A/N: Well, we've reached the end of the road. This fic is finally done! I just want to say a quick thank you to all the lovely readers who've taken the time to favorite, follow, and review my fic. Your kind words and encouragements have meant the world to me. This fic has been so much fun to write and your feedback has been a huge part of the reason why. Hopefully you'll feel like this last chapter does a good job of wrapping things up for our boys. No warnings to speak of – just fluffy fluff fluff and banter galore. And if you're interested, I'll be posting a pdf download for the full fic on my Tumblr sometime in the next day or two. Enjoy!
Chris awoke the next morning with a searing pain in his neck from falling asleep at such an awkward angle in the hospital recliner. He groaned as he opened his eyes, uncurling his body as he tried to stretch his aching limbs, frowning when he met resistance. He turned to see his left hand still clasped tightly in Darren's, Darren sleeping soundly.
"Oh sorry, hon," the nurse apologized, seeing Chris was no longer asleep. "I was trying to keep from waking you. You boys both looked like you could use your rest. I'm just checking his vitals real quick."
"Oh no, you're fine," Chris spoke, waving off her concern. "I needed to get up anyways. If I'd slept another hour in the chair, I don't even want to imagine how bad the crick in my neck would've been."
"I hear that," she replied amiably, a slight southern drawl tinging her words. "Those things are impossible to get any decent rest in."
"Yeah, they really are," Chris mumbled, still trying to get his neck to relax enough to turn even slightly to the right.
"Well good news, because both of you will get to sleep in your own beds tonight. The doctor's gonna release Darren today. I was just checking his vitals to make sure he wasn't running a fever or anything. But all systems are go, it would appear," the nurse explained, a broad smile on her face.
"That's great. Darren will be really relieved to hear that. He was starting to go a little stir crazy. When do you think he'll be released?"
"Oh, it'll be late this afternoon probably. The doctor still has to round on him one last time and sign Darren's discharge papers. And they'll want to get him up a bit first, get him walking around and make sure he's okay on his feet."
"Right," Chris replied, nodding. "And you'll go over all his medicines and stuff with me? He's going to stay at my house for a few days and I just want to make sure I know what I'm doing."
"Of course, sweetie. Trust me, it'll be overkill on that front. We have to go over all the paperwork and have you sign about a hundred forms and tell everything back to us to make sure you understand. You'll be an expert by the time we're done with you."
"Good," Chris sighed, sinking back into the chair, flexing his fingers to try to jump start his circulation without letting go of Darren's hand.
"Don't you worry, hon. Us nurses have seen how good you are with him. You're a natural. You're going to be just fine."
"Thanks..." Chris replied gratefully, surprised at how much the simple reassurance meant.
"But for now you should just relax and watch some TV or get some more rest while you can, okay? Nothing interesting is going to happen for a few hours and you'll be glad you got your rest later on," the nurse encouraged. "I've already got his vitals and I just hung his last dose of antibiotics, so no one should disturb you for a few hours. I'll hold his breakfast tray until you tell me he's ready for it."
"If you insist," Chris answered, smiling back at the nurse as he stretched out in the recliner again as best he could. "Thank you...I really appreciate your help."
"You're welcome, hon. You get your rest now."
By the time the door clicked softly behind the nurse, Chris was asleep again.
It had been nearly 6 PM by the time Darren was officially released from the hospital, and Chris could tell that the long day of waiting and anticipation had worn Darren out. Chris shooed Darren into bed as soon as they arrived at his house, insisting that Darren stay in Chris' bedroom rather than the guest room, explaining that the attached bathroom would cut down on the walking Darren would have to do. Chris coaxed Darren into eating a little chicken noodle soup and settled him in bed, instructing Darren to call or text him if he woke up and needed anything, making sure his cell phone was on the nightstand within easy reach. Then Chris gave Darren his evening pain medication, sitting on the edge of the bed and stroking his hair until he fell asleep. After Chris was sure Darren was sleeping soundly, he retired to the guest room, being sure to leave both bedroom doors ajar so he could hear Darren if he called for him. Chris was out as soon as he crawled into the guest bed, barely having time to dig out his disposable contacts before the fatigue overtook him.
Hours later, Chris blinked awake, shifting slightly in the dim light as he reached for his alarm clock on the bedside table, moving to turn it off instinctively. He frowned as his fingers met only air, turning his head fully towards the nightstand as his eyes started to adjust to the dark room, the only light coming from a sliver of pale moonlight between the blinds. He turned, seeing a small battery operated alarm clock instead of his larger Bose iPod dock and alarm clock, the gears finally clicking into place as he remembered he was sleeping in the guest bedroom so that Darren could sleep in his bedroom. Chris lay in the bed for a moment, confused as to why he was suddenly awake at 3:45 am when clearly no alarm had gone off. He listened to the quietness of the house, wondering if Darren had called for him, but the house was still and there were no texts or missed calls from Darren on his phone. After a moment or two, Chris' bladder began urgently making its need known, and Chris clumsily climbed from the bed, tiptoeing down the hall towards the guest bathroom. After peeing for what seemed like at least five minutes (clearly Chris needed to work on drinking fewer Diet Cokes before bed), Chris padded back down the hall, deciding to poke his head into his room to make sure Darren was still sleeping and didn't need anything.
When he approached his bedroom, the door was still ajar as Chris had left it. But before Chris even stepped over the threshold, he knew something was wrong by the soft whimpering noises he could hear. He hurried into the bedroom, working his way towards the bed by memory and sound cues since it was impossible to see anything in the darkness.
"Darren?" he called out tentatively, his stomach twisting at what sounded like muffled sobs.
"Chris?" Darren asked, startled, his voice hoarse and shaky sounding. "S-s-sorry, I didn't...mean to wake you up."
"Yeah, it's me. And you didn't...I got up to go to the bathroom. Are you okay? I'm going to turn on a lamp, alright? Close your eyes for a sec. It's gonna be bright," Chris warned, as his hand finally bumped against the lampshade of the lamp situated on his nightstand, nearly knocking it over in his haste to get to Darren.
Chris winced at the brightness as the lamp was switched on, starbursts erupting across his field of vision as his eyes struggled to adjust to the sudden light. When he could finally see again, he felt sick at the scene in front of him.
Darren was curled up in the fetal position on the edge of the bed, his hand clutching his side, and his face tense with obvious pain. Worse still were the tear-stains tracking down his cheeks and his clammy brow and sweat-dampened shirt.
"Darren!" Chris breathed, horrified. "Honey, why didn't you wake me up? You look awful." He leaned forward briefly, stroking a hand across Darren's cheek and wiping away tears.
"M'okay," Darren mumbled, knowing he was fooling no one.
"Clearly," Chris said, rolling his eyes. "Seriously Darren, I told you to just call or text me and I'd be here in a second. Why didn't you?"
"Didn't wanna wake you up," Darren sighed. "I thought the pain would go away and I'd just go back to sleep.."
"Okay, you get how stupid that is, right?" Chris admonished. "Darren, you know you can't..." Chris trailed off, stopping himself. "I'll lecture you after I get you your medicine, okay?" He stooped, wincing a little at how pathetic Darren looked, dropping a quick kiss to his hair. "I'll be right back. Don't move."
Darren nodded, totally spent.
Chris turned back towards Darren as a thought occurred to him. "You gotta eat something with your pills. Crackers or applesauce?"
Darren groaned, making a face.
"I know, I know...but I really don't want you puking all over my duvet, okay?" Chris replied sympathetically. "You just have to eat a little.."
"Applesauce then, I guess," Darren finally chose.
"Okay, I'll be right back. Don't move. Not an inch, got it?" Chris commanded.
"Yes sir," Darren groaned. "Hurry?"
Darren was still in the same position Chris left him in when Chris returned, looking every bit as miserable as Chris remembered. Chris helped Darren sit up and handed him his pills and a bottle of water. Darren frowned at the pills in the paper cup, looking back at Chris with a confused expression.
I thought I was only supposed to take one?" Darren asked.
"It says 'take one to two pills' on the bottle, and this clearly looks like a time where one might not cut it. Just take your pills so you can feel better, okay? I don't like seeing you like this."
Darren nodded, swallowing his pills obediently.
Chris took the water bottle and empty paper cup back from Darren, passing him a small cup of applesauce and a spoon. "Eat up," he directed.
"Ugh," Darren groaned. "Chris, don't wanna."
"You also don't want to throw up your pills in a half hour. C'mon Darren, just a few bites."
Darren sank back against the pillows with a moan. "Can't. Too tired. Don't think I can sit up any longer."
"Fine," Chris sighed. "Move over," he continued, gesturing towards Darren's legs.
Darren looked confused, but slid over a bit, making room for Chris on the bed.
Chris perched on the side of the mattress, picking up the applesauce from where Darren had left it on the nightstand, peeling off the foil lid before picking up the spoon. He scooped a small amount onto the spoon and leaned towards Darren. "Open up," he commanded.
"Chris, what?" Darren asked, embarrassed. "No no, you don't have to do that. I just don't feel like eating right now."
"Nope," Chris said unmoved. "You said you were too tired to eat, but you need to, so problem solved. As we've already discussed, I'm really not in the mood to clean vomit off my duvet, so I'll say it again: Open up."
"Fine," Darren said at last, his cheeks still flaming. "But uh, let's keep this one between you and me, okay?"
"Trust me, this is one anecdote I'll be in no rush to share," Chris reassured. "Now eat your food," he demanded, extending the spoon towards Darren's slightly parted lips.
Darren gamely ate a few bites that way, wrinkling his nose a bit but not protesting otherwise. After three or four spoonfuls, Chris nodded, satisfied, putting the remaining applesauce back on the nightstand.
Darren slumped back against the pillows fully, obviously spent. "That was...interesting," he said at last, needing to break the tension. "Every time I think I've killed whatever trace of my dignity was left, I find some new basement of embarrassment, I swear."
Chris couldn't help the snort of laughter that snuck out. "I thought that was gone for good after the Disney songs?" he teased gently.
"Oh god, Chris. Don't remind me. I'm going to be spending the next five years trying to pay you back as it is..." Darren whined, hiding his face with his hands
"Not necessary," Chris answered fondly. "I don't mind taking care of you. I just wish you'd figure that out and stop doing stupid things like white knuckling it without pain meds for hours on end so I can get my beauty rest."
"Fair enough..." Darren said tiredly. "That was pretty stupid, huh?"
"The stupidest. But I'd expect nothing less from you..." Chris replied after a moment.
"Ouch. I think there's an insult in there somewhere, but I'm too tired to find it," Darren mumbled.
"Tired, huh? Feeling any better yet?" Chris asked, gazing down at him.
"Sorry," Chris began with a sympathetic wince. "You will soon though."
"Promise?" Darren asked, his voice small.
"I promise. Now we just need to find something to pass the time until then."
"As we've established, I'm full of nothing but bad ideas lately, so it's all riding on you, Colfer. Where shall we begin?" Darren prompted.
"Uhh, how about we start with 'scoot over' because I'm really cold," Chris replied, nudging Darren a little.
Darren's smile was impossibly bright in the the dim light as he carefully made his way towards the center of Chris' giant California king-sized bed, leaving space for Chris to lay down beside him.
Chris slid in beneath the warm duvet, leaving Darren plenty of room, still unsure as to where the physical boundaries now stood with Darren out of the hospital and on his way to recovery. Chris needn't wondered for long because almost immediately Darren wound his way around him, all clinging limbs just as he had been in the hospital. Darren rubbed his cheek against the soft flannel of Chris' henley t-shirt as he pillowed his head on Chris' chest. Chris sighed, also relieved as he sank into the familiar embrace. After a moment's hesitation, he wrapped an arm around Darren's waist, resting his hand against the small of Darren's back, frowning at what he felt.
"Hmm, yeah Chris?" came Darren's sleepy reply.
"Not sure how to ask this, but you didn't...uh, wet the bed by chance?" Chris stuttered.
"Wait, wha-? No, no...I don't...did I? Wait, why are you asking that?" Darren blurted in a rush.
"Your shirt is like...soaking wet," Chris explained.
"Oh god, Chris! Way to give me a freaking heart attack. No, definitely didn't wet the bed. Haven't you heard the expression 'breaking out in a cold sweat' before? You know, the kind that happens when it feels like your insides are trying to burst their way out of your side?" Darren rambled, by way of explanation.
"Ah, that would..." Chris started, between fits of laughter. "Yes good.." he tried again. "Right, much more logical explanation..." he gasped.
"Chris, I swear to god...do you even know how the human body works? Why would my shirt be wet? That makes no sense," Darren retorted, also biting back laughter.
"It was late and you were wet and this is a brand new mattress and I was just...making sure?" Chris finally managed.
"And I'm the one with the bad ideas, huh?" Darren teased.
"Hey, you said it. Not me," Chris answered.
"But you implied it, which is just as bad," Darren scolded.
Chris drew a quick breath at the familiar wording, thinking of the other things he'd implied, intentionally or otherwise.
"Chris, I was kidding," Darren finally spoke when Chris was quiet for a little too long.
"I know, I know..." Chris covered, shaking his head slightly. "I was just thinking we should get you out of that shirt, because it's wet and I'm cold and..."
"And gross?" Darren supplied helpfully.
"Something like that," Chris answered. "Want me to grab you a clean shirt from your bag?"
"Not really," Darren answered. "I'm hot and I don't usually sleep in shirts anyways."
After a moment of silence, Darren spoke again. "Wait, or is that weird? Is that okay?"
Chris cleared his throat. "Uhh, totally up to you. It's your torso after all. I was just thinking I should go grab the air mattress anyways."
"Okay," Darren answered, only half-listening, his mind trying to come up with an appropriate way to ask Chris to help him take his shirt off without it sounding like bad porn, since he wasn't sure he could manage it in his current state. "Wait," he called, after a second's pause. "Why the air mattress?"
"Well, you obviously can't sleep alone given how poorly it turned out this time, so I figured I'd set up the air mattress for me on the floor. That way I'm right here if you need something," Chris explained, feeling a bit awkward.
"Okay, that's ridiculous. You've got a gigantic bed that could fit an entire football team. And it's your bed for crying out loud. Just sleep here."
"Are you sure?" Chris asked nervously. "I don't want to hurt you."
"It's fine, Chris. We've shared a bed before, you know. In the hospital for one. If you didn't hurt me then, you aren't going to hurt me now, okay?"
"Okay," Chris finally nodded, satisfied.
"Now are you going to help me take this sweaty shirt off or what? Because even I have to admit it's a bit gross..." Darren requested, trying for casual.
"Oh...sure Dare," Chris answered, his voice sounding far breathier than he would've liked. Chris pushed up to a sitting position, biting his lip as he looked down at Darren, taking in the charged moment that passed between them.
"Here, let's sit you up," Chris directed, sliding an arm behind Darren's neck and shoulders and slowly helping him raise into a sitting position. "Okay?" he asked when Darren was sitting up, feeling Darren lean against him.
"Give me a sec," Darren said tightly, burying his face in Chris' shoulder.
"Still hurts?" Chris asked sympathetically, rubbing Darren's back.
"Yeah, moving is...not...so fun...right now," Darren managed tightly.
"Take your time..." Chris encouraged. "Your pain meds should be kicking in soon."
"Okay," Darren said after a minute, letting out a long exhale. "Let's do this: shirt off and then horizontal again, please?"
"On it," Chris spoke. He shifted his hand, curling one arm around Darren's waist to keep him steady while the other hand reached for the hem of Darren's damp undershirt. Chris couldn't help but wince as he had to peel the sweat-dampened material from where it was plastered to Darren's skin, reminding Chris of the many minutes, possibly hours, Darren had spent suffering to keep from inconveniencing Chris. He got the undershirt over Darren's head with minimal fuss, tossing it aside before getting Darren settled back on the pillows, noticing even in the dim light from the bedside lamp that Darren was starting to look a little green.
Chris sat back against the headboard, looking down at Darren and waiting for Darren's breathing to even out. Darren was biting his lip and Chris could see him pressing his arm against his bare side, the stark white of the bandage standing out against Darren's tanned skin. "You okay?" he finally asked worriedly, feeling something hot twist in his stomach at the tiny shake of head he received in return.
"Darren?" Chris tried again. "What's wrong?"
"Don' feel so good," Darren moaned quietly.
"Are you going to be sick?" Chris asked urgently, already cursing himself for not making sure Darren ate more with his medication.
"No," Darren groaned. "Don't think so...just hurts."
"I know, I know..." Chris sighed. "Not to be a dick, but this is why you shouldn't wait to take your medicine, okay?"
"Okay," Darren replied wearily. It was quiet for a minute before Darren suddenly went rigid. "Chris," he whimpered.
"I'm here," Chris answered, dropping a hand to Darren's hair, stroking gently. "What can I do?"
Darren's voice was barely above a whisper. "Hold me?"
Chris drew a sharp breath, the full weight of Darren's request hitting him this time. Because this was different. This wasn't drugged to the gills Darren, this was his Darren. Shirtless and in his bed. Asking for comfort from Chris' arms. And it was getting harder and harder to deny that it meant something. Even harder to deny was how Chris' body responded, immediately wanting nothing more than to comfort Darren in precisely the same way.
So Chris did, sliding down to the pillow next to Darren before he lost his nerve. "C'mere," he whispered, grateful that the darkness hid his blush. Darren wound his way around Chris for the second time that night, limbs clinging even more desperately this time. Darren's bare chest was pressed against Chris' side, the heat from his body warming Chris, even through the thin cotton of his henley t-shirt. Darren settled his head into the hollow below Chris' collarbone, and Chris couldn't breathe for a moment with the realization of just how well they fit together. Chris rested his chin against Darren's mussed curls, unable to resist placing a quick kiss to the crown of his hair. Darren sighed, resting his hand on Chris' stomach and snuggling into the embrace.
"Better?" Chris asked, his voice low.
"Much," Darren whispered. It was quiet for another moment, and then Darren's voice broke through the silence, sounding tentative. "This is...really nice," he started. "Being with you like this, I mean..."
Chris stopped breathing, his hand momentarily stilling from where it had been idly twisting the curls at the nape of Darren's neck. The silence stretched out and Chris could feel Darren holding himself rigid, waiting. But Chris wasn't sure how to explain how much he agreed, how the way that their bodies slotted together felt more right than anything else he'd even done or ever experienced. There were so many feelings that Chris couldn't put into words, feelings that made his chest warm and his skin tingle with every point of contact on Darren's body.
"Yeah," Chris said at last. "It really is." Chris felt Darren's body go lax atop his, Darren's relief palpable. It made Chris feel braver, knowing that Darren was just as nervous to speak up about whatever was going on between them as Chris was. Emboldened, Chris decided to try a confession of his own.
"I'm glad that it was me...that you called. I – I like getting to take care of you," Chris admitted.
Chris swore he could feel Darren smiling up at him. "You were the only one I wanted there," Darren replied softly.
Chris' whole body felt warm again, his chest flooded with the same strange longing he remembered from the hospital. It was strange, having Darren mere inches away, literally wrapped in his arms, and yet to still feel like it wasn't enough, like he still needed more. In fact, Chris was starting to wonder, when it came to Darren, if it would possible to ever truly have enough.
Darren sighed again, this time sounding relieved rather than miserable.
"You doing okay?" Chris asked.
"Yeah," Darren hummed. "I think the pain meds have finally kicked in." Chris could hear the slight slur to Darren's words, and could feel Darren's body sink into his a bit more as Darren gave into the fatigue.
"Good...You should get some rest, honey," Chris encouraged, his fingers gliding over Darren's hair again and again, trying to lull him to sleep.
"You too," Darren mumbled.
"That's the plan," Chris whispered back. "Now close your eyes."
"Yes'ir," Darren muttered sleepily. "Night, Chris. Love you..."
Chris felt himself freeze, still not used to hearing those words come from Darren's lips, somehow still unsure about the meaning of Darren's frequent declarations of love, even after all this time.
Before Chris could come up with a response, Darren spoke again, leaving little doubt as to his true intentions. "I really do, you know..."
And as Darren drifted off to sleep, the last thing he heard was a soft, reverent whisper. Me too.
Chris was the first to wake the next morning, just as pale light was beginning to peek in beneath the venetian blinds. As Chris' eyes blinked open, he immediately knew something palpable had shifted. The first sign was the way Darren was curled up against his chest, even in sleep looking for all the world as if there was no place he'd rather be. But what really rendered Chris speechless was seeing his hand intertwined with Darren's, their fingers locked together and resting against Darren's bare chest, Chris' palm right over Darren's heart. Chris had no idea when that had happened or who'd initiated it, but he knew he felt almost stupidly grateful for Darren in that moment, shuddering as an instinctive, almost feral possessiveness overtook him as he looked back at Darren, still sleeping obliviously, and thought: mine.
Chris would've been content to lay that way for hours, reveling in the press of Darren all around him, letting his body be warmed by the heat from Darren's skin and marveling all over again at just how well they fit together. But Darren clearly had other ideas, sighing softly and shifting a bit atop Chris only minutes later. Darren's nose brushed against Chris' chin as he turned his head upwards, yawning as his eyes slowly fluttered open and grinning widely as the first thing he saw was Chris staring down at him.
"Mhmm...morning," Darren rumbled, his voice tantalizingly low.
"Morning, sleepyhead. How are you feeling?" Chris greeted Darren with a grin of his own.
Darren shifted almost imperceptibly, considering, before he answered Chris. "I feel...okay," he said at last, sounding somewhat surprised.
"Okay? That's would be a big improvement on last night," Chris spoke with a wide smile. "Are you hurting at all? Be honest."
"I'm...sore but it's a lot better than yesterday," Darren answered truthfully.
"Good...how about some breakfast and then I'll get you your medicines?" Chris suggested.
Darren wrinkled his nose. "Food...blerg," he groaned with a wry grin.
Chris rolled his eyes fondly. "How about this - I'll give you some options and you can tell me which ones sound the least awful, okay?"
"Fiiiiiine," Darren huffed exaggeratedly, unable to hide his grin.
"Cereal?" Chris began.
"Bagel and cream cheese?" Chris tried again.
"Ugh," Darren grunted.
"Eggs and toast?"
Darren tilted his head to the side, thinking. "That sounds only mildly disgusting - I think we have a winner."
Chris giggled. "Excellent...I'm glad my cooking will be only mildly disgusting. You want breakfast in bed? Or I could help you get set up on the couch if you want a change of scenery?"
"Yes please," Darren replied. "Couch time sounds good. Maybe we could watch a movie after I choke down some eggs?"
"Perfect," Chris spoke. He was quiet for a moment, reluctant to get up, already a little in love with cuddling with Darren.
"Hey Chris?" Darren finally called hesitantly. "Not to rush you or anything, but I really need to pee and I'm not sure I'm quite up to leap-frogging over you just yet."
"Oh...right!" Chris exclaimed, his voice a touch too high, a blush spreading across his cheeks. "Of course, let me just..." he trailed off, attempting to extricate his hand from Darren's grasp and sit up. Chris' embarrassment was tempered by Darren giving his hand a quick squeeze before he released it. Chris put his hand on Darren's shoulder, intending to help slide him off of Chris and over to the pillow so he could help him up when Darren surprised him again, tilting his head to plant a quick kiss on Chris' cheek.
"What – what was that for?" Chris sputtered, completely thrown off guard.
"You're cute when you're flustered."
Chris decided it was best to just give up on hiding his embarrassment at this point, feeling the blush creep across his whole body. Instead, he decided to focus on getting himself and Darren upright. Chris started by pushing up to a sitting position, stretching wide, arching his back and rolling his neck, hearing the pops and creaks that spoke of too many nights spent sleeping in the terrible hospital recliner instead of a proper bed.
"Are you sure you're human?" Darren asked. "Because you sound like you could use an oil can on those joints, I swear."
"Haha, very funny. But I seem to remember someone being in a rush just a second ago?" Chris teased back.
"You raise a good point... Help me up?" Darren requested.
Chris nodded. "Come here," he prompted, reaching for Darren. Darren rolled onto his uninjured side and extended his hand to Chris and together they slowly swung Darren into a sitting position.
"Okay?" Chris asked, keeping an arm securely looped around Darren's shoulders as he felt Darren tremble slightly beneath his hand.
"Mhmm yeah," Darren mumbled. "Just cold..." He leaned into Chris a little bit more. "You're warm."
"Yeah," Chris sighed. "Want a shirt?"
Darren nodded, gesturing towards his overnight bag sitting on an armchair in the corner of Chris' room.
Chris returned a second later with one of Darren's many Starkid t-shirts, holding it up for his approval. "Good?"
"Perfect," Darren breathed, obediently lifting his arms and letting Chris help him into the t-shirt.
"Okay," Chris said when Darren was dressed. "Bathroom. Need help?"
Now it was Darren's turn to blush. "Just uh...help me get up and I think - I think I can take it from there."
Chris smiled, looping an arm around Darren's waist and helping him stand up. He held onto Darren for a few seconds longer than was strictly necessary, telling himself he was just making sure Darren wasn't wobbly on his feet.
Darren nodded. "You can go start breakfast if you want... I'll meet you on the couch in a few?"
"Okay, but don't like...fall over or anything. Call me if you need me, alright?" Chris commanded.
Darren rolled his eyes. "I can walk, you know... Not everyone is as big of a klutz as you, after all."
"Riii-iight, very believable coming from the person who practically broke his toe filming a dance number that was entirely seated," Chris teased right back.
"I hate you..." Darren groaned.
"I'm just saying – pot, kettle. We're both klutzes. So be extra careful. I don't want have to bring you back to the hospital and tell the nurses I broke you," Chris said, making his way toward the door.
Darren gave Chris an exaggerated salute, hunching over a bit as he slowly shuffled his way towards Chris' private bathroom.
"Aye aye, Cap'n! And try not to let my sexy old man walk turn you on too much, 'kay? I know how you love those octogenarians."
Chris didn't stop laughing until he reached the kitchen.
By the time Darren returned from the bathroom, Chris had the couch all set up with a mound of pillows and a warm quilt. He'd even helpfully laid out a few movies he thought Darren would like on the coffee table before heading to the kitchen to scramble a few eggs and make some toast.
Chris poked his head into the living room when he heard Darren coming, giggling a little at Darren's hunched over posture. "You gonna make it, grandpa?" he teased gently, rounding the couch to give Darren a hand.
Darren lifted his head and Chris could see he was red-faced and sweating slightly, looking utterly spent. "Was it...necessary...for you to...have the world's...longest hallway?" Darren huffed.
"Aww poor baby," Chris cooed. "Come here." He slid his arm around Darren's waist, letting Darren put most of his weight on him as Chris helped Darren to the couch, lowering him gently. Chris sat beside Darren for a second, waiting for his breathing to even out. "You okay?" he asked at last, when Darren finally stopped panting
Darren nodded. "It's ridiculous how out of shape I am though. I never thought walking down a hallway could be so tiring. Although in my defense, the hallway has to be...what? A mile? A mile and a half? I mean, really Chris? You need to put some rest stops in that thing."
"You're ridiculous. My house isn't THAT big," Chris admonished.
"No, it's quite swanky and you know it. Nothing but the best for Golden Globe winning star Chris Colfer," Darren replied, sinking back into the couch. "Is it too early for a nap?" he asked, half serious.
Chris laughed. "That's debatable. But let's get you some food and your meds first, okay? Speaking of which, your eggs are probably burning, so just chill out on the couch for a sec and I'll be right back."
"As you wish," Darren mumbled, resting his head on the armrest and pulling his feet up onto the couch.
Chris returned a short while later with a small tray holding a plate of scrambled eggs, two slices of toast, a tiny pot of jam, and a glass of orange juice. He set it on the coffee table before unwrapping silverware from a linen napkin and setting it on the tray along with Darren's food.
"Are you sure you don't run a bed and breakfast inn in your spare time?" Darren asked, amused. "Because this is a bit fancy for little old me, don't you think?"
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with enjoying nice things," Chris scolded without any heat. "Not all of us like living like we're still in college, after all."
"Touche," Darren answered.
"Now eat your food before it gets cold," Chris commanded.
"Chriiiiis," Darren whined, still stretched out on the couch. "I'm tired."
"Do you want me to feed you again? Because if you force me to, I'm making airplane sounds this time," Chris warned.
"Ugh fine...gimme," Darren groaned, reaching for the plate of food.
"I thought so," Chris crowed, handing him his food. "Now eat it all up like a big boy and I'll let you watch a movie later, okay?"
"I hate you. I hate you. I hate you," Darren muttered under his breath, blushing furiously as he speared a forkful of eggs.
"A likely story..." Chris replied.
Chris and Darren remained that way for the next ten minutes or so, knees pressed together as they sat side by side on the couch, munching on breakfast and bantering back and forth. It didn't take long before Chris' face started to ache a bit from smiling so hard, the flutters in his stomach stubbornly refusing to die down. It was strange really, Chris couldn't help but think. He and Darren were just hanging out, chatting on his couch just as they had many times before. But it wasn't the same. It was clear something had shifted, some dam had broken inside Chris, bringing whole new layers of meaning to even the simplest of experiences with Darren. Chris just hoped that he wasn't alone in his feelings, because he could see how trying to pretend, trying to go back to before, would break him.
Every time Chris felt the panic start to well up, he forced his mind back to the night before and to the last words Darren spoke before falling asleep. I love you. And later... I really do, you know? And now, all Chris could do was hope that in the light of day, Darren wasn't going to take those words back.
When Chris came back to himself, Darren was gazing at him, an unreadable expression on his face.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Darren asked.
Chris just smiled, his stomach flipping at the wide grin he received in return.
"No seriously...what are you thinking about?" Darren asked, curious, his gaze still locked on Chris.
Chris bit his lip, trying to work up the courage to tell the truth. His thoughts were a jumbled mess, but one persistent idea kept pushing to the top, practically screaming at him. Say something. Just tell him. Tell him you love him too, you idiot!
He couldn't do it. Chris looked away, rubbing at his neck and collarbone nervously, fumbling with the movies on the coffee table. "I was – uh – I was just thinking about which movie we should watch," he covered lamely.
When Chris finally looked back at Darren, he could've sworn Darren looked just the tiniest bit...disappointed? Chris shook his head slightly, banishing the ridiculous thought. Darren couldn't read his mind. Chris was probably only imagining Darren's disappointment because of how badly Chris wanted it to be true.
"Hmm," Darren considered. "Let's see here...what are my options?"
"I've got almost anything you could want, between my vast DVD collection and Netflix," Chris replied. "But I was kinda in the mood for a musical... Any of these look good?" he asked, gesturing to the assorted musicals he'd laid out for Darren to peruse.
Darren leaned forward, wincing a tiny bit as he shifted on the couch, and flipped through the DVDs. Chris hand stuttered at Darren's momentary expression of pain, unable to resist the urge to lay a hand on Darren's shoulder, stroking gently.
Darren leaned into Chris' touch, seeming grateful for the comfort. "Ooh," Darren exclaimed a second later. "How about Rent? It's been forever since I saw that."
"Perfect," Chris answered, taking the DVD from Darren and putting it into the DVD player before grabbing the remote and sitting back down on the couch.
"Cold?" Chris asked, seeing how Darren was curled into himself.
"A little," Darren murmured, almost shyly.
"Want a blanket?" Chris asked, settling back against the cushions next to Darren.
"You're warm..." Darren spoke, smiling up at Chris. "I'd rather just have you..."
Chris swore his heart stopped for second. He couldn't think, couldn't breathe with how badly he wanted to kiss Darren. But he settled for lifting his arm, gesturing towards Darren. Darren scooted over, falling into now familiar embrace, leaning against Chris' shoulder, his head resting in the hollow beneath Chris' collarbone, their bodies fitting perfectly together. Chris dropped his arm back down, curling it in just slightly to pull Darren closer to him before resting his hand lightly on Darren's forearm. Darren sighed contentedly, tucking his feet underneath him and rubbing his cheek against Chris' shirt. After a moment, Chris felt Darren's forearm shift under his light hold until Darren was reaching up for Chris' hand, curling his fingers around Chris' own so that their fingers were intertwined, making it hard to tell where Darren's hand stopped and Chris' began.
"Comfy?" Chris whispered.
"Very," Darren murmured appreciatively.
"Want to start the movie?"
"Of course. But don't be offended if I fall asleep on you again, especially after my medicine kicks in. I wasn't kidding about that nap earlier. I promise I'll try not to drool on you too much."
Chris smiled, pressing play on the DVD and settling his cheek against Darren's hair. "Wouldn't be the first time," he teased gently.
Darren snorted out a laugh, the vibrations from his chest tickling softly across Chris' belly.
Chris and Darren both fell silent as the movie began. Chris quickly skipped over the various trailers and advertisements and finally there was only a dimly lit stage with eight spotlights. Chris hummed the opening bars of music under his breath.
"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear," Darren joined in, his voice pitch perfect.
Chris startled slightly, unprepared for Darren's breaking into song. Chris lifted his head from where it had been resting atop Darren's, tilting into the side and gazing down at Darren with a quizzical expression.
"What?" Darren asked, amused. "Do I sound that bad?"
"No no," Chris answered, rolling his eyes. "You sound perfect, as always. But is that such a good idea – the singing?"
"Uhh, I don't remember any specific singing-based restrictions in my discharge papers, so..." Darren trailed off.
"It just seems like... Oh, I don't know. It doesn't hurt?" Chris mumbled, already feeling a little silly.
"Singing? No, it doesn't hurt. And geez Chris," Darren exclaimed, nudging Chris in the ribs with his elbow, "you've got to stop fussing over me so much. I'm gonna be fine, you know. I think you might have my mom beat in the worrying department."
"Exactly my point," Chris scoffed. "I'm on mom duty, and I really don't want to know what your mom would do to me if I let you do something stupid like pop out your stitches trying to belt songs from 'Rent,' okay? Because even you have to admit - that would be a hard one to explain."
"Fair enough..." Darren chuckled. "How about this? I'll make you a deal. You start the song over so we can sing it properly, and I'll let you do Joanne's part for now. No high C's until the stitches come out. It wasn't in the doctors' instructions or anything, but I'm sure it was implied."
"Like you could ever hit a high C," Chris snarked back, his eyes twinkling with mirth.
"And you can?" Darren dared.
"Umm yes, obviously. It's like you don't know me at all..." Chris preened.
"Oh, it's on, Colfer. Show me what you got..."
Darren didn't last long after their initial duet on Seasons of Love, having just enough time to be suitably impressed with Chris' display of vocal prowess before he promptly passed out, obviously needing the rest. Chris lowered the volume on the TV and covered Darren with the quilt, tucking it around his feet to keep him warm while he slept. Chris settled into the folds of the couch, Darren still wrapped securely in his arms. Chris pressed a kiss to Darren's forehead before resting his cheek atop Darren's hair, only half-watching the movie, all the while wishing he could quiet the thoughts in his head long enough to make some sense of them. The one thought that kept persistently rising above the rest was a simple one: just how much Chris loved having Darren in his arms and how terrified he was that it was all going to end very soon. It was nearly impossible for Chris to enjoy the present moment for his doubts, but equally impossible to think about anything else aside from Darren's warmth and smell and the way his soft sighs and exhalations of breath were ticking Chris' neck deliciously. If Darren didn't feel the same way, if his clinginess and frequent confessions of love were a side effect of his medications and current condition, rather than a desire for something more, something real with Chris, Chris knew his heart would break. And Chris was certain he couldn't bear it.
Chris was so lost in his own thoughts that it took him several minutes to realize Darren was awake again. Not just awake, but watching Chris carefully, frowning at the palpable anxiety he could see playing across Chris' face. Finally, Darren couldn't keep still any longer, sighing as he stretched out his legs a bit, startling Chris.
"Oh!" Chris squeaked, jumping slightly. "You're awake! Hey..." Chris felt heat surge through his face, feeling as if he'd been caught doing something illicit, as if Darren could somehow read his mind.
"Hello..." Darren answered calmly, a bemused grin on his face. "You were really thinking hard, huh?"
"Hmm? Uh yeah, I guess. Just uh – coming up with some ideas for my next book," Chris rambled, lying poorly.
"Oh yeah? Anything worth sharing?"
"Nope! Nothing interesting..." Chris answered lightly, his voice still a notch too high and breathy. "What about you? Did you sleep well? Are you hurting at all? Can I get you anything?"
"I'm...fine," Darren replied slowly, still looking at Chris with a slightly puzzled expression. "Good, even."
"Oh, that's great. You don't...you don't – uh, need anything?" Chris asked, wondering if he sounded as awkward as he felt.
Darren's eyes locked on Chris before he replied. "Nope...I've got everything I need right here." As if to punctuate his statement, Darren squeezed Chris' hand, shooting a jolt of electricity down Chris' spine.
Chris was struck speechless by the intensity of Darren's gaze, so he just nodded dumbly.
"Chris..." Darren whispered with obvious meaning, turning his head so that he could gaze up at Chris fully.
"Yeah?" Chris asked, the pulse thudding dully in his ears as he hoped, prayed even, that he was going to like the words that came next.
"Listen, about what I said last night..." Darren began.
In the seconds Darren paused before continuing, a litany of thoughts passed through Chris' mind. Oh, please don't say you didn't mean it. Please don't take it back. Please, Darren. Please don't break my heart.
"I was serious. I meant it. I've meant it every single time I said it, okay? I didn't want you to think that because I was on a bunch of medications or hurting or terrified that it wasn't real. Because it was. It is real," Darren amended, searching Chris' face. "It is to me anyways. But I just need to know... there's something here, right? It's not just me?"
Chris sucked in a breath so hard it made a slight whistling noise, his heart pounding loudly enough that he was sure Darren could hear it. "Oh god," Chris blurted out, his relief palpable. "Yes – I..." He stopped, taking in Darren's stricken expression. "Wait – I mean...fuck..no? What was the question? I – it's not just you Darren. That's what I'm trying to say...badly." Chris looked back at Darren, his eyes wide and watering slightly, breaking into a wide grin at the smile that erupted across Darren's face.
"Oh thank god..." Darren answered when he could breathe again. "You know, you're a little too good at almost giving me heart attacks. It's cruel, Chris."
Chris laughed, suddenly feeling so buoyant he wasn't sure how he hadn't flown away. "In my defense, it was a poorly worded question. Kinda hard to tell whether yes or no was the right answer, after all."
"Duly noted," Darren chuckled. "But yeah...so this thing we've got going on..."
"Yes, this thing," Chris echoed.
"Which we've established is a mutual thing..." Darren continued.
"Yes, mutual. Very mutual," Chris grinned.
"Good. So what does that mean, exactly?" Darren asked.
"I have no idea..." Chris answered honestly. "Except that I really like being with you like this and I don't want to see it end."
"Agreed," Darren sighed appreciatively, impulsively leaning up to place a gentle kiss to the bridge of Chris' nose. "God, you are so cute."
"Naturally," Chris chuckled. "But focus...there'll plenty of time to appreciate my cuteness later."
"Promise?" Darren practically growled, and want suddenly bloomed fierce in Chris' belly.
"Oh, it's a promise," Chris flirted back. "But back to the question at hand - what do you want?"
"You," Darren answered immediately, as if the answer was that simple. And Chris was starting to wonder if maybe it couldn't be.
"Okay," Chris breathed, nodding. "So we'll just keep doing...this."
"Sounds good to me. Although I should probably clarify..." Darren interjected.
"Hmm?" Chris asked, suddenly irrationally fearful.
"...I really don't expect you to feed me for the remainder of our relationship. I'd be okay with feeding myself from here on out. Or maybe even being the one to feed you from time to time. Like maybe I could take you out to dinner sometime soon?" Darren proposed, a wicked gleam in his eye.
"Oh really now? Dinner, huh? Better be somewhere good. I seem to remember someone moaning about just how much he was going to owe me..." Chris smirked.
Darren tilted his head up, his warm breath tickling Chris' cheek as he whispered in Chris' ear. "I'll have you know I always pay my debts. Thoroughly."
Chris didn't even attempt to hide the sharp gasp Darren's words induced. "Well then," he said at last. "Better get started...no time to lose."
"Right," Darren replied, his eyes going dark and hungry. "Right...and where would you suggest that I begin?"
"Kiss me?" Chris pleaded hoarsely, desire coursing through his veins.
Darren nodded once, surging forward. "Your wish is my command."
End Chapter Note: So…what did you think? Did you like the last chapter? Hopefully if I did my job properly, the ending paid off all the unresolved sexual tension between Darren and Chris in a way that felt real and believable given their circumstances. I've had to keep the ending to myself for way too long and I'm just dying to hear from you. So please, please, please take a minute and write a quick review or PM to let me know what you thought of the last chapter or the fic as a whole. You'll make my week!