It’s All Coming Back To Me Now
Title: It’s All Coming Back To Me Now
Pairing: Zach/Chirs (Pinto)
Warnings: Serious angst. Like whoa. I’d apologize, but I needed to write this so much lately that I can’t. Just… you’ve been warned.
Disclaimer: Filthy, dirty, horrible lies. I hope this never happens to anybody, let alone my booooyyyyyyyyssssss.
A/N: Thanks again to the incredible fenravenz for the beta. *best friend pinky handshake*
“What more do you want from me, Chris?” Zach’s voice is dead, flat and detached. It stings.
I want you to want. To say the words ‘I love you, I won’t leave you.’ Chris’s lips form a tight line, betraying him one last time. He can’t say it, wants to, the bubble of need filling his chest but the explosion he craves – to say that which will lay him out for Zach to see – instead caroms in his veins and pierces his heart. Pain mushrooms when the light in Zach’s eyes dies. An emotional detonation that leaves him cold and apocalyptic as Zach’s footsteps fade down the hall and the front door opens, then closes.
You could have at least slammed the door. Endings should be more than the quiet snick of a door latch.
Even though Chris went back on what he promised me.
He sits in his car, the air conditioner blowing in his face, cooling the hot anger spilling down his cheeks. A hitch of a breath to shore himself up, and he drives to Chris’s place, boxes in his backseat ready to be filled, neatly packing up the shards of the life he never thought he’d see end. The dotted line with his signature on it feels like a divorce, the final necessary gavel. And why not? He’d committed that far in his heart even if they never had a ceremony. Might as well sign divorce papers.
What he doesn’t expect is the empty space where Noah’s pillow was in the corner of the living room, or how his head gets cold at night from his lack of a Harold hat. He has to stop listening to music to fall asleep to, because he ends up leaking tears into his pillow at the memory of the songs that were the soundtrack to his road map of Zach’s bare skin, their love life. It’s not really his pillow, though. It’s Zach’s, and he switched them so he could keep Zach’s smell in his dreams. But his tears, they’ll wash that away. He’ll never feel the same way about Enya again. As good as it is to sleep to, he just can’t.
Daylight chases away the worst of it. He manages to work. He smiles when he’s supposed to. He chuckles. Full out laughs are out of his reach, but he’s getting there. He can feel it. Then he wonders if Zach is laughing yet, and his gut clenches. The first few times he thought of how Zach might be feeling, he had to duck into a bathroom and puke. So he wills himself to forget. The way Zach’s voice rang out when he laughed, and wheezed to silence when he laughed hard. The crinkle in the corners of his eyes when he smiled. The breathless noise he made during a climax. Chris categorizes the bigger things as self-preservation forgetting, and it feels like a betrayal to the best thing that ever happened to him. Though it pains him, he lets them go, like lit Chinese lanterns floating out to sea, prayers that maybe in some dimension, these things he’s letting go of will be found and cherished by another-Chris of another-Zach, saved somewhere since this-Chris can no longer keep them.
“I’m sorry, but you cannot tell me that question you asked about Joe McNally wasn’t ignorant bullshit specifically pointed at Tyler. Yes, he’s full of himself, but who isn’t when they’re proud of their talent? I seem to recall a certain swaggering starship captain who was insufferable for weeks. You don’t have to be an ass to my friends.” Zach kicks his shoes off and picks them up, padding in stocking feet to the bedroom to put them away in the closet. Chris toes his off and leaves them in the living room, right where he knows Zach walks to sit on the couch.
Zach comes back to find him snapping the cap off another beer and drinking in the open door of the fridge. “You’re wasting energy.”
“So? I pay the power bill.”
“So just because you can pay for it means you should waste it?” Zach shakes his head and walks out of the room.
“Can I do anything right?” Chris yells at his back.
“You can start by shutting the fridge door and keeping your mouth shut about Tyler if you don’t have anything nice to say.” Zach’s voice is faint, and Chris hears the click of the bathroom door where Zach disappears for his nightly face ritual.
Chris talks to the closed door, head bowed, trying to keep his voice from rising. “The Joe McNally question was a legitimate effort to understand where Tyler was coming from, and I can’t help it if his theory on off-camera lighting placement differs from something I read about another photographer doing. I was trying to understand the difference between the two methods, not make it look like Tyler was blowing shit out his ass. Which he clearly was. I didn’t make him look like an idiot. He did that all by himself.”
Zach flings the door open, his hair held back by a folded over bandana, face shiny from the soap he’d just used. Chris steps back. He hates the way that shit smells. “So he was trying something new and hadn’t figured out how to make it work yet. Doesn’t mean it won’t, and you didn’t have to laugh in his face.” Zach’s eyes are brooding, the hooded look of a jack-o-lantern daring people to approach the door and see if there’s truth in the rumors of haunting over the threshold. “Are you suddenly an expert on photography now? It’s bad enough if someone brings up 19th century literature when you’re in the room. Face it, Chris. Unless it’s a book or handed to you in a script, you don’t know everything there is to know, and trying to say otherwise is just arrogant and makes you look like a jerk.”
Chris whirls on his heel and walks away, willing his fists to loosen. His chest burns, his heart beating hard like the wings of an angry raven tapping ever so insistently at his chamber door.
“What about all the dickhead things Tyler’s said to me about that Details shoot?” Chris mutters, getting a blanket from the closet and spreading it out on the couch. He knows he was a jerk. He just wants some acknowledgment that he wasn’t the only jerk.
It feels good. It always feels good, but Zach misses those days when it burned him like a rocket entering the atmosphere, consuming and defiant. He moves down Chris’s back with reverence, sampling the smoothness of his skin with lips parted. Chris squirms.
“Come on, Zach. Do it.” Chris’s voice is breathy, wanting, but Zach can hear it, the impatience, and he wonders if it’s because Chris has an early call in the morning, or if he’s just ready to feel Zach inside him. With a sigh, Zach does as he’s asked, coming a scant five minutes later. Five minutes after that, Chris is asleep, turned on his side facing away.
Zach wonders if this feeling in his chest, this tragic and resigned thing swimming around, is loneliness.
“I’m too impulsive. Too quick to anger. Not accepting enough of your friends. Anything else, Zachary? Oh, wait, I rely too much on my parents for advice. Never mind that they’ve navigated this career before me, have plenty of experience to keep me from falling on my face, and I’m so sorry to have thought that maybe, for a moment, you might’ve benefitted from some of their insight, too. By all means, forge your own way and fall flat in the mud. So yeah, I haven’t cut the umbilical cord. Yet another fatal flaw.”
“All I’m saying, Christopher,” spit like a curse, “is that perhaps the growing up would be more convincing if you managed to do some of it on your own.”
Heat floods Chris’s face, his eyes narrowing and deadly calm. Zach flinches involuntarily. Chris knows he needs to control himself; he’s getting ‘that look’ on his face again. But his mouth has gone and detached itself, marching into Zach’s personal space and pulling the pin on a verbal hand grenade.
“Just because I didn’t have to grow up without a father doesn’t mean I haven’t grown up, Zach.” Detonation. He regrets it as soon as Zach’s face freezes, stunned. He deserves the quiet ‘fuck you’, whispered with precision straight into his soul. He deserves the slammed door, the screeching tires. He deserves to be left for that one.
He doesn’t see Zach for three days. He expects to never see him again.
Zach always just knew he could do things. And he just did them. From yoga to Before the Door, he studied the process and went for it. He never bored me with how he got there, no matter how hard it was.
This guy is no Zach.
Chris smiles, asks the right questions, knows he’s got the runner stud hooked. They go back to his date’s house, and Chris asks if he’s got wine when he’s offered a drink. Runner Stud calls out from the kitchen, “I hope you don’t mind it out of a box. It’s all I have. Didn’t have time to go to the market.”
Chris smirks, but calls out that it’s fine. He’s too busy looking at the bookshelves. Stephen King. Dean Koontz. Steve Martini. Does this guy read anything deeper than made-for-tv miniseries in print? Oh, here we go. Classics. Catcher in the Rye. Gulliver’s Travels. Grapes of Wrath. Shit, Chris read all that in high school.
So he’s no Lit major. I’m here to fuck him, not marry him.
Runner Stud comes back in the room, dimming the lights and handing Chris his glass. It’s swill, sickly sweet and cloying. Thankfully, Chris has enough of a beer buzz that he can just down it without gagging and refuse the refill. He’s on Runner Stud in a second, hands on his hips, tongue in his mouth. This guy has no technique. Slobbery, all tongue, no lips, no sensuousness at all. It’s like kissing an overeager puppy. Still, that ass, it begs to be played with. Except Runner Stud keeps pulling Chris’s hands back to his waist. After the third time, he stops drooling on Chris’s neck long enough to say he’s not into anyone touching his ass. He’s a top all the way. It’s said proudly, but Chris hears snooty, as if no one should deign to touch such perfection.
“Look, you’re a nice enough guy, but I’m just coming out of a bad breakup, and I don’t think I can do this. It was fun, and good luck with your next race.” Chris is glad it’s warm outside, and that his keys are still in his pocket, that he’s still dressed. No stopping on his way out the door to gather a jacket or shoes that he never took off. Seems Runner Stud isn’t the only one who knows how to run.
That guy is definitely no Zach.
The fingers closing over his on an apple are startling, familiar, and alien all at the same time. He jerks his hand back, looking into blue eyes he knew he’d have to see again, mere inches from his own, and his heart stutters like a car backfiring. He wonders if Chris hears the bang.
“Sorry, I’ll just take this one.” Zach reaches for a different apple and turns to the coffee pot. A cup from Intelligentsia is shoved in his line of sight.
“Peace offering,” Chris’s voice cuts through Zach’s will to be nonchalant, a bloom of warmth opening in his chest like the first tentative peek of a tulip from the drifts of snow still melting in a lukewarm sun.
“Coffee doesn’t erase things, Chris.” Zach hates the admonishment in his voice. He wants to have just taken the cup, said thank you. But it seems he can’t help himself where Chris is concerned.
“It erases some things. Nights up too late. Bad moods. Sometimes lingering bad dreams,” Chris’s voice trails off. “It erases my need to break the ice. It’s broken. Now I can think again.” And with that, Chris turns and walks away, crunching into his apple.
Zach feels it again, those tentative petals in his chest rising into clean air, breathing in the promise of sunshine. Stupid, Zach tells himself. One nice gesture does not a reformed Chris make.
But Zach knows now, after months, that Chris wasn’t the only one in need of some renovation.
Mostly, he wishes he could keep his head on straight when he’s around Chris.
But the touches have begun anew, the slight hand brushings, shoulder bumps, or knee presses beneath tables. He initiates them as much as Chris does. It’s as if, tentatively, they’re acknowledging what they had, like they may both be okay with remembering, admitting that yeah, they were good together. Once.
Zach always knew he could get through any pain on Earth if he had Chris around to help him through. It’s ironic, though, that Chris is the pain that he’s helping Zach recover from. It’s a weird circle, completely abnormal, and totally fitting with how he and Chris always were. They defied convention. Hell, they wrote their own convention. Zach knows it just as he knows Chris’s hand is on his thigh under the table.
As the rest of the group breaks up, Zoe heading home to her fiancé, John to his wife, and the lighting crew to another club with cheaper drinks and more bass, the others with their various and sundry reasons, Zach decides he should head out, too.
Chris stands with him, suggests they share a cab. Zach hesitates, and Chris backs off. “Okay, if you don’t think it’s a good idea.”
This isn’t like Chris. He’s not pushing, prodding his finger into a fresh bruise just to see how much he can get away with before the yelp. Zach cocks his head to the side, and realizes it really is stupid for them not to share a cab. They live within blocks of each other. Zach had moved back into his old place after his divorce/lease ended, giving his sublessee time to find another place. He’d needed something familiar, something his from B.C., before Chris. He feels like he’s getting back bigger and bigger pieces of himself, and if that progress can’t see him through one cab ride with Chris, then he’s been deluding himself about how far he’s come. In answer to Chris’s waiting expression, he raises fingers to his mouth and lets out a whistle at a passing cadre of cabs.
One stops, and he holds the door open for his friend, his former lover, keeper of his heart. Chris still has it, Zach knows.
“I still have what?” Chris asks, head resting back on the seat, eyes closed as the car pulls away from the curb. Zach realizes he spoke aloud, and flushes. He just shakes his head. He cannot answer that question, and he wonders when he drank so much that a Cheshire cat appears beside him, grinning and urging him down the same rabbit hole. But Chris didn’t see the head shake, so he asks again.
Zach swallows. And he answers. Because it’s the truth, and he never could lie to Chris.
I love how you never do anything halfway, Zach once told him. It makes him smile.
“What’s so funny?” Zach asks, taking the last bite of his dessert.
“Not funny, just nice.” Chris stretches his legs out beneath the table, leaning back in his chair. If he accidentally brushes his calf against Zach’s leg, he doesn’t worry about it, doesn’t pull away, doesn’t apologize. You still have my heart, too, Zach.
Zach just looks at him, waiting for him to explain, but he doesn’t, lost in thought until a shiver works him over violently. “We should go. Getting chilly.”
Zach agrees, and they pay, walking back toward their houses, and Chris wonders if he should ask Zach to come over. He doesn’t want to go home alone, but he doesn’t want to ruin this tenuous thread between them, silvery and delicate, like a dew studded spider web glistening in the morning sun. Zach beats him to the punch.
“So, someone’s really missed you, and I think it’s high time you rectify that situation.” Zach’s hands are shoved in his pockets, and the chill of the air is deeper.
Chris bites his tongue against a dick joke, simply looking at Zach with a confused look on his face.
“My dog hasn’t been the same since the spring. I think you need to spend some quality time with him so I don’t have to find therapy for him. Even I’m not that far off my rocker.”
Chris laughs and they walk in silence for another block. Zach shivers and Chris has the urge to lean up against him, or put his arm around his waist. He never even did that when they were living together; too risky if there were paps. Feeling reckless, Chris walks closer, and then he’s leaning in, and Zach’s leaning back. A few steps and it feels like reconciliation, an erasing of the slate where there are ghosts left of the marks they inflicted against each other, but they’re so faded you have to squint to see them.
“Noah’s not the only one missing people,” Chris says, voice low.
“I know,” Zach answers, taking a hand from his pocket to brush pinkies with Chris. They walk on, toward something old, something new, and hopefully something cleaner. Noah is so happy to see Chris that he nearly wags the tail off his butt.
Those lips had brushed his cheek that night they’d shared the cab, Chris leaning close to whisper a good night as the car had dropped Zach off first, the gentle acknowledgement that Chris understood what it had cost Zach to be honest with him about still being in love with him.
“Chris,” Zach murmurs, lips grazing his cheek. “What if we … do it again?” His deepest fear, and the reason he trembles against Chris’s chest.
“We won’t. We grew up, some. Without any help, even.” Chris grins, then tilts his face and Zach is falling, tumbling once again into the rabbit hole and when he lands, he sees himself full and whole once again. There you are.
This time, they move with great care, and it’s good, so good, that Zach doesn’t notice a tear slipping from the corner of his eye until Chris licks it away. They cling to each other, inhabiting this old/new embodiment of themselves, and it feels like coming home. Zach belongs here, his face in Chris’s neck, Chris’s dick buried inside him. It bears all the sweaty trademarks of heated sex, but there’s more, a connection Zach can’t find with anyone else, doesn’t even want to acknowledge could exist with a stranger. This is where he wants to be, tongue curling into Chris’s mouth, privy to the involuntary sounds Chris emits when he’s close, eyes burning into Zach’s as he comes, slack jawed and keening while Zach’s own pleasure jets between them in thick stripes, gluing them together, where they’ve always belonged.
“Ow!” an elbow into his side. He rolls over, realizing his bed isn’t empty, that Zach’s back, and sleepily pulling him close. “What the fuck, Zach?” he means to say, but it comes out, “Wuhfuh?” The clock glares an angry red 3:14 am.
“You were talking in your sleep, man.” Zach scoots into his side, pulling him over so that his head rests on Zach’s shoulder. “Loud. Gleefully. And loud. Did I mention loud?”
Chris rubs his eyes, already drifting a little again, his hand resting on the flat of Zach’s belly. “What’d I say?”
“Something about all your lanterns coming back. You were dreaming. Go back to sleep. Quietly, this time.” Zach squeezes him once as Chris smiles into his chest.
“Not a dream,” he mumbles, but when Zach makes a questioning noise, he’s floating again in a sea of returning memories.