll stick the other music on and then you'll be fine." 

"Aww, c'mon man," Henrik wheedled. "Let's try the line method one more time, I almost had it!" 

He took them through the steps a few more times, as Gary and Bobby proceeded to crash into everyone. 

Bobby attempted to pirouette, spun in a half circle, wobbled and thumped into Gary, who grabbed onto Noah to stop himself falling. 

"Well this looks exciting," Hope's amused voice rang out. "What are you trying to do?" 

Lucas looked up to see the girls had returned, with Fox in the same outfit she'd worn to the supermarket the week before, and he felt his grumpiness lift from his shoulders. 

Booty shorts! 

"We're practising our dance moves, babe," explained Noah. 

"Can't you tell?" Bobby winked, attempting another spin, as he barged into Noah. 

The guys continued to explain their dancing escapades as Fox made her way over to Lucas. 

"You like what you see?" she smirked, knowingly. 

"Mmhm," he grinned, and pulled her in for a kiss. 

"What dance have they been trying to learn?" she asked, as the boys fell over again in their demonstrations. 

"It's a basic box step moving to your left," he sighed. 

"Oh dear." 

"I've tried everything!" 

She laughed.

"As long as they have fun, tiger." 

Noah and Gary were dancing together, as Gary spun in the wrong direction and ended up pressed against Noah's chest. 

"You two make a good couple," Lottie grinned. "But you know you're meant to end with a kiss right?" 

Gary blushed and Fox let out a wolf-whistle. Noah winked and leaned in to kiss Gary briefly. 

"Oh em gee, amazing!" Lottie fanned herself. 

"You're not a bad kisser to be fair," Gary grinned. 

"You okay, tiger?" asked Fox, and Lucas realised he'd tensed up. 

"I am now," he smiled. "May I have this dance, angel?" 

She smiled and stepped towards him, as he wrapped his arm around her waist, and took her hand in his. He looked up to see that the other couples had done the same. Gary was giving out the instructions. 

"Just forward, left, for you," Lucas murmured. "Box to the left." 

Fox nodded, relaxed in his arms and he grinned. He pressed his body tighter to hers, glad he could finally dance properly. He guided her effortlessly, and she moved like silk, laughing for the twirl. 

"Beautiful," he said softly, and she blushed happily. 

"That's my foot, babe!" yelled Lottie, and Fox paused in concern.

"Sorry," said Gary. "Did you go right instead of left?" 

"Babe, you went right," she sighed. 

"No I didn't!" Gary grumbled before reciting the steps again. 

"Yeah, and which way is right?" 

Gary pointed to his right. 

"Babe, I'm facing you," Lottie corrected him. "That's my left." 

"Oh yeah, you're right."

"No, she's left," Bobby joked. 

Lucas shook his head. 

"I've had this all morning," he groaned. 

"Aww, tiger," she pulled him into a hug before taking up her dancing position again. "Shall we?" 

He smiled, guiding her by the small of her back as they danced. 

"I love being close to you like this," he murmured happily, and her eyes sparkled. 

Lottie and Gary were arguing again about direction, and Fox laughed softly. Lucas realised they were literally dancing circles around the others, and he slowly relaxed again as they moved.

"You're so good at this," he smiled. "I don't think I ever really got how fun dancing could be before. It always felt more like work." 

"Dancing should always be fun," she said firmly, "otherwise it's just moving to instructions. I am however, a huge fan of not being stepped on." 

He laughed, before spinning her and pulling her back into his arms. 

"We do make an incredible team," he grinned. "I don't know that we need the same amount of practise time as the others really."

"Ohh," a look of mischief appeared on Fox's face. "In that case, maybe we should sneak back inside?"

A thrill of excitement ran through him at the promise barely hidden in her words.

"Well," he smirked, guiding their dance a little further from the others, "I have been feeling rather tense…" 

~~~

"I think in here is probably- unf-" 

Fox kissed him hungrily as Lucas fumbled with the door handle, and he growled loudly at the feel of her teeth teasing his lips.

Feral angel, jesus chri-

He banged the door shut behind them and trapped her against it, leaning into her hard as she clawed his chest and shoulders, getting rid of his shirt in an instant.

They were unlikely to be disturbed here as the group bathroom was closer to the dance practise, and while normally the fact this room echoed out every sound was a deterrent, right now it scarcely mattered.

"Fuck," he moaned as her tongue found his neck, "I can't keep my hands off you in those damn shorts."

"Good," she purred, "because I very much want your hands on, and in, me…"

Holy shit-

If ever he came close to straight up ripping through her clothes it was now, and as he undid the buttons of her shorts, he tried to slow down his mind so that he could actually take his time.

He growled loudly and heard her breath immediately stutter. Meeting her eyes he saw the familiar daze in her blown pupils, and grinned wolfishly. 

Still in a submissive mood perhaps… 

He shoved her shorts down and out the way as she wiggled free, and as he removed his own he quickly realised his mistake as she sank to her knees before he could stop her, and had his hard length firmly grasped and against her tongue. She maintained eye contact as she wrapped her lips around him and he struggled hard not to break completely.

"Fucking christ!

Her eyes were positively sinful as she sank him inside her mouth, purring in pleasure as she moved, and his brain totally failed to keep up with coherent thought as flames of arousal swept across him.

Lucas put his hand into her hair and she whined in delight, and-

What the fuck does she do to me?

-with a godly amount of willpower he pulled himself out from her and lifted her to her feet as she licked her lips and pouted.

"Good angel," he growled, noting the way her body responded immediately against his as he pressed her into the door. "Any more of that and I'm not going to be able to fuck you as much as I want."

Fox moaned loudly as he kissed her, and even with her pinned completely, somehow her hand found him where he strained against her, still wet from her mouth, and started working him over. He snarled, biting into her shoulder, and pulled her hands up above her head, pinning them to the door.

"Hm," he leaned in close to her ear, growling softly, "seems like you really can't get enough of my hard cock, angel." 

She shuddered and ran her tongue along her teeth with a small growl. He kissed her roughly, following her response, as she moaned into his mouth. She was trying to grind against him, and he shifted her wrists so he was pinning her with his left hand, his right drifting down her body, not quite far enough.

Lucas pulled back and smirked at her frustration, knowing fine well she was able to easily break his hold if she wanted. Fox raised her eyebrow in a challenge and the beast within him howled at the sight of her kissed lips, flushed cheeks, and burning eyes pinned by the one she belonged to. 

"I think I heard you say," he smirked wickedly, "something about wanting my hands on you?"

"Fuck, yes, please, Lucas," she breathed, and he delighted in how far she had already come undone.

"I like it when you beg, angel. So beautiful."

He wasn't going to push her too far, that was something to be saved for when they had true privacy, but he growled at her reaction, as she continued to whine her begging at him, desperate for his touch.

He stroked his fingers against her folds gently, and she jumped at the contact, her body electric. He kissed his way up her neck, running his teeth against her skin.

"So wet for me, my perfect angel."

She was panting at just his teasing, and he dropped one of his fingers lower, circling her entrance but never fulfilling the promise. She whined needily, making his own breath stutter as he was desperate to sink inside, but seeing her like this, so wanton and dishevelled, was wonderfully delicious. 

"What do you need, angel?"

"Fu- in me, need you in me-"

"Hmm? With this?" he pressed his finger just inside her, "or with this?"

He leaned against her more heavily, letting her feel where he strained against her, hard as fuck.

"Both," she gasped, and he smirked.

"What a needy angel," he growled, and she trembled against him, slicking his fingers all the more. "But where exactly are you wanting them to go? Between your sinful lips? Or down here where you're so very soaked for me…" 

"Anywhere," she breathed.

"That's a dangerous word to use, angel."

"I mean it." 

Bloody fucking hell. 

"We're, uh, definitely revisiting that at a later date," he managed as she winked at him through her arousal. 

Lucas pushed two fingers into her roughly and she swore loudly.

"Fuck, yes, yes, more," she babbled and he snarled, pulling his fingers out as she whined brokenly.

He dropped his hand from her wrists and lifted her up against the door, barely giving her time to realise what was happening before he thrust into her.

So tight, fuck, more-

Fox yelled his name as he fucked her, her head tipped back, and he ran his tongue up her throat as she locked her ankles behind him and scratched up his back. He groaned into her skin, kissing her fiercely, and moved one hand down her body to press firm circles against her, as all manner of praise and filth spilled from her mouth.

"Be a good angel," he murmured as he gazed into her fiery eyes, "and don't come until I tell you to."

She mewled against him, her body clenching around him giving away just how much she approved. He snapped his hips harder, adjusting her position so he was pushing against the spot that drove her wild as his fingers tortured her relentlessly. The night before he'd deliberately taken her to the edge, but now he was practically forcing her over it, daring her to hang on by her willpower alone.

He was overwhelmed with arousal and pleasure, the rest of the world had long disappeared until only he and his wanton angel existed, his frustrations and worries long forgotten.

"You feel so fucking amazing," he rasped against her, his control fraying. "My angel…"

"Yours," she purred, running her hands up his chest, and resting one at the bottom of his throat, making him instantly tremble, "and you're mine, Lucas."

"FUCK-" 

Lucas pressed his fingers down hard as he slammed into her again and again, and she cried out his name as her body was drawn taut as a bow, desperately trying to fulfil his command, to wait until he allowed her. He leaned in close to her ear, letting his warm breath fall across her.

"Come for me, Fox," he breathed and she shattered against him, tightening around him over and over again until he suddenly felt her teeth on his shoulder and his vision whited out as he came hard, yelling her name.

"Fuck me," he panted finally, when he regained the power of speech.

"Again?" she quipped, and he huffed a laugh, kissing her long and slow.

He fluttered kisses across her face and neck, his hands running softly across her body as he lifted his weight from her but kept her wrapped around himself. He could feel her heart hammering against his chest, as he turned so his back was against the door and carefully sank to the floor, keeping her in his arms.

"You are amazing," she punctuated each word with a kiss as he smiled. "That was seriously hot!"

"I'm glad you liked," he grinned, brushing his nose against hers, "because I certainly liked also." 

"You think they heard us?"

"I think I don't care," Lucas smirked, and she laughed, moving in for more slow kisses as they cooled down.

~~~

The couples were still crashing into themselves and each other as they practised their dance, and Lottie let out a loud wolf-whistle as Lucas and Fox tried to sneak back out.

"Busted!" laughed Fox, blushing, and he grinned. 

A phone beeped and everyone paused. Lottie was holding her phone up. 

"I hope you've all had enough practise," she said, "because there's one more thing we all need to do to get ready." 

She read out the text. 

"Islanders, you will each give a speech tonight about how much your partner means to you. Lottie, Hannah, Chelsea, Fox, and Hope, please head to the bedroom to write your speeches." 

"Ooh," Fox lit up. "I love it!" 

"I agree," nodded Hannah. "Writing a speech is our chance to put our feelings into words and tell someone how they really make us feel."

Haven't we already done that? I guess maybe not everyone has… 

"How am I supposed to do that?" Lottie asked, glancing at her partner. "I look at Gary and all I see is this hunky guy who I know would fix my washing machine for me. Is that romantic enough?" 

"I'm so lucky to have you," said Gary, laughing. 

"I'll help you," Hannah chirped. "This is totally my thing." 

"I'm never gonna live up to what you write, babe," Bobby looked glum as the girls left for the bedroom. 

Fox squeezed Lucas's hand, and chased after them. 

A phone beeped, and Gary held up his phone. 

"Same thing," he grinned. "Except we've to head to the couches." 

~~~

There was a pile of blank sheets of paper and a stack of pens on the coffee table. 

"Private dance practise was it?" Gary waggled his eyebrows.

"A gentleman never tells, Gaz," Lucas smirked, and busied himself choosing a pen and some paper. 

"Phew, anyone done this before?" asked Bobby, changing the subject. 

"Nope," Gary shrugged. "I mean I've passed notes but they were pretty, uh, direct." 

"Yeah, this is more love letter territory," said Noah. "Or I guess wedding speech vibes?" 

"Don't say that," laughed Henrik. "Lucas will run straight through the walls!" 

"Hah!" Lucas smirked. "I may have changed my stance on that one." 

He laughed at the shocked faces on all sides. 

"Bloody hell," Gary grinned. "This place really does change a man!" 

"Anyway," said Lucas. "It's just writing down what your long whatsapp messages would be isn't it? Like the stuff you think at night when your heart gets all mushy." 

"Aww, you," Henrik laughed. "I'm just not great with words honestly. I can, like, show someone how I feel. But words are hard. And Chelsea uses… just… I mean, so many words." 

"What about you Noah?" Bobby was definitely procrastinating.

"I really don't know," he sighed, staring at his blank paper. "I'll probably keep it short." 

The other guys exchanged glances but said nothing.

"I'm starting to panic," Bobby was vibrating, "I really don't know…" 

"Ask one of the girls for help," suggested Gary. "Fox helped you for the talent show." 

"Yeah… I might have to."

Bobby sighed, and headed off towards the bedroom. 

It can't be easy knowing what to write for a friendship couple.

"Bloody hell, how much have you written already?" Gary stared at Lucas's paper. 

"I'm a melt, remember," he grinned. 

~~~

Bobby came running into the bedroom. 

"What did I miss?" 

"We've just gotta get ready for this evening, mate," Gary replied. 

"Yeah, and we're banned from the dressing room," added Henrik. "Once we're ready we've to go wait outside."

"Did you get help with your speech?" Lucas asked. 

"Yeah, Fox sorted me out," laughed Bobby. "We went up to the roof terrace and wrote it. It's pretty short but at least I'm not gonna be praising Hannah's nonexistent workout routine." 

Hah! 

"Bloody hell Bobs," Gary shook his head with a grin. "Right, do I look okay?" 

Oh dear god. 

"You're looking…" Lucas struggled to find the right words, "very you." 

Gary beamed. As Lucas looked around he realised they didn't look half bad as a group. Noah was in blue trousers with a white and blue pin striped shirt, and Henrik scrubbed up pretty well in a smart casual combo of denim shirt and smart dark green trousers. 

Bobby looked bang on trend with pastel teal jeans, and a dark green and orange leafy blazer over a white top. Gary looked like… Gary. A half tucked dotted grey shirt, ripped jeans and work boots. 

Lucas himself was wearing a slightly metallic anakiwa blue suit, with a white deep necked shirt, and a black belt and pocket square. This had deeply impressed the other guys. 

Dang, am I more stylish or just more old? Or both. Both is good. 

He was excited to see what Fox was wearing, and as they headed outside he could tell the other guys were getting pretty hyped up too.

The garden was decorated with flowers and lights, with a big arch standing in the centre and a seating area arranged in front of it. Anywhere else the setup would have given major wedding vibes, and Lucas was somewhat relieved that was no longer a source of agitation for him. 

Not that I'm planning marriage any time soon, but knowing that Fox doesn't like the whole white wedding spectacle and that I want to make all the commitments to her, really takes the pressure off. 

"This is pretty magical," murmured Bobby. 

A door clicked, and the boys turned to look as the sound of heels approached. 

"They're coming one by one," Lucas grinned. "We're getting a show." 

Hannah came round the corner, striding forward in a blue two piece with a thigh high split.

Huh, I thought she'd go more vintage style. 

Bobby greeted her and twirled her as she laughed. 

The door clicked again, and this time it was Hope, wearing a dark green dress with puffy sleeves that split on both thighs. The colour certainly suited her, and her hair was… 

Uh… different. 

Lottie came round the corner and Gary nearly fainted on the spot. She was wearing a new black spiderweb of lace which was incredibly sexy and not even remotely a prom dress. As she stepped up to Gary, the poor man could only wheeze as she smirked. 

Haha, well played. 

Another click and Chelsea bounced round the corner, forgoing the cool strut of the other girls. She was in a baby pink strappy dress, with her hair up in space buns. 

Henrik laughed as she ran into his arms. 

Actual Baby Spice! 

A softer click, and even if she hadn't been last, Lucas would have known it was Fox. She came round the corner confidently rather than strutting, and he grinned as he saw her looking him up and down with an appreciative smile.

She looks absolutely beautiful. 

She was wearing a nearly white silver dress that clung to her bust and waist before flaring out slightly while keeping her hourglass figure, complete with a deep slit to above her thigh. The body of the dress had a pattern of crystal clear jewels, that wound into the skirt like falling leaves or the feathers of angels. She looked fit for a red carpet, and Lucas felt like the luckiest man on the planet. 

Her hair was mostly slicked back and a little dishevelled, her eye makeup dark and sophisticated, for a look that contrasted amazingly with her delicate angelic dress. 

Lucas realised belatedly he had no idea what the other couples had been talking about, because he'd been so focused on waiting for his angel. 

He stepped forward to meet her with a goofy grin on his face. 

"You look incredible," he breathed. "I'm so lucky." 

He wrapped his hands around her waist, and leaned in to kiss her. She met his lips passionately, her tongue chasing his as he dipped her. 

"And this is why I gave up wearing lipstick," she laughed, as he nuzzled her cheek. "You look gorgeous, tiger." 

"Why, thank you," he beamed. 

"So… party time?" Gary asked.

Lucas picked up two glasses, and handed one to Fox with a smile. 

"I'm so nervous about these speeches," Chelsea sighed. "I've never really done anything like this before." 

"It's not so different from what we've been doing round the fire pit, Chels," Fox reassured her. "Just be yourself!" 

"That's great advice," said Hannah. "Just listen to your heart and you'll be fine." 

"My heart's all a-flutter, loves," Chelsea laughed. 

Lottie stepped in to walk her through some breathing exercises, before her phone interrupted. 

"Islanders, it's time to make your Declarations of Love. Each couple will stand under the arch and give their speeches. Chelsea and Henrik will go first." 

Lucas took his paper out of his pocket as he sat down next to Fox in the back row, reading it over. He didn't get anxious about public speaking, but he wanted to be sure he got this right, and he tuned out of what was going on. Fox leaned against him, and he wrapped his arm around her as he read. 

"Aww," murmured Fox, as everyone started clapping. "She really managed to say what was in her heart." 

Two more rounds of applause went by, and Fox nudged him. 

"Bobby's up next," she whispered. 

"Oh yeah, he was made up that you helped him," he smiled. 

Bobby unfolded his speech, and cleared his throat. 

"So, I'm going to keep this short and sweet… Just like Hannah."

"Babe, you always know how to make me laugh," Hannah broke out into a grin, with widened eyes. 

Strong start! 

"You might not always be the centre of attention," Bobby continued, "but you're the only person I want to be around at a party. I love how you're always down to chill by the pool, and talk about anything and everything. I love how passionate you are about the things you love, and how much you enjoy sharing those passions. I love being around someone like that."

"That's my bit over," Fox whispered. 

It was spot on too, Hannah's made up. And with the directness, she did get it to sound like Bobby!

"But most of all, I want to say…" said Bobby. "You've made this entire experience the most amazing thing I've ever done. I've never felt this way about anyone before, but all I can see is you. And I've never met anyone who could make me feel like that." 

Hannah beamed at Bobby and kissed him on the cheek before they sat down, as Lucas felt a pain in his heart unlike any he'd felt before. 

That part wasn't about Hannah… they're in a friendship couple and she wasn't here for his entire experience this summer. There's only one girl that could be about. 

He joined the applause, trying to keep his feelings off of his face. In truth, he didn't know how he felt. It wasn't the familiar burn of jealousy. It wasn't fear of losing his angel. It wasn't like anything he'd experienced before. But in many ways, it was far worse.

I've hurt him so badly. He's my angel's best friend and she doesn't know… I can't know what would have happened if I hadn't arrived but… Fuck. 

He heard Fox telling Lottie she didn't need good luck as she stood to take her turn, but