Zach didn’t know why he was so nervous. This was all going to work out.
God. It wasn’t. What the hell was he even thinking?
And yet here he was. Sitting in a car two blocks away from Chris’ house. What did he expect? Chris to be peering out the window of his house looking for him? Chris’ house was secluded and he wouldn’t even notice Zach parked there anyway.
Besides, Chris wasn’t there at the moment and wouldn’t be home until later. After nine.
God, he hoped he wasn’t home or otherwise this was going to fuck up his plans badly.
Zach had contacted Chris’ parents to know for sure their son was going to be home in LA, as he hadn’t wanted to take any chances, after all, there’d been plenty of times he’d thought to go see Chris and then remembered he was…somewhere.
Backpacking in Spain, Christopher?
Okay, yeah, he could have just asked Chris. ‘Hey, you going to be home on such and such day?’ Easy Peasy. Who says that anyway? But then there’d be no surprise, would there? If Chris knew he was coming it just wouldn’t work out the way he wanted it to work out.
And anyway, Chris thought Zach was in New York still.
Zach had just returned from New York. And wasn’t that a weird thought? He’d left LA, thought he wouldn’t be coming back. He loved it. He did. But there was so much there he hadn’t thought he’d ever have, ever could have. Moved to New York to start a new life. He loved New York. Zach had been born and raised on the East Coast, after all. Met a man who he’d thought he might spend the rest of his life with. Even bought an apartment in Manhattan. With that guy.
If he had never quite gotten Chris out of his system, out of his heart, well, that was acceptable. He could see Chris sometimes, touch him sometimes, see that smile that made his stomach flutter, hear that silly little giggle of his. And it was enough.
Then he and Miles started talking about leaving New York. Miles wanted to get more into acting than modeling. And he didn’t think Broadway, stage work, was for him. They’d made the decision to sell their place in New York and move back to LA.
Zach didn’t know if it was the right decision. At the time they’d talked about it, Chris was seeing that British actress, Annabelle. Zach didn’t know much about her or them, but the pictures he’d seen online seemed like they were getting close. But it had seemed that way when he’d been with the Ice Princess, until he wasn’t with her anymore.
And he’d realized, then, that what Chris was doing with her or anyone was not his business. He was with Miles, he firmly reminded himself.
Miles had hinted around that with this big move they should make another big move. And Zach had tried not to panic. Marriage was good. Great. For other people.
But him and Miles—
Then it had taken so long to sell their place. Zach changed his mind about making the move a dozen times.
Finally they got an offer. Maybe a little low, but they took it, because Miles really wanted to go. Then just as they were packing up, his boyfriend came to him to say he had something to talk about.
Zach dreaded that it was about marrying again. And then he thought maybe Miles wanted to tell him he’d cheated, because the thing was, Zach had found the condom, so he knew.
Miles telling him he was going to move to Paris instead, because he’d gotten a better offer, a much better offer for a modeling contract than he’d get for starting out acting in LA, was not what Zach had expected. At all.
And Zach heard himself saying, “Paris? I don’t want to move to Paris.”
Miles had gotten this strange look on his face and then he’d said, “I’m not asking you to.”
That was the end of them. After years together. Miles gave him excuses. Stuff about him sensing Zach’s reluctance to marry him, that there was always someone else, and many other things that Zach barely listened to, he’d made them himself before. In the end, it hadn’t mattered. He found he didn’t care. He was surprisingly okay with it all.
His New York friends wanted him to stay. He almost did. No one in LA seemed to care whether he came or not. He hadn’t even bought a place. He was going to have to rent.
Then he’d got the text from Chris late one night just as he was about to decide to stay in New York after all.
I know this is crazy, but I miss you.
Nine words. All it took was nine words.
He got on the plane to LA.
That was then, of course. And when he’d first made it to LA he had no idea the giant turn his life would take.
When Chris had said he missed him, he’d really meant it.
Zach had barely made it through the door of Chris’ house before Chris had been kissing him. The desperation there was something Zach would never forget.
They’d fallen into bed together, like it was the old days, the old times of LA. And they hadn’t gotten back out for three days.
Chris had been delighted he was no longer with Miles and trying to hide that, but not terribly successful at it. And Chris, for his part, had ended things with Annabelle. Zach didn’t ask any questions because he really hadn’t wanted to know.
They’d been seeing each other ever since.
Chris had talked about maybe Zach living with him when he first got there, but Zach thought something like that was too big for both of them, at that point anyway, and so he’d rented a house pretty close to his old neighborhood. And Chris hadn’t mentioned them living together again.
It ended up being kind of better that way because Chris was gone so often, his acting career getting more and more important, his A List status more than assured. Still more often than not it was him who took care of Chris’ dog. When Zach was around.
He found himself returning to New York more often than he’d thought he would at first. Offers for plays still kept coming in and Zach liked doing them. There were plays in LA, sure, but it wasn’t the same, and the offers didn’t come as often.
So he’d find himself in hotels rooms doing the plays.
The third one he’d done was only for four weeks but when he’d come back, Chris was waiting for him, not at his own home, but at Zach’s rental. He’d let himself in, they both had keys to each other’s houses, and he’d been waiting for Zach, sitting on the couch that had come with the house, holding a glass of amber colored whiskey.
“Hey,” Zach had greeted him, setting his suitcase down in the front hall. He hadn’t expected him to be there, he hadn’t said. The car service had only moments before let Zach out in front of the rental and he hadn’t even noticed one of Chris’ vintage cars out front, like he normally might have. But he was fucking tired.
And okay, maybe just a tad grumpy, because he was feeling vaguely annoyed that Chris was there without…well not permission, of course not, but…without telling him.
But Chris was scrutinizing him over the glass of whiskey and the reprimanding words stuck in his throat. Something was up and Zach had tried not to feel dread. But damn, the old fears were rearing up.
Zach walked over to the couch and sat down on the arm of it.
“Are you sorry?”
Momentarily nonplussed, Zach said nothing. He waited for Chris to elaborate.
“Because it seems you are.”
The irritation flared. “Want to clue me in, Christopher?”
“About moving back here,” he blurted out, his face reddening. “Because it seems like, I don’t know, you’re always going back to New York. Always doing plays. And Miles—”
“He’s not there, Chris. He’s in Paris now.”
Chris took a drink. “He was there in New York this past weekend.”
“I didn’t know that. I didn’t see him.” And Zach laughed, because really, it was so damn absurd. He’d never cheat on Chris with Miles in a million years. Other way around, buddy. “I’m done with Miles, Chris. There’s only you.”
“Why do you keep going back then?”
“Work. I like it. And, fuck, you’re one to talk. You take so many jobs my head spins. And if it’s not a job, it’s going off on a guys’ trip fishing and camping.”
“You could come with us.”
Chris smiled a little then, put down his glass, got up from the couch and went over to where Zach had perched himself. Zach put his hands on Chris’ waist and tugged him near.
“It’s just…I like you.” He laughed and got redder.
“I like you too, babe. And if you give me a chance to take a shower, I’ll show you how much. But, can you make me some coffee?”
And hadn’t that been a great night. His irritation and Chris’ unexpected intrusion had faded away fast.
Why was he going down memory lane anyway? Because he was stalling getting out of the car and doing this.
Maybe there was still time to back out. Chris didn’t even know he was home. He still thought Zach was in New York finishing up a play. He’d lied about when the play closed just so he could put this plan into motion. And now…he was having second and third and fourth thoughts.
The wine he’d chosen. The music. The fucking suit Chris liked so much. Sure, Chris fingering the lapel of his suit and looking at him in that way he had of looking at Zach like he just wanted Zach to eat him up, during an interview for God’s sake, was burned into Zach’s brain. But would Chris even remember it? So much had happened since then.
The food. God. He’d gone for elegant, but maybe Chris would have preferred a damn pizza. What if he’d eaten with his friends? With the other actors? What if he stopped for fast food on the way?
He loved Chris. There was no question about that. He’d loved Chris before Chris loved him. Zach was sure about that. Way back in their LA days before either of them were anything or anybody.
And he’d left for a new life because Jonathan and any other guy he’d seen in LA just wasn’t enough to get over Chris, to forget how much he fucking ached for him.
Chris had been the one who hadn’t wanted to be ‘them’ then. Chris who was bisexual and liked it that way. He wanted to be with women and men. Commitment was for suckers. Hell, Zach heard him tell Patrick that.
What if he hadn’t really changed? What if he laughed in Zach’s face? What if he got that weird panicked look on his face like he had when the reporter chick had asked him about Mrs. Pine?
And where had he even come up with this idea from? He was not by nature a romantic guy. He wasn’t. He was a sexual guy, sure. But he didn’t bring anyone flowers and when he gave gifts they were usually of a practical nature.
This was all his brother’s fault. Joe had given him some bullshit about how Chris did appreciate romance and so he should go all out for this. And boy, had he.
Suddenly the ring box was burning a hole in his pants pocket.
He really needed to just do this and consequences be damned.
Zach reached for the car door handle and popped the door open. His legs even managed to shift out of the seat and onto solid ground.
Mrs. Quinto didn’t raise a coward, he reminded himself.
And all his stuff, other than that burning ring box, that is, was in the trunk. If he didn’t hurry he’d be walking up the street in the dark. So he went to the trunk of the car and clicked it open.
The trek up the incline to Chris’ house wasn’t as bad as he had anticipated. He’d thought he might have to make a few trips back and forth but using sheer will and pluck, he’d managed to carry it all in one trip.
He plunked it down in front of the front door and listened.
Not a peep.
Zach breathed a sigh of relief and fished his key to Chris’ house out of his back pocket. With key turned, he opened the door easily and brought the bags of stuff inside.
“Chris?” he called out just in case.
Wednesday was safely ensconced at Chris’ parents’ house, per arrangement with Chris’ happily cooperative dad. Zach loved the dog but this was his time with Chris.
He looked at his watch and realized he had two hours to set everything up and that included cooking. He’d better get busy.
Zach was just putting together the salad he wanted to serve for first course when he realized it was getting close to nine. Scarily close.
And if he thought he was nervous before, it was nothing compared to what he was feeling now. His heart beat so fast he began to become concerned he had caused himself to have a heart attack.
He picked up the red stemless wine glass containing the merlot he had poured himself earlier to take off the edge.
On the kitchen counter’s edge was the box that contained his destiny.
Okay, okay, he was being way overdramatic. He was entitled, all right?
If Chris said yes…oh hell, he was going to hyperventilate.
If Chris said no…he’d die.
Which scenario was worse anyway?
Chris not showing up at all, probably. Because for all Zach knew, he might have gone out for drinks and he’d be eating this damn meal by himself.
He looked down at himself and realized he still hadn’t put on the suit. Fuck. It was almost time. He’d have to hurry.
Zach picked up the suit and carried it into the bathroom to change into it. All the while his ears were strained to listen to Chris coming up to his house and maybe the door. Had Chris driven? Or had he taken a car service?
How could he not know this crap? He should have memorized every last detail.
Suit on, he left the bathroom and went to the front door. Checked the lock. As far as he knew, Chris always entered through the front door. He’d have to go into his backyard to get in any other way and that seemed way too much trouble.
But if it was too much trouble, that usually meant Chris would do it.
Zach checked his watch. It was now three minutes past nine.
He turned toward the dining room. Flameless candles lit. Okay, switched on. Chris would completely appreciate safety first. Good plates set at the table, gleaming and shining they were so clean. Polished silverware set at the exact correct parts on the table, per etiquette. Okay, so his Mama taught him.
Wine glasses filled and set by both seats. Salad ready. Chateaubriand for two.
Zach straightened his tie.
His heart seized as he heard the sound of a car door close outside the front of Chris’ house.
And what if Chris was not happy to see him? It’s true he wasn’t generally as prickly as Zach. Okay, yeah, he could admit it, all right? But, well, he just didn’t know what to expect.
Worse, what if Chris brought someone home with him? He hadn’t even known Zach had returned from New York. What if—
The key turned in the door.
It was far too late to run now.
Door twisted open and Chris stood there, wearing his glasses and staring at Zach like he thought Zach was a zombie. Not exactly the reaction he hoped for but at least Chris wasn’t screaming.
“Hi,” Zach said.
“Zach, what are you doing here?”
And he looked past Chris and was relieved to see he was alone at least. No one there to witness his humiliation.
“I wanted to see you,” he said simply.
The blue eyes widened behind the glasses and looked past Zach to the set table.
“You’re in New York,” Chris said, dazed. “Aren’t you?”
He bit back his usual propensity for sarcasm and went for simple. “No. Want to close your door?”
Chris looked at the door, seemed confused and then closed it. He looked a little like a lost puppy. An adorable lost puppy.
He turned back to Zach. “You look really amazing. I can’t believe you’re here.”
“A good thing, I hope?”
Chris blinked. “Yeah. God, yeah. Sorry, I’ve just…today has been kind of challenging.” He set down the bag he’d been carrying, that Zach only just noticed, and came toward Zach, throwing his arms around Zach and touching him, embracing him at last. And holding him tight. Chris had a way of sinking into him when they hugged. Chris tended to awkward hug with people he wasn’t comfortable with. That had never been the way with them. Chris always softened and cuddled into him and Zach loved that. “It’s great to see you. Fantastic.”
“A little better,” Zach grumbled.
Chris laughed then and touched his fingers to Zach’s jaw. “You look so good I want to go right to bed.” He leaned in to kiss Zach then, soft and sweet, and all too brief. He looked at the table. “What’s all this?”
“I made you dinner. There’s a salad and Chateaubriand.”
“And a…ice cream cake.” He blushed over that and didn’t even know why.
Chris grinned. “You went all out. What’s the occasion?”
“Funny you should ask.” Zach took a deep breath and then exhaled going to where he’d left the ring box. He picked it up and wondered if he had done the right thing having the ring engraved with the Vulcan script for T’hy’la. Was it too corny?
He shivered. Chris hardly ever called him that. And when he did it was usually when they were in bed and his eyes were so warm and loving.
He gripped the ring box and stepped over to where Chris stood. Zach held out the box for Chris, who automatically took it. He dropped to his knee.
“Christopher Whitelaw Pine, you are the most amazing, beautiful man, human, I have ever met, known, been with. You’re more than my best friend. More than my brother. More than my lover. Every day I am in awe of you more. I love you more than there are words in any language to convey how deep it is. Will you do me the honor of marrying me?”
Chris said nothing as he opened the lid of the box and stared down at the platinum engraved ring. He rubbed his finger along the edge and then, without a word, handed it back to Zach.
Zach’s heart felt like it was on fire as it surely broke in two. He took the box and closed the lid, coming to his feet. His face felt as hot as if he’d been sunburned.
“Okay.” He nodded. “Okay. I…I get it. I just…I thought—”
“Zach” Chris whispered.
“No. I mean, it’s fine. It is. Just…” He exhaled again. “Enjoy the steak, okay? I mean it’s-it’s all for you. I need some air.”
He spun on his heels and headed for the front door.
He wrenched the door opened and walked outside, pretty sure he was going to throw up. How? How had he gotten this so wrong? How had he fucked this up so badly? Was it the gay thing? But he thought—
Suddenly Chris had hold of his arm and had spun him around. They were standing in the courtyard of Chris’s front yard.
“What is this?”
Zach frowned. “What?”
“If this was a joke, you’ve really gone too far, Quinto.” Chris looked angry. Furious even. But also really, really hurt.
“It’s not a joke. I just…I wanted to marry you, but if you don’t—”
“Don’t?” Chris gave a strangled cry. “God, sometimes I just want to smash your face in.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Just wait here. Okay? Can you do that?”
Chris ran back into the house and Zach just stood there, in the front yard, suddenly chilled, holding onto himself, the ring now shoved into his suit pocket.
Less than five minutes later, Chris returned holding a ring box that looked weirdly similar to his.
Zach sucked in a breath. “What-what is that?”
“Can you guess?”
He shook his head.
Chris sighed and looked away, then back to the ring box he held. “I’ve-I’ve had this for a long time.” He opened it to reveal a gold band with a tiny diamond chip around it, it too was engraved and as Zach looked at it, he saw that it said, “Forever Yours” in both Gaelic and Italian.
His gaze flew to Chris. “How long?”
“Since we were filming Into Darkness.”
Zach took the box from Chris and picked up the ring. It was beautiful and from his just eyeballing it, it seemed to be his size.
“I got the words from your-your mom.”
“You did? But you never—”
Chris shook his head, his eyes wet. “I was going to tell you everything. How much I wanted to be…so much more than friends or fuck buddies or the guy you sometimes screw, whatever. I wanted it all. And it was going to be worth everything. No more hiding any part of me. Any part of us. I was so damn in love with you. I was going to tell you,” he said again. “But then you brought Miles. You brought him around to the set and introduced him as your boyfriend and you were so damn happy it seemed, you were grinning from ear to ear. I shut it all down because I had to. It was all…too late. I lost hope.”
“Christopher,” Zach whispered. His chest hurt. But most of all it hurt for Chris. He couldn’t even imagine how that must have felt. “Why did you give me back my ring?”
“So you could put it on me you dolt, when I said yes.” He smiled through his tears. “Which I do. Say yes, I mean. Where is it?”
Zach laughed, feeling giddy and stupid all at the same time. He took out the ring box, pulled out the ring and seized Chris’ hand, putting it on his ring finger. “They don’t match.”
Chris took the gold one for Zach and slid it on his. “Yeah, I actually think they go together perfectly.” His eyes were shining. “Kind of like us. If you say yes.”
“I wondered. Because you never married Miles and…”
Zach put his finger on Chris’ lip. “He wasn’t you.”
Chris grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the house. “Come on. That Chateaubriand smells too good to waste it.”
“And very good wine.”
“And an ice cream cake.” Zach stopped him in the doorway and drew him in close for a kiss. “I love you, Christopher.”
“I love you, Zachary.”