Zach has been watching them all night with an expression that Chris can’t quite place. He hasn’t been rude or gloomy or quiet or any of the things Chris might have expected. In fact, he has completely charmed Anna, who has been telling him increasingly tall tales of Chris on set and earning herself way more flashes of smiles and low, rumbly laughs than Chris thinks he got out of Zach in the first whole year of knowing him. But there is something wrong with him, something strange in his eyes, which dart back and forth between Chris and Anna like he is trying to solve a puzzle. But not an interesting puzzle. A troubling one.
Anna is blissfully unaware, and when they step out of the bar and onto the chilly New York street, she links an arm through Zach’s and smiles up at him. “Come back to the hotel with us?”
Zach shoots Chris a look over her head, as if checking to see if he wants him there, and Chris just raises his eyebrows expectantly at him, hoping his face doesn’t show too much, hoping he’s projecting an air of “do whatever the fuck you want” rather than the “please please please” that he feels.
“Come on,” Anna says, and gives Zach’s arm a playful tug, making him stumble sideways and surprising a bark of laughter out of his mouth, and his eyes dart between her and Chris again before he shrugs one shoulder.
“Why don’t you guys come to my place? I’ve got booze.”
“Yes!” Anna says, then belatedly shoots Chris a look to make sure it’s okay. All he can do is nod at her.
The truth is, he has no idea yet if he likes this whole worlds colliding thing. It was okay introducing the two of them at a bar and having a couple hours of friendly conversation eased by social lubricant, but he isn’t sure if things are going to stay not-awkward once they get behind closed doors. He bites his tongue though, because what else is he going to do? Say he doesn’t want a little extra time with Zach? He’s not that good a liar.
Chris hasn’t been to Zach’s new place, but he leaves the ooo-ing and ahh-ing to Anna. The ways her heels click on the hardwood as she crosses to the window, then to the kitchen--complimenting everything from the bookcases to the stainless steel appliances--makes the beginnings of a headache bloom behind Chris’s right eye. He raises a hand to his temple.
“Hey man, you coming in, or…?”
It isn’t until Zach speaks that Chris realizes he has been hovering near the door, and he grins sheepishly before taking a few more steps into the apartment and starts stripping off his coat. Anna walks back from the kitchen just as Zach turns and walks toward it, and Chris helps her out of her coat too before draping them both of over the back of one of the chairs along with his scarf, which he folds a little too meticulously. He can feel Anna’s eyes on him, and he turns toward her and gives a little shrug when she raises her eyebrows at him.
“What kind of wine do you want?” Zach calls from the kitchen.
“Whatever’s fine,” Chris calls, more because he trusts Zach’s taste than because he’s really fine with whatever. Zach would probably throw himself off a building before serving anything less than the finest vintage to guests, just for a chance to show off his good taste.
“Anna?” Zach asks, peeking his head around the half-wall that cuts the kitchen off from the living room.
“Uhh, something white?” she says uncertainly. It’s a tone of voice that Chris knows well, one he uses all the time around Zach, when he’s not sure if what’s coming out of his mouth will please him and he wants so badly to please him. It’s strange to hear Anna sound that way now. It makes Chris’s palms start to sweat.
Zach is flashing her a toothy, sincere smile though. “Got you covered.” He ducks out of sight again, and Chris barely can keep himself from letting out a shaky sigh.
Anna walks over to the couch to have a seat. As soon as Chris sits down next to her, she insinuates herself underneath his arm and tucks herself against his side. It doesn’t matter that she’s half his size—she’s a comforting, warm presence anyway, and Chris feels a little less jittery with her there. At least, he does until Zach reemerges from the kitchen and gives him a curious eyebrow raise at the same time that he hands over their wine.
“So how long have you two been together?” he asks, a weird note in his voice. He settles on the couch on Chris’s other side, but leans forward to peer at Anna like she’s the one he really means to address.
Anna giggles at him like he’s the cutest thing ever. “Oh, we’re not.”
“You’re not sleeping together?”
“That’s not what she said,” Chris says, a little snippier than he meant to.
“So you are sleeping together?”
“Is he always this nosy?” Anna asks, looking up at Chris with a smile that looks a little brittle at the corners. He gives her a squeeze.
“Only when he’s jealous,” he answers in a stage whisper. He can’t see the expression on Zach’s face, but the way Anna stops smiling when she looks past him tells him everything he needs to know.
“Oh, honey.” Anna reaches across Chris’s body and puts a hand on Zach’s knee. Chris looks down at it, the way her thumb strokes his inseam, and sucks in a breath. Before he gets a chance to warn her off though, Zach stiffens and pulls away.
“You’re right. It’s none of my business.”
That should be the end of the conversation. This should be where they turn to something frivolous until their glasses are empty and Chris can get away with yawning and declaring he’s tired and they should go. Whenever Zach is around though, things have a way of going catty-cornered. Chris becomes something different—a person with a cavity inside him that he keeps looking for pieces of Zach to shove into.
Which is why he says, “It’s your business.”
Zach looks at him sharply. He feels Anna’s hand rest on the back of his neck, and it feels encouraging, so he plows on. “It’s your business if you want it to be.”
Anna makes a little encouraging sound and Chris sees her put her wine glass down on the coffee table out of the corner of his eye. He can’t help but remember what she said that first time they were together, how she asked if Zach would want to tell them what to do, if he would join in. Chris doesn’t know, but he wants to. He wants this—the way Zach is looking at him right now, the way Anna is scratching her fingernails along the back of his neck. His ribcage aches with how much he wants it.
It isn’t until Anna lays the back of her hand against his cheek and he feels how cool her skin is against his that he realizes he is blushing.
“He’s so pretty like this, isn’t he?” Anna says, talking to Zach as if Chris isn’t even in the room anymore—which is some feat for her given that her hands are all over him. The fingers of one hand are sliding under the collar of his shirt now, and her other hand strokes his face like he’s a cat.
“I always thought so,” Zach says through gritted teeth. Chris is still looking at him, and Zach is looking back, but not quite meeting his eyes. “What did you tell her, Chris?” he adds, lowering his voice.
“He didn’t tell me anything,” Anna answers before Chris has a chance. And that suits him just fine, actually. She can do all his talking for him. He isn’t sure if he trusts himself to speak at the moment. “I guessed. He doesn’t do too well at press junkets without you. Do you, Chris?”
She gently turns Chris’s face toward her, and he feels the cushions shift as Zach gets to his feet, as if he was just waiting for his cue. Chris wants to track him with his eyes, but Anna has a grip on his chin, forcing him to look at her. “Do you?” she repeats, gentler now. She’s giving him an out, but it’s clear she doesn’t think he should take it.
“I do just fine,” Chris answers, unable to keep himself from the small act of defiance.
“Is that right?” Zach’s voice is across the room now, and Chris jerks his chin out of Anna’s grasp to look for him. He is sitting in a chair over by the windows, slumped down like he’s trying to look casual, but there is tension in the set of his jaw and the way one foot is tap-tap-tapping against the hardwood.
No, it’s not right, but Chris can’t give Zach the satisfaction of knowing he drowns without him. So instead of saying anything, he tears his eyes away again and looks at Anna. She takes his face in both of her hands this time and smiles at him before gently tugging him in, pressing their mouths together in a kiss that is way too chaste for how dirty and exposed Chris feels.
“Are you sure?” she asks against his mouth. “Are you sure you don’t miss him?”
He can feel Zach’s gaze on him, and something a little like hope flutters in his gut, and before he can do any more thinking, he kisses Anna again, with intent this time, one hand pushing into her hair. He slides the other hand to the small of her back and pulls her forward until she swings a leg across his lap, and that’s so much better, because now he can grip her thighs and slide his tongue into her mouth and make it as filthy as it deserves to be. Let Zach watch. If he has a problem, he can fucking say it.
Except he doesn’t say anything—not for several moments, long enough for Chris’s confusion to catch up with him. He’s not sure he knows what’s happening here. Things with Anna are uncomplicated and comfortable. She is a good friend, an enthusiastic lover. She doesn’t seem to want exclusivity from him, but it does feel like there is something good between them, maybe even something lasting. But then there is Zach—Chris’s open wound. Anna has felt around the edges of it, but she hasn’t pressed. This, though...this feels like she’s pressing. Kissing on Zach’s couch should feel like more of a ploy to push Zach away than to draw him in, but Chris senses that Anna knows what she’s doing. He just wishes he knew what she was doing.
Zach’s voice cuts through his thoughts at just the right moment.
“Take her dress off.”
Chris’s eyes snap open, and he breaks the kiss with a gasp. When he looks over Anna’s shoulder, Zach is looking back at him, his gaze dark and challenging, the fingers of one hand gripping his thigh.
“You...you want me to—”
“I don’t want you to fucking talk about it, Christopher. Just do as I say.”
The memories rush in unbidden. Zach steering him back to his hotel room after a long day of press and then kissing him boneless and senseless, strong fingers on his chin or gripping his hips. Zach ordering him down on his knees. Zach fucking him into the mattress until he couldn’t remember his own name, much less the reasons why he was stressed or drained or irritated. The thing they had was his lifeline, his anchor. But then the press tour ended and so had their tenuous relationship. Zach went back to New York and Chris went back to LA. They stayed in touch, but it was like the rest of it never happened.
And now they’re here, and Anna is too, and Chris doesn’t know how to feel. He isn’t sure if he’s glad that she can be a buffer or annoyed by it. He isn’t sure if he wants Zach to see how he is with her. He isn’t sure if he wants Anna to see how he is with Zach. It’s overwhelming.
But Zach gave him a command, and he wants to obey it.
His hands go to the zipper of Anna’s dress, and his eyes go to her face. “Are you okay with this?”
She smiles at him, her eyes twinkling. “I think you had better do as the man says.”
Affection blooms in Chris’s chest. He hopes Anna can feel it in the gentle way his fingers part the fabric of her dress and drag across her skin, the way he surges forward to kiss her again, coaxing her lips open so he can sweep his tongue inside. Anna grin into the kiss and wriggles a little in his lap, then helpfully lifts her arms so he can drag the dress up and over her head.
“Touch her,” Zach says. “Want to see your hands on her.”
Chris grips Anna’s waist at first, then slides his fingers up to her shoulder blades. With his fingertips touching, his hands span the width of her back, and he is struck once again by the size difference. She seems so tiny and fragile in his hands. But then she swivels her hips, grinding against him, and leans in to nip at his jaw, and he remembers just how not-fragile she is.
Anna reaches for the hem of his shirt, and Chris tenses, expecting Zach to admonish her. Zach is silent though. He is silent when Anna tugs Chris’s shirt off and when she rakes her nails down his chest and when she goes for his fly. He is silent when she leans in and kisses him hard. Anna and Zach are sharing control and leaving Chris with none. The realization makes him groan, makes his dick throb.
“Get her naked, Chris.” Zach voice hits his ears again at the same time that Anna’s fingers dip into his pants to squeeze him through his briefs. Chris hisses and lets his head fall back against the back of the couch while his fingers fumble with the clasp of her bra. He feels slow and stupid, over-eager to please, desperate. It feels like it takes years for him to finally get the hook open and slide the straps down her arms. His hands shake as they skim down her back to her panties. She lifts one knee and then the other to help him get them off, then settles right back into his lap.
“Zach,” Chris gasps in supplication.
“Now, that’s not very polite.” Zach’s disappointed tone is a punch to the gut. “Talk to her”
Chris lifts his head and looks Anna in the eye. She smiles at him, soft and reassuring, and runs a finger down his cheek. “You’re all red again, Princess.”
“Are you sure you want this?” he finds himself asking, half awestruck and half confused. “Him watching us.”
“He’s not watching us,” Anna says. She raises an enigmatic eyebrow and then looks over her shoulder at Zach. “He’s participating.”
Chris expects Zach to argue, watches his face for the moment his expression turns thunderous and he throws them both out. What he doesn’t expect is Zach flashing a split-second grin, his eyes rolling toward the ceiling before focusing on Anna again. “You couldn’t have just told him to come talk to me, huh?”
“Nope,” she says. Chris watches as she drops her chin to her shoulder and bats her eyelashes in Zach’s direction. It’s bizarre. It’s beautiful. He wants to kiss her again, but he doesn’t want to interrupt. As if reading his mind, she reaches out without looking and places her hand over his heart. “Maybe I wanted to keep him for myself too.”
“And you think I’m going to share?” Zach asks.
“I think you already are.”
Zach is silent for a moment, and Chris looks over at him. He is sunk farther down in his chair now, his eyes half-lidded, his fingers resting lightly on the inside of his thigh, near the bulge in his jeans. It’s a relief to see that he’s turned on. Chris wasn’t sure that he would be.
“I want to see you fuck her,” Zach says slowly, like he’s testing the words. He holds Chris’s gaze for a beat, and Chris gets the feeling he’s expecting him to flinch. He doesn’t flinch. Zach’s eyes shift to Anna then, and he leans forward. “Take her to the bedroom.”
Chris doesn’t argue—probably couldn’t form a coherent argument if he tried. It’s easier to just obey. He has to expend very little effort to tuck his hands under Anna’s thighs and stand up with her in his arms. She squeaks and wraps her arms around his neck, her legs around his waist. He pauses for a moment to kiss her deeply, trying to gauge whether she is still into this. She kisses him back with fervor though, unfazed by their audience.
Zach is right at his back the whole way down the hall. Chris can feel him there, can hear his footsteps just behind him, but he doesn’t turn around and look. He still doesn’t know the rules of this game, but he knows that until Zach makes an overture in his direction, Anna is the only one he has permission to focus on right now.
Once in the bedroom, Chris lowers Anna to the bed. Before he can climb on after her, a heavy hand falls onto his shoulder, and he draws a sharp breath. It’s the first time Zach has touched him all night, and even through the fabric of his shirt, it raises goosebumps in his skin. Zach doesn’t say a word, just presses a little harder until Chris falls to his knees.
When Zach lets go of him, reaches past him, and hooks his hands behind Anna’s knees, she gasps. Clearly she hadn’t expected him to touch her, and when she lifts her head to look at Chris for reassurance, her eyes are momentarily wide with shock. But Zach pauses.
“Anna.” Chris can’t see Zach’s face, but his voice sounds gentle. “Is this okay?”
Anna visibly relaxes, and she nods. “I’ll tell you if I want to stop.”
Zach lets out a satisfied hum, and Chris watches as his hands curl tighter around her knees and he drags her forward, until her hips are on the edge of the bed. Chris’s reaches for her thighs automatically, spreading them wider so he can look at her. When Zach’s fingers curl into his hair, he startles a little, tries to turn and look up, but Zach won’t let him. He holds his head still, his grip like iron.
“Go on, Chris. You want to taste her, don’t you?” He addresses Anna next. “Do you want him to?”
“Mmm,” Anna hums in assent. “If you want him to.”
This time, Chris tries again to look up. He wants to see Zach’s expression, how pleased he probably looks at that answer. But Zach doesn’t let him. He twists his fingers in Chris’s hair until tears spring to his eyes.
“I want him to,” Zach says, his voice so low it’s almost a whisper. Anna nods, lets her head fall back to the bed, and Zach pushes Chris forward.
Chris is pretty sure Zach can’t instruct him on this part. As soon as the grip on his hair relaxes, he leans in and drapes Anna’s legs over his shoulders. He doesn’t tease her—he knows by now she doesn’t like that, and he has a feeling Zach wouldn’t either. Instead, he buries his face between her thighs and concentrates on making it good for her.
Anna isn’t very vocal in bed, and she’s even quieter now than Chris is used to. He lifts his eyes to her face and sees that she’s biting down on her bottom lip, her eyes shut tight. Her fingers are twisting in the bedsheets, and Chris reaches up with one hand to gently loosen her grip and hold onto her hand. Zach is still a looming presence somewhere at his back, his fingers petting at his hair now, encouraging him but not getting in the way.
“What does she taste like?” Zach asks. Chris groans and thrusts his tongue as deep inside her as he can, gathering the sweet-bitter taste of her. When he pulls away to answer, Zach doesn’t give him a chance. His fingers find Chris’s chin and he tilts his head up. Chris feels the shock hit him just a half second before Zach is leaning down and licking the corner of his mouth, lapping the slickness off his face.
“Jesus, Zach,” Chris gasps. “Don’t you...aren’t you….”
Zach stops his stammering by putting a finger to his lips. There is a glint in his eye, like he’s taking pleasure in Chris’s confusion. And knowing Zach, he is. He’s probably throwing curveballs on purpose, just to remind Chris who’s in control here. As if he had any doubt.
“What do you think, Anna?” Zach says, looking up from Chris’s face to the bed. Anna is propped up in her elbows on the bed now, her breathing still labored, grinning at them in amusement. “Are you ready for him?”
“You two, I swear to God,” she says, smiling even wider. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready.”
She reaches out a hand to Chris. He gets to his feet and pushes his pants and underwear down before climbing onto the bed and threading their fingers together, bringing her hand to his mouth so he can kiss it. Her eyes go soft. “How are you doing, sweetheart?”
In lieu of an answer, Chris pushes his face into her neck, combs his fingers through her hair, takes comfort in her closeness and familiarity. So many things are shifting, and he still hasn’t figured it all out, but amid all the confusion there are moments like this. The way Anna smells. The way Zach’s hand feels when it squeezes his calf. Familiar sensations from two different worlds are knitting themselves together, and he tries to hold onto that, taking pleasure in the details even though he can’t understand the big picture.
Zach flicks a condom onto the bed, and Chris looks up to watch him walk to the chair by the window. He wishes he would stay closer, but he also understands. There are limits.
“You should put that on him,” Zach says to Anna. Not a demand, a request, testing the waters.
Anna is obviously game, yet again, because she throws a smile in Zach’s direction and then grabs the condom packet, ripping it open. She sits up so she can roll it on, and Chris can’t resist breaking her concentration with a kiss.
“Don’t keep her waiting, Christopher,” Zach says.
Chris should feel more self-conscious than he does. He can feel Zach’s gaze on him like it’s a physical thing, but it feels more like a challenge than a test. If he and Zach could have been together this whole time, then maybe he deserves to see a little bit of what he was missing.
Anna sighs with something like relief when he sinks into her. She wraps her legs around him and digs her heels into the small of his back, urging him onward. Chris groans and drops his head to to her chest. He drags his mouth across her breast and then sucks her nipple into his mouth, making her back arch off the bed. With his heart pounding in his ears, Chris can’t be sure if he just heard Zach make a sound or not, but he wants to believe it. He wants to believe this is affecting him somehow.
“Tell him how you want it,” Zach says to Anna. Chris lifts his head again so he can look at her, and she searches his face for a moment before smiling.
“You tell him how you want it, Zach.” She turns her head to look at the chair Zach is sitting in, arching an eyebrow in challenge. Chris hears him chuckle, and he must be shaking his head, because Anna makes a frustrated sound. “He wants to hear you.”
“And what about what you want?”
Chris stops moving, waiting, holding his breath. Anna seems to consider for a moment, her eyes darting between him and Zach.
“I just want to be here,” she says at last.
The silence stretches out for a moment, and Chris is still afraid to breathe. Anna swivels her hips, clenches around him, trying to get him to move again, but he just waits—waits for Zach to tell him what to do. Finally, he hears Zach’s sharp intake of breath. “Make her come, Chris.”
That’s an order he can get behind. He smiles down at Anna, waiting for her go-ahead, and she wiggles her hips again, playfully this time. With a breathless laugh on his lips, he sits up a little and then reaches for her waist, tugging her forward to meet the first snap of his hips. She gasps, so he does it again. And again. Anna reaches above her to push against the headboard, giving herself the leverage to meet him thrust for thrust, but when Chris starts fucking her in earnest, she abandons that plan and claws at his shoulders, dragging him closer. He gets a hand under her hips, lifts her a little off the bed, marvels at how easy it is to do.
“God, you’re fucking gorgeous.” Zach’s voice sounds closer, and Chris wants to look for him, but he forces himself not to. If Zach wants to be part of this, he can damn well be part of it. Suddenly it’s hard not to resent him for being there, for intruding on this moment that he hasn’t fucking earned.
But then his hand is right there, his fingers tracing the curve of Chris’s bicep, then drifting up to grasp his shoulder. Chris chokes back a sob.
“Don’t you dare come before her,” Zach says.
Anna pulls him even closer and lifts her head for a kiss, coaxing his tongue into her mouth. He feels it the moment she starts to tighten around him, and he redoubles his efforts. Zach’s hand is gentle on the back of his neck, and all Chris’s confusion and uncertainty and annoyance are chased away by a wave of gratefulness that they are here with him...or that he is here with them. He can’t tell which way is which right now. Anna is gasping against his mouth, her legs shaking, her body constricting around him, dragging him right up to the edge. Every bit of him is just trying to hang on a little longer, to keep fucking her through it.
And then Zach tugs his chin around and crushes their mouths together, and Chris is just gone. He comes so hard he sees stars. Anna is still clenching around him, her breath hot on his skin where she pushes her forehead into his shoulder, and Zach kisses him all the way through the aftershocks, gripping his jaw hard, keeping half Chris’s attention on him.
He can’t catch his breath, not even afterward when he rolls to the side and pillows his head on Anna’s shoulder, and she combs her fingers through his hair. Not when it’s Zach’s hands that are pulling the condom off him. Zach disappears for a moment, but when he comes back, he crawls into bed with them, and Chris can feel the heat of his body just inches away from his back. He’s too scared to lean back into him, so he runs his hand across Anna’s stomach and pulls her closer.
“Well,” Anna says, finding his fingers and squeezing them. “That was certainly more fun than just telling you to get over yourself and go talk to Zach.”
Zach takes that as his cue to plaster himself to Chris’s back, pressing kisses to his neck and shoulders like he’s been waiting years to do it. Chris closes his eyes and reaches back to pull him even closer, then snuggles closer to Anna as well. There are so many things he should say, so many things they should all talk about, but right now he just wants to enjoy the moment. It’s late, and he feels sleepy and sated. With Anna still stroking his hair and Zach’s breath right in his ear, it’s not long before he drifts off to sleep.
Chris thinks he’s alone when he wakes. The bed is cold and empty, but there is a light in the hall streaming in under the door. When he concentrates, he can hear voices in the other room—Anna’s murmur and Zach’s low rumble of a laugh.
It’s too dark and he’s too tired to find his clothes, so he wraps the comforter around himself and then shuffles out into the living room. There he finds Anna and Zach, grinning at each other like co-conspirators, Zach’s shoulders shaking in silent laughter. Anna has gotten dressed again and her hands are wrapped around a steaming mug. She and Zach are sitting cross-legged on the couch, facing each other, but they both look around when Chris enters the room.
“Hey, Sleeping Beauty,” Anna says. A glance at the clock on the mantle says it’s 6:30 in the morning. It’s far too early for anyone to be awake, and yet they are looking at him like they have been expecting him for a while.
“Uhh, hi,” Chris answers dumbly. He goes over to the couch and plops down on the other side of Anna. “I’m not sure I like this, waking up to you two out here having a pow-wow.”
Zach smiles at him over Anna’s head. “We’re talking theater.”
“He’s telling me all about his Broadway run.” Anna pats Zach’s knee, then turns to look at Chris. “I figured we should get to know each other a little better if we’re going to be sharing you.”
Chris tries really hard to scowl, but it’s hard when his heart is soaring. Anna was more or less teasing him, but there is an underlying seriousness to her words that makes him both scared and nervous. It seems like too much. It seems impossible. “You two decided that without me, huh?”
He needs to talk to Zach. He does need at least that much. Something went wrong somewhere along the way, and one possibly ill-advised threesome—Was that really even a threesome?—isn’t going to erase that.
“What, like you aren’t over the moon at the very thought?” Anna leans in and kisses his cheek, then pushes her mug into his hands. “I know you two have some catching up to do though. I was going to head home anyway. Just...call me when you leave, okay?”
Chris nods at her, not sure he can find his voice, not sure he’s ready to be alone with Zach yet. But Anna is already getting to her feet, then leaning down to kiss him goodbye. Chris watches as she gets her coat and then heads for the door. Just as she puts her hand on the door, she turns around and gives them both a little finger wag. Chris raises his hand in response.
He watches until the door closes behind her, then turns back to Zach. The sky is starting to go gray behind him. The sun will be rising soon.
Chris swallows hard. “So…”
“So,” Zach echoes. He leans forward and takes one of Chris’s hands in both of his. He smiles, and Chris finally lets himself hope.