Blake has a lot of regrets.
He knows that it’s been far too long, that everything’s changed, that they’ve changed. He and Chris had spent that final night together on the bus holding hands, pressed tight against one another, promising that the end of the tour didn’t mean anything would have to change between them. They’d always be the best of friends, forever brothers born to other mothers.
It hasn’t quite worked out how they planned, unsurprisingly. Blake had kind of been expecting that it wouldn’t, anyways. It’s not like they don’t try at all, though. They keep in touch for the first couple of months, bound together by Blake’s upcoming CD and phone calls and random three a.m. Myspace messages, and then even that doesn’t last. The calls grow infrequent, the Myspace messages more so, and suddenly, it’s two years later and Blake is wondering where the hell all the time they’d promised to put aside for each other went.
It’s been two years and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really even seem like that much time has passed at all-- sometimes, for some people, two years isn’t nearly enough-- but he knows better. He knows two years for the two of them is an eternity of missed chances and squandered opportunities, blossoms that never had a chance to bloom.
Sometimes, in the chalky pink pre-dawn light, as the sun begins its slow ascent, Blake sits out on the balcony of his apartment and wonders. Wonders what might have happened had he told Chris-- told him the truth, that he was in love with him, that he’d been head over heels for him since the moment they met. That the romantic songs Chris had thought were about Laura and Haley and countless other women were really about Chris.
Questions like that are the reason Blake doesn’t do “introspective” very often. Only when he’s got enough alcohol at his disposal so that he never remembers them come morning.
Blake saw the guy in the lobby of their hotel, rocking out to a song on his laptop, cupping a hand over one ear. His lips were moving, mouthing something only he could hear, so Blake decided to test out his lip-reading skills.
Blake watched him, watched his lips curl around an “o” sound, watched the flicker of his tongue between his teeth. Everything seemed to slow down in Blake’s mind as he watched this guy’s mouth move, mind pulling at the intricate threads, trying to decipher what he couldn’t hear.
He didn’t realize he’d been caught staring until he blinked and suddenly the guy was staring straight back at him, his face an inscrutable mask.
Oh, Blake thought, chest tightening, stomach sinking like a rock, I’ve fucked up. Big time.
Blake’s having a pretty nice dream.
There’s a mouth on his cock and a hand in his hair, long fingernails scratching on his scalp, making the thin skin there tingle pleasantly. Dark hair floats in front of his eyes like waves and he catches a whiff of her perfume; it smells like cherry blossoms.
Then she starts to sing, and obviously there’s no longer a mouth on his cock, but he doesn’t feel cheated. Her soft, feminine voice washes over him like water, and it’s a song he doesn’t know, words he can’t understand.
Her voice files down to a point, crystallizes into loud, incessant beeping and Blake shoots up in his bed. He glares balefully at the vibrating, squealing cellphone on his nightstand.
Blake scrubs a hand over his face and up, into his messy hair, grabbing the phone and flipping it open. “Yo,” he answers.
“ ’s me, Chris. What’s up?”
Blake blinks groggily and tries to shake the sleep out of his head. Chris who-- oh. “Chris-- Chris Rich?”
“Yeah, man! It’s been too long!”
Blake chews on his bottom lip briefly. “Yeah, man. How you doin’?”
“I was just wonderin’ what you were up to,” Chris says.
“Sleeping,” Blake replies, wry smile ticking the corners of his mouth up for a split second. “Which is what normal people do at-- oh-- 5:43 in the morning, Rich.”
“Oh, shit, sorry, man. Forgot about the time zones. ’s a quarter to nine back here in Virginia.”
“It’s okay,” Blake sighs, yawning deeply. He draws his knees to his chest. “So . . . What’s up, man?” Why are you calling me after two years of not, man, Blake wants to ask, but he bites his tongue sharply, until the words die off. He scratches at his knee absent-mindedly.
“Told you,” Chris says. “Just wanted to check up on my homie.”
“You okay?” Blake asks, suddenly afraid that maybe Chris is dying or something, and that’s why he’s calling. Shit. What if he’s got cancer and only has a couple months left to live?
“ ’m fine, shorty,” Chris says, laughing a little. “I was just . . . I’m gonna be in Seattle, just for a little bit. I was wonderin’ if you wanted to, you know, get together. Hang out for a little bit?”
Blake can feel the beginnings of a smile, a real one, forming on his lips and he kind of hates himself for it. Hates how easily it is to fall back into these bad habits. All Chris has to say is ‘Jump,’ and Blake, stupid Blake, will ask, ‘How high, and do you want me to pick up anything for you on the way back down?’ “Yeah,” Blake finally lets himself say. “That’d be cool, man. Lot to catch up on.”
“Shit, yeah.” Chris pauses, and Blake hears his breathing on the other end of the line. Blake can tell he’s thinking about something, and that’s definitely not a good thing. “Blake, I’m sorry I never-- ”
“Chris, it’s not your fault,” Blake interrupts, before Chris can finish his sentence. “I could’ve called, you know?”
“We both could’ve,” Chris allows. “It’s just that I-- we both got caught up in Life After Idol.” He laughs. “All Caps. Like Before Christ and Anno Domini.”
“L.A.I. Would that be pronounced ‘lay’ or ‘lie’?” Blake asks, smiling to himself. He rubs his fingertips lightly over his mouth.
“Personally? I like ‘lay’,” Chris chuckles.
“Thought so.” So easy. Too fucking easy. “So, uh, just lemme know when you’ll be in town. I can pick you up at the airport. Uh, what hotel’ll you be stayin’ at?”
“Thought I could just crash with you, ’f that’s all right,” Chris says.
“ ’Course it is,” Blake says, without really thinking. “Haven’t had any houseguests in a while. Unless you count the mouse I trapped and killed the other day.”
“You killed a mouse? Aw, Blakey, what a man.” Chris tsked.
“Hey, mice are scary, dude. They carried the fuckin’ Plague.”
“That was rats, Blake.”
“Same diff. Ugh.” Blake shudders. “Anyways. It is almost six in the morning so I’ma let you go.”
“ ’kay, B. See ya in a little while.” Chris hangs up.
Blake stares down at his cellphone’s glowing display. MY HOMMIE C-RICH in bold, black boxy letters stares back. Blake sets his phone on the nightstand and goes back to bed.
“Hey.” Blake slid into the empty seat next to the guy-- who had the brightest green eyes he’d ever seen, Blake took care to note-- and thumped him on the shoulder with a fist. “Blake Lewis. You?” He unfolded his hand, holding it out like an offering.
The guy afforded Blake a shy little smile and slipped his hand around Blake’s, grasping firmly. “Chris Richardson. You’re the beatboxer, right?”
Blake smiled, pleased. The guy already knew who he was? Sweet. “Yeah. How’d you know?”
“Saw your group performance, man. It was hot.” Chris grinned, shutting his laptop and resting his hands over the white plastic shell. “Maybe we could hook up sometime, lay down some beats. ’Cause I beatbox too, but I’ve got a lotta catchin’ up to do, clearly.” Chris flashed Blake a shy but friendly smile, showing only a little bit of tooth.
Blake rubbed his fingertips on the knee of his pants. “Sure, man. That sounds like fun.” He pulled out a scrap of paper and snagged a pen from Chris’s pocket. Chris jumped a little at the contact, clearly not used to Blake and his invasion-of-personal-boundaries ways, and settled back in his seat. Blake scribbled down his phone number and Myspace address and tucked both the paper and the pen in Chris’s pocket. “Hit me up when you got a chance, bro.”
Blake slid out of the seat, planted his soles on the ground and tapped his fingertips against his temple in a salute.
Chris laughed and did the same, green eyes sparkling. “See ya ’round sometime, Blake.”
Blake scuffs the soles of his black-purple-blue check-printed Converses on the rough, patchy carpet of the baggage claim area. A man and a woman meet in front of the conveyor belt and embrace, and the man wraps a hand loosely in the woman’s hair. A pair of middle-aged women-- who kind of remind Blake of his mom-- in matching tourist-y shirts link hands and share a kiss.
Blake sighs. Chris had better get here soon. He doesn’t know how much longer he can take all this couple-y crap. He pulls out his iPod earbuds and tucks them into his ears, drowning out the world with a little music.
Blake loses himself in the beats and the melody and the sensuality of the music. He’s back in his element now, the world around him forgotten for the time being. The notes sluice softly around him, caress his mind and work open the knots that have formed in his brain since that phone call from Chris. Blake cups his hands over his ears and moves with the music, tapping his foot to the beat.
A black duffel thumps down at Blake’s feet, jerking him out of his music-induced cocoon.
He lowers his hands and looks up into Chris’s smiling eyes.
Blake tossed his duffel bag on the floor in front of the beds unceremoniously. “Which one d’you want?” he asked, turning to Chris and gesturing. “I kinda got my eye on the bed by the balcony. ’s a nice view.”
“Yeah, it is,” Chris agreed, but when Blake looked over, Chris was looking at him.
Chris is towering above him, blocking the light from the recess ceiling fixtures, his features shadowy and charcoal gray. Chris holds out a hand to Blake and he takes it without a word, allowing Chris to haul him to his feet.
Chris pulls Blake into a hug, wrapping his arms around his waist, presses his nose into Blake’s shoulder. “Missed you, shorty,” he mumbles into the side of Blake’s neck.
Blake wonders if the people walking on by think they’re a couple reunited. He fights back the urge bubbling up in him to push Chris away and play it off, slap him on the chest, fist-bump him. Instead, his arms wind themselves around Chris’s shoulders of their own volition. “Missed you too, man,” Blake says, trying to rest his chin-- as best he can-- on Chris’s shoulder. He mostly fails, though, and kind of ends up pressing his chin into Chris’s chest. What a sight they must be.
“ ’s been too long,” Chris says, laughing, and Blake can feel Chris’s laughter rumble deeply in his own chest. Chris finally pulls away, reaching out to adjust Blake’s collar before his fingers spasm, lock up, and he drops his arm to his side. “You wanna grab somethin’ to eat? I’m starvin’.”
Blake smiles and hefts Chris’s bag up over his shoulder. “Sure. ’s on me.”
Chris set his bag on the end of the bed nearest to the wall and opened it. He began pulling out neatly rolled up t-shirts, jeans and even a pillow. He fluffed it up and put it with the other pillows on his bed.
“You brought your own pillow?” Blake asked from the bed by the balcony. He rolled onto his side and watched intently as Chris pulled more items out. He didn’t know why he found Chris’s things so fascinating, but he did. He couldn’t explain it and, deep at the back of his mind, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go there. There was a dark, dank place, an attic or, worse yet, a basement. Blake was staying the hell away from there.
Chris mumbled something that Blake couldn’t make out and flopped on the bed, kicking away his empty nylon duffel bag.
“What was that?” Blake pressed, reaching over and snagging the laminated room service menu. “You hungry?”
“It was noth-- oh, uh, yeah, I guess.” Blake didn’t miss the look of relief that flickered on Chris’s face for just a moment before waning.
“So,” Blake said, once he’d placed their order. “That pillow. That’s kinda . . . kinda-- ”
“Gay?” Chris supplied, his tone sardonic and dry.
“Kinda precious,” Blake corrected, busting into a grin.
Chris rolled his eyes and laughed. “You’re such a dork.”
“Takes one to know one, bro.” Blake grinned and waggled his eyebrows.
Chris just groaned and pulled the pillow under his head.
Blake slides into the booth and Chris slides in across from him. They’d ended up settling on a nondescript Ma and Pa’s Diner, where, hopefully, no one will recognize them and bug them for autographs. Or, worse yet, assume they’re on a date and start snapping away with their disposable camera.
Chris puts his hands on the tabletop and begins ticking his nails on the lacquered surface. He’s nervous, definitely nervous. Blake wonders what Chris has to be nervous about.
“So,” Blake says. “You wanted to catch up, so let’s. Your turn first-- you working on any music?” Blake throws in a “You seein’ anybody?” almost as an afterthought and immediately wishes he could take it back.
Chris blinks, processing Blake’s words slowly. “Still writin’, layin’ down beats. Meetin’ with execs, tryin’ to find a label. And, uh, as for your second question, no. Not anymore.”
“I’m sorry, man. I liked Jamie,” Blake says, thinking of the last girlfriend of Chris’s that he can remember, the wannabe model. “She was-- what happened, ’f you don’t mind my asking?”
“Just didn’t work out, you know?” Chris says with a shrug, trying to appear casual and failing. His movements are jerky and ill-coordinated. He’s trying too hard to look cool and casual. Anyways, Blake can see all he needs to in Chris’s eyes. “She and I, we both wanted different things.”
Blake nods automatically. “Know how that goes, all too well,” he agrees. He fiddles with some sugar packets and napkins. He needs something to occupy his hands or else he’ll be bouncing all over the place, a bundle of nerves. “Sucks.”
“Yeah. I guess,” Chris says, looking down at his hands, fingers still tap-tap-tapping on the tabletop. “I’d like to think it was for the best though.”
“So . . .” Do you want to be seeing anybody, anybody like-- like-- Blake wants to ask, but he doesn’t. He swallows it back, feels it burn down his throat like sour bile. “Uh. Sorry. I’m not much for conversation, apparently.”
Chris twitches a smile Blake’s way. “ ’s okay. Neither am I.”
Blake watches Chris’s fingertips, the way the skin at the backs of his hands shifts over the moving muscles and tendons and veins. “You goin’ to the Idol Finale?”
“That’s not for a little while,” Chris says, looking up, into Blake’s eyes.
“I know. I was just wondering. Maybe, if you were going we could-- hook up.” Blake wants to kick himself because everything that’s falling out of his mouth-- or almost-falling-- is laced with light innuendo. Thank God for Blake Chris hasn’t picked up on it yet.
Chris smiles. “We could do that, yeah. I’d like that.”
Blake’s fingers itch to cover Chris’s hand with his own. He slides a little further in his seat and tucks his hands into the pockets of his pants. “Okay, awesome,” he says. “Looks like it’s a date then.”
Blake sat with his back against the wall, facing the porcelain toilet bowl. He was so fucking drunk, God. And his head was spinning and it felt like the walls were crashing in around him. He’d just wanted to get a little buzzed, force these nagging thoughts out of his head for a little while. Of course, he had to be an idiot and go and get completely and totally fucked up.
There was also an annoying pounding in his head, thump-thump-thump. Thump-Blake, you fucker, let me in!-thump-thump-Blake!-thump.
Blake groaned and pressed his hands over his face. “S’ry,” he muttered, grabbing onto the counter and pulling himself to his feet. “I’ll, I’ll be out inna sec, promise.” He turned the faucets on and splashed water into his flushed face. When he looked into the mirror, the face staring back at him wasn’t his own face, the one he was used to seeing. There were bags under its eyes, and lines at the corner of his mouth, creases in his forehead. This Blake Lewis wasn’t a faggot, wasn’t head over heels for his best friend. Who was outside banging on the bathroom door, worry-- fear? for Blake?-- causing his voice to rise in pitch until only Blake and dogs could hear him.
“Blake, goddammit! At least tell me if you’re all right!” Bang. “Please?” Chris’s voice creaked with uncertainty.
Blake turned. “I’m fine,” he yelled at the door, clutching the sides of the sink basin until his knuckles turned white. “I’ma, I’ma let you in now, ’kay? You really sound like you hafta use the john.” He tried not to stagger to his knees as he went to open the door.
Chris barged in and got right into Blake’s personal bubble. He wasn’t used to being on the receiving end and Chris was kind of intimidating, what with his muscular chest and his arms and-- well, shit. “What’sa matter with you, man? You were weird all night at the club. Fuck, Haley was practically humping your leg in the booth and you barely even acted like she was there. You sure you’re all right?”
Blake nudged Chris back with a fist to the center of his chest. He imagined that Chris’s heartbeat was fluttering wildly under his knuckles but Blake knew it was just in his mind. He knew couldn’t feel Chris’s heartbeat through his layers of clothes, his skin, blood, muscle, bones. He took anatomy. He knew these things.
“ ’m fine, dawg,” Blake slurred, drawing the daaawwwg out to heinous proportions.
Chris closed a hand loosely around Blake’s wrist. “C’mon,” Chris said softly, not letting go. “I know you, and I know when you’re normal-weird and weird-weird. Tonight you were weird-weird. What gives?”
Blake felt Chris’s thumb on his pulse. He let Chris continue to hold him by the wrist, didn’t try to pull his hand away when he glanced sideways at the mirror and realized what this looked like. He liked it, like the warmth radiating from the center of Chris’s chest. “I-- I’ve just been under a lotta stress, bro. You know how it is. Producers in one ear, judges in the other. And, o’ course, everybody else. Family, friends, the other contestants. Fans. I’ve got a lotta shit percolatin’ in the ol’ brainpan.” Blake chuckled at how weird that sounded issuing from his lips. Brainpan. He giggled.
“How ’bout you start lettin’ some of that shit out of the ol’ brainpan then,” Chris suggested, finally letting go of Blake’s hand to let his fingers flutter near Blake’s forehead. He thought better of it-- Blake could tell, read it in Chris’s eyes, the My hand is totally acting with a mind of its own, I swear! look that flickered behind his irises, the way he licked at his lips and swallowed convulsively-- and his fingers stopped mere centimeters away from Blake’s hairline. Then the gears started moving again and Chris brushed a couple spiky pieces of Blake’s hair off his forehead. He didn’t move his hand away when he was done, though. He let his fingers graze Blake’s temple, lightly, let his fingers caress him the way music did, the notes and melody falling softly down to his cheek.
Blake didn’t know what to do. All he wanted was to cup his hand over Chris’s, leave it there. But then again, that was kind of gay and Blake wasn’t gay. He wasn’t. He reached up and slid his hand over Chris’s on his cheek anyways. This wasn’t gay, what they were doing. Blake knew Chris liked girls and Blake knew Blake liked girls-- oh, did he ever-- so it was okay. It was safe.
Chris started to move again, slowly, like he was wading through molasses, and Blake realized he was moving closer. He looked at Chris’s mouth, his lips, how he wasn’t smiling. He had such a stern, serious look on his face but his eyes were soft, flickering like tiny licks of green flame.
And then, suddenly, Chris had closed the few inches of distance between them and, fuck, Chris’s mouth was on his.
Blake pushes the food around on his plate with his fork lifelessly, chin propped up by his other hand. “This food sucks,” he mutters.
Chris snuffs lightly, in the process of shoveling scrambled eggs into his gaping mouth. “I t’ink ’s pwetty guh.”
“Swallow first,” Blake says, wincing inwardly at the poor word-choice, “and then speak. Didn’t your momma ever teach you that?”
“Doh be tawlkin’ ’bout m’momma,” Chris said around a mouthful of eggs.
“Just teasin’, Rich,” Blake smiles.
Chris grins back at him broadly, food caught in his teeth, and Blake laughs.
“That’s my middle name, shorty, don’t wear it out.” Chris swallows and daintily snags a toothpick from a plastic holder.
“You needta stop callin’ me shorty,” Blake complains, good-naturedly, shaking his head. “People’ll think we’re together or somethin’.”
Chris pauses, toothpick pressed between his lips. He raises an eyebrow in question.
“You know, like, I’m your shorty or something.” Blake flaps a hand ungracefully.
“That bother you?” There’s the hint of an edge to Chris’s tone, and he washes it down with a sip of water.
Blake slid a hand to the back of Chris’s neck and pulled him in as close as he could get him, wanted to feel him, feel all of Chris against him. Chris was solid, firm against Blake’s chest, warm and solid and firm, oh, God. His tongue was licking into Blake’s mouth, and Blake hitched his other hand in the back of Chris’s shirt, rucking it up out of his belt.
Chris made a tiny little gasping noise into Blake’s mouth at that and pushed him against the wall, bracing himself with a hand at the side of Blake’s face. “Blake,” he said, lips grazing against Blake’s, “d’you-- d’you want-- ”
“Yeah,” Blake whispered back, opening his eyes. Chris’s eyes were open, bright and wild, lit up like the Vegas Strip. Chris moved his hand from the wall to Blake’s waist. “I do, do, do it again.”
“Okay,” Chris murmured. He inched his hand slowly under Blake’s shirt and his hand was hot, burning hot, on Blake’s skin. Chris nosed the side of Blake’s face, breathing in deeply, then exhaling and doing it again, and Blake wondered, for a second, if Chris had been waiting for this as long as he had.
“No, it doesn’t bother me,” Blake says, drinking some of his orange juice. “I was just joking, man.”
Chris nods once. “It’s okay,” he says, but Blake knows that it isn’t. “We’re cool,” he says, but Blake knows that they aren’t. He can see it in the rigid set of Chris’s shoulders, in the tightness at his jawline.
“Chris,” he says, but Chris waves him off.
“Said it was fine, man. I’m about done with this. You ready to go?” Chris pushes his plate aside and flags down a waitress without waiting for Blake to respond.
“ ’s on me, man,” Blake says, lifting up his ass and pulling out his wallet. He extracts a couple twenties and wags the bills at Chris. “Remember?”
“Consider us even then,” Chris says, cryptically.
“Even? For what?”
Chris stands up and wriggles out of the booth, waiting dutifully for Blake to do the same. “Nothin’, it's not important. Anyway.” He fidgets a little, tapping the toe of his boot in nervous rhythm. “I should probably look for a hotel room.”
“Hotel room-- dude, I already said you could crash with me,” Blake exclaims, following Chris out of the diner. Chris’s strides are so wide and long that Blake has to scamper, and he does not scamper.
Chris stops and wheels around so that they’re face-to-face, putting a hand on Blake’s shoulder. “Look, dude, it’s okay,” Chris says, in that soft, understanding tone that frustrates Blake and makes him feel like a total shitheel. “I know you’re uncomfortable around me now-- ”
“I’m not uncomfortable around you!” Blake gasps, stunned, cheeks growing warm. He feels like he’s just gotten a slap across the face.
“You’ve been kinda weird since I got here,” Chris says, not moving his hand off Blake’s shoulder. “And weird-weird, not normal-weird.”
“Chris, I’m not-- ”
“It’s okay, man. I shoulda known then that kissing you was gonna just fuck-- ”
“Chris,” Blake interjects, desperate for a change in subject, “can we please not have this discussion here?”
Chris sighs and pulls his hand back, reaching up to rub at the back of his neck. Blake winces; he’s fucked things up again, Jesus. It never ends. Chris is feeling vulnerable now, Blake can tell. He always touches the back of his neck when he feels vulnerable, or attacked, or whatever. Blake hates that he can still make Chris feel this way. “Then when are we gonna have it, Blake? When we get back to your place? When I’m back in Virginia and you’re out here in Seattle? Over Twitter? Never?”
“Just not here,” Blake begs not in public where everyone will see and know how much I don't deserve you and he’s never begged, not with Chris. He’s never had to before.
Chris nods slowly. “Okay. But I’m not letting you weasel out of this once we get back h-- to your place,” he says. Chris drops his hand to his side amd Blake lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in.
“I won’t do any weaseling, promise.” Blake offers Chris a nervous, twitchy smile. “I’ll leave that to the weasels.”
Chris just rolls his eyes and grabs the car keys from Blake’s hand.
Blake shook the thought out of his head. Of course Chris hadn’t. He was drunk and Blake was drunk, and this was just a by-product of the alcohol coursing through their veins, tripping them up, tripping Blake up and making him think he could have this. That this, Chris, could actually be his.
Blake swallowed hard and planted his hands on Chris’s broad chest, pushed him away. “Dude,” he said, keeping his hands on Chris’s chest.
“Mm, what?” Chris opened his eyes and pulled his mouth into a droopy, lopsided smile. “You’re so-- God, Blake, you’re so.” Chris faltered and reached up to touch Blake’s face again, but stopped, his hand hovering in mid-air. He stared at him, and Blake could practically see the gears turning. “Blake?”
“Chris,” Blake replied.
“You don’t look-- what is it?” Chris asked, lowering his hand.
“We’re drunk,” Blake said.
“I know,” Chris said. “I wouldn’t make you do anythin’ you don’t wanna, do you wanna stop? You-- you just gotta say, an’ then we will.”
“I-- I don’t wanna stop,” Blake said, giving himself a mental kick in the pants. Yes you do, he reminded himself. This has to stop before it has a chance to go any farther, idiot. Before you ruin everything. Blake played with the collar of Chris’s shirt, flattening it against his throat. Chris swallowed, and Blake felt his Adam’s apple bob under his fingertips.
“Then what’s the problem?” Chris’s hand twitched at his side and he dug his fingers in his thigh to still them. “If you wanna an’ I wanna-- ”
A river of words poured out of his mouth in a rush, before Blake could arrange them and organize them. “We’re both drunk, an’ then we’re gonna wake up tomorrow and not have a fuckin’ clue what the hell happened the night before an’, fuck, Chris, I don’t want that. I don’t wanna do somethin’ with you an’ then-- wake up an’ have it be the morning after.” That totally did not come out how he meant it. It would be nice if he could make sense.
Confusion drew Chris’s mouth slack and made his eyes blank. He cocked his head. “I don’t get it.”
Blake cursed himself and his failure to make sense. “I mean, if we do somethin’ now, how d’you know it won’t fuck up what we’ve already got?” Blake asked. How d’you know I won’t fuck up what we’ve already got? he added silently, clamping his lips together in a grim line.
“It wouldn’t,” Chris said, shrugging. “It’d jus’. Jus’ make things be-better for us.”
“That’s the alcohol talking,” Blake said, reaching up to cup Chris’s stubbly cheek. Chris’s eyes were sad and a hole opened up in Blake’s chest, yawning and aching, and something in his chest, something fundamental, was snapping and crumbling.
God, Chris, I love you. Blake went still. He blinked, the words turning over in his mind like a car engine that just wouldn’t start. I love Chris. I love him. God. I’m fucking screwed.
Blake paces the circumference of the kitchen while Chris brushes his teeth. He’d kind of thought those feelings had gone away, but he realizes now that they hadn’t gone anywhere. They’d just lain dormant, tucked safely away while he and Chris were apart. And now Chris is back, and the feelings have come back too. It’s like Chris brought them from Virginia with him.
Blake sighs. His stomach is so jumpy and his hands are slick with sweat. He hasn’t felt this nervous or queasy since-- God, since the final night on the tour, when he and Chris locked hands and promised they’d stay best friends forever. Because, beyond the fact Blake was, no, still is in love with Chris, and Chris maybe loved him too-- Blake had never really figured out Chris’s position before he shoved all his own feelings in a lockbox in his heart and threw away the key-- they were best friends first and foremost. If Blake couldn’t have Chris the way he wanted, he wanted his brother from another mother.
Chris’s heavy-booted footsteps on the hardwood snap Blake back to the present tense. “Hey,” Chris says, softly.
Blake looks up and offers him a shy smile. “Hey, man.”
“We gonna talk now?” Chris asks.
“Sure. C’mon, sit down.” Blake pulls a seat out from the kitchen table for Chris and Chris giggles without pretense, plopping down in the seat.
“Apparently chivalry isn’t dead,” Chris jokes.
“It lives on in the form of one Blake Colin Lewis,” Blake says, tucking his arm behind his back and bowing deeply before taking a seat next to Chris. He folds his legs under his body and rests his hands in his lap.
“So,” Chris prompts.
“So,” Blake echoes, picking at the inseam at his knee. “We need to talk.”
“We established that.” Chris smiles, but it falls just short of meeting his eyes.
“I know, just-- reminding you,” Blake says. He tugs hard at a loose thread.
“I know what this is about anyway,” Chris says, and Blake looks up in shock.
Early morning sun slatted in through the blinds, and from where Blake was standing, Chris looked like he was glowing. Blake raised a hand to his eyes to shield them.
“I’m not gay,” Blake said, barely above a whisper. “I, I don’t want you like that, man. I was so fuckin’ drunk last night.”
Blake watched Chris crumble before his very eyes and he felt sick to his stomach. I did that, he thought. I’m such an asshole. God, Richie, I’m doing you a favor here, please don’t hate me forever.
“People are more honest when they drink,” Chris said, feebly. “You said what you said, that you wanted me to do it again. I know what I heard.”
“I was fuckin’ hammered outta my mind, Richie,” Blake pleaded, moving away from his bed to meet Chris in the center of the room. “It didn’t-- didn’t mean anything to me, it was just a couplea drunk guys gettin’ handsy, that’s all. Okay?”
Chris shook his head, his eyes, his face blank, inscrutable. Blake felt it like a slug to the gut. He’d only seen Chris look at him like this once before, before they’d become friends. Chris had been wary of him then, uncertain if he could trust him. Fuck.
“Rich?” Blake took a step toward him.
“Fuck you.” Chris didn’t look or sound angry. He looked and sounded defeated. “I know what I heard. I know what I saw last night, what I’ve been seein’ from you. If you can’t own up to it, fine. That’s not my problem anymore.” Chris grabbed his hooded sweatshirt off the end of his bed and slipped it on, heading toward the door.
Richie, I love you, Blake’s brain screamed, the words bubbling up inside him, but he just bit down on his bottom lip and watched Chris’s retreating back as he left the room.
“Things’ve been a little weird between us,” Chris says, shrugging and sitting back in his seat, legs splayed.
Blake wishes he wouldn’t do that. It’s distracting. “Understatement of the century,” he mutters under his breath. Blake fidgets in his seat a little bit and swings one leg like a pendulum. “I’ve got some things I needta get off my chest,” Blake says.
Chris draws up in his seat in alarm. “-- things?” he asks, tentatively. “That’s never a good start to a conversation.” He chuckles, but it sounds just the slightest bit hollow to Blake’s ears.
“I-- I promise it’s not bad. Unless, I guess. Unless that’s the way you wanna look at it,” Blake says.
Chris nods slowly. “Okay . . .”
“Chris, I’ve always-- ”
“I’ve always been in love with you,” Blake told the bathroom mirror. It didn’t sound any better saying it out loud. He was still saying it to a guy. He tried to think back, to all the times he told Laura he loved her, and he wanted to throw up when he realized he could count all the times on one hand.
“From the first moment I saw you, I knew. I knew there was something about you,” he forged on, leaning heavily on the countertop. The porcelain sink basin was cool against his skin, a reminder of where he really was.
“Your eyes,” Blake said, softly, barely able to meet his mirror image’s eyes, “most beautiful thing I ever saw. Better’n anything ever. And I-- I knew I loved you, but I didn’t know. I had these feelings inside, but I didn’t know what they were, what they meant. I’d never had ’em with anyone else, not even Laura. Not any other girl-- or boy for that matter. Not my parents. Just you, Richie.”
Blake took a deep breath, mentally prodded himself and took his temperature. He felt, well, he felt better that he’d uncorked the proverbial bottle and let it all out. It felt good not having that shit eating away at his insides. He wondered if he could ever bring himself to say it to Chris’s face.
There was a knock on the door. “Sweetie, you all done in there?” It was Gina.
“Yeah, I’m done. You ready to go?” Blake opened the door and stepped out, giving Gina a big grin he wasn’t really feeling.
Gina smiled back, tucked her arms under her boobs. Her black-and-red-streaked hair was pulled back with sparkly barrettes and she was wearing some sort of black leather corset-like top and plaid schoolgirl miniskirt. Blake couldn’t even bring himself to hit on her tonight, and he was sure she noticed.
“You kinda look like shit,” she said.
“Long week,” Blake said, fixing his bowtie.
“I cannot believe you’re wearing suspenders and a bowtie to a gay nightclub,” Gina scolded, plucking at his bowtie.
“Isn’t this what you normally wear to a gay nightclub?” Blake asked, reaching up to finger a stripe of his blond hair, stiff with glittery hair product Gina had loaned him. It came off on his fingers and Blake made a disgusted face. “Why’d I even agree to this in the first place?”
“Because us girls wanted to go out and have a good time without having a ton of sweaty, gross guys getting all up in our junk,” Gina said, smirking. “Plus, you’re cute. You’re kinda like our guard dog.”
“Guard chihuahua maybe,” Blake quipped, snapping a suspender.
The door to the hotel room he shared-- usually; Chris had been spending nights with Chris Sligh and Phil Stacey recently-- with Chris opened and the man himself stepped in, a petite blonde in a slinky, sequined number hanging onto his arm.
“-- an’ this is where the magic happens,” Chris slurred drunkenly, stumbling over his own feet. The blonde stumbled too, conveniently into Chris’s side. Chris looked down at her and looped an arm around her tan, bare shoulders.
The girl noticed Blake and Gina then and began to laugh. She sounded just the wrong side of hysterical. “Oh my gosh, Chris, there are people here,” she stage-whispered, covering her mouth with her hand. Her high-heeled sandals dangled from her wrist and Blake focused in on them, before giving the blonde a once-over. He forced himself to appear interested and examined her face, her breasts, her hips, and sighed. He looked everywhere but at Chris.
Gina must have noticed, because she took charge, stepping forward to introduce herself and Blake. “Hi, I’m Gina. This is Blake.”
“I’m Tina. Oh my gosh, our names rhyme. Isn’t that so freaky?” the girl gasped. “It’s so nice to meet you Gina, and you too, Blake. Chris told me all about you.” She turned to Chris and grinned, running a hand over his chest almost possessively. “This is Chris. Say hi, Chris. He’s shy.” She was stage-whispering again and Blake kind of wanted to slug her for it. He snapped his suspenders against his chest again and rocked back on his heels, eyes locked on the door.
The energy of the room was awkward and stilted, crackling, and it raised the hairs on the back of his arms. Blake chose that moment to look at Chris and then the rest of the world around him fell away, Gina, Tina, everything but he and Chris. Chris’s eyes were unreadable, and Blake hated that. He wasn’t used to looking into Chris’s eyes and not seeing anything he could latch onto, anything he could pull apart and put back together like the pieces of a puzzle. He couldn’t figure Chris out anymore and it left him feeling disoriented, dizzy, complicated in too many ways.
Chris coughed. “Blake’s my roommate,” he told Tina. “Actually, this is our room, that’s his bed,” Chris said, pointing to Blake’s bed, with its rumpled covers, strewn about carelessly, half on the bed and half on the floor. “But it looks like him an’ Gina are goin’ out, so we’ll have the place to ourselves, I guess.”
Tina beamed up at Chris and stroked his chest, eyes sparkling, and Blake really, really hated her now.
“Well, Blake and I are off to this little gay nightclub downtown,” Gina said loudly, a little too loudly for Blake’s taste, and she grabbed him by the wrist, snapping him back to reality.
“Oh,” Tina giggled, dropping her sandals, “are you his hag? I totally thought the two of you were a couple.”
Blake opened his mouth, I’m straight! I’m single! burning on the tip of his tongue. “Oh yeah,” he said instead, putting on an overly affected tone. Blake flicked his hand in the air and cocked his hip, charming the girl with a wink. “You know it, girlfriend.”
Tina giggled some more and Gina laughed, tugging on his suspender. “C’mon, sweetie. And,” she said, turning her attention to Chris, “don’t forget to clean up before we get back.” Gina yanked Blake out the door and shut it behind them.
“-- loved you,” Blake says, barely imperceptible, soft, so fucking soft. If a breeze chooses that moment to waft in through the open window in the kitchen, it’ll probably take Blake’s confession with it and Chris will never know. “Always.”
He glances at Chris briefly before looking down at his twitching leg.
The thumping drum-and-bass music wrapped around him, and it felt stifling. He felt like he was going to choke on it.
Gina and Haley were dancing together, bobbing their heads like the guys from that stupid Saturday Night Live skit, and Jordin, Melinda and LaKisha were cracking up at the sight, cheering and clapping their hands in encouragement.
The Three Weird Sisters, Blake dubbed them in his mind, feeling mean and full of hate for some reason. He glanced about the crowded nightclub, sipping on an embarrassing hot pink drink with a fruity umbrella he had been handed by a bartender. With his luck it probably had X or poison in it, and he’d end up in the frickin’ hospital or dead in a gutter.
A guy at the bar caught Blake’s eye and he raised his hand, motioning to him. Blake looked around and then back at the guy, mouthing Who, me?
The guy nodded, crooking his finger to him, and Blake went.
“My name’s Danny,” the guy yelled over the music.
“I’m Bl-- Chris,” Blake said. Could you have thought of a worse fake name? Jesus, you’re acting like you wanna get caught, he berated himself.
“How’d you like the drink?” Danny asked. “I sent it over. I’ve had my eye on you since you came in.”
Blake smiled, stirring the umbrella in his stupid pink drink. “Aw. You shouldn’t have,” he said, batting his eyelashes mock-flirtatiously, playing it up.
Danny laughed and leaned in until his lips were grazing the shell of Blake’s ear. “You wanna go somewhere more private?” he asked.
Blake rocked back on his heels to assess the guy. He was tall and athletic, had to be well over six feet, and solid looking, muscular chest, arms, brilliant white smile. His hair was a little long, chunks of it hanging in his eyes, and, speaking of his eyes, those were blue.
Close, but different enough not to be too weird.
“Okay, sure,” Blake said, putting down the drink.
Danny grabbed onto his hand and pulled him along, past Gina, Haley and the Three Weird Sisters, wound around the various bodies on the dance floor to the bathroom. Blake caught knowing looks in other people’s eyes; they knew what he was going to do with this guy he just met.
Once they were safely out of sight, Blake latched the bathroom door behind them and Danny turned to him, grinning. Blake could feel the drum-and-bass more than he could hear it, and he slid a hand up over his chest. It felt like a second heartbeat was rattling around in there. He wondered if Chris was fucking the blonde at that very moment. Deciding that he was, Blake steeled himself and moved toward Danny.
Danny reached out and slid the suspenders off Blake’s shoulders, jerked his button-down shirt out of his belt. The buttons went skittering, and it sounded like rain.
Then Danny’s mouth was on his mouth, and a hand was squirreling down his pants and Blake went with it, turned his mind off, curled his fingers in Danny’s soft brown hair and just went with the flow.
“I’m sorry I never said anything,” Blake murmurs, staring at his spasmodic leg. “I wish I had, Richie, I wish to God I had.”
Chris clears his throat roughly, finally finds his voice. “Me too, Blake. Me too.”
Blake looks, really looks at him for the first time. Chris’s eyes are red and glassy, but his face is dry. Chris is willing himself not to let his eyes spill over, Blake realizes, stomach sinking like a stone.
Danny had him bent over the sink, using two of his fingers to work him open. They were chilly and slick with lube, and Blake fidgeted a little, wondering if he should push back, or touch himself, or something. It wasn’t like he’d never had sex with another guy before. He just wasn’t expecting to be this bored or distracted. Especially with a good-looking guy who absolutely did not remind him of--
“God, Chris, you’re so fucking tight,” Danny hissed into Blake’s ear.
Well, so much for that. Blake grunted and pushed back against Danny’s hand. “Do it,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “ ’m ready. Just do it.”
He felt Danny shift behind him, heard the rustling of his clothing. He pulled his fingers away, and then they were replaced with his cock, and finally, fuckin’ finally, Blake thought, cool relief washing over him.
“I just, I thought I’d gotten over it,” Blake continues, looking right into Chris’s eyes, holding his gaze. He refuses to let himself look away, avert his gaze even though he knows he’ll die if he sees just a sliver of hate in Chris’s eyes. “I’d been doing pretty good. It got to the point where my stomach didn’t do that girly swoopy thing every time I heard your name, or read your Myspace comments, or saw your name in my contacts on my cellphone. I felt like I was handling it well.”
“And then-- ?” Chris prompts, his expression still unreadable.
“And then you called me,” Blake says simply. “You called me and it all came back like it was here all along, just in hibernation.”
A couple weeks of awkwardness and tension later, Blake and Chris stood together at center stage as the audience awwed over their friendship.
Blake wanted to laugh when Ryan waved the card in his hand and told the audience how they were so “honest and genuine, in how they talk about their relationship,” because that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
And then Ryan was speaking, but Blake didn’t hear him, didn’t even see him. He saw only Chris. He stared at him, almost defiantly, unable to help a smile that grew slowly across his face. He was standing at center stage with the man he-- his best friend in the whole world. One of them was going home for the other. If anything could cement a relationship, solidify it, Blake figured it was something like this.
“Let’s dim the lights and get to the results,” Ryan said, and Chris leaned in as the music grew staccato, threatening and the lights dimmed.
“Whatever happens, man, you an’ me,” Chris whispered out of the side of his mouth. “Forever.”
Something fundamental snapped inside Blake’s chest for just the second time ever and he pressed back into Chris’s shoulder, grazing his fingertips against the back of Chris’s hand. “Me too, bro. You know it.” He wanted to pull Chris’s hand into his, hold onto him like he’d never let him go, but he didn’t, he couldn’t. This would have to do.
Ryan finally cut through the suspense, his voice like a warm knife through a stick of butter. “Chris. You’re going home, buddy.”
Chris ducked his head for just a second, a small smile sneaking onto his face, before he turned to Blake and grabbed him in a big hug. Blake wondered if Chris could feel his skittering heartbeat through their clothes, their skin, blood, muscle, bones. He was pretty sure he could feel Chris’s, thumping in time to his own. It felt so right, so familiar and safe and perfect, and he never wanted to let it go. Blake tightened his arms around Chris at the thought of having to let him go and stood on the tips of his toes to bury his chin in Chris’s shoulder.
“Love you, bro,” Chris said softly, away from the mic, so that only Blake would hear.
“Love you to death, Richie,” Blake whispered back, slipping his arms away from Chris’s neck. Blake stumbled back to the couch and allowed himself to be enveloped in Jordin’s cool, soft embrace and pressed into LaKisha’s pillowy bosom and rocked against Melinda’s sturdy shoulder.
He could feel the tears prick the corners of his eyes and he blinked rapidly, fought them off valiantly.
Chris owned the mic, singing Bon Jovi like his life depended on it, pacing the stage and slapping high fives with the fans. Blake looked around, blinked the wetness out of his eyes. He saw Paula swaying and clapping, a look of pride on her face, and he even thought he caught Simon smiling. Amazing.
Then Chris came over to the four of them, and he and Blake locked gazes and Chris’s eyes said it was okay as his mouth sang I’m wanted, wanted dead or alive and his arms opened, and Blake smiled, finally let them fall.
“I could feel it bubbling up to the surface,” Blake says, still holding Chris’s gaze. “I wanted to tell you so many times, Richie. I couldn’t. I was still afraid.”
“Obviously things’ve changed, or you wouldn’t be tellin’ me now,” Chris says, laying his hands on the kitchen table, palms flat on the wood tabletop. “What changed?”
“I’m not afraid anymore.”
“Afraid of what, Blake?” Chris asks.
Blake bounded up the steps of the bus, a duffel bag slung over one shoulder and a guitar over the other. “Hey, did’ja miss me?”
“Blakey!” Gina jumped out of the bunk she was sharing with Sligh and raced over to greet him. “Baby, I missed you so much!” She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a big squeeze. “What’s cookin’, good lookin’?”
“Nothin’ much,” Blake said, unable to hide his enthusiasm. “Been working on songs for my album, chillin’ with my homies. You?”
“Same here,” Gina said, leading him to the back of the bus, where the bunks were. “Hey, look what I found!”
“Blake!” Phil Stacey and Chris Sligh both got up to greet Blake with vigorous handshakes and fist-pounds. “What’ve you been up to?” Phil asked.
“Livin’ the high life,” Blake said, grinning and setting his things down on one of the beds.
“Don’t be getting cocky now,” Gina warned. “Well, cockier,” she corrected herself.
Blake swatted at her shoulder. “Whatevs, Gina. You don’t haveta worry ’bout me gettin’ a big head.” Blake waggled his eyebrows lewdly at her.
“Oh, God, that was awful.” Gina shook her head and facepalmed.
“So awful it’s good?” Blake asked.
“Nope, so awful it’s really, really awful,” Gina retorted, grinning at him.
“Anybody seen Ri-- Chris?” Blake asked, tamping down his smile and his enthusiasm.
“He’s around,” Gina said, pulling a thoughtful face, “I think he’s hanging out with J. Speezy in the girls’ bus.”
“Okay,” Blake said, leaning in and planting a sloppy kiss on Gina’s ear. “I’ll be right back then.” Blake got up and hurried out of the guys’ bus to where the girls would be staying.
Jordin was strumming something on her guitar to Chris, her voice low. Chris held a couple sheets of paper in his hand. Blake strained to hear it. He’d expected Jordin to look more-- regal, queenly, like a real, honest to God American Idol, but she just looked like Jordin. The innocent, kind-eyed girl next door. For some reason, that soothed him.
Jordin’s voice wafted over to him, and he could make Chris out, humming along. “Your eyes, they were so green. I would have never known how much you'd come to mean everything to me . . . Virginia is for lovers and I wonder where do all the others go? And your heart belongs to another, and I'm leaving-- ”
“Blake!” Chris’s voice startled both Blake and Jordin, and she stopped plucking the strings of her guitar. Chris got up and he and Blake met halfway, wrapped their arms around one another like they’d never let go.
“Missed you, man,” Blake wheezed, Chris’s embrace almost sucking the air out of his lungs. “What’re you and Speezy up to?”
“Jordin was just playin’ me this song she’s workin’ on,” Chris says into the top of Blake’s head, into his hair.
Blake offered Jordin a wave. He couldn’t see her reaction though, couldn’t see if she was happy he was there or pissed he intruded on an intimate moment between her and Chris. His face was pressed into Chris’s chest. “Hey, girl.”
“Chris, stop hogging all the Blake hugs!” Blake could hear the smile on her voice.
“How ’bout a group hug then?” Chris opened his arms to let Jordin in.
Blake welcomed her in and gave her an affectionate squeeze. “That was a nice song you were workin’ on there,” he said, nuzzling her corkscrew curls. “Your hair smells nice. Like apples. I could just eat you up.”
“God, Blake, you’re so weird,” Jordin laughed. “But thanks. That one means a lot to me.”
They finally separated and Jordin sat Blake and Chris down, made Blake tell them what he’d been up to for the month, month-and-a-half they were apart.
“Looking into getting an apartment in L.A., for when I’m in town,” he said, kicking his feet up into Chris’s lap. He smiled when Chris didn’t shove his legs away. “I’m also working on my album.”
“Me too,” Jordin said, and Chris nodded in agreement. “I’m so glad we’re all back together. I missed you guys.”
“Missed you too,” Blake replied, but he was looking at Chris.
“Afraid of being the one who’ll fuck things up so badly we won’t even be friends anymore. ’Cause you know what? I already did that. We barely spoke for two years, practically, because I was a pussy and a coward. And I was afraid you would decide you didn’t want me like that, or, worse yet-- ” Blake’s voice falters. “-- worse yet, you’d decide you didn’t love me back. But I’m not afraid anymore.”
Chris blinks and lowers his head, crossing his arms over his chest and letting out a thoughtful noise. “I’m glad you’re not,” Chris says softly, into his chest.
“So,” Blake says. “I love you. I always have. I always will. I’ve been carrying this around inside me for so fuckin’ long, man, and I just want it gone.”
“Gone?” Chris asks, still not looking up, kicking his feet.
“Gone as in-- not weighing me down anymore. Not making me wish I’d done a million fuckin’ things differently.” Blake leans forward suddenly and Chris starts, but Blake grabs onto his hands and won’t let him pull away. “I said it. I finally said it. So . . . What do you say?”
Blake and Chris were squeezed into Blake’s bunk, laptops out, earbuds in. Blake tapped the eraser tip of his pencil on Chris’s thigh in time to the beat.
It was the last night of the tour, but neither one of them had said anything about it. It was as if they thought not talking about it would forestall the inevitable. Blake thought about it, though, thought about it the whole fucking week leading up to the final performance. It was all he could think about.
He was pretty sure it was written in ink on his skin, along the twisting branches, between the cherry blossoms on his right forearm. I love you, Richie. I don’t want this to be the end of everything. Please don’t let this be the end.
Chris cleared his throat and Blake looked over, plucked out an earbud. The dreamy, sensual opening pipa-and-flute riff of Incubus’ Aqueous Transmission blasted from the earbud dangling on his finger. “Yeah?”
“Could you turn your music down? I can’t hear my own. And, plus, you’re gonna go deaf,” Chris said, smiling.
“You gotta listen to this,” Blake said, removing Chris’s earbud and replacing it with his own. He turned the volume down a few notches for Chris, though.
Further down the river. Further down the river. Blake swayed a little into Chris’s side, scratching imaginary turntables without uttering a sound. Chris swayed back. I'm building an antenna, transmissions will be sent when I am through. Maybe we could meet again further down the river and share what we both discovered, then revel in the view . . .
“It’s pretty,” Chris said, closing his eyes and settling back against his pillow with a peaceful expression on his face.
“Makes me feel less nervous,” Blake said, watching Chris’s forehead, fingers itching to smooth out the crease between his eyes.
“Can see why,” Chris said, not opening his eyes. He taps out the rhythm on Blake’s thigh with his fingertips.
Blake put his head on Chris’s shoulder and closed his eyes too, lacing his fingers with Chris’s. He felt Chris stiffen next to him, but he didn’t pull away. “Richie? Can I say something?” Blake asked.
“ ’Course, shorty,” Chris murmured, tightening his fingers around Blake’s.
“Promise that this doesn’t change anything,” Blake whispered.
“That what doesn’t?” Chris asked.
“The end of the tour. Promise me,” Blake said, tugging lightly on his hand. “Please.”
Chris opened his eyes and propped himself up on his elbow. He gave Blake’s hand a squeeze. “I promise, Blake. Brothas from anotha motha, remember?” He smiled.
Blake smiled back. It was good enough for him for now. It was all he needed.
Chris looks down at their hands and then at Blake and back again. “I was just waitin’ for you to say somethin’,” he says, mostly to their hands.
“Whaddaya mean?” Blake asks.
“I-- I thought I was the only one. Who, you know, who felt a certain way. And then you were actin’ like you felt the same way,” Chris says, hand fluttering up to the back of his neck. He forces his arm down. “Then you said that you didn’t, didn’t want that. An’ I had my answer, finally.”
Blake’s stomach does that stupid girly swoopy thing again. He’d thought he’d outgrown it. Apparently not.
“Do you, do you still-- ?” Blake asks, panic crowding in on him. His face suddenly feels hot, like he’s overheating, but his hands are so cold they’re ice. “Or did you actually manage to do what I couldn’t, and get over it?”
“Never stopped, Blake,” Chris says, pulling a hand free to rest it at the back of Blake’s neck. Chris scritches his fingernails lightly and Blake shivers into it.
“Then I guess we’re kinda on the same page here,” Blake says, breathless and lightheaded. He can hear his heartbeat pounding in his chest, can feel his heart thumping against his ribcage like a bird trying to escape. He can’t help it. Blake practically throws himself into Chris’s lap and wraps his arms around him, gathering him up in what he hopes is the biggest and best hug ever. “God, Richie. I love you. I love you.” Blake presses light kisses over Chris’s forehead, his eyelids, his nose, cheeks, mouth.
Chris closes his eyes and smiles, turning his face up into the kisses, carding his fingers through Blake’s messy blond hair. “I love you too.”
Blake presses his face into Chris’s shoulder, as the weight of the last two years lifts off his shoulders. Blake feels himself drift away on a river of a million different emotions he doesn’t even have names for. “I’m such an idiot,” he mumbles into Chris’s shoulder, his voice heavy with regret. “I wish I’d said it sooner. Two years, Richie, two years we coulda-- ”
“Don’t,” Chris whispers into his hair, exploring Blake’s back with wandering, lightly trembling hands. “We got all the time in the world.”