Zack walks into Cody's apartment without bothering to knock. He figures that if Cody didn't want him to do so, he wouldn't have given Zack the keys to the place. Besides, Cody is supposedly out of town anyway. Vacation or a business trip or convention or something; Zack can never keep track. That's why he couldn't pick up Zack at the train station or spend time with him this week, anyway. A hotel is out of the question for this trip, so Zack takes the liberty of invading Cody's apartment.
Once inside, he tosses his suitcase in the general direction of the living room and heads for the kitchen. The fridge is full of health food so he checks the cabinets, but doesn't find anything remotely edible there either. After digging through the fridge again, he settles on a bottle of overly-priced, pretentious imported beer he finds at the back.
That's when he hears hushed voices coming from down the hall.
He slowly makes his way down the hall. Maybe he can use the beer bottle as a weapon if it turns out to be a home invasion. Instead, the bedroom room opens to reveal Cody. He's wearing some kind of Japanese robe and his hair is sticking up in all directions. Zack tries to remember the last time he saw Cody with a hair out of place. High school? Earlier than that? The sight is a bit shocking.
"Zack!" Cody exclaims. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Zack says with a little pout.
Cody shakes his head. "My trip got cancelled. I didn't think you'd still come."
Zack punches Cody lightly on the shoulder. "What, you think I don't have reasons to come to New York other than my little brother?"
"Just, uhh," Cody glances back at the bedroom. "Have a seat in the living room. I'll be right back."
The living room is immaculate. All browns and blues with framed prints of all of the movies Cody's directed. A bunch of indy stuff Zack's never seen about the human condition and a bunch of other depressing shit. There's a bookshelf filled with the same boring books Cody used to read back in Boston interspersed with pictures. A lot of them are Cody with his arms around some guy with dark hair hanging in his eyes. He looks familiar; maybe some actor he met at a Christmas party Cody held at the Tipton after his first movie broke the one million mark.
"You want to go out for breakfast?" Cody asks when he steps into the room.
He's back to his perfectly groomed self, every hair carefully styled into place. Even though he's wearing jeans and a t-shirt, he looks like he stepped out of a catalog. Zack feels like a slob by comparison in his baggy pants and Celtics jersey.
"If you're buying," Zack answers with a grin.
Cody rolls his eyes and slips into a pair of loafers at the door. "C'mon then."
They go to a café down the street. The coffee alone is expensive enough to bankrupt Zack, not to mention the tiny muffins that come with it. He's starving, so he eats them in one bite while Cody just sips at his latte.
"Listen, I don't think you should stay with me," Cody says suddenly.
"What? Why?" Zack asks through a mouthful of lemon-poppy seed.
"Things have changed since the last time you were here," Cody answers, but doesn't meet Zack's eyes.
"You gotta girlfriend or something?" Zack asks with a teasing note in his voice.
"Yeah, or something," Cody mutters.
"Who is she? Is she hot?"
Zack loves seeing Cody get embarrassed over this kind of thing. His younger brother has never dealt well with attention from the opposite sex. In fact, right now, he's blushing.
"He," Cody says with emphasis, "is Troy Bolton."
It takes Zack a second to process that and when he does he sprays coffee across the table. "What?"
"You've met him. Seen him. He's starred in my first movie."
"The dude in the photos in your living room?" Zack manages to ask.
Cody finally meets his eyes. "Is this going to be a problem?"
"No," Zack says slowly, because it really isn't, at least not in the way Cody thinks it would be.
The truth is that Zack is jealous and hurt. Why didn't Cody say something before? Sure, Zack hasn't shown that much interest in Cody's life in the past couple of years, but that's only because he felt like a loser in comparison. Cody has fame and fortune and respect, an apartment that overlooks Central Park and a getaway bungalow out in Cape Cod, he's had starlets dangling off his arm and dinners with important people. All Zack has is studio apartment in the South End, a shitty job with the garbage company, and the occasional one-night stand with a girl who's too drunk to care about his ever-expanding waistline.
Troy isn't there when they get back to Cody's apartment. Zack is glad if only because he doesn't have to play the jovial screw-up who's totally okay with some Brad Pitt wannabe fucking his brother.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Cody asks as he moves Zack's suitcase into the foyer.
It's a nervous gesture; Cody always cleans when he's nervous. Maybe he knows Zack is lying. Maybe he just can't believe Zack would take it that well.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Zack blurts out.
Cody sighs and leans against the wall. "I don't know. I mean, you never ask about anything any more."
Zack steps closer and shoves his hands in his pockets. "It's not 'cause I don't want to know. It's just… I don't have anything exciting to share in return."
"Zack…" Cody trails off and looks away. "You know if you need anything, you can come to me."
"I don't want to take your handouts, Cody," Zack mutters.
Slowly, Cody meets Zack's eyes. "And I don't want to lose you."
The tender yet fierce look in Cody's eyes makes Zack's chest tighten. "You won't."
"Yeah." Zack pulls Cody into a tight hug. "Promise."
He's pretty sure he should let go, but Cody doesn't move away, so he doesn't. His temple presses against Cody's and he breathes in his scent. It's strange that he smells like he always has: mint and flowers. Stranger still that his head fits perfectly into the crook of Zack's neck after all this time. It's almost like they're kids again and Cody's crawled into bed with him because he's had a nightmare. He kisses Cody's temple like he did back then and that's when Cody pulls away slightly, but still keeps his hand on Zack's shoulder.
"I love you, you know that, right?" Cody says with a small smile.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Zack answers with a smile of his own, because he does know; he always has known. "I love you too."