“Could you get my back?”
“Of course, son.”
“Thanks, dad.” Daniel passed him the sunscreen. It was the resort’s house brand, with a real organic olive inside. Remarkable.
As he warmed it between his hands, Theodore thought that it had been a while since he’d heard either of those words. It had started ironically, as it always did. But then, quicker than ever before, it had become something special. Only a few days, and the word started getting… warmer. This wasn’t one of Daniel’s delightful bits, though he was smiling. And it wasn’t a new piece of vocabulary, though he did always over-use those when he first learned them. It was a real proposition, one that they went in on together immediately. And for the next twenty-three days after the papers were signed, it was perfect.
And then Hugh had Graduated.
As he started on Daniel’s left foot, he shook his head. The boys should have known. After all, Hugh had even told Benedict his plans. The only real surprise was that Benedict felt the need to keep that secret from Hugh’s brothers for nearly six years. And yet it had indeed come as a surprise to them when Hugh had announced he’d be not only moving out, but leaving the province entirely. Certainly not the obstacle to friendship it had been in Theodore’s youth thanks to the ubiquity of cellular phones. He smiled, thinking of The Fatherhood. But then, Daniel at least had never had to go from sharing a bed with someone to only sharing holiday cards.
So, that had been the peak. And the valley soon followed. He sighed, switching to the other leg. Daniel let out his own sigh, enjoying the Greek sun. Though Theodore maintained that Daniel’s position was unreasonable, even he recognized that there were rules to their engagement, and that games were only fun when players were held accountable. And Daniel certainly had. He rolled his eyes at the tanlines under his palms. The boy had been to this beach so often over the last ninety-nine days, and in such decreasing states of dress, he had developed a sort of digital ombre. So desperate, not just to get out of the house, not even to be seen out of the house, but to be seen having been seen outside. The boy was a wonder, beautiful and terrible as the dawn.
Theodore had no way of knowing how many other vacationers had been watching his sun rise all this time. Which of course had been Daniel’s intention. Daniel’s revenge. Daniel’s lesson. He smiled as he moved forward, needing to straddle Daniel to reach the lumbar region. Another noise, as his son turned his head. “I’m…”
So yes, Daniel had been his sherpa, but Theodore had descended into the valley under his own power. Inviting the Fatherhood into their game was a violation, no matter how often Daniel brought his own friends out to play. So, this summer had been his penitence. No homework to help with. No clothes to help with, on the theory that he was too old to appreciate such gestures. Seeing Daniel only at brief, tense, and increasingly early breakfasts.
And perhaps this, right here, was his sign that it was over. Daniel communicated in signs more often than in words, and it was incumbent on Theodore to read them if he didn’t want to get lost again. So Theodore started looking.
His hands had reached his son’s shoulder blades. Theodore thought he had taken time to examine every inch of his boy before, but he lowered himself to admire the three-dimensionality of it. How it tensed and fell and loosened and raised. Like a hackle, if a cat had one.
“Finally.” Theodore looked up, into the binary suns of Daniel’s eyes. They scorched him, not with malice but just by existing with the kind of beauty which couldn’t be viewed head-on without risking injury.
“I beg your pardon?” Theodore asked, meaning it in its fully literal sense. “If you’d hoped to be done faster, why not apply your sunscreen before coming here?”
“We were out.” No hesitation, but that meant little. Daniel had such conviction in his beliefs, but at his best, he also considered questions so fully. Little could be gained by measuring the fractions of a second between a question ending and Daniel’s lips moving. That didn’t mean Theodore could bring himself to stop watching.
“Hmm. You ought to have mentioned. I’d have acquired more.”
“I knew they had it here.”
‘Here’ was the least-populated section of the beach, which still meant he could see two other families from their blanket. “Why must you always leave such things to the last possible minute?”
“It’s not procrastination if you plan to get it done and then you do it. You almost missed your window before you even saw it was open.” He laid his head back down, as if that meant Theodore couldn’t hear the pout in his voice. He was still so young that way.
Ah, so Daniel had expected Theodore to ask to apply his sunscreen for him. No doubt had Theodore done so, however, Daniel would have accused him of perversion with the same melodic rapidity that characterized all his other responses. “Well played.” He lowered himself even further, kissing Daniel’s hair so as not to start laughing.
“Not that well,” Daniel objected, giving a shake of his head under Theodore’s lips. “Or you’d have gotten the point.”
“I understand the point,” Theodore promised. “You’ve conditionally forgiven me. Offering a modern olive branch.” The symbolism wasn’t hard to parse.
Daniel threw a look at him now, one of his frustrated looks that Theodore was very familiar with. “Dad,” he said. “You are the lamest pervert ever. You were supposed to be horny while you rubbed sunscreen on me.”
Theodore blinked, occupying himself by giving Daniel’s cheek a kiss whilst he considered that. Daniel, as ever, gave very little indication of a change of mood between ordinary and sexually invested. And he couldn’t even look between his legs for a hint. “Now, why didn’t you simply say that, son?”
“It’s not my fault you didn’t listen,” Daniel said, turning in place so he was facing upwards, and pressing against Theodore just a little. Ah.
No, it never was. Theodore reached down and undid the drawstring of his swimming trunks, then traced one of Daniel’s tanlines. “There are people around,” he murmured, his erection rising.
“Then I guess you’d better not make a scene, dad.”
Theodore grinned. “I shall do my very best, Daniel.” Theodore withdrew his member from his shorts, giving a tug at Daniel’s scandalously small swimsuit. It was tight and would be a challenge to remove without being obvious, and Theodore quite simply did not have the patience for that after ninety-nine days and two hours of Daniel insisting on being seen but not touched.
There would be time enough for undressing later. For now, Theodore took advantage of Daniel’s well-toned legs. “Keep these pressed together,” he said, sliding himself in between them, just below the bulge of Daniel’s swimsuit. “Stay low, and tight, and let me take care of the rest.”
“Giving me orders again already?” Daniel asked, his tone teasing now. There was a challenge in his eyes.
Theodore slid downwards, shuddering at the soft skin of Daniel’s inner thighs. “I am giving you instructions, son. Ones I expect you to follow.” It was the kind of semantic distinction that only Daniel had ever appropriately appreciated.
Daniel held onto Theodore’s arms, his small hands not coming even halfway around them, and he nodded once, holding his lower half perfectly still as Theodore began moving. Under the hot sun, Theodore tried not to be too obvious about thrusting, lest anyone look their way and object to how his family chose to close out the season.
On the other hand, how many people had seen Daniel lying out here, all summer, wearing next to nothing? Perhaps it would do them some good to see that Daniel belonged to someone.
He couldn’t help but kiss Daniel as he moved, a different kind of kiss this time, one to show him that no matter what, no matter how much had happened, he still loved Daniel. He always would. And Daniel, for his part, told Theodore the same thing with his tight grip, his half-closed eyes, with the way his breath fell on Theodore’s cheek, the way he held still even though he clearly wanted to thrust upwards, his barely-clothed erection straining against his inappropriate beachwear.
Daniel loved his father, and Theodore loved his son.
He spilled his seed with that thought at the forefront of his mind, his love of Daniel overtaking any other thoughts, reservations, priorities he might have had. He painted the interior of Daniel’s thighs white for the second time that hour, leaning down and murmuring formless words of devotion into Daniel’s ear as he did. Not apologies. Daniel didn’t want an apology, he never had. He never asked more than Theodore could give, and today he gave him his all. Theodore’s whole soul was his son’s, and he made sure they both knew it.
Theodore would have Daniel in his home for another four years, eight months, and twenty-eight days. But Daniel would have Theodore’s heart forever.
Once Theodore was spent, he smiled at Daniel, who had a frustrated look on his face. A finger on the tip of Daniel’s erection made the look disappear. Theodore trailed it up and down Daniel’s boyhood, then up to a centimetre above the cut of Daniel’s swimsuit. “I despise these tanlines you’ve cultivated.”
“I know,” Daniel said, smile forming into a smirk. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Lock you up for the entire fall until they fade, of course.”
“I have a better idea,” Daniel said, tilting up to whisper in Theodore’s ear. “Help me stand up.”
Theodore thought he’d misheard for a second, and frowned as he processed that. “Excuse me?”
“I know a good, organic way to get rid of tanlines within a few hours.”
“Do you?” Theodore asked, quirking an eyebrow even as he felt himself pulling his son to his feet. “And do you know an organic explanation that our neighbours in paradise will accept?”
Just then, his phone went off. It was the unique notification he’d set up for the Fatherhood’s discussion forum. He went to his knees and picked it up, looking up into Daniel’s smiling face. “Of course I do.” He unlocked it, and read the message.
Mad For Son: You’re the only prude on this beach, idiot.
Not In Costume: Welcome, friend.
Daddy’s Lullaby: My boy and I just landed. We’ll be at the beach soon. Has he finally started?
“As I was saying.” Daniel reached over, grabbing the bottle of sun lotion. His erection was still threatening to break free of his swimsuit. Theodore took the side of it in his teeth, before feeling a hand tilt his face up. He let it, not letting go. “I’m going to need more of this. You missed a few parts of me, dad.”