Work It Out

A/N: Beta by [info]thenyxie. D/s themes.


The junket is work. For all that he reminds himself that other people have it worse, that other jobs are harder, still Chris can't help but be overwhelmed. One week Sydney, next week New Zealand, and it only picks up pace from there.

Kuwait is one of the best stops - more than anywhere else, it's like the Star Trek Circus pulls into town. All his partners in crime have their own language, their own worries, the show must go on; meanwhile the guys in fatigues are living a way more serious kind of life. Chris has never felt luckier to do what he does, and he tries to thank each soldier that talks to him. It's a great experience and he'll remember it.

But then they take off for London, and by the time the plane touches down he couldn't tell you what day it is, let alone what time. He wants to find a hotel room and sleep in it for two whole days, but of course there are interviews and talk shows, print and video and makeup and rehearsed answers to deliver with a fresh spin about forty different times.

He has never in his life had to do anything like this. It's just as much a part of the job as delivery and blocking, but this is really on a whole new level. Mostly he can handle himself, but there are times that the only thing that keeps him in it is Zach.

Say he's on hour 14 and all he's had since waking up is a gallon of coffee and a pastrami on rye, and a woman with too much makeup on asks him if he's intimidated to be stepping into William Shatner's shoes (14th time today). If it weren't for the familiar, steady presence beside him, he might betray how tired he is, he might stumble and give them something they'd actually use. But no, he's rescued from that. Zach says something smooth and calm, like he's reading from a prompter. It's the same voice he used at one in the morning when J.J. said just one more take, just one more take, okay guys, that was awesome, now if we could just get one more goddamn take - there was Zach. Okay, J.J. Just tell us what you need.

It was like if Zach wasn't getting upset, nobody should. The Vulcan kept the room temperature down; they'd all joked.

Everybody's on the tour except Leonard. Nobody'd ask Leonard to do this kind of thing. But Karl and John come, and Zoë and Eric. Now and then they'll get Bruce and Anton to come. Simon was a fucking riot in New Zealand; Karl had taken them to this bar one night and a bunch of them closed it down. If Chris was going to be honest with himself, he'd say it was about then that he first noticed it.

Maybe it was because Zoë'd spent so much more time with Zach than with anybody else. But no, Chris himself had had spent plenty of wee morning hours trying to get her to laugh between takes, and she'd definitely laughed. They're all friends, here. He isn't lying when he tells people that the cast are all great people, that they all get along - he hates to think what it would have been like if any of them had been prissy or standoffish. Zoë certainly isn't like that; she's a fun girl and he likes her. Yet he can't help but notice that no matter where they are, no matter what they're doing, Zoë always seems to be hanging around with Zach.

Paris is great, when they arrive. He and John play a game where they try to speak French to bartenders and order the most deranged drink they can dream up, and whoever resorts to English first has to drink it. Karl and Zach monopolize the pool tables and won't stop punning, which would be annoying but they all really like French wine, so it's always hilarious. Zoë isn't around as much because she's a girl and this is Paris, and while Chris does miss her, there's some obscure part of him that feels a kind of satisfaction. He chalks it up to getting in some quality man time - there are certain kinds of asshole you just can't be if there's a girl around.

One typical night, Karl finds this little hole in the wall bar for them to descend on. John runs into an old friend almost as soon as they walk in, so he's gone. Karl himself has a girlfriend back in L.A., and just as it's getting late he says he wants to call her. This leaves Chris to get Zach back to the hotel; he's been into the tequila tonight, which is a great way to get a lap full of Quinto if you want it. The three of them get a cab back together, and Chris hauls Zach out of the backseat when they arrive. Karl's got his phone open and a cigarette in his mouth immediately, which Chris smiles at.

"See you tomorrow," Zach slurs, and he takes a step toward the front doors before tripping over his sneakers.

Chris's reflexes save the pavement from some nasty stubble burn. "Whoa, buddy, I gotcha."

"Shit." Zach rubs his eye and holds onto Chris's shoulders with one arm. "I'm sorry, man. You know I never get this trashed."

"I know," Chris says, grinning because it's really true. Mister Collected is all about appropriate boundaries, and Chris takes it as a mark of real friendship that Zach's got blind drunk enough with him to cross some of 'em. "Come on, I'll make sure you get to your room without accidentally giving yourself a concussion."

"Thank you," Zach says, a bubble of laughter working its way through his words.

Chris puts his arm around Zach's waist and starts the marching order. He gets them into the elevators and up to their floor without attracting too much attention, and then they spend a minute sorting through Zach's wallet trying to find the key card. He's got six of them in there, and Chris calls him a thief and a reprobate while Zach tries to protest his innocence. I just forgot, I was busy, you're taking advantage of my inebriation to score points.

Chris forgoes asking how he can say words like 'inebriation' while he's drunk off his ass in favor of arching an eyebrow. "You're saying I'm taking advantage of you so I can score?"

Zach collapses against the door in a fit of giggles, and Chris pushes card after card in the door slot. Nothing fits, and none of them look like his own key card anyway, so he sighs. "Fuck it, you'll just have to bunk with me."

"See!" Zach points at him, his dark lashes drooping onto his cheeks. His voice is blurred with sugar and booze, and he crashes into Chris again, slings his arm back over Chris's shoulder. "I told you. Masher. Cad."

"I'm the captain of a starship," Chris informs him, dragging him down the hall and managing his own key card at the same time. "I can have anybody I want."

"Not me," Zach mumbles against his shoulder, whisper soft. "That's fraternizing."

Chris shoulders his door open and steps into the darkened room. The cool air hits his cheeks like a slap; he didn't realize they were so warm. Everywhere that isn't where Zach's touching feels cold now, and shivery. "You fraternize with Nyota," he says, and is surprised to hear such resentment in his voice.

If Zach hears it, he doesn't seem to care. He laughs again, warm against Chris's neck. "She could kick your ass, man."

"She could kick all our asses," Chris agrees, and drops Zach onto the bed. He steps away and into the bathroom, and feels a pulse of relief that he doesn't choose to examine. He wets down a facecloth and runs it across his forehead, his cheeks, and feels a bit better for it. He fills both of the glasses there with water, downs one himself and refills it before taking the other out to Zach.

In the room, Zach's sneakers are haphazardly strewn at the foot of the bed, and his shirt has found its way onto a chair. He's sprawled across the bed with his arms wide and his mouth soft, enjoying the air from the vent above him. While this isn't the first time Chris has seen Zach shirtless, it's the first time he's put himself on such display. Zach has certain parts of his life he keeps very private, and Chris has never felt it necessary to pry. It's part of why they get along so well.

This is... new.

Chris narrows his eyes thoughtfully as he crosses the room, puts the water on the nightstand and sits on the bed. "Can I ask you a personal question?" he says.

Zach gives him a lazy, warm smile. "Of course. Anything."

"Are you and Zoë, y'know..." He lets it trail off suggestively.

Zach's smile turns subtle, twists a little until there's a shade of wickedness in it. His eyes slant away, and he picks himself up to lie on his side, make room on the bed. Chris notices that his abs demarcate with the movement, that the dark hair on his chest makes the soft shadows deeper. "Are we... what? If you can't say it, I'm not telling you."

Chris focuses on one pale wrist, where it rests along his belt. "Are you seeing each other?"

"We see each other all the time," Zach grins. "I'm drunk, you gotta do better than that."

Chris rolls his eyes and flops down beside him, thankful to be able to look up at the ceiling. "Fine. Are you dating?" He makes the mistake of looking over at Zach for an answer, and feels his stomach lurch at how close they are. If he concentrates, he can feel the warmth under his arm where Zach was lying just a moment ago.

"No," Zach smiles, and pushes at him gently. "But that's not what you wanted to ask. Go ahead, Chris. What do you really want to know?" His voice is deep and deathly serious, the kind you'd use if you wanted to get in somebody's pants.

There's a fair share of alcohol in Chris's own body, but that's not why he doesn't put a stop to all this. He knows that if he gives even a subtle hint that he's uncomfortable, Zach will close down like he was never open, and they don't ever have to talk about it again. He knows he can trust Zach with that. So he licks his lips, images swimming in his mind, and he asks his question. "Are you fucking?"

Zach purses his lips, ooh. "Such an ugly word for such a delectable event. I take it you haven't."

"No," Chris says, knitting his brows, looking away. "Course not."

"No," Zach agrees. "You probably figure she wouldn't go for you. Zoë's so elegant and sure of herself, she's a fucking ballerina for God's sake, and you're -"

"Some asshole from L.A.," Chris laughs, feeling understood. It's true, someone like Zoë's out of his league.

Zach edges a little closer to him, leaning down to whisper his secret. "But you'd like to. You've thought about it."

"Yeah," Chris nods, shifting his hips a little to relieve some pressure. He's a bit breathless now, and lowers his voice to match Zach's. "I mean, shit, who wouldn't?"

"Well," Zach muses. "I'm a gentleman."

"And an officer," Chris grins.

"An officer and a gentleman," Zach laughs. "So even if I were fucking our dear Miss Saldana, I could never tell you."

The way his voice cradles the word 'fucking', like it's some kind of romantic endearment, makes Chris shiver. "Air conditioning's too high," he mumbles, his cheeks hot.

Again, Zach ignores him completely. "But I can tell you this. If I were to find myself in the enviable position of having those perfect thighs wrapped around my head, I could tell you that she tasted like some kind of rich, heavy, deeply erotic dessert that melts on your tongue the minute you open your mouth."

Chris immediately closes his eyes and pictures it: flawless skin in the hollow of her hips, lighter than the coal-black hair that tickled her belly. Strong hands pushed up under tender knees, holding her open, and her toes curled against his shoulders as she gasped and pushed against his mouth. In his jeans, Chris's cock makes its approval known in no uncertain terms. He tries to get his breath. It takes a little more shifting, and he doesn't dare take too long before he coughs a little, to clear his throat. He keeps his eyes closed tightly. "What else?" he asks, his voice wavering. "Hypothetically, I mean."

There's a shift on the bed, just small. "Hypothetically," Zach muses. "She'd be the kind of woman that grips your hair, so she can put you where she wants you. She'd get so wet, when you tasted her, that your chin would be soaked by the time you were done."

Chris can't keep in a groan.

As if on cue, Zach chuckles deep in his chest. "She'd do that too," he says. "Moan and whimper for you, tell you how good you felt and how to eat her just a little bit better. She'd kick you in the ribs if you didn't go fast enough, and she'd come like a flower opening in the rain, go soft and warm and helpless under your tongue."

Moving before he thinks, Chris tugs the front of his jeans away from his body. When his wine-slowed brain catches up with his hands, he blushes hard. But if Zach has a problem with it, he figures it'll stop.

"Then," Zach murmurs, and Chris can almost hear him bare his teeth in savagery, "you could lay down over her. And you'd be so hard, Chris, but she'd need time, she'd beg you to just give her a minute. So you'd have to lie there over her hot, naked body, feel her shudder against you, riding against the wet heat of her, and you would have to wait."

"God dammit," Chris groans sincerely. He's seeing it dance against the back of his eyelids and it's killing him: Zach's beard against her dusky, pebbled nipples, his dick pressed against the slick of her pussy and his endless, intolerable patience. "I'm not great at waiting," he growls, because in this way Chris is nothing like his friend.

Zach, cruel son of a bitch that he is, shrugs. Chris can feel the shrug through the mattress. "It's that or jerk off alone."

"Fine," Chris says through his teeth. "Fine. I guess... for someone like that, I could do it."

"Because she's special," Zach says, light and soft as air.

Chris shrugs. "Because it's what I want," he corrects, and isn't even really sure what he means.

But his answer seems to please Zach, and he continues. "That's good. Someone like that, you have to appreciate her. Be considerate of what she needs."

"Yeah," Chris says, because the way Zach says those things, it sounds like something dirty.

"You need to do things just right," Zach murmurs, and shifts on the bed again.

Tempted, Chris cracks one eye open just a little and looks over. Zach has crooked one knee and is resting it on the bed, so the curve of his hip his blatant even in the low light. He's resting his head on his hand, an elbow planted in his pillow, and he's looking down the length of Chris's body and biting softly at one fingertip.

Chris quickly shuts his eyes again.

"But if you do," Zach continues. "If you treat a woman like that right, then she'll let you have what you want. First, she'll use her hands, both of them, so she can feel how much you want her."

"You'd think she'd know already," Chris grumbles.

"Oh, she does," Zach assures him. "But she wants to feel it herself, in her own palms. She'd rub her thumb under the head of your cock to see if you're wet for her like she's wet for you."

Chris bites back a gasp. He wonders if Zach is circumcised, decides he is because it's easier to picture if he matches Chris, and adjusts his mental image accordingly. For a bizarre second, that image is of himself pushing Zach back on the bed and seeing for himself.

Zach continues, his voice now getting lower, heavier, as though the unflappable Zachary is actually affected by something. "She'd tease you. As much herself as you, getting you anxious and wanting. She'd press you against her pussy, get you wet with her own body, and then she'd ask you if you wanted it. She'd make you say it, make you ask if you could fuck into her, get into her tight little pussy and -"

"Fuck it," Chris blurts out, and sat up. He has every intention of getting up, going straight to the bathroom and jerking off until he can't see straight, because nobody can be expected to just goddamn sit here through this.

"Chris."

The word stops him dead. The teasing bastard quality to Zach's voice has evaporated, and Chris can hear the sudden vulnerability thrumming through it.

"Stay," Zach says.

Chris turns and sees him looking at his feet, color high in his cheeks, his teeth worrying at his bottom lip. If Chris wanted to, he could pretend he'd never heard that word at all. Instead, he closes his eyes and slowly lays himself back down.

Zach clears his throat.

"Then what would she do?" Chris asked softly. He feels stupid, like any second Zach's going to remember what a dumb idea this is and go sleep in the lobby. He couldn't blame Zach if he did.

But instead, there's another shift on the bed, and fingers tugging at Chris's belt.

His brain catches fire. Emergency, it insists. Unauthorized shit is happening right now. Shut up, he thinks at it, and fills it with pictures of naked Zoë. "Talk to me," he says aloud, and puts his hands on his stomach so they'll be out of the way.

"Um," Zach says, sounding breathless. "Chris, I..."

"I know," Chris tells him, feeling the teeth of his zipper part oh-so-carefully over his cock. "Just... like before. Don't think about it, just..."

"You want her," Zach starts, sounding hesitant. "You're hard for her, aren't you?"

Chris nods, unable to say anything just yet. Zach presses the palm of his hand against Chris's cock through his Calvins. Aroused so much that a simple touch like that is fucking excellent, Chris groans deep in his throat.

A little more steady now, Zach continues. "God, you do want her. She'd hold you, maybe squeeze you a little, just to show you that she owns you."

Zach matches actions to words, and Chris hisses through his teeth at the flood that goes racing through his body, down his legs and up his spine. He bucks a little into Zach's warm hand, can't help it.

"I think," Zach tells him contemplatively, "that she'd make you lie down and take it. I think she'd ride you."

"Yeah," Chris growls, the image blinding him - Zoë's hair over her breasts, her hands pressing down on his chest. He presses his fingertips into his stomach, the way he would her hips.

At the same moment, Zach lifts his hand and pushes it underneath the elastic, coasts his hard, roughened fingers down the sensitive skin of Chris's belly. "She'd rub against you," Zach murmurs, pressing his fingers into the curve of hip, further down to cup his balls. "She'd use you to find her clitoris, maybe even get off like that on top of you before she'd let you inside. Can you feel her on you?"

Chris's cock is begging for Zach's hand, for skin. His belly's smeared with slick, he's been hard for what feels like ages, and he's suffocating in these jeans - he hooks his thumbs in the waistband and pushes all the fabric down to his thighs.

Zach startles a little at the sudden movement, but makes a pleased sound when he figures out what Chris is doing. "You're lucky she's not picky," Zach murmurs, back to his playful tone. "If she really were fucking you, Christopher, she'd want you naked."

At this point, Chris really doesn't need the goddamn metaphor anymore. But Zach sure seems to like it, so he says nothing and concentrates on not grabbing Zach's wrist and making him do what he's been promising.

Zach trails those firm fingers along his cock, and it jumps at his hand. "So eager," Zach sighs. "She'd like that. It'd make her want you back, want to take you in her hand, or in her mouth."

Again, his cock leaps against Zach's fingers. Again, he feels like he's fucking melting. This time his mind isn't screwing around: Zach on his knees, Chris's hand in his black hair, the thrust of his hips just as lazy and heavy as he wanted to make it. Taking what he wants, instead of what he's given.

Trust Zach to read between the lines. "Is that what you want? Want her to suck you off?"

"Mm-hm," Chris manages to hum, pushing his hips up as subtly as he can. Zach takes pity and cradles Chris's dick in his hand, rubbing his thumb against the slick just like he said. Chris licks his lips and squeezes his eyes shut harder, trying to hold it in check.

"If you can stay still," Zach murmurs at the bottom of his volume. "Maybe she will. But if you thought you couldn't control yourself, I don't know. She might tie you down and make you beg."

"No time," Chris pants, trying very hard to still his hips. His dick is straining toward completion, his body urging him on, but Chris is a disciplined goddamn professional, and he doesn't move.

"Keep your eyes closed," Zach tells him softly, and there's a shift on the bed.

Chris obeys, and doesn't so much as breathe.

The first touch of Zach's tongue is like fire, and Chris's hand flashes down without his permission to wrap itself up in that perfectly-styled hair. He bucks his hips, he opens his eyes and looks down, and it's all the many things he's not supposed to do, but he can't help it. He can't fucking help it.

He is not expecting the stinging, vicious slap to the high, soft skin on his thigh. He jumps about a foot. "Ow, goddammit!"

Zach sits up and pins him with an arm, fixes him with this deadly glare that makes Chris's own eyes go wide. "You were told," Zach says furiously. With his free hand, he grips Chris's dick again, hard and sure.

Yep. Still hot.

Chris licks his lips again and tries not to buck his hips. "I'm sorry," he says, trying to look sincere.

"Are you really?" Zach sneers contemptuously, squeezing Chris hard. "I asked one simple thing."

Chris squeezes his eyes shut against the pleasure-pain boiling his blood. "I know," he gasps out. "I'm really sorry, Zach, please."

"Say it again," Zach demands, flicking his thumb over the head.

Chris doesn't pretend not to know what he means. "Please, Zach," he says, his voice tight and strained even to his own ears. "Please, I'm begging you."

The hand on him eases, slides up around the head of his dick and back down. The slick on those fingers makes the slide a bit easier, and Chris's head thumps back onto the pillow as he groans heavily. Zach's voice, when it comes, is right beside him. He can feel hot breath against his jaw. "Reach up with your hands, put them under your pillow, and hold them there. If you move them, I stop."

Chris hurries to obey, and grips his own wrists to ensure that they don't run away on him. He keeps his eyes closed too, if only because Zach never said to open them.

The bed shifts again as Zach kneels up, swings his thigh over Chris's and settles there. Chris's mind swims with the images Zach put there, of Zoë's bare skin, her waiting pussy. That, together with the pictures Chris's mind is conjuring of the many things Zach could do while straddling him, is enough to make him grip his own wrists tight.

There's a rustle of fabric, an unzipping. Zach shifts again, and then Chris is trying not to whine too loudly as liquid heat surrounds his cock. Zach's lips are gentle with him, sucking soft and wet, and he never said don't push your hips, he never said that.

Even so, it doesn't do much good; Zach only gets his fist around Chris and uses it to keep Chris from pushing too far. He jacks his fist, too, until his palm is slick with spit and come and Chris is thrashing around as best a guy can while pinned to the bed with promises.

He's so close to coming when Zach pulls his mouth away. "No no," he says, gulping in air. "No, please, Zach, please don't stop..."

But Zach isn't listening. He crawls back up Chris's body and settles on his thighs, then uses one hand to push Chris's t-shirt up. His nipples were already hard from the onslaught, and Zach's quick kisses only make them tighten and itch unbearably. He fights with his hands for a second before remembering that they're holding one another.

Zach's voice is bedrock deep. "Next time," he says, and Chris shudders to feel his hand again. Then, a new feeling: pressed against his dick is Zach's own, and his slick hand wraps around them both. He starts to stroke them together, long and fast and tight and so fucking good, and Chris throws away any inkling of giving a damn that he ever had. Just so long as Zach keeps doing this.

"Next time, Chris," Zach promises, his breath catching in his throat. "I will fuck you so hard your eyes roll back."

Damn if they don't roll back right there.

The orgasm that rips through his body is hollowing, shattering, leaving echoes to ripple through him in near painful aftershocks. He's not in control of his body for those moments, pushing his cock into Zach's hand and making noises he'll blush to remember later, his mouth wide open and his eyes unseeing. Zach's dick pulses against his, and they're slick with each other. Some drops have landed on Chris's chest, and as he regains his ability to think, he wonders whether he should wipe them away.

No, he decides with a smile, panting hard, his body buzzing. Zach didn't say he could move yet.

With an untranslatable sigh, his friend flops down beside him. They lie together for a while, and then Zach gets out of bed. Chris watches lazily as Zach skims out of his jeans and tosses them onto the chair, then pads around the bathroom, his hand already pushing at his hair.

Chris smiles at that, and enjoys the afterglow as Zach cleans up.

When the bathroom door opens again, Zach is bearing a clean cloth. He's the one to sit down on the bedside this time, and the cloth is clean and warm against Chris's belly, his chest. "You want to do the rest?" Zach asks softly, and Chris opens his eyes.

"You didn't say I could move," he notes, with a little mischief.

Zach lowers his eyes, looks away like he's embarrassed, but Chris can see the curve of his lips in a faintly sinister smile. "You can move if you want," Zach tells him.

Chris lets his wrists go and rubs them, then cleans himself up. "Drink that water," he demands, in the middle of the job. "I'm the one that's gotta spend all day with you tomorrow, and you are a royal pain in the ass when you're hung over."

"That's true," Zach concedes amiably, and puts down both glasses in quick succession as Chris shucks his jeans and shirt and climbs under the covers.

He curls up against a pillow and sighs contentedly. When the other side of the bed dips, it's a bit tentative, so Chris holds the covers open. "Don't be such a girl."

Zach climbs in and lies down. A couple seconds of silence pass, and then his soft voice comes drifting through the room. "Chris?"

"Mm."

"I snore when I'm drunk."

Chris chuckles sleepily. "Don't worry," he says, with every bit of affection he feels. "I won't tell anyone."

Another moment of silence, and then Zach touches Chris's cheek. "Thanks."

"Anytime," Chris says, and means it.

~

Karl is not helpful.

Chris slumps on the hotel bar, scowling at a rye and coke. "Listen, just because it hasn't worked out for other people doesn't mean-"

"I didn't say it didn't work out," Karl tells him kindly. He's got booze enough in him that the kiwi accent is thick and present, and he claps Chris on the shoulder like the pal he is. "I'm just telling you to cool your jets. It'll come around if it's meant to. You can't force these things."

"Hey, I'm not forcing," Chris protests indignantly, gesturing to his chest with his drink. "Who was forcing? This is not forcing."

Karl rolls his eyes. "Fuck, you have gone stupid over him, haven't you?"

Chris slumps again. "Shut up."

"If you like," Karl says, and Chris could swear the bastard's laughing at him.

Zoë also is not in any way helpful. Chris learns this whilst in a Berlin shoe store. Zoë has this thing for shoes, and Chris does not, but it's the only way to get her to stand in one place long enough to talk to her.

"I don't know," she's saying speculatively, eyeing her newest prey critically in the mirror. "What do you think?"

Chris glances at them, sees heels the size of his head and a huge number of very complicated-looking straps. "They're great," he sighs.

She glances over her shoulder at him. "See, this is why. It's just my opinion."

"You're out of your mind," he says, putting his feet up on the bench he's on. "There's a pretty simple requirement for being a gay guy, and I got it."

Zoë abruptly looks apologetic. "Oh, baby, I didn't mean to say you weren't enough for him or anything. I'm sorry. It's just that Zach has the skills, y'know?"

Chris's eyes widen, his mouth drops open. "Are you telling me you think I don't have the skills, Zo? Because I promise you, I have mad skills!"

Zoë rolls her eyes. That's getting to be a common reaction, and Chris is pretty sure he hates that. "If I asked Zach what he thought of my shoes, he'd tell me. In detail. He's been in GQ a dozen times, he's got bonafides. That's all I meant." She turns a speculative eye back on the mirror and pivots on the spot. "How are my legs in these?"

Now that, Chris is qualified to give an opinion on.

Maybe Zoë has a point.

But, he thinks, stumbling off the dance floor draped around John's shoulder, that's completely irrelevant. "It's prejudice!" he hollers over the heavy music. "I'm being discriminated against, here!"

"Karl told me," John shouts back. "Come on. You need some air."

They fall outside into the hot Madrid night and head over to where Karl leans against a wall, crushing a cigarette to death. He nods at them and Chris bums one; he only smokes when he's out dancing. Weird craving, whatever.

"You're a total idiot," Karl says, handing one over.

"Tell me something I don't know," Chris smiles, and thieves his lighter.

John leans against the whitewashed brick and breathes deeply of said fresh air. "Really?" he asks, gazing up at the sky. "Zach?"

Karl tucks a filter between his lips. "Trust me," he says, dry as the Sahara. "It happens."

Chris rubs a hand over his face. "Look. Advice, I got. I gotta do something or I won't be doing anything."

John waves a hand. "Well, I'll help you, man, but it's weird. I'm just saying."

Chris tilts an eyebrow at him. (Karl does the same.) "What're you gonna do?" he asks, not having gotten this far himself.

Under the dim alley light, John's are-you-retarded face is even more pointed. "Dude. Are you serious?" They stare at him until he too rolls his eyes. "You wanna get something going on with Zach, you need a member of the official wingman corps. No man left behind, buddy." John holds up a fist, and Chris bumps it incredulously.

"You are a genius. Why didn't I think of that?"

"Because you're stupid."

Chris beams at him. "Obviously."

Karl waves a hand. "That's what I said. Pretty, but dumb."

"It was on the casting call," Chris grins.

Karl asks if they need him, but John waves him off, so he flips open his phone to call L.A. John takes Chris by the arm and drags him back into the crush, up some stairs and over to the rail. They scan the crowd for Zach and find him talking animatedly to a woman wearing a t-shirt that, transliterated, appears to mean no dinosaurs.

"Okay," John says during a lull in the music. "Give me a minute to send him to the bar. Then you go intercept."

Chris catches him by the arm before he can leave. "Wait, what do I say?"

Without missing a beat, John slaps him upside the head. "It's just Zach. You don't need a line."

"Right," Chris nods, and rubs his ear. "Ow."

John hollers over the newly deafening funk. "Don't be a baby," he advises, and then disappears down the stairs. Chris watches him duck and weave his way toward the table, and it takes only a second of chat for him to shake hands with the girl, for Zach to get up and head for the bar. John talks to the girl a second longer and then they're headed out to the dance floor. John looks up to catch Chris's eye, and jabs his finger commandingly in the direction of the bar.

"Okay," Chris says to himself, and pushes his hair behind his ears, smoothes down his shirt. "Okay. Here we go."

He makes it to the bar in time to add one to Zach's order, and help him carry the drinks back. Zach is drinking Sprite, Chris notes, which is not helpful. So far John's been the only helpful person he knows. "Playing designated driver?" he asks when they're sitting down. This part of the club is insulated a bit from the pounding bass line, so he doesn't have to scream.

Zach shrugs. "I got a good buzz going already."

Chris nods, and gestures in the direction of the strawberry daiquiri on the table. "If that's for Karl, I gotta tell you, I think he's allergic to pink."

It gets a laugh, the sight of which settles warmly around Chris's stomach somewhere. "It's for Allie," Zach says. "I met her a few minutes ago, but I don't know where she went."

Chris licks rye off his lips and stares at his glass. "You like her?"

"Sure," Zach says expansively, swinging his arms wide. "I like all of Madrid. Allá donde fueres, haz lo que vieres."

"What's that mean?" Chris can't help but smile.

"When in Madrid, do as the Madrideans," Zach smiles back at him.

Chris tips his glass. "Madrilenians," he pronounces clearly, and Zach acknowledges Chris's point in their ever-evolving game of unusual English words.

The music settles over them again, and Chris curses himself for not having the first clue how to close the deal here. Zach looks lazy and happy and enjoying himself, and that's great, but not the direction Chris is looking for. Zoë was right; he's got a lot of work to do if he wants to get smooth.

Wait, Zoë!

"So, I was talking to Zoë the other day," he says. "You'll never believe what she told me." Zach lifts an interested eyebrow at him. Encouraged, Chris leaps into it. "She says you have more queer eye skills than me. Crazy, right? I mean, I'm pretty far from helpless. I have a GQ shoot scheduled when we're done the tour."

"Really," Zach says. His voice is a little flat, his eyebrow still quirked, but Chris is warming to his topic and doesn't notice.

"Oh yeah. And not to sound like a prick about it, but I'm a hell of a cook. I could make a carbonara that'd blow your hair back."

Zach chuckles softly, shaking his head over his green straw.

"What?"

His eyes are glinting with that mischievous, faintly wicked look they get sometimes. It hits Chris down low, that look. Zach leans in a bit, and Chris tilts his head forward immediately. "That," Zach says, voice full of amusement, "is downright sad. A world of openers, and you lead with that?"

Chris blinks at him. "I... I use real bacon..."

"I'm Italian, you moron, I know what's in carbonara." Chris is at a total loss for how to answer that, but luckily Zach is standing up and fishing a bill out of his wallet. "Get your stuff together. We're leaving."

"Thank God," Chris breathes, and goes to get a cab.

A soft rain has started outside, so they wait together under the awning. Chris pushes his hands into his pockets and studies his shoes, because he doesn't really know what to do with himself. Then, Zach bumps shoulders with him like always, and Chris winds up smiling at his shoes like an idiot. He's still just as confused and unsure of himself, but when Zach wants him to smile, well. He usually gets what he wants.

When the cab comes, they get into the backseat and Zach gives the name of their hotel. Chris leans across the seat like he's going to whisper something, but all he really wants is to invade the bubble of space Zach holds around him like armor. He wants to make his intentions clear.

"Sit," Zach murmurs, a devious smirk curving his lips.

Chris falls back into his seat with a sigh. He knows better to try anything on their way through the lobby, or even in the elevator. Zach leads them to his room without hesitating, but Chris'll go wherever Zach wants so long as it means he can take his hands out of his pockets and put them somewhere more interesting.

Zach lets him go through the door first, and before Chris even has a chance to look around, he's being shoved against the wall. Zach's hand is in his hair, lips a breath from his own, and Chris very nearly puts his hands over his head just to show he isn't fucking armed. Zach shoves a knee between Chris's thighs, and good, yes, that's excellent.

"I can't believe," Zach tells him in slow, drugged tones, "that you let us traipse halfway across Europe before you came to me again."

Chris suffers twin pangs of indignance and regret. "I couldn't think," he protests. "I wanted to ask, but I didn't..."

"You didn't know how," Zach says for him, soft and warm.

Chris nods, and carefully puts his hands on Zach's hips. It takes only a millimetre to close the distance between them, to kiss him for the first time. Zach is still for a moment, just allowing the touch without returning it. But just when Chris starts to really get behind the idea, when he touches his tongue to Zach's lips, that's when Zach pushes him back against the wall and opens him up. He bites, forces Chris's head to a better angle and slides his tongue along the ridge of Chris's teeth. Kissing Zach is exactly like Chris remembers it being like to fuck him, and the worn-edged memory of that night in London rushes into his mind all over again.

By the time Zach lets him breathe again, Chris doesn't want to anymore. He tries to push against Zach again, but Zach's got him.

"Not so fast," Zach instructs breathlessly. "This time I get to screw with you."

Chris is dumbstruck. "This time?"

"If you think I was screwing with you before, you badly underestimate me." Zach grins, and leans forward to rest against Chris's body.

In a way, hearing that is like being assured that he's finally found the right person. Since London he hasn't seen anything of the one he met in that hotel room except the occasional whisper, there and gone before he knew it. He never seemed to have the right combination of luck and timing and mood to draw this out again, thought maybe he imagined that it was like this. But this is what he wanted, right here. He's still not real clear on how he made it happen this time, sexy and strange and a little scary. But he'll take it.

"Okay," he tries, hooking his thumbs into Zach's belt loops. "So, help me out, here. I don't know what I'm allowed to do."

Zach tilts his head, considering. "Getting rid of your clothes might be a good place to start."

Chris blushes and turns his face. "You'd probably have to let me go to... oh."

He's interrupted in that thought by Zach's mouth, pressing against his jaw line and slipping down his neck. The sounds are slick and wet, skin on skin, and when Zach talks, Chris feels it all the way down to his bones. "You know," Zach whispers between bites, "when you blush, you tempt me terribly."

"Uh." Chris puts a hand in Zach's hair to feel the strands between his fingers. "Good," he says, because being tempting sounds pretty damn good right now. Better than being the idiot who couldn't find a pickup line.

Zach laughs against Chris's throat and buries his face there for a second. "Okay," he sighs, and then steps back. "I'm going into the bathroom, and when I get back... be naked." He steps backward, his dark eyes on Chris to the last second, and then spins on his heel and closes the bathroom door behind him.

Chris strips in record time, falls back on the bed, folds his arms behind his head and sighs. The pillows smell like Zach.

A minute ticks by before, unable to sit still, he opens them up again and peers around the room. There are plenty of Zach's things - laptop, book, shoes and clothes, that kind of thing. The more Chris looks at it, though, and at his own clothes in a messy pile on the floor, the more it seems like there's a specific order to Zach's things, and Chris's clothes are screwing it up. He gets up and takes his clothes to a chair, folds things up as best he can. That's better.

"Don't... move."

Chris freezes in place, his hands loose at his sides. There are a couple of sounds behind him, but he doesn't look because Zach said don't move. Following Zach's instructions in situations like these have traditionally resulted in things that Chris needs to make happen again.

Then, gentle fingers coast down the small of his back and over his bare hip. The room suddenly feels chilly as he feels the scrape of Zach's stubble at the nape of his neck, the press of his thumb in the divot low down on his side. Zach touches his tongue to the bump of Chris's spine and it's blazing hot, like the crush of the dance club concentrated down to a single point.

Chris feels his body shiver awake, goosebumps on his arms, cock rising slow and steady. "Zach," he murmurs, unsure how to help this along.

"I like when you say my name," Zach tells him, marking words into his skin with teeth and tongue. His hands come down to grip and stroke along cooled skin, leaving heat in their wake. "When I'm inside you, Chris, I want you to say it as many times as you want."

The shudder of pleasure that coasts through him is violent and immediate, but his brain rebels. "Jesus," he breathes. "Zach, if you... I'm not really sure I..."

"Don't worry," Zach assures him, mouth is lower down now. He kisses the birthmark under Chris's left arm, mouth meltingly warm and open.

Chris has been scratched there, that tender part of him, but never has anybody given it this kind of thorough, careful attention. Nobody ever told him his back was a fucking erogenous zone.

Zach grips him by the hips to keep him upright, and murmurs as his lips smear lower. The shadow of his beard scrapes over newly sensitized skin, burning. "I promise you I won't give you a damn thing until you ask me to."

Chris is squirming now, uncomfortable on his feet. He not sure he wants what's coming, and he's worried that if he says no, Zach will shut down on him. Maybe throw him out. Then he really will be an asshole, and blame himself as much as Zach, and yeah, no, that can't go anywhere good. "Can we," he manages, somewhere between catching breaths.

"What?" Zach asks gently, rubbing his hands down Chris's thighs. "You can ask me anything you want, any time. That's a rule."

A rule. That's good. You can't win if you don't know the rules. "Kind of like Jeopardy," he says, experiencing a brain filter malfunction. "Phrase your answer in the form of a question."

Zach laughs, hot against Chris's back. "Yeah, kind of."

That sounds like his friend, Chris thinks. That's the guy he knows. He hadn't realized he missed that guy until he wasn't there anymore - the sexy guy is great, but it's no fun without Zach. He relaxes a little, breathes a little easier. "Can we get on the bed? I kinda wanna lie down."

Zach smiles against his skin, and nips hard enough to make Chris yelp. "Do I want you in my bed? Yes, I think I do. Pull back the covers, though. I think you'll look better on the sheets."

Chris's cheeks are absolutely flaming when he does as Zach says, but he can feel a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Zach's gentle teasing is what got this whole thing started to begin with. He burrows under the clean, pressed sheets with a sigh of relief and bumps over to the far side so Zach can get in.

Instead, Zach flicks the covers all the way back and then climbs up.

Now that Chris can face him, he notices that Zach ditched his shirt and tie in the bathroom, but kept the undershirt. Chris tugs it between two fingers. "You know, I'm pretty sure this only works if you don't have clothes on either."

"I'll get there," Zach says, settling against him and running a hand down his side. The kiss he delivers is so kind and unassuming that Chris forgets the sting on his back, on his lips, and just sinks into it. Zach tastes like Sprite and that paella he likes, spicy enough to make your eyes water. Underneath that is the taste like cool, clear water, and Chris hunts for it with his tongue. He doesn't notice how he pushes Zach back into the pillows, how he presses his cock against Zach's hip. He's busy.

A warm hand cups his cheek. "My shirt," Zach says against his lips. "Take it off."

"My pleasure," Chris bites out, and grabs at the hem.

Zach catches his wrists with both hands and stills them. "Carefully," he cautions. "If you rip it, you won't come for an hour."

Chris's blood runs cold. That is a serious threat, he knows, because if anybody would be bastard enough to do it, it'd be Zach Quinto. The guy has no limits - anybody on the set who'd been dumb enough to get into a prank war with him could tell you that.

Gently, Chris eases the undershirt up and over Zach's head, and then dumps it over the side of the bed.

Zach lies back down and takes Chris by the wrist. "Come here," he urges. "Sit on top of me and put your hands on your thighs."

Chris lets Zach maneuver him. The position isn't uncomfortable, though he can feel the hard press of Zach's dick against his ass, underneath his balls. Zach manacles Chris's wrists with his hands, pressing his palms down. His eyes are deep and black, and Chris listens. "I don't want your hands to move," Zach tells him seriously, sternly. "Keep them exactly where I put them."

Chris nods, contrite, though he couldn't say for what. Doubting, maybe?

Zach lets him go then, and runs the backs of his fingers up the underside of Chris's cock. Chris sucks in a breath and closes his eyes, bites his bottom lip. "I want you to tell me," Zach says idly, tracing his fingers over and around the sensitive skin. "Did you ever touch yourself, thinking of that night in London?"

The blaze soaks down from his cheeks, into his chest and the tips of his ears, onto the back of his neck. He knows the answer, and it's a really good guess on Zach's part. He makes himself nod, and not move his hips.

"Very good," Zach purrs at him, and rubs his thumb through the sudden slick that wells at the tip of Chris's cock. "I think you'll find that the truth is its own reward."

Chris can hardly hear for the rush of blood through his body. He needs more strength, more friction, but he knows better than to think he'll get it without giving some more. "The truth," he says, and his voice cracks like he's goddamn fourteen.

"Mm." Zach rubs that thumb over him again, slow and firm.

Chris shivers, his thighs tensing under his hands. "The truth is, I haven't beat off to anything else since. Either what you did to me, or you talking about Zoë, or... or thinking about what else we'd have done if we weren't so tired..."

He can't talk any more after that, because Zach is working him over in slow, hard strokes and there's a buzzing in his ears. He digs his fingers into his legs to keep them from moving, to keep from reaching out the way he wants to. Zach pulses against him and he rocks his hips just to deal a little back, to see if he can get Zach to feel even half of the need hissing through him right now.

"Jesus," Zach breathes, and Chris opens his eyes to see darkness on Zach's face, in the twist of his wrist and the curves of his arm. "I don't even have to ask. You just... open up to me, and I... Chris, lean back on your hands? Put your hands between my knees and... oh, yes. God, you're so fucking beautiful."

It's awkward, Chris thinks, bent in half like this. It makes his cock jut from his body for Zach to tease, and his thighs are already shaking with the strain, but if it'll get Zach to say shit like that, he'll do it all fucking day.

"I want to fuck you so bad," Zach groans, and it fires through Chris's body like a shot of meth. A whine escapes his throat, though he didn't tell it to be there, and it's not because of the thing itself, but how Zach's voice shakes when he says it.

"Do it," he says, heart pounding in his throat in case Zach should listen to him. "Come on, Zach, do it."

It's a flash of movement; he's falling forward before he understands that there's a hand on his wrist. Zach hauls him down to the bed and surges up over him, kissing him hard and fast. Chris pushes his hands into Zach's hair and does his best to ignore the hand that strips his cock, rough and ready, but it's not something he can do for long; before he knows it he's twisting and arching under the touch, panting for breath.

"Are you sure?" Zach murmurs against his mouth. "You wouldn't rather just get off like this? Right now?"

A flash of disappointment rips through him. It wouldn't be enough, not nearly. And Zach wanted the truth, right? "No," he says, trying to grab for one of those deceptively slender wrists. "Come on, don't."

Zach doesn't even slow down, stroking and squeezing just right. Chris grits his teeth against the pleasure spiralling through him, tries to shove it back. "Ask me," Zach breathes, biting at Chris's mouth, his chest, lightning fast. "Ask me for what you want."

"Stop," Chris blurts out, traitorous body pushing into Zach's hand. "Please, stop, take your hand-"

"More specific," Zach interrupts, and licks a stripe over one tight nipple.

Chris squirms under his hand, his mouth, trying to get away from all the terrible pleasure raining down on him. "Your... your fingers. I want you inside, I want you to fuck me, okay? Zach, come on, I don't know what to say, please!"

In a wash of relief and painful withdrawal, Chris feels all the sensation disappear. His breath is harsh in his own ears and he grips the sheet under him so he won't lose control of his hands, but he said the right thing. He found the key to get Zach to do... something. He got it right, that's what's important. He did it.

"Chris." Zach's voice is soft and tinged with wonder. Chris opens his eyes to find Zach's hand hovering just above him, fingertips just over his chest. Those lips are soft and reddened; his eyes are dark with something warmer. Something sweet. "You," Zach breathes, "are exactly what I wanted."

Chris sits up, puts his hand behind Zach's neck and pulls him in to kiss. He wouldn't stop himself if he could.

It draws on for a long, painful moment, and then they pull apart. Chris needs more, he needs something else, and Zach has a promise to keep. Chris reaches for the belt Zach still wears, tugs it open.

"Not so fast," Zach laughs. "Lie down and stay there. You're so greedy."

Chris thumps back against the pillows with a huff. "I'm supposed to be greedy," he grumbles.

"Patience," Zach grins, rolls to the side and grabs something off the nightstand. When he comes back, Chris is precluded from freaking out about whatever that stuff might be, because Zach opens his mouth over the base of Chris's dick, and Chris is busy rolling his eyes back in his head.

"I have to know," Zach confides against his cock, the glance of teeth only ratcheting Chris's nerves up higher. "Have you ever taken it in the ass? I'm starting to suspect you're, mm. Unsullied."

Chris's throat is closed and scratchy. He's more interested in Zach's mouth than his question, but it's impossible to ignore him. "Uh. The. Christ, I can't think."

Without warning, slick fingertips rub underneath his balls, and down lower, until they're right against a very personal place. "Sorry," Zach says, and doesn't sound sorry at all. "Is that better?"

The urge is immediate to lift his hips, open his legs further, to squirm away or get closer. "No!" he blurts out. "I mean, I have, I just. Only, uh. Fingers. Shit, I can't believe you're asking me questions right now, you fucking sadist."

"Your terminology sucks," Zach smirks, and presses inexorably inside.

Chris groans heavily, crooking one knee and spreading wide so it won't hurt. Usually when he's had this done it's because somebody's jaw is getting tired and they wanna kick it up a notch, but this is nothing like that. Zach isn't delicate with him at all. He's soaked his fingers until they drip and he works his wrist, strong and sure. Chris feels it all the way up his spine, all the way through him.

Sudden, shattering pleasure rips through his body as Zach curls his tongue around the head of Chris's dick. He sucks softly, wet and welcoming, and when Chris opens his mouth this tortured cry comes up from somewhere in him.

"You'll love it," Zach promises, slurred between licks and bites. "I'll kiss you when I'm in you, Chris. Slow, 'til you beg me to fuck you harder."

Chris bucks against his mouth, his fingers, anything. More. He lifts his other knee, digs his hands into Zach's hair. "You... you better make it fast, then," he gasps.

"Next time," Zach says shakily, pulling free and ripping at a condom with his teeth. "Next time I'll teach you some self-control. When I fucking have some left myself."

Chris lets his head fall back into the pillows and laughs, right from his belly. Victory thrills through him, right alongside the desperate need.

A hard hand curls into his hair and grips hard, pulls his head back. Zach's teeth glint for a second above him, and then he feels blunt pressure pressing at him, pushing past his defenses. There's a moment where everything gives, and then.

It's like all his hair stands on end, all at once. It's like if Zach stops moving for even one second, Chris will have to kill him with his bare hands. His fingernails are digging into Zach's shoulders and he doesn't remember putting them there. His temples are buzzing and he can't fucking see.

Then, breaking through it all, the feeling of Zach's hand squeezing his dick. His hips thrust again and again, setting the beat in Chris's chest. The taste of him is back, and it's what Chris needs, so he reaches for it with his hands and his mouth.

"Never knew," Zach is murmuring into him. "All this time, I never."

Chris reaches down between them, wraps his fist around Zach's where it circles his dick. "Please," he groans, breathless and desperate. "Zach. Please."

"Again," Zach snarls, slamming his sweat-slick hips. His fingers tighten impossibly, unbearably.

Chris grits his teeth, dying. "Zach."

"Do it," comes his answer. Zach strips him hard and fast, curling his fingers just right, his cock held deep and throbbing. Chris shouts when bliss breaks across him, because his body's too full to hold the sound in. It goes on for long, shattering moments, and Chris has to gasp in another breath just to curse.

When his body lets him open his eyes again, Zach is fucking him deep and slow, stealing away any ability Chris has to get himself back under control, which sucks, as Chris would like to say something to melt Zach's brain now. It seems only fair.

"Come on," he manages to gasp out, hitching and broken. He needs to see Zach lose it. "Harder. More."

Zach grits his teeth, shuts his eyes so tight that he must be seeing stars. His hips snap harder, faster. "Next time," he promises, and it almost sounds like a threat. Chris watches his control slip and tries to memorize every second of it. He kisses what skin he can reach, and Zach immediately crushes their mouths together and groans from deep in his chest.

Chris holds him through it, and if he gloats a little bit, he feels like that should be forgivable.

At the end, they're clinging to each other in the rumpled sea of Zach's sheets, sweaty and breathless. Zach lifts his head from Chris's shoulder with what looks like a truly Herculean effort, and reaches down to separate them. They both wince, and Zach falls, boneless, to one side. "You son of a bitch," he pants.

"Me?" Chris demands, incredulous.

Zach pushes at him with no strength. "You! I'm supposed to be the tough guy, y'know."

"It is not my fault that you can't resist me," Chris insists. He'd push back, but lifting his hand seems like a lot of effort.

Zach rolls out of bed with a sound of disgust that Chris entirely sympathizes with, and disappears into the bathroom. He leaves the door open as he runs water in the sink, and warm yellow light spills into the room. "That's true, you're pretty irresistible," he calls.

"Damn right," Chris mutters, getting up the energy to stretch.

Zach leaves the light on when he comes out, and they swap places. Chris uses the last washcloth without a hint of guilt, and runs the hot water over all his bite marks to feel the sting ease.

When he climbs back into bed, Zach's setting the alarm clock. "You wanna sleep late, right?"

"Of course."

Zach flops back into his pillow with a sigh. They get comfortable and the clock ticks.

A warm hand smoothes over Chris's shoulder blade.

"Mm."

"I have to know," Zach says softly. "Did you really just let me have your cherry?"

Chris blushes all over again. "So what if I did?"

A gentle kiss on his arm. "No reason. Just curious."

He turns his back on Zach. It's supposed to mean an end to the conversation, and so it is. And if he ends up with warm skin pressed along his back, if he falls asleep with familiar breath on the nape of his neck, it's just because he didn't want Zach to see him blush again.

They have to sleep sometime.

~

They don't fuck in America. That seems to be the rule. Nobody checked with Chris about this rule, or he would have told them it was stupid.

He can clearly recall the last few hours before leaving Europe, and the burn of his shirt against a dozen fresh teeth-and-fingerprint bruises over the Atlantic. The L.A. premiere sped by in a sea of flashbulbs, and New York after that. He wasn't even surprised when he didn't see Zach in the few days they spent at home before Tokyo. After all, they both had lives to attend to, agents and friends to see after a month abroad. And then the Pacific was under them, and he was watching Zach jerk him off in a tiny airplane bathroom mirror. So it never really sunk in, until recently.

They've been home for two weeks now. He's seen Zach a dozen times for lunch and dinner, at the gym and around town, and not once has Zach so much as looked at him sideways. Chris asked and everything - okay, maybe a little awkwardly, but he made his intentions clear about the sex, and the having much more of it. Zach just laughed softly, slung his arm around Chris's shoulders and said Let's go out. Come on, just you and me.

"You can't predict it," he scowls at the ceiling, flung sideways on John's couch. "What you'll get addicted to. I thought I was in fuckin' Hollywood, man; people are supposed to get addicted to blow, or... tantric scientology or something."

The TV emits a nervous bleep as a question mark appears over the head of a security guard. John stares at it intently, unmoving, until the mark disappears and the security guard walks on. With a sigh of relief, John pauses and tosses his controller on the table. "Dude. Your love life."

"I know," Chris groans.

He hadn't meant to come over here and complain. He'd called to see if John wanted to go out somewhere and kill some time, and then John said he hadn't eaten and did Chris want to come over because Kerri's presiding over the barbecue. And he likes burgers.

"You wouldn't consider maybe -"

John cuts him off. "There is no way in heaven or hell that I am running messages between you and Pointy-Ears."

"But I wasn't -"

"Don't even try it."

Chris huffs a sigh and pushes his face into the arm of the sofa. Stupid... everything.

"Come and get it!" Kerri hollers from the patio, and Chris leaps up and lets food and good company erase his brain for a while.

The next morning he calls Karl and listens to stories about his ridiculously cute kids for an hour. Karl will never run short of those, and Chris doesn't mind - the Urban family came to visit the set a few times and they were great. Plus, he misses Karl more than he thought he would. Knowing they'll be seeing each other again in a while to film the sequel only makes it tougher, honestly; he wants to haul Karl down to the bar they all used to go to and pour Jaeger down his throat until he gets drunk enough that he starts hiccuping. Karl is the only person Chris has ever met that actually does that.

Of course, when he hangs up, there's only one thought in his mind. He thought about bringing up Zach about eighteen times during the call, but whenever he let the silence stretch out, Karl had just waited patiently until Chris had filled it with something else.

He rubs his hands over his face, picks up the Farragut North script and goes over it again, though he's memorized every line in it.

His days, now that he's home, are settling into a weird but regular pattern. In the morning he drives down to his coffee shop and checks the percentage of paparazzi out front. If they're thin, he sits out on the patio with an iced cap and the paper. If thick, he takes a medium to go. Towards eleven, he takes the reporters out for a jog, and the afternoons he'll spend working - going over scripts or his lines or whatever takes his fancy. Sometimes he'll even listen to his agent. Then he spends the hour between six and seven deciding whether or not to call Zach. The evening then plays itself according to his decision - ignoring a persistent erection all night, or not.

By the time he finally calls Zoë, he's getting desperate.

"Hey," he says awkwardly when she answers the phone. It's about six thirty. "Zo. It's Chris."

"Oh, it is," she says, and he can hear the raised eyebrow across town.

He winces, but he's out of options. "I need you," he confides. "I have a problem."

"You have many problems," she tells him. "One of them is that you've been moping around like you're in junior high for the last month, and another is that Anton could tell you why you're moping even though he's in the damn Terminator, for which it is premiere week, and therefore has better things to worry about than you."

Chris gapes at his phone like a fish.

"Come out with me tonight," Zoë says. "I'm in L.A. Put a foot out of Silverlake for once."

"Okay, okay," Chris says, because he couldn't win an argument with Zoë if he tried. "Where are we going?"

She gives him the name of some club in Santa Monica and he jots it down and goes to get ready. When it's time to go, he drives down Sunset with the top down, because he fuckin' feels like it. Because it's nice to just get something he wants for a change.

At the club, Zoë's got a bunch of friends with her and Chris makes only a mild stir, which is nice. After about two seconds, it hurts his ego a little, and then it's okay again. He hugs her and is surprised all over again at how she almost disappears into his arms, folding herself around him. He'd forgotten, in the time it's been since he's seen her, and he feels a pang of homesickness for the crazy lights and pings, for the uniforms and smoky trailers and even J.J.'s mountain of empty Diet Coke cans. "It's great to see you," he smiles.

Zoë swats his arm, but she smiles too. "Come on, let's get a seat. I wanna talk to you."

He finds an out-of-the-way booth to sit in, and she slips in beside him and cuddles up close. She's right up in his space, which is weird as hell given that she usually only did that on the red carpet - Zoë's birdlike, too active to sit still for long enough to cuddle. Still, he's not complaining; he puts an arm around her and watches her order drinks for both of them without a word. The fact that she knows his drink makes a surge of love bubble up in his chest; he squeezes her shoulder.

Then she puts one delicate hand high - very high! - on his thigh and squeezes back, and Chris about jumps out of his skin.

"Listen," she says, her voice pitched low as she leans against him, her eyes on the table top. "Usually I would never do this, but I'm tired of the little gray cloud following you around. I like you, baby. So I want you to understand that I know what I'm talking about."

She squeezes his thigh harder, her fingers digging into the muscle. It starts to burn, and he's about to protest when she releases him. The rush of blood, adrenaline and endorphins has his brain singing all of a sudden. He feels kind of woozy.

"He makes you feel like that," Zoë tells him gently.

Chris stares at the table, reeling and blank. The waiter brings their drinks and Zoë pays, which is nice because if she didn't Chris would probably just give the waiter money until he said stop.

He can't think.

Then they're alone again, and Zoë rubs his thigh with a gentler touch. "You okay, baby?"

"Uh," he says, which he feels is pretty articulate, given.

He meets her eyes, and she makes a face like she's just come across the cutest little puppy in the whole world. "God," she sighs, a little smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "I'm surprised he lets you go outside. And I never would have guessed. I don't know how he did it."

Chris finally puts something coherent together. "How he did what?"

"Don't worry about that," she tells him, waving it away with a hand. "Talking to myself. Just take my word that I know what I'm talking about, okay?"

"Sure," Chris nods somberly. He's not sure he knows what she's talking about, but she sure was dead on about that... thing. That's exactly how Zach makes him feel, and he's shocked as hell that somebody else can come anywhere near it.

She puts her head on his shoulder. "I'm not saying he knows what he's doing. Honestly, I think he's being a typical control freak that doesn't know what he's got when he's got it. So that's why I'm gonna tell you what you should do, because I love you both no matter how dumb you get, and I want you to be happy."

Chris blinks. "Thanks," he says sincerely.

Zoë chuckles, and pats him. "You're gonna have to go get him."

"He's not into me, Zo," Chris says, shaking his head. "I tried asking him and he dodged me. That's a pretty clear hint, don't you think?"

"You know Zach," she says. "If he meant no, don't you think he'd have said no?"

That... actually sounds right. Chris frowns.

"He's just confused," Zoë continues. "And freaked out about getting too close. You have to convince him that that shit doesn't matter."

Chris knocks back his drink, feeling it's called for. "Just how do you figure I do that? He's not just going to sit down and straight out talk about what he's thinking, Zo. He's Zach."

Zoë shrugs. "I dunno. You're the one that got him in the first place. How'd you do it?"

Chris knocks the ice around in his glass for a whole twenty seconds. He didn't, he thinks. Zach did all the talking, Zach was the one that pushed it further and told him to stay. Zach's the one that started everything, and... wait. Wait.

"Actually, he was drunk," Chris says. "It was the first time he ever got really tanked with me, you know what I mean?'

Zoë sits up and meets his eyes. "Actually, I don't. Zach's never been drunk around me."

Well, Chris thinks. That's... okay. That's something. He scratches the back of his ear, mulling it over. "He'll never just go drinking with me. He'd see it coming a mile away. Plus it's kind of gross."

Zoë nods and sips at her drink. He looks at her and she gives him a helpless shrug.

He spends the rest of his night with Zoë and her friends, and it's great. It gets him out of his head, gives him some space to work out his problem. When he ends up at home alone in bed, once again thinking about the thing Zach did with his tongue in Tokyo, he figures it's about time this thing got sorted out one way or the other, because at this rate he'll go blind in a week.

The next day dawns with the promise of sweltering weather. The mercury climbs as Chris hits up his coffee shop, and by the time noon rolls around he's too sweaty and miserable to jog. He settles for an icy shower, which is soothing in many ways. He kills time until four, and then it's up to Gelson's for supplies. He takes the curves hard on the way back down Hyperion, so it makes perfect sense that his heart's beating a bit fast when he dials Zach's number.

"Hello?"

"Hey, man. You busy?"

There's a half second pause. "No, not especially."

"Good. I'll be coming up your street in a few minutes. You got a blender, right?"

"...That's the thing in the kitchen with sharp parts, right?"

Chris is too nervous to laugh. "You don't have plans later, right? You're free for supper?"

"Okay," Zach says, and there's a rustling in the background. He sounds surer, like he's putting himself together, getting his surprise under control. "What do you wanna order?"

"It's already taken care of," Chris assures him. "You just corral Cujo."

"Noah is an angel," Zach insists primly. "Noah! Here, boy!"

The mutt barks in Chris's ear immediately, which makes him smile. "See you in a few," he says, and thumbs the off button. There are bees in his stomach, fuck the butterflies. He can't remember the last time he deliberately set out to seduce somebody, and never once has he had to seduce a guy. His palms are sweating.

He parks on Zach's street and comes in through the front door, which is open for him. Zach's place is zen and relaxing; he's one of the only people Chris knows that makes serious money and doesn't have a designer. Everything here is blond wood and brushed nickel, and there are splashes of color here and there in the wash of white light. Zach's house is like a treasure trove, his personality tucked into shelves and hidden in the walls.

"Hello?" Chris calls.

From the office, Noah barks his head off. The cat comes running up to twine around his ankles, apparently glorying in the ability to do so without doggish interference. Chris puts his bags on the kitchen counter and picks the cat up. "Hey," he says fondly, rubbing its head. He can never remember its name. "How ya doin, kitty?"

"Being a pain in my ass, is how he's doing," Zach answers, coming around the corner. "They've been fighting all day. It's my fault, though; I left them alone so long." He comes up to Chris's side and rubs the cat under the chin, which makes it close its eyes and purr blissfully.

Chris suddenly doesn't like the cat so much. He opens his arms and lets it thump down onto the black stone floor. It purrs on as it pads away - even the fucking cat is calm and cool in here. Chris has never resented a cat before, but it seems like a good time.

Zach has wandered over to the grocery bags and is peering inside. "Gelson's? I'd make a joke about putting out, but it seems inappropriate." His tone is light, but there's a heady, promising undercurrent there. As always.

"It's our supper," Chris informs him, cheeks burning as he starts pulling stuff out of the bags. He braves his way forward, because that's all there is to do. "I'm making us the best quesadillas we ever ate. I even got some cilantro just for you, but I'm telling you, man, it tastes like soap."

Zach says nothing. He stays quiet for a long few moments, until Chris finally has to stop in the middle of the un-bagging to look at him. "You said you were free..."

"I am," Zach says, sounding a million miles away. "Sorry, I just... guess I wasn't expecting this, exactly. But mi kitchen es su kitchen." He puts up his hands, and Chris knows he's supposed to read that as flippant and casual.

But it isn't.

Chris turns back to the counter and bundles the plastic bags up to stuff in the recycle. "I was just thinking about Madrid a while ago," he says, trying to sound casual. "They had that spice you liked, but I couldn't remember the name, so I didn't get any."

"Cumin." Zach fills in, and sounds as though the mention of Madrid isn't any more important than the mention of Antarctica. He stretches up to the shelf over the stove. "I have some, just a sec."

Chris can't keep his eyes from flicking over the sliver of bared belly, and turns away almost as soon as he catches it. He busies himself finding Zach's cheese grater, and thanks God that he doesn't have to ask where anything else is.

Zach comes up behind him and sets the cumin at his elbow, looking at Chris with an interested kind of slant to his eyes. "Here."

"Thanks," Chris says, his smile a little too bright. "Go have a seat. I got this."

Zach hesitates again, that split second when Chris is sure something is going on that he doesn't know about. But then it passes, and Zach goes to sit at the table and put his feet up on one of the chairs. The cat, opportunist that it is, jumps up on Zach's lap and butts its head against his chest. Zach smiles immediately, and pets it all the way down to the tail. "Hey, you little shit. You're lucky you're cute."

"I know," Chris smiles. "I'd never get any work otherwise."

Zach laughs, and that seems like a win right there.

Chris keeps up a steady patter while he loads up tortillas with cheese and chicken and assorted bell peppers. They trade stories and it's like it always is: fun, easy, relaxing. If Zach hesitates sometimes before answers, well, Chris can't do anything about what Zach won't say. He's just about ready to get the show on the road, so he hauls out Zach's blender. Ice, frozen orange juice, check.

"Great idea," Zach says, the tantalizing hint of a moan in his voice. "It's hotter than a catwalk. On fire."

"Just wait," Chris promises. He grabs two tall glasses from the cupboard, and then pulls two bottles from their paper. Grenadine is for the bottom of the glasses, and the tequila he uncaps and pours into the blender. It turns the light gold.

Zach's silence fills the air, heavy and meaningful on Chris's ears. When he finally breaks it, his voice is slow and measured. "What's that?"

"In a minute it's gonna be tequila sunrises," Chris says, feeling his heart start kicking a bit harder in his chest. "With lots and lots of ice. Cold drinks plus hot day equals good."

"Mm."

Chris bites his lip, slides the quesadillas into the oven and then flicks the blender's switch. It grinds into the silence, a welcome relief.

He's timed it well; everything's ready about the right time. Zach sets the table while Chris carries food in from the kitchen. He's got sour cream handy in case it's too spicy, tortilla chips to break the grease, and Zach's drawers yielded straws, so everything should be just about perfect. Zach should be feeling comfortable and relaxed, maybe enough to open up a little on uncomfortable subjects. Once the food's worked its magic, Chris will close in for the kill.

He carries the plates into the living room and lays them down, Zach's first. "Careful," he says. "It's hot."

The look Zach gives him, up through his lashes, could burn the porcelain. It's full of uncontrolled hunger, lust and heat. Chris almost stumbles, his eyes wide, as that heat slams into his belly and twists him around. He can feel his body start to stir, leaping to answer Zach's demand like it's heard the fucking starter pistol.

Then, just like that, the look is gone. Zach is just plain old Zach again, and he portions out some food with his fork. "Looks good," he says softly.

Chris thumps gracelessly into his chair. He feels like a fourth grader on a basketball court with Shaq.

He watches Zach spear a piece and eat, watches the approval register on his eyebrows and nothing else.

"You're quiet today," Chris tries, picking up his own fork. It's a shot in the dark, but his plan's all turned around.

"Am I?" Zach asks, looking up at him in innocence. "Sorry. Can't think why I would be. Except you're trying to get me drunk." He picks up his sunrise and sips at it without changing his expression one iota.

Chris coughs. "Well," he stalls, flushing guiltily even though he was expecting that Zach would figure him out. He licks his lips to buy time, remember his line. "I like tequila sunrises," he says, and fixes his eyes on his plate. "But we're both grownups. I think we know our limits, right?"

There's a moment where Zach's eyes go wide and a smile starts to form itself from the shocked O of his mouth. His fork clatters to the plate. "Are you kidding me? Are you actually..." Zach stands up and paces away a few steps, turns his back on Chris and stops with one hand on his hip and the other at the back of his neck. He shakes his head, disbelieving. After a second, he schools his voice into something more even and measured. "Do you really expect me to believe that you don't know what this is? You surprise me by making me dinner, in my own kitchen, then offer me booze and then imply that if I were to accidentally fuck you, well, I should have had better control over myself?"

Again with the implication that he's stupid or something. Zoë did the same thing. "I know what I'm asking for," he says, setting his jaw. "Hard not to, after Tokyo-"

Zach gives this pained, desperate little laugh. "Tokyo? Tokyo. You..." He shrugs, his hands wide. "I don't even know what to say to that, Christopher, I really just..." And then he gives up, turns around and heads into the next room.

Well, Chris thinks wryly. That was unexpected.

As he gets up to go chase after Zach, he starts to feel anger start to subsume whatever lust he had going on. He rounds the corner with a full head of steam. "Y'know what? I'm getting a little sick and tired of whatever it is you're doing, here, Zachary. I thought we had something good, and maybe you didn't. I get that. But if you didn't want to see me anymore you could have just said, hey, man, let's cool it. You could have said something. You left me hanging out there like a fuckin' prom date! I thought we were friends!"

Without a word, Zach grabs him by the wrist, hauls him in and kisses him hard enough to sting. He's pushing Chris back against the wall and his hand is pressing up hard against his, oh, God, yes.

Chris wants it so bad, he wants to fall into it again and let it all just happen, but he can't. He knows better this time. From deep down inside, he finds the strength to push Zach away. "Stop," he says, and thanks God his voice is stronger than his arms. "Just stop for one second and talk to me."

Zach's still, his hands in tight fists at his sides. "I'm sorry," he says, the strain edging into his voice. "That doesn't usually happen to me." He pinches the bridge of his nose, where his glasses usually sit.

"What?" Chris demands, angry because he's lost. "What doesn't happen? You don't dodge questions you don't want to answer?"

Zach's mouth tightens. "I mean I shouldn't have lost control like that. I apologize." It sounds forced and awful, and Zach still won't look at him.

Chris wants to say something comforting, but he doesn't have the first clue what it could be. You don't need to have control? Of course he does, it's practically tattooed on him. Chris takes a step toward him, and then another. He puts a hand on one curved shoulder, and Zach doesn't shrug him off, which is progress. "Zach," Chris says, making his voice soft. "Just sit down with me. Explain it to me. You say I don't know what's going on, so tell me. And then maybe we can... do something about it."

Zach laughs, small and short and quiet. "How can I explain it to you? I hardly know what you are myself, let alone... explicating it." He waves a hand in a vague gesture, perhaps meant to encapsulate the whole weird and inexplicable business that is Chris.

"Come sit down," Chris coaxes, backing toward the big plush couch. "We'll figure it out. I'm not that complicated," he promises, daring a smile.

"Oh, you think?" Zach says, following Chris's hand down to the cushions. "Don't sell yourself short, Pine. It's like... it's like you've never studied aviation or how to pilot, but one day you walk into the cockpit of a Boeing and make a perfect three point landing. And... here I am cruising along, like I've done since the day I found out how, and out of nowhere, you're so good you're making me fuck up my flight path. I can't do my job because you don't know any of the rules, and I wish I could teach you but it'd ruin the way you fly, and..." He breaks off and touches gentle fingers to Chris's cheek. His eyes have a kind of wistful pain in them that hurts to see. "The way you fly is beautiful."

Chris touches his hand. When he doesn't pull away, Chris presses those fingers to his face, and then the palm. It's warm and nice, and while he didn't understand all of what Zach just said, he got enough to know that Zach's full of it.

"That's why I pulled away from you," Zach continues. "That's why I think this can't work for us, that I'll only hurt you. But I... I was scared, I guess. I should have handled it better, you're absolutely right."

"I forgive you," Chris says, interrupting. "But what you said before about how I don't know the rules? No offense, Zach, but that's total bullshit."

Zach shakes his head. "I already fucked it up once, it only proves-"

"I'll learn," Chris says, raising his voice as his temper flares again. "Nobody starts a relationship knowing everything they're supposed to know about the other person. You need time to figure out how you fit. I got a whole three nights out of you, man; three nights is not enough. Not by a long shot."

This time, the kiss is mutual and passionate. Chris grips and pulls, trying to get inside Zach enough that he can't be so easily brushed off and forgotten. He feels his beard brush Zach's clean skin and thinks, good.

"This is a bad idea," Zach breathes into his mouth, against his jaw. His hands hold Chris close at the shoulder and the small of his back. "I'll hurt you."

"It's my call," Chris fires back, and presses Zach's hips down into the couch with his own. It makes fire crackle up his spine, makes his whole body shake. "I say I'll risk it. God, Zach."

His eyes have gone dark and dangerous. Chris's grip on his shirt slips a little, and Zach murmurs into his neck. "You think you can give me what I want?"

Chris slides a hand into his hair. "Bet your ass."

"You'd have to give up anyone else," Zach says, pushing aside the collar of Chris's shirt so he can put bite marks under it. "You'll find I'm a jealous lover."

Chris shivers. "Okay. Done."

Zach shifts, and the room goes off kilter for a moment. He runs his hands over Chris's thighs and settles at his hips, thumbs pressing deeply. "I'm high maintenance," Zach breathes into the heated space between them. "I want your time. When you're with me, I want your undivided attention."

"Believe me," Chris shivers, pushing against Zach's mouth. "You got it."

"And if I ask for something you don't want to give?" Things still a little. Zach pulls his head back and looks up, seriousness making his face go a little sad.

Chris sits back on Zach's thighs and frowns a little. "Then I'll say no," he answers truthfully. "But I don't think that'll happen a lot. Haven't had any problems so far, right?"

Zach nods. He reaches up to stroke a firm thumb against Chris's lips, but his tone is no less serious. "I won't force you into anything you'd hate. No matter what. It's important to me that you know that."

"I know you wouldn't," Chris says, taking Zach's hand from his face. He's a little confused, but it's easy enough to make this assurance if Zach needs it. "I trust you, man. You wouldn't hurt me."

"And it's fine with you that I rarely bottom? Some men might expect to switch from time to time, but that wouldn't be happening with us."

Chris feels his cheeks go red at the very thought. Opening Zach up like that would be so intimate - he never even thought about it. He certainly wasn't expecting it. Maybe he'd want to one day, but now? He wouldn't even know what to say afterward. "That's all right for now," Chris answers. "For a while, like... a good long while. If that changes I guess I'll let you know?" He shrugs one shoulder and looks at Zach hopefully.

Zach, for once, smiles back. "Good enough," he says. Then he slaps Chris's hip, hard. "Come on. I wanna finish dinner."

Chris rubs at it, utterly buffaloed. "What? But we-"

"Shut up," Zach says, shoving Chris to the side. "You made it, I want it, so stop arguing with me and move."

With an exertion of will, Chris allows himself to be drawn toward the kitchen. He glares at Zach the whole way. When Zach pushes him into a chair he keeps on sending death with his eyes, but he falters when Zach picks up Chris's fork and literally puts it into his hand. He's inches away, heat of his body bleeding through the air and into Chris's shoulders and back.

"Go on," Zach tells him, his fingers pushing underneath Chris's collar. "Try some. It's good." The touch is sure and firm.

Chris shifts in his seat, trying to ease the pressure along the seam of his jeans. Mechanically, he portions out his food and puts it down. The drink is nice, if only because it helps to cool him down for a few seconds. Plus, Chris is pretty sure this will all go a lot easier on him if he's got a little booze to help get rid of the jitters.

Zach watches for a second, which is weirdly thrilling, and then takes his seat. For a few gentle, quiet minutes, the tension has time to dissipate and Chris is almost calm. He does note that Zach takes precious few sips from his drink - not enough to affect him, but enough to cool his lips and wet his mouth with the taste of oranges. It isn't a far stretch to imagine how the sunrise would taste if Chris were to let it melt on Zach's skin first.

Zach doesn't look up from his plate. "Stop that," he murmurs, his voice tempered and resonant. The corners of his mouth tilt up.

Chris's face turns scarlet.

When they're finished, Zach stands and pulls Chris to his feet.

"The dishes," Chris mumbles, not meaning it. He's reaching for Zach already.

"Later," Zach says, and takes one step backward. Then it's another, and another, until Chris is following him through the kitchen to the back of the house, and the door he's never been through, one room added on like an afterthought that sticks out into the back yard away from everything else. Zach opens the door and for a moment Chris sees only light and color.

Zach pulls him inside.

The bed is enormous, surely a California king. Zach drags a heavy black curtain across a window and then Chris can see a table, a chair, a closet. But nothing draws his eye like the brilliantly-colored duvet, so at odds with the rest of the house's calm, clean lines. There is a window that needs no blinds just over the bed. It is covered in brilliant green leaves, and the white walls pick up that color. Being in this room, with those curtains closed, is like being in a sun-damp grotto.

All Chris can think is that this might be the one place in the house that isn't intended to be restful. It makes him laugh, a bemused little sound in the intimate light.

"Come in," Zach says, and the light turns his eyes black. Chris is mesmerized, and follows along when Zach pulls him by the shirt. A gentle push is all it takes to send him sprawling down onto the bed, and suddenly Zach seems very tall and imposing, eyes hidden by his hair as he crawls up after Chris, bringing shadows with him. His knees on either side of Chris's hips, he flicks buttons open and smoothes fabric off and away. Absently, he murmurs to himself. "God, you have no idea how perfect you are."

He plucks at one of Chris's nipples, and the jolt through Chris's body steals his breath. "There's lots of... guys in LA."

"Not that," Zach says, leaning down to kiss the abused skin. His t-shirt brushes Chris's belly, his knees grip Chris's hips tightly. "You are beautiful. But the way you give, the way you want it, Chris."

He rolls his hips, lets there be pressure and friction, yes; it's so fucking good that Chris's eyes lose focus. "Oh... Jesus. Jesus Christ, when, how... a dry fuck isn't supposed to be that good, Zach, ah, God."

A low chuckle rolls across the skin on his ribs. "Put your hands over your head," Zach murmurs, kissing and biting his way south.

Chris does that immediately, locking his hands around his opposite wrists. Anything, if it'll make this keep going, anything he wants so long as it's more.

"Ask me," Zach says, his face against Chris's belly now. The bed gives under his knees as he moves down, under his elbows as he braces himself to pull at the jeans button.

Chris knows exactly what to say. "Suck my dick, Zach. Please." Gotta use his name, he likes that, he'll do it if his name's in it. Chris counts dots on the ceiling and prays he doesn't just go off as soon as he's touched.

Zach brushes his nose beside Chris's belly button, his fingers spreading warm across the skin. "Again," he says, the edge of a smile in it. "I don't think you mean it."

Levering up on his elbows, Chris stares at Zach, wide-eyed. "But I just-"

"I said, ask me again." Zach sends a searing look at him, and faster than Chris can track, he grabs one wrist and yanks. Chris collapses back against the pillows, surprised, and Zach wastes no time in flipping him onto his face, pinning him to the bed again. "And I seem to recall telling you to put your hands up here."

"Sorry," Chris breathes, cheek pressed hard against the pillow. He's completely sincere, he just forgot. "I'm sorry, I won't move, I swear."

Zach grinds hard against the curves of Chris's ass, his fingers biting into the wrists he holds. "If I don't get what I want, you can't have what you want. Am I making myself clear?"

"Crystal," Chris winces, gritting his teeth against the pleasure that rolls through him when Zach pushes him against the mattress. "I'll be good, man, I promise."

"Mm." The hum is speculative, tentative, and hot against his ear. Zach lifts up off him and slaps his thigh. "Ditch your clothes. I want you on your back, middle of the bed, hands up. Got that?"

Chris is already moving. He flings his shirt at the wall before remembering about the folding thing, and then he has to scramble up to go get it and fold it which is hard because while he remembers with total clarity how to fold a shirt, for some reason his hands aren't really cooperating with the orders from his brain. Zach has disappeared into the ensuite, and Chris can hear him moving around in there; his heart is pounding in his ears because he absolutely has to be finished before Zach comes back or... or Zach will be disappointed.

Jeans next, and he figures there's no time to empty the pockets, so he shoves his underwear in one of them and just folds the jeans in quarters. Done. He's on the bed with his hands over his head and his fingers locked. He won't let go, he's determined. Forget about it. He's got this.

Zach comes in from the bathroom with a stone bowl. He sits down and puts it on the nightstand, picks a white cloth from it and wrings it out. "Perfectly still," he cautions. "Unless I tell you to move."

Chris hesitates. "Can... can I talk?"

"Of course," Zach says. "I enjoy your voice."

When he puts the cloth on Chris's skin, it's almost too hot. He pulls it softly down and across, dips it into the water again when it gets cool. Chris feels his skin opening up under the warmth and attention; it makes him feel languid and relaxed. "This supposed to loosen me up?" he asks, and the words slur together in his mouth.

"Yes and no," Zach tells him, pulling the cloth along his arm. "It's for that, yes. But I'm also doing it because I like to put my hands on you. Maybe do things nobody else has done, or will do. I want you to learn to feel good when my hands are on you."

Chris smiles, his eyes closed. "I can think of another way to do that."

"I want all the ways," Zach counters, smoothing warmth along Chris's side, his hip. "One kind of good isn't enough for me."

As the cloth sweeps along, Chris warms to the idea. It sure is new, and it's helping him control himself a little better. Where the cloth has been absent for a while, his skin is starting to goosebump, which is another kind of pleasure Zach's given him. Maybe it's weird to have somebody give you a spa treatment in bed, but who gives a shit? He tries to feel it all, the way he's supposed to.

Then Zach's cloth slides up the inside of his thigh, and Chris feels a high note come slipping from his throat. "Open your legs," Zach instructs softly, and Chris spreads wide. He's instantly throbbing hard, right on the edge like he never left it.

"Zach," he breathes, clutching his own wrists hard. "God, I want it, please."

A soft laugh is his only answer, and then the cloth comes up the other thigh and it's so burning hot, trickling water down the little creases.

Chris grits his teeth hard, shuts his eyes tight. It's close, but not close enough, and he can't help rocking his hips even though he's pushing into nothing. "Nnh, God, you make me so fuckin' crazy."

"It's my favorite thing about you," Zach tells him, and lets the dripping corner of the cloth tickle over the length of his erection. Droplets fall randomly on his hips and his belly, and Chris never knows which way to turn, not with his eyes closed.

It's some kind of torture, surely. "Did I do something wrong?" he pants, trying desperately to hold onto his wrists.

"Oh no," Zach assures him, and then there's a warm kiss dropped inside his bicep. "But you truly are gorgeous when you squirm."

"Bastard," Chris snarls through his teeth.

Zach clicks his tongue against the back of his teeth. "Afraid I can't allow that kind of language. Turn over, hands and knees. You can use your hands now."

Chris scrambles to obey. This position can only mean good things.

And then Zach presses the hot cloth against his balls, and the water goes running down his belly and into the covers. Zach runs a fingertip over the tender opening above, slipping the cloth up and around, working the heat in him. It's almost soothing, and then the cloth is gone and there's a sudden flood of lube, which drips down too. Thick drops track down his eager dick, into his belly button, and all Chris wants to do is reach back and use his hands to rub it around where it should be but he knows, he knows if he tried it, he'd pay.

"Your hands," he mumbles into his pillow. "Zach, touch me, please. I'm sorry I called you that."

"You will be," Zach promises, and lets one gentle finger go trailing down delicate, shadowy skin.

With the wetness on his belly, it feels like he's already come. When his dick twitches, it slaps against wet skin. Zach gives his hole a gentle massage, long and kind strokes, and when he finally presses inside it makes Chris groan so loud he's sure Zach's neighbors must hear. Fuck if he cares.

"You can't come like this yet," Zach tells him softly, working his fingers inside Chris's body. "But one day, I'll push inside you, just like this, and you'll shoot all over the bed without anybody touching your dick at all."

That slap again, wet skin on skin. Chris fists his hands in the pillows and presses them to his face so he won't shout. The pillows do mangle his words, when he's together enough to make them, but he hopes the intent is clear: "Fuck me, fuck me, Zach, God, fuck me."

"Patience, my darling. Good things come to those who wait."

Just now, that seems like a particularly brutal form of torment. "Can't wait," he mumbles against the pillows, rocking his hips as best he can. He turns his face then, so he can be clear, and opens his eyes to see if he can catch the dark ones above. "God, I need it, Zach. Fuck me, please, I can't take it."

A kiss to the curve of his hip, and another, another, a bite. "You can take more than you think," Zach informs him, fingers sliding firm and steady.

A bit of something - water, lube, pre-come - drops from the tip of Chris's dick to the covers and focuses all his attention on that one point of skin for a blinding second. He groans, pushes back on Zach's hand and feels a tear squeeze from his right eye. Quickly, he pushes his face into the pillow so Zach won't think he's been hurt.

"Soon," Zach assures him, rubbing a hand over his back. "You're doing so well, just hold on a little longer."

Chris digs his nails into the pillows and feels his toes curl as he tries to breathe.

Gently, Zach draws his fingers out, and the wave of relief in Chris's chest is palpable. Now, he thinks, trying to arch his back just a little more. Now, now, now.

There's a shift on the bed, and Zach is gone. Chris looks up to see him standing by the bed, fabric sliding down his thighs. Zach takes his cock in his hand and strokes once, teasingly soft, and then beckons Chris with a shining fingertip and a smile that's just this side of son-of-a-bitch.

Chris doesn't care. He knows what he wants and he goes for it, sliding over to the side of the bed in a heartbeat. He slings an arm around Zach's hips and pulls him close, opens his mouth over the head of that dick and sucks the fresh taste from the tip. It doesn't take him more than a second. He shifts his hips on the bed and tries to ignore the empty, needing throb.

Zach has thrown his head back, breathless. "Suck it," he orders, his hips rolling gently enough to belie the harshness of his voice. "Let it slide on your tongue."

Chris tries as hard as he can to do exactly that, to push down as far as he can go. His face is burning, but he can't feel it anymore. Zach is bigger than he looked, harder than Chris was expecting, and he knows he isn't good at this but fuck it, he tries. He presses his tongue against the cock in his mouth and slides, like he was told, and when he has to pull back and cough, Zach leans down to kiss his neck and face. "It's okay," he whispers, his hands anchoring Chris to the world. "It's okay, you did so good."

He's so gone that he can't really hear. His chest hurts with everything he's feeling, gratitude and want and something deeper, kind of painful. Chris can't think enough to name it, and doesn't try. He grips at Zach's shoulders and pulls at him. He tries to make words enough to beg, to ask for what he wants like Zach said he could, but they come out mangled and half of what they should be, and Chris can't make them fit together.

"Look at you," Zach is whispering, pushing Chris onto his back, sliding between Chris's thighs. "Fucking look at you. Your whole body is... God, Chris." He grabs Chris's wrist, brings it down to his knee. "Hold it," he demands, kissing Chris's mouth. Chris does as he's told, both hands holding his own knees apart, and tries to ask with his eyes.

Zach looks him over, spread and ready, and runs soft fingertips over the back of one thigh. "So many things I want," he says, almost to himself.

Chris would take any of them, he really would, but right now he can't wait any more. He's past waiting. He lets go of one knee, rubs a hand down the mess of water and lube pooled on his stomach and takes Zach's dick in his hand. It makes Zach gasp, flinch - Chris knows it's because he's broken some kind of rule. But then he sways into Chris's hand, his body coming closer. Chris jerks his fist, tight and fast, and watches the flush climbing up over Zach's belly, his chest, his arms. He looks up at Zach's face to ask, to beg, whatever it takes. "Now," is what comes out of his mouth, a broken and desperate moan.

Zach bites his lip, sets his jaw. He pushes Chris's hand away, shoves his chest so he hits the mattress hard. "Stay down," he rasps, and Chris doesn't dream of disobeying. Zach wrenches open the nightstand drawer and almost demolishes the plastic casing around his condom. Chris watches the tight set of his back and his hips, the furious movements, and thinks for the millionth time since he met Zach that he's like electricity or an atom bomb: powerful and destructive and tightly controlled.

That he, Chris, has pushed this man to his breaking point is a fact that settles warmly in his stomach. He feels like the best lover Zach's ever had, and maybe that's not true, but it feels good to think.

When he comes back to the bed, Zach wastes not a single movement. He pushes Chris onto his back, sets his knee on the bed for balance and lines up his hips, all in the space of a breath. He doesn't say a word, doesn't soothe or ease or reassure. Chris can't tear his eyes away from the sight of Zach starting to sink inside him, a terrible, inevitable pressure. He squirms, suddenly panicked, but Zach has him pinned down just so and he doesn't have the strength or the will to get away.

Then, at the moment when one more ounce of pressure will split him open, Zach takes Chris by the chin and forces him to look up. Suddenly his field of vision is just that face: serious, intense, eyes like razors and a mouth as precise and beautiful. "Say my name," he instructs.

Chris sees a man who worked side by side with him. He sees someone worthy of respect because he knows how to give it, someone who loves those around him without having to say the words. He sees a person who will protect him without being asked, who would never hurt him unless he needed it, who can be trusted with all the secrets he has left.

"Za-aaach," Chris groans, voice breaking as the tension breaks and Zach presses deep. Chris reaches down to haul his lover closer, and his hands slide on sweat-slick skin. "Do it," he's murmuring, and can't remember when he started. "Do it, do it, do it, come on..."

Zach obliges. His hips snap hard, shoving Chris up the bed and slapping against his ass. "So fucking good," he pants, lips a breath away from Chris's own. "So good for me."

"For you," Chris agrees, blind and gasping, clutching at whatever he can reach. Stars spark across his skin and his eyes; he knows he'll come the second Zach touches his dick and he knows Zach will pick just the right moment. It's all going to happen, and suddenly he knows what to say. He fights to open his eyes, to kiss Zach's mouth. "You," he whispers. "You're just... what I wanted."

Zach slams against him and holds himself pressed against Chris's hips. Every shiver and tremble makes its way through both of them, feeding off one another. Zach kisses him, hard and then soft, and Chris feels his hand working its way between their bodies. "Not until I say," he cautions, warm and kind.

Chris nods his head fervently. He'll find a way, he'll hold on. Zach grips his dick in a tight fist and thrusts his hips again, and Chris starts to worry that sex too amazing will make him crazy. He grips with everything he's got trying to hold on; he sinks his teeth against Zach's shoulder, locks a knee around his thigh, digs his fingers in. The bed shakes under them, metal shuddering loud. Chris counts the seconds; he's so close and he has to shove it back, squeeze tight and not sink into it the way he's desperate to do. His body feels too full, any second he'll burst with it, and sounds escape him that he blushes to hear.

He does not ask. He'll hold on for as long as Zach wants. He must.

And then, Zach starts to pant into his ear. Suddenly, Chris can hear need in that voice, something like the insane urge clawing inside him. Zach moans, a faint little sound, and Chris can't bear it.

"Please," he whispers, his discipline starting to break apart. He pushes his face against skin and feels the heat there, the almost imperceptible tremble. "I can't. Zach."

The pain is sharp at the back of his skull as Zach twists his fingers in Chris's hair and jerks him back. He kisses Chris deeply, hand moving hard and fast on Chris's dick, and that'll just have to be permission. The last shreds of strength he has are gone and something primal and wild slips its leash inside him. He screams his throat raw as it comes tearing out of him, hips jerking on their own, and it's deep and hollowing and not even really him anymore, the white noise filling his head and erasing him.

When feeling returns to his fingers, his toes, Zach moves in him again. It touches off a bone-deep shudder; something like what Chris always thought orgasms were before whatever it was he just did. "Jesus Christ," he groans, and his voice is deep as a coal mine.

Zach kisses his shoulder and twists his hips a second time, making a second shudder. "Are you okay?" he asks, as though Chris is capable of conversation.

"Unh."

The answering laugh is like sun-warmed honey, slow and rich. "Don't move," he instructs, dropping heavy kisses against Chris's skin. "Breathe."

Chris does that, and his brain is just starting to click again when Zach draws back and slams into him, deep and hard and fast. Chris short-circuits all over again. He throbs heavy, deep inside, his whole body reacting at once. "Fucking Zach I fuck God fuck," he says. Of course, what comes out sounds nothing like that, but he doubts anyone cares.

"Perfect," Zach tells him, smearing the word across skin.

Chris notes that he's moving again, his hips jerking short and fast. He makes an effort to kiss back, to catch Zach's mouth with his so he can feel the moment that'll make everything complete. "Come on," he whispers, stroking Zach's shoulders with nerveless hands. Pleasure is slipping and shivering in him now, but it's just echoes; he presses his thigh against Zach's waist and tries to hold him. "I want you to," he says, breath shuddering.

Zach presses their mouths together, but he's too far gone to kiss. Chris does it for both of them, licking at his lips, gentle and sweet. The breath against him is shaking, needy, and finally Zach's hands tighten around him. "Chris," he gasps, and presses against him for long, breathless seconds.

If Chris never heard anybody say his name again except just like that, he could die happy.

When Zach collapses against him, Chris hugs him tight. He smells like sweat and sex and something under that, clean, like rain. Chris buries his nose in Zach's hair and catches the sweet edge of cologne. He knows better than to say anything, though he's thinking more or less clearly now and there are things he'd like to say. Right now, the only thing that's right is to hold on, so that's what Chris does.

After a while, once things have settled down and reassembled a little, they peel apart. Chris still can't really move much more than it takes to flop over onto his side; Zach proves himself the superior athlete by actually making it to the bathroom and back before falling down onto the mattress. Chris puts his hand on the smooth curve of Zach's back and smiles.

They fall asleep, just like that.

It's late when Chris wakes, and the house has become cool. He takes a minute to remember where he is, a second to freak out, and ten more minutes to replay his last half hour of consciousness. Zach is a boneless lump on the bed next to him, even after that, so Chris crawls out of bed and into the shower. His bones crack as he goes; sex always does that to him. The pops and snaps feel great, and when he steps under the hissing spray, that's good too.

It appears that Zach's a sound sleeper. When Chris is finished towelling off and tugs his jeans back on, Zach's still dead to the world. Noah is whining in the office, so Chris shuts the bedroom door tight and braves the wrath of dog. It takes some serious love before he'll go outside, but things settle down after that.

Zach pads out of the bedroom while Chris is watching the late news. "You could have borrowed pajamas," he says, dropping a kiss on Chris's head. His voice is full of sand and rocks, his fingers soft when they touch skin.

Chris shrugs. "I would have wanted to ask," he says, a little smile playing around his lips.

"I suppose you would have," Zach smiles back, and invades Chris's space thoroughly for a few warm minutes. When they're pleasantly tangled up on the couch, Zach touches his mouth. "Do you want to go home or stay here? I think we can do either."

It's not much of a question. "I'll stay here tonight," he answers, hands possessive on Zach's body because he can get away with it for now. "Too late to stumble home."

"Good," Zach tells him, and winds a hand into Chris's hair before giving him a deep and thorough kiss.

When they break apart, Chris is laughing. "You can't want to do it again. I thought Pasdar was the Italian stallion."

"Shows what you know," Zach ripostes, his grin flashing in the TV's glow. "I like this," he says earnestly. "Y'know? Just being us, but with something extra. Promise you'll always give me this, no matter how often I fuck your brains out."

"I can promise that without reservation or proviso."

Zach rolls his eyes. "Proviso."

"Top that," Chris smiles.