Technical Difficulties Episode 05byLucyH©
Seeing Ryan holding handcuffs made Zach's brain buzz and his heart race. "Thanks, but you can keep them." He glanced back up at the T.V. screen, feigning interest in the warm front that was moving across the country.
Ryan hung the toy on the handlebar of Zach's exercise bike and stood beside him. "Are you okay?"
"No." He dried his sweaty palms on his pants surreptitiously. "How'd you know I was up here?"
"You couldn't have gone too far with your car keys in my pocket."
Zach remembered then that he'd let Ryan borrow his car to get some supplies for the party. So Ryan was right, he couldn't have driven home after all, even if he'd been stupid enough to try. "Oh. Right. Is Melissa still here?"
"No. Trisha took her home. She was still pretty upset after you left."
"Do you think she'll get over it if I apologize?"
"Honestly? No. She was already mad at you before you dragged her into the closet. Trisha says she thought you rented a room for just the two of you, and wasn't happy when she figured out you didn't."
"Why was she mad at me about that? I never told her anything to make her think I rented a room."
"I really don't know. Sorry." Ryan sounded sympathetic.
A fresh wave of misery welled up inside Zach, and he suspected that any words he spoke would come out in a flood of tears. Ryan hadn't seen him cry for a long time. He tried to swallow the lump in his throat and get a grip.
Just when it felt like the emotion was ebbing, Ryan laid a hand on his shoulder for a moment. The unexpected gesture pushed him over the edge. He hid his face in his hands and struggled against sobs that made it hard to breathe. The fact that he was embarrassed to cry over a girl in front of Ryan made it that much worse, and harder to stop.
Ryan tapped his arm and handed him a towel. Zach hadn't even seen him get it. "You're gonna be alright," Ryan said.
Zach flashed back to the time Ryan let him up from the weight bench after the thing with the pliers, and handed him a beach towel. Did Ryan remember that too?
Ryan put his arm around Zach's shoulder in a lazy half-hug. His body felt drastically different from Heather's little pixie shape; so solid and right.
If ever a moment had a purpose, that was the time when Zach was supposed to confess his feelings for Ryan. He opened his mouth to speak, but his throat constricted like it always did when he tried to bring this subject up. He couldn't breathe until he decided to say something else. "Fuck" he muttered into the towel. He sat still, hyper-aware of Ryan's arm around him, and helpless to do anything about it.
An unfamiliar male voice asked, "Is everything okay?"
Zach raised his head and opened his eyes to find a security guard staring at them from the doorway. It felt like they'd been caught at something naughty.
"Yes sir. My friend is just having some girl trouble." Ryan's calm, matter of fact tone brought Zach back to reality. Nobody could read his mind; his thoughts were his own.
Static and an incomprehensible voice on the guard's radio distracted him. He nodded to Ryan and Zach, raised a hand in a farewell gesture, and left the room asking the voice on the radio to repeat itself.
Ryan lingered for a minute with his arm around Zach's shoulders, petting his arm, and Zach wondered if Ryan was hitting on him. Guys don't usually hug each other like that, and Ryan wasn't in the habit of hugging Zach at all. Maybe the handcuffs had given him ideas. Zach wanted to respond positively, but he froze up so much that he couldn't move.
Ryan stepped away from Zach and tried to convince him to go back to the party, as if nothing had happened. The imaginary fork in his gut twisted so hard that he barely made it to the bathroom before he threw up.
Ryan felt like a sick puppy, getting turned on from seeing Zach cry. It didn't bother him to think about getting a little rough in bed, but he wasn't supposed to like seeing his best friend truly unhappy. He couldn't help it, though, any more than he could help the x-rated thoughts that popped into his head when he saw those handcuffs. Ryan had all but forgotten their old game with the weight bench, and now, thinking back, he marveled at what weird kids they'd been. Zach would probably get freaky in bed, wouldn't he? He'd go for the kind of things that Trisha thought were too perverted. If only he were not so straight.
It seemed wrong to think about Zach like that when he has so upset, though. Ryan decided to focus on being nice, and brought him a towel. Still, he couldn't resist putting his arm around Zach for a minute, just to test what would happen. Zach cried for a while, then went still and silent. Ryan squelched an urge to kiss him. Zach didn't need more things to stress about, especially not tonight. And anyway, Trisha would kill them both if she found out. Maybe some other time, he'd ask about the handcuffs.