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

fic: If It Kills Me (Kris/Adam, NC-17) (3/4)

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



Someone’s making pancakes. The smell of them wafts it way underneath Kris’s cocoon of covers; he opens his eyes and breathes it in for awhile, listening to the clatter of pans and silverware coming from downstairs, footsteps creaking on linoleum. He can’t hear any voices, but he can imagine them—Daniel and his dad fighting over the sports page, his mother humming under her breath as she stirs the batter.

He lies there until the edge of the mattress dips with someone’s weight—Katy’s, he realizes, the second her hand rests lightly on his stomach. He pulls the covers down to his chin and sees her sitting there, smiling down at him.

“Hi,” she says softly. “You want to come have breakfast? Or I could bring you some, if you want.”

“No, no, it’s okay,” he says. He should get up, go downstairs and join them. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

“Okay.” She leans down and kisses his cheek, her breath warm and sweet against his skin, and then disappears.

Getting up in the morning; it's what regular people do. And Kris is determined to try and be a regular person.

He does pretty well, too, smiling and making conversation, though it’s tiring to be around people all of the time, even if it’s just his family. He doesn’t leave the house for a week, except to go to church. It’s nice, actually, because no one expects him to speak there—he just gets to sit in the pew, listening to the pastor speak, standing to sing the assigned hymns with everyone else.

The thing is that before, church always used to make him feel closer to God, and now he doesn’t feel close to anything. Not to the sermon, no matter how hard he listens to each word. Not even to Katy next to him, or his mother on his other side.

He calls Adam every day, who says that the media frenzy is kind of crazy right now and Kris should avoid the internet at all costs.

“TMZ tried to gangbang me outside of Hyde,” he says. “I almost fucking ran over some guy’s foot driving out of there. It was insane. What do they need three hundred shots of me sitting in a car for anyway?” He sighs. “Just trust me, if you want to avoid putting your fist through a wall, don’t go online. Don’t turn on the tv.”

Kris doesn’t particularly want to put his fist through anything, so he heeds Adam’s advice, stays off the internet and only watches sports games with Daniel and his dad. And then one day he’s alone for once, sitting on the couch with his foot propped up on the coffee table. He wraps an Ace bandage around his ankle with one hand, flips through channels with the other, meaning to turn it to ESPN, but he lands on CNN instead.

Some field correspondent is reporting from the beach of the island. Their island. It’s a split screen, with the other half looping footage from the press conference and aerial shots of him and Adam leaving the hospital in Palau. Probably he should switch the channel, but he can’t bring himself to look away.

He sets down the remote and watches for awhile. The reporter relates the account of their “harrowing journey” as they show clips of the makeshift shelter, still standing, and then of where they buried Wendy, the dirt still fresh, the lopsided rocks still piled at the head of the grave.

That’s when he turns it off.

Kris is still wearing the ring around his neck. When his mother noticed it, she asked if he wanted a real chain to replace the fraying shoelace, but he said no. Because it doesn’t belong to him. He only meant to keep it safe until he could give it back. And now he can.

He calls his assistant, Louise, and asks her to track down Wendy’s husband’s phone number. Louise doesn’t bat an eye and tells him she’ll have it to him within an hour; he knew he always liked her for a reason. Sure enough, forty-eight minutes later she calls back and gives him the number, along with a name: Jack Manning.

It takes him awhile to gather the nerve to make the call. He does it in the bathroom, again, because it feels like the safest space; he lies on the floor, looking under the door crack like a little kid checking for monsters. No monsters here. Just a widower, sixteen hundred miles away, who may or may not blame Kris for his wife’s death.

Kris breathes fast while the phone rings, half hoping for it to reach voicemail, but then Jack answers. He stutters out an introduction, and when he tells Jack about the ring, Jack doesn’t say anything.

“I’d really like to give it to you,” Kris tells him, “in person. If that’s okay with you.”

“Yes,” Jack agrees. “That would be okay.”

So Kris starts making plans to head back to L.A. His mother, as he expected, isn’t happy about it.

“But you just got here,” she says. She looks like she’s on the verge of tears.

His father puts his arm around her and says to Kris, “You do what you need to do, son.”

Katy pulls him aside and says, “I’m okay with going back now, but I wish you would’ve discussed this with me before deciding.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, and he means it, because he feels bad that he didn’t factor her into the equation. “I should’ve asked first.”

She reaches out and touches his necklace, playing with the ring. “Do you want me to come with you?” she asks. “When you give this back?”

He shakes his head. “No.” This is something he has to do on his own. “I just want things to go back to normal,” he says.

“Me, too. If you think this is the right thing to do, I trust you.”

He does.

**

The thing Kris forgot about L.A. is that there are paparazzi. Everywhere. They’re all but assaulted in the airport. Thank God for Katy— she takes the lead, guiding him by the hand through the throng of photographers to the waiting sedan. He snaps out of it enough to open the door for her first, and then hurries quickly around to the other side, trying to tune out the questions they shout at him.

“Are you okay?” she asks as their driver pulls onto the highway.

The truth is that he’s a little shaken up, but he nods and assures her he’s fine.

“Mmm,” she says, and he’s pretty sure she’s not buying it. He’s always had a shitty poker face. She spiders her fingers through his hair. “We need to get you to the salon, stat. This hair is out of control.”

He grins. “I’ll put it on my To-Do list.”

When the driver drops Katy off at their apartment, he leans over and kisses her goodbye. He’s sad to see her go, even though it’s only for a little while. It’d be easier to do this with her next to him.

Wendy’s husband lives in a townhouse in Brentwood. It’s in a nice neighborhood, where every lawn is kelly green and neatly mowed, and kids draw with chalk on the sidewalk. Kris takes a few deep breaths before he rings the doorbell, and a minute later Jack opens the door. He steps aside, inviting Kris in; he’s a tall, stocky guy with piercing eyes that seem to look right through Kris, which makes him even more nervous. Something he didn’t think was possible.

He stands awkwardly in the white-carpeted living room, where a little blond boy of no more than three sits on the floor, playing with a Lego set.

Jack kneels down next to him and says, “This is our son, Hunter.”

Kris waves. “Hey, Hunter. Nice to meet you.”

The kid ignores him, snapping some yellow pieces together and then breaking them apart again.

“Hunter, this is Kris,” Jack says. “He knew Mom. Can you say hello?”

Hunter barely pauses in his playing to look up at Kris with disinterest. “Hi,” he says.

Jack smiles wanly and says, “We’re still working on manners.” He stands up. “I actually need to make a quick phone call. Do you mind waiting?”

“Not at all,” Kris says, and Jack goes upstairs, leaving Kris alone with the boy.

He bends down on his knees to Hunter’s height and watches him construct what looks to be some kind of spaceship.

“That’s very cool,” he says. “Can I look at it?”

Hunter bites down on his lip like he’s considering it, but then he hands it over. Kris pretends to fly it around Hunter’s head, accompanying the movement with various sound effects, until Hunter starts giggling. They play for a little while, Hunter chattering away excitedly as he explains each piece of his little space station.

“Looks like you two are getting along famously.”

Kris doesn’t know long Jack’s been watching them when he sees him leaning against the wall, arms crossed.

“He’s a smart kid,” Kris says, climbing to his feet.

Jack chuckles a bit. “He is. A little too smart, sometimes.”

They sit on the nice leather couch, watching Hunter play for a minute, and then Kris pulls out the envelope he brought along. He slides out the ring and extends it to Jack.

“I am so sorry,” he says quietly. “I didn’t really know her, but she seemed like a good person. I wish I could’ve—done more, or—”

“I know you did as much as you could,” Jack interrupts. He stops and clears his throat, his eyes shining, and Kris has to shove his hands in his pockets to hide how badly they’re shaking. “Thank you for keeping this safe. It means a lot to me.”

“It was nothing,” Kris says. “I was glad to do it.”

“We’re bringing the remains back for a memorial service here next week,” Jack tells him. “You and Adam are more than welcome to attend.”

“I’d like that. I think Adam would too,” he says. “And if you need anything—if I can pay for anything—just let me know. I can cover it. It’s not a problem.”

Jack thanks him again, and they shake hands. Before Kris leaves, Hunter comes up and hugs his legs, nearly knocking him over.

“He’s a bit aggressive,” Jack explains apologetically, prying Hunter off. He hefts him into his arms and ruffles the boy’s hair. “Gets that from his mother.”

Kris calls Adam on the drive home, after, and tells him about the planned service.

“Of course I’ll go,” Adam says, without hesitation. “Just tell me when and where, and I’ll be there.” He pauses. “You know, I actually called Patrick McCormick’s wife. I wanted to give back the knife, but she told me to keep it. She didn’t seem want to talk to me very much.”

“Well… maybe it’s just difficult for her to remember. Too painful.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Adam says, but he doesn’t sound convinced. “Shit, I have to go. I have a conference call with the label in like two minutes.”

“You’re talking to them already?” Kris asks, surprised.

“Why not? I don’t know about you, but I want to get back in the studio. Get working again. I, for one, have a kickass album to finish.”

Kris hasn’t really thought about his half-finished second album; Jive has been good about leaving him alone, haven’t really brought it up yet. He figures it’s only a matter of time before they start pestering him about expected release dates.

But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe he’ll feel better once he’s in the studio again.

**

Wendy’s service ends up being the first time he sees Adam again. It’s only been weeks, but it’s felt like forever.

Adam’s whole face lights up when he spots Kris across the room, and Kris doesn’t even try to play it cool. He grins back just as wide, lengthening his stride and ducking around the other mourners, barely refraining from breaking into a run. They meet each other halfway, and Kris pretty much flings himself into Adam’s arms. They embrace tightly, clasping each other close.

“God, it’s good to see you,” Adam murmurs, and then holds him back by the shoulders and looks him up and down. “You clean up good, Allen!”

“Likewise, Lambert,” Kris says, still grinning like a moron. And it’s true—Adam’s dressed in a crisp black suit, his makeup toned down for the occasion, and he looks better than the last time Kris saw him, more filled out and healthy, his hair newly styled.

Katy comes up to them, smiling warmly at Adam. She puts her arms around him and whispers something in his ear Kris doesn’t catch, but whatever it is, it makes Adam hug her harder.

He was nervous, at first, about Adam and Katy being in the same room, after everything. But it was stupid to worry; they get along well and always have. And maybe Kris isn’t a good actor, but Adam doesn’t give anything away, talks to her with the same natural ease as always.

Later, Jack comes up to them, Hunter in tow. Katy picks him up in her arms, holds him up against her hip. Kris is so not ready for kids, and he knows Katy doesn’t want them either right now, but he thinks one day she’ll make a great mother. She is such a good person, down to her core, and he doesn’t know what he did to deserve someone like her.

While Katy talks to Jack about how beautiful the service was, Kris excuses himself and steps outside. It’s raining a little, drizzling down lazily, and that seems about right. Appropriate. He leans against the building and tugs at his tie; he feels like he’s suffocating.

Seeing Adam was nice—better than nice—but it’s been a long, hard day. The service itself was… emotional. The worst was witnessing Wendy’s parents. They’d looked beside themselves, bewildered by their own grief, like they still hadn’t accepted that their daughter was never coming home.

“Hey, Houdini, I was wondering where you disappeared to.”

Adam walks up to him, a swing in his step, but he falters when he sees the look on Kris’s face.

Kris rubs his eyes and swallows, willing back his stupid, useless tears. “Hey.”

If Adam asks him what’s wrong, he’s going to—well. He doesn’t know what, but likely he’s going to do something dumb like punch a wall or start sobbing.

But Adam doesn’t ask. He just comes up and smoothes out the lapels of Kris’s suit.

“Your tie is such a mess,” he points out. He untangles the two ends, works on doing it up correctly while Kris watches his hands. Adam has nice hands; long and slender fingers, smooth palms. It’s not the first time he’s noticed this.

When Kris closes his eyes, there’s just the rain and Adam’s hands, and he remembers them both, in another place, another time. It feels like a lifetime ago, even though it hasn’t been that long.

Adam finishes tying the knot, slides it up to the base of Kris’s throat, then runs his hand across the silk. Even when he’s done, he doesn’t move away. Instead he leans forward and presses their foreheads together.

“I’m okay,” Kris tells him. “In case you were worrying.”

“I always worry about you,” Adam says. His voice is a near-whisper, dark and hoarse, and the look on his face makes Kris’s heart clench. “And you’re not okay. But you will be.”

Kris looks down at his shoes, lifts one shoulder and drops it. “Maybe.”

“You will,” Adam insists. “It might not seem like it right now, but I promise. You will.”

They both fall silent. The rain isn’t letting up, is coming down harder now; it beats against the pavement.

“What is this?” Adam says. “God, come on, get rid of these.”

Kris doesn’t know what Adam is talking about until he tastes salt in the corner of his mouth and realizes he’s crying. Not a lot, but enough, silent tears streaking paths down his face. Adam rubs them away with the inside of his wrist. His eyes glisten, too, but they don’t spill over.

It wouldn’t take much to kiss Adam from this angle, just a slight lean forward. But that would be stupid and reckless and Kris can’t believe he’s even thinking about it with Katy right inside. There are so many things wrong with this picture that he doesn’t even know where to begin, and he still wants to anyway. He’s aching to pull Adam into a kiss, wet and intense like the rain coming down around them, until they’re both shaking from it. Aching to completely lose himself in Adam’s mouth, in the knit of his fingers in Adam’s sleeves.

Even after Adam steps back from him, even after he goes back to Katy, even when they leave, that moment is all he can think about.

He must be really, really fucked up.

**

Kris figured the media would die down eventually, move onto the next story, but it hasn’t. If anything it’s worse than ever. He can’t step one foot outside his apartment building without being tailed by photographers; apparently they think if they yell enough questions for long enough, he’ll get sick of ignoring them and answer. It gets to the point where he feels like a prisoner in his own home.

His publicist tells him of a bunch of offers on the table—a joint sit-down with Adam with Barbara Walters, Oprah, Larry King, a cover and article for People, book deals from several major publishing houses. He tells her flatly that he won’t consider anything without talking to Adam first.

He calls Adam and asks what he wants to do.

“We can keep ignoring it if that’s what you want,” Adam says thoughtfully, “but really, it might help calm people the fuck down if we agree to something.”

They decide on Barbara Walters; it’s not very rock star, but she lets them set a lot of pre-conditions in order to get the exclusive. They agree to take the money and donate it to Invisible Children—neither of them needs it, and the last thing they want is to capitalize off of what happened in any way.

Katy agrees to be interviewed too, along with Adam’s mom. It’s your standard fluffy 20/20 fare, complete with dramatic narration and cheesy music. They mostly talk about the crash, and what they did to survive. One of the agreements was not to ask details about Wendy or the pilot, so they only skim over those parts— it’s mostly focused on the near-death experience aspect.

Toward the end of the interview, Barbara asks, “And how did it feel to have only each other?”

Adam and Kris look at each other, and Kris knows that he, at least, is remembering everything that happened in the last ten days.

He opens his mouth but can’t think of anything to say that doesn’t give himself away. Thankfully Adam doesn’t miss a beat, gives some pat answer about it being an unimaginably trying experience, yes, but that Kris is his best friend, and there’s no one else he would’ve rather been stranded with.

Kris wants to ask Adam if he means that, or if he regrets anything that happened—but he knows their friendship is only working the way it is by talking around that, never addressing it head-on. It’s just the way it has to be.

**

After the interview, Kris goes back into the studio full time. He has about ten songs already done for his second album, ones that were written before the island, and a handful more that are only halfway complete. The problem is that none of them sound right. He can’t recognize himself in any of them.

He spends a few weeks trying to make the finished ones work, and trying to pull together the threads of the unfinished ones, but it’s a frustrating process, and he hates all of the material. He calls up the label and tells them he wants to start from scratch. It’ll mean delaying the release date, but he refuses to put an album out he doesn’t believe in, and while Jive is skeptical, in the end they give him the go ahead. He guesses that means either they have faith in his artistic integrity, or else they’re expecting him to fail anyway, so they don’t see the harm in him doing it on his own terms.

A blank slate is just what he needed. It’s like it’s opened the floodgates, and suddenly Kris can’t write songs fast enough. He starts carrying a spiral notebook around wherever he goes, jotting down snatches of lyrics and melodic ideas all of the time— at stoplights, over the more and more infrequent meals he shares with Katy, at three in the morning, whenever something pops into his head.

The new album is tentatively called Quiet Storm. A lot of the songs he writes are about Adam without him meaning for them to be. The thing is, they’re actually the best songs he’s ever written. The ones he tries to write about Katy don’t come out right. They feel too much the same as the ones he wrote for her on his first album. He doesn’t know what that says about him. About them.

It gets to where he’s practically living in the studio. More than once he wakes up on the lumpy couch in the booth to Katy’s assigned ringtone, her worried voice in his ear asking where he is, and he has to mumble out an apology while locating his shoes under the mixing board.

Katy’s still trying the acting gig. No auditions have panned out yet, and he knows she doesn’t like having nothing to do. She’s never been the kind of girl satisfied sitting around the house. It’s part of why he loves her, her strong ambition and determination. He wants to tell her he believes in her, that it’s going to work out, but he knows if he does, it’ll just sound patronizing.

He finds out she’s been passed over on her third audition of the month one night during dinner—Chinese delivery from some place on the corner.

Back in Conway, before they got married, when Kris was a college dropout playing the (very) occasional bar gig, and Katy was working forty hours a week at her office job, he used to try and compensate by making all of their meals, chicken stir fry and his mother’s meatloaf recipe and macaroni and cheese. They’d sit at their cheap dining room table, eating off paper plates because Katy didn’t want to waste money on real ones when they’d be getting a nice set as a wedding gift anyway. But it hadn’t mattered then, really; it had been kind of hard, and maybe Kris was a little embarrassed to be essentially freeloading off of his fiancé, but at the same time, there was something a little romantic about their poverty. Like, being poor sucked, but he didn’t mind being poor if it meant being with her—and he’d seen the world enough to know how good they had it, that he had a lot more than most people dreamed of, and he wasn’t going to be selfish and ask for more.

Eating straight out of the paper carton at the dining room table now reminds him a little of those days, except it doesn’t feel so romantic anymore.

Katy’s been quiet all night. She picks through her lo mein and says, “I think you need counseling.”

“What?” He looks up from his notebook, confused. The line all of my wandering has left me here has been tugging at him all day, and he wants to get it down before it disappears from memory.

“I think you need counseling,” she repeats. She isn’t even looking at him. Just throws the comment out there, like she’s merely suggesting a new movie to see, or painting the kitchen a new color.

“I don’t need therapy,” he says defensively. “What’s bringing this on?”

Her eyes snap up to his. “What isn’t bringing this on?” she retorts.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means you need help. Ever since you got back—” she says, and he pushes his chair back abruptly and jumps to his feet.

“I’m not crazy,” he snaps.

“—things have been different,” she finishes, talking over him. Now she stands, too, chucks the carton down on the table. “You’ve been different. You’re never around anymore. I’m practically living on my own here. I feel like I’m alone, and I hate it.” Her mouth trembles. “I can’t keep coming second place in your life all the time.”

All of his anger evaporates at the sight of her tears, leaving him with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. The truth is he has been distant. He can’t deny it.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “You’re right. I haven’t been around enough. I can try harder. I’ll try harder. It’s just—things have been… hard.”

“I know they have,” she says. She brushes the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand and sits back down. “If you can’t talk to me about them… I get it. I don’t expect you to tell me everything. But you need to talk to someone.”

He nods slowly. “Okay. Okay, I will.”

They eat the rest of the meal in silence, and that night when he joins Katy in bed, she’s facing the wall, her back to him, breathing heavy in a way that he knows means she’s only faking sleep. It hurts a little, but at the same time he’s relieved, because he doesn’t know what more to say to her, either.

**

“Katy thinks I need therapy.”

“Oh?” Adam freezes with his wine glass halfway to his lips. “And what do you think?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m not crazy.”

Kris stabs viciously at a stray avocado in his salad and shoves it into his mouth. They’re having lunch at some place on Robertson, halfway between Adam’s apartment and Kris’s studio. A little more high profile than what he’d prefer, but last time Kris got to pick, and Adam was the one who called first, so it was only fair to let him choose.

“Therapy isn’t just for crazy people,” Adam says. “It’s the new millennium, Kris. The stigma is gone. Everyone and their dog has a therapist. Therapists have therapists.”

“Do you?”

“Not at the moment. But I have.”

“I don’t get it,” Kris says. “So what, you just sit on a leather couch and tell some stranger your dreams? And they analyze you? How does it even work?”

Adam rolls his eyes. “God, do you learn everything from television? You are so ridiculous.”

“I’m serious! It just seems… awkward. And stupid.”

Adam takes another sip of wine, sets it back down and says, “Okay, the short version: essentially it’s just paying someone to listen to your emotional baggage and maybe help you figure your shit out.”

“And that helps?”

“It can.”

“Hmm.” Kris chews his salad for a minute. “Seems like a waste of money to me.”

“Yeah?”

“I don’t need therapy,” he says, smiling with half his mouth. “Not when I have you.”

It’s actually pretty true; there’s no one in the world Kris tells as much as he tells Adam. Of course, there are a few things he can’t say—like how he still thinks about Adam that way, more than he thinks about his own wife lately, and how much he hates himself for it. But he figures that’s what song writing is for.

Adam and music. Yeah, he definitely doesn’t need therapy.

A few photographers circle them on their way out of the restaurant, snapping shots and calling out the usual stupid questions. Most of them are directed to Adam, who laughs them off easily. He has this method of charming the paps, teasing them without giving them exactly what they want, and they all somehow love him for it.

Things on the media end settled down for Kris some after the 20/20 interview, especially once Adam was caught canoodling with some indie actor a few times at a night club.

“His name is Lionel Reed, and he’s hot as fuck, and no, it isn’t serious,” Adam said during one of their nightly phone calls around the time the story broke.

“Lionel? He sounds old,” Kris said. “He sounds like he was a colonel in the Civil War.”

“He’s one year older than me!”

“Oh, that’s totally old. Just tell me, was he fighting for the Confederacy or the Union?”

“You know I like my boys southern,” Adam said slyly, and Kris was just glad that conversation was over the phone so Adam couldn’t see the way his face went apple red.

It’s good that Adam’s out having fun and enjoying himself—he deserves that more than anyone— but part of Kris feels weird about it. A little jealous. Which is stupid because he has no right to any proprietary feelings, because that’s completely unfair, and yet he’s still relieved when Adam assures him that his thing with Lionel is completely casual.

They drive from the restaurant to the studio; Adam’s been bugging Kris about sitting in on some sessions for weeks now, and Kris finally feels like he’s pieced together enough songs to let someone else see. They go into the empty booth, and Adam sits on the piano bench while Kris tunes his guitar.

When Kris is done, he rifles through the sheet music, trying to figure out which song to do. Finally he finds one, but he hesitates before he begins.

“Well?” Adam says expectantly. “You going to play or what?”

“Okay,” Kris says, “but I’m telling you, it’s still rough. Don’t judge too harshly, all right? I’m not sure—”

“Shut up and play the damn song, Kris.”

Kris plucks a few strings experimentally, and then starts the song in earnest. It’s slow but sharp, sort of a more mainstream take on Ani DiFranco, with something of a hook in the chorus that means it’s more radio-friendly but doesn’t turn it into generic auto-tuned garbage.

He doesn’t look at Adam while he plays, but he can still feel Adam’s eyes on him as he sings the words— “Walking a line we can't even define. I know the rope is wearing thin, but you just grin, so here we go again. I can feel you under my skin, I still feel you, I still feel you.

When he’s done, he leans the guitar against the chair and meets Adam’s intense gaze.

“The song is about you,” he says. It feels important for Adam to know. In case the lyrics weren’t obvious enough.

“I kind of figured,” Adam says. He looks a little dazed.

Kris gets up and walks over to Adam, kneels in front of him, puts his hands on his knees. They’re warm under his palms. Adam looks down at him with wide eyes, and Kris is overcome with the same feeling he had at the funeral, wanting nothing more than to take Adam’s head between his hands and kiss him, a soul-searching, world-stopping kiss, the kind of kiss that’s backed by violins—no, backed with a full string symphony, even.

But it isn’t going to happen. It can’t happen, and Adam stands up, facing the wall, and says, “I should probably go.” He turns around, his face closed off again, but he smiles at Kris, reassuring. “The song is great. The album will be amazing, I know it. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

Kris just nods and busies himself with picking up the loose sheet music as Adam leaves, the booth door swinging closed behind him.

**

Adam will never make the first move. Not as things stand. And Kris knows Adam is right, the way he always is. Kris can’t keep doing this, putting himself in this position—he’s at risk of sabotaging his own career, and more importantly his own personal life, by even considering the possibility.

He promised Katy he’d try, and what is he doing? Trying to seduce his best friend, who maybe wanted him at one point but probably isn’t even remotely interested anymore, with a song.

It is pathetic.

He is pathetic.

It doesn’t matter what Kris wants, because it’s not gonna happen, and the sooner he gets over it, the better chance he has of not ruining everything else. He just has to… push it out of his mind. Do what Adam told him to do—go back to living his life. His real life.

Things actually get better once he does that and starts focusing more on Katy. It helps that she lands a guest spot on some CW show, one of those girly dramas Adam probably has a Tivo season pass for. He’d call Adam to let him know, except he’s determined to break his habit of calling Adam about every little thing that goes on in his life. All jokes aside, Adam isn’t actually his therapist, and it’s Katy he’s focusing on now.

They go out for a fancy celebratory dinner, at one of those upscale places with a dress code and a string quartet serenading in one corner and a single lit ivory candle placed in the middle of the fancy red tablecloth. Katy glows in a strapless floral dress, shoulders gleaming, happy in a way Kris hasn’t seen her in far too long. She babbles on about the audition and the casting director and how the role is possibly recurring depending on how things go. Kris tries to listen as intently as he can, nodding and asking questions in the right places. Mostly he’s just happy that she’s so happy.

When they get back to the apartment, Katy is all over him the second they come through the door. She drops her clutch to the floor and snatches him in a kiss, draws him toward the bedroom. It’s been a month since they last made love. He figures this is a good sign, for them, that they’re doing this again. He fumbles with the zipper on her dress, with his belt buckle, wrestling both their clothes off and tumbling into the bed.

They’re naked and she’s underneath him, legs spread, her body a tensed bow arching into his, but somehow he just. Can’t. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him—she is beautiful, she is perfect, she’s all but begging for it, but something isn’t clicking.

He thinks if he closed his eyes and thought about Adam, maybe it would work, but there’s no way he is doing that. He’s done a lot wrong when it comes to Katy, but that would be a kind of betrayal too twisted even for him. It’d be like cheating all over again, even if it was only in his head.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles finally, after the last of several fruitless attempts. He rolls off of her and into the pillows, face hot with shame. “I guess I’m just tired.”

Katy’s silent for a minute. He knows she must be pretty upset, but then she puts a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay,” she says, even though he can tell it really isn’t. “I am too. We can just sleep.”

Somehow that makes him feel even worse.

He waits until she’s asleep to sneak out of the room. He goes downstairs, stands in the kitchen, and pours himself a glass of water. And then he pulls out his cell phone and scrolls to Adam’s name, right at the top of the list. He wants to talk to him, but it’ll seem desperate and calculated, and what good is it going to do anyway?

In the end he types out I can’t do this anymore and sends the text.

By the time Kris finishes gulping down the glass of water, his phone is ringing. It’s Adam. His finger hovers over the receive button, but then he presses reject instead, and for the first time ever, he lets it go through to voicemail on purpose.

He stops answering Adam’s calls. Adam leaves a series of voice messages; Kris listens to all of them, ranging from confused to worried to annoyed, but doesn’t respond, and deletes all of his texts. It’s hard, but this thing with Adam is killing him, killing his marriage, and it feels like the only option at this point. He’s at the end of his rope.

All of his progress with Katy seems to have backslidden. They’re back where they were before, barely speaking more than necessary, and she goes to bed early every night, is always asleep before he crawls under the covers. It’s like she’s given up, and it breaks his heart that he can’t give her what she needs, what she deserves. And she deserves so much better than this.

Sometimes he almost, stupidly, misses the island. Where everything was hard and scary, but he had Adam, and it was forces out of his control threatening his life.

Now it’s just himself that’s the hazard.

**

One morning he’s checking his voicemail and gets a new one from Adam, telling him about a special one-off concert to promote his new single.

“It’s not a huge thing, but it’s my first time since… you know. And I’d really like you to be there,” Adam says, and he sounds different—nervous, which Kris isn’t used to. Adam’s always loved performing, lived for it, for the stage and the crowds. “I have front row tickets saved for you. Two of them, if you want to bring Katy. I’d love to see her. Both of you. Anyway, they’re available if you want them. I hope you do.”

Kris debates on whether he should go or not. This self-imposed isolation from Adam hasn’t really been helping matters, and he misses him a lot, and Adam sounds like he really needs him there.

In the end he decides he can’t pass up the opportunity. He tells Katy about it when she comes into the kitchen, getting ready to leave for the set. The show picked up her role and made it recurring, which means she’s gone a lot filming, making him feel less guilty for his studio time.

“I can’t go. I have Becca’s bachelorette party that night,” she reminds him. “But send Adam my love, okay?”

Becca’s one of the other cast members; Kris is pretty sure he met her at one point, but he can’t keep Katy’s friends straight. She has a lot of them. Which is good. He’s glad that things are finally working out for her, at least in one part of her life.

An Adam Lambert concert is always an experience, and this is no exception. He gets stuck in traffic and doesn’t have time to see him beforehand, gets to the venue only a minute before the lights dim and Adam bursts onto the stage.

Adam is amazing, of course, but that’s hardly a surprise. Kris has seen Adam perform more times than he can count, and he’s always fantastic, but this time is different. It’s the first time he’s performed since the island, and he’s absolutely on fire. He swaggers and slinks across the stage, all but fucks the microphone stand, fucks the audience with his out-of-this-world vocals, making them beg for more. The crowd eats it up, goes totally ape-shit for him, as they should.

Adam is pure energy. Sex personified. He is the stuff of legends. Kris knows one day people will speculate about who the next Adam Lambert will be, the way people speculated about the next Michael Jackson, the next Freddie Mercury, the next Janis Joplin. He’s that good.

Afterward, Kris winds his way backstage, relieved that Adam thought to put his name on the list. He sees Adam sitting in a chair, mopping his face off with a towel.

Kris goes to him and grabs him. He pulls him out of the chair and holds him the way he’s wanted to hold him since that day in the recording studio, when he laid his soul bare through his music and let Adam walk away instead.

Adam laughs and squirms a little, saying, “Ahh, God, I’m all gross and sweaty right now!”

Kris doesn’t care about that, but he pulls back enough to look Adam in the eye. “The show was amazing. You were unbelievable. I mean, I believed you could be that good, but—”

“Don’t worry, I’m taking that as a compliment,” Adam says, smiling brighter than Kris has ever seen. He starts to say something else, but someone comes up and taps him on the shoulder, and in a second he’s surrounded by ten other people.

He looks at Kris uncertainly, but Kris just nods to let him know it’s okay, they’ll talk later.

He retreats to the snack table, picking through the bowl of Skittles, plucking out the green ones. He feels Brad come up to him before he hears his voice.

“Couldn’t get a minute alone with the queen of the hour?” Brad drawls, leaning up against the table.

Kris glances sideways at him. He’s spent a little time around Brad, but Brad’s relationship with Adam has always been something of a mystery to him. He knows he’s the first person Adam ever fell in love with; he knows Brad broke Adam’s heart. That’s enough to make him wary. But Adam loves Brad, and they’ve stayed friends all this time. There must be a reason for that. An elusive one that Kris just hasn’t been able to discern yet.

He looks over at Adam, who gesticulates wildly with his hands as he relays some story to the crowd of people surrounding him. They hang on his every word. Adam looks so damn happy, and Kris thinks he shouldn’t have come. But it’s hard to regret the decision when Adam catches his eye for a moment and smiles that dazzling smile, the one that makes Kris’s heart do somersaults in his chest.

“Oh, god, I know that look,” Brad says, disgusted. “So you came here, what, in hopes that Adam’s been harboring some deep, unrealized need to suck your dick?"

Kris chokes on a Skittle. His throat goes tight and sticky, and he feels like he needs to cough, but he does nothing. He can’t believe this. He hasn’t said one word. Is Brad like a body language expert or something? Or is it just that obvious?

“It’s not like that,” he says quickly, but it must be written all over his face, because Brad just rolls his eyes.

“It’s exactly like that. Trust me, I’ve been where you are.” Brad’s gaze shifts to Adam, and Kris would swear he looks a little wistful. Then he looks back at Kris sharply. “Not going to lie, I’m a little surprised you had it in you. But, and I’m saying this for your own damn good: let it go, honey. That way lays only heartache.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Kris mumbles, popping another Skittle in his mouth.

“I mean it, bitch,” Brad says. “Don’t fuck around with Adam. He doesn’t need that shit. Hurt him and I will come down on you. Hard. And not in the fun sexy way, though you’d probably like that, wouldn’t you?”

He gives Kris a smirk that’s really more like a snarl, and then smacks him hard on the ass and saunters off.

Kris is still trying to sort out what just happened, half-listening to one of Adam’s backup dancers, who is not only talking his ear off but he is pretty sure also trying to hit on him, when Adam approaches. He snags Kris’s arm and drags him down one of the corridors, away from the party, without a word.

Adam comes to a stop and pushes Kris against the wall, and for a second Kris can’t breathe, thinking that maybe Adam’s actually going to do it, make the move, kiss him, do something

But Adam just says, “What the actual fuck, Kris?”

“What?” Kris’s head is still buzzing, but the look on Adam’s face tells him that what he’s thinking about is in a completely different realm than whatever Adam has in mind.

“You send me that fucking cryptic text, you stop answering my calls, you don’t tell me what the hell is going on with you?” Adam’s voice rises with anger. “That is not fucking on! You scared the shit out of me!”

“I—I’m sorry,” Kris stammers out. “I didn’t—I mean—”

He stops and tries to remember how to breathe. It’s too much to take, being this close to Adam. He can smell him, glitter and sweat and sex, some spicy cologne underneath that.

The anger in Adam’s eyes softens. “What is going on? Did I do something?”

“No,” he says, and then, “yes.”

He closes his eyes for a second, and when he opens them again, Adam’s face stares back at him, creased with concern.

“I can’t do this,” Kris says, and all of a sudden, it’s pouring out of him, everything. “I can’t be around you because I don’t—I don’t know how to do it anymore without making myself crazy, and things with Katy are just—everything is falling apart. And I can’t stop thinking about you. I can’t stop.” He breathes in shakily. “I know this is supposed to be real life, we’re not on the island anymore and I’m not about to die, but that hasn’t changed anything. I don’t want to hurt Katy, but I’m hurting her anyway and I— Adam, I don’t know what to do anymore. About anything.”

He stops, looks plaintively at Adam, feels like he’s begging for something, for an answer, for Adam to tell him what to do. Somewhere behind them the party rages on, conversation and music and laughter, but it feels so far away, and Adam is so close, staring at him with his mouth open, speechless, and—

Kris catches Adam’s breath in his throat as he lunges up to kiss him, spins Adam around so it’s Adam with his back to the wall. For a second Adam freezes, and Kris thinks he’s going to put an end to this, but then he kisses Kris back, equally ferocious, moaning into his mouth, pressing into him so they touch at every contact point.

They kiss for awhile, hungry and hot and consuming, and then Kris snakes a hand down Adam’s stomach, down the front of his skintight leather pants.

This seems to snap Adam out of it. He pushes Kris away and says, “Fuck!”

Kris breathes hard, watching as Adam paces down the hall a few steps and rakes a hand through his hair, leaving a trail of blue glitter in black. He turns back and stares at Kris for a minute, and Kris doesn’t know what to say.

It doesn’t matter because Adam says it for him.

“We can’t,” he says finally. “Fuck, you know we can’t, Kris. Maybe things haven’t changed for you, but they haven’t changed for me either. I respect Katy too much to do this. And I respect myself too much.” He stops and looks at Kris. “If you respected yourself, you’d realize what a mistake this is.”

Kris feels like he’s going to cry, except he’s somewhere beyond tears. He is just… gutted. Agony. This is agony. His stomach feels like there's something alive in there, trying to eat its way out. He wants this so bad he doesn’t know what to do with himself.

“You’re right,” he says, strangled. “What was I thinking?”

What was he thinking? This was such a bad idea. Coming here. Seeing Adam. Kissing him. Thinking he could figure out a way to have what he wanted without hurting anyone. All of it.

“Kris,” Adam says, reaching for him, but Kris shrugs him off, hustles back to the party, out through the exit, and walks and walks and walks.

He doesn’t stop for a few blocks, and only then when he stumbles across a bar. It’s sort of a dive, but it’s mostly empty, and all he wants to do is get as drunk as possible without actually passing out and do it without anyone bothering him.

No such luck.

“You look like that guy,” the bartender says. “The singer guy.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kris replies, wondering if he should just give up and leave.

“The American Idol guy. The one who was in that plane crash,” the bartender tries explaining. “Jesus, I can’t remember his name. Not the gay one, the other one.”

That makes Kris laugh, a little hysterically, until the bartender stares at him like he’s insane.

“Well, I think I might be a little gay,” he says, and then realizes that probably isn’t something he should say here. For all he knows this is the kind of place where they throw you out for that kind of thing, or jump you with knives, or whatever.

But the bartender just shrugs, unfazed, and refills his whiskey sour without asking any more questions.

Kris takes another swallow. It doesn’t help; he can’t stop thinking about how badly he’s screwed his life up. He has no idea what he is doing, and he’s terrified he’s hurt the two people he loves the most in the world beyond repair. Because even if he cuts Adam out of his life completely, things with Katy don’t feel like they’re going to get better. He can keep pretending they will, but he’s pretty sure they both know better.

Their problems are bigger than Adam.

part four


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Tags: fic: american idol
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