Something smacked into the back of Zac's head, knocking him into the beer table. Cups sloshed and Kaede yelled, "Hey! Watch it, man!"
Zac rolled his eyes. His housemate was a little overzealous in his protectiveness of the beer. It wasn't like they'd gotten the imported shit, not for this party. The back-to-school party didn't rate that kind of expense. Especially not when the crew team and the water polo team were out here playing volleyball with a giant beachball and aiming right for the keg with every shot.
Turning around, Zac picked up the ball that had caused all the trouble and served it back toward the net. "Be careful of the beer!"
A couple of the crew guys waved like they understood, but Zac knew better. They were all totally sloshed already. Whatever.
He grabbed a couple of the big red plastic cups filled to the brim with cheap beer and went looking for Bryce. He hadn't seen Bryce since the first partiers had shown up hours ago. Used to be, Bryce was the quintessential party guy, always ready to have a good time.
Used to be, Bryce was Zac's best friend. All that had changed, though. Zac just hoped they could get some kind of friendship back. He couldn't face a whole year of distance between them, like there had been since since an article about 'out' athletes in last month's back-to-school issue of Game On had included interviews with Zac and their friend Perry. Perry was gone, graduated, but Zac still had to deal with the repercussions of their decision.
He slipped through the front door, looking for Bryce inside the house, but it was mostly empty. Just a few people using the bathroom or getting pizza from the kitchen. No Bryce.
The party stopped at the back door, but Zac found Bryce in the backyard, sitting alone on the old swing. Swallowing his nervousness, and his pride, he headed over to make a peace offering.
Zac flopped down on the swing uninvited, setting it to swinging with a loud creak and a shiver. They'd pulled it out of someone's trash and put it together right around the time they'd moved in, back in sophomore year. Amazingly, two years later, it was still in one piece.
He held out one of the cups. "Beer?"
Bryce sighed and took the offering. "Thanks. Shouldn't you be partying?"
"Shouldn't you?" Zac countered, taking a sip of his beer.
"I am. See?" Bryce waved his cigarette and beer, sloshing beer all over him. "Godfuckingdamnitsonofabitchmotherfucker," he said, without much heat behind it, like he'd given up.
"Dude." Zac snorted and reached out to take the cup back. "You okay?"
"Fuck it." Bryce tried to shake the beer off and ended up dropping his cigarette. He stomped on it, in spite of being barefoot, and slouched back in the swing. It was probably already out, thanks to the beer. "This is Not Right," he snapped, taking his beer back.
"What's not?" Zac had his suspicions, but he wanted to hear Bryce say it.
"Me not knowing. Why did Perry get to know and not me?" Bryce sloshed beer again, but the cup was already a quarter empty and it only went over his hand and wrist.
"Bryce..." Zac wasn't sure what to say to that. That wasn't what he'd expected, not at all. He'd known things with Bryce would change, but he hadn't thought about how coming out together in that interview would make it obvious Perry had known all along. "Because it wasn't really... relevant."
"Well, it's not like you welcomed Perry with open arms when he came out to you," Zac pointed out before he could censor himself. Bryce wasn't even looking at Zac anymore. It was just like before, when Perry had come out to the swim team and Bryce had started flinching away from his touches, avoiding spending time alone with him. Bryce had never said anything, but Zac knew that Perry being out had changed things for Bryce.