"No, Chris, move a little to the left -- No. Your other left, dumbass."
Chris ducks his head to the other side, "I don't see why you think this is necessary, Darren."
Chris' hand is fisted in the fabric of his friend's shirt as he leans at an odd angle. Darren's fingers are digging into the soft dirt in his backyard, by means of keeping balance, and his other hand is guiding Chris, tilting his head at different angles and twisting flowers against locks of his hair because "they bring out your eyes."
"Flowers are for girls," Chris whines, but he doesn't make an effort to move away from the boy tangling more flowers against his head, "I'm not a girl."
"Are you calling me a girl?" Darren nudges Chris playfully, and Chris only shrugs in response.
"You might as well be," Chris shifts away and faces the younger boy, "with all your flowers, and all that stuff."
"Or maybe your masculinity is just too fragile," Chris is smiling at Darren, and Darren puts two fingers under Chris' chin to tilt his head up, "it always is with you straight boys."
Chris ducks his head away and leaves Darren's fingers hanging in the air.
Darren doesn't even attempt to mask his disappointment.
Chris somehow doesn't notice the fall in Darren's expression as he shifts.
"You're a bit gay, Darren," he informs, a happy look still on his face.
"Really?" Darren laughs faintly, "I didn't know that. It's a breakthrough, guys! Put it on the news."
"Oh, shut up," Chris laughs, falling on his side and letting his head rest in Darren's lap, "I can't believe you're even real."
"Maybe I'm not," Darren tilts his head, "I could be a figment of your imagination. You've got a pretty gay mind, Faller."
Chris quirks his eyebrow up, and Darren stifles a laugh at the way his face warps. "Quit laughing at me," Chris frowns, "that's rude."
"Are you wounded?" Darren smiles down at Chris, who still has his head in Darren's lap.
"I'm hurt, Darren," Chris offers a smile back. He moves one of his hands to tug a pale flower from his hair and flick it away. Darren takes his hand from where it's anchored in the dirt and hesitantly moves it, interlocking his fingers with Chris'.
"Whoops, we're gay," Darren laughs out, and Chris rolls his eyes, a faint smile playing on his lips.
"m not," he insists. His eyes linger on his hand intertwined with Darren's.
He doesn't move it away. Darren smiles a little wider.
There's always been a childish glee about Darren when it comes to certain things. Like, for example, plucking the flowers by the trail alongside his house, finding ones that he can wear in his hair and ones that look right on Chris.
A lot of things Darren does are for Chris.
His fingers are coated with a thin layer of dirt, the dry kind that he encounters often enough to know that it'll fall off and cover his clothes. The thin stems of flowers are gripped in one of his hands, and the other is knocking on Chris Faller's door.
"Darren," Chris rubs at his eye with the palm of his free hand, the other arm holding the door open, "it's two o'clock in the morning. You're lucky my parents are out. Why are you here?"
Darren's eyes flicker to his watch for a moment, and he pushes his hand forwards, "I got you some flowers."
"Thanks," Chris yawns, obviously disinterested, and Darren's face falls. He pushes the flowers towards Chris again, and when Chris doesn't take them from him, he uses his other hand to pry Chris' fingers open and make him hold the flowers.
"I thought you would like them," Darren tries for another smile, and Chris realises a little of what it means to Darren, although he's sure he'll never understand all of it. His fingers tighten around the flowers.
"Thank you," he smiles, "really."
Darren chews on his lower lip, and Chris studies his face for a second.
"You say you're straight, but you're staring at me," Darren laughs out. Chris flushes a bright red that looks comical on his face.
"I -- I'm straight, I was just, I was thinking -- It's late, you should probably stay the night tonight. Because you're already here. I --" Chris turns his gaze to the ground, and Darren wipes his fingertips on his jeans.
"If you want me to. We have school tomorrow, though," Darren bites back a grin, and Chris shrugs.
Darren laughs, "obviously not you."
Chris shakes his head, a faint smile playing on his lips.
"You're damn right I don't," he opens the door more and moves aside so Darren can step past him, "now, go get some rest. You need it."
Darren knows he's full of bad ideas. He also knows that every time he stays with Chris, it's exactly that. A bad idea. He also knows that Chris can't sleep. Neither can he.
The only sound in the room is the humming of the air conditioner and the two boys breathing.
Darren wraps his arms around Chris and pulls him closer.
Chris doesn't protest in the slightest.
"Are you still awake?" Darren whispers, though he already knows the answer is yes.
"Yeah," Chris confirms, leaning more against Darren's side, "it's cold in here, huh?"
"The AC is on, Chris."
"Mhmm, I'm glad, though. You're warm."
"I'm glad I can keep you warm," a grin spreads across Darren's face, and Chris makes a small noise in agreement.
"Yeah," Chris nods faintly, "Darren?"
"Hm?" Darren's response is only half-committal, he's growing more and more tired with Chris pressed against him, breathing slowly.
"How did you figure out that you're gay?"
Darren's breathing hitches, and he chews on his lip, "why? Are you having a crisis?"
"Shut up," Chris grumbles out, "I'm just curious."
"Alright, alright," Darren laughs softly, "but honestly, I don't know. It wasn't all at once. I just slowly realised that I liked boys. I wanted to kiss boys, hold their hands, and date them. Y'know? There're so many pretty things in the world, and boys are one of them."
"But," Chris is thinking, and it's obvious, "boys aren't supposed to be pretty."
"Anyone can be pretty," Darren sighs out, "it's a social construct, I guess. But boys are pretty. Girls are pretty, but I don't see the appeal."
"I do," Chris supplies, to protect his heterosexuality, and Darren laughs and nods.
"Mhmm, that's me. Straight boy," Chris shifts and rolls over, burying his face in Darren's neck.
"Yeah, yeah," Darren wraps his arms around Chris' back, nestling his face in Chris' hair, "I know."
When Chris' alarm goes off in the morning, he's still curled up against Darren's chest. In his half-asleep daze, he glances up, yawns into his fist, and presses a kiss to the underside of Darren's jaw.
Darren isn't as phased as he should be, but maybe that has to do with the fact that he's half asleep as well.
"Morning, pretty boy," Chris mumbles, "sleep well?"
Darren nods and yawns, wrapping his arms a little tighter around Chris. "Yeah, because you were here. Pretty boy?"
"Yeah," Chris nods, "you're pretty."
"Gay," Darren laughs because he figures it's appropriate. Chris shakes his head.
"I'm not gay," he nestles more against Darren, "but I can appreciate beauty."
"Okay, sure," Darren presses a hesitant kiss to the top of Chris' head, and Chris smiles tiredly.
There's peaceful silence, and then Chris sits up abruptly.
"Shit, right," Darren sits up after him, "can I borrow some of your clothes?"
"Sure thing. We're probably gonna be late, though," Chris tumbles off his bed and lets out an exaggerated yawn as he heads towards his closet.
"If you search too far back in there, you'll find me a year ago!" Darren calls after him, and Chris glances over his shoulder.
"You were never in the closet, quit lying," he laughs, "as soon as you figured out you were gay, so did everyone else. We might've known before you did."
"Before I did?" Darren lifts an eyebrow, and Chris goes back to rifling through his closet.
"Yeah. It was like, you're in the closet, and everyone's screaming at you, like, 'We see you! Come out!' Except you didn't know it then, because it was like months before you told me you were gay, and I know I was the first person you told, and you said --" Chris pauses to take a breath from his run on sentence, "you said that you had just figured it out the week before, when you told me."
"How come you remember this, but I don't?"
Chris turns and tosses some jeans and a hoodie at Darren, "I'm not sure. I just notice things like that. I didn't think, 'my best friend is gay,' I thought, 'my best friend decided I was the first person he'd tell when he found out he was gay.' More of a heartwarming thing than anything. It wasn't a surprise."
"So you were flattered I told you about my gay discovery," Darren concludes. Chris nods and stretches out.
"Do you mind if I change in the same room?"
Darren shakes his head, but he's gone red. "It doesn't really matter," he yawns and pulls Chris' hoodie over his shirt, deciding he can wear the shirt one more day. Chris nods and tugs his shirt off over his head.
Darren's vision is clouded by the maroon hoodie over his eyes, and when he can see again, Chris has his back turned and is rifling through his closet for a shirt, his previous one discarded on the ground. Darren's breath stops when Chris turns around.
He has faint tan lines on his shoulders and around his waist, and his skin is smooth. Darren can't make himself stop staring. If he thought he'd seen beauty before this, he was wrong.
The word escapes from Darren's lips in a gasp of sorts, and he finally forces himself to look Chris in the eyes, "has anyone ever told you that you're beautiful? Because you -- You, Chris Faller, are the fucking sun."
Chris is at a loss for words, and it's obvious. A navy blue shirt is clutched in one of his hands, but he's too distracted to put it on, and Darren has never been gladder.
"Can I --"
"If you --"
The words hang in midair, and suddenly, all too suddenly, Chris has his lips pressed against Darren's. A mess of skin, and clothes, and arms tangled together- Is that Chris' hand on his shoulder?
Darren stops breathing again when he registers that Chris' skin is against the palms of his hands, and Chris is pressed up against him. The other boy has to stand on his toes in order to reach Darren's lips, and his arms are limp over the taller boy's shoulders.
When Chris pulls back with a gasp, Darren nearly falls over with shock.
Neither knows what to say after that.
Chris doesn't look Darren in the eye. He pulls the navy shirt over his head without another word.
Darren knows enough to tell when Chris is scared. He's not scared of someone else, though. He's scared of himself. And it's Darren's fault, and he knows it.
"Dude, your lips are a little fuckin' swollen."
"Thanks," Chris rubs at his lips with one hand, the other holding the door to the band room open, "I actually need to talk to you about something important."
"Huh. Me? Are you sure you've got the right person?"
"Yeah, Brendon," Chris sighs out, taking a seat at the nearest chair by the piano. Brendon looks up at him, his head cocked to the side.
"Go ahead and talk to me, then."
"Well, uh," Chris bounces his leg, "is it gay to like boys?"
Brendon stares at him blankly for a little, and then he chokes on air.
"E -- Excuse me?" he splutters out, "is -- is it gay to like boys?"
Chris nods hesitantly, bright red, and then realises his mistake.
"I mean, is it -- Is it gay to kiss a boy? And like it, y'know. And... And maybe want to do it more." There's a dip in the conversation, and Chris takes the opportunity to add on a crucial, "hypothetically, of course."
"Right. Hypothetically," there's silence, and Chris is too scared to look Brendon in the eye.
"Completely hypothetical situation. I -- I'm asking for a friend."
"Right, okay, so your friend, he kissed a boy."
"Yeah, yeah. Hypothetically, your friend kissed a boy. And he liked it, and he wants to do it more."
"Yeah. Is that gay?"
There's another awkward silence, and then Brendon shakes his head.
"No, no. Not unless you're like, in love with the guy. And, y'know, you could always say no homo, or whatever."
"Right, no homo," Chris breathes out, running a hand through his hair, "thanks, dude."
Brendon offers a grin with a claim of "anytime, dude," and places his hands on the piano keys again.
Just when Chris gets to the door, it swings open, and someone's head bumps against his own.
"Shit -- Chris?"
"Ow, fuck, watch where you're going," Chris stumbles back, "Jesus Christ, Greta."
Greta tilts her head and rocks on her heels, watching Chris in silence for a moment before speaking up, "Darren was looking for you."
"Were you coming to find me for him? I don't know if I want to talk to him right now," Chris bites his lip, and Greta shakes her head.
"No," she laughs quietly, "I was coming to play the piano. Why are you in the band room? You've got math."
"I was skipping, to talk to Brendon," Chris shrugs, and Brendon looks up from the piano when he hears his name.
"Yeah, Chris has a hypothetical gay friend!" he supplies helpfully. Greta shakes her head.
"Do I want to know?"
"I don't think you do, honestly," Chris shakes his head, "is Darren in math?"
"I thought you didn't know if you wanted to talk to him?"
"I don't. Is he in math, though?"
"No," Greta caves in, "he skipped today. Something about the woods outside of school and you. I didn't really catch it, but he went in that direction. I thought you might have been there too. Apparently not."
"No, no. Uh, Greta?"
"Yeah?" Greta quirks an eyebrow up, and Chris bites at his lip.
"Should I go after him?"
Darren whips around, looking at all sides of him. When he doesn't see anyone, his first thought is 'Vampires.' Then, he realises it's midday and the sun is shining, and vampires aren't real.
Then, he realises he recognises the voice.
"I'm up here, dumbass," the voice shouts at him again, and when he looks above him, he sees Bob sitting in a fucking tree.
"Dude," Darren studies the tree to figure out how Bob got up there, and then he examines Bob's face to make sure he's okay, "why are you up there?"
Bob only shrugs, "got bored. Went on a walk. Climbed a tree. Why're you here?"
"I fucked up; someone else fucked up. Can't stop thinking about it. Rough morning. How did you get up there?"
Bob peers over at the ground for a moment and then shrugs again, "I have no idea."
"And how are you gonna get down?"
Darren nods and kicks a stick on the ground.
"How did you fuck up?" Bob swings his legs from the branch he's perched on, "if it's okay for me to ask, I mean."
"Shit, man," Darren sighs, "I kissed Chris."
"Well, I mean, he kissed me first. But I kissed back."
"It was a major fuck up, though, because he's straight. I'm pretty sure. He was asking some questions about it the night before, and I mean, he kissed me."
"But I mean, he probably only did it because he was tired, and -- And --"
"Darren! Fucking listen to me!" Bob shouts down at him, and Darren looks up to meet the other boy's eyes, "you're saying Chris Faller kissed you? Like, short Chris Faller that protects his heterosexuality with everything he has?"
"I -- Well, yeah. I guess so," Darren confirms, and Bob's jaw drops.
"You're screwed, man," he informs Darren, who nods.
"I know. I fucking know, Darren shrugs, "what time is it?"
Bob glances at his wrist, and then shows Darren: His wrist is empty.
"Do you know anything?"
"Chris doesn't know if he wants to talk to you," Greta stops Darren in the hallway.
"What the fuck?" Darren runs a hand through his hair, "it's like everyone's skipping today!"
"They are, dipshit. I talked to Chris earlier, he skipped to talk to Brendon. God knows why. And then he asked me if he should go after you. Obviously, he didn't," Greta shoves her hands in her pockets, "I take it you're gonna talk to him anyway?"
Darren goes silent for a minute, and then decides to splutter out, "Bob's stuck in a tree."
"Quit changing the subject," Greta rolls her eyes, and then she groans, "really? Again?" There's an awkward pause, and she waves a hand dismissively, "I'll get him out. Find Chris, I guess. Or don't. I don't even know what happened."
And then Greta is gone, and Darren doesn't know where to go next.
Chris was twelve when he met Darren.
They were paired together on a science lab and knew nothing about each other at the time. Darren cracked some dumb joke, and Chris laughed so hard that he tipped his lab chair over and spilt the solution across the table. They hit it off immediately and began spending every weekend at each other's houses, sitting together at lunch, and spending every minute they could with each other.
When they first went to high school, two more people joined their friend group; Greta and Bob. The four spent loads of time together, but still, Chris and Darren were inseparable.
Chris doesn't think he's ignoring Darren. Not directly, no. He also isn't making an effort to talk to him, but since when is that ignoring someone?
He hopes Darren isn't upset with him.
He still doesn't know what made him kiss Darren. It was a heat of the moment type of thing, Darren was staring at him. Darren complemented him. Darren, Darren, Darren. It's all Chris can think about anymore.
The exchange is sharp and awkward, and Chris almost winces at the way he snaps. Darren, on the other hand, actually winces.
"Sorry," Darren mutters, wringing his hands, "I mean, for this morning."
"It wasn't your fault," Chris is tense, his words are sharp because he knows he isn't lying when he says it's not Darren's fault. He can only put the blame on himself.
"Yeah, okay," Darren sighs, "but it was a little bit."
"I was the one who kissed you. It's my fucking fault," Chris snaps again. Darren takes a step back.
"Alright, alright, sorry," he chews roughly at his bottom lip, "but, in all fairness, I did compare you to the fucking sun. You're beautiful, Chris. Really."
"Shut up, Darren," Chris runs a hand through his hair, "or I'll end up kissing you again."
Darren has to force himself not to respond.
His mind is a whirlwind of bad ideas and Chris, Chris, Chris.
"I think I'd like that, though," Darren finally supplies, and Chris goes a deep shade of red.
"You'd like it, would you? Kissing a straight boy?"
Darren takes a step closer and tilts his head, "I wouldn't say you're so straight, not if you were into it."
And then the moment is gone. The blush fades from Chris' face, he tenses up and turns his back with a quiet claim of, "I'm straight."
His voice is weak, and he doesn't meet Darren's eyes. Darren swallows the sudden lump in his throat.
"Sorry, I'm sorry," he kicks at the ground, "I should go."
Chris doesn't protest as Darren turns around and leaves.
He only looks around again when he hears a soft voice above him.
He chews on his lower lip and glances over his shoulder, meeting Greta's worried eyes, "what?"
"Did Darren go after you?" she cocks her head to the side, and Chris nods faintly.
"I keep fucking everything up," his voice is thick with the threat of tears.
"No, no, you don't," Greta slides down so she's sitting next to him, "what happened?"
Chris only shrugs, then he whispers, "how did you know I was here? I didn't tell you," he licks his lips. Greta rolls her eyes.
"This is the playground you and Darren hung out at, like, every day of freshman year, Chris," she laughs shortly, "I'm not an idiot. Here, I'll leave you alone for now. Bob wants to talk to you, though."
Chris sniffles and his eyebrows furrow together, "wasn't he stuck in a tree?"
"I helped him down," Greta offers a smile and then shrugs, "I'll catch you later, Chris."
Chris only nods in response, staring at the ground until the space next to him is filled again. Unlike Greta, Bob gets straight to the point.
"So, fucker, you kissed Darren."
Chris, unable to form a coherent reply, promptly bursts into tears.
"Shit, shit," Bob's eyes go wide, "shit, Chris, don't cry. Fuck, I'm not good with kids."
"I-- I'm not gay," Chris bubbles out, "I just, m-- maybe kissed Darren. I-it was once. I'm n-not gay --"
"Okay, okay, you kissed Darren, but you're not gay," Bob speaks slowly, as if he's talking to a child, and Chris nods frantically.
"Y-Yeah," he sniffles, "a-and, I almost kissed him a-a-- again, but--"
"But, you're not gay. I get it, but are you, like, bisexual? Or something?" Bob tilts his head, and Chris just cries harder.
"Aauugh, uh, Greta? Come help? Please? I'm not good with kids."
And then Bob is gone, Greta has taken his place, and Chris is still sobbing into his knees.
"Chris, buddy, calm down," Greta places her hand lightly on his back, "why are you crying? Yeah, Bob's an asshole sometimes, but it shouldn't be this bad."
Chris sniffles and wipes his nose on his sleeve, mumbling quietly, "Darren called me gay."
Greta's face warps into confusion, and she bites her lip with a soft, questioning, "are you... Are you not?"
"No," Chris whispers, his voice weaker than Greta's ever heard it before, "I'm straight."
"I-- But--" Greta looks genuinely confused. "Aren't you and Darren dating?"
"No!" Chris squawks, crying even harder, "w-we're not! I'm s-straight! Greta! I'm not gay!"
"Oh!" Greta's eyebrows knit together, "I thought you guys have been dating since, like, freshman year!"
"No! No, no, n-no!" Chris shakes his head frantically, "I'm not gay, I'm not, no. No. Just b-because I kissed Darren, doesn't m-make me gay."
Greta sighs quietly, "should I leave you alone?"
There's a dip in the conversation, and Chris nods, "I need'a smoke, or something."
"...Okay" Greta supplies, "take care, Chris. I hope you sort everything out."
And then Greta is gone, and Chris is mad at himself because she's too good of a person to be friends with a fuckup like him.
He digs into his pocket and fumbles to light a cigarette, a bad habit he has when he's stressed. It's a casual thing, only Greta knows out of his whopping three friends, but he doesn't take much of an effort to hide the fact that he's a smoker.
He runs a hand through his hair with his free hand and takes a drag of the cigarette, but fucking chokes on the smoke when he hears his name.
"Chris. Put that cigarette down, right the fuck now."
"Shut up, Darren," Chris doesn't bother looking back at Darren, "I don't care."
"It's my fault you're upset, Bob came and got me, put the damn cigarette down."
"Don't tell me what to do. I don't give a shit."
And then Darren is rounding Chris' side, and he leans over to pluck the cigarette from the other boy's hand, "I said, put it down," he stubs it out on his pant leg, "don't smoke to get away from your problems. Talk to me."
"Why should I? Because I'll just fuck it up more, because I want to kiss you, but I'm straight, okay? I am. And Brendon says it isn't gay, to want to kiss a boy. He says-- " Chris shakes his head, "it's whatever, okay? I'm straight, and I want to kiss you, and that's it."
Chris blinks slowly, "okay?"
"Yeah. Okay. If that's what it takes to kiss you. We've been over this, I think you're beautiful, and I want to kiss you. If that's all it takes, then yeah. Okay."
"So you... You don't think I'm gay?"
Darren bites down on his lip.
"Not unless you say you are."
"And I'm not."
"Why don't you get off the jungle gym? You look like an edgy twelve year old."
"I am an edgy twelve year old," Chris laughs out, "God, Darren, you don't understand me."
"You're right, I don't." Darren laughs and grabs Chris' hand, "I question you, constantly."
Chris rolls his eyes as he follows Darren off the set in the middle of the playground, his hand gripping tightly on the other boy's.
"Why do you think I'm beautiful?" He asks softly, and Darren glances back at him with a smile once they've reached the sidewalk.
"There's a lot of things about you that are beautiful, Chris. It doesn't take much to appreciate that. It's like, everyone's pretty, yeah? And then you see one person, and they stand out in front of everyone without even knowing it. And you're my person."
And then Chris' lips are on Darren's once again. His lips taste faintly ashy, but Darren doesn't mind, because it's Chris, he's kissing Chris. The lingering taste of smoke doesn't matter much right now.
After minutes of kissing, and hands moving through hair, up sides, Darren pulls away and rests his forehead against Chris'.
"You guys are a cute couple," Chris turns to see a small boy with a mop of curly brown hair falling around his face. He glances at the boy and then points a finger, starting to speak.
"Listen," and then he promptly bursts into tears.
"Chris, Chris, stop crying-- Fuck. Not again."
The young boy tilts his head and walks away with a shrug. Darren sighs and pulls Chris against his chest, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. Chris trembles against Darren, his frame shaking with tears, and Darren bites hard on his lip as he rubs Chris' back.
"Chris, it's just an assumption. Don't cry, please stop crying-- I don't know how to deal with you crying, it makes me wanna cry."
"D-don't cry," Chris stutters out as he tugs away from Darren, rubbing his nose roughly.
"Then you'd better not."
Chris nods quickly, sniffling quietly and eventually calming down. There's an awkward silence, and then he reaches for Darren's hand, squeezing it lightly, "I love you, Darren. Uh, n-no homo, though."
"No homo?" Darren stifles a laugh. "None at all? I'm disappointed. But, okay. No homo."
"Y-yeah..." Chris lets out a breath and squeezes Darren's hand again.
"Is there a point to going back to school?"
"Other than telling Greta I'm okay? Not really, no."
"Back to my place? My mom isn't home," Darren winks at Chris, who blushes a dark shade that doesn't fit his face and nods faintly.
"Y-yeah, uh, your house. No parents. Good- Good idea."
Chris pushes himself into a sitting position and glances at Darren, sighing softly. He rubs his eyes and makes a note to take a shower as soon as he gets home. Darren is sprawled out across the bed, a spot just big enough for Chris to fit in between his arm and his torso.
Chris doesn't lay back down.
A sick feeling settles in his stomach as he contemplates it, and then he stands up, tearing his eyes away from Darren.
Something isn't right about this, he's...
He's ashamed, that's what it is.
He swallows the lump in his throat and gives Darren a final glance before pulling on his hoodie and a pair of Darren's sweatpants, quickly heading out the door before he can change his mind.
He swipes a hand through his hair and then stuffs his hands in his jacket pocket. His hands curl around a pen that was most likely left there from school, by means of gripping something, like it might help him hold on to what sanity he has left.
He wishes that he didn't imagine he was holding Darren's hand.
The first thing Chris hears when he gets home is slightly off guitar strumming and the crunching of potato chips. He rounds the corner after shutting the door, only to find Bob perched on his counter with a guitar in his lap and a bag of Lays next to him. The symphony of guitar strumming stops only when Bob reaches for another chip.
Halfway through getting the chip into his mouth, he makes eye contact with Chris and bites down.
"Bob, what the fuck?"
"Oh, hey, Chris," Bob swallows the chips in his mouth and feigns surprise, "I didn't expect to see you here."
"I-- I live here."
"Oh. Right. I forgot about that. Sorry. Thanks for the chips, man. You've got some quality chips. Why are you back so early? Did you and Darren, y'know, whoo!" Bob makes vague hand gestures as he speaks, "I mean, like, did you fuck his ass. Did he fuck your ass? Whoo!"
"Uhm..." Chris trails off, wringing his hands in his jacket pocket, "I gotta go take a shower, Bob. Go back to, uhm, whatever you were doing."
Chris turns his back, and Bob lets out a triumphant laugh.
"You guys did it! You guys-- Whoo!"
"Shut up, Bob," Chris mutters as he trudges out of the room, leaving Bob to go back to his offbeat guitar strumming.
When Chris takes off his shirt, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and tears up. His typically pale skin is littered with dark marks, and there's one up the side of his neck. He bites back his tears and pulls his eyes away from the mirror.
The worst part is, he doesn't feel as disgusting as he should. Because he's not gay, he's not. He rubs his eyes and sniffs quietly, swallowing the lump in his throat and moving to quickly take a shower.
Darren, Darren, Darren.
He's taking over Chris' life.
<1 new message; darren : where did you go????
Chris sighs and pockets his phone, swinging his legs back and forth from where he's sat. Bob raises an eyebrow.
"Are you hiding?"
"What? No. Of course not."
"You're not hiding from Darren?"
There's a pause, and Chris speaks up quietly, "...No."
"Right," Bob nods, rolling his eyes, "of course not."
"Hey! That's offensive."
"What? Am I wrong?"
"Okay, then. Should I go? Are you gonna have Darren over and have makeup sex?"
"No, Bob. Y'know what? Yeah, get out of my house. You just sit here, and eat my chips, and insult me. That's not fair."
"Alright, alright," Bob holds up his hands in a surrender, hopping off the counter and grabbing his guitar, "thanks for the chips."
"You're welcome, Bob," Chris sighs, pulling his phone out of his pocket, "now go."
Bob gives him a salute and heads out the door.
Chris glances down at his phone.
<1 new message; darren: don't leave me on read. im sorry i fucked up our friendship.
to darren: i was scared i'm sorry it isn't your fault
to darren: come over
"I-- I couldn't be bothered to take a shower," Darren mumbles, "my mom was home so I had to get outta the house. Can I take a shower here?"
"If you want," Chris mutters, and Darren nods.
"Right, yeah, thanks," Darren sighs, "and I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, I-- " Chris cuts himself off, "we'll talk about it later. Go shower, you smell terrible," he jokes weakly, and Darren laughs and then mutters.
"I smell like you, but that's not hygienic, and therefore I have to shower," Darren presses a kiss to Chris' cheek and goes to shower.
That's enough to shut Chris up.
He sits on the counter, legs swinging, as he waits for Darren to finish showering.
"Hey, uh, Chris? Can I borrow some more clothes?"
"Uh," Chris hops of the counter, "sure thing, yeah."
He sighs and heads to his room, gathering an armful of clothes and then knocking on the bathroom door.
"You can come in, Chris. It's not like you haven't already seen my dick or anything," Darren calls out at him, his tone slightly bitter. Chris feels his face going red as he opens the door.
"H-here..." He stutters out, handing Darren the armful of clothes. Darren glances at him and offers a faint smile.
"Thanks. Uh, we kind of have to address things, y'know?"
"Yeah, yeah, uhm. Why don't you, like, get dressed first. I don't want my mom to come home and your dick is just, like, out there. I mean, I'd also rather my mom didn't come home while I'm talking about, y'know, as Bob put it- Whoo!"
"Bob was here?" Darren pulls his shirt on.
"Yeah, yeah. Snuck in and stole my fucking chips."
"He scared me earlier, when he got stuck in a tree. Is he okay?"
"I-- I genuinely don't know."
"Right, yeah," Darren nods, and then there's another awkward silence. There seems to be a lot of those.
"We can't avoid talking about it forever, Darren."
"As far as I know, I'm not the one doing the avoiding."
And they're back to speaking with sharp tones, and Chris is the one who winces this time.
"I'm sorry, okay?"
"You don't have to be! I just wish you wouldn't beat around the bush with things like this."
"Yeah, okay. We fucked. There's nothing I can do about it, and it happened."
Darren falls silent and stares at the ground.
"Darren?" Chris bites at his lip, "I'm sorry."
"You've got no reason to be. Should I leave?" Darren's voice is quiet, and Chris shakes his head quickly.
"No, no, no. We have to talk about this-"
"There's nothing else to talk about, Chris."
"How isn't there?"
"We fucked, you regret it, everything is weird between us now, and it's my fault."
"I-- I never said I regret anything-"
"But you do, don't you?"
"I-..." Chris trails off, and Darren nods.
"I know. I know you do, and I'm sorry. I- I should really go."
"No! No, Darren, please don't- I- I don't regret it, I'm just scared, I'm so scared."
"Are you scared of me?"
Chris swallows thickly, "I'm scared of myself."
"You've got no reason to be," Darren promises him quietly, "do you?"
Chris shakes his head, "I know I'm not supposed to be scared, but I am, I'm so terrified, because I- I'm straight, Darren. I am."
Darren nods, his eyes trained on the ground.
"Hey, Chris!" Greta pants as she runs up to Chris on Monday at school, "Chris!"
"Huh?" Chris glances back at Greta, halting in his tracks.
"Uh, I'm going to see a movie with a few friends, uh, Brendon, his boyfriend, my girlfriend..." Greta trails off and Chris' jaw drops.
"You have a girlfriend?"
'Well, er, yeah. Unimportant. Do you and Darren wanna come?"
"Oh, uh," Chris bites at his lip, "Darren and I are going on a date tonight."
"I thought you weren't dating?" Greta cocks her head to the side, and Chris stiffens up a little.
"Oh. I just assumed--"
"Don't assume, Greta. It makes an ass out of you."
Greta pulls a face, "that's something my mom says. Are you my mom?"
"I-- I can't be your mom. I'm a guy."
"Mm'kay, well, anyways. The movie's on Friday, not tonight. Have fun with Darren, though," Greta flashes a grin, wiggles her eyebrows, and leaves Chris in the middle of the hallway.
Chris' jaw drops as soon as she leaves. Then, he calls her back.
"Greta- Get back over here!"
Greta halts, and turns back to where Chris is, "I'm gonna be late, Christopher."
"Yeah, yeah," Chris rolls his eyes, "whatever. Who's your girlfriend?"
"Oh," Greta blushes darkly, "I-- Th-that's not important. I just- Chris, I gotta go."
"Tell me, fucker," Chris nudges her, "who is she?"
"Her-- Her name is Z, uh, I've been, like, highkey crushing on her for a while, but-- But she was like, uh, she wanted me to help her out in the art room, and then she kissed me-- It was, like, last week," Greta trails off, her face a nearly comical bright red, "I-- Uh, yeah. So, yeah. I'm dating Z, I guess."
Chris nods faintly, a sideways smile forming on his lips, "good for you, man. You like her, yeah?"
"Uh-- Yeah, yeah. I just-- Yeah. She's pretty great. I'm happy. And you and Darren, whatever thing you've got going there, not dating or whatever. It's whatever, yeah?"
Chris swallows thickly.
"Yeah, we're not dating. I'm straight. We just, kinda, do things sometimes, I guess. But we're just friends."
"But he makes you happy?" Greta tilts her head, "because that's all that matters."
"Yeah," Chris sighs out, "he really does."
"I'll see you at seven, yeah?" Darren moves to press a kiss to Chris' cheek, and Chris nods, his face bright red.
"Yeah. I-- I'll see you then," he stumbles over his words a bit, and Darren offers a smile, only finding the stuttering a bit endearing.
"Yeah. Later, babe," the word slips off Darren's tongue too easily, but he's left before he can see how Chris reacts. The thing about it is, it doesn't feel unnatural.
Darren decides not to linger on the thought.
When he gets home, he gets ready as fast as possible, without being lazy, because he wants everything to be perfect.
"Darren?" Darren glances up at the rapping on his doorframe.
"Yeah? What's it?" He fiddles with his tie, coughing quietly and avoiding his mom's eyes.
"Do you have a date, or something?"
"Uh-- Yeah," Darren glances at the ground, his cheeks tinting red, "why does it matter?"
"Just wondering," Darren's mom smiles faintly, "she your girlfriend?"
Darren stares at his feet, "not yet. And-- And he's gonna be my boyfriend, one day. I hope."
"Oh," Darren swallows the lump in his throat and meets his mother's eyes finally, and she just smiles a little wider, "good on you, Darren. I hope he makes you happy. Where are you guys going? Do you need money?"
Darren smiles finally and shakes his head, looking back in the mirror and messing with his hair, "we're going to that nice restaurant, you know, the one by Chris' house? I've got the money."
"Here," his mom digs through her pocket and passes a fifty to Darren, "just in case."
Darren takes the money and pockets it, his face bright red.
"Thanks, mom. I'd better go, so I'm not late. I wanna get flowers, or something."
"Okay, honey," Darren's mom presses a kiss to the top of his head, and he brushes her away bashfully, "you'd better bring home this almost-boyfriend of yours sometime. I'd like to meet him."
Chris sits on the bench outside the restaurant, walking distance from his house. He tugs at the tie that seems like it's suffocating him, and his palms are sweaty.
He's not gay.
"Chris?" Chris glances up from his, apparently quite entertaining, pair of shoes to meet the eyes of Darren, who has his hands behind his back and is rocking on his heels.
"Darren," Chris stands up, trying to hide the fact that how nervous he was had him panting.
Darren moves one hand to scratch at his head a little and then steps forwards, placing something on Chris' head, a wire crown covered in pale pink flowers. He coughs and mumbles, "I got this for you."
"Th-thanks," Chris stutters, blushing darkly. Darren offers a smile and shoves his hands in his pockets.
"Let's get a table, yeah?"
"Yeah," Chris walks after Darren, who talks to a hostess and finds a seat. The girl is biting on her lip, a glint in her eyes that Chris can't quite place, as she shows Darren where to sit, even pulling out a chair for him and completely ignoring Chris. Darren sits down awkwardly, gesturing for Chris to sit in the chair across from him, and Chris tries his best to ignore the jealous twang in his gut.
His Darren. Not anyone else's.
Chris can't help but cringe at himself for thinking that.
The girl cocks her hip to the side with a smirk and a perfectly innocent, "I'm Victoria, I'll be your waitress. What can I get you guys to drink?"
"Uh, just water for me, I guess. Chris?" Darren shifts in his seat, and Chris nods.
"Same for me, thanks," he mumbles. Victoria nods and turns on her heel, and Darren swallows thickly, shifting again in obvious discomfort.
"Do you think she's into me?"
Chris raises an eyebrow when Darren asks, and then he shrugs faintly.
"I wouldn't say so," he tries to keep the venom out of his tone, because there's no way he's jealous, not at all.
"Oh, okay," Darren coughs, and Victoria returns with two glasses of water, a post-it note stuck to one of the glasses, written on with what looked like the glittery purple gel pen of a middle school girl. Chris bites hard on his lip as Darren takes the note from his glass and reads it, his face going redder and redder as he gets further on. Victoria winks at him as she walks away. Chris almost throws up right there.
She can't have Darren.
Chris' head is pounding, and Darren looks uncomfortable, so he reaches under the table and laces their fingers together. "You alright?" Chris sighs and runs his thumb over the back of Darren's hand. Darren shrugs a little and glances in the direction Victoria went.
"How do I tell her I'm not interested? This note is very, uhh," Darren cuts himself with a cough, and it's obvious he doesn't want to talk about it.
"Just-- Just be like, lady, it's flattering, but I'm gay. Or something," Chris sighs and knocks his knee against Darren's. He tugs his hand away and reconnects them over the table, which goes against his character, he knows people will assume things, but Darren is upset, so that doesn't matter.
Darren visibly calms down when Chris squeezes his hand.
Chris pretends he doesn't notice, but he wants to have that effect on Darren always. Maybe he already does.
"Do you two boys know- Oh," Victoria glances at their hands laced together on the table distastefully, and Darren glances at her, his head cocked to the side in faux innocence.
"Do we know what?" Darren glances at Chris, then at Victoria. Chris smiles hesitantly and looks at her as well.
"You've gotta finish your question, honey," he supplies, and Darren squeezes his hand.
"Right, no," Victoria scoffs, "you two are gay?"
Chris opens his mouth to speak, to object, but then closes it quickly. For Darren's sake.
"Yep. Congrats, you figured it out. Are you gonna serve us, or what?"
"As if," Victoria scoffs, "no way I'm serving a couple of queers. Get out, now," she points a finger at the door, her hip cocked to the side, and she's obviously feigning her confidence. Chris feels his bottom lip start to quiver. He stands up quickly, letting go of his grip on Darren's hand and practically running out the door of the restaurant before anyone sees him cry.
He can feel Darren following close behind him. He'd hate to see Darren's face right now.
When they get outside the restaurant, there's already a steady flow of tears from Chris' eyes. He halts on the curb and covers his face with his hands, shoulders trembling. He can feel Darren wrapping his arms around him from behind.
It takes Chris a moment to register what happened, but when he does, he's tearing away from Darren before the other boy knows what's happening.
"I can't-- I can't believe you! You knew that was gonna happen!"
"Chris--" Darren takes a step back, confusion etched in the lines of his face.
"No. Fucking no. You knew-- This is your fault!" Chris rips the wire crown out of his hair by one of the pale pink petals. Darren watches him throw it to the ground with wide eyes, Chris' eyebrows are furrowed and tears are streaming from his eyes, but he doesn't seem to care.
Darren is too hurt to cry.
"Stupid. Fucking. Crown. Stupid fucking date- Stupid-- I'm not gay, Darren! I'm not, okay? A-and it's your fault this is happening to me! It's your fault all of this is happening to me! It's not fair! You can't just do this, okay? You just can't!"
"I didn't do anything," Darren's protest is weak, because Chris is upset, but he doesn't know what he did wrong.
"Sure, sure you fucking didn't," Chris laughs bitterly, "you're fucking with my head, Darren. Whatever. I've gotta go."
Darren doesn't stop him.
"How did your- Darren?"
Darren can't help but slam the door once he gets inside. He turns on his heel to face his mother, who has her head cocked to one side.
"It went fine, mom," Darren forces a faux smile, "absolutely fucking fine."
And then he's gone, storming up the stairs. His mom doesn't get in another word, and the door is locked.
to: chris <3: i'm sorry
<1 new message; chris <3: good. you'd better fucking be
to: chris <3: i'm sorry that i'm in love with you, chris faller. i'm sorry for ruining your life, if that's what i did
<1 new message; chris <3 : i'm not gay.
Darren throws his phone onto his bed. He can never look at the sun the same way again.
Everything reminds him of Chris Faller.
Chris Faller is all the best things in the world.
The moon, the sun, the stars in the sky. Soft fabric and shirts that ride up against your waist. Every flower imaginable, running water. The feeling you get when you scrape your knees on the pavement and it stings, but you just get up and keep running. When the weather clears up after a few days of cold and rain, and suddenly everything feels new again. Taking a hot shower after a long day, like starting fresh all over again, even though you've still got the memories. Like curling up by a fire, or wearing a big jacket. Waiting for tea to boil and listening to it slowly get hotter until it makes that whistling sound. Screaming when you're upset, because it hurts, and the words burn your throat, but it's a good kind of hurt. Brushing your hands over a smooth surface, or running your thumb over the hand of someone you love.
Darren wants Chris to come back, he wants to hold him in his arms, and share the innocent moments. Holding hands until your palms get sweaty, but neither of you care. Kisses on the cheek, on the forehead, on the top of your head and the tip of your nose. Clumsily dancing together to some shitty pop song neither of you like. Falling asleep against each other, legs tangled together. Waking up in the morning still curled up, and there's nothing bad in the world, not at that moment.
Every kiss with Chris feels like a first kiss. He wants to savor the taste forever.
Of course, he had to go and fuck it all up.
He still doesn't know what he did, but he knows he can't face Chris the next day.
So he resolves to simply not do it.
"What did you do to Darren?" Brendon slides into the seat next to Chris at lunch, "Don't say nothing. I know you did something."
"I'm not the one that fucked up," Chris mumbles, and Brendon's face drops.
"What h-- I was kinda, like, half joking. Darren isn't here today."
"I know. He doesn't want to talk to me. I yelled at him. It's his fault, not mine," Chris wrings his hands in front of him, and mumbles under his breath, "I'm not gay."
"Yeah, alright," Brendon shakes his head, "I guess, but that doesn't answer my question."
"We-- We went on a date, yeah? And he got us kicked out. Because the lady thought I was gay. Because he's gay. I'm not gay."
"Alright, I mean-- If the restaurant is homophobic, which, y'know, is a safe bet. And you're on a date with a boy. That's kinda... How it's gonna happen. It's not Darren's fault, if that's what you're saying. Unless he, like, stood on a table and yelled 'I'm gay,' or some shit."
"He might as well have," Chris grumbles, and Brendon laughs shortly.
"I'm sure that's not the case. Did he apologize?"
"Did he know what he did wrong?"
"I... I guess not, no."
"Then," Brendon nudges Chris, "I guess he really likes you. Don't let him go over something stupid like this."
"I'll try. Brendon?"
"I didn't think you were good for real advice, y'know. I might have to rethink that sometime."
Brendon flashes a smile, "it'll be our little secret. I'm supposed to be the immature asshole. Hey, can I ask you some advice, in return or something?"
"Go ahead, shoot," Chris ducks his head, and Brendon stares at his lap, wringing his hands.
"Uh, my boyfriend and I-- Our two year anniversary is Friday, and y'know, he's... I don't know. I want to get him something, but I-- I don't know what. Because he's like, the whole sky to me, and the best things, and I'm kind of a shitty boyfriend. I dunno. I wanna do something great for him."
Chris nods, and watches Brendon, awestruck by his sudden change. Brendon and Chris have never been super close, they hang out every once in awhile, and seeing Brendon vulnerable like this is something Chris has never seen before.
"What kinds of things does he like? And-- Can you, uh, tell me about him? What does he look like, and stuff?"
"He's-- He's super hipstery, y'know, vinyls and stuff. He's got longish hair, because his dad won't let him get it cut short, but it looks nice on him. He's really nice. He's super gentle, and quiet, but he's really smart. Everything he says is kind of poetic. Everyone thinks he's rude, but he just doesn't like talking. He doesn't like his voice, and usually when he says things, his dad tells him to shut up. I want to protect him, and I mean, we've been together since we were fourteen, or I was, he was fifteen. I don't ever want to lose him, Chris. Never," Brendon takes a breath, and his face is red, from blushing and forgetting to breathe, "I'm gonna get him-- I got it."
"Yeah? Guess you didn't need my help, huh?" Chris jokes, and Brendon laughs softly.
"A little bit. Talking to you about him made me remember some things I guess it's good I've forgotten. Thanks, Chris. Go sort out your shit with Darren."
"Thanks, Brendon. I'm sure your boyfriend will love anything you get him."
"I sure hope I make him happy. I've gotta skip, to order what I need in time," Brendon slides out of his seat, "I'll catch you later."
to: darren: do you want to go to a movie with a few couples on friday? i'm gonna be heavy 5th wheeling if u dont
<1 new message; darren : don't you hate me or something
to: darren: i'm sorry i overreacted
to: darren: brendon brought me to my senses
to: darren: he's actually a really cool guy
to: darren: he says if you apologized even though you didn't know what for but you still felt bad you must really like me
to: darren: is that true
<1 new message; darren : do you even know who you're talking to?
<1 new message; darren : i wanted you to know i was being kinda jokey and i'm not upset so i almost put an xD at the end but then i remembered i don't hate myself
to: darren: holy shit dar don't use xD i'll punch you in the face
<1 new message; darren : punch me daddy
<1 new message; darren : i'd like to formally apologize for that i tried to delete it and i accidentally hit send
to: darren: HOLY FUCK
<1 new message; darren : I'M SO SORRY
to: darren: blocked and reported
<1 new message; darren : block me daddy
to: darren: you've been formally uninvited to the movies
<1 new message; darren : i didn't want to go anyways!!!11!!1!!11!1!!
<1 new message; darren : i actually really wanted to go i'm sorry
to: darren: okay cool thank god i won't be a 5th wheel it's worse than 3rd wheeling
"Hey, Chris!" Greta runs up to Chris after school on Friday, "I'm driving, tell Darren I'm driving."
"Why can't you tell him?" Chris nudges her, and she shrugs.
"He's more likely to answer your texts. We've only got one stop to make, 'coz Ryan didn't have school today, his school was out, and Z bunked off today because she stayed the night with him," Greta seems out of breath, "I missed her."
"Awe, that's cute. Ryan's dad lets him have girls spend the night?"
"Well, yeah, I mean--" Greta cuts herself off, and nods simply, "yeah."
Chris decides not to question it, just quickly texting Darren 'we're meeting by greta's car' and pocketing his phone.
When they get there, Brendon is leaning on the side, mindlessly talking with Darren.
"What took you guys so long?" Brendon quirks an eyebrow, and Chris shrugs, quickly making his way to Darren's side.
"Dunno," he reaches for Darren's hand absentmindedly, and Brendon nods, shoving his hands in his pockets.
"Ryan's present came in. We're going on a date after the movies, and I'm gonna give it to him then."
"Oh," Greta pushes Brendon into the passenger seat, opening the back for Chris and Darren, "don't think you're sitting up there the whole time, just 'til we pick up Z. You and Ryan are going in the back with those two," she rounds the car and climbs into the front seat, shutting the door and starting the car up, "I-- Did you get him--" Greta gestures vaguely, something Chris doesn't understand, and by the looks of it, neither does Darren. Brendon only nods as Greta pulls out of the school.
A little later, she pulls up to the driveway of a well kept house, and Chris squints as two girls come tumbling out of the front door, one with short, blonde hair and the other with shoulder length brown hair.
Brendon opens Greta's car door quickly, running to hug the brown haired girl, and the blonde takes his seat. Greta leans over the seat and glances at Chris, who raises an eyebrow.
"Is that Z?"
The blonde nods, "I'm Z, yeah, and you are...?"
"Chris. This is Darren," Chris disconnects their hands to point a thumb at Darren, and Z nods again.
"You guys make a cute couple," she comments innocently, and Chris feels his bottom lip start to quiver again.
"Hey, babe," Darren whispers, "please don't cry."
Chris just grabs Darren's hand again, for comfort.
And maybe, just maybe, he's rethinking.
"George Ryan Ross the Third!" Z shouts out her window, and the brunette tugs away from Z, and that's when Chris realizes, oh, that's Brendon's boyfriend, and he's trans, and--
And Chris recognizes him.
"G-- Ry-Ryan? Ross?" Ryan goes pale, and Chris bites hard on his lip.
"Uh, yeah, that's me-- I-- It's been awhile," Ryan reaches for Brendon's hand, and Chris sighs, "I'm sorry, dude. Congrats on your two year with Brendon, and all. Missed you."
Ryan just nods, and Brendon furrows his eyebrows, tugging Ryann after him into the car. Darren nudges Chris, and Chris sighs.
"Ex boyfriend, I guess. Not when we were a thing, though."
"The world just wants you to be gay, huh?"
"It's not even funny, babe."
Somehow, Chris doesn't realize the word has slipped off his tongue. Darren doesn't comment on it.
Nothing of importance happens until a few weeks later. Chris drags Darren to the playground, and sits him down on the curb. He's playing with his hands in an anxious sort of manner, and Darren would be worried they're breaking up, but then he remembers they aren't dating.
"So, uh," Chris coughs, and Darren reaches for his hand. Chris is trembling, "we've been doing this-- This thing. For a while. And I realize, I've only ever really-- I don't know, okay? I don't know. All I know is, is that-- I like you. A lot. I love you. And I don't think that these feelings are gonna leave, no matter how much I insist I'm straight. You're taking over my thoughts, Darren. I don't want to lose you. So, uh. So, maybe, be my boyfriend, I guess?"
Darren sits, and stares, and takes in every line on Chris' face, and he doesn't know why he's asking himself if he should do this, because he already knows the answer is yes.
"Do you even have to ask?"
Chris wakes up with his head in the crook of Darren's arm. His eyes flutter open and he glances up at Darren.
"Wild night, huh?" he yawns out, and Darren lets out a quiet laugh as he nods.
"Greta wouldn't stop talking about that time when we were sixteen and you cried because I called you gay," he laughs a little louder, and Chris groans, burying his head in the crook of Darren's arm. "Look how far you've come! You married me last night, and didn't even say no homo!"
"Remind me why we're married?" Chris looks up at Darren from where his face is hidden. Darren laughs softly and presses a kiss to the top of Chris' head.
"No idea, babe. None at all."