I posted an extra bit of story to celebrate Home Team’s release day. This is Aaron and Zach’s very first actual date–more than 15 years ago.
Aaron doesn’t know it’s a date until he gets to the dorm, asks for Zach Ellison at the security desk, and the guard tells him that he’s on the list.
“What list?” Aaron asks, taking back his student ID and slipping it into his wallet.
“The kids tell me if they’re having guests over. If you’re on the list, I don’t have to call people down to the desk to confirm who you are before I let you in.” He points Aaron towards the elevator. “Have a good time. Curfew is midnight.”
Zach put his name on a list, which means Zach told someone Aaron was coming over. He catches his grin in the reflection from the elevator wall, warped by a dent some kid kicked into the metal.
When Aaron steps out onto the fourth floor, he steps into a dance party. A girl in a plastic tiara and a pink feather boa wrapped around her neck grabs his hand and twirls them around. Aaron takes the ride, but he’s quick to extract himself. He bows, like he learned in ballet class all those years ago, and thanks her for the dance.
Most of the dorm room doors are open, so it’s easy to find Zach. He’s reading a thick textbook in a red plaid chair, his feet propped up on the door frame. He’s wearing shorts, and his long legs are blocking Aaron’s entrance. So he leans back against the far wall and waits for Zach to notice him, enjoying his view.
“Hey, loser.” Another voice, from inside the room, draws Zach’s attention. “Your boyfriend’s here.” Zach looks back, and that’s when he sees Aaron. He jumps up, catching his falling textbook in one hand.
“Hi!” His voice is high and tight, and if the dance party didn’t have strobe and colored lights flashing through the halls, Aaron could be more sure about the blush on Zach’s cheeks. “Sorry about him.” He waves a dismissive hand at the person hiding in the dark. “He’s leaving,” Zach says, a pointed reminder for his friend.
The guy shakes Aaron’s hand as he passes by, carrying a backpack and grabbing a coat before he leaves. “Nice game on Saturday,” he says.
Aaron can barely choke out his thanks. Just the idea that this guy—Zach’s roommate—knows who he is and what he’s doing here, it clenches like a fist around his heart. He turns on his heels, and he wants to run.
“Ignore him,” Zach says. “I always do.” He seems unsure of his smile, but it calms Aaron right away. He leans against the door and lets himself look. Zach is wearing green shorts and a T-shirt with a whale on it. Instead of trying to figure that out, Aaron looks over Zach’s shoulder and into the room behind him because he doesn’t want to get caught checking out Zach’s pale thighs, knobby knees, and bare feet.
“Are we missing the party?” he asks.
“Oh, no,” Zach says. He moves out of the doorway to let Aaron in. “We can hang out in here.” He closes the door behind them.
This is a date, Aaron thinks. This isn’t friends hanging out. This isn’t going out with a group. A boy Aaron likes has invited him back to his room, and now Aaron has to figure out what to do.
“Want to watch something?” Zach asks. He holds up a tape from the stack on top of the TV. “I have class on Fridays, so I always tape The X-Files.”
“Sure,” Aaron says. He’s never has time to watch TV, but if Zach likes it, it must be good.
He looks around for a place to sit, while Zach plays with the VCR. The plaid chair makes a lot of noise when Aaron drags it closer to the TV.
“Oh,” Zach says, turning around, the remote dangling from his hand. “Um.” He looks down at the floor, then back up at Aaron. “There’s lots of room on my bed,” he says.
Aaron sits, his back against the wall and his legs hanging off the edge. It’s not the most comfortable seat in the house, but then Zach joins him, and once he’s turned on the show and dropped the remote, he puts his hand on Aaron’s thigh.
That’s it. Aaron is done. There’s something about aliens happening in the background, but all Aaron can hear is Zach laughing as he presses him down into the bed and kisses his bare feet, his knobby knees, and his pale thighs.