AN: The last chapter. My thanks to the wonderful IWantYouToBe for the beta job and to anyone still reading this for being patient. It wasn't exactly a cliffhanger last chapter but I did say there was one more to go and I've taken AGES due to real life stuff. However my whole purpose was to learn to write regularly and finish a project instead of letting the ideas stay trapped in my head and I've actually done that! I can't believe it. Plus I've learned so much along the way. It is a real boost to my self esteem to get to this point and the alerts, faves, reviews etc kept me going. I intend to take this story down from here after a month or so and put a revised version onto the RPF website It Could Happen. Thanks everyone! EH
Chris knew something was wrong.
Darren was already tucked up in bed, his arm clutching the blanket around his waist. Chris kept glancing over at him as he got undressed and slipped a pair of boxers and a tank on.
He knew Darren wasn't asleep yet but he was staying strictly to his own side of the bed and facing away from the centre. But that wasn't the main problem. The main problem was that Darren was wearing an old Michigan U. t-shirt and Darren never wore a shirt to bed. Chris slipped under the covers and curled himself up behind Darren. He stroked one hand down Darren's arm and Darren shrugged it away. "I'm really tired Chris, okay," he said in an unmistakably tetchy voice. Chris hesitated and cleared his throat before speaking. "I was just wanting to cuddle up," he said timidly and cursed his voice for betraying his emotion.
Darren sighed and rolled onto his back stretching his arm out to allow Chris to snuggle in on his chest before curling it over him.
Despite the extra body contact Chris remained concerned. Darren was tense … and he wasn't talking.
Two years. They'd been together two years and Chris had thought things were perfect. But obviously now Darren wasn't happy and Chris did not have the guts to start a conversation that he feared would end in heartbreak.
He lay still with his ear over Darren's heart and let the silence go on. Eventually Darren's breathing evened out and his muscles relaxed, but Chris lay awake for a long time.
Chris let himself into Ashley's place with his spare key and called out hello as he headed towards the kitchen.
"Oooh, bakery gifts, you're too good to me," Ashley said eagerly when she emerged from her home-office.
Chris smiled slightly and took a seat as Ash plated the treats and tended to her coffee machine which had been readied in anticipation of Chris' visit.
"So what's new boo?" she asked as she turned around and Chris suddenly felt the tears that were already trickling down his cheeks.
Ashley's eyes widened and she came around the counter and grabbed him in a smothering hug.
Chris laughed in surprise at finding himself squashed deep into Ash's cleavage and then he gasped and started sobbing for real.
"I love him. I can't stop loving him. I don't know what I'm gonna do," he said over several heaving breaths.
"I'll kill the bastard," Ash stated vehemently. "I'll slice his balls off and punch his face until he can never smile again. Then I'll pull out his entrails and nail them to my wall. I'll …".
Chris laughed again despite himself.
"Don't. I couldn't be best-friends with you if you were in jail. Plus, he hasn't done anything wrong. I don't think. Oh god, what if he's in love with someone else? Oh god, I think I'm going to be sick …"
Quickly Ashley followed Chris to the bathroom where he started retching into the toilet bowl. She wet a hand-towel and handed it to him, watching while his stomach slowly calmed down and he slumped against the wall crying again.
Sighing, she gingerly sat herself down on the floor-mat and eyed Chris with concern.
"I hope this is all worth the effort it is going to take me to stand back up again," she told him.
Chris looked at her properly and tried to smile through his tears but he couldn't get the smile to stay on his face - it only reminded him of what Ashley had said about Darren's smile, his gorgeous smile … and the sobs came back again.
He took the tissues Ashley handed him and mopped his face, scrunching one after another and tossing them haphazardly towards the wastebasket. Once he finally blew his nose Ashley stretched her arm up to the sink above her and grasped the water glass which she handed to him wordlessly.
"I'm sorry Ash," Chris said, drinking deeply.
She gave him a death glare and pointed at him, shaking her head.
"Okay I'm not sorry, I'm so glad I came and threw up at your place instead of my own," Chris muttered chuckling again - Ashley could always make him laugh.
He leaned his head back and studied the ceiling, trying to figure out how to explain the unexplainable to his best friend who was waiting silently.
"You know you have cobwebs up there?" he asked.
"Fuck that, Christopher, get on with it. How many stab wounds will I have to inflict on Everett before I dump his body in front of a semi on the highway?"
"I don't know," Chris answered quietly, overlooking Ashley's forbidden use of Darren's middle name. "I don't even know."
Ashley quirked an eyebrow and kept waiting.
"I don't have any … he just isn't my Darren anymore. Not for the last several weeks. He's moody, and avoiding me. We haven't talked properly, and don't even think of asking about our sex life, woman. I just … I think he's fallen out of love with me. And he's not sure how to tell me. That's my theory at least."
"Well then he's even more of an asshole than I thought," Ashley replied blandly.
Chris shook his head. "I don't get why you never got along."
"I don't trust him. But nobody is good enough for my boo. Thing is, he made you giddy. You fly high, you crash hard. I never wanted to see that day come."
"But you always told me not to sit on the sidelines of love."
"Alright, I just hate him because I love you and if you were an option for me I'd marry you in a second."
Chris closed his eyes.
"I wish that weren't true."
"Me too. But you know it is, so let's move on. You've got to man up and stop being a coward. It's a really bad color on you. Just, talk to him. There's no other advice I can give. If Darren wants out of the relationship it will be hard. It will suck. But you WILL survive. You'll get through with lots of alcohol and ice-cream and several more cats."
"That's it?" Chris asked. "Fuck this for a deep and meaningful conversation. You really suck at this job, you know."
"Okay wait ... things will get better and you'll meet someone else and live happily ever after with him."
Chris rolled his eyes.
"Look, until it happens you can't start the healing process. And until you talk to him you don't know for sure that he wants to break up. So unless there's something specific for me to bitch about, I'm not going to threaten Darren's gorgeous little body anymore."
"Darn because I was so enjoying the graphic descriptions," Chris deadpanned.
Ashley paused. "If it is all a misunderstanding I promise I'll smile prettily at your wedding."
Having made that concession, Ashley hoisted herself back up off the floor with a deep groan and reached out a hand to her best friend.
They left the pile of tissues and glass of water behind and returned down the hall to the kitchen where Chris suppressed a fresh wave of tears and picked up his satchel.
Ashley looked at the twin plates of sweet treats Chris had brought from the bakery.
"Fuck this shit," she said dumping them in the trash. "I'm going on a diet."
Chris opened his mouth to speak then closed it and headed to the front door.
When Ashley followed he stopped to hug her on the landing.
"I love you," he said.
"I know," she replied.
There was a plane ticket sitting in the printer. A return to San Francisco. Chris found Darren in the kitchen struggling with a tin opener that was squeaking its way around a can of tuna.
Chris just stood there until Darren noticed him.
"Oh hey, um hi Chris." He looked, embarrassed, tired, sad and so beautiful it hurt.
"I love you," Chris said, and Darren looked up again, startled.
"I love you, Darren. I don't know what I did but I love you so much, oh fuck it, I wasn't going to cry."
Darren's eyes were filling too and he stumbled forward to clutch onto Chris tightly then take his face in his hands and brush away the tears with his thumbs.
"I know, Chris, okay? I know you love me. And I'm not … I just need to give myself some time. I'll … I'll get over it."
"Why should you? You never promised to stay forever." Chris had thought about this before approaching Darren. "If you want to be with someone else just go. I don't want you here out of pity or obligation or …"
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Darren shouted, causing Chris to step back in shock.
"I …" Chris began.
"Are you insane? What the fuck are you talking about?" Darren repeated looking alarmingly furious.
"I … you, you're unhappy …"
"You don't want to have sex with me anymore …"
"You idiot. What makes you think that?"
"Well you haven't, you, it's been like a month …"
"Well, you're going to San Francisco."
"You said you'll get over it!" Chris shouted back.
"I'm fucking trying," Darren screamed, hitting down on the counter with his hand.
"Well, that's what I said, Darren. Why should you get over it? If you have feelings for someone else, you don't owe me anything …" Chris dissolved into sobs while Darren stood, hands on hips shaking his head.
"You have no fucking idea do you?" he asked.
"What?" Chris screamed back at him. "What am I doing wrong?"
"You're not holding onto me!" The words came bursting out of Darren, not angry but swollen with hurt.
"You're just happy to coast along but then when you imagine some shit about me looking at some other person, you are totally ready to wave goodbye. Talking about not owing you anything and no obligations. People are supposed to feel obligations; normal people make promises and commitments. And I thought, but you … fuck, after two years I'm still nothing but your boyfriend. And, and it's your house we live in. And, you know, I'll handle it, I'll get over it. But don't expect me to be happy right now and not feel hurt."
Chris was very still.
"Darren. What the hell is going on? What are you talking about? I think we have been talking at cross-purposes and I want to fucking sort this out."
"We haven't been talking at cross-purposes Chris. We haven't been talking at all. At least not about the things that matter," Darren said defeatedly.
"Can we sit down?" Chris suggested. Darren nodded and followed him into the living room and onto the couch. Chris' body was tingling with adrenaline. He knew they had to get to the bottom of this no matter what.
"Tell me why you said 'nothing but your boyfriend'. What is this about?"
Chris didn't want to let go of Darren's hand but he had slipped it free and started hugging his knees, refusing to meet Chris' eye although they faced each other on the couch.
"I've been upset about the way you acted at the agency party."
"That party?" Chris' mind raced back over the event which occurred nearly a month ago trying to figure out what mistake he could have made then to push Darren to this point.
"Everyone you introduced me to all night ... it was boyfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend … it just really got to me."
Chris shook his head, not getting it.
"And then your accountant was there offering to help me with investments and you, you just dismissed it."
"Wait, I remember that conversation. I told him you put all your money into your theatre company. Starkid's doing great, Darren, I'm proud of what you've done with them … I don't understand … what did you want me to say?"
Darren seemed to be rocking back and forth as he rubbed the flowing tears from his cheeks on the knees of the pants he was wearing.
"I just thought that after two years you would start viewing me as your partner, Chris, I thought we should be looking to the future and thinking of making some joint decisions on stuff like money issues instead of … going forward instead of idling in neutral. You were talking to him about the real estate market and insurance without turning around to ask for my input, as if it doesn't matter. So I have to accept that you're not interested in solidifying our relationship any further, never mind marrying me, and probably never will be."
Chris leapt to his feet. "Holy fuck! Oh my god, Darren. Oh my god, I seriously thought you wanted to break up with me." He dived onto the couch to fling his arms around Darren. "You want to get married! You want to get married. Oh my god, you really want to marry me!"
Darren shoved him off. "You don't have to make fun of me. Shit, Chris. If I have to accept that you're not interested in a proper commitment then please have some sensitivity not to rub it in, okay?"
"But Darren, of course I'm interested in a proper commitment. I'm totally fucking ready to marry your gorgeous delicious ass. Oh my god!"
"Stop jumping up and down Chris, fuck! Why are you acting like this solves all our problems. I don't want you to just say you want it to humor me! A minute ago you were telling me to go be with someone else if they took my fancy. Clearly you are not thinking like someone who wants to be married."
"It was breaking my heart to say that, Darren, don't make me a bad guy for no reason. I want you to be happy, even if it's not with me."
"Well I might have been happier if you'd done anything to show you were taking our relationship seriously. I mean, actions speak louder than words, but you never offered to put the house into both our names. You never thought of putting our money together into one account. We haven't needed to talk about money because we both have plenty but you know, real couples do things like that."
Darren took a deep breath after saying all this. He still seemed to need to curl into himself protectively instead of reaching out for Chris who, despite Darren's clear agitation, was overwhelmed with relief and happiness.
"Darren, I love you. Okay. I ... I'm sorry, I should have thought about what label you wanted to be called and yes we could bring our finances together, I'm sorry it didn't occur to me how symbolic that would be. I just, I thought we were waiting for the full equality thing. I thought we'd talk about the future when Obama gets the bill through the Senate. Why didn't you raise it with me? You aren't usually so shy."
"I nearly did. I wanted to … every time I planned to I would find some evidence that you weren't on the same page as me. I kept hoping you would show me some sign of encouragement and the longer you didn't the more afraid I got to start the conversation myself."
"Darren," Chris began, "Do you remember when we babysat your nephew, not the last time but a few times before, when we got him off to sleep …"
Darren's eyes went dark: "And then we fucked so loudly we woke him up ... but we laughed about it together …"
"Yeah," Chris replied, softly. "I thought we had an understanding after that. Being with you then was so intense. That night felt like a promise to me. I thought it meant we were in this for the long haul and … and … that we'll have a baby too one day. I want to rock your babies to sleep at night Darren. Don't you know that?"
Darren took a breath and it seemed like one he'd been holding for a long time.
"Really? Really? You've thought about our kids too? You want to have kids with me?"
Chris nodded, mute.
"I knew that night was special, I guess I just really needed to hear you say it," Darren said.
"And you were willing to stay with me, without having the commitment you needed?" Chris was amazed.
"I can't imagine my life without you."
Then they were kissing, frantically, lips pressing hot and open, tongues accidentally tasting the tears that had fallen in the course of their momentous conversation.
"I love you …"
"You really want …?" they murmured between kisses and soon they were stripping each other's clothes off and dragging each other down to the closest surface: the floor.
Darren's roll to be on top brought them up against the couch where they stayed, kissing deeply as they looked into each other's eyes. Then Darren gave Chris the most wicked, heart-stopping grin as he hooked one of Chris' legs up and teased his entrance with a knuckle.
"I am never fucking letting you go Colfer, you understand?"
"Yes, I realize that. Now please, I can't wait any longer. Go and get the fucking lube and come back in a hurry!" Chris demanded.
Darren chuckled and stood up, taking his time to let his eyes feast on the sight of Chris naked and desperate on the floor.
"You know after the month we've just had you're in for a major fuckfest don't you?"
"Promises, promises. Just wait until you put a ring on my finger then there'll be some sex you can brag about."
Darren groaned. "Hold that thought."
He took off for the bedroom, returning a minute later with the expected lube plus a small, square box.
Chris was distracted at first, by Darren's gloriously naked body but then his jaw dropped and he jumped up and stared as Darren opened the lid.
"Oh my god, Darren! How long have you had this?"
"It doesn't matter."
Chris started crying as Darren pushed the ring onto his finger.
"I'm so sorry I didn't make you feel how much I love you. I'm sorry you didn't know I was ready and I wanted this. I wanted it so much," he sobbed.
"Okay love, it's okay," Darren soothed, kissing his wet cheeks.
"We got there in the end."
From: Chris Colfer
To: Ashley Fink
Get that pretty smile ready.
From: Ashley Fink
To: Chris Colfer
I'm so glad.