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Lipstick Traces, Pt. 4b (RPF AU)



"I've been waiting to do this all week," Darren said, panting as Christopher's legs wrapped around him.

"Mmm…" Christopher moaned in agreement; hands gripping tightly at the sides of his dressing table for balance as Darren moved inside of him. "Worth the wait."

Darren threw his head back and groaned, hips slamming forward as he began fucking harder and faster into Christopher's body. "So worth it," he rasped. "So. Fucking. Worth it." Christopher's teeth parted and took hold of Darren's lower lip, tugging just enough to make him gasp. "You don't play fair," Darren said, voice low and rough. He thrust forward hard enough that the table was jolted, knocking Christopher momentarily off-balance as one of his hands slipped and he cried out.

"Fuck me like that," Christopher said. "Hard enough that I can feel you when I'm on stage. Bruise me; mark me; leave something they can see."

A guttural cry of pleasure left Darren's throat as he brought his mouth to Christopher's ear. "I want them to know," he said. "I want them all to know that this gorgeous fucking creature is mine." He teased the outer shell of Christopher's ear with the tip of his tongue, pulling lightly with his teeth when he reached the lobe. "You look so good when I'm fucking you."

"I thought the same thing about you last time," Christopher said, pushing down greedily against Darren's cock. "Fuck," he said desperately. "I wanna turn around. Can we do that? Can you bend me over the table and fuck me until I have to crawl?"

"I would love to try," Darren said eagerly, pulling out and grabbing for Christopher's hips the second he'd changed his position. Darren hissed as he entered him once more, the tight heat constricting around him in the most delicious way. He held tight as he pounded into Christopher's ass, the slap of skin on skin loud in the small, brick room. "Fuck," he breathed when he looked into the mirror and caught sight of Christopher's face. It was bathed in what Darren could only think of as quiet intensity, eyes shut as he breathed through his nose and his lips curled in and out from between his teeth. The corner of one was just beginning to peel, and Darren had to fight to keep from reaching out to rub away at it. He could, he knew. He could bite at it and nibble until it all of the practically indelible color had been chewed away so he could see the lines hidden beneath. It would be so easy, but it would also be just as wrong.

Darren was broken from his thoughts by a sharp banging at the door. "I know I'm probably interrupting something," Declan's voice came from the other side. "But Ashley's getting kind of overwhelmed and Izzy was supposed to be on like, ten minutes ago."

"Shit," Christopher said, eyes popping open to stare at their reflections in the mirror. "We'll be out soon!" he called out, then spoke more quietly. "I knew we should have waited until later."

"But I couldn't wait," Darren said, peeling off the condom and throwing it into the trash. "I've barely seen you lately. I miss you."

"I know." Christopher said, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I really am. I know our timing has been awful, but I promise things will settle down. I wouldn't be putting so much time into this if it wasn't important."

Darren swallowed, the same unease he always felt when Christopher's secrecy returned. "I know," he said, sighing deeply. "But it still sucks."

"Soon," Christopher promised, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Darren's lips. "Really."

"Okay," Darren said, still largely unconvinced. He'd been hearing soon for the last month, and he was beginning to strongly suspect he and Christopher had different definitions of the word.

"Hey," Christopher said, reaching up to cup his face. "We're okay, right?"

Darren hated himself for hesitating, but he couldn't help it. "Yeah," he said. "I mean, it sucks, but if you say it's temporary, I guess it is." He forced a smile. "We gotta get back."

"Yeah," Christopher said, his earlier happiness clearly diminished. "Tomorrow's free," he said hopefully. "We can spend the whole day together."

"Sure," Darren said, distracted as he tried to get his clothes on. "Sounds great."

"Guys?" Declan's voice came again. "I really don't want to unlock the door, but Ashley did give me the keys."

"Coming now," Darren said, wishing he'd at least had the chance before they'd been interrupted. "Hold on." He pulled his t-shirt over his head and yanked his jeans on without bothering to look for his underwear, cursing as he realized he couldn't find his socks. He shoved his feet into his sneakers and jerked the door open just in time for Christopher to grab his robe and cover himself.

"Five minutes!" Christopher shouted. "Ten, tops!"

"I'll get to the bar," Darren said to Declan. "You find a way to keep her happy until he gets up there."

Declan grinned. "I have lots of ways to keep her happy," he said. "But most of them can't be done in public."

"I'm sure," Darren said, rushing toward the bar and almost knocking down three customers in his efforts.

"You know I'm happy for you two, right?" Ashley said when he'd finally taken position beside her.

"Yeah, sure," he said, pouring a beer for one of the regulars. "It means a lot to us."

"Good," she said. "I hope that helps when I remind you that I'm not paying either one of you to get laid. I'm glad you're happy, but there's a time and a place."

"Not lately," Darren said with a frown. "He's never around and when he is, he's usually kind of distracted. I thought dating a doctor was frustrating." He shook his head. "He's worth it, though. He really is. Not just because of the sex, either. I mean, the sex is amazing, but-"

She held up a hand. "I really don't need to hear about your sex or your butts or any way those two might be related."

"Fair enough," Darren said, moving on to the next customer. One after another, the customers shoved larger than usual tips into the fishbowl, tens and twenties poking from the top. "I wonder what's gotten into people," he said, shoving the money down to allow for more room. "Maybe they can just tell that – barring a lack of time with the person responsible – I've been feeling pretty awesome, lately."

"Maybe," she said, looking down and choking on her own laughter. "Or maybe they're just paying extra for the view."

"What?" Darren looked down and instantly colored as he realized his jeans were still undone. "Shit," he said, turning around and closing them up. "Why didn't someone tell me?"

Ashley looked at him incredulously. "Do you really need someone to explain that for you?"

"No," he sighed as he shook his head. "I suppose not."

The DJ's music faded out and a hard strumming filled the air, causing both Darren and Ashley to turn their attention to the stage. "Oh my god," Darren said, taking in Christopher's appearance. "What the fuck is that?"

"Fuck me," Ashley said, lowering her head and massaging her temples. "I've told him a dozen times never to wear that."

"It's kind of…offensive, isn't it?" Darren asked, eyes locked on the large, feathered headdress Christopher was wearing.

"No, it's really offensive," she said. "He says it's okay because he's one sixteenth Cherokee, or something."

"We're from California," Darren said. "Everyone's one sixteenth something."

"Exactly," Ashley sighed.

"I'm dancing barefoot, in mid-air I spin," Christopher sang, arms raised above his head and gripping at his elbows. It was fairly obvious he'd thrown himself together in a hurry. He wore nothing but a pair of tiny, black shorts and a long vest that fell open at his chest. He'd tied an assortment of straps around his arms and legs, presumably to try and masquerade the fact that he'd spent so little effort, and his makeup consisted of only a solid bar of black across his eyes, hard lines across his cheeks, and exaggerated red lips.

"Oh, wow," Darren suddenly heard a familiar voice say. "That's intense."

"Ceese!" he said, turning to her with surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"There's someone I want you to meet," she said, gesturing to the man who stood just behind her. "Darren, this is Davan Mirsky. My fiancé."

"Your-" Darren's mouth fell open. "Wow, oh my god, Ceese!" He vaulted over the bar and wrapped his arms around her, hugging tightly. "I'm so happy for you," he whispered in her ear. "I really am."

"I knew you would be," she said, blinking back tears of happiness when they parted. "I wanted you to know before anyone else. I know it's weird, but-"

"No," he said, clutching at her hands and squeezing. "I get it. It means a lot."

"Yeah, well," she said with a small laugh. "I wouldn't have been able to do this if it wasn't for you. You'll come to the wedding, won't you?"

"Of course," he said, hugging her again. "As long as I can bring a date."

Her eyes widened. "Have you found-"

"Yeah," he said, feeling his cheeks flush. "And you've already met him."

"Him?" she asked, surprise clear on her face. "But who-" Darren pointed to the stage and her face turned to stone. "Oh my god," she said, all color draining from her. "What is he-"

"What?" Darren began, only to feel his world spin as he saw Christopher's eyes on the two of them, hurt and betrayal clear even through the tint of his lenses.

"He's been staring at you guys for a while," Davan said, his upper body leaning back as if afraid of what could happen, even from where he stood.

"How long?" Darren asked, his heart falling into his stomach.

"Since you started hugging," Davan said, taking a step back.

"Oh God, I fell for you," Christopher sang repeatedly from the stage, more and more frantically as strap after strap was torn from his body. He threw off the vest and fell to his knees, causing the headdress to pitch forward and land in front of him. Something tucked inside it caught his attention as he waved his arms wildly in front of him, and before Darren knew what was happening, Christopher was holding a lit match in one hand, open book in the other.

"Chris!" he shouted, breaking away from Ceecee and forcing his way through the crowd to shove Christopher back just as the pile of feathers and discarded fabric caught fire, blazing angrily as a glass of candy-colored liquid made contact.

"I'm sorry!" Anthony yelled as the fire grew. "It was wet; I wasn't thinking, I-"

"Never mind," Declan said, rushing up with the fire extinguisher and putting it out. "It didn't spread. Is he hurt?" he asked, turning around to look at Darren.

"I don't know," Darren answered, crouching beside Christopher and watching in horror as the other man shook and rubbed angrily at his own face. "Chris?" he asked desperately. "Talk to me, Chris; why did you-"

"I fucking saw you!" Christopher screamed from behind his hands. "I'm such an idiot," he cried. "I made the same mistake I always did. You never meant any of it, did you? Have you still been seeing her all this time? Or did you just start up again because the novelty wore off? Fucking actors!" His body shook as he laughed mournfully. "Never trust anyone. That's the key. Never. Trust. Anyone."

"You can trust me," Darren said. "It's not how it-"

"Fuck you," Christopher spat. "Fuck you, and fuck Ceecee, and fuck this whole fucking thing. I should have known," he said, dropping his hands and letting one hit the stage as the other pointed at his lip. "I've known what this means for six years. As nice as it was to pretend it didn't matter, I should have known it couldn't go on forever."

Darren's first instinct was to protest, but he felt his mouth go dry as he took in Christopher's face for the first time. It was a mess of tears and smudged makeup, his face looking both more frightening and more vulnerable than Darren had ever seen another human before. His lipstick – one of the glossy ones he wore only on stage – had been rubbed almost completely off, leaving the bottom lip clearly visible for the first time in all the months Darren had known him. It didn't make sense. It couldn't make sense; but there it was. Clear as anything Darren had ever seen before.

"Chris," he said hollowly, cold with the awareness of what he was seeing. "You don't know what that means, and this can go on forever." He reached out and brushed his thumb against the letters that spread across Christopher's lower lip. "This isn't nonsense," he said quietly.

"It's me."


(artwork by the amazing artsnletters)

---

Christopher was silent as Darren waited for his response. Pain and confusion radiated off of him, and it took everything Darren had not to sweep him into his arms and clutch him to his chest. It was what he wanted, but he knew Christopher didn't feel the same.

"Go to the dressing room," Declan said, turning around and wiping his brow. "Get him cleaned up, calm him down, do what you have to. I'm gonna go make sure Ashley doesn't do anything she regrets later – like call the cops."

Darren nodded. "Yeah," he said. "Good call." He took hold of one of Christopher's wrists and urged him to his feet, sliding the same arm over his shoulders once Christopher's weight was against him. "Come on," he said. "We're going to get away from this, and we're going to talk. Okay?" Christopher's silence continued, but he nodded as his eyes stayed glued to the floor.

The walk down the stairs was difficult; there wasn't enough room for them to go down side by side, and Darren didn't trust Christopher to keep moving on his own. After deciding that walking sideways would be safest, and he wrapped his free arm around Christopher's middle and led him crab-like down the steps, right foot ahead of the left. He said a silent word of thanks when he saw the dressing room door sitting wide-open, making it far easier for him to guide Christopher inside.

"Hey," he said, crouching beside the sofa once he'd managed to get Christopher stretched across it. "Are you okay?" Christopher turned his eyes to the ceiling and stared, unblinking and unresponsive. "Okay," Darren said, sighing as he realized just how much of an uphill battle he was facing.

"Story time," he said, moving into a sitting position and slinging one arm around his knees while the other rested at the sofa's very edge. "I know this is gonna come as a total shock to you, but I was a pretty goofy kid." He waited a beat, hoping for a wry laugh or a twitch of a lip or something that showed Christopher was engaged, but it never came. "Yeah, so," he continued, "I was always doing crazy stuff. Every time I saw someone doing something that looked cool, I wanted to try and do it. 'Jackass' was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. I did so much stupid shit." He laughed and shook his head. "Once, I even burned the inside of my mouth trying to teach myself to eat fire by watching videos on YouTube. My mom and dad probably thought I was nuts, but I just wanted to do stuff, you know? I mean, who knows how long any of us has here, right? Why not make the most of however long that is?"

He took a deep breath and moved the hand on the sofa a few inches to rest on top of Christopher's. "I always liked myself. I mean, you have to, right? Kind of sucks, if you don't."

"How very RuPaul of you," Christopher whispered, slowly moving his hand away before Darren's clamped tightly over it.

"All that crazy stuff?" Darren asked, not expecting a response. "That was the stuff I look back on and get the most excited about. Not because I liked people giving me grief over it, but because I felt like I was really being myself. Fuck what anyone else thought. My life, my stuff, end of story." He took a deep breath. "Only it's not. Not anymore."

Darren turned to look at Christopher and worried his lip. "One day, I was sitting in class and started zoning out while the teacher was talking about binomials or the Magna Carta or something. I don't remember what, exactly, just that I thought it was kind of boring. I started doodling and came up with this little dude. I thought he looked cool, so I started drawing him all the time. He became this superhero, and his power was being awesome. He was like, the most awesome dude who ever dude-ed, you know?"

"Lovely story," Christopher said flatly. "Is there a point?"

"Yeah," Darren said quietly. "I've always loved that little dude, but I don't know…" he trailed off. "It didn't feel right to talk about him. I've probably doodled him on every plane and in every diner I've ever sat in, but I've never told anyone about him. I don't think I ever would have," he said, looking down into Christopher's eyes and moving his other hand to brush against his lip. "If his name wasn't right here."

Darren could see Christopher's chest freeze as their eyes locked and he forgot to breathe. "No," Christopher said, shaking his head. "You can't mean that."

Darren gave a shy smile as the tip of his finger traced each letter. "I-C-L-E-M-Y-E-R," he spelled out. "He was fun, and exciting, and he loved life – loved everything - without worrying about looking cool or anything, because he knew it was badass enough just being who he was. This," he said, tapping his finger gently, "is the very best of me. You have the very best of me, Chris. I want you to keep it."

Christopher sat up and rubbed at his head, his expression impossible for Darren to read. "This," he said. "This is too weird. It's not supposed to happen this way."

"What's not?"

Christopher gave a short laugh that bordered on the hysterical. "Anything," he said, getting up and wandering with a surprising lack of direction for such a small space. "Take your pick."

Darren shrugged. "How boring would life be if everything went according to plan? It's the weird stuff that makes us crazy at the time that usually ends up leading to the best stuff." He paused. "Like you."

Christopher turned and lifted an eyebrow as he looked at Darren. "I'm the weird stuff that makes you crazy?"

"Chris," Darren laughed. "You dance on stage with vibrators and ninja gear. You practice aerial silks and hula-hoop instead of going to the gym. You wardrobe contains more latex than most free health clinics. You just committed arson. Yeah, I think weird and crazy are pretty good words for you." He sighed. "You're also not like anyone else I've ever known. Every time I see you is an adventure. You challenge me to think about things in new ways and see new possibilities in the world." He shook his head in disbelief. "You drive me crazy, but in a really good way."

Christopher wrapped his arms around himself and clutched at his elbows. "What about Ceecee?"

"What about her?" Darren asked, playing dumb. "Are you worried about the wedding being weird? Because I promise, it won't be, and I really want you to come." Christopher spun to shoot daggers at him, and Darren let a smirk take over his lips. "I mean, I could ask Marley for Aunt Lacey's number and see if she's free, but I'd rather go with you."

Christopher blinked. "She's engaged?"


Darren nodded and walked over so he could take Christopher by the wrists. "Yep. Lucky guy, but not as lucky as the one that got away." He tilted his head up to gently kiss Christopher's lips. "He has no regrets about anything that happened." Darren paused. "Except the part where you just set fire to the stage and that might end up shutting us down for a while."

Christopher blushed. "It was kind of spur of the moment. I had to burn my eyeliner to get the right effect and I must have grabbed the matches instead of what I was reaching for."

"Which was?" Darren asked.

Christopher looked sheepish as he reached for the dressing table and picked up a condom. "I thought I could drop it into your tip jar after the song was done. I know, I know," he said, cheeks pinking as Darren fought to stifle his laughter. "What can I tell you? We'd been interrupted at a bad time and I thought you were angry or getting bored or…" he sighed. "I've been with other people and every time, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. For them to find someone else or tell me they'd found someone else before they'd found me or –" he broke off and ran a weary hand down his face. "I always knew it was going to happen, but it never stopped hurting. I don't think I know how to be with someone and not wait for that. Maybe that's why I assumed the worst when I saw Ceecee. Maybe I wanted an excuse."

Darren felt his chest grow tight and cold. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "You can't just-"

Christopher was silent as he removed his contacts and dropped them into their case. He stared at his reflection in the mirror for a few beats, running his hands idly over the various things scattered on his dressing table's surface. "I'm sorry," he said. "I was right when I told you I needed time. I should have listened to myself and not let my excitement get the better of me. I don't want to hurt you. I know you probably won't believe me, but it's true. I want to be with you, but not because of this," he said, pointing to his lip. "Or this," he reached out and ran a finger down the reflection of Darren's arm. "I want to be with you because you're you."

Christopher took the few steps to Darren and took him into his arms. He gave a start when their lips met, and was quick to take Darren's face in his hands, cupping it lovingly as his lower lip swept over every millimeter of Darren's mouth.

"You felt something, didn't you?" Darren asked, hope surging in his chest as he took in Christopher's dazed expression when they parted. "In your mark? I felt it too, starting with that night on the beach." He beamed as he looked up at him, all of his fear washing away. "I think that's how I knew."

Christopher lifted a hand to his lips and touched them as if he thought it would hurt. "I have to go," he said quietly, walking past Darren without another glance.

"Wait, what?" Darren asked, following as Christopher made his way back upstairs. "Go where?"

"Here," Christopher said, reaching the stage door and letting himself through. "I was supposed to do another song," he said, almost as if to himself.

"Chris," Darren said, following after him as Christopher walked out into the middle and swept his eyes over the few remaining people. "What are you-"

"Excuse me," Christopher said, tapping at the microphone and flagging for the DJ to stop what she was doing. "I have one more, tonight. No pyrotechnics, I promise." He waved a hand at the DJ to dismiss the unasked question. "No backing track this time. No Izzy, just Chris."

Darren jumped from the stage and strode toward the bar. "I don't know what he's doing," he told Ashley. "He's calmed down, but-"

"Shh…" she said, waving for him to stop. "I think he's about to start."

And start, he did. He ran the gamut of emotions as he sang, somehow managing to be more ethereal in his own eyes and destroyed face than he ever had before. He cooed into the microphone, alternately looking at Darren – or occasionally Ashley – and screwing his eyes tight as if blocking out the rest of the world entirely.

"I am the hero of this story; don't need to be saved." he sang, eyes shut and hands gripping the mic stand like it was the only thing keeping him together. "It's alright," he chanted, over and over, finally letting go with one hand to brush his hair out of his face as the final note dissolved.

"Thank you," he said quietly. "And good-bye."

---

"Aren't you going to go after him?" Declan asked as Christopher left the stage and Darren's feet stayed resolutely in place.

Darren shook his head. "No." He ran a hand through his hair and leaned against the nearest upright surface, which happened to be Ashley. "I want to, but I need to stop going after what I want and start paying attention to what he needs."

Ashley blinked. "That's surprisingly mature of you."

Darren paused. "Should I be insulted by that remark?"

She shook her head. "It was meant as a compliment."

"Just go with it," Declan said.

"You learn fast," Darren told him.

"Maybe," Declan said, smiling as his eyes focused on Ashley's. "When it's right, it's right, and this lady's always right."

Ashley smirked at Darren. "He's right, you know." Her eyes swept over the almost-empty bar and she shook her head. "Alright," she said, her voice the levels louder than usual as she threw her hands into the air. "Everyone out. We're closing up early tonight." She put her hands on her hips and shook her head. "We've got a lot of messes to clean up."

Anthony stood a few feet away, leaning against the wall and trying to look nonchalant. "Do you think I could help?" he asked, fingers twisting together in front of him. "I feel kind of responsible."

Ashley put a hand on his shoulder. "Go home, honey. You were trying to help. Most people would have done the same."

Anthony launched himself at her and wrapped her in a smothering hug. "Still sorry," he said. "Let me know if you change your mind." He looked to Darren and swallowed. "I hope he's okay. I hope you're both okay."

"Yeah, well," Darren said, reaching up to scratch at the back of his neck. "That makes two of us." He bit his lips and nodded his head. "It'll be good." He said. "It will. No clue when, but…yeah." He forced a smile and offered his fist. "Thanks, man. See you soon." Anthony nodded and backed away, the fingers of both hands pressed to his lips just long enough for him to blow them a kiss before he reached the door, slipping through it and into the night.

"Yeah, so," a strange voice said. "I dug through the cleaning stuff and yanked anything that looked useful."

Darren turned and blinked as he took in the slight figure in the oversized polo shirt and baggy shorts. "You're JJ, right? The DJ?" A head of blonde spikes above wide, blue eyes bobbed up and down, and Darren gave a small "huh," of surprise. "I always thought you were-."

"What, a twink?" she asked, each syllable falling into the next like a row of dominoes; fast and hard and seemingly without end. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, Igetthatalot. I get hit on by way more bears than babes. Kinda sucks, but what can you do?" She looked up and down the length of the mop she was holding and puffed out one cheek before blowing it all out in one gust that came as fast as her words. "Whaddya think? Mop? Scrub brush? Sponge? Knock-off Magic Eraser?"

"Try 'em all," Darren said, taking the mop from her. "This isn't really my area of expertise."

"Think it's mine?" she asked. "I may be a hyperactive mess with self-control issues, but I don't go for flamey stuff." She headed for the stage and climbed up the side, running a dry scrub brush over the debris and eyeing it thoughtfully. "Got lucky," she said. "Looks like it stuck to his stuff. Floor's a little scorched, but it's not bad. Couldprobablygetawaywithsomepaint once it's cleaned up."

"Good to know," Ashley said, breathing a sigh of relief. "Why don't you put on some music? It feels too quiet in here and it's creeping me out."

"Don't mind if I do," JJ said, dancing as she made her way to the tiny booth at the far end of the stage. She considered her options for a bit before music filled the room and she returned to the stage. "Thought the usual 'unce-unce-unce' stuff might be too much for the mood. Hope this is okay. I call it my 'BitchesBeFuckingCrazy And I'm Glad My Skin Is Blank' mix."

Darren laughed in spite of himself and shook his head as he took the mop and its pail to the stage. "Sounds perfect," he said, freezing in his tracks as Christopher reappeared, clad in old jeans, boots, and a plaid button-up.

"I'll um, send someone to pick up my things," Christopher said, his body toward Ashley even as his eyes saw only floor. "I can't take it all tonight."

"So you quit?" Ashley asked, laser-focused on him. "Just like that?"

He swallowed and shifted in place as he nodded. "It's for the best," he said quietly. "I was going to give you notice, but after tonight…"

"Fine," she said, cutting him off before the word was even done. "Whatever. Just go before I say anything we regret."

He nodded and turned to Darren, his eyes lifting from the floor so slowly that Darren felt suddenly self-conscious as he stood brandishing the mop like a lance. "I'm sorry," he said, the words so quiet Darren wasn't even sure he really heard them until Christopher continued. "I can't do this. Not right now."

"Okay," Darren said, forcing himself to remain calm. "If you say you can't, you can't. End of story."

Something flickered over Christopher's expression, and Darren forced himself to really look at his face. It was devoid of any color but the red that ringed his eyes and the rough pinkness of his too-scrubbed lips, hot pink letters clear for all to see. "What if I don't want it to be?" he asked in a voice so tight that it sounded as if it could break at any second. "Not forever. Just…an intermission."

"Intermission," Darren said, nodding slowly. The chorus of the song began again, and he had to grip tighter to the mop's handle to keep from falling as an unbearable sadness seemed to seep in through his toes and slowly fill him to the top. "And I'm so sad. Like a good book, I can't put this day back. A sorta fairy tale with you. A sorta fairy tale with you…" the song went, bringing tears sharp and stinging at the corners of his eyes. "Yeah," he rasped, feeling as if all oxygen was gone from his lungs.

Christopher reached out as if to touch him, but pulled his hand away just before making contact. "I don't want to ask you to wait for me-"

"But you know I will," Darren said, the first tear spilling from his eye. Christopher nodded silently for little more than a single second before he turned and made his exit, a choked cry leaving him just as the door swung shut behind him. "Oh, you lost me," the song continued, and Darren all but fell to the floor before Declan was there to help him up.

"You okay, man?"

"No," Darren said. "But I will be. Eventually, I guess." He braced himself against Declan for a moment before lowering himself to the floor, the mop's handle across his knees as he sat. "I feel like such a fool."

"Hey!" JJ snapped, dropping her brush. "You fucking put yourself out there and went for the crazy and even if he did make everything go boom, you were realllyfuckinghappy for a while. I know I stick to my little hidey-hole over there and don't talk to anyone 'cause once I start talkin' it's reallyhardtostop, but even I saw that. Don't shit on yourself for that."

"Yeah," Declan said. He gave a shrug and dug his hands into his pockets. "Besides, every hero's pretty much a fool until he succeeds."

"Yeah," Darren said, rising to his feet and wringing the mop so he could get to work on the stage. "I guess they are."

---

Darren set two drinks on the counter and smiled at the pair in front of him. "Here we are, gentlemen. On the house."

"Thank you," Anthony said, looking almost unbearably pleased as he lifted his glass to the man beside him. "To us!"

"To us," the other man said, giggling as he took a sip. He looked at Anthony with a goofy smile and squealed when Anthony dove down to kiss him. "Who's my little sugar bear?"

"Meeee," Anthony said in a sing-song voice, blushing with happiness as they looked into each others' eyes. "You know," he said, looking to Darren. "They always told me having a smart mouth would never get me anywhere, but if I hadn't told that bitch in human resources where she could stick her anti-harrassment policies, I never would have found Aaron in mandatory sensitivity training. I'd say it was worth the month of unpaid leave."

"TrainER," Aaron said, tapping a finger against his chest. "Not traiEE. What can I say? I've always loved a man who knows how to bite back."

"Raar!" Anthony said, nipping at Aaron's ear.

Darren smiled at them both. "I'm happy for you guys. I really am. It's great to see this one doing something besides hanging out here every night – not that we don't miss your company," he said, reassuring Anthony.

"It's okay," Anthony said. "You're not losing me, you're gaining him." His face went solemn for a moment as he worried his lip. "Speaking of him…how long's it been, anyway? Like, four months, or something?"

"Three," Darren said, wiping down the bar. "Three months, four days." He looked up at Anthony and gave him a wry grin. "Not that I'm counting."

"I don't know how you can do that," Aaron said, wide-eyed and full of awe. "We just met a few weeks ago, and I can't imagine not seeing him every day."

Darren stretched out his arms and placed his palms flat on the bar. He leaned forward and looked into each of their eyes in turn. "Leonard Cohen," he began; "was wrong. Love is a victory march. At least, it is if you're lucky."

"What do you mean?" Aaron asked, his head tilted in confusion.

Darren took a deep breath and rose back to his full height. "I mean it's not always as simple as finding the right person and living happily ever after. I used to think it was, but I'm kind of glad I was wrong."

"Told you he was a masochist," Anthony called out to Ashley. "You owe me five bucks!"

"I'm not a masochist," Darren said. "I just like knowing that we chose each other. I mean, yeah, we're a set, but we didn't know that when we decided to go for it. We took a chance, and it turned out we were right." He poured another customer a drink and took their money. "Finding out we were a set didn't solve our problems. It might have even made them worse."

Aaron frowned. "Then why do you look so happy?"

Darren laughed. "Because we're on our own march. Yeah, we haven't seen each other, but we've been in touch. Not a lot, but enough. A call or e-mail here, a night of texting there."

"Where is he?" Anthony asked, finishing his drink and tapping the side of the glass.

"Don't know," Darren said, mixing another and pushing it over to him. "I haven't asked."

Anthony shook his head. "That's insane."

"No," Darren said. "It's acceptance. He's already chosen me, so I've chosen to wait," he said, nodding his head. At first, I thought it was just because he needed it, but I guess I needed it just as much. Maybe more. Like the good book says, love is patient; love is kind. I wasn't always patient. I'm better about that, now. Marching is easier when you pace yourself."

"How will you know?" Aaron asked.

Darren looked at him. "Know what?"

"When you get wherever it is you're marching."

Darren laughed softly. "That's the thing. I don't want to stop marching. Not as long as he'll be marching with me." He nodded. "And he will. I know he will."

---

"How's it going?" Ashley asked, sidling up to Darren and leaning against the bar.

"Good," he said, nodding his head as he counted someone's change. "Steady. You?"

"Can't complain," she said.

Darren chuckled. "That's a first."

"What can I say?" she asked. "Love's really mellowed me out." She stared at the stage and sighed wistfully. "I miss him."

"Same," Darren said, turning and busying himself with the empties so she couldn't see the look on his face. His earlier talk with Anthony and Aaron had been harder than he'd wanted to admit, and he wasn't sure he could handle any more talk about Chris before he had some time to himself.

"You know," Ashley said, the smile audible in her words. "I went down to his dressing room earlier, just to remember what it was like."

"Are you still thinking about finding someone else?" Darren asked, eyes forward as he straightened the bottles.

"Yeah," she said, lowering a hand to his shoulder. "You."

He looked up at her. "What?"

"You," she repeated. "I know we're not the Roxy or anything, but we get a decent crowd. Might be more than decent, if people knew the hottie behind the bar could also carry a tune. How long's it been since you played somewhere, anyway?"

Darren thought about it and blew out a hot gust of air. "A year, at least? It was before I met Ceecee, so it's been a while."

"Too long," Ashley said. "You're really good, Darren. You deserve to let people know."

Darren stood up and crossed his arms as he looked at her and laughed. "And you deserve to collect a cover."

"Well, yeah," she said. "But I'll totally give you a cut."

"Deal," he said, thrusting his hand at her and giving it a shake. "When do you want me to start?"

"I dunno," she said, mouth twisting as she considered it. "Tomorrow sounds good."

"Tomorrow?" he asked, laughing at the thought.

"Got anything better planned?" she asked. "'sides, less time I give you, less chance you have to back out."

"Why do I have a feeling you've already advertised this?"

"Because you know me too well," she said, eyes twinkling as she grinned at him.

"Alright," he said, curls falling in his face as he shook his head. "Just don't complain when my practicing keeps you up tonight."

She finally took his hand and shook. "I make no promises."

---

Darren took a deep breath and grinned out at the crowd. "Thanks for sticking around," he said, tightening one of his strings. "Some of you know me from the little known-gem that was CBS's 'Eastwick', but most of you probably know me as that guy who'll shake his ass for a bigger tip. It's okay, I think more people have seen my ass than ever saw that show." He turned around and looked over his shoulder as he shook his ass a little, grinning as the audience whooped their approval.

"So," he continued. "This one's kind of special. I didn't write it or anything; I think it might be even older than I am, but um, I kind of identify with it. The last year's been pretty crazy, but I think I'm finally on the right road, and I know I've got the right one to travel it with." He looked up at the ceiling for a few moments and blinked. "Wherever he might be," he said, patting his upper arm. "I know he's still right here."

He began to strum at his guitar, memories of Christopher flowing into one another as he sang. "There's a battle ahead, Many battles are lost, but you'll never see the end of the road while you're traveling with me," he sang, remembering his own words to Aaron and Anthony. Love wasn't a destination, he now knew. It was a journey, and no matter how long it took for he and Christopher to come back to one another, he knew it wouldn't compare to how much time they'd have together once it happened.

"And I'm counting the steps to the door in your heart…" If every day was one step, he'd walked ninety-six since the day Christopher had walked away. That wasn't so many, he thought. He could take more, if he needed to. 'Patience,' he heard Christopher's voice whisper in his mind, and he curled around it as he finished the song, plaintive and heartfelt with every word.

"Thank you," he said, once the audience's applause died down. "Don't forget to tip your bartender; especially if it's me." He was just about to hop off of the stage and hand his guitar to Declan for safeguarding so he could return to the bar when a now-familiar rapid-fire speech came over the bar's speakers.

"Okay, so," JJ began. "Mostofyouguysdon'tknowthis, but we got a special encore tonight." Darren spun to face her, but she just grinned at his confusion. "You don't gotta stay up there," she said to him. "But I think you're gonna want to. Ladies and gentlemen and anythingelseyoumightbe – someone I'msureyouallremember or at least see a lot more of soon - the one, the only, Izzy Fuhreel." She kicked off another track, and Darren found himself staring open-mouthed as the song began and Christopher appeared.

Christopher stood in a pair of tight, black leggings and knee-high patent leather boots with a white dickey and shiny necktie tucked into the top of a strapped corset. His bangs hung past his chin to frame his face on either side, a beaming smile set dead center. "It's been a long time since I came around. Been a long time but I'm back in town. This time I'm not leaving without you." He held the microphone close to his lips, the hot pink letters spelling Iclemyer sparkling beneath his sheer gloss as he sang.

Darren felt his momentary confusion fall away as they locked in on one another and he saw the certainty in Christopher's eyes. He raised his microphone to sing along, the two of them blocking everything and everyone else out as they used a simple pop song to affirm their intentions. "Something about lonely nights and the lipstick on your face," Darren sang, and Christopher's eyes shone with happiness.

The entire bar seemed to cheer them on as they continued, each one attacking the lyrics with everything they hadn't been able to say or do for all the time they'd been apart. "This time, I'm not leaving without you," Christopher sang one last time, and he lost his balance as Darren grabbed him and pulled him close.

"I'm not giving you the chance," Darren said, bringing their lips together and doing his best to pour ninety-six days of kisses into a single one.

"Good," Christopher said, his eyes wet when they pulled away. "I was hoping you would say that."

---

They barely had time to shut the dressing room door before Christopher began unpeeling Darren's clothes. "Here," he said, kissing Darren's throat. "And here," moving to his chest. "Everywhere." His lips swept over every inch of Darren's skin; the lower one dragging so slow that Darren thought he might lose his mind.

"Not that I really need an answer," Darren said; "but what do you mean?"

"These are the places I thought about while I was away," Christopher said, dropping to his knees and dragging his lip over Darren's inner thigh. "I thought about all of you. How much I wanted to see you, to touch you, just to know that you were there."

"Then why didn't you?" Darren asked, his voice going higher when Christopher's mouth moved sideways to cover his cock.

"I didn't want to fuck it up again," Christopher said, looking up at him in earnest. He laced the fingers of one hand through Darren's and gave a squeeze. "You're too good for someone who can't give you what you deserve. It took a long time, but I think I'm finally there." His lower lip pressed against the head of Darren's cock, and they both gasped at the contact. "Fuck," Christopher whispered, opening his mouth to take Darren in. "This feels so different, now."

"I know," Darren said, running a hand tenderly over Christopher's hair as his lips around him. "I think it's because it recognizes where it is, now."

"What, on your cock?" Christopher asked popping off of him.

"No," Darren said, grinning as he gently urged him back into place. "With me. Like it wants to be."

"Hrmm..," Christopher murmured in agreement, sliding his mouth slowly up and down Darren's length. He dug his fingers into the roundness of Darren's ass and squeezed, thumbs pressing firm against his hips as he sucked. It was perfect, just like it had been before, with Christopher's mouth as warm and pliant as Darren could ever want. So perfect, so right, and so very little time before Darren felt himself give way into Christopher's mouth.

"So," Christopher said, unhooking his corset and peeling off his dickey as he took to his feet and looked down into Darren's eyes. "How do we do this, now?"

"I'm still not sure," Darren said, pulling Christopher down so he could lick away a stray drop of come resting just inside the crook of the letter y. "Just kiss me while we do it."

---

"Tell me again," Darren whispered in the quiet of the room.

Christopher looked up at him from the battered sofa and beamed. "I love you."

"Again," Darren said, grinning from ear to ear as he moved on top of Christopher's body.

"I love you," Christopher sighed happily, running his hands down Darren's bare back. He thrust upward again, groaning as their bodies came flush together.

"And?" Darren asked, rocking his hips and throwing his head back as Christopher moved inside of him.

Christopher looked utterly at peace as he thrust again, running a hand along Darren's front. "And I choose you. I always will."

"God, I love you," Darren breathed, pitching himself forward to kiss him deeply, laving his tongue over Christopher's lower lip and moaning loudly when Christopher growled in response and thrust harder. "You are here," he said, grabbing at his mark; "and here," he said, pointing at his head; "and always here," he pointed at his heart.

"Right now, I'm also here," Christopher said, grinning as he planted both hands on Darren's ass and gave it a rough squeeze.

"That you are," Darren groaned, pushing back greedily. "That you are."

---

"Thank you," Christopher said as they lay curled together on the sofa once they'd all but exhausted their bodies' possibilities.

"Thank you," Darren said back, wrapped in the blanket of contentment and peace that masqueraded as the other man's arms. He brushed his lips against the pink letters that were all but invisible in the room's dim light and wondered if he would ever get tired of the way Christopher now reacted at the touch - a sharp intake of breath, followed by a soft moan as the crackle of mark recognizing mark spread through him.

"I'd say I can't believe you waited," Christopher said, "but I know you too well to be surprised."

"I knew you'd come back," Darren said. "Whenever you did whatever it was you had to do." He shrugged. "I don’t' want to think about how much of your savings you went through, but I have to say I think it was worth it."

"Yes, yes," Christopher mused. "About that…"

"Hrnm?" Darren asked, rolling onto his side and propping himself on one elbow.

"Do you get Showtime?" Christopher asked.

Darren laughed. "Chris – I don't even have a TV."

"Well, we're going to have to change that," Christopher said with a grin. "Tomorrow, we're going out and buying you a TV. Then, you're calling the cable company and ordering premium service."

"Why?" Darren asked. "I never watch it. Anything worth watching is on Hulu, anyway."

"Not anymore," Christopher said, eyes brimming with excitement. "Soon, at least." He curled his lips between his teeth and unfurled them in a big grin. "Do you remember when I told you about the show that brought me here? The one that never aired?" Darren nodded, and Christopher wrapped his arms around him tightly. "The producer found me a while ago. Here, remember? Old guy, ugly hat, looks kind of like he's sucking on a lemon or something?"

He shook his head and laughed as he looked into Darren's eyes. "He's working on a new show for Showtime. It's based on some book by RuPaul and it's about the drama that goes on backstage at a drag bar. He was having trouble finding the right person for one of the leads, but the choreographer reminded him of me and he decided-" he broke off and knit his brow. "How did he put it? Oh, yeah. 'He can't be worse than that scarecrow we saw, so let's see what he can do.'"

Darren's eyes went wide. "You're-"

"The primary antagonist, yeah." He nodded his head excitedly and laughed. "I wanted to tell you before, but everything was so weird and the whole thing almost fell through about three times and I couldn't let either of us get our hopes up like that. I wanted to know it was really happening, this time. Not like the other one."

"I'm so happy for you," Darren said, throwing his arms around him. "It won't be like it was before. I know it won't."

"No," Christopher said contentedly. "I don't think anything will ever be that way again."

---

EPILOGUE


Entertainment Weekly – December 28, 2012, 'Best Of' Edition

Best Rising Couple: Chris Colfer (actor) and Darren Criss (musician)


If you're one of the unfortunate masses who've yet to hear of one or both of these young men, we promise it won't be long before that's changed.

Colfer's poised to take the airwaves by storm when his new series, the Ryan Murphy-helmed and RuPaul-created 'Ki Ki' premieres next month. The show, about the backstage antics at a failing Kansas City drag bar, has surprising heart, and most critics have been quick to credit Colfer's villainous Izzy Fuhreel as a key component. Surprisingly relatable even through six pounds of glitter and heels that would make even Lady Gaga cringe, he brings a much-needed emotional center around which the "good" characters whirl like the mad dervishes they frequently are.

Criss, by contrast, has whipped record industry heads into a frenzy with his unique blend of wholesomeness and raw sexuality. It's not often we see a performer who can sing lines like "Baby, we could f*** the rights, turn around and wrong it," one minute, only to leap into an impromptu cover of the 'Ducktales theme the next. "I sing what I feel," Criss says. "I've had the good fortune to feel a lot over the last year and a half. It's given me a lot to sing about." If the rumors of a bidding war between Interscope and Epic have any weight to them (and we have reason to believe they do), we think he'll be singing for a very long time to come.

THE END




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Comments

( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
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oncetwiceforevr
Jul. 28th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
this was just so so so incredible. i have no other words. <3
iwrotestuff
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:08 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you, Tara! You know you're one of my favorite fandom writers, so it's extra nice to hear from you. :)
nittyismyname
Jul. 29th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)
Awesome story! Love your writing :)
iwrotestuff
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:08 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
(Anonymous)
Jul. 29th, 2012 02:43 am (UTC)
Yup I was right! Great story, and I for one would definitely get Showtime if Chris ever did something edgy.
iwrotestuff
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)
I think a *lot* of people would get Showtime if Chris were to do something edgy. ;D

Thank you. :)
xxxraquelita
Jul. 29th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
Oh this was just wonderful ♥
iwrotestuff
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)
Thank you, bb! :D
fabrisse
Jul. 29th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC)
I loved the way you did this. Really terrific.
iwrotestuff
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, hun! :D
ca_te
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:04 am (UTC)
A perfect ending for an amazing story! <3
iwrotestuff
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
Thank you! :)
mugglegato
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
This was such a fantastic ending to a brilliant story! This last chapter had my emotions bouncing all over the place. I loved all of it.

Definitely showed that I'm a Chris fan, instead of Darren. Had to look up Iclemeyer. Had never heard of it before. lol

Thanks for this great story!
iwrotestuff
Jul. 30th, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
Thank you!

Iclemyer is still the name on his YouTube account, and though I made up the exact meaning of it, I did read somewhere that it was a cartoon character he made up when he was young. :>
ilovescarves89
Jul. 29th, 2012 09:14 am (UTC)
I just finished reading this five minutes ago, and I literally did a little excited dance, it was that good. :D

I feel like I could just do a keysmash to express my love for this, but I'll try for something a little more coherent.

Needless to say I loved this. Your stories are always so well thought through (with that in mind I feel like I should have known we hadn't heard the last of Olga and Trevor, but I totally didn't see that coming). I love the way you write dialogue, the banter you create between characters. I love the way you write all the characters, not just Chris and Darren, but all the OCs too, especially Cecelia. That could easily have been a throwaway character, but you made her story touching and worthwhile. And Ashley. Gotta love Ashley.

Iclemyer. Clever! I definitely hadn't seen that coming! Loved it. No wonder Chris didn't know what to make of that, lmao.

I had to laugh at the description of Darren there at the end, because it's SO apt for him.

Long story short: This was really good. <3
ilovescarves89
Jul. 29th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
Also just wanted to add that I can't believe you wrote this in less than a month. I mean, obviously anyone can spew out 45.000 words in that amount time, but this was actually, you know, good. I tend to overthink things a lot when I write, which means I'm a painfully slow writer (also English isn't my first language so there's that as well), so it's kind of amazing to me that you were able to do this. My love for you knows no bounds, Odd. <3 :P
(no subject) - iwrotestuff - Jul. 30th, 2012 02:09 am (UTC) - Expand
antroanna
Jul. 29th, 2012 02:10 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this, great fic!
iwrotestuff
Jul. 30th, 2012 02:11 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
selaneen
Jul. 29th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
Life-long Barbie believer whooping at the back of the crowd for CeeCee!

This was such a clever twist on the idea of 'soulmates' and so well worked out - I once again applaud your awesome.

(also highly amused that my comment for the last segment was closer to home than I ever imagined it would be)
iwrotestuff
Jul. 30th, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)
Dude - Barbie was the BOMB! Yeah, she was physically imposible, but she did it all! GI Joe was a "hero," but he was always going to play one role, you know? I was a TOTAL tomboy growing up, but I still wanted to be Barbie because Barbie had no limits. I get kind of peeved sometimes about how little credit is paid to that.

I. Loved. Your. Last. Comment. I honestly squealed with happiness when I read it, and had to force myself not to gush over how close to the truth you were.

I'm really glad you liked it. :)
(Deleted comment)
iwrotestuff
Jul. 30th, 2012 02:17 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I tried to take the story in a different direction than usual, and it was a lot of fun to play with. I also worried a few times that I was too indulgent with describing Izzy's outfits, so it's always nice to hear someone's enjoyed them. :)
oohshinyfangirl
Jul. 30th, 2012 02:28 am (UTC)
You continue to be so so amazing. I love all the details; the story is really built on the small stuff that builds into the whole. Your AU is twisted just enough off reality to make it different, but the characterizations are still dead on. The original characters are three dimensional and you KNOW I love the whole "soulmate written on skin" concept.

Thank you so much for another wonderful story!
iwrotestuff
Aug. 5th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC)
Oh hun - thank you! :D

I love the little things. It's so much fun working them in and seeing which ones work best. I'm so glad you liked it! :D
likeasouffle
Jul. 30th, 2012 05:53 am (UTC)
Oh, duh, of course that was the name! I think I was thinking about it too hard. I feel dumb now. :P

I admit you kind of lost me at the setting stuff on fire part. I didn't really get it. But I liked Darren and Chris singing together on stage as their big reunion, and Chris' mark showing, and him asking to be called Chris. Great work!
iwrotestuff
Aug. 5th, 2012 03:36 am (UTC)
Overthinking is my own personal curse, so it's kind of refreshing to know I'm not the only one. ;D

Yeah...that scene didn't quite work the way it should have, but I didn't really know how to fix it. I hate admitting it, but hey - for something that was written completely on the fly and not beta'd, I think it's not too shabby. :)
(no subject) - likeasouffle - Aug. 5th, 2012 03:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
iadorespike
Jul. 30th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
Lipstick Traces, Pt. 4b (RPF AU)
I don't know what to say other than...I'm so happy about how you ended this, and I'm so sad that it's over. This is a wonderful fic, and I've loved every bit of it...even when you made me weepy.

Oh, and I loved the way you describe Ryan Murphy in the last bit from the end. Hee! So descriptive, so true. lol

Thanks for the wonderful ride. I'll be looking for the meta or commentary or whatever you decide to post about this. Thanks again!

<3
iwrotestuff
Aug. 5th, 2012 03:38 am (UTC)
Re: Lipstick Traces, Pt. 4b (RPF AU)
Thank you! :D

I'm working on the meta bit by bit. I think I needed a little pause from it before I really dive in. :>
blue_peridot
Jul. 30th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
OHMYGOD THAT ENDING IS AWESOME. I LOVE IT. IT'S ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. I love those 'best young rising couples things! And I'm so glad you wrapped up that little piece of storyline and made them both successful, while still being uniquely them. I also liked the 'crackle' of mark recognising mark when they kiss, that's just lovely.

.... And now I want to see that show.
iwrotestuff
Aug. 5th, 2012 03:40 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D

Someone asked earlier if Chris's mark tingled when they kissed and I said no. The reason is because the person has to recognize at least the possibility of a match for it to react. I'm just sad I couldn't write that moment of recognition from Chris's pov, because oh man, did he feel it. :D

...I might have the show cast in my head and have played around with thoughts of what would happen. I seriously overthink these things XD
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