Clothes Make The Man

Chris had always known that James was a particularly quiet and private person. He'd always known that many of the ways James opened up about his likes and dislikes and emotions were specifically for Chris.

He'd also always known, of course, that James was an amazing actor, able to throw himself completely into a role with no reservations, regardless of what it was.

Still, the first few times he's out with James in LA, and especially when James gets recognized by someone, come as a shock to him. James seems to carry himself with a particular confidence -- almost arrogance, Chris thinks, even though he also thinks arrogance would be the last word he'd use to describe James -- in public, walking with determination, engaging in conversation with a gusto that would seem totally natural if Chris didn't know him so well, and looking so comfortable in a way that Chris distinctly wasn't in public that it actually makes him question how well he actually knows his fiancee after all.

It's also shocking to him how that entire facade immediately falls away at the door to their apartment, as soon as the door shuts behind them. James in their shared space is quiet -- more introspective and introverted -- communicating in smiles and glances and soft touches rather than speech the majority of the time.

It takes Chris a while to really internalize that the James at home was the real James. He'd honestly known that already, from college and from previously having lived with James in undergrad. But James hadn't compartmentalized his life then nearly as much as he was doing now. James in undergrad hadn't treated life outside of his home as an extended role that he has to play.

It makes Chris worried, for a bit, for James. But then he starts to understand that it's how James deals with the sudden fame and notoriety, and it just makes him appreciate even more how much the private James is reserved for him these days.

And it makes him appreciate how much James seems to go out of his way to make sure Chris knows he's loved, and cared for. James is always respectful of Chris' job and work obligations of course, never interrupting when Chris is coding on the couch or on a call with coworkers. But a cup of coffee and a fresh-baked cookie will sometimes show up on the edge of the table in the afternoons (the cup always sitting on a coaster). Or dinner will be ready just when Chris is wrapping up for the day and starting to think about food.

Chris resolves to do his part to help James leave his public persona at the door, especially after events that he knows are particularly stressful or taxing. And James seems to let him, allowing Chris to take care of him afterward -- with gentle kisses or snuggles or a cold glass of seltzer -- in a way that Chris is pretty sure James would have found pushy or patronizing in undergrad.

"Thank you," James says as Chris sits back down next to him on the couch, handing him his usual glass, and Chris knows it's for more than just the seltzer.

"I love you," Chris says, settling against James' side and liking the way James' arm wraps comfortably around his back.

James smiles at him, gently, full of affection. That smile, too, is something Chris knows is only for him. "Love you, too," he says back.