Fandom/Pairing: American Idol; Kris/Adam
Summary: "I mean, you guys are like— you’re like soul mates or something. Come on! You’re Kris and Adam, man!"
After that morning, Kris can’t stop thinking of Adam like… that. It’s like some switch has flipped on in his brain and he’s hyper-aware of everything—every passing touch, every shared look.
Adam doesn’t make it easy. Adam invades his body space just as much as usual, lingering touches on his arm, a guiding hand on his back as they walk through the jungle, and if he notices that Kris suddenly loses the ability to breathe nevertheless speak when Adam does sit-ups on the beach, he doesn’t mention it.
The worst is that he still drapes himself around Kris every night. Being that close is just—it’s too much, is what it is. Every night it happens, and every night Kris gets painfully hard, has to work to keep his body perfectly still, praying Adam doesn’t notice.
Adam’s breath is warm against the back of Kris’s neck, one of arms slung loosely over Kris’s stomach. Kris can’t stop himself from touching Adam’s hand, playing lightly with his long fingers. A tiny sigh escapes Adam’s lips as he stirs in sleep, and suddenly his hand drifts down, over Kris’s crotch.
Kris freezes. Oh. Oh, this is not good.
He can feel Adam’s breathing change as his hand brushes over Kris’s dick strained against his jeans. He’s not sure what to do; he doesn’t want to move and wake Adam, but Adam might be awake already, and he’s just lying here with a raging hard on, and seriously, this is so bad—
Adam stiffens behind him, and yes, he has to be awake at this point. He quickly moves his hand away from Kris and rolls over, and Kris waits a few, terrifying seconds to see if Adam’s going to say anything. But Adam doesn’t, so he just closes his eyes, willing his breathing to slow, feigning sleep.
From then on Adam keeps a little space between them when they sleep.
Kris doesn’t know whether to be relieved or sad about that. He’s a little bit of both, he thinks.
They’ve been there for twenty days when the storm comes.
Kris is sitting on the beach, pretending to play the guitar. Yes, it’s very twelve-years-old of him, but he misses playing more than anything, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get to do it with a real instrument again anytime soon. So it’s just him, looking out at the waves, playing an invisible guitar. He mimes the strumming, sliding up into the higher fret chords, keeping time with the tap of his bare foot.
He’s halfway through a song—it’s his favorite from his first album—when he sees lightning strike water in the distance. There’s a mass of dark clouds moving this way.
Kris gets up and ducks into the shelter, where Adam is stretched out, reading Wendy’s stupid romance novel. He must be really desperate for entertainment if he’s resorting to literature.
“I think it’s gonna storm,” he says.
Adam looks up from the book, and Kris automatically looks away, busying himself with twisting his wedding ring around his finger. It’s hard to look at Adam too long; he’s so afraid everything he feels is written across his face. He’s never been a good actor.
Not like Adam.
“I’ll go set out the water bottles,” he says. “Maybe we can get some water.”
He doesn’t wait for an answer before he scrambles back out onto the beach. He grabs the three empty water bottles, fills them with dry pebbles and half buries them in the sand so they’ll stay upright. When he’s finished with the last one, he looks up at the dark sky, and a lone raindrop hits him right in the eye.
“We’ll be okay in here, right?” asks Adam, once Kris is back in the shelter.
Kris sits down next to him and picks at a fraying hole in his jeans. “I think so.”
It’s not long before the rain starts coming down hard, pounding against the sand, leaking through the leaves of their roof.
“‘Like the wind, she ran, her breasts heaving like a stormy ocean,’” Adam reads. “What a well-timed metaphor.” He shakes his head. “Who reads this crap?”
Kris says, “Wendy, apparently,” and Adam flinches a little.
He wishes he could take the name back; they stopped talking about her awhile ago. Right around the time Adam stopped insisting that rescue would come any second now. He touches the ring looped around his neck. The feel of smooth metal against his fingertips calms him down a little. Yes, it’s still there.
“Maybe we should—” he starts, raising his voice to be heard over the driving rain, but a rumble of thunder sounds, loud enough to rattle him to the bone. The branches overhead shift, one side of the roof collapsing completely, almost knocking Adam upside the head. He ducks out of the way just in time. A flash of silvery lightning illuminates his face, mouth hanging open, eyes wide with fear.
Adam grabs his arm. “Let’s go.”
They steal out of the shelter and head into the jungle. It’s dark, and Kris can’t see anything, but Adam has a tight grip on his hand as he beats through the brush. The branches and vines and rain all lash at him, but it’s a little better once they’re under the cover of the trees. They huddle under a tree together, Adam’s strong arms wrapped tight around Kris as the forest trembles around them.
“I’ve got you,” Adam promises, and Kris tucks his head under Adam’s chin, trying, and failing, to stop himself from shaking like a leaf.
“Can I—” He closes his eyes. “Is it okay if I pray?”
“Of course,” Adam murmurs somewhere in his hair.
He doesn’t really pay attention to what he’s saying, just moves his lips, trying to summon… something. Something bigger than himself. That’s what he needs right now. A higher power to believe in.
The storm rages for hours, doesn’t die down until the next morning. Kris sleeps in snatches and wakes up to birds chirping in the trees, rain drizzling down, surprised by the almost deafening quiet surrounding them.
“Adam.” He nudges Adam awake, watches as he blinks open bleary blue eyes. “Adam, it’s over,” he says, and his voice cracks a little. His throat is painfully dry, and his entire body feels like one giant bruise.
Adam exhales one long, shuddery breath. “Oh, thank God.”
Kris clutches him tightly, holding on like Adam’s his only anchor, the only thing keeping him from floating away up through the treetops and into the clouds, the same way Adam held him all night. He pulls back and peppers kisses all over Adam’s face, not even thinking, just so exhilarated to be here, still in one piece, alive.
And then he lands a kiss on the corner of Adam’s mouth. He should pull away, he knows, but he doesn’t want to. His heart pounds with adrenaline as he slides his lips across Adam’s, slowly, deliberately.
Adam doesn’t move, but he doesn’t respond, either, and after a moment he gently pushes Kris away from him.
“We should get back,” he says, averting his gaze. He stands up quickly and swipes his palms over his jeans.
Kris watches him from the ground, feeling about twenty different things, and only able to name maybe half of them, until Adam turns to face him, expression unreadable.
“Yeah, okay,” he says softly.
Neither of them say anything on the trek back to the beach. Kris spends the walk trying to figure out what the hell just happened. He didn’t even mean to kiss Adam, exactly, except that he did, and he sort of wants to again. Except Adam didn’t kiss him back—which is something that’s never happened to him before. Even though he can count on one hand the amount of people he’s kissed in his life.
He can’t assume Adam wants it too, just because he’s gay. Maybe Adam wanted him once, but that was a long time ago, so maybe he just doesn’t see Kris like that. If he wanted it, they’d still be kissing right now.
And then Kris thinks about Katy. Katy, who must be going out of her mind right now with worry. Katy, who probably thinks he is dead. Katy, his wife, who he loves. He does love her, but that isn’t stopping him from wanting Adam. Who he also loves, just differently.
Or… maybe not so differently. He isn’t sure.
He’s staring down at his cut-up feet, lost in his own head, when Adam comes to an abrupt stop. Kris nearly bumps into him, stops himself just in time.
“Fuck,” Adam spits, raking a hand harshly through his hair so it sticks up on end before flopping back into his eyes. “Godfuckingdammit!”
Kris peers around him and sees what caused Adam’s outburst. Even from here he can tell the shelter is destroyed beyond repair. Most of the branches they used to build it have blown away. They’ll have to start over from scratch.
He feels near tears at the sight of it, and weak from hunger, and it’s too hard, all of this, and suddenly his legs won’t hold him up anymore. He collapses right there on the beach, spots floating in front of his eyes and a ringing in his ears.
“Kris!” Adam shakes his shoulder, hard, and Kris’s eyes come into focus again. “Kris, what the hell—”
He blinks the dizziness away as best he can and croaks out, “I’m fine.” His throat is so dry he can barely talk.
Adam tells him to shut the fuck up; Kris is happy to oblige. He disappears for a few minutes and comes back with a cracked coconut in his hand, and he makes Kris drink all of the milk, which he almost gags on because it hurts so much to swallow. And then he runs and grabs one of the water bottles— Kris’s collection system must’ve worked like a charm, because it’s full to the brim—and makes Kris drink a few swallows, but not too much.
“Just stay here,” he orders, like Kris would be able to go anywhere anyway even if he wanted to.
He stays obediently in his spot on the sand while Adam goes into the water with his knife. He comes back with a single fish in hand.
“Everything’s too wet to make a fire,” he explains. “You’re going to have to eat it raw.” He smiles, just a little. “Pretend it’s sushi.”
“I hate sushi,” Kris says, but he takes the fish anyway and bites into it tentatively. It slides weirdly down his throat, but he’s glad to just have something in his system.
“I have a game.” Adam drops down in the sand beside him. “So, if you were stranded on a desert island…”
Kris groans. “Really? We’re doing this?”
“List ten things you’d bring,” Adam says, ignoring him.
“My guitar,” Kris says automatically. It’s the first thing that pops into his head. He wonders what that says about him.
Adam keeps him talking. He asks about Kris’s third grade teacher (Ms. Parker, who was young and petite with long blonde hair, and Kris had such a crush on her, because yeah, he has a type). Adam babbles about how when they get off the island, he has an idea for an awesome concept album. Maybe he’ll even throw in some reggae influence.
Kris looks at him skeptically. “Reggae, Adam?”
“Hey, if Zeppelin can do it, I can too,” he replies, and then he starts singing D’yer Maker while Kris laughs.
He waits until he’s almost done with the fish before bringing up the subject they’ve steadily ignored so far.
“I’m sorry,” he blurts out. “About what happened—”
Adam waves him off before he can finish.
“Don’t be. It’s not a big deal,” he says. “You were just… scared. We both were.”
Kris shakes his head vehemently. “It’s not— It wasn’t about being scared. I’m not sorry I did it, I’m just sorry if it made you… uncomfortable. If you didn’t want it.” He pauses, not sure he wants to throw the question out there, but what the hell. “Did you want it?”
Adam stares at him for a long time. It takes everything Kris has not to look away.
“It’s not about what I want,” he says finally. “This is a bad idea.”
“Because we are going to get off this fucking island! We’re going to get home, and you will regret this then. I’m not going to let you do this because you think we’re going to die here.”
Kris tries to argue, but Adam tells him to shut up and eat, and then says he’s going to go get more materials to rebuild the shelter.
Shame burns through him as he rubs a heel through the sand. He knows it’s unfair to Adam to ask him for anything; Adam isn’t someone to test drive. Adam deserves better. But at the same time, Kris doesn’t want to just test drive Adam— this isn’t about wanting sex. This isn’t about wanting an outlet because he thinks he’s going to die here, though he does believe that, when he lets himself think about it.
It’s not about any of that. It’s about wanting Adam.
But it doesn’t matter because Adam doesn’t want him, not enough, apparently, and now he’s probably screwed everything up royally.
By the time Adam comes back with new branches, Kris is feeling steady enough to stand and walk around without fear of passing out. Together they work to set up the new shelter. They don’t really talk. Kris isn’t sure what to say, so he decides to keep his mouth shut. He’s already embarrassed himself enough today as it is.
“We need to do something,” Adam says. For a second Kris thinks he’s talking about them, but then he continues, “I think maybe I should go into the jungle again.”
He crawls under the new shelter and tests the roof lightly with one hand.
Kris comes over, crouching to get a better look at him. “For what?”
“I don’t know. Maybe there’s someone on the other side or something.”
“You really think there’s someone on this island and we haven’t seen a sign of them?”
“How the fuck should I know?” Adam explodes, and Kris recoils a little. He’s never seen Adam this angry. Adam sighs and rubs his face. “I don’t know. I don’t know, okay? I just can’t sit here doing nothing.”
Kris bends down on his knees and crawls into the hut.
“I know,” he says, because he doesn’t know what else to say.
“What about the raft?” Adam asks. “Maybe we’re not that far from another island. One with people on it—”
“You’re being crazy,” Kris says. “That thing barely got us here. We’d both die.”
He thinks it’s pretty unfair that Adam accused him of not thinking rationally before; at least the consequences of his plan included mutual orgasms instead of certain death.
Adam deflates like a popped balloon. “You’re right,” he agrees reluctantly. “It wouldn’t work.”
“We just have to wait it out,” Kris tells him.
“Because that plan has worked out fucking brilliantly so far.”
Kris pulls up his legs and rests his chin on his knees. “There’s nothing else we can do,” he says. It hurts to say it out loud like that, to admit their powerlessness of their situation. But someone has to.
This is the reality. All they can do is wait and try not to die in the meantime.
Something somewhere is dying.
That’s what it sounds like when Kris opens his eyes. Adam isn’t in the shelter; he stumbles onto the beach groggily, still half-asleep, and is jolted awake by the sight of Adam curled up on the sand, vomiting his guts out.
“Adam?” Kris rushes to his side, places a hand in the middle of Adam’s back. “What’s going on?”
Adam just moans, dry-heaving into the sand. He rolls onto his side, clutching his stomach and shaking.
Kris kneels down next to him. “What is the last thing you ate?”
“I—” Adam stops and coughs until he’s gasping. “Something. In the forest. I don’t know. Fruit.” He moans again and buries his face in his arms.
“Why didn’t you have the fish? I could’ve—”
“You needed it,” Adam says, and Kris feels like he’s going to throw up himself, or else punch something.
“You idiot,” he shouts, hysteria rising in his chest, spilling out of him. He can’t believe this. He can’t believe Adam. “You fucking idiot! How could you be so stupid?”
He pushes a hand against Adam’s forehead; it’s sweaty and feverish to the touch. He takes a deep breath to calm himself.
“Just lie down, all right?” he says, more quietly.
He finds the nearest water bottle and holds it up to Adam’s chapped and bleeding lips. Adam starts to gag right away, but manages to gulp down a few mouthfuls and an aspirin. He keeps making noises like someone is feeding his intestines through a meat grinder.
“Kris,” he says, panting hard. “F-fuck, it hurts. It h-hurts really bad.”
“I know. But you’re going to be fine,” Kris tells him firmly. He smoothes the hair off Adam’s forehead. “You’re going to be fine, okay?“
Adam will be fine, because he has to be fine, because if he isn’t—
No. Kris refuses to even consider that, because if he does, he will lose it completely. He can’t afford to do that. Not now.
“I’m s-sorry,” Adam chokes out through chattering teeth. His eyes keep slipping from Kris’s like he’s having trouble focusing. “I s-shouldn’t h-have d-done it. I- I just w-wanted y-you to have e-enough.”
Kris squeezes his hand, maybe a little too hard because Adam winces. “I have enough.”
I have you.
Adam gets better. It’s a rocky period, but by the end of the second day, the fever seems to have run its course, and he’s able to keep water down, along with a little food.
Kris sucks at fishing and can’t catch anything—the schools of fish are just glimmers under the water, and they always slip out of sight before he can even aim the spear. He gives up after two hours, but then he sees a crab scuttling along the shore’s edge. He successfully stabs it with the knife and decides it will make do.
Adam’s doing well enough that he feels okay leaving him alone for a bit so he can find some dry kindling to start a fire. He cooks the crab and makes Adam eat it all, and then makes him drink two coconuts worth of milk.
On the third morning, he finds Adam standing on the beach, just gazing out at the sun rising over the ocean. Sunrise is always brief, but still a spectacular sight, an explosion of colors melting together. It illuminates the sand, makes it glow almost an electric white.
“Adam,” Kris says, reaching out one hand. He stops so it hovers in the space between them.
Adam turns and looks at him, at first unmoving, then comes forward a step, letting Kris take him in his arms. He pushes his face into the hollow of Adam’s throat, taking comfort in the feel of his steady pulse beating beneath thin skin.
This time when he kisses Adam, Adam kisses him back. It’s hard and clumsy and breathless, out of sync. But then Adam cups his hands under Kris’s elbows, draws him in closer. He kisses him roughly, licking into his mouth, making Kris feel breathless and blurry.
Over them the sun rises, light hitting everywhere.
They don’t argue about it anymore. What is there to say? Things are looking dire. They’ve been stuck here almost a month, and in that time they haven’t seen any sign of the outside world. They don’t say it out loud, but Kris knows they’re both thinking it—they’re on borrowed time, here.
He can’t find a good enough reason not to spend that time with Adam in the way that he wants. In the way they both want.
“How long?” Adam asks. He’s trailing open-mouthed kisses down Kris’s bare chest.
“I don’t know,” Kris admits. He breathes in sharply when Adam touches his hot tongue to his skin.
“Well, is it a recent development?”
“Yes. And— no.”
Kris has never been great at giving straight answers.
Rain drums a soft pattern against the roof. It’s been rainy weather on and off for the past few days, but no more storms have come through yet. He closes his eyes and listens to the steady beat of it. It almost sounds like music.
Adam moves his mouth over every inch of Kris’s skin like he’s memorizing it. He stops at Kris’s ribcage and traces the long pale scar there first with one finger, and then with his tongue. Kris arches into the touch.
He kisses his way back to Kris’s mouth. “I’m glad it was you,” he says against his lips. “If that plane had to go down, I’m so fucking glad it was you with me.”
When Adam pulls back, Kris grabs his hair to keep him. And then he crawls up, onto his knees, straddles Adam’s lap, their kisses deepening. He tips his head down, mouth greedy on Adam’s, loving the taste of him. He could kiss like this for hours, for days, doesn’t think he’d ever tire of Adam’s mouth, sweet and sharp under his.
He places his hands on either side of Adam’s head as one of Adam’s palms curves around Kris’s jaw. The other wanders to the space between them, slides under the waistband of Kris’s jeans, brushing against his cock. There’s a hunger in Adam’s hands, the way he touches, the little noises he makes without knowing.
No one has ever touched Kris like this—it’s beyond want; it’s need, it’s something almost primal. He closes his eyes as Adam roughly tugs down his jeans, his underwear, everything.
Adam starts to take him in, but then he hovers, just breathing hotly around Kris’s cock for a minute, until Kris groans and curls his fingers tighter into Adam’s hair. And then Adam closes his mouth around him, and Kris opens his eyes to see Adam looking up at him, his gaze dark and intense.
That same gaze stays trained on him, even as he slides his mouth up and down Kris’s length, even as Kris’s hips pitch forward and his fingers tangle in hair, painfully tight.
Kris squints into the surface of the well, trying to make out his reflection in the dirty water. All he can really see is the murky outline of his face. He wonders how he must look. His hair’s a little too long, his cheeks scruffy with stubble, skin burned a deeper brown than it’s ever been. He was already pretty skinny before, but now he’s even thinner, and covered in various bruises and cuts and bug bites and sticky with sweat.
He must look like a mess.
Oh, well. He supposes it doesn’t really matter. No one other than Adam is looking at him anyway. He scoops the water into the bottles, fills them up, and heads back toward the camp.
And then he steps on a sharp rock at the wrong angle and goes sprawling. The water spills everywhere.
“Shit,” he says, out loud, even though there’s no one around to hear. Pain shoots up through his ankle, and he holds it with both hands, clenching his teeth. Shit. This is not good.
Once the initial flare of pain dulls, he tries rolling his foot slowly. It still hurts like a mother, but he can move it, at least, so he doesn’t think it’s broken, just twisted. He grabs onto a tree and pulls himself upright, hopping on his good foot. He limps his way back to the beach, cursing under his breath the whole time, and then calls for Adam.
Adam comes running, of course. “What the fuck happened to you?” he demands.
“Think I sprained my ankle,” he says, feeling beyond pathetic. He sticks his lower lip out in a pout. “Carry me?”
“Jesus Christ.” Adam rolls his eyes, but he lifts Kris into his arms anyway. “You are such a baby.”
Kris laughs. “I feel like your bride right now.”
“Oh, so you assume you’re the girl in this relationship? Besides, isn’t that a little old-fashioned?” Adam teases. “It’s the twenty-first century, Allen. Enlighten yourself. Brides walk themselves through doors now. Feminism has come a long way.”
“Chivalry is dead,” he moans dramatically, and then Adam threatens to drop him if he doesn’t shut up.
The swelling isn’t too bad, but the pain is bad enough that Adam makes him take an aspirin. Their last one. They used the rest during Adam’s bout of food poisoning.
“And here’s my favorite kind of medicine,” Adam says with a coy grin. He whips out the vodka bottle. There’s not a whole lot left by now. “Drink up, kid.”
Kris pops off the cap and tosses it aside with a flick of his wrist.
“You only want me drunk so you can have your way with me,” he jokes before taking a swig. The vodka sears a path down his throat. He grimaces and passes the bottle back.
Adam raises one eyebrow. “I don’t have to get you drunk to do that.”
They polish off the rest of the vodka between them, and then Adam pulls out the pilot’s cigarettes and lights two. Kris has never smoked anything in his life, but he figures that if there’s an acceptable time to start, it’s now.
He watches the smoke curl off the tip of the cigarette and float away into the sky.
“I don’t think I’m ever going home,” he says suddenly. He chalks it up to the alcohol. He feels kind of loose and warm and weirdly emotional.
Adam is quiet for a minute.
“Yeah,” he says after awhile. He inhales deeply on his cigarette and breathes out three perfect smoke rings. “I don’t think so either.”
They sleep that night right out on the beach, under a blanket of stars and the swollen moon, and Kris buries his face in Adam’s neck, trying to feel a little less empty.
He wakes up to Adam screaming. In the first few seconds where he’s not fully awake, still caught up in the threads of his dissolving nightmare—something about snakes and vines wrapping around his ankles, tugging him into the forest— all he can remember is when Adam was sick. He stomach lurches and he thinks, oh, God, please, not again.
But he sits up and twists around in time to see Adam sprinting to the water, still yelling at the top of his lungs, waving the pilot’s jacket wildly over his head like a flag. And beyond Adam, there’s a tiny fishing boat bobbing in the distance.
Kris ignores the horrible pain in his ankle and stumble-runs to the shore. He splashes in, shouting himself hoarse and jumping up and down next to Adam. God, this is it, this is finally it. Rescue. They have to notice them, they have to—
Someone on the boat points in their direction, and he and Adam both scream louder. And then the boat actually turns inland. As soon as they’re close enough, Adam swims out to meet them, and Kris follows as fast as he can.
The two fishermen don’t speak English, but Adam somehow manages to convey they need rescuing by gesturing furiously to the camp and the raft and then to themselves. The tears probably help convince them of their plight, too.
Adam scrambles onto the boat first, and then they pull Kris up the ladder, onto the deck. Kris holds onto the boat railing for support. His legs are shaking hard, knees knocking together, and his head feels fuzzy, like he’s floating somewhere above himself.
“America,” Adam explains to one of the fishermen. “We’re Americans. U.S.A. California. We need to go fucking home. Please.” He’s in tears as he says it.
Kris lets go of the boat railing and steps forward, reaching for Adam’s shoulder, but the second he puts weight on his bad ankle, the pain is so bad black spots show up in front of his eyes. His legs buckle like crumpled paper, and he doesn’t remember hitting the ground.
He comes to lying on some kind of bench with the two fishermen’s head hovering over him. They speak in a rapid-fire language Kris doesn’t recognize, voices overlapping, disorienting him. Someone’s covered him with a blanket.
“Kris.” Adam is at his side, grasping his hand. “It’s okay. They’re taking us back. Just hang on, okay?”
All of this is too much for Kris to fully absorb, so he just nods. One of the fishermen hands him a water bottle. Real bottled water. He stares at the label with swimming eyes until Adam opens it for him and helps him drink it.
He takes a few swallows and a few breaths and looks at Adam again.
“We’re really going home?” he asks. His voice comes out scratchy and thin.
Adam smiles so hard it looks like it hurts.
“Yes,” he says, “we’re going home.” His voice cracks on the last word and he begins crying again, tears streaming down his face faster than Kris can wipe them away.
He’d cry, too, if he wasn’t so tired.
They take them to the Belau National Hospital, where people actually speak English.
“You’re borderline anemic, so we’ve got you on iron, and the electrolyte solution will help with your potassium levels,” his doctor tells him, flipping through his clipboard. “You’re dehydrated, so you may experience some swelling in your extremities as you rehydrate and discharge the salt.” He pulls out an x-ray and holds it up to the light. “The ankle’s not broken, just badly sprained. We’ll get you suited with a splint for that. Keep off your feet for a few days, elevate as needed, and it will be fine.”
Kris fingers the line to the IV. “What about Adam?” he asks. He hasn’t seen him since they were admitted, and he’s asked the same question fifty times, but no one so far has given him a straight answer.
“Mr. Lambert is suffering from the same dietary deficiencies, but frankly, he’s in better shape than you. Right now he’s resting comfortably,” the doctor tells him.
“I want to see him.”
“All right. We’ll try and get that worked out.”
“And when can we leave?”
“I want to keep you both overnight for observation. Someone from the U.S. Embassy is on their way. They should have more information for you then.”
Kris sinks back in his pillow. “Can I make a phone call?”
One of the nurses comes in and helps him into a wheelchair, rolls him down the hall to a small private room. A bare bulb dangles from the ceiling, and there’s a table with a phone on it.
The nurse gives him instructions on how to make the call, and then says, “Take as much time as you need,” before shutting the door and leaving him alone.
He picks up the receiver and holds it to his ear, listening to the dial tone. The very sound of it makes him feel a little like crying. He considers calling Katy, but then he dials his parents’ home number instead. The line rings four times before anyone answers.
“Hello?” It’s hearing his mother on the other end that cracks him.
“Mama?” he says, voice small and quivery. His insides feel like they’re crumbling.
Her gasp is painfully sharp. “Kristopher?”
“Yeah. It’s me.”
She starts bawling uncontrollably before he can get another word out, and a minute later his father commandeers the phone. Kris tries explaining what happened, but he can’t seem to string the words together. He can still hear his mother’s muffled sobs in the background.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I can’t really. Think. Right now. I—”
His father cuts him off. “It doesn’t matter. Just come home, son. Come home.”
After they hang up, Kris puts his head down on the table and cries for a little while, thinking about those words. Come home. Come home.
Adam leans against the doorjamb, one hand wrapped around the metal pole of his rolling IV. He looks okay, though his gauntness is more apparent under the hospital lights, the white fluorescent glow accentuating the sharp angles of his face, the dark bags under his eyes.
Kris sits up in the bed, studying him. “You okay?”
“Nevermind me,” Adam says. He crosses the room and perches on the edge of the mattress, touching the side of Kris’s cheek. His thumb edges around Kris’s jaw line, and Kris leans instinctively into the touch. “Shit, look at you.”
“I’m fine,” Kris says. He puts his hand over Adam’s. “I kept asking about you. They wouldn’t tell me anything.”
“Same here. Until I threatened to pull out my fucking IV if I they didn’t let me see you.” He grins and pushes his forehead up against Kris’s. “Told you we’d get out of this, didn’t I? And you didn’t believe me!”
Kris smiles back at him. “Guess we beat the odds, huh?”
“We beat the hell out of them, is what we did.”
They’re still sitting on the bed together when the representative from the U.S. Embassy comes knocking. The guy is in his forties, sporting a sleek business suit and a very unfortunate comb over, and the first thing he does is shake both of their hands and introduce himself as Mark Kessler.
“We’re doing everything we can to get you home as expediently as possible,” he explains. “Your doctors want to keep you both overnight as a precautionary measure, but you should be discharged tomorrow morning. You won’t be able to fly out until Thursday—bureaucratic procedure, need to get some kinks ironed out with your passports— but we’ve been in contact with your management, and they’ve arranged for your stay at a hotel tomorrow night. After that, we can transport you wherever you want to go.”
“Arkansas,” Kris says immediately, and at the same time Adam says, “L.A.”
Kessler nods and jots down a few notes on a legal pad. “I figured as much. We’ll get it all worked out.” He hands them each a business card. “Feel free to call if you have any questions. I’m available any time. I’ll be stopping by again before you’re discharged.”
The hospital releases them the next morning, and by then a whole team of handlers has flown in to Palau. Someone gives Kris a cell phone and new clothes—whoever bought them picked out a shirt and jeans and shoes all two sizes too big, but it feels so good to be in something clean and dry that he doesn’t mind how they hang off of him.
All Kris has that he brought with him is Wendy’s ring, still strung around his neck; he knows Adam has the pilot’s knife. He wonders what’ll happen to everything else they left on the island. Not that there was much.
But still, there was Wendy’s purse, and her phone with the photos, so he makes sure to tell someone about it. He gets the same rote answer he got from all the people he told about where they buried her body— a simple “We’ll take care of it,” no further elaboration given.
Belau is no Cedars-Sinai, isn’t equipped with any private secure exits, and so they’re ushered hastily into a waiting SUV, reporters and film crews stuffed behind makeshift barricades and news helicopters hovering overhead. He only gets a momentary glimpse of the chaos before someone slams the door shut, the tinted window obscuring his view.
Once they’re safe in the car, one of the handlers says, “If you’re comfortable with it, we’d like to organize a short press conference when we fly you to Hawaii. You wouldn’t have to answer any questions, just read off prepared statements. It might help curb the media frenzy.”
Kris looks at Adam, who looks back at him and shrugs. “I’m okay with it if you’re okay with it.”
Kris doesn’t really care one way or the other. Right now he just wants to sleep for about a million years.
At the resort he and Adam get adjoining suites, insanely fancy. He can’t remember the last time he was in a hotel room this nice. There’s a separate living area with a long sofa and a flat-screen television, a master bedroom with a regal four poster canopy bed, and a giant Jacuzzi tub near the balcony overlooking the beach.
The first thing he does is close all of the curtains. He doesn’t even want to look at the ocean.
Kris spends a long time staring at himself in the bathroom mirror. He almost doesn’t recognize himself—his face is a deep brown, skin peeling in places, cheeks rough with stubble. He finds a razor and some shaving cream in the cabinet and shaves carefully, dragging the wet blade across the sharp angles of his face. When he’s done, he splashes his face with water and watches the running tap. It sort of amazes him, all of that clean water; he dips his head under the faucet, laps at it like a dog, until he feels completely ridiculous. He can’t stop laughing at himself.
One very hot, very long shower later, where he scrubs the sand from his hair and uses a loofah and some perfumed body wash, he steps out feeling like a new person.
He sits on the edge of the huge bed and calls Katy, because it feels like the right thing to do, and because he’s missed her. Their conversation isn’t very long; she cries a lot. He tells her he loves her. He doesn’t really know what else to say after that.
“How did your audition go?” he asks, if only to break the silence.
“What?” Katy sounds confused, and then she laughs like she can’t believe him. “Oh, that? No. No, I didn’t get it. But that’s so— we can talk about it later. We can talk about everything later.”
Some other people try calling, business people, but he only takes one of the calls. It’s from his publicist. She runs the prepared statement for the press conference by him, and he tells her it’s fine, whatever, he doesn’t care, and then he hangs up and turns his phone on silent.
He orders room service—a hamburger and fries—and eats about half of it before he’s so full he thinks he might throw up. And then he tries to go to sleep, but it’s like the bed is too comfortable or something. Too big, too soft. He can’t relax at all.
Eventually he gives up on the notion of sleep and limps next-door to Adam’s suite. He hesitates in front of the door. Adam’s probably sleeping, probably wants time to himself. But Kris needs to see him, needs to talk to him, so he goes ahead and knocks anyway.
The door opens a minute later, and Adam stands there, clean-shaven too, dressed in a loose gray t-shirt, his hair shower-wet and sticking out in different directions. Kris is struck with the impulse to run his hands through it.
He smiles warmly when he sees Kris and says, “Hey. I thought you’d be asleep right now.”
Anything Kris planned on saying disappears from thought the second he lays eyes on Adam. He acts on instinct, instead, and crosses the short distance between them, kisses Adam so hard he actually stumbles. Adam catches an arm around his waist, grunting with surprise, and kicks the hotel door shut. Then he wrenches back, mouth open like he’s going say something, but he must think better of it, because instead he catches Kris’s mouth again in a hot, breath-stealing kiss.
Kris pushes him toward the bed until they tip over onto it, mouths still connected. The two of them maul at each other, struggling with clothes, groping and kissing, grabbing at cocks, grappling and tugging.
He doesn’t know why this feels so frantic, just this side of desperate, but it does. It feels big and important and intense, and the look on Adam’s face— it’s like he’s asking Kris to give him something he can’t even name, something Kris can’t figure out either, but it makes him ache all the same, makes his chest go tight.
Afterward, he catches his breath, Adam’s bare chest rising and falling underneath his cheek. The cold air pumping from the air conditioner dries his sweat and makes him shiver.
Adam is the first one to speak.
“We can’t do this anymore,” he says calmly. Too calmly. He looks away from Kris, casting the remarks toward the ceiling with an air of detachment. “We’re in the real world now.”
Kris’s stomach clenches, and he flinches at the words. Each one feels like a direct blow.
“This… this is real. It was always real,” he insists, defensive. “I wasn’t just— messing around, okay? You… you’re more than that.”
Adam’s face softens a little. “I know,” he says after a moment. “But you’re married, Kris. Do you understand? Do you know what the media would do if they found out?”
“I don’t care about the media.”
“You don’t even know what you’re saying.”
Now Kris is pissed. He pushes off of Adam’s chest and snaps, “I’m not naive.”
“Yes, you are. About this, you are,” Adam retorts, just as hotly. “You have no idea what it’s like. And I don’t fucking want you to.” He stops and sighs. “I love you too much, and I love Katy too much. And I’m not going to be that guy. Don’t make me be that guy.”
Adam rolls away from him and covers his sweat-slicked skin quickly, dressing with all the finality of a knight going back into a losing battle.
“I don’t want to make you be anything,” Kris says, reaching for him.
He curls his fingers in the soft folds of Adam’s shirt. He doesn’t want to let go, not until he’s sure Adam understands.
“Adam,” he says, not caring how pathetically desperate he sounds, and Adam turns around, his expression a little sad and a lot tired.
He never wanted this. He never wanted to be the person who put that look on Adam’s face. He knows deep down, knows Adam is right, about everything, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Adam looks at him and says, “God, come here,” and tugs him into his arms.
One of his hands strokes Kris’s hair, and Kris can feel him thinking.
“You’re my best friend,” Adam says quietly. “That isn’t going to change, ever. But this it. Whatever this is… it stops here. Tomorrow we go back to our real lives.”
Kris feels his throat close up. “What if I can’t do that?”
“You can,” he says. “You have to.”
The press conference is a media circus. Kris thought the plane ride would be the daunting part—he wanted to take a commercial flight, but they insisted on a private jet for “security reasons”—but it wasn’t so bad, not when Adam was there, holding his hand from takeoff to landing. Facing the sea of reporters in a crowded room is way scarier.
They make him sit in a wheelchair, which is annoying, but he’s not going to complain when he’s just grateful to be alive. Adam says a few words, and then Kris reads his statement. They’re both along the same lines—thanking the doctors in Palau for treating them, thanking everyone for their support, requests for privacy while they recoup at home.
“We’re just looking forward to spending time with our families,” Adam tells them, a line that sets off a wave of blinding camera flashes.
Leaving Adam is even harder than the press conference, because Kris doesn’t know when he’s going to see him again. He kicks back his wheelchair and catapults himself into Adam’s arms, wraps tight around him, presses his face in the hollow of his collarbone and breathes in deep.
“Hey,” Adam says, a little startled. He makes some shushing noises and rubs Kris’s back. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”
“Call me?” Kris mumbles into his shoulder.
“Oh, trust me. Every fucking day. I’m like the herpes of friendship. You can’t get rid of me.”
They both laugh a little at that, and then Adam draws back and kisses the top of Kris’s head, picks up his duffel bag and waves one last time before he heading across the tarmac.
Kris turns around so he doesn’t have to see Adam walking away. He can handle a lot of things, but he doesn’t think he can handle that.
Katy’s hair is so bright that it seems to illuminate the entire airport terminal. The second he sees her, he drops his carry-on to his feet, opening his arms, and she flies into them, squeezing all the breath out of his body. He closes his eyes and holds on; the feel of hugging her like this is the same as it always was, and he’s surprised, somehow, at that. He’s not sure what he expected to change.
“I’m sorry,” she says breathlessly, stepping back, brow furrowed with concern. “Am I hurting you? You’re so thin.”
“It’s fine,” he assures her. He can’t stop smiling, can’t stop looking at her.
His mother smothers him with more hugs and kisses, keeps repeating his name, “Kristopher, Kristopher,” like she can’t believe he’s really there, in front of her. He can’t quite believe it either.
“I’m going to cook all of your meals,” she tells him. They’re inside another SUV, en route to Conway, where his father and Daniel are waiting. “Get some meat on your bones.”
There are a lot more hugs when they get home, and some tears.
“These are, of course, manly tears,” Daniel says, clapping him on the back.
Kris grins back. “Of course.”
Conway is exactly the same, but that’s no surprise. Nothing ever changes here, it seems. Kris has always liked that. That no matter how crazy things get, no matter how much his life changes, he can always come back to this place, to this house, and everything is as it should be.
He’s standing in the living room, looking at the row of framed photos over the fireplace mantle—baby pictures, Daniel’s graduation, him and Katy at the wedding, family photos from last Christmas—when his father comes up to him.
He has Kris’s acoustic guitar in hand, his favorite—the Takamine.
“We had it shipped from L.A.,” his father explains. “I thought you would want it here.”
Kris takes it and touches the strings, almost reverently. They feel familiar under his fingers, the sharpness of them pressing into his fingertips. And then he holds the guitar up against his body. It fits perfectly; that hasn’t changed, either. The sudden rush of tears behind his eyes catches him off-guard.
This, more than anything else, feels like coming home.
No one asks questions until they’re having dinner. Steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, buttery rolls, and dump cake—his mom really wasn’t kidding about fattening him up. Kris’s appetite is still kind of wonky, but he shovels in as much as he can, just to placate her. He doesn’t need to worry her any more than he already has.
“This must taste pretty good after what you’ve been eating,” Daniel jokes. He cocks his head a little to the side, studying Kris. “What did you eat there?”
His mother shushes him. “Daniel, not now.”
“No, Mama, it’s all right. I don’t mind,” Kris says, and Katy slips her warm hand into his under the table, squeezing hard. He smiles a little at her and then looks at Daniel. “Fish, mostly, when we could get it.”
He talks about Adam fashioning up the spear, and boiling the roots, and the water collection system. These feel like safe conversational waters to tread, and once he’s started, it’s easier to keep going, so he talks about other things— about the plane crash, Adam’s food poisoning, and Wendy, though he skims on the details. Still, when he mentions it, Katy’s hand tightens on his.
“We are so proud of you,” his father says, eyes shining in a way that makes Kris go hot in the face and look away, down at his lap, where Katy’s fingers are intertwined with his. “And we’re so thankful God answered our prayers and brought you home safe.”
That night he and Katy share his bed, tucking themselves under the flannel covers. The same flannel bed sheets he’s had since high school. There’s still the same Abbey Road poster stuck on the wall, too, right over the headboard.
Katy doesn’t try anything sexual, which he’s grateful for, because he doesn’t know how he’d react. She just snuggles up against his side, head pillowed on his shoulder.
“You know how sometimes people who were missing come back, and you hear their family members say things like how they always knew they were still alive? Like, they could feel it, in their hearts?” she asks. “I wish I could say it was like that for me. But I really thought you were dead. I really believed it.”
Kris isn’t sure how to respond to that, so he just says, “I’m sorry.”
“Why? It’s not your fault.”
“I guess not, but still. That must’ve been… really hard. For you.”
She doesn’t say anything at all, for a minute. And then she rolls onto her stomach, half on top of him, and looks him in the eye.
“They said the plane crashed in the middle of the ocean,” she tells him. “They looked for you for two weeks, but they couldn’t find anything. They said there was no chance.” She looks up at him, frames his face with her hands. “I thought you were gone forever.”
“I’m here now, though,” he says, stroking his thumb against her shoulder. Her skin is like silk.
She looks at him hard, and even though she doesn’t say it, he can see the unspoken question in her eyes.
Katy falls asleep right away, but Kris can’t. All he can do is stare up at his ceiling, wondering if he is. Here. He feels a little like he’s returned to a life that isn’t his anymore, except that it is. Of course it is. One month shouldn’t change that.
He disentangles from Katy’s sleeping form and slips into the hallway, leans his shoulder against the wall and calls Adam. Adam picks up at the end of the second ring.
“Hey there, rock star!” he greets giddily.
Kris hears voices in the background, like Adam is in a room full of people.
“Are you drunk?” he asks. He doesn’t know why he’s so surprised; it is Adam, after all.
“Only on life,” Adam answers solemnly. And then he giggles. “Uh, and alcohol. A loooot of alcohol, actually.” There’s a pause as Adam says something away from the phone, presumably to whoever he’s with, and then he says, “So what’s up?”
“Nothing. Just thought I’d check in with you.” He pads down the hall into the bathroom and shuts the door with a soft click, sits down on the closed toilet seat. “How’s your family?”
“Awesome!” Adam says. “Seriously, they’re so great. They’re all here. They wanna say hi. Hang on.” There’s some rustling and muffled noises, and then Adam says, “Everyone, say hi to Kris!”
A chorus of “Hi, Kris!” and cheers sounds, so loud Kris has to pull the phone away for a second. When he puts it back, Adam’s laughing in his ear.
“Neil wants to know why we didn’t fashion a radio out of a coconut to signal for help,” he says. “Hey, why didn’t we do that, Kris?”
“Um, I don’t know. Because we didn’t have the Professor with us?”
“Hmm. Yes, you make a good point.” He giggles again.
“You seem happy,” Kris says.
“I am!” he says. “It’s so good to be back. This is just the Lambert family gathering— my friends are throwing me a Welcome Home, Bitch bash next weekend. Celebrating the glorious miracle of life, all that bullshit. It’s going to be wild.” Adam pauses, and when he speaks again, his voice is a little quieter, a little more sober. “And hey, what about you? You okay?”
“I’m great,” he says automatically, though obviously he’s not, since he’s calling Adam at three in the morning. In a bathroom. In the dark. “It’s just. It’s all a little weird.”
It’s a lot weird, really, but he doesn’t want to say that, because he gets the impression Adam is readjusting better than he is. Or maybe he’s just better at faking it.
“I miss you,” he blurts out, and then immediately feels like an idiot. “Stupid, right?”
Adam laughs a little. “Well, it has been less than a day.”
“I know. But I still do.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I miss you too,” Adam says softly. “It’ll get easier. Really. You just need time to get back in the swing of things.”
“Time. Right.” Kris exhales a half-laugh, half-sigh, and rubs his bare toes across the cool bathroom tile. Suddenly he doesn’t want to talk anymore. “Hey, I’m gonna let you go.”
“You sure? I can still talk for awhile.”
“No, no. I’m good. Go back to your party, all right?”
They hang up with promises to speak later, and Kris sits on the toilet lid for awhile longer with his head in his hands. He hopes Adam’s right. He hopes time can fix whatever it is he’s feeling.