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“Clearly you can see that there’s an implementation fidelity component here…the administration has advocated for continuous quality improvement at the systems level….having the right set of partners around the table is critical to the success of your initiative…”

Zach saw Chris check his watch and stifled a smile. Not that he could blame the guy – he’d zoned out a few slides ago. The only reason he was still managing to look attentive was the speaker – a hot academic from New Zealand with an accent that went straight to Zach’s groin, even when it was droning on about the necessary operations infrastructure for fiscal and data requirements. It didn’t hurt that the guy – Zach glanced at his program – that Dr. Karl Urban, PhD., had neglected to fasten the top two buttons of his shirt, leaving a triangle of tanned skin for him to focus on when the jargon became completely incomprehensible.

He heard Chris shifting in his seat and felt fingers brush his shoulder. “I can’t help but notice that you aren’t taking copious notes,” Chris whispered.

Zach leaned back and tilted his head slightly so he could whisper back without taking his eyes off Dr. Urban. “I’m committing it all to memory.”

“Oh yeah? What’s he said so far?”

“Implementation…something something…is this speech over yet, I want to go back to surfing the clear waters of New Zealand while my boyfriend Zach waits for me on the beach with a margarita.”

Chris’s chuckle turned into a snort, and Zach couldn’t help but turn away from the speaker to catch his friend’s eye and grin. He noticed a woman across the table flashing them a dirty look, and had to hide his own laughter with a cough. He nudged Chris’s knee under the table and put a finger to his lips with a wink.

His attention shifted back to their disturbingly good-looking subject matter expert, in time to hear something about developing strategies for optimally moving through the phases of capacity building, and all he could think about was how much work he’d actually be getting done if he were in the office right now. Fuck revising cost allocation plans, or whatever the hell was next on the agenda – he could feel his phone buzzing every five seconds with a new email that he’d have to respond to later, and this conference wasn’t doing a goddamn thing to help him “optimize the identification of internal and external communication strategies.” He heard the scratch of a pen and glanced over to see the note that Chris slid into his line of sight.

I’m gonna need to internalize a few beers if I’m supposed to tolerate much more of this bullshit.

Zach nodded his agreement and surreptitiously checked his phone. According to the agenda, the last session was supposed to end at 4:30 – it was 4:25, so he gave it at least another half hour before they actually got out of there. They’d been in this damn room since 8:30 AM – well, technically the conference had begun had 9:00, but they’d both shown up bleary-eyed at 8:30 to hit up the omelet bar and down the crap-ton of coffee necessary to stay awake through six hours of PowerPoint slides.

Zach’s mind drifted back to their drive in the night before. They’d stayed late at the office to avoid rush hour, and the three hour trip from Pittsburgh to Cleveland had been uneventful. Had been entertaining, even, peppered as it was with Chris’s ongoing commentary on corporate culture.

“Like, seriously,” Chris had said at one point, “why do they have to call them breakout sessions? It gives me traumatic flashbacks to my pubescent skin issues and mockery thereof.”

“’Mockery thereof?’ Who talks like that?”

“Intellectuals,” Chris had answered with a straight face, and Zach had laughed. “For real though, why don’t they just call them ‘bullshit sessions’ since we all know that’s what they really are?”

“So I’m getting that you don’t really love conferences?”

“What? No, I love conferences. Oh, you mean the actual conferences, no, fuck no. I do, however, enjoy the free food, booze, king-sized bed, tiny shampoo bottles…”

“Porn.”

“You just have to make sure to charge that to your personal credit card, of course.”

Zach rolled his eyes. This was the fourth or fifth conference they’d attended together, and there was no fucking way Chris Pine was watching porn late at night in his hotel room. Zach was pretty sure he ordered a half-bottle of red wine from room service and read Paul Austen while taking advantage of the complimentary bubble bath.

“I should have figured you keep volunteering for these things because of the free food.”

“Ha, right,” Chris laughed. “Did I ever tell you about the little game I play at these things? It’s like a contest - if I can get through six hours of mind-numbing tedium without killing someone, I reward myself with crudités and warm Miller Lite.”

“Gross. I forgot about that. Fucking Cleveland.”

They stared ahead for a few minutes as they passed a road sign telling them they had 67 miles to go until they reached Cleveland.

“The one at the Westwood was pretty nice,” Zach mused eventually.

“Which one was that?”

“In October. Best Practices in Integrating Fiscal Operating Systems, I think it was.”

Chris stared at him blankly. “That means nothing to me.”

“It was in the Poconos? Ugh, come on, Chris, you know what I’m talking about. The place with the Yuenglings and the cocktail weenies!”

“Ohhhhh, the cocktail weenies. Oh yeah, that place rocked. Is that the place that had a nacho bar?”

“That’s-“

“Don’t say ‘that’s na-cho bar’, Quinto, I swear to god.”

Zach had just closed his mouth and smirked at the road ahead.

A screech of microphone feedback pulled him out of his reverie, and he realized he’d just blanked out on a good five minutes of the current presentation. Oh well. The point was, they’d had a pretty good time on the ride here. Too bad they’d had to actually attend the damn seminar on the other end.

He felt a subtle shift in the room, as people straightened in their chairs and rustled their papers, sensing that the end was near.

"In conclusion," Dr. Urban was saying, his hands clutching the sides of the podium in his zeal, "I just want to thank all of you for your commitment and for your diligent efforts in advancing this important work. Robust data analysis is the key to bringing about real change where it really matters. And as tedious and unrewarding as your jobs must sometimes feel, I truly, honestly believe that the people gathered in this room are the real leaders in finding solutions to some of today's most pressing economic and social concerns."

"Is this guy for real?" Chris grumbled, as the crowd broke into polite applause.

Zach straightened up in his seat. "I don't know," he mused, a faint look of surprise on his face. "I almost feel inspired."

"It'll pass."

"Don't be such a cynic."

Chris stared at him. "Good God, Zach, he's not that hot."

"If you'll excuse me a moment," Zach said, standing and shoving the day's accumulated papers into his shoulder bag, "I think I need to go network."

"Network my ass," Chris mumbled as Zach made a beeline for the podium. He was gratified to see that others had had the same idea, forcing Zach to wait on the edges of a small crowd that had clustered around their esteemed speaker.

Chris shook his head as he gathered up the papers that he’d accumulated throughout the day. He tossed them in a trashcan on his way out of the meeting room and went in search of beer.

**

Zach gripped the neck of his beer bottle and tried desperately to keep his eyes off of Dr. Urban’s mouth. When he’d finally gotten to the front of the admiring throng, he’d turned on his most charming smile and extended his hand. “Really wonderful presentation, Dr. Urban,” he said, pleased to find a warm, firm palm in his grip. “Thank you so much. Very informative.”

“You think so?”

“Oh yeah, definitely. Gave me some really good direction as to how to move forward with matching data drivers to key stakeholder inputs in some of our new initiatives.”

“Well, thanks.” He smiled, and Zach had to wonder if he was genuinely flattered, or was merely acknowledging their mutual bullshit.

“Thank you, Dr. Urban.”

“Please, call me Karl.”

Score. “And I’m Zach, Zachary Quinto, I’m a consultant at Starr Tech.”

“Glad to meet you, Zach. I read your group’s proposal, I’m so glad you could make it.”

Zach took a surreptitious glance behind him, pleased to see that no one else seemed to be waiting to speak with Karl.

“If you’ve got the time, I’d love to pick your brain a little more around the implementation process. But I’d imagine you could use a drink first?”

The smile widened, and Zach felt a small thrill that his blatantly obvious plan seemed to be working. “Reckon I could. Care to join me?”

Now they were standing at one of the high tables set up in the buffet area. Karl had been droning on about data modeling and statistical validity for about 15 minutes now, while Zach amused himself by fantasizing about all of the sexy ways he could get the guy to shut up.

He caught sight of Chris across the room, standing by himself with a beer in each hand, a plate of sad finger foods balanced precariously on one of them. He was in the delicate process of shoving a cookie in his mouth when he finally glanced up and met Zach’s eye.

Zach gestured him over, wincing as Chris bit down on the cookie and lost half of it down the front of his shirt, leaving a trail of crumbs. Chris furrowed his brow and shook his head, looking between him and Karl like he didn’t want to interfere. Zach rolled his eyes and gestured more emphatically. Karl was hot, but right now Chris would be a welcome distraction. Not to mention that Zach felt like a dick seeing him standing alone like that amidst the throngs of conference attendees. Schmoozing had never been one of Chris’s strong points.

He breathed a sigh of relief as Chris made his way across the room, joining them at the table.

“Karl, this is my colleague, Chris Pine.”

“Hullo, Chris.”

“Hi. Nice speech.”

“Thanks. I was just telling Zach here, I actually have a longer version of that presentation. I had to cut it down for this conference, but if you’re interested I could forward you the expanded version. It’s got a whole section about bringing your evaluation module to the table beginning at project inception-“

“Yeah, that would be great,” Chris interrupted.

“It would?”

“Yeah, if you could send that to us, that’s something that Starr Tech has really been looking to incorporate into our workflow.”

“Okay!” Karl said, sounding surprised. “Great!”

“Zach, give him your card.”

“What?”

“Give him your card,” Chris said, giving him a purposeful nudge. “So he has your email address.”

“Oh. Right,” Zach said, reaching for his jacket pocket. “Here you are.” He handed the card to Karl, belatedly realizing what Chris was doing. “That’s got my email address, office number, cell phone... Feel free to get in touch if you think of anything else that would help us optimize our experience,” he said earnestly.

Karl’s fingers brushed his as he took the card. “Will do.”

“Great,” Chris interjected. “Well, I’m really sorry to tear Zach away, but we’ve gotta go chat with a couple other folks. Schmoozing, hobnobbing, all that. You know how it is.”

“Of course, of course. Well, I’ll see you around. Bye, Zach.”

“Bye, Karl.”

**

Bye, Zach. Bye, Karl.” Chris simpered once they were out of earshot. “You’re fucking ridiculous.”

“Shut up.”

“Did you have a nice conversation? Because it looked thrilling, really. You didn’t look bored out of your mind at all.”

“Whatever. You said hobnob.”

“So?”

“So? Hobnob? No one says that.”

Chris shrugged. “I say it.”

“Anyway, I don’t know what you’re bitching about, you’re the one who practically made me give him my number.”

“Yeah, because how much longer would you have put up with him droning on about fucking TPS reports or whatever before you would have made your move? I was saving your soul.”

“You’re too kind.”

“I know. What are you doing?”

Zach had reached out to brush at the front of Chris’s shirt. “You have cookie crumbs all over yourself.”

*

They stood together in front of the buffet, looking sadly at the congealed mess that purported to be Chicken Florentine with Sherry Cream Sauce.

“Well, at least it’s free,” Chris sighed.

“Yeah. So, do you want to blow this joint and expense some burgers from the bar downstairs?”

Chris looked at him gratefully. “That is the greatest idea that I’ve heard all day.”

They headed for the elevators, getting there just in time to see Dr. Urban stepping inside. He caught sight of them and held the door open.

“Hello again. Where’re you fellas headed?”

Zach felt strangely nervous between Chris and Karl, not sure where to look or how to stand. “Just heading down to grab some dinner at the bar.” He wondered for a brief second if he should invite Karl, but he could almost feel Chris tensing up as he thought it. Luckily, he didn’t have to make the decision.

“Ah, lovely. I’d join you, but I’m to go have some fancy dinner with the conference organizers at the restaurant.”

“Oh, um, that sounds…”

“Expensive?”

“Well, at least I know my registration fee’s going to a good cause,” Zach said, chuckling awkwardly.

The elevator dinged that they’d reached the first floor. Karl touched Zach’s arm as the door slid open, and Zach glanced at him.

“Wanted to give you my card,” he said. Zach took the business card from his hand, glancing up to find Karl meeting his eye with an intent expression. “Maybe I’ll see you later,” he added, before letting his gaze drop and walking away.

Zach stood stunned for a second, until he realized Chris was holding the door for him to exit the elevator.

“What was that all about?” Chris asked, as they walked toward the bar.

Zach showed him the back of the business card. “His room number.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. Not too many ways to read that invitation.”

“Sure he’s not just asking you over to discuss how to measure the effectiveness of new funding mechanisms?”

“Hey, if that’s what turns him on…”

Chris rolled his eyes and Zach let the subject drop as they reached the bar. They ordered burgers and Yuenglings, a definite upgrade from the sad buffet they’d left upstairs. Chris spotted a pool table in the corner, so they carried their food over and played a few games while munching on their burgers and fries.

Neither of them were great pool players, and they finished their second beers well before finally finishing their third game.

“Alright, well…” Chris started, setting down his cue.

“Wanna go for a run?” Zach asked. He surprised himself with the question, and with the sudden desperate enthusiasm that accompanied it.

“Um…seriously?”

“Yeah! Come on, we always say we’re going to go for a run or hit up the fitness center when we’re at these things, and we never do.”

“Why break tradition?”

“Come on, let’s do it. I saw a path on the map, there’s a three mile loop around the grounds, it’s perfect.” He wasn’t sure why he was being so insistent. For some reason, the thought of Chris reading alone in his room while he dialogued his way into Karl’s pants felt kind of dickish, even though he knew Chris wouldn’t care.

“Don’t you want to get ready for your date with Karl?”

“It can wait.”

Chris looked skeptical. “I’m not really sure this is a good time. I mean, I just had a burger, two beers, and a plateful of fries.”

“Stop whining and come for a jog with me. Please.”

Chris held his eyes for a few seconds, and gave in with a shake of his head. “Fine. I’ll go change. Let’s meet out front in ten minutes.”

“Sweet! See you in a few!”

*

They took a path that led away from the hotel, curving around the parking lot before taking them through the trees along the edge of the conference center golf course. They jogged in silence, sweating in the warm night air. At about the two-mile mark, the path took them out of the woods and around a small, man-made lake with a fountain in the center. Zach slowed to a stop and stepped off the path to take in the sight as he caught his breath. An almost-full moon in the clear sky provided plenty of illumination. Chris flopped down in the grass, wiping his face with the bottom of his t-shirt.

Zach hadn’t been planning to stop for long, but he took Chris’s lead and sat down a few feet away.

“Pretty,” he observed, gesturing down at the small lake, bordered with cattails along one edge.

“I guess,” Chris said, sounding skeptical. Zach gave him a look, but he continued without meeting Zach’s eye. “Did I ever tell you about working for Silver Lake Consulting?”

“You’ve mentioned it.”

“It was this corporate campus, out in the suburbs. The office had a huge window, looked out on a little pond like this one, fountain and everything. Canada geese loved it, you’d always see them around in the early spring. There were picnic tables, too, but no one ever used them because the grass was always covered in goose poop. The company loved bragging about how they were so environmentally conscious, because sometimes when people stayed late, they’d spot a deer or something. Never mind that Silver Lake plopped their fucking buildings right in the middle of the deer’s habitat.

“So anyway, one day in late March, someone was looking out the window and saw that one of the geese had made a nest by the side of the pond. We could see like seven or eight eggs, and this goose was always there, sitting on them or walking around close by. So we started keeping an eye on the nest, checking out the window every day, wondering when they’d hatch, all excited about seeing these little goose chicks running around or whatever. We keep this up for a few weeks, and someone had checked online to see how long it took, so we knew after about three and a half weeks to be on the lookout.”

Chris picked up a clump of grass and tossed it toward the lake. Zach was watching him, listening intently, completely drawn into the story.

“One morning we come into the office, take our coffees over by the window to check on the eggs.” Finally, Chris looked over at Zach, and his expression was one of anger. “They were gone. No chicks, no eggs, nothing. Just completely gone. Turns out some people had complained about all the goose poop, so corporate called the landscaper or whoever, and they just came in one day and eradicated the goose problem. Just like that. I mean, how fucked up is that? We’d been watching this goose take care of these eggs for a month.”

Zach swallowed. He was pretty sure he’d never seen Chris this upset. “Yikes,” he said quietly.

“Yeah.” Chris lay back on the grass. “Anyway, the point is, sometimes I hate being a part of it, the whole corporate system, you know? It’s like, there are so many people out there doing good, and we’re holed up in our cubicles dicking around with spreadsheets, murdering baby geese because heaven forbid we step in their poop in the five minutes we spend outside each day walking to and from our cars.”

Zach took a breath. “Come on, it’s not that bad. Our work has a purpose.”

“Does it?”

“Yeah, it does. What we’re doing with all that data, designing spreadsheets and models and analytic tools – people use that stuff, to figure out what works and what doesn’t, so they can allocate resources to the things that do and stop wasting them on other stuff. Ultimately, those results have a real impact – we’re talking things like schools, and public works, and economic development, and social welfare programs…”

“Okay, okay,” Chris said, but Zach could hear the slight smile in his voice. “I get it, we’re all goddamn Mother Teresas.”

“I’m just saying…I know it’s cliché, but it’s like Dr. Karl Urban said – stop rolling your eyes – like he said, we really are kind of helping find solutions to today’s actual economic and social concerns. In our own, lame, cubicle-dwelling kind of way."

“Well…”

“Well?”

Chris looked at him. “Well, thanks, Zach. You really ruined it for me. I was going to quit this bitch, go change the world. Now I actually have to feel good about myself, instead of storming out self-righteously like I was planning to.”

Zach laughed. “Well, good. Because that would mean more work for me.” He stood and offered Chris a hand, helping him up, pleased to see an amused twinkle in his eye.

They strolled the few steps back to the path.

“I have to say, I did not know you were such a secret lover of nature, Chris.”

“Yeah, well. There are a few things you don’t know about me.” He left it at that, taking off at a jog, and it took Zach a few seconds to catch up with him. They ran back to the hotel in silence.

*

Thirty minutes later, Zach stood in front of the bathroom mirror, checking his hair one last time. After a quick shower, he’d changed into the skinny jeans and tight black t-shirt that he’d thrown into his bag at the last minute. He planned to wear them for all of five minutes before they ended up on the floor of Karl’s hotel room. He smirked at himself in the mirror, grabbed his key card, and was almost to the door when he heard a knock. He opened it with a frown.

Chris was standing in the hallway. He wore sweatpants and a white t-shirt, and his hair was damp. His shoulders were tensed, and he wouldn’t meet Zach’s eyes, directing his gaze to somewhere in the vicinity of Zach’s right shoulder instead.

“Chris. Hi,” Zach said, taken by surprise. “What’s up? I was just about to-“

“Don’t go to Karl’s,” Chris said abruptly, still not looking at him.

“What?”

Chris took a step forward, setting a hand on Zach’s chest, just enough pressure to hold him in place. Zach looked down at Chris’s hand, pale against his black t-shirt. He could feel each fingertip pressing subtly against his skin. “Don’t go to Karl’s room.”

“Why not?” He’d meant to sound indignant, but the question came out low and earnest. He felt a buzzing in his ears, his stomach tightening with a premonition.

“Because,” Chris whispered, and he leaned in to brush a nervous kiss against the corner of Zach’s lips.

Zach took a hard breath, in and out, and his hand came up automatically to hold Chris’s palm to his chest before he could pull it away. The shock only lasted for a second, quickly followed by adrenaline, and a certainty of what to do next. He raised a shaky hand to Chris’s cheek, and guided him in for another kiss, a long, chaste press of their lips. His attraction to Chris rushed through him all at once, a river released from its dam, rocking him with its force.

He broke away to shut the door and to pull Chris further into the room. Then their arms were around each other, and they were kissing for real, open-mouthed and decidedly unchaste. Zach was dizzy with lust, everything was happening so fast. Ten minutes ago he hadn’t even known that Chris was gay, and now he could feel the stiff cock beneath his sweatpants, the fingers twisting in his freshly-styled hair.

At some point they stopped, breathing hard, and for the first time since Zach had opened the door, they met each other’s eyes. Zach’s thumb stroked over the fine hairs on the back of Chris’s neck. He hated to break the moment, but he had to know.

“Where is this going?”

“I was hoping somewhere in the vicinity of the bed, but I’m not picky.”

Zach laughed and glanced away, breaking eye contact. “Shit, Chris. This is so…”

“Weird?”

“Unexpected. Hot. I don’t know.”

“I’ll take unexpectedly hot.”

“Yeah. That. Shit, Chris.”

“You said that already.”

“I know, I just…it’s pretty much the only thing coming to mind right now, okay?”

“Look, if you don’t want… I mean, if you’d rather go to Karl’s…” Chris’s hands tightened on Zach’s hips, betraying him.

Zach met his eyes. “Shut the fuck up.”

Chris relaxed, sliding his arms around Zach’s waist as their mouths slotted together for another deep kiss. This time accompanied by a slight pressure of Chris’s body, urging them across the few feet of carpet that separated them from the king-sized bed.

Zach eased himself onto the edge of the mattress. He slid his hands up under Chris’s t-shirt, exploring his skin, and Chris lifted his arms obligingly so Zach could slide the shirt off over his head. Then Chris gave him a gentle shove, and Zach let himself be pushed back, let Chris climb on top of him, trapping him with arms and legs and an insistent pressure against his constrained and aching erection.

He pushed himself up on an elbow to capture Chris’s mouth, distracting him while he reached down to struggle with his own fly. His knuckles brushed against Chris, who chuckled at Zach’s desperation and reached down to lend a hand. Together, they got his jeans unzipped, and Zach felt Chris toying with the waistband of his boxers. He gasped as strong, sure fingers curled around his shaft with a gentle tug.

Zach shoved a hand into Chris’s sweatpants, wrapping a fist around his cock and stroking him roughly, without finesse. It had the desired affect – Chris hissed and tightened his own grip, and their mouths met for a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss. Zach arched up against Chris, pressing into his hand.

“Harder?” Chris whispered, biting lightly at Zach’s lightly stubbled jaw.

“Yeah.”

Zach felt Chris’s lips against his ear, and the damp heat of the murmured, “Fuck me,” against his skin.

It took a second for the words to sink in. Then he froze, blinking, his body going still as he realized what Chris had said.

Chris pushed himself up and Zach met his eyes, glanced down at his mouth and back up at the patient expression as he waited, calmly, for Zach’s answer.

Zach still didn’t trust himself to speak, so he answered with a jerky nod. A flurry of activity followed, as they both scrambled to get out of their pants, Chris rolling over to lie on his stomach. Zach was wiggling across the bed, trying to get the condom out of the pocket of his jeans, and at the sight of Chris’s bare ass presented so shamelessly, he nearly fell off the side of the mattress.

He got a hold of himself, took a deep breath, and slid the condom on with shaking hands.

Another long look across Chris’s gorgeous body, and he was straddling him, running a warm hand between his shoulder blades. He leaned down, letting the tip of his cock brush against Chris’s back as Chris turned his head to meet him for a kiss.

“Ready?” he murmured.

Chris nodded.

“Might sting.”

A smirk. “Pretty sure of yourself there.”

Zach breathed a laugh, and pushed into him slowly, without stopping, feeling Chris tight around him, every twitch of his hole registering magnitudes of sensation against Zach’s cock.

Chris grunted, and for second Zach worried that he’d misjudged, but then Chris was pushing back against him, murmuring for him not to stop.

“Wasn’t planning to,” Zach promised, pressing in farther, until his balls rested against Chris’s ass, pausing only long enough to savor the sensation before he began to move. Instinct took over quickly, and as much as he wanted to make this last, his body had other plans, and before he knew it he was pumping away, pistoning his hips as he fucked Chris hard into the mattress.

Zach didn’t usually move this fast, at least not with people he knew, or wanted to get to know. He was generally in favor of romantic dinner dates and staring longingly into each other’s eyes. Unless it was someone like Dr. Karl Urban, who would go back to New Zealand and never be seen again.

But that’s not what this was, either.

This was a realization, raw and wanting, something pent up that needed to be expended. It was clear that this was what they both wanted now. Anything else, they could figure out later, after they’d gotten past this initial, messy, sudden rush of desire.

Chris was breathing hard beneath him, and Zach could feel the sheen of sweat across his back. A sudden impulse had him reaching for Chris’s hand, and he was relieved to feel Chris responding, threading their fingers together and holding on.

Zach took in the details of Chris’s body beneath him, the definition of his biceps as he pushed himself up to meet Zach’s thrusts, the ripple of muscles across his back. A new wave of desire pulsed through him, sending all of his thoughts back to his cock.

He’d lost control of his mouth somewhere along the way, grunting and cursing and saying Chris’s name as he got closer. He was in the final stretch, could only hope that the sensation of his dick against Chris’s prostate and the friction of the sheets would bring him off. He was crushing Chris with his entire body as he pounded away at his tight hole, but he couldn’t stop, he was almost there. He felt Chris tense up a moment before he did, with an adorable whimper that sent him over the edge, finally shooting his load with a teeth-grinding spasm of ecstasy.

He rolled off of Chris and sat up to toss out the condom, without pausing to catch his breath. Chris watched him from under drooping eyelids as he dropped back onto the bed with an apologetic expression.

“Sorry if I kind of crushed you there at the end,” he said.

“Seriously,” Chris mumbled. “You gotta lay off the nachos, dude.”

“Oh, shut up,” Zach said, but he chuckled and settled in, laying on his side to face Chris. “You are so hot.”

Chris stayed in his prone position, but raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, right.”

“I’m serious.” He slid a hand down Chris’s back, as if to prove his point.

“You’ve never really seemed to notice before.”

Zach shrugged. “I’ve never thought about you like that before.” He leaned forward to brush his lips against Chris’s. “Don’t even think about going back to your room,” he whispered with a grin.

Chris raised both his eyebrows this time. “I’m sorry, did it look like I was planning to go anywhere?”

Zach laughed. He took an extra second to turn and switch off the light before sliding closer for a one more lingering kiss.

**

The insistent buzz of Zach’s phone alarm woke him with a start, and he scrambled to hit snooze. He dozed immediately, and didn’t remember until it went off again that he hadn’t gone to bed alone last night. He sat up and glanced down at the empty bed, running a hand over his face as he listened for the shower. Nothing. Fuck.

He spent a few seconds trying to figure out, on a scale of one to ten, how stupid it had been to sleep with Pine last night. But it was way too early for that level of analytical decision-making, and he was drifting off to sleep again when the door clicked softly. He opened his eyes as Chris tiptoed into the room.

“Oh, hey. You’re up.”

Zach pushed himself up on an elbow. “So’re you.”

Chris grinned sheepishly and held up the hanger he was carrying. “Yeah. I woke up early and figured I’d grab a shower and some new clothes before I’d risk running into anyone in the hallway.”

“Embarrassed by me?”

“Scared of facing Dr. Urban’s wrath, more like,” Chris said with a wink. His hair was still damp, dripping onto the same white t-shirt he’d arrived in last night, and Zach wanted him all over again.

“Get over here,” he murmured, lifting the blanket to invite him in.

Chris raised his eyebrows. “Bossy,” he observed.

“Just practicing my leadership skills.”

Chris chuckled and set his suit down carefully before sliding into the bed beside Zach, giving himself over for a long, lazy kiss. Zach could feel Chris’s skin growing hot against his own, kept one eye open to watch the pink flush creep up his neck as they got into it, pulling closer, grinding against each other.

They were approaching the point of no return when Chris pulled back, panting slightly. He caught Zach’s eye. “Shouldn’t we get down to the conference?”

“Should we? What’s the first topic on today’s agenda again?”

Chris made a face and strained to grab the crumpled agenda from the bedside table. “Innovations in Outcome-Based Budgeting.”

“I’d rather spend my time diagramming Innovative Ways to Make Chris Pine Scream My Name.”

“Fuuuck,” Chris groaned as he let Zach push him backwards into the mattress. The agenda was forgotten as Zach climbed on top of him, tugging their waistbands down, and he arched up into the hot, raw friction of their bare cocks rubbing against each other. So much for slowing down, Zach thought, as that same franticness from the night before came rushing back through his body, giving his hips and hands a mind of their own. He wrapped a hand around Chris’s cock and looked into his face as he jerked him off, and could have sworn he saw the blue of his eyes darken as he stiffened and came with a moan. Chris looked like he was about to pass out before he could reciprocate, so Zach reached down with a grin and closed Chris’s fingers around his own dick, thrusting gently into his fist as if to remind him of what he was supposed to be doing. Chris got the idea and smiled back, pumping lazily and leaning up for a kiss. Zach didn’t mind, and let the slow sexiness of the moment build in his gut until he too was curling up with a grunt and coming onto Chris’s thigh.

They both fell asleep after that, the hotel curtains pulled tightly shut against the day, the conference agenda buried under a pair of hastily tossed boxer briefs.

**

“Is this weird?” Chris asked after they’d both woken up, gesturing between them on the bed. “I mean, we’re friends and colleagues.”

“Well, now we’re friends and colleagues who fuck at conferences,” Zach said. He saw a flash of something in Chris’s eyes, and it dawned on him that maybe he shouldn’t have added that last clause. But his smile, and the way his fingers danced through the damp hair at Chris’s neck belied the casual implication of his words, and Chris didn’t make a move to pull away.

**

They were quiet for most of the ride back to Pittsburgh, lost in their own thoughts. It was a comfortable silence, Zach thought, but by the second hour, the silence was apparently too much for Chris to take.

“What’re you thinking about?”

Zach had been thinking about that first shy kiss last night, and the easy intimacy of the morning, and about how much he wanted to fuck Chris again, and how next time he wanted to be able to see Chris’s face when he did.

“How much of the Barnett project I can pass off to a junior analyst. You?”

Chris leaned forward and turned towards him, and for a second Zach thought he was going to open up, drop some intimate emotional bombshell. “You know what I really took away from this conference?”

So much for that. “What’s that?”

“The fact that there are some sweet PowerPoint slide transitions that I haven’t used yet, that’s what I’m taking away from this. You can fully expect my next presentation to read “Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit – cool slide transition – bullshit, bullshit bullshit.”

“Abrams will love it.”

“I know.”

Zach’s phone rang. “Speak of the devil.” He took it on speaker. “Zachary Quinto.”

“Zach, JJ. You guys on your way back?”

“Yep. What can we do for you?”

“Look, I hate to ask you this, but I’ve got to send in our registration for the National Communications Conference in two weeks, and I can’t get anyone else who’s free for those three days. It’s gonna be boring as fuck, but Pike from our Board’s on the organizing committee and we’re trying to get the new Enterprise project, so we really have to make an appearance. Any chance I can get the two of you to volunteer?”

Zach glanced at Chris out of the corner of his eye, pleased to see a small conspiratorial smile curving his lips.

“Well, look, JJ, as long as you don’t need Chris and me to, you know, do any actual work ever, then yeah, go ahead, sign us up.”

“Great, you guys are the best. I really appreciate it. I promise I’ll make a note of it for your annual bonus review.”

“Wonderful.”

“See you back at the office tomorrow?”

“Sure thing. We’re really looking forward to actionizing some of the best practices that we learned about here in Cleveland.”

“You’re full of shit, Quinto. I love it. Don’t forget tomorrow’s staff outreach strategies meeting at 9:00 tomorrow.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Zach hung up and shook his head. He glanced sideways – Chris was giving him a look.

“What?”

“Look man, I can wait two weeks, but if the next conference after that is the October Roundtable, then I think it’s going to be a problem.” He stared purposefully ahead, as if he didn’t want to catch Zach’s eye. Zach had a feeling Chris had summoned every last bit of sales presentation confidence in order to make that come out sounding as casual as it had.

Zach took a deep breath, determined to follow suit. “I think you’re forgetting the second most important intradepartmental collaboration strategy…” He paused and watched as Chris got it, chuckled, and turned to look at him with a grin that make Zach’s heart pound.

They finished the sentence in unison.

“Happy hour!”