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Late Night Lingering

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"You're nervous," Darren says with a grin. "You know there's no reason to be nervous, right? He doesn't like... bite, or anything."

"Fuck you," Joey says, checking his tie in the mirror for a fourth time.

"Aw, come on, I think it's cute." Darren reaches out to try and muss Joey's hair, but Joey ducks away. He's spent too long fixing his hair to let Darren fuck with it.

*

It's a party. It's a lot like other parties Joey has been to except the booze is more expensive, the cups aren't red and plastic, and the people are more famous.

But it's still booze and it's still a party and Joey likes parties. He likes parties and he likes people. He's fine mingling, especially after his second drink. He's meeting people, talking, making new friends, filing away names. He's doing great, doing fucking good, until-

"Hey!" His voice squeaks in a way that makes him want to wince but he tries not to, tries to play it cool.

Chris just grins at him, cheeks flushed and eyes bright. "Darren told me you were hanging out around here. Having fun?"

"Darren said that, huh?"

Note to self: Kill Darren. Later, when there aren't high profile witnesses that would flock to the chance to testify just for the soundbites around.

"Yep," Chris says, and then he giggles. Giggles. He giggles and Joey undergoes some sort of metamorphosis back into what he never actually was, some slightly hairy way too tall version of a twelve year old girl. His stomach flips and he grins back stupidly.

Someone brushes by Chris and he steps forward, steps into Joey's space, and then murmurs an apology. "Getting kind of crowded in here."

"Uh huh," Joey says, because that's definitely the kind of wit and skill with words he wants on display right now. Yep.

"Why don't we-" Chris starts, but someone calls his name and he spins around, shoulder brushing Joey's. He raises a hand in greeting and then holds up one finger to whoever is trying to get his attention. He turns back to Joey with a sigh. "That's Dan, I've got to - I'll try to be quick, okay?"

Then he's gone and Joey is very, very confused.

*

It's not quick.

In fact, he doesn't see Chris again for almost an hour. He's lost Darren too, but that's all right, because Dianna found him standing somewhat awkwardly by himself nursing a drink.

He likes Dianna. She's sweet and smells like candy and she talks to him about the things he does like she really gives a damn, which is more than Joey can say for most of the people in this room. He gets it; he doesn't exactly get kicks out of listening to some guy talk about how he gets paid multi millions to stand around and look pretty, so why should anyone else care about his singing stupid songs on the internet? Except that sometimes people do care and it's nice.

He hopes she doesn't notice that he keeps looking around. He hopes that if she does notice she just thinks he's looking for Darren. He think she knows why Darren keeps disappearing and he's maybe not planning on murdering Darren anymore, but there will be some slight maiming, at least.

*

Joey's found a nice spot outside. It's by the pool, away from the noise and stifling perfumed heat of the house. He lays down, not really caring anymore that he's getting his jacket damp and grassy, not caring about anything.

He's ready to go - has been ready to go for a while, since Dianna got whisked away and he saw Darren disappearing behind a closer door with his game face on, what Joey likes to mentally refer to his you will fucking love me and give me some goddamn money for it face.

He's sleepy and he has to get up and go to work in the morning (a real job, he thinks, a little bitter - a real, low paying, bad hours, hard and not really rewarding work job) but Darren's being the best friend he can be by giving Joey an in to even see what this world is like and Joey isn't going to complain.

His skin prickles and a shadow falls over him. He blinks his eyes open and finds Chris staring down at him. "Found you," Chris murmurs. His voice is soft, sweet, and he looks ethereal framed in the glow of the distant porch lights behind him.

"Were you looking for me?" Joey asks, feeling like this moment is a bubble that's going to pop any second now.

Chris sits down beside him, back facing the house. His bent knee touches Joey's hip.

He's lost his jacket somewhere and he's just in a blue button up now. It looks soft and comfortable and expensive. Joey wants it touch it, and probably not stop there. "Yeah."

"Why?" Joey doesn't sit up, but he crosses his arms behind his head so he can see better.

Chris shrugs. "Darren said he thought we'd get along."

"Yeah? Oh, that Darren, and his ideas."

Chris blinks at him. "Disclaimer," he says. "I'm a little drunk."

"A little?"

This time he squints. "A lot?"

Joey laughs. "Well, I'm a little drunk, too."

Chris seems to be considering that. "Okay, then. Can I lay down?"

"You're not gonna puke, are you?" Joey doesn't really think Chris looks that drunk, but he wants to be sure. He might not have time to shower before his morning shift.

"No. Swear it," Chris says, taking the question seriously.

"Well, then. Free country. Free... someone else's back yard." Joey pats the grass beside him.

He expects Chris to leave some distance between them, but he doesn't. He's pressed against Joey shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. "I haven't seen your shows."

"Um. Okay?" Joey has no idea how to respond.

"I mean... I wanted to have something to talk about, so I bought them. The Starship one? I bought that. But I didn't have time to watch it."

"You could have just borrowed it from Darren," Joey points out. He's trying hard to ignore the pleasant weightless feeling he gets thinking that Chris has actively thought about him. About having a conversation with him.

Chris turns his head to look at Joey. "Have you met Darren? He'd never stop making fun of me."

Joey laughs. "Yeah. Touche."

"Touchy," Chris giggles, and yeah, he's definitely drunk.

*

They talk. They talk about nothing, really, because Chris has the attention span of a gnat right now, so Joey mostly listens as he rambles from topic to topic. He hears about Chris's book, about his cat, the things he wants to do, the things he has done.

And he cares. He really fucking cares, because he could listen to Chris talk for forever, and fuck Darren, fuck him, because he knew Joey had this thing, and Joey doesn't have a fucking clue what Darren might have told Chris, but this isn't at all going how Joey had planned. Joey hadn't planned on it going at all. He'd planned on seeing Chris, maybe secretly checking out his ass a couple times, going home and jerking off thinking of a sweet soft mouth wrapped around his dick, and tucking that burning guilt-shame-exhilaration into the same pocket as all the rest of his previous crushes.

Then Chris goes silent and Joey thinks maybe he's fallen asleep so he turns his head to check and Chris isn't asleep. He's not asleep, he's just looking - staring at Joey.

"What..." Joey starts and trails off because Chris is moving. He's sitting up and his hand presses splayed on Joey's chest and then.

Then Chris is kissing him. Soft, dry, his lips closing around Joey's bottom lip and pressing in. Joey barely has time to respond before Chris is pulling away.

"Whoa," Joey breathes.

"Sorry?" Chris is staring at him with wide eyes. "I mean-"

"Joseph!" Darren's voice comes calling out. Joey jolts up, tongue darting out to lick his lip. "You out here- oh, hey. Uh. Hi? Am I interrupting?"

Despite all prior teasing, Darren actually seems genuinely surprised to have found them together.

"I was just boring Joey." Chris says, and holds an arm out to Darren.

Darren obediently gives him a tug up, catching him when he stumbles forward a bit. He offers the same hand down to Joey and helps him to his feet. "Yeah, sorry, I just know you need to be up early so I thought we'd cut out now if you're ready. But I can totally give you guys some more time if-"

"No, it's fine," Chris says. "I need to get going soon anyway, early call in the morning."

"Yeah, I'm not in until afternoon, but I'll see you then." Darren tugs Chris in for a hug and Joey feels - he feels something. Jealous, maybe. Wishing he could rewind the clock and make Darren not interrupt. Wishing...

Darren and Chris pull away and Chris is just looking at him so Joey hops forward stupidly (always, always stupidly) and tugs Chris in for a hug, too. "I had fun talking."

Chris's arms loop around his neck and the gust of breath on Joey's neck makes him shiver. "Me, too."

"We'll have to do it again some time, yeah?" Joey says and his voice cracks a little and he hopes Chris can tell how much he really really really means it.

Chapter Text

The house is empty.

It's empty a lot. Darren is a busy guy. Darren is a busy guy with a busy life that involves flying lots of places and meeting lots of important people.

Joey's not gonna complain. This house is a hell of a lot nicer than anything he could afford by himself in Los Angeles, and he does a lot more actual living in it than Darren does. He reaps the benefits of a famous friend. He's a champion reaper by now.

It's a little boring, though, sometimes. He keeps busy enough between the pay-the-bills work and auditions and friends, but sometimes he gets... bored.

*

@Chris Colfer: How do I have 200 channels and there is still nothing on at 2 am?

@Joey Richter: @ChrisColfer I think that's what the internet is for.

*

Chris isn't actually following him on twitter. He's not actually following Chris, either, though.

They've met four times.

Once, Chris kissed him.

He doesn't even have Chris's number.

He has a blinding moment of will he even know who I am and then he thinks of Chris at the party, finding him, staring at him all him pink-cheeked and grinning. That one sliver of a memory haunts him more than the press of lips on lips. It's driving him nuts, this endless cycle of maybe and could he and what if I that never goes anywhere.

Two minutes after he's sent the tweet, he hits Follow.

*

He can't just sit here and watch the computer.

He can't.

So he gets up. He wanders around the empty house, grabs a drink out of the fridge and polishes off the other half of the sandwich he'd had for lunch, and when enough time has passed that he feels sufficiently not desperate (about ten minutes) he walks back to his computer.

Chris Colfer (@ChrisColfer) is now following you on Twitter

Chris Colfer (@ChrisColfer) has sent you a direct message on Twitter!
I don't think that's how the song goes.

Chris Colfer (@ChrisColfer) has sent you a direct message on Twitter!
You know, the internet is for...

Chris Colfer (@ChrisColfer) has sent you a direct message on Twitter!
I don't think that's how the song goes...

Chris Colfer (@ChrisColfer) has sent you a direct message on Twitter!
I'm actually going to turn the computer off. Internet bad for insomnia.

Chris Colfer (@ChrisColfer) has sent you a direct message on Twitter!
But if you want to text me, here's my number.

*

And for the next half hour conversation happens.

Joey: I doubt texting is good for insomnia, either.
Chris: Probably not.
Joey: (Also hi.)
Chris: (Hi. :))
Joey: Is that a smiley face with a double chin?
Chris: No! It was the close of a parenthesis.
Chris: ... you knew that didn't you?
Joey: Yeah. Kinda.
Chris: Full disclosure. I haven't slept in about three days.
Joey: Yowzers. That bad?
Chris: Pretty bad.
Joey: Count sheep? Drink warm milk? Watch Murder She Wrote?
Chris: Hey I happen to like Angela Lansbury.
Joey: Sure you do.
Chris: I do!

*

At half past two Joey is beginning to resign himself to spending the entire night fighting sleep and grinning stupidly.

*

At a quarter to three he asks Chris if he wants to come over. Chris knows where the house is; he's been here before, to run lines with Darren and at a couple of parties.

He's never been there when Joey was there, though. He's definitely never been there when just Joey was there.

*

At four fifteen there's a knock on the door.

Chris looks... young. His hair is mussed and he has circles under his eyes and he's wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt with a hoodie that his hands are jammed into the pocket of.

"Hey," Joey says, holding the door open.

Chris just looks at him and smiles. "It's really quiet outside."

"That happens. You know. Middle of the night, and all." He shuts the door behind Chris and locks it. "So you made it okay? I mean. Obviously."

Chris chuckles a little. "I don't even know how, but yes."

Joey smiles at him and Chris smiles back and they're caught in sort of a loop of looking and smiling.

Then Joey breaks it because he has to or else do something stupid.

"Come on, you look like a zombie. Let's see if we can find a Murder, She Wrote rerun to lull you into sleep," Joey says, nodding toward the living room.

*

Joey sits on the end of the couch and Chris starts out near the middle but, fuck, Joey's never been one to waste a good opportunity. He thinks he knows where this is going - not tonight, not with the state of exhaustion Chris is in, but eventually. He doesn't think he's reading the signals wrong.

He stretches his arm out over the back of the couch and makes a sound to get Chris's attention. "C'mere."

There's a faint hint of a smile on Chris's face as he scoots over, pressing himself along Joey's side. Joey snugs an arm over Chris's shoulder and nudges him in even more until Chris has his head tucked on Joey's shoulder.

"Thanks," Chris murmurs.

It takes barely twenty minutes before he starts to drift off. Joey isn't sure if he should wake him or not but he's tired himself and he definitely doesn't want to spend a night on the couch when he has a bed right upstairs, no matter how nice Chris smells or how warm he feels.

"Hey," he says, leaning in close and whispering. His lips brush Chris's forehead when Chris leans in suddenly. He smiles, pressing a little kiss there, hoping Chris won't notice, won't remember. "Come no."

"Where w'goin'?" Chris mumbles, whining in the most endearing way possible when Joey gets up.

"Bed." Joey reaches down and grabs both of Chris's hands and tugs him up. Chris goes willingly, pliable in joey's grasp. "You can sleep in Darren's bed or you can sleep in mine. But, full disclosure, I'll also be in mine."

Chris squints at him. "Yours."

"Good choice," Joey confides. "I swear I've never actually seen Darren wash those sheets."

Chris snickers. "You're funny."

"I try," Joey says. "And it's true."

*

He gets Chris into bed, tugs off his socks and shoes but leaves everything else.

Chris is fast asleep before Joey even turns the light out.

*

Joey lays on the other side of the bed, taking particularly strange care to make sure that in no way are they touched, and only then lets himself acknowledge the undeniable truth that something might actually be going on here.

Chapter Text

The thing is, they aren't really dating.

They aren't really dating but Joey still knows what Chris looks like when he first wakes up in the morning - pillow crease on his cheek, hair a delicately perfect mess He knows what Chris feels like burrowing into him drunk and giggling, mouth sweet. He knows that he likes it. He likes all of it. He has the scrap of paper that Chris had written his number on tucked inside his wallet. He's a little bit ridiculous and a little bit hopeful, or at least he had been until he'd realized that neither of them were taking the next step forward and so right now... right now they're sort of nothing.

*

Joey's dated before - well, he's dated girls, and maybe that's the problem. Maybe the problem is that he knows how to date a girl and he doesn't know how to date Chris. He doesn't even know how to begin to broach it. None of his previous empirical knowledge fits this equation.

It's just that Chris is a boy, but that Chris is famous. Chris probably doesn't just run out for dinner. He probably plans, calculates, makes arrangements.

He probably likes nicer things than Joey is used to, too. He gets wined and wined and wooed. Joey's idea of wooing is more slobbering schoolboy than Los Angeles hotshot. He's got things that work in his favor but his approach is generally more of a slow wearing down of defenses through wit and humor and unexpected charm, but he finds himself lacking in opportunity to even be around Chris that sort of oops-just-ran-into-him way he'd prefer it happened.

So he doesn't try, really. He just... rolls with it. Doesn't think about what it doesn't mean because low pressure means he has nothing to lose. Means anything he gets is more than he expects. And maybe if he tells himself over and over again that it'll work he'll stop waking up every morning disappointed that another day has gone by and he's gotten exactly what he'd expected.

*

Darren knows. Probably. Maybe.

He hasn't said anything because that's not really a topic he knows how to broach, but Darren knows him pretty well. Darren knows there is someone, at the very least.

The first time Joey hooked up with a guy, Darren had already been in Los Angeles. The potential had always been there and he'd even told Darren - more than once, drunken and high confessions. Saying it and living it are two different things. He's not really ready for Darren to go into overly enthusiastic supporting lifestyle choices mode right now. Darren can come on pretty strong.

Maybe he's making too much out of it. Maybe it's just beyond his comprehension that a really cute talented famous guy would want him like this, and the thing is, if Darren did know who it was Joey was pining over and Joey said all that, Darren would probably just tell him how much of an idiot he is. It comes from a good place, maybe a little misguided, but good. It comes from the place of hopeless optimism that only a guy who has truly never had any problem getting laid can maintain.

Bravado and shameless class clown antics aside, Joey is not that guy and these seem like pretty high stakes to test well-intentioned bad advice on.

*

Being Darren's friend can have some perks. Pretty sweet ones, actually. Not just the house and the places he can get into, but the free drinks and the girls rubbing up against him, and yeah, he's taken advantage of that a couple times. He's not really ashamed of it, but it's not exactly something he's eager to plaster on his resume.

Right now, this girl - she's going for gold. She's cute, rubbing up against him, and he's... horny. It's like an itch he wants to scratch and he hasn't even heard from Chris in a few weeks - Chris has had a busy few weeks since the night he spent in Joey's bed. Joey knows this because Darren has had a busy few weeks, too. A couple of events that were mandatory, recording sessions for an episode heavy on the two of them, filming crazy hours. But now there's this party and Darren's off somewhere and this girl has a really cute smile and he's horny and Chris...

Chris just walked in.

*

Joey's first instinct is to blow the girl off, because... because Chris.

Only, he's not sure if he should, because, Chris definitely saw him with the girl and that would send an impression, too. It would send the impression that he'll drop whatever he's got going when Chris comes around and maybe he wants to but maybe he shouldn't.

He spends a couple of minutes deliberating on it and paying absolutely no attention to anything the girl is saying. Then he looks up and Chris is looking right at him, and he smiles and lifts his hand in a little wiggle-fingered way, and Joey can't help but smile back because it does funny things to his stomach when Chris looks at him like that.

"I've gotta go," he says. "Betty, right?"

"Becky." There's a flash of disdain across her face and she gives him a little disappointed sign before she walks away, just like he'd hoped she'd do.

He looks back up and Chris is sort of grinning at him now. He watches Chris say something - infinitely more polite than Joey - and then walks away leaving the man smiling.

*

"Hi," Chris says, taking a sip of his drink. "I didn't know you'd be here."

"Oh yeah?" Joey tries to play it cool. (Fails.) "Yeah, D' dragged me along."

"He seems to do that a lot..." Chris leans in a little and his voice is soft and whispery high and fuck, is he flirting? "But I'm glad he did."

"Yeah." Joey's stripped of wit at the moment; his mind is a blur of Chris.

"I told my manager I'd stop in for a few minutes, but I like to live on the edge. Do you want to get out of here?" Chris sounds... hopeful. And maybe a little nervous.

Joey just feels like pumping his first into the air. He doesn't - rain checks it instead. "What? Yeah, let me just-" He looks around, realizes he has no idea where Darren is. "I'll just text him."

*

Chris takes him to the seediest little dive of a burger joint that Joey has been to in quite a long time.

"Really?" He says, a little bit incredulous.

"Well, it's not like I eat this every day," Chris says, shrugging out of his jacket once they've grabbed a table in the corner. He's just in a blue button up but it looks disgustingly good on him. "Just on special occasions."

"Oh yeah?" Joey takes the bait. "What's the occasion?"

There's a pause for drink orders. Joey gets a beer. Liquid courage, yep, gonna be needing some of that.

Chris tilts his head a little and then smiles. "First date? Unless I'm misreading things."

Either Chris is a whole lot braver than he is, or just doesn't have as much to lose. Joey isn't sure which of those he's more comfortable either, but either way, he likes the answer.

*

The burgers are greasy, the fries are salty, and it's one of the best meals Joey has had in a while.

Chris insists on paying, and he uses the word date again and Joey doesn't even want to argue after that, because Chris looks so fucking happy about it.

They walk outside, arms brushing. Joey wants to do reckless things like kiss him or tell him how nice his eyes look or kiss him. Mostly the kissing.

Chris keeps shooting him these nervous little looks now, and they're only halfway back to Chris's car when Joey just... stops. Chris turns to him, a little confused, and Joey cups his cheek and just - just goes for it.

*

Chris Colfer's mouth is an amazing thing.

*

They're both flushed by the time they pull apart, despite the chill in the night air. "I could do that for hours," Joey murmurs.

"Me too." Chris gradually unclenches his hands from Joey's jacket where he'd been grasping as though his life depending on it. "I've wanted-"

Joey kisses him again just to shut him up because right now he doesn't want to know what Chris had wanted. Right now he's tingling on overload and he'd rather do than talk because talking leads places he's not equipped to go right now.