meetcute // celebration miscalculation // it makes sense in context // when the planets align theo tate &. kit esposito
summer 2018
The thing about surfing was that on one hand, it was awesome. Theo had been doing it since he was a kid, since his uncle had shown him how, and he loved jumping on his bike before the sun had even cracked the sky to race down to the nearest beach with his board. On the other hand, surfing was full of dickheads. Sometimes it was fine - great, even - and the waves were populated by only people who were chill, aware, there for the same reason. And other times, you had to navigate around assholes who thought they were Patrick Swayze.

It's not like Theo held it against them. Patrick Swayze was cool. But there was a fine balance required out on the water so that nobody ended up with a board in their teeth, and it was frustrating and exhausting when that balance ended up disrupted. Theo was very good at keeping to himself, and a good enough surfer that he could ingratiate himself into new crowds with a smile and a wave. It was much less hard to stay out of the way when the wannabe Patrick Swayze's of the world were up on your ass like they owned it. It was worse when there was a group of them, and they'd all decided they owned the beach that morning. Theo really did not have the patience for bullies.

"Fuck--" Theo got out, a second before he went face first into the break, water shooting up his nose and his body dragged around underneath the roiling wave for a moment until he burst out and grabbed onto the edge of his board. He gasped, looking around for the culprit - a jerk, grinning and waving at him as he slid on by after stealing Theo's wave and knocking him clean off.

"Whoops!" The jerk shouted back at him, to a chorus of laughter from his jerk friends, and Theo gave a sluggish huff and nearly slipped from his board again when another wave picked up and another surfer - not someone Theo knew, he thought, another jerk, maybe? - bobbed closer to him.

He needed better friends. Better, less jerky friends. Turds like Brian and Anthony and Glenn were the downside of being less than discerning about the dudes you hung out with and Kit, regrettably, collected 'casual pals' like pretty girls on the internet collected unwanted dick pics: en masse, mostly by accident. Where had he even met Glenn? Had they shared an uber select? Taken pity on the same homeless guy and split the cost of his forty? Fought over a girl at Temple? Fought over a girl at actual temple? Were they distantly related? Reminder: annoy cousin Nora later for Great Aunt Beatrice's profile.

"GLENN." Said bro in question was heckling some other dude for no apparent reason, fucking with his board and throwing elbows and generally being a dick about waiting his fucking turn for a primo swell. Luckily Kit had cultivated certain skills throughout the years that made him a valuable asset on a beach, surrounded by raucous assholes and the usual din of noisy crashing waves: he was loud as fuck.

Glenn turned around. Kit gestured, aggressively, to stop being a dick in bro pantomime. Glenn ignored him, resumed being a dick, and promptly shoved the stranger he was harassing right off his board and ganked his wave. Brian and Anthony and the rest of the group whose names Kit never bothered to learn or remember burst into obedient laughter. Meanwhile, Kit manfully resisted the urge to start a beach fight that'd (probably) end up with him at the bottom of a frat guy dogpile with at least one broken bone. But like, it was a hard ask for his overworked underpaid overwrought survival instincts.

Instead, he paddled over to the guy Glenn-bout-to-be-deleted-from-his-contacts-list-the-minute-he-remembered-where-he-left-his-phone had bulldozed through in the pursuit of one barely adequate wave and made a genuine effort to shore up some friendly concern when honestly all he wanted in that moment was to shove Glenn's head under water for a minute. Maybe two. Maybe ten. This was healthier. This was normal. This wouldn't get him arrested. This was… hey, stranger dude was pretty fine. "You OK, man?" The words were hardly out of his mouth before he was reaching over to grasp the guy supportively by the upper arms in some (mostly innocent) attempt to help him regain his balance and not go careening back into the surf.

Theo was a pacifist at heart, prone to talking first, resistant to starting fights but committed to ending them, or getting in between something when he shouldn't, and that had caused a lot of problems for him in the past but at this point he wasn't bound to learn. The act of starting it himself, though? That took a lot more effort, and all Theo had to offer jerkass Glenn was a sputtered rude mumble under his breath, hair and water in his eyes, and a calming breath as he tried to quell the desire to clamber back on to go shooting off after him to shove him off of his board. It wasn't worth it. It was pointless. It was -- oh, he was being rescued. By someone handsome, who did not seem like a jerk, at least initially.

Not that Theo was immune to finding jerks attractive - in fact, he primarily found jerks attractive, often against his better judgment. He blinked up at Kit and had nothing useful to say before the stranger was grabbing his arms - Theo went with it, thankfully, clambering up onto his board as best he could, leaning forward into Kit and trying very hard not to knock him backwards into the surf at the same time. "Hey, ah, thanks," Theo coughed, still with a lungful of water from his unceremonious and unexpected dip. He flashed Kit a quick smile. "I've got it, I'm okay, thank you."

And he would have had it just fine, had Glenn - or Brian, or Anthony - hadn't just swept past from behind them, having caught yet another wave that had technically been someone else's. They gave a shout, a friendly or taunting call for Kit, and then the end of their board clipped Theo's - enough to surprise the other jerk rider, who tipped off with a yelp, but it, naturally, knocked Theo's up and out from under him and he went promptly toppling into Kit.

He was so close, so almost close to one of those mythological romantic comedy moments. Stranger guy was smiling, looking grateful, not immediately brushing off that physical contact Kit bestowed upon him in some earnest, well-meaning effort to make up for his 'friends' being a pack of assholes. Possibly also to put his hands on a wet hot dude, but that was a distant(ish) second place on his mental objectives inventory. The amount of help he was actually providing was negligible, though wasn't it enough that he was mentally drowning Glenn and feeding him to a shark and being nice and not immediately segueing their conversation into 'your beach towel or mine?' Growth.

"You—" —r beach towel or mine? No. Stop. Desist. "You sure? Yo, I'm sorry about them—" Better. Good start. "They're more ballsack than brain. Future political leaders of America, probably. I swear we're only friends when it's convenient and one of them offers to pay my snack bar tab." Their boards jostled, nudged together by the natural movement of the water and his new pal's continued small adjustments to reassert equilibrium and Kit respectfully retracted his hands once he seemed settled and in no immediate danger of faceplanting. It didn't take a trained eye to recognize he knew what he was doing, was far from the vulnerable amateur Kit immediately took him for when Glenn snaked his wave without consequence or chucked water shoe. Jesus, was he just polite?

In Kit's defense, he was temporarily struck dumb by an unexpected flood of both enthrallment and alarm, because who the fuck was still a kind decent person in California anymore? Sure, they'd throw down for basic human rights and always voted blue and loved the gays but ask any one of them to treat a homeless dude with some small bit dignity and yikes, true colors. ...These were precisely the thoughts he was thinking instead of practicing situational awareness and doing the mythological romantic comedy moment thing where he'd catch polite guy in his strong arms as he fell and not squawk in surprise when their bodies collided and sent them both barrelling ass over teakettle into the briny deep. Together.

In Kit's continued defense, conking his head against the tail end of his surfboard on the way down wasn't part of the plan. Nor was dazedly forgetting he was under water due to aforementioned head injury and trying to take a few immediate breaths and flooding his delicate alveolar sacs with salt water. Looking cool was the entire plan, and that plan was rapidly dog paddling out the plan window.

It all would have been very nice, wouldn't it? Had Theo managed to sit astride his board without any issue, to chat a little to Rescuer, to maybe end up leaving the beach in a better mood than Major Asshole Glenn had put him in. It was a great deal less surprising to Theo that someone had come to help, had been kind enough to swoop by to check on him, to help him up, even if that someone was apparently a friend of aforementioned asshole, but at least the guy was saying that it wasn't behavior he generally approved of, and Theo was trusting enough to simply accept it - that it wasn't, potentially, some creative way at leading into some kind of prank orchestrated by the Asshole Collective.

And even if that had been a thought - a little spark of momentary suspicion flickering only due to a well-practiced and mostly unused sense of self-preservation - the glimmer of it would have been promptly swept away by the fact that Kit was caught up in the next accidental or otherwise collision.

The first thing through Theo's head was a very stroppy are you fucking serious. The next thing was the very sharp knowledge that he'd heard a thunk noise that hadn't come from him, or any part of his body, or his board, and that was what stuck in him when he tumbled around under the waves for a split second, breached the surface with a gasp and found that Kit was not yet there, and immediately ducked down again to hook his arms around Kit's chest so he could haul him up alongside him.

He kept one arm around Kit and the other on his board - or Kit's board, Theo wasn't paying attention - and took a second to swallow in a few gasps of more air now that the whole inside of his lungs had to just be chock full of salt water sloshing to and fro. "Hey, hey, are you okay?" Theo eked out in a sliver of a wheeze, a crease of concern between his brows and no attention spared for the other dickhead recovering nearby. First this shit had been annoying - now it was just beyond downright dangerous, and Theo felt a flare of unhelpful heat that he squashed down in favor of tilting his head a touch to try to catch Kit's gaze. Boy, he was handsome. To himself he grumbled an exasperated, Are you serious, Theo?

Humiliation was so not one of his kinks. Mercifully, his brain was too busy with the customary 'near-death experience' flood of electrical impulses, vibe checking his organs and limbs and miscellaneous assortment of other necessary bits to oblige his urge to agonize over looking like a fucking moron in front of Future Star of At Least a Week's Worth of Wank Fantasies. The most Kit was capable of cataloging in that moment was that air, yes, air was good. Air felt great in his alveolar sacs. Making way for air in his alveolar sacs meant coughing a lot but he was still occupying that happy window of 'incapable of enough brain power to feel shame' and promptly sputtered a sexy mixture of saliva and ocean water right in Rescuee cum Rescuer's face.

"Sorry about that," he croaked. Sounding, at least, genuinely sorry. And pathetic enough with his sea water-traumatized airway that Polite Guy couldn't possibly hold it against him. He'd yet to make proper eye contact, deepest most basic most neanderthal vestiges of his psyche somehow still capable of forming a decent mockup of visceral chagrin, thank god. It was tough enough to gather himself into some pretense of dignity without bearing physical witness to what was undoubtedly Cute Polite Guy's earnest concerned eyeballs and therefore a sober reminder that he'd just made an ass of himself.

Also, wasn't there the head bonking to contend with?

Kit rubbed blearily at his forehead. Pulled his hand away, was entirely unsurprised to see said hand covered in watery diluted blood because head wounds were always melodramatic and couldn't, for once, spare him one crumb of respectability. God, those eyeballs were probably getting more earnest and concerned by the millisecond. "It's fine. We're fine. Me and brain are fine, we've had worse. Very recently, y'know? Trauma's actually our brand." Was he being too loud? It felt a little like he was being too loud, like he couldn't control the volume of his voice. Possibly not the best sign, though the grip he had on consciousness was at least semi-solid and would probably only slide stealthily out of his control if whatever omnipresent force of fate decided it'd be like, super hilarious.

Whatever. Braining himself on his board had one obviously positive consequence and Kit wouldn't be Kit if he didn't take greedy advantage. Earnest Concerned Guy had him in a supportive hold, probably to ensure he wouldn't conk off back into the water and Kit reinforced that hold with the aid of his own limbs slithering around whatever parts of him he could reach. "I'm Kit, by the way."

As far as Theo was concerned, there was nothing to be embarrassed about - at least for Kit. For Glenn and his fellow assholes, maybe, and maybe for him when he'd taken that first plunge and Kit had come to his rescue only to end up with the situation reversed and in a much worse way. Not worse because Theo had his arm around him, and that was nice, and he was not thinking about how it was nice, because the guy he was holding was bleeding, and that was simply not the thing you thought about when performing a rescue that had turned from mild to actually maybe is this guy going to need stitches and will Theo be able to fit him on his bike to ride to the nearest hospital.

He frowned deeper, head tilting up in an effort to get a better look at the injury in question, but with the bobbing and the tugging of the waves it was difficult enough to keep them both afloat and to keep an arm around his board. Handsome Stranger started talking - insisting that he was fine - and Theo smiled, because, well, it was nice, and a bit funny, but the smile had a tinge of a cringe in it still, the thread of worry not loosening and instead just growing tighter by every passing second. "Uh huh," came Theo's endeared and patient response.

"Hi, Kit." Theo's smile broadened momentarily, and he felt a little bad for the way in which Kit's slithering arms around him drew a bit of heat up the back of his neck, but it was helpful, too - it meant Theo could release him just enough to start paddling steadily back to shore. "I'm Theo. Nice to meet you." He shot a glance around them, making sure Glenn et al weren't close enough to cause more damage, and then he let the waves start to take them further in. "Thanks for - sacrificing yourself and your brain for me," he winced. "Let's get you on the beach, I'll have a look. I owe you." Kit wouldn't be fighting against a surf induced concussion had he not stopped to check on Theo, so it was only fair.

The waves took them in without much preamble, and the moment Theo could get his feet on the sand beneath he tightened his grip around Kit to help him up. Kit's friends - if Theo could call them that - were still off in the surf, having a grand time without realizing or without caring that he was presently being dragged to shore with blood on his face. "Sorry about your friends." Theo sighed. "But hey, maybe you'll get a cool scar. Or - I mean, it's under your hair, so... that's better, won't mess with the looks."

No. Cute Theo moving why? Cute Theo not ignoring his super obvious head injury why? Cute Theo not submitting to the Vibe, ignoring every form of outside stimulus or the minute possibility that Kit had a concussion and keep on keeping on why? The blood would've stopped dripping down his forehead eventually, Kit's internal monologue complained, loudly, even as it dripped pointedly into his left eye. He meant what he said about head trauma, his MRI would probably make even seasoned neurologists feel faint and swoon toward the nearest settee but Theo wasn't listening. Theo was fulfilling all of his earnest and concerned duties, working them gradually back to the safety of the shoreline and away from his friends who very clearly couldn't give a single flying fuck about what'd happened to him. 'One less buttload of corn dogs to spring for' was likely the gist of Glenn's feelings on the matter. Kit knew his venmo password. Kit was already planning on treating himself—and Theo?—to twice the usual buttload of corn dogs for his pain and suffering.

"Do you like corn dogs?" He asked, seemingly out of nowhere, because bizarrely it was gentler on his delicate recently bruised ego to articulate those words instead of significantly more relevant ones like 'thank you' 'you're my hero' or even 'you've got a bit of my blood on you.' "You're welcome," was easier still. "Are you a doctor, Theo? Nurse? Intrepid med student? Superhero?" The more the water receded, the closer they got to the beach, the bigger more generous eyefuls Kit was bequeathed of Theo's physique and privately imagining how well he'd fill out some indecently tight spandex outfits felt like an effective way to pass the time. Which he might've credited to the potential concussion if he felt like flirting with denial but odds were even it was just Kit's baseline personality (perpetually horny) resuming operational procedure.

The beach wasn't as nice nor cooperative nor considerate re: Kit's transitory issues with balance as the ocean had been but there was Theo, again, thinking ahead. Sticking close. Letting Kit lean into him juuust enough to chalk up to the residual effects of an acute brain injury. Wasn't he swell? "Like I said, barely friends. You'd scroll past their names in your contact list if you needed help moving or a lift home from the airport or even like, a sympathy text after a nasty break up. Know what I mean?" He smeared at the wound again, scrubbed, poked. Tentative, wincing a little, despite the wry smile pulling at the edges of his mouth. "Scars don't bother me, wherever, but smooth. Real smooth. If you're around when I retell this harrowing tale of sea trauma, don't speak up and correct me when I say there was an epic shark battle involved, capisce? I promise you'll still come out looking like the hero."

As he spoke, he looked but couldn't accurately pin down where he'd parked his hook up beach towel. In lieu of duck boi Kit settled magnanimously for the nearest available almost-surface that just so happened to (probably) belong to a 13 year old girl (or future Kit, because bitch was fierce) before he did something truly heinous like trip over some small child's sandcastle bucket and take Theo down with him. Sitting felt like a good idea. Sitting was safe.

"Only a superhero on my off days," said Theo with another flash of a smile, one which covered the twisting anxiety that no, he was not a doctor, nor a nurse, nor an intrepid med student and definitely not a superhero (oh, the irony). He'd been around enough concussions before to, he hoped, tell whether or not Kit was suffering from a severe one, and he had a good idea of how deep was too deep for a wound, so hopefully that general middling ability for accurately using his eyes meant that Kit wouldn't end up bleeding out in the sand. Which was a dramatic thought to say the least, but Theo was worried - and abruptly lifted a hand to try to catch Kit's wrist before he could keep poking at the gash.

"What kind of shark?" Theo asked instead in an effort to redirect Kit's focus somewhere else, fairly pleased that for once he wasn't the motormouth and finding it, obviously, extremely endearing, and when Kit sunk down onto the resplendent unicorn towel, Theo followed until he was on his knees in front of him. "Wait, just - wait here, okay? I'll be right back." Abrupt sitting was never a good sign as far as Theo was concerned, and he could see his bag not too far away from where he'd dumped it near the shore, so with a finger held up at Kit for a promise he ducked off to the side with a quick little run so he could return, just a moment or two later, with his bag and his own towel.

How did one get blood stains off of towels? That would be a problem for future Theo, because present Theo dropped in front of Kit again and leaned close so he could start to dab the blood away with the edge of his towel, and then loosened his water bottle from his bag so he could squirt a stream along Kit's hairline in an effort to get a better look at it. "It's, uhhhh," Theo wrinkled his nose. "I think it'll be alright. Maybe you could do with some stitches, if I can convince you to hop on my bike with me." He tilted his head to smile his most endearing smile at Kit, and continued to dab gently at the wound, and then added a little careful pressure to it in the hopes of, at least, stemming the bleeding.

"Also, in your retelling, you've gotta make sure you say that you were the hero too. I mean, all of this is kind of - because of me, right? God, I'm sorry."

"Is it true if you bleed on something, natural law dictates ownership passes to you?" Unicorn towel was totally his. Unicorn towel could be his memento from this adorable(y painful) meet cute. Kit eyed the towel, his blood drops on said towel, then Theo, who was resolutely examining his forehead cut and genuinely considered smearing his bloody fingers against Theo's Very Respectable set of abs. Finders keepers. Except Theo, sensible guy that he was rapidly making himself out to be, might take that as another sign of his diminished mental capacity and—secure him to his bike's handlebars to peddle off to the closest hospital. Which could've been a good time, at least for Kit's stupid mouth to make some pointed ET-related comparisons and say something completely lame like 'ET bone home.'

Or, you know, given their already disastrous track record as a couple: Kit would fall out of Theo's bicycle basket into rush hour traffic and get horribly maimed if not horribly dead and fulfill that Bury Your Gays trope before he could even make it to first base with his special new friend. And God, wouldn't that just be the worst? Dying without even a little tongue? Kit fully embraced that his lifestyle wouldn't permit him to see the age of 35, maybe 40, and he accepted that the usual life goals of marriage, family, old age and dying hand in hand with his soulmate wouldn't be achievable, at all, because [fart sound] and his high adrenaline habits were gratifying enough. But like. He was not nearly well-laid enough to call it quits yet. Not at all. Not even close.

"Did I say a single shark? I meant a swarm of sharks. Pod of sharks. Murder of sharks." He was babbling. Nothing out of the ordinary, for him, but the ensuing light(er)headedness might be some cause for alarm. Should he tell Theo? Nah. That cute smile on his face was all for Kit and he wasn't super eager to watch it morph back into a concerned frown. Even if Theo's concerned frown was almost, almost as attractive as his cute smile. "You seem pretty capable, Superhero Theo. Got any convenient sewing needles and dental floss in that bag? Hospitals aren't my thing." Understatement. If they actually got anywhere near an ER, Kit would willingly chuck himself into rush hour traffic. His medical phobia was as ridiculous and unexplainable as it was pronounced and dramatic, and if Theo wanted a legitimate doctor anywhere near him, he'd have to knock his ass out first. Another bit he wasn't wholly keen on admitting out loud, because hadn't he embarrassed himself enough already today? 'Medical stuff makes me scream and cry like a little girl' was at least a third date admission, minimum.

"And no way, dude. It's too late for me to be anything other than the damsel of this story. I admit it. Accept your hero's laurels and my weeping proclamation of gratitude. If you play your cards right, I'll even bat my eyelashes at you and ask if there's anything I can do to thank you properly?" It was challenging to be so blatantly flirtatious when the subject was holding a towel to your face to stop you from gushing blood all over the place but Kit did his absolute best.

Hospitals aren't my thing was, in Theo's mind, a perfectly fair an understandable statement - if only because of that whole thing of health insurance and the like, and if he could avoid a trip to a doctor he'd usually take it, too. But it wasn't the least bit reassuring, especially not when Theo was not resourceful enough to have sewing needles and dental floss in his bag. He hummed thoughtfully, lifting the bit of towel away to check the wound underneath, wondering for the millionth time in his life why he'd thought history was a good career path when it wasn't exactly practically useful in day to day emergencies, even if he could tell Kit how to dress an injury like a Crusade Knight might have back in the day. (Maggots, sometimes. Okay. No, he wasn't bringing that up. Fuck.)

He was still thinking about maggots (fucking hell) when Kit started talking about thanking him properly and Theo needed a whole thirty seconds to register exactly what that meant and, with a blink, and a very distinct darkening shade of red as the blood rushed to his face, he grew immediately and unsurprisingly shy. He let out a short stammered laugh, imagined wholeheartedly that Kit was concussed and that was the only reason this very attractive stranger who had stopped to rescue him only to get beaned on the head himself was now suggesting that they do - something else - maybe?

"Um." Theo blushed furiously, and it worsened because he knew he was blushing, and now any semblance of seeming cool and collected in the face of disaster was right out the window. So he gathered himself together as best he could and managed an actual reply and not just a sound that made him seem like a complete dumbass. "Well, if it turns out you can walk and you're not about to pass out, maybe you can buy me a drink later." That seemed reasonable enough, and Theo, clearly flustered, let his bloody towel rest on Kit's head for a moment while he started scrambling through his bag again.

"I think I have a bandaid here." As if that would really do anything. "And if we see a lifeguard they've probably got some actual emergency kit stashed somewhere, so... that's something. But, um, for now, this'll help." Theo had decided it would, anyway, and he produced a bandaid and set to work leaning close so he could stick it as best he could over Kit's injury - and trying not to get it completely tangled in his hair at the same time. "How's that, huh? Better?"

Little did either of them know, Kit would've been (possibly deliriously) tickled to learn all about how crusade knights dressed wounds, up to and including maggots. Somehow, maggots were a more palatable subject than modern doctors doing perfectly reasonable doctor things, like coming at him with syringes and hypodermic needles and refusing to back off when Kit panic swung at them with both fists and screeched his loudest most high-pitched six-year-old boy screech insisting he was born with a broken arm and oozing cuts and absolutely wanted to go home that way no matter how much his dads tried to alternate soothing him and holding him down. Uh. Yeah, better veer away from that hypothetical thought tangent before he worked himself up into a real and genuine hypothetical panic attack. Maximum unsexy.

"Um?" Kit prompted, patiently, less than a whole minute before Theo burst into embarrassed flames. No way he was reading this vibe wrong, though it was known to happen and Kit had a number of fond memories of being decked by deceptively straight dudes and uninterested or deceptively lesbian (and punchy) girls to show for it. But Theo? Not a chance. Not unless he truly was the friendliest guy in the bay area, smiling at attractive members of any gender as much as he smiled at baby animals or a choice wave or like, a tree. Which... was actually starting to seem feasible, the more Kit thought about it, the more Theo delayed giving him an answer and laughed nervously like he was building up to a polite 'sorry I'm the unlikeliest hetero on the planet but I'm flattered' speech.

Thankfully, that speech never came. Thankfully, Kit now had another excuse to use and abuse Glenn's venmo account and buying Theo one (more than one) drink 'later' was his new in and as much confirmation re: nonexistent hetero status as the telling blush covering his—entire visible body. God, he was hot. Someone, maybe his gay guardian angel in the form of David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust era was obviously looking down on him from a rainbow cloud in heaven. Boogie, my children. Boogie. "Cool. You've given me a new reason to live. Uh, survive. Uh, totally not pass out at least where you can see me. Walk? I can walk, I can so walk as long as it's with you to the nearest beach bar."

The bandaid on his head probably looked as ridiculous as it felt. He couldn't malign its presence entirely, however, because Theo'd come in close armed with that single useless plaster looking resolute and just a little self-deprecating and if he'd stuck around maybe a second or two longer, Kit probably would've done something monumentally dumb and kissed him. "Tell me I'm sporting something sweet like a My Little Pony or Spongebob bandaid. If you're about to reveal you only came prepared with a flesh toned variety pack and I'm suffering this bland aesthetic for no practical reason, I'm already calling this date off." Empty threat. Kit was staring at Theo like a preteen girl stared at the Jonas Brothers on the cover of a 2010 issue of Tiger Beat: adoring, with a small edge of covetous.

God, please don't let it be the concussion. Firstly, please let there be no concussion, please let it be that Kit would be remarkably fine, albeit a little sore for a day or two, and please let it be that he was being very flirtatious and sweet and interested and interesting and wanting to go to the nearest bar with him now because he was genuinely into it and not because he was seeing double or hallucinating Theo as someone entirely different. The small selfish part of Theo did want to simply just walk with him to the nearest beach bar without continuing to worry about whether or not he needed to figure out some way to stitch him up himself, so in the end he decided that he would do both - and a bar would have to have a better bit of gauze and bandage than his shitty little bandaid. Two birds with one stone.

"Nearest beach bar. You've got it. It's a deal." He smiled again. Fuck, he was smiling too much. Theo suddenly felt self conscious - which was not surprising in the least, considering he tripped over his own two feet on a regular basis in front of the millions of people living in San Francisco. But Kit really was making him smile a lot, and he couldn't help it, and then he did it again, and it only faltered at the bandaid threat and returned when he caught the look on Kit's face aimed directly at him. Maybe it was still the concussion.

Theo glanced up at the bandaid. Flesh colored, basic, part of a pack he'd grabbed for cheap, and had the grace to lie very poorly. "Oh, it's really cute." He said, too over the top to be believable. "Pink, with stars. My Little Pony, definitely. Matches the towel." By now, though, Theo was rising up into a stand, hooking his arm underneath Kit's so he could help him to his feet too, and - was it too presumptuous to hold his hand already, oh, fuck it, no - Theo just looped his arm around his waist again instead, looser than when he was dragging him out of the surf, and swung his bag over his shoulder along with his bloodied towel.

"If you start to feel faint, you'll tell me, right?" Theo wasn't lying or teasing for that, though - he was still genuinely concerned, even as they started the walk along the beach towards where they could exit out onto the street to find a bar. Theo only slowed when he spotted Glenn and co. exiting from the surf near them, and his blissfully happy, blushing expression shifted suddenly into Don't Talk To Me I'm Angy, or like a puppy trying to look like a mean guard dog.

That Theo was this heinously bad at lying, over something as meaningless and inconsequential as the pattern of his gifted bandaid, reassured some ugly paranoid bit of Kit's psyche that maybe this sweet hapless dope wasn't too good to be true. That he wasn't an undercover spy for the KGB honeypotting the closest willing idiot for a believable cover story just in case the authorities got wise to his plot to kill the president and/or steal the declaration of independence. Or, more plausibly, that he was married with kids and looking for some gay strange on the side. Kit had been there already, gotten aggressively splashed with drinks and slapped by some seriously pissed off spouses, got pics of kids and seemingly happy families shoved in his face and accused of being a nasty homewrecking tramp. Entirely undeserved, he'd always insist, as he was only the completely oblivious trampy side piece before making a strategic exit to avoid any further fallout.

"I'm not saying I don't believe you, but I definitely don't believe you." Now felt like the right time to examine Theo's left ring finger for tan lines. Y'know, just in case. He was standing, closing in, pulling at Kit to heft him upright like he couldn't wait another minute on this shared romantic unicorn beach towel to take him up on his suggestion about a beach bar. Sus, possibly, or just that eager for some seabreezes on someone else's dime. Kit ducked his head, pretended to stumble, actually stumbled and repurposed his minor fuck up to scrutinize Theo's hands. Nice hands. Very nice, tanned hands.

The hamster he counted on to furiously sprint on his mental hamster wheel was nowhere to be found, in its place a sign that helpfully read 'gone leaving.'

So the revelation that all of Theo was tanned, regularly enough that his foolproof method of discerning his marital status was utterly moot—it was delayed. Considerably. Kit figured it out a few steps past the 'Welcome to Ocean Beach' sign, way too late to recognize Glenn and his mob in any meaningful way because he was distracted by his own faulty logic. "Random question, feel free to not look into it like at all, but you're not married with 2.5 kids are you?" His hamster was still, regrettably, absent. Which explained why Kit couldn't quite shut himself up, no matter how many klaxons were blaring in the wide open space of his skull. "Not that I think you're married and beach slumming it for a little extra action. Just, you know, you seem like you're... totally a catch?" Very convincing.

Inadvisable as it was—given he was still a little lightheaded from all that blood loss and head conking, Kit started walking faster. The closer they got to, mm, The Riptide? Was that the nearest purveyor of heavy on the liquor, light on the mixers alcoholic beverages? —the closer they got to drinks in Theo's hand and Kit to outrunning his lack of internal speech filters and dumbassery. "Forget I said anything. Hey, look, beach bar!"

He was going to say something. He was going to say something. Glenn and co. were laughing and shoving each other and hadn't seemed to notice one iota that their other friend was bleeding or not even near them and Theo was going to tell them off for being assholes, and he'd feel much better for it. Except, the moment he'd gone to open his mouth to say something, Kit was saying something else - something about - what? Married? Kids? Theo blinked and tried to catch up with where Kit's brain had gone, looking down at himself as if he half expected to be in a tuxedo or something that made him look like - a husband, or ... something. Was it the fact that he was carrying bandaids? Was that a dad thing to do?

And before he could reply, properly, Kit was lurching forward to start a faster walk towards The Riptide, and Theo released him enough so that he didn't trip him over in his effort to move away and immediately picked up his pace too so he could come up beside him - to both make sure he wasn't going to fucking fall and to reassure him with an embarrassed. And also he wasn't forgetting what Kit had said. "No no no. No. What? Sorry. I'm not- I'm not married." Theo didn't know why he was embarrassed, just that he was, and feeling weirdly guilty? God, he was the worst.

Instead, he pushed all of that away - or did his best to - and offered Kit another of his most reassuring smiles. "Seriously. Promise. Swear to god. Cross my heart, all of that. No marriage, no kids. Are you married?" By now, though, they were basically street level, and The Riptide was only a few short steps away, and Theo had lost sight of Glenn and co. but he made a mental note that if he saw them again he was going to say something, and hopefully Kit wouldn't be humiliated or annoyed with him for doing so. Still, making it to the open patio of the bar, Theo reached gently for Kit's arm and nudged him towards the nearest available chair and table.

"Just - sit, okay? I'm gonna..." He looked around. "I'll get you a drink, and I'll get some... better bandages. And maybe painkillers. And ask if there's a doctor in the house. Okay?"

"So much for forgetting I said anything." Whatever deadpan inflection he could conjure up in that moment was summarily offset by a quick burst of laughter, incredulous at first but seguing smoothly into amused. Small brain paranoid Kit was being pillow smothered by Hallmark Channel Original Movie lover Kit, thoroughly and ruthlessly. One less way to self-sabotage, though the afternoon? Evening? was young and Kit could write a book on 1001 tips and tricks to fuck everything up. With or without niggling theories about Theo's secret 5 wives and 15 children. "Nah, not married either. Totally would've bought it after that initial round of 'no's' though. How's it go? The apparently single dude doth protest too much?" Justifying his outburst would've meant admitting he had zero, zero rationale behind his suspicions beyond 'who wouldn't lock that shit down ASAP?' and 'trust no bitch.' And Kit showed his ass enough in the span of like, an hour, to fill a quota he'd normally reserve for a whole twenty-four.

Making it to The Riptide's patio was a test of endurance. Of willpower. Of desperation to not exceed that showing his ass quota. Again, Kit silently thanked his personal Lord and Savior David Bowie for blessing the wooden, sand-covered walkway with minimal hidden obstacles including banana peels, snakes, and those annoying animal crossing pitfall traps he fell into every. single. time. Because he made it, collapsing into the empty seat at the empty table Theo had guided him towards, painlessly and deceptively competently. When Theo didn't immediately follow suit, Kit reached out and snagged his wrist while it was still within grabbing distance and not attached to the rest of him when he frolicked off to harass bar patrons about their MCAT scores.

"Theo we didn't surf into a hokey 80's movie where people just straight up yell about doctors in houses and actually expect someone to answer. Someone who isn't too drunk already on 5 kamikazes and totally willing to risk their medical license. I think the bleeding stopped, there's only one of you, and the pain sucks but it's bearable? Can we do normal beach bar things instead?" He gave Theo's wrist an emphatic squeeze, hoped the dweeb would listen instead of solemnly bowing to his lawful good shoulder angel and insisting upon his righteous quest to find Ye Holy Restaurant First Aid Kit, probably expired, probably stuffed under an employees only bathroom sink.

He really did want to bow to his lawfully good shoulder angel, but Kit's hand around his wrist felt nice - and questions about his relationship status aside, he did sound coherent enough at least with this request to ease some of Theo's concerns that he was three steps away from falling unconscious and needing an ambulance called for him. Theo hesitated there for what felt like a full minute but was really only a few seconds, and then the tension in his shoulders eased and he let out a soft little self-deprecating puff of air. Kit earned a sheepish smile - as if to say, I know, I'm a lot. Then Theo twisted his hand around a little so he could squeeze Kit's hand back, and then he nodded his acquiescence.

"Normal beach bar things. Yeah. We can do that." And if you pass out I'll deal with it then. "I'll be back. With drinks. Nothing else." He, honestly, didn't really want to let go of Kit's hand, and they had only met and this whole afternoon had been kind of a disaster, but a - well, a really good kind of disaster, at the end of the day. Hopefully. There was still ample time for Theo to do something so excruciatingly embarrassing that Kit would feign death to get away from him. But he did manage to disentangle his hand, and it was only so he could go to the bar to order their beer like he'd said he would, and return with them a few minutes later so he could set one glass in front of Kit and take the seat beside him.

"See? Normal beach bar things. How's that?" He lifted his glass to clink it lightly against Kit's, and chose not to say anything about the extra bandaids he'd been given by the bartender that now sat stuffed in his bag. Theo took a sip and fought against the sudden feeling of deep shyness that swept over him at - now that the emergency had somewhat ebbed, they would turn to conversation, and Theo was a little concerned that he'd veer off into really terrible maggot talk at the drop of a hat.

So the first thing he did was point to Kit's head and say, "Did you know they used to use maggots to help with wounds back when people were knights? Like, actual knights, not like, Sir Ian McKellan knights." Cool, good one Theo.

Feigning death was a bit of melodrama Kit reserved exclusively for dire emergencies. Like if Theo turned out to be a capricorn. If Theo turned out to be Mormon. If Theo really just went along with this elaborate setup to ultimately recruit him into a MLM scheme. If Theo turned out to be vegan. If Theo bought into the legitimacy of juice cleanses. If Theo turned out to be a virgin (maybe hot?) who was saving himself for marriage (definitely not hot.) Luckily Kit had the almost-concussion as an escape route if necessary, could sway and tip over convincingly enough to land his face right in Theo's lap and announce 'I think I'm having an aneurysm' before passing out cold. One phone call to 911, 1 ambulance, 1 making a run for it before the ambulance doors fully closed, 1 strategic avoiding of Ocean Beach for maybe a month and he was home free.

He didn't get any of those vibes from Theo, though. Not scrawny enough to be a vegan. Receptive enough to his obvious flirting that he likely wasn't Mormon. Too cute to be a virgin. Not psychotic enough to be a capricorn. The rest he'd have to ferret out through the subtle art of casual conversation without any near-death experiences or episodes of Kit's foot-in-mouth syndrome getting in the way.

Theo was supposed to be leaving. Theo wasn't leaving. Theo was—holding his hand. Weirdly, that was the gesture that nearly made Kit blush. Nearly. "No mentions of first aid kits, I'm warning you: I read lips." He didn't read lips. But there he went, at last, and Kit made no secret of watching him go, speak briefly to the bartender and come back with drinks without any coy head nods or covert hand signals to potential undercover doctors in the immediate vicinity. All good signs. "I'm proud of you and the internal struggle it probably took to get you here without a needle and thread." The beer he chose was good, inoffensive on the palate and not too bitter or hoppy and Kit had a few quick swallows in the time it took for Theo to vacillate between potential conversation topics before conclusively landing on... maggots.

"Really?" He smothered a smile against the side of his glass. "Are you saying if we were knights on a grail quest you would've treated my head wound with a sack full of maggots? Or just buried me face-first in a moist dirt pit and hoped for the best?"

Kit wasn't staring at him like he'd grown two heads. Kit wasn't saying ew, don't be disgusting, or wrinkling up his nose at him, or looking pale, or looking for the quickest way he could launch himself off of the patio and into traffic, or considering throwing the beer in his hand into Theo's face. Kit was smiling, apparently, and Theo knew he shouldn't push it, should definitely not keep talking about maggots in more detail, but he was already there and it was actually a really interesting topic when you got into it. Theo caught himself before he immediately started motormouthing at Kit's face, and tried to hide his embarrassment by running a hand through his hair and laughing with a very strong helping of self-deprecation down at his beer.

"No, no moist dirt pits for you. They just, you know -" Theo reached a hand out, pinching his fingers like he was mimicking a little bug having a nibble. "They just eat dead flesh, and they leave the healthy flesh alone, so it's great to help avoid infections. They take away anything that's rotting, and then you're left with a nice clean wound." He swallowed a very big gulp of beer. "Not that I think your head is gonna start rotting or anything, I did clean it. With water. Not... maggots. And I don't have ... any of those ... anyway. I'm--" Theo cleared his throat and flushed. "I'm gonna start over." So much for not motormouthing immediately at Kit.

Theo offered him an apologetic smile. Horribly gullible, Theo hadn't even taken a moment to wonder if Kit was someone kind of awful. So far he seemed - well, nice. Hot, cool. Probably way too cool for Theo. No, not probably, definitely way too cool for him. Knowing that he'd already probably moved into that weird guy I met while surfing who kept talking to me about maggots zone, Theo figured it couldn't get any worse. "Sorry. Tell me about you?"

Maggots, evidently, were a major trigger for Theo. Not a 'screamy' trigger, which would've been the plausible response to even the mere mention of the word for a good 'middle of the bell curve' portion of the population. Oh no. Kit blinked, struggling to maintain a poker face as Theo's internal dam broke and wave upon wave of 'fast maggot facts' besieged his defensive fortifications—complete with illustrative hand gestures. But he'd never had much success disguising even the most fleeting emotions, and he cracked almost immediately, brows inching up and eyes going wide and teeth digging into his lower lip to keep the bubble of hysterical laughter from interrupting what promised to be the most thrilling tangent re: the likelihood of his head wound rotting and requiring an intervention of maggot therapy. "No, uh, don't -- don't stop," he eked out with some difficulty, though it was ultimately moot.

Theo was embarrassed again. Which was still cute, totally cute, but Kit felt more sympathy than endearment in that moment, wanting less to be entertained than to make his date comfortable and not as likely to take his own turn launching himself off the patio and into traffic. So he let the maggot discussion drop. Maybe they'd swing back around to it later, after Theo was more than a few sips of his beer deep and not so hyper aware of whatever came out of his mouth. After Kit had done a better, more thorough job impressing upon Theo that the weirder the shit he babbled about the better. Genuinely.

"Tell you about me. Okay. Where do I begin? Sagittarius, outdoorsy, still technically living with my parents—hope that's not a deal breaker—only child, suffering from major Only Child Syndrome but I try to suppress it as much as I can, mostly local, definitely a better surfer than I seem, definitely better at judging the character of my friends than I seem, definitely never talking to Glenn again, tanzanite birthstone, super into dudes named Theo, 5'10" unless you believe my driver's license..." He went on like that for a while, taking breaks for mouthfuls of beer and rubbing idly at his bandaged cut and casting progressively more flirtatious looks Theo's way. Whatever Theo's reservations were with stupid conversation topics Kit hoped he'd get him past them with his own tried and true method: beat him to the punch with stupider conversation topics.

From Kit's perspective, it seemed to work. When he finally stopped, trailing off mid-sentence during an anecdote about his Great Aunt Ethel's latest successful singles cruise to the Maldives and subsequent engagement to a very handsome Irish dwarf, he slid his free hand across the table and twined their fingers together. "Your turn. Intro to Theo 101, go."

As much as Kit was like a gas—able to fill any space, any volume with the sound of his own voice and infinite bullshit, now? Now he was just as keen to shut the fuck up and listen.