Title: Taking Root
Summary: Darren’s having an existential crisis and drags Chris along with him while he tries to figure himself out. A road-trip of sorts happens, incidentally. vaguely inspired by Richard Siken, especially specifically You Are Jeff.
author’s note: well, okay, this was supposed to be part of the CrissColfer Big Bang but events transpired against me so here it is, months later. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever posted and I’m still trying to figure out why people let me post things at all. nonetheless, I hope you guys enjoy this and if you do I hope you tell me – you’ve no idea how appreciative and grateful I am when I get feedback.<3
there are a few quotes/references to Richard Siken and a song from Avatar the Last Airbender which I think is called Don’t Fall in Love with a Traveling Girl. the lyrics might be slightly off since I typed by ear.
effusive thanks to Certaintendencies, as always, who offered much-appreciated concrit and who also drew a piece of art for this because she’s lovely and wonderful; Aubreyli, who I can assure you was both ruthless and absurdly helpful while she read through and stripped this story down to what you see, which is impossibly improved from the mess it was before, and I am pathetically grateful to her; Mocha, my beta, who actually keeps me sane while I write and then proceeds to correct all my mistakes. I want to kiss all of you on the mouth. you’re lovely and if it weren’t for all three of you this would be a disaster.
disclaimer: i make no profit from this work of fiction. and it is just that - a very creatively licensed work of fiction that did not happen and is entirely made up by my over-active imagination. both Chris and Darren are actual people and this is not Stranger Than Fiction so this is not true, real, nor dictating or documenting anyone’s actual life, etc., etc.
art is here - go, see, stare, weep with envy. it's perfect.
additional art is here - made by the lovely Deej. i cannot tell you how much i love it to bits.
and additional additional art: x x x x | there are literally no words for how floored i was by these - i am so grateful and so humbled and really, truly, thank you is not nearly enough but - thank you, all of you.<3
also posted at
for text messages:
Chris is sitting in front of his laptop, relieved to have some time off Glee while they wait to start shooting for the fourth season. It gives him time to work on the script he’s been plotting out. He’s trying to work out some characterizations that have been giving him difficulty when his phone goes off. He struggles against the instinctual irritation at being interrupted as he answers it.
“This is Chris.”
“Where the fuck is Darren?”
Chris reaches out and snaps his laptop shut, brow furrowing.
“Yes. Where the fuck is Darren?”
“I – don’t know. Isn’t it your job to be aware of his every unsupervised step?”
“Don’t be a smartass. Are you sure you don’t know where he is? He’s not hiding out at your house, right? So help me, If you’re covering for him – “ Chris rolls his eyes, even as he feels a little flush of amusement roll through him. It has been known to happen.
The only thing that stops him short is the genuine concern that’s creeping into the publicist’s voice. Lindsey is stern and ruthless and a veritable stone wall when she needs to be – which is often. She’s old enough to get away with calling Darren “idiot boy” when he does something ill-advised, like disappear for 2 days to attend a music festival that will have him either drunk or high for the entire 48 hours, and young enough to scare the shit out of everyone around her when she’s angry. He does know for a fact that she holds no small amount of affection for Darren – because it’s Darren and he gets everyone to like him eventually, whether it’s begrudgingly or not.
“He’s not here. When did you lose him? Why would he – “
“Fuck. That fucking boy is going to drive me to my death-bed and I will haunt his ass until the day he’s driven to his. I don’t know. He’s been – he’s seemed a little off lately.”
Chris pauses, swallowing past the feeling of worry swelling like a wave, slow and inescapable and heavy.
“Just – tired. Strained. Off. I don’t know. You know how he is. You don’t know something’s wrong until he’s gone and fucked off to take care of it himself. I don’t have time for this. Call me if he deigns to reveal himself.”
She hangs up before Chris can protest and he sits there for a moment, dumb with surprise.
He wonders how he didn’t notice.
He tries to pinpoint the moment when Darren started over-extending and showing the repercussions of it but he can’t.
Darren’s just always Darren. He’s loud and happy and everywhere, all the time, seeming to never tire, never burning himself out, always basking in everything, delighting in it.
For someone who’s actually smaller than Chris, Darren makes Chris feel so small sometimes. He’s that type of person whose presence fills a room – gets noticed in this inexplicable way and draws attention to himself even when he doesn’t mean to, even when he’s calm. He’s loud that way and it wouldn’t be particularly difficult for him to hide it if he’d been going through a rough patch – he’s good at distracting people from what’s going on beneath the surface, from making it seem insignificant.
Chris feels something hard and heavy settle in his stomach, a little sickening, like he’s failed at something. Chris likes being a good friend – likes noticing even if others don’t, likes being what they need, knowing what they need, putting aside whatever’s going on in his life to help. He hates that one of the friends most important to him is the one who managed to slip below his radar.
It figures it’d be Darren – Darren’s always been his blind-spot in just about every way.
Chris sighs quietly, twirling his phone in his hand and pushing his desk-chair side to side with his foot.
He dials Darren and holds his breath while it rings.
It’s all sort of sudden, how quickly Darren is so thoroughly insinuated into every part of Chris’s life – or maybe it was just gradual enough that he didn’t notice.
It feels like it’s always just building, really, from the moment they met. Their friendship is so easy and they settle into it as if they’ve always had that role in each other’s life. Darren vaults over walls Chris wasn’t even aware he had and Darren’s probably the only person Chris knows who completely ignores personal space. Chris adjusts because he’s never been in this situation before, but he can adapt.
Chris knows that everyone in the cast does their best to respect him and not cross any lines, but Darren just sort of waltzes in and is a bulldozer of enthusiasm. It took a few weeks, but eventually he’s literally bulldozing over Chris, tackling him down to the blue safety mat on set like it’s just a normal, everyday occurrence for Chris to have the solid weight of Darren pressing him into the floor.
Darren’s complete and utter disdain for personal boundaries is probably what brings them so close so quickly because Darren isn’t careful with Chris. He’s a whirlwind of laughter and eagerness and he’s got the filthiest mouth Chris has ever heard and he’s probably one of the sweetest guys Chris has ever met. He doesn’t change a single bit of himself for anyone and Chris likes it, likes him.
Still, it takes him by surprise when he’s having a really genuinely awful day and the only thing he can think to do is call Darren. He’s flubbing his lines and missing his marks and he can’t seem to portray the emotion Kurt’s supposed to be feeling. He wants to throw something because he’s so frustrated with himself and he needs to express that somehow without taking it out on everyone around him, and Darren’s the only thing that seems to pull focus from the chaos of his head.
He hides in his trailer, phone in a white-knuckled grip, pressed tightly to his ear, pacing back and forth and crumpling an empty water bottle into an unrecognizable shape, ranting to Darren until he’s out of breath and out of words. Darren stays silent until he’s done. Chris can only just hear his slow, easy breathing on the other end of the line.
Later, Darren will arrive at his door at 1 am with take-out and every Tarantino movie he owns and anything awful about his day will be forgotten in favor of Darren’s smile, wide and sweet and crinkling his eyes, movies and bags of take-out held up in front of him like an offering. Chris will be sort of bowled over because he’ll realize, right in that moment, that he’s not quite sure what he’d do without Darren and he’ll wonder how he missed that happening.
(He’ll think of Darren’s sweaters hanging in his closet and his freezer stocked with Darren’s favorite ice cream and feel starkly, startlingly dense in a way that he never really has before.)
For now, in his trailer, finally sitting down and matching his breath to the one he hears over the phone, he feels just that little bit better.
LA feels stifling to Darren, feels like it’s choking the life from his body, like it’s bleeding him dry of creativity and robbing the joy he has for what he does. He doesn’t know why, doesn’t know why this shiny-dazzling-degenerate city, hollowed out but patched over with glamour to hide its inherently trivial existence, makes him feel so empty all of a sudden.
Or maybe he just feels tired.
A fall to his knees, collapse on his bed and sleep the days away, crumple in on himself and just be sort of tired.
He hasn’t left his apartment since he got back from the benefit concert the day before and his phone’s been off since then. He hasn’t shaved, wearing nothing but a loose pull-over and jeans that are so threadbare it almost looks like there’s worn-through holes in some places, hair a mess of curls.
He’s sort of a wreck, really.
He grabs his phone and his keys and slips out into the night, tired, tired, tired, and still moving because he doesn’t know what else to do.
Darren ends up 45 minutes outside of LA. He’s driven up a trail that overlooks the city and there’s a bench near the edge of the cliff that he settles himself on. He can see the LA lights sprawled out like stars in the darkness beneath him and the clusters of them in the sky. He feels like he’s surround by them, like he can take a step and he’ll walk on stars.
It’s beautiful and the air is clean and stings his throat and nose when he inhales and he can smell trees. He has his guitar strapped to his back and he plays aimlessly, thoughtlessly, wild and chaotic, sweet and slow, aching and desperate in turn, in a way he hasn’t been able to lately because he hasn’t been able to feel it in this fucking city with its facsimile of happiness. It’s good, all of it; it’s good but it’s not enough.
He’s still too close and he wonders how far he can go before it’s far enough or before he’s pulled back by the leash around his neck that is his publicist and his responsibilities and his fucking persona that he needs to put up when people are dicks because he can’t tell them to fuck off. He can’t say that’s none of your business, I have a right to some fucking privacy, to some part of my life and myself that I don’t have to share with the whole Goddamn world.
Darren adores his fans –he loves them because they’re everything, they’re why he is where he is in life and where he is - is a dream.
It’s the tabloids and the rumors and the invasive questions that no one has any right to ask him that get to him. It’s the people who want to learn everything about him just so they can tear him apart more thoroughly.
He watches the sun rise, the hues of pink and orange and purple bursting over the skyline and seeping out like paint spilled across the sky. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t slept or maybe it’s because he’s too tired and it’s making him emotional, or maybe it’s because he feels like it’s been ages since he’s been so still and it feels like watching the world stop in slow-motion, but he can’t quite remember seeing anything quite as beautiful.
His phone goes off at 8 am, 10 minutes after he’s finally turned it back on, ignoring every missed call and text and voicemail and turning off his ringer without looking at anything. He’s half-asleep, sprawled out across the bench, arm thrown over his eyes and beanie pulled over his ears, one leg dangling to the ground and brushing the dirt. The sound of it vibrating against the table is a boom-boom-boom of noise in the quiet.
His first instinct is to ignore it – he only brought it with him in case there’s an emergency. Talking isn’t very appealing to him, right now. He checks, just in case, and sees Chris’s name flash across his screen, along with his picture – one he and Chris took months ago, Darren pressing his cheek to Chris’s, both of them fighting over Darren’s pink wayfarers and Chris laughing, eyes squinted shut, small dimples playing across his cheeks, teeth peeking out. He feels his stomach clench.
He answers the phone.
“Darren?” Darren inhales slowly, closes his eyes for a moment, running his hand through his hair and staying silent because for a second he can’t speak, can’t make a sound.
He’s so fucking tired.
“Darren? Everything alright? What’s going on?”
Darren wants to say Hi Chris, I’ve missed you and he wants to say I feel like I’m suffocating and I don’t know what I’m doing anymore and I am so fucking exhausted.
He says, “Chris, meet me somewhere.”
It surprises Darren how much he takes to Chris, how quickly he attaches himself to him.
Darren does that, he knows – he likes people and if he happens to really, really like you, he can’t help but want to spend as much time as possible with you. It hadn’t happened for him in awhile –
not since the Starkids, really.
But he meets Chris, who so clearly does not know what to do with him, yet doesn’t ask Darren to stop and instead adapts, adjusts. Chris is one of the best people he’s ever met and for a long time Chris was his only concern. He loves the entire cast, he does, but at first the only person he noticed, really, really noticed, was Chris. Chris was his person on set. Chris was the person he ran to, the person he vented to, the person he looked for when there was too many people in the room and he needed a familiar face.
There’s a certain feeling he gets late at night sometimes, sitting next to Chris, eating unhealthy, delicious food and watching movies and laughing so hard his stomach hurts, hiding his face into Chris’s shoulder, and those moments feel distinct to him; the fabric of Chris’s shirt against his skin, the way Chris’s chest shakes when he laughs, the way he smells, clean and soft and some sweet, subtle mixture of feminine and masculine. He’ll get this feeling, like he could spend the rest of his life here and he’d be happy.
He realizes that he hasn’t felt that way in too long and he doesn’t know what to do about it.
Darren feels like he has no idea what the fuck he’s doing at all most of the time anymore.
He keeps trying anyway, keeps loving what he’s doing, keeps going – it’s all he knows how to do.
Chris pulls up an hour and a half later, gray Henley and jeans, casual and comfortable in his skin in a way that Darren watched happen over time. He’s not the same kid he first worked with years ago. It feels like a lifetime, really. Darren feels something unwind when he sees him.
He doesn’t say anything, just steps out of his car and walks to the bench Darren’s still sitting on. He stares down at him with his hand shielding his eyes from the sun, hanging high in the sky and splashing over everything too-brightly, washing it white, eyebrows knit together.
Darren breathes and sets his guitar down and then launches himself forward and hugs Chris because Chris hugs tight and warm and solid and grounding and that’s exactly what Darren needs right then.
Chris lets out a small sound, a soft exhalation of surprise, and hugs Darren back. Darren hooks his chin over Chris’s shoulder and Chris settles into his neck, tucking his face there, and Darren clutches and breathes, breathes, breathes.
They end up sitting beneath a tree, overlooking the city, beneath the shade.
Chris’s voice is quiet when he speaks, eyes never leaving Darren’s face even as Darren looks over the city with something anxious churning in his stomach.
“What’s wrong, Darren? Apparently you just disappeared off the map and your publicist has been trying to reach you.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know. How do you know?” His voice is low, a little rough, soft, and Darren realizes he hasn’t actually said anything out loud to anyone in two days.
Chris just watches him, calm. “Lindsey called me and wanted to know if I’d seen you.”
Darren heaves a sigh, frustrated, murmuring, “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Chris stays quiet, grips his shoulder and tugs him to the side until Darren’s head is in Chris’s lap and he’s running his fingers through Darren’s hair.
Darren turns from his side to his stomach, tucks his face close to Chris’s hip, and presses his forehead there, wrapping his arms around Chris’s waist, letting himself be soothed.
“You look exhausted.” Chris says, his voice soft.
“I am. I’m exhausted and I’m – I’m stuck. I don’t – LA is – I’ve been in this fucking – thing too long, this – whatever it is that I’m feeling. But I don’t know why I feel so off. Why I’m suddenly so drained by everything.”
Chris laughs, pressing his fingers into Darren’s shoulder.
“Darren, you need a vacation. You’ve been going non-stop since you started Glee. When you’re not wrapped up in Glee, you’re doing concerts or something for Starkid or benefits or an album or feeding the homeless and adopting puppies.” Darren laughs, breath puffing against Chris’s hip.
Chris nudges his shoulder, laughing again.
He pauses, his hand still on Darren’s shoulder, and says with a serious but oddly gentle voice, “You really do need a vacation. It’s not like your publicist will make a big deal out of you taking a couple of weeks. We’re not shooting for Glee right now – just do whatever you have lined up that you can’t reschedule and then take some time for yourself.”
Darren sighs, rolls to his back and lets his head stay pillowed on Chris’s lap.
“I don’t know. I can’t just – stop for a few weeks. I should be doing things.”
Chris snorts and Darren stares up at him, at his bright eyes, nose wrinkled a little, sunlight slipping between the leaves of the tree and hitting Chris’s neck and hands and knees.
“Darren, you’re always doing things.” His voice is wry, but he’s smiling still. “Just take a break before you burn yourself out completely.”
Darren closes his eyes and tries to figure out where he’d even go, what he’d do.
He wants to run, that’s what he wants, from everything, from everyone.
Except maybe Chris. He’s not quite sure why - maybe because Chris is easy to be around and as much as he loves the Starkids, they aren’t quite who he needs around him right now.
Darren pulls away, sits up and picks up his guitar, hugs it close to his body, absent-mindedly plucking the strings, playing a formless sort of melody that picks up a groove on its own, head ducked down, hair tickling his forehead.
He feels restless. He can’t sit here and think about this, can’t sit here planning it out because his entire fucking life is planned out right now and he has to take every chance he’s given to be spontaneous or he will go insane. He just needs to go for once, for the first time in too long.
He lays his hand flat over the strings of his guitar, lifts his head and grins at Chris, who’s watching him patiently, plucking the sparse grass from the ground absently with a small smile on his lips, eyebrow lifting like he knows that Darren’s got an idea. Darren feels something settle – the restlessness still tightens his muscles, his stomach, spreads over his limbs, but he feels a slow sort of sureness overtake him.
“What have you got planned for the next few weeks, Chris?”
Chris eyes him, a dawning sort of realization unfolding across his features. “Darren, that is not –
“ but Darren’s already up, hands waving as he speaks, talking right over Chris’s protest.
“No, just – okay, just hear me out, man. I can’t – I honestly don’t know what I want right now, what it is I need right now – but I know that this is – something.”
Chris’s eyes catch his, looking both wary and affectionate as he nods slowly.
“Alright, okay. God, you’re insane. What do you want?”
Darren feels a thrill climb up his spine, wash through his chest, heavy and warm and electric, and an anticipatory grin curling his lips.
Chris is sort of in a predicament – Darren’s standing in front of him, hair an untamed mass of curls, dark eyes dropping down and then back up, meeting Chris’s gaze again, smile growing slow and mischievous across his face, and he’s sort of entirely helpless in the face of it.
He is trying not to think about the fact that Darren doesn’t have a shirt on beneath his soft, well-worn sweater – and he knows because when Darren got up, his sweater rode up and his jeans rode down and there’s nothing there but the dimples of his lower back, the slow-blurring tan line that starts at the waist of his jeans.
There are rules. Chris doesn’t think about the line of Darren’s spine or the cut of his hips, the tilt of his head, his eyes or his smile or his hands, because that’s asking for trouble, for something Chris doesn’t want to have to deal with.
There are moments when he sees Darren – when Darren says something or does something, and it makes Chris’s stomach hurt for a single, aching second, and he pushes himself forward, forces himself past that second of want that’s so distinct Chris would swear it’s a physical thing.
These are things Chris doesn’t think about.
Those seconds, though – those are seconds that he still feels later, like a phantom ache, like a ripple-effect, like a rock thrown into a river, hands hitting the surface of the water, all reaction, reaction, reaction, hands clenching into fists and goosebumps and flickering eyes.
But always, always, he pushes past, leaves the river and the rock but can’t quite forget them, and he’s still got his hands, the way they go white-knuckled, the way they tremble, just a little bit sometimes.
These are things Chris doesn’t think about, and those seconds too – he wonders if the feeling he gets is anticipation or dread when he thinks fleetingly about when they'll come again.
Sometimes he feels like his world is still except for those seconds when suddenly he feels like his world is spinning so fast he can't quite take everything in - or maybe it's the opposite.
But these are things he doesn't think about anyway, so Chris is not thinking about any of this.
What he is thinking is that he’s in a predicament because he’s not sure he can say no to Darren when he’s looking at him like that. Darren looks so fucking hopeful and he’s pretty sure Darren’s going to ask him to do something that would be really, really wise to not do.
And then Darren’s mouth is parting on his grin and he’s saying, “What I need, maybe – what I want – is to just run. I want to get as far away as I can because maybe that’s part of the shit I’m going through right now.”
Chris just looks at him, with his dark hair and bright, bright eyes, and underlying that, the set of his shoulders that speaks of tension, the bags beneath his eyes, the exhaustion that runs a jagged line through his body.
“Okay,” he replies slowly, the word dragging out and lilting at the end, searching for more.
Darren takes a deep breath, like he’s preparing for battle, says, “I don’t know where I want to go, but I want to drive somewhere. Anywhere that’s not here. And I – don’t want to go alone. Just – will you come with me, Chris? Please?”
Chris is silent for a moment, because it’s really a spectacularly bad idea. If they get caught, the media will actually lose their collective shit and the fans will be even worse and Darren’s reputation will probably take enough hits to sink a ship.
Even besides all that, Chris is just – he’s private about these things because he doesn’t want his relationships to be part of the media circus that is his life sometimes. Even more so with Darren, because he’s so careful with how the media and the fans see them – he doesn’t want anything taken out of context or blown out of proportion, doesn’t want any of them to get close enough to see how close he and Darren actually are.
But then there’s Darren who actually looks so fatigued that it’s hurting Chris to look at him and who is looking back at Chris like he’s the answer he didn’t even know he was searching for in the first place.
Chris missed it, he missed Darren completely exhausting himself and he missed realizing that no one was telling Darren to slow down. Darren is one of his best friends, which means a lot more to Chris than he can actually admit sometimes. He grew up not having anyone and not once did he ever think, this will change, I will find people who will become a second family to me. That was never a hope he had, never something he kept close to him, but that’s what he got anyway and there isn’t a day that passes that he isn’t quietly, embarrassingly grateful for it.
So realistically speaking, if this is what Darren wants, Chris doesn’t have the willpower or the heart to say no to him.
He says, carefully, “You know that if we get caught there is going to be hell to pay. Everyone will actually lose their mind.”
Darren waves it away, eyes sparkling, and he’s saying, “We’ve got good PR, they can spin it into like, a Ryan Murphy-enforced Kurt-and-Blaine thing or something.”
Chris is shaking his head, because that’s not enough if this is a genuine concern for Darren, which Chris feels like it should be but Darren is Darren and he’s never really followed the basic rules of logic, both universally and personally.
“Darren, that is not a chance you can really afford to take.”
Darren just looks at him with his eyes steady and replies, easy like it’s nothing, “Honestly, I don’t actually care what anyone thinks, man. I just – I want this. I don’t know why. I just do. It feels right and I want you to come with me. Please?”
Chris sighs quietly, can feel the way a reluctant grin is already lifting the corners of his mouth, drops his head forward and pushes the palms of his hands over his eyes, rubbing them – it’s the fucking please that does it, pulls him down and he knows he’s not getting back up, knows he’s in. He knows that this might possibly be the worst idea but there’s nothing that could make him regret it, no matter how unwise it is, and that’s good enough.
Darren’s laughing, already knowing he’s won, pulling Chris up and hugging him, tight and strong, and he’s saying, “Thank you. Thank you. I know what I’m asking you to risk and I know how important these things are to you and just – thank you.”
Chris laughs, helpless and fond and he hugs Darren back, replying, “No, it’s fine, seriously. I need a break anyway. It’s not a big deal. Stop thanking me, you lunatic.”
It takes half an hour to convince his agent that no, she really, really can reschedule everything happening over the next two weeks, except for the concert in New York that he’d never reschedule, no matter how much he might need to. It takes an hour to convince her that he really, honestly does not give a single fuck what the media will think if they find out that he’s not only going on a road-trip to an as-of-yet undetermined destination, but that he’s doing it with his male, gay, on-screen boyfriend.
(Darren doesn’t think about why his stomach seizes up when he’s reminded that as far as the media is concerned, he and Chris are just on-set friends. Never mind that Darren has clothes in Chris’s closet and Chris keeps a toothbrush in Darren’s bathroom and that he’s one of the best friends Darren’s got.)
Darren doesn’t feel like driving back down to LA just yet, but knows he has to, that he needs to get clothes and necessities and so does Chris. Chris lets them stay where they are until they’ve both convinced their PR people that the world isn’t going to end if they go, and that really, they’re going regardless so they might as well work with them on rescheduling everything. He can hear Chris in the background, voice quiet but firm – no, I really don’t care at this point. I realize that, but he needs this and he’s – yes. No, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to just – abandon him. And I was taking a break to work on the script anyway, now it’ll just be an actual vacation.
Chris eventually hangs up the phone, looks over at Darren and grins and Darren feels more tension seep out of him. Chris is one of the best people he’s ever met and sometimes it makes his chest ache knowing that, knowing that he’s probably one of Chris’s best friends, too.
They agree to meet at Darren’s in a few hours – Chris has to go home and pack and let a few people know that he’ll be gone for a week or two. Darren knows he should let people know, too – he just doesn’t feel like dealing with anything, not right now. He’ll deal with it if he has to, but until then, he wants the least amount of things on his mind as possible.
Darren gives Chris another hug before he gets into his car, pulls him close and tucks his face into Chris’s neck. The way Chris’s soft, high laugh vibrates up his stomach to his chest, the way Darren can feel it just as he hears it, is one of the most soothing things he’s ever felt and he sort of wants to never let him go.
Eventually, he gets into his car and makes the drive back. The closer he gets to LA, the tighter his chest feels, the heavier his body feels. He scratches his fingers through his hair, tugging a little and feeling frustrated with himself for feeling this way now – this kind of bullshit existential crisis was supposed to have happened in fucking college, not when he’s in his twenties and living the life he’s dreamed about since he was a kid.
By the time he gets home, all the tension he’d managed to let go of has already slammed back into him and he just wants to get out as quickly as possible. He packs the most comfortable clothes he owns, throws bottles of water and all the snacks in his pantry in a bag, and after a brief internal debate grabs his ukulele and his acoustic guitar too. He sends a message to the one other person he feels like he can deal with and sits on the floor in his living room, waiting for Chris.
I’m going on a vacation. Kind of.
Angels are singing, little brother!
I didn’t even know you knew what a vacation was!
I don’t know why I bother telling you these things.
Because I’m your favorite brother.
Only because you’re my only brother.
If I had another one, he would be my favorite.
Just so you know.
Lies. All you tell me is lies.
It’s a possibility.
Who’re you going with, then?
Where you headed?
Chris is coming with me.
Not sure yet. We’re just gonna’ – drive.
What a fucking hipster.
You should come to SF.
FW concert at the Castro theater.
What? What’s interesting?
And fuck you, my glasses are prescription.
But that actually sounds – like exactly what I want to do.
So this is why I tell you these things even though you suck.
Nothing, never mind.
Also, I am awesome, watch your mouth.
You think Chris would be okay with it?
You haven’t been to one of our performances in a while.
It’d be nice to see you, man.
Whatever ass, don’t tell me then. Be that way.
Chris won’t care. He’s only coming because I asked.
When is it?
3 days. You’ll make it in time, even driving.
We’ll be there.
Angels are singing!
I prefer our non-existent younger brother who idolizes me.
Even our non-existent little brother thinks you’re a dork, Darren.
See you soon.
Thanks, by the way.
YOU LOVE ME. :D
I WOULD TOTALLY BE YOUR FAVORITE REGARDLESS
It’s long stretches of road and long stretches of silence and they settle into it like fallen leaves touching the ground; gently, quietly. There’s something careful about them – maybe because Darren has circles around his eyes so dark they look like bruises, like even though he’s sleeping he’s not really resting, not recuperating. Maybe because Darren pulls out his ukulele, which will always make Chris smile, and strums this melody – this slow, soft, aching melody that lilts and twists like vines around Chris’s heart and tugs and he has no idea why. Maybe because Darren’s hands move slow and he blinks like it’s taking effort to open his eyes every time they close and Darren’s body shifts in increments like he doesn’t have the energy to move his whole body at once.
The only reason Chris isn’t silently, discreetly panicking is because Darren still smiles like he means it, looks at Chris and grins and it’s bright and open and creasing the corners of his eyes. He still laughs like he can’t help it, like it’s bursting from the cavity of his chest before he can stop it, loud and sudden and deep, chest and shoulders shaking, sunlight catching his eyes and the curls of his hair when he tosses his head back. He still touches Chris like it doesn’t even occur to him to refrain – hand on Chris’s shoulder, fingers poking Chris’s ribs, his stomach, patting him on the thigh, batting at his arm.
Chris lets them relax into it, driving along the winding roads, the sun bright but the air cool, stinging his nose when he inhales, and doesn’t put any pressure on Darren to talk to him yet.
It’s an 8 hour drive with the route they’re taking, and they plan on stopping for the night when Chris can’t bring himself to drive anymore. Darren’s trying to get Chris to let him drive the last leg of the trip, but Chris is silently planning on keeping the keys with him at all times and only switching off when he’s really, really tired of driving.
They aren’t exactly in a rush though and they end up stopping as they go – sometimes Darren will just look at Chris and there’s something urgent in his eyes and Chris will pull over at the next restaurant or gas station. What might have been a fairly brief drive had they just gone straight-through ends up taking a good couple of hours longer. Chris doesn’t mind. It’s what they’re doing this for in the first place – to get Darren away for a while.
There’s one point where they’ve been on the road for about 3 hours and Darren’s getting more and more restless, going quiet and eyes going distant, so Chris pulls over. There’s a bench in front of the gas station and it’s basically empty but for a car or two. Darren just gets out and sprawls himself on top of the table, laying flat on his back, staring up at the sky, glasses perched on his nose.
Chris watches for a moment, hands in his pockets, smiling a little because only Darren would think this is acceptable behavior. He moves forward, settles on the bench, hiding his smile behind his hand when Darren’s hand goes to Chris’s hair, tugging on it absently. Chris tilts his head back, leaning his head against Darren’s hip.
“Thank you for doing this for me.”
“Well, I like head massages, so…”
Darren laughs and pokes Chris on the shoulder.
“You know what I mean, Colfer. Thanks for coming with me.”
“You already thanked me, Criss. No need.”
Darren hums softly, tugs on Chris’s hair pointedly. Chris laughs and slaps at his hand but doesn’t move away.
“You’re in a car with a beautiful boy…” Darren quotes, softly, quietly, voice a little raspy, and Chris feels heat and ice, in turn, work its way up his spine.
He takes a breath, turns around quickly and punches Darren in the stomach, laughing when Darren laughs, turning his eyes away so he’s not looking into Darren’s and trying to pretend it’s not on purpose.
“Come on, before you decide to start re-enacting Shakespeare.”
“I make no promises – I could just end up reciting to you in the car.”
“You are my least favorite.”
Darren grins at him, wide and easy, swings his arm around Chris’s shoulder, half-dragging him
back to the car.
“No, you love me. You want me to recite poetry at you all day and all night for the rest of your life.”
“That would actually be horrifying. I might strangle you.”
“Who says I wouldn’t like it?”
Darren’s grinning at him from the other side of the car and he’s stopped Chris short just as he opened the driver-side door, staring at him openly.
Darren’s smile is actually disgustingly smug and Chris says, quietly, disbelievingly, “You are an asshole.”
Darren winks and says happily, “You fucking love me.”
Chris sighs as he gets into the car, trying and failing to suppress his grin, laughing and shoving Darren when he tries to force him into a hug, smiling too-sweetly, eyes wide and sparkling.
“Shut it, Criss. I hate you. Go to sleep – you need it.”
Darren doesn’t sleep, but persists on singing every pop song known to man at the top of his lungs for an hour.
Chris really, really doesn’t hate him.
boo what the hell is goin’ on?
what’s all this about a Big Gay Wedding between u and your mahhvelous mistah Criss?
Um. He needs a break?
I am ignoring that last one.
what does him needing a break have to do w/u?
you’re really bad at ignoring things baby
He didn’t want to do it alone. Spontaneous roadtrip abound.
you guys be careful.
this could be the mother of all shitshows.
No. No “interesting.” There is nothing interesting here.
And we are. Trust me, we are well aware.
All possible repercussions were taken into consideration.
h8 u too baby<3
WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED IMMEDIATELY
Lea calm down.
It’s not that big of a deal.
not that big of a deal!?
you’re going on a sexy vacation with your sexy co-star!
probably doing sexy things!
how is that not a big deal?!?
I hate EVERYONE.
you love ALL OF US.
now where are your priorities
stop talking to me and go tap that luscious ass young man
From: Canadian Bacon
To: Canadian Bacon
not you too Cory
Mark & Harry say hi
They want to know how Darren’s
“So tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
Darren’s not really evading – he honestly has no idea what Chris wants to hear. Darren’s just tired. He’s tired and everything is going too quickly and he’s not taking the time to enjoy everything anymore, because it’s just so much, and he’s just going and going and it’s overwhelming.
Chris says with a wry smile in place, eyes darting to catch Darren’s before slipping back to the road, “What has you falling apart on me?”
Darren laughs and stares out the window at the trees flying by, strumming his ukulele, soft and light, like everything feels right now, easy, easy, easy.
He says, “No idea. Maybe I'm just really that bad at not having you close all the time.”
Chris laughs, sighs, and glances at him again.
“That’s not it.”
“Not all of it, probably. Part of it though, fuck yes. Have you met me? I am one co-dependent
Chris snorts, indelicate, lovely.
“I do realize this, Darren Everett.”
“No middle-names, Christopher Paul. We had an agreement.”
“Oh, damn it, alright, never again. What is all of it, then?”
“No fucking clue, man. I’ll keep you posted.”
Chris laughs and Darren grins, because Chris’s laugh is something that’s happy and open and loud and it’s music of its own kind, really, and he gets that feeling that’s been too infrequent lately – like he could stay here, right here in this moment, and be happy.
He strums his guitar and watches the trees and wonders if maybe the only thing that’s wrong with him is he needs time away from being Darren Criss and just needs to be Darren Everett.
part II - part III