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Lipstick Traces, Pt. 2 (RPF)

Author: Odd
Title: Lipstick Traces, Pt. 2 (RPF)
Rating: R for now. Will likely increase.
Word Count: 11,500
Summary: Out of work actor and struggling musician Darren Criss believes in a lot of things, but in love more than anything else. How can he not, in a world where everyone's got the name of their one true love emblazoned on their skin? At least, that's what he thought before he met Christopher – AKA reluctant drag queen Izzy Fuhreel - who won't let anyone read his lips. For this prompt on the kink meme. Involves Darren/OFC and mentions of Chris/OMC.
Notes: Close to 25k, and I think we're about two-thirds there. It's still updating at least a little almost every day on the meme, but I like collecting it all once a week for reposting. Like last time, there's a post here with a couple of the OCs, if you want to know what they look like. Big thanks to everyone who's read and commented on it. I'm having lots of fun with this story, and it's nice to know some of you are, too. :)

"I hope you're hungry."

Darren shut the door behind him and headed for the kitchen. Ceecee was standing at the stove, Darren's "Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies" apron tied over her yoga pants and a tank. "Hey," he said, wrapping an arm around her waist and hugging her from behind as he buried his nose in her hair. "I didn't think I'd see you until tomorrow."

"I got lucky and had some time to sleep last night. Six glorious hours…" Ceecee sighed happily as she sank back against him. "I can't remember the last time I felt so relaxed."

Darren kissed her cheek and leaned to rest his head on her shoulder. "You felt relaxed, so you decided to come over and cook for me?"

She grinned and stirred the pasta sauce she had simmering on the stove. "We haven't had as much time together since you started your new job. I thought it would be nice to surprise you. Here," she said, offering him her wooden spoon. "Taste."

"Mmm," Darren said, licking his lips as he swallowed. "Extra basil?"

"Extra basil," she nodded. "Just the way I know you like it." She turned to plant a quick peck against his lips and laughed as she turned back to her cooking. "Sit down; the pasta will be done soon. There's garlic bread in the oven and salad in the fridge. I forgot if you have to work tonight, but I was thinking we could maybe watch a movie, if you have time."

Darren straddled one of his chairs and rested his arms across the back as he watched her finish her preparations. "I do, but not for a few hours. We have plenty of time."


Ceecee untied the apron and hung it on the hook beside the fridge. "Pick one out. I'll put together our plates and bring everything out in a couple of minutes."

Darren got up and walked over to kiss her cheek. "I have the best girlfriend ever."

Ceecee froze. "We're watching 'Star Wars' again, aren't we?"

"Yep!"

Ceecee scrunched up her face and gave him a reluctant smile. "You're lucky you're cute."

Darren kissed her nose and grinned as he backed away and into the living room. "I know I'm lucky, 'cause I have you."

---

"This is so weird," Darren said as Ceecee curled beneath his arm on the couch.

Ceecee craned her head to meet his eyes. "Having more than five minutes together before bed?"

Darren shook his head. "No, I mean the movie. The whole 'will they or won't they?' between Han and Leia."

Ceecee hummed to herself. "I always thought she would have been better off with Luke."

Darren made a face. "Ceese, that's her brother."

Ceecee frowned. "Then why don't they call him Prince Luke? That doesn't make any sense."

Darren shook his head. "They were separated at birth because their mother and father –" he forced himself to stop and took a deep breath. "Look, all you need to know is they're twins, okay?"

"Okay," she said meekly, curling her legs beneath her on the couch. "I told you I don't understand Science Fiction."

"Star Wars is Fantasy. Not Science Fiction."

"Okay, I don't understand Fantasy," she said. "Except for 'Harry Potter.'"

Darren laughed softly as he draped his arm back around her. "Good enough for me."

"What were you saying about Leia and Han?"

"Oh," Darren said, gesturing toward the screen. "I just meant that you can always tell when a movie was made before marks became common. There's always so much tension because no one knew what was going to happen. They can't really get away with that anymore. Not unless it's a period piece, or something."

"It's kind of sad, isn't it?" Ceecee asked, scooting across the couch so she could rest her head in his lap. "Can you imagine how different some of those old movies would have been, if all the characters had known from the start they'd end up together?"

Darren considered this for a moment. "They'd have been a lot happier."

"But what kind of stories would they have been? Instant happiness is great, but even you have to admit it doesn't make for a very compelling story. It's why so many people read young adult books. The characters are still open for possibilities."

Darren's brow formed a crease as he looked down at her. "You say that like being marked is a curse."

"Don't twist my words," she said, frowning back up at him. "I just meant that once you know who you're supposed to be with, other options aren't as interesting. Didn't you date before you got yours?"

"Well, yeah. Of course."

"And didn't you hope you'd wake up with their name on you?"

"Yes, but-"

Ceecee put a finger to his lips. "There's nothing wrong with that, Darren. It doesn't mean you were being disloyal, it just means that you were young. I sometimes think we get so focused on finding our matches that we forget how it felt to look at every new person and wonder, 'is this the one?'"

"Yeah," Darren said. "I guess you're right. Huh." He sank back against the couch. "I wonder if that's how Christopher feels."

"Your new friend from work?" Darren nodded. "I want to meet him. He sounds interesting."

Darren chuckled. "That's one word for him. Hey, why don't you swing by the bar tonight? I can't spend too much time with you since I'll be working, but I can introduce you to everyone and you can see how I afford to keep myself in all this luxury."

---

Christopher was adjusting the microphone stand when Darren and Ceecee entered the bar. "I hope you brought your earplugs," he said as Darren approached the stage. "It's karaoke night."

"Yes!" Darren cheered, pumping his fist wildly. "I am a master of karaoke. I'll have to get Ash to let me out from behind the bar long enough to get a couple in."

Christopher knelt at the edge of the stage and offered Ceecee his hand. "You must be Ceecee. I've heard a lot about you. Am I going to see you up here later?"

Ceecee laughed. "No, no no no no no. Darren's the talented one."

"Oh, come on – she can sing. She can totally sing." Darren poked her in the shoulder and grinned. "I'll get you up there. We'll show everyone how good you are."

"I told you I don't want to know any more about your sex life, Darren."

Ceecee's cheeks pinked as Ashley waved them toward the bar. "I'm sorry. I've been trying to be quieter since-"

Ashley waved a hand. "Don't worry about it. There are worse things I could hear. At least it's a happy sound. Can I get you something?"

"Oh, I shouldn't," Ceecee said. "I shouldn't stay too long."

"All the more reason to have something," Ashley said. "Let me guess, appletini?"

"How did you know?"

Ashley grinned. "Darren told me." She made the drink and set it on the bar. "On the house."

"Thank you," Ceecee said, taking a sip. "Mmmm…I can't remember the last time I had one of these. All work and no play makes Cecelia something something something."

"I know the feeling," Christopher said, tapping the microphone and cringing when the resulting feedback filled the room. "And on that note, I need to go get ready. I'm doing a new number tonight. I hope the costume still fits after last night's sushi."

"Good luck with that," Darren said. "You made a real pig of yourself."

"Like you're one to talk."

"Hey," Darren protested. "At least my work outfits don't take twenty minutes to get into."

Christopher frowned. "I guess this would be a bad time to ask if one of you would be willing to help me get out of one of my costumes later, wouldn't it?"

Ashley threw up her hands. "Not it! Last time I tried, you yelled at me for smudging your makeup."

"I'd spent an hour doing it."

"You were also wearing a catsuit with a very high neck."

The two of them stared at each other for a few seconds, then turned to face Darren at the same time. "You're it."

Darren blanched. "I don't know, guys. Are you sure that wouldn't be weird?"

Christopher raised an eyebrow. "Do you want to fuck me?"

"Jeez, Christopher, no. Oh, man…" Darren shook his head and sighed. "No offense, but you know. Girlfriend? Love of my life? Right here?"

"Tell me I'm not the only thing stopping you," Ceecee said, grinning around the rim of her glass as she watched the three of them. "Boy on boy is so hot."

"My kinda' woman," Ashley said, reaching out to give Ceecee a high five.

"No, you're not the only reason," Darren said. "But how many reasons do I need?"

"One's enough," Christopher said. "You'll know the outfit when you see it. Just follow me back to the dressing room when the number's done."

---

True to Christopher's word, Darren knew which outfit required his assistance the moment it appeared on stage.

So did Ashley and Ceecee.

"Is he wearing-"

"Are those-"

"Where did he hide his-"

"You don't want to know," Darren said, pouring his girlfriend another drink as they all stared open-mouthed at the stage.

A bright spotlight fell on Izzy, resplendent in what appeared to be black latex lederhosen over a tiny, ruffled blouse. His bangs were parted down the center and curled beneath his chin, bright circles painted on his cheeks and enormous false eyelashes that made his already vivid contacts stand out even more as he bobbed his head from side to side and held up what looked like a small doll with an elongated head.

Ashley leaned forward. "Tell me he's not holding a-"

Ceecee giggled. "He is. He really really is. I have one almost just like that at home!"

Darren swung to face her. "Hey!"

"What? A girl has her needs, Darren. What am I supposed to do when we can't get together for a few days? Don't tell me you keep your hands to yourself when I'm not around."

Darren frowned. "I plead the fifth."

"Coin-operated boy. Sitting on the shelf, he is just a toy."

The girls cackled loudly as Izzy danced about the stage like a wind-up doll, moving the toy about in an increasingly lewd manner. "Best. Performance. EVER," Ashley decreed.

"I've never seen him before, but I don't know how he can top this," Ceecee said. "Oh, Darren. You're so lucky to work here. It's so much fun."

"It has its moments," Darren sighed as the lights went down and he saw the posture shift from Izzy back to Christopher. "Now, if you excuse me, I think I have to help Christopher get his balls back."

---

Darren grunted as he fought with Christopher's outfit. "Why is this thing so hard to hold on to?"

"Sweat and lube," Christopher said, gripping tightly to the sides of his chair as he kept his ass suspended a few inches above it. "Two very common occupational hazards." He caught sight of Darren's reaction and frowned. "Lube helps the latex go on smoother. It's good for a lot of things. Stuck zippers, tangled jewelry, last minute shaves-"

"You shave with it?"

"When I get here and see that I have too much shadow to go onstage without looking like I'm trying to imitate a stucco wall? Yes. It helps the razor glide and it doesn't irritate my skin."

Darren tugged again and gave a whoop of satisfaction as Christopher's hips came into view. "Alright. I think we've got the hardest part done."

Christopher shook his head. "The thighs are the worst, but I can get them from here."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, but if you want to tug at the legs a little to straighten them out, I won't complain."

Darren reached for the right leg and tugged gently until was more or less straight. "In a million years, I never imagined I would make my living peeling latex off of drag queens."

"Since you work for tips, you're technically not making anything right now." Christopher grinned. "Except maybe a few grains of awesomeness."

"Building a beach!" Darren said, tugging on the left leg and throwing his arms up in victory when the latex jerked forward off of Christopher's ass. "Yes! Sweet; I could totally be RuPaul's new wardrobe assistant."

Christopher grinned as he bent over in his seat and urged the latex over his legs. "Don't get ahead of yourself. The day you can complain about being bored while helping me untuck because I can't get my nails off and I'm afraid of poking myself, I'll write you a letter of recommendation."

Darren paused. "Does that happen to you a lot?"

Christopher shook his head and pulled the shorts over his feet before standing up. "No, but once is more than enough."

Darren looked up at him. "Dude, like, don't take this the wrong way or anything, but you look really weird."

Christopher stopped toweling himself off and stared. "I'm trying to think of a way to take that that isn't insulting and so far, nothing's come to mind."

Darren made a fist and brought it to his face, biting gently at the thumb as he breathed slow and deep. "Okay," he said. "One, you're wearing false eyelashes the size of my hand. Two, you're wearing a ruffled crop top. Three, you're not wearing anything else unless we count four, about six pounds of glitter and blush." He swept his eyes up and down Christopher's body and cringed. "You look like the Emcee from 'Cabaret' had an unprotected drunken hook-up with Alfalfa and the resulting kid grew up to be some kinky-fetish-porn star."

Christopher stared blankly and batted his enormous lashes. "I'll have you know mein vater und pawpaw were very much in love. Thank you for insulting my appearance and family at the same time."

Darren laughed in spite of himself. "You are something else, you know that?"

"Intimately," Christopher said, peeling off his eyelashes and blinking hugely in the mirror once they were off. "Sometimes more than once a day." He turned back to Darren and leaned against his dressing table. "Now what?"

"Margaret Cho was right. It does smell like ball sweat and pantyhose in here."

Christopher nodded solemnly. "One does tend to breed the other. Again - occupational hazards. How many balls have you smelled, anyway?"

Darren squirmed and rubbed at the back of his neck as he looked away. "None very close up. Look - can I ask you something?"

Christopher pulled the ruffled top over his head and tossed it into a nearby hamper. "Yes. Pawpaw topped."

"What? Oh, god, no-" Darren said, gagging a little at the thought. "I – wow. That's going to take a lot of alcohol to erase."

"My work is done," Christopher said, pointing to a stack of towels on a shelf near the couch. "Hand me one of those towels?"

Darren threw it at him and gave a nervous laugh. "Um, okay, this is going to sound really lame but I gotta ask – where is is?"

Christopher blinked at Darren's reflection in the mirror. "It?"

Darren waved a hand ambiguously over his crotch. "You know. Your…stuff. I know you have some, but when you were standing up a minute ago you were like, completely flat down there. This whole time, I've been sitting here wondering how the hell you're hiding it because gravity is a cruel mistress and from the looks of things, you're probably really pissing her off right now."

Christopher threw his head back and laughed as he pitched the towel in the same direction as the blouse, shrugging when he saw that he had missed. "Gravity and I struck a deal with the help of some very strong tape. Lube helps with that, too, when it's time to get everything back into the open." He grinned. "So to speak."

Darren nodded, accepting the answer as good enough. "Why do you do it, though? You don't usually go for realism so couldn't you get away with something less painful?"

Christopher sighed and began applying a thick layer of cold cream to his face. "I don't believe in doing anything half-way. Even if I'm not trying to look like a real woman, it doesn't mean I want to look like a man, either. My goal is something either in-between or outside of that whole dichotomy. Drag is about performance, so I'm going to give the best performance that I can – every time. I'm usually good with a basic gaff for most outfits, but some of them do call for a lot more." He paused. "Or less, depending on how you look at it."

"Then why wear the extreme stuff? The latex and all that?"

Christopher turned and looked at Darren like he'd just suggested another potential use of his lube was as a low-carb dessert topping. "Because it makes my ass look fantastic."

Daren considered this for a second and nodded agreeably. "That's true, you do have a pretty nice ass, for a guy."

"Fantastic," Christopher insisted as he grinned and turned back to the mirror. "Anyway, it doesn't hurt. It can be uncomfortable, but you get used to it after a while." He wiped away at the thick layer of cold cream with a series of tissues, leaving just a few traces to be removed. "Would you mind closing your eyes?" he asked.

Darren raised an eyebrow. "You've been having casual conversation sitting bare-ass naked for the last five minutes, and now you're getting shy?"

Christopher stared into the mirror, a sponge covered with cold cream poised inches from his mouth. "Yes," he said. "I am."

---

They were about halfway up the stairs leading from the basement when they heard it.

"Oh, shit!" Darren said, rushing to take the rest of the steps as many at a time as he could manage. "Should've cut her off a while ago."

"What?"

Darren threw the door to the main level open, scrambling down the hall for the door. "Ceese isn't much of a drinker. She gets a little…carried away, when she does."

Christopher ran behind Darren and froze in the open doorway. "Yes," he nodded when he realized what was going on. "That sounds like the right way to put it."

"Lately, I have desperately pondered. Spent my nights awake and I wondered what I could have done in another way to make you stay…"

Ceecee stood on top of a table, clad only in her skirt and a red, lacy bra. Her hips and head swung from side to side as she sang over the backing track, a blissed-out look of reckless abandon on her face.

"I can't care about anything but yoooooouuuuu…" She caught sight of Darren and waved her hand. "Hi, honey! Look! Look! I'm you!"

"Give me your hand," Darren said, reaching up to her. "Let me get you down from there."

Ceecee pouted, the microphone held to her chest. "No. I'm having fun." She sighed. "I never get to have any fun."

"We can have fun later," Darren promised, tugging gently at her free hand. "Come on. Your shoes are scuffing the table."

Ashley leaned over the bar and grinned. "It's not the first time someone's danced on that table."

Christopher nodded. "Ashley's right. That table's seen a lot of abuse. I'm usually wearing heels when I do it."

Darren looked at the ceiling and whimpered softly. "I flaunt my ass for tips, just spent ten minutes talking to a naked drag queen, and now? I'm trying to talk my half-naked girlfriend – the doctor - off of a table." He shook his head. "How did this become my life?"

Christopher's hand came down on Darren's shoulder. "You met the right people. That's how."

"YOU!" Ceecee slurred, bending over and thrusting a finger into Christopher's face. "I like you! We should be friends! Can we be friends?"

Christopher laughed and shook his head for a second before shrugging his shoulders and nodding slowly. "Sure. Why not?" Ceecee whooped and hopped off the table, launching herself at Christopher so suddenly that he barely managed to catch her.

Ashley watched and turned her attention to Darren. "So," she said, clearly trying not to laugh. "Guess her washing machine's on the fritz again, huh?"

"Shut up," Darren said, his cheeks burning bright pink. "Just shut up, okay?"

---

"Almost there. Hang in there. We'll get you sitting down in a minute," Darren said, removing Ceecee's arm from around his shoulders and maneuvering her into the booth. "You'll feel better once we get some food in you."

"She a vegetarian?" Marley asked from her stance a few steps behind. Ceecee muttered incoherently for a second, but the way she shook her head was enough to get the point across. "Gotcha. Bacon, eggs, side of fries and a glass of water. That should take care of her. You boys want anything?"

Christopher slid into the booth opposite Ceece and looked up. "Grilled chicken breast, fruit on the side?"

Marley nodded and jotted it down. "Someone's having trouble fitting into his fancies. How about you, Apple Juice?"

"Patty melt?"

"Do you eat anything that doesn't involve melted cheese? My lactose allergy and I are starting to hate you."

"Sorry?" Darren said sheepishly as her heels click-clicked their way back to the kitchen.

"Don't mind her," Christopher said. "She's on edge because of the wedding."

"Wedding?"

"Two more weeks and Miss Marley becomes a Mrs." He bit his lips and looked away, only to turn pink and burst into a fit of tittering laughter. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I shouldn't make fun."

"Of what?" Darren frowned. "Don't tell me you're against marriage, too?"

Christopher's head snapped back around, eyes wide as they met Darren's. "No, no. Marriage is great. Part of me is still foolish enough to think I might have a chance of doing it, someday."

"Zhen whut's sho funny?" Ceecee asked, her head resting against the wall. "I wanna know."

Christopher took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself. "His last name is Jacob."

Roughly four seconds passed in silence before a sputtering laugh came from Darren's lips. "I'm sorry. Yeah…wow. That's – I'm not sure what you'd call it. Poetic, maybe?"

Christopher's lips curled into a sly smile. "I would have said Dickensian."

"Shut up," Marley said as she returned with their drinks. "Jealousy's an ugly look on you."

Christopher crossed his arms and looked away. "I'm not jealous."

Marley looked at Darren and put her hand on her hip. "That means he's jealous."

"It's okay," Darren rushed to say. "I mean, I'm jealous. Kind of, you know?" He nudged Ceecee and grinned. "I can't wait until I'm ready for that whole thing."

"Well, you're moving in together," Marley said. "That's about halfway there."

Ceecee looked at her and frowned. "Wait, whu?"

"Ashley said-"

Darren made a slicing motion in front of his throat. "I haven't had a chance to talk to her about it yet."

"Talk about wha?"

Darren shook his head. "This isn't how I wanted to bring it up, but," he took a deep breath. "I think we should live together. You're almost always at my place, anyway. It would make things so much easier for both of us."

Ceecee frowned. "Oh, Darren. That's a really bad idea. Your place isn't big enough for all my stuff, and I just renewed my lease last month, and –" She burped loudly. "Oh, wow, where did that come from?" She shook her head and continued. "I love you, honey, but no. Not yet. Maybe in another year."

"Well, that was horrible and awkward for everyone involved. Oh, dear, I think I hear Jorge calling your orders ready. Let me go get those for you." Marley bent down to Darren's ear. "Your dinner's on the house. Sorry about that."

Darren dismissed it with a wave and sank back against the booth.

Christopher gazed into his soda, stirring the ice with his straw. "The course of true love never did run smooth."

Ceecee absentmindedly twirled a strand of hair. "True love. It's such a funny thing." Darren tried to motion for her to stop talking, but she didn't seem to notice. "Did you know that there are people with more than one mark? There are, like, six known cases of people in group-things. Ev'ryone has evr'one else's. I don't get it but if it makes 'em happy…"

Darren's brow furrowed as he looked at her. "How do you know this?"

"I-" she said, pointing dramatically toward the ceiling, "am a woman of science! I like knowin' shtuff. F'r inshtance, did you know that when you're in the tub and your fingers get all pruny, zhey're getting? bigger, not smaller?" She leaned back and nodded proudly. "Zhe more you know!"

"She's entertaining," Christopher said, grinning at Darren. "I can see why you keep her around."

"Oh, food!" Ceecee said, perking as she saw Marley approach. "Gimme!"

"Here you go," Marley said, resting the plate of bacon and eggs down first, followed by a basket of fries. "And for the boys." She took the other dishes from her tray and turned to face Christopher. "So you haven't told me if you're coming or not. I need a final headcount for the caterers."

He hesitated. "You know I'd love to be there, right?"

"Christopher-"

He groaned. "If I go, I'm going to be seated at one of those horrible tables full of other unmatched singles and everyone's going to stare at us like we're a table of orphans at Oprah's house for a photo-op."

Her tone was pleading. "You could skip the reception and just come to the ceremony. I really want you to be there."

"Can he have a plus one?"

She considered this for a second. "Sure, I guess. What would-ooooohhh," she grinned. "I see what you're getting at."

Christopher stared at him. "Did you seriously just ask Marley if you could be my date to her wedding?"

"Sure," Darren said. "Why not? You get to go to the reception without people staring at you any more than they already do, and I get to eat wedding cake and dance with the bride." He shot Marley a questioning look. "I will get to dance with the bride, won't I?"

"Get him to come, and I'll even let you dance with the groom."

"Groom," Ceecee cackled before biting into a piece of bacon. "Such a funny word."

---

"Did you catch one of them?"

Darren rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow. "One of what?"

Ceecee whimpered into the pillow. "The herd of elephants that trampled me."

He reached out and ran a hand over her hair. "You got pretty crazy last night. Anything I can do to help?"

"Keep doing that," she said, her words muffled by the pillow. "I feel like one big ow."

"Poor baby." Darren bent and kissed the top of her head, then continued playing with her hair. "I've never seen you so out of it before. 'Severything okay?"

Ceecee whined as she rolled onto her side and opened one bleary eye. "Work's been really hard, lately. It's never easy, but it's gotten…worse. I guess I needed to block it out for a while."

"Do you know what changed? Maybe it's something you can fix."

She shook her head. "No, but it's sweet you want to help. You always do." She opened her other eye and gazed at him for a moment. "You're such a good person, Darren. I don't think I've ever told you this, but you're the best person I've ever known."

Darren smiled and bent down to kiss her. "You're biased."

"No, really," she said, her face almost pained in its sincerity. "You are. You're always looking on the bright side and trying to help people."

Darren shook his head and laughed softly under his breath. "I'm just trying to build my beach." Ceecee's face screwed up in confusion and he reached out to pat her shoulder. "Never mind. It's a Christopher thing."

Ceecee nodded. "I like him. He's very smart."

"How can you tell? You barely said ten words to him, sober."

She shrugged. "I just can. It's in the way he talks; how he holds himself. He's a thinker."

"And I'm not?" Darren teased.

Ceecee reached out and twirled a finger in the curls on his chest. "The two of you think in different ways. You lead with your heart, and that's beautiful. You're open to everything and everyone and you find something good in all of it. It's part of what makes you so easy to love. Christopher spends so much time inside his head that he can't see anything else." She paused. "I think that's part of why he's so lonely."

Darren lifted her hand and kissed the tips of her fingers. "You could tell all of that from last night?"

Her eyes were sad when they locked onto his. "Oh, honey," she said, cupping his face with her palm. "A blind man could see, if he knew what he was looking at."

---

"Is this even legal?" Darren asked as he and Ashley stared at the stage. "He has to be breaking some kind of ordinance against public indecency, right?"

"Don't know, don't care, I'm just happy I'm here to see it."

Christopher stood in the center of the stage, his bangs brushed forward and falling in his face. He held a thin, white sheet around himself, draped loosely enough to allow for freedom of movement, but tightly enough to keep his body hidden from view. Heavy, black lines of kohl that perfectly echoed the leather collar at his throat surrounded his eyes; a thick coating of champagne-colored gloss shining against his lips.

"I could just pretend that you love me. The night would lose all sense of fear. But why do I need you to love me, when you can't hold what I hold dear?"

He took a few strides forward, long pale legs wrapped in criss-crossing straps of leather appearing as the edges of the sheet parted to let him move. Each step took the resulting slit higher and higher until he stopped just inches from the stage; the straps on his right leg ending in a buckle midway up his thigh and leaving him bare to the hip.

"I love it when he's decided he's ready to try again," Ashley said, her chin in her hands as she leaned against the bar. "It always ends in tragedy, but the amount of skin he shows until things go sour…" she let out a low whistle. "Mamma like."

Christopher gripped tight to the sheet's corners and turned from the audience to stretch his arms wide, the stage lights making the sheet almost translucent. He rolled his hips slowly and deliberately, the sheet clinging to his ass with every movement. His arms snapped around himself again and the sheet dropped to perfectly frame his back and rest just below his waist.

Darren tilted his head and considered the performance he was watching. "It's almost coquettish, isn't it?"

Christopher strutted to the back of the stage, hips swaying with each note. Just before he reached the exit, he turned over his shoulder to blow a kiss at the crowd and let the sheet drop, leaving him clad only in his collar and the leather straps that ran up his legs and – as the audience could now see – his arms.

Ashley's eyes stayed locked on the stage even after Christopher and his exposed ass had slipped through the curtain. "Hrmm," she said, chewing the inside of her lip. "We just watched a very attractive man get naked, and you responded by saying the word 'cock.'" Her head tilted the side and she looked off into the distance. "I wonder what Freud would have said about that."

Darren poured a drink for someone – Anthony, he thought he remembered his name being - and handed it over as he shook his head. "I did not. I said-"

"I know what you said. I'm practicing selective hearing." She shook her head and brought herself back to reality. "Bless that boy and his cows. The minute you think he can't outdo himself, he goes and proves you wrong."

"I don't know," Anthony said before taking a sip of his drink. "I don't think he'll ever be able to top last Halloween."

"Oh yeah?" Darren asked, turning his attention away from Ashley. "What did he do?"

Anthony grinned around his glass as he took another sip. "'Defying Gravity' - as a duet, with himself. He wore the most insane dress. Half pretty pretty princess, half Sister Mary Nodick. It wasn't as hot as his usual stuff, but I've never seen anything like it. I don't think I ever will, again. I mean, it was campy as hell, don't get me wrong, but it was also kind of beautiful and intense."

Darren handed Anthony another drink and waving away the payment when offered. "'Beautiful and intense,'" he mused. "That's a good way to describe him." He lifted a hand, palm-out, toward Ashley as he saw her mouth begin to open. "Don't read too much into that."

---

"Not a bad take for a Tuesday," Ashley said as she sealed the bag for the deposit and pushed it to the bottom of the carry-on luggage masquerading as her purse. "You should wear that outfit more often."

Darren looked down at his faded jeans and worn t-shirt. "This? I look like a bum."

She poked him in the tummy. "A bum with an impressive basket of goodies and a six pack to wash it down with – or maybe the reverse. Whatever. You look hot. That's what matters."

Darren rubbed his beard. "That's me. Hot. All abs and…stuff." He laughed and shook his head. "There are a lot of words I think could fairly apply to me. Hot isn't on the list."

Ashley shot him a withering look. "Oh, please. You wouldn't be working here if you were a troll. We have standards, you know. People like giving money to pretty people and you, Darren, are very pretty."

"Christopher is pretty. I'm a lazy bastard who hates to shave and puts off laundry until I run out of socks."

Ashley raised an eyebrow. "Socks?"

Darren winked and gave the bar a final wipe-down. "I get blisters if I don't wear socks, but I've never had an underwear-related injury. It's good to go without it on occasion. Gives things a chance to air out!"

Brow still practically to her hairline, Ashley looked down toward Darren's crotch and pursed her lips. "At least you and Ceecee share that philosophy. And yeah," she said with a nod. "That probably explains a lot of your tips."

"The human body is a glorious thing, Ash," Darren said as he walked behind her and gave her shoulders a squeeze. "We should use it to its fullest potential."

She snorted. "Does that mean you're going to show up tomorrow wearing nothing but a sheet?"

Darren spun and pointed both index fingers as he continued to back away. "I think that's more potential than my body has." He shook his head. "I still can't believe he did that."

"I can," Ashley said as she slung her bag over her shoulder. "Know him long enough, and the patters get pretty obvious. Right now, he's in 'come and get it' mode. He's over the last round of disappointment and is trying to draw someone in. He will, of course. He always does." She blew a hot puff of air and shook her head. "Am I a horrible person for wishing he'd give up?"

Darren considered this as he held the door open for her so she could lock it behind them. "I think that depends on your reasons."

"Because it never works!" she practically yelled. "He runs into these things head first like it's not going to end exactly the same way it always does, then shatters when it does. He's my best friend, and I love him and want him to be happy, but he-" she grunted as she pulled her key from the door and pounded against it with her fist. "These guys are just after some stupid fun before they meet the person they're supposed to be with. None of them has ever taken him seriously, but he doesn't get it. I want him to be happy, but the stuff he's doing doesn't work."

"Then I guess it's okay," Darren said, taking her in his arms and smoothing a hand over her back as she began to cry. "You're not saying you want him to give up hope; just that you don't like seeing him get hurt. I think that's a pretty good sign of how much you care about him."

Ashley pulled away and rubbed at her nose with the back of her hand. "I guess." She looked at Darren and sighed. "Wanna know what sucks? I've known Christopher for more'n three years, and I think you're the first guy I've ever seen him spend more than five minutes with who I didn't want to punch in the face."

Darren felt a strange flutter in his chest and something even stranger in his arm. It wasn't like anything he'd ever felt before; a kind of warmth that seemed to pool in the area and crackle beneath the skin. He frowned as he looked in the proper direction, but everything appeared normal when he lifted his sleeve to get a better look.

Ashley hit the locks and opened her car door. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Darren said, lying for the first time he could remember in months. "Was probably just a mosquito."

Part 2b



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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
likeasouffle
Jul. 15th, 2012 10:54 pm (UTC)
Cecelia?! WTF I thought her name was going to be Chris! *has minor freak out* *continues reading*

OMG OMG Darren has skin tingles! Is he developing another name? Is this a poly story? Very intrigued. :D
iwrotestuff
Jul. 16th, 2012 02:11 am (UTC)
Anything I can say to this would be a spoiler, but I wanted to poke in anyway. ;>
diamond_sky18
Jul. 17th, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
Darren felt a strange flutter in his chest and something even stranger in his arm. It wasn't like anything he'd ever felt before; a kind of warmth that seemed to pool in the area and crackle beneath the skin. He frowned as he looked in the proper direction, but everything appeared normal when he lifted his sleeve to get a better look.

Hmm. How very interrreeeesting.
blue_peridot
Jul. 21st, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
okay so i've read one chapter in the middle of this story and it is fantastic. as you are. must go put this on my nook! oh wait, this is a WIP isn't it? damn...

anyway, i LOVE your AU. chris as a drag queen! and i like the idea of the original prompt, too- things like those seem to be done pretty well, so far.
iwrotestuff
Jul. 23rd, 2012 03:00 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D

Yep. Still a WIP, but I've been averaging over 1,000 words per day since it began, and I think we have a good chance of seeing it end before the next month hits. Not bad for something I started on a whim because my beta for the multi-chapter fic I've been working on has been too busy to get to the chapters I handed her. :)
pushplaytobegin
Jul. 22nd, 2012 06:11 am (UTC)
"Did that have bleach on it? It smells like it had bleach on it."

I forgot to say how much I loved that little aside in Ch1.

I've never read any of the soulmate/soulmark fic, but I love the idea of a generation looking back at art from "before," and I especially love the idea of how differently romance might be portrayed.

Darren raised an eyebrow. "You've been having casual conversation sitting bare-ass naked for the last five minutes, and now you're getting shy?"

Christopher stared into the mirror, a sponge covered with cold cream poised inches from his mouth. "Yes," he said. "I am."


That's a kick-ass exchange.

"Yeah," Darren said, lying for the first time he could remember in months. "Was probably just a mosquito." BWAHAHAHA!!!! Oh, DC. Don't you just wish.
iwrotestuff
Jul. 23rd, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
I'm so confused. I think LJ may be eating my replies, because I know I typed one out for this but it isn't here. :(

Not that anyone's asked, but the reason there haven't been pictures of Anthony or Curtis is because they're based on people I know in real life. Anthony is my new "insta-bff" as he has dubbed us, and he has such a delightfully big personality with just the right edge that it's REALLY hard to not throw him into this at every damn opportunity. :)

Thinking about how differently things would be perceived has been one of my favorite things about this story. I have ridiculous amounts of headcanon on how things have adapted and what's taken over in terms of populsr tropes. For instance, the most popular tv series among women is a "How I Met Your Mother" style comedy called "My Many Marks" about a woman named Jessica (because it was the most popular name for baby girls born in 1987) and her trials as she dates Mark after Mark in the hopes of finding the one her marking represents.

That moment about Chris's shyness is one of my favorite exchanges in the entire story. I'm delighted you liked it enough to single it out. :)
whisperyvoices
Oct. 1st, 2013 12:59 pm (UTC)
I'm so, SO intrigued by this intense and beautiful story (WORDS I WAS GOING TO USE TO DESCRIBE THE STORY IN THE PREVIOUS CHAP TOO! HMPH). The Christopher performance scenes are Incredible. Oh what I'd give to see that in real life.

And CECELIA!? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!

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