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91. in 4.

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The 91st time isn’t supposed to happen.

Ninety is a nice, round number. Not as nice and round as one hundred, sure, but Zach gave up on that pipe dream back in Beijing, on the night Chris took one look at him when they got back to the hotel and said, “No. Oh no. Don’t even think about it, Quinto. I need to sleep.”

They had been stuck at 85 then, and no way were they going to fit 15 more into 3 days. Even Zach was starting to get tired, and the whole thing was his idea, his fault. So he’d been satisfied when they eked out an even 90, content in the knowledge that there would be another press tour in their future and they could always go for 100 then.

But then Chris offers to drop by his hotel. Zach has a week in LA before he goes back to New York, and though the press tour is over, he still wants as much extra time with Chris as he can get. They likely won’t see each other for months after all this is over, so it only make sense—or at least that’s what he tells himself, ignoring the small voice inside that reminds him of his life back home, the one he should be a little more eager to get back to. His time with Chris is sacred. He refuses to feel guilty.

He refuses to feel guilty even when he pulls open the door and sees Chris standing there and knows—they may not be stopping at 90 after all.

“Hey,” Chris says, his eyes lighting up and crinkling at the corners like it’s been weeks since they saw each other instead of mere hours. He probably barely had time to get home and unpack and wash the plane off. His skin is still a little flushed, and the hair that peeks out from under his ball cap is damp. It takes a beat for Zach to remember to step out of the way and let Chris in.

“You didn’t need a nap?” Zach says.

“I slept plenty on the plane.” Chris tucks his hands in his front pockets and walks a few steps into the the suite, turning a semicircle so he can take it all in. “Nice digs,” he says, “but you know you could have stayed with me.”

Zach flexes his hands, chews on his bottom lip, and then gives up completely. It takes three steps to back Chris into the wall and get his hands on his waist, up under his t-shirt, thumbs skating against warm, bare skin.

“I thought—” Chris starts, but he’s grinning so wide it looks like it hurts. Zach has to kiss him then, even though he gets mostly teeth on the first attempt.

This still counts, he tells himself as he swings Chris off the wall by his belt loops and starts backing him toward the couch. This definitely still counts.

“Bed?” Chris murmurs against Zach’s lips. He’s got his hands on Zach’s face now, pulling Zach into him harder and harder until their teeth scrape together and they both wince.

“Bed’s too far.” Zach swats at the brim of Chris’s cap so it falls off and lands under their feet, then gives Chris a shove to send him sprawling on the couch cushions.

Chris makes a face, but he’s already stripping his t-shirt off over his head. “Would it kill you to fuck me in a bed?”

“I’ve fucked you on a bed exactly 24 times, Christopher,” Zach says. He plants a knee next to Chris’s hip and runs a hand down his chest, splays his fingers wide across his stomach.

Chris’s eyes widen, and he lets out a breathy laugh. “You’ve been counting?”

“I thought you knew.”

“Nope.” Chris’s head thunks back against the arm of the couch when Zach lets his hand slip lower to palm him through his jeans. “I knew you were trying to ‘make the most of our time,’” he says, bringing one hand up to make lazy air quotes, “but I didn’t realize you were actually keeping score.”

It’s not keeping score, Zach wants to protest, but he’s not sure he can articulate what it’s really about. Something about knowing the numbers makes it all more real. He knows more than just the 90 total. He knows that number 4 was in a nightclub bathroom and number 36 was in the back of a town car idling outside their hotel. He knows numbers 64 through 69 were all in the same night, and that by the end of it Chris was nearly incoherent, begging for Zach to stop and to keep going in the same breath. He knows that they slept together the most in Sydney and the least in San Diego—for obvious reasons—and that they both would agree the best time was in Seoul, number 72, when neither of them could stop smiling.

These memories are all lined up in his mind, each one in its place, so when he goes back to New York he’ll know right where to find them when he needs them. It won’t be anything like having Chris near—like he is now, spread out beneath his hands—but it’s better than nothing.

“Our time is technically up,” Zach sighs in lieu of explanation, dropping down onto one elbow to mouth at Chris’s jaw.

Chris grunts and tilts his head back, pushing his hips up against Zach’s hand. “Doesn’t seem to be stopping you.” He pauses to groan his approval when Zach goes to work on his fly. “What number are we up to then?”

Zach doesn’t answer him. Instead, he sits up to yank Chris’s jeans and underwear down, pausing to let Chris kick his shoes off before throwing his clothes over the end of the couch. He’s about to dive back down for a kiss, but he pulls up short, letting his eyes skim down Chris’s body—his kiss-plumped lips, his flushed chest, his hands gripping the couch cushions, his dick leaking on his stomach. And his eyes, which are fixed on Zach with equal parts trust and amusement. Another moment and he’ll probably plead for Zach to go ahead and touch him already, but the days of Chris blushing and trying to hide from his gaze are far behind them. Now Zach can look his fill, and he does, up until Chris squirms and wraps a hand around himself.

“Take a picture,” he says. “It’ll last longer.”

“Don’t say that unless you mean it.” Zach lets himself consider it for a moment. He could take his phone out of his back pocket and capture something more concrete than a memory. But they have a rule about incriminating pictures, and Chris would probably have a panic attack. In fact, he’s blushing harder already, his eyes fluttering shut and his lips pursing with irritation.

“Stop fucking around, and—”

Zach kisses him before he can finish, cradling his jaw in one hand and pushing his tongue into his mouth. He reaches down to bat Chris’s hand out of the way and take hold of him himself, but he has to let go a moment later when Chris peels his shirt up over his head.

“This doesn’t exactly work if you’re not undressed too,” Chris pants, skimming his hands down Zach’s newly bared chest and then jerking at his fly.

“I think I’ve proved to you that I know how this works.” Zach’s fingers tangle with Chris’s, so they’re getting in each other’s way more than they are working to rid Zach of the rest of his clothes. Chris laughs breathlessly and gets a grip on Zach’s wrists, brings Zach’s hands up to his mouth so he can kiss him on both palms.

“You sure about that?” he says, his expression pure impishness as he looks up at Zach through his lashes.

“Oh, fuck you, Pine,” Zach laughs. He snatches his hands back and goes to work pulling off the rest of his own clothes.

Chris looks entirely too self-satisfied. “That’s what I’m saying. Fuck me.

It’s all a mess, if Zach’s being honest. He loses himself in kissing Chris for just a little too long, then ends up flustered when he realizes the lube and condoms are in the other room and maybe the couch wasn’t the best idea after all. Chris tells him to just use his hands, but no, if this is the last time, the time that shouldn’t happen, Zach wants to be inside Chris one more time. So he jumps up and goes to the other room, almost tripping over Chris’s shoes in the process so Chris’s laughter follows after him.

“Do you want this or not?” Zach asks when he comes back into the room, whinging the condom at Chris’s head. But Chris reaches a hand up and catches it, still chuckling.

“Get over here,” he says. Zach doesn’t need to be asked twice.

Somehow they end up on the floor, Chris straddling Zach’s waist and fingering himself open. Zach’s torn between watching him and getting some fingers in him, but eventually the desire for the latter wins out and he tugs Chris’s hand away to replace it with his own. He keeps his eyes fixed on Chris’s face, watching the way his mouth falls open and his head rolls back and his tongue peeks out to wet his lips. Chris grinds down against his knuckles and begs him for more fingers, more and more until Zach is sliding his pinkie in and groaning at the tight, hot clench of him.

“Fuck,” Chris whines. “Yeah, Zach, come on.”

Zach is shaking when he rolls Chris underneath him, but if Chris notices how it takes him three tries to rip open the condom, he doesn’t say anything. His fingers rake through Zach’s hair and massage the back of his neck, and when Zach is lining himself up, Chris murmurs, “Look at me,” almost shyly, and Zach does. He holds Chris’s gaze as he pushes into him, taking his time, watching Chris curse and pant his way through it.

“You’ll miss this, huh?” Zach says, hoping it’s not wishful thinking.

“Zach, don’t.” Chris looks genuinely anguished for a moment, so much so that Zach wishes he hadn’t said anything. But then it passes, and Chris hooks his arm around Zach’s neck and yanks him down for a kiss, arching his body to get as much skin on skin as possible. “You know I will,” he mutters between kisses. “Know I always do.”

Zach mouths a path toward Chris’s ear, where he whispers, “Me too.”

It’s nothing particularly special in the grand scheme of things. It isn’t dangerous like the time Zach gave Chris a quick handjob in a bathroom in the lobby of the hotel they were doing interviews in (number 17), and it isn’t athletic like the time Zach fucked him up against the wall in his room (number 42). But something about it feels significant in a way that numbers 1 through 90 haven’t been. Maybe because it’s suddenly painfully obvious that what they have can’t be confined to a certain time or space. Maybe because Zach’s tired of feeling like it has to be confined to a certain time and space. And though he can’t change that right now, this—91—feels like a small act of rebellion against every force that works to keep them apart.

“Love you,” Zach says into the crook of Chris’s neck. He doesn’t say it often, and when he does, it’s in moments like this when neither of them can lay too much significance on it. In the middle of sex, or murmured into the skin of Chris’s shoulder when they’re both half asleep, or spoken into his ear when they’re hugging goodbye at the airport. But Chris shudders against him and cants his hips up to pull Zach deeper, and Zach knows he heard and understands.

“Zach,” Chris groans. “Please.”

Zach licks sweat from his collarbone. “Please what?”

“Harder.” Chris plants his heel in the small of Zach’s back to urge him on. “Make me come.”

If he had a little more patience, Zach would try to draw it out, make it last. But he thinks he lost all control somewhere around the time he let Chris into the room, and now he has no choice but to grip Chris by the waist, fingers slip-sliding against his sweaty skin, and fuck him like it’s the last time. Because it very well might be—the last time for a while at least.

It’s worth it for the view, the way Chris looks up at him with awe while his spine bows and chest heaves and he digs his fingers into Zach’s shoulders. He doesn’t try to touch himself, instead pulling Zach in so his cock is trapped between them, the head skidding a wet path across Zach’s abs. Chris arches his neck up and kisses Zach hard just as he starts to come, so his groan gets swallowed up by Zach’s mouth, swept away by his tongue. He’s so beautiful, Zach thinks. With his face a mask of bliss, his mouth bright red, the roots of his hair dark and glistening with sweat. He’s so fucking beautiful, it’s almost unfair Zach even gets to look at him. He doesn’t feel worthy.

Still shuddery and out of breath, Chris pulls Zach in close, tips his head up to bite gently at Zach’s earlobe and murmur encouragement at him—come on, Zach, feels so good, come for me. Zach can hardly refuse a request like that. He drops his forehead to Chris’s shoulder and muffles a cry against his skin, and Chris’s arms come around him shoulders to hold him tight, keep him close, as if he’d even think of going anywhere now.

———

They slip into the shower together later, once their legs are working again. Zach keeps a hand on Chris the whole way there and crowds up behind him once they step under the spray. Chris laughs and leans into him.

“You never told me what number we’re at,” he says, then turns in the circle of Zach’s arms so they can look at each other..

Zach tries not to look too smug, but he doubts he succeeds. “Ninety-one.”

“Jesus Christ.” Chris’s eyebrows fly up, and he shakes his head. He runs his fingers up through the patch of hair on Zach’s chest, tugging at it lightly. “Well. I guess we could make it to a hundred before the week is out.”

He tips his head back to get his hair wet, and Zach just watches him for a while, tracking the rivulets of water as they run down his chest and over his hipbones. He has half a mind to trace some of their paths with his tongue, even though he’s tired and Chris must be tired too. They aren’t in their 20s anymore, but God, Zach wants Chris just as much now as he did back then. All the time. Any way he can have him.

It’s good, at least, to know that Chris agrees they didn’t leave this thing behind in China, to be picked up in a few years when the next movie comes out. They’re breaking rules here—breaking a lot of rules—but as long as they’re on the same page, Zach doesn’t much care.

In fact: “I think we should stop counting actually.”

Chris opens his eyes and swipes water off his face with one hand, his brow furrowing in confusion. “What? Why?”

“I was only keeping track because I thought it was about to be over,” Zach says. He reaches out and follows a stream of water over Chris’s nipple, down his stomach, making him shiver. “But now…”

Chris takes a deep breath in, then lets it out slowly. His eyes dart away, but when they find Zach’s again, Zach is surprised he doesn’t look scared or confused or resigned. In fact, he looks a little smug himself.

“It’s never going to be over, Zach,” he says. “I could have told you that.”

Happiness wells up in Zach’s chest, bubbling out of his mouth in a laugh, and he leans in to kiss water from Chris’s lips. He’s going to have to amend his list, he thinks. It’s not 72 that was the best, it’s 91—the last one before he stopped needing to keep track.

“Next time will be in a bed,” he says, then dips his head to kiss Chris’s shoulder in silent apology—both for how sore he’s going to be tomorrow and for how stupid Zach’s been about all of this, even if much of it was inside his own head.

Chris makes a small sound of disagreement and rakes his fingers down Zach’s back, clutches his waist and rolls their hips together. “No. Next time,” he says, “is going to be in a shower.”