Author's note: I got the idea for this from Beth, aka "sqrlb8," over at the Zach and Kendall board (for link, go to my author's profile). Basically the idea is to take a Zen scene from the show and change it to result in fulfillment, rather than frustration. I encourage you to go visit the site and read other excellent stories with this theme.

I decided to do the scene in the control room during the murder game, September 1, 2004. Everything up until Zach says the title line is from the show, with embellishments. After that, we switch to my little alternate universe.

Zach tried to banish from his mind Maria's words from earlier, when she came to see him in private. She told him in no uncertain terms that they were finished. Her beautiful brown eyes begged for reassurance, but he could give her none. He wasn't going to stop loving her just because it would make things tidier for her. She also tried to find out his secret, but that was out of the question.

He had encountered her again in the dining room where the festivities would soon take place. She was with Edmund. As usual he was smug and calculating. He was certainly up to something, but Zach wasn't concerned for himself. His only concern was for Maria's happiness. He was convinced she would not be happy with Edmund.

Other couples arrived soon after, Ryan and Greenlee, Jackson and Erica, and Ethan with Kendall. The latter two had clearly bonded over their perceived similarities. Zach couldn't blame his son for being drawn to Kendall. She was the only woman in the room who could compare favorably to Maria. They were strikingly different women, both in looks and personality. Maria resembled a tropical flower with her vibrant yellow dress, hair swept back to reveal the curve of her neck and exotic dark complexion. Kendall was more reminiscent of a delicate English rose with her soft, light turquoise dress and mane of hair that draped around her creamy shoulders. Erica and Greenlee were also beautiful, but neither really held a candle to the other two.

After setting the murder game in motion, Zach went to the control room to peruse the security monitors. He would do a more detailed analysis later, but for now he could get an overview of what everyone was up to. He turned up the sound on one of the monitors. He watched, a smile playing about his lips, as Bianca and Ethan chatted. Bianca was a bright and beautiful young woman. She had a big heart and was very gracious and giving. Even knowing there was a possibility that Ethan was related to Michael Cambias, she still treated him with respect.

Zach heard Kendall's voice too, but it spoke from behind him. "You promised Ryan would get his. Give it to him now, or I'll blow the lid off this whole setup!" Zach turned and saw her standing there. She indicated the monitor showing Ryan and Greenlee enjoying a romantic moment in the replicated casita. "Is this what you call Ryan getting what he deserves? This -- this is some smack-down, Zach. Wake me when they start begging for mercy."

Zach sighed and leaned back in his chair. He didn't really want to deal with Kendall and her jealousy. He wanted to look for clues that would point him towards the truth about Michael's murder. "Is it my turn now?"

Kendall continued, punctuating her words by jabbing at the air with the black envelope clutched in her hand. "No, tonight was supposed to be about Ryan taking the fall -- payback in spades for every lie, every cheat, every betrayal. This is not payback, Zach. This is nookie on a Navajo rug."

Zach scratched the back of his head. He probably never should have indulged her desire for revenge. "Focus, Kendall. Not on the small screen -- on the big picture. If we can't keep control, we both lose."

Kendall narrowed her eyes, ever so slightly. She wished he would stop talking in riddles. "Are you playing me, Zach? See, because I thought that we were on the same page here."

Zach admired the slit up the side of her dress that revealed a very well-formed leg. "We are. I'm asking you to be patient."

She wished she could believe him. It would help if he gave her something to go on. "Well, you must have some strategy. I mean, there's got to be some trick up your sleeve or something. There's more to this murder game."

Zach shifted impatiently in his seat. It had definitely been a mistake to get her involved. She was as intelligent as she was beautiful. The last thing he needed was for her to figure out what he was up to. He decided to distract her by being flip. "The less you know about my plans, the better. In case of capture, Ryan can't torture it out of you."

She gave him an annoyed look. "You can cut the sarcasm."

He pointed a finger at her. "And you can get ahold of yourself. Play the game." He turned his chair and looked at the monitors again. "There's a fine line between winning and losing. If you can't keep your balance, you're the one going to take the fall."

Kendall watched as Greenlee lowered herself to the couch and Ryan followed suit. They talked about risking everything for each other, about falling in love even before they married for business. So it was true – they had been drawn to each other even when he was supposedly in love with her, planning to marry her. Ryan had done it to her again – claimed to love her and want to spend the rest of his life with her. But if it was love, then it had been the merest whisper, easily blown away.

Zach stood up and turned to Kendall. "Maybe you should go. Find another clue and get into the game. The last thing you want is to watch Ryan and Greenlee make the beast with two backs."

Kendall glanced at Zach. She recognized the phrase from Shakespeare. She remember when she first heard it in high school English class, she found the word picture to be both crude and alluring. It seemed to fit Zach. Despite the suits, French press coffee, German-engineered cars, high-class casinos, and millions of dollars, there was something unrefined about him. At the oddest moments, when she was with him, she found herself responding to him on the most primitive level. Like now. She shook her head. No, this wasn't about Zach. This was about her need to distract herself from the scene playing out before her on the television monitor. It wasn't a prime time TV show, it was reality. Ryan was slicing and dicing her heart with every caress, every touch of his lips against Greenlee's body.

Kendall turned to go, ready to heed Zach's advice. She paused and looked at Zach. "Have you ever been in love, Zach? Deeply in love?"

He gave her a curious look. "Yes, I have."

Kendall turned and stepped over to the desk, sitting down with her back to the monitors. "This woman you loved, or still love perhaps…imagine if she married another man. Walked away from you and chose someone else. Would you still fight for her? Even when the rest of the world says it's too late, she belongs to him now?"

Zach lounged against the wall. His eyes held an odd light. "Yes."

Kendall's face crumpled. "I humiliated myself for him, Zach. I had him, I had my second chance with him and I blew it. I went to a very dark place and I behaved in ways that make me want to hide my head in shame. And what has it come to? I tried to get him back, and I failed. So then I tried to make him hurt as badly as I did, and I failed. He's got the woman he wants, he's happy. And here I am, alone and miserable."

She shook her head. "Why am I telling you this? Can you even begin to understand?" She jerked her thumb back to the screens behind her. "Can you comprehend what it would be like to look on those monitors and see the person you love more than anything in the world happy with someone else – the person they chose to spend the rest of their life with?"

Zach looked at the monitors and watched as Maria sat at a table in the dining room with Edmund. She had her hand on his and her head was close to his as she whispered something earnestly to him. He wondered if Kendall somehow knew of his love for Maria, and was deliberately taunting him. He looked back at Kendall. She was gazing at him, her beautiful green eyes endless pools of misery. No, she had no idea about Maria. She was lost in her own pain – a pain which was curiously parallel to his own.

Zach walked over to the desk and picked up a remote control. He pushed a button and the screens switched to a test pattern. He turned and sat next to Kendall. "Believe it or not, Kendall, I understand what you're going through…more than anyone else."

Kendall stared at him. "The woman you loved…she…she chose another man?" He nodded. She looked down. "Does the pain ever go away?"

Zach sighed. "I'm afraid I'm still in that stage where I haven't given up yet. I'm still fooling myself that I can get her to choose me. Maybe you should give me some advice for how to get a clue that it's never going to happen."

Kendall shook her head. "Well, there's always what happened to me. Have her and her husband say a bunch of vile and hurtful things to you, then stumble upon a live feed of them making love."

Zach cleared his throat. "Yeah, that'd do it."

Kendall put her hands to her face. "I can't seem to make the pain go away, Zach. I need to numb it somehow, drown it, deaden my senses." She dropped her hands and glared at him. "This is all your fault. You led me to believe you were going to do something to Ryan, and it hasn't happened. If you won't fix Ryan, then fix me! Make my pain go away, Zach. Do something!"

He regarded her warily. Her eyes were wild. She looked like she was ready to do something crazy. He put his hands on her shoulders. "Kendall, I can't fix you. I just got through admitting to you that I'm in the same hell you're in."

Kendall stared at him and saw the pain in his eyes. He was telling the truth – the woman he loved hurt him in the same way that Ryan hurt her. Unbelievable as it was, she and Zach shared something in common. She wondered if that was why she was always drawn to Zach. Why she kept coming to him for help even though she barely knew him. Kendall's breathing became unsteady as she became aware of how close she was to Zach, of his hands on her bare shoulders, of the vulnerability that was between them.

"If you can't fix me, can you at least hold me? Just for a minute? My head is spinning, Zach. I feel like I'm falling. I need…I need to feel grounded. I need to feel something solid."

Zach gazed at her and knew that it had taken a great deal for her to make the request. He found himself unable to deny her. He pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her. She reached under his jacket and encircled her arms around his torso. She started to cry. Zach sighed, marveling at the power that Ryan Lavery apparently had to shatter such a beautiful and headstrong woman. Usually women like her and her mother were the heartbreakers.

Kendall was a complete paradox to him, and not for the first time he wondered about the real woman underneath all those complicated and contradicting layers. What had been her true relationship with Michael? Had he really used Kendall to get to Erica, and cheated on her with Lena Kundera? Zach supposed it was possible. As much as he loved Michael, he couldn't ignore the fact that Michael did grow up under the old man's influence. It pained Zach to think of Michael as being an asshole, but it was a pill he could swallow. What he refused to believe was that Michael raped Bianca. Whatever hell he may have caused the Kane women in his desire to impress his father, he would not have done something so awful, and certainly would not have done anything to warrant murdering him in cold blood.

Kendall nestled her head against his chest, and Zach caught the delicate floral scent of her hair. She had glorious hair. A couple of times during the summer he had seen her wearing it up, and felt the urge to free her hair from its confinement. Now her hair was tickling against his arm, soft and silky. It was a disturbing train of thought.

Zach had not been with a woman since coming to Pine Valley. His close proximity to Maria had sublimated his usual urges so that he longed only for her. But Kendall was a very attractive woman. Not just physically – the volatile mix of fire and fragility made a man want to both possess her and protect her.

Kendall murmured into his chest. "When was the last time you got to hold her in your arms, Zach?"

Zach thought of that time in the replicated casita, when he had Maria on the couch, and he felt like he was finally going to get to make love to her after years of aching for her. But then she pulled away, stopped him, left and went back to Edmund. "I don't really want to talk about it."

She sighed. "It's been awhile for me, too." Kendall breathed deeply. His aftershave was intoxicating. It felt…incredibly good to have her arms around him, to feel his muscular back beneath her fingertips. Kendall felt a wave of dizziness that was different from the panic she had felt before. Zach was a virile man, and naturally she would be attracted to him. Until now she had always been able to suppress it by keeping her distance. Now she was as close to him as a woman could get to a man with clothes on. Now the attraction threatened to overwhelm her.

Kendall pulled back slightly to gaze up at him. Her eyes were huge and luminous. Zach felt her hands splayed against his back, and he couldn't ignore that his own hands were on her back, inches from the naked flesh of her shoulders. His fingers itched to move away the flimsy strap that snaked over one shoulder. This was insane. There was nothing wrong with finding comfort in someone's arms, but he and Kendall…that particular combination was a bad idea.

He was the brother of Michael Cambias, the man she hated so much that it was very possible she killed him and let her sister take the blame. Erica had spoken glowingly of Kendall's love and devotion for Bianca and Miranda. Zach had no idea whether this was really true or a clever façade. Zach had cast her as the killer in the murder mystery tonight, though he hoped it would turn out to be that Lavery was really the person who murdered his brother. The fact that Zach was hoping it wasn't Kendall was proof that he was getting too close to her. He needed to be objective and rational. But the rational part of him could not seem to gain control.

Zach lowered his head slowly, watching her eyes for any sign of objection. If anything, her eyes seemed to beg him to complete the journey. He brushed his lips against hers softly. Her eyes closed and she brought her hands around and up to encircle his neck. He knew that she was just using him to make her forget about Ryan for awhile, but it didn't matter since he was doing the same. He tasted her lips, teasing them open so that he could explore more deeply. Maria's words of rejection from earlier that evening, her sad yet resolute face, all faded away beneath the desire that consumed him. For the first time in months he felt free. His yearning for Maria and his quest for the truth about Michael had been burdens that he carried around, secrets that he could share with no one. He couldn't share them with Kendall, but he could share something with her on a more primal level.

Kendall felt her body start to hum when Zach brought his hands up to her bare shoulders and began to caress her neck and collarbone. His long fingers traced up her neck and skimmed her jawline. She had always noticed his hands, how large and powerful they were. She always squelched the tiny voice inside her that wondered what it would be like to have them on her. Now she knew. It was dangerous information to learn.

Zach's left hand meandered back down to her shoulder and his fingers edged underneath the strap of her dress. He knew that the strap was purely decorative. What kept her dress in place was the fact that it tightly hugged her curves. Even still, he found himself wanting to snap the ruffled little affectation. By concentrating his attention on the strap, he could perhaps distract himself from the urge to reach for the zipper in the back of her dress.

Zach sucked in his breath as he felt the silken touch of Kendall's fingers on his bare torso. He had been so preoccupied that he failed to notice that Kendall had partially unbuttoned his shirt and reached her hand inside. She apparently did not suffer from the same reticence that he did. She made a purring noise as she explored the hard planes of his chest and stomach. Zach's hands tightened on her shoulders, an answering rumble in his throat as she unbuttoned him the rest of the way and replaced her hands with her mouth. Jesus, she moved fast. She had his shirt undone, and he was still contemplating her damn strap.

Zach was about to push her back, try and stop this rush of insanity, when the scent of her hair lightly caught him again. He gazed down at her curly mane and watched the light glisten off it. He took hold of a lock and raised it to his nose. Whatever shampoo she used was heavenly. She glanced up at him, a smile curving her lips. "You like it? It's Fusion. The shampoo was my idea."

He could see that she was proud of her accomplishments. It must have been a terrible blow when Michael took ownership away from her. That had only been the beginning of her troubles with the company. Ryan and Greenlee must make coming to work every day a living hell. So far she had kept her head up. She was a strong woman and he admired her for her grit and determination. If only she could drop her obsession with Ryan, see that he wasn't worth her pain.

Zach gazed down at her. He had no desire to be the one to banish Ryan from her heart. But he could help her to forget him for a little while. He could show her that she was a beautiful and desirable woman. Maybe she could even show him that he was worth having, even if just for a moment in time. Zach gently tilted her head back, and lowered his own to taste where the delicate curve of her neck met her shoulder. He trailed his lips and tongue up to her ear. She grabbed ahold of the lapels on his jacket and whispered, "Zach." Hearing his name spoken with a breathy whisper was like a balm to his soul. It banished the last of his doubts. He didn't care anymore that this was a bad idea. He needed Kendall as much as she needed him.

His lips met hers again, and their kissing became more urgent. She pushed his jacket off his shoulders and pulled the tails of his shirt out of his pants. Her hands continued their exploration of his upper body. She broke the kiss and pulled his shirt completely off. She felt the hair rise on the back of her neck. Once again she was struck by the raw masculine power that he exuded. Expertly tailored Armani suits might give the appearance of civility, but she knew right down to her feminine core that in this case appearances were deceiving. The beast with two backs. She knew that was where they were heading. Kendall shivered with anticipation. Suddenly this was no longer about her trying to ease the pain. Suddenly it was all about experiencing pleasure with the last man she ever thought she'd want to feel inside her.

Zach shifted so that instead of sitting beside her on the desk, he was now standing in front of her. He pulled her to a standing position and reached behind her to unzip her dress. Now that the dress was no longer molded to her body, the strap was indeed the only thing keeping the dress hanging on her. He lifted his hand and inched it off her shoulder. The dress fell into a turquoise pool at her feet. The almost fluid color reminded him of the shimmering depths of the swimming pools at his casino hotels. His eyes left the dress and traveled up her body. The only things she wore were her strappy heels and a thong.

He pulled her to him and brought his mouth down to hers again, drinking in the heady taste of her lips and tongue, reveling in the feel of her breasts crushed against his chest, naked flesh to naked flesh. His hands skimmed her spine and continued downward, catching his thumbs in the string of her thong and curving his fingers around her delectable bottom. He growled, low in his throat, as he pulled her even closer.

Kendall's knees started to buckle as she felt the rumbling in his chest echo in her own. Zach seemed to sense her sudden weakness, because he used his hands on her backside to lift her off the ground and back onto the desk. He pulled the chair over and sat down. He positioned himself between her legs so that he was mouth level with her breasts and her abdomen, which he leisurely explored. His hands roved over her backside and thighs.

Kendall was thoroughly enjoying the things he was doing with his mouth, but she wanted to taste him again. When he leaned back to look up at her, she took advantage of the opportunity. She launched herself off the desk onto the chair, straddling him. The momentum of her leap caused the chair to roll back a couple of feet. The chair tilted dangerously back as she pressed herself against him, devouring his mouth with hers.

Zach was grateful that the chair was a top of the line model or else they might have tumbled over. Nevertheless, he found himself wishing fervently that they were in his office. The couch would have been more suited to this activity. The thought occurred to him that someone could walk in, like she had done minutes before. While she did some amazing things with her tongue to his ear, he managed to have the presence of mind to wheel the chair over to the door and reach his hand out to lock it.

Having accomplished that task, he stood up, holding her to him, and went back to the desk. When he had set her down on top of it again, she reached down to unzip his pants. She watched the dangerous glint in his eyes as she slid her hand inside and took hold of him. She felt a little breathless as she realized his size. Dear Lord. Whoever this woman was that left him for someone else must be a fucking idiot. Well, her loss was Kendall's gain, at least for tonight. Tonight he was turning his crazy, crazy passion onto her. She wrapped her legs around him and guided him to her. He moved the strip of her thong out of the way and plunged into her.

He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her to him to increase the contact of their skin, shuddering at the delicious sensation of her silken warmth. He buried his face in her neck, deeply inhaling the scent of her skin and hair as he started to glide back and forth. She clung to him, her arms and legs encircling him. He could feel her sharp inhale of breath as he moved in and out of her. He tangled his fingers into her hair and moved his head up to kiss her. She moved her hands down his back and tucked them inside his pants, gripping his backside, encouraging his thrusts.

Kendall could feel the pressure building within her, spiraling towards a release. She moved her hands back up to encircle his neck, clinging to him. Something about the vulnerability of her action caused him to lift his head slightly, breaking the kiss. His movements slowed, almost to a stop. He stared down into her flushed face. Desire swirled in her eyes, and something more. Anticipation. Joy. She was feeling the same thing he was. For the first time in a long time he felt truly alive. He started to thrust again, increasing his speed. Instead of kissing her or concentrating on some other delightful part of her body, he simply held her close and stared into her eyes. Her lips curved into a slow smile as she stared back.

The incredible intimacy of the visual connection sent them both hurtling towards the edge. Her climax hit her so hard that she broke eye contact, closing her eyes, her head tilting back. "Zach!"

Watching the pleasure spread on her features mingled with the tightening of her muscles as she orgasmed triggered his as well. He buried his face in her neck, whispering hoarsely, "Kendall."

They were both so stunned by the forcefulness of their climaxes that they simply held on to each other for awhile, breathing heavily and trembling from the exertion.

Zach's head spun at the conflicting emotions that overtook him. On the one hand, he felt triumphant, sated, and full of life. On the other hand, he berated himself over what had just taken place. He had spent months planning the murder game, strategizing and reasoning out every little detail. He had kept tight control over himself, not letting even Maria's presence sway him from his goal. How was it possible that in a matter of minutes a key player in his game, one of the prime suspects in his brother's murder, had caught him in her web? Was it really conceivable that with a few tears and a nice smelling shampoo she had reduced him to the equivalent of a randy teenager?

All his disgust was directed at himself. He was a fair judge of character, and he was convinced her vulnerability had been real. He would have detected any duplicity, so the fact that he folded like a lawn chair was entirely his own fault. Zach loosened his hold on Kendall and he looked down at her. A lock of her hair was stuck to her cheek, so he tucked it behind her ear.

Kendall slowly opened her eyes and stared at him warily. She was still shaking in reaction to the unbelievable pleasure she had just experienced. It left her as stripped bare emotionally as she was physically. She felt Zach ease out of her, and she held back a whimper of protest. She had felt as one with him, but now the connection was gone. She desperately wanted it back, wanted him again. Oh God. This couldn't be happening. She had been so singlemindedly focused on Ryan that she had disregarded her attraction to Zach. Now she was not only aware of it, but very much acquainted with how incredible it could be with him. How would she ever be able to be in the same room as him without wanting to drag him off to someplace private and come alive again in his arms?

Zach stepped back, widening the chasm between them, and bent to pick up her dress. He held it out to her. She felt immensely awkward, not knowing what to think or feel. She reached for the dress and closed her hand around it. Their fingers touched, and as he let go of the dress, he grasped the outside of her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. The gesture and the expression in his eyes made her feel calmer. She took a deep breath, and Zach's eyes dropped to her breasts. A look of appreciation stole across his features, before he turned to pick up his shirt. She smiled, biting her lip to suppress a chuckle.

She slid off the desk and stepped into her dress. Zach shrugged on his shirt and started to button it. Kendall cleared her throat, and he turned around. "Would you mind?" She turned slightly and moved her hair to the side, indicating her zipper. Zach slowly zipped up her dress and when he had reached the top, rested his hands on her shoulders. He leaned over and kissed the area between her shoulder blades. Kendall shivered.

She turned back and gazed diffidently up at Zach as he tucked his shirt into his pants. "Well…I believe earlier you suggested I get into the game." She needed to get out of there before she said something stupid like, "Call me!" or, "When will I see you again?"

Zach stared at her. The damn murder game. He took a deep breath. He needed to get his focus back, needed to finish what he had started. Except now he was hoping like hell that Kendall had not really murdered Michael. He smiled slightly. "You might enjoy it. I think it will be cathartic." He was referring to the fact that he had set it up so that she was The Killer in the game, complete with a prop gun with which to shoot The Victim, Ryan Lavery. He figured she would get a kick out of having the opportunity to "blow away" her ex-fiance.

Kendall smiled ruefully. She already had her catharsis. Her heart stopped beating when she saw Ryan and Greenlee on the monitor. Zach had jumpstarted it again. Kendall walked towards the door. Zach didn't move out of her way, so she brushed against him as she passed. Goosebumps tickled her flesh. Kendall unlocked the door and opened it. She looked back at him. He gazed at her, his hands in his pockets. Her breath caught in her throat. Gripping the handle like a lifeline, she continued through the doorway, pulling the door shut behind her.

Zach rolled the chair back over to the desk and sat down. He grabbed the remote and turned the monitors back on. He wearily perused the various dramas unfolding on the screens, suddenly not as interested in them as he had been before.

Author's note: I watched the clip of this scene for the 101st time yesterday and realized that there was a couch in the control room. I never noticed it before! So for the purposes of this fanfic, you need to pretend it wasn't there. I wouldn't have said anything, but I know some sharp-eyed person out there is thinking, "But there was a couch in there." My apologies to you. Hey, my version makes more sense anyway. What the heck is a couch doing in a control room?