MERMEN

by

Shadow

movie-verse story


"Well, every great thing thatís ever happened to me, happened in the water. Every one." Ė Dirk Pitt

He could never watch Al handle a gun without shivering, just a little.

It was those hands. Those fucking hands. Al had wild hair and mischievous boy-next-door eyes and a crazy teenager grin, and when he put on a suit he always had that awkward, rumpled, too-cute look of a kid playing dressup and never quite succeeding, but those were two fucking adult hands, always deft and sure and graceful, no wasted movements, no fumbling or hesitation. All that crazy geeky awkwardness vanished and sheer genius began. Al handled a gun, an engine, the guts of a bomb, as if it was an extension of his own body. Perfectly in control, perfectly in his element.

Dirkís element was water. That had never been in doubt. Since he was old enough to toddle around, if there was a body of water in sight, be it ocean, pool, creek or puddle, he was in it. When Dirk had met Al, Al didnít know how to swim Ė had been, in fact, a little afraid of the water. But heíd immediately agreed to let Dirk teach him, probably realizing somewhere in one of those weird flashes of insight that Al always had that getting close to Dirk meant getting wet with him.

Alís element was anything he could take apart and put back together again, and heíd discovered it early in life, too. Dirk had known Al since kindergarten, and even then, Al was the kid who dismantled the toaster or the radio . . . but even at that age, he was also the precocious kid who put it back together again Ė working, too. Al was a lot more comfortable with things than with people. It was easy to stereotype Al as a shy, geeky, retiring kid. That was a mistake many bullies made, only to find out that the seeming mouse was actually quite the tiger when he got pissed off enough. It was also easy to assume that the shy, geeky, retiring kid from the lower middle-class family had nothing in common with the outspoken, outgoing, popular son of a Senator.

That would have been a mistake too.

"Howís it going, babe?" Dirk asked. He could barely see Al, just one eye and a bit of spiky (now greasy) hair through a gap between the engine and the frame.

"Almost there," Al said, and from the sound of his voice, Dirk could tell that Al was chewing on his lower lip, the way he did when he was really concentrating. That tone was as close as Al ever came to telling Dirk, "Shut the fuck up and let me concentrate."

Dirk shut the fuck up.

It was possible, just barely possible, if you had plenty of money to spend, a wide information network, and the proper contacts, to find replacement parts for a 1936 Avions Voisin. It wasnít, however, always possible to find every replacement part for a badly abused 1936 Avions Voisin which had been driven across axle-breaking terrain, run through a brick wall, choked with sand and riddled with bullets. So when a guy just happened to have a lover with sufficient mechanical genius to make motor mounts for a 1936 Avions Voisin, a smart guy backed off, shut the fuck up and let said lover concentrate.

But he squatted down and watched, because God, he loved to watch Al work with his hands.

A common interest in cars Ė Dirk, in driving them very fast, and Al, in working on them Ė had been only one of many interests theyíd found to mesh their separate talents. The Navy SEALS had worked nicely for that purpose for a while, but there had been a down side too Ė the official "donít ask, donít tell" and the more worrisome unoffocial hassle that could possibly land them in a dangerous situation with no backup. NUMA was possibly the pinnacle of both their ambition Ė work where Al could routinely pull off his technical miracles and get his hands greasy on the best equipment science had to offer (or at least the best that Sandecker could be wheedled into buying), and where Dirk could indulge his love of history and get wet a lot. A boss who hired them knowing exactly what he was getting and frankly not giving a damn because he knew just how good they were. And a team who knew them both well enough that nobody ever got their noses out of joint about the single symbiotic entity which was Dirk-and-Al, where everybody just took for granted that the most distance they were ever going to see between the two was a couple hundred feet of ocean depth.

"Got it," Al said, scooting out from under the car. "Have a look."

Dirk looked. Al had done his usual flawless job; the new mount was identical to the old one, only newer and, of course, not broken. Dirk scooted back out and grinned at his sweaty, grease-smudged lover.

"Beautiful," Dirk said, not referring to the motor mount or the car. "A couple more parts, a little more tinkering and sheíll be up to spec. What do you think, can you save the valves?"

"Got Ďem cleaned out already," Al said. "No more test drives on the beach, though, okay? I already had to clear the sand out of this thing an extra time so you could show off for Dr. Rojas."

"Jesus, youíre never going to let that go, are you?" Dirk said, rolling his eyes.

"You took her to the beach," Al said reasonably.

"I wanted her to take one fucking afternoon off, relax and have a little fun before she flew off to the next third-world hellhole," Dirk said patiently. "We had a picnic, we swam, and yes, I kissed her. Once."

"You took her to the beach," Al repeated in that same reasonable tone.

Al had a point. Dirk Pitt taking someone to the beach had entirely different connotations than, say, taking them out for drinks, or dinner, or . . . well, pretty much anything. More like taking someone to, well, Lookout Point or some similar spot. Worse, it was sort of like dancing with someone else to "their song."

"Okay, Iím an asshole," Dirk admitted. "I shouldnít have taken her to the beach. But I was joking around with her back in Mali Ė "

"Flirting," Al corrected.

" Ė I was flirting with her back in Mali," Dirk conceded, "and I promised her a day at the beach, and she remembered me saying that and took me up on it, and we didnít do anything. I told you you couldíve come along, remember?"

"What, so either she could feel like a spare tire, or I could?" Al said, but he was grinning, and Dirk knew Al would let him off the hook, even though Alís feelings were definitely hurt. Al always let him off the hook for his flirting, understanding that for Dirk Pitt, flirting was as automatic as breathing. He liked being wanted, admired. He basked in it. Normally it didnít bother Al; it was the beach thing that had made this time different.

Although the beach in Monterey wasnít "Their Beach" or even "their beach." Although there were a hell of a lot of "their beaches" all over the world, there actually was no "Their Beach," per se. "Their Beach" was in fact a swimming pool at the beach house down the coast from Newport Beach and still technically owned by Dirkís parents, although Dirk was the one who used it these days. Even when Dirk was a kid, his dad had usually been too busy to take time off to spend at the beach house, so it had mostly been Dirk and his mom and, of course, Al.

It had been Barbara Pitt and Dirk and Al the summer when Dirk and Al were fifteen, Alís parents long since resigned to Alís extended visits with Dirk in the summers, then Congressman George Pitt good-naturedly grousing a little, as always, that his wife felt the need to take Dirk and herself "away from it all" for a while.

July, 1984

Dirk loved summers at the beach house Ė jet skiing, boating, spearfishing, practicing his free diving, SCUBA diving, swimming . . . and all, of course, with his best friend by his side. Al, far from his workshop, was probably less enthusiastic, but he didnít complain. He had a profitable summer sideline working on jet ski and boat engines and was saving up for college. (He didnít yet know about the obscure full engineering scholarship Dirk would be urging him to apply for Ė would never find out, in fact, that George Pitt had set it up specifically for Al.)

Dirk would be the first to admit that he was something of an adrenaline junkie, and consequently those summer days were often full to the brim of whatever crazy stunts he could drag Al into, there were still days like this one Ė Dirk and Al lying lethargically beside the pool, drowsing and sunning off the effects of last nightís party a few miles down the beach. Said party being the reason why they were beside the pool; Dirk, and therefore Al, was grounded Ė house and pool only, no ocean, no visitors. Barbara knew her son pretty well, and Dirk was sure sheíd relent the next day, but in the meantime, a day in recovery didnít actually sound too bad. He missed the ocean already, but hey, at least they had the pool. He wouldnít have minded a cold beer, and his mom was going out with some friends for the afternoon, but after last night she was sure to notice if any were missing, and Dirk wasnít willing to jeopardize his chances for early parole tomorrow.

Dirk heard the car pulling out at the front. He cracked his eyes open, glanced at Al, who was already grinning at him. Simultaneously they skinned out of their swim trunks and tossed them aside with a sigh of relief.

"Fucking sand," Dirk said ruefully.

"Yeah, well, the next time you get smashed and have the brilliant idea to go bodysurfing down a sand dune, Iíll just watch," Al said. "And if you do talk me into it Ė again Ė Iím not wearing the same damn swim trunks the next morning, even for your momís sake."

"Didnít you shower last night?" Dirk asked, knowing for a fact Al hadnít, for two reasons, neither having to do with any personal recollection of coming home the night before: First, because Al, like Dirk, had been too trashed to contemplate anything as complicated as shower taps; second, because theyíd stumbled in the door, tracking wet sand across the carpet, and both collapsed, still in their tee shirts and damp/sandy swim trunks, on the leather sofa in the living room, where Barbara Pitt had found them this morning. Dirk had the sneaking suspicion that the condition of their swim trunks and the condition of the sofa had factored into his present grounding as much as the late party and the booze.

Al just snorted at the question, rolling his eyes, giving Dirk the impression that maybe Al did remember stumbling in the night before.

"Anyway," Dirk said, trying not to fidget as he became aware that not all the sand had departed with the trunks, "Girls are impressed by guys without tan lines."

Al grunted noncommittally.

"Hey, speaking of girls, how did things go with Ellie last night?" Dirk asked. Al always got kind of, well, awkward and unsure around girls, his brilliant mind vanishing behind stutters and a horrible "Hi, how are you," eerily reminscent of Arnold Horshack on the Welcome Back, Kotter reruns that his mom liked. So Dirk had set Al up with Ellie, who had fantastic tits and who was incredibly easygoing and mellow for a chick, even more so after a few beers, and sheíd had more than a few over the course of the party. Al shouldíve at least managed second base; Dirk himself had managed a whole lot of manual exploration of Eileen, Ellieís friend, including a typically disappointing handjob. For some reason, most girls just didnít seem to know how to handle a dick.

Al said nothing.

"Al?" Dirk raised his head slightly. "I said, how did things Ė "

"Fine," Al said tersely. "Just fine."

To Dirkís surprise, Alís face looked flushed Ė what he could see of it, anyway, because Al was on his stomach and now had his forehead resting on his forearms. So either Al had struck out spectacularly, or heíd actually managed to lose his virginity.

"So whatís that supposed to mean?" Dirk said. "Did you at least get to feel those tits?"

"Look, just drop it, okay?" Al snapped. A moment later he raised his head. "And do me a favor, donít set me up with any more girls, okay?"

Dirk blinked.

"Hey, man, if it didnít work out with Ellie, then Ė "

"It didnít work with Ellie," Al growled, "which she blamed on the beer, which I suppose is kind of a good thing, but it didnít work with the last girl either, and itís not gonna work with the next girl or the girl after that, no matter how great her tits are, and are you getting the point yet?"

Dirk blinked.

There were two possible ways he could take Alís statement. One was that Al couldnít get it up, which supposedly happened to guys sometimes, only on a more permanent basis. Which Dirk knew for a fact wasnít true, because sometimes when theyíd gone camping heíd heard Al jerking off, just like he knew Al had probably heard him too.

Which left the other interpretation.

Dirk blinked.

"So," Al said a little bitterly, "You wanna take your chances with sand and tan lines and put your swim trunks back on now?"

Dirk blinked.

"Say something, all right?" Al demanded, raising his head. Those eyes werenít laughing or dancing now. In fact, they were still bloodshot and rather pissed-looking.

"You never told me," Dirk said blankly.

"Well, duh," Al said, rolling his eyes.

"Ten years," Dirk said slowly. "Ten fucking years weíve been best friends and you never told me. Jesus, Al! What did you think I was gonna do, punch you?"

Al gave a reluctant snort of laughter.

"Weíve already done that," he said. "A whole bunch of times. Nah, I just didnít want you to . . . you know. Act different."

"What, you donít think finding out my best friendís been keeping this big fucking secret from me for ten years might make me act different?" Dirk said, hurt. Then a thought occurred to him and curiosity momentarily drowned hurt. "Have you known all along?"

Al blushed a little redder, if that was possible, but some of the anger in his eyes faded to wariness.

"Just the last couple years," he mumbled. "I never really thought about it too much for a while."

Dirk digested that. He couldnít imagine not thinking about it. Hell, he thought about it all the time. Well, apart from free diving, SCUBA diving, jet skiing, fixing up cars . . . okay, not all the time.

"So . . . have you ever done it with a guy?" he asked curiously.

This time Al flushed positively crimson.

"No!"

"So how do you know youíre, um, gay?" Dirk asked, trying to sound casual, worldly, a hundred percent okay with suddenly finding out his best friend was into guys.

"Well, letís see," Al said sarcastically. "When I look at one of my brotherís Playboy magazines and nothing happens, but in the locker room I keep getting boners looking at the other guys, thatís one clue."

"You get hard looking at the guys at school?" Dirk asked, interested despite himself. Sure, guys looked at other guys in the locker room. Heíd looked, of course. That was just normal. You had to make sure you werenít a peewee by comparison.

"Yeah." Al sounded a little sheepish, and his forehead was down on his forearms again.

"You ever get hard looking at me?" Dirk asked without thinking. Then, feeling his own face heat and wishing he could take the question back, he added hurriedly, "Itís okay if you have."

A long hesitation, so long that Dirk thought Al wasnít going to answer Ė then, finally, a muffled, "Yeah, sometimes."

Dirk wondered if he should be offended or pissed off or something. Bizarrely, he felt kind of Ė well, flattered. And, weirdly, a little bit turned on.

Dirk flailed awkwardly for something to say to that.

"Uh, want to get in the pool?" he asked. "Iím ready for a swim, are you?"

"Sure," Al said after a long hesitation. He glanced at Dirkís discarded swim trunks. "You want those?"

"You gotta be kidding," Dirk said, deliberately casual. "If we clog up the pool filters with sand, Momíll ground me for the rest of the summer. And rinse off, too."

With carefully feigned nonchalance, Dirk got up and walked over to the outdoor shower nozzle beside the pool, giving silent thanks to his hangover that he didnít have a boner. He rinsed off, imagining he could feel Alís eyes on him, and the incipient boner threatened to become a reality. Unobtrusively he turned the water as cold as he could and finished rinsing off, telling himself that he had to take his time; if he rushed, Al would think it was because of him. Before he turned off the water, he sneakily tweaked the knob back to a warmer temperature, then dived in the pool.

When he surfaced, Al was at the shower. His swim trunks werenít. Well, hell, Al had admitted heíd looked Ė had probably just looked, in fact Ė which meant Dirk was entitled to look too if he wanted to.

Al wasnít bad to look at, as guys went. He wasnít as bulky as some of the guys on the football team at school, but he had plenty of wiry muscle in a compact, slender kind of way, and had more body hair than Dirk Ė curling and dark blond, like his hair. He was golden from the sun, his hair bleached lighter than in wintertime, and there was something about his hands, now gliding efficiently over his wet skin, that was just sort of . . . well, hypnotic. Weird, how sometimes Dirk had watched Al work on some engine or other, watch those hands move, nimble, sure, working their magic, and Dirk would get a kind of funny feeling in his stomach. He was getting that feeling now, and was suddenly aware that the water of the pool was pretty damned warm compared to the shower spray.

Okay, so he was getting hard, so what? Heíd always loved people looking at him, admiring him, so why shouldnít he get a little bit turned on over Al looking at him, admiring him, telling Dirk that he had a body that got Al hard? Perfectly normal. Nothing wrong with that. It didnít have anything to do with looking at Al.

Al slid rather pensively into the water, instead of his usual whooping kamikaze cannonball off the diving board, and Dirk knew he was still feeling unsure, so Dirk made a preemptive strike and swam over to Al, resting his elbows on the side of the pool like theyíd always done.

"So Ė what guy do you think is the hottest?" Dirk asked curiously.

Al gave a tentative grin.

"David Hasselhoff," he said promptly, making Dirk feel a brief inexplicable flash of disappointment. Then Alís grin turned sheepish. "Of course, that could just be Ďcause Iím dying to get my hands on that car."

"Canít argue with that," Dirk agreed, laughing. Then he imagined Al getting his hands on Kitt, those incredible hands making an even bigger miracle of a miracle car, and that funny feeling in his stomach suddenly got a lot stronger, and Dirk was glad his front was against the side of the pool. "But I was asking about the guys at school, and you know it, you asshole."

Al glanced away uncomfortably.

"Awww, címon, Dirk, you know youíre the hottest guy in school," he muttered. "You know that. Everybody knows that."

Dirk just grinned. It was one thing to know that the girls in school thought he was hot; it was actually pretty flattering, though, when even guys thought so, too. Which made him wonder what a guyís criteria was in judging a hot guy.

"So what do guys look at in guys?" he asked. When Alís eyebrows shot up, he expanded, "Looking at girls, you know, some guys go for big tits, some guys look at asses, or legs or whatever. What do guys look at in guys?"

"How the hell should I know?" Al demanded, and he was scowling again. "Itís not like gay guys can exactly sit around chatting about this shit in the locker room, not without getting the crap beat out of them."

Instantly Dirk flipped over from curious to furious.

"Has somebody been hassling you?" he asked.

Al subsided, shaking his head.

"Uh-uh," he said. Then he shrugged. "Iím not sure anybody knows, really. I mean, a few people have made comments over the years, the way you and I hang around together, but Ė " He shrugged again. "I can take care of myself."

Dirk grinned. Al could, too. Dirk would lay money on Al against any three high-school meatheads, maybe four. When easygoing Al finally snapped, he made the eruption of Mount St. Helens look like a mild burp by comparison. Oddly, Dirk himself had come in for surprisingly little of the snickering, finger pointing and snide comments, possibly because he dated girls pretty regularly and possibly because both he and Al had something of a reputation of flattening anybody who badmouthed the other.

"Okay, so what do you look at in a guy?" Dirk said, going back to his question.

"Itís not like that," Al said, grimacing. "You make it sound like Iím, you know, window shopping or something."

Dirk gazed at him, perplexed, because when he looked at girls, that basically was what he was doing, and he assumed it was probably the same for gay guys.

"Well, if you look at guys and you get hard, then youíre noticing something," he said at last.

Al shrugged.

"I never really thought about it that way," he said. "I guess . . . eyes, and mouth, and y- -- a guyís voice and the way, um, he moves, you know. That sort of thing."

Something in Alís voice made Dirk think he was holding something back, and Dirk was beginning to have a suspicion what it might be. But he didnít want to spook his best friend, so he decided to come at it kind of sideways.

"So . . . from a gay guyís standpoint," Dirk said conversationally, "have I got a great ass?"

Alís eyes flew open wide.

"Dirk!"

"Hey, you already said Iím the hottest guy at the school," Dirk pointed out. "I mean, I was just kind of wanting to know specifics."

As Dirk had expected, Al involuntarily tilted his head back a little to look, and damned if Dirk couldnít all but feel Alís gaze sweep down his back.

"Yeah," Al said, really quietly. "Itís really great. Perfect."

Jesus, Dirk was hard, and the side of the pool was uncomfortably rough to press against, too. He glanced over at Al and noticed that Al was getting pretty cozy with the side of the pool too, and bizarrely that made Dirk even harder.

Well, he could think about that, which heíd really rather not do, or he could do something about it.

"So . . . have you got a boner now?" Dirk asked conversationally.

This time Al looked completely poleaxed, not to mention red as a boiled lobster.

"Dirk Ė " he said uncomfortably.

"Itís okay if you do," Dirk said. "I mean, I do."

Al swallowed hard.

"You do?"

"Yep." Dirk took a deep breath. "Ever jerk off in the water?"

Another stunned look.

"Ummmm . . . does the bathtub count?"

"Uh-uh. Never did it in the pool?" Dirk asked. Which was a ridiculous question, because the Giardinos didnít have a pool, which meant that Al would have either had to do it at a public pool, which was, like, no way in Hell, or in the Pittsí pool, which Dirk thought he probably would have noticed.

"Uhhhh . . . no." Al looked like he was trying to merge with the side of the pool now.

"I do all the time," Dirk said. "Want to?"

Long, long silence, and Dirk was sorry to see that wariness creep back into Alís eyes.

"Hey, Dirk, thatís not funny," Al said uncertainly, still blushing furiously.

"Hey, Iím not joking," Dirk protested, feeling his own cheeks heat. "You said you liked looking at me, I donít care if you look at me, itís okay with me, Iíve got a boner, I want to jerk off and I thought maybe you might too. No big deal."

Another long silence, Al still looking stunned, like he might choke or something, but at last, saying nothing, eyes wide, Al nodded, just once.

"Cool," Dirk said, amazed at his own relief. Of course, his dick was so hard it felt like it would break right off if he didnít do something about it soon, and it wouldíve been just too weird, jerking off if Al wasnít. Much more weird than a couple of teenage guys jerking off together, which was no big deal, really.

Al hesitated.

"So how do you . . . I mean, do you, like, hold on to the ladder or something?" he said.

"Sometimes," Dirk said. "If Iím afraid Mom or Dad might come out and catch me. That way they canít see anything over the edge of the pool. But itís easier at the shallow end. Come on, Iíll show you."

Dirk swam powerfully, quickly, wondering if Al was watching him. Naturally he got there while Al was still halfway across the pool, which let Dirk watch Al swim. Al swam like he ran track Ė deliberate, measured pace, no wasted effort, good for the long distance, whereas Dirk was more of a sprinter.

Al made it to the pool steps and sat on the lowest one, not too close, respecting Dirkís personal space, or maybe back far enough that he could get a good look at everything, Dirk didnít know. Fuck, Dirk was hard. And letting himself have a quick look at Al, he could see Al was pretty damned hard too.

"So . . . um . . . " Al was hesitating again. "What now?"

Dirk laughed.

"What do you think?" he grinned. He leaned back comfortably, elbow on a higher step, and sighed with sheer relief as he grasped his dick and started stroking. His eyes drifted closed, but when he heard a gasp from Al, he opened his eyes again.

Al was looking at him, staring at him, with that incredible focused look he got when he got under the hood of some really boss car, his mouth open slightly, his eyes wide. He just sat there frozen, not touching himself, just staring at Dirk. And once again that gaze was so hot Dirk could feel it like a hand running over him, and fuck if he didnít watch it he was going to come in two seconds like some moron, and that was just not gonna happen because this was fantastic and he wanted to enjoy every minute.

"Arenít you gonna jerk off too?" Dirk asked a little breathlessly.

Almost absently Al wrapped those fingers around his own dick and started pumping it slowly, and wow, that gave Dirk a really funny, shivery feeling because he thought Al had the most amazing hands in the world. But Al didnít close his eyes, just watched Dirk, and Jesus, was he shaking?

"I love doing it in the water," Dirk panted, his own eyes riveted on Alís hand. "I love the feeling of the water all over me, against my skin everywhere, and the way you feel weightless and floating, like whip coral swaying with the tide, and when you come Ė "

"Itís like the corals, isnít it?" Al said, his voice rough, fingers moving in time with Dirkís. "Spraying their sperm and eggs out into the ocean to join together or not, like theyíre doing it with the whole wide ocean . . . "

Dirk shuddered, startled by Alís insight, by him understanding something that Dirk himself had never quite put into words like that, but was just exactly right. He stared at Al and shuddered again as Al put his other hand into play, cupping his balls, and oh fuck Dirk had to freeze and take deep breaths or he would have come right then, staring at his best friend jerking himself in time with Dirk.

"Hey, Dirk?" Al said, and his voice was very quiet.

"Yeah?" Dirk said unsteadily. Okay, he had it under control, he wasnít going to shoot off that very second.

"You Ė um Ė " Al took a deep breath. "You want a hand with that?"

Dirk shuddered, caught halfway between shock and arousal. Okay, another guy touching his dick Ė but this wasnít another guy, this was Al. Al with those hands, that just watching those hands was about to make Dirk come, and to feel those hands on him Ė

"Yeah, okay," Dirk rasped, apparently shocking Al just as much, but not too much, because half a second later Al had scooted over beside Dirk, and Dirk whimpered as those fingers slid around his dick, replacing his own.

And now Dirk really had to fight to keep his eyes open because miracle of miracles, Al was stroking him just perfectly, just hard enough just fast enough, running his thumb over the head at just the right time, long sweet strokes that dipped down to include his balls and then alllllllllll the way up, oh fuck those hands were just as magical as heíd thought, and just a couple more strokes and Dirk gave out this really pathetic whimper heíd be totally embarrassed about later and came harder than heíd ever come in his life.

It was a few minutes before Dirk got enough brain cells working to open his eyes, and when he did, Al was still clasping his dick, loosely, not stroking it anymore, just holding it. And Al must have come too, because he was slumped back too, kind of glazed and satisfied-looking and his dick was limp. And that was kind of cool, actually, that heíd come making Dirk come. That his sperm and Alís sperm had floated away together, like the coral. And okay, maybe Dirk would feel a little funny about it later, but that was definitely the best handjob heíd ever had, and right now all he could think was Wonder how I can get him to do that again?

*****

"Again" had happened, in fact, the very next day in the same pool. Twice. Then the next night, freed from the house, daringly skinny-dipping at the beach in the moonlight. That time Dirk had given in to curiosity and discovered that while he maybe wasnít as good at giving handjobs as Al was, Al didnít have any complaints. And that actually it felt pretty damned good, putting that expression on Alís face.

Two days later Dirk got up his nerve and kissed Al.

A couple weeks after that, Dirk got his first blowjob, and learned that while Al might be innately gifted with his hands, being gay apparently didnít automatically make him an expert at sucking dick Ė heíd gagged and spit out Dirkís come and scraped him with his teeth, too, and he apologized all over the place and they both got a good laugh out of it, and strangely, unlike after the crappy handjobs heíd gotten from the girls heíd dated, Dirk didnít feel disappointed at all.

Dirk could never really decide exactly when or how it had happened, how "letís go swimming" automatically came to mean that as soon as the opportunity arose, the swim trunks would come off and he and Al would engage in their newest aquatic sport. Dirk discovered that they could twine together and rub against each other, and that was really great, and Al got better at blowjobs, and Dirk finally got his nerve up and he was lousy at it, but heíd always been pretty damned competitive and pride wouldnít let him give up, so he just kept at it anyway.

And Al didnít get many more engines fixed that summer, and they still went to parties and drank (not enough to get Dirk grounded again) and had a great time . . . and went home and ended up in the pool. Together.

And by the next summer, Al had found a book, Dirk had actually had to work up his nerve to buy a jar of vaseline, and theyíd just sort of played around for months before they both got their nerve up for that one. And that theyíd done in bed, and the first time was a disaster because Al said it hurt and that scared Dirk so much that he went limp as a wet french fry, and the second time Dirkís mom nearly caught them, and the third time Dirk got just the head in and came before they could go any further. And that was so embarrassing that Dirk wanted to just give up, but Al liked the fingers so much, he wanted to keep trying. So they read the book again and talked about it some more, and Al came up with the idea this time:

"Letís go swimming."

And the moon was full and the pool was warm and Barbara Pitt would be across town playing Euchre until late, and this time Dirkís fingers had all the magic because Al, holding tightly to the side of the pool, was moaning softly, quietly, and pushing back against him and telling him in little gasps, "There, there, there."

And sliding into Al was the ultimate free dive, the deepest, the best ever, and the back of Alís neck tasted of salt and life, like the ocean, and Al whispered, "Yes, yes, yes," and when he came, quietly, Al bit the back of his wrist so hard that when Dirk kissed him afterwards, he tasted blood.

And Al was definitely the brave one, because it was another year before Dirk got up the nerve and found out how it felt, and it was actually pretty great but Dirk liked it better the other way around, which was okay because Al admitted he liked it better that way too.

And he and Al had pretty much decided on going into the military after high school Ė maybe the Air Force, more likely the Navy, maybe even the SEALs, and between preparing for that and the heavy course load they were both carrying, nobody thought it was too strange that Dirk didnít have any time for dating anymore.

And the pool in Newport Beach wasnít quite as quiet and perfect for two teenage mermen, but they made do.

 

Present

"She would have been," Dirk said.

Al was putting away the last of his tools, neatly as always, wiping off the grease carefully.

"Huh?" he said, looking up.

"Eva would have been," Dirk said, grinning. "The spare tire."

"Oh." That was all Al said, but he was grinning too. "Hey, Dirk?"

Al was scrubbing off most of the grease with a damp towel. Dirk took the towel from him and wiped the streak off his nose.

"What?"

"Your folks using the beach house?"

Dirkís grin broadened.

"Nope."

"Cause I was thinking," Al said casually. "Weíve got about another week and a half before Sandeckerís ready to go."

"Yup." Dirk leaned forward, resting his forehead against Alís. "Want some time off by the pool?"

Al grinned back.

"Or on the beach," he said.

"Know what?" Dirk said, grinning so hard his face hurt. "I like the way you think."

Al slid his greasy magic hands down Dirkís back, probably ruining his shirt, and Dirk didnít care.

"Know what?" Al said. "I like the way you feel."

They were still a moment, foreheads touching, breath drifting together, like coral spawn in the ocean.

"Hey, Dirk Ė "

"Hey, Al Ė "

" . . . letís go swimming."


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