He was tired. Not just physically – although that made up a huge chunk of it – but also emotionally. Eugene had been extra attentive to him for quite some time now, always asking if his back was aching, even rubbing his lower spine every now and then when he asked the question. It was getting to him; it shouldn’t, but it was. For all he knew, it could have just been Eugene being a good friend after he found out that Zach’s AS was bothering him again. But it felt more than that. Sure, Eugene hates it when any of the Try Guys were in pain or upset, but recently, his attention – and affection? It had been focused on him, Zach, and what the taller man had been doing felt too much like flirting. He just thanked his lucky stars it’s a Friday and won’t see Eugene until Monday.
Honestly, he was flattered at the attention. He’s not a man’s man and was probably the most physically awkward member of the Try Guys, so it was a refreshing change to be the center of someone else’s attention. It shouldn’t have been bad, but ever since that lie detector test episode they made when Eugene kind of-sort of admitted that he wanted to fuck Zach, it just made him feel awkward around the guy. This made him all sorts of guilty because Eugene was – is – one of his best friends. The guilt didn’t settle in instantly, but after editing the video and seeing Eugene’s facial expression slightly fall when Zach was being asked if he had made out with some coworkers, it just hit home that maybe it wasn’t all a joke, even if Eugene said fucking him was ‘super gross’ near the end of the clip.
He really tried not to feel so awkward and guilty, tried so hard to act normal, but he felt like he’s kind of failing at it. This extra attention his friend was showing him might just be Eugene’s way of tearing down at that wall because he could feel the awkwardness between them. They had been quite close before all this shit went down. Not as close as him and Keith, but definitely closer than him and Ned. Zach had to admit, though, that it confused him and he didn’t want to think about it anymore. Besides, he’s straight, right? It shouldn’t bother him this much if he was confident with his sexuality, and of course, discovering that Eugene found him fuckable is making him question just that.
He had just thrown his bag on the couch when his phone vibrated. He sat with a loud groan and reached into his left pocket for his mobile. When he finally got it out, another groan escaped his lips. It was Eugene Lee fucking Yang calling. As if it wasn’t enough that he would spend an ungodly amount of time with the man daily, he had to bother him in his safe-haven too. It was enough to drive him up the wall.
He sighed deeply before answering. “Hey Eugene,” he said voice monotonous.
“You okay, dude?” he replied, his voice tinged with worry.
Zach wrinkled his nose and blew out air. “Yes, Eugene, I am. Did you need something?”
There was silence on the other line until Zach heard some shuffling in the background. “Uh, is this a bad time?” Eugene’s disembodied voice crackled out of Zach’s cellphone.
Zach huffed in annoyance. “What do you want, man? It’s been a long week,” he bit out.
“I was wondering if you’d like to grab a drink, but if this is a bad time...” Eugene finally said after a moment of silence.
Zach had to sigh again. He removed his eyeglasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I appreciate the offer, Eugene, but I’m just not in the mood for a night out,” he replied tiredly. He leaned his head against the backrest of his couch and closed his eyes.
He thought that was the end of it, but he was wrong. “No, I was thinking of hanging out at your place instead. I’ll bring the beer and food,” Eugene responded. Zach sighed again, the third that night.
“Fine, whatever. Just make sure the food isn’t anything spicy. I don’t want to take a shit every other hour.”
“Chinese good? Nothing Szechuan, I promise.”
“Sure, come on over,” Zach said, trying to hide the dejection in his voice. His mind has now gone to tidying up his place and disregarding the fact that he was hanging out with Eugene all night. Hopefully his friend won’t get too drunk that he’d have to stay over.
Half an hour of tidying up later, Zach heard his phone ring. He grabbed it off his coffee table and answered. “Hey, I’m at your door,” he heard Eugene say.
“Why can’t you just knock like normal people, Eugene?” Zach replied with a sigh as he walked towards the door. He opened it and hung up. Sure enough, Eugene as outside his house door, looking absolutely fuckable in black overall shorts, a black tank top and black boots, even-though he was holding a Chinese take-out bag and two six-packs.
“Because I’m not normal people,” Eugene replied with a smirk, one earphone in an ear so he could talk to Zach over the phone.
He wanted to shut the door at Eugene’s face. It was physically difficult for him to restrain himself from doing just that. It was bad enough that he had to go into this situation emotionally exhausted because he can’t get the man beyond his threshold out of his head, now he has to deal with having him in his home on a day that he was feeling extra vulnerable. It made him wonder why he even said yes to this proposition in the first place.
But he can’t back out of it now, not when Eugene was standing outside his house, looking completely delectable and shit that you just want to gobble him up. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t realize that he was staring at his friend for more than a minute now.
“Uhm, earth to Zach? Are you going to let me in?” Eugene said, looking partially worried and amused at the same time.
Zach looked away and opened the door wider. “Uh, yeah, sure, uhm…come on in.” He waited for Eugene to take three steps into his house before he shut the door and led the raven-haired man to his couch.
He turned and saw Eugene unpacking the stuff he had brought gingerly on the coffee table. He tried to avoid watching as the other man elegantly flopped on the couch, still taking out food containers from the bag he had brought. He physically shook his head to get the different thoughts plaguing his brain to disappear, to no avail. To say that the Asian man in his house was distracting him from all rational thought was an understatement.
He went to the kitchen silently to get some plates and stuff and walked back to the living room. He sat on his couch as well, keeping a modest distance from his friend and avoided eye contact. If Eugene noticed, he never showed any indication of it.
“I got your favorites from the Chinese restaurant near here, the one you like,” Eugene commented while handing him a food carton and a pair of chopsticks, effectively snapping Zach out of his jumbled thoughts.
Zach blinked twice, slowly so he can focus on Eugene again, instead of the discombobulated thoughts mashed in his brain right now. “Yeah, okay, thanks,” he replied mechanically, effectively avoiding his friend’s eyes by accepting the offered food and chopsticks.
He looked up at Eugene and saw the tail-end of a wince. “Are you sure you’re okay? Is your back bothering you again?” the taller man asked.
Zach sighed and started fumbling with the items in his hands. He had to ask or he will never be able to sleep well again. It was bad enough that his AS was causing him discomfort, now even his brain is giving him the same problem. He needed to ask.
“Eugene, why are you here?” he finally blurted out.
It was Eugene’s turn to blink, and the question caused a shift in his eyes, like blinds getting drawn away. Concern and fondness were evident in them. These emotions were swirling around behind his eyes, but they shuttered closed just as quickly.
“Just eat your food and don’t think about it too much, Zach,” the taller man replied quietly while pushing the carton of pot stickers towards the smaller man.
Zach did as he was told and took one of the pot stickers. He placed it in his mouth and chewed slowly as his thoughts took him into the farthest recesses of his mind. He was overthinking things, and he knew it, but Eugene sitting calmly beside him was wrecking havoc on his psyche. He could feel what little sanity he had left slipping away and he knew he had to cling to it before it disappears.
Zach stuck his chopsticks into his food carton and placed it on the table. “Eugene, seriously, why are you here? It’s Friday night. You should be out partying like you always do!” he blurted out, the frustration seeping into his voice.
He heard Eugene sigh as the taller man faced him. He watched as Eugene placed his food on the coffee table as well before taking a bottle of beer and opening it. He handed the bottle to Zach, who took it reluctantly. He opened another one and took a swig. After what felt like an eternity of silence, Eugene finally shifted in his seat to face Zach.
“Because I wanted to be with you,” he said simply before taking a swig from his beer. “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but recently, I don’t go out unless you’re with me.”
The response caused Zach’s jaw to drop slightly as he stared at his friend. “You...uh...you want...oh, okay...uhm...why?” Zach stammered through his reaction.
Eugene cocked his head coyly to one side and smiled knowingly. “Why do you think?”
Zach stared at Eugene in disbelief and stood abruptly. “Please stop playing games with me,” he retorted and briskly walked towards his bedroom, not caring that he was being a bad host by leaving his friend alone in the living room, in the middle of dinner. He went in and shut the door behind him before heading towards his bed. He sat down, the darkness swallowing him like a long lost friend.
The footsteps outside his bedroom door did not come as a surprise, although he had to admit it was unwelcome. He didn’t want to see Eugene; he was too confused to carry a decent conversation with the man.
But the universe seemed to be conspiring against him as he heard a knock on the door.
“Zach, come on, let’s talk about this. It’s not like I’m going to force you to have sex with me. That’s not what this is at all,” he heard Eugene’s muffled voice float into the silence of his bedroom.
“I really don’t want to talk, Eugene,” he replied, surprised that his voice was loud enough to carry outside the closed door.
He swore he could hear a deep sigh from his friend when the man heard his response. “Look, you don’t have to talk, but can you please hear me out? And can I please talk to you face to face instead of conversing with your fucking door?” He could hear the frustration growing in Eugene’s voice.
Zach groaned. He knew Eugene was not going to leave him alone unless they clear the air out. That was just how stubborn the man was, and he becomes more stubborn when his frustration levels increase. He stood and walked towards his bedroom door, flicking the light open as he turned the knob and pulled. Outside, Eugene was leaning against the doorway with a pleading look on his eyes that cleared the moment he saw Zach. It was replaced by tenderness and vulnerability, two things that were rarely visible in those black orbs. Zach opened the door wider and walked back to his bed, not checking if Eugene was following him. He sat and faced the Asian, looking up at him reluctantly. Eugene was just looking at him expectantly, and it dawned on him that the older man was waiting for an invitation to sit. Zach looked at his hands and smiled a little at the fact that Eugene wanted him to be comfortable, because he just knew how badly Zach wanted to bolt at that particular moment. He gave Eugene a small nod and the taller man sat beside him; not too close so as to make Zach any more uncomfortable than he already was, but not too far either that the conversation would feel impersonal. Zach appreciated the sentiment.
He heard Eugene clear his throat so he looked back at his friend expectantly.
“I know this is weird, Zach, because you know I’ve never been the type. This is probably the closest I’ve ever been to wearing my heart on my sleeve, and it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world for me - or for you either, I know. But this is real. I’m not playing games with you, nor would I want to. I’m also not sure about all of this, but I’m willing to give it a shot because it’s you and I care about you. We’re best friends and that’s never going to change regardless of where this is going to take us,” Eugene said. His monologue was heartfelt and sincere, Zach could feel it, but he was still confused.
“I still don’t understand all of this, Eugene. Why now? Why me?”
It was Eugene’s turn to sigh. Zach watched him as he braced his hands behind him and leaned back. “Why not? I’ve always found you attractive, Zach. I was just too much of a coward to admit to myself that I like you,” he replied nonchalantly.
Zach mulled over what Eugene had just said, still confused about everything. He had to admit, he didn’t find the idea deplorable, but he can’t say he was comfortable with it, either. Besides, he’s straight, right?
He was curious and just wanted to stop thinking about everything, so he did what his gut told him to do and ignored his mile-a-minute thoughts. He shifted a little closer to Eugene and looked at his hands.
“How long?” he asked, voice soft and tentative.
Eugene looked at him and straightened up. He could feel the heat radiating from the arm closest to him, and it kind of comforted Zach, which surprised the smaller man.
Eugene leaned a bit closer and smiled. “You know, I’m not really sure, but I think it’s been a while now. I think that was the reason why I kept flirting with you on camera, especially after our panel at UC Irvine. You’re just so adorable and charming and sweet, which makes you just that more likable than you already are.”
Zach was taken aback. “What? That panel was more than two years ago!” he exclaimed, which made Eugene chuckle in a self-deprecating way.
“I know, and let me tell you, you had been my wank-fodder for quite some time now. The way you flirted with me and how your tongue felt against my inner thigh almost made me cream my underwear right then and there! I had to discreetly cover my dick to prevent the entire university from seeing how hard you made me,” the raven-haired man said with a sheepish grin.
“Wh-what?” was all Zach could say without self-combusting where he sat. He could feel himself turning crimson from his chest to the roots of the hair on his head. The admission was shocking. He needed time to process what Eugene had just said.
Eugene laughed, fondness coloring the sounds emanating from his mouth. “You are so endearing when you get flustered!” he said. The words made Zach blush even more.
“I told you not to play games with me,” Zach mumbled, although a small smile had started forming on his lips. A few seconds later, he was chortling with Eugene and he attempted to lightly hit the taller man on the arm, but Eugene caught his wrist deftly. The laughter died from his and Eugene’s lips at the action, but both were smiling comfortably at each other. Zach licked his suddenly dry lips and bit the lower part of it. He saw Eugene follow the action with his eyes, his gaze never leaving Zach’s lips even after he was done.
The air around them suddenly felt heavy and electric with unvoiced emotions. Zach cleared his throat a bit and gently twisted the wrist that Eugene was still clinging to a bit to get the Asian’s attention. Eugene blinked rapidly, as if coming down from a high, and let go of Zach’s arm. There was tension in the air, still, but this time it was not uncomfortable and unwanted. As weird as it sounds, Zach kind of felt safe.
“Eugene, I-uh...I’m not exactly sure how I feel about all of this. I...I need to figure it out first. I don’t think it would be fair to you if I jump into something when I’m not even sure if I’m gay or what.”
Eugene nodded and started to stand up, which then caused panic to bubble up inside Zach. He reached out to grab Eugene’s arm and gripped a bit tightly. “N-not that I don’t find you attractive, Eugene, because I do. God knows how gorgeous and smart and talented and sexy I think you are, and my hesitance is not at all because of that. It’s...it’s...” Zach’ voice trailed off as he tried to look for the right words to say. He was rambling and he knew it. He was usually more eloquent than this, but he was stumped. Eugene Lee Yang has successfully stumped him.
He felt a warm hand cover the one that was clinging on to Eugene. He looked down and back up, only to see understanding and fondness in those deep, black eyes. He could drown in those eyes, and frankly, he’s not sure he would mind.
Zach was getting more and more confused as the seconds progressed, but he had to admit, he was getting more and more comfortable with the idea of Eugene liking him in a way that was not friendship. What he was confused about was his own emotions.
“Look, I know you’re straight, and that’s okay. I’m not expecting you to reciprocate how I feel about you. I really want to woo you, but I’m not sure if you’ll appreciate it.”
Zach was taken aback for the second time that day. “Woo me?” he squeaked out.
Eugene chuckled lightly at Zach’s reaction. “Yeah, woo.”
Zach felt excitement course up and down his spine at the thought. “I’ve never been wooed before!” he exclaimed.
Eugene’s giggle turned into a hearty laugh at Zach’s sudden eagerness. “Would you want me to?”
The question caused a shift in Zach’s brain. The anxiety started bubbling up again and he slowly closed his mouth. “I...I don’t know...” he quietly replied.
Eugene’s face softened and he inched closer to Zach. He removed the hand that was covering Zach’s and wrapped an arm around his shoulder instead. “Don’t think about it too much. This is all new to me too, and you know I’m not exactly in tune with my emotions. This is just as weird for me as it is for you. I decided to take a leap of faith and tell you how I feel not because I expected we would end up together. I told you all this because I wanted to clear the air. Things gave gotten so awkward between us, and it sucked balls so bad, I just wanted it to stop. You’re my best friend, Zach. Nothing’s ever going to change that.”
Zach let go of the breath he didn’t realize he was holding and wrapped his arms around Eugene’s torso. He could feel the taller man stiffen a bit at his actions, but Eugene eventually melted into the embrace and returned it, his hug tight and warm and comforting.
“You’re my best friend too, Eugene,” Zach muttered, his voice muffled by the arm that was covering his face.
Zach felt Eugene’s hug tighten a bit more and he gave a contented sigh. “Come on, let’s finish our dinner. Want to watch that new horror movie on Netflix?”
Zach knew he still had to figure out all these jumbled up emotions he was feeling, but he decided to set all those aside and just enjoy the company of his friend. He nodded as he let go of Eugene and stood. He offered his hand to his friend, which the taller man took and they went back to the living room hand in hand.
He’ll continue mulling over things tomorrow, but for now...for now, this was enough.