The door to Beach City Grill opened with a shrill ring, and the family atmosphere was entered again by a stranger with a story.
It was 1 year since the events that caused the cosmic change at the little sandwich shop and many things had change. Piper had married the wonderful 'Banana Republic' husband Noah and decided that working at Beach City was too difficult with the time she needed to spend studying and with little Julie. And so, the vacancy was once again open, normal people need not apply. Jen was still happily (read ecstatic) dating the amazing Fuzzy22, and Boaz and Platisha were going...well, going. Priestly ran his fingers through his very straight, very undyed hair, and almost cringed. It just didn't feel like him anymore. When he dressed like he did to woo the beautiful Tish, he had done it to prove a point, to prove to her that there was more to him than meets the eye. But now it seemed she didn't want the mowhawked Priestly back. She wanted Boaz, and so Boaz she must have. Tish hadn't really changed. She was more vulnerable, of course. Who wouldn't be after Tad and Brad? But she was still superficial, showing him off to everyone who entered the shop. Priestly wondered briefly if she would do that if he had kept the real him.
"Priestly, we hired someone!"
Priestly whipped around, staring. Jen and Tish were smiling softly at him while Trucker was shaking his head at his employee's oblvious expression. He leaned his head to the left, indicating a blond head staring up at the painting on the wall.
"Go say hi to her!" Jen mouthed, smirking, her freckles dancing as she beamed. She really was beautiful to everyone who was important.
Priestly shrugged and trudged over to the painting, standing shoulder to shoulder with the new girl, silent. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and shyed away slightly, quickly looking away. He sighed inwardly and was about to speak, when he was cut off by the silent girl.
"Nice tatoo, I didn't take you for a bad boy" she stuttered quietly, leaning forward so her honey blond hair fell over her shoulder like a cascade of gold. Priestly shook himself out of the poetic thoughts and smiled.
"I don't have to be a bad boy to get a tattoo" he pointed out, smirking.
The way her lips curved into a warm smile and small dimples dented the rounded cheeks, Priestly was instantly interested. "Well, you sure ain't too good either, eh?" she drawled, her Texan accent homely and comfortable.
"That depends on who you ask" Priestly replied, supressing a smirk, smoothing down his light green button down.
The girl chuckled musically and turned, finally revealing her entire face to Priestly's curious gaze. She was skinny, entirely too skinny to be healthy. She looked as if she be blown away by the slightest gust of wind. Her deep brown eyes were depthless and beaming, but something was strange about them. They reminded Priestly of Zo's eyes. Like they were seening something about him that wasn't there. Yet.
"Well then, I guess I'm going to have to find out myself" she grinned, "I'm Z"
"Priestl-Boaz. I'm Boaz" he corrected himself, remembering what happened the last time he introduced himself as his other name. Silent treatment from Tish was far worse than anything else.
The girl cocked her head confusedly for a moment, frowning, before nodding to herself, like she had figured something out.
"Well, Priestly, care to show me what to do around here?"
Priestly sighed as he rubbed down the tables, the darkness almost solid outside the windows. Ever since Jen started dating Fuzzy, she had less and less time to close up, leaving the job to Priestly. He hated doing it. But tonight he wasn't alone. Z was in the kitchen scrubbing down the grill, the tiny, bony arm working over time, her face screwed up in concentration. Priestly shook his head fondly, before returning to his annoying task.
"Don't you need to be somewhere Priestly?" the frail voice of Z brought him out of his thoughts of murdering Trucker for making him do this.
He shook his head, "Nah, this place is far too cool for me to want to be anywhere else."
Z scoffed lightly, walking around the counter, leaning against it, staring at him with her wide brown eyes. It made him uncomfortable, trying to avoid her gaze and failing.
Z shrugged, "I'm just wondering about a couple of things"
"What things?" he asked, worriedly.
She smiled shyly, leaning forward so her bangs covered her eyes. Priestly felt a weird urge to brush the hair out of her eyes, wanting to read what she was thinking in the chocolate pools.
"Do you wear coloured contacts?" she randomly asked.
Priestly was taken aback, "What! No!"
Z giggled, "Sorry but your eyes, they're...unique. I've never seen a colour so...pure. It's strangely alluring."
Priestly turned back to the table to hide a blush. What the hell was this girl on? Something he had obviously never tried before.
"Sorry" the girl whispered behind him, "I'm not usually this rude. You can go if I make you uncomfortable."
Priestly scoffed, "I've been around weirder people than you, trust me"
"Was that almost a compliment?"
"Hey, take what you think you can get!"
The girl laughed, the musical sound lighting up the shop that was darkened by the night. It made Priestly smile, glad that his back was still turned so that she couldn't see.
After a few more minutes of companiable silence, Priestly announced he was leaving. Z just nodded and smiled, making him smile back reflexively. Just as he went to close the door, he had a thought, and turned.
"What else were you wondering about Z?" he asked, the night air ruffling his hair.
Z's eyes seem to glaze over for a moment, before she responded.
"Forgive me, but I was wondering why you changed. This isn't you, Priestly. I was wondering if I'd ever see the real you."
Priestly looked into the deep eyes that seemed to search for something in him. He took an involuntarily step forward, wanting to be closer to her. She let out a breath through her pated lips, as if she could taste him if she took a deep enough breath.
He couldn't run out of the shop fast enough.
Jen was shocked to see someone at the shop before her. The lights were on, the open sign flipped and the smell of freshly cooking meat meeting her when she swung open the door. There stood the new girl, Z. Her long blond hair was tied up in a untidy bun, a piece that continually fell into her eyes was brushed behind her ear as she prepared the subs for the morning rush. Jen smiled warmly as she joined her behind the counter, seating herself behind the computer, waiting for the round of customers.
"Can I ask you a question?" Z asked, warily, almost as if she was afraid of being reprimanded.
"Of course, anything" Jen replied, smiling kindly at the timid blond.
The girl nodded and cleared her throat, "Um, that Priestly guy, is he...okay?"
Jen chuckled, "As in is he normal? Far from it. Oh, the stories I could tell you..."
Z laughed, her dimples making a lovely appearance. "I'll bet...but is he happy?"
Jen smiled, "Yeah, I think so. I mean, he's got Tish, who he's liked since forever. He's changed for her, so yeah, I'd say he's happy"
Z's smile died, her face thoughtful. "No-one's asked him?"
Jen opened her mouth to reply, and found her voice die in her throat. Z was kinda right. But she hadn't known Priestly as long as she had, and Priestly had the girl of his dreams. Of course he was happy. She shook her head and logged onto the computer, waiting. Since she met her Jeff, she didn't really have many interesting days anymore.
"I'm sorry, but he fascinates me. He seems...like he's hiding apart of himself. I want to figure him out."
Jen smiled again, but decided to let the poor girl know. "You do know that Tish and Priestly are, you know, together?"
Z smiled, embarrasedly ducking her head. "If that painting's anything to go by, I've known since I got here"
Jen stood up straighter, watching the door, "Speak of the devil, here they come. Oh god, what's he said now?"
V watched quietly from the corner as Tish stormed into the shop, her face angry and red. She pushed V out the way and into the grill. V put out a hand to stop herself from falling and it landed on the grill. The very hot grill. She gritted her teeth as she wrenched it off, hiding it behind her back.
"I'm so sorry, are you okay?" Tish asked offhandedly, tying the apron behind her back.
V smiled tentatively, shrugging it off, ignoring the pain in her right hand.
"Come with me"
V jumped as she turned, meeting the strangely beautiful coloured eyes of Priestly. She nodded meekly before obediently following him into the kitchen.
She watched as Priestly rumaged through the cupboard and pulled out a first aid kit.
"No, really, it's fine! It's not that bad..." she weakly protested, stepping back towards the door, trying to escape.
Priestly just shot her a look, holding out his hand for her injured one, one eyebrow cocked. She almost laughed out loud, but supressed it, hiding behind her fringe and she placed her angry red hand into Priestly's warm, strong ones. She felt a tingle of electricity run up her arm. She flinched, trying to pull her hand away, but he held it firmly with both of his.
"Hey, hey, calm down, I'm not going to hurt you." he murmered, slowly wiping a cool cloth over the burned skin.
She believed him. She bit her lip and looked away, looking anywhere but in his direction. She heard him take a deep breath and tensed slightly. He rubbed his thumb across her wrist comfortingly. "Today's topic of conversation, who is Z?"
Z smiled softly, "Do I get any other options?"
Priestly looked up, watching Z watch his hands bandaging hers. "Why? Would Z want another one?"
Z shrugged, shifting her weight from foot to foot. "It depends on what you want to know about this Z character" she played along.
Priestly smirked, "I'll start off with your name? Just Z?"
Z's eyes widened in fear, "Please just Z! My name is pretty...interesting. Like Boaz?" she joked.
Priestly placed a hand on his heart, "You wound me"
Z chuckled quietly, pulling her hand out of his grip, her brown eyes clouded.
"New topic of conversation. Please tell me that you don't think that Kurt Cobain was trying to leave this world?" Z pleaded, her eyes now shining. Priestly was startled at the change of mood.
"Hell no! He did it to leave Courtney!"
Z grinned slightly, ducking her head embarrased. Priestly smiled again, this time seeking out the blond's timid gaze. "It's okay to, you know, have a conversation once in a while."
The look Z shot him made him regret his words. "I just...never mind, Priestly. Another story for another day" Z reassured him, covering up her hurt.
Priestly vowed to never let that look pass over V's petite features again.
"I'm still sticking with my belief that Yoko Ono ruined The Beatles and John was an idiot to go along with it" Z argued quietly, shaking her head obnoxiously, poking out her tongue.
Priestly rolled his eyes at the girl's antics, running a hand through his dark brown hair. "John was just coming to life, Yoko brought out the best in him!"
Z gave him a look, "She changed who he was, turning him into someone that she wanted, not what he wanted. Trust me, whoever has a girlfriend like that turns into someone either worse, or turns out very unhappy" Z's voice trailed off before muttering, "It's the same if a girl was forced into being someone else. Soon enough, it's been hammered and hammered into their brain they can't stop being that person. They'll begin hating the person they've become. Even if they meet a great person who makes them laugh and feel good about themselves, it just turns to shit."
Priestly stared wide eyed as Z turns away to deliver a plate to Mr Julius' table. What was that all about?
Priestly whipped around and saw Zo staring dreamily at him. "What do you mean?"
Zo smiled wider, "She will tell you when the time is right. For now, do not be scared away by her vague nature. Also, I would suggest not running away from her tonight. She needs a confidante, but she wants you to be that person"
With that and a kiss to Trucker's cheek, she flowed out of the shop, leaving Priestly more confused than ever. But when Z returned with her hands shaking, making the empty glass rattle on the tray she held, he knew that he should follow Zo's advice.
Once again, Priestly and Z closed up shop, the evening lighter than the night before. But now the silence was awkward heavy with unanswered questions and unsaid apologies. Priestly had followed Zo's advice and stayed a lot longer then he did the last night, but still, he itched for Z to say something. The way she was silent seemed off character, even for the incredibly quiet Z.
"Why are you staying?" Z whispered, brushing her arm against Priestly, making him breath in shakily.
Priestly shrugged, "You seem like you could use the company. And I have nothing else to do"
Z raised her fearful eyes, "What about your girlfriend? Tish? Jen told me that she was the girl of your dreams"
Priestly rubbed the back of his neck, the collar of his bleached button up itching. He didn't answer. He jumped as a small, impossibly warm hand clutched his shoulder comfortingly, "I pry, I'm sorry. But I think I understand what your going through, maybe more than you know. I wish I could help, but it's something you need to work out on your own, you're strong, you'll be able too"
Priestly openly stared at the blond, actually noticing her. Her lips were full and pink, dimples ready to pop out at any given moment. Her hair had too many colours in it to count, something that even the old Priestly couldn't have pulled off; all golds and bronze and reds. It was beautiful. He shook the thoughts out of his head. He had a girlfriend he intended to treat right. He won't break it up, not even for someone as interesting as Z.
"Stop it Priestly" she muttered, looking away quickly.
Priestly riased his eyebrows, "Stop what?"
Z closed her eyes briefly, "Making me want to get to know you"
They continued to stare at each other, brown meeting the expressive clear grey-green-blue. They drew a deep breath simultaneously.
The phone ringing interupted them, making them jump apart. Z cleared her throat and tied her hair up with her pen, reaching across the counter, her holey jumper riding up so Priestly could see the pale white skin. The bones of her spine and hips jutted out sharply and dangerously. It made him cringe to see a girl that skinny.
"Beach City Grill, sorry we are closed, but how can I hel-..."
Z's eyes widened in terror, her beathing speeding up. "How did you find me?"
"I have connections, babe, you know that" the voice chuckled warmly, teasing.
"I told you I wanted nothing to do with you anymore. I told you to leave me alone!" V wheezed, her voice rising in her panic.
"But, baby, you overreacted. Please, I love you, we can work this out-"
Z's eyes steeled, her jaw clenched. "I want nothing to do with you. You don't deserve anything you can get from me!"
"...Well, I've found you now. And you will change your mind by the next time we meet."
The dial tone rang in her ears. Her hand shook violently as she put the phone back into the cradle. Her lips trembled as she glanced up to the window, staring around to see if she could see him in the shadows. Watching her like he always used too.
A hand on her shoulder was the last straw.
"Please don't hurt me, I've tried to do everything he asked of me. I ate less, didn't talk to any guys without his permission, always was home on time. Please, I tried. Don't hurt me...please...please..."
She fell to the ground and sobbed, clutching her knees to her chest. The tears fell in torrents down her cheeks as she rocked back and forth, panic creeping up on her.
Priestly watched as the girl broke down in front of him. Whoever was on the phone was one mean son of a bitch to cause this reaction in her. He looked around, wondering if he should call Zo for help, but then stopped. Z wouldn't have wanted anyone else to know. Neither would he.
He slid down the wall next to the huddled Z and waited. He sat there for a long time, waiting for the tears to die down. After a while, the sobs faltered into sniffles as Z wiped her eyes and nose on her jeans. She looked up at Priestly, her eyes tearful and bloodshot.
"Priestly..." she whispered.
He opened his arms and held her as she wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face into his shoulder, fighting back another onslaught of tears.
They sat there, silent, Priestly rubbing soothing circles on Z's bony lower back, counting the bumps of her spine.
They became noticably closer after that night. Z still refused to tell Priestly any details at all about the call, only that the person was a dangerous one, and that she was scared. Priestly didn't push, because it was obviously something that Z would tell him in her own time. So they did talk, about everything else there possibly was. Music, movies, controversy and love were just a few. Z opened up to be really fun once you looked past the quiet, timid side of her. The side that only showed when Tish was around recently.
Priestly had arrived to work today, finding only Tish there shockingly. He smoothed down his couderoy pants and smiled, meeting the dark brown gaze of his girlfriend. Tish smirked back, making Priestly's heart flutter slightly.
"Hey babe" she drawled, leaning forward, making her cleavage show. Priestly ignored it and kissed her. The kiss had gotten deeper when Tish pulled away disgustedly.
"Did you put your tongue piercing back in?"
"You did! Jeez Bo, I thought we talked about this! No more piercings, no more mohawkes and no more kilts! God, why are you so stubborn!"
Priestly rolled his eyes and walked around her, tying his apron around his waist. It was like this whenever he brought something new into his now normal get-up. Showing a tatoo, putting in a piercing, listening to his music. It annoyed the shit out of him.
He turned as the bell rang and automatically smiled when Z walked in. He almost laughed out loud when he saw what she was wearing.
"Nice shirt dude"
Z blushed. She was wearing ripped jeans and a T-shirt reading Beat the 5 o'clock rush. Leave work at noon.
"Shut up Priestly, it's washing day" she held up her hand and easily caught the apron he sent flying towards her.
Tish rolled her eyes and continued her tirade. "Look, I'm not asking much, but can you please take that thing out! It's disgusting!"
Priestly ignored her. Z raised an eyebrow as Tish stormed away, muttering darkly.
"Are you okay?" she murmered.
Priestly shrugged slightly, not meeting her eyes. It was bad enought that Tish and he fought, but in public where his friends could see, it's just embarrasing.
"Today's topic of conversation..." he faltered.
Z noticed and picked it up, "Let's talk about Z. Priestly needs a distraction and Z's pathetic little life's pretty good at that."
Priestly paused, turning to her slightly, suprised. "Really?"
Z took a deep breath and closed her eyes, calming herself. She brushed a piece of her long blond hair back behind her ear. "You get to ask the questions. Nothing too heavy though, kay?"
Priestly smirked, "Are you a virgin?"
Z laughed, "I was at some point!"
He narrowed his eyes jokingly, "How old are you?"
She mimicked his expression, leaning closer, "I'm 24 years old"
He leaned even closer, the joke becoming less funny and more intense. "Favourite colour?"
He took a deep breath, getting a hint of aloe and lavender. "Blemishes?"
She raised an eyebrow cheekily, leaning even closer, seductively. "I have a tatoo"
Priestly raised an eyebrow, "Really, where?"
She bit her lip, drawing Priestly's gaze to her lips. "Keep guessing"
She turned away, leaving Priestly still hanging there, flushing. This girl was going to be the death of him.
"You wish, Banana Republic" she teasingly called back, causing him to laugh heartily. Tish watched from behind him, glowering, her brown eyes glitering.
The family of Beach City Grill had decided to hang out after work in the booths. Even Piper had showed up. The strawberry blond and Z hit it off as soon as Priestly had reassured her that she was trustworthy. Z seemed only able to trust Priestly's word. The shop was soon filled with laughter and easy chatter, with Priestly, Trucker and Z in a playful argument about whether or not Elvis was dead or alive. Tish had drunk way too many beers and was completely trashed. Priestly was not looking forward to hungover Tish tomorrow. Z teasingly pushed him and brought Tish's attention onto them.
"Hey...how about we pay...play a game?" she stumbled over to the table where the three others were sitting.
Z tensed slightly, but passed it off by sipping from her own beer.
"How...about we ask zzzz...Z what guy keeps calling her everyday?"
Z's knuckles turned white around the neck of the bottle, her eyes staring at the grainy tabletop.
"Tish..." Priestly muttered warningly.
Tish too angry to care. "He seems really eager to talk to you, leaving messages saying he loves you. You too good for him or something?"
Z licked her suddenly dry lips, clearing her throat, "It's got nothing to do with you, Tish"
"It does when it's my boyfriend you're telling everything too!" Tish snapped, suddenly perfectly sober.
The whole room was silent except for Jen hurriedly explaining everything to the oblivious Piper, who nodded sagely, watching intently.
Z swallowed wetly, before decided to tell them, ripping it off like a bandaid.
"I had this boyfriend since I was around 18 years old. He was amazing, a bit of a bad boy. You know, the whole leather jacket, dark and brooding look. He was gorgeous, and he wanted me. I fell in love with him. He told me he loved me. We were together and happy for years. Looking back, I was only happy because I lied to myself. He was possessive. Whenever I even had a conversation with another guy, I was 'cheating on him" Z rolled her eyes, "So he started to tell me all these things about how I looked. I needed to lose weight, I needed to change my clothes, I needed to style my hair differently. I did all of it thinking that he was helping me find my real me. That I loved him enough so I could change myself. But then it got worse. He started to take away my food when he thought I was over eating, asking me why I was such a pig, and why I couldn't stand to lose weight for him. So, I started skipping meals. At first it was just breakfast and a few dinners, but then it was days at a time. Long enough that when I finally did eat, it actually hurt to swallow." She laughed bitterly, making Priestly's heart pang with sympathy. "By then I was too busy starving myself I didn't even notice that he started going out by himself all the time. A lot more than he used to, to meet up with his clients. Late from work every night, sometimes not returning until noon the next day. I thought he was cheating on me. Until I walked in on him selling drugs to another buyer. He was so high. He scared me, screaming at me for being an idiot for walking in on him when he was working. He got so angry...he hit me. Just once. But I fell down and broke my wrist. So I left him. I told him I wouldn't stay with someone who decided that being a drug dealer was more important than what we had."
The room's silence echoed all around them, making goosbumps rise on Z's bony arms. Priestly stared at her with awe, while everyone else just stared.
"I think I'll just go, I'm sorry for ruining your night"
She stood up, sending an apologetic look toward Priestly, before running out of the door, sprinting down the street.
Tish slept on the couch that night, and by the next morning, all of Priestly's piercings were back in place.
For the next couple of weeks, Tish had left Z alone completely, leaving her and Priestly free to talk. Priestly had gotten there the next day after Tish had brought up her criminal ex and actually hugged her, apologising profously for Tish's behaviour. Z had simply silently shrugged it off and placed an order into Priestly's hand, turning to the next customer. It had bothed suprised and irked Priestly. It was like she expected to be treated like crap.
"Okay, break time" Priestly called, pulling Z by the elbow into the kitchen. Z looked up in shock.
"Priestly, I'm with a customer!" she hissed, her brown eyes glaring dangerously.
"There are other workers in this joint apart from you. Come on!"
Z rolled her eyes and allowed herself to be dragged along into the kitchen. Priestly had been desperate to get her alone for the last few days and it was getting harder and harder to fend him off.
"Alright, alright, what?" Z snapped, snatching her hand back.
Priestly sighed and peered into Z's eyes, "Look, you haven't eaten today..."
Z rolled her eyes and started to walk away, shaking her head.
Priestly grabbed Z's wrist and pulled her back to him, ignoring the heat and spark that ran through him. "I'm just trying to help. Look, just eat lunch with me."
Z glared at him, clenching her jaw. "I haven't been eating right for 6 years Priestly. Just go to your girlfriend and forget about me. I've managed just fine without you so far"
Priestly stepped back as if burned, his beautiful wide eyes filled with hurt and shame. Z wanted to reach out and make that look dissappear.
"I'm sorry Priestly. You didn't deserve that. I just...I am screwed up."
She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes, sighing deeply. "I haven't eaten since breakfast yesterday."
Priestly winced. "Why?"
She shrugged, "Force of habit now"
Priestly paused for a second, before reaching behind him for a 12 inch sub. "Eat!"
Z stared at the sandwhich for a long moment, almost warily. Priestly waved it in front of her nose temptingly. She sighed and gave him a look, eyebrow raised. "You think that that's going to help?"
Priestly shurgged, "It could?"
Z narrowed her eyes and shook her head, "Why are you doing this Priestly? Tish will kill you if she finds out"
He sighed impatiently, shoving the sandwhich into her hand. "Why do you care about what she thinks? She's done nothing but treat you like crap since you got here!"
Z sighed, running her fingers through her hair. "Because I ruined any chance of a relationship by changing myself. You changed for her Priestly, and you're incredibly happy with her. I won't stand between you and happiness"
She ripped open the top of the wrapping and took a bite. Priestly was too focused on what she said to notice.
Priestly, Z and Tish worked side by side as they cleaned the tables after closing time. Z was eavesdropping while Tish and Priestly were arguing again.
"Look, I just wanted to bring back a little of what I used to wear. Come on! You've known me for years and all I was wearing was that!" Priestly snapped.
Tish rolled her eyes bitterly, "Please, you were an obnoxious, loud, rude and really unattractive guy back then. I don't want you to go back to that!"
Priestly covered up his injury by turning away, shaking his head. How could she say something like that to him, after everything he had done for her.
Tish scoffed, "Bo, trust me, I'm doing you a favor"
"That's what he said to me everytime he took my food away."
Priestly turned and met Z's light brown eyes, which were shining with something that Priestly couldn't name. But whatever it was, it was a look that made all of Priestly's bones melt in a way that had never happened before.
She brushed her shoulder against his and muttered, "You don't have to change for me Priestly".
Her fingers brushed against his and tightened, squeezing his hand secretly and momentarily before letting go, leaving Priestly's hand tingling and aching for more.
Tish had left angrily soon after, yelling behind her that Priestly could go back to his own apartment tonight. He was actually glad. He hastily reached up and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and sighed, rubbing a hand over his tired eyes.
"I meant it you know"
He looked up, questioning.
"You don't have to change just because she tells you too. I know that's stupid and hypocritical coming from me, but I don't want you to end up like me. Alone and too skinny" she chuckled emptily.
Priestly huffed angrily, causing Z to look up and meet his gaze.
"You're not alone" Priestly growled. "You're not anything to be ashamed of. You're strong, and you're brave. You've been through hell and back, and still pulled through. Anyone would be lucky to be compared to you. Don't believe any of the bullshit Tish spouts, or what your boyfriend did. You see something in me that I can't, but you are so sure it's there it's like fact. Do the same for yourself. You're beautiful..."
Priestly faltered like he had just figured out what he had just said. He blushed and looked at his feel, mortified. Silence seemed to stretched on for hours more than the actual 30 seconds it was.
"You mean that?" Z breathed.
Priestly jumped and looked up through his bark brown bangs, his eyes wide. Z was closer than he thought, and right then, nothing was more stunning than her eyes and her lips.
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers.
It was like sparks erupted in the air around them, heating it and making crackle with fire and electricity. Priestly reached up and cupped her face in his hands, deepening the kiss, running his tongue along the seam of her lips. Z sighed and opened her mouth to his advances, running her hands through his hair and across his broad shoulders. It was too well fit, too perfect, too right. It was hot and fast, slow and sweet; everything that Priestly had ever wanted. Priestly opened his eyes and pulled away, wiping a hand across his mouth in shock, lips trembling and eyes wide. Z was panting, her lips pink and swollen from the kiss. She stared at Priestly for a long while, just waiting for him to make a decision on what to do. But she had to watch again as Priestly grabbed his bag and bolted out the door. He didn't see her touch her lips in shock, savouring the taste of Priestly. He didn't see the tears running down her face as she was rejected again.
Priestly was late to work today, and Z was quieter than ever, only speaking when asked a direct question. Jen and her worked in a companiable silence. She understood that Z needed time to think. When Priestly did turn up for work, Z didn't raise her head in greeting, didn't even acknowledge his presence. He had expected this of course. Not many girls could take being kissed and then being left standing alone in a sandwhich shop. She could've made a scene like the majority of the other girl's he knew would, but the ignoring was worse than any biting remark she could come out with.
"Z, um..." he began, but Z held him with a stare.
She shook her head obsinately, "Don't. I understand"
Z turned away, using her long hair as a sheild from his gaze. Priestly huffed quietly and turned back to the grill. She didn't understand. He didn't kiss her just because she was there. He kissed her, and he felt something. That had to mean something, right? He shook his head. It was far too confusing. He had Tish, and he should be happy. But he wasn't until he was with Z, or Jen or Trucker or even Piper. Becuase they let him be the mohawked Priestly for just a moment. Z told him that he didn't have to change around them. So why did he have to screw it all up by kissing her. He was such an idiot.
Z sighed deeply and looked down at the pad paper she was holding. Ignoring him was hard work but he needed to sort himself out. He had a girlfriend, and he had to repect her, even if she was a bitch. The bell jingled, signalling a new customer and Z prepped herself.
"What can I get you today?" she asked, not looking up, pen poised and ready.
She could hear the man's breathing and looked up expectantly. The pen fell to the floor with a thud.
Z's eyes widened as she backed away behind the counter. There was Gordan, the man that she had been running from, right in front of her, smiling menacingly. He still looked good; black hair cropped short with a brown leather jacket and worn out jeans. She recognised them easily from when they bought them together.
"Gordan?" Z hissed, biting her lip.
Gordan smirked wider, "Told you I'd find you. You didn't make it easy though. 6 months is a long time apart...hope you haven't moved on, Z" his eyes darkened angrily, making Z's hands shake.
She hastily shook her head and backed further up against the grill, glancing back to Jen, who nodded and ran out back to Trucker and Priestly. Z was on her own in this one.
"Why did you leave babygirl?" Gordan cooed, his eyes full of hurt, "Why did you leave me?"
Z opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out, fear stealing her power of speech.
"I didn't mean to hit you, baby. It will never happen again, I swear. Come back home with me" Gordan pleaded, his eyes drilling into Z's light brown eyes.
Z gulped and cleared her throat. "I don't think so, Gordan" she whispered.
Gordan's eyes widened in pure shock, "What? Baby, you're overreacting!"
Z clenched her jaw and turned away from him in disgust, "I hardly think seeing you dealing with drugs and leaving you is overreacting"
"I have to earn us money, you selfish bitch!" Gordan bellowed, making Z jump back, tembling. "To buy you the stupid shit you need. The clothes, the jewellry, the food. You wouldn't last a week without me and my money!"
Z bit her lip and shook her head, fighting back terrified tears. "No...no..."
Gordan laughed bitterly, "See, you can't handle being on your own. You get scared. Come back home and I'll protect you. We can go back to normal, get you back on your diet..."
Z whimpered and shook her head again, "No...no...I don't need you!" she wheezed, tears falling freely now.
"You stubborn piece of shi-" Gordan raised his hand, making Z cower in horror.
Z felt herself being pulled out of harms way and into gentle soft arms. She buried her head into her saviour's neck and sobbed. Jen quietened her with soothing circles inbetween her shoulder blades as she watch Trucker suckerpunch Gordan to the ground. Priestly fell to his knees next to his writhing body and held his arms behind his back.
"You bastard!" he growled, holding him down with great effort, face red in concentration. "She does not deserve to be treated like this, especially from you, you asshole!"
Gordan snarled and tried to shove Priestly off of him, "She isn't worth my time, little skank, flirting with every guy she lays eyes on. She's not worth anything!"
Priestly raised his fist and slammed it back into Gordan's face, ignoring the blood flowing onto the sub shop floor.
"You don't deserve her, Gordan" Priestly spat with such venom, Z started looking up over Jen's shoulder into his fascinating gaze.
"And neither do I" Priestly whispered, more to himself than to anyone else. Z felt her heart flutter and her stomach churn.
Z stayed in Jen's comforting embrace as she watched Gordan being led away by Santa Cruz police. They were going to take him back to LA, where the LAPD could deal with him. She heard Priestly and Trucker muttering about her being in shock, and Jen's refusal to let her go. She almost smiled at the care they showed her. She unwrapped her arms from around Jen's shoulders before turning towards the two men.
"You didn't have to-" she started.
Priestly rolled his eyes and pulled her into his arms, "Shut up Z" he murmered, placing a secretive kiss into her long blond locks.
The bell rang again, and everyone looked up. Tish stood in the doorway, eyeing their positions and the drops of blood on the floor.
"What the hell did I miss?"
The entire group decided to ignore her.
Z sighed as she slammed the door of the Cosmobile, brushing a strand of hair back into the pen-tied bun. She looked up at the Santa Cruz sun and sighed. She had to do this. This was something for herself, and she wanted to be selfish for once. She looked down at her flat chest and her fragile-looking knees and decided the first thing she was going to do was eat a Big Mac.
"You're really going"
She turned and saw Priestly smiling warmly at her, his brown hair covering his eyes once again. Z nodded, clearing her throat. "I need to do this for myself. I'm sorry"
Priestly chuckled, "Don't apologise. I'm proud of you."
Z smiled wider and took a step closer to the man that she had wanted since she arrived in Santa Cruz. "I'll come back" she swore.
Priestly nodded, but didn't believe her. She had the whole of America to explore. Why the hell would she come back to Santa fucking Cruz?
He watched her tentatively brush his hair out of his eyes and cup his cheek, her brown eyes shining with mirth and sincerity. "I am!" she laughed, her teeth shining in the sun, dazzling him. "But promise me something Boaz Priestly."
Priestly swallowed, but nodded, "Anything"
Z smiled, her dimples making Priestly's heart jump in his chest. "If you want to be the real you, change back. And maybe when we meet again, we'll both see each other for who really are."
She stood on tiptoe and lightly brushed her lips against his own, and quickly and as sofly as a butterly's wing beat. He stood there, seemingly frozen as Jen, Trucker and even Tish joined him outside, watching Z back away from Beach City Grill.
"She's gonna come back, Bo" Jen reassured.
Priestly smile widely as Z waved back at them as she sped down the street. "I hope so, Jen, I really hope so"
7 months later and Priestly pushed open the door. "Everybody relax!" He yelled.
Jen and Tish looked up right on cue, and watched as Priestly did his Priestly dance. "I'm here!"
Mr Julius chuckled while everyone else just rolled their eyes at his antics. He nodded a brief greeting to Tish, who nodded back, turning to her newest prey. Priestly rolled his eyes and turned to Jen, who was holding out his apron.
"Thankyou beautiful" he joked, leaning in to kiss her on her cheek. They had become closer sine Z had left, Jen letting Priestly know everything she was doing because Priestly was idiot enough to forget to giver her his number.
He tied the knot of his apron quickly and turned to the grill. On the wall at head level there was a collection of photos that each of the workers had gradually stuck up there. Z had started the tradition by placing a picture of Priestly and Jen up there. At first they stared at her like she was insane, but she simply said that Piper painted the wall, so she had to do something to leave her mark on the place. Like she had to start a photo wall to make sure they didn't forget her. Priestly smiled fondly and shook his head. She didn't even have to do that.
He turned, eyebrows raised. "Yes captain?"
Trucker smirked and chuckled, "There's a delivery run down to the beach, you're going to do it"
Priestly gaped and started to protest, "Since when do we do deliveries?"
"Since I asked you too" Trucker sent him a look that let him know that there was no point arguing.
"I always have to do the boring things!" he muttered to himself, storming out of the shop with the sub clutched in his fist.
"This is the most stupid thing Trucker has ever made me do!" Priestly growled to himself, trudging along the sand. The sun was beating down on him, making a sheen of sweat coat his back and chest, his T-shirt sticking to him. "Stupid Trucker, stupid, stupid...!"
He froze, staring up ahead of him. The Cosmobile stood in the parking lot, tall and proud. Z...
He looked around him, searching for a sign of honey blond hair. When he saw none, he approached the van tentatively.
"Hey, what the hell are you doing to my Cosmobile!"
Priestly turned and met the furious light brown gaze of a fiesty honey blond. She had changed. She was wearing short board shorts and a red bikini top. She had obviously been planning on a swim.
"Holy shit!" she cried out, her hand covering her mouth in surprise. "Boaz Priestly!"
Priestly just stared, suddenly feeling self conscious. What if she didn't like the real him anymore?
Z examined the man Priestly had changed into. A bright red mohawke and piercings everywhere, nose, chin, ears, eyebrows. He wore a cut off plaid shirt and his kilt...
"So this is the real Priestly?" she asked quickly, her eyes looking into his sharply.
Priestly smiled shyly, "I promised didn't I?"
She narrowed her eyes and took a step forward, peering up into his face. She suddenly broke out into a smile and wrapped her arms around him, "I like!" she joked.
Priestly laughed along with her, wrapping his arms around her waist. He ran his thumb up the curve of her lower back, ignoring the goosebumps he caused, and was shocked to see he couldn't count the bumps of her spine.
"You look good" he murmered, burying his head into her hair.
Z laughed, tightening her hold on him, "That's a nice way of saying 'Hey, you've put on weight!'"
Priestly loosened his grip so he could pull back and glare at her warningly, "You still eating?"
Z cleared her throat, "I'm eating more, still skipping the occassional meal or two, but I'm working on it"
Priestly raised an eyebrow in question, making Z laugh, "I am, Priestly, I promised didn't I?" she repeated his words.
Together they sat on the Cosmobile, going through all the stories that they both had in the seven months absence from each other.
"Hey, Z, you never told me me your real name..." Priestly jokingly accused.
Z blushed, ducking her head, "Really?"
Priestly nodded, "Shockingly yes...come on, it can't be as bad as Boaz..."
Z raised an eyebrow, "I doubt that...alright" she clapped her hands together, as if psyching herself up. "My real name is Zianthe Smith"
Priestly stared at her incredulously, "You're embarrased about Zianthe?"
Z shrugged, "I just don't like my name. I like the name Boaz but you disagree don't you?"
Priestly and Z laughed, and watched the waves from of the roof of the van.
"So, you promise this..." Z gestured to Priestly new-old look, "is the real Boaz Priestly?"
Priestly grinned and nodded, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.
"Pleased to meet you, Boaz Priestly. I'm Zianthe Smith" she smirked, brushing her hair over her shoulder.
Priestly laughed and reached over to grasp her hand. She squeezed it back. Another life, another love found in Santa Cruz.
Hand in hand they entered Beach City Grill, hearing the bell ring. The family atmosphere was entered by a old friend. And Priestly couldn't be more...Priestly.
(Reviews keep Priestly's mohawke straight!)