He can’t stop staring at that TSA agent, and then he’s gone, and Zach is left staring at nothing at all. He’s got 25 minutes before his flight to Lauderdale leaves, and it’s a long way to Terminal C, gate 42, so he shakes his head and starts walking.
He...that fella...felt me up, Zach thinks as he passes the Jamba Juice and the place where they sell those neck pillows, but that’s just bein’ stupid. It’s the agent’s job to check for illegal stuff.
The fact that he thought, just for a couple seconds, that maybe they were gonna lock lips, is crazy, he also tells himself. It’s the guy’s damn job.
It’s also crazy that he feels sorry that they didn’t. Because he’s not gay. He likes women. It’s just that...he supposes it doesn’t matter anyway. It was seven minutes.
Still dazed, he boards his plane and tunes out the safety instructions. He’s flown to see his Aunt Lindy in Omaha before, after all, and he remembers that the seat floats if the plane goes down over water.
Goes down. Fuckin’ hell. Zach bites his lip and stares out the window as the horizon goes from tilty to straight again before disappearing entirely under fluffy clouds.
He digs a five and two wrinkled ones out of his pocket (SEVEN dollars for one drink? It’s a lot, but the only good thing his daddy ever did was pay his life insurance premiums on time) and gives it to the stewardess in exchange for another Jim Beam and Coca-Cola, and she gives him two little bags of pretzels, so that’s nice.
Ft. Lauderdale is sorta like what he’d expected...and sorta not. He remembers watching those MTV beach parties as a kid at his buddy Tyler’s house, and there are girls in bikinis all right, but the blasting music sucks even worse than MTV used to. There are some hotties playing volleyball, but when he gets closer they look kinda too young, and he just ends up feeling a little creepy staring at ‘em.
Zach wades into the frothy water at the shoreline, goes waist-deep, turns on his back and floats, the sun making yellow-orange pops behind his eyelids. It feels good, the water -- cool when he first strode in, now just perfect, given it’s so humid here, a different kind of humid than Texas.
He “swims” for another hour, feeling heat on parts of him that don’t normally see so much sun, and heads back to the Holiday Inn for a shower and a nap before dinner and the bars. They’re all along the beach or back a couple of blocks. Getting ready, he reads the label on that body spray he uses: citrus, mint, and cedarwood undertone. He knows he smells good. What had the TSA guy said? “Subtle,” Zach murmurs to himself as he zips up his best Lee jeans. Have to look and smell nice if he’s gonna score.
Axe Effect or whatever it is, he ends up talking to a petite brunette who’s normally just his type, but she’s...eh, he’s not sure. He finds himself staring over her shoulder and wishing she’d quit talking about the band at this place. She’s not very good at conversation in general, he realizes. She doesn’t even ask him anything about himself, which is funny, ‘cause they’re strangers after all, but he knows she comes from North Carolina and studies physical therapy and has two cats and her dad bought her a Mustang convertible. Must be nice. He smiles and nods as she talks, but when she goes to powder her nose (do chicks really do that in the bathroom?) he pays the tab, slips away down the wooden steps of the Krab Korral and strolls towards the cluster of beachfront bars a few blocks down.
Zach should have brought his brother, but hell, Bobby’s got Renee, the love of his life, and a baby boy, and a pretty good gig at the Home Depot. He can’t just go traipsing off to be Zach’s wingman in Spring Break Central. But shit, this is just lonesome.
His dinner and those beers had been okay, but he finds another bar and has drinks called “Toasted Irishman” that were listed on the menu (he guesses that they’re Toasted IrishMEN since he has five of ‘em) and the mix of coffee and whiskey means he’s a little fucked-up but wide damned awake. He goes into a couple of clubs and yeah, there are some good-lookin’ chicks there but he’s just...he doesn’t know. He knows he’d be bad company. He’s in “a mood,” like Aunt Lindy used to say. Zach heads back to his room, hardly stumbling at all. Horny as hell, but getting laid is just too much work tonight, feels like.
His hands feel clumsy and too big; the cell phone’s like a rubbery brick as he lies back on that king-size, and he’s not sure who he can call at this hour anyway. Maybe he should just rub one out.
Zach needs porn for that. He runs his thumbs over the button for the browser and types in Google, then the Atlanta airport. A few more taps, and well, this ain’t porn, but his dick’s harder than it was when he started thinking he should look for some, this is, it’s...
You know? It’s real stupid, is what this is. But fuck it, he just wants to hear a friendly voice; ain’t a thing wrong with that. That fella...they had a connection. He’d asked Zach all kinds of questions and all. It’s not like, you know, Zach doesn’t...maybe he and the guy could be buddies. Zach doesn’t have a lot of friends. Tyler’s married, Bobby’s got Renee. It’s not Zach’s fault he hasn’t found the perfect woman yet, and not for lack of trying.
“Hello?” He ventures, and the operator on the line sounds super-friendly. He asks for the TSA office.
“Yeah,” Zach says, realizing he has no idea who to ask for. “I wanted to talk to...there’s a guy over there....”
“Sir?” asks the woman on the line.
Zach squints, trying to remember the fella’s name, if he ever knew it, but all he comes up with is the tiny lettering on his badge. “Director of Training? Dark hair, blue, uh, blue eyes? It’s...I just need to ask him something,” he blurts out. His name, for one. “It’s kind of important.”
“Is this a business or personal call?” the woman asks him with a sigh. “If this is regarding any confiscated items, including wallets, I’m obligated to inform you that tipping is now acceptable under TSA regulations as long as it occurs after passengers are cleared through security.”
“No, nothing like that. It’s um. It’s personal.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Officer Franklin doesn’t work this shift,” she says. “Would you like to leave a message?”
Officer Franklin. “Nope. Thank you, ma’am,” he mumbles before he hangs up and passes out, one hand wedged down the front of his jeans.
He’s carefully ironing a uniform shirt in medium blue, and the smell of baking wafts its way from the kitchen. Officer Franklin comes out, bare-chested, with a plate.
“I made you muffins, Zachary. Blueberry, your favorite.”
He takes a bite, and the agent slips on the TSA shirt over his bare, tanned chest. “It’s still warm,” he marvels. “I didn’t know you could iron.”
“I learned getting Bobby’s shirts all nice for church,” Zach explains, blushing to the roots of his hair as he swallows.
“Well, I appreciate the way you take care of me. Thank you so much, baby,” Officer Franklin says, and as those deep, deep blue eyes come closer, Zach closes his eyes.
...and the hotel alarm clock goes off.
“Damn this all to hell,” Zach mutters into his arm. Now the fuckin’ guy’s in his fuckin’ dreams. “...and back! I ain’t even queer!” he says with emphasis to no one, working a hand down under the sheets to get a grip on rock-hard morning wood. “And that wasn’t even...sexy. Uhn...unngh,” he moans, working his dick, gathering slick from the head and twisting down. “I. Like. Chicks.” It’s barely 20 seconds before he’s shooting off, coming all over his hand and the white sheets.
Over the next two days in Lauderdale, Zach gets a lot of fried oysters, drunk on Mai Tais and Miller Light, and a sunburn. What he does not get, is laid.
He’s got a longer layover this time going through Atlanta. “Ay Tee Ell,” he says, inspecting his ticket. He’s got the same terminal again, so maybe…yes...he sees him. Officer Franklin, swiping somebody’s luggage with a sponge on some kinda stick.
But Zach realizes that he’s not going to go through the TSA checkpoint unless he goes outside again. He doesn’t smoke, but he rides the moving walkways and the train all the way to the baggage pick-up, goes outside, and then makes his way back in.
His shoes and bag are rollin’ their way through the x-ray machine when he catches Agent Franklin’s eye. He swears the fella recognizes him but tells himself not to be disappointed if he doesn’t. He sees a thousand people a week, after all. How many travelers does he take into that dim room and pat down? Tons, most likely.
“Male assist!” calls the lady at the pass-through, and Agent Franklin approaches.
“Right this way, sir,” he says, and begins patting down Zach’s shoulders, so Zach clears his throat.
“Can I, uh…” he says. “Can I have a private screening?”
“Oh!” Officer Franklin exclaims, dropping his hand. “Of course. I apologize for not asking. Asking is part of the protocol, after all. Officer Wallace?” he gestures at a burly blond man. “Can you handle a private screening?”
“No,” Zach blurts, mouth dry, and the blue eyes swing back to him, looking confused, or maybe concerned. “Can, I mean, would you do it? Please.”
The agent tilts his head. “Um. Certainly. Just follow me.”
The room’s the same...the music, it might be the same, too, and Officer Franklin opens up the bar case with a practiced motion. “Hmm. What’s your poison?”
Zach nods. “Uh, bourbon. With Coke.” Now that he’s here, he’s got a case of nerves, and takes the icy glass with a shaky hand. A little of the drink sloshes out and over his wrist.
“Careful now,” the agent chides, and Zach focuses on his name tag. No first name. Well. He opens his mouth to ask, but feels hands running over his shoulders and back, strong and sure, yet gentle, and he shuts his eyes for a moment. “Could you please stand up for me? Ft Lauderdale, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Zach breathes, feeling a little jolt of joy that the guy remembers him.
“Did you have a good time? Score lots of babes?” Officer Franklin asks.
“No,” Zach shakes his head as gloved hands stroke along and around his waist. “No, I…didn’t.”
“I’m going to pat down the backs of your legs now,” the agent continues. “I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t work out for you. At least you got some sun, right? Sun and sand. R&R. Good stuff.”
“Right,” Zach nods, and sips his drink as Officer Franklin runs first one hand, then the other down the backs of his legs.
“Good, now just relax. You seem pretty tense.”
“Sorry,” Zach manages, as the agent stands and he’s confronted by those (beautiful, damn) blue eyes. He’s got a boner like there’s no tomorrow. And maybe there isn’t. Maybe there’s just this darkened locker room with a light-up booze cabinet and soft music playing.
Fucksake, he’s turning into some sorta girl, here.
“I’m going to do your chest now.” The edge of a hand slides down his sternum and then both go along his ribs and back up. The agent’s pinky nudges against Zach’s right nipple and Zach can’t hold in a gasp at that. “You sure you’re not cold? I could adjust the thermostat.”
“I’m not, no,” Zach fumbles out. “Just, you’re, I mean, I’m…”
Officer Franklin chuckles. “Little sensitive there. Sure.” The warm, gloved palms return to his ribs and slip upward, and before Zach knows, it, there are fingertips over his nipples, just sorta like, barely touching. Teasing.
“Oh, Christ,” Zach bites out. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Perfectly natural.” The hands leave his chest. “Now I’m going to scan your buttocks.”
Zach nods. He really can’t trust his voice, especially because to reach around his ass, the agent’s really, really close, his foot wedged between both of Zach’s, his breath warm against his neck. It smells like Pep-O-Mint Life Savers and maybe coffee. He lets his forehead drop to Officer Franklin’s shoulder, like he just can’t hold it up anymore.
“Hey, hey, are you alright?” asks the agent, slowly backing up a step, gaze searching Zach’s eyes. “Little tired? Here, I’ll finish up so you can get to your gate and rest before your flight.”
“No, I…”He can’t get to the end of the sentence, because his mouth’s on the TSA agent’s lips right then. There’s no reaction at first, but then his lips part, and he’s kissing Zach back, kinda licking in, and yeah-fuck-oh-shit-that’s-tongue. The kiss deepens, and oh man, it’s good, so good. It’s better than he would’ve thought. Officer Franklin wraps a gloved hand around his shoulder, then slowly pulls away.
“I’ll check under your belt now, if you could just unfasten it a notch.” Zach waves his drink, and the agent waves a hand in reply. “You know what? I’ll just do that for you.” His hands are fast and steady, and work open his silver Hook ‘Em Horns buckle and let the ends fall. He unbuttons the top button too, and then Zach can feel his zipper slide down. He lets out a soft sigh as Officer Franklin’s knuckles graze his boxer briefs.
“Hey, wow,” the agent says with a smile. “Sure you’re not smuggling any smoked meat onboard? That’s against TSA regulations.” And then he’s...he’s got two fingers inside the boxers, and then one hand’s wrapping around Zach’s dick as the other tugs his jeans down mid-thigh. Zach watches in dazed disbelief as Officer Franklin sinks to his knees. “See,” he says, freeing Zach’s boner from the cotton, “I recommend using the postal service for shipping things like…” his eyelids drop shut as he licks his lips. “...sausage. I love a nice gluten-free turkey chorizo.”
Zach’s half-listening, the icy glass death-gripped in his hand, as the agent swallows him down, all the way. Like, deep-throat for real, just like they do in porn.
“Oh my Lord,” Zach moans. The agent’s mouth is so hot and wet and feels just right, and he’s sliding his tongue up the underside of his dick and he’s got one hand on Zach’s thigh to hold him steady, the other at his balls.
Shit, this’s amazing, he thinks, letting his free hand fall to Officer Franklin’s hair, which is just as soft as it looks. The agent hums against his dick, and that’s all she wrote; he likes to think he has good endurance even though he's young and all, but fuckin’ hell, Zach comes so fast and so hard he thinks his knees are gonna give out. He’s still gasping when he realizes that the agent swallows everything -- for god’s sake, he’s never had a girl do that for him. Before he can get his brain halfway back in gear, he’s been dressed again, the agent tucking in Zach’s shirt, pulling up his fly and fastening his belt buckle. He’s leaning in for another kiss, come be damned, when the lights go on. Officer Franklin kisses him anyway, both hands cupping the sides of Zach’s face, gentle-like.
“All clear,” the agent whispers, taking the drink from his hand and motioning him towards the door. He waits while Officer Franklin pulls off his gloves, runs a hand through his mussed hair, and opens the door for him. Before he can say a word, the agent’s back at his station by the x-ray machines, professional as can be.
Hell’s bells, Zach thinks. He waits there for a moment, just looking, and the agent catches his eye. Zach watches as he runs the edge of his thumb against the corner of his mouth. Real slow.
A couple of weeks later, he’s on a website in the kitchen, looking up flights to Washington DC. It seems like a place he should probably see, historical and all, and there’s a long layover in Atlanta.
Or he could maybe go straight to Atlanta. He could go to a Braves game. He could see if maybe Officer Franklin might wanna go, too. They could get some beers, maybe play pool. Maybe, hell, Zach wants to mess around, somewhere where a light isn’t gonna go on or people might walk in.
He’s talked to Bobby, too. Zach’s not sure what he’d expected, but Bobby and Renee don’t even act shocked or anything. Hell, fellas are getting married all over now; it ain’t a big deal, right?
He’s had dreams. More than once. Vivid, like. Blue eyes and that TSA-blue shirt that brings out the color more, and hell, even those gloves have made a couple of appearances. But hell, Zach wants to feel his hands.
Smiling to himself, Zach clicks the “Reserve this flight” button.
This time, he’s gonna find out Blue Eyes’ first name.