My Shadow and Me
AN: Last chapter, as promised. Apologies for the lateness; I've been out of internetability. I hope you enjoy it, and a final, heartfelt thanks to msmarmalade, crazyfish666, JessieJean, mandraco, Draccy and firestar267 for being gorgeous and lovely reviewers. Your feedback has really been wonderful.
Chapter 21: In the end
Chris stood, stunned, for a few moments after Daniel left, and then he flung himself onto his bed, automatically reaching for his mobile. Amber's number was the first in his address book, and it was only a moment before the phone was ringing.
She picked up within a few moments. "'Sup?" she asked casually.
"Daniel kissed me," he said without preamble.
Amber whooped enthusiastically. "Daniel kissed Chris!" he heard her telling the others, and he could distantly hear Alex cheering. "So you guys are finally together!" she said triumphantly.
"I'm not so sure," Chris sighed.
A silence greeted him before Amber spoke again, voice incredulous and vaguely threatening. "Excuse me, I think I must have heard you wrong. Did you just imply that you did not follow up on the first positive sign you've had from the guy you've been lusting after for months?"
"He left!" Chris protested defensively. "He said he had to go, and just ran off!"
"So you'll follow up on it when he gets back, right?" she said, voice undoubtedly dangerous at this point.
"But - what if he didn't really mean it?" Chris agonised. "What if he just got carried away? Or something?"
There was a stunned and disgusted silence. "Chris, you are undoubtedly the most hopeless person I have ever met," she announced, adding after a thoughtful moment "...With the possible exception of Alex." In the background, Chris thought he could hear the blond's offended "Hey!"
"But what if -"
"Chris," her voice cut him off. "I'm going to hang up on you now. If you two are not together by tomorrow, I will hit you. Goodbye."
"You're early today," Dr. Sorensen commented, taking her seat opposite Daniel's. "Is something going on?"
"I kissed Chris," he confessed, embarrassed.
"Yes?" she prompted, raising her eyebrows.
"Well, that's it," he admitted with a sigh. "Someone asked Chris out today, and I got really jealous, and after he said he'd turned him down, I kissed him, and then I freaked out and came here."
"What am I supposed to do?" he asked helplessly. "What if it was a mistake? What do I say?"
"What do you want to say?" the therapist shrugged.
"I should tell him it was a mistake," Daniel declared. "I should say that he should have taken James up on his offer."
"But is that what you want to say?" Dr. Sorensen asked shrewdly.
She looked at him. "Which part of you wants to say that?"
He sagged. "The fearful part," he surrendered. "And - the rest of me wants to be with him, but I just don't -"
"Don't what?" she asked when he fell silent.
"I'm so - conflicted," he complained. "Why can't it be easier?"
"Nothing worth having just falls straight into your lap," she pointed out. "Sometimes you have to work towards being happy."
"Can't you just tell me what to do?" Daniel asked helplessly.
"Sorry," she smiled a little. "I'm here to listen, not to advise. You're on your own."
"Fine," he sighed. "So, what do you want to listen to today?"
"They're hopeless," Amber groaned. "Hopeless, hopeless. Do you think they like being miserable?"
"I think they're scared of making themselves more miserable," Mark corrected her reprovingly.
"It's so annoying!"
"Well, if this doesn't work," Alex said pragmatically, "We can always lock them in a cupboard together."
She paused. "Think that would help?" she asked hopefully.
"Yeah," he nodded confidently. "Particularly if we steal their clothing first." He smirked. "The sexual tension will shatter their puny will power."
"Okay, so that's plan B," Amber agreed. "Plan A is to hope that they get off their asses and get themselves sorted out."
"I'll start getting ready for plan B, then," Alex decided.
"That's pessimistic of you," Mark chided. "For all we know, they might manage to get together all by themselves."
"Possibly," Amber allowed, drawing out the word in order to fully indicate her dubiousness. "But you must admit, their track record is not good."
"Interfering isn't a good idea," Mark tried helplessly to reason with them.
"Nor is letting them stay miserable," Amber countered.
"Votes for interfering?" Alex put in, raising his own hand, which was defiantly joined by Amber's. "The cupboard it is, then."
"Give them time," Mark pleaded, exasperated. "Give them a chance."
"Fine," she sighed, checking her watch. "I'll give them - an hour and a half."
Chris had given up on pacing after it only made him even more agitated, had given up on the thought of studying before ever his eye hit an informative word, and had tossed aside a book just a few minutes ago. It was impossible to concentrate. With a sigh of frustration, he glanced at the clock; at least his restlessness had worn away the time until Daniel was due back.
On cue, the door handle twisted tentatively and Daniel slipped inside. He blushed a little when he saw Chris looking at him, and shut the door behind him as his friend rolled to his feet.
"Can we talk about what happened earlier?" Chris asked, proceeding without waiting for an answer. "I really like you, Daniel, and -"
"You're crazy if you want me as a boyfriend," Daniel interrupted flatly. "Totally crazy."
Chris blinked. "Why?"
"Because - because!" Daniel rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Look at my track record! I'm probably the most neurotic person you know!"
"Daniel," Chris said frankly. "I really, really, like you. It doesn't matter to me that you have problems. And if you don't feel the same, or if you don't want to be with me, then I'm fine with that, but if you like me, and I like you, then it would be completely pointless for both of us to be miserable because getting together had some problems."
"I -" Daniel tried. "I - really like you, too," he admitted. "But I can't help thinking that this is a bad idea -"
"It's a wonderful idea," Chris contradicted him confidently. Daniel was leaning against the desk; he moved over and kissed him gently. The smaller boy steadied himself by holding onto Chris's shoulders, pliantly opening his lips under his friend's, pressing their bodies close together as the kiss deepened.
After a while, Daniel pulled away, drawing in a shaky breath. Chris moved to close the distance again, but Daniel stopped him with a hand on his chest.
"God, don't tell me you've changed your mind now!" Chris said in dismay.
Daniel blinked, then grinned shyly. "No, I wouldn't do that," he promised. "Not at this point. I just thought maybe you should get the door."
Chris looked up, the persistent and increasingly impatient tapping at the door to their room finally registering. With a sigh for the interruption, he pulled it open, revealing a frighteningly intense-looking Amber and an evilly grinning Alex. Mark, an expression of resignation on his face, stood behind them.
"What's this about?" he inquired, eyebrows going up.
"Are you two together yet?" Amber demanded.
"What?" Chris asked blankly.
"Thought not. Cupboard!" she declared enigmatically, and Alex immediately stepped forward, snaring Chris's wrists and tugging him over to Daniel's closet. Amber did the same with the smaller and hopefully more tractable Daniel.
"What's this about?" he said helplessly. "No! Let go -" he continued as Amber spared a hand to open the closet door and tried to push him in.
"We're putting you both in a cupboard until you get together," she explained logically. "Be grateful; the original plan involved stripping you first."
Daniel began to laugh helplessly, and thus was incapable of putting up a fight when Amber continued prodding him into the small, dark interior. Alex, who had been having more trouble with the obstinate Chris, also found his target suddenly made obedient by mirth, and he pushed him firmly inside as well, slamming the door shut on them before they could recover enough to intervene and leaning on it.
"And you can't come out until you finally admit that you have feelings for each other!" he called through the wood panels.
Daniel was still laughing softly, and Chris struggled past some hung up clothes to slip an arm around his waist. "Good thing we did so already," he murmured quietly. "Or I would be very annoyed with them right now."
"Should we tell them?" Daniel whispered back.
"In a minute -" Chris touched his cheek, using that as a guide to seek out his lips through the darkness. A few moments later, he pulled reluctantly away. "You can let us out, now," he called to their friends.
Amber made a disbelieving noise. "Already?" she shouted back incredulously. "Not hardly! You just want out!"
"Amber, if I kiss him in front of you, will you believe us?" Daniel asked her, exasperation just touching the edges of his tone.
"Let them out," Mark recommended, a smile warming his voice.
"Fine," she grumbled. Alex evidently moved away, for light flooded into the darkness again as she jerked the door back, allowing them to step out. "I want proof, now!"
Daniel rolled his eyes at Chris, who, not at all loath, brought their lips together once more. Amber squeaked.
"Oh my God, it's really true!" she exclaimed, hugging Alex (who happened to be nearest) in excitement.
"We were together before you came into the room, Amber," Chris told her.
"I knew you didn't need to interfere," Mark informed her smugly.
"Well, they're together, at least, so does it matter how it happened?" she dismissed such petty notions. "I'm so happy for you guys!"
"I'm glad," Chris said sardonically. "Now, we were having a private conversation before you interrupted us -"
"Of course!" Amber said agreeably, leaving lipstick smudges on their cheeks as she kissed them both exuberantly, before tugging Alex away to the door.
"If you ever want to have a threesome -" the blond said suggestively over his shoulder.
"You'll be the last person we call," Daniel told him firmly. "Because the very thought is scarring."
Alex pouted as he left, Mark following with a sympathetic grin shot back at the new couple.
"The innuendoes we'll face tomorrow will be truly, truly painful," Daniel said wryly as the door closed behind their friends.
"Does it matter?" Chris asked with a shrug, hugging him contentedly.
"Not really," Daniel allowed, leaning in to kiss his boyfriend again. Maybe things would all work out, in the end.
End note: I felt it was appropriate that the story end with a fair amount of chaos. I hope that people liked it, and that my readers are satisfied with Daniel and Chris getting together! I tried to make it as realistic as possible, with the awareness that Daniel still has a lot of issues to work through.
Two sequels for this story are planned! The first, currently unnamed, will be a one-or-two shot centred around Chris and Daniel about five years in the future. The second, Platonic Soulmate, will be about seven years in the future, and will deal with Alex and his endless search for a relationship lasting more than a week. That story will also introduce Chloe, who is to be his cohort in this hopeless quest, while in the meantime searching for a girl who appreciates her properly.
Before I can start those sequels, however - or any other story for that matter - there will be a few weeks of radio silence from me while I do my exams, recover from them, and finally get back on track with my writing. Hopefully some people will still be around to read my things after a month or so.
Finally - thanks again to all my readers; if you've enjoyed the story, the polite thing to do now is REVIEW.