“Oh, hey,” Chris said, and the jingling of collar tags and Foster whining, and —
Lance pushed up on one elbow, rubbing his eyes. Not still dreaming, he didn’t think, because Chris was looking rough: exhausted, huge dark circles around his eyes. Dirty hair straggling down past his shoulders, under a stained, wrinkled bandana. Skinny.
Alarmed, he sat up all the way and reached for the lamp.
“No! I’m — hey, can I crash here for the night? I’m kinda wasted, man, you have no idea. I’ll just –”
And with that he shrugged off his leather coat, kicked at his own feet until Lance heard a thump off in the darkness, and rolled onto the bed and into the covers, yanking at them and wrapping himself up in a flurry. Then, stillness. Silence. No: soft breathing. Soft, and he was not even snoring.
Eventually, Lance settled back down, patting Foster until he did, too. “Well, hello,” he said thoughtfully, watching shadows on the ceiling for a long time until his eyes closed.
The bed was empty when he woke up, but the pillow was smushed up in a way Lance had seen a million times, hadn’t seen in years, and a corner of the bandana peeped out from underneath. Lance brought it with him when he went downstairs, wound it around his fingers as he poked his head into the quiet kitchen.
Rough was not even the word. Chris had a cup of coffee clutched to him, eyes closed and face tilted to the sun, and he looked… “Jeez, Chris,” Lance murmured, relaxing his hold on the bandana, and Chris smiled, or maybe grimaced.
“You’re out of eggs,” he said, and that — well. Was that. Lance handed him the bandana, and he set the coffee cup on the windowsill and set about winding up his long, long hair, as Lance pulled stuff from the fridge and got to cooking, dodging the dogs. It had never been that long, Lance didn’t think. Chris’s hands were shaking.
After breakfast, Chris went back to bed. Back to Lance’s bed, Foster and the Dingbat tagging along, and Lance thought about that as he washed the dishes, hands submerged in warm, soapy water, thought about how he didn’t know what to think about that, really, and realized with amazement that he had washed the dishes — dishwasher gleaming in his white and yellow and green marble kitchen. He couldn’t hear Chris breathing up there at all. After a while he picked up his keys and phone and headed out.
Chris was still asleep when he got back much later, but the bathroom floor was covered with damp towels and dirty clothes. He nudged the ripped jeans tangled up with faded boxers with one toe and felt obscurely angry. Maybe he should pull out his old washboard and just take care of that. Maybe they were out of eggs because he had forgotten to feed the chickens. Maybe he was — he was —
Maybe he was losing it. A new record: less than a day. Chris was wrapped up in a blanket, looking a lot less haggard, a lot less pale. Better. His hair was still damp, crazy spirals clutching at his shoulders and sticking up on one side where Lance knew he’d had the pillow over his head, and his eyes were a little less hollow, a little more alive. Cautious. Maybe less than a day was really years and years — years — and he hadn’t even realized he’d still been waiting.
“Morning,” he answered, stepping back, nudging aside the jeans. “I got, uh. I got some eggs.”
Chris smiled, and it was not so much a grimace. “That’s cool. Hey, Lance –”
“I’m sorry about all this. It’s just, I haven’t been sleeping too well, and I tried to think of somewhere, um, where –”
“Can we talk about this later?” Lance interrupted.
“Oh. Ah, sure.” Chris looked away and tucked the blanket in a little tighter, and Lance sighed. “So, anyway, I,” Chris started again, so Lance had to cut him off again.
“I mean, later.”
“Oh,” Chris said, and stopped. “What?”
Hands were shaking again, Lance noted absently. “Come on,” he said, and led Chris back to bed.
This time Chris lay passive while Lance wrapped him up in the covers, lay watching with his face still and his eyes so big and dark in his face. Passive, and they really had so far to go, except for how when he slipped out of his own clothes and settled in behind, rearranging the dogs, and tilted his head to rest against the mound of blankets next to him, Chris snorted a little under his breath, and went limp and relaxed all at once. So there was that.
“Nighty night,” Lance mumbled, already closing his eyes.
Empty bed again when he woke up, but Lance could hear stuff banging around in the kitchen as he came down the hall, water turning on and off and footsteps and tags jingling and claws scrabbling back and forth over tile, and the smell of coffee, nice and strong, wafted out to him. “Morning,” he said, heading on in, and Chris turned around and held up an egg, raising his eyebrows.
Much better, much more — he looked almost rested, and it was almost a smile when Lance said, “Sure,” and reached past him for a coffee cup. After breakfast, Chris stayed near them for a while, hung out with the dogs in the backyard while Lance sat on the porch and answered emails. In the afternoon, when the sun was slanting in sideways and turning everything gold and red, he slid a glance over Lance’s way, opened his mouth, and then closed it.
“What,” Lance said.
“Maybe,” Chris started. Then he got up and went inside, and much later when Lance finally let himself check, he was sleeping again, wrapped up in the blankets, hair spreading out from under the pillow on his face, clothes on the floor by the bed. Beside him, Foster lifted his head from his paws and whined at Lance.
“Oh, fine,” Lance told him, and maybe — maybe so.
So he shooed Foster out of the room and took off his own clothes and climbed into the bed, and he hadn’t ever been this nervous over something like this, he didn’t think, except for how he couldn’t ever remember it being like this. Except maybe Chris was different, and maybe he always had been, and now his own hands were shaking, but he didn’t let that stop him. He pulled at Chris’s blankets and burrowed inside, until Chris made a muffled, complaining sound and started thrashing around, and suddenly they were right there, wrapped up together.
“Oh, hey,” Lance said.
“Hi,” Chris said finally, and the expression on his face was so sharp and awake and present that Lance kissed him.
God, he was skinny, and hungry, and not at all passive, not so much anymore: pushing up against Lance, pushing his tongue into Lance’s mouth over and over again, making that moany sound like he just couldn’t bear it. “Hey, hey,” Lance said, pulling away, and Chris stiffened up — “no, hey, just let me,” and Lance kissed him again, this time with a spare inch to skim his fingers down between them. Chris exhaled, and then did it again, and oh my god he was panting — much farther along than Lance had realized, and wasn’t that just — he should have known.
“Chris,” he murmured, and Chris answered by turning his face into Lance’s neck and pushing up into his grip.
It had to be fast, then. Lance promised himself he’d take his time next time, and he had time for next time, he was almost sure of it, and — “Lance.” Chris sounded like he’d just realized the most amazing thing, and he stiffened up again, pushing closer, not away, and shocked, surprised, amazed, Lance realized he was, fuck. Right there.
And maybe the best part was how he got to touch Chris afterward, and Chris touched him back, like there was nothing more important between them.
“So, Chris,” Lance said finally, picking up a long tendril of hair, letting it wind around his fingers.
“Sticking around this time?”
“Thought I might,” Chris said, and the smile went all the way up to his eyes. Wow, he was just so — gorgeous was not even the word.
“Okay, then,” Lance said, and got up to brush his teeth and let the dogs back in.