Chapter 5: No one knows (the truth)
"Skyler!" he yelled, storming up to his brother and Zack, who were still attached at the hip. Skyler rolled his eyes and sighed heavily, missing the way Zack tensed up suddenly.
"Care to explain what you think you're doing?" Nick demanded, eyes set to kill and aimed at Zack. Zack refused to meet his eyes, and he started worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. Skyler was caught staring at the motion, eyes widening slightly. Nick released a low growl, and Skyler snapped out of his trance to glare at his step-brother.
"What the hell is your problem, Nick?" he snapped irritated. He thought his brother had gotten over any lingering homophobic feelings years ago. "You have a problem with me hanging out with Zack?"
"I wouldn't if all you were doing was hanging out!" Nick defended himself angrily. "But you two are acting like you're going to jump each other the moment you find a room to yourselves!"
Zack blushed to his ears, the thoughts he was wrestling to control shooting back into his mind. Skyler turned red too, but from anger. "Nickolas! I can't believe you think so low of me! Do I look like someone who would sell myself like that? Remember the whole 'you matter' speak from my dad? And you know Zack well, do you think he'd do that either?" Never mind the fact Skyler really didn't know Zack and for all he knew the boy could be very much like that.
Nick had the grace to look taken aback. "Of course I don't think you'd do that, Skyler! But you're my little brother, and you're being way too friendly with a guy you just met!"
"Screw you, Nick!" Kurt shouted. "I'm older than you! I can take care of myself. I've spent three years in a closed off, sheltered school, I didn't come here to be sheltered more!"
He stood up in a huff, tugging on Zack's hand to pull him up. "Come on, Zack. You still up for doing our homework together?" Zack nodded mutely, his eyes glancing at Nick shyly. He allowed Skyler to pull him forward, ignoring Nick's outraged cry to "keep his hands off his brother."
They drove to Zack's place separately, Skyler needing to take care of something before following Zack's instructions. Zack raised his eyebrows when Skyler pulled up in his shiny black Navigator. Damn, was it a nice car, and definitely not what he expected Skyler to be driving. It actually made the mysterious, pale boy appear hotter.
Skyler stepped out of the car, his face lighting up as he spotted Zack peaking through the windows at him. Blushing, Zack ducked from the window and raced to the door, stopping to straighten his clothes before opening the door at Skyler's knock. They smiled shyly at each other, their eyes sparkling with excitement to spend time together.
"Thanks for having me over," Skyler said as he stepped into Zack's house. Or really mansion was the more appropriate word, because this was probably the grandest and largest house in all of Blackridge, dare he say Ohio even. It looked like the house of the rich bad guy the action hero has to sneak into under an alter ego, or from the pages of commercial magazines, or the houses movie stars owned.
"It's no problem," Zack replied, happy Skyler seemed to approve of his home. He took his coat, as dapper as ever, and offered a beverage or snack. Skyler declined gratefully, and didn't even flinch when Zack placed his hand on the small of his back to give him a tour.
"Here's the living room," he was saying, leading Skyler through a doorway into a very spacious room. He was a little shocked, however, to see a man reclining in one of the lounge chairs, reading the paper. He had dark, gelled black hair, and the same olive complexion Zack inherited. He wore an Armani suit, shocking Skyler.
"Hey, Dad," Zack called out in greeting. "This is a friend of mine, Skyler. We're going upstairs to do homework."
Mr. Brian looked up from his paper, a polite smile on his face. Rising from his seat, he strode across the room to Skyler, offering his hand in greeting. He had bright cerulean blue eyes, which spoke of years of wisdom. "Pleased to meet your acquaintance, Skyler. I'm Mr. Brian." Skyler took the offered hand and shook it firmly. "Skyler Day. It's nice to meet you, sir. You have a lovely home."
"Thank you," Mr. Brian spoke, smiling politely. He released Skyler's hand, and turned to Zack with a smirk on his face, his eyebrow raised. "So homework, huh?" he said teasingly, and Zack flushed a curious pink. "Door open bud, I'll be sending up Julie every now and then to check up on you."
Zack grumbled, leading a blushing Skyler away from his father towards the stairs, a mumbled "Don't need to send the maid, too old for a babysitter," barely escaping his lips. Skyler smiled in amusement, his heart rate picking up slightly.
They continued down the hallway past a lot of doors, till Zack paused at one and came to a halt. He looked at Skyler shyly before turning the knob and pushing open the door. "Welcome to my humble abode," he said, his voice slightly strained.
Skyler was impressed to say the least. He could actually see the floor, unlike Nick's room and every other teenage boy besides him, and apparently Zack as well. It was messy, but in a way that still looked neat and organized. Music sheets were in stacks on many surfaces, a wastebasket overflowing with crumpled balls of paper wads. Musical instruments ranging from different guitars and string instruments to a shelf of harmonicas aligned the walls, and his eyes widened at the piano in the corner, an electric keyboard propped next to it. Now he knew why Zack has such calloused, velvety hands.
The bed was king sized and made, the comforter a dark black with gold and black pillows, matching the golden walls and black carpeting. Skyler sat on it gently, not sure where exactly he should sit in his friend's room. Zack blinked for a second, the sight of Skyler on his bed short circuiting his brain. Shaking his head to clear the haze, he sat down next to Skyler, both their heart rates picking up as their knees brushed.
"So," Skyler started, his shyness slowly leaving. "Your Dad seems nice."
"He's cool," Zack agreed. "He and my mom are fine with me being gay, but they're always working so I barely see them. They keep trying to get me to be a doctor or something, they don't think a career in Broadway will be very healthy financially."
Skyler thought his heart stopped. "You're going into Broadway too?" he asked breathless. Zack looked in his eyes, which had widened slightly in shock. "Yeah," he breathed. "I'm applying to Waystar when they send their scout here."
"Me too!" Skyler exclaimed excitedly, grabbing Zack's hand in the process. Both boys smiled happily at each other, loving being in contact. Skyler was curious though.
"I will admit I'm a little shocked," he admitted. "I'm mean, you skipped a grade because of how intelligent you are, most would assume you'd go off to NYU or Harvard studying law or something."
Zack's eyes grew dimmer, and he looked away from Skyler's gaze quickly. But not fast enough for Skyler to miss the pain that had flashed across them. Concerned, he reached out and cupped Zack's cheek, raising his head until the boy looked him in the eyes.
"Hey," he spoke gently, soothingly. "What's wrong? Was it something I said?"
Zack shook his head animatedly. "No, no, it's not you, I promise." He paused, contemplating how much to tell Skyler. He looking deep into his eyes, searching for some kind of answer to his unknown question. Skyler held his gaze, hoping to convey he could be trusted, he wouldn't judge Zack or condemn him. Zack seemed to believe him, or he found his answer, because he took a shaky breath before looking away again.
"I went to a public school freshman year, before Blackridge," he said slowly, his voice getting distant as he remembered. "There was this Starry Night dance. I had just come out," he whispered, and Skyler's heart squeezed painfully. He could only guess where this was heading.
"I asked this guy... The only other out guy in school. We went and had a good time, and no one really said anything, you know? But afterwards, when we were waiting for his dad to pick us up, these guys came and... beat the living crap out of us." Zack's eyes were squeezed shut tightly, his grip on Skyler's hand tightening instinctively. Skyler squeezed back gently, and placed his hand on Zack's bicep.
"I missed a lot of school being in the hospital. I had to pass my finals or repeat the year. I studied harder then I ever did in my life, and I actually passed with flying colors. We had never realized the full potential of my brain, and under those circumstances we could finally see it."
He paused, taking in another shaky breath. "I've wanted to be on Broadway since I was a kid. With this new mind in sight, everyone wanted me to do things the way they wanted, taking away my freedom. They still are. I never transferred to Magnum because I knew I'd be sheltered there, I knew my brains would draw all these recruiters and competitions and awards that I didn't want. But I couldn't stay at that school, where everyone saw me as the weak gay kid who was a genius. I didn't want to run."
"But in the end I had to. I started boxing, training to be a better fighter, using my dance skills to discover new moves and techniques, my IQ high enough to spend extra hours in the gym. I'd always been a fighter, but I never started honing those skills until then. With this reputation as a fighter, I could transfer to Blackridge and learn how to survive in this world of homophobes. I could protect myself."
He shook his head sadly. "It didn't take long for them to see me as someone not worth getting beat up over, gay or not. They keep their hate mostly silent now. But there are other kids, other victims of bullying that can't fight back. So I fight for them. Even homophobes are victims of other bullying. No one was there to help me; but no one deserves to face bullying alone."
"But it's still not good for me. I have a lot of self-loathing towards myself, and I'm so suffocated here. I studied hard enough to skip a grade, because I'll be one year closer to New York, closer to my actual dream, where my IQ doesn't decide my career or my sexuality my strength. Where I can be free."
"I'm really not a bad guy, Skyler," he whispered softly, silent tears running tracks down his tanned cheeks. "I know I have a tongue and fight a lot and skip class sometimes because I know the material already, but I'm not a douche. I just can't run again. Not again."
Skyler looked at him silently, trying not to feel pity. No one ever wants pity, just understanding. He pulled Zack's face back to his, looking into those honey eyes swimming with unshed tears, his face wet. He was so gorgeous.
"You don't have to run anymore, Zack," he whispered intimately, Zack hiccuping a small sob. "We'll fight together. You said it yourself; no one deserves to fight alone. We're each others to fight for. You're mine and I'm yours."
Zack gave in and let the rest of his tears fall, clutching Skyler close to him in a tight hug. Skyler reproached the embrace, rubbing his hands down the strong back in comfort. He sat there for a while, just holding Zack. Eventually the boy calmed down, and they stayed where they were, locked tight in each other's arms.
"Thank you, Sky," Zack spoke after a while, picking his head up shyly. Clearing his throat, he picked up his backpack, extracting himself from Skyler's warm, caring embrace.
"So, homework now, right?" he mumbled, not meeting Skyler's eyes. Skyler looked at him for a second before nodding, his "Yeah" soft and gentle.
Zack was embarrassed. That much was simple. He was so strong at school, someone to be looked up to, to be relied on. No one knew how vulnerable he really was, how insecure and lonely he really felt. He was a bad boy, someone you feared in the halls and didn't speak much. But he's also the guy who when he did speak, you just had to like him; someone whose bad boy antics were all in the name of good, despite what adults thought.
No one looked at Zack Brian and thought of him as vulnerable. No one had even known there was a wall to climb over.
And Skyler had found and climbed it all in one day.
Zack knew he had feelings for this boy already. And he was pretty sure the feeling was mutual. So why wasn't he doing anything about it? What was stoping him?
Skyler's knee brushed against his again, and his stomach twisted and grew heat again. The longer he spent in Skyler's company, the more his hormones raged. He wanted to act on his emotions so badly, but he had no idea how to show it. He could tell Skyler was just as attached to music as he was, maybe he could use that. But what was a good song to serenade someone with? He'd already used 'Teenage Dream'.
He smiled wide as the perfect song hit him. "Wait here a second," he breathed, getting to his iPhone in his dock and pulling up YouTube. Skyler watched curiously as he scrolled through, looking for the right video.
The music started playing, and Skyler's eyes grew impossibly wider. No. He wouldn't. He wouldn't be that bold, would he?
Zack started straight into his eyes, already into the performance persona. His eyes were dark and he smiled seductively.
Skyler was so far past the point of turned on. Between Zack's suggestive dancing, his deep, sensual voice, and the heated, possessive way his eyes roamed over Skyler's body and then held his gaze, he was glad he was still on the bed and had a textbook on his lap.
"No need to imagine, cause I know it's true
Skyler was definitely speechless. Did Zack seriously sing that to him just now? What did it mean? He watched Zack's confident face, how his eyes danced with nervousness and excitement, breathing a bit heavy from the dancing. Rising from the bed, Skyler walked up to Zack slowly, placing his hands on the taller boy's shoulders and leaning into his ear.
"Zack," he breathed huskily, his warm breath washing over Zack's skin, making him shiver. "We are alone."
Zacm moaned quietly, his hands gripping Skyler's hips. A sharp knock on the door sprung the two apart, Skyler sitting back on the edge quickly as the door opened. A young woman with dark chocolate brown hair that fell to her shoulder blades, pale skin, and green eyes that looked like turquoise at first walked into the room. She was wearing a fitting dark purple dress, plain and simple, and matching nurse shoes and rubber gloves.
She raised her eyebrow at the two boys, smiling to herself knowingly. "Your father sent me to ask if you'll be joining him for dinner today," she addressed Zack, not mentioning his flushed cheeks. She turned to Skyler and smiled genuinely at him, waving slightly. He blinked and waved back hesitantly.
"Thank you, Julie," Zack said, sounding a little breathless, a hint of frustration hidden in his tone. She smiled at him, walking up to Skyler and holding out a hand. "Hi! I'm Julie. I'm working here part-time as a maid."
Skyler smiled gently and shook her hand. "Skyler Day. It's nice to meet you, Jewels."
"No, not Jewels, Julie," she said patiently. "'Ju-ly. Don't worry about it, no harm done."
She stepped back and looked at Zack. "Should I tell him you won't be available to attend this evening?"
Skyler looked at the clock and gasped. "Oh god, it's so late. I'm sorry Zack, I have to get back. I won't keep you from dinner, go join your family."
Zack nodded. "I'll walk you out," he said, smiling gently at Skyler as he lead him by the small of his back again. Julie smiled, following them out the room before disappearing down the hall, presumably to report to Mr. Brian.
Zack walked Skyler all the way to his car, stoping by the side and smiling cockily. "So, shall we be seeing you again?"
Skyler smiled devilishly, leaning in close, his face inches away. "That depends on how good a boy you are," he whispered lowly, leaning back and winking before opening the car door and sliding in. He rolled down his window, holding back his laugh at Zack's wide-eyed dazed look.
"See you at school, babe," he called out the window as he drove out, a smile spreading on his face identical to the one growing on Zack's.