Author's Notes: Sometimes Chris's personality is just too much to handle. Set around the Critics' Choice Awards.
It's not like the guy doesn’t ever joke around, 'cause he does, but in Chris's mind there is a time and place for merriment. Namely, every time Chris is in a giggly mood, wherever he is is the place. Otherwise, you're just an unprofessional lowlife and not worth his time.
"Yeah," Chris had said one day after the hundredth take. "Maybe we could try that again without laughing, now? You know, it's not like it's costing literally hundreds of dollars for you to stand around and goof off. I don't know if you got the memo, but that's not actually what we are being paid to do, Zach, so . . ."
It's frustrating because of how charming he is when he isn't feeling affronted or disgusted or whatever he does up there on his high horse. And because of how talented he is. And because of the pleasant way in which his features are constructed—like, golden ratios and golden hair. And because of his penchant for licking his pleasantly constructed lips.
Chris had stood in the middle of the fake ship and looked very serious with his fake bruises and fake clothes and fake hair and spent a good ten minutes licking the fake blood off of his lips over and over, lapping up the red syrup and offering reflective little sounds of contentment that made Zach forget what the fuck a Vulcan was even supposed to be.
Oh it's all very appealing to look at, but there's just this way he has of dismissing the hard work people like Zach have gone through to make it as far as they have in this business. It had been easy for Chris—nearby, familiar—so why should it have been any more difficult for middle-class kids who grew up in the 'Burgh and always viewed acting as a dream and not a paycheck?
"It's just a job, Zach," Chris had laughed, on several occasions, and every one of them had rubbed Zach the wrong way. "Seriously, you need to calm down. I mean, you can't get so invested in everything."
So yeah, there are times Zach kind of hates him, but most of the time Chris is perfectly good company. He just gets a little moody, sometimes, but you have only to ignore it and stay out of his way and not think about how much his snide disapproval cuts into you and soon you'll be back to messing around and playing nice again, and you might even get comfortable enough to let your thoughts dwell on him a bit too often—that is, until the next time he gets in one of his moods.
Seeing him tonight after several weeks apart is no big deal, really. It's really not.
The first thing Zach notices about Chris at the party that night is how much stronger he is than Zach, in the strength of his handshake and that quick little hug, in the muscle straining under his thin white T-shirt. Chris says something to him like Hello or How have you been? but Zach has unfortunately forgotten how to speak in the face of that face. He's also pretty sure that Chris must think his skin is naturally and perpetually pink given how much he blushes like a teenage girl around him.
They separate and wander off to pay their social dues, Zach trying his darndest to avoid Chris. He shouldn't get this anxious over Chris's opinion or approval or what the fuck ever. Maybe it's because it's so hard to please him that Zach wants it so much. Smacks of hero worship, but then again Zach outright despises him half the time, so.
Zach finds him again one glass of green whatever-it-was later, and thanks to the whatever-it-was, Zach has the bright idea to ask him: "So, Chris. Seeing anyone?"
Chris laughs, halfway through a glass of red whatever himself. "Yeah, actually. What about you?" And there's this smug little note to his tone that implies he doesn't think Zach could manage to be seeing anyone, that he's just a little too pathetic for Chris to be talking to in the first place.
And Zach is determined to respond with confidence. "Um, yeah," he says.
Chris raises his eyebrows, nods, can see right through him as usual. God, why is it so important for Zach to wipe that expresion off his face? "Well that's great, Zach. Anyone I know?" Does. Not. Believe him.
"Tyler Shields," Zach blurts. Just wait 'til Tyler hears the good news!
And shit, that actually upsets Chris's cool. Zach does a mean little victory dance in his head. Totally worth it. Chris focuses on a spot somewhere to the left of Zach's face. "Oh. Right."
A month later at some random pre-show party, Chris claps him on the shoulder and says, "There you are, Number One!"
". . . What?"
Chris waves it off. "Olivia's been making me watch The Next Generation. So, how are things with Tyler? You guys like do yoga together or something, right?"
Zach raises his eyebrows, feels strangely like he has the upper hand for once in the face of such a jittery Chris. "Yes, Chris. My boyfriend and I 'do yoga'. Like how you 'watched Star Trek with a girl.'" Where was the current girl anyway? Red carpets and designer dresses went well together, after all.
Chris laughs. "We really did watch it, I'll have you know. Jesus, Quinto, get that mind of yours out of the gutter. But no, there were like pictures of you guys with a yoga mat or something . . ."
"What, you're moonlighting as a paparazzo now? Stalker."
Chris should laugh, but instead he just holds his smile tightly together. "So, I mean, things are good, then?"
Things aren't anything, but Chris doesn't have to know that, especially since it has him so on edge. Zach's success in love and life gets to him this much, huh? "Yeah," Zach sighs dreamily.
Chris continues to smile and nod.
Zach's smugness over getting the better of Chris is short-lived, however. At the after party when they're stuck in a noisy circle of minglers with John and Anton, Chris decides to explain to everyone why awards don't mean anything.
"I mean it's all just a popularity contest," Chris is saying dismissively. "This whole business kind of is, you know."
"Yeah," Zach says, "but in this case everything was supposedly awarded by, like, actual film critics, so—"
Chris sighs, annoyed. "Oh my God, they're just movies. It's not important."
It isn't important, really, but when Chris gets bitchy about something, no matter what it is, Zach feels obligated to take the other side. "You know, Chris, I've never been able to figure out why you make your living doing something you so obviously hate. There are plenty of people out there who would be happy to take your place."
"Um, yeah, it's not actually that difficult. And it's not my fault people are lazy."
Aaaaahhhhwirjoibiofjisdcmwefearweacnjwe. "Oh, you're so right about that, Chris. Pure laziness is what prevents people from achieving their goals, not finance or location or lack of opportunity—"
Chris cuts him off: "When someone lacks passion, then yeah, they're not going to get anywhere. It's not like you're unsuccessful, Zach, no need to get so pissed off," he laughs, not at all pleasant, but fuck does he look good in that suit all agitated and gesturing with his drink and staring Zach down with challenge clouding his eyes.
Crammed in Zach's car and high on meeting Paul McCartney, Zach had compiled a list of women for Chris to hook up with that had Chris laughing the right way, clutching his stomach and Zach's leg and gasping for breath, tie swinging around with his convulsions and brushing the exposed skin of Zach's wrist.
"Oh, damn, and we can't forget Sarah Palin," Zach had added. "She totally fits the profile of your perfect woman, man."
And everyone had dissolved into wholly perfect, wholly undignified laughter practically until the car stopped.
Zach really hates how much he wants Chris's approval, laughs along with him anyway.
Zach isn't entirely sure how it happens, but they apparently ended up crashing at Chris's place that night, 'cause when he opens his eyes it's to the pretentiously stocked bookshelf framing Chris's TV. Rows upon rows of Shakespeare just sitting there, happily mocking him. And the god-awful kink in his neck from sleeping with his head on the couch's armrest wasn't improving his mood either.
He sits up all at once and has to close his eyes, peeling them open again to survey the room and finding it devoid of John Chos and Wunderkinds. What the fuck? It's still pretty dark, Chris's clean cream-colored living room tinged blue with the coming dawn.
The house is so quiet it's giving Zach the creeps. He stands up gingerly, grimaces at the wrinkly mess sleep had made of his formally awesome gray dress pants. At least he'd had the presence of mind to drape his jacket across the back of the couch.
He stumbles into Chris's bathroom, splashes water on his face and blinks at his blurred features in the mirror. Shit, what had he done with his glasses . . . ?
And that's when Zach realizes he's been given a glorious opportunity to snoop around Chris's house. He becomes instantly focused and awake, sets about scrutinizing the bathroom.
No unidentified toothbrush. No small fortune in feminine hair product in the shower . . .
It doesn't mean anything, though. Maybe Chris just keeps stuff at her place or . . .
Zach's stomach rumbles, which he takes as his cue to move on to the kitchen. Nothing incriminating in the fridge, either. In fact, Chris's entire house is spotless. Like, suspiciously spotless. Maybe there's a guest room or—
"Zach?" comes Chris's sleep-darkened voice, echoing over the kitchen tiles in such a way that has Zach feeling immediately surrounded by him. "You looking for something in particular?"
"I . . . don't really know. Hey, um—" When Zach turns around he sees Chris standing in his blue almost dawn kitchen in the suit and tie from the night before, like a ghost of party's past except for the bare feet and the bleary eyes. These are the kind of unexpected moments that have Zach utterly fucked when it comes to Chris. He clears his throat. "Morning."
Chris gives him a funny look. "Morning."
Zach's not entirely sure how it happens, but nevertheless he and Chris end up spending most of the day together. After Zach had gone home and showered, fed the various creatures under his roof and turned back into a real person with just a lingering headache, Chris had showed up at his door.
"Oh, hey," Chris says, as though they've just run into each other at a function and he hasn't shown up unannounced on Zach's doorstep. "Tyler's not here or anything, is he?"
Zach frowns. "Why would—oh! Oh. Yeah, no, he's not here right now. Did you wanna come in, or . . . ?"
Chris pushes past him. "Yeah, sure. Hey, did you eat yet?"
"Why, what did you have in mind?"
"Well . . ." Chris begins, giving Zach a once over that has no right to send a shiver up his spine. "You should probably get dressed first, though." And he smiles intently at him.
Zach looks down at himself. "I . . . am dressed?"
Chris tilts his head. "Are you?"
Zach rolls his eyes. "Fine. Be right back."
When Zach returns, having changed into something less overrun with camo and stripes and one pretty sweet purple skullcap, he could swear Chris looks out of breath and that the random crap on the coffee table has magically shifted ever so slightly to the right.
Chris smiles. "Ready?"
It's weird to be hanging out with Chris so much after months apart. It's especially weird to be doing so after Chris found himself a squeeze during that time who hasn't tagged along to a single event. And yeah, they don't go to the Globes, but there's still a much less formal party and Chris still arrives alone.
And proceeds to be a total dick to Zach the whole night, as though they hadn't spent previous day in each other's company without a hitch. Tonight Chris is contradicting everything Zach says, dismissing serious comments as something to joke about and attacking everything lighthearted as inappropriate.
"Don't you have somewhere else to be, Zach?" Chris had said. "I mean, I'm flattered, but you do have other friends, right? Oh, I'm just kidding, man." And he'd laughed and patted Zach on the arm but it hadn't felt at all like he'd been kidding, that fucking note of irritation ringing loud and clear in Zach's ears.
Yesterday, they'd shared milkshakes because Chris couldn't decide which one he liked better, gone on a mini road trip over to John's and sung Lady Gaga at the top of their lungs in the car with Chris smiling his carefree smile and not treating Zach's presence like a chore. So his fake, plastered on smile to Zach after telling him to fuck off felt especially like a betrayal.
Zach has long since escaped Chris's sphere of bitchy influence, found a secluded corner with some amiable strangers to talk politics and disaster relief with.
Until a wide-eyed Chris jumps in front of him without warning and he has to back up. "Hey, man," Chris beams. "Hey, you disappeared on me—what gives?" Smiling and smiling like he hadn't rolled his eyes when Zach was complaining about filming for Heroes earlier and told him to chill out.
"Um . . ."
"So, how are things? With Tyler?" Chris asks him, loud and over-eager, makes Zach back up again, out into a hallway, away from the bewildered cluster of people he'd been socializing with. The high color in Chris's cheeks makes his eyes stand out like neon, and if Zach isn't careful he might just do anything Chris says while he's looking at him like that. Chris's hand lands heavy and warm in the center of Zach's chest to push him back even more. Zach looks down at it dumbly while Chris laughs, not sounding good or bad this time, just worryingly unhinged. "Why hasn't he tagged along with you at all this week? I mean, don't you want me to meet your life partner, Zach?"
"I could ask you the same question," Zach points out, eyes darting around and confirming their apparent solitude despite the murmur of voices from the next room.
"We broke up!" Chris tells him, as though it's common knowledge. "You don't in fact own a computer, do you? I knew it . . ."
"You've seen my computer, Chris. Just because I don't use it to spy creepily on you and speculate on the status of your personal life doesn't mean—" And Zach can't exactly not kiss him back, especially when he's being held so very tightly close and Chris's wine flavored tongue is demanding entrance. So Zach opens his mouth for him and lets himself be kissed because if he moves or even thinks about reciprocating he might end up on his knees with Chris's cock down his throat in a matter of seconds or fucking him against the nearest available wall or . . . Zach starts to reconsider this whole don't do anything stupid thing but then a round of laughter from the next room jolts him back to reality and he pushes Chris away.
"What, you don't wanna kiss me?"
"Yeah but, you're not gay."
"Yeah but, I want to kiss you again," Chris says, leaning back in.
Zach pushes him away again. "Yeah, but you have a girlfriend."
"Yeah but we broke up, or weren't you listening? And I don't give a shit if you're technically taken so . . ."
Zach pushes Chris and his compellingly eager mouth away. "Okay, okay, but why did you break up? I mean, don't you think you need some time or . . . or some space, or . . ." As much as Zach resents the idea of being Chris's rebound, he's also really keen on the idea of being Chris's anything when he's just . . . so . . . skin radiating heat and the memory of his mouth molten and his eyes like terrifyingly blue flame, caught in the weak light from the other room, now practically light-years away.
It takes Zach a minute to realize that they've fallen back to kissing during his reverie, that Chris is trying to lure him somewhere. They turn the corner and Zach gets Chris up against the wall in order to kiss along his jaw and taste the sweat at his hairline and all sounds just suddenly stop and the only thing left for Zach to hear is their frantic, claustrophobic breathing. Only because the rest of the party is far behind them, and not in any way the result of some kind of cliché. It's certainly not as though Zach's whole world has narrowed down to the writhing body in front of him. I mean, just because his mind has been wiped and replaced with sensory information and fantasies and memories and clashing emotion . . .
They stumble into the nearest unidentified room, where it's dark and exclusive and they're too preoccupied to find a light switch. Chris seems to take this as his cue to start moaning continuously into Zach's mouth, and that makes Zach have to shove him against a wall and insinuate his thigh between Chris's legs and grind into him until he's dizzingly hard. Chris tears his mouth away to curse and rolls his hips.
Zach kisses down Chris's neck while Chris catches his breath or hyperventilates or whatever, licks a path over his collarbone and down his chest until Chris's shirt gets in the way. Zach growls his annoyance and lifts it up, continues down over Chris's soft pale skin in the dim light and lands on his knees in front of him. Looks up when Chris throws his head back and mutters something.
Zach mouths at the front of Chris's jeans, inhaling musk and feeling the low sound Chris makes from the roots of his hair to the base of his spine, his arousal reaching that thrilling next level of urgency and fuck yes please this is really real fuck yes . . .
Chris's fingers comb vaguely through Zach's hair of their own volition, his eyes closed and fluttering, his breath coming in audible pants and God if he doesn't look exactly as debauched as all those heated fantasies had promised he would. Zach pulls his zipper down to lick a stripe up Chris's cock through his silky black boxer briefs and Chris gasps and tightens the hand in Zach's hair. Zach smiles against the skin by Chris's hipbone and does it again, harder, letting his teeth scrape lightly over the head.
"Ahshityes. Please . . ."
"Mmkay," Zach murmurs, shoves Chris's jeans the rest of the way down, helps him out of his shoes and socks and underwear too before getting to work and taking Chris into his mouth.
Zach takes him deep all at once, sucking hard on the upstroke. Does it again to hear the strangled sound Chris makes before backing off and licking just under the head of his cock, grips the base with one hand and traces teasingly over Chris's balls with the other.
He sucks him in a little more, relaxes to let his tongue swipe over the hard, superheated flesh, goes deeper and repeats. Pulls all the way back to jerk Chris with his hand for a while, slippery with his saliva and Chris's now leaking cock. Zach leans in to lap up the precome, sucks at the head of Chris's cock while he's at it and hears him thud some part of his body against the wall with a low whine, pulls back just enough to whisper Shhh around his mouthful, heart racing with just how much harder and fuller Chris has become and how fucking delicious the cut off noises he keeps stifling are.
"Zach . . . "
Zach looks up, licks the underside of his cock. "Speaking."
Chris laughs, exhales a shuddering breath and struggles to keep his eyes trained on him. "Please."
Zach hastens to oblige, holds Chris's hips against the wall with both hands and convinces his throat to relax and takes him in all at once, freezes while Chris squirms and claws at his shoulders before pulling back to catch his breath. Starts a slow back and forth, sucking Chris's cock down as far as he can and sucking hard as he pulls back. It becomes automatic, especially in light of how much of Zach's focus is stolen by Chris's straining hips and the desperate hands scrabbling at Zach's hair and the nonsensical stuttering filling his ears and the proof of Chris's very obvious arousal taking over the remainder of Zach's senses, sensibility, common fucking sense. The taste of him, the full hard velvet heat of him on Zach's tongue that makes Zach double his efforts, swallowing Chris down like it's the most important thing in the world, obsessed with making Chris fall to pieces for him.
"So, so close—" Chris grits out, body tensing and relaxing and tensing and Zach lets him thrust into his mouth a couple of times, keeps his cock there when Chris tries to pull away and comes with something that suspiciously resembles whimper followed by Zach's name repeated breathily and unconsciously and laden with feeling.
Zach keeps him upright, Chris's weight sinking down onto Zach's shoulders and only adding sensation. When he seems stable enough Zach rises from the floor, leans into Chris's warm pliant body.
"Good, huh?" Zach asks into his ear.
"Fuck me," Chris breathes, and it sounds like an expletive rather than an invitation but when Zach laughs Chris tilts Zach's head and stares at him. "No. I want you to fuck me."
"You, you uh—"
"Please," Chris says, so quiet Zach almost doesn't hear it.
Zach stares back blankly for a minute before hurrying into motion. Fishes a condom out of his wallet with shaky hands, can't not obey that voice. "You're kinda drunk, aren't you?"
"No I'm not." He is.
Zach goes to unzip his pants, pauses and looks at Chris who's blinking groggily and half-dressed and susceptible. This whole thing is just a bad idea. "Maybe we shouldn't . . . I mean, this is a bad—"
Chris shakes his head, won't meet his eyes. "No, shut up. Please. I . . . need, uh, I need. Shit." He laughs to himself, swaying a little. "I need to . . ." He sighs, directing that frustration at himself for once. He captures Zach's hand and brings it to his mouth, sucks one long finger in so pornographically that Zach forgets he's supposed to be putting an end to this. Chris angles his head to take another finger in and Zach moans at the sight and the sudden hot grip around his erection, Chris's hand making quick work of Zach's fly and pulling Zach's aching cock out of his underwear to give it a couple of strokes, thumbs over the head to mirror the way his tongue is licking at Zach's fingertips.
Zach spins him around, if only to stop the assault, mouths at the back of Chris's neck while he gets the condom on, pulling Chris's shirt aside to bite at his shoulders and getting Chris to twitch and laugh and sigh.
Zach slips one finger into him, easy with Chris's current state of relaxation. Moves it in and out slowly, getting gradually deeper. Chris pushes back into it and murmurs something Zach is unable to translate through his haze of lust. He spits onto his free hand and adds two more cautious fingers, scissoring them in to join the first one, going breathlessly slow. He uses every ounce of his willpower to stop himself from acknowledging what a stupid idea this is, how pathetically weak he is when it comes to Chris, how unwise and all-encompassing his desire . . .
"Please," Chris says again, with such an unexpectedly soft inflection this time that it catches Zach off guard and compels him more than it should. He kisses the back of Chris's neck and lets his forehead rest against damp skin, enveloped by his familiar memory-laden scent and his slow breathing. Replaces his fingers with his cock seamlessly.
Chris produces encouraging little sounds with Zach's every lazy, careful thrust, and Zach's tricked into thinking it's effortless by Chris's drowsy post-coital limbs and body and voice. He's already close, tight welcoming heat drawing him deeper, the fever pitch of his arousal caught in the slow-motion atmosphere and stretching and stretching and overpowering . . .
Chris stiffens a little beneath him, gasps something like Right there or Harder so Zach fucks him harder right there, still slow and drawn out and shaky with how close he is to orgasm. Kisses Chris's skin where it lays temptingly near his open mouth, panting and fucking into Chris and tasting him and feeling the sounds he makes through his whole body. Goes deep and shudders and comes with a groan.
They sag disjointedly down onto the floor, which Zach identifies as cold and hardwood and fixates on absurdly. The only light in this room is a dirty orange glow from some far off street lamp, struggling to make itself known through layers of gauzy curtains and it's strange to realize they've existed in the real world all this time. Zach is still breathing hard and still entirely disoriented, high on bliss and sick with worry.
"I'm sorry," Chris says, shifts and pulls himself closer to Zach and tangles their limbs, makes Zach look at him. "I said, I'm sorry. Aren't you gonna ask me why?"
"For being a total dick?" Zach guesses.
Chris gives a brief little grin before sobering again. "I can't stop myself from pushing people away when I start to like them a little too much. I mean, I don't think I've ever had a girlfriend for long enough to really feel like I should be referring to her as my girlfriend."
"Maybe you should just suck it up and let people get close to you," Zach says, annoyed with Chris, even more annoyed now that he's beginning to empathize.
Chris sighs, tired. "No shit."
The silence gets to be too much. "I was never really dating Tyler, you know."
Chris smiles slowly. "Trying to piss me off?"
"Trying to impress you." Zach looks away, jumps when he feels Chris's mouth moving lazily up to his neck, closes his eyes against how good it feels coming from someone who can make him feel like shit without a second thought. Chris turns Zach's chin for a kiss and Zach promptly feels like shit for melting into it. See?
"Look," Chris whispers to Zach's parted lips, "I really, really want to be close to you, but it's fucking scary 'cause it's you and I can't fuck it up with you. So you've gotta help me. Like, you've gotta smack my nose and tell me I'm a bad dog or whatever when I misbehave."
Zach raises his eyebrows. "So you're into the kinky stuff, huh?"
Chris laughs, leans back a bit to look at Zach properly. "Think you can handle that?" He really does look scared.
"Yeah," Zach says, smile creeping up on him, "I can handle you."