Some tiny corner of Chris’s mind knows that he’s dreaming. But it’s not enough, it’s not nearly enough, as the fiendish monster runs one of its uncountable sucker-studded arms down over his breasts, laying multiple hickeys at once when it pulls off to wander down to his belly button and then lower, lower… He screams, panic roiling through him in a cold, paralysing rush, and the strangeness of his current body in no way prevents him being sure that this is really going to hurt. As his arms flail uselessly out from his unmovable torso, the beast flicks out additional tentacles to hold him down. It’s strong, so strong. He feels useless, pathetic, too weak to fight. More tentacles force his legs wide apart, and the main one, the largest one, tickles over his labia in a parody of a lover’s caress, then back to his anus where it repeats the slow caress before tensing in preparation for—
Chris wakes in a cold sweat, panting harshly in the dark, close room, pulse pounding and thoughts wild.
He feels a little better once he’s flicked the lamp on, but it seems to take a long, long time to convince himself that he’s safe, that it was just a dream. Just a fucking nightmare, that’s all. That he’s actually a man and that dream cannot possibly have been any kind of real memory or whatever.
And yet… dreams have to come from somewhere.
Chris frowns. It isn’t like he’s been including works on dangerous sea-life in his bed-time reading. It’s been years since he even went near Melville.
He was a horror movie buff in his teens, but that was a long time ago.
Porn. Has to be. He’s watched too much weird Asian tentacle cartoon stuff. And too much porn where women are helpless, mere objects to be used. Perhaps the dream was, like, teaching him a lesson? Maybe he should cut down on the porn?
He makes it two weeks, having not just cut down on the porn but actually done without it, which is much better than he thought he could do. But then he kinda feels the need to fire up his laptop for a little extra help getting off. Sometimes imagination does just fine, sometimes you want a bit of added oompf, you know? Today, he wants oompf.
He studiously avoids the hentai sites, though. Clearly, no good came of his brief curiosity about that stuff. So he looks for something live action with some badass women in charge. And is all of sixty seconds into a video in which a busty red-head pulls her leather-harnessed man-pet by his leash towards her glistening pussy when the dream resurfaces, in full colour, in front of his eyes. Try as he might to blink away the memory, his brain seems insistent on painting in numberless evil tentacles to menace the woman. Chris’s erection flags, his libido runs screaming, and he slams his laptop shut so hastily that he almost crushes his thumb.
That’s it. He’s giving up porn. Cold turkey. Done.
There are two problems, Chris gradually realises, with his heroic determination to give up porn.
First, quality masturbation now requires more mental effort because he has to supply his own visuals, and they have to be carefully selected and maintained so as not to acquire any tentacles (it pays to think of mouths and hair and shoes rather than breasts and snatches). He jerks off a lot less as a result, and his frustration levels soar.
Second, there seem to be more vacant hours in the day when he isn’t working and doesn’t watch porn. And sometimes a guy’s just too restless to sit down to Faulkner or Hemingway or Levertov, you know? So, yeah, he spends more time at the gym. Catches up on the crappier seasons of Heroes which he DVR’d but never actually watched. Prints out some exotic and moderately challenging recipes from the internet and tries to follow them without burning his kitchen down. Buys a wok. Signs up for a night class. Catches up with some old friends. Discovers ten new restaurants, four of which are completely unsucky and well worth a repeat visit. And then, one day, he realises that Zach’s run in Angels in America is over. So it’s safe to call and indulge his curiosity about what Zach’s been getting up to. So he does.
“Hello,” Zach says. “Long time, no hear.” His voice is more gravelly than Chris remembers, and he sounds a little distracted.
“Yeah.” He feels kinda guilty about that, actually. “Didn’t want to mess up your game with a lot of interruptions. I know your play’s been kinda a fucking huge deal.”
“You could say that, yeah.”
There are noises in the background, but nothing Chris can quite make out. “Are you busy? With people?” He ignores the piteous little stab he feels at the thought that Zach might be with people, new people, new friend people.
“No, I’m…” A chuckle, self-deprecating but kind of endearing. “I’m watching porn, actually.”
“Huh.” Chris sighs wistfully. “I wish I could, but apparently I’ve been scarred for life. Kinda miss it, though.”
“You’ve sworn off the manifold delights of the rich and varied pornographic genre? Do explain.”
Chris shudders. “Well, I had this dream. I was a woman, and there were… tentacles. Unfriendly tentacles. And now, whenever I watch porn, even if it’s, like, dominatrix porn or lesbians or even solo stuff, I still… my mind kinda sketches in… oh, God, the tentacles…”
“Poor baby. However are you managing? For that matter, how are the poor horny blonde co-eds managing without you paying to watch their naughty lesbian sleepovers?”
It’s odd, how not-annoying it is to be mocked by a slightly breathless Zachary Quinto who probably has his hand on his dick right now. It’s kind of a relief, actually. Zach is just Zach, same as ever. Jerking off while on the phone to a friend and not giving a fuck what that says about him.
“Yeah, sure, Chris Pine’s former porn habit is so vast that the whole economy will tank without him.”
“Have you thought of selling this as a sob story to the press? It might even be juicy enough for Oprah.”
“Haha, fuck you, no.”
Zach’s laugh is half groan, and Chris can hear that he’s breathing faster now. Which is actually kinda sexy, though probably a gay guy would appreciate it more.
“Have you tried resorting to actual sex with other human beings? You’re moderately attractive and wealthy; I wouldn’t have thought picking up ‘chicks’—” it’s a mystery to Chris how Zach can pronounce the air-quotes so clearly “—would pose too much of an issue for you, despite your occasional social awkwardness and profound chronic douchiness.”
Chris is about to snap back—a man’s got to have some pride, right?—when he gets distracted by a flesh-on-flesh sound accompanied by a tiny moan from Zach, and promptly forgets what he was going to say. His dick throbs as he has a sudden flash of inspiration of how a naked, masturbating Zachary Quinto might look, with his lips parted and all that chest hair on display…
What an odd thought.
Um, sex, that was the topic, he recalls belatedly. “Well, I tried dating, but then we got naked, and, you know…”
Chris can feel his face twisting up most unattractively. “Yeah.”
“You could try therapy?”
“I may have to. But I figure first I should just try avoiding anything that reminds me, you know? Let the memory fade naturally.”
“Sounds—” Was that a gasp? Chris’s dick twitches hopefully, the confused little monster. “—sounds like a plan. All right if I—uh—call you back? Something’s, uh, about to come up, as it were.”
Chris is glad Zach can’t see him, he’s quite sure he’s blushing. “Okay. Have—um, have a good day?”
Zach chuckles. “Bye-bye, Christopher.”
The call ends, and even though nothing’s changed and he’s still got at least two hours to kill before he can legitimately go out and distract himself with dinner, Chris finds he feels a vast deal better. Zach can be surprisingly comforting without even trying.
Zach doesn’t call him back. Instead, Chris’s trusty phone beeps its message tone at him.
Pick me up from airport 11am Friday? We’ll do lunch. Catch up. Z
It always amuses Chris how Zach’s iPhone insists on putting in those pesky capital letters Zach would rather do without.
He checks his schedule out of habit. His days are pretty much his own until it’s time to start on his next big project in a couple weeks.
He texts back:
Can do. Will start work on my pap-foiling disguise right away.
There’s a minute’s silence, then another beep.
Or you could try accepting public adoration gracefully? Z.
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell whether Zach’s joking.
“Doing lunch” turns out to be more along the lines of grabbing a couple of foot-long subs and some soda on the way to Zach’s place, where the house-sitters have already left and everything smells suspiciously air-freshener-y. Harold and Noah are absent, presumably still with Joe, but missing them doesn’t appear to stop Zach being mighty glad to be home. They sit on the rug and eat with their elbows on the coffee table like little kids. Chris loves that Zach, who is so damn responsible with his life and his career and his production company and shit, can also demonstrably embrace his inner child.
“I don’t tell you often enough,” Chris says, licking a smear of mayonnaise off the back of his thumb, “but you’re kinda awesome, man.”
Zach makes a regal sort of gesture as if to say you may bow down before our exalted magnificence, et cetera. It’s only right to flip him off for that.
Zach is typically fastidious about patting at his mouth with his napkin after eating, then about dealing with the trash right then. But, eventually, he returns to the living room where Chris is sprawled back on his elbows, head resting comfortably on the low sofa.
“Are you still having your… pornography-related difficulties?” He’s standing just over the kitchen threshold, one hand curled around the opposite arm.
“Yeah,” Chris agrees unhappily.
“Would you mind entertaining my curiosity with a small experiment?”
Well, inviting the tentacle monster back into his head mightn’t be on Chris’s Letterman Top Ten List of awesome ideas. But Zach looks so interested and helpful and shit. He’s even smiling his encouraging smile instead of his evil one. “Okay. Sure.”
Zach beckons, so Chris clambers to his feet and goes to him. Doesn’t complain when Zach directs him with firm hands to the bathroom. “Take a leak, wash your hands, then come to my room, okay?”
The instructions are simple enough, and filling food eaten fast seldom leaves Chris in much of a mood for argument. So he obeys, and a couple minutes later finds himself following more orders, perching on the edge of Zach’s bed to remove his shoes and socks.
“Okay,” Zach says, from the bed where he’s sitting leaning against the wall. “Get comfortable.”
So Chris moves to mirror his posture, noting absently the way Zach is fondling the universal remote that controls the enormous new-fangled media storage thingy that plugs into the large TV on the wall, as well as the TV itself and the stereo. Zach plays a rapid tattoo of fingers on buttons, and a menu appears on the screen.
“Tell me,” Zach says. “When you watch porn, are you usually… imagining you’re one of the people in the scene? Or imagining fucking one of the people in the scene? Or just getting off on seeing people get off?”
Chris puffs out a breath which ruffles the bangs he’s been dubiously flirting with of late. “No fucking clue. And if there’s gonna be a test, man, I gotta tell you I did not study.”
“Okay,” Zach says. He sounds oddly cautious now. “Well, listen: this is just two people fucking, okay? Just focus on that, and not… anything else.”
And not, Chris quickly fills in once Zach starts the video he’s chosen, the fact that both people are most definitely men.
He doesn’t know where the giggle comes from. He’s ashamed of it and tries to stop. It’s just that there are two very earnest-looking young men lying naked together on the TV screen, kissing and fondling one another’s nipples. And what’s funny is that, blindingly obvious though it is, he never even saw it coming. Never really thought about the fact that Zachary Quinto’s preferred kind of porn must be…
“Gay porn, huh?”
“Just watch,” Zach says calmly. “You might enjoy it.”
So Chris does. And it’s awkward. Because this is new. Because Zach is right beside him. Maybe because the video has no awful musical soundtrack, so he can hear every little gasp and moan that he’s 99% sure these guys aren’t faking. But then one guy gets down on his knees and starts licking the other guy’s dick, and it’s… yeah. He seems to know what he’s doing, and he certainly looks… into it. Not like he’s being paid to be into it. Like amateur porn, really, only these guys and this lighting are too good to be amateur.
When the kneeling guy opens his mouth and sucks the other guy’s dick down deep, Chris can’t deny there are definite stirrings of interest in certain portions of his anatomy. His breath hitches, then starts coming a little faster. The lucky guy groans, his fingers tightening in the other guy’s hair. The other guy pulls off, and then Chris is the one who groans. Why are they—
Oh, right, it’s porn. No coming where we can’t see it. Annoyed, he shuffles his position a little on the bed.
Zach tactfully pauses the video. “Do anal scenes do anything for you, normally?”
Chris shrugs uncomfortably. “Yeah. Sure. Sometimes.”
“‘Cause I could jump to a BJ and facial, or we could—”
“It’s fine. Just—can we get some music on in here or something? It’s too quiet.”
Zach smiles indulgently and sets about making that happen with his battery-powered infrared modern-day magic wand. The music he picks is low and greasy and not all that much more than a beat, sort of like how a club sounds when you’re driving past it. But it works for Chris, and he’s able to focus on the two guys’ renewed antics with much-reduced unease.
The kissing and fondling and fingering really does nothing for Chris. But the look on the first guy’s face as the guy who was sucking him off earlier slides his dick up his ass? Oh. Sweet. Lord. Just like that he’s hard, has to palm himself through his jeans.
“You want to?” Zach says, which doesn’t compute. It’s a while before Chris registers that he’s holding something out to him. Probably because he’s pretty much glued to the screen now. But, whatever, he looks down. Zachary Quinto is offering him lube.
Chris wets his lips. “Are—are you gonna?”
“I’d like to,” Zach says.
An odd little thrill runs up Chris’s spine. He’s not really sure whether it’s an excited or a terrified sort of feeling, just that it’s there. He bites his lip a moment. “Okay. But would it—I mean could we get a little less light in here, maybe? Not that I—I mean—it’s just—”
“Hush,” Zach says. He’s already paused the video, and now he swings his legs off the side of the bed. He gets up, starts closing drapes. It’s still full daylight outside, of course, but the room ends up pretty dark anyway, what light there is coming from the TV screen.
There’s the sound of a zipper, then fumbling, and Chris turns his head, realises Zach is attempting to escape those blasted skinny jeans of his. Which isn’t a bad idea, except… No. Not for him. Not today. He’ll just make do with undoing and unzipping and lifting out… Yes. Little Christopher thanks him profusely. The dark shape that is Zach climbs back onto the bed, settles in much the same posture as before. Chris dutifully doesn’t look at him. More sounds. A squelch. The video restarts. Something is placed on his lap. Chris finds the tube, finds the right end, flips the cap and squirts cool, slick stuff into his hand. Clicks the cap back into place and sets it down between them. Takes a deep breath, then lets his slippery hand glide over his dick and sighs. For it is good, it is very good. He times his strokes to the thrusts of the excellently-assed dude on the screen, who is clearly enjoying himself. Though, actually, Chris isn’t convinced that the guy being fucked isn’t actually having more fun. Perhaps some guys really, really like it? Perhaps it really does feel as amazing as the guy makes it look? For some reason, this thought makes him jerk harder, squeeze tighter into the twist at the top of each stroke.
He can hear that Zach is right there beside him stroking his own cock, but somehow that isn’t distracting at all, or off-putting, or… It kinda just adds to the ambience of sex all around.
Chris comes, before he’s expecting it, when something changes and the guy on the bottom starts making the most astonishing noises with every thrust. It’s just so obviously good sex that he can’t keep it in, spurts and spurts and probably doesn’t manage to catch it all in his hands.
“Fuck,” Zach pants, “did you just—?”
He’s too blissed out to be sheepish. “Yeah.”
Zach’s head taps twice against the wall behind them, and then he groans like he’s shaking apart.
Stillness a moment, just breathing. Then more sounds—something cardboard—a softer sound—and Chris twigs that it’s a tissue being pulled from a box a half-second before the box is thrust his way.
“Thanks, man.” He cleans himself up as best he can in the flickering light from the TV, suddenly a whole lot less interested in the video now that he’s come and it’s gone to slightly too close-up close-ups of dick sliding in and out of ass. Another moment, and then the video stops and the screen switches off, leaving that much less light in the room, just a strip under the door and a glow around the curtains.
Zach’s arm slides around him, between the wall and the curve of his lower back, and presently Zach’s cheek comes to rest on Chris’s shoulder. “No tentacles?” he whispers.
Chris jumps. “No, actually.” There hadn’t been, not even the merest thought of them as far as he could recall. Weird.
Only Zach can sound sage while giving you a hum for an answer.
“So, what, I’m fine with porn as long as it doesn’t have women in it? I associate tentacles with snatch, now?”
Zach seems to be trying to bury his snickers in Chris’s shirt.
“Yeah, you laugh now, but what if you have some horrendous nightmare that scares you off dick?” Chris blinks. “Hang on. Has my brain completely fucked up sex with women for me, and only with women? Have I scared myself gay?”
Zach is laughing now, hard, while trying to pat Chris’s chest in a reassuring manner. His accuracy isn’t wonderful, and for safety reasons Chris begins to wish he’d paused to stuff his junk back in his jeans.
“You—you’re about as gay as a turnip, Pine. As gay as a pine tree.”
Chris finds this faintly insulting. “What, I’m not good enough for the other team?”
Zach manages to get his laughter under control. Except that he’s now hiccuping periodically. “We’re not on—hic—we’re not on a recruiting drive, Chris. It’s not that you don’t measure up. But—hic—can you honestly tell me you like dick, and only dick?”
Chris shrugs. Decides that, yeah, he is gonna put Mister Miraculous away now. Nighty-night, Pine Tree.
“I prescribe a daily course of jerking off to gay porn. Call for an appointment next month if symptoms have not abated.”
He is, Chris realises, actually holding Zach now, and it’s a lot more like a cuddle-thing than a hug-thing. “Thanks, doc.”
“But, hey, if you watch a whole lot of guys fucking and discover a hitherto-unknown burning desire to suck cock—gimme a call, won’t you?” He reaches up to pat Chris’s cheek. “I’m sure I could go easy, for a first-timer.”
It’s a light enough remark, but it sticks with Chris for a surprisingly long time.
Chris follows orders. The gay porn he finds doesn’t seem to affect him as strongly as Zach’s did, perhaps because of the novelty value that had, but whatever, it’s something, an extra edge of thrill as he imagines it’s his dick getting sucked or fucking a tight... yeah. And even when the horrible thought returns, even when he’s half-expecting the tentacles to extrude any second, he always seems to get distracted by dicks and balls (and sometimes the rare treasure that is chest hair) before the awful thing can happen. He feels less self-conscious without Zach there beside him, though sometimes he kinda misses having a native guide, as it were, because he doesn’t understand all the lingo that labels content in these videos and he’s had a couple unpleasant surprises so far. (Dude, santorum is not something he ever needs to see again.)
But on the whole, ‘tis good. He keeps coming back to—and coming over—one particular video in which the guy giving the blowjob is clearly getting off on it.
Zach looks ridiculously smug when he asks how it’s going and Chris maybe blushes a little as he tells him it’s going fine.
Chris gets asked to sign autographs at the grocery store, but from their accents the trio would seem to be tourists so that’s slightly less annoying than LA natives forgetting the code. He tries to channel Zach and be patient and charming and tactful with them, while simultaneously broadcasting that he does have a desire and a right to get on with his shopping.
They end up behind him in the checkout line, chatting quietly and occasionally ogling. He chews his gum louder and politely doesn’t listen.
Until he catches Zach’s name. Evidently they’re Trek fans.
And they’re talking about Zach’s boyfriend, some singer. Chris’s annoyance seems out of all proportion to the irksomeness of a false rumour being believed. He’s not sure why it bothers him so much. But, hey, he’s up, and the clerk’s cute and wonderfully bored-looking. Chris likes that. He briefly wonders if she’s any good at crosswords, but her cash register starts to spawn glistening pink tentacles as he thinks about it and the girls are chatting louder and louder about Zach and this guy making sweet, sweet music together, so he hurriedly focuses on small talk about the quality of his seasonal produce selections instead.
He looks back over his shoulder more than once, just to reassure himself that there aren’t any tentacle creatures slinking sinisterly after him, before he reaches the safety of his car.
It’s still on his mind later, when he’s camped out on the couch with a good book, a good beer, and a fuzzy blanket in case by the time he’s done reading he’s too tired to go to bed. Chris sighs, rubs the back of his neck, then gives in and scrambles for his phone to text Zach.
Hey, man. Heard scandalous rumour you’re dating some singer. You’d tell me, right?
He’s not expecting a response promptly—Zach is a party animal, after all, and it’s prime party time this late on a Friday—but he finds it much easier to settle into his novel once the message is sent. He stretches out on the couch, rests his phone atop his chest, and loses himself in the marvellous world of make-believe.
His phone beeps half an hour later, startling him. He fumbles and almost drops it in his haste to read the little screen.
Omg, is it beyonce? Ldy gaga? That kid who was on idol? David bowie? Tellmetellmetellmeeeee
Chris giggles. He sometimes thinks it’s a miracle that Zach was able to find Noah, the only dog in the world who could possibly be as excitable as Zach is. He sits up to text back.
I didn’t catch a name. But surely you know how many singers you’re dating???
Didn’t you sing in that hick movie you did with your dad?
Chris blinks. That’s a bit random, isn’t it?
I sing a bit. Untrained, unlike some people. Answer the ?
Not dating anyone you dumbass. Note looming cloud of sad single solitary solo misery
Chris lets out a slow breath, then jumps when his phone immediately beeps again.
Now leave me alone. Must go kick butt at drunken limbo
It’s simply impossible not to smile at that, Chris decides, as he curls up with his book again, more relaxed than he’s felt all day. Zach is definitely one of a kind. He likes that.
Chris is embarrassed to notice during his regular Tuesday night cooking lesson that the chef looks a lot like Enjoys Giving Head guy from his favourite video. Well, they’re both compact, muscular guys with brown hair and full lips, anyway. Okay, so he’s not really sure quite what it is, but his body seems quite insistent that this guy makes him think of blowjobs. Awesome blowjobs. Which he’d actually quite like to be receiving right now.
Somehow, Chris gets through the session without accidentally frying his fingers, but he leaves barely more confident of his ability to produce the perfect Eggs Benedict than he was when he arrived.
Porn really does have a lot to answer for.
The next time Chris finds himself in Zach's living room, he feels oddly twitchy, and his Scrabble game's off. He can’t seem to focus on his tiles for very long before catching himself staring at Zach. He wants…
“Everything all right?” Zach says, laying down ‘demesne’.
Chris gulps. “I think I kinda want to go hide out in the Zach-cave and, you know.” He sees a quick flash of tentacle out of the corner of his eye, and Zach’s eyebrow has risen. “Watch gay porn,” he quickly specifies. “That’s all.”
Yeah, perhaps it’s time to talk to Katie about possible therapists. There is something weird going on with his head, man.
Zach's steepled fingers almost hide his crafty look. Almost. “You are hopeful of finding companionship for this noble endeavour?”
Chris swallows and clears his throat, afraid his voice will squeak. “Yes?”
Zach rises to his feet, effortlessly graceful. He offers his hand, helps haul Chris up. “Let’s take it as read that I won the game, shall we?” His triumphant mien warns Chris that arguing this point will only inspire Zach to remind him at length of his less than brilliant gameplay today.
“Okay, Zach. Whatever you say.”
Zach’s grin is decidedly wolfish, Chris thinks. And then, a wolf is leading me to his lair… It’s somehow comforting, though, that he doesn’t drop Chris’s hand.
It’s official. Watching porn is better with Zach. They have darkness and music again, and this time they both take their pants off. Which is… not exactly nerve-wracking, but not exactly easy for Chris either. He’s self-conscious, even though by silent agreement they’re not looking at each other’s naked bodies, but he’s not sure that self-consciousness entirely accounts for the weird squirmy feeling in his stomach or the way his palms are sweating by the time he sits down next to Zach on the big bed and watches the screen come on.
They watch something featuring a complicated threesome involving blowjobs and ass-fingering and an improbable number of dildos, and Zach tells Chris he kinda has a thing for the blond guy.
“Huh. That would be the blond guy who just happens to have the most ridiculously enormous dick the world has ever—”
“Noticed that, did you?”
Chris shuts his mouth with a snap, not sure he should admit it, even though he can’t really hide it now.
Zach chuckles and pats his shoulder, which throws off Chris’s stroke in a way that makes him gasp at the unexpected shift of sensation. This whole situation suddenly seems a whole lot more intimate, like Zach isn’t just keeping him company, they’re interacting, they’re…
“Eyes front, Pine, unless you want me to make certain… inferences.”
Chris gulps and returns his wandering gaze to the TV screen. He’s no longer actually sure—at least, you know, under the influence of porn and a boner—that he doesn’t want Zach to start inferring things. Or at least, he’s no longer sure he’d decline if Zach offered to help him out here in some way. Is Zach good at blowjobs? Chris bets he totally is. But then, perhaps Zach’s more the kind to receive them than to give ‘em? Perhaps—
Perhaps he shouldn’t be thinking quite so much about Zach right now, when he has his well-lubed dick in his hand and a screen full of full-on gay porn before his eyes. Focus, Chris.
Afterwards, there’s no weird awkward cuddle.
Chris misses it.
Chris quits his first therapist after their initial session, horrified at the suggestion he should go spend time at an aquarium with octopodes in order to reduce the emotional impact thoughts of tentacles are having on him. (Disdain at a highly-trained professional using the false plural “octopi” has very little to do with it. Dude would have been perfectly safe with “octopuses”, but, no, he has to go confusing Greek and Latin…) Chris drives straight from the therapist’s office to the gym, where he works out some of his irritation on innocent punching bags, treadmills, and free weights. Once showered and back home, he seriously considers drinking the night away.
Instead, he calls Zach and they have a laugh about permissible plurals of “octopus” and whether or not “cephalopod” is a sexy word. They play a little Facebook scrabble, still chatting over the phone because that’s just how they roll, and then all of a sudden Chris is moved to send Zach a link to a nice porn vid he discovered lately. They wind up discussing it at some length, breathing heavily and rubbing one out.
Chris is now 99% convinced this Means Something.
Chris does visit an aquarium, but only to prove it was a stupid idea. He’s creeped out and can’t get away from the octopus tank fast enough. Well, he walks fast enough, but it’s an effort not to keep stopping and turning to make sure nothing’s following him, that none of the flashes of movement he catches in his peripheral vision are actually…
He can’t sit still for the rest of the day, feels like he’s constantly squirming in his skin. He can’t help checking the internet the next morning for any hint that Chris Pine flees fiendish fish! Exclusive photos! has made the tabloids.
His new therapist doesn’t want him to hang out with molluscs of any kind. She also quotes Derrida and is quite happy for him to sit anywhere, or pace the room if he prefers, or look out the window. Mostly she just lets him talk (“I don’t know what it means. What do you think it means?”). He thinks that might get annoying after a while, but so far it’s kinda nice.
As he’s leaving, Chris is surprised to realise how much of the session he spent talking about Zach.
“I think the tentacles are mine,” Chris says, his voice sounding oddly strained because he’s got his chin propped on his hands, neck stretched, as he lies on the grassy slope at the park watching Noah nose around for insect edibles among the daisies. Beside him, Zach crosses his legs elegantly and pays out more of the extendible dog lead, then leans back on his hands. “I think I ruin any relationship with a woman with my slimy suckery tentacles of, I don't know, lust and greed and jealousy or whatever…”
“So your psyche is saying that you don’t deserve women?” Zach asks, with that oh-so-polite skepticism he does so well.
Chris groans and flops over onto his back, shielding his eyes from the sun with one plaid-sleeved arm. “Maybe.”
“And you know this because you’re prevented from watching erotic entertainment featuring women.”
“But you’re not prevented from watching men get busy. Does it follow that you do deserve men?”
Chris frowns. “That makes it sound kinda… I dunno. As if men are a consolation prize? A lesser option?” His head is starting to hurt. Now he’s not sure whether his brilliant theory about the tentacles actually makes any fucking sense at all.
Zach reaches over to ruffle his hair. Chris lowers his arm, looks up at Zach’s face, blocking out the sun. “Or just a different option you haven’t explored before. Not every action or preference or bad dream is a value judgement.”
Chris peers at him, trying to read that opaque expression. “Hey, what happened to ‘straight as a pine tree’?”
Zach raises a brow. “Is that what I said?” He shrugs. “Well, does every single pine tree in the world look as if it’s been carefully measured and arranged according to set squares and spirit levels and such? There are wonky pine trees, Pine. Queer pine trees. Pine trees with two trunks. Pine trees with the souls of mighty oaks. Pine trees—”
Chris laughs. “There is such a thing as stretching a metaphor too far.”
Zach’s expression of polite disapproval is hilarious. Chris is still laughing when Noah returns and randomly decides to attempt some doggy french kissing. Then it’s Chris trying to fight off a giant ball of tongue and fluff and waggly tail while simultaneously giving a giggling Zach the finger.
“I think I kinda want to make out with my best friend,” he tells Katie, over lunch. “My very male best friend.”
She chews carefully, swallows, reaches for her soda and takes a loud swig. “Okay,” she says. “Cool. You don’t mind if I—?” When he doesn’t object, she kicks off her badass pointy shoes and puts her feet up on the couch. “Your sandwich-making skills are much improved, by the way.”
“Well, in this town ya gotta have a backup career plan,” Chris tells her Very Seriously.
“People gotta eat.”
Katie smiles indulgently. These days she always knows when he’s pulling her leg. “The therapy is paying off, I take it. Lots of self-discovery?”
Chris shrugs. He’s not sure the therapy is helping him as much as just thinking a lot and being around Zach is helping him. “I thought you’d be shocked, are you shocked?”
Apparently that requires more thought and more soda. “Not shocked, no. Most people are at least nominally bisexual. They might not act on it, they might not even like to think about it, but the inclination is there. So are you going to tell this best friend?”
Isn’t that the question of the day?
“You know, for a man who’s paid to run his mouth, you really aren’t talkative.”
Chris frowns at that, but simply doesn’t know what to say.
After an unproductive meeting with a producer who wants to attach him to a project for publicity purposes without naming a start date or a fee, Chris goes for a run to clear his head. He’s been so distracted lately, as if part of his mind is perpetually at work on some difficult problem it doesn’t feel the need to disturb his conscious mind with.
The restaurant he visits that evening has calamari on the specials board. Chris shudders and wonders whether ordering some and eating it would be a powerful symbolic act, overcoming the memory, rejecting its hold on him, yadda.
Then it occurs to him that in the dream—don’t think about the dream—tentacles were basically penis substitutes. Does he want to eat a penis substitute? That’s kinda creepy, when he thinks about it.
Chris orders the braised lamb.
He dreams that they’re swimming with mermaids, Zach and him, swimming out to the rocks where they lounge in the sun with their iridescent-scaled lady friends, laughing as they listen to a dozen cruel stories about sailors, broken hearts, and broken sailing ships. The smell of sea is strong, and he wonders idly how salty Zach would taste if he leaned over and casually licked him. It’s nice, and as he’s impelled helplessly upwards towards wakefulness he kinda wishes he could have stayed there in that idyll just a little longer. But you can’t choose your dreams, can you? At least not the sleepy-time kind.
Chris yawns hugely, stretches until various joints crack ominously, then bounces up out of bed to face his day. He has meetings, he has more meetings, he has a coffee date with Zach if their schedules don’t decide to rear up and bite them at the last minute. He sings in the shower, snatches of songs from The Little Mermaid, and wonders idly if it means anything that this is the second memorable dream he’s had recently that involves unusual sea life. Whatever. He’s sure Zach will get a kick out of the mermaids thing.
Things come up, meetings run over time or get rescheduled, and it’s a whole week before he gets to see Zach again and tell him about their awesome dream mermaid adventure.
In the meantime, he does some meetings, reads some scripts, works out a lot. Presents himself for an embarrassingly sexy photo shoot as ordered. Hopes it won’t show in the pictures if he’s using memories of hanging out with Zach watching porn, rather than memories of screwing hot women, to get the right look on his face, the right tension in the right muscles.
He hears some rumours about Zach and Some Guy in New York City, and growls to himself about privacy and how sucky it is that Zach isn’t allowed any. Then he reads some rumours about how Rising Hollywood Star Chris Pine is dating some new Paris Hilton-wannabe, and nearly spits porridge all over his laptop screen in his efforts to survive his laughter without actually choking.
He calls Zach, who spends almost the entire call feigning conviction that Chris is dating the real Paris Hilton, and proclaiming that this is excellent news and someone is bound to offer him a reality TV gig any day now. Chris doesn’t think it’s very funny, but he indulges Zach because he’s just awesome like that.
Chris dreams of Lamarck’s giraffes, reinventing the neck so they can reach the tasty leaves. Zach is the giraffe with the longest neck of all, and Chris has to tiptoe to reach as high as Zach can without trying, which is difficult because giraffes really aren’t built to dance en pointe. He is, therefore, a somewhat miffed and miserable giraffe, and wakes up still wrapped in the echo of that dream emotion. He reflects that, one, some dreams are weird, man, and two, it cannot be healthy to remember so much of high school biology when he hasn’t had cause to use it in years. Then he yawns, has a brief skirmish with the comforter, rolls over, and goes back to sleep.
Very much to his surprise, Chris actually remembers to tell Zach about the mermaids when next they get some face time.
“You know,” observes Zach dryly, walking briefly sideways to avoid a trash can without bumping into Chris who is carrying the liquid half of their precious provisions, “you have to have a shockingly narrow definition of sex to assume a woman is incapable of sex just because you can’t see where she’d keep any below-the-waist type lady parts on account of the tail.”
Chris blinks. Did Zach just randomly deconstruct ‘mermaid’ to get ‘sea virgin’? Man, that takes him back to being a pretentious sophomore at Berkeley, hanging around with language nerds who conjugated verbs for fun and profit and depressed drama students who’d found Sartre a revelation. “Excuse me while I have a wordgasm.”
He gets a careful pat on the head and a grin for that. Zach really does have a lot of teeth. It’s enough to distract Chris briefly from the probably-a-photographer walking backwards on the sidewalk twenty feet ahead of them. “I’m here all week. Don’t neglect to tip your server.”
Chris thinks about variable definitions of sex all the rest of the way. What might Zach’s particular definition be?
They arrive back at Zach’s place to a fur-storm of welcome. Noah is incapable of holding a grudge, it seems to Chris; any lingering disgruntlement at having been left behind while his person went out is entirely obliterated by his overwhelming joy at said person’s return. Dude only condescends to notice Chris after he’s ecstatically wriggled and sniffed and licked at Zach as much as Zach will allow.
They sit on the couch, while Noah runs back and forth finding various well-chewed toys and bringing them over in the hopes of enticing Zach to play. Chris doles out the coffees and weird pastry things and reflects that, whether you’re a dog or not, Zach is pretty fucking easy to adore.
“So,” Chris says, and then has to stop to clear his throat. “I’ve been thinking, a lot. And I, um, I think I have a touch of the bi.”
Zach takes several seconds to parse this. His expression gives nothing away. “And you’re hoping for a little friendly advice?”
Zach raises an eyebrow in silent query.
“Would terrible things happen if I kissed you?”
There. Just the hint of a smile. “Not if you wait until our coffee’s safely consumed.”
“Oh.” Chris fights laughter, suddenly giddy with relief. He’d forgotten about the coffee, after making such a big deal about going to get some in the first place.
They eat and drink, and the silence seems to thrum, expectant, powerful, in Chris’s ears, like the sound of the ocean in a seashell. His dick’s half-hard, and his neck feels hot, and he spends a ridiculous amount of time polishing off the last crumbs of his pastry and licking a dollop of pink frosting off the side of one finger. His hand shakes when he reaches out to set down his empty cup on the coffee table.
In the spirit of jumping straight into the cold ocean or signing up for awesome-sounding classes before looking into how much work they entail, Chris throws himself into action as soon as Zach has surrendered his coffee cup and paper pastry bag. He gets up, in fact, and climbs onto Zach’s lap, because how can he chicken out after that?
“Okay,” Zach says, with a bemused little smile. “That works.”
Chris kisses him.
Zach’s lips are soft and sugary, and he moves them gently but without hesitation. It’s strange how familiar it all feels, kissing, the scent of Zach and the warmth of his body where they touch. Chris runs a hand down Zach’s flat chest. I’m kissing a man, he thinks, and then, a moment later, rather more shocked, Zachary Quinto is groping my ass.
It’s hard to keep kissing, Chris finds, while one is nervously giggling. He pulls back, finds Zach looking curiously at him. Dude appears to be bursting with things to say, not all of them kind.
“So this is weird,” Chris murmurs, half expecting his voice to break.
Zach shrugs. Chris supposes he’s thinking that it isn’t at all weird for him. Or that first kisses are pretty much weird by definition. “Did you find out what you wanted to know?”
“Yeah.” Chris sighs, messes up his hair. “I’m fucked. This is confusing, man.” He leans in for another kiss, and that part’s not confusing at all. It’s only the thought of Uncertain Next Steps that’s boggling him. So he licks at Zach’s lips and doesn’t think about that, doesn’t think about anything but kissing and touching and getting closer, much closer, until Zach growls into his mouth and takes rough hold of his shoulders and Chris is sure he’s about to be pushed away or pushed down onto the couch under Zach…
He thinks of tentacles.
“Hey,” Zach says, drawing back. “Hey, Chris? Relax, okay?”
So Chris sucks in a deep breath, presses his forehead against Zach’s, and they hold each other for a long, long time. Chris hadn’t realised he was shaking.
“When you get your head on straight,” Zach tells him at last, “or, well, non-straight, I’ll still be here. There’s no need to rush this.”
“Sure there is,” Chris scoffs. “Someone else might snap you up.”
The silence that follows is loud in his ears, hot on his neck. He hadn’t meant to say that, hadn’t meant to sound so…
“I see,” Zach says, as if he really hadn’t before, and Chris hugs him awkwardly so he can hide his blush against Zach’s ear.
The silence rushes around them like the wind over the waves.
“Well,” Zach says at last, quiet, thoughtful, “what if we agreed to be exclusive, but that we would take things really, really slow? Glacially slow? The polar opposite of speed dating?”
Chris perks up instantly. “You mean it? You want me? You won’t get all frustrated and shit?”
Zach shrugs against him. “You still wanna come jerk off with me in the Zach-cave sometimes?”
Lust streaks up Chris’s spine. “Yes. Please. Absolutely.”
Zach chuckles, and his fingers drag soothing lines over Chris’s back. “Well, call me postmodern, but I consider that to be sex. And pretty satisfactory sex, at that.”
Zach slaps the top of his ass. “I do. Especially if I’m actually allowed to look at you during the event. Now get off me before I’m tempted to seduce your sweet virginal self.”
Chris can’t decide whether to be amused or offended, so he settles for shifting his sweet virginal ass.
“Scrabble?” Zach suggests lightly. “If I recall correctly, you have a spectacular losing streak to remedy. If you can.”
Gratitude swells at this swift return to what is normal and familiar between them. Which is why it’s totally a gesture of love and respect that Chris, just as he ordinarily would, responds by flipping him off.
Chris dreams of the dark and the pressure of the deeps. At first he thinks he’s drowning, but the fear never comes, and as Chris looks about him he begins to understand, to recognise that the fluid, flexible tentacles floating all around him are his own, that he is part of them. And when he decides to swim they move with him and for him, propelling him smoothly through the deep water. It’s exhilarating, and he laughs, startling tiny fishes that flit away in tight formation.
And then he’s all alone in the sea for so long that when he catches a flash of movement from the corner of his eye he’s momentarily startled. But then the stranger comes closer, and he registers that it’s not a stranger at all. It’s Zach, and he’s beckoning Chris with a couple of tentacles, and Chris can’t be scared of tentacles when he has them and Zach has them too. So he goes, and they intertwine their suckery arms, and Zach’s love seems to enfold him too. By silent mutual consent they strike out upwards, towards the surface where beams of sunlight shatter, lighting the water in unpredictable ways. And it feels as if nothing could ever be more perfect than this, gliding easily with Zach, entwined, in the beautiful light.