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Merry Bachelors

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Zach sat cross-legged on the floor of his office and scrubbed a tired hand over his face. Scripts littered the floor around him, obscuring the oriental carpet, and he stared blankly at the page that he was holding. He’d turned off his phone and locked it in a drawer, vowing to take an hour or two to step back and remind himself of the reasons he’d gotten into the business of running a production company.

Maybe it was the decision to read through some of the stack of unsolicited scripts that had been piling up, but he was having trouble recalling any of those reasons.

The door opened and he looked up, relieved at the interruption. Neal was grinning, crossing the floor in long strides, barely glancing at the papers strewn about the floor.

“Zach! Got a script for you.”

“A script!” Zach said, his eyes lighting up in mock excitement. “Why, that’s what this day was missing!”

Neal rolled his eyes and whacked him on the back of the head with the screenplay he was holding. “I’m serious. You need to check this one out. It’s well-written, original – seriously, this one’s got your name all over it.”

Zach sighed. “Premise?”

“It’s the story of Randolph Scott and Cary Grant, golden era Hollywood bachelors, living together, hiding their love from-“

“Oh my god,” Zach burst, cutting him off. “Seriously? You’re giving me another gay script?”

“Just trust me, okay? This one’s good. Think Sunset Boulevard meets De-Lovely.”

“Neal.” Zach gave him a withering look. “You know how I feel about movies that can be described using other movies.”

“Read the script, Zach,” Neal said, dropping the script and turning to leave. He turned back when he reached the door. “You’re way too old to be sitting like that, by the way.”

Zach gave him the finger as the door shut behind him. He glanced at the stack of untouched scripts in front of him, then at the screenplay that Neal had left lying conveniently next to his left knee. The title alone made him curl his lip in distaste, but Neal so rarely pushed scripts on him… With a resigned sigh, he picked it up and began to read.

*

An hour later, Zach looked up from the script, blinking hard as his office slowly swam into focus around him. He felt like he’d just gotten off a rollercoaster, his heart pounding with emotion, his mind reeling with images and possibilities. Reflexively, his hands gripped the paper a little tighter, like he was clutching something precious. Fuck, he needed this movie to exist.

He took a deep breath and looked back at the script, flipped the front cover back over to look at it again. The title still made him cringe, but right now he was more interested in who had written these haunting, beautiful words. Who had ripped open his chest and touched his soul.

Screenplay by: Kit Whitelaw

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

Zach scrambled to his feet, or attempted to, and maybe Neal was right and he was too old to spend hours in the lotus position, because he crashed awkwardly to the side, knocking the forgotten stack of scripts across the floor. He opted for crawling across the carpet to his desk, fumbling for his key and yanking the bottom drawer open to grab his phone. He pulled himself up onto his desk chair and scrolled through his contacts, to a number he hadn’t dialed in forever.

“Hello?”

Zach swallowed and composed himself, fighting back a smile. “May I please speak to Kit Whitelaw?”

“Uh, um. May I ask who’s calling?” He sounded flustered.

“Yes, of course. I represent a production company, and we’re interested in talking to him about his script, uh, Merry Bachelors - Jesus, Chris, seriously? That’s the best title you could come up with?”

“It’s from a quote, I…wait, what the fuck?”

“All that time we spent together, and you never told me about your screenwriting aspirations,” Zach mused.

“What are you…? Wait. ZACH?”

“Actually, I’m going by Zeke Johnson these days…”

“Fuck you. Zach, holy shit, I can’t believe…wait. You read my screenplay?”

“I did. And Chris…it’s good.”

“No need to sound so surprised,” Chris said dryly. Zach heard a rustling sound over the line, then Chris’s voice, muffled like his hand was over his mouth. “Fuck. You read the script.”

”Yeah. I did.” Zach leaned forward in his enthusiasm, elbows propped on his desk. “Look, Chris, have you gotten any other hits on this? Has anyone expressed interest in producing, do you have a director or any of that?”

“Director, Jesus, Zach, no, I mean…no, none of that. I just sent it out through one of those companies, you know, I didn’t even think anyone had read it yet…”

“Does your agent know?”

“No,” Chris said, as if that would be absurd, as if secretly writing a fully-formed and fucking brilliant screenplay and sending it out under a pseudonym wasn’t really worth mentioning to the person managing your career. “No one was supposed to know I wrote it. How did you…?”

“Call it woman’s intuition.” Call it knowing Chris Pine backwards and forwards, no matter how hard he’d tried to forget, but he wasn’t about to say that. “Well, tell your agent or don’t tell her, I don’t care. Just get your ass to New York so we can do this thing.”

“So we can…wait, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying…” Zach bit his lip. It wasn’t like him to act on impulse, but it was like him to believe in fate - and this fucking felt like fate. “I have to talk to Neal and Corey, but I want Before the Door to produce this. And Chris…I want to direct.”

~*~

Chris texted at 10:15 to let Zach know that his plane had landed at LaGuardia. By 10:45, the anticipation was overwhelming. Zach had been directing their reunion scene in his mind for the past two weeks and he couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t be here for this.

“Hey guys, I’m going to run to Starbucks real quick.”

“Zach, Chris is going to be here any minute. Sit down.”

“I’ll be right back!” Zach’s voice sounded higher than usual. “If he gets here first, you guys can keep him entertained. Seriously, I’ll be right back. Do you want something? I’ll get you something,” he said, before they could answer. He pushed through the double doors into the hallway and took the stairs.

“He does know we’re on the 14th floor, right?”

“I think he might have some excess energy to burn.”

Ten minutes later, the elevator dinged and Chris Pine walked into the office, wheeling his suitcase behind him.

“Chris!”

“Hey guys!” Chris’s smile faded as he glanced behind Neal and Corey. “Um. Is Zach here?”

“Yeah, he just ran out to pick up some Starbucks. He’ll be right back.”

“Oh. Okay.”

They stood for an awkward moment before Neal sprang forward to take Chris’s jacket and Corey asked how his flight had been. That covered about three minutes of conversation before they lapsed into silence again.

“What is taking him so long?” Neal said, shaking his head and glancing at his watch.

“He’s probably ordering one of those mocha whipped frappuccino things that Jack hates,” Corey guessed.

“Jack?”

“Zach’s boyfriend,” Neal told Chris.

“Manfriend,” Corey corrected.

“He’s a silver fox.”

“He’s old.”

Chris gave them a small, pained smile and turned back to stare at the doors.

A few minutes later, Zach stepped from the elevator into the hall, balancing a tray of mocha frappuccinos. His was half empty already, which was probably why his heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest when he caught a glimpse of Chris through the glass doors. Neal opened the door for him, and Chris was there, and Zach clutched the tray like a lifeline as he wrapped his free arm around Chris’s shoulders.

“Chris.”

“Zach, it’s great to see you, man.” They clung to each other a little longer before they pulled apart, both glancing nervously at the walls and floor before they smiled at each other again.

“I, uh, bought you guys all frappuccinos. Enjoy!” Zach said, thrusting out the tray.

Chris took one and slurped loudly through the straw. “My agent would kill me if she knew I was drinking this,” he said, gesturing with the cup.

“Oh, that’s right, Mr. Ryan, I forgot you need to keep your figure if you want those action franchises to keep calling you back.” Chris made a face, and Zach felt like maybe he’d overstepped some boundary. He tried to think of something to say.

“Show me your office?” Chris asked.

Zach nodded, and led Chris down the hall into his inner sanctum. Chris looked around admiringly, taking in the wood paneling and large windows, the massive bookshelf that took up one whole wall, and the oriental carpet covering the hardwood floor where this had all started.

“So this is where the magic happens?” Chris asked.

Zach turned quickly, stepping into Chris’s space. “No,” he breathed. “This is where the magic happens,” he said, touching a fingertip to Chris’s forehead. “That script, Chris, I don’t know how you did it, but I can’t get it out of my mind. These lines, phrases that you wrote, they just keep coming back to me, you know? It’s…god, it’s just devastating and magnificent and real and and-“

“Zach.” Chris put his hands on Zach’s shoulders and shook him a little, laughing. Zach’s chest was heaving and his hair stuck up from where he’d been running his hand through it in his excitement. Chris’s eyes twinkled at him. “Why don’t we go get a drink?”

*

Zach took him to a tiny basement bar on the Lower West Side, where they sat in the corner at a table so small their knees bumped together. Zach ordered a bottle of wine and the cheese plate and told the waiter to keep them coming as they hashed out the details. Zach talked - Chris listened and nodded. “You’ll co-produce,” Zach told him, “that way you’ll stay involved.” Chris re-iterated his desire to keep the production quiet. Zach shifted in his seat. “The setting calls for grandeur,” he murmured, but he met Chris’s eyes and nodded. “We’ll figure it out.”

They hadn’t even brought the script with them, but after that it was all they could talk about, their eyes alight, hands in constant motion as they plotted and planned, talked setting and characters, and scribbled notes on paper napkins. At one point, Zach jumped up to play out a scene, bumped against the table, and sent five empty bottles of red tumbling to the floor. They laughed so hard that Zach had to grab Chris’s wrist to prevent him from using one of their napkin notes to wipe his eyes.

“Oh fuck,” Chris said, still chuckling, resting his head in his hands. “God, how long have we been in here?” he asked Zach.

“No idea.” Zach’s mind was hazy with wine, but he pulled out his phone to check the time. “Uh, I think twelve…like twelve hours, yeah.”

“No shit?”

“Fuck,” Zach breathed, shaking his head. “I’ve still gotta get out to Brooklyn.”

“You live in Brooklyn?”

Zach shook his head. “No, no. My, uh…my friend Jack does.”

Chris nodded knowingly. “Your manfriend.”

“I see Corey’s gotten to you,” Zach muttered, rolling his eyes. Chris was looking at him intently, and he scrubbed a hand over his face. “It’s not…” He stopped, met Chris’s eye and gave a wry grin. “It’s not serious.”

Chris bit his lip and glanced away. It had been an inside joke between them, all through Trek. Whenever either of them had been seeing someone, whether it was for the occasional booty call or long enough to tag along to parties and get caught by the paps, they’d always played it off, waved it away with “It’s not serious.”

“That’s how I knew, you know,” Zach said quietly. Chris looked down at Zach’s hand touching his knee and back up with a curious expression. “I knew you wrote that script,” Zach continued. “When Scott asks Cary Grant about his engagement to Barbara Hutton, Cary tells him-“ Zach paused to swallow and take a breath, emotion welling in his throat. “He says ‘It’s not serious’. I think that’s when I knew it was you.”

He watched Chris, watched his eyes close briefly as he reacted. Zach knew he was remembering the last time he’d said that phrase, a wan smile flitting across his lips when Zach had cornered him at a party. It was a few months after the end of the Trek XIII press tour, and Chris had been all over the tabloids for weeks, squinting against the flashbulbs, a protective arm wrapped around an attractive brunette. Her name was Amanda Mucci, Zach remembered, a Lakers cheerleader turned Hollywood’s new hottie. Zach had heard rumors of a vacation in Mexico and dinner with Chris’s parents. The magazines were calling them something, Chrisanda or Pucci, something ridiculous, and when he’d asked Chris why he hadn’t introduced them yet, he’d shrugged and looked away. “It’s not serious, Zach.”

That party was the last time Zach had seen Chris, until today. He’d been on a plane to New York a month later when he’d caught sight of the US Weekly headline over someone’s shoulder - Chris Pine Peruses Engagement Rings. So much for not serious. He’d tipped his head back against his headrest, closed his eyes, and left LA behind him.

“Zach,” Chris said, seriously, leaning forward. He swayed a little and propped an elbow on the table for balance.

Zach looked at him, wondering if he’d been thinking of that party. Wondering if he ever felt what Zach felt sometimes, an emptiness in the pit of his stomach like he’d forgotten to do something a long time ago. “What?”

“‘S’kinda messed up, you know? Jack? I mean, really? Zach and Jack?” Chris grinned goofily at him.

“Wow, thanks, no one’s ever pointed that out before,” Zach said. Maybe Chris didn’t even remember, he thought with a spike of disappointment. He stood up slowly, wincing at the dull throb of an impending hangover. Chris stood too, gathering up the napkins spread across the table. He glanced at Zach as he stuffed them in his pocket.

“Zach…I’m so glad you’re going to direct my movie. Even though you never directed shit before.”

“Um. Thanks?”

“I mean it,” Chris said, with all of the intoxicated sincerity that he could muster. “I don’t think you’re gonna fuck it up.”

“I won’t,” Zach said, shaking his head. His eyes got that intense look that they’d had back in the office, and he took a step forward. “I can see it, Chris, so clearly, it’s right there. Like…like I could shake the pages of your script, and a movie would fall out, fully formed.” He cocked his head, considering. “Then again, I may also be a little drunk.”

~*~

Zach gave the driver the exact address that Chris had given him, but that didn’t stop him from double checking when the limo pulled into the long driveway of a gorgeous modern house, all white and glass and blinding in the California sun. He hesitated for a moment, wondering again if he should have just stayed in the sparsely furnished apartment he still kept in LA. But then the door opened and Chris stepped out, grinning. He wore khakis and a white button-down, and he was across the driveway in two seconds to wrap Zach in a bear hug, and it felt more like home than any apartment ever had.

“Are you fucking kidding me with this place?” Zach asked in disbelief, as Chris grabbed one of his suitcases and they headed into the spacious entryway. He followed Chris through the house, admiring the open layout and high ceilings. “It’s huge.”

“I know,” Chris said, a little sheepishly. “When I bought it, I had kind of a different life plan. I was thinking wife, kids…”

“And now?”

“And now…” They’d reached the back of the house, and Chris pulled open the sliding glass doors and turned back to Zach. “Welcome to Bachelor Hall.”

He gestured outside, and Zach stepped out onto a wide terrace, with steps leading down to a stunning swimming pool.

Zach shook his head in awe. “This is amazing, Chris, seriously.”

“I guess there’s something to be said for action franchises after all.” Zach felt himself flush at the barb, but when he looked up Chris was smiling at him. “Come on. I’ll show you your room.”

Chris showed him to the guest room, which was approximately the size of Zach’s New York City apartment. He told Zach to come downstairs after he settled in, and they’d have mojitos and fresh guacamole on the terrace. Zach spent the next ten minutes sprawled across the bed, trying to remind himself of all the reasons that he didn’t miss LA.

*

Zach was in town for two weeks. They spent their days and evenings working, checking out locations and splitting time between casting call-backs and the million and one meetings that it took to get everything in order. When they finally got home each night, they were lucky if they could stay awake long enough to debrief over a glass of wine before heading to their rooms to crash in exhaustion.

Zach loved every second of it. Chris described him as “bouncy”, but he preferred to think of himself as energized, diving eagerly into every step of the process. Even when things went wrong - which they did – he rarely let it affect his mood. When they were told their first choice location was unavailable for filming, he was bummed, upset even that they’d have to start the search all over again. Until later that evening when Chris turned toward him suddenly and clutched his arm and told him, eyes sparkling, that he knew the perfect place, a mansion owned by an old friend of his grandmother’s, “Classic old Hollywood, Zach, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!” Zach had smiled into his wineglass and stifled his urge to clutch back.

Having Chris along for the ride made everything easier, and a thousand times more fun. Zach awoke on the first morning to the smell of waffles and bacon and wandered downstairs in his pajama pants to find Chris slicing fresh strawberries and dropping them into a fruit salad. They stood at the breakfast bar, eating in silence as they waited for the caffeine to hit. Chris caught Zach’s eye and grinned.

“Thinking about the script?”

Zach smiled and blushed, caught. “Of course.”

“Tell me.”

Zach set his fork down and rested his hands on the countertop, his head cocked thoughtfully. “I don’t think we need the ballroom scene.”

Chris frowned. “It’s important-“

“It’s not,” Zach said, cutting him off. “What’s important is the next scene. Everything we need is in there, the dialogue paints the previous scene so well, it’s not even necessary. It’s extraneous and expensive.”

Chris opened his mouth to protest and again, but Zach shook his head and stepped away from the bar. “Watch.” He walked across the foyer to the front door, mimed stepping inside and closing the door behind him.

Chris realized what he was doing and walked around the bar to lean back against it. He let his eyes follow Zach’s movements, let them drift down his body, picturing a tux, slightly rumpled from a night of dancing. He looked back up and met Zach’s gaze.

“You should have come tonight, Randy,” Zach said. “Everyone was asking about you.”

Chris waved his hand. “You know I can only take so much of that,” he said, glancing away with a small smile. “Seeing you surrounded by all those baubles and…bosoms. I couldn’t bear it, not tonight.”

“Come,” Zach said, taking a few steps closer, tipping his head to the side with an appreciative smile. “Certainly it’s not as bad as all that.”

Chris shrugged. “Sometimes it is.”

Zach took another step forward. “Well if it helps,” he said, reaching for Chris’s hand, brushing their fingers together, “I wasn’t there tonight.”

Chris frowned and looked up at him. “What do you mean? Where were you?”

Zach set a palm on Chris’s shoulder and lifted his other hand, tugging him away from the counter. “I was here,” he whispered, his breath tickling Chris’s ear. “With you.” He took a step backwards and Chris followed his lead, dancing slowly across the floor.

“I would have liked to see you there,” Zach said as they danced. His voice was low and Chris could feel the vibration where their chests were pressed together. “To catch a glimpse of you across the room, you in that tux, with the silk scarf that brings out the color of your eyes. To see you watching me, that possessive look you get when I press my lips to a woman’s cheek.”

Chris narrowed his eyes, and Zach laughed, deep and rich, and said, “Yes, that’s the one.” Zach turned them in a fluid motion, and Chris stepped a little closer, so that Zach’s next words were murmured against his temple. “And then our eyes meet, and you know that she means nothing to me, that she has only the barest sliver of my attention.”

“Is that so?” Chris murmured.

Zach slowed their steps and pulled back to look into Chris’s eyes, intense and expectant. “It is…so,” Zach whispered, and the world seemed to go still around them. They pulled away at the same time, letting go.

“See what I mean?” Zach asked.

“Yeah,” Chris said, looking at him, breathing a little harder than their light turn around the dancefloor deserved. “I see.”

That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the week.

On Zach’s second to last morning in LA, Chris wandered out onto the patio to find him sitting astride a lounge chair, staring intently at the screenplay and notes spread out in front of him as he took a long drag from his cigarette. He looked up, waving the smoke away with a hand as Chris approached.

“Here we see the director, hard at work while he lounges poolside at his Hollywood home,” Chris narrated, an invisible movie camera to his eye.

“You mean the home of esteemed screenwriter Kit Whitelaw, of course,” Zach said, deepening his voice to fit the scene.

Chris snorted a laugh, breaking character. “Of course. What are you working on?”

Zach looked up at him, squinting at the bright halo that the sun threw behind Chris’s head. He had his hands in the pockets of his swim trunks, a towel draped around his broad shoulders. “The pool scene. These intimate moments you have in here, I feel like…” He took another drag on his cigarette and gestured to the papers in front of him. “You’ve got lighting the cigarette, and then the one with the tanning oil, but I feel like it needs one more. Another little moment, maybe after the photographer’s back is turned, to really capture what they had, what they were to each other, you know?”

Chris nodded thoughtfully. “I take it that means you’re not going to join me for a swim?” He pulled his towel from his shoulders and dropped it onto a nearby chair.

“You’re seriously going for a swim? It’s 8:00 in the morning.”

“Sure. Just a few laps. Does wonders for the constitution.”

“You are unreal, Pine,” Zach said, shaking his head as Chris turned with a smile and dove smoothly into the pool.

A few laps turned out to be more like thirty, but Zach only managed to look away from the pool minutes before Chris hauled himself up the ladder to dry off. Zach pretended to be engrossed in his notes as Chris walked up beside him, towel slung over one shoulder. Chris stood for a second before he reached out to run his fingers through Zach’s hair. Zach closed his eyes as Chris’s hand lingered. He turned and leaned in, resting his forehead against the damp fabric that clung to Chris’s thigh. He felt warmth under his fingertips, and wondered when his hand had come up to wrap around Chris’s leg, holding him close. He closed his eyes and had a momentary thought that when he opened them, the world would be black and white.

Chris’s voice above him broke the spell. “Come inside soon, okay?” he was saying, his voice gentle. “Breakfast burritos this morning.”

Zach dropped his hand and pulled away, not trusting himself to speak. He waited until Chris’s retreating form disappeared into the house, then he turned back to his papers, but only to gather them together and slide them into his clipboard to bring inside.

His morning’s work was done. He had his moment.

*

The door to Chris’s bedroom was open, but Zach knocked anyway, hanging on the door frame as Chris looked up from his book, smiled, and gestured for him to come in. Zach flopped down on the bed next to him, iPad in one hand. He rubbed the other hand over his face and groaned in frustration.

Chris set his book down and raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Hunter’s agent’s giving us the runaround.”

“What? I thought he was all for it!”

“He is, but…we just can’t offer him any more money, and they’re not sure it’s worth the risk.”

Risk? Oh right, I forgot how Brokeback really killed Jake’s career. Please, I thought we were past all this.”

“Yeah, well, it’s different.”

“Why?”

“Because Hunter’s actually gay.”

Really?”

Zach gave him a look. “You didn’t know?”

“No. Really?”

“Yes, really. And your reaction is exactly why they’re hesitating. Chris…”

“Don’t say it.”

Zach pulled up a picture on his iPad and held it up. It was a picture of the two of them from the first Trek press tour, ten years younger, resplendent in their tuxedoes, owning the red carpet.

Chris looked at it, swallowed hard and looked away. Zach had expected to hear the same protests he’d had when Zach had first brought up the idea. They were too old, and Chris didn’t want to split his focus, and when Zach had pressed he’d scowled and said “Please don’t ask me again.”

But now Chris was squeezing his eyes shut and sucking in a shaky breath and saying, “Zach, I’m so sorry.”

Zach sat up a little, his brow furrowing. “What? Why?”

Chris shook his head. “Just…about Amanda, and being stupid and in denial and never telling you…and never letting myself-“ He opened his eyes and Zach’s heart was racing with possibility as he tried to figure out what Chris was saying. Whether after ten years of this dance they were finally going to lean in instead of pulling away.

He didn’t have much time to wonder, because Chris was closing the distance between them, brushing their lips together in a tentative kiss.

A sudden urgency propelled Zach forward and he brought a hand up to Chris’s cheek, pressing closer to work his tongue against Chris’s warm, chapped lips. Finally, he felt Chris’s mouth open beneath his, stealing Zach’s breath with the first soft touch of their tongues. Zach wanted more, but he could feel Chris holding back as he tried to deepen the kiss, and he eased off to let Chris flick light, playful swipes against his tongue.

“Chris”, Zach breathed reverently between kisses, mouthing it against Chris’s cheek.

Chris pulled away with a hand on Zach’s chest.

“What?” Zach could hear the plaintive note in his voice, but he didn’t care, he wanted this now, didn’t see any reason to keep talking or thinking or doing anything but making up for lost time.

“We can’t do this now.”

“What? No, yes, we can, Chris, please.”

Chris chuckled at Zach’s plea and kissed him again, a soft peck on the lips. “You have a boyfriend, I’m leaving for Henry…”

“Who the fuck is Henry?!”

“Henry Ford,” Chris said, laughing. “The movie. You know? The one that starts filming in Michigan in a week and a half?”

“Shit,” Zach groaned, clutching his hands in his hair. “I forgot about that. Fuck.” He felt a sudden ache in his chest, and rolled onto his back, swallowing hard, not even trying to hide the erection tenting his pajama bottoms. He was all too aware of the matching bulge in Chris’s shorts.

“Zach.”

“Mm-hmm?”

“I’ll be back, you know. It’ll be alright.”

Zach didn’t answer. Chris watched him for a second before turning and reaching over to the bedside table to switch out the light.

~*~

He was probably too old for this, Zach thought as he watched Neal’s shoes appear in the doorway of his office. His t-shirt slipped down a little, revealing a now-tanned strip of skin, and he let his heels bump against the wall above his head.

“Careful,” Neal said, looking him up and down. “All the blood might rush to your head.”

“Let’s hope,” Zach grunted, flexing his fingers against the hardwood. “It’s spent the last two weeks on vacation in the vicinity of my dick.”

“Oh really?” Neal raised an eyebrow. “That’s interesting. What about Jack?”

“Who?”

Neal let out a low whistle as Zach lowered his feet to the ground. He was smart enough not to attempt standing, so he pushed himself into sitting position with his back against the wall. “That bad, huh?” Neal asked.

“I just…ugh, I can’t think when I’m around Chris,” Zach said, pushing his hands into his hair in a dramatic show of frustration. “He’s just so…so ridiculously gorgeous and smart and funny and perfect, and I’m just totally and completely fucked.” He looked up at Neal in despair. “He almost had me convinced that it would be a good idea to film this thing in black and white.”

A thoughtful expression crossed Neal’s face.

“No,” Zach said, pushing himself up off the ground. “No, no, no, don’t even think about it.”

“It could work, Zach. Think how perfectly it would evoke the era.”

“It’ll be seen as pretentious.”

“Since when has that ever stopped you?”

Zach glared at him for a second before he broke, rubbing a hand over his brow. “I don’t know. I just don’t want it to look like I’m trying too hard, you know? I want the script, the words to be the focus.”

“Yes! And it will be. People won’t even notice, it will seem natural. Think about it. Everyone pictures Cary Grant in black and white.”

“I can’t do this right now,” Zach said, pushing himself up off the floor.

“Fine, but let me ask around, alright, let me see what people think?”

“Fine, okay.”

“Awesome.”

“Don’t tell Chris, okay? I don’t want him thinking he has any influence over me.”

“Uh-huh. Speaking of which, you guys do anything about the title yet? I’m waiting for people to ask me why we’re trying to sell a Christmas reality show…”

“We’re keeping it.”

“Wha-“

“We’re keeping Merry Bachelors.” He stared defiantly at Neal, who looked ready to argue, then his features relaxed into a sad smile.

“You are so fucked.”

~*~

Chris began filming in Michigan, while Zach remained hard at work, making sure everything was in order for filming to begin in two months. He took two more trips out to LA, and though Chris had offered up his place, Zach opted to stay in the apartment, where he wouldn’t be distracted by swimming pools and terraces and images of Chris standing in front of the sun. From here, LA felt frustrating and fake, and he fell into bed each day, drained instead of energized, counting the days until he could breathe again.

He called Chris a couple times a week to check in or talk business, or to celebrate when Nick Hoult signed on to play Cary Grant.

“Wish you were here to drink this champagne with me,” Zach said, holding the phone with his shoulder as he poured himself a glass of champagne, balanced precariously on the bed in his LA apartment.

“Tell you what,” Chris said, from a hotel in bumfuck Michigan, “I’ll stay on the phone with you and we can gossip while you get trashed.”

Zach grinned. “Awesome.”

*

Three weeks before Chris was supposed to finish filming, Zach called him from New York in the middle of the night.

“Mmf?”

“I woke you up, I’m sorry,” Zach said, not sorry. He heard Chris suck in a sleepy breath.

“Zach, ‘s the middle of the night.”

“I know. I needed to talk to someone, to you. I-“ Zach swallowed thickly, his voice trembling.

“It’s okay.” Chris sounded more alert. “I’m here, what’s up, talk to me.”

“You know, I lied to you, before, when I said the thing with Jack wasn’t serious.” He didn’t wait for Chris to respond, wanted to get it all out in one go. “Before you showed up, I was planning to ask him to move in with me. I loved him, or I thought I did, but now it’s over. I mean, it ended. Tonight.”

“Oh, Zach…”

Zach felt his chest seize up, the genuine concern in Chris’s tone making everything Zach had been wrestling recently that much more real. “I’ve been trying to make it work, but I just felt like I was acting, all the time, and I can’t…I just can’t do it anymore.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” Chris didn’t say anything, but Zach could practically hear him raise an eyebrow, waiting. “Okay, yes, it’s your fault.” Tears prickled in the corners of his eyes and his throat constricted. “I thought this would be easier.”

“So did I.” Chris’s voice was soft, comforting across the distance, and Zach sobbed quietly for a while with the phone pressed against his ear.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I know it’s late.”

“Shh. I’m not going anywhere. Here, let’s watch a movie.”

Zach sniffed and wiped a hand over his eyes. “What movie?” As if it mattered.

Bringing Up Baby? It’s on Netflix. I’ll stay up with you, we’ll call it research.”

Zach smiled and hugged a pillow to his chest. “Yeah alright.”

“Sweet.”

~*~

Zach had tried to get some work done, he really had, but his heart was pounding so hard that he thought it was probably best that he lie down. Which was why he was sprawled on his back in the middle of the rug, staring at the ceiling of his office, when Chris walked in.

“Don’t get up,” Chris told him, when he started to struggle into a sitting position. He lay back down gratefully as Chris lowered himself to the ground and hugged his knees to his chest. “Hi.”

“Hi. How was Henry?”

Henry was good, it was great. How’s my baby?”

“I’m good.” Chris poked him, and Zach cracked a smile.

Our baby, I should say.”

“Everything’s all set. I’m ready. I’m fucking dying to start.”

Chris bit his lip. “I’m so fucking nervous, Zach,” he admitted.

“Lie down,” Zach said. “Trust me, it helps.”

Chris lay back on the carpet, stretching his legs out past Zach’s head. “You’re nervous, too?” Chris’s voice came from somewhere down near Zach’s knees.

“Not about filming,” Zach said. He kept his eyes resolutely on the ceiling, feeling his face flush with the confession, and took a deep breath. “I missed you a lot.”

Chris twisted onto his side and slid an arm across Zach’s torso. His voice was muffled as he pressed his face against Zach’s khaki-covered thigh and said, “I missed you, too.”

And fuck, Zach could feel himself getting hard already, just from that slight press of lips, Chris’s warm breath seeping into his skin. Or maybe it was the words, that murmured reassurance, that set fire to his blood before taking up residence in his heart. He wondered if he should turn away, or try to distract himself, but then he felt cool air and warm lips against his stomach and there was no turning back.

Chris’s fingers ghosted over his skin, and he shivered, sucked in a breath as Chris moved to press his face against the bulge in Zach’s pants, nuzzling at the outline of his cock. Zach clenched his stomach muscles, willing himself not to squirm with pleasure under Chris’s touch, and he almost lost it when Chris slid his fingers under Zach’s boxers, tugging lightly until the head of his dick peeked out from under the waistband. Chris flicked his tongue across the tip, and Zach whimpered.

Then Chris’s fingers were easing his zipper down, brushing against his shaft as Chris’s tongue continued working over the head, hot and wet and Zach was afraid to move, afraid to wake up from this glorious dream. But the rough scratch of denim against his cheek reminded him that this was real, that Chris was hard too, and eager for his affections to be returned if the way he was thrusting his straining bulge against Zach’s face was any indication. Zach’s hands were shaking as he tried to rip Chris’s fly open, and it took an extra minute, but finally he got his mouth around Chris’s cock, and he felt the hot suction on his own dick intensify in silent gratitude.

Zach brought a hand up to clutch at Chris’s ass, and he pressed his face against Chris’s groin to swallow him deeper. He felt a hand on his hip and realized belatedly that he’d been thrusting into Chris’s mouth. He relaxed his hips and doubled his efforts on Chris’s cock, the sound of his own desperate slurping filling his ears. Chris’s dick pulsed in his mouth and he felt the vibration of a moan around his own cock as he came, swallowing and being swallowed and somehow managing not to choke as Chris pumped weakly into his mouth.

“Oh god,” Chris groaned, pulling off and flopping around on the floor until they were face to face. “We are way too old to be doing that.”

Zach wrapped his arms around Chris’s shoulders and held him tightly without shame. “Thank you.”

Chris shook his head and pressed a warm, musky kiss to his mouth. Zach tangled their fingers together and rolled them over, pulling away to look down at Chris. “I have to tell you something, but I want you to know that what I’m about to say is in no way influenced by our…current position.”

Chris grinned up at him, clearly enjoying his current position. “Got it.”

Zach took a deep breath. “We’re doing the movie in black and white.”

The tackle-hug slammed his back into the floor, knocked the wind out of him, and would later necessitate two trips to the chiropractor. And was totally worth it.

*

Zach slipped quietly out of his apartment the next morning, leaving Chris sprawled comfortably across one half of his king-sized bed. He returned 15 minutes later to find him sitting at the kitchen table, looking adorably rumpled as he scrolled through Zach’s iPad.

“This is how we do breakfast in New York,” Zach told him, setting down two coffees, fresh onion bagels, flavored cream cheese, and an assortment of warm muffins from the bakery downstairs.

Chris drank a long sip of coffee and took a bite out of one of the muffins. “I like New York,” he said, still chewing.

Zach sat down, gesturing to the iPad. “Find anything interesting?”

“Just the fact that you’ve done, like, a ton of work in the past three months,” Chris said, shaking his head in amazement. “I can’t believe how much shit there is to do.”

Zach shrugged. “It’s just logistics mostly. Everyone involved has been so great though, it’s like this amazing, creative group of people just, like, buoying me along and being like ‘Zach, you don’t suck at this’. So that’s been good.”

“You must be very grateful,” Chris said with a twinkle in his eye.

“I am grateful, don’t mock me!” Zach said, leaning back in his chair and propping his legs up on Chris’s lap. “I have so much to be thankful for already, and we haven’t even gotten to the filming part yet.”

“Seriously, your Oscar speech is gonna be like an hour long,” Chris said through another mouthful of muffin. He finished chewing and his face took on a hesitant expression as he rested a hand on Zach’s ankle. “You’ll stay with me, right?”

Zach furrowed his brow, not sure of Chris’s meaning.

“In LA, while you’re filming. You’re staying at my place.”

Zach bit back his smile. “You don’t think that’s…moving too fast?”

“Is there such a thing as moving too fast when you’re in your forties and making up for lost time?”

“I suppose not,” Zach answered, letting his lips quirk up. “I was hoping you’d ask.”

“Actually it was more of a demand.”

“Either way, Mr. Whitelaw, it would be my pleasure.”

~*~

Nick tossed the newspaper on the table in frustration. “I’ll sue. I will, I swear it.”

“You won’t.”

“I’ll take that damn editor for every penny. I’ll take the shirt off his back.”

Hunter rested his hip against the table and smiled. “If we’re going to talk about clothes coming off, Cary-“

“Randy, be serious for a moment please.”

“I was.” Hunter pouted and crossed his arms.

“I can’t live like this.” Nick was pacing the set, hands in his hair. Watching him, Zach could feel the anger and frustration pouring off him, and he felt it in his own chest.

“You’ve been doing just fine so far,” Hunter said, his voice smooth, hiding his annoyance.

“Not like this-“ Nick slammed a hand on the table for effect. “I won’t have this whole town gossiping, talking about us like we’re…like we’re…”

“We are, Cary,” Hunter said, stepping forward, reaching for him.

“Don’t touch me,” Nick hissed. “I can’t do this. We can’t.” His voice went from angry to pleading. “You know we can’t, Randy. Everything would change.”

“So what do we do then? End it? Is that what you want?” Hunter’s voice was empty, lost. He clutched at the table, shaking.

Nick’s determined expression faltered and he stepped forward, grabbing for Hunter’s arm, pulling him close with a rough desperation. He pressed their foreheads together and closed his eyes.

“Cut!” Zach called, standing up out of his chair. “Great work, you guys. Moving on in five minutes, we want Nick in the bathrobe for the next scene.” Out of the corner of his eye, Zach could see Chris striding over. He gave a few other directions before he turned to smile at him. “Hey, you.”

“Nice work.”

“Tell me about it. What did you say to Nick?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Chris said innocently, but he couldn’t hide his grin.

“Yeah, right. I saw you talking to him earlier, then he goes and pulls a 180 on the scene and blows it out of the water. I mean, did you see that? That was amazing!”

“I saw.”

“So what did you tell him?”

“I just told him not to fuck it up.”

“Shut up,” Zach said, grinning. He stepped aside to gesture to his chair. “You want it? I’m serious. Apparently you’ve got the magic touch.”

Chris waggled his eyebrows. “I’ll give you a magic touch,” he murmured. Zach’s fingers twitched at his side, but he gripped the back of his chair, resisting. As nice as it would be sometimes to reach out and touch, they’d decided – the night before the first day of shooting – to keep their distance on-set. Keep things professional, they’d both agreed. No need to add any fuel to the fire of speculation that had raged around them during Trek. Left unsaid was the fact that Zach was out and Chris, far from it. Zach hadn’t pressed the issue and wasn’t sure he planned to – he was just fine with keeping what they had to themselves for a while longer.

Still, he thought as he glanced down to see Chris’s fingers clenched into a fist, it gave him a small thrill to know that he wasn’t the only one who found it difficult. Ten years ago, Zach would have said “fuck it” and pulled Chris into the shadows and into a frantic kiss, would have put his hands everywhere and moaned into his mouth. That’s what he’d imagined anyway. In retrospect, maybe it was a good thing he’d never tried.

“Is it time to go home yet?” Zach asked instead, his voice strained.

Chris shook his head and glanced at his watch. “Only…eight more hours.” He grinned at Zach. “You know you love it.”

Zach heard the AP yelling, saw the actors getting into place, and his heart beat a little faster in his chest. It had become a familiar feeling over the past month and a half of filming. Finally, he was getting to see the ideas that he’d been mulling over for months coming to life in front of him. He loved the giddy rush he got from directing, almost as much as he loved that Chris was right there with him to watch the actors respond, transforming his words into something sublime. He smiled at Chris and nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

*

It wasn’t until the end of the second month that the cracks began to appear. Chris had obligations that kept him away from the set, and Zach was left alone to deal with personality clashes and permit delays, realities that fought to break through his relentless enthusiasm. He found himself spending long hours at the studio after filming had ended for the day, too stressed to do anything but stare at the dailies and try to figure out why nothing seemed to be working anymore. Even knowing that Chris was waiting for him at the end of the day didn’t help, not when all he really wanted was to fall into bed or mope around or throw things without having to answer to anyone.

A horn honked behind him, interrupting his internal rant, and Zach gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned white. Why the FUCK was there so much traffic at 10:00 PM? He’d left the house at 4:30 in the morning, and spent the last four hours in his cluttered studio office, trying to figure out the logistics of filming six scenes in three locations in the next two days. And now he just wanted to get home, hopefully to some food, because he was fucking starving.

He shoved open the front door a little more forcefully than necessary and stomped into the kitchen, not even bothering to acknowledge Chris as he flopped onto a stool and burrowed his face in his arms.

He took a deep breath, trying to let go of his frustrations as he felt Chris come up beside him. A hand carded through his hair and he felt the light press of a kiss against his scalp. “Hungry?” Chris asked.

“Mm-hmm.”

“I’ve got pasta on the stove.”

“Mmm. Awesome.”

“I’m glad you’re home.”

“Yeah,” Zach managed.

The hand on his back stilled and he really hoped that meant he was about to get some dinner. “So I’ve been thinking,” Chris started, and Zach stiffened involuntarily. “I think we should end with the montage.”

He sounded eager, like he’d been waiting all day to have this conversation, like he’d been preparing his arguments, and Zach was so not ready for this. “This is really not the time, Chris.”

“Okay. It’s just, I talked to Billy in graphics today and he had this great idea about doing it like a newsreel-“

“Chris.” Zach lifted his head to glare at him. “Did you not hear me? This is not the fucking time.” He ignored the hurt look in Chris’s eyes and dropped his head back down to rest on his arms. “Didn’t you say something about food?” he muttered.

He heard Chris huff in frustration. “Fine. We can talk about the ending after you eat.”

“No.”

“What is your problem?!”

“My problem?” Zach surged up out of his chair and threw his arms out. “My problem is that I spent the last 17 hours making decisions! I just want to come home and eat and sleep and get a five minute break from thinking about this fucking movie, is that too much to ask?”

Chris stared at him for a long second, then turned and walked over to the stove without a word. Zach rolled his eyes, angry at Chris for making him feel responsible now for hurt feelings on top of everything else. He turned on his heel and left the kitchen, heading for the study that Chris had been letting him use as an office. He slammed the door behind him and pounded a fist on the desk before throwing himself into his chair.

Five minutes later, Zach heard a knock on the door. “What, Chris?” His voice was rough with exhaustion.

“Can we talk? Please?” He dropped his head back in frustration as he heard Chris try the doorknob. “Unlock the door, Zach, come on, this is ridiculous.”

“Just leave me alone for a little, okay?’ Zach turned his back to the door and stared, unseeing, at the stacks of paper littering the surface of the desk. He heard a click as Chris popped the lock open from the outside. The door opened, and Zach took a deep, shaky breath.

“Hey.” He heard Chris cross the room and stop next to him, waited for a hand on his shoulder that never came. “We don’t have to talk about the montage, okay? I’m sorry, I…didn’t realize it would piss you off so much.”

Zach gave a short, frustrated laugh. “I’m not pissed about the fucking montage, Chris,” he said, not looking up at him.

“Then what the hell is wrong with you?”

Zach swallowed, closing his eyes as he spoke. “I’m thinking of getting an apartment closer to the studio.”

“What? Zach, what the hell? You’re not serious.”

Zach poked a pen along the surface of the desk and didn’t answer.

“Zach, the studio is fifteen minutes away!”

“More like an hour and a half if there’s traffic, which there fucking always is, including at 10 o’fucking clock at night, because this is fucking LA.”

Silence filled the room for a long moment before Chris answered. “Fine. We’ll find a closer place for the next few months, if you think it will help. Unless…is this about us?” Zach could hear the pain in Chris’s voice, and it broke him. He swiped a hand over his eyes to wipe off the sudden, unexpected tears.

“Zach?” Chris moved closer, put a hand on the back of Zach’s chair and turned it toward him, and Zach buried his face in his hands and sobbed.

“Zach, hey, come on. Hey, it’s alright.” He wrapped strong arms around Zach’s shoulders and let him bury his face in Chris’s neck. Chris rubbed a hand across his back. “What’s wrong?”

“Everything,” Zach sobbed. “Everything’s going wrong, we’re running behind. Half the time people blatantly ignore what I’m asking them to do, and the rest of the time they can’t tie their shoes without waiting for me to tell them how to do it!” Zach paused sucked in a sniffling breath. He could feel Chris smiling, and he pulled back to glare at him through red-rimmed eyes. “It’s not funny.”

“I know,” Chris said, trying unsuccessfully not to smile.

“What?”

Chris shook his head. “Just that you love telling people what to do.”

“Yeah, but only when they listen,” Zach said, well aware that he was whining.

“Shh, I know,” Chris said, scratching gently at Zach’s back.

“Remember when JJ stormed off the set during the first Trek because we were laughing so hard and couldn’t finish the scene?”

“Vividly.”

“Today was like that, only about ten times worse.”

”I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”

“You should be,” Zach grumped, but he was finished crying, and it was impossible to be angry in Chris’s arms. “And I miss you.”

“I know.”

“Chris?”

“Yeah?”

“Please don’t tell anyone that I had a breakdown and snotted all over myself.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” Chris said, standing and pulling Zach up by the hand. “Come on, let’s go eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“What? I thought you were starving!”

“I lost my appetite. But I could really go for some wine.”

Zach took a few minutes to wash his face and change into pajamas. He found Chris on the balcony, staring out over the pool toward the lights of LA. Chris turned when he heard Zach’s footsteps behind him. He held his arms out, and Zach fell into them gratefully, nuzzling into Chris’s neck. “I’m sorry about before.”

Chris pressed a kiss into his hair. “S’okay.”

“Thank you for putting up with me.”

“Shh. I love you.”

Zach held him a little tighter. It was the first time either of them had said the words, and it reminded him of something he’d been meaning to ask. “Do you think they ever said it to each other?” he asked. “You didn’t put it in the script.”

“I don’t know.” He felt Chris shake his head. “Maybe they couldn’t. Maybe they wouldn’t. I don’t know.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I don’t want our story to end like theirs.”

“With a montage?”

“Shut up.”

Zach tried to imagine denying that he loved Chris, lying about what they were to each other, condensing what they had into a bland interview answer about enjoying working together on a few films. The thought made him ill. He pulled back to look into Chris’s eyes and raised a palm to his cheek.

“Come to the premiere with me.”

Chris’s brow furrowed. “Of course…”

Zach dropped his hand and tangled their fingers together. “I mean, with me. As a couple.” His heart pounded with exhilaration at the idea, and he could hear the eagerness in his own voice.

“Zach…”

He squeezed Chris’s fingers. “Please. Let’s do it. Let’s do what they never could.”

Chris closed his eyes and Zach could see him picturing it, the two of them on the red carpet, standing stiffly in their tuxes and trying not to squint against the blinding flash of lights. And Zach would take that last step, the one that closed the distance between them, the one he’d never been allowed to take, and he’d reach for Chris’s hand….

“Okay.” Chris’s eyes were open and he was looking intently at Zach.

“Yeah?” Suddenly, he wanted to be sure. “Everything will change…”

“I know,” Chris nodded. “Let’s change it.” Zach did a little jump of joy, and Chris smiled, and they pressed their mouths together for a long, important kiss.

~*~

Zach pushed off the bottom of the pool, slicing up through the water toward the glimmering sunlight. He smiled as he reached the surface to find Chris standing on the edge, watching him. Zach shook his head, spraying droplets of water into the air like an enthusiastic dog. “Come on in,” he said with a grin, running a hand through his hair. “The water’s fine.”

Chris stepped off the edge, disappearing beneath the water and reappearing with a hand on Zach’s back and a peck on his cheek. “Didn’t think I’d see you up swimming so early on your day off.”

“I’m told it does wonders for the constitution.”

They were two weeks away from wrap, and Zach was determined to enjoy himself, to recapture the energy of those early days of filming. It didn’t hurt that things were going smoothly again, for the most part, and though he knew there was still a lot more to be done, he could see this thing coming together. More than anything, he couldn’t wait for Chris to see the final product, and that thought alone made every minute worth it.

He pulled himself out of the pool and sat on the edge, legs dangling in the water as he watched Chris swim laps. He was leaning back on his arms, his face to the sun, when Chris reappeared, resting his arms on the edge of the pool and smiling mischievously.

“What?”

Chris ran a hand up Zach’s leg, slipping into his swim trunks to stroke lightly at the inside of his thigh.

“That tickles!” Zach yelped, twitching.

Chris pulled himself out of the pool in a smooth motion and tackled Zach to the ground to kiss him sloppily on the mouth. Zach kissed him back, thrusting involuntarily up off the ground, pressing his hardening cock against Chris’s thigh. Chris made an approving sound, and Zach pushed him away, breathless. “Not here.”

“Oh come on.”

“Hell no. Last time I had fucking concrete burn for a week!”

“Spoilsport,” Chris said, standing up and rolling his eyes. He extended a hand to Zach. “Come on, princess. Let us make love on a thousand down pillows, then I’ll rub your tender skin with baby oil.”

Zach made a face. “Please get sentences like that out of your system before your next script.”

“You should have seen the first draft. How about we go inside and I fuck you into the mattress?”

“Much better.”

Upstairs, Zach scrambled out of his swimtrunks and pulled Chris onto the bed to kiss wandering trails across his sun-warmed skin. He breathed him in, chlorine and sunblock and a hint of sweat. A shiver rushed through him as their cocks brushed together, as Chris arched up off the bed and said his name, and their hands shook with restraint as they touched each other reverently.

Then Chris seemed to remember his promise, and he flipped them over so he was straddling Zach, sliding between his legs, taunting him with the light touch of a fingertip. Zach pressed into the mattress and fumbled for the lube, thrusting it into Chris’s hand, so Chris could push into him without further delay. Chris rocked his hips and Zach moaned, his abs already clenching in anticipation. His cock left a wet smear across his belly, and Chris wrapped a capable hand around his length.

Zach’s fingers clutched reflexively at the sheets, the fabric bunching in his hand, and his mind flashed to an image of rumpled suits and desperate kisses as Randy pressed Cary into a coat closet. It was one of the few scenes they had left to film, and Zach needed it to be perfect. He had to make sure they got Hunter’s hair right, mussed like Chris’s was now, falling into bright eyes as he licked his lips-

He let out a surprised grunt as Chris slammed into him and stopped, panting. Chris let go of his cock and leaned over him, pressing him into the bed. “What, why did you stop?”

“Stop thinking about the movie,” Chris said.

“I’m nffffff-“ Chris cut off his denial with a hard kiss.

“Yes, you are,” he said against Zach’s lips. “You’re thinking of the coat closet scene. You’re wondering if they can make it look convincing, if they know what it’s like to want someone so badly that all you can think about is pulling them into the nearest dark corner and getting your hands on them.” Zach moaned underneath him as he resumed the slow thrust of his hips. “I know what it’s like,” Chris said, voice strained and eyes closed as Zach’s tight heat engulfed him. “I used to think about it all the time.” He opened his eyes to meet Zach’s. “About you.”

“Chris.” Zach pulled him down into a rough kiss, recognizing Chris’s words as the confession they were. He let Chris mouth wetly at his cheek and tug his earlobe in between his teeth.

“I’d picture it…you know that spot behind the bridge set, behind all those boxes?”

Zach nodded. He knew exactly where Chris was talking about, had known about it ever since an ill-advised tryst with the props guy. What he wouldn’t have done for that to have been Chris…

Chris was pumping into him faster now, his breaths coming more rapidly in Zach’s ear. “I used to imagine dragging you in there, kissing you…touching you…fuck….I’d get so hard just thinking about it.”

“Jesus, Chris,” Zach gasped. He arched his back as Chris pounded into him, sinful voice narrating long-forgotten fantasies. Chris’s lips pressed against his throat, and he came with a cry as Chris sucked a mark into his skin.

*

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Zach asked quietly as they lay together later, warm and sticky and tangled in each others’ limbs. “You know how badly I wanted you back then.”

Chris nuzzled his face into Zach’s chest. “I don’t know if I did. I was so torn up back then, Zach. I was…well, I was me. I’d get myself all hot and bothered over you, and I’d hate myself, and I’d go hide out in my trailer with my composition notebook and write self-indulgent screenplays.”

Zach propped himself up on an elbow and looked at Chris. “Seriously?”

Chris nodded. “I wrote the second half first. Fuck, I really thought it would end that way, Zach, that’s why I never-“ He looked away and Zach put a hand on his cheek, pulled him back for a kiss, forgiven.

“It was about us.”

“Always.”

~*~

Merry Bachelors premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. The revelation that mysterious screenwriter “Kit Whitelaw” was actually Chris Pine had turned a low undercurrent of interest into a firestorm of anticipation, and they exited the limo to the screams of a mob of spectators. They stood close together on the red carpet and smiled and tried not to look like they were trembling with nervous excitement. Zach set a hand on Chris’s back, slid it up to squeeze at his shoulder and glanced at him with a question in his eyes. Chris took a deep breath and nodded and Zach leaned in, closing his eyes against the lights as Chris met him halfway. There was a second of silence as their lips met, and Zach could have sworn the earth stopped spinning for a moment before Chris brought a hand up to cup his cheek and the crowd burst into deafening cheers. They pulled apart, breathless and laughing, and waved once more before they made their way inside.

The darkness of the theater cooled their flushed skin as they watched their movie come alive onscreen. Chris squeezed Zach’s hand, reminding him to stop thinking like a director, and Zach let himself fall into the story, to watch it like he had never seen it before.

The movie ended with a montage, scenes of the life that Cary and Randolph had lived together, interspersed with scenes from the public life that they had spent apart. A shot of an older Cary Grant, a microphone shoved in his face and the question – “Tell us about your relationship with Randolph Scott.” Nick had played it perfectly, eyes going hard for a second before he relaxed into his well-rehearsed persona.

“We made some wonderful pictures together,” he said, turning to make sure each camera caught his smile.

The shot zoomed in on his eyes, unsmiling, distant with the pain of memory and loss, and the scene melted into a series of photographs – a moment by the poolside, reading by the fire, lighting a cigarette. In the background, the sounds of a party, crystal champagne flutes clinking, a woman’s laughter and “Welcome to Bachelor Hall!”

The audience was on their feet before the credits rolled, thunderous applause surrounding Chris and Zach as they snuck a tear-streaked kiss in the darkness.

~*~

Epilogue

Chris found Zach in his office, sitting on the floor by the window, long legs stretched out in front of him and his eyes closed, the picture of bliss as he listened to something on his giant headphones. Chris paused to watch him for a moment before he made his way over, touched him lightly on the arm to avoid startling him. Zach opened his eyes and smiled.

“Hey, you.”

“Hey. Whatcha listening to?”

“The score.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “Shouldn’t you be moving on to bigger and better things?”

“It’s been less than a month, Chris. Let me coast on this one for a little while longer?”

“Fine,” Chris conceded with a grin. He flopped into the desk chair and tossed the notebook he’d been holding onto the floor. Zach nudged it with his foot and glanced up at him.

“A new composition notebook?”

Chris nodded.

”I can’t believe you wrote a fucking screenplay during Trek. I always thought you were taking notes, or writing lame poetry or something. How come you never said anything?”

“Hmm, possibly because of the ‘lame poetry’ crack that you made just now. You were like a thousand times worse back then, I don’t even want to know what you would have done if I’d told you I was trying to write a script.”

“Probably speculated that it was porn, and then tried to steal it from you.”

“Exactly.”

Zach picked up the notebook and poked him in the chest with it.

“What?”

“You’d better get started if the last one took you ten fucking years.”

“Fuck you,” Chris said, laughing. He opened the notebook and stared at the blank first page. Zach watched as his eyes went distant.

“Got an idea?”

Chris nodded, his expression serious, the first hint of passion washing across his features. “Yeah. I’ve got this one I can’t get out of my head. It’s about an American soldier and a medic in World War I. They meet in France, and have this epic, forbidden love-“

“Oh fuck no, Chris. Not another gay script, I swear to god, what is it with everyone?”

Chris’s eyes widened in surprise for a second, but he broke into a resigned grin. “Alright, fine, we’ll save that one. I’ve got another one anyway.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“Okay, there are these monkeys, right, and they all live together in this hotel…” Zach launched himself at Chris, tackling him squarely in the chest and taking him down, laughing, as they rolled around on the rug. He sealed his mouth against Chris’s, kissing him until they were out of breath one hand already working at Chris’s fly. “Zach,” Chris laughed, panting. “Aren’t we a little too old for this?”

Zach pushed himself up and looked down at Chris, at the lines crinkling at the corner of his eyes and creasing the edges of his smile.

“No. No, we’re definitely not.”

roll credits