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Jude liked the red carpet events and photo ops nearly as much as Zero did. He loved going out in public with Zero, loved being seen with him, but sometimes they didn’t want to be noticed. So during the off-season Zero shaved his bleached-blond hair off and let his natural brown grow in so he wasn’t quite as recognizable. He wore a baseball cap when they ran through the park, and sunglasses when they went cycling along the beach.

Occasionally they were willing to run the risk of Zero being recognized, and sometimes they weren’t. Hence one date night – dinner and a movie – being spent on their patio eating five-star take-out and watching a movie on the large retractable screen that Zero’d had installed after they moved in. The benefit to that was they didn’t have to wait until the movie was over to get handsy with each other, and they wouldn’t miss anything because they could restart the movie at the point they last remembered seeing.

The last couple of date nights had been uninterrupted by virtue of Zero choosing high-end restaurants where they would generally be ignored even if they were recognized, but Jude wanted something a little more low-key tonight. While Zero was upstairs changing his clothes, Jude packed a picnic basket with a bottle of wine and two glasses from the set Lionel had given them as a housewarming gift, grapes, cheese, a container of chicken salad and a package of pita chips to eat it on.

Zero sauntered into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Jude from behind, kissed the side of his neck. “What’s this, a picnic?”

“Date night.” Jude turned in Zero’s arms and gave him a kiss. It was supposed to be a quick peck of ‘hello, there you are,’ but it nearly turned into something that derailed date night.

Jude forced himself to step back and put some space between them. He grabbed the blanket off the island and shoved it against Zero’s chest so there was an actual physical (if flimsy) barrier between them. Jude picked up the basket.

“Where are we going to have a picnic this late?” Zero said with a laugh.

Jude merely took Zero’s hand and led him out the patio doors and around the pool to the strip of grass beyond that they generously called a backyard.

“Star-gazing, Jude?” Zero said.

Jude set the basket down and touched the side of Zero’s face. “Yes.” He just looked at Zero until he was sure Zero got the point, then leaned in to brush Zero’s lips with his own. “If you see any other stars worth gazing at, let me know,” Jude said as he brushed his fingers over Zero’s hand, then helped him unfold and spread out the blanket.

“Didn’t Jelena give this blanket to us as a housewarming present?” Zero said.

“We have an abundance of blankets,” Jude said. “I don’t know how many guest rooms they thought we were going to have. Besides,” he added as he compulsively straightened a corner, “would you want a blanket Jelena had bought on our bed?”

Zero shuddered. “It makes a lovely picnic blanket.”

Jude grinned. “I thought so, too.” He kicked off his sandals and stepped onto the blanket. To Jelena’s credit, it was soft and thick and Jude took a moment to dig his toes in before he sat down. Zero joined Jude on the blanket and watched as he opened the picnic basket. Jude handed the bottle of wine to Zero with a corkscrew and lay the glasses on the blanket. He drew out the food and placed it near them, then set the basket aside.

Jude held the glasses while Zero poured the wine. Zero found a level spot on the grass for the bottle, then took a glass from Jude. “To us,” Zero said as they touched the rims of the glasses together with a soft ‘clink’.

“To us,” Jude repeated, his stomach doing a pleasant roll as it always did when Zero made that toast.

They gave each other a wine-flavored kiss, then turned their attention to the food Jude had laid out.

“You went to that deli I like,” Zero said when he saw the chicken salad.

“I did,” Jude said, watching Zero with a smile as he forked some of the chicken mixture onto a pita chip. Jude let out a breathless laugh when Zero moaned his appreciation of the flavor.

“This stuff is so good.” Zero leaned over and bussed the corner of Jude’s lips. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Jude said. He began with the grapes and cheese in favor of keeping his hand from getting caught between Zero and his chicken salad. “This wine is good,” Jude said after taking another sip.

Zero gave a hum of agreement. “Who gave us this bottle?”

“Marcus.”

“Ahh, well, Marcus does have good taste.”

“You’re only saying that because he likes you,” Jude said.

Zero grinned and popped a grape into his mouth. “Don’t be jealous, Jude, he likes you, too.”

“Not as much as he likes you,” Jude said, taking the opportunity to scoop some of the chicken salad up with a pita chip. “I think you’re on his list,” he added contemplatively as he chewed.

“His list?”

“You know, the list of, like, five famous people you could sleep with and have it not affect your relationship.”

“Pretty sure Marcus likes women,” Zero said.

“As a rule,” Jude said, which made Zero laugh.

“What about you?” Zero said. “Do you have a list?”

“I never had a relationship,” Jude said, “so I never needed a list. But if I did have one there would only be one person on it, and I already get to sleep with him every night, so . . .”

Zero smirked. “You’re such a sweet talker, Jude.” He leaned into Jude to give him a kiss, paused with his lips just a hair’s breadth away from Jude’s. “You were talking about me, right?”

Zero took Jude’s laugh into his mouth. The kiss went on until they both started to tip backwards and had to break it in order to secure their wine glasses. Zero drained his glass while Jude searched for a flat spot on the grass for his. When Jude turned back, Zero was lying on his back on the blanket staring up at the sky where very few stars were visible due to the LA smog.

“See anything worth gazing at?” Jude said.

Zero turned his head and studied Jude from beneath his lashes. “Yes,” he said, his voice low and rough.

Heat pooled low in Jude’s belly. He leaned over Zero and lowered his head until he could brush their lips together.

“Is our life boring?” Jude said.

Zero raised his eyebrows, probably more at the change in direction than the topic. “Because we like to have picnics in our backyard?”

Jude waited for more, and he had to lean back when Zero went up on his elbow and looked Jude in the eye.

“Our life is not boring, Jude,” Zero said. “We’re the kings of LA. We’re on tv almost every night during the season, mentioned in the paper a couple times a week, and we’ve got three red carpet events this month. This time? It’s just for us.”

Jude smiled at Zero’s earnestness.

“Besides,” Zero said with a heated look, “we’re about to have sex out here in our backyard where anyone brave enough to climb an electrified privacy fence could see. That’s not boring.”

Jude laughed. “We are not doing that,” he protested as he let Zero pull him down into another kiss.

The End