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Lipstick Traces, Pt. 3 (RPF AU)

Author: Odd
Title: Lipstick Traces, Pt. 3 (RPF)
Rating: NC-17, if you squint and not in the way you might want
Word Count: 6,000
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. (Seriously - pay attention to that part about Darren/OFC.)
Notes: A shorter roundup this week, primarily because I originally planned for where this ends to come a bit further down the line. Trust me – there's still a lot to come. Big thanks to Stutter and Sam for helping me through some of this, plus switch842 for one moment, in particular. <3

Darren doubled back for the bottle of champagne and continued to drink as he followed Christopher to the car. Three fingers worth remained at the bottom of the bottle as Christopher unlocked the doors, and Darren threw his head back to chug it as quickly as he could. The bubbles tickled the roof of his mouth as the liquid flowed to his throat, making him cough when the last mouthful was swallowed.

"Are you done?" Christopher asked, giving him an icy stare across the roof of the car.

Darren nodded his head. "Yeah. Perfect." Christopher didn't answer; just climbed into the car and turned the key as Darren followed suit and buckled himself in. "You left your things," Darren said, looking down at Christopher's bare feet. "Your sandals and your-" He stopped when he looked up and saw the hard line of Christopher's jaw and the look in his eyes as he stared straight ahead.

'What the fuck is wrong with you?' he asked himself as he fell into the corner and leaned his head against the window. 'What are you fucking doing? When did you get to be such an asshole?' He wrapped his arms around himself and held tight, trying not to think about how good he'd felt when he'd shared that moment on the beach with Chris. 'Not Chris,' he told himself. 'Christopher. Quit acting like a crazy person. He told you not to call him that. It can't be him.'

'But what about Ceecee?' another voice inside of him asked. 'She doesn't want you calling her that, either.'

He continued to fight with himself the rest of the trip, so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't even realize they'd reached their destination until the car was parked. "Oh, hey," he said, looking around him at the interior of the garage. "We're here."

"Yes," Christopher said, eyes still averted. "You should be going, now. I'll see you at work."

"Yeah, 'kay," Darren said, unbuckling his seatbelt and reaching for the door's handle. "Not usually this tricky," he muttered to himself as he fumbled to get it open.

Christopher leaned across him and popped the handle, causing the door to swing open a couple of inches. "Go."

"'kay," Darren said, looking away as he swung an unsteady leg through the door and felt it begin to give way the second he put his weight on it. "I'm okay," he said, righting himself once he had both feet on solid ground. "Okay. Good. Car's over-" he spun around to try and orient himself, only to stumble and fall against Christopher's Prius.

"Oh, for shit's sake," Christopher said, his eyes blazing with anger as he came around to the other side of the car and slung one of Darren's arms over his shoulders. "You can't drive like this." He took a couple of steps and kicked at Darren's ankle to get him to move. "I don't know if you can walk like this. Come on, one foot in front of the other. Go slow."

After what felt like hours, but was probably less than ten minutes, they were upstairs and in Christopher's living room. "Stay there," Christopher said once Darren was safely stretched out on the sofa. "Let me get you some water. Maybe a bucket, too."

"Thanks," Darren said, even though Christopher was already out of earshot by the time he got his lips to work. "Fuck," he muttered, rubbing a hand over his face and kicking his sandals onto the floor. "Smooth move, Criss. Smooth fucking move."

"Here," Christopher said as he appeared at the foot of the couch with a blanket and a bottle of water. "And I told you not to call me that."

"I was talking to myself," Darren said. "Criss; no h, double s. It's my last name."

Christopher leaned in and squinted. He tilted his head and hummed a familiar tune under his breath. "Holy shit," he said as he let out a breath. "You're Harry Freaking Potter."

Darren groaned. "You saw that?"

Christopher folded his legs beneath himself and sat on the floor. "Both of them. A handful of times, actually. They're funny. You should be proud."

"I am," Darren said, dropping a hand over his eyes. "I'm just disappointed. We had so many dreams when we did the last one; we were going to have our own theater company and carve our own place in the world, but it never really happened. People started finding matches and getting married and moving all over the place and…" He sighed. "It just kind of fell apart."

Christopher's eyes were sad as they took him in. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I didn't know."

Darren shrugged. "Why would you? It's not like I ever talk about it, anymore."

"Do you miss it?" Christopher asked. "Performing?"

"Well, yeah," Darren said. "Like, every day. My agent still contacts me about stuff every now and then, but most of it's totally wrong for me."

"I know the feeling," Christopher said. "I don't think I ever auditioned for anything I had a chance at. People don't usually know what to do with me."

Darren rolled onto his side and looked at him. "That's a shame. I mean, I know I've only seen you as Izzy, but man," he shook his head. "Every time you take the stage, it's like a portal into another world, or something."

Christopher bowed his head. "Thank you. That means a lot." He brought his legs up and rested his chin on his knees. "I'm sorry."

Darren's voice was soft. "For what?"

Christopher's cheeks flushed. "For kissing you. You didn't start it; it wasn't fair of me to get mad at you for it."

Darren averted his eyes. "Yeah, well, it's not like I didn't want it, too." He paused. "Why did you do it?"

"Which answer do you want?" Christopher asked.

"How many are there?"

Christopher blew his bangs out of his face and looked off to the side. "There's the easy answer, the hard answer, the nice answer, and the mean answer. Take your pick."

Darren propped himself up on an elbow and took a drink of water. "How about the true one?"

"They're all true." Christopher squirmed a little under Darren's eyes. "Fine. The easy answer is that it seemed like the thing to do. The nice answer is that I wanted to. The hard answer is that everything about the wedding and the things Aunt Lacey was saying made we wish I could believe I still had a chance, and when I found out what your mark said, I guess part of me hoped it could be me."

Darren reached out to take his hand, but Christopher scooted back and out of range. "And the mean answer?"

Christopher looked around the room in a circle, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. "I wanted to get it over with."

"Get what over with?"

"Letting you break my heart."

Darren winced. "I wouldn't-"

"You wouldn't want to, and you'd probably try really hard not to, but yes," he nodded his head, "you would. You have a girlfriend, Darren. Someone you had before you met me, and will probably still have when I'm nothing more than a memory."

Darren scrambled off the couch and knelt before him. "What if I don't want you to be a memory?" He came in close, their faces inches apart and their breath warm on each other's lips.


"I'll figure things out," Darren whispered. "But I need to know-" He broke off and brought his lips to Christopher's, inhaling deeply as they met. It wasn't as hungry as the one they'd shared on the beach, but it far surpassed it in intensity. They breathed together, swaying unsteadily as their lips moved softly against each other's.

"I should let myself love you," Christopher said when they broke apart. "Break my heart open and let you in the way I wish."

"Then do it," Darren said, moving in to nip at his throat.

"I should," Christopher gasped. "You could be the last one to have the chance."

"I want to be the last," Darren said, the warmth in his arm spreading to the rest of his body.

Christopher's face was a mask of resignation when he pulled away. "You would be, if I did."

The words made Darren's insides rush, but the accompanying expression left him cold. "Wouldn't that be a good thing?"

Christopher gave him a tight smile. "I suppose that depends on how you look at it." He sighed and wrapped his arms around his knees. "Ashley says I'm always letting my heart get broken, but that's not really the way it is. Not the way she thinks of it. The truth is, it's been breaking ever since that morning when my mother handed me her compact and I realized that I wasn't going to have the same things other people had. No matter how much I pretend that I can change things, I know I can't. Every time I let someone in, another piece of my heart crumbles and falls away." He leaned in and brushed his lips softly against Darren's for the briefest of moments. "I think if I let you in, you'll take the rest of it with you when you leave." He kissed him again. "It might be nice, not to have a heart anymore."

Darren forced himself to place a hand on Christopher's chest and push him away. "Maybe we should try to sleep. Hope we feel better in the morning."

"Yes," Christopher said, eyes snapping open. He brushed himself off and frowned. "The morning. Hopefully with no sand in uncomfortable places."


Darren awoke the next morning with the feeling of soiled cotton in his mouth and sand between his toes. His body was sticky with sweat and his white button up – crisply ironed when he'd left his house – was now rumpled and clinging to him in the most uncomfortable way.

He looked around the room and groaned when he remembered where he was and what had happened. The groan only made him more aware of how awful his mouth tasted, and he was quick to take a mouthful of water from the bottle he'd been given the night before. He swallowed, grimaced, then got up and headed for the kitchen so he could rinse and spit into the sink.

He reached into his pants pocket and swore under his breath when he realized they were empty. "At least I don't have morning wood," he muttered to himself as he headed down the hall toward the door he assumed was Christopher's bedroom.

It was open partway, but a quick duck of his head inside proved just as useless as checking his pockets had been. "Christopher?" he asked, taking a step inside. "Hello?" He stopped as he noticed the open door a few feet to his right, then sputtered with laughter when Christopher's voice drifted out of it.

"I got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine…"

Darren crept to the doorway and watched with amusement as Christopher danced about the shower, his hair sticking up in a perfect fauxhauk as he channeled Emma Stone. His arms flailed through the air, a tube of expensive looking shave cream in one hand and a candy colored razor in the other.

"Take me awaaaay- DARREN!" Christopher screamed as he turned around and caught sight of his audience. "Do you make a habit of watching people shower?"

"Okay, one, no. Two, you can't shower without water, and three…" Darren lifted an eyebrow. "Your towels are covering the only stuff I haven't already seen."

Christopher pulled a face and looked down at the navy blue towels hanging on the bar of his shower door. "It's easier to shave with the water off," he said, ducking his head into the open air. "It keeps the cream from washing off. What do you want?"

"Doesn't your razor get clogged a lot?"

"I have a container to rinse it-" Christopher screwed his eyes and grunted as he stomped his foot. "What do you want?"

Darren sighed dramatically, the corner of his mouth turning up in a grin. "A lot of things, but I think I'd settle for my keys. Do you know where they are?"

Christopher reached out and waved a cream-covered hand. "On my nightstand. I took them so you wouldn't get any bright ideas while I was asleep."

Darren glanced over his shoulder and spotted them. "Right. So, thanks for keeping me from doing something stupid last night. Driving, I mean." He pointed a finger behind him at the general direction of his keys and shifted his feet. "I'll get out of your hair now. Let you get whatever that is out of it, too."

"Wait." Christopher hesitated for a few seconds before he pushed his hair back and reached for one of his towels. "Turn around. Now." Darren did as he was told, biting the inside of his lip as he heard Christopher slide the shower door further, clacking softly against the end of the frame. "Okay. You can look, now." Darren turned around to see Christopher perched on the edge of his tub, the thick fluff of the towel covering him from waist to knee. "We need to talk."

"The four most hated words in any language," Darren said, leaning against the doorframe and wrapping his arms around himself. "About?"

"Last night," Christopher said. "How much do you remember?"

"All of it."

Christopher worried his lip. "I was afraid of that." He chuckled to himself. "Why couldn't you be a forgetful drunk?"

Darren shrugged. "I usually am."

Christopher's gaze was so intent that Darren felt like they were going directly through him. "What made last night different?"

"You know what made it different."

Christopher's fingers flexed as they curled against the tub's porcelain rim. "Pretend I don't."

Darren reached up and scratched at the back of his neck. The area where they'd shaved him during his haircut felt suddenly itchy beyond words, and he was thankful for the distraction – no matter how annoying it might otherwise be. "Because it mattered," he finally said. "That's why."

"Darren," Christopher began before he was abruptly cut off.

"Christopher. Look, I don't really understand it all any more than you do, but something happened, and there has to be a reason for it."

"There is." Christopher nodded. "We were at a wedding. We were pretending to be a match. You were nice and I was lonely and we both let Aunt Lacey get to us. We wanted to believe in something that isn't there. End of story."

"But what if it's not?" Darren asked, stepping forward and kneeling in front of him. "What if it's a beginning?"

Christopher reached out and placed a hand on Darren's head. "Go home, Darren. Call your girlfriend and remember where you belong." He let his hand slip, fingers brushing over Darren's jaw before pulling away. "What happened yesterday was lovely while it lasted, but-" he stood up and stepped back into the shower, sliding the door shut behind him. "Whatever it was, it's over."


Darren ran a palm over his face and shook his head before shutting the car door and slipping the key into the ignition. He was just about to start the car and head home when he caught sight of his phone, still sitting in the cup holder where he'd forgotten it. He picked it up and groaned when he saw two missed calls and five texts from Ceecee.

"Ceese, hey," he said a minute later when she answered his call. "I'm sorry, I-"

Ceecee's voice was bordering on hysteria. "Darren! Where were you last night? I called, I texted; I even went by your place. I was scared half to death. Do you know what happens when you scare someone who works in an emergency room? Their mind goes to bad places. Very bad places."

"I'm sorry," he repeated, feeling even more like the business end of a horse than he had upon saying good-bye to Christopher. "I'm fine. I had too much to drink at the wedding and wasn't safe to drive. Christopher put me up for the night. I passed out on his couch." He paused. "What's wrong?" For a few seconds, Darren thought their call had been dropped. "Ceese?"

"I really needed to see you," she finally said. "I was- I felt-" She stopped herself and Darren could hear her taking a deep breath. "Yesterday was really bad. I-" a sniff and a choked sob came from the other end of the phone. "I'm sorry. I don't usually let things get to me this way."

"Hey, hey," Darren said into the phone, buckling his seat belt and turning the key. 'Fuck The Man,' he thought to himself as he pulled out of the visitors' lot and into traffic. 'Not hanging up on her now.' "Don't be like that. Don't. If you need me, you have me." He looked around and signaled left, figuring out the quickest route to her place. "I'll be there in like, ten minutes. Just, um, don't be mad if I smell."

Ceecee's crying broke with a small laugh. "You say that like you never do."

"Hurt!" he cried, smiling against the phone as he turned a corner. "You wound me, Ceese."

"Yeah," she said softly. "I guess so."


Ceecee was already standing in her doorway when he reached her place. "Hey," she said, practically swimming in a men's dress shirt that looked about twice her size. Her legs and feet were bare; the ball of her right foot grinding against the wooden deck.

"Hey," he said as he bounded up the wooden staircase that ran up the side of the house to her little apartment above it. "What's wrong?"

"Do I have to talk about it right now?" she asked, wrapping her arms around him and holding tight. "I think I just need to have you here."

"Of course," he said, running a hand over her hair and taking in the smell of her. "Come on, let's get you to bed."

He slid an arm around her waist and guided her inside, shutting the door behind them. They passed through the tiny entry room she used as a study and the living room she rarely used before reaching her bedroom. It was the biggest room of her place, bright white with pale blue curtains covering a large window at the far end.

"Here," he said when they'd reached the bed. "Get under the covers and I'll bring you some tea."

"I don't want tea," she said. "I just want you hold me." She crawled to the side nearest the wall and turned away from him. "I need to know you're here."

"I'm here," he said, curling up behind her and placing a kiss at the back of her head. "Not going anywhere."

"Good," she whispered. "Thank you, baby. I needed this."

Darren ran a hand up and down her arm. "Shouldn't you take this off?" he asked. "It's so big; you'd be more comfortable without it."

"No," she said, her voice suddenly sharp. She shook her head. "It makes me feel better. It's comforting."

"Okay," Darren said, patting her arm. "Let me know if you change your mind. I can get you like, a tank top or a t-shirt or something."

"I'm fine," she said in a small voice. "I want to wear this right now. It's not so bad." She shifted her weight to fit more closely against him. "Can we sleep for a while? Do you have anywhere to be?"

"Just with you," Darren said, nuzzling her shoulder as he felt her drift off to sleep. Guilt washed over him as he thought about what had happened with Christopher, followed by a sense of disloyalty that was all the more upsetting when he realized he wasn't sure where he thought his loyalty should lie.

On one hand, there was Ceecee. Beautiful, kind, whip-smart Ceecee who was just the kind of girl he'd always dreamed of. The eight months they'd spent together had been the happiest he'd had since 'Eastwick' had been cancelled and what had once seemed like a promising career fell to a low he'd all but given up on crawling out of. He was happy with her. He felt safe with her.

'But what if love isn't supposed to feel safe?' a voice that sounded suspiciously like Christopher asked inside his head. 'Aunt Lacey said you were the kind to run after love and give it everything you had. How can that be anything but a risk?'

Risk only brought Christopher clearer to mind. Darren remembered the way he'd looked as they'd danced on the beach; sun glinting in his hair and the softness in his eyes. The warmth that had flowed through Darren's body when they'd kissed. The solid feel of his body in Darren's arms and the sense that something he'd never known was ajar had finally fit into place.

Darren pushed the thoughts from his mind as he wrapped his arm around Ceecee's waist once more. He gave her a gentle squeeze and ran his thumb over her stomach through the thin fabric of her shirt. He wondered what could be bothering her, then gave a silent and guilty thanks for the time it bought him. He knew he had to tell her about everything sooner rather than later, but first, he had to understand it.


For the second time in a handful of hours, Darren awoke someplace other than his own bed. Soft lips brushed against his, and he instinctively tightened his grip on the body of his arms. "Chris..." he murmured as he began to grow hard, only to feel his body jolt when a hand reached out to touch him.

"You know I don't like it when people call me that," Ceecee said quietly as she pulled her hand away.

"Sorry," Darren said, feeling himself wilt.

"It's okay," she said, kissing him again. She laid a palm on his shoulder and pushed back, rolling herself over to straddle him. "Everything's going to be okay."

Darren reached up and began to unbutton her shirt. "Let me look at you," he said, slipping the last one free and breathing deeply as the shirt fell open. He ran a hand down her body, following its curves. "You're so beautiful," he said, tracing a nipple and feeling it stiffen beneath his thumb. "Just," he broke off as he sat up and leaned in to take it into his mouth. "Beautiful."

"Tell me you love me," she whispered as she reached down to undo his pants. "Tell me you need me."

The rush of blood that had relocated below his waist did his talking for him. "I need you," he murmured as he felt her hand pull him out. "I need you so much, Ceecee."

She smiled, a flush warm across her tear-stained cheeks. "Good," she said, moving him into position and sinking over him with her warm, wet heat. "So good…" She lifted a hand to pinch her left nipple and threw her head back as a low moan rumbled from her throat.

"Let's get this off," Darren said, only to find Ceecee's right hand gripped tightly at his wrist before he could push the shirt off of her shoulders.

"No," she said, panting as she rose and fell above him. "It stays on. Keep it on." Still gripping his hand, she placed it on her right breast and sighed as she brought it lower.

"So wet," Darren said when he felt the slickness that covered her. "I love it when you're like this." He toyed with the stripe of short, dark curls for a moment before seeking out her clit with his thumb and stroking gently. She gasped at the contact and tightened around him, urging both his cock and hand into better position.

"Say you love me," she whined as her breathing grew more and more shallow and uneven. "Tell me I'm your match. Tell me I'm-" a keening sound came from her throat as her eyes screwed tight, her hips bucking hard against him.

"I love you," Darren said as she fell forward on top of him and he wrapped his arms around her. "I love you so much," he said, kissing the salty trails below her left eye. "Never doubt that."

'But are you in love with her?' Christopher's voice whispered in his memory, and he forced himself not to think about it further. He did love her; he was sure of that much.

It was the rest he wasn't so sure of.



"What the hell is he supposed to be?" Ashley asked as she arrived at the bar with a new jar of olives. "Thos leggings better not be real fur. PETA would be pissed."

Christopher pranced lightly about the stage, leaning forward to stare into individual spectators' eyes as he held a long, twisted finger to his lips. His enormous eyelashes were back, and his face was almost comically grotesque in its exaggeration of his eyes and lips; their outlines stretching clear to his ears. His bangs were twisted on either side of his head into stiff, curved points, a wreath of greenery resting between them. Every one of his short, swift movements caused a rain of dark glitter to fall upon the stage, flying into the air when he burst into an exuberant frenzy.

"I dunno," one of the strippers who'd performed earlier said as he traded Darren a small stack of ones and fives for a smaller stack of larger bills. "Puck, maybe?" He smiled up at her and winked. "You'd make a great Titania."

She smirked and leaned over the bar toward him. "Maybe. Are you offering to be my Bottom?"

"That line usually means something pretty different around here," said Darren.

The stripper ignored him and gave a low laugh as he looked Ashley up and down. "Only if you can promise Oberon won't come and kick my ass."

"No promises." She offered him her hand. "Ashley."

A light flashed in his eyes. "Ashley," he said, looking at her with new intensity. "Deck." He kissed her hand and beamed as he caught sight of the mark on her neck. "Think you can guess what it's short for?"

Her cheeks pinked. "I might have a guess."

"Maybe we can get together sometime," he said. "I'll let you know if it's right."

"Yeah," she said, still gazing into his eyes. "I should warn you. I'm always right."

He kissed her hand again. "I'll bet you are."

"Not that it really matters," Darren said, scowling to himself as he took the jar of olives and refilled the tray. "But I think he's a fucking wood nymph."


"Stop right there!" Ashley called out as Christopher tried to sneak past them on his way out. "We have to talk."

"Sorry, Fink; I didn't really sleep last night and I think I should-" Christopher turned to catch the look in her eyes and his expression took on a new curiosity. "What's going on?"

"I think I met him."

"Him who?"

"Him," she said, jabbing at her neck. "Totally gorgeous and smart enough to use the bard as a wingman. If it isn't him and this is just a coincidence, I think I may beat your personal best for Ben & Jerry's consumption."

Christopher frowned. "When did this happen?"

"Tonight!" she said, brimming with the kind of giddy excitement that can only really come from love's first bloom. "During your last song. Did you catch the stripper with the buzzcut and the tattoo of the anchor on his arm?" She smirked when Christopher's face remained blank. "The one with the metallic jockstrap?"

Christopher's eyes instantly widened. "Oh, him," he said before giving a low whistle. He shook his head reverently and offered her his fist. "Whether he's your match or not, I insist you go forth and tap that. Repeatedly. Take pictures, if possible."

Ashley bumped her first against his and grinned. "I'll see what I can do."

"Ash," Darren said from the corner where he'd been collecting the night's empties for the recycling bin. "You just met this guy. Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself?"

Christopher's expression darkened. "Look who's changed his tune." His eyes narrowed one eyebrow arched. "What happened? I thought you were Mister Destiny about this shit."

Darren met his gaze and swallowed. "Maybe I don't want to see my friend rush into something and get hurt."

"Because you never rush into things that could hurt, do you?" Christopher took a few steps forward and leaned across the bar. "So, Darren; have any interesting conversations with Ceecee lately?"

Darren's jaw set into a firm line. "She's been having a hard time at work. She needs me right now."

"Of course she does." Christopher backed away from the bar and tightened the straps of his Chewbacca backpack. "Fink? You'll text me if there are any new developments, right?"

She leaned across the bar and kissed his cheek. "Even if there aren't."

He brought the first two fingers of his right hand to his lips and blew her a kiss before turning on his heel and striding for the door.

"Okay," Ashley said, spinning to face Darren the second the door was shut. "What the fuck was that all about?"


Darren slapped a palm to his face and groaned. The light filtering in through his blinds was too bright, the air too hot for him to think straight. He rolled toward the wall to try and block it out, swearing as he fell onto the empty bottle of whiskey that lay discarded upon the bed.

He'd gone for the bottle the second he'd arrived home, not bothering with a glass as he knocked back swallow after swallow. Getting away from Ashley had taken some careful wording, and half of him was still surprised she hadn't banged on his door before he'd passed out.

"Fuck," he muttered to himself as he grabbed his phone.

Are you awake?

A minute passed, and then:

Yes. About to leave for the gym. What's up?

Can you put off piloxing for another day? I need to see you.

Is everything okay?

I don't know. I just know I need to talk to you.

A few moments passed as he stared at his phone before, finally, he got a response.

Your place or mine?

Darren considered this for a moment before he typed out his response.

Yours, if that's okay.

I'll leave the door unlocked.

Darren grimaced as he got up and rushed through the basics of making himself presentable. A five minute shower to remove the worst of his funk, a quick brush of his teeth (saying a silent word of thanks for the fact that the contents of his stomach stayed there), the first things he could find that might pass for clean, and he was out the door, cursing the late morning's sun.

Part of him regretted that he hadn't told her to come over, but he couldn't in good conscience let her drive home after what he had to say. She'd been upset enough. Letting her process everything in the privacy of her own home wouldn't keep her from hurting, but he hoped it might minimize the sting.

He turned off of Bundy and did a half-assed parking job in front of the house beneath her apartment, then trudged up the steps like a man awaiting his death sentence. "Ceese?" he called out when he let himself in and found the door to her living room shut. "Can I come in?"

"Yeah," he heard a small voice say from the other side. "I'm here."

He opened the door and was surprised to see her curled up beneath the window, one hand on the sill as she stared into the distance. She was wearing a pair of jeans and what looked like the same shirt as last time, though knowing her, it had probably been washed since then. "Hey," he said, shutting the door to her study behind him. "You okay?"

"No," she said, eyes still locked out the window. "You know how you ask me if I want to talk about things, and I tell you I don't, but know I should?"

"Yeah?" he said, folding his legs beneath him a couple of feet away from her. "What about it?"

"That's how I feel now," she said, turning to face him with a weary expression. "I don't want to have this conversation, but I know we have to."

"You do?" Darren asked, taken aback. "I mean, yeah, of course we do." He got to his knees and walked on them until he was close enough to touch her. "You know I love you, right?" She nodded her head and sniffed, eyes once again focused on the world outside. "No matter what happens, I'm always going to love you."

"Don't," she said. "Don't say that. Don't say things like that. Not now. Please, Darren, not now."

"Hey," he said, reaching for her knee and frowning when she scooted away. "This is me, Ceece. When have I ever said anything I didn't mean?"

"Do you love me?" she asked, digging both hands into her hair. "Be honest. Do you really?"

"Of course," he told her. "This wouldn't be so hard, if I didn't."

"Oh, god," she said, getting up and taking a seat on the sofa. "I don't want to talk about this. If we talk about it, it becomes real. I don't think I can handle this if it's real."

Darren's insides twisted, both from regret and rye. "Ceece…"

"I thought we could do it," she said, mostly to herself. "I really thought you and I had a shot. I'm so fucking stupid."

"Hey," Darren said, kneeling at her feet. "You're not stupid, okay? You save lives, Ceese. You're probably the least-stupid person I know. This isn't your fault."

Her face was stricken when she looked at him. "How can you say that?" she asked, her brow furrowed and her eyes full of sorrow.

"Because you didn't do anything wrong," Darren said, stroking her elbow through her shirt. "You were marked with someone who didn't deserve you enough. I think it's pretty simple."

She sniffed loudly and shook her head. "No, it's not. Darren-"

"Yes," he said, cupping her face. "It is." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Ceese. I'm so sorry." He kissed her cheek and buried his nose in her hair. It smelt of jasmine, just like always, and he felt a pang of regret as he realized how much he'd miss it. "It's going to be okay," he told her. "You deserve to be happy, even if it is with someone else. Fuck the marks. People were happy before they started to show up; we can still be happy now." He rested his head in her lap. "You can be happy."

"Darren," she said, looking up at him as a series of emotions ran across her face. Sadness, hope, regret, and more than anything else, confusion each had their time. "How- when?"

"Pretty recently," he said. "I wanted to talk about it when I came over last time, but-"

"Yeah," she said quietly. "I guess it was kind of obvious." They were both quiet for a few minutes before she broke the silence. "Are you sure about this?" she asked, leaning down and bringing her face inches from his.

"Absolutely," he said, craning his neck to kiss her cheek. "I'm not sure about a lot, these days, but one thing I am is that I will never stop caring about you."

Ceecee's face took on a new softness, and her eyes were still damp when she took his hands in hers. "Can I ask you one last thing?"

"Anything," he told her, his head resting on her knee as he breathed a sigh of relief that she'd already figured out something was wrong.

"How did you figure out I was a Scout?"

Part 4

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( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 21st, 2012 06:19 am (UTC)
Oh shit, I was not expecting that ending.
Jul. 21st, 2012 02:43 pm (UTC)
Then that means I did it right. :)
(no subject) - diamond_sky18 - Jul. 21st, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - iwrotestuff - Jul. 21st, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - diamond_sky18 - Jul. 21st, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2012 10:10 am (UTC)
NOOOOOOOOOO! Same conversation, but they're on totally different pages!!!! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!
Jul. 21st, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I think I know how Chris is marked now :). Can't wait to see if I'm right.
(no subject) - iwrotestuff - Jul. 21st, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 21st, 2012 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you, hunny. <3

I'm all about earned endings, and I want that for this one even more than usual.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 21st, 2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
It's just like i've been saying - poor girl's got her own shit going on behind all of this. Why else could she understand Chris so well? ;>
Jul. 21st, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
This is so fascinating, and so good. Can't wait for more.
Jul. 21st, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :D
Jul. 21st, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
You know, I kind of thought there might have been more to that whole conversation where Ceecee told Darren she really liked Chris and he was all 'Um, you barely talked to him, babe.' LOVE IT, can't wait for more, so glad I'm all caught up now! ♥
Jul. 21st, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
There's something comforting about feeling like you've recognized one of your own, you know? :>

I'm itching to get the next part written, but damn my life and having other stuff to do. Grrrr...
(no subject) - whenidance - Jul. 21st, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
I laughed at "Whether he's your match or not, I insist you go forth and tap that. Repeatedly. Take pictures, if possible." LOL. Ashley/Christopher BroTP. Totally called it with that last conversation, which was excellently written. Very very well done.
Jul. 21st, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
Number one sucky thing about writing this from Darren's POV? The lack of opportunity for Ashley/Christopher BroTP-ness. *sigh*

So happy you're still enjoying it. :)
(no subject) - likeasouffle - Jul. 21st, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - iwrotestuff - Jul. 22nd, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - likeasouffle - Jul. 23rd, 2012 02:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
Jul. 21st, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
Now *that's* the reaction I was going for. :D
Jul. 22nd, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Cackles. Claps. Ceese is a funny girl. Her crying and secret out is like someone coming out of the closet.
Jul. 22nd, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
It's interesting you put it that way, because I said somewhere else that Scouts have pretty much taken over the closets that began to empty as same-sex markings made homosexuality less of an issue.
Jul. 22nd, 2012 05:38 am (UTC)
Hehehe I had a funny idea about what Chris' mark is but it's not going to happen because it's silly. But it made me laugh. :D
Jul. 22nd, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
That means you should tell me what it is! (Preferably by pm, just in case you're right.) :D
Jul. 22nd, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
I didn't see this coming. At all. And now I'll need to re-read more thoughtfully, looking for different interpretations, because... I am failing to pick up on some aspects of being a Scout.

Let me think out loud. If I am a Scout, I am not sure the names mean what everyone thinks they mean. Does that mean I don't think soulmates exist, or that I can find mine in anyone, regardless of their name? I'm stuck in a world where everyone else thinks names matter, so if mine doesn't match their expectations, I might be worth a dalliance, but they'll never wholly be content with me. But that's true of anyone who doesn't have the right name; that's not limited to Scouts.

Do people assume the first person to come along with a name that matches is their soulmate? They seem to be able to have very broad definitions of the "right" name. Sort of a, "People see what they want to see," effect. Are Scouts looking for "true" soulmates, rather than, "This person's name closely resembles my mark, so I'll talk myself into believing they're the one"? But Christopher thinks his mark means he doesn't have a soulmate. So there is a variety of experiences among Scouts. Or something.

But if Person A and Person B genuinely love each other, what difference would it make if one was a Scout? Or can Scout's not fall in love? And if they are so rare, why has Darren met two of them? Or is it that Scouts aren't all that rare, just self-confessed ones?

I guess I missed or have forgotten Christopher's and Ceecee's hypotheses about what the names might mean. I'm getting frustrated with myself.

Why did the tingling happen when Darren and Ashley were talking and not at another time?

Crap. I'm not going to figure this out.

Ah, well. I needed a new obsession.
Jul. 22nd, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC)

Chris explains why they call themselves that in an earlier part. In short, it's because scout means to seek and find, and they're not willing to take marks with blind faith. Think of it as the soulmate equivalent of being on the atheist/agnostic spectrum. Most of them have their own interpretations of what it means (and run a wide range with regards to how much respect they have for those who do believe). Some think soulmates are a ridiculous concept and only a fool would put any weight in them, others don't want to believe that a person could only have one chance for true happiness out of the countless people across the globe, and some are merely interested in options and neither believe nor disbelieve, but tend to ride a fence.

I said on the meme that because marks have been so embraced as to become sacrosanct for most, suggesting they're meaningless (or questioning them at all) is pretty much on par with something like being openly racist or worshipping Satan or anything else that most people in our society would tend to cringe at and walk away from, given half a chance. This is why Ashley tells Darren they need to drink before she can tell him, why he spits it out when he hears it, and why Aunt Lacey is so bitter about the very notion. I tried not to throw too much exposition into things, and instead went the opposite direction. I'll be going back and adding more in when I get a chance, because I do see how that's a failing of the writing so far. :>

As for why he tingled when he talked with Ashley, that's something I've deliberately kept from including in-story so far, because it could be considered a spoiler, if you squint. I'll say this much – it's related to the reason Chris's lip didn't tingle when they kissed.

Does that help? :>
Jul. 23rd, 2012 01:16 am (UTC)
I am completely blown away by this story, really!
Jul. 23rd, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
thank you! :D
Jul. 23rd, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
I love how this story and the comments on it both here and on the GKM make me think...

My latest thoughts spurred on by the alternative pt 20 on the meme in part... given the braille, if your soulmate was illiterate would you get a picture or some kind of sigil instead of a name? (because how cool would that be?? or might you get an actual rose for Rose if that was how they had always been symbolised to their family???)

And then I thought (as someone with a common girls name and an even commoner boys nickname) what are the names we choose for ourselves and use to really show who we are? And then I pictured tumblr & LJ being alive with people going "I always wondered why I had something as unusual as 'arglefraster' on the finger I use to scroll with! Now I know!!"

And then I realised the sun had probably gotten to me...
Jul. 24th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
You know, I've thought a lot about that, and what I finally came up with is that most people learn how to recognize their own names, even if they don't have the reading comprehension to understand why it is that that particular pattern of lines stands for the way they're addressed.

I don't think the sun's gotten to you at all. If you have, it must have gotten to me first. :)
Jul. 24th, 2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
I just. I don't. I can't. I need to breathe.

I'm all:

And then I feel:

Jul. 29th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
I hope that's a good thing! :>
Jul. 27th, 2012 09:49 am (UTC)
Omg, I LOVE this story! This wonderful, beautiful, heartbreaking story!!
Jul. 29th, 2012 03:17 am (UTC)
Thank you! I hope you enjoy the ending, now that it's finished. :)
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