The summer of 2018 had been glorious. A prolonged spell of hot weather was a rare treat for the United Kingdom and most people basked in the sunshine and made the most of the clear, blue skies while they lasted. The following year, much to everyone's surprise, there was a heatwave to rival it, and Harry decided he was going to take full advantage.
Harry had always been into health and fitness and enjoyed taking care of his body. He was a keen runner and regular workouts meant that, physically, he was in pretty good shape.
However, since returning to Hollyoaks earlier that year, he'd found that he needed something to help take his mind off James so he'd been stepping up his training plan and working out at the gym more. Of course, this meant that his body was beginning to change shape as his muscles became more defined and because he was being stubborn, James was yet to discover these improvements.
Harry had seen James a few times when he'd been out running and each time, he couldn't help noticing how James's gaze would linger on him as he jogged past. James tried to be subtle about it (which was unusual for James) but Harry saw, and he knew it would only be a matter of time before James gave in; he just needed to up his game.
Harry had arranged to meet Zack outside The Bean so that they could go for a run. While waiting for him, Harry decided to do some warm-up stretches. He had his back to Zack when he arrived but turned when he heard his friend's animated laugher at Harry's lack of clothing.
"Yeah, yeah, calm down," Harry sighed.
"Mate! You do know wearing a shirt will keep you cooler, right?"
"Of course," Harry replied, "but it's all part of my master plan."
"To win James back. It's been months and we're finally in a good place but James doesn't think we should be anything more than friends." Harry pulled a face. "Apparently, we'd only end up hurting each other again."
"So, let me guess, you're gonna show him what he's missing."
"Exactly. C'mon, let's go work up a sweat."
Harry kept an eye on the time as they ran and informed Zack after just twenty minutes that they needed to return to the coffee shop if he was going to catch James before work. Zack didn't seem to mind though as the temperature was already twenty-five degrees and counting.
James was a creature of habit and Harry knew his schedule so it was no surprise when they arrived just in time to see James enter with his mother.
Zack was about to follow until Harry grabbed his arm. "Wait," Harry gasped, out of breath. "Let's cool down a bit, give him chance to sit down."
After a few stretches, Harry glanced down at himself; it didn't matter how hard he'd worked those past few weeks, he still felt a little bit insecure, but his stomach and chest were toned, and his skin was tanned and glistening with sweat. "How do I look?" he asked, knowing Zack wouldn't think he meant it in a vain way; he just wanted to look his absolute best and provide maximum temptation for James.
"Sweaty," Zack replied, barely looking in Harry's direction. They made their way in and luckily for Harry, James was sat at a table facing the counter.
Harry couldn't resist laying a hand on James's shoulder. "Hey, James," he greeted, still breathing heavily. James was wearing a light blue shirt, the top two buttons undone, and Harry allowed himself a fleeting stroke of naked collarbone as he passed. Harry heard a choked noise from James as he looked up and was rather pleased by this non-verbal response from a man who usually had an answer for everything.
When they reached the counter, Marnie had just been served their coffee and croissants. Her tray rattled when she turned around and encountered Harry and the expanse of smooth, bare flesh on show. "Really!" she exclaimed. "How vulgar! This is an eating establishment." Harry just smiled as if he hadn't heard her. She made a noise of distaste but he noticed her wide eyes remained glued to his unclad torso as she glided by.
They ordered two bottles of water and while they were waiting, Harry thought he would do a couple more stretches with the aim of provoking some kind of reaction from James. He raised his arms, grabbed one elbow and used it to help push his arm down his back, exaggerating a fake groan of relief before repeating the motion on the other side.
Harry whispered to Zack out of the corner of his mouth. "Is he looking?"
Zack glanced back at James. "Oh, yeah."
Then Marnie's voice reached them over the gentle din of the cafe. "Close your mouth, darling, it's undignified."
Harry grinned. Yes! His plan was working.
The next day, it was James that caught Harry unawares. He was running alone past The Hutch when James rose from a chair and stood in his path, almost as if he'd been waiting.
Harry came to a stop and pulled his earphones out. "James," he panted. "Hi."
There was no corresponding greeting from James, just a large frown on his face. "Are you drinking enough water?" he asked without preamble.
Harry didn't have a chance to respond before James was pushing a bottle of water into Harry's hand. Maybe he had been waiting for him then.
"You know, you really shouldn't run in this heat," James grumbled, "you'll make yourself ill."
Still out of breath, Harry grinned; he was so happy! No matter what their relationship status was, James obviously still cared about his well-being. "I'll be careful," Harry promised.
"And those trainers have seen better days," James pointed out, looking with disgust at the footwear in question.
Harry just stared at James with a big, soppy smile on his face, completely and utterly in love.
James was standing close enough that Harry could detect a slight change in his breathing. James's gaze had travelled leisurely up the length of Harry's body before becoming fixated on his chest. James suddenly shook his head as if clearing his thoughts and stepped aside, gesturing for Harry to continue his run.
Harry held up the water and nodded. "Thanks, James," he said warmly and resumed jogging, reluctantly leaving James behind.
Harry hadn't taken more than a few steps before he heard James call out behind him. "And make sure you wear protection!"
That gave Harry an idea.
The following day, Harry was enjoying a fruit smoothie at the Love Boat when he noticed James on the opposite side of the jetty. He was sitting in the shade outside The Dog with a glass of wine and his laptop.
Harry had felt disheartened that morning when James had been nowhere to be found following his run with Zack. It was after lunch now and way too hot to set out again but Harry refused to waste the opportunity. Besides, he had something a little different in mind for today that didn't necessitate jogging.
He knew Zack was otherwise engaged so he called Romeo for back up. When he arrived, Harry let him in on his plan.
Romeo winced. "I'm not doing that."
Harry wasn't above using emotional blackmail. "You want your dad to be happy, don't you?"
"Of course I do but can't it be with someone who doesn't want to use me in a plot to make him jealous?"
"Please, Romeo. I wouldn't ask if I wasn't desperate. I need a wingman and Zack's busy." Harry was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and luckily, he'd come prepared; he whipped his shirt off and held out a bottle of sun cream. "Please?" he begged, hoping his charm worked as well on the son as it did the father.
Romeo rolled his eyes but he took the bottle nevertheless. Harry straddled a chair so he was facing the pub and Romeo sat down behind him.
"Start on my back," Harry instructed and Romeo squeezed some cream out of the bottle and began massaging it into Harry's skin.
"This is weird," Romeo mumbled.
"Just keep rubbing."
"He's not even looking!" Romeo pointed out.
"He will," Harry said, watching James tapping away at his laptop. Naturally, Harry knew how important it was to protect his skin from the sun and had already applied lotion liberally before his run earlier that day. However, James's advice had given him an excellent opportunity to not just get James thinking about Harry's young, firm body but to make him jealous as well. Harry didn't see how his plan could possibly fail. Today was going to be the day James finally admitted he still wanted him, not just as a friend but as a lover and a partner; he just knew it!
"Do my shoulders now." Romeo's hands shifted to Harry's shoulders as commanded and skated over them like he was trying to get the job over with as quickly as possible. "Slower!" Harry insisted.
Romeo blew out a breath as he got some more cream and began working on Harry's shoulders in a more deliberate fashion. "Man, this is wrong on so many levels."
"It'll work, trust me."
"I'm not even gay."
"You don't have to be gay. James is possessive, he won't like it."
Romeo sighed and withdrew his hands. "Have you considered winning my dad over with, oh, I don't know, wit, charm and intelligence? It's not all about appearance, you know."
Harry chuckled, looking over his shoulder at Romeo. "Says the guy with a better six-pack than me."
Romeo picked up Harry's shirt and begin wiping his hands on it. "He's gone."
"What?!" Harry looked back to see James's chair vacated and his half-empty wine glass abandoned on the table. "Well, that's disappointing."
"Can I go now?"
"Yeah," Harry said despondently. "Thanks for your help."
As Romeo stood, his phone beeped signalling a text and he fished it out of his pocket.
"It's from Dad. 'When you've quite finished fondling Harry I need you at home. NOW.' Romeo smirked. "Wow. Capital letters. Looks like my work here is done."
The next morning, Harry timed his run so that he'd be finished and outside James's flat at the same time he left for work.
Harry stood a few feet away, facing slightly away, and watched James out of the corner of his eye. He waited for him to lock his door then saw him falter as he turned in Harry's direction.
Harry acted like he was unaware of James's presence and leaned forward with his hands on his thighs, catching his breath. He knew this already showed his arse off pretty spectacularly but Harry wasn't finished; there was a bottle of water at his feet and as he reached down to pick it up, in no particular hurry, he felt the material of his running shorts stretch tight across his backside.
Now it was time to bring out the big guns.
After straightening up, he opened the bottle and took large gulps of water. As he drank, he closed his eyes and tried to imagine how he might look to James. Harry knew James loved his body, in fact it almost felt like he worshiped it at times in bed. What would he think of it now he had even more definition? Did he know he was putting on this display just for him?
After drinking his fill, he upended the bottle over his head. Cool, refreshing water soaked his hair and face, cascading down his chest and stomach and into the waistband of his shorts. Harry felt exhilarated; not only was he still on a high after his run but he felt fearless and self-assured, and showing his body off to James felt really, really good. He shook the excess water from his face and ran his hand over his head, pushing his fingers through the short, wet strands.
Suddenly aware of James standing close beside him, he turned to him and smiled.
This was it. Yesterday, James had been overwhelmed with jealousy and today he was going to be so full of lust that he'd pull Harry back to his flat and have his way with him. Screw work; he would just have to have him!
But instead of dragging him to bed, James just stood there looking slightly dazed.
"James?" He could feel a drop of water rolling down his chest and James's eyes followed its progress. "Have you changed your mind?" he asked in a low voice.
The situation suddenly felt very intimate but there was no response from James; he just continued to stare.
James looked up. "I'm sorry?" he croaked.
"Have you changed your mind?" Harry repeated.
"Us." Harry looked at him hopefully. "Being more than friends."
James swallowed. "I need to go. I've got a client to meet."
Harry was out of ideas. If he hadn't seduced James into bed by now, he didn't think he ever would. He knew James was obstinate but he never thought it would be this hard.
The next day found him outside James's flat again, only this time he was running with no particular course of action in mind. He was in his own little world and trying to come up with a new angle when he quite literally ran into him.
James grunted from the impact and Harry grabbed his arms to retain his balance. "Sorry," he said breathily, releasing him. "Didn't see you there." Harry's skin was wet with perspiration and he feared he may have got some on James's pristine white shirt.
James frowned, wiping at it superfluously. Harry could have sworn he mumbled something about 'doing this on purpose' under his breath and tried not to let James's fastidiousness bother him.
"Don't you ever wear a shirt?" James asked irritably.
"Not in this weather," Harry shrugged. "Nipple chafe, you know? It's either this or use lube."
James's gaze shot to Harry's nipples and he looked like he was about to swallow his own tongue. Suddenly James grabbed Harry's arm, pulling him along behind him.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked, delighted. He couldn't believe a spur-of-the-moment comment about lube had finally broken through James's defences.
"Inside. Now." James released him briefly to unlock his door. "You've been running around tormenting me for days with all your elaborate stretching and your flawless six-pack and your skimpy, little shorts," he said, forcing Harry gently through the door. "You want a workout? I'll give you a workout."