"Well, answer me," London said impatiently. "Why haven't you ever hit on me?"
Zack felt flustered as he tried to think of a response. "We've just always been friends."
"Don't you think I'm attractive?" London asked.
Zack let out a dismissive laugh. "That's a ridiculous question. You're a total babe. People magazine just put you on their 'Fifty Most Beautiful People on the Planet' list."
"Don't bring that up," London pouted. "I'm still mad they didn't put me as number one."
"My point is...you're very attractive. I've never thought otherwise."
"Then how come you've never hit on me? Not once in all the time I've known you."
Zack paused again. unsure of what he should say. "Why is it so important to you? If I had ever asked, would you have gone out with me?"
"No," she answered quickly. "I don't think of you that way."
"And, uh...I don't think of you that way either. That's all."
"But why not? What's different about me from all the other girls that you do ask out."
Zack started to pace. "It's just different."
The look on London's face made it clear that she wasn't satisfied with that answer.
"Do you think there's something wrong with me?" she asked.
"Of course not," Zack answered. "I mean, sure you have your quirks...but who doesn't? There's nothing wrong with you."
So why haven't you ever asked me out? Or even flirted with me?"
"You know what it is?" Zack said as a flash of inspiration lit up in his eyes. "You intimidate me. Yeah, that's it."
"Of course you do," he continued with a satisfied smile. "You're rich. You're famous. There's no way a guy like me could ever ask out a girl like you."
London mulled this over. The answer seemed to make sense, and truth be told, it did appeal to her ego. But there was something about it that seemed off.
"Zack," she said. "Do you remember back in Boston when I had the Cheetah Girls as guests for my web show?"
"Of course," he answered. Meeting the gorgeous female pop trio was not something he'd ever forget.
"And do you remember hitting on each one of them?"
"Um...yes, I vaguely recall that," he replied nervously.
"So you're not too intimidated to ask out three famous pop singers, but you are too intimidated by me?"
"Dang it," Zack said. "Why'd you have to pick now to be all analytical and stuff?"
"And why aren't you telling me the truth?" London stamped her feet in frustration.
"Because I...just don't want to," he snapped in exasperation.
London frowned. "Fine. You don't have to tell me. In fact, you don't have to talk to me ever again." With that, she turned and stormed back to her cabin.
"Great," Zack muttered. "Just great."
A short time later Zack was knocking at London's door. Her roommate Bailey answered.
"Hi Zack," she said.
"Hey," he replied. "Is London in there?"
"Yes," she answered as she stepped out into the hall. "And she told me that if you came by that she didn't want to see you. So...what happened?"
Zack sighed. "She asked me something that I didn't want to answer. And now her feelings are hurt."
"What did she ask you? And why didn't you want to answer?"
"It's complicated. She and I were talking about how I hit on lots of girls, then she started wondering why I never hit on her. She feels insulted because she's the only girl I never flirt with."
Bailey shook her head. "That's what this is all about?"
"Yeah, I know it sounds stupid. But I don't want London to be upset."
"Well, she shouldn't be. This is the 21st century and women shouldn't define themselves by the way men react to them."
Zack raised an eyebrow. "You still working on that research paper about feminism?"
Bailey smiled sheepishly. "I guess it shows, huh? But seriously London shouldn't be upset. You never flirt with me, and I don't take it as an insult."
"Right," Zack agreed. "See, you understand that I could have a perfectly valid reason for not hitting on you, and it doesn't mean I don't find you attractive."
"Exactly. You probably just don't want to complicate our friendship. That's reasonable."
"Well, I was thinking about the fact that my brother's in love with you, but your reason is good too."
Bailey stared wide-eyed at Zack. "What did you say?"
Zack's face went pale as he realized what he'd accidentally blurted out.
"Cody's in love with me?"
"Yes, alright!" Zack exclaimed in frustration. "Cody's in love with you. He's going to kill me when he finds out I let it slip, but there it is. I can't believe you hadn't figured it out yourself already."
Bailey leaned back against the hallway wall, a stunned look on her face.
"Are you alright?" Zack asked.
"I'm going to go talk to Cody," she replied, still wearing the same stunned expression as she walked off.
"Oh man," Zack sighed. He wasn't sure if he'd just done a very bad thing or a very good one. Either way, first he had to smooth things over with London. He knocked on her door.
When London opened the door and saw Zack she gave him a hostile glare. "I don't want to talk to you."
"Fine, I don't need you to talk," he said as squeezed past her into the cabin. "Just listen and I'll tell you why I never flirt with you."
The heiress put her hands on her hips and continued to glare.
"I didn't want to tell you this," he explained. "But I don't want you mad at me. Remember I said that every girl I hit on is really just practice for Maddie?"
"And remember that every girl I've gone out with has just been for fun? That I could never be in a serious relationship with anyone but Maddie?"
Again the heiress nodded.
"That's why I never hit on you, London. Because if I had, and you had responded..." Zack stopped and took a deep breath. "I love Maddie. She's the one I want to be with."
London's expression softened as she watched how emotional her friend was getting.
"Every girl I've dated, I've been able to walk away from before it got serious." He paused and looked down at the floor, embarrassed. "I...don't know if I could walk away from you."
London let the meaning of is words sink in. Then she stepped towards him and gently put a hand on his shoulder. "Oh, Zack. That's the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me."
"I love Maddie," he repeated.
"I know you do," she replied, and then pulled him into a hug. "Thank you for telling me the truth."
Sensing that things were going to be alright between them, Zack relaxed into the hug. It was a relief to finally confess the secret attraction he'd long felt for London.
"You should call Maddie soon," the heiress finally said when she released the hug.
"I'm going to. But first I've got to make sure Cody isn't going to kill me."
"Why would he do that?"
Zack then explained how he had told Bailey about Cody's feelings for her. London's only response was to gasp dramatically.
"Want to go with me and see what the fallout is?" Zack asked.
London nodded and the pair made their way towards Cody's cabin, however they didn't have to reach that destination to discover how Cody and Bailey were doing. They caught sight of the two outside on the main deck near the swimming pool...engaged in a very steamy kiss.
"I don't think he's going to kill you," London told Zack with a sly smile.
Zack smiled back.
author's note: This is my first new story in a long time and I hope it's not too bad. It was a different writing experience for me, because I had no idea where it was going to end up when I started. I just knew I wanted to try a story that focused on Zack. It's also the first non Cody/London story I've ever done. (Gasp!) Anyway, hopefully I've shaken off any writer's rust by working on this tale, and my next story (which I've already started) will be better. Please review.