Disclaimer : This is a work of fiction and does not imply anything about anyone, real or imagined.
Tristan looked up at the tree that loomed above him. He could hear the birds in the background, and the children playfully running after one another. To his left he heard a sigh, and turned his head and saw Jen. A moment of mild disappointment shot through his chest, but it vanished once the guilt settled in. He enjoyed spending time with his friend in the park, but it would have been a fantasy come true to turn and see Zac lying next to him.
"Not who you expected?" Jen said with a coy smile.
"Stop with the mind reading already. I'm starting to think we know each other too well."
Jen smiled, and then put down the book she was reading. Jane Austin. It was always Jane Austin, and when she finished reading the woman's work, she started from the beginning again. She was a closet romantic if ever there was one.
"When are you going to find a real man, and not obsess over Mister Darcy?" he asked.
"When I find a man in the hellish city that has ten percent of his quality. All the guys that I meet have one thing or the other, but never enough. Do you know what I mean?" she asked.
"Maybe. Tell me more," he said.
"All the guys who I meet are either educated or hot. The educated guys can recite poetry or are well-read, but I don't feel anything for them physically. The hot guys are almost always idiots. They've either never read a book in their life, or they are assholes who treat other people badly or care only about themselves."
A short silence followed. "Hmm," Tristan said.
"Do you think my standards are unreasonable?" she said.
"No, I think they're similar to mine. It's why I've been single since forever. You know all my ex's and it seems like we have the same problem. Kevin was so damn hot it took my breath away but he used to spend more time flexing his abs in the mirror than talking to me. Jake was an English major but he was so abusive to his mother on the phone, I was worried that one day I would be next. Good guys are hard to find. Not just in the city. In the world. I often wonder if I'll be single forever."
They lay there in silence for a while looking at the huge green branches hanging overhead. The shade was cool, and the park was peaceful.
"Tristan," Jen whispered.
"Yeah," he murmured.
"You know I love you right?" she whispered again.
He sat up and leaned on his elbow looking at her with a dire frown on his face. "The last time you said that you'd reversed the car I'd lent you into a wall."
She smiled half-heartedly remembering the memory.
"I remember that. I guess this will come as a shock too, but I feel you need to hear it because you won't figure it out by yourself."
Tristan suddenly felt weary. Cold fingers crawled along his scalp as he remembered her last revelation that she was in love with him, which had forced him to come out.
"Crap, Jen. You aren't dying are you?" he said ominously.
She laughed, and he felt slightly better. "No, not that. Nothing to do with me."
"Then spit it out," he said impatiently.
She sat up and faced him and looked him in the eyes. "Zac loves you," she said simply.
Tristan was suddenly irritated and fell onto his back. "Don't be stupid."
She laughed to herself. "I love the denial."
"Don't mess with me, Jen. You know how I feel about him. If this is some sort of joke, you should back out of it now because it can only end badly."
"Tristan look at me," she said sternly, and he turned with the slow stubbornness of a child who'd been commanded to do something by an angry parent. "Will you give me a chance?" she said.
Tristan nodded, though he was in no mood for wild theories.
Jen started. "You guys have been friends for three weeks or so, and you do everything together."
"So what? We're good friends. Is someone gay just because they want to be friends with a gay guy?"
"Will you let me finish?" she spat angrily. "As I said you do everything together. The problem is you."
Tristan frowned at her, but she continued.
"You've loved Zac since before you met him. You were obsessed with him. Suddenly you were forced to hate him, but he managed to temper your mood, and you've found a friend. He told you that he likes women, and you've put your relationship with him in a little compartment."
"That's absurd," Tristan said stubbornly.
"Is it? You've liked this guy for so long that you'd do almost anything to have him in your life. When he said he wanted to be friends, and when he said he'd like to do things with you, you put him in a friend category and sealed off all your other emotions to him."
"Jen, I can't open myself to lusting after him. He's straight. It will ruin everything," Tristan said pleadingly.
"Exactly," she said with a warm smile. "You've lost your objectivity. You've denied all your feelings and unequivocally accepted all of his. He's straight. He wants to be your best friend for no good reason."
"Hey, I'm a good guy. He might want to be my friend," Tristan said with a hurt expression.
"Stop being a petulant child," she said dismissively. "You never questioned that he might have motives other than just wanting to be friends, and you also dared not investigate because you'd rather have a friend than nothing at all, and you're not prepared to gamble for the big prize."
"Most straight guys don't like it when you accuse them of being gay, Jen. They sort of avoid you after that, and to be honest, I like what I've got with Zac," he said.
"And he likes it too," she said. "He likes it much more than you're allowing yourself to see it. Tristan, I'm your friend, so listen to me. Zac stares at you whenever he's sure you're not looking. He doesn't even care that I'm staring at him to see what he's looking at. The guy has lust in his eyes for you. I promise you. I'm never wrong about this."
"I... well there's a reasonable explanation..."
"And not to be vain, Tristan, but most guys say that I'm a seriously hot piece of woman, and your friend Zac has never given me a second's notice."
Tristan couldn't help but smile despite his emotional turmoil. "I can't face this, Jen. Even if it's true, it's like standing on the edge of a cliff and jumping off hoping that you'll fly. Flying would be nice, but I'd rather just stand where I am than possibly splat on the ground."
Jen rubbed his arm soothingly. "I know how you feel, Tristan. You might be happy with things as they are, but I promise you things are going to boil over. He wants more, but he's scared to ask. He doesn't know how."
"He's so amazing, I don't even know how anything is too difficult for him." Tristan realized he was talking to himself, and blushed. Jen smiled at him. "It's old news that I'm hooked."
"Yeah, but it's nice to see," she said. "So are you going to talk to him about it?"
Tristan took a deep breath. It was something he didn't want to face but Jen had a remarkable gift of intuition and he found himself often following her advice. She wasn't ruled by emotion or cold logic, but a curious mixture of both.
"I guess so," he said despondently. He felt her rubbing his back supportively. "Thanks for your help," he added.
She snorted. "It's the least I could do. You've helped me with every disastrous relationship I've had... meaning all of them."
They laughed and lay back under the tree. He had planned to stop by at the film studio later that afternoon to meet with his friend. Zac knew he was coming, but the meeting now took on a different dimension. He tried to boost his mood but he couldn't ignore the anxiety he felt. Closing his eyes he tried to sleep beneath the trees but found that images of Zac danced across his brain. Tristan growled angrily, and heard Jen giggle to herself. He smiled.
Zac lay on his bed staring at the roof of his trailer. Shaking his head clear of thoughts he realized that he hadn't blinked for a minute or two, and his eyes felt dry and sandy. He'd barely managed to act his way through the scenes they'd planned for the day. His mind was heavily preoccupied, and it was getting worse. At first his thoughts of Tristan had resembled a small seed of warmth, but that seed had grown. Lately it felt as if his whole body was on fire. His heart was permanently beating too fast, and the slightest thought of Tristan made him breathe much too deeply for comfort. Lying on his bed, he put his arm behind his head and smiled. The best part of his day was running back to his trailer so that he could think about Tristan.
Jerking off to the thought of the guy he liked so much was one of his favourite activities. He felt like a teenager, and his body responded like one. It had been years since he'd been so horny. Like most guys he knew, Zac could jerk off once and then feel some sense of relief, but with Tristan it was different. Three times was the minimum these days. It had been about half an hour since he'd last jerked off, and his dick was getting hard again. He could feel the energy building up below, could feel the turbulence rumbling through his body. His body surprised him. He lifted his head and looked down at his defined chest and stomach, and the tent that was forming in his boxers. The thought of Tristan could make him shoot so hard. It seemed to never stop. His dick became iron just thinking about it again. Normally he could hit his chest when he shot his load, and after that it was a little less, but these days he could shoot huge loads onto his chest and chin repeatedly. He didn't know his balls could make so much cum. His pelvis twitched at the thought and he smiled anxiously. The day after he'd slept over at Tristan he'd jerked off for the whole day until he'd run dry, and even then he'd gone on until the pain had stopped him. He thought that if he ever managed to get it on with Tristan he might actually die from the orgasm.
A knock at the door made his head shoot up. "Fuck." He hated being disturbed these days, and his friends had seemed to sense his unsociable mood.
"Coming," he said, and smiled to himself. He jumped up and put on his jeans, hoping that they would hide his hard on. He rushed over to the door irritably. His forced smile vanished when he saw his agent standing there looking like death. He hated Jason.
Jason didn't ask before entering, and half pushed Zac out of the way.
"Come in," Zac said sarcastically.
"Thanks," Jason said indifferently.
"What can I do for you?" Zac said curtly, making his way to his drawer to get a shirt. He always felt uncomfortable being shirtless around this guy, though he couldn't put his finger on the reason for it.
"I'm here about Tristan van der Meer," he said.
Zac paused momentarily while putting his shirt on and then hurried tried to complete the task, hoping that Jason didn't notice. "What about him? We're friends now." Jason has gone almost insane with rage after he'd messed up with Tristan and embarrassed Jen. He'd insisted that Zac mend the business relationship, and Zac didn't need further prodding. He wanted to be more to Tristan than a business partner.
"I know you're friends, but that wasn't the deal," Jason said with forced patience.
"What deal?" Zac said, suddenly feeling angry.
"You were supposed to mend the business relationship, not become his fuck buddy," Jason said acidly.
"Fuck you, Jason! Get the fuck out!" Zac said furiously.
In a second Jason was in front of Zac and he'd grabbed his throat and smashed him into the side of the trailer, choking him. Zac thought he was probably about as strong as Jason, but his agent had other powers over him.
"You faggot," Jason said with a cruel smile. Zac could smell his breath he was so close. He was good looking and a little older than him, but Zac felt like killing him. He hated the man and everything he symbolized. "Do you know how much I sacrificed to make your ass famous? Then after I fucking make you into something you tell me you like fucking guys."
"Fuck you! I told you that in confidence!" Zac struggled in his grasp, but he felt weak with humiliation.
"I've kept it confidential. Girls out there want a stud that they can think about at night, not some fag who falls in love with every piece of ass that looks his way."
"Fuck you!" Zac screamed again. He wanted to break Jason's neck. "Tristan isn't like that. He doesn't even know about me."
Jason had a disgusted look on his face. "You're such a fucking stupid little boy. Of all the guys I put myself behind; I had to choose a fucking loser like you. I ask you to act straight, and you make such a fuck up you almost lost us everything. Tristan van der Meer is fucking gay too, you dickhead. The public doesn't need more than that to start gossip about you. You're going to stop seeing him TODAY."
"I won't!" Zac shouted in his face defiantly.
Jason suddenly released his grip, and Zac fell to the floor gasping. He hadn't realized how out of breath he was. Suddenly he felt a foot connect him in the belly and he crunched up and hugged himself. Jason was suddenly crouching next to him with a glare.
"Yes you will, Zac Efron. If you don't, I'll resign and do everything to expose your gay ass. I'll sink you faster than any celebrity in history. I'll also break van der Meer, and you know I can do it. I know everyone in this business. Do what you think is right."
Without another word, he turned on his heel and walked out, slamming the door to the trailer. Zac couldn't move. He was in physical pain and his insides hurt, but he felt emotional isolation that made him want to scream in anger and terror.
"Tristan," he said, hoping that his friend would appear to help him. For a minute he sat in silence, and a single tear ran over his nose and dropped to the floor. There was only one way to salvage this without Tristan getting hurt.
Tristan was walking from his car in the direction of Zac's trailer. It was a long walk, but one couldn't get a car closer than where he'd parked his. His heart surged at the thought of seeing Zac. He'd decided to gently probe the subject of Zac's sexuality and to quickly back off if it turned out that Jen had been wrong. A guy was walking towards him from the direction of Zac's trailer. He was the same age as him, or perhaps a year or two older, but very good looking with dark hair and what was probably a killer smile. Tristan thought that his dark suit was a good fit.
"Mr van der Meer," the guy said with a smile, and stuck out his hand.
Tristan smiled back politely and shook his hand, but was surprised that the man knew him. "Hello. Do you I know you?"
"I'm Zac's agent, Jason. I'm very pleased to meet you."
"Uh... thanks," Tristan said warmly, but he still felt off guard.
"You two really are great friends. I'm pleased that you've introduced something good and decent into Zac's life." He seemed genuinely happy.
"Thanks man," Tristan said. "I'll give Zac your regards."
"No need. I've just shared similar feelings with him. Have a great day." They shook hands again, and Jason departed with confidence. He must be one hell of an agent. Tristan looked at him for a moment and considered the oddness of the situation. He moved in Zac's direction again, and after a few minutes reached the larger trailer he'd been to a few times. Tentatively he knocked on the door, and his heart raced in his chest. He knew it was ridiculous to feel nervous, but his body reacted on instinct. There was a long silence. Tristan frowned and knocked again, but nothing happened. He wondered if he'd arrived at the incorrect time, or perhaps Zac had forgotten. Distress welled up inside of him, and the thought of not seeing Zac that day became a burden he didn't want to face. He was about to knock for a third and final time when he heard shuffling behind the door. He smiled. Zac must have been sleeping or something. The door started to move and he smiled widely, always happy at the first moment when their eyes locked.
When his eyes fell on Zac, his smile slid instantly. He almost took a step back, but stood his ground. Zac's face was hard and cruel. He couldn't detect whether Zac was furious or upset.
"What's wrong?" he said immediately. There was no point in beating around the bush.
Zac stared at him menacingly for a moment, his features strained with dark emotions, but still on one of the most handsome faces he'd ever seen. Even in his angry state he was nice to look at.
"You need to leave," Zac said in steel tones.
"What do you mean? I just got here. Zac, what's wrong?"
"I said you must leave, Tristan. Please, just leave." Tristan's heart was beating rapidly, but this time for the wrong reason.
"What's happened? Talk to me, I can help you," Tristan said with concern, but Zac's face took on such sharp features he suddenly felt afraid.
"You're my problem, Tristan. I don't want to see you anymore." Zac was standing in the doorway, his body symbolically blocking the entrance to the trailer as surely as his words.
Tristan was stunned, and then he frowned in anger. None of this made sense. "What has happened to you? What's going on? I'm not going anywhere until you level with me." He stood his ground defiantly.
Zac seemed to be getting angrier. "You're always so stubborn! I don't want to be friends with a ... gay... person like you."
If Tristan was shocked before, now he was openly incredulous. "What! I told you the moment we decided to be friends. This is fucking bullshit! Do you think I'm retarded or something? You're not telling me the truth, Zac!"
Zac suddenly seemed to be struggling with himself, but it lasted only a moment, and Tristan wondered if he wanted to cry. The icy mask returned with double force. "I wasn't thinking. My career is what's important to me, and I don't need a scandal."
Tristan decided to calm himself down. Zac was out of control and this line of argument would only inflame the situation if he continued to attack Zac. "Zac, you're not making sense," he said pleadingly. "I was speaking to your agent and he thinks..."
Zac's eyes suddenly caught fire and he leaped from the trailer and started walking towards him. Tristan backed away, worried that he was about to be punched.
"So you two have been chatting about me, have you?" Zac almost shouted. Suddenly Zac pushed him hard in the chest, and he grunted as he staggered and fell down. He didn't try to get up. He thought Zac was close to getting into a physical confrontation with him. None of this made any sense, he told himself for the tenth time.
"No... we just spoke now and..."
Zac looked at the ground, and Tristan stopped talking mid-sentence. Something dire was about to come out of Zac's mouth.
"Tristan, I mean it. Don't come back here. If you do, I'll get a guard to stand outside my trailer. And don't phone me. Just forget you knew me."
The words were so cold and calculated that Tristan couldn't breathe. His whole chest was rigid was despair. The air tasted acidic. He wanted to vomit.
"Zac," he croaked, in a voice that was meant to be strong but sounded like a child's.
Zac turned on the spot and walked into the trailer and slammed the door without turning around. For a moment Tristan could only stare at the door, hoping that he'd been caught in one of Zac's practical jokes, or that perhaps there was something he was missing, something that he could reverse with some kind words or a gesture. The trailer's silence, and the wide open space around it reinforced the permanence of the situation, and he slowly stood up, realizing how futile it was to continue sitting in the dust. He patted off his pants and spared one last agonized look at the trailer, half wondering if breaking down the door and forcing Zac to talk sense would help. Slowly he shook his head and started to walk back to his car which was a good half mile away. He felt so weak with sadness, he thought he wouldn't make it. He wanted to lie down on his side and curl up into a ball. Hours later, or what felt like hours later, he reached his car, with no memory of the journey back. Turning on the ignition he started to drive away, ignoring the friendly wave from the security official whom he grown accustomed to at the gate. The air felt electric with horror. He thought his heart was racing at greater and greater speeds that would eventually culminate in a final crescendo, and stop. He felt like dying. He wanted to die. He'd never before felt such a sudden, cataclysmic ending to something he put so much value in. He didn't remember the journey home, and vaguely remembered Martin's concerned questions that he didn't answer as he climbed into the elevator. He entered his apartment and suddenly felt as if he'd been embraced and was safe. He let his car keys drop onto the floor, or rather, felt as his fingers gave way, too weak to hold them anymore. He walked to his sofa and fell onto it, lay on his side and slept. He needed to escape the agony of the world, and sleeping was the best way to do it. He slipped off into an uncomfortable, tormented dream. He felt as if he hadn't slept in weeks. He didn't want to wake up ever. He wanted his heart to stop, to stop breathing and just go to a happier place. He wished for it.
Zac stumbled around his trailer and cried. He cried and cried and cried. He cried so much his eyes burned and he felt like he couldn't open them. His nose was blocked and he wiped it with his hand. Sitting on the side of his bed he put his head in his hands, and had a moment's silence before starting to cry again. He sobbed openly, unconcerned if someone passing by would hear. He felt such grief he thought his soul was dying. His chest felt like it was being pulled in, and he groaned at the chest pain he was experiencing. He'd never cried so much before. Tears ran down his cheeks, down his neck and onto his shirt. His arms were wet from wiping it away, and still he couldn't stop. He'd done something he could never forgive himself for; something that his whole spirit shouted was the opposite of what he should have done.
"Tristan," he groaned, and felt his heart stab with almost unbearable pain. Acid tears ran down his cheeks and into his mouth. He wiped his nose. His head hurt. He'd cried so much that his breathing was staggered and uneven.
"Tristan," he repeated, and flogged himself with the name, the word as deadly as a whip slicing through his flesh.
Zac sat on his bed and sobbed until his body couldn't take it anymore, until he fell over onto his side and fell asleep. It was almost as if his body wanted to blot out the emotional trauma he was experiencing. He wanted to sleep and dream about Tristan, and his beautiful face and his good spirit. He wanted to die like that and never wake up. He wished for it.
Thanks for reading again, guys! I try to update as much as I can, but it takes a while to write and proof read, so I'll do my best. I've received an avalanche of emails this week and I'm really so grateful to anyone who took the time to send me some feedback. As usual, let me know your thoughts. firstname.lastname@example.org