live through this and you won't look back (buffyx) wrote,

fic: If It Kills Me (Kris/Adam, NC-17) (4/4)

Title: If It Kills Me
Fandom/Pairing: American Idol; Kris/Adam
Rating: NC-17
Summary: "I mean, you guys are like— you’re like soul mates or something. Come on! You’re Kris and Adam, man!"



Kris is on a cab back to his apartment when his phone starts exploding with calls. It feels like too much effort to pull it out and look at it, and he really, really doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now anyway, so he leaves it in his pocket and rests his head against the window, hoping he’s not going to get sick all over the backseat. He barely has enough cash on him to cover the ride back as it is.

It’s around two by the time he slips through the door, and he’s surprised to find Katy waiting for him in the kitchen. She sits at the table, her laptop open in front of her.

“Hey,” he says, wincing at the light. He’s going to have such a headache tomorrow. “Think I’m gonna go to bed. It’s been… a really long night.”

“Yeah,” Katy says sharply, “I heard about it.”

She turns the laptop to face him.

Kris has a sinking feeling of what he’s going to see before he actually sees it, and sure enough, it’s what he thought it would be— a fuzzy camera phone picture, taken from a distance, but it’s been lightened and sharpened and yes, it is most definitely a shot from backstage of Kris Allen with his hand down Adam Lambert’s pants, his mouth open against Adam’s in a gasping kiss. Perez Hilton is having a fucking field day

“You know, this isn’t what I meant when I told you to send Adam my love,” Katy informs him coldly.

He tries explaining, saying that he didn’t mean for it to happen, it just did. The excuse sounds lame even to his own ears; there’s no way to rationalize this. She tells him to save it.

“You haven’t done anything wrong,” he says, and she laughs harshly.

“You’re damn right I haven’t!” she shouts. “Do you know how humiliating this was for me, Kris? To hear about it while I’m out with my friends? I had to find out from someone else! Through a text message!”

She takes her phone off the table and pelts it at him; it clips him hard in the shoulder and bounces onto the floor, and the guilt stings Kris then more than it ever has, nearly brings him to his knees.

He is a shitty husband. He is exactly what he always promised himself he wouldn’t be.

“I’m sorry,” he says, knowing it’s useless and it won’t help, but he still has to try. “I am so sorry. This is my fault. Not Adam’s. Hate me, not him. He stopped it because of you. He didn’t want to hurt you. I didn’t either. Katy, I love you.”

Katy seems to accept that much, at least. She calms down a little, running her hands through her hair and then hugging them around her middle. She looks so small and fragile standing like that, and if Kris wasn’t certain she’d punch him if he tried, he’d go over and wrap his arms around her.

“I’m leaving in the morning,” she tells him. “My friend Amber has an extra room in Westwood she said I can stay in.”

“Katy—” he says, stepping toward her, but she holds up one hand to ward him off.

“Don’t try and talk me out of it. It’s not just about this. There are so many other things,” she says. She breathes out hard and looks up at him with shining eyes. “I can give you time if that’s what you need. I just… I don’t know if time will fix this. If anything will.”

He doesn’t know either.

In the morning he helps her pack.

“You can stay here if you want,” he offers. “I can leave. I’m the one who messed it up.”

She shakes her head and folds one of her sweaters, lays it down in the open suitcase. “No, it’s fine.”

“I’m so sorry,” he tells her. He’s said it probably a thousand times, but he still feels the need to say it again. Like maybe if he says it enough she’ll believe him.

She stops folding and looks at him. “How long?” she asks. “You and Adam. How long?”

It seems stupid to try and hide anything now, so he says, “It… it started on the island. It stopped when we got back. I swear to you, it was just this one time.”

“But you still want him,” she says, and it’s not even a question.

“I’m still trying to figure out what I want,” he answers. He traces his fingers along the pattern of the comforter. The one she picked out for them. “I do know I don’t want to hurt you. But I know it’s too late for that.”

“You’re right,” she replies.

But then she sits down on the bed next to him and takes his hand, to his surprise.

“I love you,” she says, “and I believe it when you say you love me. But I don’t know if that’s enough anymore.” She bows her head, hiding her face in a curtain of shiny hair. “It’s not just you. I mean, my life is different is now. I actually have one of my own, and I like that. I like how not everything is about supporting you.”

Kris’s stomach twists. “I know you gave up a lot for me,” he says.

He thinks about Conway, their tiny apartment, Katy working her ass off so he could pursue his dream. She believed in him before anyone else did.

“I did,” she agrees, but there’s nothing bitter behind the words. “But that was my decision. You didn’t ask. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for that. I’m just saying… maybe we’re different people now than when we got married. Maybe we can’t fit into each other’s lives that way.”

She looks so resigned, sitting dry-eyed on this bed, like she’s thought about this a lot before. Like she’s had this speech planned for awhile. Maybe she has.

“I don’t want to lose you from my life,” he tells her. She’s not just his wife, she’s one of his best friends, and he can’t believe what a selfish, awful idiot he’s been, how he ever risked losing her like this. It’s the worst thing he’s ever done.

Katy looks at him again, now a little teary, and says, “I don’t think you will. I’m mad now, I won’t lie and say I’m not, but… it won’t be for forever.” She twists her hand away from his and tilts her head up to the ceiling, crying a little. “I never thought it would be like this.”

“Yeah,” Kris says quietly. He feels old, tired, lost. And more than anything else, empty. “Neither did I.”

**

Kris gives himself a week to mope as much as he wants. He drinks a lot, starting early in the morning. Beer as breakfast. It’s a thing.

He can’t handle the thought of breaking the news to his parents over the phone, knowing how disappointed in him they will be, so he shoots off an email instead. He tells them that yes, the picture with Adam is real. He tells them Katy moved out, but also that it isn’t final, that they’re still talking. For now it’s just a break.

In all honesty, he doesn’t know if he’d actually categorize it as a break, because when she left it felt like the end of something big. It felt permanent. But he’s not sure he’s ready to admit that to himself, nevertheless the rest of the world. He tells them he’ll explain more later, it’s just that he’s really busy right now. He assures them he’s coping okay. Those two statements are definitely lies. He ends the email by saying that he loves them and they shouldn’t worry. He knows they will anyway.

The label is pissed. Three different reps call to ream him out. Kris doesn’t give a shit about their righteous anger, though, and tells them as much, because he’s a little drunk. Okay, a lot drunk. The last thing he cares about is the label’s opinions on this mess. His publicist tries to act like they can salvage this—a well-worded press statement, a sympathetic interview piece with People. Kris tells her there is no fucking way he is doing any of that, and if there are any statements released on his behalf, she can consider herself fired.

Anyway, he’s pretty sure not even a Barbara Walters interview through a soft-focus lens can spin this in any way where he comes out looking like a good guy. Because he’s not a good guy.

Danny Gokey, of all people, calls him. Normally he wouldn’t answer, but he’s still drunk and halfway to passed out on the couch, and the phone won’t stop ringing, and somehow he accidentally presses the receive call button instead of silent.

“Hey, man, I heard about what happened,” Danny says, wound up in the way he always is. He has this way of making Kris feel on edge no matter what he’s talking about. “How are you holding up?”

“Um,” Kris says, trying not to slur his words with sleep and alcohol, and wondering how Danny even got his number in the first place, “I’m… I’m all right.”

He lifts his hand and tries to fumble for the clock on the side table, but his co-ordination is non-existent, and he misses the clock and hits himself in the face instead. He has this hazy disoriented feeling that it should be the middle of the night, but there’s light coming in through the windows, so it must be morning. How long has he been asleep?

“And Katy?” Danny asks. “How’s she doing with all of this?”

“She moved out,” Kris tells him, and then beats himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand a few times. Shit. He didn’t mean to let that slip.

“Oh, man, that—that really sucks,” Danny says, sounding genuinely sorry. “That’s gotta be rough.”

“Yup,” Kris agrees, and then he fabricates some short, stilted excuse to end the call, rolls over and goes back to sleep.

The result is Danny doing an exclusive interview with Access Hollywood, simultaneously promoting his new Christian album and milking the phone call with Kris for all its worth, like they had a soul-baring heart-to-heart rather than a two-minute long conversation. But Danny doesn’t say anything bad, really, doesn’t even comment on Kris and Adam. Danny is a lot of things, but he’s not an asshole.

Kris figures Danny thinks he’s doing him a favor or something. Truth be told, if anything it gives Kris the sympathetic angle. His publicist is probably crying tears of joy right now.

Still, it’s enough to make him quit drinking.

**

Adam calls him a few times, but he never leaves a message. He emails him, too. All it says is, kris, i’m sorry. talk to me.

Kris doesn’t know why Adam feels the need to apologize. He didn’t do anything wrong. Part of Kris wants to tell him that, just wants to hear Adam’s voice, but he doesn’t know what he could even say. What there is to say.

After his week of wallowing is up, he wakes early on the eighth morning, takes his first shower in forever, and goes for a jog. He thinks the fresh air will be good for him, and it seems like a good idea, until he gets a few steps down the sidewalk and five different paps jump out of nowhere, bulbs flashing, circling around like hungry vultures.

They run alongside him, in front of him, yelling out obnoxious questions. “Was Katy always just your beard?” “How long were you cheating on her?” “Is Adam’s dick as big as they say it is?”

Common sense tells him to turn around and hightail it back to the apartment, but his stubborn streak won’t let him. He keeps his head down and turns up the volume on his iPod, focusing on the movement of his feet, one in front of the other.

And then one pap jumps right in front of his path, and Kris has to skid to a stop to prevent a full-on collision.

“So have you always been a fag? Or did you go crazy being on that island?” the guy asks. His face is mostly hidden by his camera, but Kris can tell he’s smirking, enjoying this. “Are you still crazy? You’d have to be to throw over a hot piece of ass like Katy Allen.”

Kris doesn’t really know what he’s doing until after it’s happened—he growls, “Get out of my face,” and shoves the photog in the chest, hard, so he stumbles backward. It doesn’t send him to the ground or anything, but the damage is done. It’s exactly what they wanted. Camera shutters snap furiously around him, there’s a video camera rolling, it’s bad fucking news.

It lands him on the front page of TMZ. KRIS ALLEN LASHES OUT AGAINST PAPARAZZI is the headline, accompanied with a video clip of the event, and high-res photos of him looking enraged, of his hand shooting out and shoving the photog. It’s ugly and brutal and earns him another reaming out session from the label. He ends the call before the rep is done ranting.

The next day, Daniel shows up at his door with a suitcase in hand.

“Daniel, you shouldn’t—” Kris starts, but Daniel shoulders his way into the apartment and cuts him off.

“It was all I could do to keep Mom from coming down here herself,” he says, “so you better suck it up and appreciate my presence.”

They play video games and get pizza delivery and watch sports and it’s sort of like old times, back when Kris was kind of a nobody, when people only knew him as Daniel’s older brother. That was always okay with him, because he never really wanted to be in the spotlight. It’s more like the spotlight just found him.

Daniel waits until late that night to dance around the Katy situation. Kris doesn’t really want to talk about it, but he figures he owes Daniel an explanation, so he tells him everything.

“I have to admit, a tiny part of me was almost relieved when I heard,” Daniel says once Kris has run out of words, and when Kris shoots him a confused look, he adds, “Not because I was happy about it. Look, I love Katy to death. She’s a sister to me. It was just… comforting, I guess. To know that even you make mistakes. That you’re human.” He smiles and elbows Kris in the ribs. “I was sort of doubting it for awhile there.”

Well, Kris is definitely human. He has definitely made mistakes. More mistakes than he can count, and some really big ones.

“You know, Mama didn’t want us to get married,” he says. “I mean, not because of Katy. But she thought we were too young for it. She gave me this whole thing about finding myself first, and I think—” Okay, this is weird to say, because he’s never told anyone. “I think she thought I might be gay.”

The idea at the time had seemed so absurd to Kris, because he was so head-over-heels for Katy—she was his world, his everything. She was all he ever wanted. He believed then they’d be together forever. That no one else would ever compare.

“Are you?” Daniel asks gently.

“I don’t know,” Kris says.

He doesn’t know if it’s men, or just Adam. But there’s no Adamsexual check box as far as he’s aware, so that must mean he’s gay. At least a little.

“You know, everyone just wants you to be happy,” Daniel tells him. “That’s all we want. Anyone who does that for you is okay in my book. I don’t care who it is.”

“Well, it doesn’t really matter now,” Kris says, draining the last of his Coke. “Adam and I aren’t—you know. We’re not even friends anymore. And we won’t be, ever. Because of me.” He crumples the can in his fist and tosses it aside, puts his head in his hands. “I screwed everything up so bad.”

“Yeah, okay, so you’ve made a lot of mistakes,” Daniel admits. “But it’s not the end of the world. The pity party’s gone on long enough. Your life is gonna be different now, but it’s not over.”

“What am I supposed to do now?” he asks.

Daniel pats him on the back. “Have faith.”

**

Daniel leaves two days later, and after Kris drops him off at the airport, he calls his parents. They’re as upset as he knew they’d be, but they’re also understanding—which shouldn’t be surprising, because they always are. They’ve never been anything less than amazing. They make him promise to come visit soon, and Kris says he will. A trip home to recharge sounds nice.

Kris misses Adam, a lot. It hits him especially hard when he makes the mistake of watching the E! channel. They air footage of Adam walking out of some nightclub, flashing his bright smile to the paps. The infamous backstage photo appears on the screen, but Kris mutes the television so he doesn’t have to hear the commentary.

He hates all of this—everything Adam didn’t want to happen is happening, and Kris has lost him and Katy, and now he has to start his life all over again, alone. But it just cements his decision to not talk to Adam anymore. Adam’s better off without Kris around messing things up for both of them.

Kris starts picking up his guitar again. Most of his songs are shit, but he’s glad just to be playing. Music is his one constant, the one thing that’s always made sense when nothing else does.

He makes some calls; there are people still wanting to work with him, to his shock, which makes him thankful for somehow building a good reputation in the industry, because it really means something now. He schedules some sessions, spends a lot of time behind the board, watching the mixing process. He thinks someday he’d like to try his hand at producing. Not now, he doesn’t know enough yet, but some day.

Some young kid Jive plucked out of nowhere comes in one day, and Kris watches from behind the glass panel. The kid can’t be more than nineteen, but he can seriously play, and his voice and phrasing are great. Kris waits until he’s done with his song, and then lets himself into the booth while he’s messing with some amps.

“Hi,” he says, sticking out his hand. “I’m Kris Allen.”

“I— I know who you are, man,” the kid stutters out, all wide-eyed and star struck, his face full of awe. It takes him a few seconds to notice Kris’s hand still hanging in the space between them, and then he reaches out and shakes it enthusiastically.

It’s been awhile since Kris has inspired that kind of reaction out of anyone. It amuses him.

“You sounded great,” Kris says. “Uh, I hope you don’t mind I was listening in.”

“Are you kidding? That is so—I mean, you’re—” The kid is falling all over himself; yeah, he’s definitely new to the business. “That’s awesome. Thank you.”

“Do you have a name?”

“I’m Chase. Chase Silver.”

When Kris asks if they can jam together, the kid looks like he just won the lottery or something. They mess around on their guitars for a little while, playing some Beatles covers, a little Damien Rice, and even some Kris Allen originals. It’s always a little surreal to hear other people singing his songs.

Chase reminds him a little of himself at that age; he’s got that unpolished factor to him, unlike most of the kids Jive tends to pick up. Kris likes that rough-around-the-edges vibe.

“So I’m opening for Red Eye this weekend,” Chase tells him when they’re packing up the guitars. “I know you’re probably, like, crazy busy, but do you think maybe— you’d wanna come?”

He’s so bright-eyed that Kris can’t turn him down. And when he says sure, he’d love to come, Chase looks at him like Kris just made his entire life.

The concert is the first big outing Kris has had in a long time. It’s a pretty small venue, but big enough to have a VIP box, which Chase offers him tickets for—but Kris declines. He hates being so far up from the stage, removed from the performance. Instead he sits in the front row, dead center. If he’s going to do this, he’s going to do it right.

Chase comes out and does his short set—only four songs, but even as the opener he engages the crowd. He’s easy with the banter, a natural, way more comfortable onstage than Kris was when he started. He can’t believe this is the same kid who tripped all over his words in Kris’s presence.

Before his last song, Chase grabs the mic and says, “Hey, so we’ve actually got a special guest in the audience. Let me tell you, this guy is amazing. We jammed together the other day, and I swear, I actually stopped at one point and was like, oh my God. I am dreaming. I must be dreaming, because there is no way Kris motherfucking Allen is playing guitar with me right now.” At the mention of his name, the audience lets out a collective gasp, and Chase smiles even more, pumping his arms. “Yeah, that’s right! Give it up for Kris Allen!”

The audience hoots and hollers, screams of “I LOVE YOU KRIS!” ringing out, and Kris laughs, shaking his head at Chase, who bounces on his toes with an unstoppable grin. Kris turns to the crowd and waves at them, and they scream their appreciation even more.

His heart feels really, really full.

After the show, he slips backstage and tells Chase he was great. Chase ducks his head, sheepish, suddenly transformed back into the shy kid Kris met in the studio.

“I hope it’s okay I talked about you,” he says, his face all flushed, and Kris claps him on the back.

“Hey, it was awesome. I got a kick out of it,” he assures him.

They’re interrupted by some girl with flaming red hair hurling herself at Chase. She throws her arms around his neck and plants a kiss right on his mouth, and it isn’t until she turns around that Kris realizes it isn’t just some girl. It’s Allison.

“Oh my god! Kris!” she shrieks, and then she tackles him with a hug so hard it nearly knocks him off balance. “It’s you!”

“And you!” he says, laughing as she pulls away. He surveys her up and down with raised eyebrows. “Whoa, wait a second, why was I not informed that you’re all grown up now?”

He’s only half-kidding— Allison looks older than he remembers, and taller. Her hair’s still long and red, but styled a little differently, more straight than wavy, and she’s wearing more makeup than she used to. Adam would be proud.

She beams as she punches him lightly on the shoulder, and then her face goes a little serious. “Dude, I’m so sorry I didn’t get to talk to you after all that stuff with you and Adam and the plane—I was still on tour when it happened, and my schedule has been so fucking insane, you don’t even know—”

“Oh, but you had time to snag yourself a new boyfriend?” Kris teases, and then pulls her under his arm so she knows he’s joking.

Chase goes a little red in the face at that, and he shuffles off to mingle with some other people, leaving Kris and Allison alone. She turns and gives him those big eyes, full of concern.

“So how are you, really?” she asks.

“I’m okay,” he says, and then rolls his eyes. “But I am getting a little sick of people asking me that.”

“What about Adam? I haven’t seen him in, like, forever. How’s he doing?”

Kris looks away with a shrug. “I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him.”

Allison goes quiet for a second, and then she says, “I saw the picture, you know.”

Everyone saw the picture.”

“Yeah, but I had people asking me about it,” she tells him. “Like, reporter people. They wanted to know if you ever two hooked up on Idol.”

“Geez, I’m sorry about that,” Kris says, rubbing a hand through his hair. It’s just another reminder of how many people’s lives his fuckups have affected. He feels like he spends half his life apologizing to people.

“No, it’s cool, I mean, whatever,” she says quickly. “I can handle it. I just was worried about you guys. I wanted to make sure you’re both okay.”

“Well, you’ll have to ask Adam yourself.”

“Oh my god, you’re such an idiot,” she tells him. “This is all stupid bullshit. It’ll blow over. You can’t let this crap get in the way. I mean, you guys are like— you’re like soul mates or something.”

He gives her a look, and she punches him again, this time with a little more force.

“Shut up, you know what I mean.” She stops and crinkles her nose. “Come on! You’re Kris and Adam, man! This is so not worth ruining your friendship over.”

Kris wonders when Allison got so wise.

“It’s complicated,” he finally says on a sigh.

“That’s a sucky excuse,” she replies, and he knows she’s right.

He’s full of them, these days.

**

Things start to turn around a little. The media gets tired of the Kris and Adam story, especially when Adam’s been photographed leaving clubs with a string of new guys, and Kris never does anything more exciting than shop at Whole Foods or commute back and forth to the recording studio.

Eventually he sucks it up and calls Katy. The conversation is a little awkward, but overall pleasant. She even asks him about Adam, and doesn’t sound angry about it—just curious. He admits they haven’t talked.

“Oh,” she says, a little taken aback. “You know, he called me awhile ago.”

Now it’s Kris’s turn to be surprised. “Seriously?”

“Mmhmm,” Katy responds, but then she starts talking about something else, leaving him to wonder what Adam said to her.

Whatever it was, it must’ve been okay, because she doesn’t sound upset. In fact, she sounds happier than she’s been in ages. The CW show made her a regular, and she has a lead role in some indie film lined up that starts shooting in a month.

“That’s so great,” he says. It is. He’s so proud of her, so glad she’s finally getting what she’s worked so hard for. No one deserves it more. “Seriously, that’s amazing, Katy.”

“I don’t know, it’s pretty low-budget,” she says, trying to downplay it, but even over the phone he can tell she’s smiling. He knows it’s a big deal for her.

They skirt around the relationship issue for a little while, and she comes out and tells him she thinks it should be permanent.

“I’m really happy right now,” she says. “Maybe this is how it’s meant to be. I don’t know, I just feel like things are better this way.”

And Kris can’t really disagree. He misses her so much it hurts some days, but at the same time it was so exhausting, pretending to be happy when they were both miserable. Trying to make things work and knowing they never would.

He still sends her flowers the next day, because his mother raised him right— white lilies, her favorite, along with a note. He doesn’t know what to write on it so he just has the florist send the standard Congratulations! card with his name underneath it.

He figures it’s the gesture that counts.

**

Kris throws himself into the studio work and tries to assemble more songs for his half-finished, stagnating second album that’s stuck in development hell. Jive’s getting impatient for a finished product, and he doesn’t know how much longer he can hold them off.

He ends up collaborating on some tracks with Chase— half of them will probably never see the light of day, but it’s a fun experience. It’s a reminder of how much music means to him, how much he thrives on it. Not only on the music, but on being around people who just… get it. Kris knows he’s probably not the best person to do it, but he takes Chase under his wing a little, lets Chase bounce ideas off of him, gives him pointers with Allison as much as he can when Chase asks, and emails him back and forth.

Chase isn’t Adam. No one will ever be Adam. But once the initial hero worship phase fades and Chase sees Kris as an actual person, he becomes a friend, a good friend. It’s nice to have someone. So when Daniel calls and says he better get his ass to Conway for their father’s birthday, it feels only natural to invite Chase along.

“Well aren’t you adorable!” his mother exclaims when she sees Chase, smooshing his face between her hands like he’s a puppy. Which, okay, Chase kind of is like a big puppy, so Kris can’t totally blame her for fawning all over him. It’s still awkward, though.

Mama, stop,” Kris groans, embarrassed.

He grabs Chase by the arm and extracts him from her grip, shows him the guest room upstairs. His mother’s cleaned it up for the occasion, set out a vase with daisies on the dresser and made the bed.

“Sorry about that,” he apologizes, closing the door behind them.

“Aw, come on. She’s sweet.” Chase sits down on the edge of the mattress, testing it, and smiles at him under his floppy blond fringe. “Your family is so freaking wholesome. And this house! It’s unreal.”

Chase seems positively delighted by it all. Kris’s father makes barbecue and they have a little cookout, with some close friends and family. Some of his friends he hasn’t seen since the last time he was in Conway show up, and it’s nice to see them—they’ve always treated him the same, not like a celebrity, but like the dorky kid they grew up with. Nothing better to keep you grounded than being around the same people who remember the time you threw up on the bus during that eighth grade band trip.

They get along with Chase, too— Charles ends up giving him piggyback rides for half the night, while the little kids all run through their legs, tugging at their shirt tails, clamoring for their turn. Kris sits on the porch steps and watches the scene, balancing his plate on his lap, nursing a beer.

He feels a hand palm the top of his head and looks up to see his mother, a tray of cookies in her hand.

“Have I told you how nice it is to see you?” she says, sitting down on the step beside him.

Kris leans over and steals a cookie, faster than she can bat away his hand. “Only a few hundred times.”

He bites into the cookie and gazes out at the lawn swagged with fairy lights. Kris is happy, he is, but now, observing all of the laughter and warmth, he suddenly realizes that more than anything, he wishes Adam was here.

“I know that look,” she remarks, and Kris remembers how Brad said the same thing.

This lack of poker face is such a problem.

“Is it Katy?” she asks.

He looks down, picks at the label on the beer bottle with his thumb, not wanting to answer. Because it really, really isn’t about Katy. But he looks back up and his mother purses her mouth at him like she can read his mind.

“Oh,” she says. And then, softly, “Honey, you should call him. I’m sure he’s thinking about how much he misses you too.”

He laughs shortly. “Who knows what Adam’s thinking?”

“Well. You used to.”

If it were anyone other than his mother, Kris would tell her to leave it, but as it is, he just nods. She squeezes the back of his neck and stands, sets the cookies down on the banquet table and cozies up next to his father. They share a loving look that makes Kris’s heart hurt. They have what he’s always wanted, what he thought he’d found with Katy—something that if he didn’t have such compelling firsthand evidence of, he might doubt even exists.

He came close with Katy. He thinks he could’ve come close with Adam, too, if they’d ever had the chance, but they didn’t. They’ll never. And Kris knows that, and he’s been trying to move on, but all this time some part of him still clings to the idea of it, pines for something he can never have, waxes poetic in his songs since it’s the closest he can get to the real thing.

Maybe he needs to get over the idea that he’s ever going to get over Adam. Maybe he needs to just learn to live with it.

A few hours later the party dissipates, parents wrangling up their children and people saying their goodbyes. Everyone heads into the house, until it’s just Kris and Chase, sitting on the porch alone with their guitars.

Kris plays Chase one of his newer songs— he wrote it right after Katy left, during his brief, half-hearted foray into alcoholism. It’s slow and sad and dark, and the lyrics still need work, but he thinks maybe there’s something in there to be salvaged. When he looks to Chase for feedback, Chase frowns at him.

“It’s good,” he says hesitantly. “But…”

“But?” Kris prompts.

“It makes Elliott Smith look like bubblegum pop,” he says. “It’s, like, music to die by. At night. In the rain. Facedown in the street.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And somewhere nearby, a puppy is hit by a car.”

“I get the picture, Chase.” He rolls his eyes. “Guess that one won’t be making the album cut.”

Chase bites down on his lip and says, “Can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

Kris plays a few scales, lets his fingers run across the fret board and trusts to muscle memory. He likes this. It makes him not think about his weaknesses. His fingers are fire, calling sound from dead wood.

“What was it like? On that island?”

Well, he wasn’t expecting that question. Kris freezes, stills the vibrating strings with his hands, and when he glances up, Chase looks like he wishes he could eat his words.

“I’m sorry,” he says hastily, “I shouldn’t have asked. It’s none of my business—”

“It’s fine,” Kris tells him. He plucks at a few random chords as he thinks. “I’m pretty sure that one month is going to define the rest of my life.”

“It doesn’t have to,” Chase says, and then looks down at the pick in his hand. “So. Um. My parents kicked me out when I was sixteen, because I stopped going to church and joined a band, and they didn’t want a sinner for a son.” He falls silent for a minute, hugging the guitar closer to his body like a shield. “Even when I got signed, I really felt like I’d never be able to escape that. I was right. I haven’t. Sometimes there's still this rage, like, way far inside me with just nowhere to go. But then it’s like… I’m pretty legitimately happy with how my life is going. So maybe it’s okay that I can’t escape the past, because it led me to where I am now. It made me who I am. Even the bad shit.” He pauses. “Does that make any kind of sense?”

Kris watches him, thinking about everything that’s happened—Idol and the first album and the island and Adam and Katy and all of the mistakes he’s made, everyone he’s disappointed. But here he is, back at home, surrounded by people who love him. So many people love him, and he doesn’t remember that enough. He still has that. He still has the music.

He thinks maybe he’s going to be okay.

“Yeah,” he tells Chase, “it makes every kind of sense.”

**

When they get back to L.A., Kris decides to arrange his own concert. Not a tour—he’s not ready for that, though the label won’t get off his ass about how long he’s taking on the second album—but he can play some stuff from his debut, mix in a few new songs, too. The label agrees to the idea, even wants to book him a stadium, but he says no, he wants it to be a small, more private venue. He asks Chase to open for him, and Chase jumps at the chance.

Kris is nervous about the performance. He’s not like Adam; he’s always had some pre-show jitters, but this time it’s worse than usual, because it’s been so long. He hasn’t played onstage for anyone since before the island.

He needs Adam there. He needs Adam, period. He doesn’t think he can do this without him.

But it’s been so long, he doesn’t even know how to go about reinitiating contact. He can’t ask in an email; it’s too impersonal. So he calls instead. From the bathroom, because making scary calls there has become something of a tradition.

His heart is beating against his throat as it rings, but it clicks over into voicemail, Adam’s short message sounding in his ear—the first time he’s heard Adam’s voice in ages.

“Hi,” he says into the phone, staring at the dirty towels piled on his floor. “It’s me. I know it’s been… awhile. But, uh, I’d really like to talk. If you’re willing to listen. I don’t blame you if you aren’t. So. I guess that’s it. Bye.”

He hangs up and looks at himself in the mirror. It doesn’t splinter into pieces on sight or anything like he half-expects, so that’s something. Maybe his luck is finally turning around.

Adam calls back a few hours later, while Kris is in the studio, listening to the producer mixing one of his latest tracks. When Kris answers, he can’t even get half a syllable out before Adam cuts him off, saying, “Where are you?”

“At the studio,” he says, moving into a corner for privacy. “Why?”

“Stay put. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

Kris is running through a new song on the piano when Adam shows up. He stands behind the glass, watching, and Kris’s hands twitch on the keys. He tries to focus on the melody instead of Adam, has to force himself not to rush through the rest. Once he’s done, he stands up and takes a step forward.

“Hey, guys, can you give us a minute?”

The mixers clear out of the booth, and then Adam moves away from the glass, opens the door and hovers in the doorway. For a minute they just stand and look at each other. Adam is— Adam, and Kris is a little surprised that he looks just the same as ever.

It feels like with everything that’s happened he should look more different.

Adam breaks the silence.

“Fuck it,” he says, “come here,” and crosses the room in three strides, hauls Kris into a crushing hug. He holds him so tight Kris can’t breathe, and he hears Adam stifle a half-laugh, half-sob against his neck. It’s like something cracking open in Kris. This feels so good, so right, the way they fit together—it seems so stupid that he’s deprived himself of this for so long.

Allison was right; he is an idiot. An idiot of epic proportions.

Adam lets Kris go and plops down on the piano bench.

“That song you just did,” he says. “What’s it called?”

Love at High Tide,” Kris says, sitting down next to him. “Working title, subject to change.”

“It’s really beautiful. Haunting.”

Something in Kris’s chest flutters at the words, and he has to lower his eyes. Compliments from Adam have always meant something more. Not just because he loves Adam, but because Adam doesn’t lie. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything.

Adam pokes at the piano keys, runs a hand down the scales.

“Maybe you should leave that to the pros,” Kris teases.

Adam huffs with mock-offense. “Excuse you! I do, in fact, know one song. Neil taught it to me.”

He starts into the right hand part of Heart & Soul, and Kris jumps into the left hand of the duet, playing the keys deftly. It’s a simple piece that’s easy to learn by ear, but a fun one.

Kris looks at Adam’s hands on the piano as he plays. His fingers curve perfectly over the keys like waves crashing onto a beach. It’s a stupid metaphor, but he can’t help it, because all he sees is waves—in Adam’s hair, from his chest to his waist, from the arch of his foot to the ball.

He is all waves and Kris is riding every one.

He wants him, sweetly, deeply, absolutely.

Once they finish the little duet, they sit at the piano and catch up a little. Adam talks about the last guy he dated (“it lasted for, like, five minutes, once I realized he was just a pretty face and the sex wasn’t even that great”), a particularly crazy trip to Vegas he took with Brad (“Brad tried seducing one of the dancers from Cirque du Soleil, rubbing all up on him, which was hilarious, except the guy’s boyfriend was there and about to fucking throw down with us, which was not so fun”) and a new music video shoot (“let’s just say it involves a lot of body oil, and someone pours hot candle wax onto my chest, which hurts like a bitch”).

When he’s done filling Kris in on what he missed, Adam turns to him and says, “So, tell me everything.”

Kris talks about the studio work, and a lot about Chase, and visiting home and how things are with Katy—a little rocky, but he thinks he can call her a friend, which is more than he knows he deserves. He tells Adam about the upcoming concert, how nervous he is, how he can’t even think about it without having a borderline panic attack.

And then they talk about the picture.

“I don’t know what else to say except that I’m sorry,” Kris says. “It was my fault. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t. I know I ruined everything, and I know there’s not enough apologizing in the world that can make up for that.”

“You didn’t ruin everything,” Adam tells him. “God, I’m not mad about the picture. I don’t care about the fucking picture. I care about you. This radio silence shit— that, I’m pissed about. Fuck that. Fuck that shit with a fucking cordless drill. You better never do it again.”

Kris swallows hard. “I just—I thought it would be better. For you.”

“Better for me?” Adam scoffs. He leans in and puts one warm hand on Kris’s neck, and Kris has to fight not to curl his fingers instinctively around it. “Listen to me, Kris. Not talking to you has been hell. I need you, okay? I need you, and I need you to understand that it’s a big deal for me to even say that. It is a big. Fucking. Deal. Do you get it?”

“Yes,” Kris whispers.

Adam pulls away and studies him intently. “So how are you? Seriously?”

Kris gets about a syllable and a half into his standard answer of “I’m fine” and then stops. Adam doesn’t lie to him, and he doesn’t want to lie to Adam, either.

He mulls over the question for a minute, and then he says, “I think I’m okay,” and for the first time it doesn’t feel like a lie. At the very least, he’s better than he has been in a long time.

“Good,” Adam says, and when he smiles, it’s the one Kris likes best, the one cameras never see—soft and wide and meant only for him.

**

Kris couldn’t ask for a better opening act than Chase. The kid is great at warming up an audience; they adore him. He’s also getting better at meeting celebrities—he actually formed coherent sentences in Adam’s presence before the show. Kris is feeling good because Adam is there, and because Katy sent flowers this morning with a nice note—it says Knock ‘em dead, champ, and it’s spelled out in her own girlish loopy handwriting, which means she must’ve taken the time to do it in person.

The crowd is still on its feet when Chase ducks backstage, slapping Kris on the shoulder with a quick “Good luck” before disappearing to find Allison, probably. Kris doesn’t do more than nod in his general direction. Right before shows he likes to be alone, do a set of jumping jacks to warm up, say a little prayer. He needs the time to be in his own head.

“You’re up,” the stagehand says, and Kris takes a deep breath, tries to calm his nerves. It’s time.

When he steps onto the stage, his heart is beating so hard and fast he thinks it might burst out of his chest. But the reception is thunderous, even from a small venue like this, and he has to take a minute before he can even start. He stands there under the hot stage lights, soaking it all in.

This is why he does what he does. This is the payoff.

Kris launches into his set, riding the high of performing, feeding off the pulsing rush from the crowd, pouring everything he is into every song. It’s like something’s been unleashed inside him, and he’s never felt as alive as he does now. Katy had said, Maybe this is how it’s meant to be, and Kris isn’t sure if he believes in destiny, but he feels like if God put him here for a reason, this is it. This is exactly what he’s meant to do.

Before he knows it, he’s flown through his set list and reached his last song. It’s one of his new ones off of Quiet Storm, one he wrote for Adam.

“I want to dedicate this one to someone,” he says, adjusting the piano bench and pulling the mic close to his mouth. He sneaks a glance at Adam, waiting in the wings. “This is for Adam. My best friend.”

The crowd erupts with cheers, and Kris makes a face at Adam as he plays the first few bars of Love at High Tide. Adam covers his mouth with both hands, unable to contain his delight.

His ears are still ringing from the roar of the crowd when he finds his way backstage afterward. He nods and smiles at the people clapping him on the back, congratulating him, but he only really cares about finding Adam. It takes a minute to find him in the sea of people, and then the crowd parts just right, and there he is, waiting.

Adam’s eyes are moist, and they don’t speak, just wrap around each other in a tight hug, Kris’s guitar still slung around his back. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to let go, ever, but eventually Adam pushes back and wipes at his eyes.

“Go! Go soak up your glory, comeback kid!” he says, shaking Kris a little by the shoulders. “You deserve it.”

Kris shakes his head. “Nah, that’s okay. I’d rather get out of here. Can we go somewhere?”

All he wants right now is to get out of here and spend more time with Adam. They still have a lot of missed time to catch up on.

Adam smiles. “I have an idea.”

They drive in Adam’s Mustang with the top down. The wind whipping around them means it’s too loud to talk, but that’s okay. It’s a comfortable silence. Kris is still coming down from the performance, the endorphin rush from all that adrenaline pumping through his veins, and he leans his head back and enjoys the cool breeze tousling his hair, white noise blocking everything else out.

When the car purrs to a stop, Kris opens his eyes and actually laughs at what he sees.

The beach.

“You take the concept of coming full circle a little too literally,” he teases.

Adam cuts the engine. “Just go with it, Kris.”

Just go with it. Kris is okay with that plan.

The beach is empty this time of night—no one’s supposed to be here.

“If we get arrested, you’re bailing me out,” Kris says.

Adam slings a loose arm over his shoulders. “You know I’ve always got your back.”

They sit on the sand, side-by-side, watching the black waves as they roll in. Everything sparkles under the moonlight. It’s reminiscent of the island, except the air is different here, the sounds are different, even the sand isn’t the same.

While he’s staring out at the ocean, he notices Adam dig into his jacket pocket. He takes out the pilot’s knife and draws in the sand with the point of the blade.

“You carry that around with you everywhere?” Kris asks, amused.

“Of course,” he says, shooting him an incredulous look, like he can’t believe Kris would even question it. “Fuck rabbit feet. This thing is the best good luck charm ever. And way more badass.”

He traces some more patterns in the sand, rubbing them away with the heel of his hand and starting over.

“Do you ever—” Kris starts.

He hesitates, because the last thing he wants to do is throw something out there he can’t take back, do something to mess everything up between them again. But when he looks up, Adam is staring at him, intense but open, and Kris thinks that after all they’ve been through, there isn’t much he can do at this point to push Adam away.

“Do you ever feel like everything before in your life only happened to lead up to one moment?” he asks. “Like it was all just building up to this one thing, because if everything hadn’t gone down the way it did, you couldn’t have gotten here?”

Adam pauses, considering. “I guess I do. I think… I think the universe has a way of aligning the way it’s supposed to.”

“I feel like this is one of those moments,” Kris says, and then he leans over and kisses Adam before he can lose his nerve.

It’s not much of a kiss—soft, chaste, just a simple slide of his mouth against Adam’s. When he pulls back, Adam looks stunned.

“Oh,” he says, dropping his gaze, and Kris’s stomach drops with it. Shit.

He grabs onto Adam’s sleeve, digging his fingers into leather, clinging to it like a life preserver.

“I’m not trying to screw things up with us,” he says, desperately. “It’s just how I feel. Have been feeling. And if we can’t… If you don’t want this, I get it.”

“It’s never been about that,” Adam cuts in. He looks at Kris for a long time, the silence stretching between them like a tangible thing. “You’re sure? You really want this?”

“Yes,” he answers without hesitation. “I know the deal. I know I can’t do this halfway. And I don’t want to. I want all of it, the whole Adam Lambert package. Whatever you’ll let me have. And… if it’s just friendship, if that’s all you want, that’s fine. I’ll make it work. I’ll do whatever—”

Adam cuts him off with a kiss, his hand cupped around Kris’s cheek, grasping his chin and bringing their mouths together. Kris closes his eyes and leans into it. It’s everything he’s spent the last few months dying for, and he can’t believe it’s real, that Adam is here in front of him, wanting him like this.

“You can have everything,” Adam whispers against his mouth. “If you want it.”

Kris slides his hand around the back of Adam’s neck, into his hair, and breathes, “I do, I do, Adam, I do,” until it all runs together and it sounds like he is singing.

Until Adam kisses him hard, cutting off his words like a ribbon clipped with scissors, until all Kris can hear is just gasps and needy breaths, and somewhere beyond them, the constant waves.


--end


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Soundtrack



A/N: Okay, so this is the kind of fic I never write, in that it's crazy long and sort of has a plot, even though it's a totally ridiculous one. I tried to do some research on Palau and GPS locating devices in cell phones and Belau National Hospital in order to make it somewhat plausible, but I'm sure this entails a lot of suspension of disbelief involved on the reader's part here; try and roll with it. Also, I apologize for any typos/grammatical errors, since I wrote pretty much all of this in less than a week and haven't read through it super thoroughly.
Tags: fic: american idol
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