He just can't help but laugh at all the irony in his life.
Someone better call God, because he's missing an angel.
He's twenty-two (and counting) when it happens, working his night shift to pay his share of the rent; lounging over the plastic counter of the store, his eyes on the arch of the door with one hand on the register and the other supporting the weight of his head as it tilts languidly to the side.
The clock strikes midnight.
(And that's when Cinderella lost her glamour, isn't it?)
The glossy phone vibrates in the back pocket of his dark wash jeans. Lazily, he reaches a hand to the buzzing phone and pulls it out suavely, sliding his thumb across the screen and lifting it to his ear.
"Zack? It's Bailey."
He hasn't heard from her in four years since he told her he loved her; when she told him back that she didn't feel the same. They've never talked since. He wonders if she's changed. Her voice is shrill and shaky, quavering like a fallen leaf being tossed around in the air by the wind.
"It's Cody." She sounds scared. And when does Bailey ever feel scared?
And that's the thing. With Zack and his easy going ways, his laid-back saunter, his effortless words – there are just some things he was never going to live up to (yeah, remember – identical reflection, straight A grades, perfection?)
Of course, it was always about him. Always.
Did it hurt, you know, when you fell from heaven?
He doesn't take the trouble to rent a suit (it's more of a 'I look better casual,' thing or a 'I'm a heartless bastard who didn't give a damn about his own brother' vibe rather than a 'this was all I could afford', of course.) He needs his pride, simply because it's pretty much all he's got.
He heads to the evergreen clearing in a old pair of converse, with a rumpled, unbuttoned black collared shirt and a clean pair of jeans, his hands stuffed in pockets, eyes hidden behind dark shades.
She's standing next to the minister, her copper, almost gold hair tied back with a white ribbon. The sight of her in a pearl-coloured sun-dress almost immediately brings him to his knees. As she twists towards him, the setting sun hits her face, blinding him. But he can see still her eyes, red, blurry, sleepless.
She's been crying.
(Has she ever shed tears for him?) (The answer is no.)
She sits next to him in the front row, right in front of the coffin, the smell of her musky countryside perfume clouding his senses. She links her arm around his arm, her head coming to rest on his shoulder.
He can't even begin to understand why it happened this way. If anything, it should have been the other way around.
"It's okay," he says awkwardly, his hands twitching at his sides, clenching, rolling into balled fists, because it's a lie, it's a lie – and now that the tie between them is broken, what will keep them together?
She inhales deeply, one shuddering sob, her eyes big and teary and bright like star-filled orbs.
"Do you really think so?"
And is it wrong for that guilty feeling to spread like wildfire; like poison through his veins, because he's finally got what he's always wanted? He's won for once, and it feels terrible.
Excuse me, are you lost? Because Heaven, darling, is a long way from here.
She waits in the rain without an umbrella, her lovely curled hair now soaked, plastered against the top of her forehead. He watches her and wonders if it's so nobody can see her cry. After all, isn't the thing she has in common with that they both love stupid clichés of that sort?
He strolls right up to her, an umbrella dangling to the side of his shoulder; he relaxed as if he holds a baseball bat. She doesn't look at him, choosing instead to stare straight ahead at the already-wilting white coloured roses, contrasting black and white with the ebony of the casket. Bailey wipes the tears (or is it rain?) from her eyes.
"You'll catch hypothermia if you just stand out here," he indicates, his tone casual, as he looks up at the dark gray sky. It gives no sign of ceasing, and neither does the stubborn girl next to him. He sighs pensively, and places the umbrella in her hands, wrapping her fingers around its handle. Now it's him getting wet; him feeling the pitter-patter and the pin-like needles of the slanted rainfall against his head.
And abruptly, it stops. The black fabric is like a dome on top of his head, waterfalls cascading like a protective wall around every side of him as the rain continues to fall. Though her eyes are dim, she gives him a thin, watery smile.
"You can't catch hypothermia by standing in the rain. You can catch a cold. I would know."
And she would. He doesn't doubt it one bit.
"Then what are you waiting for?"
"I don't know," she sighs wretchedly, her voice mangled. "Now that he's gone, no one's waiting for me."
Don't say it. He'd be ashamed. You'd be doing him wrong.
"Do you want me to give you a—do you want to come over to my place? I can give you a ride," he suggests leisurely, like it's no big deal, when really, it actually is. He leans on his Ducati, its sides stippled with drops of water, which he waves off with a wipe of his hand.
One heart beat, Cody. Two heart beats, Cody.
But hey, he's the only one who can possibly come close to even understanding exactly what she's going through.
Then she nods plainly, soundlessly.
He throws one leg over its side and brushing her hair aside, he places the helmet over her head, ignoring her feeble protests of being able to do it herself.
"Hold on tight."
She tightens her grip on him, her arms wrapped around his waist snugly and sending tingles of electricity running up his spine. He revves up the engine, wiping the soaked, dripping bangs out of his eyes, turning to give her a short smile, which she doesn't return. Her face is masked by the shadow of the glass.
But as they trek through the roads, the smell of rainy pavements rising into the air, he can hear her heartbeat, fleeting against his back as rapidly as the beat of a moth's wing.
Sweetheart, would you touch me, so I could tell my friends I'd been touched by an angel?
He lounges sloppily on the couch with his arms and legs splayed out in front of him. There's Chinese take-out from Chow's; noodle cartons and boxes of rice and Mu Shu pork spread open in front of the television. The light from the television radiates warmth against his skin; the food goes untouched. Funny, he doesn't have much of an appetite – oh yeah, because, you know, his brother just died, and even he can't stop remorse from eating a hole inside his stomach.
He hears the faucet stop; the running water goes off with a twist of the tap, a choice they were never able to make with the rain outside. A few minutes later, the doorknob turns and she steps out, one of his old dress shirts buttoned up, swathed around her still-wet body, beads of sparkling water still glistening on the curve of her neck. Her hair falls loose in damp waves around her shoulders (and he thinks he likes it better this way than up, because it shows that even the most perfect people in the world can't stop chaos from happening).
His eyes still on the television, he holds up a noodle carton so she can see it and waves it around in the air. "Up for some Chinese?"
He swears she rolls her eyes, her hands resting lightly on her hips as she replies, "Only you could think about food at a time like this."
He keeps his eyes firmly concentrated on the small little dot beside the 'C' as the weather forecaster predicts the temperature and climate for the next week. Rain, rain, rain, rain. He refuses to look at her long, thin legs and how absurdly short that old shirt of his is on her. (If it was anyone but her, it'd be the other way around.)
She reaches over him for the boxes of rice and pork, the bare skin of her thigh grazing the side of his elbow. She skilfully handles the chopsticks and pressing the food to her mouth, he grits his teeth, refusing to give in to temptation.
"He always did love Chinese," she muses thoughtfully, swallowing a bite of rice, then another. He knows he did. They both know he did. A globule of water slides down her cheek, leaving a river-like trail in its path. Unable to resist, he watches as his hand, of its own accord, reaches out and brushes it away. She flinches slightly from his touch, but doesn't back away, and he wonders whether its water from the shower, or one of her own tears.
(And since when has he ever been so tender?)
She opens her cupid-bow lips to say something, but he's leaning, leaning, leaning towards her until their noses almost touch, her shallow breath cool on his lips, and he thinks that this is just so wrong because she's always been Cody's. But he goes in for the kill anyways and makes it ten times worse, like he always does, because he's Zack, not Cody, and he does whatever he wants, not whatever's best for them all.
He kisses her, softly at first, his lips against hers. Her mouth hardens, and then softens, parting against his, his tongue slipping into her mouth as a groan escapes from him. Her arms wrap around his neck and fist in his hair, and the kiss grows hungrier with desire, more desperate, like a blazing inferno, as his hands roam over her body and her knees weaken at his every touch.
He's already lifted her up and brought her over to her bed, half of the buttons on her shirt undone, his shirt off, and their bodies pressed hotly against each other before his conscience catches up to him (yeah, he feels proud) and he thinks of Cody. But she pulls him down against her again and when he feels her teeth nibble against the inner lobe of his ear (God, where did she learn that?) making him melt, all thoughts of his brother washes away, and then he's reaching for her bra, unclasping it, feeling her tremble, and enjoying her gasp at his touch as his fingers brush over her bare skin. He's already on top of her, her nails digging into the skin of his back as he pushes her deeper into the sheets, their breaths shallow and rapid and in sync and he's thinking he would make love with her any time of the day/month/year.
Do you love me?
And in the morning, when he wakes up alone, he'll pretend and imagine that she said yes.
Who knew that angels could fly so low? Did you lose your wings, honey?
He watches while she sleeps, her face peaceful and undisturbed and just not filled with any thoughts of Cody. He brushes a strand of hair out of her eyes and it's only a few minutes after he does that when she wakes up, her eyes startled and confused; a dear caught in headlights. He watches them as they stretch more and more until the pupils seem to swallow her face whole, and he feels a sickening pang in the bottom of his stomach as he studies her realizing what she's done.
Something inside him almost hurts when she leans over away from him and vomits in his wastebasket, not once, but twice. She spins around to face him, finding him sitting there, with his head resting leisurely, tilted on his palm and supported by his sharp, jutted elbow making a dent in the pillow. He raises his eyebrows at her, as if to say 'good morning' or 'what's the matter, darling' and he could almost swear that her eyes flash red. She picks up the pillow and whacks it against his body until he falls off the bed.
"Hey! What's your problem?" He asks her, grabbing his pants and climbing back up onto the bed, while silently and furiously she pulls on her wet clothes underneath the coverlet of the blanket.
"Don't you ask me what's the matter, Zack Martin," her body quaking with rage, and she's shaking so much, looking so fragile that he knows if he just blows she'll fall over. "You know exactly what the problem is."
He feels a surge of frustration. Okay, yeah they slept together. So what was wrong with that? He loved her, and from the way she reacted to him yesterday night, he's pretty sure that she must at least reciprocate some of the feelings. It's not like he date-raped her or anything. But now, with the fury radiating from her every bone, he doesn't feel like saying anything in refutation. His head aches and his stomach feels queasy.
"How could you?" She seethes, her voice a toxic hiss, "he was my fiancé!"
Your dead fiancé, he wants to point out to her, before he realizes how harsh and cruel it sounds. So he swallows his rebuttal and settles with glancing at her with an impassive look on his face. He pulls the chain over his head, and says nonchalantly, "It wasn't like I forced it upon you."
"You could have had some self control instead of taking advantage of me! I told you that I love Cody. I love Cody, okay? I don't love you, and I'm sorry, but that's the truth! Why couldn't you freaking just accept that?"
"Look," Zack says remotely, "we slept together, okay? No. Big. Deal."
He musses his hair back into its effortless wave, gazing at her through the reflection in the mirror. He says this ruthlessly, like he has practiced a thousand other times, but with other girls – nameless girls he can't even bother to remember, never her, and he can see that her eyes are filling up with tears. She advances to the other side of the mattress and slaps him so hard he can see stars (funny thing – he's always wanted to see them with her) and when she does, it doesn't even hurt compared to the sting of rejection he feels.
"It was a big deal," she whimpers. "You were my first."
And with his jaw dropping open and an apology hanging unspoken on his lips, she whips around, her hair flying into her face like a veil, walking straight through the exit and slamming the wooden door so hard behind her that it rattles on his hinges. He falls back into bed and runs his hands through his hair, turning on his side and relishing the warmth of the sheets that he knows will quickly fade; trying to figure out a way he'll be able to explain this to Maya, knowing that it'll be the least of his problems.
Nobody told me that I had to be dead in order to see an angel.
She gets married to some famous intelligent technological bona fide smart-ass that he resents so much he'd almost rather her marry his late brother. He receives the invitation in the mail exactly two years after that night, and snorting inwardly, he wonders if she remembers it as vividly as he does.
He brings Maya to the wedding, but she's no more than an exotic accessory to wear on his arm, to admire and to look at. The bride sits in the center of the long, rectangular table on the elevated deck, adorned in a beautiful whirlpool of white and pearls and satin ribbons. (She's gotten her wings back, see?)
He holds her in his arms for one final time during a slow-song dance and he twirls her around far away from him and then back close to his chest as they sway back and forth in a concentrated, synchronized rhythm they could never have achieved with anyone apart from being together.
"Do you love him?" He asks her, keeping his calm, cool, collected façade perfectly in place as he drops her forward into a plunging dip, then pulls her back up, without a sweat. She doesn't answer him, her bright eyes dimmer now than he remembers, with her gaze averted, faraway, like she's in some sort of a daydream (Still not over Cody, he hopes slightly, at the least.)
"No," she finally replies, after a momentary pause. "But he makes me happy. And that's more than I could ever ask for."
"I could make you happy." He says.
The groom approaches them and pulls her away, a thin stick-like figure in a fancy black designer suit clutching her protectively by the waist.
"I know," she mouths, with her hair in an elegant up do and her head turned halfway towards him. He wants so badly to tug it out of its hold, to see it spill around her shoulders like the spun gold it is. "I know you could."
And he's standing there on the side, feeling worse than ever as he watches her smile at him, knowing that she can see him watching her out of the corner of his eyes, watching her move on, from Cody, from him – only a mirrored reflection of the twin she once loved, move on from the night; from the life they both knew. He was always the third wheel, and that would never change.
How does it make you feel now? The breezy wind laughs, sounding like Cody's voice; taunting, breathless, and raspy.
He closes his eyes and prays to the heavens that she dreams of him.
(And little does he know—she does.)
a/n: So, I was just trying to work on writing another Fabrevans piece when this hit me, and I'm really surprised by it, but I actually finished, and I'm really satisfied with how it turned out. So I hope you won't hesitate to tell me what you think, because I actually, am really proud of this. It's 11:00, I've been writing for two hours straight, my eyes are red and bloodshot (or so I've been told) but this satisfaction makes me feel so, so good. So please, review, because it'd mean a lot to me. Tell me what you think. I'll definitely reply. (; I actually made up the last quote myself. (; The others are pick up lines, and some I adjusted to better fit the means of this story.
disclaimer: I don't own Suite Life, or any of the characters.
Don't favorite without reviewing, please. I'd really appreciate it if you stop by and tell me what you think.
Also, this is a one-shot, so no story-alerts are necessary. (:
Love, Evie. (: