Summary: In which Zac Efron meets some dude in a band, which might or might not have a punctuation-mark in the name, and he actually has some fun. No, seriously.
Rating: mild R
Spoilers and/or Warnings: None in particular. Oh, Zac Efron.
Notes: When I first saw this story, I grinned and moved on; but I kept going back to it because I thought it was awesome and decided to give it a go. Thanks to my betas, naotalba and sobota and those I pestered for information about Panic at the Disco and Zac Efron.
Original story: the chances of feeling by catchmelike
The Teen Choice awards are like a huge, screaming party and Zac is still unsure if he's supposed to be having a good time, but his agent had promised that he would have so much fun.
Actually, his agent had said, with a voice designed to melt rocks, that he would have fun and like it, he would present those pearly whites to the wall of flashbulbs, shrieks and sobs, he would be all tanned, wholesome, well-pressed and just Zac Goddamn Efron. Zac had decided to just go with the flow, because he is really just that kind of guy.
"Besides," his agent had sniffed, and there had been the sound of paper shuffling quickly over the phone-line, "Vanessa is going to be there. We're going to have to show everyone that you're fine! You're totally fine without her, you know what I'm saying? You get it? Are you feeling me here? Talk to me, Z."
"I'm feeling you." Zac had sounded fairly relaxed to his own ears at the time, but it still was kind of a strain. One of his dogs had placed its head in his lap as he lounged in his sofa, commiserating with soft, snuffling sounds. Zac rubbed between its ears affectionately. "And hey, it's all about fun, right?"
"That's my boy," his agent had said heartily before hanging up.
He's doing a great job of 'having fun' now, though. On the carpet, he bends politely close to the interviewers to hear their questions and he smiles at their compliments of his clothing; he signs a few autographs and ducks into the venue to suffer through the show; by the time he sees Vanessa at the after-party, the headache thrumming at his temples is like, such amazing good times.
The first thing Vanessa says, when they're face to face in the middle of a disaffected and yet morbidly curious crowd, is, "Are you okay?" Her dark eyebrows are pulled together in concern, and she looks about four times more beautiful than she normally does and Zac thinks, Yeah, I'm not going to deal with this right now. I'm supposed to be Having Fun.
So he gives her an easy smile and says, "Sure, I'm great." He nearly bites his tongue to stop himself from calling her 'babe', or some other endearment that had been perfectly applicable up until a few months ago, and points towards a random corner. "I'm just going to go over there."
"Zac," she says quietly as he tries to slip past her, and her fingers rest on his wrist. He stops, he's a damned gentleman, okay? His mom taught him that much, at least. "Are we--?"
"It's fine," he lies, but because they were actually friends first, she nods with one of her wry, knowing smiles and lets go. "We're good. We're fine."
"Okay, Zac." She turns away from him and out of the corner of his eye, he can see her cheeks rise in another one of those well-practiced smiles, poised on the knife-edge of sultry and cute, and he moves on. He's practically within that oasis of a secluded corner before he realises that there's someone there already, dressed in dark clothes: a goofy-looking dude who has an expression that is a mix of exasperation and boredom. While Zac can relate, he thinks that this look that doesn't quite fit this slender, crazy-haired dude. He rummages in his brain for a reason why he would think something like that, until he realizes that he saw this dude yesterday, face cheerfully looking out from the liner notes of a CD one of his friends had yanked out of Zac's own collection.
Fear... or Panic. At... somewhere, Zac doesn't quite recall the name of the band this guy sings for; but it's a very strong emotion (he's pretty sure it's Panic) occurring in an incongruent location, it'll come to him soon. He's much better at names than this, but he isn't afraid to admit that he's almost completely out of it right now.
"Do you mind? I need to get away for a second," Zac asks and raises an eyebrow at the way this Panic dude blinks at him slowly, like someone who was just waking up and really didn't welcome the whole process. The guy finally focuses properly on Zac, and yeah, there's that flash of hey it's that guy in his face; actually Zac isn't sure, this guy is pouting a little.
He frowns slightly at Zac's direction for a beat, before he apparently remembers his manners and goes, "Oh yeah, no, go ahead."
Honestly? Zac would have gone ahead anyway, even if the guy had said, Go away dancing queen, because right now, he's about a step away from a hasty retreat out of this place, complete with a screaming fit and he doesn't want to make his agent cry. "Thanks," he tells Panic-guy, and leans against the wall, looking out at the glittering, snide world to which they both belong. He can feel the guy looking at the side of his face, and doesn't turn his head. Take a picture, man. "It's all a little much."
"Yeah," Panic agrees; his voice is a lot deeper than Zac thought it would be, and a little coarse. It's an okay voice, though, hinting of what it can do under other circumstances. "Wait, isn't this, like, your element? Shouldn't you be lording over your Disney Kingdom or something?”
Zac looks over at him now, and instead of getting infuriated with this dude, as he's entitled to, because come on now, he just feels a little amused. The cranky look is gone from the guy's face and he just appears innocently curious. There's really nothing calculating behind it; the remark is snide only by itself. With no weight on that broken issue between him and Vanessa, it's all kind of refreshing, to be honest.
"So you did recognize me," Zac says, slipping into a teasing mode. It's surprisingly easy to do that; it takes his mind off Nessa over there. He grins a little at Panic guy, who squints back at him. "I thought so."
Panic-guy claims that he's a bit hard to miss, and Zac wants to laugh at that, for some reason. He finds it just a little hilarious, actually, especially when Panic-singer-dude goes into a long explanation about how his niece loves the movies. Right.
"Swears she's going to marry Troy Bolton," Panic-guy finishes with a dismissive wave of his hand, and why Zac feels like chuckling is beyond him. It's just that... he doesn't even know.
"I hear that a lot," he says in his best really, now tone, and is a little gleeful when a dark look passes over the singer's face.
"It's true," he insists, almost plaintively, and Zac can't hold back his laughter.
"I didn't say it wasn't." He's trying to be placating now, because the guy is looking away, obviously searching for an out, and Zac doesn't want him to go. "Where's the rest of your band, man. Shouldn't you be tearing up a hotel room with them, instead of hanging around in a corner all night?"
Panic-guy looks as if Zac had reached over and tapped him on the chin, he's blinking that rapidly. "What?" he asks and raises both eyebrows when Zac repeats his question.
"You know my band?" he asks, his face a lot more pleased than he probably thinks it is and aww, it's a little cute.
Of course Zac knows his band, but he really can't help himself, really. He twists his mouth to one side and gives Panic-guy a long look out of the corner of his eye, before saying flatly: "Is that surprising for some reason? I don't actually spend my days singing along to my fellow Disney stars."
The guy actually flushes red and flails a little, trying to do some damage control and failing spectacularly, but Zac just grins at him as he gives up. He actually turns towards Panic-guy a little, smirking at him as they exchange some more quick barbs. Zac's headache is completely gone by the time the dude challenges, "Why don't you tell me, Disney Guy, exactly what is it that you like about my band?"
The audacity, Zac thinks with a mental peal of laughter, and returns pointedly, "I'm sorry, who are you again?" He suddenly realises, he doesn't even know this dude's name.
The guy looks as if he's ready to rally back with a quick reply, eyes shining as his gaze bores into Zac's, but suddenly there is someone hovering at his elbow.
"Hey, Brendon," this other guy says and then gives Zac a very long stare. Brendon, Zac notes; nice name. The new guy turns his face in Brendon's direction, but his glance remains on Zac for a moment, even as he addresses Brendon. "We're getting ready to head back to the hotel. You ready to go?"
"What?" Brendon looks as taken-aback as Zac feels. They look at each other and Zac feels like dropping a conspiratorial wink on him, but his friend is staring at them both, so that might not be such a good idea. "Oh, oh, yeah. Just a second." Brendon grins widely at him when his friend slips off. "So, hey, cool to meet you and all. I'll look for you at the next show, since you love my band so much."
Oh man, Zac could honestly do this all night. "Yeah, well, I'll be sure to make sure you're on the guest list of the next movie. I'm sure you'd love to meet the whole cast."
"I'll tell my niece. She'll be thrilled." Brendon's tone is withering, even as a smile splits his face. "See you around."
As he walks off, Brendon glances back at him a few times before he joins his band at the other end of the room. They spend a few minutes there, conferring with each other before leaving. Zac realises that Vanessa is looking at him when he's leaving too; he gives her a what? tilt of his head and she narrows her eyes at him.
"Did you have fun?" His agent asks him in a meeting the next day and gazes at him suspiciously when Zac claims with great cheer, "Oh! Sure, yeah, I really did."
"Vanessa says you were flirting with the lead singer of, uh, Panic at the Disco?" Corbin whispers loudly at an interview they're doing. Ashley giggles in shock and Zac rolls his eyes.
"What? It wasn't flirting," Zac says calmly, running a hand through his hair and making sure that the strands are lying right; sometimes they all just go awry, ignoring the stylist's desperate attempts.
"It was," Vanessa insists and glares at Zac. "He's trying his best to get over me. It was a very convincing attempt, it kind of breaks my heart."
Zac really loves her, he does, even now, but for fuck's sake.
"Dude, that is kind of sad," Corbin mutters, and smiles brightly as the first interviewer sits down.
"Can't two guys talk without it being flirting?" Zac asks the ceiling as they wait for the next person. "We could have been talking about... his band. Or their shows. Or music. We're both musically inclined, I don't know if you've noticed."
"We've noticed," Lucas sighs, looking boneless and slightly rumpled in his chair. "Trust me, we've all noticed. May I get a bottle of water, please?"
"When is his next show, then?" Vanessa hands Lucas his water without looking and stares at Zac. "Hmm?"
"Soon," Zac shoots back. "You know what? I might actually go, too. Closing the goddamn door, whatever, I know that song. I'm into it."
"What?" Ashley laughs. "Oh man. Want me to call Miles, get you on the guest list? She knows that... West. Or is it Weiss? Peter Weiss? Anyway, she knows that guy's boss."
Zac pats her hand gratefully. "You pull your strings, do what you have to."
Lucas is looking at them all with a wry expression, while Vanessa rolls her eyes.
"Were you really flirting?" Corbin presses and grins impishly when Zac snaps, "Yes, Blue, yes, we were."
It's a few more hectic weeks of Vanessa giving him disbelieving stares before Zac gets hold of Pete Wentz. Actually, Zac suffers through Miley's assistant, then Miley's dad and then through Miley's rambling chatter before he gets Pete Wentz's number. He calls it and leaves a message; usually he'd have an assistant do this for him, but he didn't feel like it.
When Pete calls back, he kind of wishes that he had.
"I was just wondering if you could get me into the next Panic show," Zac says, going straight to the point. Very clear and precise.
"Wait, what," Pete Wentz says after a long pause and Zac actually pulls the phone away from his ear and gives it an irritated glare. "What, what are you saying," Pete Wentz continues, as if he's on the brink of laughing. "You want to go to a Panic show? You?"
"Yes," Zac says through his teeth. "I'd really like that."
"Oh." There's another long silence and Zac hears a baby fussing in the background. "No, sorry, you can't, no."
"Excuse me? I can't?" Zac asks stiffly, a little insulted and a whole lot more disappointed than he thought he would have been. "Well, in that case--"
"Chill, I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to my kid, he likes eating my notes," Pete Wentz says and Zac remembers that he had created another human being with Ashlee Simpson, imagine that. He sounds really warm and happy when he says the word 'kid' and Zac thinks that maybe he's not too much of an asshole. "Yeah, I can get you on the guest-list for tonight's show."
"Yeah, they're over in LA for tonight."
He can hear Pete Wentz smirking over the line. Wow, if he's Panic's boss, Zac suddenly feels a deep rush of pity for Brendon. "Sure," Zac exhales. "Tonight is good, it's fine."
"Great! Bye, Troy!" Pete crows and hangs up quickly.
Zac squeezes his eyes shut and tries not to grit his teeth. He kind of needs them for photographic purposes.
Panic at the Disco is kind of weird and there are a few moments where Zac shakes his head incredulously; there is a great deal of screaming as well, but Zac is used to that.
"So much screaming," his friend Shane moans in resignation. Shane hadn't wanted to come, but Zac had begged, then threatened and then begged again. "Why is there is so much screaming?"
But it's fun; Brendon is really chatty and he smiles a lot. He has a nice voice, in a rolling, full way. Zac folds his arms and watches Brendon prance around from mike to guitar to piano; and for some reason he can't stop grinning.
"Okay, okay," Brendon says after one costume change, dressed in the top-hat from before and a simple shirt and jeans. "Yeah, so. Who likes Disney movies?"
"Oh god," Shane groans as a mixture of boos and cheers rises from the crowd. "Please, no."
"Shut up," Zac tells him and looks at the stage in amusement. He can't believe that they're going to do that, but they launch into a very sultry version of Scream. "Not bad," he murmurs and Shane gags beside him.
As punishment, he drags Shane backstage with him when the show is finished, to see Brendon. He flashes his pass at the band's security, who looks at his face underneath his baseball cap with surprise.
"One minute," the security-dude rumbles and disappears inside. When he comes back, he's followed by Brendon, who looks far shorter than he does onstage; strange how that is, Zac thinks.
"You look a lot different with that hat on," Brendon blurts out, blinking at him.
"Yeah, I know."
"Shane," Shane says, sticking out his hand for Brendon to take. "Friend of the Heartthrob."
"Oh, awesome, I have a friend named Shane too," Brendon grins and out of the corner of his eye Zac can see the rest of the band peering at them out of the dressing room, before it closes again quickly. "I'm. What do you want to... I don't know, I think we have a thing later?"
"No, B," someone's muffled voice comes from behind the door. "We have nothing later."
"Oh, thanks Jon. Ok, yeah, nothing later. So we could hang out. If you want," Brendon says, giving Zac a considering look and Zac shrugs.
"Yeah, if you want."
Shane is giving both of them large eyes, and Zac knows that he will get about fifty phone calls tomorrow. Maybe seventy. Three-quarters of them will be from his agent. "I'm gonna jet," Shane says slowly. "Will I see you tomorrow, Z? In one piece?"
"Yeah, B here will take care of me, right?"
"I'll just throw you to the fans," Brendon says drily, and ducks back inside.
"Here you go," Zac says and hands back the concert-ticket to the girl that had given to him; his signature almost overwrites Brendon's, who wrinkles his nose at him.
"You really think he's the better dancer?" Brendon asks the group of girls accusingly. "Come on, I have better natural moves. It's all in the hips."
The girls titter and they manage to escape into a nearby bar.
"Is this good for your image, Z?" Brendon asks as they sit side-by-side and wave down the busy bartender.
"Is this good for your voice, B?" Zac counters and Brendon lifts his bottle in a mocking toast.
"So. I guess you liked the show." Brendon sips at his drink nonchalantly and Zac feigns shock.
"Wait, that was a show?"
"I hate you, Disney-boy," Brendon gripes and then says, "Also, I apologise for the fact that you had to talk to Pete. It must have been traumatic for you."
"I was in tears," Zac deadpans. "I can't believe that dude has a child to raise."
"Honestly?" Brendon leans closer with a wide grin and Zac can smell the alcohol on his breath. "Pete can't believe it either."
Brendon fields a few texts as they mock each other, and there is a hilarious one from his band-mate about the room being free if he needs privacy later. Haha, very funny.
Brendon drinks a lot more than Zac does; he actually gets a little giggly, but Zac finds it all very amusing. His head is spinning a little, though and he hears himself arguing with Brendon about if he should take a cab home or stay.
In Brendon's room at the hotel. With Brendon.
The thought of it is a little more attractive than he wants to admit, and it's kind of not funny anymore, but hey, image. He can't stop staring at Brendon, either, who is looking back with widening eyes.
"Dude," Zac begins slowly, "I don't think that's a good--"
"No!" Brendon exclaims, waving hands around wildly. "No, literally. I mean, it's, like, a twin room. There are two beds and stuff. So you can just sleep there, or whatever."
Zac thinks that this Spencer is probably dicking around about the whole room thing, and he says so, but Brendon's face actually lights up at the prospect.
Zac really likes the mischief in his face. Plus, the fact that Brendon can't remember the room number for about ten minutes, that's just part of the fun.
"Is this an actual bromance?" Zac's friend Shane is near tears a few days later, when he shows Zac a TMZ article about him eating pancakes in some musician's room. The article is gleefully juxtaposing this with information about what Vanessa was doing at roughly the same time, but Zac doesn't read that far; partly because he doesn't want to know, and partly because he just doesn't care as much. "You spent the night in his room. Oh fuck. There are a million teen-age hearts breaking right now... or they're celebrating, I'm still not sure."
Zac's agent is also kind of livid when he finds out, especially the part about Zac's apparent enjoyment of eating pancakes with Brendon very early in the morning.
"Something I should know, Z?" His agent's tone of voice is very troubled. "Something you need to tell me? Just so I can know what to do if anything blows up."
"No," Zac answers after he stops staring incredulously at his phone. "Can't two people eat pancakes together in bed anymore?"
"Okay," his agent says very slowly. "Okay, okay. I'm gonna… Zac."
Zac is grinning evilly. "Yeah?"
"Are you sure that you don't want to tell me anything?" His agent is indeed deeply disturbed; he is probably imagining the sound a million teen hearts would make when they crack, a sound very similar to the one made when they stop buying Zac-based merchandise.
"Well," Zac considers. "Actually, I have a deep confession to make. It might break your world in half. Here goes: I had some surprisingly awesome pancakes."
Brendon calls a few weeks later, not that Zac was counting or anything; but he does answer the phone with a big warm grin on his face when the number flashes on the screen.
"B. Urie," he says, grinning as he tucks his phone between his ear and shoulder, holding onto his dog's leash and making sure his shades aren't tilted too much. There are a couple of photographers walking backwards in front of him, but he keeps his face down as he continues to smile. "Welcome back, man."
There is a throaty chuckle as a response. "So you have my name in your phone, awesome," Brendon says, sounding pleased. "I was thinking that you'd have that singer guy, or something."
"Wow, how did you guess?" Zac says very seriously, but laughs immediately afterwards. "Okay, so I have you as That Panic Dude, you weren't far off."
"I'm really glad," Brendon replies in a flatly amused voice, "that you remember me that way. Hey, as a matter of fact, that is what I want on my tombstone. 'That Panic Dude: the one that sang'."
"Consider it done, my friend." Zac tugs on the leash a little; the dog turns and gives him a withering look, as only dogs can.
"I was wondering," Brendon starts, tone more hesitant than usual and Zac stops walking, scratching one arm and ignoring one of the paps that calls his name urgently, "We're having a kind of barbecue thing at Pete's house, and so. If you want."
"When is it?" Zac asks curiously, walking on again. The afternoon is warm and friendly at the back of his neck; the air is not too muggy, which is always a win in Zac's book.
"Oh. I have… this thing, this promo thing in the morning, so--"
"I mean, if you don't want to come, you don't have to, it's cool," Brendon says stiffly.
"No," Zac cuts in with a grin, "No, I'd love to be there. It's not every day you see emo in its natural habitat."
"Fuck off, man." Brendon's voice is gruff but there is a fondness there that actually so surprising that Zac stops walking and his dog huffs impatiently, aggrieved at this staccato stroll. "So. I'll see you in the, uh, in the afternoon, whatever."
"Yeah, give me the address." Zac doesn't have a pen, but he has a very good memory so he makes Brendon repeat the location. There is an awkwardly fun moment where the both of them are urging the other to hang up and it's so juvenile that Zac can't get over it.
"New girlfriend, Zac?" a pap shouts as he snaps his phone shut with a grin.
"Not really," Zac calls back and the dog does the let's get the fuck outta here leash-pull as more interrogatives are flung in his hasty retreat.
Pete Wentz's house is overrun with a plethora of bizarre dudes that stare at Zac as he weaves through them on his way to the kitchen, where Brendon is rumoured to be. Most of them are covered with tattoos and they give his unadorned arms considering looks.
"Hey, Disney," Brendon says when he stumbles into the kitchen by accident. He's barely perched on a stool, a wide grin on his face. He's also wearing the dorkiest pair of glasses Zac have ever seen. "You made it."
"Barely." Zac looks around at the take-out boxes on the counter. "So. Barbecue?"
Brendon shrugs. "We're lazy. And Pete isn't allowed around fire. Where's your entourage? You know, to break into encouraging songs about the teenage experience."
"I left them in the car," Zac tells him seriously. "I can't afford another ticket for disturbing the peace."
Brendon laughs like a dork too, and Zac grins at the sound.
"Troy Bolton is here!" Someone bellows obnoxiously and there are boos coming from the living room. "Fuck you! Also, I'm surprised that you all know who that is. Spencer Smith, I'm looking at you."
"My boss, Pete Wentz," Brendon explains as the man himself skitters into the room and slings an arm around Brendon's neck. Another dude walks in, and his glasses make Brendon's pair look positively suave. "And Patrick."
"Hey," Patrick says in the resigned tone of someone who likes their sleep and hardly gets it, while Pete twinkles at Zac the whole time. They make idle chatter and Zac discovers that Pete Wentz isn’t that big a dickhead in the flesh… he's just a tiny dickhead. Zac doesn't know how his band hasn't killed him as yet. He offers his help, and Patrick considers this deeply.
"I mean, we need him," Patrick finally says thoughtfully. "Joe would probably have a hard time if he's gone."
Pete's son, Bronx, looks nothing like Pete when Brendon finally gets him in hand. He looks at Zac with a flat suspicion, the same way a couple of Brendon's band-mates stare in their direction now and again… although Bronx bestows this same expression on nearly everyone, including his own father.
"He smiles for his mom and Patrick," Brendon explains as he bounces the chubby, surly child on his knee. Bronx seems to consider this a contravention of baby-bouncing regulations. "But he's a really sweet baby. Want to hold him?"
"I'm not as good with kids as you are." Zac eyes the baby warily. The baby eyes him in return and Zac imagines that he is plotting some kind of worldwide doom; with Wentz for a father, that idea doesn't seem as ridiculous as it should. "I'm generally not very good with people, actually. I only pretend to be."
"Liar." The side of Brendon's full mouth is quirking with humour. "I see you with the ladies. I know your evil plan."
"Foiled again," Zac grins and the both of them wince when the big television suddenly blares the theme song for Hannah Montana, counterpoint to Pete's cackling. Zac wonders aloud where Ashlee might be as some more rocker-types wander into the kitchen and rummage like the homeless through the boxes of food.
"She has escaped this madness," Brendon tells him. "And found comfort in shopping."
If this is what she has to endure, Zac thinks, then Ashlee Simpson-Wentz is much smarter than everyone thinks she is.
"I'm glad you're finding an outlet with that Brian dude. Brendon, whatever," Vanessa tells him over brunch, and Zac laughs so hard, he nearly chokes. She saves his life by smacking him on the back with the flat of her hand (and the tabloids will probably record it as a fight); he loves her, he really does, but for fuck's sake.
"Yeah." He sips some more water and waves at the concerned frown of the waiter. "I'm okay."
"Alright," the waiter replies, but his face implies that Zac Efron better not expire on his shift.
"Are you dating him?" Vanessa asks, her eyes large and sad. Zac chooses between gaping and choking again; he gapes, because it's a lot less painful. "Because… I don't mind, I don't think so, but I really don't know if I turned you gay or something. I don't want to be That Woman."
"Hold up." Zac stares at her. "What the hell are you smoking?"
"Lakers' finals," she persists, her face stubborn and uncomfortable, but determined. "You guys went to all the games."
"We both like basketball."
"He's actually not bad at it," Zac contemplates, and then grins at the memory of Brendon laughing delightedly as the waves crash over his body. "Taught me couple of things."
"You met him six weeks ago."
"Call the Social Police," Zac says dryly. "Zac Efron hangs out with people he likes."
"I know you're like this big friendly puppy and you're all about the fun, but you should be careful, okay?" She runs a hand through her hair and then props her knuckles delicately under her elfin chin. "You hear me, Zac? People talk," she finishes in an uncharacteristic mumble.
"I hear you, Vans," he responds, wondering if she thought he was blind. He sees the fucking tabloids too. He doesn't say anything though, he simply watches as she picks at the rest of her lunch.
He's thinking too hard to be hungry anymore.
Zac is spacing out in his living room and he snaps back to the here-and-now only when Brendon pinches in the side him for not paying attention to the movie they're watching.
"How dare you." Brendon is indignant. "We're watching John McClane and you're zoning out on me. You fail, fucker, you missed the yippie-ki-yay."
All of Zac's other friends had managed to escape Zac's clutches, leaving Brendon to withstand the onslaught of an action movie marathon. Thank goodness that Brendon seems to run on high octane, because there's a couple more Die Hards to go through and maybe tonight will be a Bruce Willis night, because Zac has a soft spot in his heart for the Fifth Element.
"I said it," Zac defends himself now and smirks at Brendon's scowl. "I said with the power of my mind."
Brendon narrows his eyes, but goes back to watching an inordinate amount of explosions, leaning forward a little beside Zac to concentrate on the movie. Zac is trying to find something to say, maybe Brendon is hungry or thirsty or something, when Brendon says, "Ryan's been getting on my case about you. It's fucking annoying, to be honest."
Brendon shrugs with a kind of affected casualness and then turns his head to smile at Zac. "Yeah. Apparently, you're too pretty for me."
"I get that a lot," Zac says absently and then raises his eyebrows when the sentence sinks into his skin some more. "Oh. Yeah, well--"
"I told him that I have my own kind of rugged attractiveness," Brendon continues, turning back to watch a series of ass-kickery on the screen. "It's not polished to an unrealistic perfection, like yours, but I'm more genuine, I'm thinking."
"I can't decide if you're complimenting me or insulting me," Zac pouts.
"Do with it what you will," Brendon laughs and he stops abruptly when Zac leans forward and slides his hand unto the back of Brendon's neck, squeezing slightly, Brendon's hair brushing against his fingers. Brendon looks at him out of the corner of his eye but he says nothing and does not resist when Zac pulls him close and kisses him on the mouth.
It's not something he had thought about. Honest; and he doesn't even stick his tongue into Brendon's mouth, because Zac Efron is a Gentleman, most times. But it's weird because he hasn't ever kissed another dude without the parameters of an established bet and vodka and it's nice because… well, Brendon's mouth is really, really nice.
"Okay," Brendon says carefully as he pulls back. "What was that?"
"I don't know." Zac leans back against the comfortable frame of the sofa, frowning a little. One of the dogs wanders in to check on them, verifies Zac's continued existence and shuffles back out. "Dude, I'm sorry, I don't know."
"I don't mind." Brendon sounds a little too cheery and Zac exhales worriedly. "Remember, Pete Wentz is the king of making-out with other dudes. I've been a victim to his experimentation. It's like being pounced on by a small, starving leopard."
"Don't worry about it." Brendon settles back beside him. "It's cool."
"It's just that I've never--"
"Fucking relax." Brendon rolls his eyes at him. "I know I'm like a gateway to questioning your sexuality, I get that, but can we do it when the credits roll?"
"I'm fine with my sexuality," Zac tells him stiffly but when the movie is finally over, Brendon gets up, says he has to make like a tree and lets himself out.
"Think I fucked that up?" Zac asks when another of his dogs makes an obligatory check. "I think it's all gone to the dogs now. Get it, boy?"
From the dry look he's given, it's really apparent that the dog doesn't get it.
"So," Brendon says as he looms over Zac, blocking out the sunlight. "I'm back."
"I can see that." Zac doesn’t remove his shades; he's not mad that Brendon went off on some long-ass tour the day after that awkward kiss and didn't say shit, because he has nothing to be mad about. Nothing at all.
"You're pissed off," Brendon observes and sits beside his lounge chair. "I'm sorry. Give me some of your beer."
"Urie, you're pretty much fucking impossible," Zac observes as he tries to keep his bottle from Brendon's grabby hands. "Who told you I was at the beach? Get your hands off my beer. There are cameras all over, don't be an attention-whore, now."
"Fuck the cameras. And it was a lucky guess, although nearly everybody knows you like to show off your chest, so it wasn't a stretch, you know? Come on, please?" He manages to snatch it away from Zac and takes a long drink, head tilted back and throat moving with his gulps. Zac stares at the horizon; he'd missed Brendon. It was pretty shocking, the extent of that hollow feeling. Maybe Vans had been right, he had pondered darkly as he went to lunch with his friends and continued to be good old Zac Efron; maybe he should have been more careful.
"So I was kind of more freaked out than I thought I was." Brendon looks at the now-empty bottle cradled in his hands and Zac blinks at his closed-off expression. "Mainly because I didn't want you to stop."
"Ah," Zac murmurs and he can feel the sudden, smug grin stretching across his features when Brendon glances at him.
"Get over yourself," Brendon lectures witheringly, eyebrows stern but eyes amused and relieved. Then he frowns fully. "I called you a couple times when we were in Singapore. And once in London."
"I saw." Zac reaches over and takes another beer out of his handy little cooler, popping it open and handing it to Brendon before retrieving one more for himself. "I ignored the calls on principle. Don't ask me what the principle is now, I forgot."
"The mind of a teen idol," Brendon mourns as he settles more comfortably beside Zac's leg, sitting just in front and to the side, drinking contentedly. Zac can feel the heat of Brendon's body against the skin of his thigh. "Like a sieve. But forgiveness all around, dude, you know how it goes. So!" He toasts Zac with a clink of their bottles, drinks and belches obnoxiously. It's completely gross and Zac laughs right out loud. "Where do we go from here?"
"No idea," Zac admits but Brendon is grinning up at him, so he smiles back. It's pretty easy to do so.
"That's cool," Brendon says, turning back to watch the sun setting. "That's just fine by me. You ruin my image, but I'll deal because I like you a lot. You're bad for me. Pete said so."
Zac thinks about pouring his beer over that shaggy hair, but he simply shifts his leg so that he can press his sandy toes against the sliver of pale skin that is exposed between the top of Brendon's jeans and the bottom of his shirt. Fleetingly, he wonders if someone will take a picture of it and hopes his agent doesn't go too ballistic.
"Yeah," he agrees and settles back. "It's cool."