By a.j.

Freddy could barely hear anything. Not the clomping of his own boots digging into the newly-cleaned, champagne-beige wall-to-wall carpeting from the new revisions on the house. Not the sound of the pounding of the feet and slamming of the door from the person he was chasing after, only a few steps in front of him. Not Zack's mother calling out to him from the other side of the room, concernedly.

"What happened at practice?"

It was as though thick gauze covered his head, capturing him and suffocating him until he could finally free himself. He knew the ball rested in his side of the court and it was hit turn to hit it back.

And in the end, he figured this whole mess was a lot like a tennis match: long, drawn out, boring, and, especially, something he would never understand.

It was enough to make him throw his arms up in anger and punch his fist into the wall. Which did sound rather appealing. He had always found that he liked solving his problems with a few well-aimed punches and a handful of yelling.

He wasn't quite sure that that could solve his particular problem right now, though.

Before he was even sure what he was doing, the door to Zack's room was open and he was standing in the doorway. The other boy was expertly avoiding him; in fact, the only acknowledgement that Freddy had entered the room was a slight movement of Zack's hand as he reached down and turned the volume to his headphones all the way up. Freddy might as well had been the brunette's maid, just coming in for a few seconds to pick up the discarded, black clothing and put it in a laundry hamper.

This, of course, only served to anger Freddy all the more.

He slammed the door behind him and stormed up to his friend, ripping the angsty, driving beat away from the other boy's ears. As Zack began to reach back and protest, Freddy began the series of berating, half-finished comments.

"You drama queen. You fucker."

"How the hell are you trying to make it like I'm in the wrong?"

"How the fuck aren't you? You're-"

"You're the one who is a tea-"

"You don't even listen to my story!"

"What could you possibly have to say? 'Hi, I'm an evil fucker who messes with little boys' heads and dicks and then leaves-'"

"'Hi, I'm an immature little fuck who never listens and I'm always right because God forbid I listen! I might find out that I'm wrong and then how would I write those angsty songs-'"

"'Hi, I'm stupid and can't concentrate on anything for more than two seconds and I just fuck whoever I want to and don't care about anybody but myself-'"

"'Hi, I'm a stupid fag who-'"

Suddenly, Freddy was rolling, his breath knocked out of him as Zack's angry body came colliding into him. He was temporarily blinded by his anger, all common sense knocked out of him; his fists began flying, ripping and tearing into whatever flesh he could find. It wasn't until he finally had the writhing body pinned underneath him that both his mind and his hormones kicked in.

Red, flushed face. Wild, crazy eyes. Messy, tousled hair. Writhing, squirming body. Oh. God.

"Zack-" he began before he felt himself rolling again, dragged around the plush, dark red carpeting of the room. His arms were burning where they had felt too much friction and were sore where they had been punched one too many times.

He quickly regained the upper hand, pushing Zack down and attempted to sit on him.


The body began another maneuver to push Freddy over, but he firmly pushed down against Zack.

"Listen, dammit!" He roared, pushing his own arms and legs against the other boys' own, hard enough to leave bruises and just angry enough not to care. He panted for a few moments, trying to catch his breath, before finally deciding that he did not give a fuck whether he sounded like a horny girl or not.

"You call me the scared one, but I think you're the one who's scared."

Zack glared up at him at this comment. "You pretend like you understand. You don't."

"Oh, I understand. So you're gay. Who gives a fuck. So you like me. Who gives a fuck. That doesn't amount to shit when you're obviously not ready to give in to the idea that somebody may actually like you back!"

"Can you blame me?" Zack choked out, his voice still noticeably lined with anger. Freddy knew better, though. How the hell couldn't he know better? He wasn't as oblivious as everybody thought. Sometimes. He could sense the hurt and fear underlining the rest. "Anybody I've ever liked was straight. Even when I dated girls I didn't like them. And besides, they didn't like me. They only liked dating a guy in a band, and if they couldn't have you…"

Freddy sobered up at these words, his hands instinctively loosening up. Miraculously, Zack didn't fight to get out from under him. "That's not true," he whispered. "Summer hates me, so she doesn't just like you because she can't have me."

Zack stuck his tongue out, grimacing. "Summer likes me?"

Freddy laughed, his head falling forward. By the time he was able to regain himself and look back into Zack's face, he was laughing as well. "You are so clueless, Mooneyham."

The two lay there, laughing. Freddy never even stopped to think about how ridiculous this whole scenario was, two best friends fighting, rolling around, and all of a sudden they were laughing about girl problems while one of them lay underneath the other, pinned.

Zack's underneath me. Pinned.

Freddy grinned, surveying the situation. Zack was laughing so hard that his eyes were closed, his cheeks still tinted with red, his bangs still clumsily, sexily disheveled. And Freddy was in complete control.

With that thought in mind, Freddy leaned down and gently touched his lips to the other pair. There was a sharp intake of breath and, frightened, Freddy pulled up. He knew his own eyes were wide, watching, waiting, and his breath was held. He knew because he was getting the same, identical look from Zack.

Who would have thought, Jones? Scared of a little kiss? Who. Would. Have. Thought.

Finally, he released the body underneath him, and climbed off. He sat down against the closest wall, his knees drawn up to his chest. Zack did the same, his head cradled atop his arms which were crossed above his knees. Freddy almost smiled at this childish pose, remembering a time when he looked quite similar to how he looked now, just a lot smaller.

The day they had written "Step Off." The day that Freddy had first really, really noticed Zack. The day they had first talked on the phone. The day their friendship began.

It was weird how sometimes history repeated itself in the weirdest ways. How that simple posture from Zack could become the beginning of so many different things.

Freddy just looked at him, his hand itching to reach out and touch him, hold him, something.

Well dammit, that's so totally proof, right? Why doesn't he see that?

"What do you want, Freddy?"

The sudden question, no matter how quietly it was spoken, surprised the blond drummer. His head snapped to the side, listening and waiting for more.

"What do you want? Really? Why did you follow me here?"

The question was one that needed no thought.

"You," Freddy breathed. "I want you."

Zack tilted his head to the side, looking at Freddy from the corner of his eye. Freddy smiled and looked at the ceiling. He found that he needed to do this sometimes, just to make sure that he could articulate his thoughts correctly. Zack was too damn distracting, anyway.

"I don't know why. It wasn't like I had ever felt this way about you before. But ever since you kissed me, it's just been like… perfect. Well," he laughed, a chuckle from deep in his throat. He sensed a small laugh from his left as well. "Not perfect, since we've been fighting. But you know? Things just kinda clicked. It's fun when I'm with you. And it's right, even though I've always been told it's wrong. But it's not. It's you. And I don't want to ever lose it." He brought his own head back to gaze at Zack's eyes, a smile playing on his lips. They weren't stony and passive anymore. They were glittering and hopeful. "You know?"

Zack brought his head up, seeming to test the water. His arms moved slowly, his legs shifting to bring him to his knees. His body crawled over to rest in front of Freddy, his arms holding him up on either side of Freddy's waist.

His eyes never left Freddy's.

"Yeah," Zack whispered as he brought his face slowly closer. Neither of their eyes even fluttered, neither of them wanting to miss this moment, this Beginning.

A rapt knock came from the door. They didn't move.

"Yeah?" Zack croaked out.

"I heard Frederick is here." A low voice. Zack's father.

"Yeah." Zack responded, his eyes never leaving Freddy's. "He's spending the night."

"Tomorrow's a school day."

"We know."

A grunt. And then, he was gone.

The two boys smiled at each other.

"Maybe we shouldn't do this," Freddy mused, quietly, though his body never moved. Zack grinned and brought one hand up to cup Freddy's cheek.


Freddy would never be sure how they had managed it. Two bodies, cramped together in a space that was small enough as it was when they were eleven. Now that each of them were at least six inches, it was insane for them to be inside the tent.

Zack's parents had said so. Freddy had said so. But he couldn't say no to the look in Zack's eyes, one that he hadn't seen in so long that it ached to see it now.

It was a look of such pure, childish happiness and hopefulness. His eyes came alive once again, shining.

Besides, two people could fit in a tent if they didn't mind sleeping very, very close together.

Zack and Freddy definitely didn't mind.

Freddy smiled at the boy next to him. So perfect. So pure. So beautiful.

Despite the fact that his foot was asleep, his back hurt and he was sure that his whole body would be cramping tomorrow, he knew this was exactly where he wanted to be.