Zack lay in bed with his eyes glued to the window and watched as the raindrops exploded onto the glass. He couldn't see much of anything but the persistent mass of grey clouds and it dampened his mood. He couldn't be one hundred percent sure what it was this morning that ate away at his cheerful demeanour other than the weather, but the most obvious reason was Will leaving. Zack was going to miss him so much. Every time he thought about it he felt worse. It was his fault; all his fault. If he hadn't messed up so badly then Will would still be with them.
He shook his head slightly to himself to try and rid himself of the guilt. There was no point in blaming himself for something that had already happened. He figured all he could do now was make sure that nothing like it ever happened again. And it wouldn't, right? He had Cody now, and Cody was everything.
Zack glanced to the side and found his twin's body, back towards him on the very edge of the mattress. He was too far away to touch and Zack decided not to try. His twin needed the sleep. Hell, Zack needed the sleep too but it wouldn't come to him. He'd been awake for over an hour, just lying there between the warm sheets lost in his thoughts. He got up now though, and stretched his arms towards the ceiling before he walked over to the dresser where a small pile of sweets lay and had laid for quite some time. He was hungry enough that he didn't care and shoved a handful of multi coloured Jelly Beans into his mouth while he walked over to the window. Cars were already swarming the street and people were up despite the early hour.
Zack picked a yellow bean from his palm and began to chew away at it as he stared down, his eyes traveling away before they could settle on anything in particular. Except… he squinted and leaned closer to the window, focusing his brown eyes on a person on the pavement right in front of the building. Zack had seen that jacket enough times to recognise it. "Fuck!" He cursed and spun around to find his clothes. The sweets went all over the place as he abandoned them for his shirt but he barely noticed. His mind was shouting curses like a firework as he finally worked his body into the fabrics and went for the door.
"Zack?" A sleepy voice came from behind him.
"I'll be right back!" Zack said and hurried out. He sprinted to the elevator and jammed his hand against the button but he felt it was too slow so he took the stairs instead. He ran down them and was lucky that he didn't trip once or he would definitely be too late. The lobby was nearly empty by the time he reached it and he hurried past the reception and out through the swinging doors. He found the person he was looking for right outside on the street, loading a bag into a cab.
"What the heck do you think you're doing?" Zack spat.
Will turned around slowly, a frown on his face as he met Zack's eyes. "Shit."
"Yeah! Shit; you're caught! What the hell, Will? You promised to say goodbye!"
"I thought it would be better this way."
Zack narrowed his eyes. "Better for who? How could you even think about leaving without a word?"
"We sort of said goodbye last night," Will argued weakly. "I wanted to let you sleep."
"Bullshit! You're just taking an easy way out."
Will was suddenly annoyed. "Don't think any of this is easy for me. It's not!"
"I know that," Zack said irritably. "But maybe we can work it out."
"I'm in love with you and you're in love with him. How can we possibly work that out?"
Zack didn't have an answer. He just stared at Will while the rain wet them both. "You can't leave, Will." He knew his voice was begging now but he didn't care.
Will smiled sadly. "Well, I sure as hell can't stay. That only leaves me with one other option."
"Look, I know I screwed up. I'm an idiot, but I promise it's all going to be all right from now on."
"It's not all right." Will sighed. "It won't be if I stay, anyway. I still want you, I still… I just can't see you all the time. It's not going to help anything."
Zack could tell that his friend had made up his mind but Zack was determined not to accept complete defeat. He knew Will, and he knew that Will's views of things were sometimes a bit too negative. He decided to try another approach. "Aren't we friends?"
"Yeah," Will sighed helplessly. "We're friends. That's the point."
"Friends don't let other friends make stupid mistakes, isn't that how the saying goes?"
"Not really." Will stared at him sadly. "I don't know if it's a good idea to keep in contact, Zack"
"I do. And I'm not letting you go."
"Look," Zack said loudly. "We'll flip a coin."
Zack became serious. "I don't want to lose you, Will."
"No?" His smile was crooked.
Zack shook his head. "No."
Will stared at his face for a few moments, looking like he was pondering the words he had just heard. "Okay," he said slowly. "We'll still be friends."
"Good choice." Still having Will as a friend was better than not having him in his life at all, despite knowing that he would miss him every day. Zack smiled and went in to hug him; wrapping his arms around Will's chest and feeling strong arms go around his own shoulders. It was a nice hug, warm and comforting and made Zack feel a bit better about the situation.
"You don't have any shoes on," Will pointed out suddenly, releasing Zack halfway.
"I know," Zack said. "I didn't have time."
Will laughed. "I'm really going to miss you..."
He leaned in again but Zack could tell he wasn't going for another hug. He didn't pull away though, as Will's lips touched his. The kiss was only little more than a peck, without tongue but with rain wetting their mouths. It was simply a goodbye, nothing else.
"What the heck?"
Zack and Will broke apart and Zack felt his stomach drop at once. Cody. By the look on his face he had seen the kiss but not realised how insignificant it was.
"Cody-" Zack started but his brother didn't spare him a single glance. Within the span of a second Cody had walked directly up to Will and Zack knew what was going to happen before it did, but Will it seemed, did not. Therefore he was taken by surprise as the palm of Cody's hand slammed hard against his cheek. "Cody!" Zack cried. His mouth was hanging open in shock and his eyes couldn't quite believe what they had just seen.
Cody was standing there, breathing hard and eyes staring daggers at Will who was holding his cheek and looking shocked. "Stay the fuck away from Zack."
Zack's entire body was frozen but his mind was alert. What the hell had just happened? It was like some crappy testosterone-filled action movie with the hero defending the damsel in a ridiculously macho way. But Zack wasn't some chick who needed saving and Cody sure as hell couldn't be accused of being overly masculine. So what was happening?
Will was gathering himself now, seemingly over the first shock, and his height and features were suddenly dangerous. "If you try to hit me again…" he warned and his eyes told Zack that the hinted warning was genuine.
"Then what?" Cody spat back. "You'll hit me? Do it!"
Zack sensed that it was definitely time to intervene, he grabbed Cody, and spun him round till their eyes met. "Cody, go back to the room I'll be-"
"And ,leave you alone with, with him?"
Zack groaned. "Do it! I'll be up in a minute. Go now!" He was aware that people on the street had stopped to look at the commotion that was going on and Zack didn't want to make the scene any bigger than it already was. Cody glanced at him and the look in his eyes was hard, but he turned on the spot a moment later and stalked away into the hotel.
Will was still looking murderous and had a red tinge on his cheek that Zack sincerely hoped wouldn't turn into the shape of his twin's fingers when it settled.
"I'm so sorry, Will. I don't know what got into him."
"It's fine," Will said but his voice wasn't masking his anger very well. "But I'm going now."
"Yeah, okay," Zack said helplessly. He watched as Will gave him a stiff nod and got into the taxi. It drove through the rain and disappeared behind a corner. Sighing, Zack padded back to the hotel entrance, his clothes and socks thoroughly soaked.
He didn't know what he expected to find when he slid the card into the lock a few minutes later but found right away that he wasn't going to like what was coming. Cody was sitting in the window, his arms crossed tightly together and his eyes just as angry as Will's. "What the hell was that, Zack?"
"We were just saying goodbye." He knew the explanation was pathetically empty to his brother even before he had finished.
Cody glowered. "You don't usually kiss people goodbye unless you love them."
"I don't love Will," Zack argued. At least that was true.
Cody let out a slow and controlled breath to still his anger. "Then why did you kiss him?"
Zack had no idea how to explain it, and he didn't want to either. He had never wanted his twin to find out about him and Will because he knew the reaction wouldn't be pleasant. But like usual, things didn't go the way he wanted them. He sat down heavily on the edge of the unmade bed. "Will and I sort of… messed around. Before you and I, I mean."
"Messed around?" Cody repeated slowly. "What does that mean?"
Zack would have given anything not to say. He felt so ashamed of himself under Cody's hard glare and like he had let his brother down by being with someone else. He couldn't look at Cody as he spoke. "We kissed and he…" Zack frowned at the memories and the feelings of Will's hands and mouth on his body.
"Did you have sex?"
Zack's head snapped up. "What? No! No, not sex. Not really."
"No, it was just… oral." He cringed at the word.
Cody looked faintly disgusted. Slowly, he got down from the window and walked over to the bathroom. Zack watched him, worried by the silence and weighed down by everything that had just happened. "I don't want to see you right now," Cody said, and his voice was slightly choked up, like he was really working not to let himself cry.
"Cody," Zack tried.
"Just go." He opened the door to the bathroom and disappeared before Zack could utter another word. Knowing that defying his twin's wishes and staying wouldn't do either of them a favour, Zack mechanically shed his wet clothes and put on dry ones. He remembered shoes this time and grabbed his jacket before he headed out. He didn't know where he was going and he didn't care.
The light was too bright, the sounds too noisy and just moving his head the tiniest bit sent a stab of pain through it. Zack knew even before he woke completely that it wasn't going to be a good day.
He had never felt this bad, not even that time a few years ago when he'd had a fever for a week and spent all the time sleeping because waking up just made him want to throw up. This was a different kind of bad. This was bad bad. He forced his eyes open and glared around the room, as if the walls and furniture themselves were responsible for his condition. The familiarity of his bedroom become all too apparent. Zack wasn't exactly sure how he got home and what happened last night but for now he didn't care.
He was just going to close them again and go back to sleep but before he could, he found the shape of his twin's figure sitting in the window with his legs drawn up against his chest. Zack smiled despite every single muscle telling him not to. It was such an involuntary reaction these days. If he saw Cody, he smiled. Nothing he could do to stop it. "When did you wake up?" Zack asked, breaking the stillness. His voice was rough and he coughed to clear his throat.
"I didn't go to sleep," Cody replied quietly and didn't take his eyes off the window.
"Are you okay?" Zack asked as he slowly, very slowly, pushed himself into a sitting position with his back against the headboard. He was expecting his twin to confirm that, yes, he was okay, but his brother didn't say a word. Zack frowned, focusing his eyes on Cody. He looked tired but there was something else about him today that Zack couldn't quite put his finger on. "Cody? Is everything all right?"
Cody slowly tore his eyes away from the window and met Zack's. "Does it seem like I'm all right?"
"What's wrong?" Zack was suddenly worried by his twin's voice. It was monotone and odd and didn't sound like it usually did.
Cody leaned his head back against the window frame. "I don't know what's going on with you lately."
"What do you mean?"
"Last night? What were you thinking! Going out getting drunk and God knows what, if it wasn't for London who knows where you would be," Cody started and then his voice darkened slightly. "And then there all this stuffy with Will…"
Zack thought it was best not to tell Cody he had no recollection of last nights events as that didn't seem like the biggest issue. He sighed. "Is this about Will? Because that was just a stupid thing; I've already told you. There's nothing going on anymore. He's gone, and he's not coming back."
Cody looked out over the city. "Do you want him to come back?"
"No! Well, I mean, he's our friend, so-"
"He's not my friend," Cody said firmly.
Zack sighed. "You shouldn't have hit him. What was that about?"
For the first time a hint of a smile appeared on Cody's face as he looked down at his hand, clenching and unclenching it into a tight fist. "I didn't know I was that strong. Did you hear the sound it made? That was pretty funny."
Zack wasn't amused. "No, it wasn't funny. He didn't deserve that, Codes, he's done nothing wrong." He sighed and rubbed at his temples. "You should have hit me instead."
"Trust me, I was thinking about it...still am" Cody muttered but then his voice changed. "It really hurt that you didn't tell me."
Zack's heart sank. "I know," he said quietly. "I'm sorry. I should have told you but I was so sure that you wouldn't like it." He left out the fact that he felt so incredibly guilty about it because then Cody might realise just how badly Zack had treated their relationship and Zack couldn't bear that. He so deeply wished that he could take back some of the things he had done and how he had let them happen.
Cody shook his head slightly. "Will's not good enough for you. I can't believe you were with him."
Zack shook his head, but regretted it at once as the sharp pains came again. "There's nothing wrong with Will. He's a good guy. It was all my fault, Codes."
Cody didn't say anything and his face didn't let Zack know what he was thinking. He was just sitting there in the window with his arms around his legs. Zack knew that there was something going on in addition to everything else but he didn't know what it was. Maybe it was the dull ache in his head that messed with his observing skills. He was starting to feel worse with every passing second. His head hurt and his body just felt miserable. He didn't understand it and had never experienced it before so he assumed it was directly related to the events of the past night. He really just wanted to sink back under the covers and sleep the pain away but his brother's introverted behaviour was bothering him too much. It was just so out of character. "Cody, talk to me."
Cody didn't look at him but seemed to steel himself before he spoke. "It's too much for me, Zack."
"What's too much?"
"This. You and me."
"What are you talking about?" Zack asked slowly, already knowing that he wasn't going to like what his twin had to say.
Cody's face slowly turned to Zack's. His dark green eyes seemed unsure but his voice was steady. "There are reasons why brothers don't do what we've been doing."
Zack opened his mouth but no sound came out.
"Look, it's not your fault," Cody continued. "We've always been too close, I guess. We should have realised that it could easily turn into something more. If we could do it over again-"
"Then what?" Zack's voice was faint. "Do you think we should have behaved like other siblings?"
Cody shook his head resignedly. "I don't know."
Zack frowned. "You don't know? You mean, you might actually think that would be better? You want things with us to be different?" He couldn't disguise the hurt in his voice and knew that his brother heard it because Cody looked worried and nervous but didn't say anything. "I couldn't imagine us not being this close, Codes. It wouldn't work. It's you and I, always."
"Really?" Cody said blankly. "Then why have you been lying to me about everything?
"I haven't," Zack insisted, but it wasn't all too convincing. "How was I supposed to tell you how I felt about you? Just thinking about you rejecting me was terrifying."
Cody looked uncomfortable. "I still think you should have told me about that and Will. We could have talked about it."
"We're talking now, aren't we?"
"It's a bit too late now though." Cody bit his lip.
Zack narrowed his eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Cody took a deep breath and ran a hand through his soft hair. Even from over in the bed, Zack could see that his twin's hand was trembling. "I can't do this, Zack."
"Us," Cody clarified. "I can't do us."
Zack felt like something went out inside of him. "What are you talking about?" He asked urgently, hoping against too fickle hope that Cody was talking about something else entirely, something stupid, something that wouldn't completely break Zack's heart.
"It's wrong, Zack." Cody sounded as tired as he looked.
"How can it be wrong?" Zack felt seriously scared now. He just stared at his twin like he had never seen him before and it felt like that too. Cody looked completely different to him. He could barely even recognise him. Zack's head was throbbing horribly but he barely noticed because all he could focus on was Cody.
"Don't tell me you don't think it is."
"I don't!" Zack shouted. His heart was pounding hard now. He was scared. "It's you and me; it's what it should be like!
But Cody shook his head. "We're brothers, Zack. It's wrong and we're not allowed."
"We're not going to tell people! It'll be a secret! No one will find out."
"What if they do anyway? What if Will had, huh?"
Zack frowned and his thoughts were suddenly in a chaos as he quickly pondered whether he should tell the truth or not. But he couldn't lie, not after everything. "Will knows." He said quietly, his voice having dropped several octaves.
"What?" Cody breathed, his body going completely still. "Did you tell him?"
"No, he just figured it out."
"Oh my god," Cody breathed. He looked scared and Zack really just wanted to run over and hug him for all he was worth but he knew that would only make the situation worse. He needed to convince his twin with words instead of feelings but he was panicking because he had no idea what to say.
"Cody, it's okay. He's not telling anyone. If that's all you're worried about then I swear it all going to be all right! We'll make it work and no one will ever know.
"But I want people to know, Zack," Cody said softly. "If I love someone then I want to be able to hold hands and kiss in public. I will never be able to do that with you."
Sudden tears burned Zack's eyes. They blurred the scene so that he couldn't make out Cody's expression, but he didn't really need to see it anyway. It wouldn't make it hurt any less. "We can still be together," he insisted quietly and the tears spilled over and down his cheeks. "We can't hurt anyone."
Cody stared at him. "Zack, there's not a single person we can't hurt! Think of mom and dad and our friends!" He stopped, looking anguished. "Ourselves."
Zack didn't say anything. He was trying very hard to stop the pathetic tears from coming but there was no denying them. Every time he wiped them away new ones created in the corners of his eyes. What made everything hurt more was that Cody's eyes were dry.
"We can't go back now, can we?" Cody mumbled. "To before, I mean."
Despite his tears, Zack felt angry. "But you must have liked it! You never said you wanted to stop when we-"
"I knew you wanted it," Cody replied softly.
"So what? You agreed to it even though you didn't want to?"
Cody looked miserable and Zack finally thought he could detect a sheen to his eyes. "I would do anything for you, Zack, you know that."
"So If I said I wanted this, you'd do it for me?" Zack asked immediately.
"Of course I would," Cody said and his voice was genuine but his eyes were sad. "But if I said I didn't want to, would you still make me?"
"No. No, of course not." Just the thought of making his twin do anything against his will made Zack feel sick inside. "I thought you wanted this. It kills me that you don't."
"Zack, I've tried! So hard! But I don't want to do this, I just can't. It's wrong! God, what would people say?" Cody was crying now.
Zack felt numb. He couldn't even explain it to himself but he felt drained and shaken and heartbroken all at the same time and his brother's rejection was all that filled him. Cody didn't want this. Cody didn't want him. It was more than rejection, it was loss. And just when Zack thought it couldn't get worse, it did.
"I think we should take a breather."
Zack looked up from his misery but Cody's wet eyes refused to meet his. "What?"
"A break from what, exactly?" Zack asked stiffly.
"From being twins," Cody responded meekly. "Just for a few days, okay? Till I'm settled in at Yale and then hopefully things will go back to normal." He was wrong, but neither of them knew it at the time. Zack didn't reply and just listened silently while his twin prattled on. "Some time apart will be good for us. It'll give us some perspective."
"But we've always been together," Zack said quietly. "It's always been us." He already knew that his plea was useless. His eyes had fallen to the floor and to a suitcase that was packed with clothes and shoes. Just one set. It hit him that Cody had had the goodbye planned out for hours. "Please don't go." Zack's voice was pathetically weak.
"I'm sorry, Zack," Cody whispered and climbed down form the window. "I just need some time to think."
Zack watched numbly as his twin turned around and walked out. Cody didn't turn around once.
It was such a short goodbye, too short in relation to the complicated situation. Zack should never have agreed to it; he should have fought for what he wanted, whom he wanted, and should have made his brother understand that they belonged together. He should have pushed through the pain and rubbed his eyes dry and hurried after Cody. He should have hugged him and told him that everything would be all right because everything fixed itself in the end. Their relationship would be no great disaster but rather something very beautiful and Zack should have done everything to make his brother see that.
But he didn't, because he couldn't move. His head didn't stop hurting and his eyes didn't stop watering and the sobs that wrecked through him were torture.
Cody heard them as he walked through the hallway with his own tears running down his cheeks. A part of him wanted to go back but he didn't. He knew it couldn't work out.
Neither of them knew that it would be quite some time before they saw each other again.