Length/Rating: ~ 3250/ PG (mention of drug use)
Summary: Sometimes a meal is the easiest thing that can be shared between two people.
1. Poached eggs with pancetta and tomatoes - 2011
Chris wakes to the sound of laughter and the rich scent of coffee. The other side of the bed is empty and cool, but there’s a neon pink Post-It on the second pillow telling him to come downstairs when he’s ready.
Chris rolls over and stares up at the ceiling. It’s weird, he knows, to wake up in Darren’s childhood bedroom, where the bookshelves are lined with worn copies of comic books and Harry Potter and faded band posters are peeling from the walls. But Darren had gone home with his parents after the Glee Live premiere, and there hadn’t even been a question of Chris going with them.
After the hustle and hubbub had died down, Darren’s mom had taken his arm and drawn him away from the rest of the cast, kept him from getting into a different car. Chris hadn’t seen Darren’s eyes on them, but he’d felt the warmth of his gaze. He’d spent the long drive in the back of a car with Darren’s hands around his, his thigh pressed against his, and letting the comfortable flow of easy conversation wash over him.
Chris slides out of the bed, acutely aware of his nakedness when his bare feet hit the carpeted floor and pictures of Darren from middle school stare at him from the walls. He’d protested the night before when Darren had kicked the door shut behind them and pulled him close with warm hands and laughing eyes.
“Darren, your parents-”
But Darren’s fingers had wormed their way under his shirt and found his waiting skin. “We have a guest room, and yet you’re here. It’s fine. Promise.” And how could Chris possibly say no to that?
Chris pulls on a shirt and comfortable jeans before he makes his way down to the kitchen. He’d shower, but he doesn’t want to be any later than he might already be. He can hear the low rumble of Darren’s voice and the higher timbre of Mrs. Criss’ carrying up the staircase and his chest tightens with the sudden worry of intruding upon a family that isn’t his. But then he hears his name fall from Darren’s lips, said in a tone of soft warmth, and Chris makes it the rest of the way down the stairs.
The breakfast table in the kitchen nook is already set, four perfect place settings with a vase of bright flowers in the middle. There’s a large pitcher of what looks like mimosa waiting and Chris is certain it was just made with fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Darren is at the counter, dressed in sweatpants and a loose tank top with his back turned, and all Chris wants to do is press up close to him and drop kisses to his messy curls, but Darren’s mom is standing right there at the stove and Chris can’t. He can’t. Maybe one day.
Darren is humming and his mom is swaying and Chris leans against the wall, watching, listening. They move together easily, never getting in each other’s way, and Chris wonders how many mornings in Darren’s life began just like this one.
He must make some sound, or maybe Darren just senses his presence, because he suddenly turns around. His eyes are bright and soft at the same time, somehow, shining just for Chris.
“Hey, you’re finally up. And just in time.” Darren shuffles across the kitchen to press a kiss to Chris’ cheek and Chris’ breath catches in his throat. But Darren’s mom simply pats his arm as she passes him, carrying several dishes to the table just as Mr. Criss appears in the doorway. Chris thinks he should feel overwhelmed, but he doesn’t. He’s just comfortable. At home.
Breakfast is poached eggs with pancetta and tomatoes and Chris doesn’t even know where to begin. Mrs. Criss fills his plate likes he’s been sitting at their table for years and Chris hopes his soft “thank you” is enough to convey everything welling up in his stomach. Darren’s father lifts the carafe of fresh coffee towards him, but Darren is there before he can answer.
“He doesn’t drink coffee.” Darren’s voice is light, just shy of teasing, and Chris would feel embarrassed, horribly young, if it weren’t for the sparkle in Mr. Criss’ eyes. Darren’s father just grins and tops Darren’s cup off instead.
“I’ll get him hooked on it in no time.”
Chris reaches under the table to touch Darren’s knee, and Darren’s smile is so bright it hurts.
2. Cereal and milk - 2012
He’s still a little high, Chris thinks, standing in Darren’s dark kitchen wearing boxers that aren’t his and nothing else. He thinks he should be cold, but he’s not. Or maybe he is and he doesn’t care. The clock on the microwave tells him it’s going on 3am, but he doesn’t remember what happened to the other hours of the night.
Chris remembers lounging on the couch while Darren strummed a melody on his guitar. He caught phrases from familiar songs mixed with chord progressions he’d never heard before. He knows Darren has sheet music and notebooks stashed away in his bedroom, but he’s never tried to sneak a peek at them. It feels invasive, somehow, too intimate in a way that knowing the pattern of freckles across Darren’s shoulders isn’t.
He remembers, later, the music fading away to silence and Darren’s lips on his, the unfamiliar acrid taste on his tongue, passing into his own mouth. He remembers the way Darren’s sheets felt like water on his skin as he fell asleep to the ghosting of smoke across his bare chest, spilling from between Darren’s lips.
And now he’s barefoot in borrowed underwear, eating slightly stale cornflakes in the early morning hours. He doesn’t remember waking up. The tile is cool under his elbows as he leans against the kitchen counter and Darren is so close next to him their bare shoulders brush. His skin is always so warm.
Darren catches his eye, grins, and milk dribbles down his chin. Chris laughs.
3. Scrambled eggs with onion, bell pepper, and cheese - 2013
Chris is sitting on the counter, heels dangling against the cupboards below, and he’s watching Darren move smoothly about his kitchen. It’s already gone past 11am, according to the clock on the wall that he’s pretty sure tells correct time, but they’d been out at the after party until at least 3am. Chris lost track of the time the night before somewhere between the quick and dirty grope in the bathroom and the fourth glass of champagne pressed into his hand by someone he didn’t know.
He’d woken up with a head full of cotton, the cool January sun peaking through the drawn curtains, and Darren attempting to slip quietly out his bed.
“Hey, no. Stay.” Chris had grumbled, but Darren had smacked a noisy kiss to his cheek and wriggled free of Chris’ reaching hands.
“The big movie star deserves a proper post-premiere breakfast,” Darren had said. “Come down in fifteen. Don’t go back to sleep.” And then he’d snatched a pair of boxers off the floor and walked out of the bedroom, still bare-assed.
A quick shower and a lot of toothpaste later, Chris had come down to his kitchen to find Darren cracking eggs into a bowl.
“I said fifteen minutes,” Darren had chided, smiling softly and clucking his tongue. “It’s not ready yet.”
From his perch on the counter, Chris watches Darren’s hands as he chops onions and red bell peppers with enviable ease. His fingers are long and Chris is intimately acquainted with their dexterity, but it’s something else all together to watch those hands make breakfast for him. It’s a different kind of skill, a strange sort of beauty. Darren whisks a splash of milk into the eggs and then stops, considers the bowl in his hands with a furrowed brow.
“Oh, I didn’t ask. Is milk okay? It’s how I always make them, because of mom, but-”
Chris chest feel tight with something he can’t name. “It’s fine. Whatever you make is fine.” He leans over and brushes a kiss across Darren’s bearded cheek. He feels the twitch of Darren’s smile under his lips.
Chris isn’t much of a cook. He can bake well enough, can measure flour and sugar and salt into cookies and cakes, but he doesn’t have the same touch with eggs. Eggs are tricky. They burn quickly when scrambled. Omelets go dry, fried eggs can be over cooked or under, the yolk can break before it’s time. It’s matter of seconds and degrees; it’s delicate and he so hates to fail.
You’re the person I want to have breakfast with every morning, Chris thinks.
“All right, breakfast is served.”
Chris moves to jump down off the counter, to sit at the table, but Darren stops him with a hand on his stomach.
“Stay there.” Darren’s hand is warm through his shirt, holding him in place. Chris inhales and feels Darren’s fingers shift as his belly expands with his breath.
Darren hands him a plate and Chris murmurs his thanks. Flavor bursts across his tongue at the first bite and he wonders how many mornings he can get Darren to cook for him. He wonders if he’d even had to ask.
“I’m sorry,” Darren says suddenly. He’s leaning a hip into the counter, standing close enough his arm brushes Chris’ thigh. “Mom makes way better eggs than me. I’ve never quite figured out how to poach anything so you’re stuck with scrambled.”
“These are perfect.”
Darren looks up at that. He’s got a bit of cheese on his lip and Chris would kiss it away if it weren’t so corny. “Yeah?”
4. Stale bagel - 2013
It’s hardly a breakfast, just a bagel (the last one) snagged from the cupboard and smeared with peanut butter because they ran out of cream cheese in Texas and no one remembered to pick up more during their last supply run. It’ll suffice. It has to.
The highway stretches out long and empty before Darren, illuminated only by the headlights, as he sits in the passenger seat at the front of the bus.
He would chat with the driver, but he has nothing to say. His cellphone sits silent in his pocket and he doesn’t know what time it is here, let alone elsewhere.
The sun begins to light the horizon in shades of pink and gold and Darren closes his eyes.
5. Scrambled eggs with coffee - 2013
Darren hadn’t really expected Chris to come with him. He’d hoped, sure, but he hopes for a lot of things these days that don’t seem like they’ll ever happen. But he can’t let himself focus on those maybes and we’ll-sees, not when there’s still good to be had, if sought. Chris had protested, of course, pulling the pillow over his head and grumbling about it being too fucking early in the morning for a non-filming day, but Darren had whispered promises of the best eggs he’d ever eaten, and Chris had finally allowed himself to be coaxed out of bed and into the shower.
The drive out is easy, if long, and Chris doesn’t tell him to stop singing along to the radio, even when he can’t quite reach the notes. Darren tries not to think about the rest of the weekend, what happens when they get there, what will be said and what won’t. He just wants these few hours blissfully alone in an overpriced car with Chris where he doesn’t have to be anyone at all – just Darren. For a few hours at least he can pretend; he can shake loose the world’s weight pressing down on the back of his neck, bowing him low. He can roll down the windows, let the wind mess up his hair, and sing along to Taylor Swift as loudly and unironically as he wants without worrying that someone will see or care.
“Memorizing him was as easy as knowing all the words to your old favorite song.”
And if Chris’ fingers tap against the back of his hand where it’s resting on the gearshift, well, he doesn’t have to worry about that either.
The diner Darren is taking them to sits just off I-10. He found it on the road trip out to Coachella a couple of years ago and he laments the 364 mornings a year he doesn’t get to eat there. There are only a few cars parked out side when pulls into the lot. Chris gets out of the car, concern wrinkling his brow.
Darren looks over when Chris trails off. He’s staring at the restaurant. The early sun is softening the sharp lines of his chin and nose and Darren could look at him forever, if it were allowed.
“Is this gonna be okay?” Chris asks.
“I told you. You’re about to have the best eggs you’ve ever eaten in your life. It’s so much more than okay.”
“No, I mean.” Chris makes an aborted gesture that Darren wishes he didn’t understand. “Is it gonna be okay that we’re…”
Darren feels it in his stomach, what Chris is asking. And it feels like lost opportunities and missed moments, the sum of all the things they’ve shared and those they never could. The parts could never equal the whole, but it has to be enough, somehow.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be fine. There’s no one here but truckers and little old waitresses who call you ‘Sugar.’ It’s fine.”
Darren wants to take Chris’ hand, to offer touch and comfort, but he can’t. It might be an empty truck stop diner in the middle of the California desert, but it’s still that nebulous public, and he can’t risk ruining what little they’re allowed with foolish impulsivity. And he doesn’t think Chris would let him anyway.
They get seated near the back and there’s no one else anywhere near them. The waitress brings them a carafe of coffee without asking if they want any and Darren orders for both of them. The vinyl seats of the booth are ripped and patched in places and it itches at the backs of Darren’s thighs. They talk about nothing and Chris taps his foot under the table and Darren so happy he can feel it beating in his throat.
Darren watches Chris rip open packets of sugar and dump them into his coffee.
“I remember when you wouldn’t even drink coffee,” he says, because he can.
Chris shrugs and adds a healthy dose of cream to his mug. “Just one of the many ways in which you’ve corrupted me.”
A thousand images flash before Darren’s eyes, the moments through the years when Chris was his. And the times he wasn’t.
“Stop that,” Chris says, and his tone tells Darren that Chris thinks knows exactly what’s on Darren’s mind. He’s almost right. “You’ll give the waitress the wrong impression.”
“No, I think it’s the right impression.”
“Mhmm.” Chris lifts an eyebrow at him, and Darren can’t help but laugh. The rest of the weekend doesn’t matter. His has these perfect hours with Chris. He takes them and locks them deep down inside of himself where nothing, and no one, can take them away.
6. Pancakes and bacon - 2011
Chris is just sitting up, rubbing the grit from his eyes, when Darren comes through the hotel room door, balancing a tray of dishes and fumbling with the key card. He’s wearing loose sweatpants and the t-shirt he pulled off of Chris the night before. There’s a red mark low on his neck and Chris flushes down to his bellybutton at the sight of it. He suddenly feels young, and unsure, in a way he didn’t the night before.
“Hey, you’re awake,” Darren says. “I was gonna surprise you.” He brings the tray over to the bed and sets it down.
Darren’s gaze on him, the way his eyes are so obviously taking in his bare chest, his mussed hair, the drape of the sheets around his waist, makes Chris acutely aware of his nakedness and the undeniable fact that only one bed in the double room is rumpled and used. Chris swallows heavily.
“Uhm, where did you go?” Chris wants to cover up and he wants to push the sheets the rest of the way off.
“Down to the restaurant,” Darren says. “I didn’t want to call room service, because then they’d come up here and they’d be all up in our business and I didn’t want that. Not this morning. But I wanted to have breakfast with you. In bed.”
“Oh.” Chris doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know what to do with this Darren, this Darren who is irrevocably different from the one he knew twelve hours earlier. But Darren doesn’t seem to have that problem, or if he does, he’s hiding it well. He just kicks off his shoes and climbs onto the bed next to Chris, so close they touch. Again.
“I got us pancakes. Because they’re fucking delicious. And some bacon because, well, duh. Bacon. I would have grabbed some eggs too, but I didn’t want them to get cold before we could eat them because let’s be honest, nothing’s worse than cold, sad eggs. But pancakes. Those can be cold and it’s all good. These aren’t cold though. Not yet, but they will be. So you should eat them before they get cold.” Darren stops suddenly, and his cheeks are red like he’s embarrassed. Chris’ belly swoops pleasantly.
“You didn’t have to-“
“No, I wanted to. I mean, it’s the least I could, well, not the least. That’s a dumb expression isn’t it? But I wanted to. Feed you. Food’s important. It means something, to share a meal with someone, to share breakfast. You mean something. So. And food’s kind of a celebration, in a way.”
“Are we celebrating?” Chris asks, his voice soft. Nervous. The look Darren shoots him makes Chris flush down to his toes.
Chris bites his lip and reaches for a fork. “Maybe a little.” He leans a little more into Darren.
7. Egg and bacon sandwich - 2010
Chris sits on the steps of his trailer, hunched over and nibbling on the same egg and bacon sandwich he’s had in his hands for half an hour. He knows he should eat more, that it’s going to be a damn long day and he doesn’t want to end up six hours into shooting with no break in sight while his stomach rumbles so loudly the boom mic picks it up and he grows dizzy with hunger. But he’s nervous. And he can’t eat.
From down the way he can hear giggles and laughter coming from another trailer, Naya’s, he thinks, or maybe even Lea’s. He frowns a little, but shakes it off. It’s not that there’s no one to eat with on set, it’s just that generally no one thinks to ask him if he wants to join them. And sometimes he doesn’t. This morning is one of those.
Chris nervous, but he shouldn’t be. The new guy coming in that day was hired for him, to be someone for Kurt. It’s intimidating, that pressure, and it’s a little scary. He’s met new people before, worked with new actors on the show. But somehow this is different.
He can feel it, deep down in his gut. Something’s coming, something big, but he doesn’t know what.