It all started with a simple bet.
Elizaveta smirked at you, that mischievous glint in her eye. "What is it?" you asked, knowing that the answer probably wasn't going to be good. She was most likely thinking about how to trick you into taking yaoi photos for her. Again.
"Twenty bucks says that you can't get Ludwig to take his shirt off in the next twenty-four hours."
"You're kidding. Forty says I can." The woman grinned beside you, staring across the meeting table. There was Ludwig, looking just as bored as everyone else at this meeting. It couldn't be that hard to get his shirt off. Elizaveta extended a hand and you shook on it.
When the dreaded company meeting was over, you ran up to Ludwig smiling. "Hey, let's go to the beach." Your proposal was sudden, and you knew it probably wouldn't work, but you kept your voice perky with hope.
"What? I can't go screw around. I have paperwork to do." He looked down at you. "I'm sorry, _______."
"Please?" You didn't want to resort to it, but you had an extra plan up your sleeves if the puppy eyes didn't work.
"I'm busy," he insisted. You sighed. You really hated to bring anyone else into it. But you had to. Time for plan B.
Hurrying your way was Feliciano Vargas, another coworker. You flashed him your biggest grin. "Feli!" You exclaimed, wrapping your arms around him in a happy hug. You'd known him since grade school, and you'd been close ever since then. "Hey, Feli, I was just talking to Ludwig about going to the beach. Do you want to go?"
The man's eyes perked up. "Of course!" he exclaimed. He looked to Ludwig. "Let's go right now!"
"I'm busy, Feliciano," insisted the blonde. The younger man's bottom lip puffed out in a pout. His big eyes pleaded with the man. Ludwig sighed. Not even he could resist the Feliciano's face. "Fine."
"Yay!" The young man hugged his coworker. After a quick discussion about cars and supplies, the three of you decided to meet there in an hour. The morning meeting was all that any of you had planned (except Ludwig, who still insisted that he should be doing paperwork, though he still agreed to meet up)
As you stepped out of the meeting room, following Ludwig and Feliciano, Elizaveta stopped you. "Take the camera so I can have some proof." After a second of hesitation, she added, "If you use Photoshop, the whole bet is off." You nodded and took the camera that she offered, before hurrying after the boys and running to your car.
You parked, and hopped out of your car, already in your bathing suit. The sun was shining at the moment, but the weather in Michigan was unpredictable—it might start hailing in an hour. You didn't think about that for too long, because arms were around you, almost sending you to the ground.
"Hey, Feliciano," you said with a smile, returning the hug. "Is Ludwig here yet?"
"Ve~ He's on the beach already!" You grabbed the camera that sat on the front seat of your car, and hurriedly chased the man to the beach, hot sand burning your bare feet as you ran. You clicked on the camera, ready to take a picture of Ludwig.
But when you reached the towels that had been set out for the three of you, the man was wearing a tank top. Disappointed, you greeted him with a smile, before exclaiming, "Let's get in the water!" Ludwig only shook his head.
"No. I don't want to." He lay down on the towel, opening a book. "You two run along." Feliciano smiled and hurried down to the water. When you were alone with Ludwig, he added, "Keep an eye on him, will you?"
You frowned. You were not here to watch Feli. You were here to get Ludwig out of his shirt and win forty bucks. Then again, the bet wasn't the only reason you wanted him to take his top off—Ludwig had always had a bit of a special place in your heart, ever since you'd met in high school, when he came over as a foreign exchange student from Germany. He loved the States so much that he ended up coming back. That had been the happiest day of your life.
You wanted him out of his shirt for your own reasons. The bet was just extra incentive. "Come on, Luddy! Just hang out in the water with us for a little while."
"No. I just want to relax and read my book." He pulled out a small novel, one that had something to do with a potato. What could possibly be so interesting about that book that he would choose to read that over spending time with you? You sighed and walked away, putting on a smile for Feliciano.
You splashed in the water, playing around, for what seemed like ages. A sudden cry from the beach startled you. There, standing at the water's edge was Lovino, Feliciano's brother. "Feli, I think your brother's looking for you."
"Ve~ I'll go see Lovino! Have fun with Ludwig!" You smiled and followed him out of the water. You could hear Lovino yelling at his brother for being anywhere near Ludwig. You sighed, shaking you head. Those two had had problems since high school.
You headed to see Ludwig, who was still reading. "Feli's leaving," you announced. Ludwig nodded, having already heard the man's brother yelling, and having already been yelled at by him. You plopped yourself down and closed your eyes. A little nap couldn't hurt. . .
You woke to the sound of screaming and chaos. Rough hands were shaking you. Your eyes flew open. Ludwig stood there, trying to gather things and wake you at the same time.
"What's going on?" you asked, confused.
"A storm is coming. Help me pack." You nodded and followed orders, shoving things into the beach bags around you. As soon as the two of you had your things packed, you were running to the parking lot. Thunder boomed and lighting flashed.
"Hope you don't need this!" a familiar voice yelled as Ludwig's car passed by in front of you. Gilbert, Ludwig's elder brother, was zooming off in Ludwig's car, not caring that his brother wouldn't have a ride home. You hadn't even known Gilbert was at the beach.
"Come on," you said. "We can take mine." He followed you, hurrying to the car. You hopped in and turned the key, then proceeded to curse under your breath. "Looks like we're gonna be walking. Put the bags in the car, and let's go." The car was not gonna start. It did this now and then, being that it was a junky old Beetle.
Ludwig tossed the bags in the front trunk of the car. Yeah, it was that old. "I can probably fix it," he said, moving around to the engine in the back. You smiled and tossed a tool belt to him. You always kept it in the car, but it was pretty much useless, being that you had no clue how to fix a car.
After a few minutes, the storm was brewing and Ludwig was working up a sweat in the heat. He wiped his brow before slowly reaching for his tank top. You smiled. Perfect! You grabbed the camera, clicking it on, and snapping a photo. He gave a confused look, but paid you little attention. You had all the evidence you needed for the bet.
Ludwig slammed the hood closed and said, "Try to start it." You did as told, and the engine roared to life. You smiled.
"Thank you!" You instantly wrapped your arms around him in a hug of thanks. Lightning struck nearby and you jumped. The two of you laughed at how easily you'd been startled. You looked up at Ludwig. You couldn't help what you did next. Your lips met his. It was as if the lighting was inside you, electric. When he kissed back, you were stunned. He wasn't pushing you away. The surprise made you lose grip of the camera in your hand.
Ludwig pulled away. "I—I. . . Uh. . ." You shook your head, not wanting to hear his explanation. You didn't need to hear anything. You quickly picked up the camera. It was shattered. But that didn't matter. There, in the pouring rain, stood Ludwig, shirtless. You gave a smile and kissed him again, just a peck on the cheek, before hopping into the car. He followed. You had a long ride ahead of you. You could discuss the kiss later. You could explain the feelings you had kept hidden for all these years.
You didn't care about the bet, not when you had Ludwig right there, next to you. You couldn't help the smile. This was worth breaking the camera for. You'd lose a thousand bets if it meant you could have Ludwig by your side forever.