"So I'll see you tomorrow, right?" Blake asked.
"I can't wait," Chris said.
"I'm really, I mean, I can't even tell you what it means—"
"I'm trying to work out how it's going to be, but at worst, it will be like finale week, which …"
"I know how to work a party. You don't have to babysit me."
"I just wish we didn't have to. I wish we could—"
Blake was silent for a minute and then, softly: "I fucking hate New Year's."
"I know babe."
"Always working some lameass party, with people who only go out that one night of the year and make all the cool places crowded and there's vomit all over the street. Fucking amateur night. This year will be exactly the same."
Plus, Chris knew, Blake had never been in love with whomever he was kissing that night. But he didn't mention that; instead he said, "Maybe not."
"I love you so fucking much," Blake said, a tiny quiver in his voice.
"I know. I love you too. We'll be fine. I love that you worry about me, but I don't want you to, okay?"
"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow. Good night."
Chris stared at his phone, then turned to the computer. The last time he'd spoken to Ryan—if they didn't find each other that night, the four of them were on for what Chris was sure would prove to be one of the stranger New Year's Day brunches he's had—he'd mentioned in passing that Simon arranged for them to be alone in a way that made up for not being able to kiss at midnight. But at the time they were talking about other things, so he didn't give any details. A few nights later, though, Chris had sucked it up and sent an email to Simon:
Hey man, hope London is cool. Guess we'll be seeing you New Year's Day. Crazy.
Ryan mentioned that you get him alone for the New Year and, well, I wanted to try to do the same thing for Blake and I was wondering how you did it. Looks like there's a lot of craziness gonna be around him that night, and I don't know how to cut through that at all. Any advice?
Thanks in advance,
And now, finally, he had his answer:
Yes, Ryan is doing his usual planning every second of every day, but I'm honestly pleased there's room for you both in the schedule.
As for being alone, I sweep him away for dinner in our hotel room, where there's a satellite television, and we watch the London celebrations, so our private New Year is at 7pm New York time. It works well--no one suspects his absence that early in the day, and London means something to us. After that I go my way and he goes his, though there's much texting, and while we sometimes overlap we often don't see each other again until the end of the night.
You can't "cut through that" as you say. Don't even try. He doesn't really want you to, you see. He wants you to be there when "that" is over and they don't want him anymore.
I hope that's helpful.
ps--London hasn't been "cool" since sometime in the mid-eighties at least.
Well. No wonder he couldn't win if he was fighting the wrong battle. He could work these industry parties, make connections—he knew how to hustle. Blake would be just a text away. And if something was waiting at the end, something private, well, that would make the rest all right. He picked up the phone to call the hotel, just to see what his options were.
"So now I'm not going to see you?" Blake asked. "What's the point?"
"Blake, you're working. Not just on air; you're working the whole time. Just go work, be with Jordin, let me work. Text me a lot. Let me know if you're leaving a party. Just don't worry about me when we're in the room."
"Later, Blake. I'll have something for you later. Right now you need to go do a soundcheck, and I need to go see the man."
"About what? What man?"
"Leave me to my business, Blake."
"What if I don't want to?"
Chris checked his watch and grabbed his phone. "If you want to be the diva that's late for the soundcheck, that's your business. I need to jet."
"I hate you."
"I hate it when you say 'I know.'"
"That's why I say it."
"Some boyfriend you are." Blake crossed his arms.
Chris, stood, grinning. "That's right. I'm some boyfriend." He leaned in and Blake stopped pouting long enough to give him a real kiss. "Text me."
"Maybe I won't."
"Oh, you will," Chris said, and went out.
It was easier, trotting faithfully from party to party, hustling, seeing some producers and getting a lot of people actually saying they wanted to work with him, exchanging digits, all of that, knowing that he belonged as much as anyone else. Looking up sometimes and seeing Blake looking for him, finding him, smiling across the room—his sister had said once that the reason to get married was to have someone to wink at across the room at parties and she was right about that. It was actually kinda cool.
Then at a little after 2am, he found Blake and said, "Time to think about heading back. This is the last party?"
"What? Yeah, this is the last place we needed to go. Jordin left already."
"Say your goodbyes, I'm going to walk the room one more time," he said, pulling out his phone.
And they were out of there in about 15 minutes, into the car, just the two of them this time, and back to the hotel pretty quick now that the streets were empty.
"Why is the TV on?" Blake asked, hearing the noise as he opened the door. "Part of their turn-down service or something?"
Chris said nothing, just smiled and moved further into the suite.
Blake was right behind him. "What—who put this here?" he said, seeing the spread of strawberries and cake, and a small pot in the middle. He removed the lid. "Chocolate—is that fondue? Seriously?"
Chris pulled a bottle of champagne out of its ice bucket and started working on the cork, which barely sighed as he removed it with a deft hand. No, there wasn't much champagne drunk at Hooters, but there were some things Chris felt a man should just know how to do.
Blake was already busy dunking a bit of pound cake into the chocolate. "Wait," he said, looking at the television. "That's—"
"Yep," Chris said, pouring out two glasses.
"And it's a quarter to three," Blake said.
"There's no one in the place except you and me," Chris sang, handing him a glass.
"What? No, that's a sad song, not that song."
"All right," Chris said, clinking glasses with Blake. "Maybe it's much too early in the game, but I thought I'd ask you just the same. What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?"
Blake smiled. "I'm watching the fireworks off the Needle, thanks to my amazing boyfriend."
"You'd better believe it," Chris said. "Those strawberries look good."
They sat on the couch, feeding each other chocolate covered things, one eye on the clock, until Blake said, "There it goes."
"What?" Chris asked.
"The elevator, see it? It's midnight when it gets to the top." He turned back to Chris. "Up is better than down."
Chris grinned. "It sure is."
The fireworks sounded like an explosion. "Happy New Year, Chris," Blake said.
"Happy New Year, Blake," Chris said, and they kissed.
After a minute Chris said, "Still hate the holiday?"
"Well," Blake said, thinking. "Hated the New York one. Loved the Seattle one."
"I'll take that," Chris said, and kissed him again.