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Zoom watched as Vert bent over the Saber, and watched as he leaned in and went up on his toes on one foot in order to reach whatever he was doing. Leaned against the Chopper, Zoom unashamedly let his gaze trail from Vert’s legs to his sculpted ass, up across the tight back of his t-shirt to the coil muscles of his shoulders. He bit his lower lip, feeling a light flush working its way up the back of his neck.

“Zoom? Can you pass me the— are you even paying attention?” Agura’s words knocked Zoom out of his unashamed ogling and he turned to Agura, blinking hard a few times to clear the mental images of Vert’s ass out of his head.

“Yeah, totally,” said Zoom. He cleared his throat.

Agura narrowed her eyes and her gaze swung toward Vert, who was still half bent over the Saber, butt wiggling as he tried to find the loose bolt in his gears. She cocked an eyebrow at Zoom, a sly smile spreading across her face.

“I see,” she said, slowly. The flush raced up Zoom’s neck and onto his jaw and throat. He cleared his throat again, trying to shake it off.

“What did you need?” he asked, pretending not to notice the waver in his voice.

Agura’s smile turned into a smirk and she shook her head, still looking really amused. “Fusion wrench. You were closer,” she said.

Zoom nodded and leaned over the toolbox, tossing it to her. As he straightened, he saw the others – minus Vert – looking at him just as amused as her.

“Take a picture,” said Spinner, voice teasing. “Or would you prefer a whole video?”

“Oh, come now, Spinner, the lad is dating Vert. If he wants to staring longingly at his behind, who are we to judge?” asked Stanford. He slung an arm around Zoom’s shoulder and grinned. “Mock? Sure. But judge? Hardly.” Zoom shrugged off Stanford’s arm and rolled his eyes.

“Oh, haha guys, very funny,” said Zoom. He gave them a flat look, trying to look more unimpressed than flustered. “I was not staring ‘longingly’,” said Zoom, using air quotes around the last word.

Spinner opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off by Vert’s voice.

“All right, now what’s going on over here?” asked Vert, striding over. He was wiping his hands off with a rag, hair slightly damp from sweat that came from the desert heat and the open doors into the garage. Zoom swallowed and took the lead before the others could mock him further.

“Nothing,” said Zoom, sliding up the last few steps between himself and Vert and pecking Vert on the cheek. He slid around Vert, turning to face him as he backed away a step toward the Chopper. “I feel like ‘za, wanna come?” He flashed Vert a grin and Vert grinned back.

“Sure,” he said. Over his shoulder, he asked, “You guys coming?” They nodded and the six headed off to Zeke’s, chatting all the way.

Zoom ignored the pointed look Stanford gave him when Vert threw an arm around his shoulders and also ignored the curious look Vert gave him when he tensed. Instead, he settled into Vert’s side as they walked into the diner, waving to Grace. And for the rest of the afternoon, Zoom tried not to think about anything but the comfortable conversations and the feel of Vert’s arm around his shoulders.


 

It was a week or so later when Zoom caught himself staring again. This time, no one else had noticed yet, so he let his gaze drift off Vert naturally instead of all at once. His staring brought up a bunch of feelings he tried to keep under wraps. Not his feelings toward Vert – he was pretty sure he was just as transparent as Vert, and Spinner liked to joke that Vert got heart eyes when he looked at Zoom (not that Zoom was complaining. Or protesting.) – but something else entirely.

They’d been dating for months and the most Zoom had gotten out of Vert was a couple lazy make-outs on the couch. Which, okay, so Zoom wasn’t complaining about the make-outs on the couch. Vert was really good with his tongue. And his hands. And his, well, everything. But that wasn’t the point, even if he was getting distracted.

The point was that he knew Vert had gone further with past… partners? Exes? Whatever they were called when it wasn’t just boyfriends or girlfriends but both and one or two non-gendered partners besides.  Anyway, he’d gone further with most of them, so why was Zoom different?

Okay, so maybe Vert was Zoom’s first real relationship. And maybe Vert was Zoom’s first kiss. And maybe Zoom had no idea what he was doing. And maybe he was a couple years younger than Vert and Vert was team leader and he probably thought he was taking advantage of Zoom. Or something.

But that didn’t change that Zoom really, really wanted Vert to push him up against the nearest wall and shove his hand down his pants.

Not that it seemed likely. Vert shied away from Zoom whenever Zoom started hinting around at something more physical. Honestly, Zoom might have thought Vert was just totally uncomfortable with, you know, having sex with him, except that he’d heard Vert in the shower, late one night a couple weeks ago, and he’d happened across the bathroom at the right time to hear Vert moan his name.

So, it definitely wasn’t that Vert wasn’t interested. He just probably thought Zoom wasn’t willing or comfortable.

Which meant that Zoom had to show him. Or, you know, talk to him, but that didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. So, showing it was.

Now he just had to figure out how he was going to show Vert what he wanted. Hrm. Maybe Stanford would have a few ideas…

Zoom let his gaze drift to Stanford, who was currently in a heated debate – or maybe an argument, who knew with those two – with Agura. His arms were waving around and his face was turning red, while Agura looked like she could chew iron nails.

Hrm. Maybe not Stanford.

Oh well. He turned his gaze back to Vert, who flashed him an easy grin and swept his hair back from his face. He’d figure something out sooner or later.


 

Plan: ‘Use My Flexibility to Seduce Vert Wheeler’ was coming along well, a few days later. The plan probably needed a better name, like ‘Operation: Get Vert Wheeler Naked’, but plan titles weren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. What was important was getting Vert Wheeler naked. Consensually. And as soon as possible.

And also getting himself naked, but that was the easy part. He could get his pants off in six seconds – he’d timed it once.

Stage one of Zoom’s master plan involved leaning seductively against the Saber while he talked to Vert. Vert loved cars, and Vert liked Zoom, so it stood to reason that he’d like Zoom on his car. Perfect plan. He deserved a high five for it.

So, when Vert was working on the Saber that afternoon, Zoom sidled up to the Saber and leaned against it, his arms braced behind him to give his body that long line that Stanford always talked about when he talked about seductive strategies.

When Vert turned around to look at Zoom, Zoom caught the way Vert’s eyes went wide as his gaze went up and down Zoom’s body.

“Zoom!” said Vert. His eyes swept across Zoom again, a flush working its way up his cheeks. “Uh, is-is everything okay?”

“Fine,” said Zoom. He smiled up at Vert, half coy and half shy, a trick he’d picked up from Grace. “Are you?”

“Good. Great. Uh, did you need something?” asked Vert. He rubbed the back of his neck. Zoom shifted a bit, keeping the motion mostly in his hips.

“No,” said Zoom, shaking his head. He looked up at Vert, letting his expression go as innocent as he could manage. “Just… wanted to spend some time with you.”

“Uh…” Vert blinked hard. Then, as if on cue, the Storm Shock warning began to go off. Zoom scowled as he pushed off the Saber and they all scrambled into uniform.

As Zoom swung onto his bike, he caught Stanford shaking his head at him.

“What?” asked Zoom, half-glaring.

“Nothing, love, just amused,” said Stanford. Then he swung into the Reverb and it was battle time.

Zoom sighed and revved his engine before tearing off into the Salt Flats and toward the Storm Shock. Whatever, he’d figure something out tomorrow. He was obviously having some sort of effect on Vert. All he had to do was make it bigger.


 

Stage two of ‘Operation: Get Vert Wheeler Naked’ involved lots of cuddling. Zoom wasn’t sure if it would have the same effect as his last stage, but he hoped that being close to Vert for much longer than usual would tip him off. And, if nothing else, he did enjoy tucking himself up into Vert for snuggles. It was one of his favourite things.

So, on movie night that Friday, Zoom took his usual spot next to Vert and wriggled up against him, resting his head on Vert’s shoulder. Vert chuckled under his breath and slid an arm around Zoom’s waist.

“Someone’s cuddly,” murmured Vert into his ear.

“Mm,” said Zoom, scooting in closer as he tucked his legs up onto the couch. “Problem?”

Vert pressed a kiss to his hair. “Not in the least.” Zoom hummed and nuzzled Vert’s neck before settling in to watch the movie.

The first movie didn’t work, but Vert was better about physical stuff after that. He let Zoom scoot up next to him at the diner – which always got little ‘aww’s’ from Grace and a couple looks from tourists. Zeke shut them down if they said anything, though. They were pretty lucky that way – weirdly liberal small towns were apparently pretty rare here. Zoom didn’t know if they were back home. He’d never really left the Order before this.

So, it was two weeks of cuddling, three cold showers, and biting his lip so hard he split it when the cold showers didn’t work before Zoom realized that this plan wasn’t going to work either.

Damn it.


 Zoom scowled as he stared at Vert, who was working with Sherman and Spinner on new vehicle upgrades.

“You know, I’m starting to think that Order of yours messed with your brain,” said Stanford, sitting down next to him.

Zoom gave him a flat look as Agura joined Stanford. “Why’s that?” he asked.

“Because no one can enjoy sexual frustration this much without it being part of their culture,” said Stanford, drily.

Zoom gave Stanford a second, flatter, look. “Dude, what do you even know about culture?”

“I am plenty cultured!” said Stanford with a scoff.

Rolling his eyes, Zoom said, “Man, you’re British. You don’t have a culture.” Stanford opened his mouth to protest and Zoom added, “And if you do, it’s this thing called colonialism.”

Agura snorted, clapping a hand over her mouth to hide her laughter. Stanford gave her a hard look and Agura shrugged, snickering.

“Hey, he’s got a point,” said Agura.

Stanford sighed. “Seriously, Zoom,” he said, obviously changing the subject. “We’re all dying over here from sheer frustration. Just talk to him.”

Zoom scowled. “My plan is working just fine.”

“No, it’s making you both miserable and running the risk of giving you hypothermia,” said Stanford.

Agura sighed. “I’m with Stanford on this one, Zoom. You need to talk to him.”

“See!” said Stanford, flinging one hand wide. “Even Agura agrees with me! It has to be serious to get her to agree with me.”

The look Agura gave Stanford could have melted steel. Zoom snickered at it, and at Stanford scooting back from Agura when he noticed it.

“Maybe,” said Zoom. He got up. “But I’ve got one more plan up my sleeve first.”

Both Agura and Stanford sighed as Zoom walked away from them. Zoom pretended not to notice. He could do this. He just had to get less subtle. He could do less subtle.


 

Time for stage three! This one was guaranteed to work. And if it didn’t, well, he was kind of doomed, because this was his last plan.

The plan worked in three steps. Step one: take hot shower, get all flushed. Step two: get dressed but neglect to put on a shirt and put towel around shoulders instead. Step three: shirtless, damp, and still flushed, go find Vert.

It was the perfect plan. Or so he hoped, anyway.

So, flushed, damp, and a little giddy, Zoom strode out to the kitchen to get a glass of orange juice – where he knew Vert would be sitting with Sherman, working on battle plans.

Zoom didn’t pay any mind as he stepped into the kitchen behind Vert. Sherman’s gaze came up and he cocked an eyebrow, but he said nothing.

Zoom had just poured his glass of juice when he heard the sound Vert made. The choked off noise was halfway between a whine and a sigh, shuddery and half there, only distinguishable from his regular sighs if you listened closely.

Zoom always listened closely.

He turned, flicking his damp hair from his forehead – no headband, part of his plan – and smiled at Vert.

“You okay?” he asked, feigning confusion.

“Uh…” Vert swallowed, his jaw dropped open again, and a red-hot flush worked its way up onto his face. Zoom almost winced. He’d actually rendered the guy speechless. “I…”

“I’ll come back later,” murmured Sherman. He got up and left, leaving the two men on their own.

“Zoom, answer me honestly here,” said Vert, getting to his feet. “Are you trying to make me lose my mind?”

Zoom looked Vert dead in the eye and said, “Only for the past month, dude.”

“Oh.” Vert’s voice was very small. Zoom swallowed hard, wondering if he hadn’t said something wrong. Vert swept his fingers back through his hair and gave an exhale that was too shuddery to be a sigh. “W-Why?”

Zoom bit his lower lip, eyes sliding down but not missing the way Vert’s gaze went to his lip. “I, uh, have been trying to seduce you?”

Vert stared.

“Because I really want to?”

Vert kept staring.

“And I mean, I know you find me attractive, we’re, you know, dating,” said Zoom. He rubbed the back of his neck. “And I get that you’re probably a little worried because I’m younger and you’re team leader and more experienced but I know you want me – I, um, heard you once.” Vert went red at Zoom’s words and Zoom ducked his head, looking up at Vert through his eyelashes. “But I want you. I want this. And I just, couldn’t figure out a way to tell you? So I decided to, um, you know, show you?” He was babbling, he knew he was babbling, but he couldn’t help himself. Vert was staring, not saying a word, and with every passing second he grew more and more worried that he’d done something awful.

“Oh, thank god I thought you were doing it by accident,” muttered Vert, putting a hand on his face.

Zoom blinked. Once. Twice. Then, “What?

Vert laughed. “Zoom, I’ve… I’ve wanted to for a while. I just didn’t think you were, you know, ready?” The words came out as a question, a far cry from the sure tone he took on in Battle Zones. “I guess I probably should have asked.”

“And I probably should have told you,” said Zoom. He laughed, soft and embarrassed. “Man, that’s awkward.”

“It’ll be more awkward when the whole team figures it out,” mumbled Vert.

Zoom winced. “They uh, already know? They’d been watching me try to seduce you for weeks,” said Zoom.

Vert groaned and rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s embarrassing.”

Zoom nodded. “Just a bit,” he mumbled. He looked up at Vert and shifted, all too aware of how close they were and not really uncomfortable with it at all. “So, uh, now what?”

“What do you mean?” asked Vert, looking a tad sheepish.

Zoom scuffed one bare foot on the ground and smiled slyly. “Well, you want me, I want you…” He shrugged. “Seems pretty obvious to me what we should do.” He flashed Vert a hopeful smile, eyes twinkling.

Vert blinked. Once. Twice. Realization dawned on his face. His cheeks flushed red but his smile returned. “Yeah, no, that’s… that’s a fantastic idea. What if there’s a Storm Shock?”

Zoom grabbed Vert by the front of his shirt and dragged him in, his face hovering a few inches from Vert’s. “They can handle it.”

“Yeah,” said Vert, softly. “Yeah, they can handle it.” With that, he closed the gap between Zoom, one hand sliding around to cup the back of Zoom’s neck. The other slid down, shifting to grope Zoom’s ass and haul them hip to hip. Zoom groaned into Vert’s mouth and fisted Vert’s hair in both hands, entire body going hot.


 

It was some time later – Zoom hadn’t kept track of time but god, it had to be a while after that – and he and Vert were curled together on Vert’s bed underneath the covers. Both slightly sticky, sweat coated, and flushed.

Zoom had pillowed his head on Vert’s chest, curled up half of his side and half on his stomach, his arm across Vert’s chest as well. Vert had an arm wrapped around Zoom, the other one resting on Zoom’s hand on his chest.

“Wow,” said Zoom, quietly.

“Yeah, wow is right,” said Vert. He reached up and stroked Zoom’s sweaty hair with one hand. “Definitely worth the wait.”

Zoom hummed and nuzzled Vert more closely. “Yeah,” he said. He sighed, already tired. If he knew sex could tire him out this well, he probably would have suggested waiting until tonight. He didn’t think he and Vert would be useful to anyone for a little while. Maybe after a nap.

“So, I guess we both learned something today,” said Vert.

“Yeah, I learned orgasms from other people are awesome,” said Zoom, turning his head to rest his chin on Vert’s chest so he could grin at Vert.

Vert snorted, cheeks flushing a deeper red than before. “Okay, fair, but that’s not what I meant.” He was smiling as he spoke though, fingers still carding through Zoom’s hair. “I meant, we learned that communication is important in relationships, and so is honesty.

Zoom hummed. “Yeah, and that sex is easily one of the greatest inventions known to man,” said Zoom.

Vert laughed and lifted his other hand off Zoom to card his fingers through his own hair. “Oh, wait until I show you the rest of my tricks.”

Zoom’s eyes went wide. “There’s more?” he asked, a grin breaking across his features.

Vert bit his lip, laughter dancing in his eyes. “Man, wait until I introduce you to the wonderful world that is oral sex.” He grinned, releasing his lip. “You’ll think I’m a god.”

Zoom cocked an eyebrow. “So, your mouth is good for something other than barking orders?”

“Hey!” said Vert.

Zoom laughed and leaned up to peck Vert on the lips. “I’m kidding. Your mouth is good for a lot of things.”

“Like what?” asked Vert.

“Like… compliments,” said Zoom, dropping a kiss to his lips. “And ordering pizza.” Another kiss. “And smiling.” Another kiss. Zoom wriggled himself fully on top of Vert so he could kiss him better, their noses lined up and Zoom nuzzled them together.

“Anything else?” asked Vert, humming quietly.

“Hmm,” said Zoom. His eyes twinkled with mirth. “Yeah, I can think of one thing.” He leaned in and kissed Vert again, the gesture warm and sweet between them.

A moment later, the Storm Shock alarm went off and they pulled back, both sighing.

“Well, back into the fray,” said Vert, drily. “Help me find my pants?”

Zoom snorted and rolled off Vert. “Man, I can barely feel my legs. I’ll be lucky if I can even ride the Chopper right now.” He got to his feet on wobbly legs, and a moment later Vert wrapped his arms around Zoom from behind.

“Just picture the other thing you were riding earlier and you’ll be fine,” murmured Vert in his ear.

Zoom’s entire body went tense and he spun around to stare at Vert, jaw dropped. “You did not—” But Vert ducked around him, cackling, and yanked on his clothes. Zoom gave chase once he was dressed, wobbly knees forgotten, and their laughter filled the Hub and their cars all the way to the Storm Shock.