Darren is going, going, going, always going. He doesn’t like to stop. If he has enough momentum, he won’t be able to think about how utterly exhausted he is from the last three years of working, traveling, and socializing. He feeds off of being around people, though, and off of the moments of creative satisfaction, when he’s losing himself in the skin of someone else or on the stage facing a roaring crowd.
Maybe then he won’t have to think about how lonely he is or what he left behind, just miles away from where his fingers caress the keys of a piano as easily as he used to caress Chris’ skin.
Now, Chris is untouchable. Darren is too, in so many ways.
Darren always came and went in and out of Chris’ life, and his bed, as he had pleased, starting in the first summer after he joined the show. He had become fast friends with Chris when he guest starred as the prep school boy who would love Kurt. They bonded over their love of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and of course, musical theatre. Then, when Darren was offered a place on the Glee cast tour, he could no longer deny that he wanted his friendship with Chris to evolve into something more.
When he watched Chris strut in a leotard and own the stage during a solo dance number, he couldn’t help the arousal stirring in him nor could he help the admiration he felt at Chris’ performance, so much talent with far less training than he himself had ever needed. He also saw a whole other side of Chris during their time away from the stage, his glasses perched on his nose and and his eyebrows scrunched adorably while he typed away on his laptop, lost in a world of his own making. Darren watched him occasionally as he absently strummed on his guitar from the foot of Chris’ hotel room bed; he also tried to pretend he wasn’t studying every freckle on his face, and that he didn’t want to brush the hair off Chris’ forehead every time it flopped down.
However, Darren would let his feelings take hold during a skit which they made their own for every show. It became their nightly flirtation under the guise of playing the Blaine to Chris’ Kurt. There, with playful smirks and bold improvisation, Darren felt the thrill of the electricity crackling between them as they played off of each other. At first, he tried to tell himself that it was a professional exercise, exploring his chemistry with Chris in greater depths than he had ever done before; he could cross lines he would have never dared to if they were themselves and it would only strengthen their working relationship. But really, it was an exercise in seeing how far he could push the boundaries between them personally, with a nearly sold-out crowd excitedly observing their every move. Chris clearly wanted to test this rapport as well, because after the first few shows, he devised a bet related to the skit.
Chris bet that he would make Darren crack and break character, so Darren bet Chris in return that he could get him to do the same. If Chris won, Darren would have to stop playing his guitar around Chris for a week. If Darren won, then Chris would have to put off working on his book for one night and go out with everyone on the last night of the tour. Darren knew that when he gazed into those electric blue eyes, and listened to Chris’ clever words night after night, he might give in. But with such high stakes, he had to win.
From that day on, their improvised lines grew more outrageous, even involving props and declarations of love, in character, of course. For the last night of the tour in Dublin, Ireland, Darren planned to do something that broke the boundaries of where Blaine began and where he started; technically, it might have been against the rule of no physical touching to which they had both agreed, at least to get the other to crack during the skit, but maybe Chris would forgive him if Darren got his expected reaction. Chris recited a poem about how he would punch anyone who called Kurt a stereotype and about how Blaine was the one, unless the writers changed this the next season.
With Chris’ sharp delivery and quick wit, Darren nearly broke but he held in a guffaw of laughter as Chris finished with, “For your Emmy consideration 2011.” He took a step closer to Chris and locked eyes with him, luckily remembering to call him, “Kurt,” before declaring, “You had me at Emmy.”
Everyone else seemed to disappear as he grabbed Chris’ face with both hands and planted a kiss on his lips. A rush of adrenaline shot through him at the sensation. He longed to deepen the kiss and express all the feelings he had been holding back. He was so close to confessing that he wanted to be with Chris like this all the time, to share more of his heart, his body, and his mind. He wanted to know Chris inside and out, wanted to kiss every inch of his skin but also to joke about which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle best suited their personalities (Chris was always Raphael, due to his love of sai swords). Darren was definitely thinking about this way too much and falling way too fast. Even with his impulsivity, however, he knew whatever was blossoming between them was private and should be treasured. Thus, he realized that on stage was not the time nor the place to spill his heart out.
So Darren reined in his feelings and pulled back from Chris, watching as he adorably blinked a few times in disbelief and raised his eyebrows. Darren swore that a hint of a smirk played across Chris’ face before he dramatically fell on the stage, pretending to faint. Darren wasn’t sure if that meant he won or not, but he was still going to convince Chris to make it to that party.
Chris argued that he won on the ride back to the hotel. They returned there to change their clothes before going to a pub that had been shut down just for the cast and crew of the tour.
Chris told Darren that he had broke the rules.
“You’re still coming, aren’t you?,” Darren countered. “So I win anyway.”
“Shut up,” Chris said with a smile. “Everyone else convinced me, not the terms of your stupid bet.”
“Sure,” Darren commented sarcastically before he reached for Chris’ hand in the back of the van. He took a deep breath and waited for a moment, ready to take it back or apologize if Chris didn’t accept. But, without any words, Chris took it.
Their gazes locked and Chris continued to grin, his face flushing a beautiful rosy shade. However, it was over all too soon because Chris startled and let go when the van stopped in front of their hotel.
Darren sighed and held the lobby door open for Chris when they walked into the hotel. He stood next to Chris and waited for the elevator doors to open and to bring them to their respective rooms. He bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, eager to reach out again once they were alone and the elevator doors slammed shut behind them. But he didn’t, not even when the doors opened for their floor and they walked toward Chris’ room that he shared with Harry. It was closer to the elevator than Darren’s room with Chord, which was further down the hallway.
Chris cleared his throat and remarked, “That was- That was something.”
“Which part?” Darren wondered.
“All of it. On stage, tonight and during the whole tour. The time you’ve wanted to spend with me off stage. I just—“ Chris’ eyebrows furrowed in confusion, as if he couldn’t understand.
“Just what? I like spending time with you. Just because we’re in a different city, or country, every night, that hasn’t changed, Chris.”
Darren’s heart caught in his throat as he looked into Chris’ sparkling eyes, brilliant swirls of blue and green that made him want to pour out the deeper truth behind his words.
“I like spending time with you, too, Darren.” Chris chuckled. “Even when you strum that damn guitar and make up songs about Chinese food, which is incredibly distracting.”
Darren shrugged. “I can’t help it if I’m hungry all the time. Dude, lo mein is fucking delicious.”
“True,” Chris conceded while his fingers brushed against Darren’s own.
Warmth flooded through Darren’s body as he threaded his fingers through Chris’, joining their hands once again.
Chris inhaled sharply and continued with a quip. “At least you won’t be bugging me about it with your guitar for a week.”
“What?” Darren exclaimed and squeezed Chris’ hand. “I totally won that bet!”
“You voided the bet when you cheated, Dare. We agreed no touching. That includes kissing.” Chris squeezed Darren’s hand in return.
Darren quirked an eyebrow at him. “So you’re admitting you cracked?”
“That-That is neither here nor there. The bet is null and void since you didn’t honor the terms.”
“But you expect me to not play my guitar for a week around you? That was part of the bet. You can’t have it both ways, sweetheart.”
Chris stopped a few feet away from his door and stared at Darren.
“I, um,” Darren stammered. “Well, you can’t.”
Chris smirked. “You’re right. We’ll just have to come up with an alternative then.”
“You’re creative. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.” Darren winked, not acknowledging the term of endearment, much like Chris had chosen not to do.
If Darren knew how they would continue to tiptoe around their feelings for years and how their relationship would end, maybe he would have addressed it then. Instead, he let it lie and listened as Chris flirted with him.
They stopped in front of Chris’ door and Chris’ hand regrettably fell away from Darren’s. However, Chris’ saucy reply shot a thrill through Darren.
Chris’ eyes flickered down to Darren’s mouth for a brief second. “You’ll have to wait and see until later, Dare.”
Darren followed his gaze but didn’t take any further action. He should have leaned in then and kissed him despite the nervousness coursing through his veins. He didn’t want to screw up the moment that their relationship would irrevocably and undeniably change from friendship to something deeper. So he made an excuse.
“I should, um, go get ready and wash this post-show grime off of me.” Darren tilted his head down the hall, toward the direction of his room. “Toweling off does not do the trick sometimes.”
Chris swallowed and glanced away from him. “Yeah, I get what you mean. I probably should too, and maybe find something nicer to wear.”
“You always look nice,” Darren couldn’t help pointing out, letting his eyes linger over the simple Chewbacca t-shirt that hugged Chris’ chest and the slouchy grey sweatpants he wore, his regular post-show outfit.
Chris blinked at that, an echo of how he did so on stage earlier that night. “Thank you, but, um, I should still really go before Harry gets back in a little bit.”
However, neither of them let go of the other’s hand.
“I’ll see you tonight?” Chris asked expectantly, searching Darren’s face.
Darren knew that he would take his chance later that night at the pub, out on the dance floor. With the alcohol flowing and a summer of freedom to pursue projects outside of Glee, it would be the perfect opportunity to act on his feelings. Alternatively, if Chris had rejected him, Darren would have the break from filming the show to recover and nurse his wounds before he had to face Chris again.
“Yes,” Darren finally answered, licking his lips. “I can’t fucking wait.”
Seven years later, as he plays a song at a piano in the empty bar that he helped build and create, memories of that night flash through Darren’s head, when he asked Chris to stay over in his hotel room (After he and Chord shared a few shots, Chord sent a questioning glance between Darren and Chris. Darren confirmed his attraction to Chris. Chord agreed to support him and take Chris’ place with Harry if Chris said yes to Darren’s suggestion).
About three beers and some tequila shots in, he remembers dancing close to Chris, at first leaving a sliver of space between them but letting his body express all the feelings he couldn’t name yet. He gripped Chris’ hips and buried his face in the crook of Chris’ neck, inhaling the clean scent of his cologne that reminded him of a cool summer rain.
Back in the present, without Chris, he experiments with a melody on the piano keys, recalling how he borrowed that cologne many times after he had spent the night at Chris’ place during the following years. He sprayed some on when he barely had time to shower before he rushed back to his own place to grab clothes and head off to work (They kept their relationship as clandestine as possible, preferring not to go in together).
Chris shakily breathed out against Darren’s collarbone, causing Darren to dig his fingers into Chris’ hips. Then, Darren’s fingers drifted up Chris’ sides as they both got lost in the beat and in each other.
Chris pressed closer, draping his arms over Darren’s shoulders as if he had been doing it for ages. It felt natural and easy as Darren ground his hips against Chris’ own with clear intent.
“I hope this is okay,” Darren whispered in Chris’ ear over the loud music pulsing through the room and the chatter that filled the air.
“Yes,” Chris returned. “I wasn’t sure what you wanted so I-I haven’t said anything.”
“Well, I want this. I want you, if you’ll have me.”
Chris pulled back to look at him, his ocean blue eyes shining with mischief even in the dim lights of the pub. “I will, but only if you admit you forfeited the bet.”
Darren’s mouth curved up halfway into a lopsided grin. “You play dirty, Colfer.”
“You don’t know the half of it, Criss,” he answered, his fingers dancing along Darren’s shoulder blades.
They always exchanged banter playfully, bordering on flirtation, but Chris seemed to let loose in a way that he never had before. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was a celebration of their hiatus from the show and the end of the tour, or maybe Chris simply trusted him enough to fully let go now that Darren had made a move. Whatever it was, Darren decided not to squander this chance.
“So show me,” Darren challenged.
There, in that dark and noisy pub, Chris leaned in, his lips brushing against Darren’s as he spoke. “Let’s go.”
Darren nodded. “We should, uh, say goodbye to everyone before we go, ‘cause I usually do that. I’ll go first and you can follow me in a few minutes to the van. Then we can head back, yeah?”
Chris agreed, resting his forehead against Darren’s. “I’m sure they’ll all be too drunk to notice the coincidence, or they just won’t care.”
“You’re probably right,” Darren conceded.
He held in a breath, wanting to kiss Chris for real then. Even if he agreed with Chris’ observation that no one would have been paying attention, he still couldn’t close that gap between them, only because he knew that once he did, he wouldn’t want to stop.
And he was right. After Darren said a few cursory goodbyes and confirmed to Chord that he would need the room, he found one of their drivers and asked him to bring him back to the hotel in a little while.
Once Chris joined him and they took their seats in the back of the van, away from their coworkers and friends, Darren watched the lights of the traffic cast a beautiful glow across Chris’ face. Then, Darren licked his lips and cupped Chris’ cheek before he pressed his mouth to Chris’.
Chris kissed him back with fervor, turning his whole body toward Darren as much as his seat belt would allow.
Chris giggled against his mouth while he traced Darren’s jaw and neck with his fingertips. They stopped kissing and their hands stopped roaming long enough to get out of the van and head up to Darren’s hotel room. Behind the closed door, they explored each other’s bodies, stripping away all that they held back that previous year.
That memory doesn’t hurt as much as some others have over the subsequent four years of their semi-secret relationship, which ended a few weeks after the wrap party on filming the show.
In the beginning, Darren knew Chris would be busy producing and shooting his self-penned film that he had worked so hard on, and writing a couple of novels and other scripts. Meanwhile, Darren wanted to revisit Starkid and his own music and hoped to finalize a potential brief run on Broadway if Ryan and the powers-that-be at the show approved. Therefore, they settled on keeping their relationship casual, no matter how right it felt for Darren to be in Chris’ arms.
Darren had done casual relationships before and had no problem with them. It was so easy to fall into Chris’ bed after a long day and have the comfort of someone he counted as a friend, let alone someone who could understand the unique experience of their work. Chris didn’t push for more either, even as Darren garnered more attention for his role on the show and their characters solidified their relationship as boyfriends.
Darren liked having his own space and he figured that Chris did too, especially after Chris bought a house that was all his. Darren liked spending time there more and more, but he liked his freedom, too. He never promised Chris something he wasn’t sure he could give, no matter how badly he wanted to commit to him. Darren was never any good once he got serious with someone, so he always took off in the mornings, and shared some of his nights with other people.
He was always running, which is perhaps why he thought of Chris as he sang the song showcasing his new bar.
“Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses? You’ve been out ridin’ fences for so long now.”
He felt so thankful that he could fit his first Broadway stint into working on the show, even if it took him away from Chris, who couldn’t see him perform in person. Work took him away again some time after that for his first feature film and then again for more Starkid time and so many other meaningless events that offered financial gain or media exposure, but he still couldn’t share it with Chris. Meanwhile, Chris continued to pursue his writing projects back in L.A. Darren would never hold Chris back from working hard on his dreams because he had dreams, too. However, he wished he could make their worlds intertwine more. Eventually, they drifted apart, even while they both still worked on the show.
Chris’ character, Kurt, graduated from high school and moved away whereas Blaine stayed in high school. This meant that they shared less screen time and couldn’t riff about their ridiculous outfits that day or laugh about a silly Instagram post that Chris saw on his phone in between takes.
Darren filled his time talking to new co-stars but it didn’t quite fill the void left by Chris. Even if Darren ensured that they still shared their lunch break, the fissures in his heart from their back and forth relationship tore deeper when conversation didn’t flow as easily as it used to. However, Darren would still brush past him and give him a knowing glance, silently asking permission to come over. After work, he would be welcomed into Chris’ home, and his bed, once more.
“I know that you’ve got your reasons,” Darren sings as he remembers the impending demise of a connection that they couldn’t let go. “These things that are pleasin’ you, will hurt you somehow.” Amid the disintegration, Darren had traveled to and revisited an old flame in New York while he met with some people from the next Broadway show he would work on. He had turned to her in the early days of his relationship with Chris and thus fell back into her life. With her, it wasn’t so complicated. Although he found momentary pleasure, his heartstrings tugged toward L.A. and a life he could never share with a man who would never really be his.
But Darren would be playing a character he had admired for over a decade, a dream role that he couldn’t decline, even if Chris would still be in Los Angeles and was quite settled there. Darren could never settle, not even for Chris.
He would jetset to Italy after that, and all over the world for various functions, living out of a suitcase and always running.
He’d be out and away from Chris before he knew it, but shortly after Glee wrapped, he found his way back to Chris’ bed, promising to return to L.A., and to him, when he wasn’t so busy. He assured Chris that he would have time for him then and maybe they could properly explore this constant, undeniable magnetism they had always felt toward each other.
Lying there with his head on Chris’ chest, and Chris’ hand running through his hair, Chris had let out a wry chuckle.
“There will never be a right time,” Chris added. “If there was, it’s gone now.”
Darren listened to Chris’ heartbeat and ghosted his fingers down Chris’ chest with a sigh. He figured he deserved Chris’ rejection for waiting so long in asking for more and for drifting away and coming back like the waves of the ocean hitting the shore. So he swallowed down the pain and tried not to let his voice quiver as he replied, “You’re probably right.”
But he blamed Chris, too. If he really wanted to take their relationship further, he could have said something too. He couldn’t hate Chris though, only himself for being young and stupid enough to let Chris go. Thus, over the next few years, he channeled that anguish into whatever dramatic role he was playing, writing new songs, and performing old ones. Sometimes he would choose a cover song that he didn’t write but that was so relevant, it flooded his brain with memories that probably showed on his face.
Like now, when he sings, “It seems that some finer things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the ones that you can’t get.”
He restrains himself enough to play the right notes and realize that he should be happy now, with career success he could only dream of, even if he has far to go with what he really wants to do. Chris is happier without him, too, or so it seems when Darren catches sight of him on social media or in a random Internet article.
Still, he can’t help thinking what might have been if Chris didn’t reject him that night several years ago. Maybe they would have fizzled out or maybe their relationship would have evolved into something beautiful and lasting. Maybe Darren just wants what he can never really have.
The following words he sings echo in his head, ringing so true, “You ain’t gettin’ no younger. Your pain and your hunger, oh, they’re drivin’ you home.”
Darren knows he’s still young but he feels every bit of his age in an industry that values youth and preys on inexperience. Perhaps that’s why he feels so much older, tiring of the games he has to play to pretend that he’s happy with the image he’s portrayed thus far, that of a handsome, young ally of LGBTQ people. He’d rather not have this label that industry professionals have persuaded him to prescribe to when he’s asked about his sexuality. He swallows down the truth and spits out the lie so easily that it almost feels okay.
But in front of a piano, singing a song about running away feels more like the truth than anything he’s said publicly the last few years. The pain can rip him open and make the performance more convincing, with no one but him understanding the deeper meaning behind it.
He’s still hungry to spill out his truth though, about why he chose L.A. as the location for the bar, along with the truth about who he used to love, or maybe who he still loves. Of all the places he’s been, Los Angeles is his home. This is how Darren rationalizes investing in this city for his new business venture. Or maybe, the man he’s loved for the better part of the last decade is his home, an admission he’ll only make to himself; maybe he’s as hungry for Chris as he is for continued career success. Maybe this is the only way to be near him now.
In times like this, he longs to run back to Chris despite his present trappings of his insistent, self-proclaimed label of his sexuality, of his current relationship, of his success, and of constantly living as a nomad. He may have houses and apartments and places where he’s welcome throughout the world but none of them feel like the perfect fit, except with Chris. He should confess all this to someone, to the man in question perhaps, instead of a piano.
But he sings on, “Freedom, well, that’s just some people talkin’. Your prison is walkin’ you, through this world alone.”
He was free to explore the world and expand his career without being attached to Chris. He met new people who could give him opportunities and who would become acquaintances and even friends. Yet, now, while he’s performing without an audience in this city that Chris calls home, and when he’s out wandering the world, it seems like he has no one to fully share his life.
His nights blend together into days, among the triumphs and tribulations he’s faced in the last few years. The turbulent feelings always pass after an alcohol or exhaustion-induced sleep and he almost forgets about the love he threw away.
That is, until he sings the rest of this song, or others like it, the lyrics of the one at hand referring to coming to your senses, opening the gates, and letting someone love you. It reminds him that he’s singing to himself, entertaining the possibility of letting Chris truly love him.
But as the song comes to a close, he realizes it’s only a fantasy, that his memories of Chris are simply memories. They’ll remain in the past while he stays firmly entrenched in the present, with all his friends, his family and career success, except for when he’s lost in a song like this, that makes him remember and think about what might have been.
He never belonged to Chris and Chris never belonged to him.
But it’s nice to pretend and look back every once in a while.