Belated birthday present for big break and laryngitis :D But I still win because she hasn't finished my even more belated birthday present. Suck it.
It's really awkward because it was my first time writing in third-person present tense. It kicked my ass. But I hope you like it...it's a piece of ridiculous fluff.
Off the Deep End
There comes a time when, after coincidence after coincidence, you realize that it's not a coincidence anymore.
James knows this. He knows that, the third time his shoulder hits the shoulder of the boy with the newsboy cap on the top deck, it's planned.
The third time, the boy walks too far out of his original path for it to be an accident when, "Sorry, I didn't see you there!" slips out and James nearly drops his teacup. Hot tea spills all over his hand, but he opts to confront the other boy rather than howl in pain from the burn.
"Tell me," James snaps, his voice more puzzled than actually irritated, "Do you need eyeglasses, or do you really have this much trouble walking?"
The cause of these many not-so-accidental shoulder bumps frowns delicately. "Excuse me?"
"That is the third time you've run into me up here," James patiently explains, though his patience is too forced to sound natural. He wipes his tea-soaked fingers on his trousers, wincing when the fabric rubs his burned hand.
"Sorry?" the other boy replies, his voice tilting up like his apology is a question. Like he's not sure if he wants to apologize or not. "Is your hand okay?"
"It's fine," James says brusquely. "Look, I'd appreciate it if you'd-"
But he makes it no farther than that, because he makes the mistake of actually looking up at his impromptu company. James has never really been able to look at the boy who bumps into him, because there's always that darn newsboy cap shading his face.
But now, when the sun hits just right, James can see every beautiful plane of the boy's face, his long eyelashes that nearly cast shadows on his cheeks, the soulful, dancing brown eyes that are the same color as an inviting cup of coffee and cream on a cold day.
Well. That face is enough to change James' mind. Maybe getting bumped into every morning while he drinks his tea isn't such a bad idea.
Although he should probably leave the tea behind so it doesn't burn his hand off completely.
The funny thing is, James' speechlessness after really seeing the other boy for the first time seemed to frighten the latter off. James goes for a walk in the morning and pretends to stare out at the sea, while occasionally glancing around on the deck for a boy in a newsboy cap who might be hiding among the aristocrats with their parasols.
When James reaches the bow of the ship, he turns in frustration to find out why he hasn't been interrupted yet. He scans the deck as far as he can see, wondering where on earth- or where on the Titanic, at least- his mystery boy could be.
James, after a full day without seeing the boy, attends dinner with his parents in a thoroughly grumpy mood. The one attractive boy he's seen on the whole ship, gone.
James is almost positive that all those times when he got bumped into, the other boy was doing it to get James' attention. Why would he not? There's no other excuse, unless his depth perception is that awful.
James' blazer is too warm in the dining room full of people, so he stands behind his chair to take it off before taking a seat. As he swings the jacket off, he hears an "oof!" and the unmistakable feel of his jacket hitting another body.
"I'm so sorry, I-," James turns to apologize to whatever wealthy person he nearly assaulted with his blazer, and abruptly shuts up. The boy from the top deck stands before him, his eyes wide and quite visible without a cap shading them.
James opens his mouth to speak, to introduce himself, to say something, but the boy promptly scurries off to another table. As he dodges waiters and women in long dresses, James watches where the boy goes.
Dinner is a rushed affair- James shovels filet and potatoes into his mouth like it's his first meal after being in the desert for years. When he finishes twenty minutes before all of the other socializing patrons, though, he wonders why he rushed. Now he's just going to be stuck bouncing in his seat until the boy finishes.
Once the waiters start taking empty plates back to the kitchen, though, James leaps up, excuses himself from his parents' company, and reaches the door before anyone else. There are two sets of double doors at the top of the staircase, and he stands with his back to the wall between them so he can see both sides and find the boy.
After a stream of women with their petticoats and men with their suits, a delicate boy strolls out of the door to James' right. James pushes away from the wall and falls into step beside the boy.
"Hello," James cheerfully says. The boy jumps, startled, and fearfully looks up at James.
"I told you, I'm sorry for bumping into you," the boy hurries to say. "It won't happen again, I promise."
"I'm James," James introduces himself, ignoring the apology. "And who do I have the pleasure of meeting?"
The boy's jaw slackens a little, his mouth falling comically open, and he shakes James' outstretched hand. "Paul."
James and Paul find themselves sneaking out of their suites at midnight and meeting up on the top deck. The only other people in sight are a woman with long red hair and a slightly unkempt man who looks like he doesn't quite belong with the well-groomed high-class guests on the Titanic's maiden voyage.
James and Paul decide to sit facing each other at the stern of the ship so as not to intrude on the rather intimate position the decks' other occupants are in. Though James won't deny that he wishes he was kissing Paul.
Of course, though James thinks he's sure that Paul is interested, too, he doesn't do anything.
Even though Paul, sitting cross-legged not two feet away, wants desperately to lean over and press his lips to James'.
You can't have it all, right?
So, instead of throwing themselves at each other, they talk. They talk until the sun turns pink with the rising sun, they talk until their voices are a little hoarse, they talk until they know everything about each other.
Everything except, of course, that they want each other. Though Paul nearly slips up and almost reaches out to touch James' deeply tanned cheek, and James almost calls Paul pretty, of all things.
The sun eventually rises, and by that time Paul has slumped over out of exhaustion. Pulling an all-nighter to talk to the boy who caught your eye the first moment you saw him is tough work.
James scoots over to Paul at some point before their night ends and tilts Paul's head up so the smaller boy can rest his cheek against James' shoulder. Paul's content smile is followed by the close of those deep coffee-brown eyes, and James lets Paul drift off to sleep.
James is afraid to sleep, though, because he knows that if he lets himself curl up against Paul, the two of them will get caught and, well, the results of that probably won't be pleasant. So James forces himself to stay awake while he runs a hand idly through Paul's tawny brown hair.
When the other passengers begin stirring and taking morning strolls along the docks, that's when James shakes Paul very lightly. Paul reluctantly opens his eyes because, truth be told, he wasn't actually asleep. He was faking it and enjoying James' fingers stroking his hair.
But as soon as Paul looks up, he comes very close to bumping noses with a very attractive, dreadfully tired James, and he immediately feels awful for pretending to sleep when James so obviously needs it.
"You need to sleep," Paul whispers, leaning forward a little and running his thumb over the dark circle below James' left eye. The moment his finger touches the hot skin, though, James coughs and Paul blushes while he backs away.
Right. They just met. Even talking all night and allegedly sleeping in James' arms isn't enough for Paul to actually make a move.
"I'll go back to my room." James shrugs and resists the strong urge he feels to tug Paul into his lap and just devour that pouty mouth.
"Mind if I walk you there?" Paul asks with a smile. James agrees instantly. He stands up first and holds out a hand to help Paul up, but even with the extra leverage Paul stumbles forward and bumps into James' chest.
James really wishes they weren't so close right now, because that would make it a lot easier to resist kissing Paul.
Instead, James awkwardly coughs again and tries to disentangle himself from Paul, who is repeatedly mumbling apologies.
In the end, they walk to James' suite with a safe distance between them, since neither boy can be sure he won't lose his remaining speck of self-control.
They see each other in the afternoon again, James looking remarkably well-rested for only a few hours' worth of sleep.
After commandeering a table before a quite indignant elderly couple can have it, the two boys drag it over to the railing so they can have a better view of the ocean. The sun is almost painfully bright, but it's better than being indoors with too many other people.
Paul is animatedly talking away, and James is watching Paul's mouth move instead of hearing the words coming out of it. His lips just look too inviting. It's really too much for James to handle anymore.
So he leans forward and kisses Paul, who makes a surprised sound and touches James' cheek with delicate fingers before eagerly returning the kiss.
That's how it all starts.
Paul doesn't like taking his shirt off in front of other people, but when James shoves him down on the bed he doesn't even protest when the buttons come undone. Tanned hands run over pale skin, red cheeks get kissed, slim hips get held in place on the bed.
"I-I don't know about this- oh!"
Paul cuts himself off and mentally takes back his initial shaky words when James does something with his hands that feels way too good. That should be outlawed.
"Relax," James whispers against Paul's collarbone. "I've got you."
Paul wraps his legs around James' waist and ghosts butterfly kisses down James' neck. As James' hands drag down the insides of Paul's thighs, Paul says, "I trust you."
Those are some pretty big words for two boys who only really met two days ago.
Late at night, when Paul is curled against James with his hand on James' chest and the sheets bunched around their naked waists, something wakes both boys up.
"Did you hear something?" Paul asks with a yawn, sitting up in the bed and prodding James' shoulder.
"Hmm?" James pulls the sheets up a little bit to give both of them a shred more decency. "I didn't-"
Someone outside the door screams, and the sound of running echoes through the corridor outside the room.
"Just wait here," James tells Paul, reaching down to the floor and picking up his pants. He slides them on and walks over to crack the door open slightly. People are running down the hall, screaming things at each other, putting on their meager life preservers.
James doesn't get a chance to ask someone what's wrong, but he doesn't need to ask to know that something's gone wrong with the ship. He slams the door shut and throws Paul his clothes, telling him to "get up, we need to leave."
Paul's heart starts racing, and he quickly dresses and then takes James' hand. After Paul grabs a pouch out of his luggage- James assumes that it's something valuable- they open the door and join the mass of people fighting their way to the decks.
Freezing cold water is coating the surface of the deck, and James' toes start to go numb as he pulls Paul along behind him.
"C'mon, Paul," he urges, not looking behind him. A larger man jostles him, pushing him out of the way as he shepherds his children in front of the other desperate people. Cries of small children and babies come from every direction, only worsened by the stabbing cold of the air and the slamming of panicked guests into each other.
James feels Paul's hand slip from his, and he immediately turns around so he can grab his lover's hand once more. But Paul isn't visible in the crowd anymore, and even as James pushes his way against the traffic to the deck, Paul finds himself pushed further and further back.
Farther away from James he goes, until- bam! Someone's door slams open and hits Paul square in the side of the head. Vision blurring, head throbbing, black creeping in on the panicked scene in front of him, Paul clutches at the railing in the hallway and then loses his grip and collapses.
Some people have the decency to avoid the unconscious boy on the wet deck; others accidentally kick him as they run to safety, to the lifeboats. The water seeps into Paul's clothes, ruining any chances at warmth that he had, and starting to cover his nose and mouth.
James sees the parting in the hallway and prays that he'll find Paul there. James nearly vaults over a group of small children and almost shoves their mother into the wall in his haste to get to the spot in the hallway where-
James' heart leaps into his throat, and all he can do is kneel down and hoist Paul into his arms. The skinny boy's coffee-brown eyes are closed, his dark eyelashes still casting small shadows on his pale, nearly blue skin.
"Paul." James kisses Paul's cheek as he carries him through the crowd, shivering in his own clothing because the icy water started to soak into his pants when he kneeled down.
Hypothermia is worth keeping Paul safe, though.
"Wake up," James whispers into Paul's ear, hating the blue tinge to Paul's already pale skin.
They make it to the deck where the lifeboats are being loaded, and James shamelessly pushes in front of the crowd. An elderly couple starts to tell him off, but James starts talking to the man in charge of the loading.
"My...my brother got knocked out, and our mom's already in one of the lifeboats," James lies. At the moment, he doesn't know where his parents are, but he doesn't really care.
The couple behind them starts to argue with James again, but the man lets James carry Paul to the lifeboat.
Paul only wakes up once the ship is nearly below water. James can't decide what terrifies him more- the sinking ship and the piercing screams coming from the last few people on board, or the fact that Paul is still unconscious.
James decides on the latter.
"Paul, you have to wake up," James murmurs, his lips right against Paul's ear. "Please. Please."
He throws one last glance towards the ship. All of the lights are out on it now. The moon shines through the windows and onto the ocean, illuminating the lifeboat and its occupants. Paul looks ghostly in the light, and James' heart starts pounding even harder.
"Paul!" he shakes Paul by the shoulders then, adrenaline and terror pulsing through his body as he watches the last of the Titanic sink below the surface of the ocean. A few stragglers leap into the water, trying to swim and grab hold of any floating object they can.
What a lonely feeling, being out in the open ocean with nothing around but some crying families and the debris from a sunken ship.
Paul's eyelashes flutter open, and James instantly squeezes Paul's hands in his in an attempt to warm them up. The contrast of Paul's near-frozen skin in James' warm hands burns, but James won't let go. Not for the world.
Paul smiles up at James, and then his coffee-colored eyes drift over to the glassy surface of the ocean where the ship used to be. Silently, Paul asks James for confirmation.
"Yeah," James says, swallowing hard and looking at the same place where Paul's eyes are trained. "It's gone."
Paul cracks a small smile, his numb fingers brushing over the back of James' hand. "Well," he mumbles, "at least we weren't on it."
James takes a chance and kisses Paul's forehead. "I would have swum us both to safety, anyway."
Paul laughs. "And you would have frozen to death with me."
James kisses his cheek this time, since everyone else on the lifeboat is ignoring them, anyway. "Always."
"Good to know I'm worth freezing for." Paul's warm smile lights up the whole dark ocean.
James doesn't have to say anything back. Paul already knows that he's worth everything to James. And both of them are okay with that.
A/N: So. No one died. Happy ending. There are your criteria. I hope my awkward fluff was enjoyable :)
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