Friday, July 4, 2008

Why, Why, Zed? by Leigh Ellwood

Just in time.

Across the living room, through the feathery, fake plant strands in the vase on the back couch table, he could see two heads poking up from the patio loveseat. They bobbed and rolled in the unmistakable synchronous rhythm of an intimate act. Zed detected no other activity beyond that—he couldn't tell if Nick had a hand pressed to Danny's alleged bulge—or vice versa. Were that the case, it would end now.

A pang seized his heart, and he swallowed the bitterness rising in his throat. To see the actual infidelity, or at least the beginnings of it, bothered him more than expected. He didn't think he could stomach the scene had he arrived ten minutes later, assuming progression to something more hardcore would take that long. His first instinct to charge forward, like the lover scorned, faded quickly. His indifference toward the relationship caused this—Zed knew he had no right to be completely angry. He brought this on himself, and it was up to him to make amends.

He backtracked silently to the open front door then guided it forcefully to a foundation-shimmering slam. "Nick?" he called out in question, trying not to sound too eager, "You around?"

He knew, of course, where to look and what to find. Those resting heads, once joined at the lips, had now positioned themselves on opposite ends of the couch. Sotto voce, curses filled the closing gap between him and the patio along with the sound of a foot scraping the concrete—no doubt, a last minute attempt to hide any visual evidence of the pungent smoke filling Zed's nostrils.

At least, it seemed, it was good stuff.

A large, opened bag of tortilla chips rested on Danny's lap. Zed wanted to snicker, thinking of the surprise crinkling the bottom of the bag, inward. Nick crossed his legs tightly and blinked several times, but Zed could tell his lover was clearly riding the high that encouraged his earlier, and potential, behavior.

"Hey, you," Nick's voice cracked with worry. "I didn't expect you back so soon."

"I had a sudden change of heart," Zed said pleasantly. He chose to ignore the lip of the bong, peeking from the ruffled dust skirt of the ottoman, and moved around so he could face the two men. They resembled guilty teenagers with their heads bowed, caught red-handed, red-eyed, and purple-cocked. "Nice day to be sitting outside," he observed, gazing toward the spacious backyard.

"Yeah, I figured you'd be on the course all afternoon," Nick mumbled. "I called you at work when your cell was busy."

"I did too, but on the way there, I decided there are better things I could do with my time." He looked at Danny, narrowing his gaze. "Unfortunately… Danny, is it?" He should have taken more care to know the men Nick chose for friends.

Danny looked away in silent escape, as though affirming his identity might secure some kind of punishment. Finally, a short nod bowed his head.

"Danny, I had hoped to spend some quality time with Nick, alone. I don't mean to be rude."

"Not at all." Danny's response came swiftly, matching his sprightly leap from the love seat. Brushing off tortilla crumbs, he smiled at Nick and made a phone gesture to his ear with his left hand. "See ya."

Yeah, we'll be changing our phone numbers later tonight. Zed only smiled and waved. "Later," he said, a bit too placating. He waited for the front door to slam before turning his gaze on Nick, who cowered and hugged himself for protection. "Why are you sitting like that?"

"Are you going to hit me?" He sounded small and frightened. Had to be the weed enhancing his lover's paranoia, Zed decided. He had never raised a hand to anybody, especially Nick. The mere suggestion made Zed feel guiltier for his recent neglect.

He knelt before Nick and placed a hand on his bouncing knee. "Why would you even think such a thing?" he gently chided. "Have I ever done anything to suggest I could become violent with you?"

"No," Nick said, looking somewhat remorseful for having asked the question. Zed could sense, though, the next words forming on the man's lips. At least if you hit me, you'd be touching me. Wrapping himself in his own concerns at work really had put the burden of loneliness on Nick if negative attention was preferred over none at all.

Zed smoothed the palm of his hand down Nick's bare calf, then back up his thigh, to the cuff of his shorts. His touch left a visible trail of raised flesh and Zed watched the skin quiver. Farther back, the bulge tenting Nick's shorts increased. A few minutes later, that delicious cock might have been in another man's mouth.

Just in time. He'd come home to stop to Nick from making a mistake and to rectify his own.

"I love you, Nick, from the day we met. I'm sorry for shutting you out like I have these last few months."

Nick straightened a bit, his features softening.

Zed squeezed his eyes shut, mentally forcing back his next words. He wouldn't blame any of this on Nick. He wasn't going to ask Nick why he hadn't made his feelings known. Lost in his fog, he wouldn't have noticed any signals from his lover. Most assuredly, Nick had said or done something, but he just didn't acknowledge it.

He would enjoy making up for lost time and see that Nick did the same.

"Let me see that gorgeous body of yours," Zed whispered.

Nick looked unsure of himself at first, as though surprised to hear such a proposition. Zed bit back a laugh when Nick apparently recovered from his shyness and let his shirt slip over his head, flying to one side. The rhythmic rise and fall of Nick's bare chest—tanned and smooth—hypnotized Zed, and his mouth watered at the prospect of taking one of those taut, pebbled nipples between his lips.

"That's all?" he teased. Nick retaliated by easing slowly to his feet and undoing the button and fly of his cutoffs. Off came Nick's underwear then, and Zed was pleased to spy a patch of dark hair concealing Nick's reddening shaft.

"Turn around."