“Who the hell is that?”
Frank Perconte sets his bottle of Coke down on the pier they’re sitting on and puts a hand over his eyes to look where George is gesturing. Mr. Winters is leading a tall, muscular guy with dark hair over to one of the boats in the small-motor marina. He looks about the same age as George, Frank, and the rest of their friends.
George and Frank lean back to watch the new guy, and Frank accidentally knocks his bottle into water with a swear. He tries to grab it with his hands, then his feet, but poorly misjudges and falls in with a splash. George’s howl of laughter gets Mr. Winters and the new guy’s attention as Frank resurfaces with a loud “FUCK!”
He tosses the bottle at George and then tries to pull him in by the ankles, but George stands up too fast to be dragged in.
“Boys!” Mr. Winters yells over, and their heads both whip around to look. “Come over here and meet my new employee.” he says, and George covers his snicker as Frank hauls himself up onto the pier and shakes himself off before they both walk over.
“Hey, Mr. Winters.” George greets as they approach, and he dips his head with a smile in response. George raises his eyebrows at the new guy up close, and Frank elbows him with a wet arm at the expression.
“Joe, this is George Luz and Frank Perconte. George, Frank, this is Joe Toye.” he introduces, and Joe extends his hand.
“Great to meet you.” he says after they all shake hands, and George grins.
“So, you’re new in town?” he asks, and Joe nods.
“I’m from Philly. Couldn’t fuckin’ stand the cold so I came down to live with some family friends.” he explained.
“Would we know your family friends?” Frank chimed in, and Mr. Winters nodded.
“He’s staying with the Speirs.” he said, and Frank smacked George’s shoulder.
“Hey, you know Ron, huh? George had a huge crush on him in middle school!” Frank exclaimed to a now-amused Joe.
“Gee, Frank, thank you for saying that.” George said sarcastically. “I am in college now and I have matured-“
“Yes, because our weekend classes at the island community college are so sophisticated.” Frank shot back.
Before George could open his mouth get a reply in, Mr. Winters cut in.
“I’m real sorry boys, but I have to finish helping Joe with his orientation.” he said apologetically and the duo got the hint.
“Sorry for talking your ear off... again, Mr. Winters.” George said and Mr. Winters smiled indulgently.
“It was nice to meet you, Joe.” George said with a smirk, and gave himself a mental high five when Joe had to rub a hand over his mouth to hide his smile.
“Can you tell me anything about him?” George questioned, and Ron shrugged.
“He’s single.” Kitty offered, smiling at the glare Ron shot her way.
“Duly, importantly noted. Anything else?” he asked and Ron heaved a sigh.
“You won’t leave me alone until I tell you, will you?” he inquired. George nodded.
“Fine. He’s 20 like the most of us lot. Used to live in Philadelphia. I’ve known him since we were 14, our moms are friends. He’s really serious, prefers to keep to himself. He’s dated like... two people in his life. And obviously he’s staying with us.” Ron explained.
“Speaking of, isn’t he here?” George asked as he leaned back in his lawn chair to peek in the Speirs home.
“Oh, he’s out with Skip and Mal for dinner I think.” Dick said. George frowned.
“They’re not-“ George started, but Kitty cut him off.
“Looking for a fourth? No. Just friends. Trust me, they’re all good with Alex.” Kitty said and Dick shook his head.
“How do you know all the latest gossip in this entire area?” he asked her and she shrugged with a smile.
“Harry’s nearly as bad.” she replied and they all chuckled.
“Anyone want drinks?” Ron suddenly asked, and all hands shot up. He walked back into his house, not bothering to close the porch doors behind him.
“Are you interested in him, George?” Kitty asked after Ron seemed out of earshot, and Dick huffed.
“Well, yeah. He’s... really good looking. And he laughs at me, unlike you unfunny fuckers.” he said and Kitty looked off thoughtfully.
“Is that all?” Dick asked and George scowled.
“It’s not like I really got to talk to the guy, what with your dad training him and all that. Don’t worry, I’m sure that when I get to know him more I’ll want to get him his pants more. It’s a direct correlation.” George said confidently as Ron walked back out, passing around glasses of lemonade.
“Funny, that’s what Lou said.” Ron commented offhandedly, and Dick turned bright red as Kitty and George started cackling.
“I don’t exactly think she-“ Dick started, but Kitty rolled her eyes.
“Oh please, spare me. Louise Nixon has no shame about how much she enjoys you if you know what I mean.” Kitty said with a leer. Ron snorted and looked over at Dick.
“She’s got a point.” he commented. Dick just sipped his lemonade with a resigned sigh.
Another person walked out onto the porch, and the four all turned to see Joe Toye standing there.
“Hey, Ron. Hey, guys,” he greeted, and George promptly spilled his drink down his shirt and he jumped up.
“Goddammit!” he yelled, yanking his shirt off without thinking. Kitty snickered, and he looked over to see Joe staring at him.
“Oh hey Joe! I thought you were out having drinks with Skip and Malark! Welcome back man!” he rushed out and Kitty put her face in her hands.
“Is this a bad time?” Joe asked Ron, and Ron’s lack of an adequate response led him to nod at Dick before turning back into the house. There was silence as George flushed a humiliated red before Ron spoke up.
“Trying to get naked already? Wow. That was sad.” Ron said, and George glared.
“Just you wait, Ron Speirs, I’m gonna seduce the shit out of him.” he swore.
Boat rides, flirting, and general Joe Toye appreciation happens.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
(“Florida? Really, Joe?” Bill asked and Joe just nodded. “That’s redneck central. Jesus- they don’t even have cheesesteak. They don’t have me.” Bill said dramatically and Joe smirked.
“Both of those are things I can live without.” he retorted. Bill licked his lips and smiled.
“You’re a bastard, Joe Toye.”
“I hope you get sunburned.”)
“Morning, Joe.” Harry greeted cheerfully as he walked into the marina offices. Joe was filing his first bit of customer paperwork and nodded at him.
Harry Welsh, like the Winters family, didn’t exactly seem like the Islamorada type. Fair skin and hair, a sincere dislike of deep water, and a tendency to sunburn. But he was smarter and more capable than a lot of people gave him credit for, and his girlfriend was everyone’s friend.
He tossed a pair of keys to Joe, and Joe raised an eyebrow as he set down the rental forms.
“The hell do these go to?” Joe asked and Harry leaned onto the desk, raising his eyebrows.
“These are the keys to the Currahee, finest boat in all the keys. She sails the ocean blue and green, with passengers who drink and scream.” Harry recited.
“Do want me to drive it to a docking spot, or...” Joe deadpanned, Harry shook his head.
“No! We’re taking you out on it today with some of the guys. Mr. Winters is gonna be perfectly fine managing today by himself, it ain’t busy at all.” he said and Joe bit his lip.
“It’s my literal first day on the job, Harry.” he replied and Harry nodded.
“Well, duh, that’s why we’re doing this. It’s a tradition for new employees and just new people in the area we wanna make friends with.” Harry paused to gauge Joe’s interest before finishing. “So, you game?”
Joe considered it for a moment before he looked out the window. It was the perfect day for lazing around outside.
“As long as there’s food, I’m in.” he decided and Harry cheered.
“Good man! Well, let’s get going right now, most of the gang is already at the boat.” Harry said excitedly and Joe followed him out of the offices to the large motor marina. It was still pretty early in the morning, so it was pretty empty save one modestly large boat with a group of other college aged kids messing about on and by it.
“Looks like most of the gang could make it.” Harry mused as they walked up, and got a couple of waves from people as they came to pause by the side of the boat. Mr. Winters and Dick came over to Joe and Harry with a smile.
“You guys ready to go out?” Mr. Winters asked, and they nodded. “I was just checking on the engine and nav systems, and she looks all good to go. Have fun, and try to be back before dark.” he requested and Dick nodded before his dad headed off.
Harry, Joe, and Dick pulled themselves on board and observed the controlled chaos. A moderately tall guy that looked like he lifted weights and loved to spend money for no reason was stressing about the position of the sail while everyone else lounged, a group sunning themselves on the deck while laughter bubbled up from below deck.
“We all ready, Dave?” Dick asked Strong & Nerdy, and he nodded before jumping over to the boat’s driver seat. The short Italian guy Joe had met yesterday- Frank- pulled up the anchor and signaled that they were ready to go while a short blonde guy Joe’d seen at work yesterday unlooped the boat from the dock and pulled himself back up over the side.
“Good thing everyone lives in their swim trunks around here.” Joe mumbled, and Harry gave him an amused grin.
The boat pulled out of the marina carefully before picking up a little speed, cruising along the edge of the key to the south as the people below deck came up to mingle and sit around at the various cushy chairs.
Dick leaned back in his seat and looked around.
“Where’s George?” he asked, and moments later the cute guy with crazy hair Joe had also met yesterday came above deck with a brilliant smile.
“You can start the party now.” he said and got a handful of chuckles as he locked eyes with Joe. He only faltered for a second before he took the seat across from him on the end of the row next to the only girl.
“So, as we all know we’re hanging out today because of our wonderful new resident Joe Toye. You clearly know a couple of us but I’ll go around the group here anyways.” Harry said.
“On the end there, the idiot in that stupid Hawaiian shirt is George Luz. Next to him is Dick’s girlfriend, Louise Nixon. Her family owns this boat, actually. And then next to her obviously is Dick Winters. I’ll skip Ron, you’re living with him- sorry Sparky- so next to him is our mother Carwood Lipton, his wonderful boyfriend. That’s Frank Perconte, raging Italian, and that’s Warren Muck. But EVERYONE calls him Skip. I think Kitty said you went out with him and one of his... buddies last night, but I dunno. Kitty is my girlfriend by the way and is not here but she’s the sexiest person on the island. I don’t need an introduction because I’m Harry Welsh, and then the guy driving our boat is David Webster. So yes. Joe Toye, everyone. Everyone, Joe Toye.” Harry finished. The group all waved when Harry called their names, and Joe liked them immediately. They all seemed pretty fun.
“Hey Web, where are we gonna be anchoring?” Frank yelled up and Web turned in his seat to gesture vaguely out as he pulled the boat away from shore more.
“Around here? Three more minutes.” he promised, and Frank nodded.
“So, Joe, how do you like Islamorada so far?” Carwood asked, and Joe smiled.
“It’s a lot warmer than Philly, that’s for sure. Plus, Ron’s family’s place is bigger than where I was staying before so that’s a bonus.” he said and Carwood nodded.
“Have you been out to any of the restaurants and bars yet?” Louise asked, and Joe shook his head. George clapped his hands and leaned forwards.
“Holy shit, you haven’t lived until you’ve done Copa Cobanga’s Friday night!” he said and there were words of agreement all around the circle.
“The Sand Bar is okay, just doesn’t have as many drinks or as many people as Copa, it’s more lowkey.” Skip said.
“And then the Piña Colada-“ Frank tried to add in, but Skip cut him off.
“He already knows what it is, we went last night.” he said and Frank huffed.
“I’m trying to be a helpful new friend.” Frank grumbled.
“Then why don’t you start by actually being helpful?” Ron asked, and Joe failed miserably at hiding his snort. He looked over to see George grinning too.
The boat stopped moving and Webster hopped out of his seat, popping open the anchor box and pulling the anchor out. He tossed it into the sea with a splash.
“I sure hope there’s no sharks in the area. I hate those fishy killers.” Louise said loudly. Web shot her a cold look.
“First of all, sharks are kind creatures that don’t attack unless provoked-“
“Jesus, Web, have you seen Soul Surfer?” Harry asked and laughter broke out as he bristled.
“You guys are just cruel hearted assholes and you know it. The only sharks around here are nurse sharks and they’re so sweet you could have them as pets.” he defended.
“Except I’m not in the business of keeping sharks as pets.” Dick said and Joe grinned while Skip looked at him in shock.
“Dick Winters, clapping back I see.” he said with a very impressed tone and Louise kissed his cheek.
“I’m soooooo proud.” she sing-songed. The group fell silent for a beat before there was a splash, and all heads whipped over to see Web surface from the crystal clear water, spitting some from his mouth as he shook his hair and grinned up at the faces looking down over the boat railing.
“Well come on!” he yelled. “Water’s great!”
Harry shrugged and stepped up onto the railing, wobbling before jumping in. Frank and Skip were next, and then Ron after coaxing Carwood to go with him until it was just Joe, George, Dick and Louise left.
“You two go ahead, we’re staying here to sunbathe.” Louise declared as she adjusted her sunglasses, tossed off her cover up, and promptly laid down across Dick’s lap. He smiled fondly down at her.
“C’mon, Joe!” Ron yelled, and Joe looked down at him, treading water with a big smile on his face. Something hit him in the back of the head and Joe swerved back to avoid a second strike from a pool noodle as George tossed several floats down to the water.
“Sorry.” he said sheepishly. “You gonna go in?” he asked a minute later, and Joe nodded. They looked down, Ron having claimed a one-person raft while Carwood had the pool noodle and Skip was fighting Frank for an inflatable donut.
“Only if you are.” Joe challenged, and George grinned. They stepped up to a part of the railing where they could jump in without hitting anyone.
“Count of three.” George said, and Joe nodded.
“One... two... THREE!” he yelled, and they both leapt off at the same time. There was a split second of air time until Joe splashed underwater. He resurfaced with a gasp and spun around in the water to find George, who was laughing his head off, hair plastered unflatteringly to his forehead. It was uncomfortably cute, so Joe splashed a wave of water in his direction. He sputtered and flung some back at Joe.
“Okay, new guy’s a jerk I see!” he announced, and Joe laughed.
“Only to you!” he countered, and George dramatically laid a hand over his heart.
“I’m hurt, Joe. I really am.” George said, and they smiled breathlessly at each other for a long second.
“Christ, Joe, don’t get too friendly with the locals. Especially that one. He’s like a stray squirrel.” Ron said from his raft and George scowled in his direction.
“I resent that statement.” George said flatly, and Ron nodded.
Dick or Louise must have turned on the radio, because soon Led Zeppelin was blaring and Carwood clapped his hands.
“This is the stuff.” he said and Skip shook his head. He’d compromised and was splitting his float with Frank.
“Now, Lip, the proper terminology is ‘this is the shit’.” Skip corrected and everyone laughed.
“You’re like Joe when I have the audacity to act smart.” Web laughed, and Joe’s brow furrowed. Web waved a hand at him.
“We’ve got another Joe, my idiot boyfriend. I’ll introduce you sometime.” Web said and George flicked a drop of water in his direction. It landed on Ron.
“You’re the better Joe, Toye. Joe Toye, better than Joe Liebgott.” George said and Joe rolled his eyes.
“He’s just flirting with you, don’t trust Luz.” Frank said. George didn’t bother denying it.
They swam for a few more hours until Harry started bitching about turning into a burnt prune, at which point they all clambered back into the boat and Louise passed around a cooler of booze which they all gratefully accepted, minus Dick and Web. George raised his bottle.
“To Joe Toye.” he said, looking right at him while he said it.
“To Joe Toye!” everyone echoed, and Joe had a feeling that he was right at home.
kudos and comments keep this work alive so drop some of you want lmao