Simon noticed him first and nodded his chin towards him, sitting across the room and more-or-less nestled into Ashley’s side, not really talking with anyone but watching the whole room with sharp-bright eyes. “Hey, what’s Kurt doing here?”
“Hm?” Will followed Simon’s nod, and grinned. “Oh, he’s friends with Ashley.”
“I thought she could never drag him out to these things.”
Will shrugged. “She must have moved on from persuasion to threats.”
Simon took a swig of his drink, and raised an appraising eyebrow. “He’s cute.”
“Tell me he’s not.”
Will hadn’t even been looking for it, and it still was kind of hard to see. There was a gawky awkwardness to him, discomfort in the line of his jaw. But there was something pretty to his eyes, maybe, and that sharpness that hinted at a mind very much at work, even if the angle of his arms said he was trying to relax. “Yeah, I guess. Still, not as cute as you.” Simon’s mouth twisted into a grin, and Will leaned in to kiss him on it. “C’mon, let’s dance.”
It was late when Will wandered into the kitchen looking for a bottle of water and startled Chris in the mostly-dark room.
“Hey, sorry, man,” Will side-stepped him apologetically to pull open the fridge door.
“It’s fine.” In the light the refrigerator bulb threw across the floor he could see Chris leaning back against the counter, a water glass by his elbow.
“What are you doing back here?” Will hipped the door closed and unscrewed the cap on the bottle. “Ashley abandon you?”
A snort, undignified and derisive, though not unkind. “No. Just hiding.”
“We don’t bite, you know.” Will eyed Chris’s glass. “You want more water? There’s plenty in there.”
Will’s eyes were adjusting to the darkness of the room, and he could just make out Chris’s eyes in the shadows: clear and startlingly open, and sharp. Watching. Assessing.“Yes. Thank you.”
Will opened the fridge again and handed him another bottle, which Chris opened deftly and then just held, toying with the cap, and watched him. Maybe it should have been unnerving, but it felt vulnerable instead.
“So.” Will took a swig of water. “Hiding from anyone in particular?”
The corners of Chris’s mouth twitched up. “No. But everybody’s talking shop and I would just like to not, for a while.”
“Okay.” Will dragged over a barstool and hopped up on it. Simon was still back in the living room but he would be fine “So, what do you like to talk about?”
Chris gave him that quick-assessing look again, but it was softer now, more curious and less challenging. “Um. Anything, really. Books. Music. Movies.”
“I like all those things!”
“Fine then,” Chris said with a lift of his eyebrow, like if Will was going to be ridiculous and try to be nice to him, Chris would indulge him right back. He took a drink of his own water. “What’s your favorite movie?”
“Oh, my god, just one?”
“Well. Favorites, then.” Chris was smiling now, a little sardonically. He had a pretty smile.
“Well, Jurassic Park for sure. It’s also great material for some really awesome dinosaur sex jokes.”
“…Dinosaurs and sex. I didn’t know it was possible.”
“Oh, definitely.” Will winks at him. “After I watch Jurassic Park I always like to triceratops.”
“Sometimes even tricerabottom.”
“Oh - my god. Did you just -?” Chris’s eyes were bright, amused, and they made something turn over in Will’s chest.
“You bet Jurassic’s a pun.”
It took Chris just a second, frowning while he turned his water bottle around in his hands. Will could see his eyes light when he got it - and then he didn’t miss a beat. “Well, since you’re thinking about these things, I guess that makes you a philosoraptor.” Chris’s expression didn’t change, he just looked at Will over the mouth of his water bottle, and then arched one challenging eyebrow. Will lost his shit.
Chris had a great laugh; it came out in a bark that didn’t match the rest of him, uneven and kind of squeaky, and his eyes crinkled up in the gloom.
“You,” Will finally gasped out, when he could something like breathe again, and pointed his water bottle at Chris. “Are something special.”
Chris’s smile still looked a little twisted this time, but it was softer, and something like shy. “So are you.”
The next time was at a cookout, and Will didn’t even know Chris was there until he went in to grab another drink and came back out to the yard to find him locked in a tete a tete with Jake over god knew what. When he saw Will, though, he looked at him over Jake’s shoulder and grinned, quick and sharp, before going back to his conversation.
Will managed to get him alone a little while later, sitting in a deck chair, one ankle hooked over his knee and watching the proceedings calmly.
"So, did you get a chance to watch it?" Will asked, and dragged another deck chair over.
Chris lolled his head over and gave Will an unimpressed look. “The one with the terrifying dinosaurs?”
"I think you mean the one with the awesome dinosaurs," he corrected, and Chris rolled his eyes.
"Aww, come on, it’s fun!"
"You didn’t really watch it, did you?"
Chris’s foot flicked. “I watched part of it!”
"The first…ten minutes?"
Will leaned into his elbow on the arm of the chair. “…it really freaks you out, doesn’t it?”
Chris’s eyes narrowed, then softened. “Yes. Yes it does.”
The impulse struck him then, and it was genius, because Chris was fun and funny and Will loved Jurassic Park, and those reasons were more than enough to make this an excellent idea. “So come over to my place and I’ll watch it with you.”
That eyebrow again, judgmental, amused. “What the hell makes you think I want to watch it ever again?”
“Consider it,” Will said, and stood up to clap a hand on his shoulder. “A bit of danger. Of the controlled variety.”
“Oh, fuck you.”
“So that means you’ll come?”
Chris rolled his eyes and dug his phone out of his pocket, and handed it to Will. “Number. Date. Time.”
Will took it with a grin. “Yay!”
Their schedules lined up a few weeks later, and on a Saturday in early May Will buzzed Chris up to his apartment.
"Nice place you’ve got here," Chris said as Will let him in.
Will looked around, at the almost-bare walls, at the furnishings acquired by luck and chance more than any deliberate interior decorating, and the uninspiring view. “Thanks, but it’s actually pretty shitty.”
"Mm," Chris hummed, and handed Will a Saran-wrapped plate of cookies. "Yeah. But I like it."
Will grinned, and took the plate. “Me too.”
They watched the movie and ate way too many cookies, and Will teased Chris that he was going to die of sugar overload when he went for the diet coke instead of the milk. As the credits rolled, Will muted the TV and then leaned over to set the remote on the end table. “So did you like it?”
Chris was still sitting in the corner of the couch, pressed back and over into the arm as much as he could fit and not actually be on the floor; his arms were crossed over his chest, but he was smiling. “It wasn’t awful.”
“Next time I see so much as a salamander I am calling you and making you kill it.”
“You should see the gators we have at home. They’re just like baby T. rexes!”
“Grown up and evolved through several hundred millennia, yes.”
“That just makes them even better!”
“You are very, very weird.”
Will leaned across Chris to grab his empty can, and stood up to get him another one. “You’re the one scared of salamanders.”
Chris’s laugh, soft and rueful, followed him into the kitchen.
“Do you want to stay for dinner? It’s kind of a drive back,” he offered.
Chris shrugged and said “Sure.” So Will put a pot on to boil and pulled out a box of pasta (“Fancy,” Chris said, and just laughed when Will challenged him to do better).
“Anything I can do to help?” Chris asked, and when Will turned around from tossing the pasta box in the recycle he was standing there by the counter, arms crossed over his chest again.
“Um. Do you want to set the table?”
Will showed him where the dishes and the silverware were, and while he got a jar of pasta sauce open and in a saucepan Chris moved around his kitchen quietly and efficiently. It was nice, having somebody in the house for dinner. He and Simon ate together when they could, and once every few weeks there were get togethers with everyone who could come. Will had always loved those nights, loved having company to cook for, loved the camaraderie and the companionship, and Chris was a welcome presence, moving around the kitchen quietly and efficiently.
“You can put music on, if you want,” he told Chris, as Chris went to move Will’s laptop from where it was sitting on the table.
“Alright. Any requests?”
“Whatever you want.”
There was the quiet clicking of keys, and then music started up. Will grinned and hummed along as he got the strainer into the sink and poured out the pasta. There were a few more clicks, and then Chris said, “What’s this?”
Chris spun the computer around, and Will craned his neck over to see the screen. “Oh. That’s just my blog.”
"You blog?" Chris sounded amused.
"Of course I do. Where else can a budding writer practice his craft and keep his family abreast of his hijinks at the same time?"
"You write?" Chris still sounded amused, but there was surprise there, too. He turned the computer back around, and Will could see his hand flex on the trackpad as he started scrolling down the page.
"I do." Will dumped the pasta into a bowl and started mixing in the sauce.
"What do you write?"
Will shrugged and licked a bit of sauce off the back of his hand. Chris had his chin propped on his hand while he scrolled through the page with the other, his eyes flickering up to look at Will. “Screenplays, mostly. I had a few short story ideas too, but they never really panned out as well.”
"Huh." Chris looked like he was trying to make this information square in his head. Will spared a moment to wonder what Ashley had been telling him.
"This is not just a pretty face, my friend." Will tapped his own forehead. Chris snorted, and Will turned to glare at him from reaching for the potholders. "Hey!"
Chris gave him a smartass grin and went back to scrolling through the page.
"Yes, yes, very funny."
Chris stuck out his tongue.
When Will brought the pasta in two bowls over to the table Chris shut the laptop and pushed it aside, and asked, “How long have you been writing?”
Will speared a bit of pasta with his fork. “Oh, God, forever.”
"Since you moved to L.A.?" There was a faint line between Chris’s eyebrows, and Will wondered what he was really asking - most people, if they asked, wanted to know what, plot-wise, he was writing - and if he’d had any success with it.
"Oh, way before that. But I don’t know if the stuff I did in crayon really counts." Chris’s mouth twitched a smile, and Will pressed the advantage. "You should see the board book I did on pterodactyls, though. That was a work of art."
"Mhmm. My mom hung it on the fridge and everything."
Chris laughed, and Will grinned while he forked up some pasta.
“But yeah. In high school, a little. More, after I graduated and moved out here. There was - a lot of shit going on in my life, and it just helped me cope. Not even as an escape, just to - process everything, you know?”
Chris hadn’t taken a bite of his food yet, was just twirling his fork through his fingers and looking at Will. “Yeah.”
“What about you?”
"When did you start writing?"
"Oh, forever ago." Chris tapped his fork off his plate and finally took a bite.
Chris grinned again, that oddly soft grin. “And so much more.” He opened his mouth, and then hesitated, but then finally said, “For me, it worked pretty well as an escape.”
Chris was still looking at Will, and Will wasn’t quite sure what he was seeing there, a friend or a rival or a curiosity, but Will knew what he was seeing, looking at Chris. He’d been looking for a kindred spirit for a long time, and he was pretty sure he’d just found one.
They parted that night with vague plans to get together again. After Chris stood up from adjusting his shoelaces, Will took a moment to consider and then wrapped him up in a hug. Chris hesitated, for a moment. Will almost let go, but then Chris’s arms were coming up around his back and hugging him, too. Will grinned into his hair.
"I had fun tonight. Thanks."
Chris pulled back first, grabbed his bag from the hall table and bobbed on his toes a little.
"Want me to walk you to your car?"
"You know, I really think I’ll manage."
"You never know, the night is dark -"
"If you quote Game of Thrones at me I’m leaving."
"You’re leaving anyway!"
"Goodnight, William!" Chris sang, and managed to get the cranky latch on the door undone.
His laughter echoed Will’s down the hallway.
“Hey, babe, where’d you put my book?”
“Check in the backpack?”
“It’s not there!”
“I could have sworn I saw it.”
“Looking for this?” Will looked up from where he was rifling through his backpack to see Chris standing over him, shades propped on his head and holding out a battered paperback.
“Thanks!” Will took it from him with a grin, and then had to bite his lip to keep his jaw from dropping open. Chris was wearing swim trunks that hung low on his slim hips, and a tank top that showed his arms and just a hint of pec. He was – Will had to swallow. Fuck, he was gorgeous.
Chris must have noticed him staring, because his shoulders pulled in a little bit, and his chin dropped. Will hastily brought his gaze back up to his face, because, shit, he hadn’t meant to make him uncomfortable. Chris relaxed again, though, when Will felt a cool, dripping hand slide around his hip.
“Hey, did you find it?” Simon’s voice was cheerful in his ear.
“Yeah! Chris stole it.” Will leaned into the touch, and leveled a playful grin at Chris, who snorted.
“I rescued it, thank you very much, the dog was ready to make off with it for a chewtoy.”
“Well then I am in your debt,” Will said, and Chris did grin at that.
“I’ll be sure to collect.” He left them with a little wave to go say hi to someone, but as he left Chris caught Will’s eye again, and there it was – a tug, just a little one, a pull of test and tease. It was so unlike Chris as he knew him that Will was shaken, and didn’t realize Simon was talking to him until Simon snapped the waistband of Will’s swimsuit against his hip.
“Hey. I’m going inside. You want anything?”
“Hm? Oh, no, I’m good.” He grinned at Simon, and kissed him when he leaned in.
It was on the tip of his tongue to say to Simon, “Whoa, when did Chris get hot?” It wouldn’t have been the first time they’d checked out guys together. But something in the way Chris caught and held his gaze across the pool, something a little challenging and way too old for his age, made the words stop on the way out of his mouth. Whatever this was, Will wanted to keep it just between them, just for now.
It didn’t stop him, though, from roughhousing in the pool; that was always fair game, and Chris was a delightfully dirty cheat at water polo. He spluttered and swore and shook water out of his eyes when Will dunked him; Will thought he’d won until Chris launched himself onto his back as he lined up to take a shot, wrapping an arm around his neck and pulling him backwards into the water with a whoop and a splash.
It shouldn’t have been different from anything Will did with any of the rest of their friends, except that it was, somehow, in a way he wasn’t really sure he could define. And when Chris hugged him goodbye at the end of the night Will pressed a palm to his back and held him longer, maybe, than he should have.
“’Night Will,” Chris said. His smile when he pulled back was bright and easy, and Will had the fleeting impulse to kiss him on it, to lick into his mouth warm from the sun and tangy with chlorine and sunscreen.
He put his hands in his pockets instead, and rocked back on his heels. “Have a good one, man.”
Chris waved and headed down the driveway, and Will turned and went back inside.
Simon was supposed to be coming over later, to watch a movie and eat take-out and then collapse into bed, maybe to emerge come the next day, and Will couldn’t wait. That wasn’t for hours, though, and in the meantime Will was just lying on the couch, his tablet propped up on his knees and flipping between twitter and a half-finished blog post.
He was almost done with the post before he realized it had transitioned from something silly and mostly sensical into something - he wasn’t even sure what it was. A plot, maybe. Maybe more of a concept. Something weird and awesome with symbolism, definitely. No matter what it was, it certainly wasn’t about that concert anymore, and Will cut the text from the blog editor and copied it into a blank email instead.
He hesitated over whether to send it only for a minute; he had a lot of creative friends but he had a feeling Chris might be the one to appreciate whatever was going on here. He finished the email with a brief, “what do you think of this?” before he typed his name at the bottom and hit send.
He didn’t get a response until well into the afternoon the next day. He was sprawled on the couch again, but had Simon’s chest for a pillow this time while he checked his email. Chris’s reply was just Weird, but good. I like it.
Will grinned and starred the email. Something to come back to.
“What’re ya doing, babe?” Simon’s voice was lazy-quiet, and Will lifted his head for a moment so Simon could shift to a more comfortable position, and then settled back down.
“Story idea.” Simon hummed, while Will reached over his head to set the phone on the end table. “Anything fun?”
“Maybe. We’ll see.” He closed his eyes as Simon’s hand came down to pet through his hair. Lazy Saturdays were the best.
Simon chuckled and slid his hand down to stroke at the back of Will’s neck. “Nap time?”
“Mmm.” Simon’s hand was slipping lower, down to his shoulder. As his fingers toyed with the neck of Will’s shirt Will wiggled a little, considering interest levels and logistics. “Maybe not just yet?” He turned his head to prop his chin on Simon’s chest, and Simon’s smile was bright.
Will had been to Chris’s house once before, though he hadn’t known it was his at the time - just a quick stopover, on a night of fun out. Then it had been full of people, noisy and warm and crowded. When it was just Chris, though, leading the way into the living room, pausing to turn on lamps and scratch Brian when he lifted his head from his paws to see what had disturbed his nap, it was quiet, peaceful, a little echoey. Will couldn’t help but feel that this was the way the house was supposed to be, and the way Chris liked it best.
“Where do you want to get set up?” Chris asked.
Will shrugged. “Wherever you normally work is fine.”
“Well, I normally work in my room, and we have not been on enough dates for that yet,” Chris winked, and went to the fridge to pull out a bottle of soda. “Living room okay?”
“Aww, I don’t get to see the inner Colfer sanctum?” Will pouted, nabbing another bottle from the fridge under Chris’s arm.
“Few men do,” Chris’s tone was teasing and innocent, and made Will’s hands itch for wanting to reach out and touch him. He went for the stereo instead.
"Mind if I put some music on?"
"Sure - if I get veto power."
"But of course."
So Will got his iPod plugged in, and started a playlist going. Maybe it was a mistake, coming here; there was danger in the way Chris still looked at him. If Will didn’t have Simon he knew he would already be testing that danger, pushing it, seeing how far and how deep they could go. The falling would be glorious.
But he did have Simon and he was happy.He could manage the risk, so he wasn’t careful not to brush Chris’s shoulder as he bent to take his shoes off; didn’t keep too much space between them on the couch when they both sat down.
Chris hummed in approval at the first few songs that came up, but after a few more he looked up, frowning a little.
"I haven’t heard this before. I like it."
Will nodded, and tried to keep typing at the same time. “They’re one of my favorites. Simon and I got to see them play last year - amazing show.”
"Do you have any more like this?" When Will tapped a period and looked up at Chris, he had his laptop folded on his knees, his feet tucked up on the coffee table, his glasses pushed up on top of his head. He looked more relaxed than Will had ever seen him, at ease in his own house and his own space, letting Will in this little bit, asking Will to share with him. He didn’t bestow it like an honor, but Will still felt like it was.
"I have about a million like this. Where do you want to start?"
One night Simon had a meet, so Will took the opportunity to stay late at work. There was a busy period coming and it never hurt to get stuff done, especially when he wanted to make sure the weekend was as free as possible.
Simon called just as he was wrapping up, and Will juggled the phone as he pulled his sweater on.
“Hey babe! How’d it go?”
"Ugh, don’t even ask."
"Too late! It can’t have been that bad. Spill."
"Oh, no.” Simon sounded tired, but not actually unhappy. “Right now all I want to do is gets these kids cleaned up and out of here, and then I want to go home and marathon Game of Thrones until the pain of gratuitous boobs overwhelms the pain of loss."
"I’m just leaving work now, do you want me to come over? I can pick up dinner on the way.”
Simon laughed. “Like you even need to ask. No, no, come, bring food, I’ll be here, drowning in the shame.”
"Now you’re just being melodramatic. Hang tight, sweetheart, I’ll be there in an hour."
Simon was whining, just a little, when he said, “An hour? But I’ll have drowned in my sorrow by then!”
Will laughed - he loved that Simon loved what he did, and loved just as much that he could be what made him feel better when things didn’t go well. Down in the parking lot, he fished out his keys and bipped the fob. The next row over, his headlights blinked.
"You’re fine. Besides, after Game of Thrones we’re going to need to do our part to restore the genitalia balance of the universe. I’d hate to have to do that alone."
Simon hummed thoughtfully. “Well, maybe I can last that long.”
Will chuckled. “Baby, I know you can. Remember that time -“
"William," Simon cut him off.
"Get in your car and come see me."
"You got it." Will gets his door unlocked and climbed in. "Now. Sushi or Thai? You’ve got thirty seconds to decide."
"Oh, hey, you finished it!" Will exclaimed one night at Chris’s, scooping the binder-clipped manuscript off the counter while Chris contemplated his array of take-out menus.
"Yeah," Chris grinned. "You should read it - let me know what you think."
For the months they’d been working together, it was the first time Chris had invited him to look at anything he’d written, and Will grinned happily and boosted himself up on the counter to sit, legs dangling against the cabinet.
Chris got on his phone to order while Will started reading, and when he hung up Will lifted a foot to poke him in the knee. “Hey. Do you have a pen I could borrow?”
"Sure. In the drawer right next to you."
For the next twenty minutes Chris puttered around the kitchen and let Will be. When he came back from getting the food at the door Chris stood in front of Will, not quite between his knees, but still close. Will lost the thread of the note he was making.
"What’re you doing?" Chris asked, and Will heard the faint thread of warning in his voice.
"Oh. Just some proofreading stuff. Figured I could save you the trouble later." It wasn’t just proofing edits, though, and Will tucked the script to his chest so Chris couldn’t see. It wasn’t that it was bad - quite the contrary, it was amazing, but it would be even better with just a few tweaks.
"Okay," Chris said, dangerously mild, and started pulling plates down for dinner.
As Will was getting his shoes on to leave that night, Chris called out from the living room: “Hey! Can you email me the thing you were working on?”
“What, going to steal ideas from me again?” Will poked his head back around the corner, and grinned at Chris, who was hanging almost upside-down off the couch.
“I did not steal your ideas. We had the same idea.”
“Will you?” Chris turned on the pouty-eyes, and Will laughed at the ridiculousness of him. “Of course.”
“Alright, I’m off.”
Chris didn’t even bother getting up, just slid more sideways until he was actually upside down.
“Dude, how do you even do that?”
“I’m magic. Say hi to Simon for me!”
“Will do!” Will blew him a ridiculous kiss from the doorway, and Chris laughed.
The next day, Will got a text from Ashley: Boy, you are in for it. Attached was a picture of Chris with glasses on, Brian on his chest, what had to be Will’s script printed in front of him, pen in hand.
The next time they met, Chris handed the marked up copy back to him with an air of almost terrifying calm. Will waited until he was gone again before he read through it, grinning to himself.
He kept the script, the picture, and half of Chris’s changes.
Random afternoons writing together turned into weekly work dates, jostling laptops together on Chris’s kitchen island and Will’s kitchen table and, when Will could drag him out, the cafe in Ventura that he loved and Chris pretended to hate. Simon didn’t seem to mind any of it, just joked that Will was far less clingy since he found a fellow social limpet. Will didn’t think that was quite fair - he didn’t cling, he just liked to spend time close to people he thought were awesome - and Chris was definitely amazing. But Simon just laughed when Will pouted, and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m kidding, babe.” So Will let it go.
Chris was just so damn talented, and his energy was not quite like anything Will had ever experienced before. He was used to long and weird hours, used to working with the ambitious and the hard-working, used to being the ambitious and the hard-working. With Chris, though, none of it really seemed like work. Sitting in Chris’s living room, his laptop on his knees, or stretched out on his own floor while Chris typed at his kitchen table, it felt like - like what he thought writing would feel like, when he was a kid, when creativity was the end in itself, when there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. It was easy to lose track of time and they did, nights and evenings slipping away while their phones vibrated, silenced and ignored.
Sometimes, at the end of a section or when he got stuck on a word or just in the middle of a sentence Will would look up and have to stop and just look at Chris. Because Chris - if writing with him felt like what Will always thought writing should be, then Chris looked like what Will always thought a writer would look like. It was nothing about his body or his posture or even the way his glasses slid down his nose and made Will smile and think about someone nudging them back up for him. It was in the faint crease in his forehead as he frowned at the laptop screen, his fingers tapping away at the keys, in the way he blinked and took a moment to come out of his head and focus on Will whenever he tried to get his attention. Chris was an artist, and when Will was with him - Will felt like an artist, too.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Chris asked, so late one night it was actually morning, chin propped on his curled fingers and looking at Will over the top of his laptop screen.
You’re beautiful, is what Will wanted to say, because he was, in an old sweater and ratty jeans, because he had that spark in his eyes, because the lamplight was doing incredible things to his freckles. But he didn’t, because it wasn’t his place to say things like that, and that was okay.
So he just smiled and stretched out muscles gone stiff from sitting still so long, and said, “Are you hungry? I’m starving. Want to go out?”
They were out getting coffee - technically, tea and hot chocolate. Chris still had his laptop but at least he was out of his house, and Will didn’t mind the change of scenery himself. At the table next to theirs some really rather sweet wedding planning was going on. It was a girl in her thirties and what must have been her mother and future mother-in-law, magazines and a binder and a tablet spread out on the table between them. There was laughter and teasing and despite all cautionary horror stories everyone seemed to like each other, and it was fun to watch out of the corner of his eye.
After a while the sound of typing across from him slowed and Will realized that Chris was watching them, too, or at least listening. He poked his arm with the end of his pencil to get his attention and tipped his head towards the table. “I didn’t think that was your kind of thing.”
Chris shook his head and hit ‘backspace’ on his keyboard. “It’s not. At least, not like that.” He looked askance at a massive catalogue of flower arrangements one of the mothers was opening. “But it’s nice to think about.”
“Being married,” Chris corrected, with a shrug like that was a normal distinction for a twenty year old to make.The gears shifted again in Will’s brain because five minutes ago he didn’t know this about Chris, and now he did, and he wondered if Chris would ever stop surprising him.
“Yeah,” Chris said, and his smile was soft. “Love and security and all of that. Somebody to take care of me - and somebody for me to take care of.”
Will thought about the crazy unpredictability of Chris’s life, about how lonely and frightening and liberating it must be to navigate on his own; about Chris being secure enough in himself to want to bring someone else into that life, and navigate it with him.
“Yeah,” Will said, and played with his pencil. “Yeah, that’s what I want, too.”
“Will,” Chris said, and now the smile was gone and he was frowning. “You have somebody?” There was definitely a question mark at the end of that statement, and it jolted Will because there shouldn’t have been. He did have somebody, but for five minutes thinking about his own future, it hadn’t felt like it. He was shaken, and he was afraid it showed, because Chris was looking genuinely concerned.
So he said, “Of course,” like that was an answer, and shrugged like that could dislodge the strange feeling settling on his shoulders. Chris smiled at him and went back to typing.
Eventually Will - with the aid and abetment of Ashley and, somehow, Cam - persuaded Chris to come out with them to a concert one night. It wasn’t a big thing, just an outing with the group to a club nearby, and at dinner Will teased Chris about his invisibility hat until Chris kicked him in the shin under the table and said, “At this point it’s Kurt Hummel or the hat hair, sweetie, and believe me, neither of those are pretty.”
“I dunno, I think you’re pretty no matter what.” Will batted his eyelashes at him and Chris snorted, but there was color in his cheeks Will wasn’t sure was just from the crowded-hot restaurant. Fucking adorable - and still dangerous.
The venue wasn’t big, but it was tightly packed and loud. Cam and the others wanted to press closer to the front but Chris hung in the back, where the crowd was a little thinner, and looked at Will gratefully when he didn’t make any move to follow.
“You really don’t have to babysit me,” he said in between sets when the noise level of the room was starting to pick up again and people were moving around.
“The acoustics are better back here,” Will said, and knocked their shoulders together when Chris raised an eyebrow at him. “What? They are!”
When the second set started and the crowd started to thicken again, Will leaned closer to Chris to press their shoulders together. Over the thrum of the bass threading through his body he could feel him breathe, and relax.
Later that night, Will let himself in to Simon’s apartment. It was dark and cool after the hectic atmosphere of the concert, and Will felt restless in the quiet. The heat of the room and the feel of Chris’s body, solid and still, clung to him, and no matter how he tried he couldn’t shake it off. He’d promised Simon, though, so he dropped his bag by the door and toed off his shoes, and then followed the cool glow of the nightlight in the bathroom down the hall to Simon’s bedroom.
Simon was asleep, most of the covers kicked back, and Will didn’t feel tired but he stripped off his shirt and jeans and crawled into bed with him. Simon’s body was warm and familiar and Will tucked an arm around his waist and propped his cheek on his shoulder, and tried to fall asleep.
It took a long time.
“Yeah?” Will jiggled the phone between his ear and his shoulder while he untangled the hands-free device from his GPS cord.
“Hey, I’m sorry, I hate to do this, but I’m gonna have to cancel on you tonight.”
“What? Why, what’s up?” The jolt of disappointment took Will by surprise; it wasn’t the first time he or Chris had had to cancel plans because of work commitments or life being generally crazy, but they hadn’t seen each over for over two weeks and Will had been looking forward to it. “Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. Alla wanted to move some meetings, and one thing spiralled into another and - I’m gonna be stuck here all day, I’m sorry, I was looking forward to seeing you.”
“Don’t worry about it, you go do your thing and be amazing.” Will finally got the earpiece hooked in and set his phone down in the passenger seat. And it was, it was fine - this was Chris’s life, and Will was just happy he got to be some small part of it. That Chris hadn’t been just a small part of Will’s life for months, now, was something he tried not to spend too much time dwelling on.
“Raincheck for next week?”
“Of course. Give me a call later?”
“I’ll try not to.” Chris’s voice was wry. “I really am sorry.”
“It really is okay. I’ll see you later, Chris.”
“Bye, honey,” Chris said, and then the line clicked off.
Will left the earpiece in on the off chance someone else called him while he was still on the road, and sighed a little. He let himself be disappointed for another two minutes, until the song that was on his iPod finished, and then at a red light he switched to a new playlist. He had an unexpected free afternoon - time to get some work done.
Will was halfway through a bottle of wine and his script revisions when his phone rang again. He glanced at the clock when he picked it up - well after 11 - and then at the caller ID. His heart gave a leap at the name on the screen, and he answered with a grin.
“Hi Will.” Chris sounded less tired than he’d expected. “Sorry - did I wake you up?”
“Chris, it’s not even midnight on a Saturday.”
“Yeah, but you’re old.”
“And you’re a cheeky young’un. What’s up? How did your meetings go? I wasn’t expecting to hear from you tonight.”
“They went well. Really well, actually. And then I went home and was going to crash, but -”
“Can’t sleep? Will hazarded, and smiled at the wall, imagining Chris restless in bed. Maybe it would be harder to live with, but the image was endearing.
Chris huffed a sigh. "Not for lack of trying. So I was wondering - "
"Do you want to come over?" Will offered eagerly.
Chris sighed again, but this time, he sounded relieved. "Yes, that would be perfect."
"Awesome!" Will grinned. "I missed you."
"Yes, yes, missed you too," Chris said, but Will could hear his smile. "I can be there in an hour - can I bring anything?"
"Okay, getting in the car now - I’ll see you soon."
"You bet, Mom,” Chris said, and then hung up.
Will met Chris down in the parking lot, because it was a nice night and because he was impatient, and Chris grinned when he saw him lurking by the door.
"I really do know where your apartment is, William."
"I didn’t want to take any risks." Will smiled when Chris came up on his toes to hug him - he felt warm, and real, and Will really had missed him. “So! What’s the plan?”
They ended up in Will’s tiny living room, nursing drinks while Emile Sande played low on the stereo, just sitting and talking while the clock ticked on. Later still, Will made them both tea while Chris slouched morosely and spilled out the last of the story with ‘that asshole twerp.’ It made Will grin, behind his own mug, to hear Chris use the term of profound non-endearment Ashley had saddled the kid with, months ago.
“It’s embarassing more than anything,” Chris sighed, and drank some more tea.
Will patted his shoulder fondly. “Hey, you’re fine. You’re young. You’re supposed to be making idiot rookie mistakes.”
Chris glared at him. “Thank you. I feel so much better now.”
“No, seriously. Want to hear some of my idiot rookie mistakes?”
“You? With your pretty boyfriend and your committed, long-term relationship?”
“Hey now! We worked for that.” Will snagged the now-empty mug from Chris’s hands, and went to pour him more tea. “You want the stories or not?”
Chris’s eyes gleamed, and he sat up a little straighter. “Yes. Always yes.”
So Will made more tea and then told Chris about his own fumblings, and struggles, and then just rambled for a bit at how amazed he was at how strong Chris was, not just with relationship crap but with everything. Chris sat with his feet tucked up and just looked sort of dazed and baffled at that and Will wanted to say, don’t you know how amazing everyone thinks you are? But maybe everyone wasn’t really the point. Chris turned his refilled mug in his hands and looked somewhere at the ceiling over Will’s shoulder and told him about his family, about moving out and coming out and the things he’d never really have again which was okay and yes life was better now, yes life was amazing, but -
And Will got it, he did. He also felt like Chris had given him something, had trusted him, and he wanted to give that back to him. So he pulled a throw blanket over both of their legs and told Chris about his family, about Florida small towns and moving out to L.A., about church and all the ways he never thought he’d change, until he had. It wasn’t the first time he’d told anyone the story, but it was the first time he’d told Chris, and he knew that that meant something, to both of them.
By the time he was finished their voices were both scratchy, with use and with tiredness, and Chris pushed his bangs out of his eyes and let his head sag against the back of the couch. Will could feel the warmth of him, through the blanket, and the apartment was quiet and peaceful, and Chris’s eyes were so lovely and blue and tired. He didn’t want the night to end, not just yet.
Will felt the weight of it, the simple offer that might, in another life, have meant so much; the offer that still might mean something in this one. “Do you want to just crash here tonight? The couch folds out, and I don’t know if you could make it back awake and alive.”
A sleepy grin twitched at the corner of Chris’s mouth. “You’re sure I wouldn’t be - imposing, or some shit?”
“You are not the first to crash on the Couch Sherrod, and you will not be the last. Want to borrow a toothbrush?”
Chris closed his eyes, and let himself slump sideways so that his face was smushed into the couch cushions.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Chris said something that was muffled by the cushion, that might have been “thank you,” and might have been “fuck you.” Will laughed, and stood up, and tossed another folded-up throw onto Chris’s legs. “You know where everything is. Holler if you need anything, I’m gonna crash.”
Chris wriggled a bit, and reached an arm out of his little cocoon to shake out the fresh blanket. “G’night, Will.”
Will grinned back at him, though Chris couldn’t see. “Goodnight, Christopher.”
Amazingly, given his purported insomniacal habits, Chris was still asleep the next morning when Will got up. The sight of the still lump of blankets on the couch brought him up short when he walked out to the kitchen, and for a moment Will hovered in the doorway, just looking.
Chris looked so peaceful asleep, the quiet tilt of his limbs and the slow rise-and-fall of his shoulders under the blankets, his hair tousled and his face tucked into a throw pillow. As he watched, Chris snuffled quietly and then rolled over, blinking his eyes open and squinting up at Will. Will could tell the exact moment that Chris remembered where he was, because his face lit up with the sweetest sleepy smile.
“Hey, you.” Chris’s voice was low and thready, and Will’s heart gave a painful twitch of jealousy for whatever man this boy chose, whoever got to wake up next to him and see him like this every morning, warm and lazy and gorgeous in dishevelment, eyes uncharacteristically soft when Will sat down on the edge of the couch, next to his knees.
“Good morning.” Chris smiled at that, and Will gave into temptation and put a hand on his knee. “How’d you sleep?”
“Pretty good. Your next door neighbors are early risers.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. Just smack the wall, they normally shut up.”
“Duly noted,” Chris grinned, and then they were left just looking at each other, the moment spinning out peaceful and warm. Chris swallowed, and took in a breath as though he were about to say something, but Will squeezed his knee to cut him off. Playing with fire was fine, but Will hadn’t gotten as far as he had without knowing when he was about to burn himself. “I’m going to go grab a shower. Do you want breakfast?”
“Mm.” Chris stretched a little, and Will could feel the muscles of his leg shift and flex. “I’ll wait for you.”
“Alright.” Will gave his knee one last squeeze, and stood up. “Be right back!”
Chris sat up as Will turned to walk out of the room, and out of the corner of his eye he could see a sliver of skin, his waist where his shirt had ridden up.
When Will got out of the shower Chris was up off the couch, with the blankets folded neatly over the arm, and reading a book at the table. He’d started the coffee pot going, even if he didn’t really drink the stuff himself, and Will poured himself a cup and slid into the chair across from him at the table.
“Do you have any plans for the day?”
Chris shook his head. “No, the schedule is clear, for once. A lot of the stuff we did yesterday was supposed to happen today, so. I’m a free man.”
“Awesome. Do you want to go get brunch?”
“You’re not sick of me yet?”
“Never,” Will grinned, and Chris smiled back indulgently. “But also - it’s almost noon and I’m starving, and I learned a long time ago that cooking and I do not mix.”
“Well then,” Chris said. “Lead the way!”
Will drove, because Chris wasn’t as familiar with the neighborhood. They spent a lazy afternoon there, eating too much and people-watching before they drove back to Will’s apartment and crashed out again. It was comfortable, easy, and didn’t feel as fraught as maybe it should have - which Will took comfort in.
It was almost four before Chris lifted his head from where he’d been lying on the floor, eyes closed, listening to music, to squint at the clock.
“Oh, god, where did the time go?”
“Time flies, yo.”
“Mm.” Chris sat up, and pushed a hand through his hair to smooth it. “I should be getting out of here - work bright and early tomorrow.” He didn’t make a move to stand, though, just tucked his legs in to sit cross-legged. And Will - Will didn’t want him to go, he liked Chris here, his easy familiar presence. But Will wasn’t the person to tell Chris that he was beautiful or that he wanted to spend more time with him, because that way lay madness and all sorts of boundary crossing. Will was fine being on the side of the boundaries that he was, and so he just said, “Okay. I’m glad I got to see you this weekend.”
Chris smiled and stood gingerly, twisting side to side to stretch out stiff muscles. “Me too. This was fun - we should do it again sometime.”
“Definitely.” Will grinned, and helped Chris find his book and his phone and even his keys that had somehow gotten scattered over the apartment, and walked him to the door.
“See you later,” Chris grinned, and hugged him again, and then the door swung shut behind him and he was gone.
“Hey, babe. Wake up, sweetheart.”
Will blinked his eyes open to Simon kneeling on the floor next to the couch where he had apparently fallen asleep. The windows glowed gold with the setting sun, and the chair where Chris had sat was still pulled out from the table.“Hey. You’re back.”
“Mhmm. Have a good weekend?”
Will flopped over onto his back and lifted a hand to pull Simon onto the couch. “Really good. How was the meet?”
“Could have been worse. Missed you, though.” Simon ran a hand back through Will’s hair and tugged a little. “What are your plans for this week?”
Will closed his eyes and gave a happy hum while Simon stroked through his hair. “Um. Just work, I think. Nothing really crazy going on. Why, did you want to do something?”
Simon nodded. “Yeah, if you want. We haven’t been out for a hike in ages - want to see if we can get the gang together this weekend?”
“That sounds great.” Will pushed himself upright and leaned in to kiss Simon, who smiled. “I’ll make the calls.”
“So, you and Chris have been spending a lot of time together.”
Will looked up from where he was trying to get the stir-fry in the pan to cooperate with him. “Yeah, I - guess we have. Does that bother you?” It has always been a slightly weird thing, navigating their particular group of friends, most of whom were guys, most of whom were gay, and most of whom, at some point or another, had dated or hooked up with each other. What it mostly meant was that honesty was important, communication was crucial, and gossip was an absolute free-for-all - which usually acted as a pretty decent failsafe on the first two.
“Not really.” Simon shrugged. “I just - you’ve been. Different.”
“Different - how?” Will asked carefully.
Simon bit his lip, and focused himself on measuring water into the rice cooker. “You - all this writing you’re doing.”
“I’ve always written,” Will said, and tried not to sound defensive about it.
“Yeah, but - you’re doing it all the time now. And not just the blog, scripts, and other stuff, and - I’m not like that.” Simon set down the measuring cup carefully. “I don’t have that - itch to create,or whatever it is you guys have. And now you’re spending all this time doing this thing that I’m not a part of, and can’t connect with you for - and - “ He swallowed, and met Will’s eyes, and Will made himself look back, too, because that was how you made these conversations work. “And I don’t really feel like you’re the same person I used to know anymore.”
Something in Will sank. “I’m sorry if I’ve been distant.” He hesitated, swallowed. “And - thank you for telling me, I’ll spend more time with you, I promise,” he said, even though Simon was shaking his head because both of them knew that wasn’t the point. “But I feel -” he hesitated, because he knew that this was what Simon was afraid of, and there was no kind way to say it, even if it didn’t need to mean anything “- I feel more like me than I ever did before.”
“I know,” Simon said, and now he wasn’t looking at Will, just fiddling with the knobs on the cooker and that wasn’t right, that wasn’t going to fix this thing even if it was something that was broken in a way that could be fixed. So Will crossed the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Simon’s chest, hugged him tight and tried to tell him with touch what he couldn’t quite with words. Ironic, really. I love you. I’m with you. It’s fine.
Will knew what he’d been not-quite-doing with Chris; it wouldn’t be the first time, or probably the last time, that he or Simon had or would have done something similar during the course of their relationship. It was what it was; they were loyal, and in the end they were together. But the writing made it something different, the writing was something Will could do with Chris that he couldn’t with Simon, and he couldn’t blame Simon for being hurt.And since he had said something, Will owed it to him to act on it.
So he did. It helped that Chris was more busy every week with preparations for his book tour, and that more and more of their plans got cancelled on shorter notice. Will made sure that he was relieved instead of disappointed, and as the memory of the night Chris had spent over faded into the background he spent more time on his work, and his blog, and Simon. For the most part, Chris didn’t seem to notice or care - until he did.
"Hey, haven’t seen you around as much lately," Chris told him one night over the phone while he was in between meetings and Will was driving home from work.
"Yeah, sorry about that," Will said, and he was, more than he could really tell Chris. "I just - think maybe I should be sticking a little closer to home from now on." He hesitated, wondering how much he needed to say out loud to Chris, or if he would understand.
"What? Oh," Chris said. He didn’t need to say much, then. "Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean - I mean -"
"It’s okay," Will told him. He felt relieved; he also felt oddly empty. "It’s fine, really. I just - yeah."
There was a silence then, a hesitation in their conversation that never had been there before. Will breathed and flicked his blinker on to change lanes and thought about what he’d be keeping, not what he’d be losing, because that’s what his priority should have been, anyway. He and Chris had had fun together, they worked well together, and now life was demanding they start moving apart again, and that was okay. This was how relationships were supposed to work.
Still, it was hard to hang up on Chris not sure when he’d get to talk to him again. When he got home Will left his tablet in his bag and put on his running shoes instead. He wore himself out on the trail near his apartment, and when he got back to only a voicemail from Simon he didn’t even have the energy to feel bad.
Will and Chris had talked about making a night of the last evening before Chris went on tour: maybe going out to a house party where Chris could blend into the crowd, maybe just hanging out at home, drinking too much and staying up way too late - not because Chris was going to be gone for so long, but because he was going on his book tour, and that was something worth celebrating. But Will had Simon and Chris was on his own, or maybe out with someone else the night of the 16th. So while Chris did his thing, whatever that was, Will spent the evening with Simon, going out for dinner and then coming home to watch a movie that ended with them naked and sweaty on the couch and the movie unwatched. When, after they crawled in bed together and Will’s phone vibrated with Chris’s name, he let it go to voicemail with a sigh - he was sure of relief. Things were fine.
After that, Will made sure to spend more time with Simon: more nights spent over, and he started keeping a bag with toiletries and extra clothes in the back of his car, just in case. Their schedules usually hadn’t allowed for it before but Simon was more eager to spend the night together and Will reveled in the chance for easy evenings out and casual nights in.
One afternoon they both ditched work early and drove to the outskirts of LA, to the trails they’d been coming to together for as long as they’d been together. It was a hot day and Simon’s hair got spiky with sweat, and when Will couldn’t help it anymore he pushed him against a tree to kiss him, long and hot and wet. Simon’s arms were strong, tight with muscle under Will’s squeezing fingers, and Will grinned when they wrapped around his waist and Simon groaned.
"Time to go home?" Simon asked hopefully, and Will’s heart fluttered. Home. "Yeah."
Will ended up staying overnight, and then the whole weekend. Saturday they spent the day in bed, talking and napping sliding together. Sunday Will woke up with the sun, rested after the lazy day, and coaxed Simon out of bed with coffee and the promise of peoplewatching. They went to the farmer’s market, and while Will made bad jokes about the bunches of fresh ginger root Simon rolled his eyes and gave him a list, and laughed anyway.
Simon was by far the better cook between them and for once Will listened while he talked about the best way to keep bread fresh, what all the different kind of cheeses were for. They spent hours there, browsing but also just walking around, hand in hand with smiley-faced plastic bags dangling from their wrists, and it felt easy, domestic, right. Will could see them doing this, once a month maybe, a regular outing to look forward to before they went back to Simon’s apartment and tackled the project of brunch.
They spent the afternoon lazing around again and it was sweet, domestic, perfect. Will stayed as long as he could, but he had early meetings on Monday and so finally Simon walked him out to his car and kissed him there, pressed against the still sun-warmed metal.
On the drive home Will plugged in his iPod and grinnned when one of Simon’s favorite songs came on. It had been a good weekend.
The studio they filmed Glee at was on the same lot as the office block Will occasionally got hauled to for meetings, and on a sultry August morning he sat in his car in the parking lot with the windows rolled down and contemplated his phone.
He hadn’t seen Chris since before his tour, and he’d been back for more than a week now. The distance was starting to strain, and the longer it went on, the more it felt like it was necessary, when all it was supposed to be was normal. Besides, there were things Will wanted to talk to him about: the tour, about the travel, what it was like to be out there as his own writer instead of Kurt Hummel. He wanted to hear the stories and see Chris’s sardonic little head-tilt while he told them. And so: Chris was his friend, who he hadn’t seen in almost a month, and who worked down the street from where Will was right now. It would be weird not to text him.
So Will pulled up Chris’s number on his phone, and didn’t let himself agonize over the text: hey! I’m in the neighborhood. Want to do lunch?
Sorry, the reply came almost immediately. We just got back to work. But come say hi!
And that was normal enough, so Will typed back, Okay! and got back out of his car.
It was easy enough to find the right set, and Will knew enough people around that it wasn’t long before he was wandering down the vaunted halls of McKinley and grinning a little to himself.
“Hey!” The first person to catch sight of him was, of course, Darren, and Will had to resist the urge to eye-roll. He liked the guy fine, but conversations with him tended to be distracting time-sucks, and Will was on a mission.
“Hey man! Have you seen Chris?”
“Uh, yeah. Think he’s back in there. How’s it going?”
“Not bad!” Will was already walking backwards in the direction Darren had pointed. “I’ll catch up with you later!”
Darren bounced and waved but by the time Will had turned around had already had his attention snagged by Chord, and Will very nearly ran directly into exactly the person he was looking for.
“Hey Chris!” The grin when he saw him was automatic, as Chris’s forehead unwrinkled and he smiled.
“You made it.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Will said, and had to sidestep as someone squeezed down the hallway past them.
Never mind that he’d been thinking about seeing Chris since the afternoon before, when he’d gotten the email about the meeting; Chris’s appearance still felt sudden and unexpected and entirely startling, and Will braced himself for impact. Had he stayed away for too long? Not long enough?
But Chris just kept smiling and tipped his head down a little, not a gesture Will really knew, and Will took in the rest of him - his hair was styled , his shirt was pressed, and it buttoned right up to the cravat tied perfectly around his throat. He looked amazing, but Will felt no need to grab him or kiss him or tug fingers through that high-coifed hair, and that was excellent. So he let his shoulders drop and put out a hand to pull Chris into a hug, and smiled over his shoulder when Chris hugged him back.
“It’s good to see you!” he said, when Chris pulled back.
Chris hooked his fingers in his own belt loops, and rocked on his feet a little. “Good to see you too. How’ve you been?”
“Good, good. Busy. Not as busy as you, though.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There are different kinds of busy.” Chris raised a suggestive eyebrow, and Will snorted.
“Yeah. No comment.” Chris grinned, and Will asked, “How’s work been?”
“An…adjustment.” Chris’s mouth twisted, though not unpleasantly. “It was fun not having a schedule over the summer.”
“Back to the old grind now, hm?”
“Something like that. How’s your writing been going?”
They had to move out of the way of a flat being wheeled past, and Will leaned against the wall. “I haven’t really had much of a chance to.”
“Oh, that’s a shame.” Chris’s face was strange, impassive, and Will wasn’t sure how to read it. “You should!”
Will shoved his hands into his pockets. “Yeah.”
Will shifted his weight, and Chris crossed his arms over his chest.
“Anyway, I, uh, should be getting back to work. It was good seeing you.”
“You too.” Chris grinned. “Thanks for stopping by!”
As he was turning to go, Chris asked, “Hey. Are you going to Ashley’s thing on Saturday?”
“I, uh,” hadn’t thought about it, was on the tip of Will’s tongue to say, but that wouldn’t be true. So he made his mind up, and said, “Yeah! You?”
Chris smiled, and Will waved and left him there in his Kurt couture, for once not wishing he could stay longer.
Cam declared that they should all go on a hike before dinner at Ashley’s that night, so Saturday afternoon Will kissed Simon goodbye and drove out to the park. He stopped at the store to pick up supplies and then drove the rest of the way out of LA with the windows rolled down and music blasting on the stereo.
It was a bright, sunny day, and the humidity that had blanketed the city earlier in the week had lifted, leaving the views sharp and broad. The usual crew was gathered in the gravel parking lot when he pulled in, and while he got the car parked and locked and himself unbuckled they crowded around, jostling and joking and ready to be moving.
Will knew that Chris was going to be at dinner that night, but until he heard his voice, dry and sarcastic, ribbing Cam over something, he hadn’t been sure that he would be here.
"Hey there," Will trotted ahead to catch up with them, and nudged Chris in the side as the gaggle started straggling down the path. "I thought your people weren’t the outside type."
Chris turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised behind the sunglasses, and Will felt something catch in his chest. Tank-top, freckles, hair jammed under that ridiculous hat, Chris looked nothing like he had at the studio, when everything had been fine, and everything like Chris,and Will’s breath was gone.
"Some of us learned to adapt," Chris said, and all Will could do was stare.
There was not, as a rule, much to do on a hike as a group except be as boisterous and obnoxious as possible, and Chris had never been the type to be boisterous or obnoxious, at least not in the way the guys were being. And so, like so many other parties and dinners and hangouts, Chris slowly drifted to the edge of the group, and Will followed him.
There were very good reasons to not; when Will saw Chris take his time scooting down a little rock scramble he told himself he shouldn’t slow down himself to keep him company. But he still missed Chris, and hardly ever got to see him outside like this, happy and flushed with heat and sun. So he waited at the bottom of the slide, and like an idiot offered Chris a hand back to his feet. He watched like he was watching someone else as Chris took it, his hand dry and a little dusty, felt the muscles in his arms and saw the tendons in Chris’s wrist flex as they pulled together like he was watching an anatomy diagram, and then Chris was on his feet in front of him and Will’s hand was empty, and Chris was dusting off the seat of his pants and saying, “Thanks.”
“How was the tour?” Will asked, as they started down the path again, and Chris glanced sideways at him.
“It was good.”
“Good? Just, good?”
“Mhmm.” Chris walked a few more steps without saying anything, and Will wondered if he had misstepped. But - how? Just when he was trying to think of something to say, Chris spoke up again. “I’m still trying to work it out in my head. It was - a lot, and things have been busy since I got back. There hasn’t really been a lot of down time to process.”
“Well, if you ever need anyone to talk to -” Will trailed off when Chris looked at him and smiled.
“I know. Thanks. I appreciate it, I do.”
“There was a but there. Don’t lie, Colfer.”
Chris grinned, but it was a strange grin. “No but. Just tell me some terrible dinosaur jokes so I can laugh at you?”
Will still didn’t believe him, but didn’t have any way to come back at him, and so he just said, “Sure!” and dug into his mental repository for something to make Chris laugh.
The sun had set by the time they made it back to their cars, sweaty and dusty and tired. There were rounds of hugs, never mind that they’d all be reconvening at Ashley’s in less than an hour, and shouting and casual insults and Will felt, for the moment, happy. He wanted to hang on to this evening, to the velvety-purple sky, the feel of the gravel under his sneakers and sweat prickling the back of his neck, for as long as he could.
He wasn’t sure what was coming that had him lingering in the circle with the rest of them, leaning against his own car and watching Chris on the other side of the circle, sunglasses tucked now into the neck of his shirt and hands gesturing wildly - except that he did. It felt like he was standing on the edge of a cliff, and he felt the ground under his feet start to slip when Chris finally broke away from a hug with somebody else and circled around the group to come stand by him.
“Hey. Walk me back to my car? I’ve got something I want to give you before I go.”
“You’re not going to dinner?” Will had no right to be disappointed, not after he’d gotten to spend all afternoon so unexpectedly and wonderfully with Chris, but he was. He waved vaguely to everyone and followed Chris across the parking lot, to his absurd car.
Chris shook his head. “No - like I said, there hasn’t been a lot of time to process. I thought the walk would be a good chance to get out, clear my head, and now I just kind of want to go back home and vegetate.”
“That sounds great,” Will made himself smile, and made himself not think about going home later that night.
“Yeah.” Chris dug out his keys and unlocked the passenger side of his car. “I wasn’t sure you’d be here today, but I’ve had this sitting in here since I got back home, so.” He rifled through his bag on the seat, and pulled out something small and wrapped in newspaper.
It was the Columbus Dispatch. Chris folded his arms over his chest and leaned back against his car to watch as Will gave him a curious smile and started unwrapping it.
“What’s this for?”
Chris shrugged.“I saw it and thought of you.”
Will got the thing unwrapped – a little Tyrannosaurus rex, with a Dinosaurs Alive! tag looped around its neck. Chris rolled his eyes when he balled up the paper and just shoved it in his pocket - and grinned.
"This is amazing," he said, and Chris, with his arms still across his chest, looked pleased. "Thank you!" Will set the T. rex carefully on the hood of the car, and pulled Chris into a hug.
"Thank you," he said, against Chris’s head and that ridiculous hat, and Chris’s voice sounded like he was smiling when he said, "You’re welcome."
Will held on longer than he should have but it was good just to stay like this, Chris’s head resting tiredly on his shoulder, the crickets audible over the distant chatter and rumble and grind of engines starting.
After a long moment Chris took a breath and then tightened an arm around his back, and his palm pressed against Will’s lower back. He smelled like sweat and shampoo, and Will could feel the careful rise and fall of his chest as he breathed; the tip of Chris’s nose touched the side of Will’s neck.
Will wanted - he wanted to reel Chris in tighter, wanted to push him back against the side of his car and press himself against the length of him, wanted to take off that hat and get his hands in his hair to hold him there, with him, and kiss him.
Chris curled a hand in his t-shirt, and the impulses, those weren’t new, even Chris in his arms wasn’t new. Chris’s fingers twisted in the fabric of his shirt, pulling it tight, and then he turned his head and pressed his cheek into Will’s shoulder. What was new was that Will didn’t just want to hold him, he wanted to cling to him.
Chris had gone away on tour and then he had come back; they’d barely spoken in weeks and now he was here in Will’s arms, holding on like he didn’t want to let go, either. All of that jetsetting; all of the crowds of the tour; all of the very tangible trappings of success and a dream come true but he was back and he’d said he wanted to go home but he was still here and Will still meant something to him. Will still meant a lot to him and it jolted in him, how much that meant to him. It had been one thing to - but when he’d never been sure of Chris - it was too much to think about right now, so he held what he had, just for the moment. He pulled Chris closer and cupped his hand at the back of Chris’s neck, and stroked the skin there with his thumb, just once.
Chris pulled back at the touch, and his hands slid down Will’s side, smoothing wrinkles out of cotton before he took a step back. His eyes were bright in the streetlamp that had flickered on in the parking lot while they’d been standing there: bright, and sharp, and watching.
He took a breath, and Will could see the steady flutter of the pulse at the side of his throat. “I think you have some stuff to figure out.”
It was obvious. It was true. It still felt like the bottom falling out of the world, to hear it spoken aloud.
“Just me?” Will asked, in a voice that wasn’t his, because he needed to know and there was no way to ask, none at all.
Chris smiled, his mouth sardonic and sharp and sad. “I figured things out a long time ago.”
Oh. Okay. “Okay.” Will didn’t say anything else, he couldn’t say anything else, not yet, so he just held Chris’s eyes in the fluorescent-bright light, the night too quiet around them now; everyone else was gone. Chris looked back, until he blinked and looked away.
“You should get to Ashley’s. She’s gonna yell if you miss dinner.”
Chris walked around his car to get in the driver’s side without looking at him, and Will didn’t say anything in farewell.
Will got in his car, and planned to spend a long time sitting there, listening to the night and letting the strange evening work itself out of his system before he got on the road. But autopilot kicked in before he could, and before he realized what he was doing he was jamming the keys in the ignition and getting his seatbelt on pulling out of the parking spot. Well. Okay, then.
When he was back on the highway he entertained, briefly, the notion of skipping the party and just going home, to his apartment, or to - but then he would be alone, or very not, and Will couldn’t face that, not yet. So he turned the radio up and took the exit for Ashley’s, and followed the familiar blue line of the GPS back.
He woke the next morning feeling drained and uneasy; he’d slept poorly, and the grey skies outside the window did nothing to improve his mood. Sitting still was going to accomplish nothing, though, and Will had always thought best when he was moving, so he skipped a shower, put on an old t-shirt and shorts, and went out running.
He wore himself out on the neighborhood trail. At first, he tried to think through the problem at hand logically: pros and cons, lists of risks and benefits, analyses of anything and everything he could think of that might happen to him, depending on what he chose to do.
Not just him, though, he thought as he rounded a corner where the path ran along a school playground. It wasn’t just his life that would be affected, and that made it so much more complicated. And yet -
Through the playground now, and now by a yard with a dog that snapped at him as he ran by. It was his life, too, and his own responsibility to make for himself the life he wanted. It was profoundly and weirdly selfish, maybe, but it was not a life he’d made by trying to make other people happy - unless making them happy made him happy.
Making Simon happy had made Will happy.
After a while, the exercise and the growing heat of the day took its toll, and his thoughts faded from clarity into a running-induced monotone, and then into the fuzzy edges of consciousness, where all he was focused on was the path in front of him, and taking the next step, erasing the thought -
Being with Simon had never made him feel the way Chris did.
When he got back to his apartment and hour later, panting and dripping with sweat, he dropped his clothes on the floor and took a long, cold shower, until the dirt and the sweat was gone and he was shivering under the spray. Then, he crawled back into bed and slept, again, for hours.
“I love Simon, I do, but when I’m with Chris, I just -”
“And I’m not that guy, I’m not that guy, I have never been that guy -”
“I just don’t know what to do, and -”
“Will, sweetie.” His sister’s voice was southern and sweet, and firm, like their mom’s got when nothing else would get their attention. “I want you to listen to me.”
Will frowned instead of answering, and sat down on the edge of the couch from where he’d been pacing around his living room for the last half an hour.
“I know you’re conflicted, and that’s okay. And I know you’ve been serious about Simon for a long time now. But Will – can you see yourself marrying him?”
Will opened his mouth to give the automatic answer, and then realized he couldn’t. “I don’t know,” he said, and the silence stretched down the phone line.
“Then, honey,” she said, and her voice now was kind, but serious. “If you’re not sure, then I think the thing you do is say goodbye, and take the chance on something new.”
Will stared at the pattern on the carpet, and shifted his grip on the phone.
“Will?” her voice came again.
“Yeah?” His own voice sounded faint to his ears, tinny.
“Are you okay?”
“I think I will be.”
“Are you sure?”
Will wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “Yeah. I think so.”
“Alright. Alright, sweetie. I have to go now, but give me a call later, okay?”
“You’ll be alright, sweetheart.”
“I love you.”
“Love you too.”
Will held the silent phone in his hands, and watched the floor. Then he got up, and took a shower.
“Hey, baby, I’m just leaving the house now. I should be there in half an hour, call me if you want me to grab anything on the way over. See you soon, love you, bye!”
Will clicked out of voicemail, and set the phone down. He looked at the clock over the refrigerator; fifteen minutes until Simon got there. A weekend together, the way they’d been planning; the way they normally did weekends even without planning, because that was how they rolled. It had been a day since he’d talked to his sister, and in the clear light of day, getting the last of the groceries unpacked from his last minute run to the store, everything seemed so much less fraught than it had. It hadn’t been the first time Will had crushed on someone, and hadn’t been the first time he’d made up crises in his head. And now Simon was coming over, and they’d have a weekend together, and everything would go back to the way it had been, just with Will feeling a bit sheepish every time he saw Chris or thought about the vagaries of this strange summer.
Simon’s key scratched in the lock.
“Hey, baby!” his voice drifted down the hall, and Will straightened up from shoving the vegetable drawer closed.
“In here!” Will called back, and went to meet Simon.
Simon was smiling, his bag slung over his shoulder, wearing the battered sandals he always wore to the beach and sunglasses propped on his head. He wasn’t –
Will smiled, and leaned forward to kiss Simon when he came up on his toes. He wasn’t who Will wanted to see walk through the door.
They made dinner, and Simon made fun of Will’s poor skills in the kitchen the way he always did, slapped his ass when Will bent over to check on the casserole the way he always did. Will turned around from putting the potholders down on the counter and smiled into the kiss, the wayhe always did.
Fuck, he thought, when Simon pulled back and smiled at him. I’m going to miss this so much.
The weekend passed; Simon went home. Sunday night Will slept alone, and Monday morning he went to work. He slept on it, and went through his routine, and thought about it.
That night Will called Simon.
“Hey babe! What’s up?” Simon’s voice was fond, familiar.
“Hey sweetie.” Will stared at the wall, and made the next words come out. “Are you busy tonight? I think we need to talk.”
Late that night, after he’d gotten back from Simon’s – Will hadn’t been cruel enough to make Simon come to him, not for that – Will sat in his own dark living room. He’d put a movie in but muted the TV, and with the lights out, it was still decently bright with the lights from the street and the parking lot but it felt still, silent, empty.
Will thought all about the things he could do, everything he, by all rights, should do now. He thought about working out, maybe another mad run through the neighborhood, this one at midnight - but even he wasn’t that crazy. He considered burying himself in work, the way he had for the first few LA breakups he’d suffered through. That would work for a while, and had the added benefit of making him feel keen and productive about his career even if he felt like shit about the rest of his life. Drinking was an option, too, but obliviousness was not what he wanted, and it was not pain, exactly, such that he wanted to erase it.
His life was about to change in a way he would never have been able to foresee six months ago, in a bigger way than it ever had, maybe, since he’d moved to the west coast to begin with. It wasn’t distractions that he wanted: this kind of feeling was new; terrible, yes, but also precious, and fragile; he might never feel like this again and he wanted to take the time just to feel it.
With the faint staticky hum from the speakers of the muted TV Will slipped into a dreamy, almost meditative state. As the bright edges of the window blurred in his unfocused sight, it felt like the night was blooming, out of loss and into untold possibility.
As the first edges of dawn light crept into the apartment, Will crept back to his bedroom, and slipped into sleep.
Before he called Chris he cleaned his apartment - washed the dishes, tidied the coffee table, even wiped down the bathroom. He dug into the linen closet and changed the sheets, taking the time to smooth the fitted sheet down and fold the topsheet and the blanket together, tucking them into neat hospital corners, the way his mom had taught him. Maybe he should have waited to do all of that until after he called; it felt a bit like tempting fate, somehow, to shake the pillows into fresh cases and set them against the headboard. But he wanted this to be done, to set the slate clean before he started, and to have those last moments to let the enormity of what he was about to do settle into mundanity.
When it was done, when the bedspread was smooth and even his shoes were tucked behind his closet door, Will sat on the edge of the bed, and called Chris.
“Hi.” His voice was soft, and sure, and Will could feel it, even through the phone; the tug of that voice, of him.
Calmly, and Will wondered at him, and doubted himself, just a little: “What’s up?”
“Will you come over?”
“When?” Not even a pause, and Will felt the instant of doubt disappear again.
“When - whenever. Now, if you want.”
Chris’s laugh, fond and familiar. “Give me twenty minutes. I have to finish some things up.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
“See you,” Will said, and then the line clicked closed.
There was still time before Chris would get there, and there was nothing else to do, so Will fell back onto the bed and lay there, staring up at the ceiling. He drifted in and out of a doze, nerves twining with periods of profound calm, for what felt like a long time and no time at all.
Normally, Chris called from the parking lot, so Will kept his phone in his hand; but after an hour he was jolted out of his daze when a knock came at the door.
And there was Chris, sunglasses tipped back on his head, bag slung over his shoulder. “Hi,” he said, and his smile, when Will smiled, was - something like extraordinary.
“Do you want to go for a walk?”
Chris’s fingers tightened around the strap of his bag; Will could make out the individual ridges on each knuckle. “Sure.”
They went to a park, not the one they’d been at the week before. Will drove, and Chris sat quietly in the passenger seat, watching the city go by. The quiet lasted until they’d gotten out of the car and started down the path, and the parking lot had disappeared behind them into the green of the trees.
Will had thought about how he might say this, last night, that morning, on the drive there. Everything he had to explain, admit, promise - everything they’d have to discuss and decide.
“I ended things with Simon,” he said finally.
Chris looked at him across the path, but didn’t stop walking. “I wondered if you would.”
That was - such a non-answer, and Chris hadn’t said anything, hadn’t offered anything, since he’d gotten here. Will knew that the ball was in his own court, but still - now that this had started, he wanted everything on the line.
“I broke up with him because I want to be with you.”
“I know. I’m sorry about that.” Chris said. Will looked at him, and was amazed at how calm he sounded, but there was nervousness, something vulnerable, around the set of his mouth. “I never really thought I’d be the homewrecker type. And - I like Simon, I never wanted to do anything to hurt him.”
“You didn’t,” Will said. The truth was more complicated than that; but that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about now. “That was me. And this - is my choice.”
“Good.” Chris said, and then, when Will didn’t say anything else, seemed to brace himself. “I want to be with you, too, you know. But -”
A tremor, there, in the but; Chris was sure, maybe, but not as sure as he was acting. Will’s heart fluttered on the edge of sinking. “But what?”
“My life is insane, you know. And - bringing someone else into that is new for me.”
“I did notice.” Will grinned, and Chris smiled. Will took a breath. “But I’m a big boy, and I’ve been around this industry longer than you have. I know what I’m getting into. And even if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure you’re worth the insanity anyway.”
“Will,” Chris said, and Will stopped talking and looked at him. Chris looked so young, looking at him with eyes wide and a little guarded, but also soft in a way they’d never been. His throat shifted as he swallowed. “I know I’m a risk. I know what you’re giving up for this. And you’re a risk for me too, in a lot of ways, and I think you know that. But I wouldn’t - if I didn’t think it was worth it.”
“Good. I think you’re worth it, too.”
There was a pause, then, while Chris just looked at him, his eyes bright and startlingly green under the washed-out light of the overcast sky. “So…that’s it?”
Will grinned, and held aside an overhanging branch for Chris to pass under. “What did you think was going to happen? Did you think there was something to sign?”
“Christopher,” Will teased, and Chris’s eyes were laughing. “Yes. For as long as you want to be, I think, yes.”
Will leaned closer to bump their shoulders together, and Chris looked over at him, laughter gone now and replaced with a look that was wide-eyed again, and a little scared. God, no wonder; this had all happened so quickly, and Will knew that there would be moments in the weeks and months ahead when he would reel a little from that. But this had also been a long time coming, and now it was time to take the next step. Will held out his hand.
Chris looked at it, and then at Will, wide-eyed and awed when Will laced their fingers together. Will had thought he had been gone on Chris before; to change his life like this to make room for him, he had to be. But to see that look on Chris’s face, and to know that he’d put it there, Will fell just a little bit harder.
“Okay.” Chris swung their joined hands a little. “I think you should take me home now.”
- and Will fell again.
Quiet conversation on the drive home; easy and familiar. Chris laced their fingers across the gearshift, and put his hand high on Will’s thigh when he dropped his hand to change the radio station at a stoplight. When Will caught his eye, they both smiled.
Across the parking lot, up the stairs, inside the apartment. Chris pushed the door closed behind them both and then stood there, and waited.
Will had waited long enough. Chris’s skin under his hands was warm, damp and alive from the exertion, the faintest scratch of fuzz against his palms as Will cupped his jaw. Chris’s eyes were wide and awed and so very green, and his mouth was red right before his eyes slid closed and Will moved the last distance forward and kissed him.
It was sweet, at first, a little tentative, but then Chris drew in a breath and there was such a soft note of his voice in the sound, and it hit Will all over again.
What hadn’t been quite real even in the woods with Chris’s hand in his was shockingly clear now: this was Chris in his arms, Chris’s breath on his mouth, Chris who he had fallen for so badly and wanted so terribly and who he could never have. But now he did have him, and as Will let his hands wander across Chris’s cheek, up into his hair, Chris made another sound into his mouth and then was grabbing at his waist, rucking up his t-shirt and pressing cool fingers into his skin.
It took only a moment, teetering at the edge of the cliff Will had been walking for months, and then he was falling. Because Chris, who had been so patient - Will would have to find out, someday, what that patience cost him - and so poker-faced was pushing him against the wall and licking into his mouth, firm and insistent.
It was like falling off that cliff, the danger of everything he’d been trying to put aside for months, and - Chris’s arms strong around him, the taste of him in his mouth and his eyes blinking open, blue and determined and tender - like coming home.
Undressing with careful fingers in Will’s bedroom, the curtains closed and the lamp on the bedside table on, was nothing and everything Will had imagined. Chris was beautiful, gorgeous and long-limbed and golden-skinned in the lamplight, and his eyes were blown wide when he put his hands on Will’s naked hips, and his mouth on his bare chest.
Kisses, and touches, soft breaths and Chris’s eyes that said more than words could. Will stretched him out on the clean sheets and touched and stroked and caressed him while Chris put his head back and let him, and it was still untested but Will felt no doubt.
Will put his hand on Chris’s dick and watched his back arch and his eyes flutter closed and it felt – shockingly, unexpected and so expected,everything, it felt like coming home. Chris’s breath came shorter and faster and Will thought he was there, knew he was close, until Chris sat up and rolled over him, crushed their mouths together and got both of their dicks in his hand and everything was perfect.
Afterwards, Will sagged back into the mattress and Chris watched him, eyes bright and his cheek propped on his bent arm.
“Sorry I made you wait so long,” Will said, because it seemed like the right thing to say, and because he meant it.
“It’s alright. Really. I think we both needed it.”
“How long did you wait?” Will asked. He expected Chris to roll his eyes at him, which he did; he did not expect Chris to actually answer – but he did that, too, this shocking creature of surprises and contradictions. Will was sure he was never going to not be fascinated by him, and now they had all of the time in the world.
“Remember that time I found your blog?”
Will felt his jaw drop a little. “That long ago?”
“Mhmm.” Chris smirked. “I remembered the URL and went home and read the whole thing. I think I fell for you halfway through.”
“It is a pretty special blog.”
Quiet, then, and Will could see that Chris was considering asking. He hoped he would.
Finally he did. “When did you? After that, I bet.”
“Oh, no.” Will grinned, and then grinned wider when Chris smiled back at him. “Way before that.”
“Mhmm.” Will rolled over him, propped himself on his palms to hover over Chris’s body. Chris blinked up at him, eyes amused and curious. “The first time I met you.”
“I don’t believe you,” Chris said flatly.
“It’s true.” Will smoothed a hand over his forehead, pushing his hair back. “It was the first time you made me laugh.”
The corners of Chris’s eyes crinkled, but his lips parted as his jaw fell, just a little. “You are a ridiculous sap.”
“At least I knew that from the start,” Chris said, and grinned when Will leaned down to kiss him.