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Darkly, But Then Face To Face

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Chris never said anything about it.

It’s not like he couldn’t have known, wouldn’t have heard. There were too many mutuals in their large web of acquaintances, more than enough for someone to have said something to someone who passed it along. The only place that passed gossip faster than the fucking internet was the A-list. And they’d seen each other plenty since, as schedules crossed, a lunch in LA, a house party in New York, the premiere for Chris’ new series, a pre Oscar brunch, an after-afterparty. Surely he must know. He’d hate it if Chris found out when the rest of the world did in a fucking E!News headline. Because he wasn’t about to bring it up himself. They never talked about this part.

The closest they came was at a dinner, among friends, one of the swanky special guest list places, dim lights and candles and $200 plates, but windbreaker casual just to juxtapose. Much like his life felt right now. LA winters. Old and alone.

“So how’ve you been, man?” Chris said, casual as ever, middle finger delicately tracing the weird brocade pattern woven into the tablecloth, close to Zach’s own hand, twisting the stem of his wineglass.

He glanced off in the middle distance and lifted his shoulder, “You know, it’s…”

That was the extent of that conversation. Someone else had something else to talk about. Like, it didn’t happen. Good talk.

Another night, Chris was tapping out on another shindig and Zach kind of didn’t want to be around the sort of people who wanted to talk about it and took the offered ride.

“So anyway, I told him to give me a few weeks off of it,” Chris was saying something about his trainer and their schedule, “Want me to drop you at the rental?”

Zach inhaled a breath and tipped his head to look out the passenger window. And his turn went right on by.

At Chris’ place, Wednesday gave them an enthusiastic hello, and they sat right there on the foyer rug, getting doggy kisses and giving belly rubs, Chris’ thigh right up against his own.

“So I have a spare toothbrush, uh, somewhere in here,” Chris said, shuffling through the drawers in his master bath, “Probably should keep some spares in the guest bathroom anyway.” He resurfaced with a smile and a packaged Oral-B. “Oh!” he grabbed for a spare travel tube of paste as well.

Zach nodded his thanks, glancing over Chris’ large unmade bed on his way to the guest room, with its calm blue sheets. He’d stayed here a few times. Not alone. “G’night.”

He opened his eyes in the morning to a sense of near biblical resolution that, if he was honest with himself, had been hovering around him for a long time. Sometimes far behind, others just in his periphary. In other cities and other countries, long work days and red eye flights and drunken nights. Word games and silent stares. Moving cross country. Rear view.

He stretched and stared at the ceiling, hearing the sound of light rain overhead, the city outside, movement down the stairs.

He pulled on his undershirt and last night’s pants to head down, finding Chris in his kitchen and the warm smell of his coffee perking. Sweatpants, bedhead, and a grin, pulling a carton from the fridge. “Want some eggs?”

Zach nodded, leaning in the doorway to watch Chris clip a full-on cube of butter from the stick and let it sizzle and melt in the pan. How long since he’d indulged that much dairy in a single meal?

“I never fell out of love with you,” Zach said, as matter-of-factly as he might have commented on the drizzle outside. Never mind the decade and then some he’d kept it behind his teeth before this.

Chris didn’t miss a beat in splitting five eggs into a bowl and whipping them up with a fork, poking and turning idly with a spatula before finishing with a healthy sprinkle of black pepper and divvying the contents out on two plates, handing one over with a fork.

They ate fluffy buttery eggs, standing three feet apart in Chris’ kitchen, feet bare with a dog at the ready, until the plates were empty. Chris took both and put them on the floor for Wednesday’s delight. He grinned back, “She’s an excellent dishwasher.”

Zach chuffed a laugh, the pair of them watching her lick the plates clean, leant back against the counter and wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.

Chris bent to pick up the plates, much to Wednesday’s dismay, rinsed them and nudged Zach over to put them in the dishwasher.

“Are you not, like, gonna…” Zach began, but Chris shut the machine and set it, then leaned a hand on the edge of the counter by Zach’s hip, cupped his cheek with the other and kissed him. Soft. Sweet. Simple.

His eyes popped open to that perfect, familiar blue. He gasped belatedly and hovered just on the edge of crumpling like a fucking jenga tower.

“Shh,” Chris gently shushed him, his hand skating up to palm over his too short hair, letting him grab hold and lean on his shoulder and take a few breaths. Fuck how delicate he felt right now, and how strong Chris felt.

“Sorry,” he finally managed. Because they didn’t talk about this. Zach had always assumed Chris never knew, didn’t, wouldn’t. Ever.

Fifteen years. However many other people in between them.

Chris pulled back, taking his hand and towing him over to the glass doors of his patio, holding him in front of the door, watching the rain over the pool with those strong arms around him.

“Why now?” he asked, and felt a shrug in answer. Lips behind his ear, brushing the short hairs there.

“Wouldn’t have worked any other time,” Chris murmured, “I would’ve fucked it up. Would’ve hurt you.”

Zach’s heart swelled, “And now is different.”

“Now is different.”