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.
It’s easy to lose track of the days with all of the traveling. They hop from state to state and end up back in New York to film the AOL sessions, and it’s not until Torres mentions it that Andrew realizes there are only ten days until Christmas. He’s free for the rest of the day after they wrap, though, so he hits up Midtown and drops more money than he probably should on a diamond necklace for his mom and a set of Italian crystal tumblers for his dad. He figures it’ll help make up for skipping out on Thanksgiving.
Back at the hotel, he finds Ryland in their room flipping through the room service menu. This time they’re sharing a room, with Torres and Steve in their own, and Cale and Kris in another. They order room service and watch reruns of Battlestar Galactica, which Andrew’s never seen a single episode of, but Ryland swears it’s the greatest sci-fi series of the last ten years. Even when Ryland tries to explain what’s happening onscreen and the backstories of all the characters, Andrew is still clueless, but that’s okay. He likes listening to Ryland’s voice.
Halfway into the third episode Ryland falls asleep, and Andrew turns the television on mute since there’s nothing else on he wants to watch anyway. He pulls out a John Grisham novel he bought on impulse at the Philadelphia airport and starts to read. About thirty pages in he realizes his eyes have been skimming over the pages without taking anything in because he has no idea what he just read.
He switches off the lamp and closes his eyes, but sleep won’t come. After a few hours of tossing and turning and punching the crap out of his pillow, he looks at the alarm clock to see that it’s almost two in the morning. He gives up and changes into jeans, slips into his shoes and heads out the door.
He doesn’t get far. As soon as he steps into the hallway, he notices Kris, sitting against the door of his room across the hall, legs drawn up to his chest and cell phone in hand. He looks lost in thought, chin resting on top of his knees, face tired and drawn.
“Reception in the room sucks,” Kris says by way of explanation when he sees Andrew raising his eyebrows at him.
Before he knows what he’s doing, before he thinks better of it, Andrew jerks his head and says, “Come on. I’m buying you a drink.”
He half expects Kris to turn him down, but then he stands up and follows Andrew down the hall to the elevators. The lobby bar is still open, but no one else is there, so they sit on stools at the counter and fish peanuts from the little dish in silence while the bartender sets two beers in front of them.
“You ready for Letterman tomorrow?” Andrew asks, taking a sip.
Kris picks at the label on his beer bottle and says, “Yeah. Yeah, I just—I want it to be memorable, you know?”
“Well,” Andrew says dryly, “if playing Letterman alone isn’t memorable enough, we could try and do something to celebrate the holiday spirit. I bet Lizzie could pull some strings and get us tinsel for the mic stands. Or maybe we could all wear grandma-style Christmas sweaters.”
Kris grins at that. “I like the way you think,” he says, tipping his beer in Andrew’s direction before taking a long gulp.
“I thought you would’ve passed out the second we got back to the hotel,” Andrew says. They’re all worn down right now—counting down until the holiday break—but as always, Kris’s schedule is twice as tough as anyone else’s. Well, except for Lizzie’s, maybe. “You nervous about tomorrow?”
“Nah,” Kris says, shaking his head. “Performing’s the good part. I don’t get nervous about that. I’m just too tired to sleep.” He rolls his eyes at himself. “Yeah, I know that makes no sense.”
“Hey, fellow insomniac here,” Andrew points out. “I’m not judging.”
“Some days, man...” Kris trails off, and Andrew thinks he’s going to just let that thought float out there unfinished, but then he clears his throat and says, “Some days are just rougher than others. This is one of them, I guess.” He pauses. “I’m being stupid. I shouldn’t complain. You’re thinking I sound like a dick right now, aren’t you?”
“No, I’m not,” Andrew promises. He wonders if Kris thinks that’s who Andrew is—the kind of person who judges everyone around him. He’d be offended, except it’s sort of true. “Everyone has bad days.”
“Not everyone gets to do exactly what they love,” Kris shoots back. “And I do. How many people in the world get to say that?”
“Not many,” Andrew concedes. “But it doesn’t mean—things get hard, for everyone. You’re allowed to have a hard time with things. I mean, it’s gotta be... crazy, the way this all worked out for you.”
“That’s one word for it,” Kris says with a short laugh that’s splintered and rubbed raw. He takes another long drink. “Sorry, I don’t usually—I’m not like this.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
“I can’t really talk to Cale about it, because I know him. He’ll get all weird, and I don’t wanna have to worry about him worrying about me, you know? I try telling Katy, but... she’s not here, so it’s hard,” Kris explains. “I don’t know. It’s just—it’s just been a rough day. And I miss people. I miss home.” He rubs his face with one hand. “I miss knowing exactly where home is.”
The line of his shoulders is tense and upset and for a second Andrew wants to reach for him, touch one hand to the middle of his back or sling an arm around him or something, but he knows he’s not the person Kris needs right now.
“I don’t know,” Andrew says after a lengthy silence. “I don’t know what it’s like to be married. Or to be famous. So I can’t tell you anything about that. But I do know music. And I know that you’re good. You’re good, and you work harder than I’ve ever seen anyone work for anything, and that’s something. That counts for something.” Now he swivels around to look Kris straight in the eyes, because this is important. It feels really, really important that he knows this. “People are allowed to have rough days. Even you. Sometimes we need them. If we didn’t, what would we write songs about?”
It feels weird to be this honest with someone, especially Kris, and for a second Andrew’s so self-conscious he wishes he could take it all back. Except Kris is staring at him, eyes softer than they were before, his expression full of something Andrew can’t exactly place— all he knows is it makes him want to promise that he meant what he said. That he’ll always mean it.
“You’re kidding, right?”
Torres is holding out his sweater at arm’s length, studying it like a Picasso he’s trying to decipher. Lizzie tosses the next to Cale, and then to Ryland, and then the last to Andrew. He catches it and studies the pattern. It’s red with white reindeer embroidered across the front.
“Why, exactly, are we wearing Grandma sweaters?” Torres asks.
“To be memorable,” Kris says, and meets Andrew’s eyes across the room. They share a secret grin, and it’s all Andrew can do to stop himself from laughing. He should’ve known Kris would take his joke suggestion and run with it.
“I can’t believe you,” Andrew says. He shakes his head in disbelief, trying to hide his smile.
“I thought a hipster such as yourself would be thrilled,” Ryland says. “Don’t you people love ironic outfits?”
“What do you mean, ‘you people’?” Andrew retorts, mock-offended, and Ryland just laughs.
“I love it!” Cale says, already tugging his over his head. He holds his arms out and does a slow spin, displaying the giant Christmas tree on the front of his sweater in all its horrible, cheesy glory. “What do you think? I feel like the red complements my beard.”
“It really does,” Torres agrees with a serious nod.
“I want to step it up, take it to the next level,” Ryland says. “Do you think we could find somewhere to rent a Santa suit?”
Cale snaps his fingers. “Okay, that needs to happen. Like definitely.”
Kris doesn’t say anything, just turns to Lizzie with these big exaggerated puppy eyes, lips pursed in a pout. She rolls her eyes back at him, but she’s smiling.
“Fine, fine. I’ll make a few calls,” she sighs, pulling out her phone. “You know, you are all the biggest dorks I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
The Santa costume is probably the weirdest request Kris has ever made of Lizzie—he’s not the type to ask for a lot; as far as Andrew knows, the guy doesn’t even have an official rider. Sometimes he asks Lizzie to stock up on Twizzlers or Wheat Thins to munch on before shows, but that’s about it.
Unfortunately when they get to the studio, the Letterman producer nixes the Santa costume right off the bat, without citing why it’s so offensive. (“What a buzzkill,” Ryland grumbles, pulling off his hat and setting it on the dressing room counter. “Screw Letterman. Conan would’ve understood me.”) Still, it’s Letterman, it’s exciting; Kris keeps bringing up how they get to perform on the same stage as the Beatles once did.
“In Grandma sweaters,” Andrew points out. Like playing at the Garden, this is also not how he envisioned this all happening.
“John Lennon would be so proud,” Cale remarks, pretending to be choked up. He slings an arm across Kris’s shoulders, pulling him in tight, and Kris cracks up.
This time Andrew doesn’t try and hide his laugh. That’s the thing he’s learned about Kris Allen—he makes it impossible to take yourself too seriously.
Torres has a thing for Will Ferrell.
“It’s not a thing,” he says defensively. “I just think he’s funny!” He dodges the handful of popcorn Ryland pelts at him and holds up two DVDs. “So what do we want to watch, Old School or Step Brothers?”
There’s a brief debate—Ryland is firmly Team Old School and starts shouting, “You’re my boy, Blue!” while Cale, Team Step Brothers, yells back, “I tea-bagged your drum set!” — which Torres settles by ignoring them both and plugging Step Brothers into the DVD player. They settle back onto the couch to watch, and a few minutes later Kris finishes discussing the next day’s schedule with Lizzie and joins them in the back of the bus.
He beams when he sees the screen. “Man, I love this movie,” he says, plopping down between Cale and Andrew. “We’re definitely gonna need a copy for our new bus.”
New bus? Andrew kind of wants to ask him about that, but then everyone’s laughing at the next scene and the moment’s passed.
Half an hour in and Kris starts yawning and can’t seem to stop, leaning his head against Andrew’s shoulder for support. The weight is warm and comfortable, and Andrew tries to keep his body still, ends up focusing more on the way Kris shifts around than on the movie’s plot.
He looks down at Kris, fighting back the weird, sudden urge to pat the top of his hair. “You sleeping?” he asks in a low voice.
“No,” Kris says, eyes still closed, “I’m just... resting my eyes.”
“Go to bed,” Cale nags. “You need to get some sleep.”
Kris groans in half-hearted protest, but he doesn’t resist when Cale tugs him to his feet and gives him a gentle push toward the bunks. The rest of them finish the movie, and once it’s over, Cale and Torres both turn in for the night, leaving Ryland and Andrew alone.
Ryland goes over to pop out the DVD. As he puts it back in the case, he looks over his shoulder at Andrew and says, “Hey, there’s a record player. Do you have that Thelonius Monk record with you?”
Andrew does, indeed, have the Monk record packed in his bag, along with some Coltrane; he’d been planning to lend it to Ryland. He retrieves the records and they spend the next two hours spread out on the couch, listening to jazz, discussing the way Coltrane fills so much space with his music, which Monk album is the greatest.
“I’d say Monk’s Dream is my favorite,” Ryland says. “It’s inventive, but still accessible, and it’s just... happier than most of his other records. My favorite thing is how you can tell the whole band loves the music they’re playing, not just him. The connection between him and Charlie Rouse is insane.”
Andrew would’ve said Brilliant Corners, but he gets what Ryland means about Monk’s Dream. He’d never really thought of it that way. He pulls himself up on the couch a little so he can get a better view of Ryland. He’s lying flat on his back with his arms crossed behind his head, eyes closed, one foot tapping to the music.
Ryland looks so relaxed, all of the time. Everyone else gets stressed and shows it in one way or another—Torres has this rubber ball he carries around and will bounce hard against the nearest wall or the floor; Cale gets restless, can’t stay still and walks around a lot, even if it’s just pacing up and down a hallway; Lizzie becomes more confrontational and snappish than usual, and yells at whoever she thinks is the source of her problem, which usually ends up being whichever unfortunate soul is in her nearest proximity. Kris is the best at hiding it—maybe because he’s had the most practice. It’s harder to tell with him, but when he’s stressed out, he just gets quieter than usual, speaks a little softer, still smiles but they never quite reach his eyes.
And Andrew—well. Andrew’s kind of like Kris, he guesses. He gets quiet too, withdraws into himself, except unlike Kris, he’s incapable of putting on a happy front. So he just ends up reverting to the standoffish demeanor that makes people think he’s a dick.
But Ryland never seems to get stressed out about anything. He’s the most Zen person Andrew has ever met in his life.
“So Kris said we’re getting a new bus,” he says. “You think that means this is permanent?”
There haven’t been any formal discussions; his agreement with the label stipulates he can leave—or be replaced—at any time. But it’s become an unspoken assumption. The way Kris talks, not just about the bus, but about wanting the band to be the studio musicians for the next album, and everything else, makes it clear he expects them to stick around. Or wants them to, anyway.
“Seems like,” Ryland says. He peeks one eye open at Andrew. “Why, you thinking of jumping ship?”
Andrew shrugs. “No. I mean, this pays well, and it’s not like I have any other offers on the table,” he says. He’s full of shit, and he knows it, and he’s pretty sure Ryland knows it too. Because this has become more than that. It’s not just about having no options— he likes what he does. Really likes it. And he likes the people he’s doing it with.
“You’re going to have to do without me in Asia,” Ryland says.
Andrew sits up straighter. “Wait, what?”
“I’m going to be in Europe with Reel Big Fish,” he explains. “They’ve got dates through March. My brother Drew’s going to fill in while I’m gone.”
“Oh,” Andrew says after a moment. “Well, that’ll be cool.” Except his stomach kind of hurts, and his heart feels heavy in his chest. It takes a second to recognize the emotion as disappointment.
Which is pathetic, since of course Ryland would want to go, would want to perform with his real band. This job is secondary. He hears the way Ryland talks about Reel Big Fish— there are years worth of stories there, affection and loyalty. And it’s stupid to be resentful but Andrew is, he is, because he wants that for himself.
He misses what it’s like to feel part of something— he hasn’t since the Jive Turkeys, really. He loves playing guitar; that’s never changed. But there’s a difference between playing and performing, between running through songs just to run through them and actually feeling the music, between playing backup and being part of a group, and he feels like maybe this—this job he took at first just to pay the bills— it’s evolved into something else. It’s still evolving. It feels like maybe it’s something to be part of, something real and meaningful.
God, he hopes so.
“Dude, I love you.”
Andrew laughs and shifts his phone between his shoulder and ear so he can turn off the kitchen tap and wipe his hands off with one of his mom’s faded blue dish towels. “Tessa’s not with you, right? Because she might get the wrong idea...”
“Whatever,” Brent scoffs. “Forensic Files on DVD is way better than all the American Eagle crap she got me. If you had a vag, I’d be all over that shit.”
Brent goes on talking about dinner with Tessa’s family, and Andrew loosens the knot of his tie, staring out the window to the backyard and only half-listening. It hasn’t stopped snowing ever since they left the Christmas evening service. His parents aren’t that religious, but they’re twice-annual Christian types, the ones who only attend church on Christmas Eve and Easter. When Andrew was a little kid, he used to take the little donation envelopes from the pew shelf and doodle all over them instead of listening to the sermons.
Now Andrew’s an adult, so he can’t do that anymore. It hasn’t made the sermons any more interesting, though. But he knew it’d make his mother happy, so he went.
When he hangs up with Brent, he sees Ryland’s texted him a picture of him and Carrie, standing in front of a fireplace with stockings hanging, goofy expressions on their faces.
The next morning while he’s drinking a cup of coffee, waiting for his parents to wake up, Torres texts him Merry Christmas. Later, after Andrew’s opened the presents from his parents (a big box of guitar picks, some new silk ties and dress shirts, a couple of DVDs and a thick book on the history of jazz), Cale texts to say greeted kate with “ho ho ho”... she did not appreciate my wit. The next time he checks his phone Kris has sent a picture of his dog Elvis wearing a Santa hat. There’s an email from Lizzie, too, detailing their schedule for the week they get back from break, and she signs it off with Happy Holidays, which coming from Lizzie, is pretty nice.
He could be annoyed at the reminder of work, except he’s not. It’s nice having downtime and visiting his family, but his mind’s already thinking ahead to being on the road again, to getting back onstage. To being back with the guys.
The moment happens at B.B. King’s.
Andrew’s not expecting it. Yeah, they haven’t played Red Guitar live aside from the AOL sessions, which don’t really count, but they’ve rehearsed it to death. He spent a lot of time working with Kris to transpose the opening chords to acoustic, making it sound right without the delay. He’s heard Kris sing it dozens of times.
He’s not expecting it, but that’s when it happens. From the very start Kris seems immersed in the song, almost like he’s drowning in it. He hits this sweet spot with his voice, drawing the mic close with both hands cupped around it. They slide into the breakdown at the end, bursting into this explosion of guitars, Ryland coming in harder on the drums; Kris jumps back as he strums hard on his guitar, bent over a little, and he doesn’t even try to find the mic again in time to let out this sound. It’s not just a sound, it’s a cry, ripping from his throat like he’s so overcome by the music and the emotion he can’t contain it. It’s not planned, entirely in-the-moment, just something that comes from pure instinct, from a place deep within—Andrew knows because he’s felt it before. He feels it again, now.
Maybe it’s because Kris is refreshed after the time off. Maybe it’s because Katy is there, in the audience, watching. Whatever it is, it strikes Andrew in a way he hasn’t been by Kris before, and for the first time he looks at Kris and sees exactly what Cale has always seen. There’s an elusive It factor, something that can’t be explained but you know it when you see it, and Kris has It.
Funny how after everything—after the television appearances, performing for a full house at the Garden—this is what it takes. One song in front of an intimate crowd at a small club, and Andrew believes it truly for the very first time: Kris is more than just a nice guy who can play guitar, more than just some pretty dude who won a singing contest.
Kris Allen is the real thing.
If Ryland is the epitome of Zen, Drew is... not.
He’s full of energy, always talking, always moving. Even when they break between songs, he sits behind the drums twirling his drumsticks in both hands, like he has to constantly be in motion or he’ll lose his rhythm. He’s a good drummer, though, and has an arsenal of embarrassing stories about Ryland he’s eager to share, all of which Andrew mentally catalogues to taunt Ryland about later.
Also, he scores really good weed. Andrew finds this out when he visits Drew’s studio apartment in Del Rey with Steve after their fifth rehearsal together. Drew calls for a pizza, puts on some music, and then sits down on the couch and starts rolling a joint. Andrew lowers himself into the nearest armchair and relaxes against the cushions, watching the practiced way Drew rolls the joint tight and seals the papers with a lick.
The music playing is familiar, and it takes Andrew only a minute to recognize it. “Is this Third Eye Blind?” he asks, half-laughing.
Drew nods without looking up, and Steve groans from next to him.
“Fuck, man,” he says, “I feel like I’m in high school again.”
“Don’t even start with me,” Drew replies. “This album is timeless.”
He lights the joint and takes two long hits, then passes it over to Andrew. It’s been awhile since Andrew last smoked—Brent used to buy some off his co-worker sometimes and bring it home to share, but Tessa hated it so he stopped doing it whenever she was around, and eventually quit altogether. It takes some effort not to cough on the first inhale, but he manages, and hands it off to Steve.
They pass it around until it’s burned down to the stub, talking about rehearsals and the upcoming Asia shows. When the pizza arrives, Drew carries it into the kitchen, and Andrew follows after him. Steve’s in the bathroom, so it’s just the two of them. Drew hops up on the counter with the box in his lap, legs dangling, sneakers bouncing off of the wooden cabinets.
He opens the box and then pauses. “Should we wait for Steve?” he asks.
Andrew shakes his head. “He’ll find us in a minute,” he says. “He’s got like... pizza radar.”
“Oh, like a sixth sense?” Drew says around a sloppy bite of banana pepper and pepperoni. There’s a smudge of sauce on the corner of his mouth.
“Um, or maybe one of the five,” Andrew says, and then they both start laughing and laughing until they can’t breathe.
Steve sticks his head into the kitchen, right on cue. “Pizza’s here?”
They both laugh even harder, until Drew actually rolls off the counter and onto the floor, holding his stomach with one hand and the pizza with the other. Steve rolls his eyes and steals a slice for himself, muttering “what the fuck?” under his breath, but it doesn’t stop them. Maybe it’s because he’s kind of high right then, but Andrew decides at that moment that Drew is a cool guy.
The single hits gold status in mid-January. To celebrate, Lizzie comes to rehearsal with a white-frosted Funfetti cake, Kris’s favorite, and his favorite board game, Taboo.
“Okay,” Andrew says, glancing at his card and then up at Drew. “Um... so this is where they take babies when they’re crying in church—”
“The guillotine,” Drew answers matter-of-factly.
Everyone stares at him, and Kris immediately laughs, burying his face in his hands.
“No,” Andrew says sharply, “not the guillotine, Drew. Jesus.”
“Oh.” Drew pauses for a moment, considering. “Uh, the backyard?”
“What is wrong with you?” Lizzie snaps, cuffing him on the back of the head. Andrew wishes she was his partner. Or that Ryland was here to be his partner. Ryland would’ve known the fucking word was nursery.
Lizzie and Torres are unstoppable. By the end of the game they’ve won in a landslide. People start trickling out shortly afterward, and soon enough it’s just Kris, Cale, and Andrew left. Kris and Cale start discussing some song they’re working on together. Andrew still feels like he’s intruding on them sometimes, when they’re this close and quiet with each other.
Andrew clears his throat and says, “I should probably head out,” looking at the time on his phone. He stands up and puts his arms through his jacket. “My roommate wanted to hang out tonight, so...”
“Yeah, of course.” Kris nods and stands up too, and the next thing Andrew knows, Kris comes over and grabs him in a hug. It’s not just a pat on the back, but a real hug, arms squeezing tight, and for some reason Andrew holds his breath until Kris lets go. “Thanks, man.”
He’s not sure why Kris is thanking him—the cake and game were Lizzie’s idea, not his. But maybe that’s not what he’s thinking about.
“No problem,” Andrew says, stepping back. “Congratulations again on gold, man.” He puts one hand on the cap of Kris’s shoulder. “You deserve it.”
On the flight to Cebu, Andrew gets stuck between Drew and Torres. They end up narrating the in-flight movie, Mission Impossible, making up their own dialogue because they’re cheap bastards who refuse to buy headphones. He leans back against the head rest, but he can’t sleep unless he’s in the window seat, so he just turns up the volume on his iPod, trying to drown them out with the sounds of Miles Davis.
He’s not sure how much time has passed when Drew elbows him in the side. Andrew pulls out one earbud. “What?”
Drew waves a driver’s license in front of his face—Andrew’s license. How the hell did he get that out of Andrew’s bag? Sneaky bastard.
“Dude,” he says, eyes wide, “your real first name is Richard?”
“I didn’t know that,” Torres says beside him, a little accusatory, like it’s some big secret or something that Andrew should’ve divulged.
“Richard DeRoberts,” Drew says slowly, drawing each syllable out around a smirk. “I’m so calling you Dicky D from now on.”
“Fantastic,” Andrew sighs. He wrestles back his wallet and shoves it into his bag. He closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep for the rest of the flight.
He wishes he’d been able to get real sleep, because Asia is non-stop insanity from start to finish. Press conferences and performances and going out to dinner every night, seeing as many sights as they can cram into their visits. He texts Ryland to keep him updated; things like, kris ate a duck fetus and new ANS version kicks so much ass and the talk shows here are insane and wish you were here.
Manila, he thinks, is the best show yet. It’s the first time they’ve been able to do a real, long set as a full band, and the crowd is huge and loud, and they’re just fucking on. Andrew feels like a rock star. Kris does, too, if the way he throws himself into every song and swaggers around the stage is any indication.
It’s just one of those nights where everything seems to gel, fall into place perfectly. It’s exhilarating. When they step offstage, everybody is slapping backs and high-fiving, buzzed off the high of performing. They take it up to Torres and Steve’s room, everyone getting drunk off a bottle of vodka Steve’s procured from somewhere. Well, almost everyone—Cale never drinks, settles instead for a Sprite.
Lizzie’s the first to turn in for the night. “I’ve got an early wakeup call,” she says. She points to Kris. “Make sure he’s not up all night, okay?”
“Here, let me walk you to your room,” Andrew offers. Ordinarily Lizzie would probably tell him she can take care of herself, but tonight she’s in just as good a mood as the rest of them, so she lets him accompany her through the hotel.
“Great show tonight,” she says as they wait for the elevator.
“It felt good,” Andrew says. The doors open, and they both step through. “Kris was great.”
“Wasn’t he?” There’s this look in Lizzie’s eyes he hasn’t seen before, a soft kind of affection. “God, I swear he gets better every time I see him perform.” She looks over at him, mouth curved in a smile. “You all do.”
Andrew busies himself with hitting the button for her floor and mumbles thanks. The doors slide shut and the elevator lurches upward.
“I love my job,” Lizzie says suddenly. She must be pretty drunk; Andrew can think of no other explanation. How many shots did Steve pour for her? “Like, sure, sometimes it’s annoying, but Kris is... he’s a really good guy, you know? And I mean, god. Look at where we are.” She gestures wildly with her hands, and even though they’re inside an elevator, Andrew understands the point she’s trying to convey. “Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life.”
The elevator comes to a stop, and when the doors ping open, Andrew sets a hand against the small of Lizzie’s back and guides her through to the hall. He thinks about how tomorrow they’ll be off to Malaysia, and then to Singapore, and then back to New York, and after that—who knows? It could be anywhere.
“Yeah,” he says, “I know the feeling.”
When he gets back to the room, everyone’s still there except for Cale.
“I think he went to call Kate,” Torres explains, prying the vodka bottle from Steve’s hand and taking a sip.
Kris is settled on the bed next to Drew, legs stretched out and back leaned against the wall. His eyes are closed.
“Did he fall asleep?” Andrew asks quietly. Steve shrugs at him.
“M’awake,” Kris mumbles without opening his eyes. He’s smiling, looking tired but content. “Just like listening to you guys talk.”
So they talk for awhile more, until Kris falls asleep for real, head lolling against his shoulder and mouth slack with sleep. Instead of waking him up, Drew and Andrew fish the key card from his pocket and carry him back to his room. Cale sees them enter and hangs up the phone a few seconds later.
“I was wondering if he’d passed out yet,” he says as they pull back the covers on Kris’s bed and drop him onto the mattress.
Kris stays asleep, even when Andrew unlaces his sneakers and eases them off of his feet. Cale drags the comforter back up so it’s covering Kris, tucking it in at the corners and smoothing out the wrinkles. There’s something in the way that Cale does it—it’s a reminder that there are years between the two of them, a familiarity there that no one else can touch. Andrew gets that feeling again, that he shouldn’t be in the room.
“Well, I guess this is our cue to leave,” Drew finally says. “We should probably try and get, like, three hours of sleep while we can. Busy day tomorrow.”
Cale grins over at him. “Aren’t they all?”
The good mood from the Asia performances stretches out all the way to New York. On the bus on the way there, they sit around playing Crazy Eights with the deck of cards Torres thought to bring. Except for Drew, who instead snatches Kris’s iPod and scrolls through the music on it.
“Adam Lambert,” he reads. He looks up at Kris. “You excited to see him?”
“Yeah, I love that guy.” Kris lights up with a wide, genuine smile. “He’s awesome. We text and stuff, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen him. It’ll be cool to really catch up.” He lays down an eight of spades. “Hearts.”
That gives Andrew a chance to lay down his last card—the Jack of Hearts. “I win. Again.” It’s the third consecutive game he’s won; he’s kind of on a roll.
“You’re cheating,” Cale accuses, jokingly throwing down the rest of his hand.
“No, I’m just good,” Andrew shoots back. His phone suddenly goes off in his pocket, and when he pulls it out, Ryland’s name is on the front screen. He smiles. “Play a hand without me. I’m gonna take this.”
He wanders into the back and climbs into an empty bottom bunk, answering the phone. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Ryland says back. “How was Asia?”
“Awesome,” Andrew answers, and there’s no sarcastic edge to it because it really was amazing. One of the best weeks of his life. “How about Europe? Where are you now?”
“Switzerland. We leave for Australia in a few days, though,” Ryland explains. “It’s been good. Nice to play with them again. But it’ll be cool to be back with you guys.”
“So you are coming back?”
“What, you thought I wouldn’t?”
Andrew chuckles. “I don’t know, I thought maybe the allure of playing with a legitimate band might’ve been too much. You could’ve decided to abandon us forever.”
“Shut your face,” Ryland says. “We are a real band.”
The use of “we” doesn’t escape Andrew; he presses his lips together to keep himself from smiling too hard.
“Besides, you didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily, did you, Dicky D?” teases Ryland.
Andrew groans. “Oh, god. Drew told you about that?”
“Hell yes he did. And I am going to drive that joke straight. Into. The. Ground. Six feet under.”
“I don’t doubt it,” he replies, and then pauses. For a moment it’s quiet, just the faint sounds of the guys bantering in the front, the hum of the bus’s engine as it eats up the interstate. He imagines Ryland on the other line, sitting in a hotel room, or maybe in a bus of his own, four thousand miles away. “I’m glad you’re coming back soon. Drew’s cool and all, but it’s not the same.”
“I’ll be glad to be back,” Ryland says. “I’ll call you when I get in. We’ll go... I don’t know. Get coffee. Or get drunk. Trade stories.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Andrew says.
He’s about ready to hang up when Ryland says, “Oh, I just thought of something I was going to tell you. I was listening to Led Zeppelin's ‘D’yer Maker’ the other day. It reminded me of you.”
“It did? That’s... random.”
“Uh-huh. Specifically the part where it’s like, byow-wow-whoa, and then it’s like, dugga-dugga-dugga-dugga-dugga... and Robert Plant goes, ‘Oh, oh, oh, baby please don’t go.’” Ryland sings in a funny high-pitched voice that makes Andrew laugh. “You know that part?” he says. “Yeah, that's you.”
“Maybe we should see if Kris’ll let us cover it,” Andrew tells him.
“Maybe,” Ryland says, and even with the distance, Andrew knows exactly what his face must look like as he says it.
Andrew emerges from the bunk not long later and slides back into his spot in the booth.
“Deal me in,” he says to Kris. “I’m looking forward to kicking all your asses again.”
Kris makes a face at him. “Prepare to lose, Dicky D. You just got lucky that time.”
As he picks up his cards, he looks across the table at Kris and Cale, at Torres next to him, at Drew and Lizzie and Steve lounging on the couches glued to their phones, and he thinks Kris is right.
He is pretty damn lucky.
A/N: ............Yeah. I started this months ago and was only working on it in bits and pieces and then two days ago I decided I needed to finish it, so here we are. I tried to follow the timeline correctly, though it's possible I messed it up at one point or another. Try and just go with it. I feel like I could've done more with it than I did, but really I just wanted to get it done. (Also I posted this without looking it over to edit, so forgive any accidental typos. It's almost four in the morning.)
Anyway, I tried to incorporate as much ~canon as I could (and considered linking to everything mentioned in the story, but... I'm too lazy), but a lot (a LOT) of it is total guesswork. Whatever, it was fun to write. I love this band. Like, a lot. (A LOT.)