He approached the table and began examining parts, silent while he scanned everything clearly processing information and trying to assimilate it. "What exactly am I looking at here? Is this...what we've talked about?"
Lila nodded, almost holding her breath while she waited for his reaction.
"Time travel," he murmured, running his hand over the creased schematic Lila had pinned on the bulletin board above the table. His finger traced the diagram. When he turned to her without a smile on his face, she knew he believed. "Explain," he ordered.
Lila was struck by the intensity of his eyes. The aw-shucks, goofy guy on the front porch had transformed into a serious, focused man. Even with his long, floppy hair and bangs in his eyes, Zach didn't look like a boy anymore. With his brow furrowed and his wide mouth thinned to a straight line, he seemed older, his youthful awkwardness gone. Her pulse quickened under his steady gaze and she licked her lips and began to outline her project. "It works like this..."
A half hour and a steady barrage of Zach's question later, Lila completed her explanation.
There were several moments of silence during which he continued to stare from the schematic to the parts on the bench and back, then he said in an awed tone, "You did it. All that talk... I thought we were hypothesizing, but you really did it." There wasn't a trace of doubt in his voice.
"And now I have to undo it," Lila said dryly, then added, "Thanks for believing me." It warmed her heart that Zach trusted her without even seeing the machine demonstrated or meeting Gareth--although producing a man and calling him an ancient barbarian didn't make it so. Any actor could play the part. "You're taking a lot on faith."
"It's not faith. I can see how it works." He gestured at the worn, coffee-stained schematic. "Your plan is flawless, and..." He shook his head. "Actually fucking amazing." He looked at her again with those pale emerald eyes that caught the light and reflected it brightly. "You're brilliant."
Lila's heart warmed even more...or maybe it was her blood. The room seemed suddenly hot. A flush burned in her cheeks at the compliment and she wished he'd quit looking at her. It made her insides feel all squishy. "Thanks." She looked down at the workbench and began fiddling with a piece of broken plastic.
Zach clapped his hands together, making her jump. "So let's get started. We'll work this step by step until we get it all back together and working again."
Lila felt a brief rush of annoyance at his take-charge attitude, but also relief because her mind was numb from running in circles for the past eight hours. "Can I get you a cup of coffee or something to eat first?"
"Sure. Caffeine me up, Scottie." His voice was overly hearty and he blushed when she stared at him. "Yes, please," he amended.
Just when she was starting to think he was kind of cute, he showed his inner geek. Lila walked from the room mentally shaking her head.
Caffeine me up, Scottie? Where the hell had that come from? Zach winced the moment the silly words were out of his mouth. Why did beautiful girls always have this effect on him? He tried too hard to be witty and only ended up saying lame things like that. Pretty name for a pretty girl? God, what he needed was a Cyrano to write his dialogue for him and feed it to him over a headset.
Lila was so much more than Zach had expected. In their conversations throughout the last year and a half he'd come to admire her enormous intellect, but since they'd never web-cammed or uploaded pictures, he hadn't known what to expect in the looks department before tonight. Lila was a stunner and way out of his league. He was amazed he'd been able to squeeze any words past his tongue at all from the moment she'd opened the door and he beheld her incredible gorgeousness.
"Asshole. Asshole. Asshole. Think before you speak," he whispered urgently to himself after he heard her descend the stairs. "Calm down and talk to her like an equal, like you've always done online. It's about the science, man." Not her amazing breasts and mouth-watering ass and those fantastic brown eyes that freeze your brain and stir your cock.
Zach sat in Lila's swivel office chair and spun back and forth, staring at the litter of the computer terminal. This project was mind-boggling and so were the possible consequences of time travel. Even if he could help Lila get the machine back together and functional again, he didn't know if this was technology she should share with the world. After they sent this Gareth guy she'd told him about back where he belonged, they should probably destroy the thing. God, he couldn't wait to meet the guy, to see for himself a living fragment of history--a time traveler.
Could this night get any stranger? He'd been summoned in the middle of the night by the woman of his dreams to come to her aid like a knight in shining armor. Then he'd found out Lila wasn't the sweet-faced, little computer nerd he'd pictured, but a statuesque, beautiful, brilliant woman--who, incidentally, had created then broken a time machine and needed his help in putting it back together. This was the kind of scenario sci-fi geeks like him only daydreamed about.
A few moments later, Lila returned with two steaming cups of coffee. "Listen, I want to apologize again for being short with you earlier when I should have been thanking you for driving all the way here. You got here a lot faster than I expected."
"It only took an hour and a half. No big deal." He accepted the coffee. "Thanks. The truth is I've wanted to get together for a long time, but I thought you'd think I was creepy if I asked to meet."
Lila smiled and Zach's heart liquefied. "No, not at all. We've been friends for almost two years now. It's about time we met in person. You know more about my work and my hopes and dreams than anybody."
Zach could feel some stupid, inane comment bubbling up and about to spout forth from his mouth so he quickly turned his attention back to the broken terminal. "Well, let's get started."
"Okay." Lila pulled up another chair beside him. She sat so close he could smell her perfume or maybe it was her deodorant or shampoo--something sweet, floral and feminine. The pretty scent and the heat of her body next to him made it hard to concentrate at first, but then Zach became entranced by the ingeniousness of her invention and almost forgot about the woman beside him.
Together they worked on re-configuring the terminal and cataloging which parts would need replacement. Zach even had some suggestions for improvements, a more streamlined approach to Lila's design.
Suddenly he became aware of the sound of low moans and answering groans floating into the room from the heat duct in the wall. Zach paused in the middle of his calculations. "Is that...?" He blushed and stopped speaking as it became clear the sounds were exactly what he thought they were, a couple having sex.
Lila sighed, tossed her pen down and leaned back in her chair. "Yes, it is. My roommate, Chrissy and the barbarian guy, Gareth having sex.