Well, here's the last chapter! I hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it :)
"Can I come in?" Cerina's voice broke through the volume of the movie.
"It's open!" Darren called out.
Cerina walked in with a smile on her face. Darren could tell she sensed a change between him and Chris, like something had happened. Not only was it something a mother could easily pick up on, but it was also clear by the way they were situated at the head of Darren's bed.
They were on top of the covers, but Darren's blanket was carelessly slung over them, not quite covering their legs which were a mass of tangled limbs. Chris was wrapped up in Darren's arms with his head nestled in the crook of Darren's neck—a place he often found himself drawn to. Their free hands were intertwined, thumbs rubbing palms and fingers squeezing tight. Darren's face was buried in the hair atop Chris' head, taking in the scent of his shampoo and the feel of the soft hair against his stubbly chin.
Cerina smiled and let herself into the room. "I made up the couch for you, Chris, in case you want it. Just stay wherever is comfortable."
Chris didn't think he would be moving much more throughout the night. He was most comfortable in Darren's arms. "Thank you, Mrs. Criss."
"It's Cerina, dear." She set an extra blanket on the corner of Darren's bed. "I'll let the two of you be." She turned to leave. "Goodnight."
When the door was closed again, Darren lifted Chris' chin up with his finger and leaned in for a kiss, testing his boundaries by allowing his tongue to run along Chris' lips. He felt Chris shudder and pulled away. "Sorry."
"Don't be. I like kissing you. I'm going to miss it."
"Way to ruin the mood," Darren joked, but his heart wasn't in it. It shattered into a million tiny shards every time Chris mentioned leaving, and he wasn't sure if it would ever really be hole again; at least not as long as he was separated from Chris.
"I'm sorry. We could kiss again," Chris suggested with a grin that Darren could only classify as a sexy smile.
"True, but this movie is getting pretty good." Darren gestured to the TV where The Cat in the Hat was playing.
"Dare, this movie is horrible," Chris judged.
"Don't talk bad about Dr. Seuss!"
"Just fucking kiss me, asshole."
"So damn dirty when you're turned on," Darren said as he leaned in.
Chris still couldn't get enough of Darren—his kisses, the warmth of his body, his company. After their first kiss, he felt the need for more. He felt wanted and attractive and needed by another man for the first time in his life, and it was something that he craved. Chris still had trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that he'd only known Darren for a few days when it felt like an eternity.
Chris felt like their time was rushed. It was limited, and while he didn't want to push their boundaries too far, he wanted to leave San Francisco with absolutely no regrets and no "should have's" or "could have's."
Darren moved underneath him, and Chris settled between his legs. The movie was long forgotten, and his parents were in their own room on the other side of the house. The only sounds Chris could focus on were the groans occasionally coming from Darren as their tongues slid together.
Chris froze when their hips slotted together just enough for him to feel Darren hard beneath him. It only took Darren a second to realize what had happened and he quickly slid out from under Chris.
"I'm so sorry, Chris. I didn't mean to-"
Chris cut him off with a kiss. "It's okay. I… I-I'm not ready for that yet, but it doesn't mean you don't have the same effect on me."
Darren looked down at Chris' growing erection—clearly evident through his thin, cotton pajama pants—with wide eyes,
"We can go back to watching the movie if you want," Darren suggested, awkwardly
Chris moved back into his arms. "I wasn't kidding when I said the movie was horrible. It's one of the worse things I've seen."
Darren hummed in acknowledgment. The room was quiet for a few minutes apart from their unsteady breaths.
"Are you still going to talk to me once you leave tomorrow?" Darren asked with worry evident in his shaky voice.
Chris actually gasped because he couldn't imagine his world without Darren, no matter how he was able to fit into it. "Of course I will! I think I need you more than I even realize myself."
Darren signed in relief. "Good." He gave Chris another kiss—intense and passionate and not quite so chaste, but still quick. When he pulled away, he almost said something that would surely change everything, but he held the words in. They would only further complicate things for Chris.
"I need you, too, you know. It's a strange feeling because I've always been so independent, but maybe learning to give a part of myself to someone else to hold isn't such a bad idea."
"You're so cheesy sometimes."
Darren wanted to say it again, but somehow managed to keep it to himself. He pulled the two of them down so they were lying next to each other and pulled the comforter snuggly around them. "Goodnight, sweetheart."
Chris' eyes fluttered closed, and he pressed a wet, open-mouthed kiss to Darren's neck. " 'oodnight, love."
It wasn't those three little words that everyone died to hear, but it was enough to put a smile on Darren's face as he fell fast asleep.
Chris had been awake for a few minutes staring at the ceiling when he felt Darren press a kiss to his shoulder. "Go back to sleep," he groaned but turned his head to the side to capture Darren's lips.
"Good morning," Darren smiled.
"Goodnight," Chris replied and closed his eyes again.
Darren laughed," What's wrong?"
"If we wake up, I have to leave."
"I'm not going to kick you out at eight in the morning." Darren wound his arms tightly around Chris' waist. "In fact, I am going to keep you as long as I possibly can."
Chris snorted, "I have to leave eventually, Darren."
"But you could always prolong your visit," Darren suggested, a little hopeful.
Chris shook his head. "I can tell my mom is starting to worry, and Hannah keeps asking when I'm coming home. I was supposed to take her out so we could spend the day together, but I came here." Chris looked at Darren thoughtfully. "You know… you could always come back with me."
"Baby, I would love to, but your parents don't even know I exist. I don't want to make things worse for you in Clovis."
Chris sighed. He knew it was a stupid suggestion anyway. "They would love you, you know."
"How do you know that?" Darren questioned.
"Because," Chris squeezed Darren's arm, "you made their son happy."
Darren's only reply was to give him another kiss.
"So what are your plans for my last day in the city?" Chris asked curiously over breakfast. "Anything extravagant planned?"
Darren brushed his socked foot against Chris' under the table. "Wouldn't you like to know."
"Actually," Chris leaned closer to him and placed his hands on Darren's legs, their lips practically touching, "that is the reason I asked."
"Are you trying to seduce me in the middle of my kitchen? I didn't think you had it in you, Colfer!"
Chris slapped his arm and sat back in his chair. "Shut up, and tell me what we're doing."
Darren shrugged and took a bite of his French toast. "We'll do whatever you want to do."
"Good morning, boys," Cerina walked into the kitchen.
"Morning, Mom," Darren said through a full mouth.
"Darren, have some manners, please," Cerina warned sternly.
"He loves me just the way I am, don't you, sweetie?" Darren leaned forward with a smile.
"I…" Chris looked between Darren and his mom, unsure what to say.
"Kiss me," Darren whispered.
"Darren-" Chris began, hesitantly, but Darren cut him off with a kiss.
"Thank you," Darren smirked.
Chris looked towards Cerina, aware that she'd seen the entire exchange. However, he felt good about it, and she didn't seem to mind at all.
He rested his hand on Darren's knee and continued eating. It felt nice to finally be accepted, even if it took a road trip, an insomniac, and a whole love of courage to get there.
If Chris took the time to sit down and think about what was happening, he probably wouldn't believe it. He would think it was some kind of sick prank if not a complete dream. He wasn't the type to meet a guy, especially one like Darren, and be treated with genuine respect. But Darren did treat him that way.
Chris still didn't understand the calming sensation that rushed over his body when Darren was around but maybe there wasn't logic or reason behind it. Darren made him feel. He felt comfortable. He felt wanted. He felt satisfied and understood and accepted.
Chris was never flirty, and not just because he was scared to be. He just didn't have it in him to open that part of himself up to someone else. He had never understood the way it felt to want to be so close to someone; not until he met Darren.
Chris was still hesitant when it came to kisses or touches, but he lost all control around Darren. Darren made him feel safe, like no matter how stupid or inexperienced and ridiculous he sounded, Darren still wanted him. He never felt judged by or disapproval from Darren, and that was one of the things he loved the most.
However, the thing that he had the hardest time understanding was how it was possible for him to fall in love in just three days.
After a breakfast of fruit and bagels, a quick shower for each of them, and a long debate between Chuck and Darren about what the must-see locations of San Francisco were, Chris climbed into the passenger's seat of his car and Darren slid behind the wheel.
They had tossed around various ideas for the day—The San Francisco Ballet, Golden Gate Park, various coffee shops, Chinatown—before they finally settled on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Darren pulled off into a parking lot a couple blocks away from the museum so they could avoid the heavy tourist traffic, and they walked the last few blocks to the museum. Their hands were linked and Darren occasionally kissed his cheek or let go just long enough to wrap an arm around Chris and pull him in for a tight hug.
Chris had never felt more free in his life. While there was still a risk of gaining someone's disapproval, he could easily walk down the street with the man he liked and not feel threatened. Walking the streets of San Francisco with Darren by his side was much more satisfying than the cautious walks he would take to and from the park back in Clovis. In San Francisco, he didn't have to look over his shoulder to make sure no one was going to jump out and attack him. He didn't have to worry about hiding the fact that he was gay. All he had to do was smile and enjoy the time he had left with Darren.
They finally approached the museum, and Darren pulled them inside. The air conditioning was refreshing after their walk in the summer heat.
They walked to the ticket booth and when Chris pulled his wallet out, Darren pushed it aside. "It's on me."
Chris looked up at the prices on the board above them. "Darren, it's eighteen dollars a ticket! I can get it myself."
Darren ignored him and turned to the employee behind the glass partition. "I'll take two tickets, please."
"That will be thirty-six dollars," the lady said, unenthusiastically.
Darren handed over the cash and received two tickets in return, one of which he handed to Chris.
"Darren, please let me pay you back," Chris nearly begged. He knew Darren's job at the music shop wasn't full time, so eighteen dollars couldn't have been an easy loss for him.
"I'm taking you out today. This is my city, and I'm going to show you a good time. Don't worry about it, okay?" Darren pecked him on the lips and pulled him towards the entrance.
Once inside, Darren strolled past the map of the museum, the employees ready to answer any questions, and the signs pointing out what galleries were which direction. He stopped in front of an elevator and pressed the up button.
"You know your way around this place," Chris stated. He looked around as they waited for the elevator doors to open. There were numerous tourists scurrying around, studying their fold out maps and looking around at the different signs. Chris was suddenly thankful he had a San Francisco native leading him around. It eliminated the hassle of trying to figure out where to go.
The elevator doors open and Chris stepped inside behind Darren.
"I'm going to take you to the roof first." Darren cradled Chris' face between his hands and pulled him forward for another kiss. "There's a little coffee bar I think you would enjoy."
"Coffee. Yes. Please," Chris groaned and leaned back against the wall.
A dinging sound rang through the small space and the elevator doors opened. They were greeted with bright San Franciscan sunlight and a wave of heat. The roof was beautiful. Not only did it over look the city, but there were plants, statues, and other various forms of artwork scattered about.
"Coffee's this way," Darren pointed towards an area with a few table and chairs Chris followed him over and looked up at the menu.
They patiently waited their turn in line, examining the menu in silence until they made it to the barista at the register. "Hi, I'd like a caramel macchiato, whatever this guy is having," he motioned towards Chris, "and throw in a Mondrian cake while you're at it."
Darren winked at the barista, and she blushed. Chris grinned when he felt Darren's hand close around his. He still wasn't fully convinced the he was there with Darren, a man who liked him not only as a friend, but as something more.
Chris stepped in front of Darren and felt a pair of arms wrapping around his waist. Darren kissed his cheek from behind and spoke into his ear, "Your turn to order, sweetie."
Chris tried to get his thoughts in order, but he had momentarily forgotten what it was he even wanted. Hell, he could barely even remember where they were. All he could think about was Darren. Darren's arms were wrapped around his waist. Darren's lips had kissed his cheek. Darren's breath was against his ear.
"Café mocha," he managed to mutter. His voice was a little too high, but he couldn't seem to control it.
"$12.79," the barista said, and Darren handed her the cash. "Keep the change," he winked again. Darren sure was a charmer.
"You can take your faggy selves somewhere else now and let me order," the man in line behind them said bitterly. He was most likely a tourist passing through the city.
Chris froze and made a move to leave Darren's arms, but Darren held him tight.
"Excuse me, but this is my city, and if I do leave, it's because I want to, not because you want me to." Darren picked up their drinks when they were set on the counter. "I hope my faggy breath hasn't spread some sort of decency on you. We wouldn't want that to happen. Have a nice day." Darren smiled a little too cheerfully and pulled Chris to a table.
Chris was silent for a few minutes. He had thought San Francisco was different. No one had said anything to them, and they had only received a few dirty looks; nothing he wasn't already used to.
"Are you okay?" Darren reached over and took his hand in a comforting way.
"I thought San Francisco was different. I thought I could be myself here."
"You can, Chris. I never want you to be anything less than yourself. There are ignorant assholes everywhere, but if you don't let them affect you, they'll give up. It's like a game to them, and if they don't have fun and get the response they want, they'll move on.
Chris nodded and smiled, but it didn't even reach the corners of his mouth. "I guess."
"Hey, look at me," Darren tugged on his hand and Chris met his eyes. "We are going to have a marvelous last day together. Unless you're uncomfortable, I'm going to continue holding your hand and kissing you whenever I want to, okay?" Chris nodded and Darren scooted his chair next to Chris'. He pulled Chris into his side and kissed his forehead. "Don't let them have their way. The worse they can do is throw useless words at you. I won't let them touch you, baby, I promise."
Chris nodded again and picked the corner of their cake and held it up for Darren to take. Darren smiled and kissed him again before doing the same for Chris.
Darren made him feel invincible in a world full of violence and pain. He didn't know what he was going to do once he returned to Clovis without him; without the magical shield that seemed to keep him alive.
They spend the next couple of hours wandering through the museum. Darren realized he had only taken a few pictures of Chris throughout the week—they were just photos of the two of them messing around—so he would occasionally snap a picture on his phone. Sometimes it would be of the two of them posing with a statue or in front of a bizarre painting, but more often than not, they were candids of Chris. Chris studying a portrait of an older man. Chris smiling affectionately at a little girl with strawberry blonde curls as she skipped past. Chris waving at a random elderly couple as they walked by.
Darren liked every part of Chris, of course, but this is what he liked the best. He liked capturing the moments that weren't intended to be remembered. He liked seeing Chris being himself—caring, selfless, happy, and seemingly fearless. Darren wanted to remember the Chris he had spent the past few days with. The one that smiled every time Darren spoke or judged him for the ridiculous things he did. He wanted to remember the Chris he had fallen in love with.
Their time in the museum lasted a little longer than either one of them had expected, but they didn't mind; after-all, the day was to be spent together, and what they did or where they were wasn't important.
By the time they walked back out into the street, dinner was approaching and both were starting to get hungry. Chris still didn't know much about San Francisco, so Darren offered to take him to one of his favorite restaurants. That's how they ended up in a nice little restaurant about twenty minutes later.
The restaurant was a place Darren frequented, so the owners knew him quite well. They knew him as Darren, the boy with the crazy hair and colorful socks who was overly friendly and a little wacky. They seemed to love him, though, and one short conversation with the older couple provided Chris with all the experience he needed to see why Darren loved it there so much.
They sat down at a two-person table in a quiet little corner. The room was dim, providing the perfect ambiance for a date, but it also doubled as a peaceful place one could go to escape from the world for a short time. Candles were placed in the center of the table to be lit upon request—Darren had grabbed a lighter and lit it himself—but as Chris looked around, he notice several people who chose to keep theirs unlit. There were families, couples, friends, and even a few people by themselves. Everyone seemed to have a different agenda, a different reason for visiting the little restaurant, but each guest was welcomed with the upmost respect.
Chris opened his menu and began moving his eyes across the items listed. As he did this, Darren couldn't take his eyes off of him. He didn't know what exactly he was feeling, but it was something more than he'd ever experienced before. His own menu remained closed in front of him, and he reached across to take Chris' hand. Chris lowered his menu and smiled back, neither one of them realizing their waiter had come to the table to take their order.
Once their food came, Darren hesitantly let go of Chris' hand so they could eat, but he still couldn't stop staring at Chris when the other man wasn't looking. He wondered how soon was too soon to actually tell him he loves him. They'd said it in so many words, but actually saying the three words was scary. He'd only known Chris for a few days. What if Chris thought he was crazy? What if this was just a summer fling for the other man? What if he thought Darren was lying because who could fall in love that quickly and know it was something real?
Darren chose to stay silent and listen as Chris rambled on and on about the amazing things they had done throughout the week, and the things he would never forget.
After their plates were cleared, the waiter took them away and returned with the single ice cream sundae they had ordered. Chris wasn't sure he'd seen one quite so large before, but he picked up a spoon and dug in.
Chris continued talking, and for once, Darren was strangely silent. He was silent not because he didn't have anything to add to the conversation, but because he didn't dare try to interrupt Chris. He loved hearing Chris talk. His voice was one of Darren's favorite sounds, whether they were singing along to the radio in the car or Chris was whispering in his ear as they cuddled up on the couch. Chris' voice was just one tiny part of what made Chris who he was, and Darren was sure there wasn't a single part he didn't love.
Chris paid for their dinner—Darren was being stubborn about it, but Chris took advantage of his brief bathroom break to pay—and they walked out onto the street after Darren said a quick goodbye to the owners. It was dark by the time they were finished, but the city was beautifully lit.
There were unspoken words in the air. There were thoughts of Chris leaving, and heartbreak that would be coming much too quickly. Rather than voicing what they both wanted to push aside for as long as possible, Darren led Chris to the music shop, knowing it could very well be the last time they would be there together.
Darren pulled Chris along and they walked down the street, hand in hand, trying their best to forget that they only had a short time left together. They tried, but they couldn't ignore the constant shouting in their heads. Chris leaned into Darren's side as they walked, and Darren wrapped his arms around Chris. He never wanted to leg to of him; wanted to be in Chris' embrace for the rest of his life.
"I have something for you," Darren picked his guitar up from where it sat near the counter and sat down on a chair in front of Chris.
Chris took a seat in the chair nearby and focused his attention on Darren. "Darren…"
"Remember that first night you came back and saw me singing something? I told you I was writing a song, but it was unfinished." Chris nodded. "Well, I had spent the entire day working on it. When there wasn't a customer or I wasn't on the phone with you, I would sit down with my guitar and work out melodies. You… somehow I was inspired after meeting you. It was like all of these melodies and rhythms were coming from a place inside of me that they'd never come before. It seems crazy when I actually put it into words, but I think for once, my heart took dominance over my brain."
Darren strummed a few lines on the guitar and tuned it up a bit. "I tried putting words to this, but nothing seemed to work. I spent so much time forcing the ideas in my head to leak out onto paper, out of my mouth, but I didn't get much more than a few lines. I scrapped every single lyric I wrote down. It wasn't until I was lying in bed last night with you in my arms, holding onto you with everything I had, that I realized some of the best things in this world don't need words. There are beautiful melodies in the greatest songs, but sometimes no one notices how powerful and moving they are until they're stripped down for you to hear.
"Something like this song, something that was written so much by what I feel when I'm with you, shouldn't have lyrics. The music itself should be able to express every single thought I've ever had. Maybe someone won't be able to understand the specifics, but that's not the point.
"I've spent a lot of my life searching for the meaning of songs, but I don't think there ever is one specific interpretation. I think every person feels something slightly different. This song I wrote might mean something completely different to you than it does to me, but it's something I want to share with you anyway. I snuck out last night to finish it because I wanted to play it for you before you left. It's something I want you to take with you when you leave in a few minutes."
Darren scooted his chair closer so that his knees were touching Chris' and their faces were inches apart. "I just want you to listen, okay?"
Chris nodded and let out a shaky breath. His eyes were misty and trained on Darren. As soon as Darren played the first few notes of the song, Chris broke down. Not only was it more beautiful than any song he'd ever heard before, but Darren had written it for him. He felt the emotions in the song, and every good thing he had ever experienced was twisted and spun into a song. The melodies were weaved together and formed a blanket of emotions that held him close while he let his tears fall from his eyes.
When Darren played the last few chords of the song, Chris noticed his eyes were filled with unshed tears as well. It only took them moving a few inches forward and Darren gently setting his guitar aside before Chris was on Darren's lap, kissing him fiercely and passionately before pulling away and diving in for the tightest hug he'd ever given anyone before.
A few minutes of silence passed before Chris allowed a couple inches to separate their bodies. "Thank you, Darren. It was beautiful."
Their foreheads were pressed together, and Darren tilted his head slightly to kiss the tip of Chris' nose. "I have one more thing for you, but I have to get up to get it."
Chris fell back into his own chair, and Darren slid behind the counter. He pulled a little box out of a drawer and returned to Chris. Inside was a chain which Darren held up for Chris to see, and on the end was a blue and yellow guitar pick.
"I know this is probably the cheesiest gift ever and my little speech will be stupid and embarrassing, but I wanted to give this to you anyway. I want you to wear this, or you don't even have to wear it at all of you don't want to. I mean, if you do you don't even have to make it noticeable. It can just be hidden underneath your shirt or you could shove it in a box and never look at it again." Darren paused when he realized he was rambling nervously. He took a deep breath and continued. "Chris, when things get hard for you, I want you to do one thing for me. I want you to go to your room and lie down on your bed. I want you to find this around your neck and hold onto it. I want you to imagine me laying there next to you. I want you to think about the life you have outside of Clovis. Clovis may seem like a humongous hole which you can't get out of, but to the rest of the world, it's just a pinpoint on the map. There are so many better places out there for you, and you'll make it to them one day. I know you will."
Darren stepped forward and brushed at the tears in the corners of Chris' eyes. He held Chris in his hands, keeping their eyes locked on each other as he leaned down for a kiss.
"I feel bad. I don't have anything for you." Chris looked away.
"Hey, you gave me more than you know. I've grown up and spent my entire life in this city. I've seen countless people and have done everything imaginable. But do you want to know something?" Chris looked back at Darren. "No week in my life has lived up to this week-the way I've felt, how happy I've been, how many memories I've made. Maybe I wasn't lost or upset or looking for a way out before you came here, but something was missing. And I found that something a few mornings ago. He showed up at this place soaking wet and a little angry. He wasn't too kind to me at first, but I understood. I've had rough nights too. But I took him in and gave him a chance, and he turned out to be the best friend I've ever had."
Chris laughed and wrapped his arms around Darren. "That guy is really glad he met you."
Darren closed his eyes and soaked in the warmth and smell of Chris for as long as he could. "It's getting late," he finally stated.
Chris nodded, but didn't pull away.
"I'll walk you to your car," Darren said softly.
Chris nodded again, but barely separated from Darren. "It's right outside." Darren had driven Chris' car back to the music shop before they had walked to the restaurant.
"I can still walk you there." Darren took Chris' hand and slowly moved towards the door.
The outside air was frigid, uncharacteristic of the normal San Franciscan summer. The wind was blowing violently and the streets were deserted. It reminded Chris of the way the city appeared to him when he first pulled into it—strange, eerie, and unfamiliar.
Darren stopped beside the driver's door and held up the necklace he'd given to Chris. "May I put this on you, so you can at least wear it on the way home? I don't care what you do with it once you get there, but at least I get to see it on you before you throw it away."
"Don't be silly," Chris turned around. "I'm never taking it off."
Darren circled his arms around Chris and clasped the necklace around his neck. Chris turned back around in Darren's arms and leaned forward for another kiss. It was a kiss unlike all others they'd shared. This particular kiss was meant to leave a lasting impression, one they would remember for days, weeks, months, maybe even years. There was no guarantee when or if they would ever see each other again, and their only hope was that this kiss would be the best they'd shared so far, but certainly not their last.
Chris began crying, his tears mixing with the single raindrop that fell from the sky.
"Call me when you get home?" Darren pleaded. "I don't care what time it is. I'll be up. I won't be able to sleep until I know you're safe."
"I'll never be safe in Clovis," Chris retorted.
"Chris, please," Darren begged.
Chris gazed into Darren's glassy eyes. The tears were streaming down his face by this point, and it only made Chris more reluctant to leave. "I promise."
Darren opened the car door, and it felt like the hardest thing he'd ever done before. Letting Chris get into his car and leave seemed wrong. It didn't seem like someone who managed to turn his life upside down should be able to walk away so easily, but he knew Chris had to.
Chris turned around and sat down inside the car, mechanically, almost like a robot. He was suddenly void of emotion, and Darren knew he was only trying to ignore the pain shooting through him.
"Bye, Darren," Chris whispered. He stared straight ahead, gripping his fingers around the steering wheel until they turned white.
"Goodbye, love." Darren closed the door and walked around the front of the car before stopping on the sidewalk. He heard Chris turn the car on, and less than ten seconds later the car was pulling away from the curb.
As the car pulled away, hundreds of images flashed in front of his eyes. Chris dripping wet outside of the music shop. Chris walking into Darren's room after taking a shower—his hair wet, his face flushed, his eyes wide and bright. The way Chris' eyebrows raised slightly as he sipped his coffee, and the way he scrunched his nose when it was a little too bitter. The way Chris looked at him when they pulled away from a kiss and how peaceful he looked when he was sleeping. Chris practically glowing in the sunlight, shining even brighter than anything Darren had ever seen before. He saw Chris hugging him tightly. He saw him running happily through the streets and looking free, something Darren knew he had never felt before. He saw the smile that meant the world to him, and the boy who had a piece of his heart.
Darren thought about running after him. He thought about stopping the car and begging Chris to stay. He thought about telling Chris he could stay at their house for the rest of the summer, and he could move into a Michigan apartment with Darren in the fall. He thought about every way he could get Chris to stay, but in the end, his feet remained planted in the cement.
Darren watched Chris' car get smaller and smaller as he drove into the distance until it finally rounded a corner and disappeared. Darren suddenly felt empty, like a part of him was in the car, moving farther and farther away from him without any idea if it would ever return.
He stood on the sidewalk and let his tears continue to fall. Only thirty seconds had passed before it started raining, but Darren didn't have the desire to move. Rain reminded him of Chris. It reminded him of the night that changed his life for the better, and he wasn't quite sure the pain he was feeling would ever go away.
It was a little over a month later—and many, many phone calls—when Darren got the surprise of his life. He was messing with a violin one morning around 2:15 when he heard a quiet knock on the front door of the music shop.
Darren's face instantly lit up, his heart stopped, and his breath caught in his lungs when he saw a familiar face outside the door. He ran as fast as he could, stumbling over a display of CDs and knocking them to the floor. He ignored the crash that followed and yanked the door open, pulling Chris into his arms and frantically kissing him.
"What are you doing here?"
Chris shrugged. "I couldn't sleep, so I drove to San Francisco." He made it seem as if driving over three hours to a completely different city was as simple as stating his name to a stranger. "Plus," he added, "I got a rather important envelope in the mail today and thought you might want to be there when I opened it." Chris brought his hands out from behind his back and Darren's face lit up when he saw the familiar University of Michigan logo.
"My acceptance slash rejection letter?" Chris nodded. "Yup. Ready to find out if I'm finally getting out of Clovis and going to school with this guy I'm sort of crazy about during his last semester there?"
"Don't forget grad school. I would never let you come for me if I was only going to be there for one more semester."
"I would go anyway," Chris said, determined.
"This is it. This will tell me if I have a roommate or not?" Darren began bouncing like a little kid on Christmas morning.
"You don't want me to move in even If I'll be uneducated and unemployed?" Chris feigned shock and disappointment.
"Just open the damn envelope," Darren snapped, but a grin immediately followed.
Darren moved to Chris' side and wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him close. Chris delicately tore the envelope open and pulled out the leaf of paper. He unfolded it and felt Darren's breath catch in his throat as he read the words along with him. Before Chris had a chance to say anything, the letter was abandoned on the floor, landing aimlessly against a trumpet case, and Darren's warm lips were on his, hugging him so tight Chris thought he might break.
"You're going to school in fucking Michigan, Chris! I fucking love you, do you know that?" Chris laughed at first, but then Darren's words sank in. Darren was suddenly looking at him as if he were the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, and to Darren, he was. "I love you, Chris," he said again, quieter and much more sincere.
"I love you, too, Dare." The words rolled off of Chris' tongue as if they'd been said a thousand times before, and the truth was he had said them. He said them to himself almost every day, but never to the man they were meant for. All of the weeks of biting his tongue, all of the phone calls when he wanted to blurt out those three little words, every time he got a silly text from Darren which only heightened his awareness of his feelings for his best friend. Those were the times when Chris could barely keep everything inside. However, somehow he managed to, and seeing Darren in person, watching his reaction and being able to have his arms wrapped around him, was worth the wait.
"I leave for Michigan in three days. Are you ready to move? Do you want to come with me this weekend? Do you want to be my roommate? Do you want to-"
"Darren, sweetie, calm down. We still have an entire semester before I can start." Chris pushed a few of Darren's stray curls out of his face.
"But will you be my roommate?"
"I would be honored to live at the palace de Criss."
"More like shack de Criss," Darren snorted.
"As long as I still get the prince, I don't care where I live," Chris beamed.
Darren grinned back and led Chris out into the streets of San Francisco where it all began, taking him for another walk through the dark night, the first of many, many more to come.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review so far.
I hope you're happy with the way things turned out! The ending gives you closure, but also allows you to imagine the future you want for them as well.
Reivew and let me know what you think of it now that it's over? :)