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a long way back

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It was once a universally known fact that finding a decently usable public bathroom in New York City was impossible, and that fact holds even more truth in Hellsalem’s Lot. Zed is fairly certain that it is also a fact that whenever he, Zapp, and Leo attempt to hang out together outside of work, disaster follows them, and it is impossible to completely escape work in the long run. Really, he has no idea why they even bother.

Today, they actually manage to get through an entire meal without anything going awry, but, like clockwork, it’s just a matter of stepping outside and seeing the chaos that, naturally, has their coworkers at the center of it. So he and Zapp have to step in while Leo has to do what he can to survive this one, and all in all, it is a very typical day. Nothing Zed shouldn’t be used to by now, but a little bit more of an annoyance than usual, because he had been hoping to get back to the office quickly.

This goes on for quite some time, and when it’s all said and done, the rubble they find themselves in is pretty much completely across town from the office, and out of the way from where both Zapp and Leo are currently living, which means that, no matter where they’re going, it’s going to take them some time to walk there, especially with the immediate area as destroyed as it is.

Zed isn’t the sort to voice his discomfort over this, but Zapp certainly is, and it’s while the three of them are walking that he comes out and says, “Christ, I’ve had to take a piss since we were back at the restaurant. Seriously, there is nothing harder than trying to focus on the fight when you’ve gotta piss.”

Neither of them notice how Zed tenses at his words, and Leo groans. “ Zapp ! Can you please try to keep some things to yourself?”

Snorting, he just replies, “What, like you don’t have to?”

Leo falters for a moment before muttering, “I...I mean, yeah, kinda, but-”

Zapp interrupts him, turning his attention to Zed. “And you too, right, fishstick?”

He hopes that he is not visibly blushing, as he replies, “That isn’t the kind of thing I’m going to discuss with you.”

Which, he realizes almost immediately, was not the right thing to say. Zapp snorts, saying, “Right, right, got it. So anyway, can we just pick up the pace? It’s gonna take forever to get back to the office at this rate, and we all need to get back.”

Zed says nothing as Zapp and Leo continue to bicker next to him, his face burning in humiliation and the ache in his bladder nagging at him. Of course, he’s felt that nagging sensation since right before they finished up their lunch, and he had been hoping to make it back quickly to take care of that. He had been distracted throughout their fight because, just as Zapp said, it’s difficult to focus with that going on, but he would have sooner died than admit to it, especially not to him .

When it comes to that sort of thing, Zed is very reserved, even more so than he is with most things. After all, he’s only been living as a normal human for a few short years, and it has been a learning process for him. He shudders to remember his early days outside of his tank, learning what it means to control these urges, and having to get used to having certain times and places to relieve himself. Fortunately, he didn’t suffer too many humiliations with several witnesses, but he will do absolutely anything to keep it that way.

Certainly, he doesn’t want anyone in Libra knowing anything about that horrible first year where, after a lifetime of thinking of himself as fairly intelligent, he found himself living like an infant, and having to learn things that he is told are basic for most humans, things that begin to learn not long after they learn to walk and speak.

So he keeps any sort of need to himself, and he hates to have to wait until a point where it becomes uncomfortable for him. Naturally, there are situations that no one can prepare for in his line of work, and he has had to push his limits a few times in the past, but, since he has come to live here, he has never been in a situation where he has completely lost control of himself.

Needless to say, he has no intention to start that now, not in front of any of his teammates and especially not in front of Leo, or Zapp , of all people. For either one of them to witness something like that would be devastating; Leo would be nice enough about it, but he is one of Zed’s few and truest friends, and it is not as if he has any remarkable abilities or training to boast about. But he seems to be in control of himself, so what would that say about Zed, if he could not?

And Zapp is...himself, in every regard, and as loud and obnoxious as he is, he would never let anyone live such a humiliation down, but Zed is sure that he would be especially merciless towards him. The two are partners and they spend a great deal of time together, but Zed is still not sure that he would call them “friends”, and, even if they are , that does nothing to curb his worries. Even to his friends, Zapp is hardly a kind or compassionate person.

He tries to stop dwelling on this, and not think about how the two would react to the worst possible outcome to this situation. Though his bladder is so full that it hurts, that doesn’t mean that they won’t make it back in time. Only thinking about the negatives in a time like this is sure to make his situation worse, and it would be much better if he would just try to take his mind off of it for now.

“God, I feel like we rearranged the whole damn town today,” Zapp mutters, and Zed finally brings himself back to reality. “Seriously, it’s like every fucking road is blocked off, right?”

“Well, we can always go this way,” Leo replies.

“Unless something got all messed up that way too.”

“So pessimistic.”

“It’s just a pain,” he says. “Kind of in a hurry, you know?”

“There’s no point in complaining about it. That’s not gonna help, or anything,” says Leo, and Zapp snorts.

“So, what, does talking about it make it worse for ya? Little Leo gonna wet his pants before we get back or something?” He laughs, obnoxious as ever, and Leo scowls, but blushes a bit, Zed notices.

“Shut up, it’s not like that…”

Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for Zed, Zapp’s attention quickly shifts. “You’re awfully quiet today, huh?”

“And?” asks Zed, hoping he can blow the other man off. Though he pities Leo when he’s at the center of Zapp’s teasing, he does not pity him enough to want to take his place right now.

“Gettin’ a little worried too?” he replies, a nasty grin splitting his face. Why he thinks openly discussing such things is a proper thing to do, and why he thinks he has any right to tease others for basic needs- especially when he’s the one who brought it up to begin with- is completely beyond Zed.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he snaps.

“Oh, I definitely touched a nerve there!”

“Zapp, cut it out,” Leo mutters. “Why do you care so much? Just mind your own business.”

“You’re both so damn sensitive,” Zapp spits, scowling at the scolding, as if he were a child just trying to have some harmless fun, unfairly cut short. Well, Zed isn’t so sure about the harmless fun, but he is not entirely convinced that Zapp isn’t a child.

“Just knock it off,” says Leo, and for the time being, he does. The three of them fall into a silence, which is better, in a way, but without any conversation, Zed loses his main chance at distracting himself.

Though navigating the mess around them takes a bit of his focus, it isn’t enough to completely take his mind off the ache in his lower stomach. It’s almost surprising to him how intense the need has gotten just in the time since they first left the restaurant, but perhaps that is because it has been a long time since he’s even had to push his limits at all.

Though his life now is certainly chaotic, he seems to always be prepared, at least on that front, so it’s very rarely that he actually has to worry. This is the first time in a long time that he has had any cause for worry. Zed grits his teeth, the pulse of his bladder punctuating every step he takes. Does it really take so long just to reach the office? He’s been on this side of town before, and it never felt like it took this long, and he does not think redirecting their route a few times is really what is making it feel so long.

From his side, he hears a soft groan, and he glances down out of the corner of his eye to see a rather troubled expression on Leo’s face. The young man has both fists tightly clenched at his sides and looks incredibly tense. Zed feels a stab of pity for him, and has a fairly good idea of what he must feel like right now. Though he knows that Zapp must be in pretty bad shape as well, it’s hard to muster up any pity for him when he would make fun of either of them for it.

But the longer Zed looks at Leo, the harder it is to look away, noticing the telltale signs of his own desperation. He was able to play it semi-cool when he brushed off Zapp, but he seems to be struggling, wincing from time to time, and watching him does nothing to improve Zed’s own situation. Finally managing to tear his glance away from his friend, he once again tries to take his mind off of things.

First, he tries coming up with a synopsis of a book he recently finished, but he keeps losing himself in the details whenever another wave of desperation assaults him. Each spasm from his bladder throws him off, so perhaps thinking about reading is too difficult to focus on right now. But, no matter what topic he tries focusing his attention on, nothing is more overpowering than the reminder of just how full he is.

Though they grow closer and closer with time, the remaining distance begins to feel impossible to him. Despite himself, he soon finds himself thinking that he really won’t be able to make it that long, certainly not until they get back to the office, and even then, if he has to wait for the other two, or even one of them...he can’t give up, and there is nothing he can do other than continue to press on, but he isn’t sure if he has ever had to piss so badly in his life.

“You know, in normal cities, you can just find an alley to do your business,” Zapp says, speaking up for the first time in a while.

“What kind of cities are you talking about?” Leo asks, with one brow raised. He is still trying to play it cool, but the strain in his voice is fairly obvious.

“Bigger ones than you’ve probably been to,” he shoots back, but now Zed notices that Zapp’s voice sounds rather off as well. In fact, now that he studies his body language, it looks like he is just barely moving forward. “I’m just saying, if there’s no one around, it’s probably not that uncommon, but probably not worth the risk here.”

“Yeah, if I’m gonna get mugged, I’d at least like to not be that exposed.”

“Please, even with my dick out, I could probably handle any useless muggers,” Zapp says, smirking for only a second before he wincing and it fades. “But...I mean, it would be safer in a group than it would be alone anyway, right?”

“You can’t be serious!” Leo protests, but he sounds almost hopeful, and Zed’s face flushes. If only it were that easy...if only they could just disappear down an alley and...and…

He feels such a powerful throb at the concept that his muscles temporarily relax, slipping out of his control just enough to let a hot spurt escape. Zed chokes back a gasp as he fights to regain control, but the other two are too busy with one another to notice him nearly losing it.

“Well, why not?” asks Zapp. “Bet you’d love to let loose right about now, right? I bet the wait is killing you!”

“Whatever, Zapp, you’re the one who brought it up. What happened to all that high and mighty talk from before?” Even with his voice strained, Leo’s retorts have a bit of bite to them. “Maybe you think you’re the one who’s gonna wet his pants before we get back.”

“Shut the hell up! I’m gonna be just fine!” Though he says this, anyone could tell from the look in his eyes that Zapp is not so sure about that. “B-but if both of you are having trouble, and there’s an opportunity, what’s the point in making myself wait? You know?”

“Ugh, whatever,” Leo replies, likely only giving in because he is nearing the point of not being able to wait any longer. “Let’s just make it quick, alright?”

Zed has not commented on this topic yet, and has not given any input one way or the other. They reach the decision to do something as shameful as relieve themselves in a fairly public setting, which means that they must be very bad off, and Zed is fairly certain that he is at that point as well. But will he really do something like that with them, and in front of them? Without saying a word, he follows continues to follow them, until Zapp finds what must be a suitable alleyway.

“Fuck,” he hisses under his breath as he stumbles through, making sure that there is absolutely no one hidden away to witness what they are about to do. Zed struggles to stand still, tensing as much as possible, with all focus on his internal muscles, and not allowing any further leaks to slip past his defenses. He is only vaguely aware of Leo at his side, trembling and partially doubled over, fists still clenched, pressed tightly to his sides.

In fact, he is so focused on himself, and Leo offers just enough distraction, that the next time he even looks at Zapp is when he hears the man gasp, “Shit!” Now, Zapp is doubled over and, unbelievably, has a hand jammed between his legs, grabbing himself so shamelessly that Zed feels embarrassed on his behalf.

His breathing is heavy, and he takes a moment to try and steady himself before pulling his shaky hand back, reaching to undo his zipper, but then he grabs himself again. He bites his lip hard, and Zed is sure that he should look away to give him a little bit of privacy, but all he can do is watch as Zapp’s shoulders sag and his hand slowly falls away.

It takes a moment before he can see the dark patch spreading on Zapp’s pants, but the sound of liquid hitting concrete would be unmistakable either way. Despite all of his talk, Zapp has lost his battle, and is pissing himself in front of Leo and Zed, and though it must be humiliating for him, for Zed, it is absolute torture.

“Stop fucking staring at me!” Zapp shouts, his voice cracking, and it even looks as if there are tears in his eyes.

Not sure where to look, Zed glances over to Leo, who opens his mouth to speak, but no words come out. He makes a sort of squeaking noise, lookly off to one side suddenly and going very red in the face. Zed is horrified to see Leo’s pants grow darker and darker, to have another stream join in with the sound of Zapp’s, taunting him with the relief he should be seeking right now.

Leo’s continues long after Zapp’s has slowed to a stop, and neither one of them speaks, to him or to each other, neither attempts to cover what has happened or try to explain themselves. And Zed is on the verge of joining them, his legs weak beneath him, his hands shaking as he tries to think of what to do. With both of them soaked next to him, it almost feels wrong to go in front of them, but he knows for a fact that he won’t make it to the office, or anywhere else.

Like it or not, if he’s going to be the one to make it out of this alley dry, then he’s going to have to do this. As he reaches for his zipper, another spurt escapes him, and then another, and as he starts to pull at it, there is one that he is not able to stop, no matter how he fights and no matter how he focuses, until it cannot be called a spurt at all anymore.

Zed is panicked as his stream grows more and more powerful, quickly soaking through his pants. He hasn’t done this in years, and he promised himself it would never happen again, that it would never happen in front of anyone, and why, why, why does it have to happen in front of Leo, in front of Zapp , why can’t he get it to stop-

It feels like it takes an eternity for his bladder to finally finish emptying itself, and he supposes at some point, he might have been able to stop it, and save the rest for later, but once he has fully soaked through his pants and formed a sizeable puddle at his feet, stopping feels kind of pointless. Beneath his absolute mortification, there is a relief so great that it almost makes him forget what he has done, what he is doing, but in the end, nothing can fully take his mind off of that.

And, once he is completely empty, once silence has descended upon the three of them, he thinks to himself that he will never be able to live this down. He will have to deal with Zapp ridiculing him for the rest of his natural life, and he will never be able to forget the day he pissed himself in the street because he couldn’t wait ten, maybe twenty minutes longer to reach the office.

But when Zapp finally speaks up, he says, “Since you both pissed yourselves too, you can’t say anything to me, alright?!”

“Wh- oh, shut up!” Leo snaps. “As if either of us would make fun of someone for that. That’s just something you would do, jackass!”

“What about you?!” asks Zapp, glaring daggers at Zed.

“I-I haven’t even said anything, and I wouldn’t-”

“Then we’re settled!” he interrupts. “So, that’s that, and nobody says a word or I’ll kill them, got it?”

“You don’t have to threaten us,” Leo mutters. “We’re all even, right?”

“So…” Zed hates to be the one to bring it up, but his clothes are growing cold, and though he’s used to being wet, this particular sensation feels pretty gross. “Now what?”

“Sure as hell not going back to the office like this,” Zapp says. “I’m heading home before I go back there.”

“Yeah, same,” Leo says. “But that’s not gonna be a fun walk home.”

“Easy for both of you to say,” Zed replies. “But I’m the one who lives at the office, so I can’t really get out of seeing at least one of the others like this.”

“Well, you could-” Leo starts, but Zapp interrupts him.

“Come back with me then, and we’ll figure something out.” When he sees the other two staring at him, surprised at his generosity, he scowls. “What?!”

“Nothing, nothing,” says Leo, and he gives Zapp a funny sort of smile that Zed can’t decipher. Zapp just scowls harder and turns on heel, starting off without looking back.

“You coming?” he asks.

“I...yes,” says Zed. “I’ll...see you later, Leo?”

“Yeah, see you later,” says Leo, and as he heads in his own direction, Zed falls into step behind Zapp.

The two don’t speak while they make their way toward Zapp’s apartment, and Zed tries to ignore any looks he might get from people they pass on the street. Definitely not one of his better days, and easily the most humiliating thing that has ever happened to him, but at the same time, it could be worse. Though he knows it will be hard for him to forget this incident, he at least knows that neither Zapp nor Leo will hold it against him, or tell anyone else.

And, for whatever reason, Zapp is being a little bit nicer to him than usual, and though he isn’t sure why that makes him happy, he can’t help but think that’s quite the bonus.