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Can't Buy Me Love

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The whole thing starts with food.

It's only a few weeks into filming — early enough that Zee is still sitting inside his car every morning, blasting Coldplay and working up the nerve to walk on set — when Saint first brings him lunch. 

Not lunch from the food support tables, either. He has moo pad kapi just for Zee, that Saint apparently picked up on his way into work. Zee loves moo pad kapi. He isn't entirely sure how Saint knew that, but he takes the carton of food and thinks this whole acting thing might just work out after all. 

Saint keeps bringing him food. Even on days when fans have sent them way, way too much to eat, Saint will still show up with Zee's favorite iced matcha or a bag of seaweed chips, or, sometimes, a whole entire meal. It's always better than whatever they've been given for lunch that day, because Saint seems to remember every single restaurant Zee has ever mentioned liking. 

Like so many things about show business, Zee has no idea if this is... normal? Is it normal for your acting partner to buy you food all the time and know exactly how you take your coffee and sometimes show up with a slice of tiramisu just because he knows you're stressed? Should he be buying Saint food? Oh god, should he have been buying Saint food?

Today, Saint has brought him something with chocolate and fruit and far too much whipped cream. It looks absolutely delicious. Zee briefly considers saving it for later, because whipped cream and chocolate aren't exactly an integral part of his diet plan, but he loses all ability to plan for the future when Saint grabs the tiny gold fork tied to the cute little cake box and cuts off a bite for him. 

"P'Zee, don't you want it?" he asks, eyes going wide in a way Zee has gotten much too familiar with lately. That look pretty much always ends with Saint getting what he wants. Usually he's asking for another take, or to change up the blocking in some way that should break the script but inevitably ends up looking great on camera. 

Zee doesn't bother trying to argue that he's actually quite full, thank you, with all the very healthy vegetables he ate for lunch. Just opens his mouth and tries not to react too obviously when Saint lifts the bite of cake to his tongue. 

"Whoops," Saint says, as Zee shivers, just enough to get whipped cream all over his lips. Zee goes to wipe it away, but Saint catches his hand before he can. 

"Wait! Here, I'll show you how to do it sexy."

And then Saint leans in and just. Licks? The whipped cream? Off Zee's upper lip? 

Zee watches, frozen, as Saint swallows, licking his own lips to make sure none of the cream transferred over. "See, like that. At an angle. You have to make sure you're cheating out, so it doesn't get too shadowy for the camera."

"For the camera?" Zee says, after swallowing hard. 

"Exactly." Saint takes a bite of the cake himself. "Ooh, that's tasty. You have good taste, P'Zee. Here, have some more."

Zee lets himself be fed cake and strawberries and doesn't point out Saint had bought the cake himself. Because the alternative is running out of the room, and that would raise a lot of questions he doesn't currently have answers to. 


Things escalate. 

"Okay, you said giving your acting partner food was normal but are clothes also normal?"

"What do you mean, clothes?" 

Jimmy's voice is sort of crackly, and Zee suspects he has been put on speaker phone. God, he hopes Jimmy isn't anywhere near other people. 

Zee is staring at a knit cap, a jacket, and two Coach bags that he's pretty sure are worth more than his monthly rent. 

"Just answer the question. Is it normal to give, you know, clothes and things? Accessories?"

"Tommy gave me his sweatshirt the other day," Jimmy says. 

"All of Tommy's sweatshirts have at least half a dozen holes in them. Not intentional holes, either," Zee replies, thinking of Joss's artfully distressed t-shirts that were carefully hand-holed by some designer in Paris. "Like, holes that come from him wearing them until they fall apart." 

"I know. It's great."

"Does it even fit you?"

"Mostly," Jimmy says with a wistful sigh. "I haven't washed it yet, so it kinda smells like him."

Zee holds back a weary “gross” because he needs Jimmy's help more than he needs to comment on his laundry habits. 

"Okay but like. What if Tommy gave you something kind of... expensive? And maybe it was from a promo gig but you're not entirely sure, and either way it's. A pretty big gift? But he specifically said 'this is definitely your color, it'll look so good on you' and then left before you could ask any questions. Would that be weird?"

"If it's a... it's a gift, but it's a color? Who are you talking about, anyway?" Jimmy's sounding less dreamy and more confused now. Warning bells start going off in Zee's brain.

"Never mind. Forget I asked. See you on set," Zee says in a rush, and then hangs up the phone before he can be mocked as mercilessly as he's pretty sure he deserves.

Zee's phone dings the Monday before they're supposed to go on location for the beach shoot. Saint's name blinks up at him from his line notifications. 

"U busy this weekend?" 

"Packing for our trip?" Zee responds. Then, because he's feeling clever, adds "Why R U asking? ^_____^" 

"P'Zee!!!!" Saint replies, with frankly more exclamation marks than that joke really deserved. Zee swallows down the warm glow rising in his chest. 

The app dings again with another message from Saint. 

"Want to go early for some vacay before filming?" 

Saint, it turns out, has arranged two nights at the resort, before they're set to start filming there and everyone else arrives. 

"I think we deserve a break, na?" he says, when Zee switches from text to a phone call, to make sure he's not misinterpreting some weird joke Saint is making. "The room I got is big enough for two, if you want to join me!"

Zee has yet to say no to Saint, about anything. He isn't going to start when a free beach vacation is on the line. 

They arrive two days before a scheduled fan meetup, followed by three days of filming, and Zee has to fight to keep his jaw off the floor when he sees the resort in question. Saint's reserved them a wildly swanky room right on the beach, with a private, candle lined path down to the ocean from their front veranda. It's a lot? There's champagne waiting when they arrive. There's only one bed. 

Zee doesn't know what to expect that night, but when he climbs under the soft linen sheets and turns off the light, Saint rolls into him, cuddles up against his back, then... falls asleep immediately. 

Zee lies awake for the next hour, the smell of saltwater wafting through the windows, Saint warm and comfortable and confusing against his back. He's had worse nights. 

He wakes up the next morning to the smell of coffee, because apparently Saint has brought him breakfast in bed. Zee's too hungry and caffeine deprived to even question if this is normal before he's scarfed down half a plate of fancy little toast points. 

Saint laughs, brushes a lock of Zee's hair behind his ear, then goes "Oh, hey, want to see something?"

The next thing he knows, Zee is on his back, Saint hovering over him, one arm tight on Zee's bicep and the other trailing up under the hem of his shirt. Zee's boxers are doing very little to hide how instantly hard he's gotten. 

"So I was thinking if you do this," Saint rucks his shirt up higher, "and you put your hands here..." 

He lets go of Zee's bicep for a moment, uses the newly free hand to position Zee's arms so he's framing Saint, one hand low on his hip, the other around the small of his back. 

"Then we can get a bit of skin in without messing up the lighting? Plus, room for a mic pack!"

Saint grins at him, eyes bright and face inches away. Zee swallows and tries to will his boner down. Tries not to let his eyes trail over Saint's pouty lower lip. He doesn't succeed on either count. 

"Oh," Saint says, and Zee looks back up breathlessly. "Yeah, here. Let's practice." 

And then Zee doesn't have time to react any more, because he's being kissed. Gently at first, Saint brushing carefully over his lips, fingers tickling over Zee's ribcage as they push his shirt up higher. Zee huffs a confused laugh, and Saint nips at his bottom lip as a reward. Sucks his lip into his mouth and pushes forward, moving them back down on bed until he's straddling Zee and kissing him, hard and urgent. 

Zee tries very hard to focus on arching his hips away from Saint while also trying to be an engaged participant in the kissing, because this is supposed to be practice, after all. And Saint is such a good actor. 

After he landed Why R U, before filming started, Zee would watch clips of Saint endlessly. For all his friends teased him about "watching Love By Chance for the articles," he actually was genuinely fascinated by the way Saint inhabited a role. Zee took notes, once, lining up Saint's technique with what he'd learned in his own acting classes. It was helpful. Until he devolved into doodling "Saint" in English with a heart dotting the i and then he had to throw the notebook across the room and listen to the Twilight OST on repeat for the rest of the night.  

"You still there, P'Zee?" 

Zee bites back a whine as Saint pulls away, slick heat leaving his mouth empty and sort of tingly and yes, he had definitely spaced out for a second. At least Zee isn't hard enough to pound khao khua anymore. So that's helpful. 

"Sorry, got a bit... distracted," Zee apologizes with a blush. Saint laughs, bright and chipper, and leans back on his heels. 

"Are you tired, Phi?" Saint quirks his head, looks up through his eyelashes at Zee. His pupils are wide and dark, his lips swollen, flushed as red as Zee suspects his own are. It's a compelling image, staring him down from his lap. 

"We could keep practicing?" Zee says, feeling breathless and a little brave. 

"Mn," Saint says, and licks his lips. "Let's try that lift I told you about last week. Here, hold me by the thigh, okay?" 

They practice kissing for what feels like hours. For what might really be hours, actually, because eventually they're interrupted by the sound of Zee's stomach rumbling despite the hastily eaten breakfast. Saint laughs, pulls away, his lips looking puffy and red and glorious, and says they should go out for lunch. 

"Lunch?" Zee asks, trying to piece together the fragments of his brain. It's a work in progress. 

"I hear the restaurants in town are super cute!" Saint grins, and hops happily off the bed. 

Zee shoves a pillow over his face and moans, then pulls himself together enough to announce he's going to shower. Saint, happily pawing through his clothes in the walk-in closet, barely acknowledges him. It gives Zee an opportunity to flee to the rain shower in the luxe bathroom. 

After about thirty seconds of trying to calm down via liberal application of cold water, Zee gives up, turns the heat up, and takes himself in hand. He thinks about Saint's lips, kissed slick and red. Thinks about his weight, heavy on Zee's thigh. He comes embarrassingly quickly, forehead pressed against the shower tile and body shaking through the aftershocks. 

The nearby town is a sleepy seaside place, a short walk from the resort. Saint grabs Zee by the hand as they reach the boardwalk, pointing excitedly at the souvenir booths lining the path. His fingertips feel like fireworks on Zee's wrist, flashes of heat and spark running up his arm as he's pulled toward a colorful display of toys and t-shirts. 

"P'Zee, look, it's you!" Saint says, picking a stuffed koala off the table and waggling it in the air. "I'm going to buy it, Phi, so I can cuddle you at night, even if you're not there." 

Zee doesn't know why Saint's doing this. Maybe flirting just comes as naturally to him as sleeping and breathing and rearranging Zee's limbs for optimal camera angles. Maybe he thinks there might be fans here, arriving early for the meetup, and wants to make sure they get their money's worth. 

Either way, he watches Saint buy the koala for himself and a stuffed puppy for Zee (“Does this look like me, Phi? Will you cuddle it too?”), then follows along obligingly as he's pulled toward a small cafe where Saint buys them an elaborate drink served in a coconut. There are two twirly straws decorated in fruit and little paper hearts.

"You two are so cute together!" the waitress coos when she brings them their order. Zee stutters and blushes while Saint just smiles and doesn't correct her. 

After another night of “practice” where Zee almost loses what's left of his mind, Saint only ramps things up at the fan meetup. Hundreds of girls scream at them from across the room as Zee freezes in place because Saint is draping himself all over Zee.  Which is saying something, because Saint's basically always been all over Zee, as they do promo in the lead up to the Why R U premier. But this is. More than normal, Zee thinks. Or possibly this whole vacation thing has just left him in such a state of horny confusion that he doesn't know what normal is anymore. 

Saint snakes a hand up the back of his shirt, where Zee is pretty sure no one can see. He leans in so close for a tease of a kiss that Zee can feel the humid huff of his breath on his cheek. Feels what he's pretty sure is a whisper of Saint's actual lips, brushing over his jaw before Saint pulls away and mugs for the screaming fans. Zee doesn't have to pretend to blush and hide his face in the crook of Saint's neck. 

If Zee thought the meetup was confusing, it has nothing on the following three days of filming. By day two he's up to three showers. On day three, after several hours of lying on cold poolside cement with Saint positively wriggling on top of him, Zee sneaks into one of the crew member's room for a fourth shower, because Saint's going to start asking questions if he keeps using the shower in their room, and Zee doesn't know how to politely say "If I don't get myself off at least half a dozen times on my own, I will accidentally come all over you in the middle of this, our professional workplace, and I think that would leave you upset and me fired." 

The sound tech just laughs when Zee mumbles an excuse about his own shower being broken, tells him there's moisturizer on the counter if Zee needs to borrow some, then goes back to playing some cell phone game that involves shooting pirates or something while Zee cranks up the water and tries to get off as silently as possible. Zee owes him a big wrap gift.

Zee does think the footage they get is pretty good, at least. Saint seems happy with it, charming the AD into letting them watch takes throughout the day. He pulls Zee close as he watches, squeezes his shoulder every time he thinks something's particularly well choreographed. 

They wrap the last day of on-location shooting in the early evening, Zee wandering off the candlelit beach both melancholy at leaving such a beautiful place and a little relieved at the thought of going back to a more sustainable amount of daily masturbation. He's starting to chafe at this point.  

"P'Zee!" Zee looks up from where he's loading luggage into his car to see Saint running toward him across the parking lot.  "Before you go, take this." 

"Wha?" Zee says, as Saint shoves a small, gift-wrapped box into his hands. 

"It made me think of you," Saint says with an innocent smile that Zee doesn't trust, because Saint's innocent smiles tend to lead to him on his back, trying to hide an erection, while their director says something like "I guess that blocking works too? Keep rolling." 

Saint leaves before Zee can ask any questions, though. 

Zee opens the package when he gets home. Inside is a delicate silver bracelet that he supposes would make Saint think of him, because it has "Z  E  E" spelled out on it in crystal charms. 

God, he hopes that's crystal. 

Zee should be exhausted after nearly a week away from home, but that night he lies awake for hours. He finally gives up at 5 am, gets in his car, and drives to Jimmy's house. Jimmy doesn't even yell at him about being woken up at ungodly-o'clock. (Though, to be honest, Zee isn't sure Jimmy knows how to yell.) He just maneuvers Zee over to the couch, wraps him in a fluffy blanket, and then flops over into his lap and falls back asleep. Zee turns Jimmy's TV on, pulls up the sappiest rom-com he can find, and contemplates the nature of romance and acting and the line between fiction and reality as he aimlessly braids tiny little pigtails into Jimmy's hair. 

Zee spends a not-particularly-productive weekend on Jimmy's couch, eating whatever Jimmy brings him during the day and staring at the ceiling all night, listening to his second most emotionally devastating playlist. The one with both Bon Iver and Selena Gomez. 

By the end of the weekend, he realizes he smells a little ripe and, perhaps more alarming, has not been to the gym in over 72 hours. Maybe that's why he's so confused. 

He fucks off from Jimmy's after raiding his fridge for a protein heavy breakfast (It's eggs. Jimmy has only junk food and eggs in his house, so Zee makes do.) and heads to the gym, ready to lift weights until things start to make sense again. 

It helps a little, but not even a solid half hour of deadlifts fully exorcises the memory of Saint repositioning Zee's hand higher on his thigh "so you can really get a grip on me when you flip me over on my back!" 

He switches to burpees in the desperate hope that will help. 

Once Zee is good and sweaty and tired enough that he thinks he might, at least, be able to actually sleep at some point that night instead of drifting in and out of increasingly weird and horny dreams, he grabs a quick shower, then picks up some green curry and heads to Tommy's house. 

"So now you come to me?" Tommy says as he opens the door. He doesn't look surprised, so Zee assumes someone has informed him he spent the past few days being maudlin on Jimmy's couch. The Domundi gossip hotline works very quickly. 

"Jimmy wasn't helping," Zee says, then wrinkles his nose, because that was mean and also not true. Jimmy was very helpful, in that he bought Zee ice cream and let him sit on his couch and watch Love Actually six times in a row last night. But he wasn't going to be any help with actually figuring out his problem instead of comfort eating his way around it. There are only so many mopey bowls of chocolate chip ice cream Zee can reasonably work off in the gym and still keep his abs visible. And he likes his abs. They're very fun, and flirty. 

Tommy takes the curry with a quirk of his eyebrow that conveys at least a month's worth of pity, then steps aside to usher Zee into his condo. 

"So," Tommy says, after Zee has explained the issue. He pauses to uncap a beer and hands it to Zee. Maybe a lateral move from ice cream, but Zee will take it.  "Does he like you or is it just practice for the show?" 

"That's the question," Zee says, fiddling with the label on his bottle.  

"Well, what's the evidence." 

"Mostly how he keeps saying we're practicing."

"That's a compelling point." 

"But then he bought us a weekend vacation? And several purses. And also this." 

Zee holds up his wrist to show Tommy the bracelet. It glints accusingly at him. 

"Is that..."

"I assume they're not real diamonds," Zee says, somewhat desperately. 

"So he's buying you things? And took you on vacation?" 

"And he offered to get me a dog the other day," Zee adds. He's pretty sure it had been a joke, but not entirely sure. 

"Did you take him up on it?" Tommy asks. 

"My building doesn't allow pets," Zee says, and lets himself pout about it a bit. The dog Saint texted him a picture of had been very cute. 

"Okay, let's... Jesus. You were going to let him buy you a dog?" 

"It was probably a joke," Zee says, only partly in an attempt to convince himself. 

"And he keeps... making out with you, and saying he's practicing? And you're enjoying practicing with him?" 

Zee flinches at the question. Enjoying isn't the right word, anyway. It's maybe... the best and worst thing that's ever happened to Zee? So he just grimaces in response. Possibly becoming one with the couch and watching Love Actually on an endless loop was the better option after all. 

"Have you talked to him about..." 

Zee decides he simply cannot think about this any longer. 

"It's fine. This is stupid. I'm fine with practicing! Practice is great! Important... career development, you know! I can learn a lot about acting from Saint! Ignore me. Pretend this conversation never happened."

"Zee!" Tommy yells, but Zee is already grabbing his bag, one of the ones Saint bought him because it really is very nice and it'd be a shame to just leave it sitting around unused. 

Zee leaves, trying hard to forget the absolutely mortifying way Tommy had muttered "Jesus, a dog" at his retreating back. (Like he's one to talk.)

Zee resolves to ignore whatever his stupid body thinks about the whole situation with Saint and keep things strictly professional the next time he has to reenact having several rounds of increasingly aggressive sex for work. That resolution lasts until Saint shows up to a promo event in a bright red, rather expensive looking convertible. Zee can feel radio static fill his brain as he watches Saint's hair whip around in the breeze. 

There's still twenty minutes until they need to be inside the venue. Maybe Saint will give Zee a ride around the block? And they can... warm up? For the event? 

Zee raises a hand to flag him down, but before he can catch Saint's attention he feels someone run past him and sees Tommy dart up to where Saint has just parked. 

"Nice car,” Tommy half yells, “Is it new? Take me for a test ride?"

Then he jumps over the passenger side door before Saint can even respond. Saint blinks once, shrugs, and pulls away from the curb, leaving Zee standing with his hand still raised in a half-cocked wave. 

Tommy and Saint get back just before everyone's due inside for the start of the event, so it takes a while for Zee to realize something feels weird. Not in any way Zee could pinpoint, but he feels like he's missing something. Like, for the first time ever, he has to work to get their chemistry going, instead of it coming as easy as breathing. Easy as blushing.  Zee can't figure out why it feels like he's forgotten something today until they're in a side room, killing time between events, and he realizes Saint hasn't brought him anything? He'd gotten so used to having a matcha latte waiting for him every day that he isn't sure what to do now that there isn't one. 

"So, car?" Zee asks, in an effort to cut through the awkward silence. 

“Mm. I thought it was time I drove something nice,” Saint replies. He sounds almost robotic about it. And he doesn't meet Zee's eyes. 

They have fanmeet part two that afternoon, and when things still feel off, Zee realizes it isn't just the latte. Saint isn't touching him. 

Or well. He is touching him, but only where people can see. Usually Saint has his hands all over Zee, the exaggerated stuff for the fans and small, hidden touches that there's no way anyone but Zee could notice. A palm on the small of his back. A pinky tucked into his jeans as they crowd close for photos. 

It feels like pain from a phantom limb. Zee wonders how it's possible to miss someone when they're two inches away from your face, mugging for the camera while hundreds of people scream at you from across the room. 

"Hey, Saint," Zee manages, as they pack up for the day, after the last of the fans have trickled out of the venue. 

Saint looks up from his toiletry bag. "Yes, P'Zee," he says, and smiles at him. It's not his real real smile, but it's better than nothing, at least. 

"Are you hungry? We could get dinner, maybe." 

"Oh," Saint says, and looks away, rearranging his makeup brushes for the third time. Zee swallows down a lump in his throat. "It's been a long day, I should probably get home. But I'll see you tomorrow?" 

He looks up again, still smiling oddly. Zee has no idea how to interpret the expression. 


Zee hoped that maybe the weirdness was just Saint feeling off. That he didn't get enough sleep the night before, or maybe he had a stomachache. 

But if it was digestive issues, they've lasted a week and Saint should probably go to the hospital at this point, Zee thinks as he watches the back of Saint's head duck around a corner and away from him. 

Saint's been ducking around a lot of corners lately. And into bathrooms. And off to talk to their director or costume people or really anyone on set who isn't Zee, the second they call cut on another scene. 

The worst thing is that Saint seems perfectly normal while they're filming. (It's not the worst thing. If Zee thinks too hard about the actual worst thing, that maybe he's crossed some line and ruined things with Saint and they'll go their separate ways after filming wraps and never speak again, that Saint's been hurt by something he did and he's ruined his own career, he feels like he's developing his own terminal digestive issues and has to go take several deep breaths in a corner. He tries not to go down that path too often.)

He doesn't manage to pin Saint down, alone, until they're nearly done with filming for the week. They're in the weird little set that's acting as Fighter's bedroom when the director gets an emergency text, and calls an early wrap for lunch. Zee can practically see the muscles in Saint's body tense, like he's ready to jump out of bed and leave set before the crew moves anything. Zee sees an opportunity. 

"Wait, N'Saint, I have a question for you."

He reaches out and grabs Saint by the wrist, so he can't pretend he hasn't heard. 

Saint turns slowly and blinks up at him. He's smiling, but it looks strained and a bit... tired, maybe? Zee almost gives up on this plan. He's not sure he can take feeling like an imposition right now. But the anxious lump of worry that's taken up residence in his stomach the past week is only getting bigger and harder to ignore. Zee has to do something about it before it consumes him altogether. 

"The next scene," Zee says, flailing for something to keep Saint here, in bed with him in his character's fake room. "I wanted to ask you about how we should run it. Please." 

Behind them, the rest of the crew pack up and head for lunch, leaving them alone under the watchful eye of unmanned cameras. 

"Which part specifically?" Saint asks. His voice is brusque, and he's not touching Zee at all, other than the hot flush of skin where Zee's still clinging to his wrist. 

"There's the bit where you're like this," Zee says, and in a rush of courage reaches out to adjust Saint's arms, draping himself over Saint's lap like the middle of the next love scene they're set to film. "Could we practice it, maybe?"

There's a moment, fast and so familiar, where Saint leans into the contact, moves with Zee the way he's used to. Two bodies working together seamlessly. Like they're flying.

Then — just as quickly Saint goes still. Like a rabbit caught in the eyeline of a hawk. 

Zee pulls away as quick as he can, dropping Saint's wrist and scrambling across the bed. 

"Sorry, I..." he starts. 

"Maybe we shouldn't..." Saint says at the same time. 

They both stop and stare at each other from opposite sides of the bed. 

"Maybe," Saint says after a long moment. He's looking away from Zee now, staring intently at one of the cameras surrounding them. "Maybe we shouldn't keep practicing like this." 


"People might see and then..." Saint trails off for a moment, then squares up and looks back at Zee. "It's how rumors get started. How people start believing things about you."

Zee clenches at the bedspread to keep from reaching out to Saint. Not when it's so unwelcome. He should have guessed, probably, that he'd taken things too far. It had felt so much like Saint wanted to keep practicing. Had instigated it, half the time. But maybe he was just indulging his rookie co-star, and of course the stupid rookie co-star hadn't known when to stop. Took it too far. Fell for him.

"Yeah that's. That makes sense," Zee says, pulling his clothes together from the floor. "I'll just, uh. I'll go now." 

Saint still isn't looking at him. Zee wonders just how in the hell he's going to make it through the rest of filming. He owes it to Saint to try, at least. 

Zee leaves set that night and drives right past his own house and on to Jimmy's, where he flops directly on the couch and instructs Jimmy to bring him ice cream and not stop until every last one of his abs has gone away. Zee never wants to see them again. 

"Melodramatic," Jimmy says. Zee didn't know he knew that word. 

Jimmy drops a tub of ice cream and a spoon on Zee's chest while texting one handed. An hour later, Zee is lying halfway off the couch, legs propped up over the back and ice cream dangling lazily from one hand. He's watching some horrible Taiwanese action film that made very little sense right-ways up, but has taken on a sort of impressionistic artistry from this position. The various gangsters are having a very unrealistic gunfight on the top (the bottom?) of a skyscraper when the movie is interrupted by a pointed cough. 

Zee cranes his neck over to see Tommy in the middle of the living room. 

"You're upside down," Zee says. 

"You're ice cream drunk," Tommy says, and manhandles Zee into an upright position. 

"Why are you here?" Zee asks. 

"Jimmy called for reinforcements," Tommy says. From behind him Jimmy gives a chipper wave. "Okay baby, tell daddy what's wrong now," Tommy coos and tries to pull the ice cream out of Zee's hands. 

"Don't call me baby," Zee says and slaps his hand away, protecting his mint chip. "Don't call yourself daddy, either. It's disgusting." 

"I'll keep calling myself daddy until you spill why you look like someone burned your copy of Twilight." 

Zee shoves another spoonful of ice cream into his mouth, but lets Tommy succeed in pulling the container away from him on his second attempt. 

"Samnt atss eem," Zee mumbles around the spoon. 

"Daddy can't understand you," Tommy says, then ducks when Zee tries to hit him upside the head. 

"Saint hates me." 

Jimmy makes a confused noise from the other side of the couch. Tommy sits on Zee's feet and stares at him. 

"That seems unlikely." 

Zee frowns, sighs, and proceeds to explain exactly why he is to be incredibly pitied and have all the ice cream in the world.

"It's my fault, probably," he adds, when neither Tommy or Jimmy respond to his summary of exactly how ruined his life is as of this afternoon. "We were just practicing, and I took it too far and caught feelings." 

"Ah, fuck. Okay," Tommy says finally. He's still sitting on Zee's feet. They're starting to feel tingly. 

"You don't seem surprised," Zee says. He'd really been expecting shock at the revelation he was, maybe, just a little bit extremely into his co-star and had destroyed their working relationship. "I think I might love him and that's really bad, right? Maybe I should quit? Probably I should quit."  

Zee trails off and eyes the ice cream Tommy's holding. He wonders if he can snatch it back and maybe drown himself in it for real. 

"I'm not surprised," Tommy says. He moves the ice cream even farther away. Zee glares at him. 

"What? I have eyes, bud,” Tommy sighs. “You don't have to quit. Saint won't hold it against you. He probably just wants to give you space." 

"Oh god, if you know... you can't tell anyone, okay? This is exactly what he was worried about." 

Fuck. Tommy wouldn't spread gossip. Zee knows that. No one he's friends with would. But does Saint know that? Zee suddenly feels the desperate compulsion to prove it, somehow. Prove to Saint that he'd never betray him like that. That he'll make sure no one he knows does, even if Saint doesn't want to be... close anymore. 

"Tell who? Wait, what did he say to you?" Tommy asks, interrupting what was working up to be one hell of a spiral. 

"That this is how rumors get started,” Zee says. “This is how people start... believing things about you." 

Zee tries to shove himself off the couch. Maybe he can text Saint? Send him an email? Something reassuring without being too clingy.

"No that's what I said," Tommy says, and Zee stops in his tracks. "But I didn't say ‘This is how rumors get started.' I said 'This is how people start believing things that aren't there.' I meant you, Zee, you absolute ding dong." 

"I believe in rumors?"

"No, I meant you were clearly starting to believe Saint had a thing for you. We all were, frankly. And I wanted him to know that if he was just stringing you along I'd rip his arms out of his body."

"You're like. Four feet tall," Zee says, because his brain is currently skipping like a broken record and he can't think of anything else to say. 

"Phi is very strong," Jimmy chimes in, happily. 

Zee ignores him. “When did you tell him this?”

Tommy looks annoyed. “After he got the ridiculous car.”

"You told Nong Saint that he was encouraging rumors?" Zee says slowly, forcibly dragging his brain back online. 

"Yes!" Tommy yells, exasperated. 

"Saint who isn't returning to his last drama because of shitty unsubstantiated rumors?" Zee says. 

"Yes!" Tommy yells again. Then stops. "I can see how that might have been a mistake!" He's still yelling, but he's also gripping Zee's wrist very hard, with what feels like panic. Jimmy wasn't wrong about how strong he is. 

"I should go fix this, maybe," Zee says. 

"Yes, please!" Tommy says, voice still pitched high and panicked. He does finally pry his fingers off Zee, though, then holds up the stolen ice cream container. "Jimmy, I need a spoon." 

Jimmy shuffles off towards the kitchen. Zee heads for the door. 

Zee drives to Saint's house, and barely even notices it's starting to rain until he's on the front steps of the building, trying to figure out if he's buzzing the right apartment or just annoying the hell out of one of Saint's neighbors. 

He's been there for five minutes when the light drizzle kicks up into a full blown storm, plastering his hair to his forehead and trickling down his back uncomfortably. He's vaguely worried he might freeze out here if Saint isn't home, or if he really is buzzing his neighbor endlessly right now, but he's more worried about getting to Saint as quickly as possible, to let him know he'd never spread shitty rumors about him. That he'll make sure no one they know does either. Zee just wishes he'd paid more attention to if Saint was in 34A or 34B. 


Zee turns to see a familiar red convertible, roof pulled closed against the rain, and Saint's adorable face sticking out the driver's side window. Saint looks concerned, and has noticeable bags under his eyes. Zee forgets to respond for a long moment, too busy worrying why Saint, out of costume makeup, looks like he hasn't slept in days. 

"Phi? Are you okay? Why are you here?"

Zee collects himself, shakes his head and feels raindrops ricochet off his drenched head like a wet dog. "I needed to find you, but I couldn't remember which apartment was yours," Zee says. He suspects he sounds as pathetic as he looks right now. 

"I'm in that building," Saint says, and points to an identical high rise next to the one Zee had been trying to get into. Well, fuck. 

“Sorry, I...” Zee starts, but then Saint's opening the passenger side door and waving for Zee to come over. 

“Get in the car, P'Zee.”

“It's new?” Zee says, unmoving. “I'll ruin the leather?” 

“It's pouring. You're gonna a catch cold out here,” Saint replies. He sounds tired, and Zee finds he can't say no again. He circles around the car and climbs in, pulling the door shut against the now pounding rain.

“I'm sorry. I'm getting water all over everything. I'll pay to have it cleaned,” Zee says a little desperately as he feels himself drip all over the seats.

“Heh,” Saint laughs, still sounding weird. Tired and darkly amused, in a way Zee isn't used to. “You, worried about ruining this car. Hilarious.” 

Zee blurts out before he loses his nerve,“I just wanted to see you because I think Tommy might have said something you misunderstood, but it's just that I've been confused because you've been buying me all this stuff lately and also spending time with me and I asked Tommy about it and he got a little overprotective and, wait...” Zee pauses, looks down at his wet jeans plastered to his thighs and the tan leather seats. Something clicks in his memory. He'd pointed out a car like this to Saint when they were watching music videos, once. Lying in bed. “Someday,” he'd said, “when I make it big. I'll have a car like that.” Zee looks at Saint, in the seat next to him, steadfastly staring forward. He doesn't think so, but: “Did you buy the car for me, too?”

There's a beat of silence, nothing but rain beating against the roof of the car, then Zee starts trying to apologize for saying something so stupid just as Saint sighs and says, softly, “Yes.” 

“I didn't mean to say... wait. Yes?

Saint isn't looking at him, which is okay because Zee thinks his vision has gone a bit fuzzy. 

"...Why?" Zee asks.

"I didn't really, uh, think it through." Saint is staring determinedly out the window now. "I thought you'd like it, so I bought it?"

"And the other stuff?" 

Zee needs to know. He needs to know, more than anything he's ever needed, why Saint bought him food and fancy drinks and designer bags and, apparently, a brand new Audi convertible that he's currently ruining the upholstery in. 

"I don't know" Saint says. He's looking at Zee now, sort of desperately. The dark smudges under his eyes are more noticeable than ever, and they make Zee feel just as desperate back. "I liked working with you. I liked spending time with you, and every time I brought you something you looked so cute that I just... kept doing it." 

"You thought I was cute?" Zee starts to ask, but Saint cuts him off halfway through the question. 

"Tommy told me why it's a bad idea, though. Don't worry." 

Zee is going to sit on Tommy, the next chance he has. He's not gonna punch him, because he knows Tommy was well-meaning about the whole thing, but he's definitely going to sit on him for at least an hour, until his legs fall asleep and he's bored out of his mind. 

"Why would you listen to Tommy. You shouldn't listen to any of my friends. They're all criminally stupid," Zee says. He's including himself in that statement. No one who spends as much time professionally sticking their tongues down each other's throats and shilling instant noodles should be trusted to make intelligent life choices. 

"He's right, though," Saint says. His knuckles go white on the steering wheel he's clutching like a life preserver. "If we keep practicing like that, people will start thinking things. About us. I know what it's like for people to spread rumors about you. I didn't... I didn't want that to happen to you." 

"He wasn't talking about all that." Zee waves a hand, to represent the whole rumor thing with Saint, because if he tries to put it into words he will need to punch something, hard, and this is a very nice car they're sitting in. "He was doing a bad job of giving you a shovel talk."

"Oh," Saint says. 

"Which was stupid because, like you said. We were just practicing. And anyway none of us would spread rumors about you or me. We're not assholes. Well. Joss is an asshole, but not in a bad way. Just a hipster way."

"Oh," Saint says again, in a different tone this time, that Zee can't quite parse. The car is silent for a moment. Zee should leave, probably. Now that Saint knows he isn't going to make his life hell again, and Zee knows that Saint at least still likes him enough to care about his career. Zee should... go. Give them both some space. 

"It's just," He finds himself saying, while not leaving the car, "It was confusing. You kept buying me things and I didn't know."

"You didn't know what?" Saint asks, voice soft. 

"If it meant something."

"I like to buy things for the people I like," Saint says. He's fiddling with the gear shift now, still not looking at Zee, but in a gentler way. "And I really like you so I just... kept wanting to buy things. It got a bit out of hand before I realized."

"You really like me?"

Saint hums in agreement, flushing pink.  

"Like like me?" Zee asks, chest going tense with the fear he's misreading this whole situation. 

Saint finally looks at him. Looks at him like he is, perhaps, a very simple child. Zee thinks he maybe deserves that.  

"You kept saying we were practicing," He argues, in a half-hearted attempt to defend himself. "I thought maybe that's all it was. For you." 

"I'm sorry," Saint says, and he sounds sincere now. The smile falls off his face and he sucks in his lip, chews on it nervously. "Would you believe me if I said I really did just mean for it to be practice, at first? It was just really enjoyable practice." 

Zee grins. "It was really enjoyable. Nong Saint is a very good teacher. But maybe we should stop practicing, now."

Saint's eyes drop, chin tucking dejectedly into his chest. "I understand, P'Zee. I didn't mean to take advantage."

Zee goes wide-eyed and can practically see the last bit of collective intelligence in this car packing its bags to go. He makes a last ditch effort to grab onto the brain cell.


Saint looks up, startled. 

"I mean. What if we kept going but not... as practice. Just. Because it's enjoyable. Maybe." 

Now it's Zee's turn to duck his head. Surely he's not wrong about this? The stupid bracelet glitters on his wrist, his own name spelled out in crystal, smooth and cool against his pulse point. 

"Keep going?" Saint says, and Zee feels more than sees him lean over the center console. Feels Saint's clever fingers on his cheek. He looks up, finally, and there's the smile Zee thinks of as the real one. Not Saint's wide-eyed toothy smile for the fans, or the shit-eating grin that means I'm gonna fuck up this take in the best way possible, but a subtle twitch of his lips and crinkle of his eyes that means he's actually, genuinely happy. "Just... because?" 

"If you want," Zee says, and then stops speaking, forgets how to speak at all, because Saint has pulled him forward into a kiss. Hot and wonderful and Saint has his hands on both sides of Zee's face, holding him tight and close, so that no hypothetical camera could possibly get a good shot of this. 

Zee sinks into the kiss and happily stops thinking about cameras at all. 

“I can't believe you actually bought a car for me..." Zee starts some time later, when he's finally pulled back to catch his breath, leaving Saint pouting adorably from the driver's seat.

Saint ducks his head forward, presses it into Zee's chest. "I wanted to reward P'Zee, for being so cute." He's muttering into Zee's t-shirt, and Zee can't hold back a laugh at how ridiculous he sounds. 


"I can't give you a car, probably," Saint continues, his voice a pleasant buzz over Zee's heart.  

"You probably shouldn't, no. Not, like. Because I object to you buying my love. Just. That's a lot of money. Plus, if you keep it, then I can do this in my boyfriend's car." 

Zee maneuvers Saint off his chest long enough to shove himself bodily over the center console. There's an awkward tangle of limbs for a moment, both of them laughing helplessly as they try to rearrange arms and elbows to fit together in one seat. Then Zee finally makes it work, on his knees, thighs straddling Saint's legs and his back to the windshield, arms around Saint's neck. 

"Are these windows tinted?" Zee asks, before leaning in to nip at Saint's ear. 

Saint shivers under him in a very satisfying way. "No idea." 

"Let's hope no one's nearby, then." 

Saint squirms under him, and Zee jerks hard enough that his ass honks the horn. 

“Make that really hope no one's nearby.” 

Saint laughs, slightly hysterically, until he chokes off into a low moan when Zee grinds down.  

“Yeah. Yeah let's...” Saint paws ineffectually at Zee, who decides it's time to take at least a little bit of control here. He fumbles both their pants low enough to get a hand on Saint. It's hot, humid with rain, and Zee thinks he might pull a muscle trying to do this in the cramped front seat. It's absolutely perfect. 

He jerks them both off, hand firm and urgent between them, and Saint's breath satisfyingly desperate on his neck, until they've thoroughly messed up the fancy new leather seats. 

It should be awkward, untangling themselves and crawling back over to the passenger seat. Zee's pants are still half down his ass, and he nearly brains himself on the rearview mirror trying to get out of the tangle of limbs. Saint looks up at him and smiles, eyes crinkling with delight. It's perfect.  

"I gotta get a sponsorship deal here," Zee says, fumbling to zip his pants and wiping a splash of come off the gear shift. “I think I could really speak to the joys of Audi ownership now.” 

Saint just laughs, and pulls him in for another kiss.