Chapter: 29 of 43
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: “Zac?” Jay’s voice, soft and filled with concern, floated out on the night. “Zac, what is it? Will you talk to me?” He’d listened to Zac’s nearly silent sobbing, for almost an hour, feeling terrible. He’d never intended to say anything, not wanting to embarrass his friend, but he felt bad. Obviously something was really wrong.
Zac’s finger absently spun a small pebble, the rhythmic motion soothing. Over, smooth side, rough side, over, smooth side, rough side, over, watching the indent in the sandy earth grow larger. He could hear Jay’s even breathing, and knew he was, finally, asleep. He’d thought it would never happen, but gradually he’d felt the tension in the other boys body relax, heard the breathing level out. Finally alone, he let himself relax, let the tears he’d been fighting all afternoon at last have their release. He didn’t understand what had gone wrong. Jay had just turned on him. He’d finally managed to find him, to be with him for a while, and he’d acted like Zac was the enemy. Zac knew how it must look, to people outside of it all. It must have looked like they’d just forgotten all their old friends, but Zac had truly missed Jay. He’d wanted to call a million times, but he’d been vaguely embarrassed by all the attention, he’d felt, well… funny. It felt weird to call up Jay, from Indonesia or somewhere, and just shoot the bull as if nothing were different. He felt on stage, felt like a target. It was weird, and he didn’t much like it, but in the end, he’d just decided to see everyone when he got home, and concentrate on what he was doing. There was just so much going on. And now look. Here he was, camping out with Jason, just like the old days, but nothing was right. Jay was mad at him, worse than mad, he’d outright turned on him. And he was getting sick, too. The thumping in his head, and the nausea licking at his throat, both getting worse rather than fading away, boded ill and he knew it. He was freezing, in the relatively mild night air, and knew he was running a fever. Added to that, he was lost, and nobody knew where he was. He’d never even said goodbye to anyone. Was Tay alright? What was happening with him? “God…” He was unaware that he was whispering to himself. “How could I have just taken off? They must be so worried…”
Silent tears gave way to sobs, and he bit down, hard, on his hand, to stifle them. He tasted blood, salty and slick, in his mouth, and nearly gagged. Still, he didn’t let go. He didn’t want Jay to hear him. Shivering with cold, despite the warmth of the down sleeping bag, and the boy next to him, he cried himself to sleep, alone.
“Zac. It’s okay… it’s okay…” The words faded as the dream did, and Taylor suddenly found himself staring up at the top bunk, the two words echoing in his head. It’s okay… it’s okay… what was okay? Sighing, he threaded his hands behind his head, thinking hard. Zac. He’d dreamed about Zac. Something was wrong, Zac was scared, and crying… Taylor’d had him in his arms, holding on tight, but all Zac would say was “I can’t find you, I can’t feel you, where are you?” Weird. Shaking his head, he turned over, hoping to go back to sleep. “Just a dream.” He spoke the words to himself, part of him not believing it. It had felt so real. Was he so messed up that Zac spending the night with a friend undid him like this? Ugh. Terrible. He had to get his head together. Drifting, sleep creeping in, sudden burning in his stomach and throat tore him from his drowsing. Bolting upright, swallowing hard, he fought it down with everything he had. Not again. Not tonight. He reached for the water glass, set on a shelf just behind his head. Sip. Swallow. No good, still hurt, the burning in his stomach spreading up his chest, into his throat, even making his ears hurt. He knew it was only a matter of minutes before the pain was followed by nausea. Where was Zac? Zac was the only one who knew about this. Zac helped him. His mouth was watering, he wasn’t going to get away with anything tonight, he had minutes, at best, before vomiting started… He got up quietly, padding as quickly, and silently, as he could down the hall to the bathroom, praying nobody heard him.
“Zac?” Jay’s voice, soft and filled with concern, floated out on the night. “Zac, what is it? Will you talk to me?” He’d listened to Zac’s nearly silent sobbing, for almost an hour, feeling terrible. He’d never intended to say anything, not wanting to embarrass his friend, but he felt bad. Obviously something was really wrong. He had to say something. Now, praying Zac would answer him, he reached out, tentatively, gently setting a hand on Zac’s shoulder. “Zacko, what’s going on? C’mon. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be such a creep. Tell me what’s wrong?”
He sat up, looking down on the other boy. Zac looked terribly pale even in the moonlight, shivering, tears streaming down his cheeks. He turned onto his side, facing Jason, and fought to get his emotions back under control.
“Jay, you don’t even care, why should I even tell you?”
Jason shook his head, furious with himself.
“I do care, Zac, I’m sorry! I don’t know what I was doing today, I guess I was just mad. But I do care. Please tell me? Why are you crying? I’ve known you forever and you never cry about anything.”
Zac nodded, wiping his eyes. “I know, I just suck, don’t I?”
Jason shook his head. “No, Zac, but what’s wrong?”
Sighing, Zac sat up, sniffing, and rubbing at his eyes. He wanted to tell someone. Maybe it would make Jay feel better too. Who knew? Pulling the sleeping bag tighter around him, he stared up at the trees.
“Jay, I’m really sorry that I didn’t call or anything, while we were gone. It was just so weird. I felt really stupid, y’know? I knew I’d have to talk about it all, and I just felt… funny. I didn’t forget you, I didn’t forget any of you. But it was so much work, and I was so tired…” He trailed off, remembering. “There were days we did ten appearances in one day. Times I was sick, or someone else was, but we had to go anyway. And I had this thing, everyone thought I was so crazy, so wild and hyper, that I always had to act that way, or a hundred people wanted to know what was wrong. It was hard. I’d feel really tired, we’d have been up all night on a plane, and it’s eight hours off of where it was yesterday, and I’m having trouble just keeping my eyes open, and they want me to run around and act like an animal. It was just… get through the day, get through the day, and you can sleep. I never even thought about missing anyone. I was just hoping I wouldn’t die.”
Jason’s eyes went wide. “Zac, whoa, I thought you loved it!”
“I did. I do. But, it was really hard work. I never meant to blow you guys off, I just… got all caught in it.” He sighed now, bitterly. “Then Tay fell apart, and Ike got sick, and it all just went really really bad.” He shivered, hard, and Jay climbed out of the sleeping bag, reaching forward to tuck it up closer to Zac.
“I’m gonna make us a fire, you keep talking.” Zac nodded, smiling slightly.
“You got matches? I didn’t bring any.”
“No, but that’s okay.”
Zac snickered. “You think you can make a fire without matches?”
Jason looked down on him, hands on hips. “You think all that time in boy scouts didn’t teach me anything? I think I know how to make a fire, Zacko.” Zac watched silently, as Jason put together the makings for the fire.
“What happened, around here. Jay, while I was gone?”
Jason shrugged. “Nothing much. Things don’t change much. Here…” He gestured toward the newly built fire. “Get in closer to it, you’re shivering, really bad.”
Zac made a face. “Yeah, Jay, I kinda did notice that.” He slid closer to the fire, stretching his hands out toward its warmth. Jason sat down opposite him, absently dropping pine needles into the flames, watching them ignite.
“Zac, what were you crying about?” He expected Zac to brush it off, so amazement struck when the soft voice answered him.
“I don’t really know. I guess I wanted things to be different.”
Jay looked up, curious. “What things? Zacko, what happened while you were gone? What was it like? What happened to Tay? And to you?”
Zac sighed. His head was spinning, and he was fast approaching motion sickness. “Jay, you don’t really want to hear it.”
“Yeah, Zac, I do. I want to know what’s going on. I don’t understand anymore, why can’t we just be like we were?” Zac tossed him another handful of pine needles. “Here. Toys for you. How do you mean? Like we were?”
“Zac, I have to ask to go see you. I can’t get in your house unless my name is on some list…” Zac’s head shot up at that. This was the first he’d heard of it.
“List? What list? What do you mean you can’t get in?”
Jason nodded. “There’s a list. If you’re name’s not on, and mine’s not…” His scowl worried Zac. He had no idea what Jason was even talking about.
“Then you can’t go in the house. Jay, just walk up to the door!”
Jason laughed. “Zacko you have no idea even what’s going on in your own house.” Zac sighed again, and pulled the sleeping bag tightly around him. The fire wasn’t warming him up any.
“Jay, it was just crazy. You really want to hear it? How it really was?” Jason nodded, edging in closer to Zac. He reached into the backpack, pulling out the last two coke cans, wordlessly handing one to Zac, and popping the tab on his own.
“I really do. I wanted to know the whole time.” Zac nodded, sipping dubiously at his coke. The way he felt, he wasn’t at all sure that swallowing anything was a good idea.
“Jay, it was so cool, but it was crazy. We just never knew, from one day to the next, from one minute to the next, what might be gonna happen. It was like… where are we today?”
Jason nodded. “I can see that, you guys went everywhere. I remember one day, you were in three countries in one day.” Zac laughed at that.
“I know, it was like… have some jet lag. We’d fall asleep everywhere. I was so tired. It was fun, though. Mostly.” His expression dimmed now, the sparkle that had crept into his eyes, dulling. “It was fun for a while, anyway. But I don’t know… I missed you guys. I wanted to come home.” His eyes now went misty and far away. “There was no way to stand it, there were days that I just couldn’t keep going. They’d talk me into it.”
“Why not, Zac, what was so bad?”
“I don’t know. I was just so tired. And I never knew where I was, or what time it was, or what day it was. It was fun, we did so much fun stuff, but you know, I don’t even remember most of it. I know we went to Bali, but I don’t remember it. We went to Tokyo. I don’t remember it. It’s like… it’s all a big blur that doesn’t even mean anything. Just screaming girls and planes and cars and vans and smells… and I was carsick the whole time. I just… I wish I could remember it. I wish that it was going to be something special forever, but really, it’s all already gone. And it wrecked Tay. He’s never gonna get better.” His voice shook on the last words, and Jason moved closer, nudging him gently with his shoulder.
“Zacko, you said yourself that he’s better.” Zac shook his head.
“No. Jay, it was terrible. We didn’t know. We had no idea.” He stopped, swallowing hard as nausea suddenly backed up in his throat. Turning away from Jason, he fought it down, hoping it would work. He didn’t want to be sick. Gulping air, swallowing repeatedly, his efforts succeeded, as the nausea settled to a non threatening level. Sighing, shaky and sweating, he turned back to Jason. “Jay, this sucks, I really don’t feel good.”
Jason nodded. “No kidding, Zac, I figured that out. Maybe we better just head home.”
“Right” Zac snorted. “Middle of the night, and we have no idea where we are. We’d die of starvation in the woods, and hikers would find our skeletons next spring.”
He was surprised to hear Jason snicker. “Cool Zac. Gross…”
Giggling a little in spite of himself, he backed away from the fire a little.
“Jay, whatever I did that made you so mad, I didn’t mean to. I really didn’t forget any of you guys. It was just totally crazy, and now…”
“I know.” Jason reached out, pulling his friend a little closer to him. “I’m sorry, I was just being stupid. I shouldn’t have jumped the train either. Tomorrow…” He trailed off for a moment, prompting Zac to nudge him. “Tomorrow?” “Tomorrow, we’ll just go up to the road, and call someone, okay?” Zac grinned. “Maybe. Maybe not.” He could feel his eyelids drooping. “Now, though, all I want is sleep. I’m gonna fade out and start calling you “mom” or something.”
Jason recoiled in mock horror. “No! Ew! Okay, okay, I’ll shut up. Go to sleep, Zacko.” His tone turned more serious. “You gonna be okay?”
Zac shrugged, not at all sure how okay he was. “I don’t know. G’night, Jay.”
Jason nodded. “Yeah, night.”
“You gonna get back in the sleeping bag?”
Jay shook his head. “No, you’ll just puke on me or something. I’ll sleep out here. I’m warm.”
Zac laughed lightly. “Have it your way. Don’t wake me up if you get cold, though.”
“No, I won’t. “He settled back alongside the sleeping bag, reaching out to make sure Zac was covered completely. He wasn’t too sure about any of this. Soon enough though, his breathing slowed to match Zac’s, and both boys slept.