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

fic: You've Got Music (American Idol; Kris/Adam; PG-13) (3/3)

Title: You've Got Music
Fandom/Pairing: American Idol; Kris/Adam
Rating: PG-13
Summary: This is a Kradam AU of You've Got Mail. 22k. Um, forgive the awful title. And the lack of sexytimes.




**

It’s ten minutes past the time they agreed to meet, and Kris is feeling like an idiot.

It doesn’t help when a boisterous group of undergrads flocks into the café and starts to steal the extra chair from Kris’s table, and Kris has to leap up and explain that no, it is, in fact, taken. Or that he’s been sitting here for twenty minutes and hasn’t ordered more than one cup of coffee. The wait staff is shooting him death glares right about now.

The bell over the door jingles, and Kris looks up expectantly, hoping it’ll be who he’s looking for.

Instead it’s Adam Lambert.

He looks the same as he always does when Kris sees him—every hair perfectly in place, trademark black eyeliner traced on carefully, eyelashes so thick Kris wouldn’t be shocked to find out he uses mascara. Something about Adam just radiates presence. He knows how to command a room, all right. You can never ignore him under even the best of circumstances.

And this is not the best of circumstances.

Adam sidles right up to him, a swagger in his step. “Kris Allen,” he says. “What a coincidence to bump into you here. Mind if I sit down?” He plops into the seat without waiting for an answer.

“Uh, yes, I do mind,” Kris says. This night is going from bad to worse. Quickly. “I’m waiting for someone.”

“Oh.” Adam glances over his shoulder and then back at Kris with a wide smile. “Well, I’ll take off when your friend gets here. Are they late?” He picks the Revolver CD off of the table, studying the cover. “Hmm. I like this one, but Sgt. Pepper’s is better.”

Kris rolls his eyes and snatches it back. “Yeah, I’m sure you’re a real expert on the Beatles’ discography.”

“Actually, I’m a big fan,” Adam says. “I think you’d be surprised by a lot if you really got to know me.”

“I know enough,” Kris snaps. “I know that the only music you care about is the kind you can make money off of. That’s all that matters to you, right? Making money. Even your own brother knows that much.” He pauses, unable to believe he actually just said something that insensitive out loud. “Now, can you go?”

Adam clenches his jaw. “Fine,” he says, standing up.

For a second Kris allows himself to breathe out a sigh of relief, but then Adam plops down at the very next table, his back right up against Kris’s.

“What are you doing?” Kris hisses.

“It’s a free country,” Adam says. “I can sit here if I want to.” He starts humming the tune to Rundown loudly, drumming his fingers on the tablecloth. He stops and says, “That song always reminds me of the first day we met.”

“Oh,” Kris says, “you mean the first day you lied to me?”

“I didn’t lie. I just… omitted certain details.”

“Yeah, and I found it so charming. ‘Just call me Adam.’” Kris scoffs. “If I’d only known—”

“And if I’d only known you’d take my ‘box of tissues’ comment and twist it into something else,” Adam cuts in, swiveling around to look at Kris. “That wasn’t what I meant and you know it.”

“Poor you. Go wipe away your tears with one hundred dollar bills,” Kris snaps. He can’t help it; being around Adam makes him feel prickly and raw on the inside.

The bell over the door chimes again. Kris turns to look, but it’s just some elderly man with bifocals and a hunchback.

“I’m guessing that’s not who you’re waiting for,” Adam says, sounding altogether too smug. “So who is this mystery person? I assume it’s not your Katie Couric girlfriend. I liked her, by the way. She’s got spunk. Is she the one who taught you the art of the hurtful comment? Are you going to be this mean to your mystery date?”

“No,” Kris says hotly. “Because the guy I’m meeting is nothing like you. He is sweet, and kind, and hilarious, and thoughtful—”

“But he’s not here.”

Adam has a point. It’s twenty minutes past their scheduled time, and LA21 hasn’t shown his face. Maybe he took one look at Kris and took off running in the opposite direction. Maybe this was all some game.

No. LA21 wouldn’t do that. Kris is sure of it.

“If he doesn’t show up, there’s a reason,” Kris says. “He’s not like you—he doesn’t get his rocks off on being an insensitive ass. He cares about people. But you wouldn’t know anything about that. The only thing you give a shit about is the bottom line.”

Adam just stares at him, and for a moment, something flickers over his face. But it can’t be hurt, obviously, since that would mean Adam has a soul, and that he cared at all what Kris thought of him, which he clearly doesn’t. Anyway, a second later it’s gone and his expression is smoothed over.

“Well,” Adam says eventually. He clears his throat and rises from his chair. “I guess that’s my cue to leave.”

He walks out of the café, tossing his scarf around his neck, and Kris watches him go, feeling confused and, despite his best efforts, a nagging sense of guilt. Maybe Adam Lambert’s heart isn’t made of reinforced steel after all.

--

“He didn’t show?”

Kris pulls up the store’s grate with a grunt. “Nope.”

Cale helps him push the grate up all of the way. Damn his tallness.

“He stood you up?” Matt says. “Dude. Uncool.”

“He didn’t stand me up!” Kris unlocks the door and holds it open, waiting for everyone else to file into the store before stepping inside. “Well, okay, he kind of did, but he must’ve had a reason.”

“Maybe something happened,” Andrew says. “Maybe he’s in the hospital.”

Matt nods. “Or maybe he got trapped in an elevator.”

“Maybe one of the trains got stuck, and he had no phone service—”

“Maybe he got arrested!”

“He didn’t get arrested,” Kris says. He slings his bag onto the counter and looks around the store. “Don’t you guys have work to do?”

Andrew and Matt shoot him skeptical looks. Okay, yeah, business has been kind of dead lately. Still, there’s always something needing to be done.

Andrew grabs a rag and starts wiping down the dusty shelves. “Oh, did you guys hear about Cassidy Haley?” he asks. “He’s playing a show at Starlight this weekend.”

Kris’s heart sinks. Even Cassidy Haley’s given up on him.

“That place is amazing on the inside. And the coffee’s really good,” Matt says. Everyone turns to stare at him, and he shrugs. “What? I just wanted to check it out. The indie section’s not bad. They started stocking some vinyl, too.”

“I’m so sick of Starlight Records,” Kris grumbles. “I was waiting last night at that café, you know, and Adam Lambert walks in—”

Cale’s eyebrows shoot up. “Adam Lambert?”

“I don’t even want to talk about it.” Kris sighs. He would be more than happy if he never had to waste another second of his life thinking about Starlight Records or Adam Lambert. “Come on. Let’s get to work.”


**

From: guitarguy@gmail.com
To: LA21@gmail.com
Subject: Last night

I’ve been thinking about you. I felt like an idiot last night, sitting there by myself…

And then while I was waiting, this person came in. A person who has made my professional life a living hell. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who gets under my skin quite like he does. Something weird happened though—while we were talking (if you could call it that), I said to him exactly what I wanted to say. Some stuff that was really cutting and mean and nasty.

Right after I said it, I felt like an asshole, just like you said I would. I don’t think he could care less what I have to say about his character— but what if he did? I don’t know. Him being a scumbag doesn’t mean I’m justified in being cruel in return. There’s no excuse. In fact, I now feel worse for having stooped to his level at all.

Anyway. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you and I hope you had a reason for not being there. If not… if you don’t even want to talk to me anymore… that’s okay. I just want you to know your friendship—or whatever it is that we have— has meant a lot to me.


--

Adam stares at the computer screen. No. He can’t keep engaging in this. Not when he now knows who is on the other end of the emails.

It’s so ridiculous. He’d told Anoop that this person could be the love of his life, and he’d actually believed it. Except he can’t be in love with Kris Allen. It’s Kris Allen, for fuck’s sake! Kris Allen, whose store is like a cockroach, who hates Adam and everything he thinks Adam stands for, who has tried to tarnish Adam’s reputation and used Neil to help do it.

When Adam called Neil to ream him out about the article, Neil said, “Get over it, Adam. Look, I’m not an idiot; my little piece isn’t going to save his store. It’s doomed. You know it, I know it. But someone’s gotta stick up for the little guys sometimes. It’s a matter of principle.”

Maybe that’s true, but did Neil have to trash his family’s business in order to do it?

Adam leaves the table and wanders into the kitchen, rummaging through his refrigerator for his bottle of white wine. He pours what’s left into a glass and scoffs at himself. This is so stupid. He needs to just… cut himself off completely. It’s best to go cold turkey.

He lasts for a solid five minutes.

He clicks on Compose New Message, and the blank email stares back at him, cursor blinking.

I am in Tokyo.

Ugh, no. Delete delete delete.

I was stuck in a meeting, and the electricity went out, and I had no cell phone reception.

Okay, that is beyond lame.

He highlights the sentence and deletes it, dropping his head into his hands. How is he supposed to explain? He can’t just come clean with the truth.

He polishes off the last of his wine and flexes his fingers. Time for a new angle.


**

From: LA21@gmail.com
To: guitarguy@gmail.com
Subject: re: Last night

I can’t explain to you what happened last night… all I can ask is if you’ll forgive me for not being there. I am so sorry that you found yourself in that situation. And I am sure that whatever you said was provoked and deserved. I know enough about you to know you’re not a bad person. Everyone says stuff they regret when they’re under stress and dealing with people they dislike.

Some day I will tell you everything. Until then, I’m still here. Talk to me.


--

“He didn’t say anything about meeting again?” Cale asks.

Kris shakes his head, handing him a beer and sitting down next to him on the couch. “No. But I think… I think it’s for the best, you know? We can just keep doing what we’ve been doing. No expectations. I don’t want to make things weird.”

Andrew looks up from where he’s clamping down the capo on his guitar. “Does Katy know anything about this?”

“Nah. Even if I wanted to tell her, she’s been crazy busy lately with work. I hardly see her.”

“So what did you decide?” Matt asks, coming over to sit on Kris’s other side.

“We’re going to close,” Kris says quietly. It hurts so much to say out loud. To admit defeat. But at the same time it’s like a heavy weight has been lifted off of his chest. “I’m sorry, guys. I really tried, but there’s no other choice.” He breathes out hard and hugs his arms around his middle. “It feels like I’m failing. Like my uncle…”

“Hey,” Cale says, a touch sharply. He puts one strong hand on the cap of Kris’s shoulder. “The store wasn’t keeping Fisher alive. He’d understand. And so do we.” He gives Andrew and Matt a pointed look.

“Yeah,” Matt says quickly. “I mean, I can go back to waiting tables. It’s not, like, an ideal gig, but it’ll put me through school, and it’s not so bad.”

Andrew sets down the guitar. “I can try pursuing the music thing again…”

“And I’ll find something,” Cale says confidently. Kris is pretty sure it’s a front, but he appreciates it anyway. “It’ll work out. Kris, don’t beat yourself up here. You did everything you could.”

Maybe he did, but it wasn’t enough, was it?

--

He and Katy break up three days later.

They’re eating out at an expensive sushi place on Avenue A. He decided to splurge for once, since what does it matter now?

As he reaches into his pocket for a tissue, Katy suddenly blurts out, “Please tell me you’re not proposing.”

“Uh…” Kris holds open his hand and shows her the crumpled tissue. “No?”

“Oh,” she says, clearly relieved. “Thank God. I thought you were pulling out a ring box.”

She goes back to picking sushi rolls off her plate while he watches her, a little thrown. She’s acting like he just told her she doesn’t have a terminal illness. Thank God? That would be her reaction if he proposed marriage?

But actually… thinking about it… he’s not even offended. He has to agree.

When Katy notices him looking at her, she at least has the grace to look sheepish. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t mean to—that was kind of bitchy, wasn’t it?”

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” she insists. “I know this is a difficult week for you— with the store closing and all—and you take me out for this lavish dinner, and here I am, acting so ungrateful—”

He reaches across the table and grabs her hand. “Katy, it’s fine.”

She smiles back at him, almost sadly. “Kris, you’re such a sweet person.”

“So are you,” he says.

“And the fact that you’d ever want to be with me is so flattering,” she continues. “That you find me worth your time—”

“I feel the same way.”

She holds up a hand to silence him. “Don’t say that. That makes this so much harder.”

“What?” He blinks at her, and she ducks her head, unable to meet his eye. “You… don’t love me?”

Katy glances up again, biting down on her lip. She doesn’t have to say it. He can tell.

“Me either,” he admits. He cares about Katy, he does, and in theory they fit together so well, but there’s something… missing. Some spark that should be there but just isn’t. Being with her is nice, and comfortable, but it’s not—

It’s not the same as being in love.

“You don’t love me?” she says. But she doesn’t sound upset—amused, more than anything. She laughs lightly. “But we’re so perfect for each other!”

“I know, right?” He grins at her. “So… is there someone else?” he asks.

She shakes her head quickly and says, “No, no, of course not.” A brief pause. “Well, there is David Banks.”

“Your co-anchor?”

“Nothing’s happened,” she assures him. “But I think… I think I’d want it to.” She smiles a little to herself and then looks back up at him. “What about you? Is there anyone? Any girls?” Her eyebrows go up. “Or any guys?”

Kris thinks about LA21, for just a second. But he knows that’s just wishful thinking. Nothing is ever going to happen on that front.

“No,” he says. “But there will be. Eventually. Somewhere out there.”

--

The last week is chaos compared to the past several months— Kris marks down all of the inventory to just above at cost, some of it even below that, and suddenly everyone in the neighborhood descends on The Red Guitar. It should please him to see so many people packed in his store, but instead it gives him a weird, unsettled feeling, like he’s watching scavengers looting someone’s tomb.

Cale was offered a job by Starlight Records, but he insists he isn’t going to take it, even after Kris tells him he’d be fine with it if he did.

“I will not be the Benedict Arnold of music retailers,” he says. “And I’m definitely not going to be some corporate lackey.”

Everyone keeps asking Kris what his plans will be.

“I don’t know,” he says, because he hasn’t even stopped to think about it. He’s been doing this for so long that he can’t imagine doing anything else. “I have a little money saved. I think I’m going to take some time off… maybe travel.”

He doesn’t actually plan on going anywhere, but it sounds as good of a plan as anything else.

Allison, the redheaded anarchist teen who has frequented The Red Guitar twice a week for the past year, piles up as many records in her arms as she can carry and dumps them on the counter. “This is a total tragedy, man,” she says. “We should fucking fire bomb Starlight Records. I know how to make a Molotov cocktail.”

Cale laughs at the suggestion, and Kris just shakes his head as he rings up her purchases.

“Nah,” he says. “It’s not their fault. It’s just… the way things shake out sometimes.”


**

From: guitarguy@gmail.com
To: LA21@gmail.com
Subject: (none)

My store is closing this week. I don’t think I ever told you that, but I own a store. I love it. It’s an amazing place. Running it for this long has been like a dream come true—doing what I love with people who I love, which I guess should’ve tipped me off that it couldn’t last forever. Nothing good ever does.

Still, it’s been my entire life for years, and soon it will be gone, replaced by something like a Starbucks or an Urban Outfitters or something else equally unnecessary and depressing. The city’s always changing, I know that, but I always thought my store would be able to change with it. Probably that was stupid of me to believe—that my tiny little store was ever that important.

I’m trying to be strong about all of this. I think I’ve convinced everyone around me that I’ve come to terms with the loss, that I’ll land on my feet and be fine, but really, on the inside I’m heartbroken. It feels like part of me has died, and like I’ve failed all of the people I care most about in the world. And I don’t think anyone can ever make it right again.


--

Things could not be going better, business-wise, for Starlight Records. The new store is doing so well that Eber is considering opening another one in Brooklyn. And Adam is getting a raise, on top of everything else. Even Anoop, ever impassive, is visibly excited by all of the good news.

Adam should be thrilled; he’s worked hard for this and now he’s seeing all of it pay off, but he has a hard time mustering a smile as he shakes his father’s hand.

As he walks down the stairs, he looks out over the main floor. It’s crawling with customers—they browse the perfectly organized shelves, sit in the café sipping espressos and munching on tarts and strudels and lemon bars, lounge in the arm chairs by the listening stations with headphones over their ears.

And then his gaze moves to the indie section, and he sees it.

Kris.

He’s sitting on a bench, arms huddled around himself. He looks like a wilted flower in his baggy army jacket and scuffed-up Converse as customers wander all around him. The image makes his heart hurt, but Adam can’t stop himself—he comes down the stairs and lurks behind some shelves in an adjoining section, watching the scene.

An older woman with dark blonde hair steps up to one of the employees standing only feet away from Kris and says, “Excuse me. I’m looking for an album for my daughter, but I can’t remember the name of the band.”

“Okay,” the employee says, turning to her, “I can try and help… You don’t know the band at all?”

“All I know is that it’s the same guy who sings for that other band… The Decembers?” the mother tells him. “I think that’s the name. She said she wanted the album from his old band.”

The employee goes to the nearest computer and types for a minute. “Uh, well I don’t see any results for The Decembers…”

The woman sighs. “I don’t know, she just mentioned it offhand—I wanted to surprise her. I think she said the guy’s name was Colin? Colin something.”

“Colin Meloy.”

They both turn around to stare at Kris, surprised to hear his voice out of nowhere. Adam’s surprised, too. Kris hasn’t moved from his spot at all. He stares straight ahead, unmoving, except for his throat, which works as he swallows.

“Colin Meloy from The Decemberists,” Kris clarifies. “His first band was Tarkio. Circa nineteen ninety-six through nineteen ninety-nine. They only released three EPs— Fallenness, I Guess I Was Hoping For Something More, and Sea Songs For Land-Locked Sailors. The originals are rare, but you can find the re-released collection Omnibus. It has all of the songs.” He stops and wipes a little at his wet eyes. “My favorite track is Neapolitan Bridesmaid, but they’re all pretty amazing.”

“Tarkio,” the employee repeats. He turns to Kris. “Um, could you spell that for me?”

Adam sees the way Kris’s whole body pulls up as he takes a deep, shaky breath. “T-A-R-K-I-O,” he recites.

The employee thanks him and types it into his computer, chatting away to the mother about ordering and shipment times and cost. Neither of them see the way Kris slumps over, rubbing his tired face with one hand.

But Adam does.

--

From: LA21@gmail.com
To: guitarguy@gmail.com
Subject: re: (none)

I’m sorry. I know that’s trite as fucking hell, but I don’t know what else to say. I know whatever I try will end up being trite, no matter what it is. So that’s all I can say to you: I’m so sorry.


--

Neil calls while he’s in a taxi on the way home. Adam considers not answering it, just out of spite, but the truth is that he’s not even really angry at him anymore, even if he should be. So he answers it, staring out the cab window as it’s pelted with thick snowflakes. The sky is gray today, just as gray as Adam’s current mood.

“I’m thinking of asking Kris Allen if he wants to work for Rave,” Neil says. “I’m talking with a few people… at the very least maybe get him to work under me, doing clerical, research, that kind of thing. Wherever we could fit him in, I think he’d be awesome at it.”

Adam frowns. “Why do you think that?”

“His taste is amazing. Legendary, even. And if you ever have a conversation with the guy—I mean, I know he’s not the most articulate person of all time, but when he comes to music, he definitely knows his shit.”

“So you’re going to offer him a job,” Adam says.

He can practically hear Neil shrug on the end of the other line. “Why not?” he says. “He’s jobless and destitute. I doubt he has many offers lined up on the table. What else has he got to do at this point?”

“Well, I can’t imagine him working for you.”

“Why not?”

“Because you hate everything,” Adam says, “and Kris likes everyone. He doesn’t know how to be mean. His staff turnover is non-existent—they’ve all worked there forever.”

“Until now. Thanks to you.”

Yes. Because of him. Like Adam hasn’t obsessed over this fact for every fucking second of every fucking day over the past week.

“Well hey, look at it this way,” Neil says brightly. “Maybe after being fucked over by you he’s become a jaded, bitter, cynical shell of his former self. In other words, a true New Yorker. In that case, really, you did him a favor.”

The taxi pulls up outside of Adam’s building. He tosses a wad of money to the driver and steps out onto the slick street. Wearing leather boots today was not his greatest idea ever.

“Thanks,” Adam says dryly. “That makes me feel so much better.”

“Just trying to point out the silver lining,” Neil jokes, and Adam hangs up on him.

Silver lining his ass.


**

From: guitarguy@gmail.com
To: LA21@gmail.com
Subject: Change

It’s funny how I’ve been wary of change for so long… stuck in this rut. A comfortable rut, yes, but a rut. I forgot what it was like—even though when I moved to the city, it was the biggest change of my life. I had no idea what to expect. And now at this point, I feel like changing everything. I even rearranged my furniture.

When we first met, I thought I knew exactly how the rest of my life was going to go. What I would spend it doing, and even who I would spend it with. And now I’m back to square one, starting all over from scratch. My life is a blank slate.


--

After the last box is cleared out of the store on the last day, Kris sends everyone home. The last one to leave is Cale, and he only does so after Kris insists for the tenth time that he’ll be fine.

“I just want a minute alone,” he says.

Cale looks at him for a long time before he finally nods, reaching for his coat. “Okay,” he says. He slips his arms through the sleeves and points at Kris. “Tomorrow. Drinks at Baby Jupiter’s. We’ll drown our sorrows.”

Kris thinks that if he were to try and drink away everything that is eating at him right now, he’d end up blackout drunk. But he smiles and agrees to it anyway. He’s glad to have Cale. And he’s glad he convinced Cale to accept the job at Starlight. He appreciates Cale’s stubborn loyalty, but that encyclopedic knowledge of music shouldn’t go to waste, and the job market is shitty enough as it is.

With the store emptied out, completely gutted, it looks both bigger and smaller than normal. Kris stands in the middle of the main floor and looks around. The Red Guitar has been his home for years. Tears build up in his throat, but he fights them down. No use in falling apart now.

He detaches the bell above the door and turns it over in his hands. His uncle had it autographed by Patti Smith, way back in the day. He traces her faded signature with one finger, and then pushes out the door, into the cold night. He operates the grate, cranking it down, and after everything is locked, he steps back to admire The Red Guitar for one last time.

“We had a good run,” he says softly.

There’s no way to properly say goodbye to this place. This will have to do.

--

From: LA21@gmail.com
To: guitarguy@gmail.com
Subject: Hey

Hey. You haven’t written in awhile… everything okay?


--

From: guitarguy@gmail.com
To: LA21@gmail.com
Subject: re: Hey

I’m alive. Barely. I have the cold from hell, and everything hurts, and I have spent the last two days hibernating under the covers listening to this Miles Davis record a friend gave me on repeat, mostly because while I enjoy jazz, I am too sick to get out of bed and change the music. I am now dreaming in jazz standards.

The worst part is that it gives me too much time to think about the future. What am I going to do with my life?


--

The apartment bell buzzing at first seems like a Nyquil-induced hallucination. Kris yanks a pillow over his head with a groan, trying to block the noise out. He feels like death, and he’s pretty sure he looks even worse than that. He hasn’t taken a shower in days, hasn’t even bothered to change his pajamas.

He tries ignoring the bell and going back to sleep, but it’s too insistent, and it hurts his head, so he kicks back the covers and stumbles out of bed, holding onto the wall as he makes his way to the door. He holds down the button on the intercom.

“Who is it?” he asks, except his voice comes out all clogged and thick and incoherent.

“Kris?”

That voice. That can’t be…

“Kris, it’s Adam. Are you there?”

“What do you want?” he grumbles, and then immediately dissolves into a coughing fit. Ugh. He hates his lungs.

“Can I come up?” Adam asks, voice tinny through the speaker.

“No,” he says quickly. “You really shouldn’t. I’m sick. You can probably hear it. Sick and contagious. Highly contagious. I probably have the swine flu. Some powerful mutant strain that bypasses vaccines. So you need to… go away. Far, far away.”

There’s a knock at the door that sends Kris practically jumping out of his skin.

“Kris?”

He peers through the peephole, and oh, shit—it is. It’s Adam Lambert.

This has to be a nightmare. A delirious, feverish nightmare.

“Uh—“ Kris glances around wildly. His apartment is a disaster area— used tissues and dirty dishes littered everywhere. “Just a second.”

He dashes around and collects all of the tissues in eyesight, stacking bowls and glasses and dumping them into the kitchen sink. He grabs a robe draped over a chair and shrugs into it, and then goes to the door and closes his eyes, steeling himself. A moment later he undoes the chain lock and cracks it open.

Adam shoots him a friendly smile. “Hello.”

“What are you doing here?” he asks suspiciously.

“Cale mentioned you were sick, so I thought I’d check up on you. Make sure you were still among the living,” he explains. “Your neighbor let me in.” He holds up a small bag. “I brought tea.”

“You put me out of business,” Kris says.

Adam purses his mouth. “Fair point.”

“What is this? Are you here to rub my face in it? You want to gloat over a cup of tea?”

“No.”

“Then… then what? You gonna offer me a job?”

“I wasn’t—”

“Because your brother already did. And I have plans. A lot of plans.” Kris lifts his chin defiantly. “Anyway. Thanks for coming. Now that you know I’m not dead, you can leave now.”

He starts to close the door, but Adam wedges a foot in to block it from closing.

“Wait,” he says. “I brought tea. Let me just—let me make you some.”

Before Kris can protest, he coughs again, so hard he doubles over, and Adam slips inside and heads into the kitchen. Stupid cold. Stupid immune system.

Once he stops hacking, Kris pads into the kitchen, watching as Adam rummages through his cupboards.

“Kettle?” Adam asks.

“Over the stove.”

Adam pulls it out and fills it with water, turning on the stove. He looks over at Kris. “Sit down,” he instructs. “You’re sick.”

Kris complies. His legs are too tired to stand, and at least he can still glare from this vantage point.

Adam says, “Cale says hi, by the way. He’s going to stop by tomorrow.” He opens another cupboard and takes out two mugs. “He’s an amazing employee. Probably the best. He has, like, a PhD in musical knowledge.”

He knows he shouldn’t, but Kris feels stupidly proud to hear Cale is doing so well.

“How’s the rest of your former staff faring?” Adam asks, unwrapping the bag of tea.

“Like you care.” Kris scowls, but Adam just looks at him, so he sighs and shrugs. “Fine,” he says. “Matt’s back to waiting tables and going to school. Andrew’s playing lead guitar for some band that’s gonna tour in spring. And I’m… you know. Weighing my options.”

The tea kettle whistles, and Adam turns off the burner, pours the water into the mugs and dips in the tea bags.

“Honey?” he asks, and Kris nods. He stirs in a few spoonfuls and brings the mugs over to the table, sets one in front of Kris. “So I’m guessing by the look of this place that you broke up with Katie Couric.”

“Her name is Katy,” Kris says, annoyed. “And yeah. We broke up.”

“What about the mystery date? Did anything happen with that?”

“No.” Kris lies his head down on the table, too tired to exert the energy necessary to hold it up any longer. “I was mean to you that night. When I was waiting for him.”

“True,” Adam agrees, “but I wasn’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy myself.”

“But I don’t have an excuse.”

“And I do?” Adam says. “Basically you’re saying, I’m a terrible person and you expect me to act terribly.”

Kris frowns. “That’s not what I—”

Adam waves him off. “It’s okay,” he says. He stirs his tea and looks down into it. “I get it. I destroyed your business. You’re entitled to hate me.”

“I don’t hate you,” Kris says. “I just—” He stops to sneeze.

Adam hands him a tissue. “Bless you.”

Kris rubs his nose and sighs again. “What are you doing here again?” he says. His head is too fuzzy to follow this conversation.

“I guess… I guess I wanted to see if I could… be your friend,” Adam says. He smiles a little into his tea. “Stupid of me, I know.”

Adam Lambert wanting to be his…friend? Yeah, he really must be delirious.

“I need to go back to bed,” he says, pushing away from the table. He hasn’t even had more than a sip of his tea, but he’s too tired for this.

Adam follows him into his bedroom, stands there and watches as Kris climbs under the covers.

“Can I ask you something?” Adam says.

Kris pulls the comforter up to his chin. “Mmm?”

“This mystery guy,” he says. “You’re crazy about him, aren’t you? Like seriously.”

“Mmhm,” Kris murmurs.

“So what’s stopping you?”

It must be the fever, or the side-effects of Nyquil he’s ODed on, because there’s no other explanation for Kris actually admitting the truth. “I don’t really know him,” he confesses. “I met him online.”

“Huh.” Adam lowers himself onto the edge of the mattress, a thoughtful look on his face. “Well. That’s not so weird. A lot of people meet each other on the internet. Maybe you should try meeting him again.”

Kris snorts. “Oh, says you? The guy who—”

Adam gently clasps a hand over Kris’s mouth. His palm is warm and smells good, like honey.

“Don’t,” he says softly. “Whatever you’re going to say… don’t. You’re just going to hate yourself for it later.” He takes back his hand and smiles, standing. “Feel better soon, Kris.”

He turns and walks out of the room, leaving Kris to sit there, a little dazed. But he doesn’t have too much time to dwell on it, though, because the second he closes his eyes, he drifts back into a dreamless sleep.


**

From: guitarguy@gmail.com
To: LA21@gmail.com
Subject: Meeting

I’ve been thinking… I’d really like to meet you. If you’re still interested.


--

From: LA21@gmail.com
To: guitarguy@gmail.com
Subject: re: Meeting

I am definitely interested, and I completely agree—we should meet. I’m swamped with work right now, but it’ll happen. Soon. I promise.


--

Kris is sitting in a table inside of Starbucks, plugged into his iPod and scribbling something on a notebook, when Adam walks by the window. He stops and backtracks, taking a moment just to look at him. There’s something incredibly endearing about how focused he is, the way his head bobs involuntarily to the music he’s listening to, lost in his own little world.

He knocks on the window, and Kris’s head jerks up, eyes registering surprise as he sees Adam standing there.

Adam motions to the table, and then to the door, mouthing, “Can I join you?”

Kris’s mouth is hanging open, but after a second he nods, yanking out his ear buds.

They sit together over lattes, and Kris relates to Adam the latest email correspondence.

“ ‘Swamped with work’?” Adam repeats skeptically. “I don’t know, I’m getting a vibe with this one.”

Kris makes a face. “A vibe?”

“You may have a severe closet case on your hands. Like, the Narnia type, married with kids.”

“He’s not married,” Kris says, rolling his eyes. “And there aren’t any kids.”

“But how do you know?”

“He’s never said anything. He would tell me if there were.”

“Okay,” Adam says innocently. “If you say so.” He takes a long drink, watching the look of doubt cross Kris’s face as he does.

This is too easy.


**

From: guitarguy@gmail.com
To: LA21@gmail.com
Subject: Question

This is going to sound so weird and random, but… are you married?


--

From: LA21@gmail.com
To: guitarguy@gmail.com
Subject: re: Question

Uhhhhhhhhhhh no?????? Last time I checked I don’t live in Massachusetts or Vermont. (By the way how fucked up is it that we live in New York, one of the most liberal states in the country, and we can’t legalize gay marriage??? I hate the world.) (Not that I’m looking to get married, but it’d be nice to have the option.)

Let me guess… your friends told you we haven’t met yet because I’m secretly living a double life as a fake hetero? Sorry to disappoint them, but I’ve been out ever since I knew what the word ‘gay’ meant.


--

“So he’s not married,” Adam says.

They’re having hot dogs and strolling aimlessly down the block. It’s a nice day; the sun is finally shining through, the snow melting away, the start of spring. It’s Kris’s favorite season. It makes everything feel shiny and new.

“Nope,” Kris says. “And he totally saw through me. He knew why I was asking.”

Adam licks some mustard off of his thumb, and Kris stares for a little too long. To be fair, Adam does have nice hands. Adam catches him looking and smiles.

“Tell me,” he says. “What’s this guy’s screenname?” When he sees Kris’s dubious look, he rolls his eyes. “God, I’m not going to contact him. I promise. I’m just curious.”

Kris hems and haws and finally says, “LA21.”

“LA21,” Adam repeats thoughtfully. “I wonder what the twenty-one stands for. Does he have twenty-one STDs?”

Kris laughs. “You’re horrible.”

“He was born in nineteen twenty-one.”

“Maybe he owns twenty-one houses.”

“Oooh, maybe he’s had twenty-one sexual partners.”

“He speaks twenty-one languages.”

“Twenty-one pet rats.”

“He’s seen Mean Girls twenty-one times.”

Adam stops and grins. “He’s a fan of Mean Girls?” he says. “At least then you know his taste in films is fantastic.”

They stop on the corner, facing each other. A glance at Kris’s watch tells him that Adam’s lunch break is almost over.

“Guess you should get back,” he says, and finds himself weirdly disappointed to cut off their time together.

“I should,” Adam agrees, but he doesn’t make a move to leave. His face goes a little serious. “Have you figured out yet? What you’re doing?”

Kris shrugs one shoulder. “I don’t know yet,” he says. “Neil keeps telling me that I have a job whenever I want it… It’s weird, having all this time. To figure things out. I’ve never had that. Never thought I’d be a writer, but I actually—I think maybe I could be good at it. Which is weird, because I wouldn’t have even considered it if—” He stops, realizing where this train of thought is leading.

Adam is staring at him, but when Kris meets his eyes again, he looks down and shoves his hands in his pockets. “I need to go,” he says. He looks back up and forces a smile. “I’ll talk to you more about Mister 21 Sexual Positions later.”

He pats Kris on the shoulder once and starts walking off, and Kris lifts his hand in a wave.

His life keeps getting more and more confusing.


**

From: guitarguy@gmail.com
To: LA21@gmail.com
Subject: Unexpected

It’s so weird how things work out… I thought my store closing meant the end of everything. But now I have all of this free time, and nothing is decided for me. It used to be that starting over from scratch scared me. Now I feel like maybe it’s a good thing. I mean, it still sucks, but maybe it won’t forever? Maybe it had to happen for me to get this opportunity.

If that hadn’t happened, I’d never be taking a job as a writer for a magazine on a subject I love. It’s a new direction, not the one I thought I’d be taking… but I don’t know. I have a good feeling about this.


--

From: LA21@gmail.com
To: guitarguy@gmail.com
Subject: Meeting (for real this time)

What about getting together this Saturday? 4pm. I know you love the Beatles, so we can meet at Strawberry Fields. I’ll be there, standing in the middle, waiting.


--

“Today?” Adam says. “You’re meeting him today?”

“Today,” Kris confirms.

They’re eating at Adam’s favorite Chinese place, the one on St. Mark’s with the amazing kung pao chicken. Kris is poking at his dumplings, this big dreamy smile on his face.

Adam fishes out the fortune cookies and passes one to Kris. “Wow. That’s big.”

“I know,” Kris says. “I’m kind of freaking out.” He unwraps his fortune cookie and squints at the message. “‘The one you love is closer than you think.’ Huh.”

Adam has to hide his grin. It’s all he can do not to spill everything to Kris right here. Half of him wants to, and the other half is about to explode from nerves.

“It’s so weird to think about it sometimes,” Kris says, completely oblivious to Adam’s inner tug-of-war. “He could be, like, anyone. I could’ve passed him on the street and had no idea.”

“Yeah,” Adam says.

He opens his own fortune cookie and reads it silently to himself. Your heart will always make itself known through your words.

“Sometimes I wonder…” he says.

Kris looks up at him, chewing. “Wonder what?”

“If I hadn’t been Starlight Records, and you hadn’t been The Red Guitar… and we’d just met like any other people. On the street. In a bar. Online, even. If that had happened—”

“Adam—” Kris starts, almost desperate, pleading.

“—if that had happened, things would be so different,” Adam says, because now that he’s started, he can’t stop himself. “I know myself. I would’ve fallen hard, and fast, and I never would’ve let you go. Not ever.”

Kris is silent for a moment, and all Adam can hear is the lull of people’s conversation around them, his own heartbeat, rapid and loud in his ears.

“Adam,” he says again, a half-sigh. His eyes are glassy, brow creased.

Adam shakes his head. He knows that it’s pointless. “I know,” he says. “It’s stupid to even think that way. We can’t change anything. Useless to mull over the what-ifs. I just… I like to think that if things were different… if only…”

“If only,” Kris echoes softly.

For a few seconds he gazes at Adam, like he wishes that things really were different. And then he seems to snap out of it just as fast.

“I have to go,” he tells Adam. He grabs his messenger bag and peels a few bills out of his wallet, sets them down on the table. He starts toward the door, but Adam reaches out and grabs his wrist, wraps his fingers around it.

“Just tell me,” Adam says, voice catching. “Tell me… do you think you’ll ever forgive me?” He looks up, into Kris’s eyes. “God, I wish you would.”

Kris stands there and stares at him, a million different emotions warring on his face. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I have to— I have to go.”

He shakes off Adam’s grip and bolts for the exit, and for just a moment, he pauses and turns to look at Adam one last time. And then he’s out the door.


**

When he first moved to New York, Kris never did a lot of tourist-y things. He didn’t have a strong desire for it, anyway. The one place he did seek out, though, after he mastered public transportation and felt confident in winging it solo, was Strawberry Fields.

It’s cliché, and Andrew would roll his eyes if he knew, but the Beatles are Kris’s favorite band of all time. He idolizes them, has listened to every album countless times. He thinks it’s amazing how you can take a track from almost any of their records and find countless other bands who have spent careers just imitating that one song. He could say so much about why he loves them—how Something is one of the greatest love songs of all time, how Norwegian Wood is beyond words, how Revolver is perfection through-and-through.

Seeing Strawberry Fields for the first time was more powerful than Kris had prepared himself for. He thought it would be sad, seeing the place where John Lennon was gunned down so pointlessly—but instead it wasn’t, not really. It moved him in ways he couldn’t fully explain. And he ended up being glad he had that moment to himself, because he wasn’t sure how it would have felt to share with someone else.

Now he moves down the sidewalk, hands buried in his pockets, trying to keep himself from rushing. He has no idea what to expect, but he’s waited for this for so long, and it feels like he’s on the verge of-- something. He takes a deep breath and tips his head up, looking at the gables and deep roofs of the Dakota.

He follows the pathway winding around to the memorial Imagine mosaic, keeping his eyes closed.

He doesn’t know what he wants to see when he opens them.

All he can think about is Adam’s face in the restaurant… how it was so open and unguarded, like he wanted to offer everything, but he knew Kris wouldn’t take it.

But part of Kris wants to, more than anything. Despite everything that’s happened.

He opens his eyes.

And there’s Adam. Standing in the middle of the mosaic, smiling at Kris, tentative and real and beautiful.

“Hey there, Guitarguy,” Adam whispers, once Kris has approached him, standing so close he’d only have to lean forward slightly for them to be kissing. His smile is uncertain as his eyes search Kris’s, like he’s waiting to see if Kris will push him away.

Instead Kris reaches out, knotting his hands in the lapels of Adam’s jacket. “I wanted it to be you,” he breathes. “I wanted it to be you so much.”

Adam’s smile grows, and he brushes one hand to cup Kris’s cheek, tilting it up and bringing their mouths together.

It feels like something is splitting wide open in Kris’s chest, except it’s not a bad feeling, it’s good. Amazing. Like this is how it’s supposed to be. And this is exactly where he’s supposed to be, standing in the middle of this mosaic with Adam, arms wrapped around each other, mouths finding each other, warm and soft and fitting together like adjoining puzzle pieces. Everything snapping perfectly into place.




--end

A/N: Again, sorry for the title. Also sorry for any accidental typos... I did not really read this over before I posted except to make sure the html was correct, and like most fic I write, I wrote it in a frenzied 48 hours.

This is for my girls kissoffools and oatmeal_cookie. ILU guys. ♥
Tags: fic: american idol
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