Fandom/Pairing: Kris Allen Band; Andrew DeRoberts gen fic
Rating: R (for language, not sexy times... sorry)
Summary: Um, so this is a gen fic detailing how Andrew DeRoberts's ice cold heart was melted by the likes of Kris Allen and his band. Kind of. 16k.
There was a plan. There was a plan, and this was not it. Nowhere in Andrew’s imaginary blueprints detailing his future was a bullet point that read, “become the lead guitarist for the zillionth nobody winner of American Idol.”
It was all Haywood’s fault, really, for hooking him up with Keith in the first place, who’d booked him for Jordan Pruitt, and then some studio gigs at Westlake, and then come calling a year later to let him know about the Kris Allen job. The Jordan gig hadn’t been ideal, but Andrew was new to L.A. then, willing to swallow his pride for it, and the girl was nice enough with a good voice, even if otherwise clueless. It was easy money, playing three-to-four chord songs so simple he could finger the guitar tabs in his sleep, and he’d figured it would at least get his foot in the door somewhere.
Still, he’d spent enough time playing the kind of music that was blasted over sound systems in Limited Too stores nationwide. Things were supposed to be different by now. But the well had run dry and his bank account was looking particularly pathetic by the time Keith called to let him know of an audition for a spot in Kris Allen’s band.
“You know,” Keith prompted, “the guy who won American Idol?”
Andrew actually didn’t know that. He has a television, but his roommate Brent is the only one who watches it, and even then it’s usually all those true life crime shows Andrew doesn’t have any interest in. And Brent will probably kick Andrew out if Andrew stops making enough to pay his share of the cable bill that includes the premium channels. Okay, probably not, but Andrew agrees to the audition since he needs something to stop him from having panic attacks every time he checks his increasingly shrinking bank account.
The weirdest thing is that Andrew had actually met Kris Allen months ago, before he even won Idol. His sponsorship with Gibson meant occasionally he had to demo new models for various groups of people, usually suppliers and studio musicians at trade fairs, but maybe six months ago he’d been called in to demo the Dusk Tiger for the American Idol kids, none of whom he assumed probably even knew how to hold a guitar, nevertheless play one.
The demo went fine—even if most of the kids looked ready to fall asleep during it—and after it was finished, they all shuffled around the room, mingling and talking. Andrew sat back down on the stool and picked up his own guitar, tinkered with the tuning and strummed an Emmylou Harris song he knew by heart.
He hadn’t even noticed the guy still sitting across from him until he said, “Hey, is that a Les Paul?”
Andrew stopped mid-strum and looked up at the kid across from him. That was what Kris looked like—a kid in a Michael Jackson t-shirt and dark jeans and a pair of scuffed-up Chucks, a messenger bag tucked against his side, young and fresh-faced. He was eyeing Andrew’s guitar with a mixture of curiosity and admiration.
“Yeah,” Andrew said. He’d bought the Les Paul a year ago, and while he didn’t have any kids of his own, he thought his love for it was as strong as if it were part of himself, made of his own flesh and blood. “You play?”
The guy smiled with one side of his mouth. “A little.”
He was afraid the guy was going to ask to touch it or, even worse, play it; Andrew wasn’t great at laying the verbal smackdown, but a man’s guitar is sacred, especially a guitar like a Les Paul. If it came to that, he was willing to tell the guy off.
It didn’t come to that, though, because the dude just nodded appreciatively and smiled even wider, leaning forward as if there was some kind of a gravitational pull toward Andrew. His hands twitched in his lap like he didn’t know what to do with them, like they itched for a guitar of their own. But he seemed content to merely watch Andrew’s mindless muted playing.
“Man, I would die for a Les Paul,” the kid said, and Andrew stopped playing long enough to look up at him.
“You play electric?” he asked. Small talk had never been his forte, but talking music was second nature.
“I learned on electric, actually. But these days it’s usually acoustic,” he explained, and then added, “I’m Kris, by the way.”
It wouldn’t be until later that Andrew made the connection, after the phone call from Haywood. At the time he’d just thumbed the low E and said, “Andrew.” He would’ve maybe offered his hand or something if the guitar wasn’t in the way. Though on second thought, probably not, because that seemed really lame. At least the guitar gave him an excuse not to have to make that decision.
He barely had time to get his name out before some woman in a business suit came hustling into the room and whisked the Idol kids away. Kris managed to wave one hand goodbye at Andrew as he hefted the strap of his messenger bag over his shoulder, and then he was gone, and that was the end of that.
Except apparently not.
Andrew has no idea what they’re looking for, just a date, time, and an address, and he shows up at Jive’s offices wearing a white v-neck, ratty skinny jeans and some black canvas high-tops. He brings along the Les Paul, and his Gibson acoustic, since he’s not sure what they’ll want him to play. After sitting in a waiting area with ten other guys with guitars, he gets called into a room to play in front of three people sitting behind a table.
He ends up using the electric only. The piece he plays is his fallback for most auditions— a blues medley combining pieces of Django and Hendrix and Joe Pass, ending with an Albert King solo. He had to transpose a lot of it to make the key changes sound fluent and not choppy. It’s not the most complicated, but it’s what he plays best, is the sound he likes best. It must show, because when he finishes, the three people behind the table all look pleased, and the man in the middle hands him a folder of sheet music and tells him to learn it and come back for another audition in three days.
Brent’s more excited about it than Andrew is. “Dude, it’s a good gig,” he says, managing to tear his eyes away from the screen where some forensic analyst is swabbing the rim of a vodka bottle with a q-tip for murder evidence. “Hey, gotta pay those bills somehow, right?”
“I guess,” Andrew says reluctantly. He’s feeling kind of sullen about the whole thing, which has seemed to shine a giant floodlight on all of his failures. Namely, his inability after all of this time in L.A. to do anything meaningful with his music career. So far it’s consisted of touring with and doing studio work for mediocre pop acts. At least back in Ohio the music he was making meant something, even if he didn’t get paid shit for it. L.A. was supposed to be a step up, and instead it feels like he’s becoming something he never wanted to be.
He doesn’t think he’s going to get the job anyway, but he learns the songs Jive gave him, runs them down until he’s got a good handle on all three, and when he goes in again, they tell him they want him to try it out with a full band. There’s no time for introductions; he plays through Can’t Stay Away once, and then they swap out the bass player with another, and they repeat it, and then they swap the bass player again, two more times, and run through both Can’t Stay Away and Before We Come Undone, and then Andrew is done.
He’s not sure if he’s done done, or if they’re just swapping him out for someone else, but they assure him they’ll be in touch soon.
Sure enough, a week later they call to say they want him to come in for a final audition. This time Kris Allen himself is supposed to be there.
When Kris arrives, the first thing he does is come right up to introduce himself. He sticks a hand out to Andrew and says, “Hi, I’m Kris Allen,” like the introduction is necessary. He has a friendly, unassuming smile on his face that could put the most wound-up insecure person on the planet at ease. Andrew’s not the type for nerves, though, after all of the auditions he’s done.
He shakes Kris’s hand and says, “Andrew DeRoberts,” trying not to make it too obvious that he’s sizing the guy up.
The guy is shorter than he remembered, dressed in a plaid button-down and worn jeans and sporting rumpled hair that looks like he just rolled out of bed. He doesn’t look like he’s shaved in days. It makes him look older.
“We actually met a few months ago,” Andrew adds. “I demoed some Gibson guitars for you guys.”
“Andrew,” Kris repeats slowly. His eyes narrow just a little, crinkling up his nose. “Yeah, yeah, I remember that! You had the Les Paul.”
“Yeah,” Andrew says, startled that he has any recollection of their fleeting encounter at all. “Surprised you remember that.”
Kris just laughs. “I’m not great with faces, but I never forget a guitar.”
They have Andrew play solo—first he does the same medley he did at the original audition, and then he plays some Radiohead, and finally wraps it up with the riff from Can’t Stay Away. Mostly he keeps his eyes downward, but every time he sneaks a glance up, he notices Kris staring at him intently, head bobbing slightly from side-to-side, one foot tapping under the table in time to the music. He’s as focused on Andrew as Andrew is on the music.
As he unplugs from the amp and collects his things, Kris shoots him another beaming smile, and then leans over to say something to the blonde woman at his side. Andrew’s not sure if it’s a good sign or if he’s reading too much into things. He has a tendency to do that.
“Thank you,” the guy who’s been witness to every audition—Mark something, Andrew can’t remember his last name, which just goes to show how seriously he’s taking all of this—says. “That was great. We’ll let you know how it shakes out.”
The deliberation doesn’t take long. A few hours after the audition, he’s pulling into a gas station to refill his tank when his cell phone goes off. Apparently that look Kris Allen gave him was a good sign, since it’s someone from the label on the other end, officially offering him the job. He says yes—of course he says yes. It’d be ridiculous not to, after going through the entire process, and Brent would murder him if he didn’t. Brent also watches enough of those crime shows that he’d know how to do it without a trace, too.
Besides, Andrew thinks, what else is he going to do with his life? Nothing screams SELLOUT more than playing in the reigning American Idol’s backup band, but at this point, it’s either sell the furniture or sell his soul.
The first thing Kris wants them to learn is a cover of a Britney Spears song.
“Really?” Torres says, voicing the skepticism Andrew feels but doesn’t want to bring up out loud, because who wants to be that asshole during the first rehearsal?
Torres’s first name is Chris, but obviously they can’t call him that, so it’s either Torres or Chris #2, and if it were Andrew, he’d prefer the former. Torres comes across like the kind of guy who has been Chris #2 his whole life. Like when Andrew was in fifth grade and there were two Sarahs in his class, and the teacher differentiated them by calling one Sarah #1 and the other Sarah #2. Sarah #1 was of course the prettier, smarter girl; not that Sarah #2 was ugly or anything— in fact, after she went through puberty and lost the baby weight and the lisp, she got way hot and reportedly gave head to half the high school football team behind the equipment shed—she was just kind of dim and unable to decipher proper social cues.
Still, some people go through their lives as #2 people, through no fault of their own, and Torres... well, Torres seems like a #2 person.
“Wait until you hear it,” Cale says. His voice is a little too loud, a little too excited. Overcompensating. “It sounds crazy, but it’s awesome, I swear.”
All Andrew knows about Cale is that the guy’s been friends with Kris for years and years, since college. That probably means Kris pulled every string possible to get him into the band. He’d auditioned with Andrew at one point, but Andrew had been too focused inward to evaluate anyone else’s ability. He’s not holding his breath on this one. And if Cale’s going to be defensive of Kris at every turn, that’ll get tired extremely fast.
Not that Andrew’s going to complain. This is what he’s paid for, and he knows his place. Kris Allen is a solo act; Andrew’s job is to stand back, play the songs, and let Kris have the spotlight to do his thing. He’s certainly had enough practice with this type of role to know how it’s done.
“I don’t know if it’s that awesome,” Kris says, half-laughing, “but I don’t know, I think it’s fun. Those school girls seemed to like it.”
Kris and Cale share another laugh, like it’s some in-joke between them, and then he adjusts his guitar strap and turns to Andrew.
“I can get the tabs for next time,” he says. “If I play it right now, you think you can figure it out?”
It turns out Kris can actually play—he’s not Clapton, obviously, but Andrew wasn’t sure what exactly he’d be dealing with here, so it’s something of a relief that Kris knows more than three open chords. And when he opens his mouth to belt out the song, he shows he’s got a real voice. A really good one. In fact, the whole thing is actually kind of cool in its ridiculousness.
Cale jumps in immediately on his guitar, probably having jammed to this with Kris a million times already, and Ryland finds the rhythm on drums halfway through, and after the first run-through, Andrew’s figured out the chord structure. Torres tries fumbling his way through on bass, though despite valiant efforts, his part is clunky and off the beat. But Torres is a #2, so it’s not like Andrew expected anything different.
During the third rehearsal, Andrew meets the two blondes in Kris’s life: Katy and Lizzie.
Lizzie introduces herself as Kris’s personal assistant. Kris is quick to jump in and say, “Personal assistant? I don’t think that describes your role in my life well enough.”
“He’s right,” she agrees. “My business card should read Godsend. I don’t even want to think about how you got anything done ever before I came along.”
“It’s true, she takes care of, like, everything,” Kris admits. “It’s pretty great.” He drops his voice to a stage whisper. “But don’t ever piss her off, man. You don’t wanna see her when she’s angry.”
Lizzie punches Kris on the shoulder almost too hard to be playful, but he laughs it off and bounces—seriously, like he’s goddamn Tigger or something—across the room to Cale and Torres. Her Blackberry buzzes suddenly and she glances at the caller ID, cursing under her breath before ducking out of the room to answer it without a word.
Andrew decides then that, godsend or not, Lizzie’s a little scary.
Fifteen minutes before rehearsal’s over, Andrew notices a tiny blonde girl slip into the room, clutching a fast food bag and a soft drink cup, a monstrous teal leather handbag slung over one shoulder. Her thick, bright blonde hair hangs loose past her shoulders. She stands against the wall and watches them practice; at one point Lizzie comes over and says something to her, smiling, and the girl smiles back, but only keeps her eyes off of Kris for a few seconds.
“You came early,” Kris says to her, once they’ve finished for the day.
“I know, I wanted to see you guys in action,” she says, “since you’re all secretive and—hey!” She swats him away from the drink with a giggle, where he’s snuck a sip from the straw. “Stop that! I got you your own, pig.”
She thrusts the paper bag toward him, which he accepts gladly.
Cale walks up beside Kris and attempts to peer in the bag. “Ooh, can I have some? I’m starving.”
“No,” Kris says, shoving him away. “Get your own wife.”
It clicks then for Andrew, as he snaps his guitar case shut, that this must be Kris’s wife Katy that he’s talked about. She’s even shorter than Kris is. Maybe that’s why he married her. It’s gotta be hard finding girls that tiny. Or maybe they just breed a lot of short people in Arkansas. But that wouldn’t explain Bill Clinton, would it?
“Ignore him,” Katy says to Cale. “I got you a Big Mac.”
“No pickles?” he asks hopefully.
She rolls her eyes. “Just peel them off and give them to Kris, you know how much he loves them.”
“This is why I got married,” Kris says around a mouthful of fries. “For the food delivery.”
Katy smacks him lightly on the arm and says, “Introduce me already.”
Kris makes the rounds, not bothering to fully swallow his food as he makes introductions with the band. When Andrew shakes Katy’s hand, she beams at him and says, “Kris hasn’t shut up about how good you are.”
Andrew’s not sure exactly how to respond to that, so he just says, “Oh?”
“And you really are!” She laughs a little at herself. “I don’t know anything about music, like the technical side, but you sounded great.”
The band is getting there. They have six rehearsals over the next two weeks, enough to hammer out four album songs and the Britney cover. Their first date is scheduled at the Miami Dolphins tailgate— Andrew cringes at the idea of debuting new songs in shitty open air acoustics, but the rest of the guys seem pumped, so he keeps his thoughts to himself.
Every so often Kris stops to ask Andrew something about the arrangement, saying, “Does this sound right to you?” or “What do you think about that chord change?” or asking for various suggestions and tweaks—not only from Andrew, but Cale and Ryland and Torres too. It’s weird because all of Andrew’s other gigs have been guitar-by-number, and here Kris not only seems to value Andrew’s input on the songs, but actually seeks it out. Maybe he’s insecure about his own ability, even though he seems comfortable enough when he plays.
Whatever the case, Andrew is not used to this hands-on approach.
“Kris is a cool guy,” Ryland says. They’re out at some bar in Los Feliz Ryland swears makes the best gin and tonics known to man. Andrew doesn’t like gin, but he agrees to go because Brent texted saying his girlfriend Tessa is spending the night, and it’s either go out for drinks or go home, seal himself inside his bedroom, and pretend he can’t hear the two of them going at it like rabbits in the next room over.
Besides, Ryland’s cool. He plays for Reel Big Fish, which is, like, an actual legitimate band, not just some random guys thrown together to support the winner of a glorified karaoke contest.
“How’d you end up auditioning?” Andrew asks, because he doesn’t get why someone with actual musical integrity—not like the hypothetical integrity Andrew used to imagine he possessed—would take this job.
Ryland shrugs, pulling the straw from his drink and licking it clean. “I usually pick up side gigs when we’re not touring,” he explains. “It’s an easy way to make money. My brother drummed for that other Idol kid—David Archuleta—so he gave me the hook up to Jive.”
They sit around and exchange stories about touring and the bands they’ve played with over the years. It feels good to be talking to someone about music like this—it’s the one topic of conversation Andrew knows without a doubt he can hold his own in.
By the time he bothers to glance at his phone, he realizes they’ve talked for two hours straight.
“I should call it a night,” he says, more than a little reluctantly, as he pushes back his empty beer. He feels a little loose and warm, but not drunk. He knows because he can still feel the balls of his feet digging into the stool stand.
“Yeah,” Ryland agrees. Neither makes a move to leave. “You ready for Miami?”
Andrew shrugs and says, “I guess.”
“Don’t get too excited there,” Ryland laughs dryly, clapping him hard on the shoulder. “Save some of that energy for the show.”
“This isn’t going to work,” Lizzie says.
Andrew turns around from where he’s leaned up against Ryland’s drum set, talking to him about this Thelonius Monk record he picked up on vinyl last week, and sees her looking at them.
“What isn’t?” Torres asks. He doesn’t break stride in hitting the hacky sack he’s playing with against the side of his foot, tossing it over to Steve, who promptly sends it flying into the wall with a badly-aimed kick.
“You’re all wearing plaid,” she points out. “You can’t perform in Miami all wearing plaid. It’s too matchy-matchy.”
Andrew hadn’t even noticed, but as he looks around the room, he realizes it’s true.
“What if they’re all different colors, though?” Cale asks. He and Kris are at the other side of the room, folding up old pieces of sheet music into paper airplanes. “And different patterns. Not all plaid is created equal.”
Lizzie levels him with her death glare, but then Kris says, “No, she’s right. There needs to be some kind of rule.” He throws his latest airplane in her general direction; it whizzes straight up and then nosedives. “A plaid rule. Only one band member is allowed to wear it per performance.”
“To be determined by paper airplane contest,” Cale suggests, and lets his fly. It sails all the way to Ryland’s drum set.
Ryland snatches it out of the air with a grin. “So say we all.”
First thing when they land in Miami, they have to go and wait for twenty minutes at baggage claim. Everyone else limited themselves to a carry-on except for Torres; Andrew figures he probably had to check a bag solely for hair products, because maintaining that look must require gallons of shampoo and gel and sprays.
They all stand around the luggage carousel shooting the shit while they wait, their assigned handler off to one side chatting away on her cell.
“Didn’t you go to school here?” Torres asks him.
For a second Andrew has no idea what he’s talking about, and then it dawns on him. “University of Miami is in Ohio,” he explains slowly, like he’s speaking to a small child.
“Oh,” Torres says, a look of confusion crossing his face. He gets that look a lot, it seems.
“I have a cousin who went to Oberlin,” Ryland offers in what is clearly an attempt to salvage the conversation. It doesn’t exactly work.
After the silence stretches out for a nicely awkward length of time, Andrew sighs and says, “I’m going to get coffee.”
As he brushes past Cale, Cale doesn’t even look up from whoever he’s texting. Probably Kris, who’s coming in on a later flight. It didn’t take long to pick up on the fact that those two are pretty much attached at the hip. He wanders over to the Starbucks vendor and orders a coffee—black, to match his mood— before sliding on his sunglasses.
This is going to be a long trip.
They room him with Cale. He’d hoped they’d pair him with Ryland, but Lizzie tosses a key card to him and says, “You and Cale,” and then she’s turned back to the counter signing off on something, so that’s that. Cale looks at Andrew with a half-smile and a shrug, and they start off toward the elevators.
The first thing Andrew notices is that Cale packs and unpacks methodically. Everything is organized in the suitcase, every article of clothing tediously folded and every shiny new travel-sized toiletry packaged in a small plastic bag. Cale packs like someone who has put a lot of consideration into it, who was has been waiting for this, and as he goes into the bathroom with his shampoo and conditioner and shaving cream and razor and toothbrush and deodorant in hand, Andrew realizes that’s because he probably has. Cale is completely new to this.
“Do you know what time Kris comes in?” Andrew asks, not because he’s particularly interested, but because Kris is their common ground, and God knows Cale will have the answer.
Sure enough, Cale walks out of the bathroom and glances down at his watch. “Not for another two hours,” he says. He sits on the mattress, carefully zips up his suitcase and moves it to the floor between his bed and the wall. “I think I’m going to hang out here and wait.”
Andrew considers tracking down Ryland, but that might come off as clingy and weird when they’ve been checked in for all of ten minutes, so he settles back on the bed as Cale flips through channels. The bed is comfortable and soft, the pillows feather-plush behind his head, nicer than ones in other hotels he’s stayed at. His body feels heavy and a little sore— likely from a combination of jet lag and not enough sleep.
There’s the start of a headache blossoming behind his eyes, so he closes them, and he’s halfway to drifting off when suddenly Cale says, “Man, I love this show.”
He opens his eyes and looks over at Cale, propped up with pillows and twirling the remote in one hand like a drumstick, and then at the television that’s airing some sitcom he doesn’t recognize.
“Oh?” he says, for lack of anything else.
“I used to watch it all the time in college,” Cale adds. He looks to Andrew like he expects him to say something more.
It’s tempting to let the conversation die by closing his eyes and pretending to be asleep, but that’d be a beyond obvious blow-off and a real dick move, so instead he turns his head to Cale and says, “That’s where you met Kris, right? Were you guys in a band together?”
Cale laughs. “Oh, no. I was in a band with some other friends of mine, and Kris was doing his own thing. We’d jam together sometimes though.” He pauses, and for a second Andrew thinks that’s it, conversation over, and glances back at the television, but then Cale says, “We used to talk about this. What it’d be like, playing big crowds. It sounds stupid but I always knew he would someday. I just knew.”
That sounds like quite the bullshit to Andrew. People always want to pretend they saw what no one else did. Andrew’s college girlfriend, Jenny, thought it was sexy at first that he played guitar, but once she realized he didn’t have much interest in finishing college if he could tour instead, she freaked the fuck out. Told him that yeah, he could play guitar, but a million other guys can do that, it’s nothing special, and pointed out he couldn’t even sing, either, so what was the point in trying, and really, he should be practical about this. After all, didn’t he want to have a normal life?
No. Andrew did not want a normal life.
Needless to say, things did not work out between them. Two months ago Jenny found him on Facebook, and after discovering he was making a living off music (even if it wasn’t his own)—and also having graduated, thank you very much, she left a message on his wall saying, “That’s so gr8!!!!!!! I always knew u were talented!!!!! :) :) :)” Like she’d believed in him all along or something.
The abbreviations and abuse of exclamation points and emoticons did not make him regret breaking up with her, either.
“It’s so weird,” Cale continues, “playing in front of that many people who come to see you. I mean, not me, but Kris. Still, it’s crazy.”
“You get used to it,” Andrew says with a shrug.
Cale grins over at him, and there’s something in his dark eyes, a familiar gleam Andrew hasn’t seen from anyone in a long, long time—one he thinks he probably had himself, once upon a time, back when he first came to L.A. and thought things would be different. Better.
“I hope not.”