They’d brought their towels out to the beach today. Since the sun beds were full of spiders, they’d decided they would rather just lie on the sand. So they’d splashed around in the water long enough to make Dan’s hair look like the head of a bedraggled poodle before just collapsing onto their towels to enjoy the sun for a while. It wasn’t particularly hot today, but the sun was bright and warm. With the breeze off the ocean, it was incredibly pleasant. Dan lay there beside Phil with his eyes closed and listened to the other holiday-makers around them. The beach below their hotel was a popular one, with crystal clear water and white sand surrounded by attractive cliffs. Dan would have preferred a less crowded beach, but it was difficult to resist the convenience of just walking out of their hotel room and being here within a matter of minutes.
With his eyes closed, he could still see light through his eyelids. It was as if Portugal’s sun simply refused to allow him to sink into his habitual darkness. The thought made him smile a little. Maybe Portugal was a bit like Phil in that way. They both shone light into his life even when he tried to cloak himself in dark. Sometimes he needed that dark quiet in order to gather the scattered parts of himself together, as if he might permanently fly to bits if he didn’t have that time of silence and privacy to just be himself without the rest of the world peeking in. But other times, it was nice to have rays of sunlight—whether literal or metaphorical—shine in to help guide him out of that private space that could sometimes become a pit of loneliness if he wasn’t careful.
He turned his head toward Phil and opened his eyes. Phil’s eyes were closed, and Dan wondered if he was asleep. Phil could fall asleep anywhere and certainly wouldn’t be deterred by the noisy children running around nearby or the couple arguing only a few feet away. Dan indulged himself, just gazing at Phil’s profile for a while. Watching Phil without Phil being aware of it reminded him of all those years that he watched his videos, one unknown viewer among thousands. And now here he lay by Phil’s side, on holiday together, with the memory of Phil’s hands still lingering on his skin, with the knowledge that Phil loved him … really loved him. He closed his eyes for a moment, just holding that thought close, but then opened them again to keep watching Phil. Phil’s lips were parted slightly, and Dan was tempted to climb over there and kiss him, but knew it probably wasn’t a good idea on a public beach.
After a while, he started to worry that Phil’s fair skin might burn if they lay here much longer, so he called Phil’s name softly. Phil blinked several times, slow and reluctant, then turned to look at him with that blurry, dazed look he always had when he first woke up but wasn’t fully alert yet. Phil smiled beatifically and said, “You look so pretty. Your skin looks nice under the blue sun.”
Dan giggled. “The blue sun?” he repeated, delighted in this sleepily incoherent Phil.
Phil frowned in confusion. “You know. The…” and he gestured weakly.
“The … sky?” Dan guessed, still grinning.
“Yeah,” Phil smiled happily, still obviously not fully awake. “The sky. You look so pretty under the sunshine sky.” He yawned and stretched, then looked back at Dan, his eyes clearing a bit. “I just want to look at you all day.” His lips curved and Dan found himself wanting to kiss them again.
“I’ve been watching you while you slept,” Dan admitted with a smirk.
“Did I drool?” Phil asked, not seeming too worried.
“Nope. But you’re going to burn if you aren’t careful, so I thought I should wake you before you went up in flames like a vampire.”
“I think I’ll just turn over,” Phil suggested lazily. “Put sun cream on my back?” Dan nodded and moved closer to run lotion-slick hands over Phil’s pale skin. Phil let out a little “mmmm” sound of pleasure and Dan found himself wishing they had a bit more privacy. The kids ran past them again and Dan carefully set aside any improper thoughts and just focused on protecting Phil from sunburn.
“There you go,” Dan said when he thought Phil was sufficiently covered.
Phil had closed his eyes again, his face turned toward Dan, and he murmured, “Okay. Thanks. You can go back to watching me sleep now.”
Instead, Dan pulled his phone out of his bag and composed a tweet quoting Phil’s funny, sleep-addled compliment. When he was done, he put his phone back away and decided that he too would flip onto his stomach, his face turned toward Phil. He closed his eyes, but the image of the man beside him still lingered in his mind. Instead of the darkness he normally found behind his closed eyelids, he found only light and happiness.
Abandoned Smuggler’s Ship. Zakynthos Island, Greece. Photo by Koshkin Alexey. .
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Sometimes also evocatively known as Shipwreck Beach, Navagio boasts blinding white sands, steep white cliffs, and a picturesque wrecked smuggling ship sitting dead in the centre of the scene. It’s a postcard-worthy setting that lends itself perfectly to sunbathing and daydreaming, or don your snorkel and follow the colourful fish through crystal waters.