Ice Cream And An Apology
Eugene drags his bff Snafu on a vacation to Los Angeles six years after Snafu left him on that train. They end up on Santa Monica beach where they finally admit they might be in love, and it might've been brewing for a long while, and wow are they clueless sometimes. Ace Eugene and Snaf, written for @skelesocks who makes the best Ace Eugene content around, thank you! And who was sad that I made Eugene cry, so here is me making him feel better through Snafu. (their vacation date includes a tiki hut, ice cream, swing dancing, secret cliffside hotels)(I took all the parts I do like about living in LA and put them here)(the ballroom existed but it's torn down now, the hotel is a real place I stumbled on while hiking way too far down the beach but it's actually a 1930's pool building called Palos Verdes Athletic Club)(with bonus historical photos cause I'm a fucking nerd)
Two years into grad school Eugene decides he needs a proper vacation. The only reason Snafu knows this is because Eugene also decides Snafu is the person he's gonna vacation with. And apparently Snafu has no say in this decision.
A very curt letter arrives one spring afternoon with a time, a date, and the address of the New Orleans railroad station, as if Snafu needed to be told where that is. Granted, Snafu's track record in being responsive and easy to reach is perhaps not the best, but Gene's known that for years. Snafu doesn't know what's changed with this particular meet up.
He's also a little resentful of the fact that Eugene thinks he can snap his fingers and Snafu will drop everything on a dime and come running. Mostly Snafu resents this on account of how true it is. Six years after the war and Snafu still can't let go.
So Snafu shows up at the train station, right on time, with his duffel packed tight, and his hat a little jaunty.
Eugene steps off the train with his ticket book in hand. He looks right and left, like he can't see Snafu standing a mere three feet in front of him. It must be the hat.
"You lost, Sledgehammer?" Snafu asks.
Eugene's eyes finally find his. Snafu's heart drops out of his chest, and he suddenly remembers why he made his original vow years ago to walk away and never see anybody again.
"Shelton?" Eugene asks, like he can't quite believe his eyes, and the formality stings.
"Miss me?" Snafu smirks.
Eugene doesn't answer. He simply walks up to Snafu, shoulder's Snafu's bag, and climbs back onto the train.
Snafu follows - like fucking always.
Eugene shoves Snafu's duffel into the luggage racks already almost stacked full, and guides Snafu to a private compartment.
Snafu glances admiringly at the plush seats and curtained windows, and whistles, "Adjunct professors must make quite a bit of money these days."
"I'm paying both your way and my way on this trip, so...yes," Eugene says, and Snafu knows it's non negotiable. No matter how many times Snafu offers, Eugene never accepts repayment.
"The truth is…" Eugene says that night after they've converted their plush seats into a bed, "...not making much money doesn't matter so much when you don't use it. I don't go out, I don't do anything, my parents pay my rent. What else am I going to spend it on?"
Snafu shrugs. A lot of things pop into his mind, but it's true Eugene never goes out so Snafu doesn't want to discourage this change. Eugene is the most boring college student ever. Snafu knows because he makes the drive from New Orleans to Auburn every weekend. And every weekend is the same, they spend most of the time lying around Sledge's dorm - Eugene studying and Snafu reading his latest murder mystery novel.
He supposes the sacrifice of Eugene's social life might have been worth it, though, if it meant being able to pay for the sleeper car. Because that night on the train when Eugene wakes Snafu with a yell, there are no prying eyes to judge them. Snafu wraps his arms around Eugene's shoulders in the privacy of their bunk and holds him till he calms down.
Sometimes Snafu wonders who does this for Eugene during the week, on the nights Snafu's not there.
"I just don't sleep those nights," Eugene whispers in the dark, his voice barely audible over the clacking of the train tracks.
Snafu squeezes him tighter. Eugene's back is pressed against Snafu's chest, and Snafu's nose is in Eugene's hair. And sometimes Snafu worries he might be crazy, but he also swears that the smell of Eugene's neck is the only thing capable of stopping Snafu's own nerves from jumping out of his skin. He'll never admit to Eugene how selfish he is. That Snafu doesn't keep dropping everything to run to his side out of some altruistic need to please. No.
Snafu's fucking addicted to the boy in his arms and he can't let go. No matter how much it hurts.
Plus they aren't boys anymore. Eugene is twenty eight, and Snafu is thirty, and he keeps waiting and waiting for Eugene to grow up and leave him behind but it hasn't happened yet.
It takes four days for the train to reach Los Angeles. It's hot - so fucking hot, Snafu wonders why Eugene picked summer of all times to vacation here, but the dry wind and brilliant blue sky is still a relief compared to the sticky humidity of home. He can kinda see why people come out here, even if the baking sun also makes him feel a little like a raisin.
Eugene rents a car. An unnecessary expense in Snafu's mind. The car even has a swamp cooler, which at first Snafu decries as the most absurd waste of cash. But then he presses his face to the passenger window to watch the rocket-like thing work. And sure, he can't feel the wind on his face anymore, but damn if the air in the car doesn't become more bearable faster.
Eugene watches Snafu and just smiles.
The outside heat cools off the closer they get to the coast. Snafu has no idea where Eugene is taking them. Perhaps that's why Eugene invites him everywhere, because he never asks questions. Honestly Eugene could take him anywhere in the world and it'd still be something, simply because it's with Eugene. Except caves. Snafu doesn't mess with caves.
They park in a giant lot, and when Snafu opens the car door he hears the familiar sound of gulls and the ocean. All around his head, though, are two story buildings - not a horizon line in sight. They must still be in the city. But then they turn a corner, walk two blocks down the street, and there it is: the Santa Monica pier.
The hippodrome catches the eye first. Then Snafu sees the long line stretching down a checkerboard walkway. The crowd of people ends at the mirrored doors and box office of the Aragon Ballroom. Something must be happening for it to be so busy in the middle of a random saturday. The crowd is young too, mostly teenagers. Snafu feels old, looking at them.
Snafu stares at the ballroom for a minute and then leers at Eugene. "You taking me dancing?" He asks.
"No," Eugene says, "I don't dance." He turns away from the gigantic world famous dancehall hanging over the ocean on spindly legs, and starts walking down the boardwalk.
Snafu hurries to catch up.
They clamber down tall wooden steps to get to the beach. Snafu touches one and ends up with a splinter in his hand, naturally. He's too busy trying to pick the damn thing out of his finger to notice when Eugene stops. Snafu collides with his back.
Eugene balances precariously at the edge of the bottom step, leaving only a little room for Snafu to squish in behind him. Snafu leans his chin on Eugene's shoulder and tries to figure out what is on the ground that Eugene's so intently marveling at.
"Gene?" Snafu slips his arm underneath Eugene's elbow and wiggles his hand in front of Eugene's face, "Your pa's the doctor."
"What?" Eugene asks in confusion as if brought out of a trance.
"Splinter," Snafu explains.
Eugene very carefully pries the long skinny splinter out of Snafu's finger. And then he goes back to staring down at his feet.
"What are we waiting for?" Snafu asks. He places his hands on either side of Eugene's hips and tries to remain patient.
"An engraved invitation," Eugene intones. He bends over to untie his Chuck Taylors and pull them off.
"That's just asking for splinters," Snafu points out when Eugene's socks come off next.
Eugene leaves his socks neatly tucked into his shoes on the wooden plank and steps into the sand.
Snafu, being more familiar with thievery, hastily threads the shoelaces through his own belt loop and then ties Eugene's two shoes together to hang off his hip. His own shoes stay on as he traipses after Eugene. Snafu's had enough sand between his toes to last him a lifetime.
It doesn't take long to catch up to Eugene. When Snafu reaches him, Eugene is breathing shallowly and clenching his fists, staring at the rolling ocean waves and the handful of beachgoers. To the casual observer, Eugene would appear to be enjoying the view, but Snafu sees the tension. Snafu sidles up to Eugene and leans against his shoulder.
"I thought it would feel different," Eugene says. His voice is calm, he looks calm, but he's anything but. Snafu knows the feeling all too well.
"C'mon," Snafu slips his hand into Eugene's and tugs him away from the shore, "Let's get off the sand."
They make it back to the boardwalk and Snafu gives Eugene back his shoes.
Eugene smiles at him gratefully, and that grin with those eyes is precisely the reason Snafu's always here. And in this case 'here' means 'by Eugene's side come hell or high water.'
Eugene smiles, and Snafu shrugs it off, and lets Eugene use his shoulder to steady himself while he puts his shoes back on one-handed. Those smiles make Snafu want to kiss them off Eugene's face to get rid of them. They're altogether too kind, altogether too caring, and it just worsens the already deep hole Snafu's dug himself.
They walk down the boardwalk for a short distance, eyeing the push carts, and the souvenir stalls, and the hot dog stands that look suspiciously crusty.
"Those aren't for you," Snafu says, pushing Eugene along by the small of his back when the boy lingers a little too long in front of a cheesy sign with a cartoon corn dog dancing on a stick. The dog has eyes, and looks way too happy about being eaten.
"What, why not?" Eugene asks.
"They're un-hi-Gene-ic," Snafu drawls.
"Oh god," Eugene casts his eyes to the sky.
"It's in the name, no Gene's allowed," Snafu adds.
"I got the joke, Snafu," Eugene says.
The next food stand they come to is a tiki hut. There's no other way to describe it. It's the tackiest thing Snafu's ever seen. Snafu hears about the 'tiki' craze sweeping the nation after all the boys came home from the south pacific. He sees advertisements using the motifs in the magazines at the mechanic shop he works for.
The tiki design is always heavily stylized, and completely fake, and so fucking ugly it makes Snafu's eyes hurt.
He turns to Eugene, and their eyes meet. There's a rush of shared knowing between them, it sends Snafu tingling down to his toes, and a genuine smile breaks out onto his face, and before he knows it they're both laughing. They lean against each other, giggling helplessly at this silly simulacrum of the islands they were trapped on for so long.
"Four nights on a train for this, Gene?" Snafu teases.
Eugene slings an arm around Snafu's waist to steady him and, still laughing, they wobble over to peer at the menu tacked against the entrance to the hut.
"Coconut ice cream," Snafu reads with exaggerated admiration.
Eugene shudders violently, and Snafu can feel it through his body. "I can't stand the smell of coconut," Eugene whines, "All those coconuts on Pavuvu, buried in the sand, rotting with that inescapable stench."
Snafu shakes his head, "You're missing out."
"Nope," Eugene insists and breaks away from Snafu, "We're not eating here. I would rather eat the No-Gene's-Allowed dancing corn dog."
"I bet by the end of this trip I'll get you eating coconut ice cream," Snafu calls.
"Not happening," Eugene calls back, making his point by already walking away.
Snafu eyes the coconut tiki shack, eyes Gene, and starts plotting.
Blissfully ignorant, and completely confident in his ability to talk Snafu into or out of anything, Eugene continues down the boardwalk.
Meanwhile, Snafu's attention is captured next by the neat row of bicycles at the very end of the small line of makeshift booths. The bicycles are clean, and shiny, with pastel baskets and sparkling handlebar bells, and colorful seats with clean, bright stitching. The kind of bicycles Snafu dreamed of when he was a kid. He slows to a crawl as they pass by and eventually stops, unable to resist going over and putting his hands on one.
Snafu rings the bell and chuckles.
He glances up and Eugene is smiling at him again in that overly fond way that says Snafu could probably get away with practically anything right now.
So, they end up renting two bikes. Snafu's is a mint blue with a grey basket. He pulls his shoes off and drops them into said basket to ride barefoot. The spikey plastic pedals feel hot and firm underneath Snafu's feet. Eugene's bike is a reddish salmon color with a burnt orange basket that when combined with the sun glinting off Eugene's red hair, makes him strike a truly imposing figure.
Snafu laughs about this for at least five minutes straight before they get on their way. He wishes he brought a camera. There's one slung around Eugene's neck, but Eugene blushes and refuses Snafu's request to use it.
"If I can't take embarrassing photos of you with it, what's the point of even having it?" Snafu demands.
Eugene still refuses.
Snafu sticks his tongue out at Eugene and takes the lead on the bicycles. It's incredibly easy to ride along the flat beach. The path isn't paved, and is a little rough, but half the time Snafu is standing on his pedals as he rides, so he hardly notices. Occasionally he looks back to make sure Gene is keeping up.
The only time he loses track of Eugene is when they're pedaling through a dilapidated old pier. Snafu banks a slight curve and notices Eugene isn't appearing around the shops and buildings behind him. He circles back around to find Eugene stopped and straddling his bicycle, looking towards the ocean.
Snafu pulls up alongside him and eyes him quizzically.
"It's two men…" Eugene nods at a couple making out on a beach blanket in the distance, "I saw them walking out there. The one with long hair isn't a girl, he's a guy."
Snafu looks at the couple passionately embracing, and then at Eugene's expression. "Shocking," Snafu says sarcastically, "Scandalous."
"You don't seem surprised," Eugene says.
"I live in New Orleans," Snafu replies, "Not all of us spent most our lives in hicktown Alabama."
"Mobile is not a hicktown," Eugene scowls.
"Stop staring at them, Gene," Snafu warns and nods at the couple, "They might give you a show." He rides off, this time determined to leave Eugene in the dust.
Snafu keeps going on his bicycle for a few hours. They're forced to make a brief detour around a marina, but they end up back on an oceanfront path, and continue on pedaling until suddenly the beach abruptly ends. The sand narrows off into rocks, and rising high above them are towering cliffs.
Eugene coasts to a stop next to Snafu and puts his foot down to rest. He's breathing hard. All that studying and not enough manual labor.
"Guess we're continuing on foot from here," Snafu suggests casually.
Eugene huffs in disbelief, "You're joking."
"Four nights on a train…" Snafu smirks, "I ain't stopping yet."
They bring the bikes back to the nearest beach facilities and lock them up in a rack, then set off across the rocks. At first it's fairly easy, there is a dirt path running directly beneath the cliff face but slightly above the worst of the jagged rocky beach. They've climbed over much worse during the war.
Eugene is an unenthusiastic hiking partner, however. They pass by a beautiful stucco building nestled into the cliffs with a high wall and flanked by old fashioned lamps. Eugene stares longingly at the NCAA sized swimming pool behind the wall.
"Later," Snafu promises him, and leads him on.
The rocks turn a little more treacherous past the wall, and eventually it gets to the point that even Snafu is carefully picking his way across rock by rock. He climbs hand and foot up to the base of the cliff and expertly assesses the narrow ledge leading across a plunging chut to the next rocky beach. The chute is roughly four feet long and ends in churning water. The waves are coming in, crashing against the rocks and zipping up the chute to lap at the ledge. Snafu puts one shoe on the ledge and wiggles it around to test his grip.
"Snaf," Eugene pleads from the rocks below, "I can't…"
Snafu stares down at him unblinkingly. And then turns and starts to walk carefully across the ledge. He makes it to the other side and leaps over the rocky outcrop.
"Merriell!" Eugene cries.
Snafu can no longer see him. After vaulting the end of the ledge he lands on another rocky beach, and in the distance he sees another point where the rocks give way to cliffs. Snafu clambers on tirelessly, but the path soon becomes all but impassable. He's reached the farthest point he can go. Eventually he gives up and turns around.
He climbs back onto the taller rock sticking out from the ledge and sits down on the top to watch the waves break against the rock's front edge. Below him and across the chasm, Eugene sits huddled on his own rock, intently watching the waves. Eugene ignores Snafu's return.
"Eugene?" Snafu calls softly.
Eugene's head jerks up and he looks at Snafu with a painful mixture of worry and anger. "What the hell, Snafu?" Eugene yells, "You jump over the other side and don't answer me for a half hour? I had no way of knowing if you slipped, or fell, or hit your head, or drowned…" Eugene's voice wavers.
"You could'a followed," Snafu argues.
"I cannot cross that ledge," Eugene snaps back, "Not all of us have your super human climbing abilities. You shouldn't go on alone...what if you ended up in the water?"
"Gene, I'm a good swimmer," Snafu says dismissively.
Eugene shakes his head at him in exasperation. "Fuck you, Shelton," he says, and he clearly means it. He turns back to the waves splashing at his feet and rubs his hand into his eye.
Which is when Snafu notices something odd.
He toes back across the ledge and hops down to the rock next to Eugene's to confirm his suspicions. Snafu tilts his head and scoots as close as Eugene will let him.
"Gene?" Snafu prompts gently, "Are you crying?"
Eugene screws his face up and presses his chin against his knees. He's clearly about to start crying in the way anyone starts to cry when they're feeling on the verge and someone asks them about it.
Snafu hastily stands and closes the last few inches between them. He crouches next to Eugene and puts his arm around Gene's shoulders.
"This was a mistake," Eugene breathes.
"I'm sorry," Snafu says. He leans his head in close to Eugene's and leans his weight against him in hopefully a comforting manner.
Eugene shakes his head and a brief sob chokes his next words, "I can't…." he pauses to catch his breath, "I can't do this anymore."
"Then we'll leave," Snafu suggests, "You've got a car. We'll drive out to the desert. You can draw some cacti."
"No, Snaf," Eugene says quietly, his voice goes almost calm, "I mean I can't do this anymore with you."
Snafu stands when he hears those words.
Eugene shivers and starts crying anew.
"You're gonna leave me stuck here without even a train ticket home?" Snafu's mind immediately jumps to how much bus fare will cost, and whether he's got enough cash on him or if he'll have to pick up some odd jobs before he catches the first train back.
"No!" Eugene exclaims, angry again, "I would never do that to you."
"Then what, Gene?" Snafu asks, his own voice rising.
"You can't keep leaving me like this," Eugene insists.
"I just jumped over a goddamn ledge…"
"You left!" Eugene tilts his face up to Snafu and hurtles the accusation at him, "You left without a goodbye and…"
"I came back!" Snafu interrupts.
"Not for my wedding," Eugene says sullenly.
"Nor for Burgie's," Snafu waves it away with a gesture.
"I'm not Burgie!" Eugene declares.
"I came back for your divorce!" Snafu counters.
Eugene drops his head onto his arms.
"For fuck's sake, Eugene haven't you cried over her enough?" Snafu sighs. He climbs back onto the ledge and scoots across over to the jutting rock to put some space between him and Eugene, "It's been four years. You barely knew each other."
"I'm not crying over Edna," Eugene protests sourly and sniffles snot back into his nose.
"Can't imagine why you two didn't work out," Snafu rolls his eyes and swings his legs over the edge of the rock to dangle above the crashing waves, "With names like Edna and Eugene."
A very slight smile tugs at the corner of Eugene's mouth. "E squared," he says.
"She's probably better off," Snafu offers, "No longer saddled with the terrible mouthful 'Edna Sledge'."
"You're one to talk, Merriell," Eugene points out.
"Merriell Sledge has a nice ring to it," Snafu goads him.
"I like Eugene Shelton better," Eugene jokes back.
"Thought you said you were done with me," Snafu says, unable to prevent his big mouth from opening.
Eugene looks up at him with the meanest glare he's ever seen.
It slowly, slowly starts to dawn on Snafu that he might be the reason Eugene Sledge is crying.
That comes as a shock. Snafu takes a moment to think back on his life and all the times he might've made someone cry. And not because he shoved some bully or asshole into the dirt. It's a very short list. One of his earliest memories is visiting his grandma as a child. She cried when he left, and hugged him for longer than he's ever been hugged in his life. His parents died, but they weren't the crying type anyway. His baby sister stopped crying after their parents' deaths. Even when Snafu enlisted, she didn't shed a tear.
And absolutely none of the men Snafu formed attachments to were the crying type either. Till Eugene, till now.
But Snafu can't imagine why Eugene is crying over him. He answered the extremely self-pitying letter Eugene penned in the weeks after Eugene's divorce, he's spent every weekend with Eugene since to keep him company, he tries to be there for whatever Eugene needs. Eugene's got no fucking reason to cry because of him.
Eugene's crying like Snafu broke his heart, except there's no possible way Eugene could care about him that deeply. This love Snafu's got going is a one way street, and he's careful to keep it that way.
Snafu digs into his pocket and pulls out a rather beat up carton of cigarettes. He calmly lights one and tosses the rest to Eugene. Eugene holds the carton like it's something precious.
"Sledgehammer," Snafu says, "Just tell me what you want."
Eugene takes a deep breath to steady himself. He grips the paper cigarette carton hard till it crinkles. "I think I want what those two guys on the beach have…" Eugene tells the waves. And then looks to Snafu for some sort of validation, "...but with you."
Snafu smokes his cigarette and tries to remember there's a ten foot gulf with choppy waves between them and launching himself across it is not physically possible.
"And this is why I can't keep doing this anymore, Snaf," Eugene says when Snafu doesn't answer his request. Eugene turns back to the rocks below his feet and says with great frustration, "Our friendship means everything to me, but it's killing me."
Those last words weigh heavy on Snafu's conscience. "Okay, Gene," he says, "We'll finish out this vacation, and then I promise you'll never have to see me again."
Eugene swallows hard. He squeezes his eyes shut and buries his head in his arms once more, so he doesn't have to see Snafu right now.
Snafu makes his way over the ledge for the last time and carefully places a hand on Eugene's trembling shoulder. "C'mon," he says kindly, "Let's get back to the bikes."
Eugene twines his hand with Snafu's. Snafu bends down, braces Eugene's arm with his own, and helps him stand. Eugene sways into Snafu's chest and for a minute their faces are too close together for comfort. But neither of them are looking at each other. And Eugene isn't smiling, so it makes it easy for Snafu to deny the kiss and pull away.
Eugene's horribly quiet as they make their way back over the rocky beach. He pauses before they pass the wall with the swimming pool.
Snafu looks back questioningly.
"I'm hungry," Eugene announces, "You made me ride my bike for three hours, then scramble over rocks for two. This place looks nice, it's hygienic, there's no palm fronds or fake tiki statues. We're stopping here."
Snafu eyes the iron gate skeptically. The lock is hanging loose and the gate is ajar, but only because a few people from the private pool are swimming in the ocean nearby.
"You object?" Eugene asks stubbornly, ready and looking for a fight.
"It's too fancy," Snafu says and jerks his chin in the direction of the three story building stacked in layers on the cliff like a cake, "I see white lace curtains in those windows. Fucking clean lace curtains."
"The hot dogs were too poor, this place is too rich," Eugene says, "Make up your mind, Snafu."
Snafu sighs, but concedes Eugene may have a point. He gestures for Eugene to go through the gate first.
Sometimes Eugene's ability to take all of his generational wealth and privilege and put it to use comes in handy. After hours of physical exercise they look bedraggled. Both of them are dusty, the armpits of their shirts are damp, Eugene's collar is creased, Snafu never had a collar to begin with, they have sand pouring out of their shoes, and yet when Eugene walks through that gate he owns the place.
Snafu slinks in on his coat tails and settles in to watch the show from a distance. Some pool boy comes up to stop Gene from going any further, and the set of Eugene's shoulders takes on a stubborn slant. Eugene isn't pretentious. But he knows how to be. Snafu's never seen Eugene use his status, or his upbringing to deliberately belittle anyone beneath him. When he does draw out this intangible skill to demand the kind of respect money offers, it's always in defense of someone who doesn't have it.
And Snafu kinda likes being the beneficiary of that benevolent righteousness. It's entertaining to watch people's attitudes change toward Eugene in the blink of an eye when they realize he's someone of means.
All it takes is a few quick sentences, and the attendant who initially stopped Eugene is suddenly apologizing and taking Eugene's ID. Before the attendant reverently carries the ID back towards the main house, he glances nervously at Snafu.
Snafu tilts his head back against the pool wall and lazily smiles. Snafu knows where he belongs but he doesn't give a shit.
The attendant turns tail and runs.
Snafu watches him go with a bit of hypocritical glee till Eugene quietly returns to Snafu's side.
"We're staying here tonight, huh?" Snafu smirks.
"Yeah," Eugene nods confidently, his hands in his pockets, "It looks comfortable."
Snafu hums and grins at Eugene admiringly.
"You might have to put up with clean lace curtains for longer than expected," Eugene warns.
"Think I can handle that," Snafu replies.
"Swell," Eugene says, only half sarcastic and immediately satisfied with Snafu's agreement. Eugene's eyes start roaming around the pool deck till he spots what he's looking for, "Now that's settled, I see a burger bar with my name on it."
"I believe the name on that sign says 'Hanna's'," Snafu points out drolly.
"Grab that table overlooking the ocean," Eugene says, "I'll bring you a menu."
Snafu climbs a narrow stone staircase built into the cliff face and sits down at one of the three tables hidden in a nook behind a trellis of lavender. He adjusts the tables a little, shoves one closer to the wall at the edge of the cliff, and then sits down.
Eugene comes up a few minutes later and offers Snafu an embossed menu featuring a long list of items and no prices. "I see you removed the lace tablecloth," Eugene notes with a grin.
Snafu briefly glances at the discarded pile of table linens he made on the table next to theirs and scoffs, "Don't need that shit for hamburgers."
Eugene bites his lip and concentrates on reading his own menu.
They both order hamburgers, and Eugene deliberates between a milkshake or a soda before eventually settling on the house rootbeer. Snafu additionally orders three extra sides of french fries. The hamburgers are as large as Snafu's hands and the french fry portions are generous enough that Snafu still has a large stack at the end of the meal. He leans back in his chair, props his feet up on the ocean wall, and snacks on fries while surveying the waves.
Meanwhile Snafu can feel Eugene's eyes on him.
Snafu finishes his fries, and lights a cigarette.
Eugene is still watching him.
Snafu can't bring himself to meet Eugene's gaze. Eugene's eyes are everything good - kindness, vulnerability, trust, smarts...when Snafu looks into them he feels this rush of uncontainable emotion, that drug that makes his nerves calm. And the persistent need in the back of his head to be somewhere doing something quiets down till it goes silent entirely, because he's here, sharing this with Eugene, and somehow that's more than enough.
They're not even doing anything, they're relaxing on the side of a bluff looking out at the ocean and sharing a cigarette. It should be boring as hell, and yet when Snafu does finally get the guts to flick his eyes towards Gene, he's utterly satisfied.
He's going fucking insane, is what it is. All cause of Eugene's eyes. He tries to clumsily explain this to Gene. Snafu feels he owes him that much. It doesn't come out right. None of Snafu's words ever come out right, not like Gene's with his studied elocution and tendency to think long and hard before he speaks.
Except this time, as Snafu speaks, Eugene's face loses his sour expression entirely, and Snafu sees hope there - maybe a little bit of joy.
Eugene places the cigarette back in Snafu's hands and leans his elbows on the table intently. "Snaf," he says very seriously, "how do I explain to you that I feel the exact same way every time I look at you?"
"Not possible," Snafu counters stubbornly.
"Snaf!" Eugene laughs.
"I can't be for you what those guys on the beach are for each other," Snafu says.
"Just like I can't fall in love with my asshole gunner during the middle of a war?" Eugene's still grinning like he can't stop now that he's started.
"I'm not enough, Gene."
Eugene sighs. He studies Snafu's profile quietly for a minute, and then switches tactics. "Do you know why mine and Edna's divorce was okay by my parents?"
Snafu shakes his head. He hadn't even given it a thought. Just assumed Eugene's parents knew their son deserved the best, and anyone named Edna was clearly not that.
"We, uh," Eugene coughs, "We never consummated the marriage. I kept putting it off. Easy to do under strict christian values. Till Edna got fed up, realized I wasn't about to give her kids anytime soon or ever. And demanded we split."
"You're still a virgin?" Snafu stares at him in surprise.
"I am," Eugene blushes angrily, "And I'm kinda tired of people shaming me for that."
"No shame," Snafu says fairly, "I remember how you were during the China occupation years. Always thought that was just cause your fear of VD, though."
"Yeah, that was my excuse at the time," Eugene says, "Snaf, you know I love you. Passionately. I want to be able to say that, whenever I feel it, instead of choking it down and trying to hide it. I'd like to kiss you. I very much enjoy holding you. I think we could live together very happily. That's what I want from you, nothing more." Eugene reaches over the table and takes Snafu's hand resting beside the crystal water goblets. "I'll beg you, if that's what it takes to get it through your thick skull."
Snafu smiles a little despite himself.
"Also, we're both gonna have to work on quitting smoking," Eugene concludes his list, "cause I'm going to need you to grow old with me."
Snafu plucks at the bar menu on the table beside his elbow. He casually picks it up and scans the dessert section. "You know...," he says casually, "...they've got coconut ice cream." He flips the menu around so Eugene can read the list.
Eugene reaches with his free hand and grabs the menu to examine it. "If I buy you coconut ice cream will you finally admit you love me back?"
Snafu looks at him and Eugene is smiling so hard his cheeks must hurt.
Snafu uses their twined hands to pull Eugene closer over the table and press his lips to Eugene's in answer. He looks deep into Eugene's eyes, his gaze as unwavering and cliche as his devotion, and says, "I love you, Gene. Heart and soul."
Eugene threads his free hand into the back of Snafu's curls and touches their foreheads together. There's a knowing between them that's existed in some form since that first day on Pavuvu. Eugene doesn't need to say a word, Snafu can read it all in his eyes. He leans in and kisses Eugene one final time before pulling away and standing up.
"Now that that's settled," Snafu says with a devil grin, "Let's go see about that coconut ice cream."
Eugene groans, but when Snafu wraps his hand tighter around Gene's to help him stand and leads him back down the cliffside stairs to the pool deck, Eugene willingly follows.
Snafu stands on his tiptoes at the poolside bar to order a double scoop ice cream cone with chocolate drizzle. Eugene stands to the side and fiddles with the condiments while he waits. Snafu tilts his head to bat his eyes saccharinely at Eugene while the bartender is in the back with the scoops. And Eugene's reflexive smile in return is bashful and more than a little endearing.
They take Snafu's prodigious two scoop chocolate drizzle coconut ice cream cone outside the gate and onto the ocean rocks. The evening air is finally cooling, but the setting sun melts the ice cream fast. Snafu keeps having to lick at his hands where the milky cream runs down his fingers. Snafu sucks at the edge where cone meets ice cream, and notices Eugene watching him.
He waggles the cone in front of Eugene's face invitingly.
Eugene hastily grabs Snafu's hand so his wiggling doesn't make the double scoop fall off into Eugene's lap. "Fine," Eugene sighs, as if tasting ice cream is a true hardship. He holds Snafu's hand still and takes a tentative lick.
Snafu grins when he sees Gene's eyes light up. "It's only called 'coconut ice cream'," Snafu announces, "Never said it tasted like coconut."
"How…?" Eugene asks.
"They just make it out of coconut milk, it's flavored with vanilla," Snafu says, proud to have won an argument.
Eugene eases the cone out of Snafu's hand in order to better take another bite of ice cream.
Eugene's hair is blowing wildly in the ocean breeze. Snafu watches strands of hair fall across Eugene's face and Eugene desperately tries to shake it out of his mouth so he can eat. Snafu chuckles and brushes Eugene's hair off his forehead and holds it there to give him easier access.
Eugene crinkles his eyes at Snafu in amusement and mumbles his thanks in between bites of ice cream.
"I think you've had enough," Snafu comments and draws the cone away from Eugene's grasp after two thirds of the ice cream has magically disappeared. But instead of eating more himself, Snafu kisses Gene and sucks on his bottom lip to get the last drops of ice cream. Eugene tastes sweet, and his lips are refreshingly cold. And when Snafu opens his eyes, he can see that Gene is silently laughing at him - or with him, because Snafu is laughing too.
Snafu grins, kisses the tip of Eugene's long nose because there's some ice cream there, and then turns back to his cone. He barely gets his mouth around it before Eugene is tugging the cone out of his hand a second time.
"Hey, you could'a got your own!" Snafu exclaims, trying to keep the ice cream away.
Gene wins. Because of course he does. "I'll buy you a second one," Eugene promises.
Snafu threads his fingers through Eugene's bangs again to hold them back, and chooses to watch Eugene instead of the sunset. Gene's tinted round sunglasses are brilliantly rosy, casting colored shadows on his cheeks and making them even rosier.
"Gene," Snafu says, just to be able to savor his name.
"Mm?" Eugene cuts his eyes to the side and raises an eyebrow at Snafu even as he licks melted ice cream off his hand.
Snafu tilts his chin up and scoots closer till their sides are pressed tight together. "I think this is gonna be the best vacation I ever have," he confesses.
Eugene turns back to his ice cream and comments, "Thought this was the only vacation you've ever had."
"Yeah, but I mean in the future too," Snafu swipes at his collar and unbuttons it a little to give himself more breathing room.
"Naw," Eugene scoffs, "Don't worry, we'll top it." He licks his lips and hands the almost empty ice cream cone back to Snafu, "That's pretty darn good."
Snafu breaks into a wide grin. "I told you. I told you so, Sledgehammer!" he says proudly, "Next time I suggest new food, you better listen!"
Eugene laughs and agrees, "I will." He maneuvers around on the rock till he can lay his head in Snafu's lap. "If you drip any ice cream on me, try to aim for my mouth," he advises.
"Sure thing, Sledgehammer," Snafu says and bites into the last of the cone with a crunch. It's a bit messy and he does end up dripping some on Eugene, but it lands on Eugene's forehead . It's okay though because Snafu bends over to kiss him clean, and Eugene laughs and complains that it tickles.
When the ice cream disappears, and the sun is set, and the last bit of twilight is slowly fading, Eugene and Snafu make their way back across the rocky beach to their bikes. Nothing's changed, yet everything feels different. This time when Eugene miraculously spots a tiny crab species scuttering over a rock, and stops to admire it, Snafu can openly admire Eugene and Eugene's goofy fascination. And when they're chatting as they walk, and Eugene retorts with something particularly sarcastic, instead of just laughing it off, Snafu gets to tug Eugene back by his hand, spin him around, and lay a kiss on him. Just because he wants to.
Of course, when they do finally reach the bikes and rejoin civilization, Snafu has to reign in his urges somewhat, but from time to time he still manages to smile at Eugene in that way that makes Eugene blush, and usually trip over his own feet if he's not being careful.
They drop the bikes off at the booth, and Eugene pays a rather hefty late fee. They're walking back to their car when Snafu grabs onto Eugene's elbow and stops them both.
He draws Eugene in close and whispers, "Look at the pier, all lit up at night. Like fireflies."
The hippodrome is dotted with popcorn lights, it's turrets and arches glamorous behind shadow in a way they aren't during the day.
Eugene stands straight, takes a deep breath, locks Snafu's arm under his elbow, and takes off down the street towards the pier.
"Gene, where are we going?" Snafu asks worriedly, slightly alarmed and keeping a sharp eye out for anyone looking at them askance because of being arm-in-arm.
"I want to dance," Eugene decides. He marches them straight up to box office window of the ballroom and slaps a ten dollar bill on the counter. "Can he and I enter the ballroom as a couple?" Eugene asks challengingly.
Snafu nearly chokes. It's late enough there's not many people around outside. Most everyone is in the ballroom where the band is in full swing. Whenever one of the front doors opens and people exit, a cacophony of talking and loud music escapes with them.
The bored and exhausted woman behind the desk takes in Eugene, lingering on Eugene's Marine Corps ring, and then Snafu, and shrugs, "Sure, whatever."
Eugene nods enthusiastically in relief, "Thank you," and slides the money over. Being pressed up against Eugene's side, Snafu can feel him sweating.
The girl behind the counter gives them two tickets and their change. Eugene gratefully pushes five dollars of it back to her, nods once more, and drags a still-in-shock Snafu over to the doors.
Eugene falters once inside the doorway, suddenly shy. He holds his head up high, but there's tension in his neck when Eugene swallows nervously.
It's up to Snafu to pry his hand out from underneath Eugene's sweaty armpit, and walk them both onto the dance floor.
The first few dances are easy as pie. The songs are familiar, big band numbers both of them recognize from their days during and immediately after the war. Eugene is a horrible dancer, but Snafu more than makes up for it. And with how lively everything is, no one notices two boys in a crowded corner doing the jitterbug with themselves.
Plus Snafu secretly enjoys having to grab Eugene's hips and turn him in the proper direction or place. Even if it also means he nearly trips over Eugene's feet every five minutes. There's a freedom in being able to be naturally affectionate with each other in public.
The only person that bothers them is a short but very handsome man who comes up to compliment Snafu on his dancing.
"How'd you get stuck with this dancing ginger elephant," the guy says to Snafu and sticks his thumb at Eugene, "Why, you're so light on your feet, I bet you could get any girl on the wall in here."
"I'm teaching him how to dance," Snafu says curtly. He shifts his grip on Eugene's hand and swings Gene close into his side protectively.
Meanwhile Eugene is glaring at the newcomer.
"Hey, you're teaching skills must be pretty swell," the guy says admirably, "Can I get a lesson?"
Snafu skids their dance to a stop. There's no way this asshole is going to go away without some kind of placation. Snafu turns around and grins, fully prepared to give this guy a verbal vertical buttstroke to the chin. But Eugene intervenes first.
"You're out of luck, mister," Eugene says. He pushes his way in between the guy and Snafu, "I'm afraid he's all booked up tonight."
"Oh," the guy says affably, completely clueless to Eugene's souring mood, "Well, how about tomorrow?"
"He's busy tomorrow too," Eugene replies.
"But not tomorrow night," Snafu interjects, slipping around Eugene, "Give me your name and number and I'll call you with my lesson schedule."
Once Snafu jots down the guy's information, the man finally goes away satisfied.
"You're not really going to call him?" Eugene asks.
Snafu tries to coax him back into a dance, but Eugene's limbs turn very floppy when he's unenthused. "Of course not," Snafu answers, "But he's gonna leave us alone now. And he won't go complain to someone about the two guys dancing together on the floor."
"True," Eugene sighs.
Snafu spins them around and launches into one of the dance moves Eugene picked up the fastest in order to give Gene something to feel confident about. They link hands and hook opposing arms behind their heads. In one swoop their grips slide down each other's arms till they catch their hands again.
Snafu uses their momentum to snap them close together again and they playfully push each other to rotate clockwise.
"Feeling better?" Snafu asks.
"He was smarmy," Eugene states. He switches direction on the beat and touches Snafu's shoulder to follow.
"He was," Snafu agrees, amused.
"He's not your type," Eugene says, turning a second time.
"Definitely not," Snafu agrees again.
"What is your type?" Eugene asks. He sounds slightly worried, as if the thought just occurred to him that Snafu might have a 'type'. And he might not be it.
"I like guys who are smarter than me," Snafu reassures him smarmily.
"Well shit, that rules out at least ninety percent of the population," Eugene declares.
"Yeah," Snafu grins, "Good thing I found you."
"Good thing," Eugene agrees.
Snafu swings out and twists back in till he's tucked neatly under Eugene's arm, and pauses to wink at his dance partner. "Plus, you're no elephant," he reassures him.
Eugene snorts, "Actually he might have been right on that front…"
"No way!" Snafu insists, stepping out and holding their hands at length, "You'll be a great dancer. I think you might be ready for a few aerials."
Eugene furrows his brow and looks concerned, "Please tell me you're joking."
"Nope. Don't worry about it, I'm light, you'll toss me around like I'm nothing," he says.
"Snaf," Eugene exclaims, "I'll end up dropping you is what I'll do."
"You won't," Snafu insists. He shim shams into Eugene's space and tilts his head up till they're a breath away from kissing, and smiles disarmingly, "I trust you."
Which, of course, Eugene can never resist so here they are on the dance floor, Snafu explaining the simple physics of launching one body off another to an expert in biology. Hooking their arms together and him rolling over Eugene's back is the easiest so they start there.
For all his nerves, Eugene proves to be a very solid dance partner. He never shies away from a hold, and his feet might be slightly off but they never stumble. The first time Eugene effortlessly swings Snafu over his leg and into a side dip, Snafu's heart is fluttering in his chest and he's gazing up at Eugene in exuberant delight. Eugene sets Snafu down, swings him out, and when they come back together they almost collapse against one another in relieved laughter over their success. Snafu's arms lope around Eugene's neck and they giggle terribly.
Snafu didn't expect this.
He probably should have, Eugene never does anything by half and he always is a quick learner. Eugene picks up the steps so fast, in fact, that by the end of the second hour Snafu has to start shooing wallflower girls away who keep wanting to take Snafu's place.
Eugene, being Eugene, completely fails to notice the girls' interest, which is almost as entertaining as him refusing to take his attention off Snafu all night. A few times Snafu offers to give Eugene a break, and maybe find his own girl to take for a spin in the middle of the dance floor. But Eugene insists he needs no breaks.
When the music finally switches to something slow, Snafu slides to a stop and leans heavily against Eugene's shoulder panting.
"Let's get some water," Eugene suggests, and pats Snafu on the back. He starts off in the direction of the bar but Snafu hangs behind.
"What," Snafu taunts when Eugene glances back at him, "You won't slow dance with me?"
Eugene's eyebrows shoot up, his eyes go wide.
Snafu doesn't give him a chance to overthink things. He takes Eugene's hands, positions them properly for a waltz, and leads him into the dance. At first Eugene is stiff, and he refuses to make eye contact with Snafu, too busy scanning the room.
But after a few steps, after the world doesn't end, Eugene folds in closer to Snafu's body. Their cheeks brush. And Eugene's ear is suddenly right there, in front of Snafu's mouth. So Snafu tightens his embrace, and sings along to the song's romantic lyrics in a whisper meant for Eugene alone.
Snafu can understand Eugene's initial hesitation. After all the years Snafu spent sharing dances with various partners he didn't give a shit about, this feels especially vulnerable, despite the fact that they are one couple among thousands on the floor. There's a part of him that didn't think he'd ever have this moment. That for all the people jumping at the chance to dance with him, Snafu'd never feel the same way about someone else.
Eugene is so fucking gentle, it's easy to mistake him as soft. His hand is light against the small of Snafu's back. It's a little hard to believe not two minutes ago that same hand was gripping Snafu's thigh hard as Eugene spun him into an aerial. But as always, Eugene only uses his strength when necessary.
"When I graduate this year, I'm going to do my PHD in Florida," Eugene says as they slowly sway to the music, "I know I'm asking a lot but...Merriell...would you come with me?"
Snafu remains silent. He hadn't fully considered what loving Eugene might actually mean. That with him came Alabama, the Sledge family, the universities...
"I'll have a stipend, to take the financial pressure off," Eugene hastily elaborates, because Eugene always feels that if he adds more facts into the conversation he'll be more likely to win, "If you can find a job locally, that'd be great, but you wouldn't need to work. I've been budgeting this past year and I've calculated a way for the two of us to live off what I make. Maybe not comfortably, but it wouldn't be for long. When I get my diploma we can go back to New Orleans, or anywhere you want really. There are colleges and universities in almost any city. Snafu, I want you with me. No more pining after you every week and only feeling whole on the weekends…"
"How long've you been thinking about this?" Snafu asks.
Eugene is quiet for a while. "Do you mean how long have I been planning for it, or how long have I wanted it?"
"The second one?" Snafu asks, slightly uncertain.
"That day on the train…" Eugene begins.
"A few days??" Snafu interrupts incredulously, "That's all the thought you've given this, for fucks sake Gene!"
"On the train in 1946!" Eugene corrects sternly.
Which just about shuts Snafu up.
"Why the hell didn't you say anything sooner?" Snafu asks.
"Snaf, if you would just let me finish," Eugene complains, "That day on the train Burgie was talking about marriage, you were asking about jobs, everybody seemed to be thinking about commitments and when you turned to me the only damn certainty I had in my head was you. But then you didn't say goodbye. I thought...I figured…you were done with us in your life...with me."
"If I follow you to Florida will that make up for it?" Snafu asks.
Eugene grins, real slow, like he knows the past four years of Snafu being at Eugene's beck and call is partially Snafu's way of atoning for his abrupt departure. "It just might," Eugene says confidently, "It just might."
One thing about the timeline of everything doesn't add up in Snafu's mind. "So," he says, "I don't say goodbye and six months later you go and get yourself married?"
"I assumed leaving was your hint to me to try to fall back into civilian life. To forget about the war, and war buddies, live normally. And according to everyone, that meant marriage," Eugene sighs.
"Who's everybody?" Snafu smirks.
"Not you, obviously, Mr. Confirmed Bachelor," Eugene smiles back at him slyly, "But my mother, and Sid. Hell, even my brother got on me for still being a virgin."
Snafu laughs and dips his head closer to Eugene as they dance. He rests his cheek on Eugene's shoulder along with most of his weight, relying on Eugene to hold them both upright. "Did you love Edna?" he asks.
"I did, but not in the way she wanted," Eugene says quietly, "She's a lovely person, sometimes I wish I could love her like she deserves, like how I love you. Might've made life easier. But not better, I don't think."
"You saying me walking back into your life after your divorce made things better?" Snafu laughs at the absurdity.
"Yes," Eugene says seriously, "Infinitely better."
Snafu lifts his head from Eugene's shoulder in order to pull away and look into his eyes, to see if he's telling the truth. "Okay," Snafu agrees, "We'll go to Florida together. Till then, I'll see if my boss knows anyone in Auburn who can find me some work up there, and I'll move to Alabama."
Eugene gives Snafu a blank stare, so akin to the ones Snafu usually gives him, that it throws Snafu off and makes him question everything (including the efficacy of his own blank stares, maybe he should try to learn to communicate better).
The song the band is playing comes to an end, and the swing starts up again. The couples around them whirl into motion. But nobody pays attention to the two men standing in the middle of it all with their arms locked around each other.
Till Eugene surges forward and kisses Snafu.
The kiss catches Snafu off guard. Eugene's hand is flat on the small of Snafu's back and is holding Snafu flush against Eugene's body. Good thing too, cause Snafu's knees almost buckle in surprise. Eugene bends him over backwards in his enthusiasm to kiss Snafu harder, and Snafu wraps his arms tight around Eugene's neck and smiles into the kiss.
This is it, this is the 'war-is-over-we-are-going-home-together-in-triumph' kiss Snafu has been waiting for. Not triumph in the form of parades and adulation. But triumph in that against all odds, they survived, they found each other, Eugene fucking loves him, and they're gonna actually, finally...live.
They're about six years late, but Snafu figures that's forgivable when taking into account insecurities and the lingering numbness and fear hanging round their necks.
Eugene breaks the kiss and stares into Snafu's eyes, and Eugene is so pretty - he's so fucking pretty it hurts. Snafu wants to kiss him till all traces of that war weary blankness are gone from his eyes. There's moments - when Eugene comes to life with his sarcasm or sly wit or intellectual curiosity, and Snafu likes to pride himself on being able to bring those moments out. But is it enough?
After a bit Snafu begins to notice that it's not just them gone completely still. The couples around them are stopping and staring, and whispering.
"Shit," Snafu says under his breath to Eugene. He ducks his head and takes his arms off Eugene's shoulders.
"Yeah, we should probably get out of here," Eugene agrees. His hands still grip Snafu's hips.
Snafu laughs, giddy and reckless, and bumps his shoulder playfully into Gene's. If anyone nearby had any doubts after that kiss, all they'd have to do is take one look at Eugene's face and see how damn in love he is.
"Hey!" someone in the crowd calls out and Snafu can see the guy coming at them in the peripheral of his vision.
Snafu grabs Eugene's elbow. "Walk fast, but try to not draw more attention," he whispers and leads Eugene off the dance floor. They make it to the entrance and out the doors. As soon as they get outside, Snafu twines his hand with Eugene's and breaks into a run, their feet hitting the wooden boardwalk with loud hollow thumps. They can hear agitated voices and footsteps behind them, and they don't stop running till they reach the car.
Snafu slams the passenger door shut and turns to Eugene as soon as he gets inside. They're laughing from adrenaline and Snafu's heart is racing. He cups Eugene's cheek and tilts his head for another quick kiss before Eugene starts the engine.
Somehow Eugene knows the drive back to the hotel on the oceanside cliffs. Snafu doesn't pay any attention. He kicks his feet up on the dash and is too busy admiring Gene's long nose and the curve of his jaw backlit by the passing neon lights to give any thought to the car's direction.
The parking lot for the hotel is at the top of the cliff. There's a locked iron gate, nestled between eight foot tall hedges, with the name of the place welded onto it in an arc. The gate is small, and barely noticeable at the edge of the lot. Eugene has a key - it's antique and very decorative - and lets them in. The stairway beyond the gate switchbacks down the cliff, with thick walls protecting people from falling off the path. The air is thick and heavy with the smell of flowers growing abundantly around them.
Snafu pauses under one of the lamps. He folds his elbows over the wall, rests his chin on top, and looks out across the hotel and gardens below, and the ocean beyond. "We stepped into a goddamn fairytale," Snafu says.
Eugene comes up behind him with an embrace and rests his chin on Snafu's head, "Does that make you my prince?"
"No way," Snafu emphatically denies, "If anyone is a prince in this scenario, it's you Gene."
"Impossible," Eugene says with a smile, "Prince Eugene sounds like a pompous ass. Prince Merriell, on the other hand…."
Snafu laughs. "Maybe that's what my ma had in mind when she made up my name."
"Definitely," Eugene agrees, "She knew you'd grow up regal."
"Fuck regal," Snafu rolls his eyes, "Fuck propriety. You willing to give up all that shit for me, Gene? We ain't gonna be accepted into those circles anymore."
"Yes," Eugene says readily.
And Snafu believes him.
Their hotel suite, as expected, has white lace curtains covering each window, holding back the ocean breeze. Snafu's mother hung lace curtains in their home too, but those were already yellowed with age, patched in places, and quickly turned grey with dust. These hotel curtains reach to the floor and yet remain pristine.
Snafu stands on the balcony and smokes before bed. Eugene sits inside and reads. Or at least Snafu thinks Eugene is reading. Snafu turns his gaze away from the ocean only to catch Eugene guiltily ducking his head behind his journal.
"What?" Snafu asks, with a wry smile.
"Nothing," Eugene says, which almost definitely means it's something he's embarrassed about.
Snafu snubs out his cigarette and leans over Eugene's shoulder to investigate.
"Thought you just drew plants?" Snafu asks.
"I'm expanding my range," Eugene says dryly.
"You made me look skinny," Snafu comments.
"You are skinny," Eugene counters. He hooks an arm around Snafu's waist and walks him over to the bed. He sweeps Snafu off his feet in one of the lindy hop holds, and tosses Snafu onto the bed.
"Never should have taught you those aerials," Snafu teases. He stretches out across the pillows and dares Eugene with his eyes to join him.
Eugene says nothing, just grins widely as he climbs onto the bed next to Snafu.
Snafu kisses that self satisfied smile on Eugene's face.
They lie next to each other, their legs entwined, and their noses so close they're almost touching. There's a lightness in Snafu's chest he's never felt before. Happiness he knows, elation he knows - as rare as those things are. But this is new. He knows it can't last. Nightmares will come, they won't just go away, but for now he can lie here and soak up Gene's presence.
"I already knew you loved me," Snafu confesses.
"What do you mean?" Eugene asks.
"Even before you said it today. I think I've known since Okinawa," Snafu says.
"I figured," Eugene replies.
"Were a couple of fucking cowards," Snafu laughs.
"No, the world is cowardly," Eugene counters, "We were just trying too hard to adapt to it."
Snafu bites his bottom lip in consideration. He lifts his chin, thinks about saying something, and then decides words aren't necessary. Gene knows. Gene's always known. Snafu reaches over and gently takes Eugene's hand. Snafu twists around and pulls Eugene's arm across his body till his back is tucked against Eugene's chest.
Eugene folds around him. He's warm, and he's so much in love.
"Snaf," Eugene whispers in his ear before they fall asleep, "Let's get it right this time. Just you and me."
tagging requests: @xmxisxforxmaybe @diasimar (btw i think you have tagging turned off) (also if I am missing anybody on this list I apologize, pls tell me <3)
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Content Warning: Mentions of drug use
Destined for greatness.
That’s what he’d always been told he was.
Destined for fucking greatness.
Jason had always had a few ideas about what “greatness” would be but he didn’t expect it to include him lying on a beach, preparing to get high out of his mind, and thinking about how much the early morning sky reminded him of his mother’s eyes.
As his thoughts strayed to his family, a sharp pain pulsed through his chest.
He wondered if this plan would even be worth it. Would it be so hard to finish school and go out east like he was supposed to?
As the sky brightened, Jason’s focus shifted from his mother to his grandfather, the pain of grief exchanged itself for pain of anger.
He pushed himself up to take a bump of Super K before flopping back into the sand, his dark hair fanning out on the ground.
Jason reached up to the sky and stared at his hands as he pondered his grandfather’s obsession with him. He’d always been dead set on Jason “becoming everything his mother couldn’t be”.
Jason never understood that fixation, his mother was a perfectly successful corporate lawyer with stable income and a picture-perfect family, but that never stopped Cronos from dragging his daughter through the mud for who she became.
He did the same to his father and his little brother, always snubbing or outright ignoring them. Whenever he did acknowledge them, his words were always so, so cruel, especially when it came to his baby brother. It pained Jason to recall all of the times the poor kid’s face would drop ever so slightly whenever Cronos would address him, calling his passions and aspirations a waste of time.
In the old bastard’s eyes, Jason was the only one worthy enough to become his successor. He was the golden boy.
And it fucking sucked.
Even without Cronos, there had always been pressure to perform in his family: his dad came from nothing and would rather face God and walk backwards into hell than let his sons struggle as much as he did and his mom came from a wealthy, politically connected family and was just insecure enough to need children she could boast about at family gatherings.
They just wanted what was best. If it had stayed that way, Jason wouldn’t have minded the pressure.
Of course it didn’t.
The summer before eighth grade, his mother announced a surprise family vacation to Austria, of all places.
The idea was nice at first, but the fact that his father looked miserable despite his love for traveling and his mother was preoccupied with “work” the entire time made the vacation to one of the prettiest cities in Europe absolutely fucking horrible.
Jason’s stomach churned as visions of himself and his younger brother wandering the streets of Vienna and the nearby mountains floated through his mind. The sunlight glittering in his younger brother’s hair was soon replaced by the glitter of the gilded lobby of a museum.
He felt Cronos’s shriveled hands gripping his shoulders. He couldn’t hear what he was saying but he looked proud.
Jason’s mother kept a firm grip on his arm as Cronos’s proud smile faded and he stared into the far side of the lobby, trembling with rage as a wave of silence took over the room.
His own eyes were drawn to the figure that stepped into the room.
Even now, at twenty-one years old, the sight of that man sent shocks of fear through him.
Those cold green eyes, the scar that exploded up the side of his face, the predatory smile. All of it.
A single word hissed through his mind as he felt his body convulse; Velnias.
The room spun and the next thing Jason knew, he was standing before the man’s wife.
His convulsions ceased as a dreamy smile came to his face at the sight of her. If her husband was an army-annihilating blizzard; she was the warm summer day that welcomed the surviving soldiers home.
She beamed down at him and introduced herself, putting their entire family at ease with a smile and a wave of a delicate, dark hand.
As her wrist flicked, Jason’s mind rushed forward and he found himself crouched in a dimly lit hallway and a little girl was gripping his hand as if he were the last thing on Earth.
Her eyes were the same intense green as her father’s but they lacked his coldness, instead, they were just wide and brimming with tears.
Their parents’ voices warbled into clarity and Jason’s throat began to close up.
“You need to get rid of your daughters, Velnias,” His grandfather ordered, “They’re a threat to any order we have created. There’s too much power concentrated in one family.”
“Over my dead body,” Velnias snarled.
“Oh, it will be if you don’t comply, I assure you-”
Velnias’s wife cut in, her voice filling with quiet rage, “If you so much as touch a hair on my daughters’ heads, you colonizing filth, I will see to it myself that-”
Someone slammed their fist down on the table and bellowed, “ENOUGH.”
The scream sent shockwaves through Jason as he was transported to the hallway outside of his parents’ bedroom in the hotel, the girl with green eyes was nowhere to be found.
As he crept closer to the door, what they were saying became clear:
“This is insane, Nat. You have to know this is insane. I won’t- I can’t let whatever the fuck just happened happen to the boys. There’s no way in hell that I’ll let them be a part of that.”
His mother drew a shaky breath. She was crying, “I know.”
His father stuttered for a few moments, searching for words to even fathom what had happened that evening, before launching back into his tirade, “He threatened to murder a man over his marital status. You realize that, right? Then he goes and jumps on you for marrying me, again. And don’t get me started on how he treats Hunter, he doesn’t say a word to him when he’s there and when he’s not, he trashes a twelve year old kid to a room of adults? What the hell is that about-”
“Chris. I know. I- I didn’t have a choice, he told me if I brought them here just this one time he’d leave Hunter alone.”
Jason held his breath as his parents went quiet.
“What about Jason?”
“I don’t know-”
Jason’s eyes pricked with tears as he dug his hands into the sand.
What about me?
As waves of nausea hit him once again, Jason’s mind threw him into yet another hallway.
He watched his mother pace around, wearing one of his father’s shirts, and hissing into her phone,
“What do you mean you had them taken care of?” she demanded.
His grandfather’s voice resonated through her phone’s speaker, “I mean exactly what I said, Nathalie. Arturas, Fawzia, Celeste, and Mateo are out of the way. A message has been sent to the others. That’s what matters.”
His mother looked miserable, “What about the kids?”
“Who cares?” his grandfather laughed, “They’re worthless without their parents’ guidance. Speaking of which, how’s Jason-”
His mother slammed her phone down on her desk, falling into her chair and burying her face in her hands.
As her slim frame shook with sobs, Jason had eased the door open with his foot, getting a full view of her.
The sight was strange to him, his mother always kept her hair pinned up in a neat bun and never wore anything but collared shirts and slacks.
She was always prim, proper, and perfectly controlled but in that moment she was trying to drown herself in the too-big garment while guising her pained expression behind a curtain of black hair.
“Mom, are you okay?”
His mother wiped at her eyes, staring up at the ceiling, “I’m fine, Jay. Go to bed.”
Jason nodded and stepped back, “Okay. Night, Mom. I love you.”
“I love you too, sweetheart,” she sniffed, rubbing her face as he turned away.
His memories of L.A. got washed away by memories of Santa Monica.
His memories of Santa Monica were always dull, grey, and filled with people he could care less about; the hour long bus rides at the crack of dawn to go to a school he couldn’t stand, the teachers he resented enough to torment regularly, the competitions he didn’t care about running late into the evening. All of it was dull and miserable.
Though, he supposed, that was his own fault.
Between the trips out east with his mother and the obsessive calls and texts from his extended family, Jason coped with the stress of never being quite enough the only way he knew how: using people.
He spent his time in high school and college switching between a million different personalities, all tailored to get him exactly what he wanted from who he wanted.
Jason had spent so much time being a pawn that he’d broken down how to become a player.
It was easy to disconnect that way, none of the personalities he presented ever actually resembled who he was, not even the one he’d made up for Cronos.
It did get tiring letting other people inhabit his body, though. Being a shell of a human being was no easy task.
The only time he could guarantee his actions weren’t based around needing or wanting something from someone was when he was with his brother.
Jason shook his head as a soft smile came to his face.
The overcast shadows of his memories faded and the next thing Jason knew, he was driving his car down the all-too familiar dirt road to Topanga Beach.
He looked over to the passenger seat and watched Hunter hang out of the window, his pale blue UCLA Swimming & Diving shirt waving in the spring breeze.
Jason examined the old film camera his brother was just letting hang out of the car’s window before he pushed his sunglasses down as sunlight flickered through the trees’ leaves and returned his attention to the road ahead.
“I don’t get why you insist on using that thing. We literally have phones that’ll take photos of stuff exactly the way it looks.”
“It’s not always about being exact, sometimes it’s just about things being nice.” Hunter replied, pressing down on the brilliant red capture button as the trees mosied by.
Jason snorted, “That’s a pretty terrifying thing to hear from someone who wants to be a surgeon.”
Hunter rolled his eyes, the shade of storm blue pairing nicely with the dappled green light, “Shut up.”
Jason wanted to be envious of his brother, he really did, and he’d have good reason to but he could never muster the strength to hate him for very long.
When Cronos wasn’t around to petrify him, Hunter had this way about him that made warmth swell in Jason’s chest and a smile take over his face. He could walk into a room and bring comfort that could only be replicated by their Abuela’s apartment back in Huntington during Christmas.
He didn’t just have that effect on Jason, though. It was everyone.
Of course, not everyone loved him but Jason had yet to encounter a person that actively disliked Hunter. The kid somehow managed to just make everyone he encountered comfortable, which explained why, despite existing in similar social circles, their social lives were so different.
Jason spent his time sucking in fans, Hunter just made friends.
As the vision faded, Jason opened his eyes and stared up at the now sunny sky, tears streaming down his face, dropping into the sand.
His body shook with sobs as what he was going to do finally registered.
This was it.
He was finally going to be free of all of this pressure.
Jason was confident they would leave Hunter alone after he was gone, they hadn’t bothered to groom him to be an heir and he was already independent enough to say no. Everything would turn out okay.
He drew a shaky breath and pushed himself up, making sure everything was still in his backpack, before he stood up fully.
“They’ll be fine. They’ll be fine,” He murmured to himself as he shouldered his bag,“It’s all good.”
He began his hike back to the beach’s parking lot, approaching his bike with one last sigh.
“He’ll be okay.”
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