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Right Through and Underneath

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Part One

Darren isn’t a secret boyfriend, despite whatever the press and fans might suspect. He's a boyfriend, but he's not a secret.

He’s just a guy who happens to be dating a guy who happens to be famous; if Chris and Darren prefer nights in than going out, if they prefer to get to know each other as a couple before the public gets to know them as one, that still doesn’t mean they’re a secret.

Chris’s family knows. His agents and publicists know. His bosses and co-workers and friends know.

Darren isn’t a secret, and he balks at the idea that he’s one.

“I should start wearing a fedora and trench coat everywhere,” he calls Chris to tell him.

“You’re on the internet again, aren’t you?” Chris asks.

“... you don’t know me.” Darren quickly minimizes the social networking he’d been scrolling through. “You don’t know my ways.”

“You are a dork, and I know all of your ways,” Chris counters. “All of them.”

“Not all of them,” Darren tries to argue.

“No,” Chris insists. “All of them.

*

Darren kind of wants to be in the spotlight, actually. He just wants it to be his spotlight.

Chris affectionately calls him an attention whore, and he’s not wrong. Darren wants to make music and anyone that wants to make music with any measure of confidence in what they do more than likely wants people to actually hear the music that they’re making.

He wants the spotlight, but doesn’t want to steal Chris’s. He wants his own and he wants to get it because he’s fucking earned it, not because of who he dates. Sometimes Chris says that Darren would make a better famous person than Chris does.

Darren thinks he'd at least probably enjoy it a little bit more. Chris likes a lot of what comes with his job, but Darren has a sneaking suspicion that that the actual being famous part is not at the top of that list.

It’s not really something Darren has a say in, though, just like he doesn't have a say in what kind of attention he'll get once everything is out in the open. He doesn’t have to be a celebrity to know how it works. Once people find out he’s dating Chris, there’s going to be some scrutiny.

It helps that he’s had his own tiny taste of having a fanbase, with the stuff he did in college. He hasn’t really worked with any of those guys in a couple of years - he just couldn’t afford the flights all around the country, but they’re still his best friends and they all keep talking about how one day they’re gonna do that third show.

(He even lives with one of his school friends, since Joey happened to show up right around the time his previous roommate had split and left him with a lease he couldn’t afford to break.)

So he says he doesn’t mind that things will get kind of crazy when they officially step out in public together. He says he wouldn’t mind talking to fans, even, on twitter or whatever. He says he wants the entire world to know what an amazing guy Chris is - and then Chris gives him this stupidly adorable smile and kisses him and that sort of derails the whole thing.

*

Alla finally asks how they met.

“Oh, he was a big fan of mine from way back,” Darren says, tugging Chris in closer on the couch. They’re in Alla’s office, waiting on her to finish up so she and Chris can go to an event.

Darren’s just there because he doesn’t have much else to do.

“Uh huh.” Alla shoots him a disbelieving look, but then Chris blushes. “What?”

“He did these Harry Potter shows online-” Chris starts.

Alla groans. “I should have known.”

“It’s okay,” Darren says, smirking. “There are more embarrassing things than being a fanboy.”

“Like being you.” Chris elbows him. “Darren hadn’t ever seen an episode of Glee when we met.”

“Well, that’s probably a good thing,” Alla points out kindly. “Oh, wait, I didn’t mean it like that-”

Darren laughs so hard he has tears in his eyes.

Chris scoots to the other end of the couch and pouts. “You’re all mean to me.”

“Awww, baby, we love you,” Darren says, flopping down onto his back with his head in Chris’s lap. He mouths I love you where Alla can’t hear.

Chris gets that totally caught off guard and overwhelmed look on his face. Darren still isn’t sure how a guy can be adored worldwide and have a fanbase of hundreds of thousands - fuck, millions, if twitter is telling the truth - and still not know he’s worth being loved.

But that’s okay. Darren doesn’t mind being the one that gets to make him believe it.

*

As horrendously cliche as it was, they met in a coffee shop.

Darren was playing his guitar on a little platformed area and Chris had just darted in to escape a crowd of teenage girls eyeing him suspiciously. He slipped into one of the tables right at the front, away from any of the windows, and hoped that no one had seen where he’d disappeared to.

After a few minutes, he’d realized that he was probably safe and could leave again, but by that point he didn’t want to. The man on stage wasn’t really his type in any previously defined way, but there was something about him...

So Chris had spent the next two hours watching Darren sing, growing steadily more and more fascinated by this scruffy-faced, lyric-fumbling, offensively-gorgeous man.

When Darren started to sing one of the songs from the Harry Potter musical, Chris’s jaw had dropped. Darren hadn’t missed the look and his face lit up, realizing Chris knew the show.

When Darren’s set ended, he’d slid easily into the seat across from Chris and said, “So you’re a fan, I take it?”

*

The first time they’re spotted together is an accident. Chris isn’t big on date nights in general but Darren had sworn he could come up with some place that no one would notice Chris at.

It’s possible he’s underestimated just now recognizable Chris is, though. Darren knows, in a general sense, that it’s a pretty popular show but he doesn’t watch Glee and most of his friends don’t either. He’s tried to watch for Chris, but there’s a definite disconnect in his mind between Kurt Hummel and... Chris.

Chris has a freakish sense for when he’s been spotted, though, and he grabs Darren’s arm before they’re barely even past the door. There’s a voice calling his name and a flash as they escape.

Chris is pissed, but he says not at Darren. He bitches for a while about invasive fans and checks the internet obsessively until Darren tugs the laptop out of his hand, takes his phone away from him, and then gives him a truly first class blowjob to help sooth the frazzled nerves.

Fate is kind to them, though; the fans got a picture but Darren’s face isn’t even visible. It’s just Chris’s hand on his arm and their backs. Even Darren’s hair is hidden by the beanie he had jammed over his curls.

“No one knows,” he says, reassuring Chris and trying not to be hurt by the relief on Chris’s face. He’d start to hum dirty little secret if he thought Chris were in the mood to appreciate the irony.

“It’s not you,” Chris says, leaning into him. Darren wraps himself around Chris in that way he likes to do, just because he can. Just because Chris lets him. “It’s just what they’ll do to you.”

“I can take it,” Darren says quietly. He kisses Chris on the temple. “But we’ll do it when you’re ready. No big deal.”

*

After a while, he realizes what the real problem is.

Actually, that it even takes him awhile to realize it is pretty stupid, since Chris as much as spelled it out. Yeah, Chris is a private guy, and yeah he doesn’t want the world knowing the details of his life that he doesn’t decide on his own to share.

But the reason Chris doesn’t want people to find out about Darren doesn’t really have to do with his own privacy. He’s afraid of what the fan reaction will do to Darren - he’s afraid it will drive him away.

Darren wonders how long he’ll have to stick around before Chris realizes that Darren is pretty persistent when he’s got his eye on something, and he’s definitely got an eye on Chris. An eye, a mouth, a hand, whatever Chris will let him.

The problem is that actually sticking around is really the only way to prove it and that's not really something he can offer up on the table right now. It will take time and faith.

Faith in others is something Chris has always had issues with, and Darren knows it. He gets it. He gets why, and if courting Chris means putting the fucking hours in, Darren will fucking do it.

And he’ll enjoy it, too.

*

There are certain perks to dating a celebrity.

The obvious is preferential treatment, but Darren doesn’t partake of that, really, seeing as they aren’t a publicly acknowledged couple. The silver lining Darren likes, however, is any time he misses Chris, whether during his twelve-hour filming work days or when he’s hopping a plane to some distant location for press purposes, Darren can happily waste hours on youtube and not only feel like Chris is right there with him but stockpile things to tease Chris about later.

“You’re insane,” Chris says when he catches Darren bobbing his head along to a Glee number one day.

“Nuh uh.” Darren sticks his tongue out. “Do the dance.”

Chris puts his hands on his hips but, disappointingly, follows it up with a stern glare and not the expected sassy choreography. “Never.”

“You suck!” Darren shouts after him.

Darren’s also a fan of the photo shoots. He unashamedly buys a copy of every single magazine Chris is in - sometimes a couple just so he can plaster his favorite photos all around his apartment and Chris’s house.

(Once he actually digs into the infamous Colfer Crafting Kit and ends up Mod Podge’ing a bunch of smaller photos of Chris’s face all around a cheap cat collar he buys. The joke might take an unhealthy amount of time to set up, but it is totally worth it.)

But in all seriousness, he fucking loves looking at Chris. He loves comparing the magic that photographers work with the reality that he knows to exist. Chris hates it when he does that, but he’s gotta know by now that Darren prefers an in the flesh boyfriend to a glossy photo, anyway.

*

People start picking up on little things.

Darren gets a little hickey-happy once or twice and cameras catch it. There’s a blind item, a couple twitter mentions from friends that don’t know better that get deleted, but not soon enough. It’s hard to keep all the loose ends tied up now that they’re meeting each other’s social circles, going places together. For the most part they’re careful and people are good about respecting the boundaries, but there’s never any way to ensure total privacy.

They’ve been together about three months the first time someone gets a decent picture of Darren, and it only takes a day after that for the internet to hunt him down.

They both stare at some randomly selected post, comments almost an incomprehensible collection of keysmash and emoticons.

“It’s kinda cool that people we don’t even know are so happy for us, though,” Darren says. He rests his chin on Chris’s shoulder.

“No,” Chris says. “Cool is when fans tell you how much you changed their life or that you inspired them to take a chance they wouldn’t have otherwise or that they were in a bad place and you helped them out of it. Cool is not seven thousand words detailing how a seventeen year old girl on the internet thinks you like to get rimmed by the boyfriend whose name they don’t even actually know.”

“... huh. Okay.” Darren can’t lie; he’s sort of intrigued. “Do you have the link to that rimming thing? For like, scientific purposes?”

Chris elbows him hard. “If I catch you reading internet porn about us, this is over. Just so you know.”

Darren laughs and kisses the curve of his neck. “Okay, fine, I swear. I’ll stick to regular internet porn.”

“Good.” Chris slumps back against him again. “It only took a day, Darren. This is... not good.”

“Only a day,” Darren scoffs. “Man, if I had my hair still it would have been like, three hours.”

Chris rolls his eyes.

“What!” Darren pouts. “I have fans, too.”

“I know you do, sweetie.” Chris pats his arm. “I know you do.”

*

The Land of Stories is published and Darren doesn’t shut up for a solid week about how awesome his talented, best selling author of a boyfriend is. He’s fairly certain that everyone around him grows exhausted with his vicarious gloating, but he just doesn’t care. Watching the people he loves succeed in what they love to do - that’s the best feeling in the world, and he’s going to celebrate it.

Unfortunately, he can’t really celebrate it with Chris. “Is this what being a Hollywood wife is like?” He sighs dramatically while he watches Chris pack his suitcase.

Chris gives him a fond smile. “You could never be a Hollywood wife.”

“Not blonde enough?” Darren asks with a pout. "I could get a boob job..."

“Not blonde enough,” Chris agrees. "And I like you better without boobs."

"Hey, boobs aren't bad." Darren half-heartedly defends his fondness for breasts. "If I had them, I could grope myself while you fuck me."

"You already do that," Chris points out.

"True." Darren pinches at one of his nipples until it gets hard. When he looks up Chris is watching him with that look he gets, a cross between fondness and am I really dating this?

Once his bag is packed, Chris has to leave for press stuff. This time 'press stuff' involves flying across the country, and Darren has a waiter job that he’s pretty sure he’d be flat out fired from if he asked for two weeks off.

Darren volunteers to feed Brian while Chris is away. They negotiate their way through a conversation full of stilted offers and hopeful smiles, and at the end of it Darren has a key and an invitation to just stay in the house himself.

Chris is back for a few days in the middle of the tour with some California signing dates. He’s so busy that they barely see each other, but there’s not really much point in Darren vacating since Chris will be gone for a few more days as he hits Ohio.

The idea hits Darren while he’s watching Chris catch up on some much needed sleep. He starts texting co-workers to find anyone willing to cover a shift or two for him, and a day later he’s in his car headed homeward.

*

Once he’s in San Francisco, he has a few hours to kill.

His mother is shocked and delighted to hear from him, more so when he knocks on the front door while they’re still on the phone together. She doesn’t stop hugging him for almost two minutes straight, both of them laughing.

Fuck, he loves his mom. He loves his mom. He loves this , and it’s totally worth the gas money to get back here.

His mother calls his father who takes the day off of work and they all end up having a late lunch. His heart feels full and happy and he promises them that he’ll stop back in after the signing, though he’s not sure how long it’ll take.

Once he gets there, he hits a bump in the road; he’d sort of imagined it would just be a walk up and get in line thing, but apparently it’s this whole ordeal with tickets and damn, Chris is a big deal to these people, how fucking awesome is that?

He uses some of those “dating a celebrity” perks to call Alla, who makes those ridiculous girly noises at how adorable the surprise is before she agrees to put in calls to a couple of other people.

Darren hangs around near the front until Chris’s bodyguard walks over to him and hands him an envelope. “Thanks, big guy,” he says, timidly patting one obscenely muscled arm. “I’ll just - you know. Go get in line.”

*

He spends the next hour listening to throngs of teenage girls shrieking in various decibels about how amazing Chris is.

He briefly considers recording them, but he doesn’t want to draw too much attention to himself. When he’s asked, he says that he’s here for his sister who wouldn’t make it. By the time they’re supposed to start his fictitious sister has a name and full background and he’s collected half a dozen definitely not legal giggling girls that seem to have decided he's a great target for practice working their womanly wiles.

He turns and watches the doorway when the volume abruptly rises. There’s Chris; smiling sweetly, waving at everyone, looking a little bit awed.

Then he starts to talk about - okay, he’s the same guy that kissed Darren goodbye this morning, but he’s also...not. He’s more quietly composed, more restrained and professional. He’s an actor, a public figure, and he’s gorgeous and those jeans must be painted on. Darren wishes that he could be obvious about this because he’d really like nothing more than to waltz up to that table with a dozen roses or something.

The line moves fast but Chris still gives everyone their little moment. Darren watches fumbling flirtation attempts, little children and grown women alike bursting into tears, gifts passed along to him, letters and cards, watches Chris’s face as people try to convey their whole story and Chris just does his best to make them feel like he’s getting it.

When it’s Darren’s turn, he steps up to the desk and slides his book across. Chris already has half the sentence out before he looks up. “Hi there, how are-”

“I’m a big fan,” Darren says, grinning.

Chris’s eyes go wide and he has to work fast to clamp down on the smile that threatens. He starts over. “How are you doing today?”

“Oh, I’m doing great. Enjoying the lovely San Francisco weather, checking out my favorite author...”

“Mm, yeah? The weather’s good out there? I’ve barely been outside today.” Chris looks down to sign Darren’s book, scribbling while he talks. He writes for longer than it takes with most of the hasty signatures he’s given.

“Yeah, you should check it out before you leave. Maybe enjoy some of that local cuisine.” Darren taps his fingers against the table. Chris looks up, finished writing, and then pushes the book back over to him.

“I’ll have to do that. Thanks for coming out.”

“Have a great day.” Darren clutches the book to his chest much in the manner that most of the girls have done as they walked away, strolling backwards so he can offer one more wave at Chris before he’s gone.

*

One of Alla’s minions snags him before he can make it all the way out the door. She’s one of the inconspicuous ones, not quite so recognizable to fans, and since most of the people are still entirely concentrating on Chris no one notices her leading him away from the pack.

He follows her into the back where he sprawls out on a couch in what appears to be the store break room, scrolling through the constant stream of tweets live from the events. He saves some of his favorites of the pictures people are uploading, knowing Chris will get a kick out of them.

Another hour passes before Chris comes back in. “You.” He stands in the doorway and points at Darren. “You sneaky bastard.”

Darren rolls off the couch and then pushes up to his feet. “You love me.”

“How long were you planning this?”

“Since last night.”

“Of course.” Chris pulls him in for a hug, tighter than tight. These things always leave him so drained. Darren practically feeds on fan energy, especially when he’s performing. Back when he did those fan things for the Harry Potter show he’d always left feeling recharged and like he could take on the world.

Chris is the opposite. Being around people leaves him drained and grouchy. He needs alone time like Darren needs applause, but somehow they still work together because Darren is Chris’s exception and the one person it never hurts to be around, and Darren is perfectly capable of existing solely on Chris’s attention and approval.

“I have another surprise,” Darren says.

*

There’s a little bit of a shuffle to get Chris out and into Darren’s car without the bookstore signing stragglers noticing, but they manage it.

When they get to Darren’s house, it’s after nine. As soon as they walk in the door Chris inhales and practically moans, “What is that smell?”

“Some of the best food you will ever taste,” Darren promises.

His mother had waited to start cooking dinner until Darren called to say they were on their way, at Darren’s request. The house smells like the kind of homemade cooking that neither of them have had in entirely too long

Chris gets along with his parents fantastically, and Darren isn’t the least bit surprised. He firmly believes that it is physically impossible not to adore his mother. They barely ask Chris anything about the show and have endless questions about his books - the one published and whatever he’s working on next.

Not making him regurgitate interview fodder that he’s had to recite almost weekly for the past three years is a quick way to get on Chris’s good side, and Darren didn’t even have to coach his folks for it. Somehow, they just knew.

After they eat, Darren gives Chris a grand tour of the house that culminates in a first rate cuddle session on his childhood bed. Chris falls asleep and Darren fishes his phone out of his pocket to text Alla and check Chris’s schedule so he knows when to set the alarm for to avoid missing a flight, and to make sure she knows he won’t go going back to his hotel room.

*

They spend their six month anniversary in Santa Monica for the weekend.

Darren thinks it’s just a day trip until Chris drives him to a resort after dinner. They drink too much wine and order every dessert they think of from room service before they take the longest bath Darren thinks he’s ever taken in a tub that feels more like a jacuzzi than a bath tub.

“Ow,” Chris says, stretching out on the bed naked under the lush robe he’s wearing. “Ow.”

“Poor baby,” Darren sympathizes, crawling between his legs. It’s been a dance-heavy week for Chris, twelve hour days full of intensive rehearsals and filming endlessly from every angle possible.

He pulls one of Chris’s legs across his lap and starts to massage the calf. Chris reacts immediately and enthusiastically with a cock-stiffening moan that shoots straight through Darren.

He liberates the complimentary expensive lotion from the bathroom and proceeds to give Chris an hour long full body massage that culminates in a slippery handjob and Darren rutting to orgasm against the lotion-slick cheeks of Chris’s ass, spilling over his lower back.

Darren rolls over onto his back, staring at a rumpled and messy Chris with a huge grin on his face. Luckily when he manages to pull his eyes up to Chris’s face, he sees a similar dazed and blissful expression on his face. “Happy anniversary.”

*

“I want to go to your premiere,” Darren says.

“No, you don’t,” Chris says. “They’re boring. Trust me, if there’s a movie you want to see, you’re better off waiting and seeing it in the theater.”

“No, listen, I want to go to your premiere.” It’s still a couple of months away, but he figures if he wants this to work he’ll need plenty of time to wear Chris down about it.

They’re having dinner - together, but in, as always. Chris has a pretty awesome house, but Darren is sort of sick of staring at these same walls any time they’re hanging out.

“What?” Chris looks up.

“Struck by Lightning. I want to go. This is huge for you. And I want to be able to see you kicking ass and taking names.”

“Oh.” Chris looks like he wants to be pleased but his mind is already going into planning mode. “Well, we can sneak you into the screening, I don’t think that should-”

“Chris.” Darren interrupts him. “You really think that’ll work? Besides, that’s not what I’m talking about. I wanna be like, there.”

“Oh.” Chris puts his fork down. “You really want that? Because you know-”

“Dude, I know.” Darren tries to keep a lid on his annoyance, he really does. “I’m just telling you, I don’t think it’s the end of the world.”

“The second someone recognizes you we’ll be linked together. There are already rumors.” Chris looks, as he always does, distinctly uncomfortable with the reminder of all the speculation.

He still doesn’t get why people care who he fucks. Darren maybe gets it a little more; he can’t say he’s ever been obsessed with a celebrity’s sex life, but he’s got enough of that intense sort of need to just immerse himself into what he likes. (Seriously, if Hermione Granger were a real person, Darren would definitely be camping out in front of her doorstep to get a glimpse. Not that he’ll tell Chris that. Because, yeah. Creepy.)

“Well, it’s not like they’re not true, so...” Darren shrugs. “Chris, I don’t care. And I’ve been trying to give you time but fuck, man. Don’t make me miss this. Unless you just seriously don’t want me there, and then...”

He trails off, because the idea of that - it packs a punch.

“Darren, no,” Chris gently protests. “I want you there. You know I do.”

“Then stop being so in love with your image that you forget you’re in love with me.” It could be cutting, could be cruel, except for the smile on Darren’s face and the care in his voice. “You are, right?”

Chris’s eyes dip down. “I am.”

“Well, I love you, too. And I want to go see your goddamn movie, so.”

“So.” Chris looks back up and smiles a little more genuinely. “I can’t promise anything yet, but I’ll talk to Alla.”

*

The first time someone asks him about Chris, he’s performing a little gig at a hole in the wall restaurant/bar in Los Angeles.

He’s still got a tiny little fanbase that he gets a kick out of; maybe a little younger than he’d like, but the place is all ages and he’s actually sort of proud that the fans of his shows are of a high nerd caliber. He’s never lacking for conversational topics with them.

And they don’t usually ask about his personal life, which is how he can tell that this girl is one of Chris’s fans, not one of his own.

“Chris is fucking awesome,” Darren says, smiling and shrugging. “I’m lucky to know him.

That’s the quote that’s splashed over twitter and all those other websites that Chris tries so hard to not hate. Chris keeps a wary eye on things even though Darren reminds him constantly that he pays people to do that for him.

He starts to get more and more tweets asking him about Chris. Chris wants him to lock his twitter account down, but Darren refuses. They compromise in that Darren won’t answer anything that has to do with him without telling Chris first.

*

They’re spotted at a party together a few weeks later. Chris is drunk - adorably, affectionately drunk - and he reels Darren in to pose for something that will undoubtedly end up on instagram within five minutes.

He’s usually so careful. He’ll probably be mad in the morning.

Darren would care, would remind him of that, if he weren’t just as drunk as Chris.

“I really wanted to just lean over and kiss you,” Darren whispers. They’re still crowded in close, hiding away in a corner by the bar. “Wanna kiss you and let them all see.”

“You’re bad.” Chris giggles but he has his fingers tangled with Darren’s where Darren’s arm is wrapped around his waist. “We can’t.”

“Why can’t we?” He lets his nose tickle along the shell of Chris’s ear.

“I don’t remember,” Chris says, eyes closed.

*

Alla routinely calls them five year olds when they gather in her office.

“It’s like you feed on each other’s energy,” she says.

Chris leans into Darren and mock-whispers, “I think that’s her polite way of saying you’re a bad influence.”

“Not bad,” Alla says, grinning her pixie-grin. “I like it. You need someone to lighten you up, Chris.”

“Smart woman,” Darren says.

She has a slinky and a stress ball shaped like a cupcake on her desk and by the end of whatever meeting they’re having, Darren has usually confiscated both. She’s not only tolerant about it, but usually seems amused.

(Darren totally thinks she has a crush on him. Chris says he’s crazy but he says it with that sort of knowing smirk that definitely lets Darren know that they’ve talked about him before.)

“So, you wanted to talk about something?” She asks Chris, spinning a little in her chair.

“Yes.” Chris darts his eyes back and forth between Darren and Alla, making Darren instantly suspicious. Chris told him that they should meet at the office because it’s closer to where Darren works and so they could pick up dinner to go after his meeting and save time. “I want to take Darren on a trip somewhere.”

“Oh.” Alla nods slowly - to her credit, almost never denying Chris his rare impractical requests. “Okay, well, do you think you could get Ashley on board? I-”

“No,” Chris interrupts her. “A vacation, just him and me. And after that, I think we are going to start going public.”

“Oh.” Alla beams. “Well, all right, then.”

Darren is just sort of watching the exchange with interest. Oh, he has questions. He has about a million of them, first of which is where are we going followed by fuck yes!! (which isn’t a question at all, really) and are you sure? and then can we go to a beach? (even though he thinks he probably knows the answers to that one).

“You’re not upset?” Chris seems surprised.

Alla isn’t upset.

She gives him a patient smile. “You’re allowed to have a life, Chris.”

*

London is great. France is amazing.

But Italy is the best. Italy is perfect and Darren shows off his fluency by ordering every meal for them in Italian, conversing with little old ladies on the street, and then crooning things that Chris doesn’t understand but still knows are filthy while Chris fucks him into a hotel mattress.

They come back well fed and well rested and operating on more than one timezone.

Some time between Disneyland and dinner at that Italian bistro they couldn’t stop returning to, Darren is pretty sure that Chris found his confidence in them.

*

Darren stretches out on Chris’s couch, thick black glasses on his face, shirt off, Brian resting across his stomach purring contentedly.

Every few minutes Darren will say something out loud. Chris responds sometimes, or just hums or makes an agreeing noise.

When Darren lets out a surprised yelp he spins around in his office chair to see what’s going on. Darren is glaring at Brian and holding his front two legs. Brian is trying to tug them away, offended at the manhandling.

“Your cat has wandering paws,” Darren says, hand protectively cupped over his crotch while Brian repositions.

“I sleep on my stomach.” Chris gets up, pausing to stretch until his back pops obscenely. “Oh, God, needed that.”

“How did your spine not actually crack?” Darren asks, always amazed. “You sound like an ancient person.”

“Well, I have been told I’m a senior citizen in a twenty-two year old’s body.” Chris crawls onto the couch beside them, glad the cushions are wide enough to do this comfortably. “Hi.”

He tries to kiss Darren on the cheek, but Darren puts his book aside and twists a little for a proper kiss.

Brian is not a fan of being jostled around, and gets up - while also making his displeasure known with another poorly aimed step. This time Darren isn’t prepared and breaks off the kiss with a pained grunt.

Chris pokes at Brian until he moves off of Darren with an affronted tail swish and then laughs, reaching down and rubbing a hand over the offended area.

“That’s nice, but it still hurts. You should kiss it better,” Darren says, the pain a quickly dimming memory under the warmth and friction of Chris’s fingers against him.

“Well,” Chris says, nipping at Darren’s lip and then swinging one leg over to straddle his thighs. “We might be able to arrange that, too.”

*

Chris asks him about a million times if he’s sure he wants to do this.

Darren reminds him that he does approximately twice as often as Chris actually asks.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Darren asks, trying very hard not to laugh at him.

“Well, it’s my movie, I can’t exactly play hooky.” There’s a slightly manic look in his eye that confirms how much he might actually like to do that.

It only confirms for Darren what his mission for the day is: Keep Chris Calm.

“Exactly,” he says, taking advantage of their relative privacy to lock his arms around Chris. “Chris. It’s your movie. You made a movie.”

He whispers the last part, like he’s letting Chris in on some big secret.

Chris presses his face against Darren’s neck. “I can’t believe I made a movie.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t let me star in it.” Darren pokes Chris in the side playfully.

“Next time,” Chris promises. He chances a quick kiss to Darren’s mouth. It’s not like anyone watching them wouldn’t know they were more than friends just from the position they’re in, anyway.

“Oh, let me guess. You’re gonna have me do a screen test on your couch.”

“Maybe I’ll film the whole movie there,” Chris whispers back. “Or in the bedroom. Give you top billing...”

Darren snorts so loudly that he gets some glares from Chris’s people across the room. “Oh my fucking god I love you.”

Chris’s eyes are shining and he seems to have regained his perspective a little.

Darren gropes his ass quickly and says, “As long as you promise not to put it on youtube unless you can guarantee five million hits.”

*

Chris is whisked away just after lunch, rounds of interviews and press to take care of beforehand. Darren makes it to the screening unnoticed, slipping in the back and waving at the few familiar faces he sees.

Alla shows him to a seat near the front, right behind Chris’s family. He spends about twenty minutes dividing his time between chatting with Hannah about how awesome the new My Little Pony series is and texting Chris the stupidest things he can think of because he knows Chris is going to be a nervous wreck right now.

Then Chris is coming in, introducing the movie and sitting between his parents. As the lights go down and the trailer reel starts, Darren finally leans forward and clasps a hand to Chris’s shoulder. He moves in so close that his lips are right against Chris’s ear and whispers, “I am giving you the best damn blowjob ever for this later.”

He quickly leans back, watching with utter satisfaction at the tense set of Chris’s shoulders and how they relax, at the way he can see from the shape of a cheek that Chris is smiling.

*

There’s alcohol at the after-party, appetizers and alcohol and so many cameras. Chris poses with co-stars from the movie, co-stars from his show, with friends and with his parents.

Darren spends most of the night talking to Ashley and dancing with Hannah. “Chris, I’m replacing you as dance partner, okay?” He says, one arm around Hannah’s shoulder. “I mean, you’re good, but this girl. Those moves are smokin’.”

He pretends to fan the air around them and Hannah giggles maniacally.

Darren’s eyes sort of naturally go to Chris every few minutes, just to check on him. Chris is doing his Hollywood mover and shaker thing, meeting and greeting, schmoozing with the best. Darren thinks he wouldn’t mind being right by Chris’s side while he did that, but for now? This is close enough, especially when Chris has that wide, beautiful smile on his face and he’s looking right back at Darren.

He surprises Darren even more when he walks over and grabs Darren’s arm, then signals for one of the photographers. He leans in close, one arm around Darren, and smiles as the camera flashes.

*

He’d sort of halfway expected Chris to spend most of the night too wrapped up in everything else to give him too much attention, but he’s pleasantly surprised. Chris isn’t exactly pulling him into any more photographs, but he doesn’t ignore Darren, either. He comes and checks on him, even brings him a drink once... and about an hour into the fray he’s obviously watching when Darren excuses himself to go find a bathroom, because he’s waiting by the door when Darren opens it to come back out.

Darren finds himself pushed back inside, a mouth firm on his. He kisses back greedily until Chris pulls away to ask in that throaty-sexy voice, “I think you promised me a blowjob?”

And, well, it is Chris’s night, after all.

*

As the party winds down, Chris sticks closer and closer to him.

“I can’t tell if you’re drunk or just exhausted,” Darren says, reaching out and plucking the wine glass from Chris’s fingers.

“Both. After tonight, I want to sleep for a year.” Chris leans against him, head on Darren’s shoulder. Darren indulges in the touch for a second before nudging him away. “I want a car, and to go home, and to get into bed.”

“Your wish is my command.” Darren guides him back to his parents, where he seems to perk up a little, and goes to find one of Chris’s people. He sees a flash as he’s talking to Alla about how soon he can go, then smiles at a girl who is holding her phone with a guilty look on her face.

Yeah, Darren knows how that goes. Awkward when you forget to turn the flash off when you were trying to sneakily take pictures. Alla looks a little huffy about it, but not too much; she’s had a little bit to drink, too.

“Tell him ten minutes,” she says, and pivots away grabbing her phone.

*

Chris sleeps in the next day.

Darren putts around the kitchen, makes breakfast and then eats it by himself, makes lunch and then debates sharing it with Brian before Chris emerges bleary-eyed and doing his best impression of the undead.

“So exactly how many nights have you gone without sleeping?” Darren asks.

“I sleep,” Chris says.

“The whole night through?”

“Uh.” Chris shrugs. “Before Christmas.”

“Shithead. Take the medicine.” Darren pops a loaded french fry into his mouth.

Chris makes a face at him. “You take it.”

“Hey, I can fall asleep with like, two seconds notice sitting up in a moving vehicle. You’re little mister prince and the pea.” Darren waves another fry in his direction. “Be careful with the sass or I’ll just march you right back to bed and-”

Chris digs into the plate of fries smothered in cheese and bacon. Like Darren, he’s just using his fingers. “You’ll what?” He challenges, eyebrow raised.

It takes Darren a minute before he comes up with, “Have so much sex with you that you’re totally exhausted.”

“Maybe that should have been the plan a week ago, hmm? Because now I slept for almost twelve hours. I’m good. You missed that window.”

“Like you’re not an overachieving asshole who isn’t gonna jump right into another project in three days anyway,” Darren accuses. He sees the guilt flash over Chris’s face. “Shit. You already started something new, didn’t you?”

“I’ve been working on The Land of Stories sequel for a few weeks now,” Chris admits. “I have a deadline in February.”

Darren sighs dramatically. “What am I gonna do with you?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Chris smirks. “Love me forever?”

Darren rises on his tiptoes to stretch over the counter and give Chris a slightly greasy, potato-flavored kiss. “And you say you aren’t the romantic type.”

 

Part Two

Darren isn’t with Chris to be famous.

He’s not naive. He knows what people will think. He knows that he can say it’s not true until he’s blue in the face, that people will still think it.

But that doesn’t take the sting out of it the first time he’s scrolling through conversation threads and sees the accusation tossed out there so casually. He itches to respond, but he doesn’t; he can’t. He knows he can’t.

The truth is, he might get more famous, no matter his intentions. And he’s not going to throw that away. If people that follow Chris suddenly start to follow him, he wants to give them something damn good to actually be following.

The idea of more people showing up at his things is sort of exciting, if he can block out the part where they’d just be doing it to get a better picture of the guy Chris Colfer is dating.

He could stress and worry about it, but he reminds himself that it wouldn’t really do any good, anyway... so he does his best to just not think about it.

*

“It’s not fair,” Chris pouts. They’re naked, tangled together, luxuriating in the afterglow.

Darren strokes a hand up and down Chris’s sweat-slick back. “What isn’t?”

Chris rolls onto his stomach, propping his chin up on his fists, elbows digging into the mattress. He looks young like that, hair mussed and cheeks flushed. He looks young and sexy and beautiful and sinful and Darren kind of already wants to go again but he’s a good boyfriend and listens to what Chris is trying to say first.

Chris finally says, “You’re hotter than me.”

Darren barks out a laugh and reaches out, threading his fingers through Chris’s hair. “That’s a motherfucking lie, Colfer.”

“No, it’s not.” Chris scoots in closer and rests his head on Darren’s chest. “I read some of the stuff today. The things people are saying.”

Darren sighs and his cock gets a little less optimistic about its chances for a round two. “You shouldn’t do that.”

“You do,” Chris points out.

“Yeah, but...” He shrugs and keeps petting Chris’s hair. “I don’t give as much of a fuck.”

“That’s a lie,” Chris says.

It is a lie.

“Still,” Darren insists. “You shouldn’t. But since you did. What got you all sulky?”

“They think you’re hot.”

Darren smirks. “And?”

Chris doesn’t play along. “Too hot for me.”

“What?” Darren’s jaw drops.

“Too hot for me, and too straight for me,” Chris finishes.

“My sore ass wants to argue that point,” Darren says. “You know, sore because your dick was just in there? Because you’re a guy, and I just had sex with you. In a non-heterosexual way.”

Chris finally cracks a grin at that. “I know. But they don’t.”

“Dude, give me my cell phone, we can let them know. What do you think? A shot of me blowing you? Or a video-”

Chris drops down and rolls over, finally laughing. He uses Darren’s stomach as a pillow and reaches up to find his hand, fingers lacing together. “We are not making porn just to prove to the internet that you’re actually my boyfriend.”

“Well, they’re all dickbags, okay? They are bags of dicks if they think that just because I’m not farting glitter dust that I’m not gay."

Chris cuts a look at him. “Are you trying to imply that I-”

“Oh, fuck off, you know I’m not. Like - how do they even know? They found some youtube videos of me in plays? Acting? I could be the second coming of Paul fucking Lynde in real life for all those douchebags know. I've had ex-girlfriends? What, are they like, upset that you'd deign to date a guy whose dipped his dick in both sides of the pond?"

“Well, they are mostly twelve year old girls on the internet, so maybe they can be forgiven,” Chris says, though the irritation is still obvious in his voice.

“No way. Are you kidding? Twelve year olds should be the generation that gets this stuff.” Darren lets himself, for a moment, be truly bothered... and then he reminds himself that there’s nothing he can do. He looks down at Chris, smiles, and says. “Hey, we can still video me blowing you and just not post it online...”

*

Darren has a couple thousand twitter followers before they start to go out in public together.

When people realized he and Chris were friends, the number count started to rise. It was a couple hundred with the initial rush and then bursts or ten or fifteen when his name would get pulled up again.

The first time Chris takes him somewhere publicly, it goes up about a thousand. Chris and Alla both try to convince him that he should lock it down, but Darren won’t. Twitter is how he gets info about his gigs out most of the time, and how he shares things with his friends when he wants them all to see something.

A couple thousand followers becomes over eight thousand. His music videos on youtube suddenly quadruple in hits, and he gets more people showing up at his gigs.

It makes him a little bit uneasy to think of how it happens, but he’s getting pretty good at figuring out who is new to his stuff and genuinely likes it and who is just hoping to catch him with his metaphorical (or literal) pants around his ankles.

His concession to the public relations is that he won’t answer any of the tweets he gets about Chris. When he starts seeing people using pictures of him and Chris as their profile pictures, when he starts getting tweets from people whose usernames include both criss and colfer in them, it sort of makes him grin but he resolutely ignores it. He walks a fine line of responding to a few if their questions are about him but ignoring any implications of their relationships, the people asking if Chris will be there when he tweets about a concert location, the subtle digs and less subtle inquiries about his sexuality, and basically anything that might lead back to Chris at all.

*

“You have to shave,” Alla says, standing in front of him tiny and fierce, hands on her hips.

“What? I’m ruggedly handsome.” Darren turns to admire his profile in the mirror. “Chris, aren’t I ruggedly handsome?”

“Of course you are, dear.” Chris recites back in a sing-song voice. “You are the ruggedly handsomest.”

“See?” Darren points. “Chris approves. So it can stay?”

“Sure,” Alla says. Darren perks up. He hadn’t thought it would be that easy. “And so can you. Right here. Because you are not walking a red carpet looking like you have a dead animal glued to your face.”

“Chriiiiis,” Darren whines. “She’s being mean.”

Chris looks back and forth between them. “I am not getting in the middle of this. I value my sanity. Darren, my best advice: watch for the fingernails.”

Darren doesn’t even have time to question why before he feels a sharp poke in his side. He yelps and leaps back. Alla is smirking at him, stalking forward.

She pokes him again.

He jumps back again.

Then she puts both hands on his shoulder and shoves him so that he stumbles backwards... right into the bathroom. She shuts the door quickly with a triumphant grunt.

Darren pounds on it from the other side. “That’s not gonna work! You weigh like five pounds, I can just-”

“What was that, kid?” Tom says gruffly.

The door doesn’t budge.

Darren groans. “You play dirty.”

“Shave!”

Twenty minutes later, he emerges clean-shaven.

*

“Ow,” Darren says, blinking. “How do you stand this?”

Chris glances over at him and frowns. “What?”

“All the cameras.” They’re not even to the interview area yet, not even close, but people are camped out taking pictures of them arriving.

Chris reaches over and pats his arm. “You’ll get used to it.”

His eyes are practically burning from oversensitivity but he still smiles and looks at Chris. “Yeah? I will?”

“Caught, that, did you?” Chris looks back. He smiles back. It’s a good smile, one of those toe-warming Chris smiles. “I think you will.”

“Well, if you think so...” Darren squares his shoulders up and gives the photographers his best and proudest smile.

*

“Chris.” Darren leans over and whispers. “I thought the food would be better.”

Chris is still looking straight ahead, toward the stage, but his mouth quirks with a smile. “Shh.”

“But the booze is good,” Darren continues. “How drunk am I allowed to get?”

“Shh!” Chris says again.

Beside him, Chord is laughing into his hand. Darren winks at him.

Chord is a pretty good guy. Chris doesn’t hang out with his castmates a lot, but when Darren has been around them - Chord is definitely one of the coolest.

“Behave,” Chris whispers.

Darren leans in and props his chin on Chris’s shoulder. “I love you.”

“I know you do. Now behave before people really do think you’re drunk.” Chris reaches over and pats him on the leg.

“Of course I’m not. I’m still wearing clothes.” Darren whispers, but then he sits back, sips his champagne, and goes back to watching what’s happening on the stage.

*

“Afterparties,” Chris says, exhaling like he’s been holding that breath all night. “The only reason awards shows are even worth it.”

“Unless you win,” Darren reminds him.

“Unless I win,” Chris confirms.

But tonight he wasn’t even nominated. The show was, but they didn’t win, and Chris is fine with that - which means Darren is fine with that, too.

The minute they’re inside Chris loosens his tie and makes a beeline for the bar. It’s dark, there aren’t nearly as many cameras, and Chris stands a little closer.

A photographer approaches.

Darren expects Chris to pull back, but instead he leans their shoulders together and reaches down to curl his fingers around Darren’s wrist over the silky black of his sleeve. It’s a quietly possessive touch.

The flash makes white spots dance behind Darren’s eyelids.

Chris somehow looks both slightly ill and proud of himself. In the moment, Darren totally gets that. At least - he’s starting to.

Darren’s got the easy job. He’s got nothing to lose. But Chris?

Chris is fucking brave.

Darren’s not sure he’s ever been more proud of his gorgeous, talented, sexy as fuck boyfriend.

“Gonna dance with me later?” Darren asks.

Chris looks back over him and holds that look, then leans in and kisses the corner of his mouth. “Just try and stop me.”

Darren beams at him. “Like I ever would.”

*

They stumble back into Chris’s house at just after three. Darren is exhausted and buzzing still.

“That was fucking amazing,” he says, dropping down onto the bed almost fully dressed still. He unbuttons his shirt as he lays there, watching as Chris gets undressed the proper, still actually standing upright way.

“I hate those things,” Chris says, but oddly enough he’s still smiling.

“You’ll like ‘em more with me.” Darren is confident about this. “You just needed a kickass date to liven it up.”

Chris steps out of his pants, folds them and drapes them over the back of the desk chair. “So you liked it?”

“Are you kidding?” Darren shrugs out of his shirt and tosses it onto the floor, then tugs the undershirt off to join it.

Chris, in just his boxer briefs, straddles Darren and takes over the disrobing. His fingers pluck at the buttons until he can lean down and nuzzle his nose against the spot just under the waistband of Darren’s underwear.

Darren makes a low, pleased noise deep in his chest. He crosses his arms behind his head while Chris pulls the suit pants off and then mouths with more intent at the shape of Darren’s cock, soft now but quickly waking up under the attention.

“Why do I feel like I’m being rewarded for doing something I wanted to do to begin with?” Darren asks. He quickly adds, “Not that I’m turning down the blowjob.”

Chris looks back up. “Now how did you know I was going to blow you? Maybe I’m not that predictable.”

“Uhh. You’re not predictable. Not at all.” Darren wiggles his hips. “Please blow me.”

“Well, since you said please...” He grins.

*

Darren has this weekly gig playing at the same coffee shop that he met Chris at.

It’s not his actual job. His actual job is the restaurant next door, but the coffee shop owner heard him strumming his guitar after closing one night and said he couldn’t pay in anything but free coffee and biscotti but Darren was welcome to leave a tip jar.

He actually does pretty well, especially once it hit the internet and his Harry Potter groupies started to come. They’re still an awesome bunch; they’re smart, and loyal, and he talks to most of them on twitter.

He misses the weekend of the awards show but the next Saturday he’s back, setting up without realizing until he takes his seat that the crowd gathered is a little bit above average for the shop. It’s not the usual smattering of hipsters with their macbooks and wannabe scriptwriters chugging the cheapest offerings.

Twitter should have been a hint. The new faces now and then at his show should have been a hint. But it’s like those were a light drizzle before the downpour. It isn’t one or two unfamiliar figures.

It’s... it’s a fucking crowd.

“Uh, hi-” Darren starts, glancing down to get himself together quickly. “So, right. You guys just wander in off the street or something? Cause, man. This is awesome, but you guys might have me mistaken for like, someone you’ve actually heard of before? But, since you’re here - I’m Darren Criss, and enjoy the show.”

*

The internet isn’t always a nice place and people are just proving his theories about how badly behaved they can be in groups. It becomes, for a while, a struggle to say as open and reachable as he'd vowed he would.

Over the two weeks after someone puts his coffee shop performance on youtube, Darren has to make a lot of awkward phone calls. He has to call his brother, his parents, his friends.

He has to tell them that he’s dating someone new and that they might want to be careful about answering the phone.

He has to put up with very confused phone calls from an ex-girlfriend wanting to know if he’s fucking around with her by making a fake Facebook account and liking all of the years old pictures of them together.

(Luckily, once he actually explains, she’s not only understanding but way, way too amused. At least that proves that he picks his significant others pretty well - not that he’d even questioned that.)

He starts to get his own rabid, invasive fans - and the even more rabid, even more invasive haters. He tries not to let the negative energy get to him but some of it seeps through anyway. He spends two hours one night scrolling through nothing but comments ripping him to shreds.

too fake, he’s a total user
I bet it’s all PR
Chris can do better
what grown man likes Disney that much? #perv
That period song is so gross, really Chris?
YOU GUYS, HE’S STRAIGHT, YOU SAW THE FACEBOOK PICTURES

He forces himself through two hours of “babies and puppies” youtube therapy and then gets pretty drunk to drown it out.

*

As Darren begins to understand why Chris is such a pessimist when it comes to fans, in general, he begins to understand some other things, too. On an individual basis, fans are pretty awesome. They’ve got thoughts and feelings and compassion and opinions. One fan - one fan is a good experience. But a whole group of them? Somehow all those good qualities get replaced by irrationality and hostility in a pretty vocal chunk of them.

It’s just a matter, he thinks, of trying to ignore the mob mentality and focus on the positive. Chris has a lot of fans with some really insane stories to tell. Then there are the fans that remind him that what his boyfriend does is really fucking awesome and he’s so proud he could burst.

The girl that comes up to him at his concert on a Saturday night wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt and clutching an envelope slightly wrinkled from the tightness of her grip. “I know this is totally awkward, but could you give this to Chris for me? He... he saved my life.”

He’s about to say no. He needs to say no. But he sees her wrist, the thick scars striping the skin, and his throat locks up against the refusal. She blinks fast and she’s trembling a little bit. “It’s not creepy, I promise. And I know he won’t write back to me or anything, that’s not what I’m trying to do. I just want to know he knows what a difference he made to me.”

“Yeah,” Darren finally says. “What’s your name?”

“Kasey,” she says.

“Kasey. I’ll make sure he gets it.” He sticks it in his back pocket, sandwiched between his phone and his wallet.

She turns and walks away but he spots her a couple of times during his show.

Darren doesn’t give it to Chris that night. Chris isn’t even in the state, but on Wednesday he’s back from location filming. After the welcome back dinner and welcome back sex and the post-welcome back sex shower and bed remaking session, Darren pulls out the letter. Despite the permission, he hasn’t opened it yet. After Chris has read it privately once he reads it out loud to Darren and by the end they both have tears in their eyes.

Darren knows Chris puts the letter on the bedside table, but he’s not sure if he does anything with it after that.

*

They get a little bit mobbed at a movie theater.

It’s really shitting timing and a really shitty location for it to happen, considering Chris gets sort of twitchy at movie theaters since he had a bad experience right when he was starting to get famous.

The fans want pictures of Chris, and then one of them asks if she can get a picture of both Darren and Chris.

Darren looks over at Chris, willing to go with whatever he says.

Chris nods and says, “Why not?”

Darren slips his arm around Chris’s waist, then rests his head on Chris’s shoulder. It’s a total boyfriends shot, but if they’re doing this? Darren is going all the way with it.

It’s worth it for the way the teenage girls lose their shit cooing and giggling over them. “We’re fucking adorable,” Darren whispers as they walk away. He keeps his arm around Chris.

“Shut up,” Chris whispers back. “You are enjoying that way too much.”

“Can’t help it.” Darren glances over his shoulder as they make their way to the door to their theater. It looks like the girls have moved on, so he leans in and kisses Chris on the cheek.

*

The picture hits the internet.

A couple of those fan-run tabloid websites pick it up, the one ones that have run the “are they/aren’t they” but this time there’s a decidedly more they are slant to it.

Darren prints it out and frames it, then puts it on the table by Chris’s couch just to see how Chris will react.

The reaction is predictable: he screeches and threatens to throw it at Darren.

“Domestic violence!” Darren dives behind the couch. Unfortunately, Brian is already there, and the entire scenario ends in Chris dabbing a long blood-dotted cut with alcohol and then putting a band-aid on the most significant part of it.

“That’s what you get,” Chris tells him with no small amount of satisfaction.

“You’re mean,” Darren sulks. “Kiss it better?”

It takes a little more convincing, but he manages to get Chris to not only kiss it better but to go ahead and pre-load a fair amount of kisses to aid in future healing endeavors.

*

It feels kind of like a game until suddenly it’s not.

His boss calls him into the office before the start of his shift. She looks about twenty percent sympathetic, twenty percent annoyed, and sixty percent distracted by whatever is on her computer screen as she starts to talk. “There have been a lot of complaints lately about people coming in just to take photographs and leaving.”

His stomach sinks. “Oh, shit - I’m sorry.”

He knows there’s not really anything he can do. Tweet and politely ask them not to? It’s not like that would do much good. The internet, as a whole, doesn’t take instruction all too well. He’s already gearing up for a serious ass-kissing speech, though. He’s fucked up a couple of times already, slept through one shift...

That’s why, though it catches him off guard, her next sentence doesn’t entirely surprise him.

“Darren, you’ve done a great job here and I’ll be happy to give you a recommendation if you apply elsewhere, but management is stepping in. We’re an upscale restaurant. Our patrons value discretion and they come here for the ambiance, which doesn’t include flash photography.”

He could argue, plead - but it’s not like he really loved this job anyway. She’s not a bad boss, it’s not the worst place he’s worked by far, but it’s not really worth trying to save, either. He nods his head a little and then asks, “Do you need me to work this shift?”

“No, we’ve already arranged for someone to cover it. You’re free to go. We’ll deposit your last paycheck like normal. Good luck in whatever you choose to do next, Darren.” She spares him one smile and then goes back to her computer screen, dismissing him.

*

“You got what?” Chris asks, frowning like he definitely heard Darren but still didn’t quite understand him.

“Fired.” Darren kicks his feet up onto the coffee table. His big toenails are painted blue and pink. He’s never getting drunk and passing out around Ashley Fink again. Or if he does, he’s leaving some purple nail polish out. Those totally aren’t even his colors. “Canned. Axed. Given the ole heave-ho, employment wise.”

“Darren.” Chris’s voice is pained. “I’m sorry, that’s- it’s bad, right? Why would they fire you?”

“What? Oh, yeah. No, it blows, totally. I’ll have to ask my parents for rent money unless I can find something new like, tomorrow. But I’ll hit the streets and scrounge something up.” The second part of the question requires a more delicate touch. “There were some complaints about disruptions.”

“What? What kind of disruptions?”

“Um. People... with like, cameras and shit.” Darren watches Chris carefully. He hates having to say it, because he knows this is a step backwards for them.

He can see the moment that it clicks. “Fuck.”

“It’s cool, okay?” Darren says, reaching out and grabbing Chris’s hand - just his hand, fingers firmly locking together. “It’s worth it.”

“Are you sure?” Chris asks, and it stings to hear but Darren had entirely expected it.

He doesn’t even hesitate when he says, “I’m sure.”

*

Darren doesn’t find a job that week, or the next week.

Joey sits him down and they talk about it. They’ve got some friends from college new in town. Their friends have an extra bedroom.

“Bunk beds,” Darren explains to Chris over lunch. They’re out to eat, and he’s pretty sure he’s seen one cell phone pointed their direction but they’re both agreeing to just ignore it. “I mean, we’ll have to re-instate the nookie calendar to see who gets the bedroom when, but it’ll be awesome. And it’ll make my rent go down enough that I’ve got another month before I have to ask my parents for a loan.”

“Bunk beds? Are they really that fun?” Chris asks. “You should use this instead.”

He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a paper envelope.

“What? If that’s money, then no-” Darren stops short. It’s not money in the envelope, it’s a key. “Wait, is this. Are you.”

When he looks up, Chris has a little smile on his face. “You said you were all in.”

“Can’t get much more in than this.” Darren goes back to staring down at the key. “Just to be clear, you’re asking me to move in with you, right?”

“Right,” Chris confirms.

Darren doesn’t say anything.

After half a minute of silence, Chris’s fingers jerk toward it and press down on the edge. “If you don’t want-”

Darren snatches it back. “No way, asshole. This key is mine now.”

Chris is relieved. “I don’t have bunkbeds, though. I hope that isn’t a dealbreaker.”

“I think I can work past that,” Darren says. “Fuck. I want to kiss you so bad. This isn’t some guilt complex since I kind of got fired because of you, is it? I mean, my answer is still yes, but that would suck.”

“Darren.” Chris is trying to chastise him, but it falls flat against the brilliant smile on his face. “Look at the date on the envelope.”

Chris had the key made almost three weeks ago.

“You are an asshole, you were totally holding out on me!”

“I was not,” Chris argues. He gives in against some urge holding him back and reaches for Darren’s hand. There’s definitely a camera pointed at them now. Darren doesn’t even care. He hopes this is plastered all fucking over the internet within five minutes. It’s better than shouting it from the rooftops. “I was waiting for the right moment.”

*

Joey’s cool with the move and neither of them see any reason to wait, so a week and a half later Darren shows up in front of Chris’s house with exactly one truck full of all of his worldly possessions. Approximately three-fourths of that, at least as far as surface space goes, are musical instruments.

There’s some negotiation once they’re unpacking. Most of the music goes into the guest bedroom.

“Just for now,” Chris says. “We can work on turning the third bedroom into a studio if you want.”

“Uh.” It’s a lot to get dropped on him. Darren isn’t even sure how to respond. “What?”

“I- if you want?” Chris asks.

There’s a conversation they’ll need to have there soon. A whole big official conversation about how their financial situations differ drastically and Darren has a limit to how much his ego can take, and they need to set limits about what they share because they’re a couple and what’s too much because Chris is mega-rich and Darren has been living on charm and tips for about two years now.

But this is his first day living with his boyfriend, and there’s no rule saying they have to have all the answers right away. He kisses Chris and says, “We’ll figure it out later. We’ve got time.”

*

People stop being quite so titillated when he and Chris go out on public.

Well - the media stops caring, their friends stop caring, and the paparazzi stops caring quite so much. The fans online are undeterred, but Darren has completely stopped expecting them to behave in any reasonable manner and has come to terms with sweeping the more awkward things sent to him under the rug. The actual harassment sort of hits a wall where there’s just not anything left for them to uncover about Darren. All of the youtube videos, all of the old facebook posts and tweets, the embarrassing college party photos - it’s on the table.

He’s got nothing left to hide, and it’s actually pretty awesome.

*

They do get around to that conversation eventually.

Darren does find another job, and as soon as he gets his first paycheck they sit down and talk out the rules. Darren buys the groceries and handles dinner most nights that they don’t go out, and if he should feel so inclined to guilt trip over the lack of rent he has strict orders to ask for a distractionary tactic blowjob. If Chris isn’t actually home, then phone sex or if desperate measures are required, sexting.

(He can’t ever actually cash in on that one, though - it sort of falls under his no dirty pictures ever rule, paranoia winning over exhibitionism.)

The music studio will be a thing, because Chris says he doesn’t need three bedrooms anyway. Darren makes him agree to a strict five-bucks-or-home-made-craft Christmas and birthday present rule for a year to help balance it out karmically.

Chris says he considers it worth it if Darren can actually produce ipod-worthy recordings for Chris to take with him. And, since that’s one of the most romantic things anyone has ever said to Darren, the conversation turns into sex.

*

Chris shows up to visit him at work one day.

“You are like a ninja,” Darren says, hopping up on the counter. “Sneaking in to see me.”

Chris is looking around in awe. “Can we trade jobs?”

Darren laughs and looks too, trying to see it like Chris sees it. It’s a little store jammed in the middle of a dozen other storefronts, but it stretches back more than it would initially appear to. There are rows and stacks and piles of books, shelves with cds and vinyl and the music piped through the speakers comes from an ancient old turntable near the checkout counter. In the very back of the store is a lounge area with couches and plush, oversized chairs. The place smells like coffee and incense and actually, now that he thinks about it, Darren could totally see Chris working here and loving it.

The guy that owns it only deals in used books and music, and he barely makes enough for three rotating employees (which will be fine now that Darren’s learned the ropes enough to be left on his own) but it’s definitely a lot better than getting sneered at by rich diners in an a restaurant that is both overpriced and lacking in actual quality cuisine.

When a few people trickle in he abandons Chris to browse the stacks, but goes in search of him again as soon as the store empties back out. He catches him in the YA section, smiling in pleasant shock. “Oh, yeah. I got bored,” Darren says sheepishly.

Chris steps back to reveal the small shrine to Land of Stories, Struck by Lightning, a couple of cheesy Glee biographies, and a stack of various odd volumes of Glee music on CD. “You’re a dork. Did these actually come in here?”

“You love it,” Darren raises an eyebrow, daring him to disagree. “I might have donated a couple of my own copies. And a couple of yours. Fuck, you’ve got like a box of them in the closet, you didn’t even notice. I kept my autographed one, though. That one stays with me.”

“I don’t know,” Chris muses. He reaches into Darren’s front pocket, only copping the tiniest of feels before his hand withdraws holding a sharpie. He grabs the stack of books. “Maybe you’re not the only special one.”

He proceeds to spend the next twenty minutes doodling across flyleafs, writing little notes and stories and in one case a misleading limerick. Darren steals the marker from him to add his own notes to some, including one book that just says “D <3 C” on it.

More people come in and Darren has to sit up front again, watch the door and handle trade ins and make sure no teenage girls try to walk off with a twenty five cent copy of The Joys of Gay Sex (true story, and one Darren will be telling for a while to come). When closing time finally comes around he finds Chris curled up in one of the chairs with a battered leather-bound edition of Grimms Fairy Tales open on his lap.

Darren kneels by the chair and whispers, “Come on, sleeping beauty.”

Chris whines and tries to roll over, but the chair isn’t quite big enough for that. His eyes blink open slowly and when he sees Darren watching him he smiles. “Time to go?”

“Mhm,” Darren says.

Chris reverently closes the book and puts it on the table in front of him while he gets his messenger bag. He grabs it and Darren takes it from him. “Gonna get this?”

Chris nods. “I think so.”

“On the house,” Darren says, handing it over. “I’ve brought in enough of my old cds to cover it.”

Chris grins proudly and clutches the book to him. “Thanks.”

*

His new work schedule means that Darren only gets to play the coffee shop twice a month instead of weekly, but now that he’s a bigger draw they actually kick over some cash compensation instead of just free coffee and muffins.

He’s midway through his set when he hears some noise in the crowd. It doesn’t take him long to single out exactly what is causing the fuss.

Chris slips into a seat at a table near the front, one suspiciously empty - probably meaning Chris had called ahead and set it up. Arriving ten minutes late... yeah, that’s totally his style. Darren doesn’t even care, because his boyfriend is here, watching him sing.

Halfway through the set he sees Chris lift his phone up and snap a picture while Darren's looking at him. He doesn't think much of it until later, much later when they're in bed and Chris is sleeping peacefully beside him. Darren's still too wound up from the show to join him just yet so he boots up his laptop and signs onto twitter. Darren bites his lip to keep from laughing too hard when he sees the picture attached to a tweet from Chris.

Chris Colfer @ChrisColfer
Enjoyed a night out watching my favorite performer (and my favorite fella), @DarrenCriss. Maybe he'll give me a private concert later? ;)