“What do you think of the sea?” Charles says, suddenly. They’re in the reading room, absorbing the morning light and sitting on couches facing each other. There’s too much distance between them, Charles thinks irrationally.
“What do I think of it?” Sebastian pauses from his sketch; leaves blooming on the surface, followed by indecipherable tags in scrawly handwriting. “I quite like it. But I prefer greenery.” Ever the practical man. “Why do you ask?”
“I was thinking, er, would you like to go to the sea? With me?” He adds, upon Sebastian’s pensive expression.
“Sure, why not,” Sebastian says, easy. “Why don’t you get changed?”
Blood is roaring in Charles’ ears.
He decides to take Sebastian’s shorts which have been hanging around the neck of the sink for two whole days.
They go to the sea. Charles tells him that he can study the waves and eventually create hydro, uh, hydro—
“Hydroelectricity,” Sebastian yells at Charles’ miserable attempts at pronunciation. They’re in Sebastian’s car, rooftop open, Sebastian has one hand on the wheel and the other around the back of Charles’ seat, and Charles attempts to speak.
“Whatever,” Charles ends up saying, tongue heavy in his mouth. He covers his face with the back of his hand and tries not to stare at the sun.
It is blessedly quiet when they get there.
Wet soil springs beneath their feet; the two of them are topless, shirts abandoned by the shore, and they’re chasing one another as the waves come crashing towards the shore. Sebastian has his trousers rolled up to his knees, and Charles can’t help but laugh at the way he looks.
“Don’t laugh at me,” Sebastian frowns, leaning in to gently shove Charles, who retaliates in kind by wrapping his fingers around Sebastian’s wrist and pulling.
The both of them stare at each other, helpless.
After eternities pass, Sebastian takes one step back, nearly tripping over his feet. The loss of contact is immediately felt by Charles. The waves roar louder behind them.
Are you really afraid of what I think of you, Charles doesn’t say. Charles would set himself on fire to keep Sebastian warm.
Charles is acutely aware that he’s wearing Sebastian’s adidas gym shorts. Perhaps he’d picked them earlier this morning accidentally-on-purpose. He’s also aware of the way Sebastian’s gaze drops down to his bare thighs, and then guiltily focusing on the fine particles of the sand. He thinks if he lends Sebastian his body, he’ll do something interesting. He feels powerful for an entire stolen moment.
Charles is biting down so hard on his bottom lip that blood blooms.
Sebastian looks at him, he sees him, and he kisses Charles.
Charles feels as though he is falling from a building. Sebastian has a hand gripped around the back of Charles’ neck; Charles feels himself do the same for Sebastian, who laughs and presses their foreheads together, stunned.
Without thinking, Charles moves his hands to Sebastian’s hips, deepening the kiss. He feels his cheeks burning, the hair on his arms raising. “Huh,” Sebastian huffs after they break away. They refuse to let each other go. “Now what?” Charles’ mouth tastes of copper and the salt of the sea. He imagines Sebastian tasting him as well and he slowly starts to unfurl.
Madeleine Tomasoa (they/them) is a writer from Jakarta, Indonesia. They graduated with a BA in Politics, International Relations and Philosophy from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find them on Twitter @madeleinetms.