“I’m going to kill you, Cho. I’m going to stab you in the jugular with this pen.”
“Bitch, please. You faint at the sight of a paper cut.”
Goddamn it, Zach thought, John was right. “Well, at the very least I’m going to set fire to your car and turn you into the police for forging my signature. Twice.”
“No, you’re not,” said Dr. Greenwood, rounding the corner just as things were really about to get ugly. “I mean about turning Professor Cho into the police. You might be doing him a favor with the car.”
Zach spoke over John’s indignant Hey! to say, “Bruce, this is ridiculous. You can’t possibly be serious about this.”
“I know it falls a bit outside your purview, but QL is one of the most widely read gay men’s magazine on both coasts. I’m not entirely sure what possessed Dr. Cho to submit you for the makeover contest, but he tells me they’ve offered to give you an interview.”
“And?” asked Zach. He knew he was being disrespectful to the chair of the department… but come the fuck on. A makeover?
“And an interview equals publicity, and publicity equals funding. You of all people should know how badly the cultural studies department needs money. The trustees don’t understand what we do here.”
“And plucking my eyebrows is supposed to help them take us seriously?”
“No, getting more applicants for our program will get them to take us seriously. Have you ever read QL?”
Zach just barely stopped himself from saying no, because I don’t read trash, but that could get him in trouble. Plus, he did read trashy romances from time to time. Straight ones, even. He couldn’t have explained it if his life depended on it. He just sighed instead. “No, I haven’t.”
“Honestly, Zachary, I’m surprised. It’s a pretty even mix of lowbrow and highbrow – that’s what makes it so popular. It might fit well into the curriculum of your LGBT studies course.”
Okay, so at least it wasn’t Dungeon Master Monthly or something, but still. “Alright, but isn’t the magazine based out of Los Angeles? I don’t exactly have the funds for a trip to LA, and there’s no way the department’s going to cover it.”
John, who had apparently stuck around to witness Zach’s misery, was grinning like a man who wasn’t about to have his 1976 Dodge Dart doused with gasoline and set aflame. “It’s all expenses paid. Even back wax – which, too bad for them, because they’re going to need a lot of it.”
This was beyond ridiculous. Makeovers were for teenage girls and the seriously insecure. What use did Zach have for a makeover? Professors were supposed to dress like colorblind old men – it was a time-honored tradition. However, there was no use explaining this to the team of “makeover artists,” or whatever the hell they called themselves. It was like he wasn’t even in the room.
“Is there any product in his hair at all?”
“I’m trying to think of a word for those glasses, and all I can come up with is ‘tragic.’”
“We’re going to need the industrial-grade exfoliant.”
“Does he always slouch like that?”
“Burn the shoes. Just… burn them. Destroy them with fire.”
The minions were all sort of gathering in front of him, staring intently at his face and whispering amongst each other in a seriously disturbing way. Their leader, a small man in a very loud vest, finally spoke. “Sasha, I want you to find this guy some clothes that don’t reek of mothballs. Adam and Macy, you’ll be on hair and skin. But first I’m going to need the rest of you with me on eyebrows. This will be… challenging.”
Zach’s attempts to slowly back away were foiled by a lackey who had somehow managed to get behind him, yank off his cardigan, and throw it straight in the trash. Vest Man took him impatiently by the elbow and steered him toward a brightly-lit room in which sat an imposing-looking chair that would not be out of place in a dentist’s office.
Vest Man shoved him rudely into the chair and Zach half-expected to have his arms strapped down. “So, just between us girls,” Vest Man said, “do you ever get laid dressing like that?”
“Hey,” Zach said indignantly, “there are still places in the world where smart is considered sexy.”
“Suuuure there are,” said the man, turning to get something out of the cabinets. He was far more frightening when Zach couldn’t see what was in his hands.
“I do just fine in the sex department, thank you,” Zach muttered. And he did. True, he was more likely to woo a man at an academic conference with a playful neo-Marxist deconstruction of The Real Housewives of Orange County than in a bar with a pick-up line. But it also didn’t hurt that he could suck a golf ball through a garden hose. Or so he’d been told.
But he wasn’t about to explain any of that to Vest Man, who was stirring what looked like a small pot of wax. “Hmm,” the man mused, looking Zach up and down. “Where to begin?”
Zach had seen Miss Congeniality; he decided then and there that anyone who tried to give him a Brazilian was going to get the best bitch slap he could dish out.
When QL Magazine chose the winner of our makeover contest, we never dreamed we’d pick distinguished professor Zachary Quinto. An associate professor of cultural studies at Shapere University in New York, Dr. Quinto has traded his tweed for trendy togs. Our very own literary reviewer Roberto Ortiz was able to sit down with Professor McHottie to discuss exfoliation, education, and even a little titillation.
Roberto Ortiz: So, Dr. Quinto, what was your first reaction upon learning you’d been chosen for a makeover?
Zachary Quinto: (laughs) Unmitigated surprise, I can assure you. But I have been convinced by my very supportive colleagues that this was… how shall I put it… a necessary step in my career?
RO: So you were less than enthusiastic at the prospect.
ZQ: I was. Especially when the belt sander came out. But these people, these stylists, they certainly know what they’re doing. I think my mother will weep with joy when she sees me with two separate eyebrows.
RO: I think the before and after shots speak for themselves, so let’s get into the more interesting stuff. I’m sure many people are curious about the field of cultural studies.
ZQ: Well, it’s a relatively new field, and as with any new field, we’ve had difficulty being taken seriously by the established disciplines.
RO: What exactly is cultural studies?
ZQ: It’s really an interdisciplinary field – a bit of anthropology, some literature and media studies, politics, history, feminism and gender studies, even philosophy. To put it simply, possibly too simply, we take pop culture seriously. We look at contemporary cultural artifacts in a larger context, how they relate to social constructs, especially when it comes to power and privilege.
RO: So you’re not just replacing Moby Dick with Jersey Shore.
ZQ: Not quite, though cultural studies does have its foundation in literary criticism, and reality television is a profoundly rich subject when it comes to studying popular entertainment.
RO: Is there a particular area you’re working in right now?
ZQ: Well, my work right now focuses on the reclamation of genre fiction as legitimate literature.
RO: And by genre fiction, you mean…
ZQ: Science fiction, fantasy, romance. That sort of thing.
RO: Really? Romance novels?
ZQ: Absolutely. Many of what most people would call ‘trashy’ romance novels show a greater understanding of parts of the human experience than so-called ‘literary fiction.’ Take The Bridge of Lions, which is still, I believe, on the New York Times bestseller list. I don’t mean to pick on Chris Pine – his characters show great depth of emotion when it comes to grief, but his sex scenes… They read like an IKEA manual peppered with dirty words straight off the playground.
RO: I’m sure some people would argue that those scenes are included for reasons other than titillation.
ZQ: And they’d be right. But sex can have so many emotional components to it – not just love and passion, but insecurity and frustration and amusement and even anger. Why include a sex scene at all if it doesn’t advance our understanding of the characters? And in many romance novels – not all, of course, but many – that’s just what they do. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Pine’s novel shows up on the Literary Review’s list of Bad Sex in Fiction Awards.
RO: A bit of a harsh indictment.
ZQ: Perhaps, but Mr. Pine would be among distinguished company. The ability to write a brilliant novel does not guarantee the ability to write sex, which is a fundamental part of the human experience. I’m just saying we shouldn’t discount novels as ‘trashy’ just because they include or focus on sexual interaction between characters, even if the purpose is titillation.
RO: Interesting stuff.
ZQ: (laughs) Well, I don’t sit around reading about sex all day. I have to teach at some point.
RO: And I’m certain your classes are always well-attended. And if not, they most certainly will be after your students get a glimpse of the new you.
ZQ: Well, I don’t know about that, Roberto. Cultural studies is still making a name for itself in academia, but I think it will soon be obvious that the work speaks for itself. After all, we were all raised in one culture or another, and that makes true human objectivity suspect, if not an outright myth. What researchers and students in my field do is turn a critical lens on the cultural artifacts that are so pervasive in our lives that we take them for granted.
RO: Any last words for potential students?
ZQ: I’d encourage anyone who wants to form a deeper understanding of the world they live in to consider pursuing a degree in cultural studies. We have graduates that have gone on to work for advertising agencies, PR companies, magazines, and even the film and television industry. Our students learn to think critically about the world around them, analyze what they see, and actively shape the culture they live in.
Grinning like a lunatic, John slapped the open magazine down on Zach’s desk. “I’m not sure which is better – you ripping Chris Pine a new literary asshole, or this picture of you giving Blue Steel to the camera. Or is it Le Tigre? I can never tell.”
Zach adjusted his glasses. It had been several weeks, but he was still getting used to the fashionable square frames they’d provided him. And he’d reduced the hair gel, but not gotten rid of it completely. He still didn’t recognize himself in the mirror some days. But he would never be able to get rid of that last tweed jacket hanging in the back of his closet. “I was not that harsh on Pine. If you notice further down, I basically called him brilliant. Which I’m not sure I intended to do, actually.”
“But you did manage to steer the conversation over to sex in record time.”
“Oh my god,” Zach groaned, slapping his palm to his forehead. “We talked about so many other things, but of course it was only the sex part that made it into print.”
“I especially liked the part where Rrrrrrroberto implied that you were going to have students lined up around the block because of your dreamy new look.”
Zach seized his chance. “Aha, so you admit that I’m dreamy!”
John fluttered his eyelashes coyly. “Well, Dr. Quinto, now that you have two functional eyebrows instead of one, I do find myself reevaluating my sexual preferences…”
“I’ll be sure to inform your wife.”
“I’m not sure she’ll be able to resist your charms either. What color is that shirt – eggplant? It brings out the hazel in your eyes.”
“Are you sure you were straight to begin with, Cho?”
“You sexist bastard. A straight man can’t have an expanded color vocabulary?”
Zach sighed. “You know, I do actually have work to do. And so do you.”
“Eh, that’s what TA’s are for. You do know Pine’s coming into town for a book signing in a couple weeks, right?”
“So you oughta go heckle him some more. In person this time. I’ll bring the popcorn, you bring the thinly-veiled insults.”
“I don’t even know why I picked Pine, out of all the authors who write terrible sex,” Zach groaned. “I could have said John Updike or Bret Easton Ellis or Philip Roth.”
“Uh-huh. That was a completely random choice on your part,” John said with a wink. “Hey, a bunch of us are going out for beers and nachos. You wanna come, now that you’re all, like, presentable and whatnot?”
“My god, I’m so flattered, but…” Zach took a moment to look down at the stack of half-graded papers, and suddenly beer and nachos sounded like ambrosia. After all the makeover nonsense, he’d finally started feeling like himself again – if maybe a slightly better-groomed version of himself – and maybe terrible bar food with his compatriots was just what he needed. “You know what? Can’t have a bunch of bored TA’s. They might try to band together and start a rebellion.”
“That’s the spirit, Fabio.”
“But no more Zoolander jokes.”
“I promise nothing.”
It was late on a not-particularly stormy Friday night when someone came rap-rap-rapping at Zach’s open office door.
He hoped it wasn’t one of his colleagues come yet again to tease him about the makeover. That was finally starting to die down, but that didn’t mean John had run out of ways to harass Zach. Not looking up, he said, “Fuck off, Cho. I’m trying to finish annotating this chapter so I can finally go home.”
“Must be a pretty sad home if you’re staying here instead of taking that with you.”
Zach glanced up at the unfamiliar voice. It was not John. It was about as not-John as one could get. Not that John didn’t have his charms, but… The man currently standing in Zach’s doorway was a Greek god, plump, perfect lips turned up in a smirk as he leaned easily against the doorframe.
Well, Zach had finally lost his mind. He sort of expected it – seemed to correlate pretty highly with the professor thing – but he thought he had another 30 good years in him before he started outright hallucinating.
Across the room, an artfully ungroomed set of eyebrows lifted in Zach’s direction. “You don’t recognize me, do you?”
Not unless John sent me an oddly tasteful and very expensive strippergram, Zach thought, but fortunately his mouth had gone too dry to say it.
The guy strode across Zach’s office and extended his hand almost aggressively. “Chris Pine, nice to meet you.”
Zach just stared at the hand. What the fucking fuck? He’d read most of Pine’s books – had to keep up with the literary fiction world just as much as the science fiction, and Pine’s work was certainly compelling enough — but he suddenly realized he had no idea what the man actually looked like. To be honest, he’d always sort of pictured a wild-haired hermit type. Certainly not this lean muscular build showcased perfectly by a pair of skinny jeans and a teal button-down that brought out the insane blue in his eyes. Zach had to start looking at the author photos inside the back cover.
He realized he was still staring at Chris’ hand and had been for far longer than was considered polite. He reached out to shake it. “I’m—”
“The man who savaged my latest book in the most popular gay magazine in the U.S. Nice to meet you.” His smile was polite and even, but he was gripping Zach’s hand hard enough to grind bones together.
It took everything Zach had not to wince. “Likewise. Though I think ‘savaged’ is a bit melodramatic, don’t you think?”
“Sex scenes like an IKEA manual? What would you call that?”
Chris’ luminous eyes locked with his, and damned if Zach was going to back down now, even in the face of… that face. “I’d call it fairly representative of the truth. But it was nice of you to come all the way out here to dispute me.”
Chris laughed derisively. “You think I flew all the way from LA for this? Hardly. I’ve got book signings in the city all weekend. Not everyone seems to think my prose is made up of, what was it, ‘dirty words straight off the playground’?”
Despite Zach’s initial surprise, Chris had gone on the defensive pretty fast, and Zach wasn’t about to let that go. “Wow, did you actually read the article, or just that one sentence? Because I said the rest of your writing was just fine.”
“No, you said ‘brilliant,’ actually.”
“Well, what do you want, a gold star? You’re good – very good – but frankly, I think you get enough ass-kissing from the reviewers as it is. I just wonder how much ass-anything you get from anyone who isn’t paid to read your books.”
Chris planted his hands on the desk and leaned right into Zach’s space. “I also get more ass in a week than you get in a year.”
That was it; Zach had to laugh. Okay, so he’d provoked him, but the ego on this guy. “I don’t doubt it. But obviously experience doesn’t guarantee eloquence, now does it? Especially if that’s your best stab at talking dirty.”
Narrowing his eyes, Chris said, “You think you’ve heard me talk dirty?”
“I hope I haven’t. Because if it’s anything like the sex in your last book, I’m willing to bet you don’t get many repeat visitors.”
They stared each other down for several seconds, and then Zach heard Chris’ short nails scrape against the desk, like he was about to clench his hands into fists. Sure he’d gone too far, Zach was about to shove back in his rolling desk chair and reach for the thickest book around to defend himself when Chris burst into laughter.
“You don’t know shit about me, Quinto.”
Zach bit down on a sigh of relief. “No, I suppose I don’t. And that last remark was unwarranted – I apologize, I shouldn’t attempt to infer anything about your life from your prose. Terribly unacademic of me.”
Chris put up his hands – god, they were nice: well-manicured nails, long fingers... “Hey, don’t go backing down on me now. You threw it out there. So what about you – you get many ‘repeat visitors’?”
“My sex life is none of your damn business,” Zach sputtered, a little indignantly and a lot hypocritically.
“I guess not. Especially since I haven’t read any of your steaming-hot erotica. Which you might want to start adding to your academic papers, because seriously?” Chris faked an exaggerated yawn.
“They’re academic papers, not porn.” Zach rolled his eyes. “Why are you even here?”
“I already said, I was in the neighborhood, and I wanted to personally meet the man who insulted my writing.”
“Look, I like most of your stuff and all, but this can’t possibly be the first time you’ve ever received negative feedback.”
“It’s the first time it’s been personal.”
“And I tried to apologize for that.”
Chris crossed his arms over his chest. “Then I guess we’re done here. See you at my signing tomorrow night?”
“What?” Zach adjusted his glasses. “No.”
“Okay then,” Chris said, face breaking into a brilliant, wicked smile. “It’s been fun, Dr. Quinto. Enjoy your cultural studies.” He turned on his heel and walked out, reaching up to smack the top of Zach’s doorframe on his way.
Zach stared, blinking, at the open door for several long seconds. What the fuck had just happened? So maybe he’d come off as a little harsh in the article, but for Pine to hunt him down just to… what? Prove he had the manlier handshake and more notches on his bedpost?
No, there was something not right about this. Zach yanked open his drawer that, embarrassingly, still contained the copy of the magazine that John had slapped down on his desk weeks ago. He read over the bit where he talked about Chris’ writing. Emotionless sex scenes… Bad Sex Awards… But nothing personal. Sure, he’d said a few nasty things tonight once Chris had shown up and attempted to shove his sexual conquests in Zach’s face, but a personal insult hadn’t been the reason he’d shown up in the first place.
And what was it he said there at the end about Zach’s academic papers? Was he just guessing (even Zach had to admit, they were pretty dry) or had he actually read them? Because they had all been published in academic journals that weren’t exactly available at a Barnes and Noble. Or even many university libraries. If Chris had read them, it was because he’d hunted them down. In the two weeks since Zach’s article in QL had been published.
What the hell?
It was standing room only by the time Zach arrived at the small bookstore in Manhattan. What the hell am I doing here? Zach thought, clutching his messenger bag that, yes, contained his copy of Chris’ latest book. Back at home, he had taken it out and put it back in maybe half a dozen times. He didn’t want to seem like some kind of stupid fanboy by having it with him, but on the other hand, it was a book signing, and Chris already knew he’d read it. But he didn’t exactly want to talk to Chris in the signing line, either.
Once Chris took the podium, Zach had fully expected Chris to show the same swagger that he had in his office, but instead Chris, dressed immaculately yet again in a striped purple shirt and a pair of expensive-looking dove gray trousers, just pulled out a pair of reading glasses (that did not make him any more attractive, not at all) and exuded a calm confidence as he read from his book. And the selection he’d picked… it was most definitely not the IKEA sex scene, but a heartrending passage in which the main character decides to go to the beach in the dead of winter instead of attending his lover’s funeral. It was one of the best in the book, and more than a few people were sniffing and dabbing at their noses with tissues by the time Chris was finished.
When he was done, Chris smiled almost shyly and let the bookstore owner take the podium again, directing the audience to the table where Chris would be signing books (which were, of course, available for purchase).
What followed was quite possibly the most awkward hour of Zach’s life. He wanted to stick around the bookstore to see if he could talk to Chris before he left, but he didn’t want Chris to see him yet and it was too cold to wait around outside. As the crowd began to thin out, Zach found himself zigging and zagging between the shelves, for a time pretending to be intensely interested in the botany section until he was forced to move again.
It didn’t help either that, in all that time, Zach couldn’t quite figure out what he wanted to say to Chris. He certainly hadn’t come to apologize for anything, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to heap more praise on to Chris’ already swollen head, but something compelled him to talk to the man, to find out the real reason he’d shown up at Zach’s office. He’d just have to wait out the signing line, from which seemed to be emanating a disproportionate amount of nervous giggling. He wondered how many of them had actually read the book.
Zach ended up ducking behind a circular display of vintage postcards until the last fan had left and Chris was left with his PR people and the store’s owner. Taking a deep breath, Zach stepped out and walked towards them, only to be stopped by one of Chris’ handlers. “Book signing’s over, sir. There will be another one tomorrow night at—”
“Hey, Eric, it’s cool,” Chris interrupted. “I know this guy. How’s it going, Professor Quinto?”
The name immediately raised some eyebrows – apparently Chris’ team was familiar with his infamous interview. Fucking Cho and fucking Dr. Greenwood and fucking everybody. But Chris just smiled. “I can’t say I expected to see you here, Zach.”
“Yes, well,” Zach said, as though that communicated any information at all.
“I’m pleased, though. Eric, Zach and I are going to take a walk.”
Eric’s eyebrow’s shot even higher. “You’ve got a meeting tomorrow morning—”
“Over breakfast at the hotel. Yes, I know, and I’ll be there. When have I ever skipped out on you?”
The look on Eric’s face said often enough, but he didn’t mutter a word as Chris headed for the front door, not even turning to see if Zach was following him, which of course he was. Well, Chris’ PR team certainly didn’t seem too concerned about Chris wandering off with a stranger, even one that had publically criticized his writing. It was as if Chris did this sort of thing all the time and then wasn’t seen again until the next morning, though of course after a book signing like this it probably meant he was picking up…
“Hey, wait,” Zach said as the door shut behind them. “Are you gay?” Smooth, Zachary.
“Bisexual, Sherlock,” Chris quipped, shoving his hands in his pockets against the cold. “So, yes, I do have first-hand experience with the mechanics of heterosexual sex, if that’s what you were getting at.”
Actually, I was wondering why your team wasn’t surprised you were trying to pick me up, Zach nearly said. Wait, are you trying to pick me up? Fortunately, Zach was annoyed enough at Chris’ tone that he managed to pull himself together enough to say, “Well, it’s not exactly the mechanics that’s the problem, is it?”
“Wow, you do not give up. Is that why you showed up tonight, to give me more shit?”
“No, I came to find out why you showed up at my office yesterday night.”
Chris sighed. “I already told you.”
“And I think you were bullshitting me. If you were that pissed at me, why’d you invite me tonight?”
“I dunno, to gloat? To rub in your face how much the public loves me while you battle away for tenure in a dank old office?”
Maybe that should have pissed Zach off, but Chris said it with such irony and resignation that Zach didn’t know what to make of it. “Yeah, dank old office, surrounded by co-workers and friends who are going to be there no matter how obscure my next publication is. No PR team in sight.”
Chris laughed darkly. “You think I’m secretly jealous of you, Quinto?”
“Not a bit.” Zach wasn’t trying to insult Chris, but there was a distinct pleasure in keeping him off kilter. “Matter of fact, I’m a bit jealous of you. Book deals? Nice, fat advances? Wide readership? Not much of that in academia.”
“Okay, what the fuck, Quinto? So you just showed up to mess with my head?”
Zach considered it, and laughed at himself. “Maybe a little. Or maybe I wanted to get to know the guy who busts into my office, all carnal confidence, tells me how many conquests he’s had, then when I insult him, tries to pick me up the very next night.”
“That’s what you think this is?”
Zach quirked an eyebrow. “Isn’t it?”
A light came back into Chris’ eyes, but not like the smirk from yesterday – more like the quiet self-confidence he’d had while reading from his book tonight. “I haven’t decided yet,” he said lightly.
“Ah, well, when you figure it out, please let me know. I’ll have to decide whether to be flattered or offended.”
All of a sudden, Chris stopped walking and looked around – Zach had been the one subtly leading them on a winding path from block to block. “Hey, wait a minute. Where are we going?”
“All-night muffin place about two blocks from here,” Zach said. “Or a dark alley where I bludgeon you to death with your own book. You have a preference?”
“I knew you brought my book with you,” Chris said with a grin. “Only explanation for that manpurse of yours. Yes, I will sign it. I’ll even inscribe it ‘To my biggest fan’ if you buy me a muffin.”
“Yeah, you want any baked goods tonight, you’ll be paying for them yourself.” Zach paused. “That might have been an innuendo. I’m not entirely sure.”
“Okay, no more criticizing my unsexy language. Ever.”
“I stayed up for 57 straight hours and drank those energy shot things they sell at the gas station for truckers until I started hallucinating, but I made that fucking deadline.”
Zach snorted. “That is such bullshit.”
Chris shook his head fiercely, muffin crumbs flying. “Notice I’m not claiming anything from that last chapter made it into the final draft, but I hit the word count. Some of those words were not in English. Some of those words were not in any language yet known to man, but they counted. It’s also quite possible I had my fingers on the wrong keys for about an hour and didn’t notice.”
“Well, I can’t beat that, but I once put a fake end note in a paper as a placeholder – I believe I sourced a quote to one Dr. Ivana Humpalot – and forgot to change it. The editors didn’t catch it, and it ended up in a peer-reviewed journal.”
Chris hooted with laughter. “No, I think that beats my story. Which paper was it in, the one in IJCS or one of the queer theory ones?”
“Aha!” Zach yelped, a little too loud for the muffin crowd. “I knew you read my papers!”
“They were not easy to find, either,” Chris said with a grin. “I had to drive out to this tiny university library outside of San Diego to find that one about transgender representation in early French cinema.”
“Oh my god, I have a groupie,” Zach said, drunk on carbs and appreciation. “I’ve never had one before. What do I do?”
Chris leaned forward across the table. “You could take me back to your place and totally take advantage of me.”
“And I was right about you trying to pick me up, too! Goddamn, I am on fire tonight.”
Zach sat there smiling, so pleased with himself that he didn’t register Chris’ anxious expression. “Well?”
“Are you going to bang your groupie or not?”
“Oh my god, you are terrible at this. Do you ever get laid?”
“At academic conventions? Hells yes. Even back when I only had the one continuous eyebrow.”
“Okay, how about outside of nerdvana?”
“There’s an outside?”
“Stand up,” Chris said, suddenly taking an authoritative tone of voice. “Brush those crumbs off your shirt. We are going back to my hotel room.”
“Worst pickup line ever,” Zach said, but he found himself already standing and following Chris out to the street, where he hailed a cab in record time.
One thing kept running through Zach’s mind throughout the cab ride, across the hotel lobby, in the elevator all the way up to the penthouse suite: what the hell am I doing? It wasn’t a lack of attraction to Chris… the opposite, in fact. Things like this just didn’t happen to Zach. He didn’t end up in ritzy New York hotels with gorgeous, highly-acclaimed authors who were trying to get into his pants. Something had taken a strange, though far from unwelcome, turn after the muffins.
Well, what the fuck. If this was happening, Zach was going to enjoy the hell out of it. Assuming, of course, that Chris fucked better than he wrote about fucking. Speaking of which…
“So,” Zach said as Chris closed the hotel room door behind them, “you need to consult the IKEA manual first?”
“Oh, fuck you, Quinto,” Chris said with a leering grin on his face. “You can defend your precious romance novels all you want. I don’t see you writing any.”
“How do you know I don’t write under a pseudonym?” Zach asked archly, stepping distinctly into Chris’ personal space, but not quite daring to touch him yet.
Suddenly, Chris hooked his fingers in Zach’s belt loops, tugging them together until their lips were touching. Zach fully expected a kiss, but instead he felt Chris saying, “So, Professor, what emotion is this scene playing out?” Chris’ lips traveled lightly across Zach’s cheek to whisper into his ear, “How does it advance our understanding of the characters?”
“Well,” Zach said, trying desperately to keep his voice even as Chris forced their hips together and he felt the hot bulge of Chris’ arousal pressing against his own. “You’re driven to find out what’s under my dry academic exterior.”
“Hope it’s not too dry,” Chris murmured, grinding their hips together.
The sound that came out of Zach’s mouth was more moan than laugh, but some part of his ego just wouldn’t let up on the urge to needle Chris. “Okay, I really hope that wasn’t your best line.”
Suddenly, the delicious pressure against his body was gone as Chris released him and stepped away. For a horrible second, Zach was sure he’d accidentally crossed the line from banter to outright insult, but Chris’ narrowed eyes and crossed arms sent more of a challenge vibe than a straight up fuck off. “Alright,” Chris said evenly, “let’s hear yours.”
Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. Zach had to come up with something good, and fast. But he wasn’t going to let himself be thrown so easily, so with only a small smirk, he turned and headed for the suite’s bedroom, not looking behind him to see if Chris was following. He forced himself not to sigh with relief when he heard the footsteps behind him.
It seemed at least some of the stars were aligned in favor of Zach getting laid: the bedroom light had a dimmer switch. He notched it up about halfway, but didn’t turn back to Chris until he’d gotten to the edge of the (huge, wonderfully plush-looking) bed. Chris’ expression was half-amused, half-expectant, and Zach took the opportunity to return the favor of seizing Chris by the belt loops and pulling him close.
“First of all, setting is everything,” he whispered, making sure to brush Chris’ ear with his lips.
Chris snorted softly. “That’s not exactly—”
With Chris distracted, Zach smoothly spun them both until the backs of Chris’ knees hit the bed, then he shoved. Chris toppled neatly to the bed (Zach hoped he’d managed to hide his surprise that the move had actually worked) and Zach climbed over him, maneuvering one knee between Chris’ thighs until it was pressed right up against his crotch.
“When I fuck you,” Zach said softly, his face inches from Chris’, “I want you to beg for the sound of my voice.”
“Much better,” Chris groaned, reaching up to grab Zach by the back of the neck and drag him down for a real kiss, and it turned out Chris was far more eloquent with his mouth when he wasn’t speaking. It was a slow, deep, filthy orgy of a kiss, and as far as Zach was concerned, Chris never needed to say another word. He ended up chasing Chris’ lips as the other man dragged himself up the bed to the headboard.
Without pulling away, Chris reached over to rummage through the small bag on the bedside table, but it seemed to divide his attention and Zach was having none of that. He grabbed Chris’ hand back and pinned it down next to his head. “Not done with this yet,” Zach said with a grin.
Chris retaliated by getting a leg around Zach’s hips and flipping them, kissing Zach forcefully down into the pillows, and that was perfectly fine by Zach. He practically purred into the kiss, digging a hand into Chris’ hair and undulating his hips until they were both grinding against each other again.
Eventually, they had to break for air, both men gasping. Zach rubbed his palms across the fabric covering Chris’ ass. “These feel expensive,” he whispered with a grin. “Better not come in them.”
“Then why don’t you take them off me?” Chris growled, cutting off Zach’s laugh with another deep, searing kiss.
It was tough for Zach to worm his hands in between their bodies, but he managed, deftly unfastening Chris’ trousers and reaching into his briefs to lift out… “Oh god, this is nice,” Zach said approvingly, stroking Chris’ thick cock from base to tip. “Pity you aren’t going to be fucking me with it.”
Zach could feel his heart hammering in his throat; he had no idea where this sudden burst of confidence had come from – he got the feeling Chris was pretty used to topping, especially with his book-signing groupies. But Chris just grinned: another challenge. “What makes you think that?”
“I already told you,” Zach said, keeping his tone low and steady as he began to unbutton the other man’s shirt. “You’re going to be begging for my voice while I fuck you.”
“You seem pretty sure of yourself,” said Chris, pulling back to remove his clothes completely and allow Zach to do the same.
Zach just smirked, glancing purposefully over at the bag on the nightstand. Chris reached in and grabbed what they needed, surprising Zach a little with the casual way he tossed the lube and condom at Zach, then settled back against the pillows. Like a king on his throne, waiting to be impressed.
As Zach pressed a lubed finger into Chris’ hole, Chris stretched his arms out casually and sighed. “Don’t need fingers.”
Though it made Zach’s cock twitch at the thought of fucking Chris sooner, that would be letting him off a little too easy. He leaned down to growl in Chris’ ear, “How about you let me decide what you need?”
Chris didn’t whimper, as Zach was (maybe) hoping, but his legs did fall a little farther apart and Zach rewarded him with another finger. He crushed his lips against Chris’ once again, already hungry for more of his mouth. He briefly imagined Chris sucking him – a thought that actually made him shiver – but decided it was going to take most of his stamina just to fuck him without coming immediately. Besides, Chris wouldn’t be able to beg with his mouth full.
At three fingers, Zach could tell Chris was driven to distraction, his kisses messier and less focused. “C’mon,” Chris urged breathlessly, pressing back against Zach’s fingers and biting lightly at his lower lip.
Zach didn’t say a word, just pulled back to roll on the condom with slightly shaking fingers. Fuck, but Chris was hot like this. He was hot as hell anyway, but splayed across the bed, his chest heaving and his mouth red and wet from kissing… Zach was praying he’d still be able to form coherent sentences in the minutes to come.
Chris didn’t hold back on a moan when Zach pressed into him as slowly as he could manage. When Zach was fully seated, his balls pressing against Chris’ ass, he buried his face in Chris’ neck, sucking and biting as he fought to get himself under control. It wasn’t long until Chris was writhing under him, trying to fuck himself on Zach’s cock, and Zach realized he’d better reassert some dominance over the situation if he was going to make it last.
When Zach pulled back and finally began to thrust, Chris let out a laugh that quickly became a long groan. “Alright, Casanova,” he gasped, “talk dirty to me.”
“Told you you’d want my – ah – mouth,” Zach grunted, his brain scrambling to put words together. “What do you want to hear about, how good you feel around my dick or how hot you look taking it?”
This time Chris did laugh, wrapping a leg around Zach’s hip to pull them together harder. “Wanna hear about me, of course.”
Zach growled in laughter. “Course you do, you huge fucking narcissist. Good thing you’ve got a fucking gorgeous body.” Zach paused his thrusting to drag his hands down Chris’ chest, over his tight, clenching abs, purposefully ignoring his cock to hold fast to his hips. “Jesus, you’re leaking all over yourself. You gonna come from nothing but me fucking you?”
Chris let out a sound that may have started out as a word, but quickly became something more like nnngh as Zach resumed a slow, hard rhythm. “I bet you are. I bet you’re going to come with nothing more than my thick, hard cock pumping in and out of you. Starting to feel it yet? Starting to feel it draw up from the tips of your toes, deep into your gut, drawing tight in your balls?”
Chris gave an almighty groan and hitched his hips up, squeezing tight around Zach. Zach took the hint and started fucking into him at the new angle, quicker, shallower thrusts that had Chris wailing and arching his back until only his shoulders remained on the bed, his rock-hard cock bouncing against his taut belly.
Sweat was pouring down Zach’s temples as he fought to maintain the new rhythm and angle. “Holy fuck, you really are going to come on my dick, aren’t you? You filthy bastard, you don’t even need my hands, you love my dick that much. You’re ready to blow without a hand on you.”
Chris thrashed, his whole body trying to curl in on itself. “Keep fucking me!” he cried. “Don’t stop, don’t stop, I’m almost—”
Zach hammered into him relentlessly, his abs close to cramping, but it only took a few more thrusts before the first spurt of cum shot out across Chris’ belly. The other man keened and finally reached up to fist himself mercilessly, stroking himself through several more hard spurts until his stomach and chest were dripping. As Chris let go of his cock with a pained groan, Zach dropped Chris back to the bed and planted his hands up by his head, plunging hard and fast into Chris’ still-clenching body until his own climax overtook him, wringing him out with bone-deep shudders.
Exhausted, Zach just barely managed to fall sideways so he didn’t land square on top of Chris. As it was, he sort of collapsed across one of Chris’ outstretched arms, which would have been neither comfortable nor sexy if it weren’t for the fact that Zach was still shaking a little from an amazing orgasm and that Chris seemed to be in a similar state. Eventually, though, Chris groaned, “Dude, my arm,” and Zach pushed himself up on his elbows with a quiet sorry.
As Zach got up to dispose of the condom, he had a moment to wonder exactly how awkward this was going to be. Should he go back to bed? Or should he just try to grab his clothes and leave? But when he turned back to see Chris wiping himself off with a corner of the sheet, the other man looked up at him and grinned, and Zach knew he wasn’t going anywhere for the night.
As soon as he was within arm’s reach, Chris yanked him back down for another kiss, this one slower, lazier, full of deep satisfaction. “You weren’t thinking of ditching me, were you?” Chris murmured against his lips. “It would be a real blow to my ego.”
“I think your ego’s been blown plenty,” Zach said, trying not to sound too relieved that Chris wanted him to stay.
Chris laughed and pulled Zach tighter against him. “I’m not actually a rock star, you know. If my publicist didn’t terrify me so much, I don’t think I’d do the readings at all. And literary groupies are… well, let’s say not all of them are quite as fuckable as you. And hardly any of them have actually read my books.”
Zach’s first thought was to be more than a little incensed – is that supposed to be a compliment, that I’m just a particularly well-read groupie? But here Chris was, relaxed and naked and not seemingly inclined to let Zach go any time soon. “Why did you really show up at my office last night?”
Chris’ eyes went wide. “You seriously haven’t figured that out yet?”
“Uh, did I miss something?”
“Because I have eyes, you dipshit, and you’re really fucking hot! I mean, even in the ‘before’ picture, with those tragic glasses. So this gorgeous, smart guy – though I may have to rethink the ‘smart’ bit – calls me brilliant while simultaneously challenging my sexual prowess? How am I not supposed to chase you down and prove you all kinds of wrong by having seriously awesome sex?”
Blinking rapidly, Zach tried to take it all in. “Just to be clear, which one of us is the groupie in this situation?”
“Would you be averse to classifying this as groupie-on-groupie lovin’?” Chris asked, fluttering his eyelashes right back.
Zach pretended to think it over. “If you consider admitting that your sex scenes need some work.”
Chris rolled his eyes. “You are just not going to let that go, are you? How about you retract any and all statements about my perceived writing deficiencies stemming from actual sexual inadequacy? Because you know a little dirty talk doesn’t equate to emotional, eloquent sex scenes either, right?”
“A little dirty talk? Excuse me? Which one of us spontaneously blew all over himself at the sound of the other’s voice?”
Chris screwed up his face in thought. “See, I could deny that with some level of plausibility, but then I’d be acknowledging the superiority of your cock, and I’m not sure your ego needs to be blown any more than mine does.”
Zach laughed, the tension easing out of his mind as well as his body. “If you ask me, there was not nearly enough blowing going on tonight.” He leaned in close to Chris, rubbing his thumb across the other man’s plush lower lip. “Especially with this… absurdly talented mouth.”
Chris dragged Zach’s thumb into his mouth and sucked with enough force to make Zach moan, then let it go with a wet pop. He grinned. “I’m in town for two more days.”