It started with Tom choosing his karaoke song: Jessica Simpson’s “I Think I’m In Love With You.”
“You can’t sing for shit, Tom,” Anthony called out as he tried to climb on Chris’s head.
Tom sang something about how it wasn’t his range (and it may not have been his range but he was on point with the melody). Scarlett drowned out the rest by throwing herself on the floor and begging for a swift death.
Chris was bent in half, head between his knees, with all of Mackie’s weight on his back and shoulders, the better to suffocate himself to end the Worst Performance of Any Pop Song Literally Ever.
“Sebastian,” Anthony yelled across two feet between them. “SERIOUSLY. How is there not blood coming out of your ears right now?”
Because Sebastian had a revelation and that revelation involved standing on the couch, falling to one knee, and harmonizing with Tom way out of both their ranges:
“And I think I know what it is,” Tom sang, so wrong that Scarlett buried her head in the pile of coats next to her.
“I think I’m in love,” Sebastian finished, resting both his hands on Chris’s back with an awkward, shaky courage that was too weird to be a joke.
“Not you too,” Chris laughed from between his own thighs.
“Aw shit here comes the chorus,” Anthony said. “God help us. God, HELP US.”
They left hours later, after karaoke had taken a turn from let’s sing songs we all enjoy! into let’s hurt each other! and of course that was Tom’s fault because he was a demon in a tailored suit. The night ended after Scarlett brought down their tiny private room-house with a rendition of “American Pie” that she stretched out into 12 excruciating minutes by tapping into a ley line that connected straight to hell. Her lyrics took a dark turn into the truth about Channing Tatum and his quest for the still-beating hearts of men.
At the back door of the venue, cars waited one by one while they said their goodbyes for the next stretch of time until gravity/Marvel pulled them together again.
“You crazy beautiful pixy stix,” Anthony said as he pulled Tom into a hug. Anthony was the only one with the spiritual-emotional fortitude to withstand prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a living, breathing cartoon prince since he was one himself. “Don’t think I’ll forget you professed your love to me over Jessica Simpson. You’re mine now, you hear me?”
“Who are you in love with?” Scarlett asked as she inserted herself into their hug. “Who dragged you down into that part of the past where we keep Jonathan Taylor Thomas and pre-entrepreneur Jessica Simpson?”
“Darling,” Tom said as he bent down and kissed Scarlett’s forehead. Anthony turned his cheek and tapped expectantly until he, too, was kissed by a rose. “Can’t I be in love with music itself? With a sunrise? With my friends, who know my heart like a palace of dreams?”
“Game fucking over,” Scarlett said.
“If it’s Cumblefumble, we’re coming for his teeth and all his paychecks,” Anthony said before he bodily picked up Tom and gently threw him into the backseat of a waiting car. It pulled away and Anthony turned to the others. “I don’t know if that was his,” Anthony said, “But I guess we’ll find out if we ever hear from him again.”
“He’ll have so many adventures to tell us about when we see him again,” Scarlett said. “After he rides an eagle to Mount Doom, destroys the One Ring, and helps a lowly ranger take back the throne of Gondor.”
“Should’ve gotten into that car,” Anthony said as he stared after it. “If anyone could find the Silmarils of old, it’s me and Tom.”
Then they remembered Chris and Sebastian were there, too.
“How are you getting home?” Scarlett asked.
“Are you getting home?” Anthony asked.
“I think we’re gonna go somewhere and get another drink,” Sebastian said. “Been a long time, you know? We’ve got catching up to do.”
“How the two of you manage to have so many frequent flier miles between you and yet never see each other is beyond me,” Scarlett replied. “Come here, have some hugs.” Chris scuttled over and picked her up in a tight hug she gladly returned, her arms tightening around his meat neck. “Get over here, string cheese,” she called to Sebastian over Chris’s head. “You get a hug, too.”
More hugs and insults were exchanged before Scarlett and Anthony got into their waiting car, leaving Chris and Sebastian in the alley behind the venue, a car waiting for them, too.
“How about a walk?” Chris asked.
“Walk sounds good,” Sebastian said. “Let’s walk, huh? Walking’s good. I like it. Especially when it’s cold and we’re in an alley on a beautiful night like this.”
With that newfound awareness that came after pulling his head out of his own ass, Sebastian could tell that Chris could tell that he was babbling. There was a pause in his step, like Chris was thinking mid-step whether to keep walking or dive into that waiting car now while he had a chance.
Fuck it, time to act.
“Hey,” Sebastian said. “Do you remember that time we were in Vienna or Frankfurt or Hamburg—or some food city, I don’t know—and we were at a club so maybe it was Germany after all. And it was a theme night so there was like, bubble bath foam and paint dripping everywhere? It was a huge mess.”
“I remember the huge mess,” Chris said.
“Yeah, the mess was impressive. Really cool.”
“So you want—”
“I should have kissed you back,” Sebastian said.
A pause before Chris said, “Uh huh.”
“But you did,” Chris interrupted. “You did kiss me.”
“Yeah, but.” Sebastian shook his head and did it: he took Chris by the elbow and urged him against the nearest wall, here in this damp alley in a city neither of them knew very well. “I never should’ve stopped.” His hands go immediately for Chris’s sides, Sebastian’s cool hands running along Chris’s even cooler skin, barely covered by a taut t-shirt that his pecs were about to hulk to shreds.
“And weirdly enough,” Sebastian continued, officially at that part in his confession of what might be love where he couldn’t look Chris in the eyes. “It took Tom plowing me with shots and some truly awful TRL hits to make me realize that. And Mackie climbing all over you and laughing, and Scarlett feeling you up because she loves you but she doesn’t—she doesn’t want to drag you down into six feet of bath suds in a German nightclub and kiss you until we drown.”
“Well, I wouldn’t put it past her,” Chris said. “Metaphorically speaking, though.”
“Yeah, metaphorically speaking, I’m onto something, you goddamn meatloaf,” Sebastian said.
“You don’t say?” Chris laughed.
Chris pulled at Sebastian, using that inch of extra height to throw him off balance and pull him actually onto him, tripping him in the no space between them so Sebastian fell against him.
“So what’s the plan?” Chris asked once their faces were inches apart. “Did you want to blow me here on the set for Thriller, or did you want to get that car back and head back to the hotel?”
“You want a plan?” Sebastian asked. “Yeah, okay, let’s get in the car. I don’t need Vincent Price critiquing my technique while I blow you in an alley.”
“Did you even think to ask me if maybe I need Vincent Price to get hard?” Chris asked as he walked out toward the street again.
Every single thing about that, Sebastian thought, sounded like the beginning of the worst mistake he’d ever made—then Chris looked over his shoulder and grinned at him, so.
Yeah, terrible mistake, but unstoppable force.
Well, no, it started before that. It started in New York.
Chris threw himself into the back of a car and waited four seconds before calling Sebastian.
“So I’m actually in New York,” he said in his message. “Don’t you live here? Let me know if you’re around. Oh. It’s, uh, Monday? And I’m here until Thursday. So. Fucking call me.”
Chris, pathetic, thought about how long it would take for Sebastian to check his phone, listen to the message, and call him back, assuming he did all of those things immediately. As he replayed his own message back in his head—there was the phone.
“Hey,” Sebastian said. “So when I said New York.”
“Did you mean that other New York?” Chris asked.
“Kind of. I’m actually in Westchester. At my parents’ place.”
“...where the fuck is Westchester?”
“Like forty minutes from the city through Grand Central.”
This was absolutely the standard definition of TOO FAR TO FUCK.
“How often are we even on the same coast, right?”
“I’ll text you the address,” Sebastian said. “It’s actually about the same time, train or car.”
“Oh thank fuck,” Chris said. “Don’t make me get on a train for your dick, okay?”
“What? Not worth it last time?”
“You’re making me really, really shamefully aware of what it’s worth,” Chris said. “And it’s fucking terrible, because I’ll be in Westchester with you and your parents in an hour.”
“My stepdad’s an amazing cook.”
“Can we fuck in the twin bed you slept in through high school?”
Chris's driver rolled up the partition between them without another word.
“Oh fuck no,” Sebastian said. “That’s why Mom has a station wagon.”
As Chris pretended to moan deliriously on his end of the line, he heard a voice call out in the background of Sebastian’s: What about the station wagon?
“NOTHING,” Sebastian yelled back.
“I don’t even remember why I came to New York,” Chris said, “I mean, it was obviously this. Obviously.”
45 minutes later, Chris unfolded himself from the backseat of the car and sprang into bucolic Westchester, outside the mansion that apparently belonged to Sebastian’s parents.
“The fuck kind of Gossip Girl shit is this, though?”
“You drove to the suburbs,” Sebastian laughed. “I can’t believe you fucking did it.”
“Okay technically I was driven so that’s like five pathetic points off my total, right?”
“Nope, that’s +30 because you probably had actual plans in the city tonight and instead,” Sebastian said as he took Chris’s bag, “We'll have dinner with my parents, make some casual conversation, then drive the station wagon out somewhere secluded so we can fuck loud enough to lure a serial killer into making us headline news.”
“Can the serial killer be someone we know?” Chris asked. “I’m thinking less slasher film, more erotic thriller.”
“Corpses can’t be choosers,” Sebastian said. “I’ll show you a good last time of your life. In my mom’s station wagon.”
How could Chris refuse?
Actually, it started with their game of geotagging each other, which they insisted on calling geotagging even though Scarlett did her best to explain that geotagging was an actual thing and not something that could be applied to their not-filthy-enough global hookup texts.
Then Chris would yell, “He geotagged me back!” and he was so damn happy about it.
Scarlett gathered the sighs of the world into her lungs to unleash them onto Chris. Chris was too giddy texting Sebastian to notice that she was sliding out of her chair due to the crushing weight of her despair for his soul.
“He’s at a con in Philly,” Chris said. “We’re in DC! Come on, let’s go see them! Mackie’s with him! Come on please please please.”
She stared at him for a long moment and his dumb golden lab face didn’t register that anything was wrong with that.
“Do you need a chaperone?” she asked. “For your dirty Philly hookup with your work husband?”
“No!” Chris said. “It’d be fun! We’d have fun!” He gripped Scarlett’s shoulder and excitedly shook her a little. “FUN.”
“That’s a lot of excitement for a city with two subway lines,” Scarlett remarked. “How about I trade you for Mackie? Send him down here so we can be two beautiful gods laughing into eternity together, and you and Sebastian…”
Chris’s face exploded into a blood red Christmas blush.
“Wow,” Scarlett said. “You need to go. You need to get out and you need to go.”
“I’ll be back on a morning train,” he said as he kissed her cheek and stranded her at their hotel in DC.
She immediately picked up her phone and texted Anthony:
BOSTON JIZZCRAFT INCOMING. CLEAR. THE. WAY.
One Marvel movie runtime later, a cab threw Chris out on the corner of Upscale Swank and Economically Depressed in Center City, Philadelphia. In front of the hotel, under a heat lamp, texting, was Sebastian.
“Hey,” Chris called out.
Sebastian smiling was the weirdest thing. Like his face wasn’t built for for smiling, so when he did, it was beautifully demented, all glowing teeth and butt chin and dazed that Chris was there at all.
“Anthony’s still riding the waves of Falcon worship,” Sebastian said. “So you should come up.”
“I was coming up anyway,” Chris said. He looked at his phone and said, “It’s ten o’clock and my train back to DC leaves at seven.”
Sebastian burst out laughing and dragged Chris inside. “We’re crazy,” Sebastian said. “We’re fucking crazy, you know that?” He stabbed the elevator button a half-dozen times, until an employee cleared his throat and Chris snatched his hand away. “It’s bullshit that you’re still two hours away,” Sebastian said to the gold elevator doors. “When I’m back in New York tomorrow, you’ll be four hours away.”
In the elevator, they still didn’t touch.
They didn’t touch right away.
Sebastian elbowed Chris. Chris jabbed back. Sebastian shoved him with his shoulder. Chris threw out his arms and grabbed Sebastian around the chest. Sebastian grasped at him, half climbing, half fighting, both of them laughing until they slammed into the wall of the elevator. The walls shook hard and loud enough for Sebastian to jump back away from Chris and fall to the floor, laughing as if they were falling to their deaths and there was nothing they could do about it.
Chris stood over him, hand extended, and helped him up. There was one camera in the left corner, away from the buttons, and Chris made a show of laughing and shoving Sebastian again so he was cornered, trapped in the corner under the lens and out of its range.
“Such a bad idea, though,” Sebastian laughed. Chris shook his head and kissed him, leg firmly between Sebastian’s, kissing him slow like they hadn’t wasted most of the ride up with not this.
“For who?” Chris asked, pulling away just enough to make Sebastian reach out for him again. “For us? For you? I can stop—”
Ding! Sebastian’s floor.
“You’re already here,” Sebastian said as the doors opened. “Might as well stay a while, right?”
“Fuck you,” Chris laughed as he looked down the hall and pulled Sebastian out of the elevator, hand on his belt buckle.
“My room’s the other way.”
Okay, even before that, it was Vancouver, of all places.
“So it’s actually a three and a half hour drive,” Sebastian said. “Without traffic.”
“Yeah, it’s not worth it, don’t worry about it.”
“Jodie’s getting me a flight, I’ll be there in two.”
“It’s an hour flight and—shut up, okay! I’ll fucking be there! STAY IN BED. I WILL BE THERE.”
He hung up and, though he had just said her name, Sebastian suddenly remembered Jodie was actually in the room with him.
“So,” Jodie said. “The flight’s booked.”
“Oh,” Sebastian said. “That’s. Great.”
“You can get a cab downstairs.”
“I… will get a cab downstairs,” Sebastian repeated.
They stared at each other until Sebastian nodded and stepped around her carefully. He picked up his bag from where he’d dropped it and slung it over his shoulder.
“Thanks,” he said to her.
“You… should have fun,” she said. “With. I mean. In general. Have all the fun. Like all of it possible. Ever.”
He nodded and said, a painful moment later, “Thanks. I will. I will have fun.”
“Good. That’s good. It’s good. Vancouver is nice.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard,” he said.
“You’re going to miss your flight,” she said.
“When I’m back, we’ll stop being weird, right?” Sebastian asked.
“Oh yeah it’s totally fine. I’ll be totally okay with everything. Not that there's anything I have to become okay with, because wow, I am so for this—not that there's a this, I'm just saying! In general! With words! Also, I have to work out some stuff with Chris’s assistant so, you know, we’ll be fine and you’ll be out, and it’ll be great, and maybe I’ll get a manicure?” Jodie nodded and then shrieked something distinctly eep-like before she added, “Not that you’ll be out I mean like you’ll be out of here, the city, and in another city, and I’ll book your flight back and it’ll be okay! Sunday afternoon sounds good right? Text me when you leave! Let me know! Go already! I have a manicure scheduled! I just made the appointment right now with my brain and it's in five minutes. BYE.”
A cab, a plane ride, and another cab later, Sebastian checked in at Chris’s hotel, where Chris had thoughtfully called down to have another key provided for him at the front desk.
Sebastian swiped the keycard to the room and there, in the fluorescent white sheets of this particular hotel, shirtless Chris slept curled up diagonally across one of the beds. The door clicked shut behind Sebastian and Chris opened his eyes, eyebrows first.
“Couldn’t even meet me downstairs, huh,” Sebastian said with absolutely zero indication that he wanted Chris anywhere but in that bed exactly as he was. Okay, except for the verbal indicator, but whatever, what are words.
“Thought about it,” Chris said. Sebastian wondered how much was an act and how much was Chris waking up. He had to relearn these things every time, because hissing at himself remember this, you idiot, REMEMBER, only erased the details faster. He remembered wanting to remember, but the reality of Chris seemed a shock every time.
He sat on the edge of the bed and rested his hand on Chris’s back, his fingers touching the deep line down the center.
“Could've gone downstairs,” Chris said, his face half-buried in a pillow. “Met you in the lobby, bro-hugged like we do, made small talk in the elevator—security cameras, you know—and then gotten in here and gone nuts.”
Sebastian smiled to himself and leaned in close to Chris’s ear. “But you didn’t.”
“You said stay in bed, and hey, it sounded like a pretty good idea.”
Sebastian leaned in and bit his shoulder, then kissed his skin over the bite mark. It was enough for Chris to turn over and smile up at him, tired with a hint of fucking ready.
Maybe it was before that. Maybe it was in Germany. This time, Sebastian doesn't remember foam parties.
At some point during a press tour, they escaped their handlers and jumped on a train that took them to another country in two hours. Except, neither of them could remember to which umlaut they were headed or from which food they had started, or why they were in either of those to begin with since those cities weren’t Paris or Berlin or—Antwerp? Was Antwerp real?
They were in their destination city too long and a supermodel yelled at them that they would miss the train if they didn’t run, so they ran.
They learned at the station that the supermodel meant the train east, not west, and they were definitely going right to left this tour.
Sebastian, out of breath, cracked up on the platform. “You said we’re going right to left,” Sebastian said. “Like it’s Indiana Jones and we’re traveling by map.”
“Oh my goddddd,” Chris said. “We should have bought a map.”
“We have phones! Phones with maps! The borders update every 10 minutes in real time!”
“Maps are so cool though,” Chris said. “I can fold one up in my jacket and when I get home in like 50 years, I’ll show the grandkids: see kids, back in my day, we had maps, and your grandpa Sebastian and I—”
“Stop trolling our grandkids. They’d believe you.”
On the outdoor platform, they waited for the next train somewhere. The moon was out and high above them, the same shade of bright eager ghost as the few station lights around them. The light illuminated the mist creeping in from a gothic novel. It curled around them like 19th century steam even as Chris pulled down the bill of his baseball cap further over his eyes.
Sebastian rose up and kissed him, pulling him in by his leather jacket. Chris tasted like this cold mist, the one he was too warm to feel anywhere but on Chris’s lips. The smell of the city had faded from them and Sebastian could almost believe himself another person, someone who hadn’t spent years of his life on airplanes and in hotel rooms. Chris gripped him, his fingertips digging at the small of Sebastian’s back. Sebastian's tongue licked at the seam of Chris’s lips—if he shut his eyes tighter, and pressed himself into Chris, he could imagine himself as someone who did this. Someone who could close his eyes and be there.
There was the train.
Of course, trying to explain to their friends how they knew, when they knew, where they knew (how many times they knew, on average, out of curiosity) was much harder.
“First kiss,” Tom said.
“First handjob,” Scarlett added.
“First dick contact of any kind,” Anthony clarified.
And Chris and Sebastian had no damn idea.
The five of them had moved heaven and earth to have dinner together in the current city their careers had shipwrecked them. The topic suddenly turned to Sebastian and what had brought him there, together with Chris, when he... didn't have to be?
“That’s far more romantic,” Tom said. “Far more. No beginning, no end, but a constant state of knowing. How enchanting. How fine.”
“I hate agreeing with you,” Sebastian said. “You take me to this bad place where everything’s sunshine and daisies and Chris doesn’t snore.”
Chris flexed his pecs and said, “Lotta bulk. Gets in the way of sleeping sometimes.”
Anthony nodded, really thinking about it before he forced himself to snap his eyes away.
“The snoring reminds you he’s alive,” Tom said.
“So does breathing, Tom, unless you’re fucking in a mausoleum,” Scarlett said.
“Leave this creamsicle alone,” Anthony said as he wrapped his arms around Tom and pulled his 30-foot-long legs into his lap. “Keep your lady logic away from his delicate sugar shell.”
“Oh, with pleasure,” Scarlett said.
“Seriously though,” Sebastian whispered to Chris. “First blowjob? Why can’t I remember?”
“I don’t know,” Chris whispered back. “Your mouth’s been on my dick, right? Just yesterday or always!” He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Sebastian’s. “Shit. Maybe we are in a vortex, our dicks always sucked, our mouths always sucking.”
“I’m trying to eat here,” Scarlett said, though the only thing on the table was their bottle of wine.
“Haven’t you been eavesdropping on our whole relationship?” Chris asked her. “Do you remember our first—I don’t know, anything?”
“If I did witness the explosive beginning of a love as true as yours, I probably blocked it out with an equal and opposite vomit reaction.”
“Yeah, let’s stick with the undying love thing,” Sebastian said before he sat up straight and looked around. “Is this a bread restaurant? Do we get bread?”