It’s John’s idea, but it’s a good one, so they rent a place on the beach in a little nowhere town far enough south of Santa Cruz not to run into too many people. Zach flies in to San Jose, rents a car, and stops at the grocery store to pick up some cereal, a box of pasta, and some tomatoes, before heading out of town. The peaches are just past prime, but he grabs a couple of them anyway, overripe and fuzzy, and settles them carefully in the top of the bag.
The drive from San Jose to the rental is quick enough; maybe forty five minutes, but it’s through winding hills with glimpses of ocean, so it’s not bad. Chris is driving up the coast, a thing Zach’s thought about doing a few times, but never actually done. Chris apparently used to do on the regular when he was in school at Berkeley, and claims to enjoy it; just him, the fresh scent of cows, and the hundreds of semis on the freeway.
Chris hits traffic on the 101 and texts Zach around 7, saying he’ll be later than he thought, and not to wait up. He laughs off Zach’s offer to call him, talk to him, keep him company after dark falls so he doesn’t get highway hypnosis, or drowsy driving, or some other alliterative ailment. He’s fine, Chris says, he’ll get there when he gets there. Don’t worry.
Zach drinks a glass of the grocery store red and watches the sun sink into the ocean, fat red orb flattening as it hits the gilded waves and submerges into night. He makes sure the light over the driveway is on, strips to his underwear, and lays down in the bigger bedroom, unused to the dark and quiet, unsure if it’s restful or unsettling. He’s asleep by ten, his body still stuck to east coast time, the stress of the press tour not yet released from his core. He’s been clenching his teeth in the night, waking up in the morning with a sore jaw for all the wrong reasons and a propensity for a midday migraine.
Chris gets in sometime around 2 am. Zach wakes at the sound of him scuffling quietly with the door, followed by the thump of a duffle bag hitting the tile and the clanking rattle of a key dropped on the hall table. He dozes in and out as Chris shuffles around brushing his teeth and digging out his pajama pants, settling in the way Chris always has to do in a new space.
He falls asleep again sometime around when the bathroom light clicks off, and wakes to the weight of Chris collapsing next to him on the mattress. He thinks hazily about rolling over and saying something, but he’s too comfortable, and Chris is already tucking a perfunctory arm around his middle and letting his breathing settle into slowness, so Zach lets himself slide under again.
He wakes up in the morning long before Chris does, body coming online with a sudden jolt of adrenaline as his subconscious parses the angle of the sun. He’s on vacation, not late, he remembers after a second, so he takes a moment to slowly admire the man beside him, body and hair golden in the early light that filters through the large windows. Chris is a stomach sleeper, and has thrown his pillow off the side of the bed at some point in the night. He’s lying with one knee pulled up, head turned, and arms sprawled across the open space of the sheets, mouth open and dead to the world.
It’s a little bittersweet, and Zach feels his jaw tighten in remembrance. The last time he had seen Chris like this had been the end of the press tour, and Zach had needed to sneak out before dawn to get back to his own room and get packed for the flight home. He hadn’t had time to linger, so he does now, reaching out to run the back of his hand over Chris’s shoulder, feeling the heat that Chris always seems to generate sinking into the small joints of his fingers. He leans in and rests his face against the small of Chris’ back, closing his eyes for a brief moment, and then gets up to take a leak and make some coffee.
He does some yoga in front of the big windows that look out onto the ocean. The marine layer is heavy this morning, but there are a few intrepid surfers out on the waves, paddling out to rise, then fall, the rise again. The coffee is passable, but not great, and he’s on vacation, so he limits himself to one small mug that he drinks while he sits on the couch and scans through his phone. No email, not this early in the morning, but instagram’s allowed, as is news. After a while he gets up and has a shit and a shower, and by the time he comes out of the steam-filled bathroom, Chris is blinking at him blearily from the bed, and then smiling at him full force from under a frankly ridiculous amount of bedhead.
“Hi,” Zach says, and walks over to wind a hand into Chris’ hair, tipping his head back so that he’s looking straight up at Zach. “Morning, sleeping beauty.”
Chris just grins unabashedly, sinking his teeth lightly into his bottom lip as he blinks upward.
“Hey,” he says, his voice gravelly with disuse. “Hey,”, he tries again, and slides a hand up the back of Zach’s towel to grasp him by the back of the thigh and tumble Zach across him onto the bed. “Hey,” he says one last time as he flips the towel open and lays Zach bare before him, flat on his back and pink from the hot water.
“Hey,” Zach says, and then groans as Chris gets a hand around him, fingers warm and strong.
It should be lazy morning sex, and it is, kind of, except it’s been too long since the last time they did this, and maybe it’s not quite what you’d call a hair trigger, but it’s a close thing. Chris fists Zach’s dick with no finesse, but it doesn’t matter, Zach’s on the edge in moments, mouth open and panting as he jams his hand down Chris’ pajama pants and grips hard, laughing as Chris gasps in response.
They’re not in any particular hurry, but it doesn’t last long regardless, their fingers falling into a rhythm as Chris nuzzles his head into Zach’s shoulder and uses his free hand to pull at a nipple, making Zach’s hips buck upward. He hauls Chris’ top leg over his waist and gets his unoccupied hand around Chris’ ass to pull his body flush against his hip. Chris moans in appreciation, and they’d had to be so quiet on the tour that the unexpected throaty sound of it tips Zach over the edge, his fingers clutching into Chris’ skin as his whole body tightens into release. The feel of his spunk on Chris’ fingers must do it for him, because Chris comes right behind him, head thrown back and mouth wide open as he groans aloud and shudders against Zach’s side.
They lay still, breathing hard in the empty silence of the room.
“ Yech ,” Chris says finally, sitting up and stretching until his neck pops. “Shower.”
“Mm,” Zach offers easily, and thinks about offering to join him. He’s too comfortable now, though, so he lays where he is while Chris heaves himself up off the bed and saunters into the master bath. It’s a good view, Zach thinks, and shuts his eyes in reverence as the door closes behind Chris’ ass.
“Wake up, sleepy.” There’s a voice in his ear and a rasp of stubble against his cheek that Zach bats away irritably as he surfaces from a dream of planes and endless crowds. “Come on, you’ll be groggy if you don’t get up soon.”
The voice retreats, and Zach flops onto his back, scrubbing the palms of his hands into his eyes as he takes a deep breath. Chris knows him only too well, and has quietly retreated to the kitchen while Zach regains consciousness, making coffee from the sound of it. Zach’s never been one to wake up easily, and Chris has long since learned that discretion is the better part of valor where waking him is concerned.
He hauls himself off the bed and goes to the bathroom to wash up and brush his teeth, then makes his way to the kitchen to bury his face in the back of Chris’ neck, still sleepy and a little disoriented. Chris just laughs, his body warm and solid in Zach’s arms, and continues prepping the coffee maker while Zach just clings.
It feels like the day is impermeable, wrapped in the cotton wool of sea fog and cut off from the rest of the world. Their phones struggle to find signal, the freeway is miles away, and even the seagulls are minding their gossiping tongues. It’s like they exist in between the lines on a page, like they’ve fallen off the edge of the world, and, Zach thinks, he could get used to this.
The house opens up literally onto the beach at the back, so they eat hastily assembled sandwiches and drink their coffee, then descend down the wooden stairs onto the sand. The sea is loud, but not overwhelming, the waves crashing with familiar regularity, a dependable roaring presence. The sand is warmer than the air, and it feels good on bare feet, rubbing away at the calluses Zach’s developed from his dress shoes and squishing between their toes down at the water line.
The water, when it washes up around their ankles, is somewhere between “brisk” and “frigid”, but they adapt quickly as they meander down the strip of sand. Chris, like the magpie he’s always been, starts picking up different rocks, sorting them by some criteria completely obscure to Zach’s understanding. He holds a palmful of them out in front of him, thrusting them into Zach’s space.
“Look,” he says, pointing at a small, perfectly round, red stone with a white line running through it. “Think Zoe’d like that one?”
“Does Zoe have a thing for small bits of compressed dirt?” Zach asks, and gets punched in the arm for his troubles. “Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty, I guess.”
Chris nods, shoving the other rocks around with a finger. “Yeah. Seems like her, I think.”
“Mm.” Zach nods, straight-faced. “The spitting image.”
Chris just rolls his eyes and keeps going, muttering as he gets a little ways ahead in a monologue that Zach can only partially hear. Zach watches as he follows a wave out a little further to pick something larger up from the sand, and then shouts in surprise as the next wave rolls in higher than he expected, drenching the bottoms of his shorts and making him laugh as he recovers from the shocking cold.
Was Chris this way as a kid, Zach always wonders, so self-contained and easy to please? Everything about himself, even the things he likes, the ones that seem an indelible part of his being, Zach has had to struggle to find, to discover, and to cultivate. He was an intense child; smart, and talented, and obsessed with doing better , and learning more , and he thinks he only really figured out what “happy” felt like when he became an adult, and even then only in fleeting sideways glances that were over as quickly as they were noticed. Chris, though- it’s not that Zach thinks that Chris hasn’t had his own struggles- he has, and Zach knows it- but he always has this aura of just… knowing, of just being . Even when things are tough, he’s able to roll with it, to stay centered in himself, and do what needs to be done. It left Zach with a sharp taste in his mouth, sometimes, when he first met Chris- he seemed such the golden boy wunderkind; smart, pretty, charming. It’s not like that now, thank god, but he still finds himself amazed by Chris alone and unguarded, splashing in the surf like he’s five years old and carefree.
“Look!” Chris holds out his hand to display a perfect sand dollar. “I think it’s still alive.”
“Huh.” Zach flips it over with a finger, curious. “Yeah. It’s intact anyway.” He pokes at the pinkish center of the underside. “I’d have expected it to be soft, I guess?”
“Yeah,” Chris nods. “Squishy. Me too. I guess it’s more like coral or something than a starfish or the other invertebrates.” He turns it in his hand, examining it from every side.
“You should put it back, just in case. Who knows how long it can be out of water?”
“Yeah, good point. Ok, little buddy, back you go!” Chris smiles, and changes his grip, then slings it out across the surf in a low, frisbee’d arc, watching as it drops into the waves.
"I meant just set it back down in the sand…” Zach rolls his eyes.
“Eh.” Chris shrugs, and his eyes are the brightest color of the waves, blue-grey in the hazy light. “More fun this way.”
They head back to the house after a while, pausing to rinse their feet with the hose conveniently kept on the back deck, the water colder than the ocean, but effective at removing sand. Once inside, silence descends, and Zach has the sudden realization that if they stay here all day, he’s going to go stir crazy, so he pulls out his phone and whips open a browser.
“Hey, let’s go see a movie.”
“What?” Chris blinks at him, standing in the kitchen with a mug in his hand.
“Yeah. I mean, it’s only one thirty. We’ve got all day.” He rolls his shoulders restlessly. “We should go do something.”
“I thought the point of this was not to do anything?” Chris looks a little perplexed, but he sets the mug down and grins. “Or I could do you .”
Tempting, Zach thinks, and his traitorous dick twitches, but fucking will just lead to more napping, which will lead to him awake and driving himself crazy at three in the morning, so he levels Chris with his best determined stare.
“I’m holding you to that after dinner.” He glances down at his phone, now displaying the showtimes at the nearest theater, and nearly laughs. “Do you trust me?”
“You? Or your taste in movies?” Chris asks, stepping out from behind the counter and over to Zach, leaning in to peer at his screen. “Only one of those is a yes.”
“Do you trust me?” Zach can’t suppress the twitch at the corner of his mouth anymore, but holds the phone carefully out of Chris’ reach until Chris laughs and steps away.
“Alright, fine. You’re sold on this, so let’s do the thing, c’mon.”
“That’s the spirit.” Zach grins and steps into his shoes. “If you don’t like it, I’ll buy you a pie.”
“Deal.” Chris says, “Blueberry.”
They drive to the theater, even though it’s close enough to walk, and they’ve got plenty of time. It’s not LA, but it’s still California, and people still have cameras on their phones, and Zach just wants this to be a quiet little trip, without any fuss or muss or hassle.
They’re early, and Zach bought tickets online before they left the house, so he hustles Chris in the doors and to the ticket taker before Chris can pay too much attention to the marquis outside. The middle-aged woman scanning tickets squints at them as she boops her scanner over Zach’s phone, but doesn’t say anything, just waves them in. They grab a large popcorn and two bottles of water, and head for the theater.
“Wait,” Chris says, stopping dead in his tracks as his eyes catch on the scrolling title above the door they’re about to enter. “No. Oh, no. We are not .”
“Yep!” Zach says, and applies a shove right in the small of Chris’ back that gets him moving again, then wraps an arm around his waist and propels him forward. “I haven’t seen it yet, and I heard it’s good.”
“Ugh, Zach, watching your own movies is the worst kind of narcissism. Besides, I was just at the premiere of this, what, three weeks ago? I’ve seen it…”
“You can take a nap then.” Zach wrangles them down the hall, and into the third row of theater seats, Chris on the inside so he can’t make a break for it. “I want to watch one of my favorite actors in what the papers are calling a movie that ‘ makes you fall in love again with the lost art of dialogue ’.” He lets go of Chris’ waist, and elbows him into the next seat. “So scoot over, because I have my popcorn, and I’m ready.”
There’s a faint blush on Chris’ cheeks that is eminently adorable. He grumbles, but gives in with relative grace, settling into the seat next to Zach, tucking his sunglasses into his shirt pocket, and folding his arms.
Chris does close his eyes a few times, but Zach doesn’t think he actually goes to sleep, and eventually Zach gets too lost in the movie to pay attention to what Chris is doing anymore. It’s good, it’s really a solidly good movie, and Chris is riveting and understated in his role, playing a man who’s gambling on a last chance while hedging his bets, unable to share himself with anyone in the chaos around him.
It ends, and Zach pulls out of it as the credit music plays to find he’s leaned forward and on the edge of his seat, and Chris is watching him warily out of the corner of one eye. He doesn’t have words yet- it always takes him a little bit to process the end of a film, to fit it all into his head and then into words- so he stands and stretches, Chris pulling himself to his feet next to him, and they stagger out into the daylight, donning sunglasses and heading for the car.
“That was a fucking good movie,” he says finally as they pull out of the parking lot. “You did a goddamn good job, Chris.”
“Thanks,” Chris says, smiling that same slow smile that gets him every time, and Zach nearly drives off the road looking at him.
Chris opens the bottle of wine when they get back to the house, and Zach takes a look at the pasta ingredients and decides he doesn’t want to bother.
“Pizza?” he asks, watching the movement of Chris’ ass as Chris fishes a set of wine glasses down from the top shelf of one of the cupboards.
“Hmm? Sure. Olives are good, but no…”
“Artichoke hearts, I know, you think they taste like pickled feet.”
“Hmph.” Chris sniffs. “I don’t think they do. I know they do.”
“Oh?” Zach queries, pulling up pizza delivery on yelp, “How many pickled feet have you eaten lately?”
“None, because I know better,” Chris answers, pouring wine into glasses, and Zach snorts into the phone.
“Hi, yes, I’d like to order a pizza for delivery please? Delivery. Yes, de-liv-er-y. What? Where am I? Um.” He looks at the info on the counter, and rattles off the name of the tiny town into the terrible connection. “Ok? Yes? Yes, you do deliver here? Great.” Chris is laughing at him as he over enunciates into the phone, and Zach shoots him a dark look. “Yes, I’d like a medium. A medium . Uh-huh, your middle size. Oh.” He covers the microphone with his thumb. “They don’t do mediums. They do small or large.
Chris shrugs. “Go for a large. We’re on vacation, and we can go running on the beach in the morning.”
“Ok.” He turns back to the phone. “A large. Yes, a large. The biggest one. Yes.” He plugs his other ear with his finger and despairs. “Ok. A large. With spinach. Yes. Yes, spinach? Spinach . And olives and mushrooms. MUSHROOMS. And olives. No, not the veggie lovers. NOT the veggie lovers.” He covers his eyes with his hand so he won’t have to see Chris, who is in the process of dying of laughter in front of him. “LARGE THREE TOPPING. SPINACH. OLIVES. MUSHROOMS. Ok? Yes, cash. Ok.” He pulls the sheet of rental info over to himself again. “Yeah, so, our address is Deer Run Ave. Yes. Deer. Dee. Ee. Ee. Arr. Like Bambi, Deer. Deer Run Ave. No, no house number. It’s gated. Just… NO HOUSE NUMBER. No. Just call when you get to the gate. What’s my phone number? Oh god .”
Chris has buried his face in his hands and is snickering quietly, shoulders shaking. Zach steels his resolve and determines to be patient.
“Ok. Five five five… yes, five five five… no, it’s not a five oh one area code. That is the area code. Five five five. Two six. Uh-huh. Two. Six. Yeah. Five five five two six. You have that? Ok. Eight. Four. Three. One. Yes. Eight . Yeah. Eight four. Yep. Ok, Three. Yes, three- one, two, three . Last number is one. ONE. No, not four. NOT four. One. The first number. Cardinal number.” He rubs his forehead and closes his eyes. “Eight. Four. Three. One. No, One . ONE. The loneliest number? Ok, great. Thank you.”
He hangs up, and slowly sets the phone down before turning to meet Chris’ watering eyes peering out of his reddened face. Chris’ mouth twitches.
“ ...the loneliest number? ” Chris manages, and they both dissolve into laughter.
The pizza is delicious, and the effect of the popcorn on their hunger must have worn off, because they’re halfway into their slices before Chris remembers the glasses of wine and brings them over with the bottle. He sets one in front of Zach and one in front of himself, then adds a third and pours into it before setting the bottle aside. Zach looks at him questioningly, and Chris’ smiling face goes serious, falling into the lines of a much older man as he raises his glass and clinks it against Zach’s.
“To this. Just... this ,” he says, and Zach nods, a knot in his throat. They don’t talk about it, really, never have, this thing that they do, this small hidden thing that lives between the two of them. Then Chris clinks his glass to the third one, and Zach feels his eyes fill. “Leonard,” Chris says, and Zach lifts his own glass and touches it to the third.
“Anton,” he says, and his eyes aren’t the only ones suddenly shiny. Chris nods, and holds his gaze.
“To absent friends,” Chris says, and they drink.
They eat without speaking, the sound of the waves crashing outside the glass doors at the back of the house providing a steady white noise, interspersed with the occasional squawk of an overhead raven. The wine is a little chewy, but it gets better as it breathes, and it goes fine with the pizza. Afternoon is fading into early evening, but the sun is still hidden in the cloud bank, even as the angle of the light is shifting.
“I still can’t believe he’s gone,” Chris says, and Zach looks at him. “Anton,” he clarifies. “It hasn’t even been a month, and we did the premiere without him, and the funeral, and it still doesn’t seem real.”
“Yeah.” Zach takes a drink of his wine, the taste too sharp in his mouth, stinging as he swallows.
“I mean,” Chris sighs, “I kinda think it won’t be real until we do the next movie, and he’s not there.”
“If we do a fourth movie.” Zach answers, taking another bite.
“We are under contract for it.” Chris shrugs.
“Yeah, but you know how the business is. Nothing’s guaranteed until it’s in theaters.”
“Yeah.” Chris swirls his wine, and stares out at the ocean. “I feel like I should miss him more.”
“I don’t know, I just… I mean, we always hung out when we were both around, but it’s not like we saw each other every day. I’d be working on something, or he’d be working on something, or whatever. I mean, fuck,” he lifts his wine glass at Zach, “I barely see you , and we’re…” he trails off.
“Yeah.” Zach nods. “I know, it’s not real for me either. Not yet. It’s too easy to feel like he’s just away for a while, and he’ll pop back up eventually.”
Chris nods thoughtfully, and serves them each another slice of pizza, emptying the bottle of wine into their glasses.
“You had a hard time with Leonard.” It’s a statement, not a question, and Zach thinks over the late night texts, the occasional time-difference phone calls. Sometimes Chris is the only one he can trust with his feelings other than his mom and brother, and with Leonard… it was too much like losing his dad all over again for him to want to talk to his family about it.
“Yeah.” He sucks in a deep breath. “I still miss him every day. He was just…” His voice breaks, and he takes a long drink. “He was such a wonderful human being, and he was just always, always there for me, you know? From the beginning of it all, for the last… fuck, basically ten years.”
Chris’ gaze is fathomless, his face full of compassion. “Yeah,” he says, and reaches over to grip Zach’s hand hard with his own for a long moment, before letting it go. “Yeah.”
They eat for a little longer, speaking infrequently, then rise in tandem and clear the plates, the glasses, the leftover pizza. Chris shoves the wine bottle into the recycling bin and opens the door to the deck, letting the sea breeze waft through the main room of the house, then pulls off his t-shirt and heads for the bedroom without looking to see if Zach will follow or not.
Chris is unceremoniously stripping off his shorts when Zach makes it to the bedroom door, so Zach peels off his own t-shirt and unbuttons his belt, nearly tripping as he steps into the room. Chris has made it down to bare-ass nekkid and flops down on the bed, raising an eyebrow as Zach finally gets his jeans and underwear off, the moving current of ocean air from the hallway raising the hairs on his arms and pebbling his skin.
“C’mere,” Chris says, holding out an arm to him, and Zach does, kneeling down onto the bed and curling into the solid warmth of Chris’ side, letting himself come unmoored, secure in the knowledge that this moment, this swiftly passing bubble of time, is sacrosanct and inviolable to all the things that wait outside. There is him, and there is Chris, and there is this bed, and in this specific linear demarcation of the fourth dimension, this is the length and breadth, the height and width, the sum total of the whole world.
Chris takes his time, running his hands all over Zach’s body, port to starboard, stem to stern. Zach always forgets, somehow, what a tactile person Chris is, how he encounters his surroundings through the pads of his fingers, the palms of his hands. A terrible trait in a space captain, he thinks, and chuckles quietly, making Chris smile up from where he’s got his cheek pressed to Zach’s chest.
“What?” he asks, his fingers pressing between Zach’s own on one hand while the other digs into the muscle of Zach’s hip.
“When you were little, did you get in trouble for touching everything in the stores?”
Chris snickers, and buries his face in Zach’s stomach. “All the time. Yes. I wouldn’t even realize I was doing it.” He drags his palms down the sides of Zach’s ribs, just enough pressure not to tickle. Zach feels sculpted under Chris’ touch, like all the stress and worry and sadness are being sloughed away to reveal his true form. He arches into it, shameless and needy for the reassurance Chris’ body gives him.
“You know what was worse, though?”
“Hmm.” Zach blinks open an eye just in time to see the twinkle of mischief in Chris’ eye as he slides down Zach’s body.
“I also couldn’t keep things out of my mouth.”
Zach laughs, then moans as Chris latches on to the inside of his thigh and sucks, his mouth warm and wet, his teeth sharp against the tender skin. He gets a hand in Chris’ hair and pulls just so he can hear Chris gasp with pleasure.
“God, Chris, remember when we met?” Zach lets his head drop back to the mattress and surrenders to the sensations of Chris’ mouth moving inexorably up his leg. His dick is hard, but he’s chilled out enough from the food and the wine and the lazy day that he can relax and enjoy the building butterflies in the bottom of his stomach without wanting to press ahead or rush to the end.
“Mm.” Chris licks the seam of his hip and looks up at him, mouth obscenely pink and wet. “Which time?”
“Well, ok. The first time I saw you. We didn’t really meet till later.”
“We never really met,” Chris points out, rubbing his stubbled cheek against Zach’s furred belly in a constant motion. “We just at some point knew each other.”
“The first time I saw you,” Zach begins, stroking a hand down Chris’ neck, “I don’t even remember where we were. Some dumb function. Before we knew each other.”
“How have I not heard this story?” Chris interrupts, wrapping a hand around the base of Zach’s dick and pulling lightly.
“I didn’t really realize it was you until years later; you were just some hot blond I saw at a thing somewhere,” Zach teases, and Chris pinches him on the inside of the knee, making him jump. “Hey, not my fault I didn’t know you were more than just a pretty face at the time, Captain.”
Chris shoves Zach’s legs up until his feet are flat on the bed, and bites at the curve of his thigh in retribution. “Fine. Go on.”
“Mmm… it was summer. We were somewhere outside, about this time of day. Lots of other people. Everyone drinking beers. And,” he moves restlessly on the bed as Chris gets his mouth on his dick, lets his legs fall open. He has nothing to hide, not here, not right now.
“nnd…” Chris prompts, his mouth full, and Zach twists his fingers back into Chris’ hair the way he knows Chris likes it, dragging his head up just a little, letting him go down at his own speed.
“And you were eating...a fucking… popsicle . A grape one. Like a goddamn…” he pauses, catches his breath and drops a leg over onto Chris’ broad back, rubs a heel into the muscle there and lets Chris get his arms up under his legs to grasp at his waist. “Like a goddamn grade-school kid, and you were just...going to town on it. And it had stained your lips purple, and you didn’t even know, and I just thought…I thought…” he pulls Chris up and off, letting go of his hair and hooking his hands under Chris’ armpits. “Come up here.”
Chris just smiles at him, and then obliges, letting Zach’s cock fall out of his mouth and sliding out from under Zach’s leg. He crawls up the bed and plants his knees on either side of Zach’s hips, and leans down to kiss him, long and slow.
“Yeah.” It’s not enough, though, so Zach pulls at him until Chris lets himself fall, laying flat on top of him, heavy and too hot and pressing Zach into the bed as Chris rubs his face into the crook of Zach’s neck. He can feel Chris’ dick lined up next to his own, can feel it pulse against him every so often, but neither of them move.
Zach sighs, and Chris fumbles around the bed until he gets both their hands linked, fingers wrapped into each other, and then he begins to rock, just a little bit, against Zach’s body, letting the heat build in the tight spaces where they’re pressed together.
“Well, I thought you were hot. But I also… I liked that you didn’t care. That, at this stupid industry thing, where everyone’s drinking beers and eating hors d’oeuvres on toothpicks, you were eating a fucking popsicle.”
Chris chuckles against him, his hips moving, still slowly, but with a distantly building force. “The first time I saw you, maybe it was at the same thing, I don’t know.”
“Mm?” Zach catches Chris’ earlobe in his teeth and nibbles on it, treasuring Chris’ hitch of breath, his fingers still captured in Chris’ hands.
“Yeah. You looked all dapper, all Old Hollywood, in some white button-front short-sleeved thing and your slicked back hair, and you were….” He trails off as Zach parts his knees just enough to let Chris get some leverage from the bed beneath them. “You were talking to someone who must’ve been important. You were all serious, and professional, and I thought you looked so put together, like you must’ve been around forever, and were so…. God .”
The friction between them should be too much but they’re already both damp from the humid air, and with the heat of their bodies and arousal together, and their slow but steady movement, Zach can feel his release coming from a long way off. Like a sleeper wave crawling toward shore, he thinks, slow but inevitable, coming to pull them under.
“But then,” Chris continues, pressing his mouth down Zach’s shoulder, and pulling himself up just enough to put some weight on his elbows and move his hips with more focused intent, “then you started talking to someone you liked, and they said something to you, and you just threw your head back and laughed, and you were such a dork, and I loved it. I loved it.”
“ Chris… ”, he gets out, and then Chris’ mouth is on his, and they are all in, their hips locking into a tidal flow, in and out, out and back in, as the heat between their bodies crests like a wave and breaks them both open, mouths open and eyes closed, fingers clutching hard as they gasp for breath.
They end up missing the sunset, but drag themselves out of the bedroom in time to watch the clouds part around the thin crescent moon as it sets toward the dark ocean. Chris pours them both big glasses of water, and after they drink them down, he wipes a drop of moisture from the corner of Zach’s mouth, and kisses him. His mouth is warm, but his lips chilled from the drink, and Zach pulls him close, kisses him until time has passed, and the sliver of silvered moon has slid down to the edge of the horizon, replaced in the sky by low fog and high-twinkling stars
Zach picks up the third glass of wine, and takes Chris by the hand, slipping out the back of the house and stepping down onto the sand. They make their way down to the water, fingers linked, and step into the chill of the dark surf. He waits through several waves, patient, quiet, listening to the sea, then lifts the glass to disappearing moon and pours it into the ocean, Chris’ hand warm and firm in his own.
The next day comes too fast. They sleep late, hungover with wine and sex, still working off the effects of months of time-zone hopping. By the time they get up, it’s past eleven, and Zach can feel the time wearing away from them like erosion. It makes his chest hurt, and he can’t look Chris in the eyes until after they’ve had their coffee and he pulls himself a little more together.
They go for a run on the beach, down to the point where the sand of the beach turns to tumbled stone, and then back again, their legs aching from the unaccustomed effort of the terrain. They shower together afterward, Zach falling to his knees behind Chris and eating him out till he shouts and comes all over the shower wall untouched. He jerks himself off onto Chris’ back while Chris catches his breath, the water from the shower washing the evidence away before it can stick to the golden freckled skin of Chris’ lumbar.
Zach heats up pie for… breakfast, he guesses, even though it’s past one o’clock, and they eat it off paper plates on the deck, watching sets of pelicans glide past. Chris feeds him bites of the blueberry filling, and when he wraps his hand around the back of Chris’ neck and brings their mouths together, he can taste the sugar on Chris’ tongue.
They fall into a nap together on the couch, Chris with his glasses pushed up onto his forehead like a grandpa and Zach fidgeting restlessly at the other end until Chris wraps his legs around Zach’s torso and holds him down. It’s good, and he needs it, but Zach can’t help but resent every minute that he’s with Chris, and not awake, every moment that he won’t remember when this is all over and gone.
When they wake up, Zach makes pasta bolognese in the kitchen, slicing the tomatoes carefully and adding the green olives he knows Chris loves. Chris sits at the kitchen island and talks, his voice easy and light-hearted, wrapping around Zach like a stream, unhurried and flowing, grounding him again into the present moment. They eat at the table, talking about nothing- scripts, and friends, and travel plans for the next few months. They laugh about the interviews on the press tour, decry the quality of plane food, even on fancy planes, and agree that Simon better get a big hand in writing the next movie, if they make it.
“Oh,” Zach says finally, as he’s putting away the dishes that Chris washed, “you said, in that one interview, that there are three things I don’t know about you.”
Chris laughs, throwing his head back. “Yeah, I guess I did.”
Zach grins at him. “What are they?”
Chris passes him another stack of plates, and turns back to the dish drainer. “That would be telling,” he answers, and smiles.
Zach rolls his eyes. “Well, yes.”
“It just kills you when there’s something you don’t know, doesn’t it?”
“No. I just… now I’m curious.” He has to open three cabinet doors before he finds the place for the wine glasses, but he gets them in without knocking them too much or breaking any of them, and counts it as a win.
“Uh-huh.” Chris nods indulgently. “That’s all.”
Zach bites his lip. Chris is right, it does bother him, though not because it’s something he doesn’t know. Rather, that it’s something he doesn’t know about Chris, and that makes all the difference. Their lives are separate enough as is, he wants to gorge himself when they’re together, wants to learn everything there is to know about Chris, and he’s felt this way from day one. He knows, rationally, that there are a million things he must not know about Chris, just by virtue of them being separate individuals with separate lives, but the fact that there are specific things that Chris hasn’t told him doesn’t sit right, even if he knows it’s half a joke.
“What if I try to guess them?”
Chris looks thoughtful for a moment. “You can try. If you get one right, I’ll tell you. But you only get three guesses. After that, I stop answering.”
“Ok.” Zach sets a plate on the shelf and thinks for a moment. “Ok. First one.” He thinks for a minute. “You had your first boyfriend at Berkeley.”
Chris shakes his head. “Nope. I’ve never had a boyfriend, not really. Just,” he uses his fingers to make air quotes, “close personal friends’.”
“Other than me, you mean,” Zach says without thinking, and then has to hide his face in the cupboard for a minute and rattle the tableware to cover his embarrassment. They’ve never used words like that, never used any words when it comes to them, and this, just hands and mouths and beds. Chris’ face when Zach finally emerges is a study in amusement and reserve, but he decides to play it off, and just nods.
“Obviously. Other than you.”
“Ok!” Zach’s voice is overly chipper, but he presses on. “What about… is there a movie you’ve been in that I don’t know about? Something terrible and embarrassing?”
Chris scratches his head and shrugs lazily, then grins wickedly. “I mean, probably, some student thing or two. But whatever it is, I guarantee it’s no more embarrassing than So NoTORIous.”
Zach glares at him, but it’s half-hearted. “Careful. That show launched me to the glorious stardom you see me in now,” he says, spreading his hands and gesturing to his whole person, and Chris just laughs at him.
“One more. What’s it gonna be?” Chris asks, the afternoon sun gilding his hair and making the white strands in his beard glow. His eyes squinch up when he smiles, and his cheeks are pink from the sun this morning. It hits Zach suddenly that it’s been ten years that they’ve known each other now, that he’s seen Chris smile at him in just this way, and he can’t breathe for a moment with the sensation of the world spinning around, faster and faster and never stopping.
“Zach?” Chris says, reaching out a hand to him, and Zach smiles wanly back.
“I’m saving it,” he says, and squeezes Chris’ fingers.
They give up and go to bed early, unable to settle on anything. The movies on the TV are all either boring or dumb, and Chris could read his book, but Zach doesn’t really like the one he brought. Zach kind of wants to go for a walk, try to settle back into his skin, but Chris doesn’t want to get his feet all sandy again, so Zach settles for doing some yoga on the deck, pushing through the forms until his body is tired and warm, and it’s only his mind churning and flowing.
Chris gets up around nine, closing his book and going to brush his teeth, and Zach throws his stuff haphazardly into his suitcase so he won’t have to fuck with packing in the morning. He has to get the rental car back to San Jose by ten, and they’re supposed to be out of the house by eleven anyway.
Chris comes out of the bathroom and Zach goes in, washing his face, brushing his teeth, the mechanical daily routines of bodily maintenance running on autopilot as he listens to Chris moving around the bedroom. When he comes out, Chris has turned out the light and crawled under the topsheet, blankets thrown into a pile at the end of the bed.
Zach strips to his briefs and climbs in, sliding over so that Chris can wrap his arms around him, clinging to Chris as he smoothes his hands over Zach’s shoulders and head and arms and chest, the feel of the repetitive motion of Chris’ hands on his body finally calming him enough to drift off.
He wakes in the middle of the night to the feel of Chris’ erection against his ass, and moves sleepily back and forth against it until Chris wakes, and parts Zach’s thighs enough to slide his dick between them. Zach groans, and Chris pulls him back hard against his chest, locking a leg over Zach’s knee and fucking the warm, damp space behind his balls until they both come.
Zach gives himself a cursory wipe-off with the sheet before Chris pushes him over onto his stomach and drapes himself on top of him. Chris’ heavy weight is reassuring, pressing him into the mattress with just enough room to breathe, and Zach falls asleep again with his face mashed into the pillow and Chris snoring lightly into his ear.
His alarm goes off at 8, and he gets up and showers without waking Chris. He can feel himself pulling back, sliding the mask back into place, and as much as he doesn’t want to, he knows he must. Time rushes onward, ever forward, and he doesn’t have to go home, but he can’t stay here.
He gets out, dries off, and dresses, then makes the coffee and starts some toast while Chris takes his turn in the bathroom. His things are all packed, so he slices the peaches and arranges them on a plate, eating a slice as he finishes cutting the last one. The flavor bursts onto his tongue, overly sweet and almost tangy, a faint overlay of salt from the air they’ve been sitting in.
Chris comes out smiling, his hair a damp riot on his head, and Zach smiles back, because it’s the end of their time here, and he won’t have Chris remember him any other way.
After they’ve eaten and done the dishes, there’s not much left for it but to load up the cars and lock up. Chris had parked behind him when he got in, so they hug for a long time, Chris’ hand running up and down Zach’s back, and then Chris kisses him hard and deep, and says “text me when you land”, and Zach nods, but doesn’t speak.
Chris climbs into his car, and Zach locks the door behind them with a final click. He’s heading for his car when he hears Chris call his name, so he heads over to where Chris has rolled down his window.
“Yeah?” he asks, and leans in.
“Your last question. You never used it.” Chris’ face is oddly tense, one hand on the steering wheel, the other arm hanging out the car window as he looks up at Zach.
“Oh,” Zach says, strangely disappointed that this is why Chris called him over. “I don’t know. I give up. What’s a thing I don’t know about you?”
Chris fists his hand in the front of Zach’s shirt and hauls him down, his gaze boring into Zach’s own as Zach braces his hands on the frame of the car so he doesn’t fall.
“You have no fucking idea.” Chris takes a ragged breath, and Zach doesn’t know what to think, because Chris is so rarely like this, and sure, he cries at movies and kittens and little kids on youtube, but he’s never rattled like this. “You have no fucking idea, Zachary Quinto, how fucking much I love you.”
Zach blinks, and Chris kisses him, hard, then shoves him back and guns the engine, peeling out of the driveway and toward the gate.
He realizes a second too late that he wants to chase the car, but Chris is already halfway down the street and Zach is standing there like an idiot, brain tripping over itself as his heart seizes in his chest. They’ve never, they’ve never, done this. What was Chris… why would he… Zach comes to his senses in the driveway, and pulls out his phone.
I fucking love you too, Chris Pine , he types, and then gets in his car, and drives away.