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The Summer of the Selfless - 8. Chapter 8

CW: Contains charged scenes between characters under 16.

It was morning again.

Awaking from pleasant dreams, Daniele’s blue eyes fluttered slowly open, and he found a pair of dark eyes looking back at him in the half-light cast by the sun through the cracks in the shutters.

Buongiorno,” Giacomo whispered.

“G… Giaco?” Daniele mumbled. “What’s up?”

“I was watching you sleeping, that’s all. You looked so peaceful. At one point you were even smiling.”

“L-last night…” Daniele ventured uncertainly.

Giacomo shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. Just two boys messing around.” He smiled awkwardly. “I sort of enjoyed it, though.”

I think I did, too… can I say that?

“I’m sorry I c-couldn’t… you know…”

“Are you kidding?” the other boy whispered. “Neither of us have ever… I mean, just to do even that much, it was, like… really brave.”

Daniele shook his head in disbelief. “This is all so strange… what are we doing?

“It’s like I said… we’re just, sort of… exploring.”

“So…” Daniele said uncertainly, “none of this really means anything?”

The other boy frowned slightly and extended an arm towards him. “Get in here.”

Daniele shuffled over to him until they were sort of cuddling. It felt different to last night; less like a game, less like a transgression, somehow.

Can I really be getting used to this…?

“I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else,” Giacomo assured him.

“Me neither,” Daniele mumbled.

“So, that counts for something, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

Daniele allowed himself to relax a little, which made the other boy smile.

“You’ve gone all soft,” Giacomo whispered.

Daniele looked searchingly into his friend’s dark eyes, searching for the catch, but he could find no trick or deception. He offered the other boy a smile of his own.

“Would you… like to explore some more?” Giacomo asked tentatively.

Daniele could almost feel his head being turned. He ran a confused hand through his already tousled hair, prompting another smile from the other boy.

“Maybe…” he whispered, scarcely believing he was saying it. “But it’s kinda awkward, don’t you think…? Doing it while my parents are here?”

“What if there was somewhere else we could go?” Giacomo wondered. “Somewhere we could be on our own, without it looking too strange?”

Daniele nodded. “That’d be cool.”

“Mission for the day,” Giacomo concurred. “Let’s work on it.”

Daniele snickered. “This is so weird.”

You’re so weird.”

“Am not.”

“Are too!”

Daniele made as if to get up, but Giacomo snared him with his arm, and he fell back down on top of the other boy. Eyes fixed on Daniele’s, Giacomo placed a hand behind Daniele’s head and pulled him gently back in.

Daniele placed a quick kiss on the other boy’s lips and then they rolled away from each other, both laughing in an embarrassed sort of way.

There were distant sounds from the kitchen as Daniele’s parents came downstairs for breakfast.

“Shut up!” Daniele whispered, throwing his pillow at the other boy to stifle his giggles. “They’ll catch us at it!”

You shut up!” Giacomo retorted, reaching for the waistband of the retreating Daniele’s underpants as if to yank them down.

“Hey!” Daniele chastised him, smacking his hands away. “Hands off the merchandise.” He clambered out of the bed and threw open the shutters on the nearest window. Watching him from the other side of the room, Giacomo followed suit, and soon the room was flooded with bright morning light and fresh air.

They approached each other, blinking slightly in the glare, and suddenly Daniele realised that seeing his friend in his underwear was no longer such a big deal. It was just a part of their relationship now; just one way in which their boundaries had shifted. He could admire everything the other boy had to offer without feeling the need to blush or look away.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” Daniele told the other boy.

Giacomo shook his head. “Not before me, you’re not,” he retorted.

There was a split second during which the dark-eyed boy grinned mischievously at him, and then they were both off at once, fighting to be the first through the bedroom door and into the bathroom. The bathroom door flew back against the rubber door stop with much more force than usual, prompting hurried footsteps from the kitchen.

“Could you boys try not to bring the house down, please?” came Daniele’s father’s voice from the hallway.

Daniele and Giacomo popped their heads and shoulders guiltily back round the bathroom doorway. Paolo’s light brown eyes stared at them rather incredulously from the kitchen door.

“Sorry, signore,” Giacomo said.

“You’re going in together…?” Paolo asked, but then he shrugged. “Ah, whatever. Don’t be too long in there, we’ll have breakfast on the table in a few minutes.”

Paolo retreated to the kitchen and Daniele and Giacomo clicked the bathroom door shut behind them. They exchanged a chastened glance.

“We need to be cooler than that!” Daniele whispered.

Giacomo nodded. “Totally.”

“So… who goes first?” Daniele asked, glancing at the toilet.

“I can wait,” Giacomo said. “Only, I was wondering…” he whispered, inclining his head towards Daniele’s underpants. “Would you let me see…?”

Seriously?” Daniele whispered.

The other boy gave him an embarrassed smirk. “I was just curious.”

Giving the other boy a slightly reproachful look, Daniele pulled down his underpants and stepped out of them. The other boy stared down at him for a couple of seconds, then he seemed to be overcome by a fit of silent giggles.

“What?” Daniele protested, giving him a shove on the shoulder.

“Nothing…!” Giacomo managed. “It’s… all good, I swear.”

“Your turn,” Daniele demanded.

Giacomo nodded and pulled down his own underpants.

Ecco lo,” he said, spreading his hands nonchalantly.

Daniele looked on for a couple more seconds, then turned away, flushing furiously.

Okay, still some barriers…

Giacomo snickered, and Daniele exhaled a sigh of relief as he heard him pull his underwear back on.

“There,” Giacomo whispered. “Now you’ve seen me, and I’ve seen you. Can we get some breakfast already?”

* * *

If he was going to find any inspiration for how and where he could spend some time alone with Giacomo, safe from prying eyes, it seemed to Daniele that he should talk to someone who had done it before. How he was going to do it without giving too much away, though, remained to be seen. He didn’t think he was ready to confess what was happening between them, even to someone he trusted – not until he understood it better himself.

Having donned his old lavender tie-dye t-shirt and a fresh pair of shorts, he paused to send a quick text message before breakfast.

‘Ciao Toto. Long time no see.’

He slipped the phone into his pocket and glanced up at his friend, who had donned a shirt he didn’t remember seeing before. It was mainly white, but with a tastefully sparse design of delicate leaves picked out in fine black lines. Somehow, it brought out his black hair and dark eyes even more vividly than usual. To complete the devastating effect, Giacomo had left the top two buttons of the shirt undone.

Daniele shook his head slightly. To think that such a person should be, in any way, his… he couldn’t quite conceive it.

“Do you have to look so good?” he asked.

The other boy looked amused. “Have you looked in the mirror lately?”

Daniele blinked. “Huh…?”

“You’re the cutest boy in Ravello, Dani,” he said, “ask anyone. It’s established scientific fact.” He smiled. “If word got out that you were officially dating another boy, there’d be girls crying themselves to sleep all over town.”

Officially dating…?

Daniele flushed slightly at such a confusing idea. “Ready?” he asked.

Giacomo nodded. “Andiamo.”

“Remember, be cool,” Daniele whispered.

Giacomo snickered. “Got it.”

They presented themselves at the kitchen diner just as Daniele’s parents were finishing laying out the breakfast things. They had yet to close the shutters against the heat, and the sun was streaming in brightly through the two large picture windows, glinting off the distant turquoise sea. Paolo was juicing the last of a pile of oranges, while Patrizia arranged a selection of sweet treats on a plate.

Buongiorno, boys,” she said brightly. “Wonky pastries,” she added apologetically as she brought the platter over to the table. “Gianni and I are taking the art wagon out again this morning, and these ones… well, they’re a bit too crooked.”

“They look fine to me, signora,” Giacomo said, reaching for an apricot croissant as they sat down together.

“It’s sweet of you to say so,” Patrizia replied with a smile.

Picking at an apple Danish, Daniele glanced thoughtfully at his friend; flattery, it seemed, came naturally to the other boy, no matter who the target.

Does that include me…?

All the same, as his parents sat down opposite them, looking at them both with focused interest, Daniele sensed that they weren’t out of the woods just yet. He remembered overhearing them, on the night of the disco, talking about unrequited love, and he looked back at them searchingly. What must his parents make of the state of play between them now?

“So… did you sleep all right last night, boys?” Paolo asked. “Sharing the bed wasn’t a problem?”

Giacomo shook his head. “We were fine,” he said. “Right, Dani?”

Daniele nodded. “Perfectly comfortable.”

“It’s lovely to see you still getting along so well,” Patrizia added uncertainly. “After the disco, we were worried.”

The two boys exchanged a wary glance.

“It was… just crossed wires,” Giacomo said. “It’s all in the past.”

“We’ve… both moved on from that, Mamma,” Daniele added. Which, of course, was true – seen from a certain point of view.

“Totally,” Giacomo concurred.

“Do you need any help with the art wagon, today?” Daniele asked, hoping to change the subject.

Patrizia shook her head. “Thank you, tesoro, but Gianni and I both have the morning off work today. We can manage on our own.” She smiled. “…and I expect the two of you have other plans.”

Giacomo flashed Daniele a secret smile, and he tried not to flush.

Other plans… you could say that.

Daniele’s phone pinged in his pocket, and he drew it out. It was a reply from Toto.

‘Yeah, it’s been ages. Michele and I are going for coffee in a few minutes. Want to join us?’

He showed it to Giacomo under the table. Smiling, the dark-eyed boy nodded.

It seemed their ‘other plans’ were starting to come together already.

* * *

Daniele and Giacomo turned into the cathedral square a short while later. They spotted the two older boys outside one of the bars on the far side of the square and headed over to join them, surrounded by the gently unfolding life of a sunny Monday morning in Ravello.

“Here comes trouble,” Toto remarked, looking up with a smile as they approached. He shooed away a pigeon that had alighted on the back of one of the empty chairs, hoping for scraps. “Two of you, so early in the morning?”

“Yeah, we’ve been sleeping together,” Giacomo said casually.

There was a moment’s shocked silence, during which all they could seem to hear was the cicadas, scraping away in the pine trees. Daniele stared at his friend in disbelief, wondering what he was thinking… but then, miraculously, Toto and Michele burst out laughing.

Giacomo winked at Daniele, who grinned back as he realised how expertly his friend had just put the two older boys off the scent.

“You almost had me there, guys,” Toto said, running a hand through his untidy dark hair. “I guess… Giacomo means you’ve just had a sleepover?”

Daniele nodded. “His mother’s away for a few days.”

“Sounds cosy,” Toto remarked, and then he began to giggle again.

Michele punched him on the arm. “Can it, Toto!”

“Sorry,” Toto panted, trying to bring himself back under control.

Michele rolled his eyes. “Take a seat,” he told Daniele and Giacomo. “We’ll get you a couple of cappuccini, if you like, once my boyfriend’s got his… you know what… back together.”

A few minutes later, Daniele and Giacomo were sipping on their hot breakfast drinks. Daniele wasn’t wild about the taste of coffee, but the milk and chocolate powder at least made it palatable.

“So, why the sudden text, Dani?” Toto asked. “It looks like you’ve got more than enough going on to keep you busy for the moment.”

Daniele had known this question was likely, and he had thought it over as they walked up to town. He didn’t really want to lie to his friends, and he had sought an answer that was as close as possible to the truth and that, with a bit of luck, would put the two older boys in the mood to talk.

“Sharing with Giaco…” he ventured, “it made us realise how weird it could be if we were, you know, together instead of just friends. Even if our parents knew about it, how could we ever… you know… deal with that under their noses?” He hesitated. “It made me think of you. I wondered how you both managed it.”

Toto raised his eyebrows. “Wow, the two of you really have been having some interesting chats,” he remarked.

“It… was a long evening,” Daniele said with a self-effacing smile.

Toto chuckled and turned to his boyfriend. “What do you think, Michele?”

Michele frowned thoughtfully. “How does any teenage couple manage it, I guess?” he pondered.

“You don’t think it makes a difference, both being boys?” Daniele asked him.

Michele winced slightly. “That’s a whole other thing,” he said. “I guess it depends on your parents. Some of the families round here…”

“I know,” Daniele said quickly, thinking of Marco.

“But your parents, Dani,” Toto said, “seem to be about as open-minded as they come. You’re one of the lucky ones.”

“Did you have to hide stuff from yours?” Daniele asked them.

“Papà found out I liked Michele about the worst way he could,” Toto replied, “but at least it was over quickly. By the time we actually became an item, he’d had time to get used to the idea. Michele, though… he actually told his parents everything, so we never had to lie.” He glanced appreciatively at his boyfriend. “You weren’t sure how they were going to react… you were so brave, that day.”

Michele shrugged. “I trusted them, I guess. I couldn’t have lived with myself if we’d carried on in secret.”

Carried on in secret…

Daniele exchanged a slightly uncomfortable glance with Giacomo. Michele’s words had struck a chord with him, but it was early days. Maybe they would tell their parents when they knew what they actually needed to say.

“So, our parents all knew,” Michele went on, “but it still wasn’t easy for them… I mean, it wasn’t exactly the future they’d imagined for us. We both knew that, and we didn’t want to rub their noses in it by acting too intimate around them all the time… at least, not at first.”

“So… you waited?” Daniele asked.

Toto and Michele exchanged a glance and a slightly awkward laugh.

“Ah… not exactly,” Toto replied, “but it wasn’t that hard to find moments at home when our parents were away or working late… plus we had our olive grove.”

“So… you did it outdoors?” Giacomo asked.

Michele was overcome by a fierce coughing fit as he inhaled some of his coffee. Toto’s jaw sagged in horror.

No!” he exclaimed. “The olive grove was just for kissing and stuff! Oh, wait…” He had registered the dark-eyed boy’s smile. “You’re winding us up again, aren’t you?”

Catching Giacomo’s eye, Daniele giggled slightly. “Yes, he is.”

Toto shook his head, rubbing his spluttering boyfriend gently on the back. “Dio… it’s like having coffee with an angel and a devil at the same time.”

“What would you have done if you couldn’t find quiet times at home?” Daniele asked.

“We never really had that problem,” Michele admitted once he had got his breath back. “But, I think, Gianni and Angelo…” he glanced at the other boy. “It wasn’t so easy for them, right?”

Toto nodded. “Gianni’s grandparents hardly ever left the house, and Angelo’s mother was busy running the family home and looking after Claudia, especially after their father died. It was harder for Gianni and Angelo to build acceptance for their relationship, too. I remember Gianni telling me they waited a whole year before they… you know… took it all the way, and, even then, they had to take themselves off somewhere else to do it.”

Daniele’s ears pricked up. “Really?”

“They found a brilliant place. They went for a night under the stars at the top of Monte Brusara. Have you ever been up there? There’s nothing but rocks, dry grass and trees, and absolutely nobody else around.”

“That sounds amazing,” Daniele said, “but… how do you know all this?”

“Well…” Toto began, “after things went badly with Papà, I ran away from home.”

“I remember…” Daniele murmured.

Toto looked surprised. “How would you…?” He frowned slightly, but then his brow cleared in astonishment as he was transported by a long-forgotten memory. “Wait a minute… the little blond kid I knocked flat in the street… that was you?

Daniele smiled and offered him a little wave. “Ciao.”

Toto laughed delightedly. “Oh. My. God… I think I owe you a hug.” He paused, marshalling his thoughts. “Anyway, luckily for me, Gianni was the first one to find me, and he and Angelo took me in for a few days. That’s when I first met Claudia, too – Angelo roped her in to help cheer me up. They took us both up the mountain for a night – they were prepared to share their special place with us, that’s just the sort of guys they are – and they told us all sorts of stories. It was brilliant.” He smiled, but then he shuddered slightly. “I’m glad we had the airbeds, though… I couldn’t have slept with all those rocks digging into my spine.”

Daniele glanced questioningly at Giacomo, who offered him a thumbs-up under the table. It seemed they had the beginnings of a plan.

* * *

Once the two older boys had left to get on with their day, Daniele and Giacomo wandered over to the shade of the umbrella pines, where they stood at the railings overlooking the valley. The heat of the morning was already mounting, and there was a faint shimmer to the air. Sunlight glinted off the chrome headlamp of a distant Vespa scooter as it made its way down the zig-zagging road through Scala.

“That was brilliant, Dani,” Giacomo grinned. “You were working them for information the whole time, and they didn’t even realise.”

The dark-eyed boy seemed genuinely impressed. For his part, Daniele wasn’t so sure it was something to be proud of.

“I don’t like keeping secrets,” he replied.

Giacomo shrugged. “We’re going at your pace, here,” he said. “No pressure from me.”

Together, they glanced up the valley, to where the tree-crowned peak of Monte Brusara stood proud above both Ravello and Scala like a great green snail shell. A thread of scattered houses crept up the terraced slopes from San Martino, picking out the route of the steep stairway that eventually led up to the chestnut woods below the peak.

“I really liked Toto’s story,” Daniele said, “and a night on the mountain sounds really cool.” He glanced doubtfully at his friend. “But… going all the way…? If that even means what I think it does, I don’t think I’m ready for that.”

Giacomo smiled. “Do you think I’m crazy? Me neither.” He drew a little closer. “All the same…” he whispered, “a few more cuddles wouldn’t hurt.”

Daniele giggled slightly. “You’re kiss-crazy.”

You make me crazy.”

“I’ve been crazy since I met you.”

“So? Let’s go mad together. I’d be cool with that.”

They smiled at each other for a moment, then Daniele glanced back up at the mountain. “Can we get everything we need?”

Giacomo shrugged. “We used to go on camping holidays sometimes before Papà left. It was cheaper, you know? It’s been years, but I don’t think Mamma ever got round to getting rid of all the gear.”

“What about the climb?” Daniele said. “If we’ve got to carry airbeds, a tent and a bunch of food and drink… I don’t want to spend the night with stinky Giaco.”

Giacomo laughed in disbelief. “Stinky Giaco? Wow, thanks, Dani the whiff.”

Daniele gaped in shock at his remark. “I thought I was Dani the Hero?”

Giacomo snickered. “Just bring some wash things and a change of clothing.” He offered Daniele a sly smile. “…unless you’d rather go naked?”

* * *

It took Daniele several minutes on the phone with Patrizia to persuade her to let them to camp alone at the top of the mountain. When she eventually conceded, it was subject to several conditions: that Paolo was to drive them as far up the mountain as the roads allowed, that they were to watch out for adders, that they were to set up their campfire far away from the dry grass and trees, and that under absolutely no circumstances were they to venture back down into the woods after dark.

Having agreed to her ground rules, the two boys set about organising all the equipment and provisions they needed. They returned to Daniele’s house to get their spare clothes and wash things and pack supplies for their dinner, then they visited Salvatore’s shop to stock up on bottled water, and finally climbed the steps to the Toro to fetch the dusty camping gear from the back of a very cluttered storage cupboard in Giacomo’s apartment. They based themselves around the centre of town for the afternoon, sheltering from the hottest part of the day, until finally, at five o’clock, Daniele received a text from his father to say he was on his way to collect them.

An hour or so later, Paolo pulled up among the highest houses on the slope of Monte Brusara and Daniele and Giacomo spilled out onto the narrow patch of tarmac at the end of the driveable road, where they unloaded two heavy rucksacks and a tent bag. Far below them, the centre of Ravello shone with a golden glow in the evening sun.

“Are you sure you can manage the climb up through the woods with all this gear?” Paolo asked, looking at the tent bag with particular doubt in his light brown eyes.

To show that they could, Daniele and Giacomo hitched the tent bag up by one handle each. Between them, the weight was manageable.

“We won’t rush it,” Giacomo promised.

Paolo shook his head dubiously. “Well, all right. But, if you get into any trouble, just give one of us a call – even if it’s the middle of the night.”

Daniele nodded. “Thanks, Papà.”

Carefully, Paolo turned the car around and began the winding descent towards town.

The two boys followed the concrete footpath through the last of the houses, and soon they were on an earthen mountain trail, surrounded by chestnut trees and feathery ferns. Small woodland birds, which they would never normally have seen amidst the sun-drenched streets, squares and gardens of the town, darted about among the trees as tiny splashes of colour, watching them with alert, beady eyes.

In the heat of the evening, the steep, little-used side path to the summit was a struggle with the heavy tent bag, but neither of them complained; they were young and fit, and each determined to complete their mission. Daniele could feel his t-shirt clinging to his back beneath his heavy rucksack, and he was glad he had brought a change of clothing. Giacomo, too, had prepared himself for the demanding journey, trading his stylish new floral shirt for a simple and practical white t-shirt.

Eventually, they emerged from the trees on the ridge at the top of the mountain, where an open plateau of rocks and dry grass ran for the length of the summit. They trailed back along the ridge towards San Martino until they reached the spot Toto had described to them. At the centre of a flattish section of sun-warmed rocks stood the remains of an old campfire and a couple of logs to sit on: a relic, perhaps, of Gianni and Angelo’s previous visits. At the edges of the clearing, the dry, grassy patches under the light, scattered trees at the fringes of the woodland provided a choice of shady spots in which to pitch a tent.

They put the tent up first, working together to insert the poles and bend it into shape, then they hammered the tent pegs into the stony soil as best they could. It wasn’t perfect, but there was very little wind, and they felt sure it would hold. From his own rucksack, Daniele took out the inflatable mattress they had unearthed at Giacomo’s apartment – a double, which had belonged to Giacomo’s parents – while Giacomo himself produced a foot pump and the simple blankets they had chosen to make the bed up with, both feeling that they would be too hot in sleeping bags. Taking it in turns, they inflated the mattress until it was firm and set it up inside the tent. They made the bed up with the blankets, and then the hard physical work was done.

“I need to change,” Giacomo said, taking a sniff of his own armpits and wrinkling his nose in distaste.

“Me too,” Daniele replied. “See you in a minute.”

Retreating to a private spot among the trees with his rucksack, Daniele pulled off his damp t-shirt and washed himself with a sponge and some of his bottled water. He applied a fresh squirt of deodorant and put on the clean t-shirt he had brought with him; in deference to what he thought the other boy would like the most, he had chosen his old, pale pink one.

He paused to examine his own image using the front camera on his phone – the closest thing he had to a mirror. Did he look good enough? This was all such new territory for him… he felt very young and thoroughly ill-prepared. He dug deep, searching for his courage.

Just go for it… there’s nothing else to do!

Daniele took a deep breath and turned on his heel.

When he returned to the clearing, he found that Giacomo was already there, returned to his stylish new shirt. He was rebuilding the stone campfire circle, and Daniele crouched down to help.

The dark-eyed boy gave him a sideways glance. “Nice shirt,” he said with a smile.

“Thanks,” Daniele replied quietly. “You, too.”

Giacomo snickered. “Why are you whispering?

Daniele glanced around the deserted clearing, and it dawned on him for the first time just how alone they really were. It felt as if they had left the whole civilised world behind them.

I DON’T KNOW!” he shouted, and then they both dissolved into giggles.

“You slay me sometimes, Dani,” Giacomo panted.

Daniele gave him a shy smile. “Let’s get some firewood,” he suggested.

They split up again, hunting among the trees for decent sized fallen branches and smaller twigs to use as kindling.

After another half an hour or so, they had assembled and arranged enough wood within the ring of stones to form a decent campfire. Giacomo, as the more experienced camper, used a flint to ignite the kindling, his brow knotted in intense concentration. Daniele sat back, ready to help breathe air onto the fire when needed; in the meantime, he lost himself in the sight of his friend’s lively dark eyes, which were, for once, entirely focused on his work.

By the time the fire was blazing brightly, the evening sun was dipping towards the mountains above Scala, which rose higher still than the peak on which they had set up their camp. Before long, they would be plunged into Ravello’s endless, premature dusk. They worked quickly to unpack the ingredients they had brought for their improvised dinner, including a tub of pre-cooked penne pasta, some diced pancetta, and sliced onions, mushrooms and olives, crushed garlic, chopped anchovies and parsley and a small bottle of olive oil.

Soon, Daniele had the pancetta and vegetables frying gently in a battered old pan. Cooking over an open flame was a new experience for him, but it kicked up a delicious, savoury scent. Giacomo sat next to him, eyeing the cooking meal with intense interest.

“I’m starving,” he said, dark eyes gleaming hungrily. He placed an arm around Daniele’s shoulders for a moment. “We make a great team.”

Daniele flashed him a quick smile. “Don’t make me drop the dinner.”

The other boy released him and sat back a little, smiling himself.

Once he was satisfied that the main ingredients were cooked, Daniele stirred in the pasta, olives, garlic, anchovies and parsley and cooked them for a little longer for everything to heat through. Next to him, the other boy was almost drooling.

“Come on, come on,” Giacomo breathed eagerly as Daniele dished the meal out into two plastic bowls and handed out a couple of forks.

Buon appetito,” he said, passing one of the bowls to the other boy.

Giacomo took the bowl, and they sat huddled up together on the log. Their legs and shoulders pressed up against each another, but neither of them flinched away.

Daniele began to eat, soaking up the feeling of togetherness. It was sort of… nice.

“Oh… it’s so good,” Giacomo sighed, closing his eyes ecstatically as he tasted the warm, savoury meal.

Daniele laughed. “Come on,” he said.

“I mean it,” Giacomo insisted. “Food always tastes so much better when it’s cooked under the stars…” he nudged Daniele gently with his elbow, “and when it’s cooked by the cutest junior chef in town.”

Daniele flushed. “I thought you were joking about that. Do you really mean it…?”

Giacomo shrugged and looked away for a moment. “I never thought this was how I would be, but… yeah, I do.”

Daniele was dying to ask more, but the other boy glanced back at him and shook his head with a smile.

“Save the questions for later,” Giacomo said. “Maybe I’ll be feeling a bit braver.”

As the dusk deepened, the campfire began to take over, bathing them both in a flickering, golden glow. Between the balmy evening and the heat of the flames themselves, it was still truly warm. Giacomo loosened another button on his shirt, drawing Daniele’s eyes to the glimpse of olive skin beneath it.

They finished their meal and set the bowls aside.

“Thanks, Dani,” Giacomo said. “That was amazing.”

“What about dessert?” Daniele asked. “I’ve got some cakes somewhere…”

“I’ve got something better,” Giacomo said. “Wait here a minute.”

Curiously, Daniele watched as the other boy headed for the tent, picking his way through the gloom. The tent lit up with a warm golden glow as Giacomo switched on the camping lantern within, then he reappeared with a glass bottle in his hand and a couple of tiny plastic glasses.

Daniele glimpsed the strong yellow colour of the drink as Giacomo sat back down next to him. He stared at the other boy in surprise.

Limoncello?” he asked. “I dunno, Giaco… that stuff’s really strong.”

Giacomo shrugged, examining the glass bottle of lemon liqueur in the flickering light of the flames.

“You’ve had wine with dinner before, haven’t you?” he asked.

Daniele nodded. “Sometimes, but…”

Giacomo smiled. “I don’t want to get drunk,” he said, “no way. I just saw this in the cupboard at home and thought… a little taste might, kinda… help.” He held up the plastic cups. “See? Tiny shot glasses.”

“It’s meant to be served really cold,” Daniele said.

Giacomo nodded. “Yeah. I guess we’ll have to make do.”

Daniele sighed. “All right. Just one.”

Giacomo poured them each a tiny measure of the drink and then carefully re-corked the bottle. He gave Daniele a nervous smile, his dark eyes reflecting the dancing flames, and raised the glass. Daniele did the same.

Cin cin,” the dark-eyed boy said, and then they both downed their drinks.

Daniele’s first sense was of an overriding sweetness, which then gave way to a dull fire that spread through his stomach.

“Oh, wow,” he murmured. He coughed slightly, then giggled. “One is enough.”

Giacomo screwed up his eyes for a second, then he cast his shot glass down beside the log bench. “Ah… yeah,” he laughed.

They sat for a few minutes, chatting and laughing while the shots did their work. Daniele could feel himself loosening up, although whether it was due to the alcohol or whether it was purely psychological, he wasn’t sure. Either way, he wondered if the other boy would be more willing to answer his questions now.

“So…” he ventured after a while, “you like boys, then…? As well as girls?”

Giacomo stared quietly back at him in the firelight. “Just one boy… so far.”

“So, I’m, like… the odd one out?” Daniele asked. “What is it about me that…?” he tailed off uncertainly.

Is he saying I’m… like a girl?

Giacomo took his hand. “Don’t think this makes you weird, Dani. I don’t know why, exactly.” He hesitated. “There’s one thing I do know, though. I feel this stronger than I’ve felt it for anyone else.” He frowned distractedly. “Maybe it’s just because of everything we went through with Ettore and Antonio. It’s like you’ve got under my skin somehow, you know? …like we’re connected.

“Yeah.” Daniele swallowed hard. “M-me too.”

Giacomo got to his feet and, in a strange echo of their moment at the disco all those days ago, extended an inviting hand towards Daniele.

“Come on, Dani,” he said. “We didn’t come up here just to talk.”

Nervously, Daniele took his hand and allowed the other boy to help him up.

“You… don’t want to dance, do you?” he smiled.

Giacomo laughed. “Why not? Who needs music?”

The dark-eyed boy led Daniele a few steps away from the fire and repeated a few of his dance moves from the disco, shuffling and turning in the silence of the darkened plateau. Chewing at a thumbnail, Daniele giggled at the silent display. He was beginning to feel a little light-headed; maybe alcohol really was starting to affect him… or maybe it was just the utter strangeness of the whole occasion.

“Your turn,” Giacomo smiled.

Although no-one understood, we were holding back the flood…” Daniele sang, breaking into a few of his gentler dance moves.

Giacomo clutched his hands to his chest. “My heart!” he gasped in an exaggerated sigh, “he has the voice of an angel.”

He sank to the ground, pretending to swoon, and soon both of them were giggling again.

They fooled around in the dark for some time, pretending to be animals, making loud noises and fighting imaginary gun battles. After one such occasion, which had seen them both fall to the ground with exaggerated death noises, Daniele reached out and pulled the other boy to his feet. There was silence for a second, and then they were kissing. After a few moments, Giacomo pulled away.

“C’mon,” he smirked, leading Daniele over towards the tent.

Heart beating nervously, Daniele followed his friend inside, and they let the entrance flap fall shut behind them. They kicked off their shoes, socks and shorts and Giacomo tugged gently him down onto the mattress.

“What happens here, nobody else needs to know about, if you don’t want,” Giacomo said quietly.

Tentatively, Daniele reached out and brushed at a lock of the other boy’s black hair. “I don’t mind,” he said.

In the cosy glow of the camping lantern, Giacomo began to undo his shirt buttons, and Daniele helped him to shrug free of it. In an inexperienced, fumbling sort of way, the dark-eyed boy pulled Daniele’s t-shirt up over his head. His hair fell untidily back into place as they tossed the garments into a corner.

“That’s better,” Giacomo said, and they looked at each other, giggling awkwardly.

“This isn’t real,” Daniele murmured. “Soon I’m going to wake up and none of this will have happened.”

“Really?” Giacomo snickered. “Does this feel like a dream?”

He leaned forward into a kiss. Pulling each other closer, they sagged down onto the mattress, trying out more tentative touches. Daniele felt lost, confused… and certain only that he didn’t want it to stop.

“Is… this okay?” Giacomo asked quietly, his dark eyes searching for Daniele’s permission.

Daniele nodded. “I… like it here, I think.”

Giacomo smiled. “Me too.”

His bare feet were playing with Daniele’s again, sending maddening sensations all the way up his body. Plucking up his courage, Daniele reached out and began to walk his fingers up the other boy’s flat stomach, passing either side of his bellybutton. Giacomo flinched and giggled slightly.

Now who’s doing the tickling?” he breathed.

But, from the looks of things, it had done more than just tickle. Daniele flushed, feeling his own body responding in kind. Giacomo shifted, running a hand contemplatively down Daniele’s side. Daniele shivered, caught with a sick sort of wonder at the absolute outer limits of his experience.

What do I do now? I don’t even…

The dark-eyed boy flexed his fingers a little. “Will you be my first?” he whispered.

Dimly, Daniele nodded. Giacomo’s hand fell to a new place, and the rest was so many stars in the darkening sky.

Copyright © 2023 James Carnarvon; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

On 6/5/2023 at 1:46 PM, Marty said:

Not much I can add to what others have already said concerning this chapter...

I must admit, though, that I'm intrigued by the actual title of this story: "The Summer of the Selfless." We're at number 8 of a promised 15 chapters, just over half way through, so a lot can, and probably will, still happen. Apart from Danni and Giaco, there's a third character lurking in the background, the "little mouse". James Carnarvon has already hinted in the story synopsis that Marco is waiting in the wings, and that he suspects that Giacomo’s motives are anything but selfless (there's that word again). I suspect that the remaining 7 chapters will perhaps deal with this aspect of the unfolding story.

I'm just not sure yet which of the characters will prove to be the selfless one...

Just a quick thank you for your comment, and it’s an astute observation. I’m surprised nobody else has made it.

I wonder…? 😉

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5 minutes ago, James Carnarvon said:

Just a quick thank you for your comment, and it’s an astute observation. I’m surprised nobody else has made it.

I wonder…? 😉

I'm already guessing there are more here than one to accept the selfless laurels.

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31 minutes ago, James Carnarvon said:

Just a quick thank you for your comment, and it’s an astute observation. I’m surprised nobody else has made it.

I wonder…? 😉

I still find myself invariably reading the title as The Summer of the Selfies James even though I know it is not this. I think it may be because the second 'l' is not as distinct as the first 'l' as it almost "hides" under the rounded top of the 'f' and selfies is such a current word (even though I have never taken a selfie and think they are generally vile). And for some reason (read deteriorating eyesight even with glasses) I never notice the second 's' in 'less'. At least I have not mistakenly read the title as The Summer of the Selfish.

Edited by Summerabbacat
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I pretty much had the same though  @Marty had about the title but he stated it a lot more eloquently then I would have. So I'm thinking something else will go down but what? Based on the characters my first thought is Dani would be the selfless one but you can't be sure  with @James Carnarvon writing this.

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On 6/6/2023 at 3:50 PM, Summerabbacat said:

At least I have not mistakenly read the title as The Summer of the Selfish.

Like I initially read your comment as The Summer of the Shellfish😉

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4 minutes ago, Marty said:

Like I initially read your comment as The Summer of the Shellfish😉

I don't think I'd like that story. I have a very ambivalent relationship with mussels and clams, even though I've eaten them several times in Italy.

Maybe I should write The Summer of the Shelving. It sounds fascinating.

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15 minutes ago, James Carnarvon said:

Maybe I should write The Summer of the Shelving. It sounds fascinating.

I presume that would be a D.I.Y. story? 🙂

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