“I…I don’t know,” came Will’s voice through the scratchy telephone line. “I don’t know what to do.”
“What happened?” Cyrus urged, his heart sinking like a lead weight. “Tell me everything.”
“Well, Hayden got in last night, and he was really happy at first, but something was wrong. He seemed…off somehow?” Will sounded confused. “Then we went out to lunch today and ran into one of my friends. His older sister was with him, and she invited him to a party just outside of town. I didn’t think he was going to go, but he decided to last minute.”
Cyrus frowned. He remembered Hayden making a few comments about illegal drinking going on at Sharpe’s. It had sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but he hadn’t done anything like that all year. Truth be told, it didn’t quite seem like his style.
“Anyway,” Will continued, “He didn’t tell my parents where he was going, but they asked that he be back by ten. Hayden’s always super polite to them about curfew and stuff, and when he didn’t show up… I’m just worried something happened. I told my parents that he called and was going to sleep over at a friend’s house. I think they believed me.”
“Do you have the address of the party?” Cyrus asked, pulling over the pad of paper with the hotel’s logo emblazoned across the top.
“Yeah,” Will said, and recited an address that Cyrus copied down. “Are you going to go get him?”
“Yeah, I am,” Cyrus promised.
“Thank you, Cyrus,” Will said, relief in his voice. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t seen your emails on his computer.”
Cyrus was already reaching for his jacket, anxious to go. “I’ll find him, Will. Email me your cell phone number, and I’ll call and let you know how it goes, okay?”
“Okay,” Will said. “Be careful.”
“Will do. Bye,” Cyrus said, hanging up. In seconds, he had Mr. Hill’s business card in front of him and was dialing the number. When he picked up, Cyrus said, “Hello, Mr. Hill. I need a ride, ASAP.”
Cyrus knew as soon as they pulled up what kind of party this was. Cars littered the yard of a house separated from the rest of civilization by a long driveway and a row of trees. A few person-shaped lumps lay in the dark grass - probably people passed out from alcohol.
The music was so loud that Cyrus could hear it even from within the car, and he could see the silhouettes of dancing people through the windows.
“Would you like me to wait?” Mr. Hill asked.
“Yes, please. Hopefully I’ll only have to be there a few minutes,” Cyrus said, getting out.
He headed up the path to the house, not bothering to knock as he pushed open the door. If his mind hadn’t been pre-occupied with worry for Hayden, Cyrus would’ve been terrified to walk into a place full of drunk strangers. Inside was about what he expected: a once-nice house turned into teenage party grounds. There were red plastic cups littering the floor, as well as people in some cases. Others milled or stumbled around, and some danced. Cyrus made his way into the first room he came to, where there were two couples making out on the same couch. He turned away.
In the kitchen, there was a beer keg and the remnants of a few bowls of chips, but no Hayden. No one seemed to care in the least that Cyrus was wandering around the party. In fact, it was likely that no one noticed he was there at all. Cyrus pushed through the throng of people and out onto the back porch, where there was a small fire going in a stone pit. With all the alcohol around, Cyrus steered well clear of that little recipe for disaster.
At last, Cyrus spotted Hayden slumped against the wall of the house, his head lolling on his chest. Cyrus rushed off the porch and over to him, taking him by the shoulders and shaking him. “Hayden? Hayden!”
Three empty beer cans were at his side, as well as a clear glass bottle without a label. Cyrus gulped and shook him harder. Finally, Hayden’s eyes fluttered open. “Whaaa?” he slurred.
Cyrus was saddened to see the glazed look in those familiar brown eyes. “Come on,” he said, taking one of Hayden’s arms and wrapping it around his own shoulders. Hauling Hayden to his feet, Cyrus wrapped one arm around his waist and used the other to keep Hayden’s arm around him. At any other time, this close contact would be doing crazy things to Cyrus’s heart, but, at the moment, he was too concerned about getting Hayden somewhere safe to even think about that. Still, he couldn’t deny the relief he was feeling at having located Hayden, even in his inebriated state.
Opting to go around the house rather than try to fight through the horde of people inside, it took a little while for Cyrus to get Hayden to the car. He didn’t become any more lucid during that time, but perhaps that was for the better. Explaining anything to a drunken Hayden seemed like a chore. Instead, Hayden just clung to Cyrus, completely out of it.
When they reached the car, Cyrus pulled open the back door and lowered Hayden inside, careful to watch his head on the doorframe. He slid in after him, pulling the door shut and reveling in the sudden relative silence.
“To the hotel?” Mr. Hill asked.
“Please,” Cyrus replied.
As they pulled out, Mr. Hill glanced in the rearview mirror. “Is this the young man you’ve been searching for?”
“Yes,” Cyrus said, unable to keep the fondness out of his voice. He looked over at Hayden, whose eyes were closed. “He’s not usually like this. Passed out, I mean.”
Sounding amused, Mr. Hill replied, “I should hope not.”
The car was silent for the rest of the drive. Cyrus was all too aware that Hayden’s head was resting against his shoulder - drooling, probably - but he chose to ignore it in favor of worrying over what he was going to say when Hayden woke up. Would Hayden be happy that Cyrus had come and “rescued” him from the party, or angry? At one time, Cyrus would have known the answer, but everything just seemed up in the air these days. After all, at one time, Hayden wouldn’t have gotten shit-faced in the first place.
Pulling up in front of the hotel, Mr. Hill asked, “Do you need help getting him inside?”
Cyrus looked at his friend, trying to judge his weight as well as his own strength. “I think I can manage. Thank you for coming so late; I’m in for the night now, don’t worry.”
“Not a problem, Mr. Angeles. Call me if you need anything.”
Cyrus nodded and pulled Hayden out of the car, supporting him in the same way he had earlier. It was a bit of a struggle, but he made it inside the hotel lobby. It was empty save for the receptionist who gave Cyrus a narrow glare. A fancy hotel wasn’t exactly the place for drunken teenagers.
Ignoring her, Cyrus headed for the elevator, then rode up to the third floor and all but dragged Hayden to his room. After a brief struggle with his key, Cyrus finally managed to get Hayden inside and flopped onto the bed. He sighed, tired from the exertion. At least Hayden was here at last, and, more importantly, safe. Everything else could wait.
Cyrus woke early the next morning, stiff from sleeping on the pull-out couch. Hayden was exactly the same as Cyrus had left him, tucked under the fluffy white comforter. Cyrus rubbed his eyes, folded the couch up with as little noise as possible, then got dressed. He checked his emails just to see if there happened to be anything from Will. Cyrus had called him the night before to assure him that Hayden was alright and spending the night at the hotel, and that seemed to ease his mind. There were no unread messages in Cyrus’s inbox.
Grabbing his jacket and wallet, Cyrus headed out the door, making sure to close it without a sound so as to not wake up Hayden. Cyrus had never had a hangover, but he still knew the basics of their effect, and that coffee was a must. Therefore, he headed out of the hotel to a Panera Bread down the block, because getting them breakfast seemed like a far better option than sitting in the hotel room waiting for Hayden to wake up.
It was almost eight thirty by the time Cyrus returned to his hotel room. To his surprise, when he pulled the door open, Hayden was awake, sitting on the edge of the bed and staring down at his hands with red eyes. He looked up as Cyrus came in holding a drink tray with two cups and a paper bag. His eyes widened as he sputtered, “Cyrus?”
Unsure of what to say to the fact that Hayden was unaware of whose room he was in, Cyrus replied with a monotone, “Good morning.”
“What are you- Where am- What?!” he exclaimed. Hayden put his head in his hands like it hurt to think about, which it most likely did.
Upon seeing Hayden awake, the initial joy at finding Hayden the night before was turning into annoyance or almost anger. Hayden went out to a random party and drank himself to unconsciousness. That night could have ended so much worse than it did, and Cyrus didn’t exactly appreciate him being so reckless, not that it was technically any of his concern. “Coffee?” he offered cooly.
Hayden must have caught Cyrus’s tone, for he dropped his hands and winced. “Oh, shit. I, uh… I forgot…” He looked around. “Wait, why are you here?”
“Why do you think, dumbass?”
“Oh,” Hayden said, looking sheepish.
Cyrus didn’t bother to hide the anger in his voice. “You just disappeared, Hayden. You didn’t even leave a note, or try to explain-“
“I told Lee to tell you-“
“That you were sorry?” Cyrus cut him off. “Yeah, well, I don’t accept your apology. You have nothing to be sorry for. Other than getting yourself hopelessly drunk at some sketchy party and driving your brother and me crazy with worry, that is.”
Hayden looked down at the floor. “I didn’t think… I mean, once Clay told you…”
“That you were gay?” Cyrus burst out. He watched as Hayden’s cheeks flushed and felt a little bad. “I’m glad he told me. Though I would have rather you told me a long time ago.”
Looking up at him in sudden fervent panic, Hayden replied in a rush, “I’m sorry. I should have, and I’m really sor-“
Cyrus interrupted, “That’s not what I meant.” He could feel himself beginning to sweat, but kept going before he lost his nerve. “I wish you had told me earlier because then it might not have taken me so long…” he faltered at the earnest look on Hayden’s face.
“Taken you so long for what?”
Cyrus took a deep breath, then blurted, “To tell you that I like you. Like, a lot. For a while now.” All of a sudden, he couldn’t bear eye contact with Hayden, and cast his eyes to the floor as a blush crept up his cheeks.
The silence was oppressive. Cyrus closed his eyes, sure he ruined it. He ruined everything. Hayden didn’t feel the same way about him, and now he was screwed. Now everything would be ten times as awkward. The bed squeaked as Hayden got up - to leave, Cyrus assumed. He didn’t blame him.
When a warm hand fell on Cyrus’s arm, he was surprised, opening his eyes, but not looking up.
“Cy,” Hayden prompted. Cyrus finally raised his eyes to meet Hayden’s, only a few inches from his own. “I like you, too. Like, a lot.”
Cyrus blinked. “Really?”
“Really,” Hayden said. “I just didn’t think you were… I didn’t want a repeat of the Clay thing. I couldn’t risk losing you.”
Cyrus nodded. He understood. Letting out a nervous laugh, Cyrus felt the need to confirm, “You like me.”
“I like you,” Hayden agreed, smiling a little. “And you like me?”
“I like you,” Cyrus confirmed. They stood there for a minute, inches apart, eyes locked. “So, this is really happening, huh?”
“I think it is.” Hayden’s gaze flickered down to Cyrus’s lips and he swallowed, saying what they were both thinking, “Does that mean I can, uh…”
Answering the question for him, Cyrus moved forward and pressed their lips together in a tentative kiss.
Hayden tasted like mint. Cyrus almost laughed, imagining Hayden waking up in what he thought to a stranger’s room and heading straight for the complimentary toiletries. Their kiss wasn’t all fireworks and mood music like the movies and books had led him to expect. Instead, it was soft and comfortable, like curling up on the couch on a rainy day. It might not have been the most exciting thing in the universe, but Cyrus could get used to it. He could definitely get used to it.
When they pulled apart, Cyrus was sure he was blushing.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a really long time,” Hayden admitted, his cheeks flushed too.
“Yeah?” Cyrus asked, unable to keep from smiling.
“Yeah,” Hayden confirmed.
Cyrus’s lip twitched. “Well, I don’t have anywhere to be. Do you?”
“Not even a little,” Hayden muttered, his grin spreading wider. When his fingers laced through Cyrus’s, Cyrus’s blush deepened. Not that he cared; some part of him hoped it would never go away. By the look on Hayden’s face, he had made it his mission to make that come true.