Chris had been, admittedly, ridiculously excited about the prospect of Zach joining him for Christmas this year. The moment Zach had mentioned the possibility on the phone with him, Chris had been absolutely certain it would happen.
He’d began to plan for it immediately. What most people who didn’t know him well didn’t know was that Chris was a compulsive planner. He began planning activities for them to do while Zach was in Los Angeles. And he absolutely had to stay with Chris. Yeah, he knew that most of the time Zach rented a place a friend of his owned, but this time Chris would take no arguments to the contrary, Zach would stay with him.
Zach had laughingly agreed after a time. After all his trip there would have to be brief this time, only a handful of days, so renting a place wasn’t ideal anyway.
Chris sat down and wrote out menus and movies and stuff to bake together. Like they’d done way back when Zach still lived in LA. Before New York, before Miles, before the women Chris had dated.
Maybe everything wasn’t like it used to be, Chris got that. But he missed Zach so much. And the man wouldn’t move back full-time. He liked New York, Zach told him. Chris did too, but he still didn’t want to move there.
He knew he had a problem when he bought all kinds of things to make decorated sugar cookies. Years ago, they’d made cookies together one Christmas Eve. The cookies hadn’t tasted amazing or even looked that way, but it had been so much fun, and Chris had been so in love then.
It had been crazy, probably, to think he could ever get those feelings back, those times back. So much had changed and they’d both moved on in so many ways.
But he even bought cookie cutters, and colored sugar, and frosting and nonpareils.
Zach was coming on December 22 and would be returning to New York on December 26. Chris had fought with him family a bit over his plans to spend so much time with Zach instead of them.
And then he’d gotten the call on December 21. For some reason as soon as he’d seen Zach’s number show up on his flip phone, his stomach felt as though it had a heavy ball of dread in it.
“What’s up?” Chris decided to just cut to the chase.
“I’ve got some bad news.” A long pause. Chris could hear some noise in the background. “I’m not going to be able to make it to LA after all.”
“I know, I’m disappointed too. But I have to do some reshoots here in New York and the only time available is now. Next week I’m due to go to Pittsburgh to see Mom and—”
“No, I know. I get it. It’s fine,” Chris said, before he could go further and just make it all worse.
“I’ll come out sometime in January.”
He winced at the vague ‘sometime’. Nodded even though Zach couldn’t see it.
“It’s just the reshoots…”
“Yeah. It’s the business. I know how it works. You gotta do what you gotta do.”
“You’re mad,” Zach said softly.
“No,” Chris denied. “Just…disappointed like you said. Look, there’s someone at the door. I have to go. Merry Christmas.”
He ended the call before Zach could say anything else.
He stood alone in the kitchen feeling stupid for ever getting his hopes up. He didn’t even like the holidays. Not Christmas, not Hanukkah. Any of it. Why had he even agreed to this? He could have gone camping with the guys or even flown to England to see Annabelle.
With all the filming he’d done lately, not that long ago returning from Romania, he should be glad he could just veg at home alone with nothing to do. Catch up on some sleep. And maybe, he supposed, he could see his family on Christmas after all.
He glared at all the sugar cookie stuff he’d bought and thought about throwing it all away. But no. He couldn’t be that wasteful. He’d donate it.
And now, he was going out to get drunk.
The banging on the door matched the banging in his head. For a long time, Chris ignored both.
He turned onto his back and stared up at the ceiling while he came to terms with the most bitch of a hangover he’d had in a long time.
It was Elvis’ fault. He’d started belting out Blue Christmas at the lounge he’d been at last night. And Chris just told the bartender to keep them coming.
He turned his head to gaze at his lifeless phone. He hadn’t plugged it in to charge it when he’d stumbled home last night, courtesy of an Uber driver. Probably why Katie was banging on his front door. Because of course it was her. It always was Katie.
Chris blew out a heavy sigh and flung himself out of bed. He wore only a tank top and boxers and his teeth felt like they wore sweaters, but Katie would just have to deal with him like this. She should have just used his key and made him coffee instead of pounding on his door like some crazed lunatic.
“Coming,” he mumbled. He couldn’t rustle up the energy or willpower to shout to her or to even hurry.
“Honest to God, Katie, you are so annoying.” He wrenched the door open, mouth open to give her a blistering piece of his mind.
“My God, it’s about fucking time,” Zach said with something of a snarl.
Zach smirked. “You are the absolute biggest pain in the ass to surprise. Do you know that? Let me in, for heaven’s sake.”
Chris stepped back and Zach came barreling in.
He turned to stare at his friend. “But you said…”
“I lied. Doofus.” He dropped a suitcase down on the floor of Chris’ front hall. “And even if I hadn’t, you were about to cry on the phone, so I had to come.”
“Was not,” Chris muttered.
Those lips Chris loved quirked upward. “You look like hell. Come here.”
Chris moved into Zach’s arms and they came around him, pulling him close. He sagged against him.
“I can’t believe you’re here.”
“You can believe it. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry…yeah.” Chris swallowed down the emotion threatening to unman him.
“God, you reek. Shower time.”
Chris pulled back and grinned. “Okay, yeah. And pizza. And cookies.”
“Cookies?” Zach brightened at that. “Let me at them. I’m starving.”
“We have to make them first.”
“Make them? What? Damn it, Pine. The last time was such a disaster.”
“Was so. They tasted like bricks.”
Chris headed down the hall toward the bathroom. “Since when have you eaten bricks?”