Dane leaned against the brick wall, one foot propped against it, and held his lighter to the tip of his cigarette, flicking it several times before it ignited, setting the paper aglow.
The slate grey sky held the promise of rain, although it was the warmest it had been all month. Against it, gulls careened, wheeling about and calling to each other as they flew out towards the cliffs and, beyond them, the sea. It was the kind of sky that made everything below it look washed out and unreal, and Dane wondered why everything was so grey. If they weren’t renting, and if their landlord wasn’t such a tight git, he’d take his paints and splash them over the yard, let the colours bleed into one another. The grey would still be there though, concrete slabs hiding beneath the paint, waiting for the rain to wash it away.
The gate banged opened and Dane looked up, almost dropping his cigarette. He fumbled, straightening and trying to look cool as Luke wheeled his bike up the step and into the yard.
“Alright?” he asked, just to say something, anything.
The yard was small enough that although Luke was stood on the opposite side of it, bolting the gate shut behind him, he was close enough to reach out and touch, the bike filling most of the space between them. Dane drew on his cigarette, suddenly glad he hadn’t stuck to his new year’s resolution.
“Yeah.” Luke grinned, ran a hand through his flyaway sandy hair. “Just been out along the seafront. Almost got shat on, obviously. I think it’s that kind of day.”
Dane laughed. “Bird or man?” he asked. “Or man dressed as bird?”
“Bird, obviously,” Luke said, setting his bike against the fence. “It takes a certain kind of someone to let a bloke shit on them.”
“Hey,” Dane chided, just to be annoying. “For some, that’s a perfectly healthy way to express themselves.”
“That how you express yourself?” Luke teased, holding out his hand for a cigarette. Automatically, Dane held the packet out to him.
“Nah. I’m more of a spray paint guy myself.”
“That’s good,” Luke nodded, handing back his lighter and breathing out a huff of smoke. “Because I was going to ask if you wanted to go out tomorrow, for dinner. Obviously, that offer doesn’t stand if I’m likely to end the night being shat on.”
Dane frowned. Was Luke saying what he thought he was saying? Probably not. He did have a tendency to read too much into things, after all, and he and Luke … they lived together. Luke was a practical guy. He’d never ask out a housemate.
“Are you going to answer me? Rejection hurts, but being left hanging is way worse, you know.”
“Uh …” was all that came out of Dane’s mouth. Luke was asking him out. “Sure,” he said, once his vocal chords had started working again.
Luke grinned, his whole face lighting up with it, cheeks dimpling. “No need to sound so enthusiastic,” he said. “You’re paying anyway. I’m skint.”
“Oh, that explains the offer, then.”
“That,” Luke said, reaching out and taking Dane’s burnt-out cigarette from his hand, fingers warm as they brushed against his, and throwing it over the fence into the alleyway outside. “And I wanted to spend some time with you. You know …” he trailed off, leaning over the handlebars of his bike to press his lips to the corner of Dane’s mouth. “Because I like you.”
He was still working on ‘I like you too,’ when the first drops of rain began to fall, urging Luke inside, squeezing past the bike and through the door into the kitchen, leaving Dane to wonder what exactly the hell had just happened. In just a few minutes, everything had changed, and it felt fucking awesome.