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The Vacation 4

The Gathering Of The Clouds (Or: Pie Philosophy)

“The advantage of New Zealand, or Christchurch at least, is that you see them coming,” Chris declared with satisfaction, before he turned left to leave the town and drive back to their Hobbit hole. “Also, there aren’t as many of them as in L.A. or New York. And they are different. I think I almost keeled over when that guy actually asked for permission to take a picture and ask a few questions. Politely, too.”

“You did go rather pale there for a moment,” Zach agreed. For his third morning in New Zealand, they had met up with some people from “Zachariah” in a café at the harbor. Two or three Americans who’d stayed on for a vacation after filming had wrapped like Chris, but mostly local people from makeup and costumes – artsy types. That had worked out in their favor. They’d been caught as a group. They’d also had a good reason to limit questions to a harmless topic: Zachariah and filming. And as far as they could tell, no one had paid attention to them arriving and leaving together.

“Thing is, you’re never safe,” Chris said as they left the town behind. “Nowhere. Like, the other day, I was at the mall. Buying soy milk for you, by the way, among other things. And there was a young woman, and she recognized me and of course she had to talk to me. But she seemed okay, your typical friendly Kiwi. Sane. We were chatting, almost like normal people. The weather and stuff. And when I was leaving, you know what she did?”

Chris paused for dramatic effect, and Zach had a sneaking suspicion he knew exactly where this was headed. And indeed, Chris raised his right hand, forming the ta’al. “This! I swear, I’ve never run from a shopping center that fast in my life. It’s crazy.”

Zach snorted. “Chris, you know there are Trek fans in New Zealand, too. Karl lives here.”

“Good point.” Chris smiled but didn’t turn his head. “We got lucky again, though. At the café.”

There was no denying that. There was also no way they’d pull that off in Berlin (or New York or L.A.). They were both used to circumspect behavior toward their significant others in public. However, there was a difference between prudent reservation and feigning friendly indifference.

After this morning, Zach knew any such subterfuge was an impossible endeavor. Not because he wasn’t willing; he was realist enough to agree to any sensible compromise that would make their lives and careers easier. (He was surprised at how much he hated the pretense after just a few hours, though.)

But Chris. Never mind that they were both professional actors – Chris simply couldn’t do it. Zach had seen proof of that this morning, in a dozen aborted touches. In faltering gestures that never reached their natural conclusion. How Chris ended up nervously touching himself instead, stroking his thigh or his stomach, rubbing his shoulder or his neck. And that was discounting Chris’s expressive eyes that were not as easily controlled as casual movements. Zach was pretty sure that one of the makeup artists – a friendly woman with blond dreadlocks who kept calling Chris “sweet pea” – had known what was up at Chris’s very first glance in his direction.

To witness all of that got to Zach. Even more than his own studied nonchalance. To watch Chris trying so damn hard to keep up a façade of mere friendship (and failing spectacularly) was bad enough. To see how that hurt Chris was worse. To observe how a very specific shadow of confusion and isolation seeped into his bright blue eyes. That Chris was clean-shaven today and looked absurdly young didn’t help.

Chris turned into the parking lot of the Hobbit holes, eased carefully into a spot between two other rental cars, and switched off the ignition. Zach stared out the windshield at green hills dotted with decorative sheep. He wondered about wrong moments and worse moments for difficult conversations. In his previous relationships he had displayed an uncanny talent to pick them. When Chris jumped out of the car, he took a deep breath and followed suit. He caught up with Chris at the rear of the car.

“Keeping us secret,” Zach said, “it’s not going to work.”

“No shit,” Chris muttered. “Sorry.”

How Chris’s shoulders slumped hurt all over again. “No need to be sorry, sweetheart.” As expected, the silly endearment jerked Chris out of his funk. At least it provoked a wry smile. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” Zach went on. “Also, that’s part of the purpose of this vacation, isn’t it? To figure out some practical aspects. That includes personal limits in terms of public relations. And it’s better we realize that here and now than …” He gestured at the hills and the sheep, thinking later, Berlin and L.A. and New York.

“Yeah,” Chris said and opened the trunk to retrieve the groceries. After breakfast they’d prowled the farmers market and walked away with quite a haul, from whole grain bread to savory pies for dinner (seafood for Chris, pork for Zach). “I … I don’t know why this bothers me so much.”

Zach stepped behind Chris and pulled him into his arms. “You’ve never been in this situation before. Also, every relationship is different.”

“Zach.” Chris turned around, holding on to him a little too tightly. “I …”

“Chris, it’s okay.” But Zach could feel him practically vibrate with tension.

“It’s just,” Chris started. Then he inhaled ragged breath and took a step back, leaning against the open trunk. “You’ve been through all that. And you’ve handled it with such grace and integrity. I admire you so much for that. It’s so unfair to you that there’s all that drama waiting just around the corner all over again. Just because I’m …” He shook his head.

“Yes, it’s unfair,” Zach agreed. “But not because of what I’ve been through or not – and I was lucky, for me coming out has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. It’s unfair because it shouldn’t matter how you define your sexual identity or when you choose to explore certain aspects of that sexual identity or if you do so with me or with Iris at your side. That’s unfair. To both of us. But most of all, it’s unfair to you.” Zach put his arms around Chris again and kissed him, deeply, until he felt Chris relax. “It will be a circus because of Trek. But if we’re smart about it – and with a bit of luck – we’ll run the show.”

“From your lips to God’s ear.” Chris sighed. “Okay, let’s get this stuff inside.”

Putting away the groceries, the conversation inevitably turned to food.

Zach weighed the carton with free range eggs in his hand. “The café was nice,” he said, “even though my Eggs Bene weren’t by any stretch of imagination Eggs Bene.”

“The mustard sauce totally slayed you. God, your face.” Chris laughed, carefully stowing lettuce, fennel, and celery in the fridge. “Though it was a fantastic sauce, light and creamy and spicy and mustard-y and all.”

“Just in no way appropriate for Eggs Benedict.” Zach put the eggs next to the fridge on the counter.

“Then you need to suggest a new name,” Chris decreed. “Because you only object to the semantics, not to the taste, you snob.”

“Semantics matter,” Zach objected and handed Chris a jar of quince chutney. “Also, it’s a matter of principle.”

“And of convenience,” Chris said, staring blankly at the hand painted logo of the chutney. “Labels are convenient …” He shook himself and slid the jar onto the shelf next to the jam. “How about ‘Eggs Mustiardy’?”

Zach snorted. “If you want to go there, I have a better idea. Did you know that one of the German words for balls is actually eggs – Eier?”

“No! Seriously?” Chris arched his eyebrows into semicircles of intrigued surprise. “I don’t even want to know how or why you managed to learn that in just a few weeks of Berlin.” He pondered the carton of eggs next to the refrigerator. “But I approve. Oh, the possibilities of wordplay that double entendre opens up …” Thoughtfully, he licked his lips. A wicked gleam lit up his eyes, and he exclaimed triumphantly: “And the winner is – Cumber Eier Batch Balls!”

Zach stared at Chris. A stunned second later he had Chris against the fridge. “Christopher, I thought we had discussed that issue.” He kissed Chris, sucking his lower lip into his mouth, thrusting into his mouth with his tongue, and pressing against him with the full weight of his body. Minutes passed like that until they had to separate to catch their breath.

“Which issue?” Chris asked, his lips red and swollen, his eyes dark with arousal.

“Foreign languages,” Zach panted. “For the sake of my sanity, you’re not permitted to speak them.”

Chris put his arms around Zach’s neck, flushed, breathless, and fucking breathtaking. “But what if I want to—” He broke off and blushed even more, looking everywhere (the fridge, the eggs, the ceiling) but not at Zach.

Zach had an idea what Chris might have been about to say. He kissed Chris again, softly, and whispered against his lips, “Exceptions might be made for special occasions, depending on certain circumstances.”

“And what circumstances might those be?”

“The proximity of an available bedroom.” Zach stumbled backwards, dragging Chris in the direction of the door.

When he had Chris pinned down on the bed, Zach could feel his heartbeat in his whole body. And the way Chris gazed up at him … his eyes so wide and impossibly blue … Zach had seen that look before. In New York, and again this morning at the café. Fragile, almost fearful. Resting his forearms on Chris’s shoulders, Zach tenderly brushed a few particularly rebellious strands of hair out of Chris’s face, before he kissed Chris again. “You’re allowed to say it, if you want. In any language. And if you don’t know it already, I’ll even teach you the German version.”

Zach could feel Chris tremble. Chris inhaled, his lips parted. “Zach …” Chris drew another shivering breath, while he worked his fingers under Zach’s shirt. Zach couldn’t help squirming when Chris stroked his sides. When Chris hugged him around the waist to pull him even closer, it was Zach’s turn to gasp.

“Zach.”

Another breath, another heartbeat. Zach couldn’t look away from Chris’s eyes. “Yes?”

“I love you.”

Zach had expected to hear those words. He wasn’t prepared for the effect they had on him. Each syllable hit him like a punch in the stomach. He felt winded – wordless, powerless. For a while he could only hold Chris and breathe through heavy heartbeats. Finally, he managed to pull himself together. “Chris?”

“Yes?”

“Ich dich auch.” Zach sounded like Harold in a particularly nasty spat with Skunk, so he figured he’d pulled it off.

Chris’s shocked expression supported the impression. “What was that?”

“In this context? German for ‘I love you, too’. The literal translation is actually ‘I – you – too’. As you can imagine, a very versatile phrase.” Zach grinned down at Chris. “And it works even when you have a cold. Especially when you have a cold.”

“Fuck, you may have a point there with how foreign languages should be off limits. That’s no fair.” Chris arched against him. “Say it again.”

“Ich dich auch.”

They ended up baking pie in their PJs that afternoon. Because PJs were comfortable and had elastic waistbands that allowed for easier access to essential erogenous zones. And pie … who needs a reason for baking pie?

Enamored, Chris bent over the basket on the kitchen table to scrutinize the organic apples they’d bought at the farmers market. (Braeburn and Granny Smith; supposedly the best mix for a pie, tart and sweet at the same time). That posture was too much of a temptation. Zach stepped behind Chris and hugged him tightly. Chris sighed, almost hissed, and Zach hesitated, nuzzling his neck. “Sore, sweetheart?”

The effect of the question was immediate: a soft flush that rose from Chris’s body and suffused his neck and face. “Nrrgh.” Chris groaned. “No! That is, not really. Okay, maybe a little. Like, I guess I can kind of understand what girls mean with ‘fucked inside out’ now.” He blushed even more fiercely.

“That’s not helping your case, Pine. Or your ass.” Zach pushed against Chris, leaning heavily on the table, his back aligned with Chris’s.

“Jesus Christ, Zach.” Chris moaned. “Don’t do that, or I’ll have to beg you to fuck me again, and then we’ll never bake this pie.”

Zach rocked against Chris’s body. Not because he had any serious designs on his ass right now, but because Chris felt so damn good. “Hmm… you smell nice.” Gently, he nipped at Chris’s neck. And fuck if that position wasn’t tempting after all. “New perfume?”

Ahhh—Armani. Code.” Chris pushed back against him. “Apparently my face fits the scent. Actually, I really like it. And the pictures for the commercials, I think you will like those. They are very stylish. Remind me to mail them to you.” Chris abandoned his apples. He twisted around to embrace Zach. “I swear, I haven’t been this horny since I was sixteen.” He kissed Zach sweetly, then gazed at him with his best puppy dog eyes. “But. Pie? Please?”

Zach laughed. “What is it with you and pies? How can anyone be so addicted to pie? You had this artisan pie for breakfast, we’ll have those farmers’ market pies for dinner, and now you want to bake apple pie?”

“All the pie!” Chris grinned. “It’s pie day today. Actually, it isn’t, because that was on the fourteenth, but I think we can still have pie day. Because pie. And the breakfast pie had cheddar and chorizo and bell peppers and potatoes. How could you resist?”

“I have no idea.” Privately, Zach supported any pie plans, though. Well-fucked and relaxed, Chris looked better today than when Zach had arrived here three days ago and much better than when Chris had come to see him in New York on his way to New Zealand. Chris had also gained a little weight. Just enough to emphasize his muscles instead of his bone structure. The effect was delicious. Zach could tell that Chris felt better, too. He didn’t bitch about the weight gain the way he had with his supposedly “chunky” Trek figure, and happily blamed the good food all over the place in Christchurch (with a special mention for a pizza place they definitely had to hit next week).

“And that’s nothing yet,” Chris declared dramatically. “In L.A. I’d bake blood orange pie for you. With my very own oranges.”

“Who would even make that pie?” Zach wondered aloud, gently stroking curled fingers over Chris’s temples.

“I’m sure there’s blood orange pie,” Chris insisted. “I’ll have to investigate.”

“Let’s get this apple pie done first,” Zach suggested, but he didn’t move. The moment was too perfect. Too precious. He could stay like this forever, with Chris in his arms, the blissful scent of warm skin, lemon, bergamot, and apples in his nose. Or at least until Chris nudged him again with a plaintive “Pie …” on his lips.

Zach sighed. “I bet you drove your mother crazy as a child.”

“Possibly,” Chris agreed. “I’m the reason she became a therapist. Or at least that’s what my sister claims. Okay, so I know this is like a terrible sin, but I’m cheating on the crust. Hil, my makeup artist, pointed me to this little bakery in Christchurch where you can get really awesome crusts, ready for baking and all. So we can concentrate on the fun part. The filling.”

“You’re impossible.” But Zach sat down and obediently started peeling and slicing apples.

Half an hour later, Zach was peering with interest into a pot with apple slices, a dash of apple juice, sugar, and assorted spices. Chris sprinkled a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper over everything, and sighed happily.

“That’s the trick, you know,” Chris explained. “You need to cook the filling. Only for a few minutes, but then it will be all gooey and yummy in the crust, and not like, chunky and chewy.” He spooned up a little of the apple mixture. Holding the spoon over his left palm, he turned to Zach. “Careful, it’s hot.”

With a cautious slurp, Zach tasted. Predictably some sauce spilled from the spoon and dripped down on Chris’s fingers. But Zach didn’t mind at all. He took the spoon away from Chris and put it aside. Then he lifted Chris’s left hand to his lips. Delicately, he licked across his palm and proceeded to suck the sweet apple mush from his fingers until Chris closed his eyes with a no less delicious sigh.

“You are, Christopher,” Zach murmured and drew back reluctantly because if they managed to spoil that pie, he’d never hear the end of it. “Very hot indeed.”

A few minutes later, they were sitting on the bench next to the fireplace to watch the pie baking in the oven. Chris had already transcribed the pie recipe into his new notebook to preserve their very special, extraordinary, and awesome pie day for posterity. Now they were simply snuggling, although Chris had brought “The Hobbit” from the bedroom just in case he’d get the opportunity to sneak in another chapter.

“You know, I’m not surprised that you’re reading a Hobbit book while living in a Hobbit hole,” Zach said with a smile. “But I almost expected to find you buried in non-fiction.”

“Non-fiction?” Chris turned around. He pulled his legs up onto the bench and wrapped his arms around them, more like a little boy than a grown man. Also, a man over thirty shouldn’t be so damn twisty when he didn’t put a serious effort into yoga or tai chi.

“Hmm-hmm.” Zach had put on socks. It was sunny today, but cool. Once the sun was gone, the floor turned cold, and Zach wasn’t actually a fan of freezing feet. Chris, of course, remained barefoot, all pretty feet, delicate ankles, and long, crooked toes.

Chris tilted his head, mulling over why Zach might think he’d be into non-fiction at the moment. When realization dawned, he smiled. “Ohhh… those kinds of books.”

“Given your academic background, as well as your mother’s and your sisters’ choice of occupation, it didn’t seem like a completely implausible assumption, considering the situation,” Zach said, acutely aware of how convoluted he sounded.

Chris licked his lips thoughtfully and slid his right hand down to his feet, trailing his index finger back and forth across his toes. “Zach, if I’m allowed to say ‘I love you’, I think you’re permitted to ask how I feel. About, you know, being actively bisexual now.”

Now Zach turned to face Chris, too, although he refrained from twisting himself into a pretzel, content to rest his right ankle above his knee for a more comfortable position on the bench. He captured Chris’s hand and entwined their fingers. “So tell me.”

Chris sighed and rested his chin on his knees, curling into himself. “I don’t really know. I mean, I’ve always been attracted to men, too. Well, up to a point, I guess. Seeing as I didn’t actually do anything much about it. But growing up in California, and with my mom working as a therapist … I was aware of what you can be. What I could be.” He fell silent and frowned, wrinkling his forehead in serious thought. “I think there was just this sense that whatever I am is fine before it became a practical issue. So I didn’t worry about it. And then when I got sexually active, I was really into girls, so … that was easy. And then, one day I woke up, and it was a political issue. Because it’s not just who you might be, not just with whom you might like to have sex. That in itself – the enforced politicization of identity – is such an obstacle to self-discovery. It narrows down the choices you perceive.” He hummed to himself. “It’s such a subtle loss of innocence. You may not even notice for the longest time.”

The alarm of Chris’s phone shrilled. Promptly, Chris unfolded from his origami posture and squirmed around Zach, scooting out from behind the table. With heroic determination, he slipped on the padded oven mitts (cream-colored, with a pattern of black paw prints). Chris crouched in front of the oven window. “Hey, it looks about done. At least it hasn’t turned into charcoal. And it hasn’t exploded. Excellent.”

He opened the door and carefully pulled the pie from the oven. The aroma of apples and cinnamon and freshly baked crust wafted toward Zach, carried by a wave of warm air. Zach’s stomach growled at the scent. Chris set the pie down on the granite trivet in the middle of the kitchen table and sucked in a deep breath. He closed his eyes with the kind of blissed out expression that Zach would normally attribute strictly to high-quality dope.

Zach couldn’t resist. He snagged his iPhone from the chair next to him and snapped a picture. “And I shall call it …” He paused dramatically. “… the perfume of pie: paradise.”

When Chris opened his eyes, Zach added. “When I post this to Instagram, that’s gonna be the caption. Or maybe the other way around? Or … something else altogether? What do you think?”

“Waiting is always hardest.” Chris sat down on the chair opposite of Zach and pulled up his knees again, hugging his legs protectively against his body. He sighed. “Waiting for pie to cool, I mean.”

Zach raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. He could wait. Predictably, Chris rolled his eyes. “When did you want to post that pic on the internet?”

“When we are ready,” Zach said. “But realistically, I think we should plan for Berlin.”

“May, then.” Chris kept staring at the pie, deep in thought. Suddenly he raised his head and smiled, that shy, sweet smile he almost never showed in public. “Just call it ‘pie philosophy’.”

The following day, in an effort not spend their whole vacation literally holed up (and to make up for All The Pies), they decided to go for a walk. The plan was to follow a track from Heathcote to Sumner, via Lyttelton. Chris had arranged for his driver to drop them off and pick them up again, so they didn’t have to worry about getting a taxi. The path was supposed to be well-marked and not too challenging. Perfect to get a feel for the terrain. That proved to be true; the greatest challenge was to side-step the cow patties liberally splattered across the path and to avoid the attentions of sociable sheep. Walking was good for talking, too, and soon their conversation emulated their relaxed progress, rambling along comfortably. Every now and again they paused so Chris could play with his camera.

“You know, yesterday? Your lead-up about books? That kind of surprised me.” Chris mopped the sweat from his face with his sleeve. The day wasn’t hot, maybe sixty-five degrees, but the sun was brilliant, and the air shimmered like glass. Zach was glad he’d insisted on hats in spite of Chris’s protests about how they were not in New York, for god’s sake. “I thought you’d be all about authentic experience.” Chris stopped walking. Aiming his Nikon at a particularly flirtatious sheep up on a boulder, he snapped another picture.

Zach slowed down, then retraced his steps to stand next to Chris. The light was so bright that Chris’s eyes were crinkling in spite of the sunglasses. “You need more sun screen,” he said and tossed the tube at Chris. He paused and let his eye drift. To blue skies and blue seas (Gollans Bay, if he remembered the map correctly) and grassy hills ambering with autumn. “And well, yes, I am. You’ve got this one shot at life, so you should truly live it. Not follow some beaten track just because it’s there.” He pointed at the narrow road they were following out of Lyttelton. “But I had my own phase of reading ‘those kinds of books’.”

“Douchequotes, Zachary.” Chris hooked his sunglasses into the open collar of his henley and obediently lathered up his face. “That phase, ordinary people call it ‘college’. And I know this must come as a disappointment, but Berkeley doesn’t actually offer courses like LGBTQIA 101 or ‘sexual identity for beginners’. Though I swear some people I know attended How To Be An Asshole 101 and passed with flying colors, too.” He handed the sunscreen back to Zach and hid his eyes behind his sunglasses again. “I can still get ‘those kinds of books’ whenever.” He licked his lips, then spat with a moue of disgust. “Eww, sunscreen.”

They continued walking in silence, until Chris abruptly picked up the thread of their conversation again around twenty minutes later. “Also, I can always talk about that stuff with my therapist. And I guess I will, too. Eventually.” He grimaced. For someone two therapists in his immediate family and someone who happily mentioned his own experiences with therapy in interviews, Chris certainly didn’t seem sold on the concept. “But right now I’d like to think things through on my own.” He turned to Zach, taking off his glasses again. As if he needed Zach to see his eyes right now, in all their cerulean uncertainty. “Well, and with you. If you don’t mind. Too much.”

“I’d be a really authentic asshole if I objected to that,” Zach replied succinctly and without hesitation. In fact, he was relieved that Chris had finally started talking, if in a somewhat circuitous fashion. (Well, he wasn’t precisely straightforward in how he approached the topic himself, so.) And their conversations were interesting, if frustrating on an emotional level.

Zach took his responsibility as a gay man in his position very seriously. It was a question of authenticity – that word again – and integrity. To do what he could. Because even if it was just a Tweet, you never knew who needed to see that particular tiny message. That things could get better, that you could make it. But what Chris had said the previous day, about the enforced politicization of identity … Yeah, there was that, with its very specific, too often toxic divide between public identity and intimate self. Zach was finally able to define his public persona according to convictions he believed in with all his heart. For Chris, he had been willing to enter a life of compromise again. He was honestly relieved that they had ruled out that option. But he worried about Chris. And he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was less of a help to Chris than he ought to be: as a gay man, as his lover, and his friend.

Two days later they decided that they were ready for a more challenging hike. Accordingly, they had Chris’s driver take them southwards to Akaroa to try out the “Nīkau Palm Gully Scenic Reserve” walk. Properly outfitted (with hiking boots, backpacks, and hats) and suitably equipped (with supplies for a picnic, several water bottles, and more sunscreen) for a real adventure, they set out.

The starting point for their hike was at a farmhouse hostel. They didn’t have to walk for a long time until the narrow road turned into a meandering path. Running roughly halfway up the coastal hills above Akaroa Harbour, the track soon lived up to its promise of spectacular views. Zach feasted his eyes on the scenery. The landscape of the peninsula, with its hills and mountains, definitely had a “Lord of the Rings” vibe going for it. Everything seemed expansive and epic here, in ways that made you wonder about what mysteries might be waiting just around the corner. The ocean reminded Zach of Chris’s eyes after an orgasm, and the sky seemed to have forgotten the meaning of clouds.

A few hours later they emerged from the cool emerald shadows of a forest littered with palm trees onto a sunny slope with a rather grand view of the ocean and the coastline. Obviously, a break was in order. For some reason Chris had even remembered to bring a fleece throw. They spread the blanket across thick bushels of sun-bleached grass in a sheltered dell, at a safe distance from the path. Protected from the wind by a wall of boulders and screened from sight by a thicket of wind-swept broom, they enjoyed a ridiculously perfect picnic with whole-grain bread, artisanal cheeses and sausages, mixed salad in colorful plastic containers, and homemade apple pie for dessert. Zach sighed happily. Okay, that was definitely the kind of island experience he’d had in mind for this vacation. Then Chris brought out his Nikon for a souvenir portrait, and thanks to a convenient rock and an autotimer that actually worked, the picture turned out quite nice – the perspective only slightly screwed up.

“So, labels,” Chris remarked a few minutes later, scrutinizing the label of his water bottle. “I get the appeal. There are definitions. You can start arguing semantics and politics and literary history. Opting out of labels, that’s douchebaggery. Because labels are not just about stereotypes. It’s not even about the communities behind the labels, but about people. The political element distilled into individual lives. But opting in … I’m thirty-three, Zach. I haven’t lived that label.” Chris waved his water bottle in a random gesture. “I mean, it’s not as if there is no label at all that appeals to me. I … I really like the idea of pansexuality. That I’m attracted to persons. Instead of, well, labels. But it’s a very intellectual concept.” He shrugged uncomfortably.

“There’s nothing intellectual about my dick up your ass,” Zach said, a very matter-of-factly reassurance. He finished up his slice of pie and stretched, the sun warm on his face. The silvery clouds that lined the horizon seemed far away.

“Yeah, but what if it’s just you?” Chris asked. “Or what if my track record in terms of relationships wasn’t as cataclysmic? I’d still have my man-crush on Karl, I’d still be aware of how attractive men are to me sexually. And I’d think of how it could be with men – how it would be to have sex with a man, to fall in love with a man. But I would be married to a woman. I would remain married and faithful to that woman for the rest of my life. That’s the normative force of the factual, right there. Everything else I could be, everything else I could see myself being, it would be just theory. Possibility isn’t identity. Or is it?”

“I reiterate,” Zach said and plucked the bottle of water out of Chris’s hand, “there’s nothing theoretical about my dick up your ass. And though that makes me kind of a dick, the notion that it’s just me does appeal to my ego.”

Zach got on his knees and laid his hands on Chris’s shoulders. “And since we are already on topic …” He pushed Chris onto his back and draped himself across his body. Framing his face with his palms (sexy stubble today instead of the more protective beard Chris had favored in recent years), Zach studied Chris’s expression. Serious, yes. Pensive, absolutely. Perhaps apprehensive. Definitely overthinking things. But not distressed. Good. And he could feel Chris’s growing erection even through the heavy fabric of their jeans. Desire uncurled in the pit of his stomach. “How do you feel about outdoor sex?”

“Man, I don’t know …” Chris frowned.

Zach ground against him. The sun warmed his back. The scent of autumn and ocean tickled his nose, and made him want to burrow down against Chris, to taste skin still cool with sweat from walking, or already flushed hot with lust. Abruptly, awareness rushed through Zach in a flood of adrenaline. How easily he might have missed out on knowing Chris like this, on feeling Chris like this.

“Please,” he wheedled. “I’ve got lube. I’ve got condoms.” He’d brought three; for a hiking tour of six, perhaps eight hours. He wasn’t quite sure if that indicated delusions of grandeur or more serious problems – like an incipient sex addiction, perhaps. He definitely couldn’t seem to get enough of Chris.

“Really?” Now Chris stared at him. Wide-eyed, wanting, but still timid.

“Who’s gonna see us down here?” Zach asked softly. “Unless paps routinely equip sheep and gulls with cameras now.”

“Wouldn’t put it past them,” Chris muttered. But the information that lube and condoms were within reach had kindled a fire in his eyes, and his erection felt much more insistent than before.

“I want you, Chris.” Zach lowered his hands to Chris’s hips and slipped his fingers under the waist of his jeans. But he didn’t yank the shirt free yet.

“Like this?” Chris asked, gasped almost, already fumbling for the fly of Zach’s jeans.

“Yes,” he agreed and began to unbutton Chris’s shirt. “Just like this.”

Getting out of hiking boots and jeans et cetera was damn awkard, but in Zach’s opinion so worth the trouble and the risk. To feel the sun and the wind on his skin, and Chris naked under him, Christ.

“I’m gonna make sure those gulls don’t see much more than my ass,” he promised and fished a sachet of lube and a condom out of his jeans pocket. Zach knelt between Chris’s legs and stared down at him, utterly exposed, his nipples tight with the cool air, his cock heavy and full with arousal.

“Fucking gorgeous,” Zach murmured. Then he shook his head and bent over Chris’s body. “No. Beautiful.” He kissed that enticing mole about an inch above Chris’s right nipple. And he might have spent an inappropriate amount of time playing with Chris’s nips next, but Chris reached for his dick. His grip was confident by now, but no less alluring than his more hesitant touches during their first few times together. Zach groaned and barely resisted the temptation to press down and rub against Chris’s cock until they both came, just like that, in a mess of spilled semen and sweat-slick, wind-swept, sun-kissed skin.

“Gonna fuck you now, Chris.” But when he was sure he had himself under control for a little while longer, he made no move for his lover’s ass yet. Instead, he kissed the triangular hollow at Chris’s throat. “The suprasternal notch,” he whispered. “Such a sexy word. Such a sexy spot. Makes you squirm every time.” When Chris writhed under him, Zach grinned – only to freeze when Chris exacted sweet revenge with skillful slides of his fingers up and down Zach’s shaft.

“Still scared of sea gulls?” Zach asked, breathing hard.

“Fuck me already, you fucker.” Chris arched against him with uninhibited abandon now.

“Soon.” Zach caught Chris’s wrists, pushed his arms to his sides and held him down. “First I’ve got a gift for you.”

“Now?!” Chris’s voice rose, incredulous, increasingly desperate for release.

“Another quote for your notebook. A sex quote. I saved it for a special occasion.” Zach kissed Chris. “Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words …” He kissed Chris again, with conviction. “Mixed with all the spices of fear, foreign travel …” Another kiss, warm and firm. “… mixed with novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, wine.” Finally, a bite, almost hard enough to hurt, sucked into the curve of Chris’s neck. “This is how we do it,” Zach whispered into Chris’s ear, trailing the shell with his tongue, nipping at the lobe. “This is how we have sex. This is how I love you.”

He would have laughed at Chris’s cross-eyed expression and leisurely kissed his way down to Chris’s cock if he hadn’t been more than a little desperate to fuck properly himself now. Zach tore open the lube, spilling a dollop on Chris’s dick before slicking up the fingers of his left hand. Probably fingering wasn’t even necessary for Chris right now, considering how often they’d had sex during the last few days. But damn, he loved watching his fingers slide into Chris’s hole, loved observing how Chris spread his thighs for him, loved feeling how Chris clenched around his fingers. Zach kept a light hold of Chris’s dick while he teased his prostate. He ground his own erection against Chris’s thigh to ease the rising pressure. God, that was good. But not good enough. Chris clawed at his back, hard enough to hurt, clearly sharing the sentiment.

A moment later Zach rolled on the condom, squirted the remaining lube over himself, and sank into Chris’s body with a cry. Despite his initial reserve, Chris raised his legs eagerly, drawing Zach as deeply into his body as he could. He was comfortable with the logistics of gay sex by now, and reached for his own cock without hesitation, allowing Zach to turn his focus inside. To concentrate on the rhythm of fucking, and on holding Chris. For delirious moments Zach felt he could go on like that forever, see-sawing into Chris, dipping down to kiss sighs from his lips. Then a gust of wind hit his balls, icy and unexpected, and he came so hard his vision whirled with blue and golden fractals.

When Zach grew aware of his surroundings again, he lay sprawled over Chris, their faces pressed cheek to cheek. His dick was still softening inside Chris, and he was strangely reluctant to sever the connection between their bodies.

But another blast of wind made Chris shiver. And then a heavy drop of rain hit Zach’s ass. He pulled out and collapsed on his back next to his lover. Staring up at the sky he wondered where all the clouds had come from all of a sudden.


pie philosophy

(Unnecessary disclaimer: the Instagram is fake, nothing but fantasy, and just an illustration for this story.)

Author’s Notes:

Zach’s sex quote is from Anaïs Nin’s Diary, Vol. 1: 1931-1934: “Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.”

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