Disclaimer: I do NOT own the following wrestlers, or any of the events that actually happened on camera, or anything else mentioned that is recognizable.

I respect the actual beliefs and sexualities of the following wrestlers.

Neither AJ nor Daniels said much after AJ was done. Daniels digested the information, from the affair with Sabin to his attempts at 'rehabilitation', to his current feelings, pretty much telling Daniels that he thought he was heading to hell no matter what he did at this point. He had his own beliefs on Christianity and homosexuality, but he didn't want to mess with AJ's mind even more than AJ was messing with it himself.

But AJ didn't want a reply. He wasn't looking for a certain reaction, an explanation, nothing. He couldn't believe Daniels didn't visibly judge or react to anything he said, but he was grateful for it, so he wasn't about to question it. He just wanted to vent, and now that it was all out, he wanted nothing but for him and Daniels to follow the original plan. Food. Distraction. Something other than him and Taylor Wilde and Chris Sabin. He knew he'd have to talk to Daniels about everything he said eventually, but since Daniels was willing to leave it unaddressed, AJ would take advantage and leave that for another day.

AJ looked up, staring at the ceiling. Looking towards God again. Still begging for some kind of sign. "Is there anything you wanna eat?" Daniels looked over at AJ, unsure of how he expected AJ to finally break the silence, but it definitely wasn't that. "I have no idea what I want, but m'hungry."

"I could go for a burger."

"That sounds great. I can go for one too" AJ nodded. "And… thanks. For listening." Just listening, he added quietly, trying not to rock the boat. But Daniels seemed to get the message.

"No problem. We'll talk some more later?"

How did he get so lucky, AJ wondered. Even with a significant part of his life crumbling before him, he still had friends like Christopher Daniels. He repeated his thanks under his breath and then, without thinking, he reached out and wrapped his arms around Daniels. Daniels threw his arm around AJ's shoulders, giving AJ the silent support he needed.

They stood that way until they heard who was undoubtedly Alex Shelley pound on the door. Daniels patted his shoulder before pulling away, walking to the door. AJ moved his back against the headboard, eyes turning upward again.

Daniels opened the door, blinking in surprise as he saw Sabin standing alongside Shelley. "Hey guys. Thanks, I…"

"Is he okay?" Chris asked, obviously trying to look beyond Daniels' body over to AJ.

"Yes, he's holding up alright." He cleared his throat before whispering, "Hey, look, I really appreciate you bringing these over, but I think we both know that you're the last person he wants to see right now."

"That's what I tried to tell him," Alex muttered, making Chris slam his elbow into his side. Daniels looked from Alex to Chris, trying to discern what was happening before him, before he started talking again.

"Look, last thing we need is to make this more complicated, so why don't you hand those here and AJ and I will catch up with you later?" Daniels grabbed the bag from Sabin's hands; he knew that Daniels had a point, but he wanted to talk to AJ himself, make sure he was truly fine, and maybe find out what was going through his mind.

"Look, I really get what you're saying," Chris said, "But I'm not here to make things complicated. I just want to make sure he's okay."

"It doesn't matter what you want. Given your circumstances, there's no way it won't-" As Daniels continued talking, it finally hit Sabin. Daniels knew. He knew about him and AJ, which meant AJ talked about them.

"Chris," he said quietly, "You don't have to wiggle and worm around it. Alex knows too."

"…He does?" Daniels looked over at Alex, who nodded.

"I'm his Chris Daniels," he said, "Except, you know, I have hair."

"So know that it's out in the open… I've got to see him, Chris. I'm not out to cause problems; I'm not here to plead my case or anything… I just want to see if he's alright. Let me see him." Daniels looked over at Shelley, who just stared blankly, and back to Sabin.

"Give me a minute." He took AJ's other bag from Alex's hand, bringing them inside. Daniels' body still managed to obscure Chris' ability to look at AJ, no matter what angle he tried to see him from. He was sure Daniels was asking for AJ's permission to let them in, and Chris was almost sure they'd be turned away. But much to his surprise, when Daniels came back to the door, he said, "Come inside, guys."

Alex walked inside, hopping up on and sitting down on the dresser, while Chris walked directly over to AJ. He looked up as Chris got closer, and Chris could see that he looked the worst he's ever seen him. Worse than the time he told Chris to go to hell, worse than when Chris saw the ring just a few weeks ago, and it just made him worry more. He sat in front of AJ, facing him, crossing his legs on the bed. AJ waved over at Alex, who nodded over at him, before turning his attention to Chris.

"Hope you don't mind the sneakers on the bed," Chris said.

AJ shook his head. "Nah, it's cool." It was weird, being near Sabin so soon, but he couldn't bring himself to turn him away. Not after the small bit he heard from his spot.

"Great. So… what happened? I thought… the ring…"

"I couldn't go through with it." AJ left it at that, and Chris didn't ask for any more. He put his hands on his ankles, letting him lean forward a bit.

"So how're you holding up?"

AJ shrugged. "No idea. M'alive, I guess."

"You are. I guess that means something, right?"


Alex shook his head; he had no idea what he was seeing, but it was painful. He wanted to just shout 'Shut up' and stop the debacle from unfolding in front of him, but he at least had enough respect for his friends to watch them stumble through… whatever they wanted to call that. He glanced over at Daniels, trying to see if he was thinking the same thing, and the look on his face pretty much affirmed it.

"You should get out of the room, eventually," Chris said, "Trust me, there's absolutely nothing worse than holing yourself up when you got this kinda shit on your mind. Go to the gym or something; you gotta keep busy."

"Might go to the gym later, but I don't have much plans for today," AJ replied.

"Make them." Chris moved one hand from his ankle, patting it against AJ's knee. "Distractions really do work. And eventually, the crap'll stink less, and it'll be easier to handle."

AJ let out a small snicker; it was a moment of happiness that made Chris smile. "Who handles crap?"

"You know what I mean." Chris stood up. "Well, I'm out. If you need me, you know where to find me."

"Yeah. Thanks for bringing my bags."

"Hey." Chris whirled around, and he and AJ both looked over at Alex. "I brought them too, asshole."

"Thank you too, Alex."

"That's better." Alex stood up, walking over to Chris and throwing his arm around him. "Keep walking tall, Styles." He turned to Daniels, hitting his fist twice against his chest. "Danny boy, I'm taking my monkey over here and going. Give me a call sometime; and try not to make it another favor."

"Come on, I'll walk you two out." Daniels followed them out, telling AJ he'd only be a minute or so. Once the door was closed, he looked at Alex. "Walk ahead. I need to talk with Sabin."

"Anything you have to say to Chris-" Chris put his hand on Alex's shoulder, cutting him off.

"Walk ahead."

"Fine. Assholes always leaving me out the loop." Alex started walking down the hall, and Daniels waited until he was closer to the elevator to turn to Sabin.

"Look, AJ's told me some stuff. About you two."


"Yeah, well, I'm trying to figure out how this works in your mind. From what he said, you two went into this as a fooling around sort of thing."

"That we did."

"And, feelings changed along the way. Fine. Whatever. But it doesn't change the fact that it was supposed do be a fooling around sort of thing." Daniels shook his head. "What're you hoping to accomplish, Chris? What, now that he's no longer hiding behind Taylor, you think something might happen?"

"I never said that. I just want him to be happy, Chris."

"With you?"

"If that's what'll make him happy." But Chris knew Daniels was somewhat right; he did wish that they could be happy together. But he wasn't so selfish as to push anything when he was so obviously hurting. He'd prefer if AJ were happy, with or without him.

"AJ's in a bad place. He's got a firm set of beliefs, and this whole thing with you and Taylor is attacking them. Shaking him. Now, he's half convinced he's hell bound and he's probably going to drive himself into the ground trying to repent."

"He's not going to hell."

"Try telling AJ that." Chris looked down; he had no answer to that. "It's going to be a long time before he gets that head of his screwed on right. And it'd be better for him- and you, in the long run- if you kept your distance while he's trying to sort shit out."

"Maybe you're right," he muttered, after a long pause. He couldn't argue with that. AJ often said that God came before everything, and Chris had seen how true that was many times over the past few months.

"I'm sorry things have been shit for you, but you have to face the fact that AJ's not too well in his mind. And that's not going to change anytime soon."

"Yeah." Chris nodded. "But hey, that's my burden to bear, I guess. I'm the one who thought a fling was something more."

Daniels genuinely felt sorry for Chris, but there was nothing he could do. They said their goodbyes, and Chris went to meet Alex by the elevator. As soon as Alex saw him, he knew he should've tried harder to convince him not to come. "What did he say?"

"Nothing," Chris said dismissively, "Let's just… get out of here."

The day went exactly as AJ hoped it would. If he didn't know any better, he would think nothing had changed; Christopher Daniels was still good ol' Christopher Daniels, and AJ could almost fool himself into believing he was still the same old Allen Jones. But as he sat in his bed, eating a slice of pizza and staring at a television screen, he knew it was just a temporary fix. He was going to spend most of the night thinking this over, and would spend every night for a long time doing so.

"Hey." AJ looked up from his slice over to Daniels. "You know, I've been thinking about the things you told me earlier."

"If you want me to leave, I understand."

"…Why would I want you to leave?"

AJ stared at him, confused. "Cause of what I said?"

Daniels blinked, before shaking his head. "If you didn't get the picture by the fact I spent the last hours with you, let me make it clear right now. I don't care whom you share a bed with. I never cared. I only cared if you were happy, because you've been a pretty damn good friend these past years."


"Yeah, you idiot. Welcome to 2006, we've been desensitized by pop culture, no one cares anymore," Daniels said.

"I care."

"Yeah well, you're a no one." He sighed; he wasn't sure anything he could say could get through to AJ, but he'd try anyway. "Look, I know that there's still people who see it as wrong, but come on. Who needs to know? I don't even need to know who you sleep with."

"God would know," AJ said, "And what am I supposed to do? Make my mother think her son will never have a family? Am I supposed to never have one, Chris? Am I supposed to live in a way I've been taught was wrong?"

"You already have, AJ," he reminded him.

"I know! I know. God, I… know. And I did what I was supposed to do." Daniels stood up, leaving his half eaten pizza on the bed, sitting next to AJ. Every time AJ seemed on the edge, he barely backed away from it, and Daniels wasn't sure how long that would keep true for him.

"Do you know how awful that sounds, Al?" He asked, sounding sympathetic, "You were supposed to stop doing something that makes you happy?"

"Ephemeral gratification and excitement," he said, echoing the words of the pastor and almost every reformed homosexual he'd ever read. Almost word for word, each time, they insisted it was only momentary pleasure, but AJ could remember being so much happier when he was laying alongside Chris, or when they were drinking and joking around, or when they were arguing over who was watching whose screen during a game of Halo. It definitely wasn't 'ephemeral'.

"And what did you do? You started a relationship with someone whom you could never love, led her on until she fell in love with you, and broke her heart." AJ knew what he'd done, but hearing it aloud, from Daniels' mouth, made him feel even more ashamed than he already was. "And look at you now. You have a ring you'll never use and you destroyed two people's lives because you think you've disappointed God."

"Then what am I supposed to do?" He asked, repeating himself, "Huh? Am I supposed to live a lie, am I supposed to live in sin, or what? Since you obviously have a better handle on life than I do, what am I supposed to do?" Daniels put his hands up, almost in a 'stop' gesture. Any semblance of control was slipping away, and all Daniels could see was the pure emotion on AJ's face. It was enough to make him hesitate; he wanted to stop the conversation entirely and just comfort his friend, but he knew they couldn't keep putting this off. It would build up until it spilled out, and AJ wouldn't be able to control it when he finally had a complete breakdown.

"Breathe, Al." He rested his hand on AJ's shoulder, squeezing it. After a moment, AJ took a deep breath, his stomach trembling as he exhaled. He took another breath, and another, each one helping to calm him down. Once Daniels was sure he was no longer toeing at the edge, he said, "How about this. Since you're pretty much saying you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, how about you do what makes you happy in this life?" There was a silence as AJ undoubtedly entertained the idea, but it was short lived. Soon, there was a small whisper, barely there.

"It's not that simple."

"It's not that simple? Or you don't think it can be that simple?" Daniels moved his arm around AJ to his other shoulder, just trying to show he was there for him. "Listen buddy, I can't tell you what's right for you. No one can but you. But you've got to figure that out, AJ, or it's going to haunt you the rest of your life."

"Sure." He looked at Daniels, giving him an empty smile. AJ wasn't sure what to believe, and it showed. Daniels patted his shoulder; there was only so much he could do or say. It was all up to AJ to make his own happiness. But he'd be there for him as much as possible

"Is it wrong that I really dig the fact that Taylor's as fucked as I am?" Alex looked over at Sabin, watching him pull on his boots. He was tagging with their good pal Sonjay tonight, which he was grateful for; a night without a match was always a longer night.

"No." He shook his head. Well, maybe it was a little messed up, but it wasn't like Chris needed to know that.

"Cool. So, um… have you spoken to Chris or AJ since… you know?"

"No, I haven't. But nothing's changed, you know. It hasn't been a long time since the last time we saw them."

"Right. You're right." Chris nodded, sounding like he was trying to convince himself to drop it. "So, good luck tonight. Don't kill yourself."

"What? I'm a model of technical perfection. Don't kill yourself." Alex stopped at the door before he left, turning around. "Dude, really, don't kill yourself. You look like shit half the time, and the other half, you just look stupid. So… take care of yourself, dude."

"What the fuck… Alex, I'm not gonna kill myself."

"Well, um… just making sure." Alex shot him a thumbs up and a fake, cheesy grin before running out, leaving him to shake his head.

Kill myself? Really, Alex? He shook his head: if he killed himself, who would be around to bug holy shit out of Alex?

It wasn't until after his match, after he got showered and changed, that he noticed he got a call. He ignored Sonjay's talk about the match as he stared at his parents' number. No voice message, just a notification for a missed call. "Hey, Dutterson! I'll catch you later, kay?"

"Alright, later!" Chris grabbed his coat and his bag, making his way out of the locker room and the building. As soon as he was out and by his car, he pressed the dial button, letting it ring in his hand for a moment before pulling it up to his ear. He had no idea what to say, but he was interested to hear what whoever called him had to say.

It was times like this he really wished his mother had a cell phone. Lessen the risk of finding out exactly what his father thought.

"Chris, baby," his mom whispered, sounding happier than he'd heard her in a while, "Baby, so glad you called back."

"What's going on, ma?"

"How are you?"

"Cool, ma, I'm cool… what's going on?" He couldn't stop asking. He hoped she saw through what he was really asking: had he waited long enough?

"Chris, I… I want to see you. I don't like this. You're my baby; I shouldn't have to explain to my mother why you aren't with us for the holidays." She was quiet for a moment, but then she said, "Let's try this, please? I'm going to cook dinner someday and you're going to come over and we're all going to talk, and we're going to fix this."

"Have you talked to dad about this?"

"Not yet, but damn it, I can't do this. Enough time has passed. Just one dinner. Please. Just… one dinner. I can make your favorites; we can enjoy ourselves as a family again. Just give me a chance."

Chris swallowed, his hand growing tighter over the phone. She didn't talk to his dad; for all he knew, his father loathed him now. Or maybe he'd be willing to hear Chris out, give this new side of him a chance. There was a chance that something in his life would be straightened out; but at the same time, there was a chance that the meeting would be his goodbye to his father.

He was afraid. But the hope in his mother's plea moved him, made him want to try.

"When do you want to do this?"

"You'll come?"

"Yeah mom, I'll come. Wouldn't miss it for the world." He smiled at the phone; sounding a lot more sure of himself and her plan than he actually was. There was a chance, a sliver of hope, and Chris told himself to hang onto it. It was too hard to come by to let it just pass.

"Thank you. And I'll tell you when we can do this, but you have to get me your schedule so I know when you're off. I hope this can happen soon."

"Me too, ma. And no problem, I'll figure out when I've got some time off and I'll call you."

"Good! Great. Great." There was silence for a moment, but Chris had a mental image of his mom smiling at her phone. In his mind, her smile was a lot more sincere than his was; truly happy, one hundred percent sure that they could truly get back to what they were before he outed himself. "You know… I can't even recognize you anymore."

"I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one."

"It's a wonderful thing, baby." He could hear her sincerity. "When did my baby grow up?"

"I think maybe six years ago? When I became eighteen, of course."

There was a small chuckle, and Chris knew that, in the worse case scenario of the planned dinner, he would still have his mother at his side. And it was somewhat comforting. "I love you, Chris."

"I love you too, ma." They'd said their goodbyes, and he leaned against his car, a small smile on his face. He'd feared his father's real reaction so much that he'd convinced himself that it was a certainty, that he'd lost his family. But now that his mother offered some hope, the possibility that everything would be alright. And even though he knew there was a chance things could go sour, he couldn't stop smiling.

For the first time in weeks, he didn't feel the need to have a single drop of alcohol that night. He wanted to savor this feeling; he wanted to believe beyond rational belief that everything would be fine.

AJ had no idea how he was doing anything anymore. When he wasn't wrestling, he was working out. When he was doing neither, he was thinking. And sometimes his thoughts seemed to stretch him in different directions, threatening to snap his very being into pieces.

He was AJ Styles, the man putting on the best matches in his career. He was Allen Jones, Christian, family man, good friend and all around likable guy. He was the person who broke Taylor Wilde's heart. He was the man who'd fooled around with Chris Sabin and absolutely enjoyed it. He was a hypocrite. He was all of them and none of them and they all wanted more.

Every day, he heard every lesson his parents gave him. He heard the sermons of his pastor and the advice of the one he'd spilled his soul to. He heard Taylor's pained screams. He heard Chris Sabin's own words, of comfort, of anger, but almost all of love. He heard Harris, telling him that the one you loved the most was the one who could drive you crazy.

And he'd heard Christopher Daniels most clearly.

"How about this. Since you're pretty much saying you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, how about you do what makes you happy in this life?"

He pawned the ring a week after the breakup; it was a symbol of the kind of fraud he was. He'd felt better once it was off his hands; it was another step in setting things right.

No more lies.

Maybe a few omitted truths, but no more lies.

He'd seen Taylor around- he never went up to her, but sometimes passed her around the Impact Zone. Sometimes, when they met each other's gaze, he could tell she was still hurting, but she was able to laugh and enjoy herself. He hoped it was a sign she'd soon be able to try again, find someone who was good for her.

One day, he'd find a way to properly apologize to her.

And maybe, he could someday properly apologize to him.

AJ had seen Sabin around enough, even more so than Taylor. They hardly talked, and when they did, it was with Daniels, or with Alex, or with Petey, or with Joe, or with any number of other people. He had no idea whether or not he was doing well or not; sometimes, AJ was sure that Chris Sabin had a greater handle on life than he did, but other times, he seemed worse off. He had no idea how he was doing at all.

AJ could remember sitting with Chris in Daniels' room. He'd asked him if he was all right, he'd given him advice. Despite everything they've been through, Chris still insisted on checking on him, supporting him. Maybe he had it all wrong; was he truly supposed to sacrifice honesty and kindness for obedience and redemption?

AJ was tired of waiting for answers that would never come. He was tired of hurting good people as he tried to be the person he thought he had to be. But it was all he knew, all he believed in. And if that was wrong, then possibly everything he believed, everything he built his life on was wrong too.

And AJ wasn't ready to entertain that idea.

"What're you doing tonight?" They were AJ's four favorite words to hear. That meant there were plans, and the good things in life always involved other people. He looked up at Joe, shrugging.

"Nothin' important. Why?"

"Bunch of us are thinking about drinking tonight. Chris and Sonjay and a bunch of other guys. And we've decided it would be fun to see how many drinks it takes to knock you out," Joe pushed his shoulder, smiling. "Come on, no work tomorrow. Time to get wasted."

"I don't get wasted."

"We'll see about that. So, you coming or what?"

"Yeah, m'coming. Someone needs to make sure you idiots don't die."

"Please, you're gonna be the first victim. Don't worry, we'll say a nice little prayer over your body when we find you in your own vomit." Joe put his hands together in mock prayer, and AJ shoved him. They laughed, both prepared for having a good night with everyone.

And it was a good night. They were soon joined by other people, who both knew them and didn't, all enjoying each other's company. Different guys began challenging each other to wrestling matches or rounds of Grand Turismo, or they just chatted like friends.

AJ didn't get drunk, despite Joe and Sonjay's best efforts. His head was beginning to bother him, and he mentally told himself to curb his drinking before he had a very long morning.

He laid his head on his hands, looking around at his friends. He smiled softly; it was nice, watching all the carefree fun. It was hard not to get sucked in to the infectious merriment, every one celebrating only the facts that they were alive and they were old enough (or had a card that said they were old enough) to legally buy alcohol.

"Seriously? Dude, I saw you. You had like one drink. Can't tell me you're done already." He looked up, seeing Chris and Alex above him. He lifted up a hand, showing them four fingers.

"Shut up Shelley."

"Oh, great wit lightweight." Alex bent down, looking at him. "No seriously, you want us to get you a cab?"

"Nah, I'm good. Just restin' my head. Thanks."

"No prob." He put his hand in AJ's hair, messing with it, before saying, "You sure you done? I can get you a beer from the bar…"

"Nah. But you can get me a water, if ya don't mind."

Alex put his hand to his chest, as if AJ had mortally wounded him. "Water? In a… in a bar? Does not compute, man, does not compute." He looked over at Chris, asking him if he wanted anything before taking off to the bar, fully intending on getting AJ a water and Chris and himself a beer.

"So." Chris said, "What're you doing here by yourself? The party's over there, man."

"They want me to get completely drunk. Not in the mood for that."

"Separating yourself from the peer pressure, I can dig. Though you can stand to have a little more fun…"

"Sabin. I have fun. Don't need to be drunk to have fun."

"Says you." He laughed for a moment, but then he heard his name whispered. "Yeah?"

"I'm sorry, man. For… everything." AJ didn't need to elaborate; they both knew what 'everything' meant.

"Hey, don't apologize. You were just trying to do right." Chris waved it off. "We both had issues, dude. I'm not blaming you."

"Still. M'sorry."

"Really, stop." Chris grabbed one of the chairs, pulling it out and sitting down. "You could be right, I dunno. Who knows, really? It's tough."

"Yeah, it is." AJ shook his head. "And I've been thinkin' about stuff lately, and really, I don't know how to deal with this... all of it. It's all confusin' in my head right now."

"Join the club, Styles. Hey, if all that thinking gets you some clue, share it, alright?"

"Yeah." AJ laughed a little. "Hey, when it was good it was good, right?"

Chris stared at him, unsure of what to make of the statement. Don't fuck with me, AJ, not now. "Yeah, it was."

"I'm just sayin', I…" AJ thought for a moment, before hitting his head on the table. "I don't know what I was sayin'." Chris couldn't help but snicker; it was too silly to keep a straight face at, even though AJ was serious. "I guess I've been thinkin' about that too. You know, we may have had issues, but we had fun."

"Yeah, yeah we did. So… what exactly have you been thinking?"

"I dunno. Everything and anything." AJ lifted his head up, shrugging. "A bunch of questions I can't answer."

"Sounds familiar." Chris looked behind him, searching out Alex, but he couldn't see him among the people at the bar. He's doing this shit on purpose, Chris thought. AJ was messing with his mind all over again and he had no idea what to do. He didn't want to leave the table, but he didn't want to hear AJ stumble through whatever it was he was trying to say. It was hope he didn't need; that he was sure would amount to nothing.

He started thinking about the dinner his mother was planning. AJ was like his father; he didn't know where either of them really stood, and it was killing him. But unlike his dad, where the fact his mother was on his side made him embrace the hope, there was no cushion around AJ. If it turned out that the chance amounted to nothing, then there was no one to lessen the impact of the blow.

He knew what he wanted, but the idea of going for it again scared him. Chances were, it would lead nowhere. But he remembered how good it felt to let himself believe his mother when she said that she could fix things. He remembered that he and AJ did have fun. And he did think that, if AJ ever thought that they could do this, then he could make him happier than anyone else could.


"Yeah?" Chris leaned forward, pressing his lips to AJ's. It went quickly; almost as soon as his lips touched AJ's, they were off. Enough that AJ could feel it, not enough that someone might spot them. AJ blinked, not moving from his seat, just staring at Chris.

"What was that?"

"Just something to think about while you're thinking about… things." He smiled, staring back at him, waiting for a reaction. Something. Anything.

"Chris. M'sorry if you got the wrong idea, but… I don't know what I'm doing. At all. And… chances are you and me could never happen again."

"Chances are. As in, you don't know for certain yet."

"Chris, I'm being serious here!"

"And so am I." Chris grinned, patting AJ's cheek. "So, here's the deal. Until you can say the words 'Chris, we will never happen', think about it, okay? It's not like I'm going anywhere, you don't have a time limit or anything. Just think about it."

After a moment, AJ smiled back, nodding, the very gesture going straight to Chris' heart. "You're an idiot, you know that?" It was a complete attempt to brush it off, and Chris knew that, but seeing AJ nod and smile was enough to make him forget that it was. Because even if he was trying to change the subject, he was still thinking about everything Chris said.

They would talk about something else the rest of the while until Alex returned, complaining about bartenders that ignore good paying customers in favor of sluts. But in that moment, Chris just relished the air of possibility between them. Eventually, he'd be realistic about things, but right then, he just wanted to enjoy what could be. Because embracing the optimism, at that moment, no matter how foolish it might be, was the sweetest thing in the world.

"Trust me Al, I know."