AU. But that makes it more fun. XD


Every morning Eiji would wake up before dawn.

This wasn't a big thing. His body was accustomed to it by now- it had only taken a few days at the start of the summer holidays to get used to it, but now his body woke him up at a quarter-past-five, right on cue. He'd shuffle to the kitchen in a bleary sort of contentment and turn on one light so he didn't wake anyone up. He'd make himself two pieces of toast (one with peanut butter and one with jam), wash his face and brush his hair. He'd leave the house alone and walk to the beach barefoot, the asphalt of the road still warm in the aftermath of yesterday's blistering heat.

The air was sweet and still humid over the road, but as he approached the beach in the beginnings of the morning light, Eiji could feel the whispers of the cool sea breeze playing over his skin. He felt vaguely happy.

Eiji worked in an ice cream shop. It sat at the end of a car park and overlooked the ocean. It was a beautiful place to work- first he would set up shop with the manager and another employee (a cute chirpy girl called Erika). Then they would watch the dawn break over the sea, watching the sky grow from pink to pale yellow to blazing orange while they waited for the first of the customers to trickle in for their morning coffee. There were already a few dedicated surfers and swimmers in the waves, looking like flecks of black spotted sparsely amongst the great expanse of water. Eiji reckoned he could tell their morning regulars apart in the sea, even from the distance of the car park. Erika laughed, and said Eiji didn't see things like ordinary people. His manager said could he restock the fridge, please.

Eiji had this job for the holidays. It was good as far as part time work went. He liked talking to the regulars in the early morning, and then looking out for familiar faces during the day. Eiji and Erika would make up stories about the lady who always bought four rainbow swirl ice creams for her four kids, or the grumpy man who only ever wanted half a scoop of pistachio. When Erika wasn't working, Eiji would make up stories on his own and tell her the next day. Sometimes he wouldn't make up stories at all, and felt sick of ice cream altogether… he knew all the flavours by heart and was tired of telling the customers which ones were fat free.

Sometimes he didn't share his stories with Erika. Sometimes she didn't get his jokes, either.

He wished he could spend his days like the surfers, hurrying over the hot sand into the water, sailing over the waves as quickly and smoothly as the speedboats that sometimes raced through the harbour. Eiji had never surfed. It was a dream of his.

Eiji started noticing people on the first day of work. People were really interesting. Very quickly Eiji identified the people who came to the beach every day, and simply sat and read under their umbrellas, venturing out over the scalding white sand for a quick dip, and then back again. There were young people too, in particular a group of three young men around Eiji's age. One of them would come up and order three cones, and give them to his mates. They'd eat them quickly, and then run down to the waves, hollering, clad only in boardshorts and effortlessly carrying their surfboards under their arms. They surfed all day, until they came back for another three cones in the evening with their backs painted brown by the sun. They always looked like they were having a lot of fun, but Eiji was certain that they weren't the type of people he'd hang around.

He and Erika called them the Boardshort Brotherhood.

About a week into his job Eiji started noticing more things. He'd distinguished the Boardshort three into the Freckled one, the Blond one and then the third who was made conspicuous by his absence. He'd never actually bought from the shop, he stood back from his friends while they ordered and paid them back once they'd brought him his cone. Eiji also didn't know which ice cream was his, as the order from the Brotherhood changed each time.

He was leaner than the others, which only made his movements more fluid and graceful. His skin was darker and browner than Eiji's, and didn't burn like the Freckled one. He didn't have much in the way of a hairstyle, but this drew more attention to the green eyes in his handsome face. Whenever his gaze met Eiji's by accident, Eiji felt as though he was the only person in the world, under intense scrutiny while the rest of his senses shimmered unsteadily like the heat-haze over the burning sand. The other boy would smile tentatively, and Eiji would do something funny to his lips in response, which he supposed was a smile but he could never be too sure.

This didn't happen very often. In his spare time Eiji speculated that the boy who never bought anything was deliberately avoiding him, and therefore that he was mean. He said so to Erika.

Erika said that he should loosen up and ask one of the Brotherhood out. Erika was nice that way, but sometimes she really didn't understand.

Because he was mean, Eiji initially thought the boy would be a pistachio person. Grumpy old men always bought pistachio ice cream. Erika thought he'd be coconut. Coconut could be sweet, though, Eiji argued, and the conversation ended in silly giggles because Erika said that the boy's head looked like a coconut. They got told off by the manager.

That day the boy wore navy blue boardshorts. Eiji messed up the Brotherhood's order because he was too busy tracing drops of salty sea water with his eyes as they trickled over the third boy's chest towards his waistline. The boy caught his gaze and smiled hesitantly. Eiji made them three coconut ice creams.

He didn't look like a chocolate person, or coffee ("Although his skin does," Said Erika, "Lovely and smooth and tanned." "Shut up," Said Eiji).

One day someone in the trio ordered rainbow swirl, but it turned out to be Freckles.

The third boy kept to hanging back behind his two friends, but he always had a curious expression on his face, hunted yet hopeful. Eiji noticed a different thing about him every day- today it was his hands. They were long and well proportioned, and touched everything they held with a sort of reverence. He held his surfboard carefully as he carried it to the shore, and once Eiji watched as he waxed it. He held the wax carefully in one hand, and Eiji watched as the muscles in his arm slid and shifted, so slowly and gently, back and forth, back and forth. Eiji supposed he would be the same with his lovers, tender and full of respect.

It made him a little hot under the collar, even though he was standing near the refrigerators. He resolved never to watch the boy wax his surfboard in such a deliberately erotic manner ever again.

Erika asked if he wanted to go to the local bar with her friends on Thursday. Eiji declined- it wasn't something he was especially into. He loved dancing but lounging around in bars full of smoke and loud noise wasn't something he was keen on- what was the point in talking to someone if you couldn't hear them? He supposed the Boardshort Brotherhood were hitting the bars on a regular basis- coconut-head was probably living it up with different girls every night. It made Eiji a bit angry, and as he watched the boy rub sunscreen into his smooth lower back he somehow felt that he had been wronged.

The boy was smiling at him more often.

"Why doesn't he just talk to you?" Erika asked.

Eiji thought he would explode if the boy spoke to him. Or just melt, like the ice cream running over the chins and hands of the four children with rainbow swirls.

Something funny happened on Thursday.

The third boy approached the store all by himself. He was dripping with water and panting slightly as he made the climb up the unstable hill of sand. He stood there for a while, looking at the menu, the ice cream, anywhere but at Eiji, and Eiji returned the favour by looking everywhere but at him. Eventually Erika took matters into her own hands and asked him if he wanted to order. He looked flustered and asked for a coke. As she passed it over to him, she asked in a chirpy voice why he was alone that day. He said that his friends were from colleges in a different region, and that he could afford to go back to study a little later, because he was a local boy. He kept stealing glances at Eiji from beneath his eyelashes, and Eiji pretended not to notice. Eiji thought he was doing a great job of surreptitiously listening in on the conversation, but as Erika told him later, it was fairly obvious something was up because nobody stacks a dishwasher only to unstack it again seconds later.

The next day Erika wasn't there, and Eiji was manning the shop by himself.

The boy came to the shop, wiping the water out of his green eyes. He looked at Eiji, who looked back. There was an excruciating moment when time seemed to get stuck, and simply refused to move forward. Eiji was transfixed. The intense stillness was only broken when the boy tore his gaze away, stepped towards the counter and said to the floor, "Um, I'd like an ice-cream, please."

"What flavour?" Eiji asked automatically.

"I, um, don't know. You choose for me."

Eiji thought he was doing a fantastic job of appearing calm and uninterested; inside it felt like a thousand millipedes were running a marathon in his stomach.

"How about coconut?"

"That'll be fine."

Eiji took his silver scoop, and prepared the ice cream painstakingly carefully and slowly. Their fingers touched when he passed it over, and their eyes met as they quickly pulled apart from the electric sensation.

"Thankyou, come again," Said Eiji, as the boy said "Don't I need to pay you?"

Eiji was kicking himself for days. Thankyou, come again!

The same thing happened the next day.

"What flavour?"

"You choose for me."

"How about coffee?" Eiji asked, staring at the boy's collarbone, at his neck, his arms.

That afternoon the boy introduced himself.

"I'm Shuuichiroh, by the way," He said, and grinned awkwardly as he fumbled with some coins.

This seemed to persuade Eiji out of his silence a little bit, and he mustered up some words. "You like surfing?"

Eiji had only been watching him do it every day for the past week.

Shuuichiroh jerked a little as he processed Eiji's words, and a spectacular smile broke out over his face.

"Yeah, I really do! It's a great feeling, even better than swimming. I love swimming too, especially in the ocean, on days like this. It's a rush, but it's sort of calming at the same time, don't you think? Have you ever been surfing?"

Eiji was taken aback by his sudden enthusiasm. "No, no, I haven't."

"That's a shame, you should do it sometime! Have you ever gone at dawn, or at night? Why don't you go after work?"

"I don't have a surfboard," Eiji said.

"Ah," Shuuichiroh looked pensive for a moment, but turned his attention to his ice cream when he realised it was melting over his hands. He laughed.

"I'd better… you know, go back." He tilted his head towards his board, lying on the sand.

"Yeah," Said Eiji, and watched him walk away.

He was struck by an afterthought. "I'm Eiji," He yelled.

Shuuichiroh grinned.

Eiji didn't tell Erika about the conversation the next day, but she did look at him suspiciously after Shuuichiroh spoke to him for twenty minutes about surfing, and colleges, and swimming and life.

"Are you studying?" He asked, and Eiji told him yes, this job was just for the holidays.

"Ah," Said Shuuichiroh.

He still didn't know which flavour he wanted, but it had turned into a sort of game.

"What about pistachio?" Eiji asked.

"Ugh, I thought only mean people ate pistachio," Shuuichiroh said.

Eiji returned his spectacular smile.

It was two weeks into the holidays, which meant there was only a week to go. Shuuichiroh surfed less and less, and talked to Eiji over the counter in the lull periods, when nobody wanted ice cream. He had tried every flavour now, so he and Eiji spent their time making up new and creative ones.

"Pistachio and liquorice together," Shuuichiroh suggested, "The Ultimate Mean Fix,"

Eiji sniggered. "Baileys, rum 'n' raisin and kaluha. The Alcoholic's Dream."

Shuuichiroh quietened a little at that, and looked at him from underneath his eyelashes.

"Do you drink alcohol? I mean, go out to bars, and… you know, do you go out? Do you want to go out?"

Eiji smiled a little forcedly. "Yeah… well, I can… I mean, I'd like to but I don't really do bars. They're so noisy… I always thought, what's the point of talking to somebody if…"

"…if you can't hear them?" Shuuichiroh finished, and looked at Eiji in delight as he stepped aside to let a grumpy man order half a scoop of pistachio ice cream.

As soon as the man was out of earshot they both burst into peals of laughter.

"I've got an idea," Shuuichiroh said, as he eagerly resumed his place by the counter. "I've got another surfboard at home… I could bring it along and teach you after you finish work?"

Eiji's mind was suddenly filled with images and fantasies of Shuuichiroh waxing not one but two surfboards, running to the waves with Shuuichiroh under a dark sky speckled with stars, Shuuichiroh holding him as he tried to balance, Shuuichiroh touching him like he touched everything else, gentle and tender and carefully powerful…

…and he said "Oh, no, no, that's okay, um, I have to get home, and clean up and things, you know…"

"Ah," Said Shuuichiroh, and smiled. He moved out of the way as another customer came to order, and picked up his surfboard to carry it down to the waves. He swam out with more vigour than usual.

Eiji hadn't forgotten the waxing incident, nor had he ceased watching the drips of water as they inched down Shuuichiroh's body and fell onto the sand. It was probably for the best, this way. There was nothing to suggest that Shuuichiroh preferred the company of a slightly abnormal ice cream boy; he was probably searching for mateship like he'd shared with the two that had left. That wasn't really Eiji.

"You're stupid," Said Erika. "Really really dumb, did you know that?"

Eiji gave Shuuichiroh coconut ice cream the next day, but he didn't stay to talk for very long. There were three days of the holidays left.

The crowds weren't as big as the holidays drew to a close. The mother with four children didn't come to the beach anymore, (she'd thanked Eiji for being so patient with her kids, though,) and Erika had left to go and set up her enrolment. Shuuichiroh was still there, but what he said that day made Eiji feel as though he'd swallowed concrete that had solidified in his stomach, cold and hard.

"I'm going back to college tomorrow," He said. "Yeah… it's been a great holiday, though."

Eiji stared at him, and felt flutters of panic dissipate throughout his body. "I'm free tonight," He blurted out. "Is it too late? Because that's fine, and it's ok, and…"

"No, no," Shuuichiroh said, looking surprised, "No, I can go and get the other board! When do you finish?"

"Six-thirty?"

"Ah, great, I'll come by at seven! How's that?"

"Fine," Eiji breathed, and when Shuuichiroh left, stumbling a little over his own feet, Eiji's manager sidled up to him and whapped him over the head.

"You two are disgusting," He said, but he was smiling. "You'll have a great time."

Shuuichiroh came at seven on the dot. The sun had just sunk below the horizon, and the first of the stars were visible in the clear sky. Nobody was on the beach, save Eiji's manager who was packing the last of his things into his car, and a few seagulls feasting on the leftovers he threw to them.

"Lucky it was so hot today," Shuuichiroh said with a grin, "Otherwise it'd be too cold. We should probably wear wetsuits."

'Ohh, no!" Eiji said before he could stop himself, anticipating losing his view. Shuuichiroh just smiled as he turned so Eiji could divest himself of his t-shirt, and made himself very busy.

"Now! The first thing we should do is wax the boards… it stops you slipping off when you're on the waves."

He lay the two boards side by side on the sand, and kneeled by one of them. Eiji did the same. He handed Eiji a spare lot of wax, and shivered visibly as their fingers barely touched. He took a deep breath and continued talking.

"So, just rub it on, back and forward like this…" Shuuichiroh began the motion, back and forward, only stopping to look up when Eiji didn't follow suit.

"W-what's wrong?" He asked. Their faces were too close together.

Eiji stared at him.

"We were going to get a new flavour of ice cream in tomorrow," He said. "Green tea."

Shuuichiroh chewed at his bottom lip, and blushed. "I, um, don't actually like ice cream that much. I don't actually like it at all."

Eiji looked crestfallen, but another expression soon blossomed over his face as a lot of things quickly began to make sense.

"Erika said I was stupid," He murmured, "Thick as two short planks."

He looked at the two surfboards lying together in the sand, and began to laugh. Shuuichiroh began to laugh too, and then before he knew it, Eiji was lying in the warm sand with another smooth body spread out on top of his, feeling one hand stroking his hair and neck, and his mouth coaxed open against another. Shuuichiroh kissed him almost shyly, but with an underlying sense of intoxicating power that had Eiji shivering, even in the last of the day's lingering heat. He could feel himself move imperceptibly under Shuuichiroh's touch, his bare skin electrified against Shuuichiroh's own naked torso... he felt his toes curling and his feet flexing, digging into fine silver grains.

He tasted salt, and young man, and something that might have been the last of vanilla ice cream.

"I thought I was going to teach you how to surf," Shuuichiroh murmured.

"This is better," Eiji replied, and resumed caressing Shuuichiroh with his lips.

They stayed like that for a long time.

Shuuichiroh stayed the night at Eiji's house, kissing him and touching his body with that same gentle power Eiji speculated he always had possessed.

Eiji had been jealous of Shuuichiroh's surfboard for ages… only now he thought dimly that the surfboard should really be jealous of him.

Somewhere in along the way they discovered they went to the same college.

Eiji received a text message from Erika in the morning.

"Did you learn how to surf?" She asked.

"Nearly," He replied, and felt an unexpected surge of grateful feeling for his manager. He thought he should send a card in thanks for his job.

"Look, Eiji," Shuuichiroh said, sitting at the kitchen table and eating some cereal. "It's got coconut and pistachio in it."

Eiji was torn between laughing and telling him to shut up, and kissing him. He did both.