The Way They Are
By Rowena Sudbury
It was cool and dark inside the studio, a stark contrast to the sun-dappled lake just out the back door. Zach had pushed to meet out at the end of the dock, with a string bag of beers just below the surface of the cool water, but Cody had insisted on the studio.
"It started in here, and we'll finish it in here," he'd said.
Zach smiled as he sat on his favorite stool and picked up his guitar. Cody had a deep-seated sentimental streak, and while on the surface Zach liked to poke fun at him over it, deep down he knew that the sentimental streak was one of the myriad things that held them together.
For more than twenty years Zach and Cody's lives had been intertwined. As teenagers they had hooked up when Zach noticed Cody's Pee Chee folder was covered with the names of all the same bands he liked. It was the natural next step for them to start playing together, in and out of bands until the fateful day they met Duke, and their musical future had been set. The success their band had was tempered by the arguments that went with the territory of spending so much time together. Eventually, Zach had declared he couldn't continue, and he'd quit the band. Cody was more even keeled, and he had continued on. Both of them had known, however, that just one spark would explode the powder keg. Last week, that spark had appeared when Duke spouted off another in a never-ending string of homophobic epithets. These slurs were always followed up with a patented "I ain't talkin' 'bout you and Zach," but every man has his limits.
With a heavy sigh, Zach pulled his long hair up, looped it around his fist, and settled it behind his back. He bent forward over the guitar in his lap and began to play in free-form fashion. He had offered to go with Cody when he told Duke that he was quitting the band, but Cody had wanted to do it on his own terms. Zach knew it was hard for Cody, and that he liked the status quo, but secretly he was looking forward to this new direction their lives would take them. Out from under someone else's vision they were free to make their own sweet music together. A shiver chased down his spine at the double entendre, and a hunk of his hair fell across his face. With any luck, Cody would be home soon.
Cody slipped his shoes off outside the studio's door. It was always his intention to sneak in on Zach and take him by surprise. He smiled ruefully as he carefully turned the door handle, knowing it wouldn't happen this time either. There was a bond between them, and Zach always seemed to sense Cody before he was actually there.
Fortune was on Cody's side, and he was given a few moments to drink in the vision of Zach lost in the music. As the music moved Zach, his hair unraveled from the loose knot and began to fall about his shoulders. With any luck, Cody thought, soon that hair would be tickling his rib-cage from above.
Cody was halfway across the room when Zach sat up straight. Although he didn't fully stop playing, the intensity left the music slightly, and he turned just as Cody eased down on a stool behind him. He arched a brow, his brown eyes full of questions.
"It's done," Cody said, and he pushed his stool closer, looping his arms around Zach from behind. With his cheek pressed against Zach's broad shoulder, he continued, "Bastard didn't even blink when I told him I was calling it quits."
Letting the song come to a natural finish, Zach turned and pressed his lips against Cody's cheek. "Did you expect him to?"
"Nah," Cody said, "just feels like, I don't know, like it went out with a whimper."
Zach leaned forward long enough to set his guitar in the stand, and then he turned and gathered Cody into his arms. Tucking Cody's head down below his chin, he murmured, "Twenty years is a long time, babe, ain't no two ways about it. I'm just..." he paused and then said, "looking forward to what comes next."
"Does it involve you taking me home to bed?" Cody mumbled.
"Of course," Zach said as he disentangled himself and sat back, "but you know I was referring to our musical future."
A smile crept across Cody's face and he dipped his head as he said, "I know you were, Zach, but right now what I need is—" He stopped when Zach pressed a finger against his lips.
Sun bouncing off the lake sent watery shadows dancing across the ceiling. Side by side on the bed, fingers intertwined, Zach and Cody took the time to catch their breath. Cody stretched one arm up over his head and rolled on his side to take in Zach's profile.
"I'm looking forward to it," Cody said as he tightened his grip on Zach's hand.
"To what?" Zach murmured.
"Our future," Cody said. "You and me, without the shadow of that prick over us."
"Mmm," Zach said, and he turned on his side and opened his eyes. "I look forward to that," and he released Cody's hand and rolled closer, fitting their bodies together, "and this. All of it, Codes. You 'n' me."
Cody lowered his arm and brushed his hand over Zach's ass. His body filled with desire again, and he wasn't surprised. He could tell by Zach's soft grunt that his body was responding too. He tightened his grip and pulled Zach closer. "I ever tell you how much you mean to me, Zachariah?"
"You ain't told me as much as showed me," Zach said, and he eased closer for a kiss, "and I ain't never got tired of you showing me."