Never Saw Blue
Rating: T (PG-13)
Length: 33,000 words
Disclaimer: Not mine, clearly
Summary: The cherry danish fic, the divorce saga, the one with the break-up and the get together and the funny and the hurt!comfort—call it what you will, it’s finally done.
A/N: Thanks to lolitaray for the encouragement, drgaellon for the expert medical advice and beta, and jerakeen for pushing and shoving to make me finish, and picking me up off the floor when it was all over.
“…a Tall Mild, and a Venti Skinny Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino with extra whipped cream.”
Kris stares at the paper in his hand—skinny with extra whipped cream, in what world does that even make sense?
He looks at the name scrawled next to the drink order. In Adam’s world, of course.
Pulling his hat lower over his eyes, Kris moves off to the side to wait for his 10-drink order to be ready. Allison, Adam, Matt…all of the top 10 contestants had been holed up in the rehearsal building next door practicing for the tour all morning and the instant Nescafé just wasn’t cutting it. Once Kris announced he was going in search of pure caffeine, the orders had poured in.
“Tall Latte, Grande Caramel Macchiato…” The barista piles Kris’s drinks into two trays as each is ready.
Kris rocks back on his heels and looks around the coffee shop. It is surprisingly empty for late-morning, but then Kris supposes most people started their day at a normal 6 or 7 o’clock hour; he’s been up since 4—the downfall of flying across two time zones the day before. It’s already past lunchtime in Conway, maybe he can catch Katy back at her desk. He pulls out his phone and turns towards an empty table to make his call. There’s a magazine spread across the top, flipped open to the center spread. Kris flips it closed, glancing down at the cover. OK! Magazine—why do people care so much about the lives of celebrities anyway? It’s pretty much the same old boring life as before.
On the phone, Katy’s voice mail kicks in. He listens to her sweet voice, waiting for the beep to leave a message, when a small caption in the lower right corner of the magazine catches his eye.
Idol Wife Singing Her Own Song?
Beneath the caption is a grainy picture of a blonde woman kissing a much taller guy wearing a ball cap. It’s hard to make out her face, but she’s wearing the same pink slip dress that Katy had worn when she picked Kris up from the airport last week, on her shoulder is the same oversized Gucci bag that Katy had picked out as her ‘treat’ when Kris won Idol, and her hand is tucking her hair behind her ear as she rises up for the kiss, the same unconscious tic Kris is always catching Katy doing.
In his ear, Katy signs off her message—So leave me a message and I’ll get right back to you.
Kris snaps his phone shut without speaking, then grabs the magazine and folds it to hide the offending picture. He turns around, searching for the exit. He has to get out of here. He has to call her and ask her what happened. Maybe it’s her cousin…a cousin he’s never met. Maybe it’s some trick photography. Maybe…
Maybe she’s cheating on him.
He walks past the coffee counter, the attendant shouting at him to wait. “Hey! Your drinks!”
Kris turns and mumbles a thank you. Balancing the two trays on top of one another, he moves to leave again.
“Umm, are you going to pay for that, man?” the barista asks him, pointing to the magazine beneath his arm.
Kris almost loses his drinks as he reaches into his pocket, but manages to extract a one hundred dollar bill. He tosses it on the counter. “Keep the change.”
“Oh, Kris, if Katy ever leaves you, I will have your babies!!!”
Allison squeals out the last line as she grabs the top tray from his hands and pries her Iced Mochaccino out of the tray.
Kris stands still as a statue as the other contestants swarm around him. Allison’s words intertwine with the promise Katy made to him on their wedding day. ‘If she ever leaves you…Kris, I’ll never leave you.’
Megan takes the second tray, holding it out to Kris. When he doesn’t move, she prods him with her elbow. “Earth to Kris,” she jokes.
“Huh,” he says, glancing up at her. The magazine is still tucked beneath his arm. He has to look at it again. He has to find out that the girl is wearing shoes that Katy doesn’t own. He has to find out that the restaurant behind her isn’t anywhere remotely close to Conway. He has to find proof that this isn’t his wife kissing another man.
Blindly, he reaches out and selects a drink, then walks to the far corner of the room and sits down, the magazine still folded to hide the picture. He can’t look at it. He doesn’t want to know.
“Coffee good?” Adam asks, sitting down beside him.
“What? Oh, yeah,” Kris replies, taking a sip. He sputters as the sugary confection hits his lips and stares down at his hand. Why is his coffee pink?
Beside him, Adam laughs. “I think that is mine, thank you very much.” He releases the drink from Kris’s hand, replacing it with another cup.
“Ahh,” Adam says, taking a long sip. “That is perfection.”
Kris takes a sip of his coffee, wincing when he realizes he forgot to add cream and sugar at the shop. Doesn’t matter, he suddenly feels more alert than he has in weeks.
“So what’s all the gossip?” Adam says, reaching for the magazine.
“Don’t!” Kris snaps, moving it out of his grasp.
Adam raises his eyebrows. “Oo-kay, a little touchy about our smut-rag. I’m sure I can afford my own.”
Kris bites his lip, remembering the $100 this bit of life-changing information cost him; thinking about the necklace he had seen at the airport for the same price and how he had bought it and mailed it to Katy right then and there.
She was going to love opening that present.
He bends forward to lay his coffee on the floor, bringing his hand back up to cover his eyes.
“Hey,” Adam says softly, leaning forward to match his stance. “What is it?”
Wordlessly, Kris unfolds the magazine, holding it out for Adam to take. Adam is silent as he scans the page.
“Britney’s getting married? Again? I know you respect her as an artist and everything, man, but…”
Kris sits up and jabs his finger at the magazine, practically decapitating the guy kissing his wife in glossy high-color.
“Oh, this one, this…oh….this…”
“You pick now to be speechless?” Kris sits back in his chair, his head bouncing off the wall behind him.
Slowly, Adam leans back beside him, raising the magazine to peer at it intently. He takes a long sip of his drink. “Well, she is blonde. But really, it could be anybody…”
“Wearing her dress and carrying her purse and tucking her hair behind her ear…” Kris’s voice catches in his throat as he looks at the picture again. The restaurant the couple was coming out of was Amore—and how ironic is that? It was the very same restaurant he and Katy had gone to every year on their anniversary while they were dating. The restaurant Kris had planned to buy out for one evening this September when they celebrated their first wedding anniversary.
“That’s her, Adam. That’s Katy.” He closes his eyes, pressing his fingers hard against his lids. He is not going to cry here.
“Come on,” Adam says, placing a hand across Kris’s shoulders. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Projectile vomiting,” Adam says. “For your own safety, do not enter this room.”
A mumbled voice comes from the hallway outside. Kris, hiding in the bathroom of Adam’s hotel room, isn’t sure who it is, but he’s pretty sure skipping out on the first day of rehearsals didn’t go unnoticed. He moves over to the toilet and flushes it for added authenticity.
“See?” he hears Adam say. “We’re talking hazardous waste here.”
The door closes shortly afterward, followed by a knock on the bathroom door.
“All clear…” Adam seems to hesitate, then knocks softly again. “You want me to leave?”
Kris opens the door, staring up at Adam’s face full of concern for him. He shakes his head quickly and slips past him. The last thing he needs right now is to be alone. If he was alone, he would call Katy and beg her to take it back. Beg her to take him back. But he needs to think about things before he makes that first call. Before he decides if he wants her back at all.
“What am I going to do?” he says out loud.
“Well,” Adam says, bouncing as he flops onto the king-sized bed, “no pressure, but you had better think of something quick, because you’re going to be getting a ‘Do you have a comment?’ call from Entertainment Tonight any minute.”
“Why can’t they just leave it alone?” he exclaims, collapsing in a chair by the window.
“If they left it alone, you wouldn’t have found out about it.”
“I think I’d be okay with that,” Kris replies.
Adam frowns. “Would you? Really?”
“No. Maybe.” Kris buries his head in his hands. “I don’t know.”
He hears Adam slithering across the bed; senses rather than feels him crouch on the floor in front of him. Then Adam’s large hands are removing Kris’s from his face and he is staring at Kris with such understanding.
Not pity, Kris thinks suddenly, which was what he was likely to get from everyone else once they found out.
“Call her,” Adam says softly. “Give her a chance to explain, because I know you need to do that to be okay with whatever comes next. Then call your publicist and tell her everything, because you don’t want a picture snapped of you dancing with Megan on stage and have it labeled Idol Fights Back.”
Kris nods. He can do that. Maybe.
“Meanwhile I will have the mini-bar restocked and we will nurse you back to health!”
Adam moves to the far side of the room, opening the fridge to assess the contents.
Kris takes out his cell phone, opening it to find it still displaying Katy’s number. His last call. He looks up at Adam, the other man nodding in silent understanding. Adam steps outside the room, the soft click of the door a starting gun for Kris to begin the hardest fight of his life.
The phone call goes great for the first five minutes. That’s how long Katy manages to chatter on about everything and nothing until Kris interrupts her with a quiet, ‘I saw it.’
She doesn’t even ask what he’s talking about. There’s a mumbled rush about reporters calling her all morning and Kris thanks God that he got a new cell number after he won. His publicist is probably blowing a gasket, but that’s why he’s paying her so much money, right?
If there’s one thing to be thankful for, it’s that Katy is an honest person. She doesn’t lie, doesn’t even try to shift the blame. ‘I’m sorry. It just sort of happened.’
Kris asks how long, and gets an answer he finds hard to believe—‘Just the one time.’ He asks who the guy is—‘Camden, that doctor from church, you know, the one whose wife died.’ (Kris knew he recognized him from somewhere.)
He asks ‘What now?’ and honestly can’t say whether he’s shocked or not at her answer—‘I think we need some time apart, officially. And you should give things a chance out there. I sat right in the front row for months. It’s obvious that he cares about you.’
He hangs up after a minute of silence. If Katy wants to fabricate a universe where Kris is doing the cheating, with Adam no less, to make herself feel better…he’s not even going to go there. He needs to think, and call the people who are actually in charge of his life now, and drink…drink would be most excellent at this point.
He’s still sitting there with his phone in his hand when Adam pokes his head in the door 10 minutes later.
“I didn’t hear any voices,” he explains as he slips inside holding a grocery bag and a tray of coffee. “I got coffee and mix, pick your poison.”
“I’ll take mix for 500, Alex,” Kris replies, and vows he’s going to forget his wife’s name.
As if grapefruit juice didn’t burn enough going down, it sears his throat on the way up. At least he’s got evidence to show the tour manager when he demands to see for himself that Kris is sick. Adam coaxes everyone out of the room, to Kris’s relief, saying it’s probably just food poisoning, and really, do they want to move him back to his own room in this condition?
Adam’s body radiates heat when he curls around Kris on the floor beside the toilet. Kris shifts away from him instinctively. He’s burning up, and it’s too uncomfortable to stay next to Adam. Kris tells himself that is the only reason why he moves.
He leans back against the tub, the cold porcelain a welcome relief to his skin. “I think I’m dead.”
“You make a surprisingly life-like corpse,” Adam replies, nudging Kris’s leg with his foot.
“Don’t move. Hurts.”
“Wait, wait, let me write this down.” Adam produces a piece of paper and a pen, from God only knows where, and writes: “Mental Note: Grapefruit juice not an acceptable substitute for OJ—check.”
Kris glances sideways at Adam leaning against the vanity across from him. “I think the point of mental notes is not to write them down.”
“Silly boy, how am I ever going to remember them that way?”
“Gotcha, and we do not want a repeat of the grapefruit juice…” Ugh, Kris feels like it might repeat on him again right now.
“Hey, when you are faced with a crisis, you take what you can get in the hotel gift shop. Besides, I didn’t want to leave you alone for too long.”
“I wasn’t going to jump to my death from the 36th floor. “
“No, but you might get desperate and beg her to change her mind.”
Kris shoots him a dirty look. That was low.
“Hey! This is the hate-Katy party, right? I didn’t come into the wrong room?”
“We don’t hate her. We challenge her decisions.”
“Right,” Adam says, suddenly contrite. “Anyone who dates a guy named Camden needs her decisions seriously challenged.”
Kris can’t respond. His wife is dating someone else. His church-going wife is dating someone else and thinks that Kris is maybe, somehow, or at least wants to be, gay! The apocalypse has occurred and no one thought to report it in OK! Magazine.
“It’ll work itself out,” Adam offers. “And if it doesn’t, you just let me know when you get to the anger phase and I’ll scrounge up a proper bottle of mix.” He holds his hand out to Kris. “Come on, let’s get you into bed.”
Kris takes it, unable to even think about making it to his feet on his own. “What time is it?”
“A little after midnight.”
“And we’ve been drinking for how long?”
“All day, my friend.”
“No wonder my head feels like a bowling ball. That just got a strike.”
Adam laughs and leads Kris towards the bed. “But you weren’t thinking about ‘you-know-what,’ right?”
“I wasn’t until just now,” Kris grumbles as he flops onto the mattress. “Ooh, I think I’m seasick.”
“Easy, Ahab. Swallow these, with this…” Adam holds out two Advil and a glass of water.
Kris manages to spill only a little of the water and swallow the pills on the second try. He lies back against the pillow, closing his eyes. The room spins and he pops them open again. “I don’t think this is going to work.”
“Oh, well, I could probably just sleep on the couch,” Adam says.
And Kris suddenly realizes he’s not alone on the bed any longer.
“It’s not like I undressed you or anything.” Adam’s laughter is contagious. Kris finds himself giggling uncontrollably.
“Can you imagine what she’d say about that?” he sputters between convulsions.
“What who would say?” Adam asks, laughing right along with Kris.
“Ka…Katy. She thinks…that we…she thinks we are…” Kris can’t even give voice to the words. It’s so ridiculous. So utterly ridiculous to even think that Adam…that he and Adam…that Adam would even consider…
Adam leans towards him, drawing a blanket up over Kris’s body. Kris’s laughter falters and fades, his eyes tracking every movement Adam makes. When Adam leans across to turn out the light on Kris’s side of the bed, Kris stares at his bicep rippling beneath his skin. Kris closes his eyes and wonders if he’s already dreaming.
“Easy,” Adam coos, his voice suddenly serious and soft. His hand rests on Kris’s head, like he’s feeling for a fever.
Kris stills, opening his eyes to look up at Adam staring down at him.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Kris protests, unsure if he’s talking about his failed marriage or the thought of a relationship with the person hovering over him right now.
“The best ones never do.” Adam matches Kris’s stare for a moment and then slides away. The light goes off on his side of the bed and they are left with just the light from the clock radio to illuminate the room.
Kris thinks he should say something. Should explain that Katy was probably confused and looking for a reason to blame Kris for what happened. But he’s so, so sleepy, and Adam’s arm is radiating a comfortable heat where it rests alongside Kris’s. He’ll just close his eyes for a minute. Then maybe he’ll find the words to explain.
He’s caught halfway between sleep and awake when Adam’s words float down to rest on top of him. “I always knew Katy was smart.” And Kris thinks it’s the oddest thing to say to a guy whose wife just said she was leaving.
Part 2Breakfast the next morning is hot coffee in his room with a screaming publicist. Kris takes two more Advil when she’s not looking and washes it down with a bite of muffin. Bad idea. Food is so not an option for him today.
Jaime has her cell phone pressed to her ear while she scans web pages on her laptop and jots notes in her (or rather Kris’s) day planner.
“Have you read the fuck-tastic internet today, Cal? All of it. They’re conspiring to give me a fucking ulcer, and Perez is their leader.”
Jaime has a mouth to match a sailor. And Cal is the tour manager currently on the receiving end of her colorful language.
“Alright, I’ll get him to print a quote from Kris. ‘We are a loving, committed couple. No further comment.’ That’s going to be our line. Got that? Merciful Jesus, I need a fucking cigarette,” she adds as an afterthought.
She hangs up her phone and stares at Kris. “Well, this is just fuckery in a can, isn’t it?”
Kris isn’t sure she’s even speaking English.
“‘Loving and committed,’” she repeats, pointing one finger at Kris. “That is our line. In the name of Jesus, Mary and baby kittens, do not stray from the line.”
Jaime’s stare is fierce. Kris nods automatically. Then he thinks he better come clean now, before she ramps her vocabulary up to ‘makes puppies bleed.’
“Actually, I think Katy…”
“Kristopher Allen, how many times have I told you not to tell me intimate details. In my business, ignorance is fucking bliss. Do I look like a person who needs less bliss in her life?” Jaime holds up her hand to stop his silent protest. “Do not tell me that your wife actually thinks she might be leaving you, or that you actually might be leaving her, or that you have actually decided to come out of the closet and this is just her reaction, because so help me God, I will slay you.”
Kris has never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but he knows enough to trust that Jaime means to inflict actual pain. She has an abnormally large purse that she totes around everywhere. She probably really does have stakes in there somewhere. And the fact that he is paying for this abuse is not lost on him. At least there is some comfort to be found in the fact that she’s fighting on his side.
He drinks his coffee, slowly, then tries to sneak a word in while Jaime searches her phone for a number.
“I need to go home.”
He didn’t know it until he said it, but he does. Jaime told him not to say what Katy was ‘actually’ thinking, and Kris realizes suddenly that he doesn’t even know what that is. He can’t just drop everything and let his marriage slip away like the tide. He’s got to fight for it somehow. If she ever meant anything to him at all…
“How did I let this happen?” he asks, and he knows the quiver in his voice must be audible to Jaime as well.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she exclaims, and punches in a number on her phone. “Cal? I need a plane.”
The private jet could be the same one he flew back to Conway on during the show, for all Kris remembers of the trip. He’s sitting in the plane on the tarmac before he realizes that he left Adam's hotel room this morning while Adam was still sleeping. He doesn’t want to be branded a gigolo on top of everything else.
He sends Adam a quick text. Gone home, thx for last night.
The double entendre doesn’t hit him until he has already sent the text, but he turns off his phone and focuses his thoughts on the day ahead. He’s hoping to find Katy at home so they can talk. Maybe he’ll find her in his bed with Camden.
Stop it! He pushes his fingers into his eyes and tries to erase the images his brain is conjuring. It’s useless. He can’t see a way where Katy hasn’t already made up her mind about their future. How she got to this place without Kris knowing it is beyond him. He was always attentive, he thought. He always made sure to call her every night, except when the time difference made it too difficult.
It wasn’t fair. He deserved some advance notice. He deserved to find out about this when he didn’t have the pressure of a tour to worry about. But then, his whole life was going to be the pressure of a tour. Or a new album. Or a press junket alone in some city they’d always planned to travel to together. He’d made that decision when he’d signed his record deal. And she’d promised to stick with him, the whole time probably plotting how she was going to break his heart with minimal damage. At least, he hoped she still cared about him that much.
The hangover from yesterday coupled with the drone of the engines lulls him to sleep at some point, and in what seems like only a few minutes, they have landed and the pilot is shaking him awake.
“We’re here, Mr. Allen. Your car is waiting.”
His car. He has a ‘car’ now.
He turns on his cell phone as he walks down the airplane stairs. 12 new messages pour into his phone.
Grapefruit juice evil
One thing Adam is good at is levity. Kris scrolls through the messages updating him on the songs they are practicing, and the blandness of today’s coffee (again), then he sees Katy’s name on his screen.
Can’t reach you, I think we should get a lawyer
Kris could get right back on the plane and call Jaime. She’d have a lawyer for him within the hour; hell, she probably has one on retainer that he’s been paying for and doesn’t even know about. He could fly back to Los Angeles and leave the ruins of his marriage right here in Conway.
But that isn’t the man he was raised to be. It isn’t the husband he vowed to be. And it isn’t the man he wants to be.
He slides into the car and tells the driver his address. It isn’t far, but the distance could never have been long enough for him to prepare for what he was going to say anyway. How do you convince someone to stay when they’ve already gone?
Katy’s car is in the driveway when he arrives. Another car he doesn’t recognize is parked right behind it. Seriously? He’s in there right now?
Kris picks up his phone and calls her cell. She answers on the first ring.
“Are you home?” he asks.
“Yes,” she replies.
“Where are you?”
Her blonde hair catches the late afternoon sun as she peeks through the curtains of the front window. The phone disconnects and Kris sees the front door open. She stands there staring out at him, a silent invitation that it is still okay to enter. He steps out of the car and walks up the driveway.
Katy explains that Camden’s car was left there from the night before. “He just came by to see how I was doing and we had a drink. Nothing happened.”
Kris isn’t really in a position not to believe her. What reason does she have to lie at this point? But that doesn’t make it any easier to listen to her explain how she had felt over the past few months. How she had watched their marriage slip away without his even seeming to notice.
“But I was just so busy…” he tries to explain
“And you are always going to be,” she counters.
It isn’t fair, and it hurts, but Kris has to agree with some of her points. He had been less attentive, even during the short time they had had at home together before he left for the tour. And their lives revolved around his career now. There was little left over for normalcy.
“But you’re the one who encouraged me to audition. I thought this was what we wanted?”
“I thought so too.” Katy’s voice is soft, her face hidden behind a curtain of hair.
Kris reaches out and tucks it behind her ear. It’s so silky soft. He can’t believe that she doesn’t want him to be the one touching her anymore.
She raises her face to meet his, then ducks away again. “It’s a lot different than I thought it would be.”
Kris thinks it’s a hell of a lot different for him too, but he didn’t go out and find a new boyfriend to try and help him get through it. He had thought it would be hard to be angry at her, but it is surprisingly easy once he gets started. When he thinks about Camden—about the soft-spoken doctor they’d both felt so badly for after his wife died—he wants to hit something. Preferably a Camden-shaped something.
“How could you do that to me?” he asks. When her face crumbles into tears he instantly feels guilty. He never could stand to see her cry.
She begs him to believe that she didn’t mean for him to find out this way; that she had promised herself she would wait until they had some real time to spend alone to bring up her doubts, to work through them with Kris. But the loneliness was too much.
And he knows it was probably just the one time, just the one kiss, but he also knows Katy better than that. He knows she wouldn’t rush headlong into something if she wasn’t sure, and that means that she has had feelings for Camden for months. Doubts about their marriage that she didn’t share with him. That betrayal is worse than if she’d actually cheated on him. Because that sin would have been committed in another man’s bed. Hers was committed in Kris’s.
There is more going around and around, but it doesn’t alter the feeling of finality that settles in the pit of his stomach. This is the finish line—all he has to do is break through the ribbon. He’s sitting in an armchair near the couch while Katy lies down, seeming exhausted herself. It’s dark outside already. He hasn’t eaten all day and his headache from this morning has returned with a vengeance. He thinks he is ready for this day to be over.
“Do you remember that poster I had on my wall when we were in college?” Katy asks suddenly.
Kris remembers one with kittens and a ball of yarn. And another M. C. Escher print that he could never figure out.
“‘If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, it never was.’” She smiles at him gently. “I don’t expect you to come back.”
His heart sinks way down to his stomach. He has never heard her voice sound so sad in all his life.
“I’m not the one that left,” he finally manages to say.
“I think we both know that isn’t entirely true.” Katy sits up and leans forward, her elbows on her knees. “I’m not in love with him, Kris. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to find someone to love as much as I love you.”
Kris stares at her. There is a but here somewhere.
Katy takes a deep breath. “But I think we were over a long time ago. I think, maybe…” She pauses, a tear rolling across her cheek. “I think maybe we never should have gotten married.”
“Don’t say that.”
“We were too young! How could we know what we wanted? And Idol was just starting…” Her hands wring around each other, like she is trying to squeeze out every last drop of courage. “I never told you this before, but I pushed to get married before you went to California because I was afraid of what might happen out there.”
“Afraid that I’d win?” he asks, incredulous. That had kind of been the point.
She shakes her head. “No, afraid of who’d you become outside of ‘us’. Outside of this tiny little bubble we were so happy in.”
Kris stares at Katy’s face—at her china-doll perfect skin, rosy red circles on her cheeks where she is flushed from crying—and thinks ‘she’s even pretty when she cries.’
“But you had to go,” she is saying, and Kris realizes he has tuned her out. It doesn’t matter what she says, it’s all permutations of the same message—she wants out, he didn’t see it coming. Maybe he should have. It doesn’t matter. He knows it as surely as he knew he loved her way back when they met in high school—it’s over.
Katy wipes her eyes and sits up straighter. “I think we need some time apart. And I can keep it quiet and not be seen with Camden, if that’s what you want. But I just think we both deserve to be happy, and if that’s what someone else can do for you…someone else that you might be able to love…”
“Don’t even say it.”
He can’t let her say it. Whatever she imagines about him and Adam has nothing to do with the dissolution of their marriage. He had been committed. He had been faithful. He won’t let her make this about something it’s not.
In his pocket, his cell phone vibrates again. It’s been going off all day, but Kris has been ignoring it. He takes it out now and looks at the calls—15 new messages.
Adam’s far outweigh the others. Maybe it’s a sign of something else, something Kris is not ready to contemplate yet, but to him it is a sign that he has a friend. Someone he really wants to talk to right now. He flips his phone closed and stands up.
“Send me your lawyer’s phone number. I’ll get someone to call him.”
Katy looks stunned, like she didn’t think today would ever reach this foregone conclusion.
Kris shrugs. “I’m not going to be back here until…” He thinks about the tour dates. Was it all the way through September? “Months, for sure. That’s enough time for us to know if we like being separated, right?”
Katy stands up and walks towards him. She reaches a hand out and places it on his chest. Kris imagines that his skin burns at the site.
“It doesn’t have to be over yet,” she says.
Kris takes her hand and places it back down by her side. He tilts his head and takes one last good look at her.
“But don’t you see?” he asks. “It already is.”
Part 3When Kris walks into his hotel room, it’s pristine—a clean slate for the next day. He wonders if erasing his marriage could be so easy. If he could hire a maid to scrub away the 8 years of memories that have collected dust in his brain.
It’s midnight in some time zone—Kris can’t remember if he set his watch to Arkansas time or not. Doesn’t matter. He’s too tired to sleep, and too tired to think. He sits on the couch next to the window and looks out at the lights of Burbank—they look exactly like the lights of every city he’s visited since he won. You’d think it’d be more glamorous—this American Idol winner business. But instead it’s mostly rehearsals and meetings and hotel rooms that all look the same once you’ve closed the door on the city outside. He hasn’t written anything new since the win, and can’t imagine where the inspiration will come from now.
Kris rubs his hands over his face, his wedding ring cool against his skin. Slowly, he lowers his hands and stares at the band encircling his finger, an anchor to his past. He can’t remember the last time he removed it, but it’s surprisingly easy to slip it off. Kris wonders if slipping out of his life with Katy will be so easy. He palms the ring, feather-light in his hand. In moments, he can’t feel it there at all, like when you are half-asleep and can’t tell where your feet end and the sheets begin. His eyes tell him that it still exists, and there is a mark around his finger that will probably never fade—a sign that he was actually in love.
The ring clinks against the glass tabletop when he lays it down, staring at it like he expects it to protest. But it’s mute. His marriage is dying with a whimper.
A sound from the hallway startles him and he snaps his head up. The lock clicks on his door, the handle flipping down. Kris sits still, shocked that someone else has a keycard to his room. Then the door swings open to reveal Adam, struggling with two take-out containers balanced in one hand and two bottles of beer gripped in the other, and Kris’s shock fades, replaced with a smile.
“Need a little help?” Kris asks.
Adam almost drops the food on the floor, which just makes Kris’s smile even wider.
“What are you doing in here?” Adam cries, laying down the food to press his hand to his chest. Always the drama queen.
“Well, this is my room.”
“Well, yes, but you went home and I thought I had time to get all set up before you got back…oh, come here!” Adam sweeps across the room and grabs Kris up out of his chair, squeezing so tight that Kris can’t get a breath. “It had to be horrible. Was it horrible?” He pushes back to look Kris in the eye.
But Kris is stuck on his words—‘you went home’. He spent all day at his house, with his wife, in his hometown, and yet standing here with Adam’s hands gripping his shoulders, concern painted on Adam’s face, Kris feels like he has only now come home.
“It’s done,” he finally says, and Adam exhales.
“Oh honey, I am so, so sorry.” He pulls Kris down on to the couch, turning so that they are facing each other. “Was it her? Or you? Or do you even want to talk about it?”
“I don’t…Maybe? I’m not sure.” He doesn’t know if he has the words to give voice to his feelings yet. A part of him is not sure the last 48 hours have happened yet.
“Got it,” Adam replies. He gets up and walks back to where he laid down the food. “And I’ve got the remedy. Food and alcohol—no grapefruit juice.”
Kris smiles and takes the offered tray and beer. It’s a burger and fries, greasy and fat, and looks like the best thing Kris has seen in weeks.
“How did you get in here anyway?” Kris asks around a mouthful of food.
“Oh, that. Well, do you want the long version or the short version?”
Kris wants the long version. He wants to sit back on this couch and eat and drink and listen to Adam’s voice lull him back into this reality. The other one is far too painful to think about yet.
“Apparently all of the keycards in this hotel are identical-looking, or something. Who made up that system? And I don’t know how you got into your room this morning, but when I left my room, with that key…” Adam points to the key he had laid on the dresser when he entered the room. “I couldn’t get back in. Well, except to your room. Any port in a storm.”
Kris knows exactly how he got into his room this morning. With his key. One of the pair he carries around everywhere.
“So one of these is yours?” Kris asks, taking both out of his pocket.
“You aren’t supposed to carry them both around together!” Adam exclaims. “What if you lose both?”
“Because the other option is locking one of them in my room where I can’t get it?”
Adam grins. “Point oh-so-pointedly taken.”
Kris takes a long drink of his beer, smiling around the bottle. “So you have been wandering around the hotel all day looking for a lock to fit your key?”
Adam snorts and Kris frowns as he gets the double meaning. “I meant…”
Adam smiles. “I know what you meant. And I kind of came here first.”
Kris hopes the darkness hides the blush on his cheeks. He takes a sip of beer. “And you didn’t call down to the front desk because…”
“Let’s just say they get a little snippy the fourth time you lock yourself out of your room.”
“I’m putting this card on a chain for you.” Kris looks down at the identical cards. “Once we figure out which one is yours, that is.”
The silence is comfortable, Kris smiling to himself when he pictures Adam lounging around Kris’s room sending him text messages. A thought occurs to him and he suddenly bursts out laughing.
“You must have gone crazy without your hair products!”
Adam frowns. “$100 in the hotel salon, okay? I do not want to discuss it.”
Kris hoots, and sweeps his bottle off the table. The bottom edge catches on something; a tiny object flies across the carpet.
Adam leans forward to pick it up, but hesitates at the same moment Kris realizes what it is. He had forgotten that he’d even taken his ring off. Apparently the mark wasn’t so indelible after all.
Adam picks up the ring, holding it in the palm of his hand as Kris had done moments before. “You might want to put this in a safe place.”
Kris picks up his burger instead of reaching for the ring. “Don’t think I’m going to be needing it.”
Slowly, almost reverently, Adam reaches out to place it on the table. “Kris…”
Kris shakes his head, closing his eyes. He can’t. He’s not ready to talk about the conclusion today came to. It was one thing to discuss it with Katy, and hard enough to get through, but he doesn’t think he can relieve it again. Not yet. Not even with Adam.
“Okay, okay, not now, but if you want to talk…”
Beside him, Adam shifts, and Kris opens his eyes just as Adam leans forward to get up. He can’t leave; Kris can’t lose another person today. His hand snakes out, gripping Adam’s arm and pulling him back down.
Adam turns towards him, surprised.
“I don’t…” Kris starts. How can he put it into words? “I don’t think I know how…”
“I get it,” Adam says, shrugging easily. “It’s like you’re writing a new song, but you don’t know the lyrics yet.”
Kris smiles. That’s kind of a perfect way to put it. At some point, a song always reaches its conclusion, even if it’s not the one you had originally planned.
Adam places his hand on Kris’s knee, squeezing ever so slightly. “You want me to stay for a bit?”
Kris nods. He must look so pathetic, and he almost expects the pity to pour forth now, but instead Adam just leans back into the couch as if nothing has happened. He picks up his burger and removes an infinitesimally small tomato seed before taking a bite.
“Seedless tomatoes, that’s where the money is,” he muses.
And Kris knows that they can talk about music or movies, or seedless tomatoes that Kris isn’t sure will ever produce a second crop, and things will be comfortable between them. On this couch, in this room, with Adam, things are comfortable.
Kris’s room has two queen-sized beds, so at some point he and Adam each crawl into one. Kris doesn’t remember this come 6 AM when there is a pounding on his door and his cell phone is screaming When the Saints Go Marching In. He sits up in bed, confused and trying to figure out which to attend to first—the door or the phone—and when Adam rolls over and lets out a ‘Holy annoying life, Mr. Allen,’ Kris actually yelps…a little.
He stumbles out of bed, verifying that it is Jaime calling—only she would go so far as to program that god awful song into his cell phone—and heads for the door. That is also her, cursing under her breath as she knocks and dials. Kris drops his head against the view-hole with a thud and her supersonic hearing picks it up.
“I command you to open the door.”
On any other morning it would work, the fear she has instilled in Kris runs deep, but Kris got separated from his wife yesterday (sort of, maybe officially, in their minds at least), and now Adam is sleeping in a bed in his room, and it doesn’t matter how it looks to anyone, Jaime does not want to know intimate details. Kris is pretty sure bedmates classifies as intimate.
He flips open his cell phone. “‘Lo.”
“I can hear you through the door.”
Kris turns around and lets the back of his head flop against the wood. “I’m not hiding. It’s called sleeping. You do it before the sun wakes up.”
“Open the door, pretty please with jam and ketchup on it.”
Kris feels his stomach roll.
“I really need to talk to you before you have public contact of any kind.”
She makes it sound like Kris is a venereal disease to be contained.
“Do I have bartering room for a shower?” he asks, walking into the bathroom to turn on the water.
Jaime hmphs into the phone, but Kris doesn’t get a colorful string of reasons why he can’t. “I’ll be back in 15 with coffee and papers. Be alert.”
There’s a soft ‘fucket-puppet’ under her breath as she hangs up and Kris smiles. At least he can still be amused.
By the time Kris finishes with his shower, Adam is gone, and so are a lot of the keycards that were lying around last night. Kris pockets the one he can find and hopes it at least fits his own door. The odds are in his favor; either that, or Adam is walking around the hotel in his bare feet. Kris picks up the boots Adam left by the bed and tosses them in his closet—nothing to see here, Jaime, moving right along.
She knocks on the door at precisely 6:15—did she set a timer?—and Kris doesn’t hesitate before opening the door. It’ll be a lot to go through with her—he has to explain what Katy said, and how he felt, and the mutual conclusion they arrived at—but it’ll be good to make a formal statement of facts. It’ll help him come to terms with it.
“Sleep well?” she asks, handing him a coffee and a paper bag overflowing with pastries. Without waiting for a reply, she continues. “That’s good, ask me how I slept. Or wait, don’t, because I didn’t. Want to know why? Of course you do! I was up all night dealing with my newest problem case!”
Kris takes a sip of the coffee, just the way he likes it, and selects a danish from the bag—cherry, his favorite. He’d like to be more attentive to what Jaime is saying, but she’s going to paint him a masterpiece anyway, he might as well be enjoying caffeine and sugar while he watches.
“Congratu-fucking-lations, Mr. Allen, you have become a problem case. We have files prepared way in advance for our potential problem cases. We did not have a file prepared for you.”
Jaime works for the firm that handles all of the Idols’ publicity. He’s willing to put money on the fact that Adam’s name is on one of those ‘problem’ files.
“Sorry,” Kris manages around a mouthful of danish. “I guess you want to know what happened?”
He takes a deep breath to begin, but Jaime cuts him off.
“Oh, no need. The kind folks at TMZ.com were so helpful as to provide photographic evidence of your Last Stand in Arkansas.” Jaime reads aloud from a message on her phone. “It sounds like a bad country-and-western movie.”
“What ‘last stand’?”
Jaime digs in her purse for her laptop, then flips it open and turns it around to face Kris. “This one, Problem Child.” On the screen is a collage of pictures. Him standing outside his house while Katy waits for him on the front step. A shot through the window of the two of them standing almost chest-to-chest, Kris with his hand on Katy’s arm. Another of them hugging goodbye on the step, Katy’s face red from crying.
Kris is speechless. He looks up at Jaime’s face, her expression tight. And now he’s a little bit afraid.
“What is the number one rule, Kristopher? What do I always say is the number one rule?”
“Do not tell you intimate details?”
“No, that is number two. Number one is...”
“Stick to the line?”
Jaime actually growls at him. “Do. Not. Get. Caught! If you do not get caught there will be nothing to learn intimate details about and no line to stick to!” She throws her hands up in the air. “Son of a motherless goat!”
Kris can’t help himself, he loses it. All of the tension of yesterday and the day before and the thought that he has graduated from ‘boy-next-door’ to ‘Problem Child’ is just too much for him. He laughs so hard he almost shoots coffee out his nose. His stomach balls up into a knot and he bends over at the waist on the bed.
“What exactly is so freakin’ hilarious? Do you know how much work you are making for me?”
Kris looks up at Jaime, grinning broadly. “You’ll get a nice fat paycheck” he offers.
It seems to pacify her, because she sits at the table and picks up her own coffee to drink. “I still need to know what happened, general overview only, please. And if it involves the words ‘affair’ or ‘divorce,’ tell me now so I can call a lawyer.”
Her flippant use of the words ‘affair’ and ‘divorce’ sobers Kris quickly and he sits down in the other chair at the table with what is left of his breakfast. The cherry filling doesn’t taste as sweet now that he has to talk about the dirty details.
“We’re going to separate for a while. See how things go…I guess.”
“You guess?” Jaime rolls her eyes and makes a note on her pad. “We’re playing a fucking game show.”
“I’m pretty sure we’re over. There wasn’t much left to talk about last night.” He finds the business card Katy gave him with her lawyer’s info on it and hands it to Jaime.
“Marv-alicious, I’ll be sure to have it bronzed.” She drops it into her purse (how is she ever going to find it again?) and folds her hands on top. “Now, completely off the record, are you getting divorced?”
Kris shakes his head. He can’t even think about the word without wanting to throw up. He thinks he’d be happy staying separated forever. That way he wouldn’t ever have to worry about moving on, something he doesn’t think he’ll ever be capable of doing.
“Right, but you are not wearing your wedding ring anymore, gotcha.”
He completely forgot about that. He hadn’t really made up his mind if it was staying off permanently or not. “No,” Kris protests. “That’s not it.”
But Jaime is gathering her things, everything she needed to know apparently gleaned from their short conversation. She stands, tossing her laptop, phone, notebook and one of the danishes into her purse, then flipping the whole thing up on her shoulder.
“Listen, hon, can you just do me one favor?” she asks, leaning over to place a hand on Kris’s arm. “For the love of tits and balls, if you are going to have someone else sleeping in your room, pretend you don’t know my name.”
Kris glances over at the second messed up bed, and realizes he hadn’t exactly thought the whole ‘keep Adam a secret’ plan through. Not that there’s anything to be embarrassed about…but Jaime is gone and Kris is standing alone in his room with reddened cheeks just the same.
Jaime’s official line surrenders in defeat with a burst of obscenities and Kris Allen slides from ‘loving and committed’ to ‘officially separated’ over the next few days. It’s not that different, except that he has been getting pitying eyes from everyone involved with the tour and can no longer show his face in public.
“We do have people who get paid to fetch coffee for us now,” Allison reminds him as a means of comfort.
He supposes it should be comforting, having the Idol machine to support him, but it’s hard to forget that if it wasn’t for Idol, he never would have left Katy behind in Arkansas. And no matter how many times a cute intern asks if there’s anything she can get him, he just doesn’t feel comfortable sending her into the paparazzi frenzy when he can’t, or won’t, go outside himself. He’s drank more bad coffee in the past few days than he cares to remember.
“You need to get out,” Adam says, seemingly reading his mind. He flops down beside him with two bottles of water in hand. “Rehydrate, Allen. Alcoholic consumption resumes at 8 sharp.”
If Kris drinks for one more night in a row he’s going to join Alcoholics Anonymous just to show his solidarity.
“I can’t. My cast-iron stomach is rusty.”
“Good one!” Adam decrees, downing half of his water bottle in one continuous gulp. “But we are not drinking in your hotel room again. No offense, but not even housekeeping can keep up with that smell. We need to go out out.”
“No thanks,” Kris says, opening his own bottle of water. “But have fun!”
“Oh, come on. You cannot lock yourself in your hotel room forever.”
“I don’t plan to. In a few weeks I’m going to lock myself on a bus.”
“How charmingly pathetic.” Adam rolls his eyes at him. “You cannot let Katy win this thing.”
Kris didn’t think it was a contest, but he supposed if anyone was emerging the victor, it was his estranged wife.
“She was photographed at some hospital benefit in Little Rock last night. With him.”
“Good,” Adam says.
Kris looks at him sharply.
“You are calling him ‘him.’ Good sign. Now if you can just forget her name…”
“We were married, I didn’t meet her in a club bathroom…” It’s a low blow, but Adam is smiling around his water bottle.
“So you don’t keep me around for the relationship advice?”
Kris grins. He keeps Adam around for the sanity. And the support, and the food, and the constant foreseeing of what Kris needs to get through the next five minutes, and providing it, unasked.
He nudges Adam with his elbow. “I keep you around for the girls.”
“Stick with me, Allen. I’ll take you places.” Adam winks at Kris before standing up to go back to practice. He turns back after a second and takes something out of his pocket.
“Oh, before I forget, here’s your key.”
Kris takes the hotel keycard holds it up to the light. “Are you sure this is the right one?” They have been doing this for days, Adam giving Kris back ‘his key,’ only to find out it’s actually the spare one to Adam’s room. Kris doesn’t know how the man isn’t forced to sleep in the lobby.
“Yes, definitely the right key. To my room.”
Kris just raises his eyebrows.
“Well, I just figured that you should have a place to go if you ever get locked out of your room.”
“And where will my spare key be?”
“Hair product emergencies crop up when you least expect them. I am entrusting my spares to you. Don’t let me down.”
Kris pockets the keycard, smiling the whole time. That night, Adam lets himself into Kris’s room just after ten and they watch TV in silence until midnight. He leaves, and Kris doesn’t bother to lock the deadbolt or the chain. It’s a comfort to know that Adam is out there with a key to his room. Kris’s life is a jumbled mess, one he can’t always make sense of, but he feels like Adam just might hold the decoder ring.
Adam makes Kris’s room his second home. Not that they get much down time between rehearsals and media commitments, but more often than not Kris will walk into his room to find Adam already there, room service on the way, and some cheesy pay-per-view playing. Adam swears they are going to branch out and eat in the hotel restaurant at some point, but Kris isn’t ready for any publicity. He shuttles between the hotel and the rehearsal space behind blackened windows and tries to pretend that nothing is all that different from before.
Adam slaps Kris’s laptop closed on his fingertips when he checks TMZ.com for more pictures of Katy before bed.
“Expand your horizons, Allen. I’m sure Britney is doing something skanky.”
Kris likes it, the ease that comes from basically living with Adam again. It’s not like he’s there all the time, but he’ll appear at odd moments, like at 2 AM after getting in from a date just to tell Kris how the guy’s breath reeked. Or before breakfast because he can’t decide what earrings to wear with his outfit.
One morning Kris walks out of his bathroom without a towel on and hears a loud hoot from across the room.
“Woo! That is the whitest ass I have ever seen!”
“Out!!!” Kris yelps.
After that Kris institutes the ‘chain-rule’ during private time. Adam is great, but there is such a thing as personal space. And that morning after Adam leaves (laughing the whole way out), Kris gets hard just thinking about him sitting out there. How if he was just a little more uninhibited, maybe things could have gone an entirely different way.
That wasn’t supposed to be sexy, it was supposed to be embarrassing, but his body had other ideas. He had jerked off with his eyes shut tight and tried to picture Katy at her most seductive. For the first time since their separation, it was hard to bring her face into focus.
Part 4On the Friday before Kris’s birthday, Adam brings spicy Indian curry to his room. The naan bread is soft and pliable, soaking up the liquidy sauce from their plates. By the time they are halfway through, Kris’s eyes are red and teary and his nose is running from the heat.
“This is the best worst thing I have ever eaten,” Kris says, gulping water like he’s found an oasis in the desert.
“You need milk,” Adam says, rummaging in the mini fridge for something appropriate. “Hmm, almost expired yogurt, have to do.”
Kris catches the container in one hand and rips the foil top off. He licks it like ice cream.
“Mhy tonguh isth on fire,” Kris mumbles, mouth hanging open.
“Wow,” Adam muses, sitting down at the table again and opening a beer to drink for himself. “You are not a very adventurous eater, are you?”
“I don’t think they make this in Conway,” Kris says around another mouthful of yogurt.
“Oh, they make it. You just can’t find the good stuff for all the BBQ joints.”
Kris could defend his hometown, but Adam is not actually that far off.
“Have you ever eaten Thai? Moroccan?”
Of course Kris has eaten Pad Thai—he wasn’t raised under a rock. “I thought a ‘moroccan’ was a cookie?”
“That’s a macaroon!” Adam shakes his head. “It’s worse than I thought. Your culture is dying a slow and painful death.
“My culture is just fine, thank you very much.”
“Yes, I noticed the new plaid shirt you bought.”
“It’s House of Fraser… or something. Jaime swore it was a designer!”
“Honey, it’s ugly. I need to set you up with my stylist.” Adam takes his phone out of his pocket. “And we are eating Moroccan tomorrow night.”
Kris smiles as Adam calls his stylist and begs her to take Kris on as a charity case. His birthday is on Sunday and despite all his protests that he didn’t want to do anything special, he’d been worried that Adam wasn’t paying any heed to him at all. Now though, they have plans for tomorrow night and no one is going to go wild with a party on a Sunday. He reaches over and snags Adam’s beer to help tamp down the flames in his throat. It’s so easy, just sitting here, eating and joking. If he could spend his birthday weekend right here in this room with Adam, he’d be a happy, happy man.
On Saturday morning, Allison invites Kris out to dinner that night with her and Anoop. It’s an odd pairing, and he’s immediately suspicious that this is some ruse to get him away from secret birthday plans. Besides, he’s supposed to be having dinner with Adam.
“Sounds good, but I have plans.”
“With someone more important than me?” Allison cries, knocking Kris on the shoulder.
Adam walks over and slings an arm around her shoulder, one hand punching buttons on his phone as he speaks. “Aw, angel, no one could be more important than you.”
“Well, I know that,” Allison hmphs. “But you should inform your boyfriend here.”
Kris is sure he’s blushing redder than a tomato but no one else seems to notice. Adam doesn’t even glance up from his phone.
Allison folds her hands in front of her like a pleading little girl. “Come eat with us, please! Both of you!”
“Eat?” Adam asks, looking up.
“She wants us to have dinner with her and Anoop, but I told her…” Kris starts.
“Oh, sounds like fun,” Adam interjects. “But you kids go on without me. I have a hot date!” He waggles his phone in the air and walks away.
Kris stares after him, his cheeks flaming now in embarrassment. Adam forgot about their plans that quickly? Kris is a big boy, but the rejection stings.
“Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease,” Allison chants.
“Yeah,” Kris mumbles, eyes still on Adam’s back. “Sure, whatever.”
“Yay!” Allison squeals and hugs him tightly.
He snaps back to reality, smiling at her as she runs off to find Anoop. Across the room, Adam is laughing at something he just read on his phone. Kris tries to shake it off and sits down with his guitar. He’s not going to cry about it or anything. If Adam wants to cancel their plans, fine, Kris will go out in public for the first time since his separation without his security blanket. Adam never was one for the warm fuzzies anyway.
The restaurant is dark and tiny, with music too loud to think over, let alone talk. Kris can’t see Anoop’s face across the table, and can barely make out Allison’s sitting next to him in the corner booth. He feels like he’s fallen down the rabbit hole, only instead of popping out in Wonderland, he’s stuck inside the actual hole.
A waitress approaches their table, just a white face with blonde hair floating above a black-clad body. Kris manages to catch the word ‘drinks’ and orders a gin and tonic before he remembers that Katy used to love them on hot summer nights when iced tea just couldn’t cut the humidity. When it arrives, he swallows it in three large mouthfuls and asks for a beer, ‘Whatever’s cold.’
“Did you get a load of that waitress?” Anoop yells from across the table.
Kris leans back and checks out of the conversation. It’s not like he can hear him very well anyway.
“She looked just like your ex-wife. I mean, your wife. I mean, your…ow!”
Kris is pretty sure Allison just kicked Anoop under the table, but he can’t be bothered to care. He didn’t even make eye contact with the waitress, let alone register what she looked like. And there have got to be lots of tiny blondes trying to make it in LA. His beer lands on the table in front of him and as he reaches out, it glows green. The music changes to a low keening sound, very Stanley Kubrick sci-fi movie like.
“It’s the mood-changer!” Allison squeals, bouncing in her seat. “I forgot that this was the place. If your date isn’t going well, or whatever, you just have to wait, like, 20 minutes or something, and the entire mood of the place changes. Look!”
She points at the waitress who is wearing a silvery sheath over her black leotard, the whole outfit glowing more green than silver in the light. She does have Katy’s build and hair and skin color, but the lighting makes her look alien…like an actual alien.
“She really does look like her. Sorry, man, but with the music…it’s like attack of the pod people,” Anoop says, followed by another loud ‘Ow!’ as Allison plays defense.
She’s the next best thing to having Adam act as his filter, but not quite as successful at distracting his thoughts. He watches their waitress glide around the room, depositing drinks on other tables. She stops and punches an order into the little screen at her station, reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ear like Katy always did. Maybe she’s a long lost cousin…or maybe Kris has already had enough to drink for one night.
He pushes his beer away and gives Anoop a smile that he hopes says ‘no big deal, man.’ The mood shifts from 2001: A Space Odyssey to the wild, wild west. Kris expects cowboys to come charging out at any minute, but the waitress just shows up with their food, minus the cape, with a cowboy hat resting on her head. Kris has to admit she looks an awful lot like Katy did last fourth of July.
“She’s very pretty, hey?” Allison says awkwardly, and Kris just ducks his head into his pasta.
He’s been surprisingly successful at keeping Katy out of his brain—whenever he has Adam around to distract him that is. Put him in a room with a Katy-bot, and forget it.
The meal is over, for Kris at least, when the mood shifts to Valentine’s Day. The waitress has a rose tucked behind her ear and The Way You Look Tonight filters softly down through the air. He snags her arm when she comes to clear his plate, handing her his AMEX wordlessly. Allison coughs and makes a show of pushing her half-full plate to the side, but Kris doesn’t respond. It’s rude, he knows it, but he needs to go home. His wife’s doppelganger is walking around in front of him and his brain is screaming at him that he can’t spend the rest of his life reading about her online, never having an actual conversation.
He shuts Allison and Anoop out in the car, and refuses their request for a night cap as they enter the hotel. His room is empty, as if he actually thought Adam might be waiting for him, but he’s a man on a mission. He retrieves his wedding ring from the bedside drawer where it hides behind Gideon’s Bible and a stack of in progress lyrics. It still weighs next to nothing—Kris had almost expected it to get heavier with time, as if the memories and lost love attached to it could take corporeal form. He sits on the edge of his bed, his ring in his hand, and dials Katy’s number.
It rings three times before he realizes it’s already past midnight in Arkansas and he’s just about to hang up when someone answers.
It’s a man’s voice, definitely not mistakable for Katy’s. Kris checks the phone display to see that he dialed the right number, and then the tumblers click into place. It is Katy’s number, and that is Katy’s phone, but it’s the new man in her life that is sleeping beside her. The new man that gets to answer her phone when others call to disturb her in the middle of the night.
Kris hangs up without saying a word and dials another number quickly.
Jaime answers on the first ring. “You better not be quitting on me or something.”
The voice Kris hears doesn’t sound like his own. Like he’s floating above his own body and the shell left on the bed below is running on autopilot.
“I need a lawyer,” his body says into the phone. “A good one.”
“Christ-iolas,” Jaime replies.
That’s very creative, he thinks, sounds a bit like a breakfast cereal. Kris hangs up before she can really get going though, one colorful curse phrase per night is his limit these days. He stares at his phone for a minute but Katy doesn’t call back, not that he actually thought she would. It’s the right decision, getting a divorce. Maybe they should try therapy first, or maybe they should take a long vacation somewhere and see if they can rekindle their romance, but neither of those things is going to happen with Kris on tour, and then working on his album, and really…didn’t Katy already make her thoughts on the matter perfectly clear? He’s trying to hold on to something that isn't there. Better to just rip off the band-aid quickly and cleanly. Less pain.
He deposits his ring back in the drawer, tucking it behind the bible and pushing until the book has it wedged against the very back of the drawer. Safe and hidden. Then he stands up and walks across the room to his door, sliding the chain across and locking the deadbolt. He is not in the mood to be disturbed tonight.
Part 5Kris manages to forget that it’s his birthday at all for five whole minutes after he wakes up. He’s a little preoccupied scrolling through the text messages that Jaime sent overnight (does that girl even sleep?).
You did mean D-I-V-O-R-C-E lawyer, right?
She writes it like the title of that country song. Kris is going to have to look that one up later.
I have a barracuda and a goldfish—I assume gentle?
A goldfish for a lawyer? But Kris gets her meaning, and he doesn’t want to go for the jugular. Katy was unfaithful to him. There should be no question about dividing their assets equally; not that she has an equal amount to contribute, but he’s going to try and be fair. She supported him through Idol, she can have half of everything up until today. The decision is surprisingly an easy one to make.
HB btw, sending pastries and coffee
Happy Birthday…right. He’s celebrating his 24th birthday with a big fat divorce. Fabulous start to the year.
He drags himself out of bed and showers, washing away the memories of the Katy-bot and his call for a divorce lawyer. Maybe’s it’s too soon, maybe he should have tried harder, but he’s only kidding himself if he thinks there’s going to be a different ending to their story—Katy apparently checked out a long time ago, Kris was just a little slow catching up.
His door knob jiggles when Kris exits the bathroom, but Kris is only wearing a towel—thank God he Adam-proofed the place last night, he’s not in the mood to put on a peep show. He looks through the peephole to see if it is Adam out there, but sees no one. Maybe someone had the wrong room.
Kris dresses and fiddles with his guitar for a while, waiting around for the room service Jaime said she was sending up. She sends him two more messages while he waits:
Did you know you can get a divorce in Arkansas if you are impotent?
Kris has to wonder if she keeps him as a client just for her own amusement.
You have to live apart for 18 months or go with the cheating thing
Kris isn’t sure if that means he has to prove that she cheated, or just get her to admit it in court, but that’s why he’s hiring a lawyer, right? He texts back:
Whatever, just do it
The less he has to think about it, the better.
There’s another sound outside his door. The peephole still reveals no one. Either he’s being haunted, or Jaime really did send coffee up to his room complete with a little person to deliver it. He relents and opens the door; those cherry danishes were awfully good.
There’s a swush, thud somewhere near his feet and Kris jumps back (what is he, afraid of pastries now?). But it’s not pastries, it’s Adam, lying on the floor half inside, half outside of Kris’s hotel room, his head resting on the floor between Kris’s feet.
Kris looks down, taking in the huge bouquet of helium balloons tied to a weight on the floor beside Adam. There is a room service cart parked in the hallway, and Adam holds a keycard in his hands.
He looks back at Adam’s face, grinning up at him like it’s the most natural thing in the world to be lying on a hotel room floor.
Kris can feel his face cracking, no matter how pissed he was about the night before. He smiles, laughs, and gives Adam a hand to help him up.
“You do all of this?” he asks, standing aside as Adam wheels the room service cart into the room.
“No, apparently someone beat me to the food idea, but I did tip him and make him go away. Didn’t want to spoil my entrance.”
“Speaking of…why were you on the floor?”
“Why was your door locked?” Adam counters.
Kris blushes, looking away. “I…uh…”
“Yeah, yeah, afraid I’d burst in while you were naked again. I promised to knock first, didn’t I?”
“If you would’ve knocked, I would’ve answered the door.”
“If I would’ve knocked, that would’ve ruined the surprise.”
Kris laughs. There really is no way to win.
Adam is bustling about the small table in the room, setting up the food from the cart like he made it himself.
“I need to get me a Jaime,” he says under his breath.
“You have a Monique,” Kris reminds him.
“But she sends me press releases and magazine offers—when have I ever cared about press releases?”
“When you’re the subject?”
The table is rapidly becoming covered with food—how many people did Jaime think she was feeding? Kris takes in the two dinner plates, two side plates, two sets of cutlery, two coffee mugs…he guesses Jaime knew exactly how many people she would be feeding.
Adam removes the covers from the food. “Eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, bread…danishes!” He grabs a danish off the tray and bites into a red center.
If he just took the only cherry danish, Kris is seriously going to cry.
“Oh my God, you have to try this,” Adam mumbles around a mouthful of food. He turns to Kris, and before Kris can even think about what he’s doing, Adam is feeding him cherry danish and Kris is biting down, his lips brushing right across Adam’s fingers.
“Good?” Adam asks, nodding. He pops the rest of the danish in his mouth and turns back to the table like electricity didn’t just fill the room.
Like time didn’t just stop and Kris wasn’t just elevated to a higher realm. Because Adam feeding him was like a shock to his system. It’s the closest he’s felt to being alive in a really long time. And Kris knows, he just gets it, that this is what his 24th year on this planet is supposed to be about—Adam.
Turns out Adam didn’t really have a date the night before. The hotel had a ‘fucking awesome’ party planner, but not everything for Kris’s ‘birthday extravaganza’ (you had to picture Adam with his arms thrown overhead to get the full effect of that phrase) was ready yesterday. Rather than ruin the surprise, Adam had bailed.
He apologized profusely over coffee and the last cherry danish, this time cut into two pieces with a knife instead of Adam’s teeth.
“You didn’t think I’d just forget about our plans, did you?”
Kris feels like a petulant child. It had kind of stung. But Adam has got a little bit of cherry filling on his lip, and right now, Kris is consumed with keeping his hands pinned to the table to prevent them from reaching out to wipe it away.
“Because, seriously, I have a vested interest in your happiness, Kris Allen. If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
Adam licks his lips, the plop of cherry filling sliding into his mouth, and, oh my holy God, is Kris ever happy. He tells himself it’s ridiculous to feel this way. To let himself feel this way. He’s just asked his wife for a divorce. A divorce he still hasn’t told Adam about, by the way. But Adam wants Kris to be happy, and not thinking about Katy on his birthday would make him supremely happy.
After breakfast, Adam ushers Kris out of the room and down to some low, low level of the hotel basement. Kris thinks briefly that this would make the perfect set for a serial killer movie, but then Adam stops and opens the door to his surprise.
“Seriously?” Kris asks when looks inside the room to see two high-gloss bowling lanes glistening beneath bright lights.
“Yep. Bowling, and pizza, and ice cream, and maybe, if you are a really, really good boy, a bouncy castle.”
Kris snorts. “You are shittin’ me!”
“Nope,” Adam shakes his head, for all the world as serious as a heart attack. “You deserve some fun! What’s more fun than bouncy castles?”
Kris can’t come up with a quick response, but he’s pretty sure that the last time he was in a bouncy castle he was 10. Then again, it was kinda fun.
Adam closes his hands around both of Kris’s and walks backwards into the room, guiding Kris to the closest lane. “It’s going to be fun,” he says, smiling, and flips Kris’s arms so that Kris is facing the lane and Adam is standing behind him, Kris’s arms crossing his chest, hands still caught up in Adam’s. Adam leans in to whisper in Kris’s ear. “I want you to be happy.”
Happy doesn’t even come close to what Kris is feeling right now. ‘Going to pop out of his jeans’ is a much more accurate description. His breath is coming in ragged gasps, or at least that’s how it sounds over the thump of his heart pounding in his ears. He closes his eyes. He could stay here forever. Stand here in Adam’s arms forever.
A squeal shatters his reverie and he actually jumps in Adam’s grip, like they’ve been caught red-handed. But it’s just Allison bursting into the room, followed by a trickle of other Idols, all making their way to Kris’s party.
“Let’s get this party started!” she yells, running for the nearest bowling ball. “Happy birthday, baby,” she says, stopping to kiss Kris on the cheek.
Adam slips away somewhere in the commotion, directing the others to drinks and snacks on the tables behind him. Then the lights go out, and someone says ‘Glow in the dark? Cool!’ and Kris says a silent ‘Thank you!’ that no one can see his flushed cheeks.
The day really does entail bowling and pizza and ice cream and cake (although who can eat cake after two trips to the sundae bar?), and progressing outside to where there is one very large, very inflated bouncy castle set up behind the hotel.
“The paps are going to have a field day with this one,” Matt says as he rips off his shoes and dives in headfirst.
Kris tends to agree, but what’s a few harmless pictures of them having fun? Much better than having someone hide behind a hedge to capture the private moments. He’s refusing to think about that today though. Jaime sent him a text that said she would have a lawyer prepare the papers he had to file, and send those to Arkansas to begin the proceedings. She’s more like his assistant than his publicist these days, but Kris counts on her for a lot of stuff. Thankfully she only said ‘Fuckin’-A, Allen’ when he told her they were entertaining the paparazzi with aerial maneuvers.
There is also a trampoline set up in the parking lot, much more effective for actual jumping on by an adult. The bouncy castle is more fun though, Kris lies in it for a full 20 minutes while Allison tries to do somersaults, the plastic rolling him like a ship on the ocean. At one point, Adam crawls in on his hands and knees, picking up each hand as quickly as he lays it down with a disgusted look on his face.
“Do they ever clean these things?”
Kris settles deeper into the crevice he has slipped into and tries not to think about years of toe jam beneath him.
Adam tentatively lies beside him, carefully crossing his hands on his chest. “So, having fun?”
Kris smiles, he can’t even put this day into words.
“Excellent,” Adam says, nodding. “But we have to pack up soon. Three hour rental.”
And he was just getting the hang of landing back in his perfect little crevice anytime someone jumped inside and shifted him around.
Adam rolls onto his side, leaning his head on his elbow. “I have another surprise though, for later. If you don’t have anything else planned.”
Kris rolls his eyes. “I have spent the last two weeks practically locked in a room with you. I’m good.”
“Are you really?” Adam’s voice is suddenly serious.
Kris should tell him. This is the part were Kris confesses that he reached a decision about his marriage and that…what, left him free to pursue something with Adam? It’s crazy talk. For all Kris knows Adam isn’t even the slightest bit interested in a relationship, and hello??? Adam is gay. The last time Kris checked, he wasn’t.
Which sort of doesn’t make the butterflies in his stomach explicable in any way, but he hasn’t figured that one out yet. Finally, he just chooses to nod. He smiles too, he thinks, but it could be coming across as a grimace.
Adam seems satisfied though. He slides out of the bouncy castle, reaching back in to yank Kris out by his feet. “Time for birthday bumps!” he yells.
The last part of his birthday surprise is mellow and sweet and perfect. Adam has ordered Moroccan (‘You didn’t think I’d forget, did you?’) for everyone, but only Allison, Matt and Megan join them. They sit around on Adam’s hotel room floor, eating with their hands and soaking up the sauces with bread.
“Get messy,” Adam instructs. “It’s like a rule.”
Kris is satiated with the memory of today, he doesn’t even need the food. But it is as good as Adam promised and he has to admit Adam is opening doors to a lot of new experiences. More than Kris ever expected.
After mentions of leftover cake for dessert, which everyone is too full to eat, Adam makes a show of shooing them all out.
“I’m covered in castle cooties,” he says. “Ugh, can you smell it on me?”
Kris rises up slowly to leave as well, but Adam closes the door behind the others and turns to block Kris’s exit.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Uh…my room?” Kris responds. His hand goes to his back pocket. “Unless you hijacked my key again.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” Adam says, turning Kris around and leading him back across the room. He stops by the mini fridge and leans down to extract a bottle from the fridge. He hands it to Kris and reaches to get two glasses from the tabletop.
Kris holds up the bottle to see what they are drinking—Adam bought him champagne?
“This looks expensive,” Kris protests as they leave the room and head for the elevators.
“I bought it in the hotel gift shop,” Adam replies, flipping his hand to throw off the comment. “Overpriced, yes. Expensive, no. And probably doesn’t taste that great either. But we still have to celebrate!”
“Come on, this is too much. You planned the whole day.”
“And now I’m planning the whole night.”
They step into an elevator and Adam punches the button for the top floor.
“Is there some rooftop party we are invited to?” Kris asks.
Adam grins at him. “A private one, yeah.”
The elevator dings and Adam turns around just in time to miss the flush that has surely spread across Kris’s face. He can’t help himself today. He’s like a 16-year-old kid lusting after some girl, except the girl in this situation is another guy…and how little that actually bothers him is kind of freaking him out.
He follows Adam up a flight of stairs to the rooftop access door, which has been propped open with a large brick.
“Friends in security,” Adam explains offhandedly.
Adam has friends everywhere, Kris thinks. They step outside and Kris is awed by the view. As far as he can see, the city is a living, breathing being, pulsing with bursts of light and sound from all over.
This world is bigger than he ever imagined it could be.
“Pretty cool the first time, hey?” Adam asks.
Kris can only nod. He’s been ‘living’ in California, sort of, for months already, but there had never been time to take in a view like this one. It’s spectacular.
“Over here,” Adam says, and walks away to the far side of the roof.
There, Kris sees two folding chairs set up by a small table. The view is even better from this side. Lights spread out at his feet like a blanket of stars.
“It’s like being in outer space,” he says quietly.
“Well I tried to arrange a meteor shower,” Adam says, standing next to him to look out over the city. “But I’m not Superman.”
Kris grins. “You’d make a great Clark Kent.”
Adam scoffs, “In the musical, maybe.”
Adam lays the glasses down on the table and reaches out for the bottle of champagne. Kris imagines a spark where his fingers brush against Adam’s. Adam works at the cork, standing near the edge of the roof, silhouetted in front of the light below. Kris is hypnotized. He’s never seen a more beautiful sight.
The cork releases with a pop and bubbles flow up out of the bottle. Adam laughs and tries to catch them with his mouth, just as Kris reaches out to help hold the bottle, champagne spilling across his fingers. Adam’s tongue runs up the bottle, brushing across Kris’s pinky finger and the shock is real this time. Kris is staring at Adam’s mouth, frozen where he’s licking Kris’s hand and not moving away and Kris thinks, ‘this is it—just jump’.
He puts one foot in front of the other, reaches out with one hand to wind it around the back of Adam’s head, and takes the bottle out of Adam’s hands with his other. Adam is watching him with a question painted on his face, but Kris doesn’t speak. He just leans up on his tiptoes to find Adam’s mouth. Which isn’t shocked open in surprise, and isn’t clamped shut in anger, but is instead open and reciprocating and, oh my freakin’ God kissing him back.
Kris winds his hand deeper into Adam’s hair, pushing against Adam’s chest to gain leverage to reach his mouth—and then Adam’s hands are moving him away, gripping onto Kris’s arms and pushing him down and back and away.
Kris opens his eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” It’s all he can think to say.
But Adam doesn’t speak. He takes the bottle back from Kris and tips it up to his mouth to take a long drink. Bubbles froth around his lips, dribbling down his chin. Kris wants to lick them clean. But he stands still. The ball is in Adam’s court now.
Adam turns away, looking out over the city, then he whirls on Kris and grabs him by the wrist. He tugs until Kris is right up against his chest and stares down at him, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He closes his eyes and leans down to match his forehead to Kris’s, his breath hot and fast on Kris’s cheek.
“We can’t…” he starts.
“I’m filing for divorce. It’s all started.”
Adam leans back, looking into Kris’s eyes as if he’s checking for signs of life. “You filed for divorce today? Or decided to today? On your birthday? And you didn’t tell me?”
“I’m telling you now.”
“After you just kissed me. Hello ‘Backwards Day.’”
Adam steps back a little further, the absence of his chest against Kris’s suddenly making Kris feel cold. Silence yawns between them. Kris can feel the distance growing, like if he doesn’t jump across quickly it’s going to be too wide to do it later.
“It’s not like I haven’t thought about this,” Kris pleads.
That isn’t a lie, not exactly. He had thought about Adam a lot in the past few weeks. He just hadn’t gotten as far as thinking about actually kissing him, or doing anything else with him. He just wanted to be with him. And tonight it seemed like this would be the right way.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about this.” Adam looks like he’s mad suddenly. “I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about getting a divorce and being single and it probably looked pretty scary to be on your own all of a sudden, but you don’t just kiss the first pair of lips you see.”
“It’s not. Jesus. I don’t like you for your lips!”
Adam is quiet for a moment. “Why? What’s wrong with my lips?”
A smile plays at the corner of his mouth. Kris can’t help himself from smiling too.
“I didn’t want this to be awkward,” Kris says.
Adam runs a hand up in his hair, turning around and sitting down on one of the chairs. He reaches out and pours the champagne into both glasses, downing one of them before refilling it immediately.
Kris picks up the glass Adam filled for him, but doesn’t drink it. He just kissed Adam. He actually did it. He feels like he’s floating. He collapses into the chair. He is going to fall down if he doesn’t get something solid under him.
“So you are saying this is what you actually want?” Adam asks, still looking out over the city.
Kris turns his head to stare at the outline of Adam’s face. “It feels sort of right, yeah.”
Adam turns to face him. “This is ridiculous! You aren’t gay!”
Kris hasn’t actually gotten that far yet. He is just kissing someone he loves at this point. The definitions and the labels can wait…wait forever as far as Kris is concerned.
“Maybe not,” Kris confirms. “But how am I ever supposed to know?”
“Oh, I cannot be your test case for gayness. You are getting a divorce, for Christ’s sake. How do you even go from there to here?”
“I think I was already on my way here before Katy ended it.” Kris shrugs, looking down at his glass. The bubbles are rising up and popping at the top of the glass, like fireworks set off into the night sky.
He looks over at Adam who turns to stare down at his glass. “Haven’t you ever just known?”
When Adam raises his head, his eyes shine in the dim light. He shrugs, lip quivering as he tries to speak. “I have.”
Softly, and with a lot more delicacy than Kris was able to manage, Adam kneels down before him and takes Kris’s face in his hands. He stares into Kris’s eyes for a long moment and then lowers his mouth down. Kris can actually taste the kiss this time, actually feel Adam’s lips parting, his tongue slipping across Kris’s lips, begging for entrance. And he gives over to him willingly.
His heart is a bird fighting to escape its cage of ribs, and Kris worries that there might actually be too much joy in the world for him to stand. Because at this moment, on the day of his divorce decision, he feels like the happiest man in the world.
Adam pulls away slowly, kissing him once, twice, three times more in quick succession. His hand lingers on Kris’s cheek, finally trailing down and away until there is nothing left but the memory of his touch—a brand on his skin.
“You know I love you, but…”
Adam’s voice shatters the delicate (joyous) silence and Kris reddens, nothing good has ever followed those words.
Adam is quiet, like he thinks the same thing, like maybe he doesn’t want to hurt Kris with his next statement.
“Make me a deal,” he says suddenly.
Kris is wide open to deals. Kris is wide open to any possibility that doesn’t leave him the embarrassed fool for kissing his best friend.
Adam holds both of Kris’s hands in his. “Give it a week to sink in. Talk out the details, see who’s getting the house…”
“Of course, you’re a saint.”
Kris rolls his eyes. He wants to get back to the deal.
Adam pauses, smiling at him in a new light. “Give it a week. We’re friends, we can still be friends. But no kissy, kissy, touchy, touchy for one week. And then tell me how you feel.”
“That sounds a lot like you want to get separated.”
Adam blushes. “I didn’t mean…”
“No, no, it’s okay.” Kris smiles, because he thinks he can actually do this. “I knew when I left Conway that I wasn’t going back, we said as much to each other. This is different. This is just time to digest. I can do that.”
Adam leans in and pecks Kris on the nose. “You are a very smart man, Mr. Allen.”
“That counts as touchy,” Kris says. “And kissy.”
Part 6Kris wakes up to his phone doing a hula dance on the table. He lunges after it, thinking it’s Jaime (and she better have brought danishes), but it’s a text message…from Katy.
Missed you yesterday. Hope you had a great birthday!
Kris stares at it for a good five minutes, trying to figure out what she meant by ‘missed you,’ but then he scrolls down through his call list and sure enough, there is a missed call from Katy last night. Somewhere around the time Kris was heading up to the roof. How was that for irony?
He rubs his thumb over the buttons, thinking. He should tell her about the lawyer, tell her what he’s decided. A part of him doubts she’s going to be all that surprised, but it isn’t in him to never speak to her again. Their dissolution is as much his fault as it is hers.
Finally he clicks on her name and presses talk. He should be able to catch her before work. When her voice answers, he lets out a long sigh and realizes he was holding his breath that Camden wouldn’t answer again—that he wouldn’t have to ask his wife’s new boyfriend if he could speak to her please.
“Hey,” Kris replies softly.
Katy sounds surprised to hear from him, but happy all the same. And Kris hopes for the first time that it’s her new life that’s making her happy. That she truly wants this new path as much as he does.
“I called a lawyer,” he offers after the pleasantries are exchanged. “I just…I wanted to tell you myself.”
“Oh,” she replies. Then, “Are you sure about this?”
Kris actually laughs a little. “You mean like we both haven’t already made up our minds about it?”
He can hear a smile in Katy’s voice. Smiling, and kind of sad at the same time. “I know, but it’s so…final.”
“We need to do it before we can move on.” Kris’s words fall on the realization that Katy has very obviously already moved on. And he has too, or is working on it, she just doesn’t know about that part yet.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I just…” There’s a long shuddering breath, like tears are floating just beneath her words. “I love you?” she says with a pregnant question mark at the end.
Kris swallows back a lump in his throat. He never thought the eventual end would be this hard when it arrived. “Love you, too,” he manages to mumble out.
There are final good-byes, and a promise that he will call her before the Idols’ planned Arkansas show, and then it’s over with a soft click of his cell phone. The marriage that they rushed into nine months before, which came roaring in like a ferocious lion, has now ended and gone out like a meek little lamb.
Adam shows up at rehearsal looking like a hot mess. Kris swears he hasn’t redone his make-up since the night before, and the hat pulled down over his head is fooling no one into thinking that his hair is actually styled beneath it. He catches Kris’s eye when he enters the backstage area and Kris loses the breath he was about to inhale. Kris wants this. Kris wants this right now. The touchy and the kissy and all of it.
But Adam rips his eyes away, full of resolve, and Kris actually groans softly as he watches him leave.
“You all right, honey?” Allison asks.
Kris nods. “Just got a lot on my mind.”
Allison follows his gaze to where Adam is stalking away like a jaguar on a hunt and makes a soft clicking sound in the back of her throat.
Kris makes an excuse about needing to make a call, and escapes—no way is he ready to let another person in on his secret little tryst. The tryst that Adam has hit the pause button on and that Kris might physically explode from while he waits to see if Adam wants to hit play or stop. It’s supposed to be Kris’s show—Kris is the one that’s supposed to wait a week and see if he wants this or not. But Kris has his hand on the play button, ready to go; he’s just waiting for Adam to see how ready he is.
Jaime sends him non-stop messages throughout rehearsals, and by the time Kris ends an hour-long practice of his solo songs, his phone is lit up like a Christmas tree.
“You do realize the purpose of your phone is to keep you accessible at all times,” Jaime says when he finally returns one of her many calls.
“Accessible to everyone, or just to you?”
“I am the only person you need to know, Kristopher. The sooner you learn that, the faster we’ll achieve greatness.”
She makes it sound like they are conquering Rome.
“So, listen, you have to meet with a lawyer this week, still working out a time. I’ll have to clear it with Cal…probably have to owe him a blow-job.”
“Why is it that you can share intimate details with me but I can’t do the same?”
“Oh sweetie, if you only knew how many intimate details of your life I already know.”
Kris shudders. He emphatically does not want to know how much Jaime knows about him. It’s squicky.
“Alright, so we are getting a divorce, this is going to make Perez pop his cherry. And you are going out on tour, so there won’t be any time for shots of you stepping out with some hot little number. You catch my drift?”
“Got it,” Kris replies. And no one would ever call Adam little anyway.
But Jaime, as usual, is one step ahead of him. “And by hot little number, I do mean great hulking beasts of men, too, I have eyes.”
Kris buries his face in his hands. Why does he pay for this abuse?
“Fuckety-fuck-on-a-stick, I’ve got OK! outbidding People for your coming out interview…”
Kris almost swallows his phone.
“…and you are not getting divorced in OK! Magazine, over my rotting fucking corpse.”
Kris hangs up mid-rant; Jaime has already forgotten he’s listening at this point. He sinks down into the nearest chair and drops his head into his hands. He hadn’t really thought this through. Could Jaime have found a worse phrase to describe his divorce? But then, she probably very carefully chose the words ‘coming out’—she’s onto him, he knows it.
The divorce is one thing, and there are a lot of details that he hasn’t worked out about that yet. But he’s throwing himself into a new relationship at the same time. One that involves actually ‘coming out’ at some point. There’s a lot going on in his life that he hasn’t thought about yet. And a lot that he could really use someone to talk to about.
He looks over at Adam trying on hats for their stage show and sinks down lower in his chair. He’s not going to make it through the week.
Day two of his ‘Adam-is-torturing-me-but-it’s-totally-worth-it’ ordeal is worse than the first. Adam actually looks like he hasn’t bathed since Sunday and it’s turning Kris on in the worst way. He bumps shoulders with Adam at the coffee table, shooting for nonchalant and failing miserably.
“Oh please no,” Adam groans, reaching for the sugar. “You are not the cure, Kris Allen. You, sir, are the problem.”
Kris grins; he kind of likes being Adam’s problem.
“Well it was your idea to wait a whole week. I wouldn’t complain if you reneged on the deal.”
Adam pours a continuous stream of sugar into his coffee, looking over at Kris through his eyelashes while he stirs. “I bet you wouldn’t. But no dice. I am not going to be the reason you freak out and run back to your wife.”
Kris stiffens. That is so not going to happen.
Adam smacks his hand against his forehead. “I didn’t mean that, shit.” He takes a sip of his coffee, wincing at the taste. “And I didn’t mean that either.”
He turns around with his coffee cup in his hand. “You distract me. And not in a good way, unfortunately. I just…” Adam takes another sip of his coffee. “Holy shit that’s awful.”
Kris grabs another cup and fills it with coffee. He adds just less than half a teaspoon of sugar, it’s a precise amount, and the tiniest splash of milk—just to cool it slightly. He passes the cup to Adam. “Better?”
Adam takes a sip, grinning as soon as the liquid settles on his tongue. “Much.” He smiles at Kris and takes another larger mouthful of coffee. Then he shoots him a curious look. “How do you know how I take my coffee?”
Kris blushes and ducks his head away. “I pay attention?” he asks shyly.
“You stalk,” Adam accuses, his tone mocking. “You are a dirty little stalker that won’t leave me alone. I’m not going to make it.”
“So nothing,” Adam says firmly. “You need time to figure this out on your own and if that means I have to be mean and not talk to you…well that’s what I’ll do.” He takes another sip of his coffee. “Damn that’s good. Will you still make me coffee if I don’t talk to you?”
Kris turns around to lean against the table, painting his upper arm against Adam’s. “Sorry, coffee comes with conversation.”
“I thought so. Dammit. Fine, we can talk.” He shifts away so their arms no longer touch. “But the touchy has to stop.”
Adam walks away, sipping his coffee and shaking his head. Kris stares after him until Adam leaves the room, then turns around and runs smack into Allison’s very suspicious looking face.
“I know what you’re doing,” she says accusingly, waggling a finger in his face.
Kris shrugs. He’s innocent!
“Oh, no, no, no, don’t think I don’t see exactly what is going on here.”
Kris swallows hard. No way does she know.
“You are being all nice to him so he’ll give you the bunk you want on the tour bus. You are a conniving little rat, Kristopher.”
He rubs his hand over his face tiredly. “There’s competition for bunks?” With all that has been going on in the past few days, is it any wonder he hasn’t been thinking about the logistics of the tour?
“Oh yeah, there are some high stakes. I heard Danny bartering his iPhone with Anoop for first pick, but everyone thinks you or Adam will get first choice anyway.”
Kris shakes his head, smiling as he realizes Allison really doesn’t have a clue about him and Adam at all. And that there are still things to think about that don’t involve him developing an ulcer or fighting to keep his hands off his best friend.
“Just tell them to put me and Adam together somewhere, we’ll flip a coin to see who’s on top.”
Allison’s eyes widen, perhaps even faster than Kris’s do.
“I didn’t mean…” he says.
“Yeah, yeah.” Allison starts to move away. “You,” she says, pointing her finger at Kris’s chest as she retreats. “I’ve got my eye on you.”
Kris wonders if Allison isn’t a lot more astute than he’s giving her credit for, but there isn’t time to think about it right now. His phone is singing When the Saints Go Marching In again—he’s pretty sure Jaime added that ring tone so he’d answer quickly to make the sound stop. He’s really got to learn how to use this thing.
“Hey,” he replies reluctantly.
“Me, you, lawyer. Car’s outside.”
Kris looks back to where Adam disappeared, but then thinks twice about telling him where he’s going. Kris is doing this on his own, right? Figuring things out. Adam better be damn proud of him after this.
Kris’s meeting with his divorce lawyer goes as good as he could have expected. The guy is a lot more barracuda than goldfish, but Kris hasn’t exactly met that many divorce lawyers—Jaime assures him this one will do just fine.
Kris thinks Jaime just wants to make sure she’s left with a financially stable client to work for.
But the lawyer is not a slick ambulance chaser, and Kris actually thinks he’ll listen to him (unlike Jaime, who he loves, but is possibly paying just as much per hour). They sit down for an hour, and by the end of it, Kris has explained that he’s willing to agree to an equal division of their assets, plus Katy can have the house, if she will agree to the fact that she cheated and get their divorce over sooner rather than later.
He’s assuming that having Camden sleeping in her bed qualifies as committing adultery, but he’s trying not to be petty.
There’s a form for him to fill out and sign, with a tiny three-line section titled Grounds. Kris stares at the space for a long time. He’s reminded of high-school English and essays he had to squeeze into tiny blue exam notebooks. There never seemed to be enough space or time to fit all the words down on paper. Now here he sits trying to encapsulate the failure of eight years of his life and he’s given three lines. He needs a blue exam notebook.
Jaime takes him out for sushi afterwards, but it’s a hollow celebration. She’s texting on her phone and sharpening her chopsticks against one another like samurai swords. When the waitress comes over with their salad and soup, Kris asks if they can switch it all to take-out.
Jaime gives him a pointed stare. “Fuck it,” she says to her client on the phone. “It’s not like any of you ever listen to me anyway.”
That one was meant for Kris, he’s willing to bet.
Jaime ends the call just as the waitress comes over with a large paper bag. She passes over her credit card without even glancing at the bill and stands to load up her purse with everything she’s managed to extract from it in the last 15 minutes.
“You sure about this?” she asks Kris as they walk towards the counter.
“I really don’t feel like eating right now.”
“That is really not what I was talking about.”
Kris is silent. He had a clue she was talking about something else, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to pretend he’s the only one worrying about the logistics of his and Adam’s potential new relationship. It’s like a trip he wants to take but the only way to get there is to walk for three full days. Or like the longest journey, with no certainty of happiness at the end.
He stops in his tracks, his hand shooting out to rest on Jaime’s arm. “It’s like the show,” he says. And Kris gets that this was what the American Idol experience was supposed to be about for him—not winning, although winning was pretty cool. Kris was meant to discover a part of himself that he never knew existed before. A part that was worthy of loving a human being that Kris had placed on a pedestal. A pedestal that maybe he could climb up onto as well.
“Once more, in English?” Jaime replies.
“Me and…me and this…this, everything. It’s like…” Kris stares at her. She’d probably understand if he took the time to explain it, but she’s not the person he needs to explain it to. That person is back at the hotel and Kris needs to get there right now.
“How fast can you drive?” he asks.
Jaime scrawls her signature on the slip of paper the waitress produces at the counter, and hands the food off to Kris.
“Just promise me you’ll buckle your seatbelt.”
Jaime drops him off at the hotel in record time. Kris thinks he might have whiplash from that last sudden stop, and he’s learned a whole new stream of curse words that Jaime has apparently reserved for ‘fucking idiots who shouldn’t have a fucking license, fuck,’ but he’s back.
“Take the food,” Jaime says as he opens the door.
“But you paid for it.”
“And I will eat every last bite of maki if you do not remove it from my presence immediately. Go. Celebrate.”
Kris smiles and reaches back for the food. Jaime lays her hand atop his as he’s pulling away.
“He’s out of your league, you know that, right?”
Kris doesn’t say anything. He just stares.
Jaime smiles, making her look almost human for a change. “And I think he’s loved you since you walked into that mansion. It just took you this long to catch up.”
He pulls back with the food, casting his eyes downward. He shakes his head. “I don’t think it’s exactly like that.”
“When have I steered you wrong? Besides, I’m a fucking telepath when it comes to gay men. They just never seem to want me.”
Kris laughs and nods—she would be good at something completely useless to herself. He’s not surprised in the least.
“Just be careful. Watch out for yourself.” Jaime shifts the car into first gear. “And for fuck’s sake—do not get caught!”
Kris jumps back, slamming the door as Jaime is already pulling away. He watches her tear out of the parking lot, almost taking out a bellboy pushing an overcrowded luggage cart. Then he rushes inside to find Adam.
It’s the first time Kris has had to use the key to Adam’s room. So far, Adam has always come to him, but since Sunday night, Adam’s been keeping his distance. Kris wouldn’t be human if he didn’t wonder how much Adam actually enjoyed the distance. It had to be nice to have some time to himself.
Kris hesitates outside the hotel room. Should he knock? What would Adam do? Adam would insert the key and walk on it. Kris does just that.
“It’s about time!” Adam bounces up from where he’s lying on the bed, phone in his hand. “Where have you been?”
“Getting dinner?” Kris replies meekly, holding up the bag.
“Sushi, I approve.” Adam takes the food and sets it down on the table. “But it does not take six hours to pick up sushi. You disappeared!”
Kris only now remembers that he left rehearsals without telling anyone except Cal where he was going. And his phone died somewhere after the 50th message Jaime sent him in a row. He’s been unreachable for half the day. And Adam missed him.
He smiles, sitting down on the edge of Adam’s bed. Suddenly he’s exhausted. “I met with a lawyer. Filed the papers.”
“And you didn’t tell me this because?”
“Because you didn’t want to talk to me?”
“I never said that.”
“Well you wanted me to figure things out on my own. This is me trying to do that…” ‘And failing miserably,’ he adds in his head.
“Jesus Christ, Kris! It’s not like we can’t still talk about stuff.” Adam sits down next to Kris on the bed, wrapping his arm around Kris’s shoulder. “Tell me where it hurts.”
Kris wants to laugh—Adam is reminding him an awful lot of his mother—but it feels so damn good, he can’t be bothered. Instead he leans his head against Adam’s chest and breathes in deep.
“I don’t know…it’s just…a lot, you know?”
“I do know. Well I don’t, actually, but I can imagine. You think coming out in Rolling Stone was a walk in the park?”
Kris stiffens—he has made a concerted effort not to think about ‘coming out’ interviews at all. He’s pretty sure Jaime just slipped up earlier, but she’s also pretty good at the art of allusion.
Adam must feel the change in Kris’s posture because he pulls back, creating a separation between them. “What is it?”
Kris shakes his head. They are giving it a week. They do not need to talk about Kris’s eventual fears of what it means to be a gay man when he doesn’t even know if he’s got a gay partner yet. Somehow the idea that Kris could be gay without Adam is not even registering. He’s not homosexual—he’s Adam-sexual.
“It’s nothing. Just a lot of papers to sign, and lawyers to meet with, and I have to do an interview.” Kris rubs his heels into his eyes. “I just want it to be next week already.”
Adam’s hand moves slowly across the back of Kris’s neck, kneading the soft flesh as he works the tension out with his fingers. He shifts so that he is sitting sideways behind Kris and places both of his hands on Kris’s shoulders, pressing harder and firmer into the muscles.
“Better?” he breathes against Kris’s neck.
“I’m not going to make it,” Kris replies, and he hopes Adam knows he means he’s not going to last a week, not that he won’t survive the divorce. Because the divorce, with all its ugly strings attached, is a necessary step towards feeling as right as he does now, every single day. And Kris will do anything to make that a reality.
“How about five days?” Adam bargains. “I think you can know what you want in five days.”
It’s been two days already; that means they only have to wait three more. But it’s still too long. Kris turns in Adam’s arms, shifting around until he’s facing him on the bed. Adam lets one hand drag across Kris’s shoulders so now it’s resting on his collarbone, and Kris raises his hand to pick it up, planting a soft kiss on the back of Adam’s hand.
“How about two?” he counters. “Were two days enough to know what I want?”
Adam is quiet for a long moment, Kris molesting the back of his hand with fervor, and then Adam is suddenly channeling Jaime’s fierceness.
“Fucking right it is.” He grabs Kris by the shoulders and throws them both backwards on the bed.
Part 7Kris’s life is no longer measured in hours and minutes. It’s in Adam-time and non-Adam-time. Which roughly translates into ‘the hours when they are supposed to be sleeping’ and all other time. The tour rehearsals are ramping up to ‘bat-shit crazy’ and Kris can’t sneak a minute to be alone with Adam until far too late in the night.
“I’m so sleepy by the time I see you, I’m going to start thinking you are actually blurry.”
He’s curled against Adam on Adam’s bed, fighting off sleep so that he can stay in this moment just a little bit longer.
“Blurry might not be a bad look for me. Less make-up required.”
Kris picks up Adam’s hand and rubs his thumb across the back of it. “You look pretty with make-up.”
Adam shifts, letting Kris fall back to lie flat on the bed. “You think I’m pretty?”
Kris reaches up to snag Adam’s lips with his own. “I think you’re fucking gorgeous,” he whispers into Adam’s mouth, and then he forgets all about sleep anyway.
The tour bus is ‘fucking awesome,’ as Anoop puts it, and Kris has to agree. There is just one slight problem with it—his practically non-existent Adam time has been reduced to ‘un-fucking-likely, Kristopher.’ (Adam does a really great Jaime.) It’s just impossible to have alone time with seven other guys on a bus—it reminds Kris of church camp, only with a lot more alcohol.
Although Adam is pretty creative when it comes to carving out stolen moments, Kris has to give him credit. On the drive up to Tacoma from Portland, Adam goes into research mode and finds them a hot new restaurant for that night, before the show. Then, just as they are about to leave, he feigns stomach cramps, and retreats to the bus to recuperate. What kind of friend would Kris be if he didn’t stay behind to make sure Adam was okay? Allison shoots him more of her suspicious looks, but Kris has chosen to tune her out. If she knows, she knows—he’s beginning to think having a wing man to watch the door for them sometimes wouldn’t be so bad.
He makes sure the bus is locked in case anyone ventures back from dinner early and wanders down to his and Adam’s bunks at the back of the bus. Adam is lying on his back on the bottom bunk, hand thrown over his eyes.
“You are not actually sick, right? Just so we’re clear?”
Adam rolls over and presses his body against the back wall. “Get in here, Allen.”
Kris squeezes into the small space, thankful in a way that it gives him an excuse to press every inch of his body up against Adam’s. It can be a bit like doing calisthenics in a telephone booth, but Adam is surprisingly flexible. Kris is learning lots of new tricks.
“They won’t be gone that long,” Kris mumbles, in between Adam peppering his mouth with kisses.
“A few hours is a lifetime.”
“But you wanted to sleep a bit, I could practice…”
“If you even try to leave this bed, I will hurt you.”
“Point taken,” Kris replies happily.
It’s so easy to lose himself in this world they have created for themselves. It’s like their own private universe that no one else can find the portal to. Well, Jaime very clearly knows about them, but she is back in LA (although sending him more frequent text messages since he’s been on the road, if that is even possible), and Allison likely has her suspicions, but Kris isn’t worried about her spilling the beans. Or about anyone finding out at all, actually. He’s so content to be here, he thinks the world would see that contentment if they ever found out—how could anyone hate something so beautiful?
“We should just stay here forever,” Adam muses. They’ve shifted so that they are spooning, Adam pressed against the back wall, Kris with his knees dangling off the bed.
“Here in the bus?”
“No, here in Adam-land.”
“Adam-land. Sounds like an amusement park.”
“Oh it is. Amusement and enjoyment at all times, all for me.”
“And what sort of features do they offer here in Adam-land?”
“Popcorn and candy and non-stop really good coffee made by my man-servant. Oh, and no frogs. Hate frogs.”
Kris twists his head to look back at Adam. “I’m your man-servant now, am I? And you hate frogs?” How did he not know that?
“Nasty little buggers, hopping around every which way. And they give people warts. Imagine all the warts the princesses would develop trying to find their prince.”
“Ah, so these are kissing frogs that you are banning. Not just any frog.”
“No, they all must go. You can never be too sure.”
“Had some bad experiences kissing a few frogs, have we?” Kris teases.
Adam kisses the base of Kris’s neck, sucking hard enough to leave a mark, Kris is pretty sure. “A few,” he murmurs.
“But no frogs in Adam-land, right?”
“None,” Adam says, rising up to lean over Kris. He lowers himself down, sucking Kris’s bottom lip between his teeth, biting a little as he lets go. “I’ve been searching for a prince for a long time,” he whispers.
Kris’s stomach sinks way down to his knees.
Adam grins, kissing Kris full on the mouth, lingering long after his words have slipped away. “Let’s just say I’m not searching anymore.”
The tour takes them through Washington, up to Canada, and back down to California. Thankfully they don’t have to spend every night on the bus, and the hotel stays in between are simply pure bliss—even if they aren’t supposed to be sharing a room, no one is paying that much attention. Every night that Kris gets to walk out on the stage with Adam he feels like he is flying. The rush of being that close to him, in their private moment within the music, yet displayed in front of thousands of people—it’s addictive.
“You could just give me a blow job right there on stage,” Adam teases after Kris drops to his knees during Don’t Stop Believing, singing up at Adam’s crotch.
“But that would ruin all the suspense,” Kris tosses back, and waits until they lock themselves inside Kris’s San Francisco hotel room to turn Adam’s words into reality.
They leave the bus behind in California for their one-night show in Utah. They’re at the airport in San Francisco waiting to board their flight, Adam slumped next to him in a lounge chair, when Kris’s phone rings. It’s his mom, and the news is not pretty.
He hangs up the phone and sits silently in his chair, staring at the object in his hands. Beside him Adam pulls his ear buds out and reaches out to rub a knuckle across Kris’s hand.
“No,” he replies, still staring at the phone. He flips it open and calls Jaime—she’s not supposed to handle his schedule, Cal is, but at that moment he can’t think of what he’s ‘supposed’ to do, only what comes instinctually.
“I need to go home,” he says, and beside him Adam sits up, leaning forward to look over at Kris’s face.
Kris catches his eye and his voice breaks. His grandmother is dead and he never even got to say goodbye.
“It’s…my grandmother…” he tries.
Adam slips the phone out of his grasp and presses it to his ear. “His grandmother is…” Adam shoots him a questioning look.
“She’s gone,” Kris says.
“Shit. No, not you,” Adam says into the phone. “His grandmother died, Jaime. Figure it out for him?”
Kris can hear the curses streaming through the phone.
“Love you too,” Adam croons into the receiver and clicks it off. “Come here,” he says, holding his arms out to envelop Kris.
Kris hesitates. Everyone is watching them.
“Fuck ‘em,” Adam says, pulling Kris into his arms and pressing his lips down on top of his head. “I’m allowed to hug my best friend, aren’t I?”
Kris just closes his eyes and leans into the embrace; grateful to have Adam in his life at all.
Kris makes it through the Utah show on autopilot. He’s done this so many times by now that it comes as second nature. It helps having Adam there on stage with him for most of the songs. A look in his direction, a helping hand raised high overhead when they hit the high notes…it keeps him going. That night they are in a hotel and Kris climbs under the covers while Adam is still washing up in the bathroom.
“You want to be alone?” Adam asks when he steps out into the darkened room.
“A thousand times no,” Kris says, rolling over to squint into the light. There are tears on his face that he didn’t realize had fallen. His body is slipping over into exhaustion and all he wants right now is to feel the man he loves wrapped around him.
“Oh baby,” Adam says softly and pads over to the bed. He slips underneath he covers, pulling Kris close to face him. “You’ll get through it, I know you will.”
“It feels different now. Going back.”
Kris nods. There’s a show scheduled for Little Rock next weekend. Night number three of four shows in a row. It was going to be a fly-by visit at best, and Kris had sort of been counting on that. He missed his family—his mom’s cooking and Daniel’s relentless bragging about how he was the reason Kris even tried out for Idol at all—but it was in Arkansas where he was supposed to be Katy’s husband, not her ex. In Arkansas where he lived in a house with a big master bedroom, not on a bus with bunks hardly large enough for one.
He wasn’t sure he know how to be ‘Kris Allen, superstar divorcee’ in Arkansas.
“It’ll be okay,” Adam says softly. “You want me to come?”
Kris laughs, burying his face into Adam’s chest. “My grandmother would probably roll over in her grave.”
Adam is quiet. “Too bad she’s gone; I’m really good with old people.”
Kris looks up; there is a sad smile on Adam’s face. He stretches up to kiss him lightly. “It’s not you. Not us,” he explains. “It’s me. I’m not the person I was when I left. Not sure I know how to fit in back there.”
“You seem like the same person you were when I met you. Are you sure we’re talking about the same person?”
Kris doesn’t answer, he just lets Adam kiss away his fears. If he’s the same person Adam always knew, then maybe the people in Arkansas never really knew him at all.
The funeral is not as bad as Kris built it up to be. The worst part is his parents fawning over him and asking questions about the divorce while trying to deal with their own grief. Kris feels like his very presence is making everything worse.
The entire town, or that’s what it feels like to Kris, shows up back at his parent’s house after the funeral. It makes him more than a little angry that this is turning into a ‘meet-the-famous-person’ afternoon social instead of a memorial for his grandmother. He puts an end to the stares by retreating to his old room. It’s the least he can do for her memory.
There’s a soft knock on the door a while later. Kris is playing his guitar he’d stashed up here earlier and wondering how he can slip downstairs to grab some food undetected.
“Come in,” he calls.
When the door opens, he’s stunned. He had thought about dealing with the aftermath of his divorce here, and thought about dealing with his grandmother’s death in the face of the divorce, but he had never thought about the reason for the divorce itself.
Katy tucks her hair behind her ear with one hand, balancing two plates of food in the other, and slips into the room.
“Thought you might be hungry.”
Kris isn’t sure whether he should laugh or cry. He settles for sitting still for 10 seconds, then realizes that the ache in his stomach is actual hunger. There’s not a lot of sadness there for the woman he once promised to love forever.
He slides over on the bed to make room for her. “You’re an angel,” he says, taking a plate.
“I can’t take all the credit. Your mom made me promise I’d get you to eat something.”
Kris takes a huge bite of a dinner roll slathered in butter. “So not a problem,” he mumbles.
Katy laughs and hands him a napkin. Kris had forgotten how fastidious she was about neatness. The food occupies them for a few minutes, then it just seems rude to be shoveling potato salad into his mouth while she picks fragments of bread from her roll and chews them slowly. He guesses that even if he doesn’t have a lot left to say to her, she might have a few things she wants to get off her chest. He lays down his fork and looks over at her.
“So…things are good?”
She nods, looking at him quickly before glancing away. “The same, you know.” She shrugs, but there is something more there that she isn’t saying.
“Is, uh, Camden here with you?”
“Oh, no,” she says quickly. “God, no!” She laughs, covering her mouth with her napkin. “Sorry, I just wasn’t going to do that. Did you see how many photographers were outside? Can you imagine if they snapped us together?”
Kris nods. He can absolutely imagine. That’s how he found out about them in the first place.
“I mean, not that it’s a secret anymore, it’s just…oh my…”
Kris places a hand on her shoulder, feeling a shiver run beneath his fingertips. “You can tell me,” he says.
Katy presses her napkin to her eyes, shaking her head. “I really can’t,” she says softly, her voice thick with tears.
“What is it?” Kris winds his arm around her shoulders.
“I brought your stuff,” she whispers. “From the house. I feel so awful.”
He has to repress a laugh. “Because you’re returning my CDs?”
Katy turns to face him, her face red from crying. “And your clothes, and shoes, and your grandmother’s ring that you gave me.” She sobs. “I never thought I’d be giving this all back.”
Kris doesn’t know what to say. He had kind of forgotten about all of those things. Not that they weren’t important, he was glad to be getting the ring back, especially now. But everything else was replaceable—and if he’d missed anything in the past few months, it had been a lot easier to buy it than ask someone to send it to him.
“Thank you, I never would have had time to get it myself.”
“I know, that’s why I did it. But I thought I could just drop it off before next week. I feel so crass doing it today.”
“I think Grandma would appreciate me taking ownership of her ring. Even though she probably wouldn’t approve of the divorce.”
Katy looks shocked that he is being so flippant.
“You have to smile. You kill yourself with sadness otherwise,” Kris says.
She lets a tiny laugh escape. “You’re different,” she accuses, narrowing her eyes as her smile grows.
Kris leans back against the head of the bed. “I’m learning to let go.”
“Of your past?”
“Parts of it.”
“And is someone helping you with this?”
Kris looks down at his hands. At the spot where his wedding ring used to be. He runs his thumb over his finger. It’s weird—Katy was the one pointing out the way Adam felt about him way back when they first split up. Kris just wasn’t ready to see it then.
He’s still not ready to admit to it now.
“Let’s just say you weren’t wrong, okay?”
Her mouth falls open, then she snaps it closed and grins foolishly. “Really?” she squeals.
“I can neither confirm nor deny…” Kris thinks Jaime will be especially proud of him for that one.
“Oh Kris,” Katy says, laying her plate aside and leaning forward to pull him into a hug. “I’m so happy for you.” She pulls back and searches his face. “Are you happy? You seem happy.”
He smiles. Happy doesn’t even come close.
Adam is pacing their dressing room when Kris finally arrives back in LA. It’s the day after the funeral and he’s just flown across the country via private plane to get back here in time for the concert tonight. He’s dead tired already and this is the first of three back-to-back shows. He doesn’t know how he’s going to make it.
“Oh, how was it?” Adam crushes him in a hug before Kris has even laid down his guitar case.
Kris kicks the door shut behind them. They are alone. He pushes Adam back far enough to lean in for a kiss. “I so do not want to talk about it,” he mumbles against Adam’s lips.
This seems to satisfy Adam, for a few seconds at least, then he’s the one pushing away. “But how was it really. Your texts were a little incoherent.”
“Daniel may have gotten me a little drunk,” Kris confirms.
“I figured as much.” Adam stares at him, like he’s waiting for something more.
Kris steals another quick kiss and moves to put his bag down. “What do you want me to say? It was sad. People stared.”
Adam sits in a chair in front of his mirror and crosses his legs. “At you?”
“I was kind of the main attraction. It was a side-show.”
“Well you knew that going in there. But it had to be good to see your family. Be there with them.”
“It was. And I got a bunch of stuff from my old house. I had forgotten about half of it.”
Adam doesn’t respond. Kris opens his bag to look for the jeans he’s supposed to wear tonight. He finds them and turns to see if someone left his shirt in the room for him already. Adam is sitting still as a statue in the chair.
“You went to the house?” he says quietly.
“No, Katy brought it over. I didn’t even ask her to.”
“Just a bunch of personal stuff. Clothes and shit.” He takes his t-shirt off and puts a clean shirt on, buttoning it up. It’s not the right one for the opening number. He has to go find wardrobe.
Adam is still sitting in the chair, quieter than Kris has ever seen him. He walks over and leans against Adam’s legs, tipping Adam’s face up to give him a kiss.
“It’s not a big deal. You are going to love my classic Johnny Cash—original recording of Ring of Fire. No sitars.”
He kisses Adam again and leaves to find out what he’s supposed to be wearing and what time he is due on stage for sound check. There’s a nagging voice in his head that says he should tell Adam more; tell him about Katy, about them just hanging out and talking. But the less Kris has to think about Arkansas the better. He’d much rather just be here in his private little bubble with Adam. And anyway, there is nothing wrong with spending time with people from your past.
So why does he feel like he has to keep it a secret?
Part 8Arizona is a melting pot. They do the show in Glendale and are then given four full, luxurious days off to spend however they like. ‘However he’d like’ is a little too full of pre-scheduled appointments and interviews for Kris’s liking, but it’s the first real break he’s had since the tour started. And they are staying at an actual resort, with actual beds.
“I vote we jump ship and just check in here for the summer,” Adam says, tracing tiny swirling patterns upon Kris’s back.
“I think they might miss the headliners on the tour,” Kris mumbles, his face pressed into a pillow.
“You think?” Adam’s voice is far away and dreamy. Kris could just drift off right here. Adam’s fingers are lulling him to sleep when they ride too close to the scar on his side—a spot that has always been ticklish—and he shifts.
“Careful, you’ll upset the balance.”
Not that Kris has seen them, but Adam has apparently balanced rocks all along his spine. Good for restoring the balance to one’s soul, or so Adam tells him. Kris thinks they must have just looked pretty in the gift shop and Adam had to have them. He’s like a kid in a candy store when it comes to hotel gift shops.
“I don’t have much faith in rocks,” Kris says. “But this feels pretty good right here.”
“Ssh, you need them. And they aren’t rocks, they’re crystals. You have stress.”
“Are the crystals speaking to you now?”
“No, I can see it.” He trails his finger along Kris’s shoulder blades. “Here. And here.”
Kris can feel his muscles ripple in the wake of Adam’s touch, like waves spreading out from a speed boat skimming the surface.
“I don’t feel very stressed.” He feels very satiated, actually. The blow job Adam gave him before the rock-treatment didn’t hurt.
Adam shifts to lie beside him on the bed. “You’ve been stressed for days. You need a break.”
Kris turns his head to look at Adam lying beside him. He’s staring up at the ceiling, hands folded beneath his head. Kris snakes out his arm and tickles him lightly just beneath his armpit. “I need you.”
Adam doesn’t turn his head. “You have me,” he says simply.
“Then I guess I’m good.”
Now Adam turns to stare at him, his eyes glinting in the afternoon sun flooding the room. “Are you?”
Kris shifts away slightly, the crystals sliding to the sheets as he rolls to prop himself up with one hand beneath his head. He nudges Adam’s side with his other hand. “Why so glum?”
If Adam was ready to make a big reveal of some sort, he seems to think better of it now. He turns his head back skyward and sighs through his nose.
“I don’t know. Just since Arkansas I guess. You’ve been…distracted.”
Kris flips onto his back, cursing as the crystals scratch his skin, and then rolls all the way over to stand up on the other side of the bed. “Well my grandmother kind of died and I got about 12 hours to spend with my family, so yeah, kind of distracted.”
“That’s not what I meant. Shit.” Adam stands and walks over to where Kris is facing the window of his room—their room for all the sleeping Adam has actually done in his. He folds his arms around Kris’s waist and leans over his shoulder, kissing along Kris’s collarbone until he reaches his neck.
“Sorry?” he whispers against Kris’s skin.
Kris snakes a hand up in Adam’s hair, tugging until Adam moves around to face him, not letting go until Adam’s lips are pressed against his. He knows he’s been distracted—going back home so unexpectedly really threw him for a loop. He was two people living in the same body—the man everyone remembered, the good husband; and the man he was discovering every day, the one that loved Adam Lambert.
“Let’s go out,” Kris says suddenly.
Adam pulls back, furrowing his brow. “I thought you wanted to avoid publicity.”
“I get it whether I’m ready or not, don’t I? And I don’t care if someone snaps a picture of us together.” He laces his fingers with Adam’s, pulling their hands up to press them between their chests. “We’re friends, right?”
Adam nods, and leans down to kiss him, and Kris knows he’s won. He knows there’s a chance they will be seen together, and then there’s an even likelier chance that TMZ.com will post a picture titled Adam Lambert Converts Co-star? What Kris doesn’t tell Adam though, is that he’s kind of ready for that to happen—backlash be damned.
Turns out Kris’s idea of a night out together is drastically different than Adam’s. Kris’s is more dinner in a ‘quiet but not too quiet that it looks romantic, but not so loud that you can’t hear yourself talk’ restaurant, just the two of them. Adam’s is all about dancing and drinking and loud music in a club that Kris would have mistaken for a slaughterhouse for all the work they’d put into the outside of the place. The inside is very different, black and purple and dim lighting in every corner—although there is still a lot of meat being offered up; Kris has seen way too many penises for one evening.
Adam also doesn’t think an evening out means that they should be alone. Almost all of the other Idols are with them, and Kris is currently in the (slightly uncomfortable) company of Danny and Michael by the bar, while Adam ‘shakes his thang’ on the dance floor with Matt and Megan. So not his idea of what tonight would be like.
Adam bursts through the crowd, almost falling on Mike as a tiny blond boy grabs the edge of Adam’s jacket, then turns to his friend, screaming, ‘I touched Glambert!’ This place is a circus.
“I need agua,” Adam pants, leaning on the bar. “Preferably with some scotch in it.”
Kris hands him one of the beers he just bought for them. It will have to do.
“Bless you, kind sir,” Adam says, planting a kiss on Kris’s forehead before taking the bottle.
Kris doesn’t even bother blushing—Adam does things like that to the other contestants all the time. It isn’t special.
“This is some place,” Mike says, taking a long drink from his beer bottle. “Did you notice there are an awful lot of dudes in here, Lambert?”
Adam throws his arm over Mike’s shoulder, tossing the other across Danny’s. “Mikey,” he says. “Mikey, Mikey, Mikey. Have you heard of gaydar? The clubs just speak to me, it’s like a beacon.”
Mike looks dubious. Kris snorts into his beer.
“Seriously, though,” Danny says. “Maybe we shouldn’t get caught in here.”
“Trust me,” Adam says dryly, removing his arms and turning around to face both of them. “No one is going to mistake you two for fags.” He takes another swig of his beer and then lays his bottle on the bar. “Come with me,” he says, tugging on Kris’s arm.
Kris barely has time to deposit his bottle on the bar next to Adam’s before he’s being jerked into the crowd. The music swells around him as they twist and swerve deeper into the crowd. The club has a heartbeat. Kris remembers thinking that about Burbank, about the lights giving life to the cityscape, but this place has an actual pulsating heart somewhere at its center; Kris can feel it in his toes, his ears, his chest. He’s forgetting what his own heartbeat sounds like.
“It’s too crowded!” he shouts at Adam’s back, but Adam isn’t listening.
They are walking through the crowd, but Adam is already dancing. He has a way of moving that looks like liquid mercury, fluid and slippery. Kris doesn’t know how long he can hold on. Adam finds a place that seems to suit his preferences for dance floor prime position and turns. He reaches out to Kris, already sliding his hips back and forth sensually, his limbs weaving out and away from his body like charmed snakes. Kris lets himself be moved by Adam, but he isn’t feeling it. He can’t hear himself think, he can’t see for the smoky haze filtering the light, he wants to communicate, non-verbally would be fine, but he can’t even focus on Adam’s face for the people jostling him on both sides.
“Let’s get out of here!” he shouts.
Adam shakes his head. Saying ‘No,’ or ‘I can’t hear you,’ it doesn’t matter.
Kris leans in close, reaching way up to shout in Adam’s ear. “I want to leave!”
Adam turns his head into Kris’s words, clamping his lips right down on Kris’s mouth.
It burns, Kris falls back to earth, hand wiping at his lips as if he could wipe away what just happened. “Are you fucking crazy?” he shouts. Anyone could have seen that. Does he realize how many people have camera phones trained on them?
But Adam isn’t listening. He’s swaying and weaving and floating away in a sea of rabid fans. Adam is so far removed from his reality, it’s like Kris isn’t even on the same plane of existence. He lets the crowd swallow Adam up, stepping backwards until he bumps into some guy holding a fruity drink and gets it spilled all down his back.
“Sorry, so sorry,” Kris says, turning.
The guy just looks at him with boggle eyes and fumbles for his phone.
Kris has had enough. He pushes through the crowd forcefully, finding Danny and Mike still sticking out like sore thumbs next to the bar.
“Let’s get out of here,” he yells.
“Don’t have to ask me twice,” Mike replies, tipping the rest of his beer into his mouth.
Kris moves towards the door, tugging his phone out of his pocket to text Adam.
Left w Dan & Mike
Hopefully Adam will be coherent enough to read it before he searches for Kris—if he even notices that Kris is gone.
Sleep doesn’t come easy. Kris can’t get the pounding out of his ear drums. He finally dozes off, using the beat in his brain like a baseline to one of his songs—it’s like being lulled to sleep. He wakes when there’s a crash against his hotel room door, then it opens and Adam stumbles into the room. He doesn’t even stop to take off his shoes; he just finds the bed and crawls under the covers, pushing his forehead between Kris’s shoulder blades.
“You’re hot,” Kris says, his head turned to look back at Adam’s fully clothed body.
“You left,” Adam replies.
Kris rolls over, pushing the matted hair off of Adam’s forehead and pressing his lips down there. He’s reminded of how his grandmother always checked his forehead for a fever when he was a little boy. And Adam is really burning up.
“I think you have a fever.”
“I think I need you to shut up.” Adam covers Kris’s mouth with his and Kris is fast forgetting why he was mad in the first place. Adam might be drunk, but he still knows how to move his hands. He is molesting Kris’s chest as he steals the breath from his mouth and Kris can’t be bothered to try and figure out what caused his anger.
It was something about feeling like he didn’t fit into Adam’s public life. But as he rips Adam’s shirt off over his head and reaches up to kiss the hickey he left on Adam’s chest earlier today, he thinks it’s enough to be in Adam’s private life—that’s what’s most important. He repeats that to himself as Adam lowers himself down over Kris’s body.
Part 9“We are going to miss our flight.”
Kris throws a shoe across the room at Adam lying in the bed. He’s been urging him to get up for an hour already. He’s tried shaking, yelling, even lying on top of and kissing—that just put them both 15 minutes behind schedule. He’s even had coffee delivered to the room; it just arrived. Nothing has managed to rouse Adam from the bed. So Kris has had to resort to shoes.
“If I get a black eye, I’m telling everyone you beat me,” Adam mumbles from somewhere beneath the mountain of covers. Kris swore he had stripped the bed the last time he attempted to get him up. Adam was nothing if not persistent.
“Tell you what,” Kris says, sitting on the second bed in the room, leaning forward to wind his hand around the covers in preparation for yanking them off again. “I’ll let you have the window seat all the way to Dallas, and I’ll even line up to order one of those fruit-a-licious concoctions at Starbucks.”
One eye and a tuft of black, blue and purple hair appears from under the duvet. “Will you order Tazo Chai Frappuccino?”
Kris nods solemnly. He can’t even say ‘Tazo Chai Frappuccino,’ but he is so desperate. If he misses the car to the airport, Jaime will never let him hear the end of it. And she’s all the way back in LA—her wrath spreads far and wide.
“Fine,” Adam huffs, throwing one arm outside of the covers.
Kris takes this chance to pull them all the way off the bed, revealing Adam still in his jeans and boots from the night before.
“You mean you could have had your way with me and you didn’t even take advantage of the opportunity?” Adam asks, looking down at his only-half-naked body.
Kris grins and offers him a hand to get up. “I was a bit busy being taken advantage of myself.”
Adam grabs a hold of Kris’s arm, heaving himself off the bed and right against Kris’s chest.
“Easy,” Kris says, catching him as he almost falls to the side. His hand stills on Adam’s chest; he’s hotter than the night before. “I think you might be coming down with something.”
Adam makes a face like he has cotton-mouth. “It’s called a wicked hangover. Coffee then smoothie, I’ll be fine.”
Kris isn’t so sure, but he watches as Adam makes his way to the bathroom and he only has to lean against the wall once for support. He’s a big boy, he can take care of himself. Although Kris is kind of getting a kick out of the mothering aspect.
His phone vibrates on the table and he picks it up to see Jaime’s name displayed.
Calling it a nite – how goes?
They are in the same time zone, only Jaime is coming at 6 AM from the opposite side. That girl is hard core.
Great. Tired. Why are you still up?
His phone rings with her signature tune almost as soon as he hits send.
“Couldn’t wait to hear my voice?” he asks as a greeting.
“You know I love me some gay man in the morning.”
Jesus. He is so not ready to be referred to as gay yet.
“So I was thinking of catching up with the tour on the 25th. Lunch?”
The 25th—why does that sound so familiar? “What’s today? The 23rd?”
“Technically I’m operating on it still being the 22nd, as I haven’t actually had a bed-gasm yet, but you’re close enough.”
“Ick,” Kris says, and then counts off the days. Today is Thursday, Dallas. Tomorrow is Friday, Tulsa. And then Jaime wants to see him on Saturday the 25th, in Little Rock.
“Worried I might embarrass you?” Kris asks. No way had she chosen the only show in Arkansas for the stunning vacation properties.
“Let’s just say I have a vested interest in your continued employment by the American Idol franchise. And I would like to verify that my investment gets up on stage in Arkansas and doesn’t, oh say, kiss any girls while photographers hide behind hedges.” She coughs to cover her next word. “Again.”
“If you were worried about Arkansas, you should have been there last week. We made up, it’s all good.”
Kris can actually hear Jaime hitting her cell phone against her forehead. “Tell me you were inside. In a windowless room.”
“We were in my old bedroom.”
Now Kris is absolutely certain that one is a cereal, or at least in the comedic rants of Dane Cook it is. Either way, it’s still funny.
“Nothing happened. She packed up all my stuff from our house; we hugged. It was nice. She’s coming to the show.”
“Now I know why I sprung for the plane ticket, it was fucking fate intervening on my behalf.” Jaime makes a shuffling noise into the phone. “Gotta run, the sun is already shining in New York, I have a shit-storm to mop up.”
“Good luck with that,” Kris says, but she’s already gone.
Adam emerges from the bathroom in a puff of steam looking fresh and ready to face the day. He leans down to kiss Kris on the cheek and Kris places a hand on the back of his neck. He’s still hot, but Kris tells himself it’s just the shower. He’s still got to check the room to see if there is anything he or Adam left behind. And he promised a stop at Starbucks before the airport. There’s no time to worry about non-existent fevers.
Adam sleeps all the way to Dallas, and then again all the way in the limo from the airport. Kris thinks he might just have the old-fashioned flu, but when they arrive at the concert venue, Adam perks up and stretches in the back seat, cracking tiny bones all along his neck as he does.
“Let’s do this thing,” he says, and crawls out of the car first.
They practice all afternoon, and then Adam begs off the fan meet-and-greet before the show. Kris wants to stay backstage with him, but Allison sweeps him along with her, chastising him that ‘Adam’s not a baby, you know.’ Kris thinks she can’t possibly know about them or she wouldn’t force him to leave Adam.
There’s a meeting, and a call, and dinner is eaten in a room with all the other Idols, although Adam only drinks water—Kris notices everything. They finally find themselves alone in the dressing room just minutes before they are supposed to go on stage. By that time, Adam is already sweating through his shirt.
“You need to lie down,” Kris says.
“You don’t think Scott would trip on me?”
“I didn’t mean on stage.”
He leaves Adam in the dressing room and goes in search of water and Advil. It’s not much, but it’s something.
“Take them,” he commands when he returns, a light sheen now broken out across Adam’s face. He looks sick, really, really sick. “Please?” Kris adds weakly, just praying that the drugs work.
Adam grimaces trying to get the cap off the water bottle, but he succeeds, and chases the pills with half the bottle.
“Thanks, Mom,” he says, but he’s grinning.
Kris reaches out to check his forehead for heat—it’s more clammy than warm.
Adam places his hand atop Kris, keeping Kris’s firmly planted in place. “I’m fine,” he says, looking up at Kris.
“I’m allowed to worry.”
“You’re cute when you worry.”
“I can be cute naked, but you do not need to get sick.”
Tonight is a bus night. The first of three in a row. Adam must be surfing the same wavelength because he frowns and leans back in his chair. “Sometimes I really hate the bus.”
Doesn’t matter if it’s a plane or a bus, Adam is sleeping like a log. Kris lies awake in the bunk above Adam’s and listens to the sound of his breathing rising and falling with the rocking of the bus. Hopefully the fever is gone—just the hangover coupled with exhaustion and good old fashioned ‘I feel like crap.’ Kris is more worried about the lack of time they have to spend together and that they kind of, sort of, had their first real fight at the club in Arizona but didn’t even talk about it after. It makes his insides feel like cherry danish—squishy, except not yummy.
Adam wakes up before they arrive in Tulsa. The fever is back with a vengeance, raging like an inferno and he’s nauseated to boot. Kris brings him more Advil and a cool washcloth and begs him to go see a doctor.
“I’ll be fine. It’ll pass,” Adam whispers in the darkened bus.
“I don’t see a medical degree hanging in your bunk.”
“It’s a hangover!”
“Hangovers do not last for 24 hours.”
“You have never partied with my friends.”
Kris has seen enough of Adam’s style of partying to last him a lifetime, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to hold up to that. But this is something different, Kris can feel it.
“Promise me you’ll see a doctor if it doesn’t go away by the time we arrive?” He puts on his best pouty face; that’s sure to win Adam over.
It does, and Adam relents that he will see someone if the fever is still there by Tulsa. Kris sits on the edge of Adam’s bunk until he falls asleep, then gently lays his hand on Adam’s forehead to check his temperature. It feels cooler already—something is working. Kris knows Adam is going to give him grief for being so concerned. But all he does is grin when he wakes up feeling refreshed.
“Told you it was nothing.”
The rest of the day is uneventful; Adam seems back to normal, he even makes it out to meet the fans before the show. The heat is unbelievable though, and even Kris is exhausted by the time they all collapse back on the dressing room sofas. Matt somehow manages to claim the foot portion of the sofa Adam is lying on and Kris sits like a sulking child in an armchair across the room. That’s his spot, dammit.
“Ooh, I do not feel pretty,” Adam says, laying a hand on his forehead. “Feel me. I’m pudding.”
Kris sits forward in his chair, tensed. But Allison is within arm’s reach of Adam and she lays her hand out to rest on his cheek before Kris can move.
“Yuck,” she says, wiping her supposedly wet palm on her jeans. “You do feel like pudding. Day old pudding with that gross skin on top.”
“I can’t even do yummy chocolate dessert right,” Adam laments. “I must be broken.”
“Here,” Matt says, producing a flask of God-knows-what from God-knows-where. “Take. Drink. Be merry.”
“He does not need alcohol!” Kris yelps, but Adam has the bottle open and is tipping it to his lips already. “Fucking great. What you need is sleep,” Kris says roughly, his chair sliding back with the force of him standing. “Did you take the Advil I gave you? Finish your water?”
“Chill, Papa Smurf,” Matt says, whistling under his breath. “He’s a big boy.”
Kris is either going to punch someone or blurt out that Adam is his big boy. He settles for leaving the room altogether. The food table is set up across the hall, with grapes and melon and lots of things that Adam should be eating to make himself feel better, except if Kris brings him back a plate, he’ll probably just get made fun of again. He picks through the tub of drinks nestled in ice looking for Adam’s favorite, Coke Zero. It’ll be a peace offering. He’ll have to take the food, too, if Kris brings him the right drink.
A hand touches his shoulder and Allison’s voice penetrates his mental argument. “Tough day?”
Kris snaps. “Is it too much to fucking ask for there to be one Coke Zero in here?”
“Easy, tiger,” Allison coos. She plunges her hand into the ice bucket, pushing it down underneath all the bottles before emerging triumphant with a bottle of Coke Zero held high. “Adam has gaydar, I have Coke-dar. It’s a gift.”
Kris takes the bottle from her, fingering the cap tightly. He might actually cry over a bottle of pop—what has Adam done to him?
“Hey,” Allison says, kneading his shoulder now with her hand. “He’s going to be fine. It’s probably just the flu.”
Kris doesn’t look at her. He can’t admit why he’s actually upset.
“Look, it’s just Adam. He’s a force of nature. You are never going to tame him.”
“I don’t want to tame him.”
“I know, you’re a saint.”
Kris disagrees. “Why do people keep calling me that?” He sits down on a chair by the table and cracks open the bottle. He doesn’t even like Coke Zero.
Allison drags a chair next to him and sits down. “You and Adam…it’s like Romeo and Juliet, or Othello and that Desi-something girl.”
“You haven’t actually read these plays, have you?”
“I’m still in high school. I’ve got lots of time.”
Kris shakes his head, fiddling with the bottle cap. “Me and Adam…” He looks up at her sharply. “Why would you even compare us to star-crossed lovers, or whatever?” Suddenly his heart is beating a step too fast for his body. Her theoretically knowing and her admitting she knows are two completely different things.
“I’m not an idiot. I have eyes.”
He got the same line from Jaime a few weeks ago. Perhaps they weren’t being as covert as they thought. He blushes and looks away. “It’s not what you think.”
“That you and Adam are hopelessly in love and fucking every chance you get to be alone somewhere together?”
Alright, maybe it was exactly what she thought.
“Look. I know you didn’t leave Katy to chase some dream with Adam. I know you were as shocked as anyone by winding up divorced at 24. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to be happy.”
“I’m not unhappy. We’re barely fighting.”
“You can’t have a proper fight because none of the idiots in there realize you have a reason to fight. Repressed anger totally sucks. And it’s bad for your skin.”
Kris smiles and tries another sip of the drink. Nope. Still awful.
“Adam cares about you. Go give him the stupid Coke Zero and some drugs, or whatever, and people will clear out of there soon enough. We’ll be in your territory tomorrow night, that’ll be fun.”
“You make it sound like that gives me the upper hand or something.”
Allison smiles, bright and sweet. “Oh sweetie. You always had the upper hand in this relationship. You’re just too nice to use it.”
Kris swears he is giving Adam the silent treatment all the way to Little Rock. Only problem is Adam climbs into his bunk and pats the spot next to him and Kris is like a little puppy that wants to curl up next to its master. Allison doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Kris would do anything Adam asked him to do—how can that be having the upper hand?
Adam is quiet, spooning Kris from behind. Kris thinks he might actually be asleep when his voice flitters along the base of Kris’s neck.
“This is hard for you, isn’t it?”
“We kind of don’t really fit.”
“Not the bunk, although yes, it is slightly of the cramped variety.” Adam runs his thumb along Kris’ knuckle, bumpity-bump-bump, exactly in time with the wheels hitting the pavement.
“Arkansas,” he says softly. “Home.”
“It’s supposed to feel like home. Now it just feels like a place that my parents live.”
“Home is where the heart is,” Adam says, his voice light and teasing.
Kris flips his hand to twine his fingers with Adam’s. “I never imagined home would be a bus.” He doesn’t say anymore, he doesn’t have to. It’s the closest he’s come to admitting that he loves this man, but the words are not ready to be heard yet. He matches the pattern Adam was tracing on his hand earlier, bumping over his knuckles, memorizing the fabric of his skin. And then Adam is actually asleep behind him, soft snores tickling the back of Kris’s neck.
Kris slips into dreamland too, and wakes up when the bus parks in Little Rock to climb up into his own bunk. The sheets are cold and he misses the feel of Adam stretching along the length of him. Only one more night on a bus. Kris doesn’t think they’ll even make it to the bed once they finally get to a hotel room.
A show in Arkansas means a day completely booked solid for Kris. Jaime meets up with him sometime around lunch, ‘Could they make this fucking place any fucking hotter?’ For a girl from Los Angeles, she is really adverse to heat.
“So you and the hunk?” she asks, curling her toes around the rail of the patio restaurant they are grabbing a quick lunch on. “Still fucking like bunnies?”
Kris checks around them for prying ears. They are alone on the patio, but still. Someone could walk out at any minute. She is impossible.
“Relax, I had the placed cleared for us. Your name commands attention in this part of the world. I fucking love it.”
“You shouldn’t be using my name to clear out the busiest lunch spot in town. Where are people supposed to eat?”
“This is costing you a couple thousand bucks and you are worried about where the drones are going to eat? You really are too fucking good to be true.”
Kris chokes on his glass of Perrier, that he now realizes is priced at about $10 a sip, and pushes the menu aside. “I’m not even all that hungry.”
“You aren’t even able to stay away from your fuck-buddy for more than five minutes, is what your problem is. Eat a piece of $500 chicken and say ‘thank you Jaime, I love you.’”
“You’re mean.” There, he finally said it.
Apparently that just makes her happier. “You love me, Kris Allen. I am your guide on this crazy ride we call the American Idol media circus. If you happen to have taken a gay lover on the side, then what kind of publicist would I be if I didn’t continue looking out for your best interests; sexual or otherwise?”
“It’s not about loving him, or not that I don’t love him.” Man, this is so embarrassing.
“Oh shit, it’s worse than I thought.”
“Stop it.” Kris’s voice is firm. “Stop acting like this is some fling I need to work through, or hide in some way, or somehow be embarrassed about. I’m not ashamed of him.”
Jaime narrows her eyes at Kris. “Never exactly said that, now did I?”
Kris breaths in deeply, looking out over the downtown core of Little Rock. He grew up here. And he settled with his wife in a place less than an hour’s drive away from here. This was where he was he was going to be Mr. Kris Allen, husband of Katy, father of three cute-as-a-button kids. Not where he was going to be Kris Allen—THE American Idol, fielding interviewers questions about who he sleeps next to on the bus (‘Because they all still think you and Adam make a cute Kradam-sandwich,’ Jaime cautions him). Just being in this state was unnerving him.
“I think I just function better when he’s around.”
“That’s the crazy little thing we call love,” Jaime quips.
She seems in a particularly good mood so Kris goes for it. “Think we can skip one of those interviews this afternoon?”
Jaime signals behind her head for a waiter to come take their order. “Not a fucking chance, Allen. You finish this tour without a pap snapping your picture and I’ll pay for first class tickets to Rio for the both of you. You can shake your gay thing in the streets for all I care.
“Now,” she says, looking up at the waiter who materializes out of nowhere. “I’ll have the salad and another Diet Coke and he’ll have the chicken parm. Extra sauce and bread.”
“Do I get a choice?”
“No, because I need to get my calories vicariously through you or I will fucking combust.”
Kris gives up and hands his menu to the waiter. There really is just no point.
Kris steals a moment, really more of a millisecond, with Adam in their dressing room before the show starts.
“Mmm, I missed you,” Adam breathes, cupping his arms around Kris’s waist to hoist him off his toes. “Ow,” he says, dropping Kris back to his feet. He places a hand on his side, wincing a little.
“Serves you right,” Kris says. He probably pulled a muscle—Kris isn’t that small. “I hate it when you do that. Makes me feel short.”
“You are not short. I am ginormous. No way can you compete with that.” Adam rubs his side and winks at Kris.
Kris grins and kisses him back. They have maybe five seconds before he gets called for another interview backstage somewhere. “I cannot wait to get out of this city.”
“One more bus night.”
There’s a knock on the door. “Kris!” someone shouts from the other side.
Kris groans. “One more bus night,” he echoes, then reluctantly pushes away, leaving Adam in the dressing room.
It turns out it’s not the interviewer he was expecting, but a beaming Jaime standing next to a shy-looking Katy.
“Hey,” Kris says, forcing a smile on his face as he gives both of them a hug. Kris does not want to know what the two of them could possibly find to talk about. Jaime could devirginize someone if given enough time.
“Just dropping off the ex for a chat,” Jaime says, eyes twinkling. “Be a good boy!”
Kris rolls his eyes at her back.
“I saw that,” she sings over her shoulder as she walks away.
“She’s…nice,” Katy offers.
“She’s a dragon,” Kris counters. “But she looks out for me.”
“You need someone looking out for you?”
Kris leads Katy over to a couple of chairs in a corner. “It gets a bit crazy.”
There are racks of wardrobe changes parked next to them, a table piled with food and drinks and people scavenging for nourishment on the other side. In another corner Allison is singing loudly along with her iPod—it’s a zoo.
“Glad you could make it,” Kris says with a laugh.
“A courier dropped off my ticket and there was a backstage pass inside. You didn’t have to do that.”
Kris waves off her protest. “It’s nothing. I figured you’d like to see how it all worked back here.” He remembers her encouragement in the early days when he was just getting started as a musician, playing in coffee shops and bars around town. ‘When you make it big, I am going to stand backstage and watch from the wings every night. I’ll be the one screaming the loudest.’ He wonders if she remembers that now.
“Thanks,” she says, smiling genuinely. “But you didn’t have to send two tickets. It’s too much.”
“Well I figured…” He had assumed she would want to bring Camden with her. He’d met the guy before, years ago, but wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing him again now. Still, if he was important to Katy. “Camden didn’t come?”
“Oh no, he’s working tonight. But still, I wouldn’t bring him here.”
“Don’t do that,” Kris says, frowning. “Don’t stop your life for me.”
Katy bites her lip. “I’m not trying to. I just feel like I’m wearing a scarlet letter or something.”
Kris really doesn’t want her to feel like that. He places one arm across her shoulder, leaning close to almost touch heads. “Hey, I’m not angry. Not anymore, anyway.”
Katy gives a little hiccupping laugh. “I think we just had this conversation last week.”
“And you still don’t believe me. Things are good now. Things are good for you, too.”
Katy smiles at him, reaching up one hand to cup his face. “They are.” She leans in to place a chaste kiss on his lips. “I really hope they are for you, too,” she whispers as she slides back.
They are, Kris thinks, standing and offering her a hand to get up. He looks around the room to see if Adam is anywhere nearby—he thinks he’s ready for Katy and Adam to meet again. But their dressing room door is just swinging closed. If Adam is in there, he probably wants to rest up before the curtain call.
“Well, I guess I should get ready.”
“You want to watch from back here?” he offers.
“No, I want to get the full Kris Allen experience from my front row seat, thank you very much.” She fingers the pass hanging around her neck. “It’s too much!”
“You deserve it. Now go find your seat!”
He watches her make her way through a side door, then heads back to his and Adam’s dressing room. Maybe they can steal five more minutes before they are called to the stage. He could really use five minutes of bliss to recharge after the day he’s had. Sure enough, he finds Adam inside, sitting in front of his make-up mirror. Adam tips a glass half full of a light brown liquid to his mouth as Kris enters.
“Tell me that is not scotch,” Kris says, half-joking.
“Is that going to be a problem for you?” Adam is not smiling.
“No, I just think we’re going on stage in five minutes and you do not need alcohol in your system after the way you’ve been dragging your ass around since Arizona.”
“My ass is perfectly fine without you worrying about the way in which I drag it around.”
Kris steps up behind Adam and looks at him in the mirror. There are dark circles beneath his eyes that even make-up hasn’t covered. He looks like shit. And he’s being plain nasty.
“Are we fighting? Because I didn’t get the memo.”
Adam shrugs and takes another sip of his drink. “Is there a reason we should be fighting?”
Kris takes a step to the side and turns Adam’s chair around so that he is facing him. “Why don’t you tell me?”
“I saw you, Kris. I walked out there all smiles and rainbows, even though I feel like shit, so I could hug your ex-wife and tell her how much I appreciated her letting me fuck her husband ten ways from Sunday, and I saw you.” Adam stands up, slipping past Kris to head for the door. “Don’t even try to deny it. I have eyes.”
Why does that goddamned phrase keep coming back to haunt him?
Adam slips through the door as Kris yells after him, “You didn’t see anything!” But Adam doesn’t even pause.
Kris has a choice. He can run after him and confess his undying love right there in the middle of the roadies and wardrobe girls, or he can wait until they are alone and explain that it was so much more a goodbye kiss than any he’s ever given in his life. Adam is just sick, and upset, and there’s no point in trying to explain.
But goddamn it, going out to perform after a fight really fucking sucks.
Adam is golden. Of course. It’s like he’s able to channel all of the negative energy from their argument into pure musical genius and spit it right back out at the crowd. Kris wonders if he can see Katy in the front row. The lights are too bright for Kris to make out much of anything.
There is no time alone with Adam throughout the show, unless you count the group numbers, and Kris tries to make the most of those. He grabs Adam’s hand when he can, but gets figuratively slapped in the face when Adam lets go a moment later. The crowd is going to see that something is wrong if Kris can’t keep his hands to himself. Time to cool off, he tells himself. That’s all Adam needs.
They are singing the finale when he notices the unevenness of Adam’s steps. Adam is coming up the stage from the drummer and he seems to trip on an invisible line. Kris jerks his body forward as if to catch him, skipping a whole line in the chorus, but then Adam seems to recover. Kris keeps his eyes trained on him, almost like he’s waiting for the house of cards to completely collapse. Then they are building up to the final note and Adam reaches up with one arm, then bends down sharply to grip his abdomen with the other. Kris steps up and wraps an arm around Adam’s waist, holding him upright enough to hold the last note. The lights explode in their faces just as Adam collapses against him.
“Holy shit, what happened?” Kris asks.
Adam is incoherent. “My side, fuck, I need, fucking…”
They manage to shuffle together towards the back of the stage, but then Adam is leaning heavily on Kris and Kris is going to collapse under the weight. The others crowd around, arms reaching out to support both of them. Matt slips Adam’s other arm (to a chorus of moans) around his shoulder and the three of them half-fall, half-slide down the metal stairs.
There are paramedics backstage at every show but no one has been hurt worse than a paper cut or bruised elbow so far. Of course it had to be Adam that broke the record for longest number of days without serious injury. Two white-clad paramedics rush out of the chairs they were lounging in and muscle Adam away from Kris and Matt. Kris isn’t ready to let go, but the other Idols are following him down from the stage and the space at the bottom of the stairs is suddenly way overcrowded.
“What happened? Is he all right? What the fuck is going on?” Kris can’t hear himself think for the cacophony of voices.
“Adam!” he shouts himself as he sees boot-clad feet being placed on a stretcher and wheeled away from him. He has to go with him. He can’t let Adam out of his sight.
The crowd is too thick to move through. Cal is up in his face screaming ‘Jesus Christ, how the fuck are we supposed to do an encore’ and then Kris is being carried on a wave of other performers back up to the stage.
“No, I can’t. No, wait…” And then he’s out under the bright lights again and the crowd is chanting ‘Adam, Adam.’ Kris can’t do this. He can’t be physically separated from him when he doesn’t know what is going on. A person on either side of him grabs his hands and raises them up above his head. He bows when his arms are brought down, just like he’s practiced a hundred times before. Then he turns before everyone else is finished waving good night and runs for the backstage stairs again.
Across the room, he sees open doors leading to a hallway that he’s pretty sure leads to a back parking lot, and there’s a paramedic just disappearing through said doorway. He tries to jump down the stairs and head in the same direction, but it’s hopeless. There are about a hundred more people backstage than were here earlier, and someone has their hand on his arm yelling his name over and over.
“What the fuck do you want?” he screams, turning to see who could be bothering him.
It’s Jaime. And she doesn’t say another word. She just grabs him around the wrist and pushes through the crowd like a freight train. They go down the same hallway Kris saw the paramedic move through, but by the time they emerge into the parking lot, the ambulance lights are already fading into the distance.
Jaime is still dragging him across wet pavement, shoving him into a car and slamming the door behind him. She slides in beside him and reaches across to buckle his seatbelt. “Don’t say I never fucking did anything for you,” she snaps, and slams the car into drive.
The hospital is all bright lights and screaming patients. Kris thinks there should be a special ward for all the people who scream. It just makes everyone else fear what’s going on behind the sagging green curtains.
Jaime has been threatening people for 10 straight minutes but hasn’t been able to find someone who will reveal Adam’s whereabouts or even confirm that he is a patient at this hospital. Jaime’s not stupid though. She knows who the medics are, and what hospital is contracted out for each leg of the tour. Apparently, she has been anticipating this happening since the very beginning. ‘Not this this, but something like this, only where you maybe got stuck on his zipper going down on him or something and I had to do disaster clean-up.’
Kris never, ever wants to see the inside of this woman’s brain.
Finally, after coercion that Kris is pretty sure could get you arrested in most states, a doctor emerges from a room behind the emergency room desk and approaches them.
“Are you Mr. Lambert’s family?”
“Exactly,” Jaime says, sticking out her hand. “I’m his mother.”
“Ma’am, I hope you won’t take offense, but you do not look old enough to be anyone’s mother, let alone a grown man’s.”
Jaime almost wilts under the doctor’s charm. “I’m his sister?” she offers weakly.
Kris steps in. “She’s his publicist, and I’m touring with him, and he doesn’t have anyone else.”
“I know who he is,” the doctor says, turning to Kris. “And I know who you are. Didn’t imagine we’d be meeting again under these circumstances, Kris.”
People think just because he’s famous now, they know him. Kris is really sick of people thinking they are his long lost childhood friend. But this doctor looks almost familiar to him. Kris’s eyes fall to his nametag. No way. No fucking way.
Dr. Camden Hartley
“Katherine said you were in town, but I didn’t imagine I’d get a chance to see you.”
Katherine? Kris is going to throw up.
“Look, Camden…I mean, Dr. Hartley, right now, I’m just here for Adam. Is he okay?”
Camden shakes his head. “I really can’t say.”
Fuck! What is the point of your wife screwing a doctor if he’s not going to give out information?
“Can you say if you can fix him?” Kris asks, wrestling with his lips to keep them tight together. If he doesn’t, he is either going to cry or scream, and neither is going to be pretty. “Just…just please, fix him,” he finally manages. He is not going to cry in front of this guy. No fucking way.
Camden clears his throat and looks down at the file in his hand. “Yes, well, I normally cannot reveal a patient’s diagnosis to anyone outside of his family…”
Jaime clears her throat. This should be good.
But Camden continues, holding up his hand to ask for patience. “I’m not going to sugar coat this for you, Kris. Your friend is very sick. It’s likely his appendix, and it has probably perforated. We’ve taken him up to surgery. I’ll try to send someone down with updates.” Camden looks almost apologetic that he’s delivering this news. “He’s in good hands, Kris. I’ll be performing the surgery myself.” Camden turns and walks away.
Kris’s heart drops like a meteor from the sky. A perforated appendix and the guy that stole his wife from him is cutting Adam open. This is so much worse than the flu.
Beside him, Jaime seems to finally clue in to Camden’s real identity. “Katherine?” she says. “You mean your ex-wife Katherine, that nobody calls Katherine anymore except the douche that’s boning her? That Katherine?” Jaime gives Kris an incredulous look. “The guy that had his hands in your wife is going to put his hands in your boyfriend? Wait until Adam fucking hears about this.”
Part 10Turns out Camden has a pretty cushy job as ‘head of gut surgery,’ as Jaime puts it. A few minutes after he leaves them in the ER, someone comes down to show them to his private office. Jaime attacks the coffee maker as soon as they enter the room and now Kris is sitting numb and mute in a comfortable chair burning his hands on a ceramic mug. What he wouldn’t give to be on the dreaded bus right now.
“We should call Cal,” Kris says.
“Done,” Jaime mutters, sipping her coffee as she twirls in Camden’s leather desk chair.
“And I should call his parents.”
“Also done. What do you think you’re paying me for?”
Kris bites his lip to keep from sobbing. He never wanted to be paying her for this.
“Oh, fuck, don’t cry into your coffee. Those are Kona coffee beans. This guy does nothing half-assed.”
The black liquid shines his reflection back up at him in broken fragments. That’s exactly how he feels inside.
“We were fighting,” Kris whispers. “Right before…”
“Look,” Jaime says firmly, placing her cup down on Camden’s desk and leaning forward. “This dude fucking loves you, man. I’m telling you. The squealing fan girls knew it long before you two knuckleheads figured it out. A fight is the least of your fucking worries.”
“But what if…”
“I do not trade in what ifs. What ifs will bring you heartache every time. You will just wait until he wakes up, and then apologize for whatever stupid thing you did…”
“I kissed Katy.”
“Fucking details, Allen. I do not want the details.” Jaime clears her throat and picks up her coffee. “As I was saying. You will apologize and then we will figure out how long this tour is going to be sidelined while he recuperates and in the meantime, I will find some hideaway for you both to sneak off to while he convalesces. Good?”
Kris can’t imagine that Adam will feel much like sneaking off with him anywhere after tonight, but there’s no point in arguing with Jaime. He takes a sip of his coffee and checks his watch. It’s only been 30 minutes since Camden left them in the ER. It’s going to be a long night.
Across the room Jaime leans back in the leather chair and puts her feet up on Camden’s desk. “I should have been a doctor,” she says. “I look great in leather.”
Camden stays true to his word and sends someone down to update them after an hour.
“Oh my God, you’re the real Kris Allen,” the intern blurts as soon as she walks in the room.
“And I’m Joan of fucking Arc,” Jaime snaps from her chair. “Our friend?”
The intern looks like she might throw up, but she manages to explain that Adam is still in surgery, but Dr. Hartley says to rest assured he is in good hands.
“So today we like him,” Jaime says, turning back to her computer. “We can go back to hating him tomorrow.”
She has switched over into work mode. She has her laptop plugged in to Camden’s internet connection and is doing damage control on this ‘fucking hell dimension you boys created’.
“Do you know how many people are blogging about you going in for a kiss when you grabbed him? I should be thankful people are so dumb.”
Kris isn’t even listening—she mostly talks to hear herself speak anyway. He can’t put together a chain of thought longer than a few seconds. He thinks he should call and update Neil, but what would he say? Then he remembers Allison and everyone else, they have got to be worried. Then he thinks about Adam’s insides spilling out onto an operating table somewhere in this very hospital and he wants to throw up.
He doesn’t function without Adam. He can’t function.
Camden finally comes into his office an hour later, his blue scrubs only serving to remind Kris of what he’s been doing with Adam.
“He’ll be fine,” Camden announces.
And Kris can see why Katy fell in love with this guy. Right now, Kris would have his babies.
“I have to tell you, your friend is very sick.” Apparently it’s not all roses and magic like they make it seem on TV. “His appendix ruptured, and that complicated the surgery. He should have been in the hospital two days ago. Weren't there any signs? Fever, nausea? Maybe some pain?”
Kris opens and closes his mouth like a fish. Fever—check. Nausea—check. And Adam did have a pain in his side, Kris just remembers now.
“What do you fucking think?” Jaime snaps. “He’s a god damned celebrity. He doesn’t do ‘signs.’”
“Can I see him?” Kris asks.
“He’s in recovery. It’s going to be another couple of hours before he’s moved to a room. But I’m working all night. I’ll try to come find you then, okay?”
Camden turns to leave and Kris pushes himself to his feet.
“Uh, Cam…Dr. Hartley…”
Camden turns. “Please, Camden is fine.”
Kris smiles. This is all kinds of weird. But Camden saved Adam. Kris thinks that might just make everything else okay.
“Thank you. For fixing him…saving him. I, uh…”
“It’s okay,” Camden says, shaking Kris’s offered hand. “I think your friend is very lucky to have you.”
Kris watches Camden leave, then turns back to the desk. He picks up the phone and calls Neil. Thankfully it’s good news.
By the time the same intern returns a couple of hours later, Kris has measured the dimensions of Camden’s office at least ten times—seven paces by seven paces.
“Would you sit down?” Jaime asks. “You’re giving me fucking Tourettes.”
Kris leaves with the intern while Jaime stays behind in Camden’s office—apparently Adam Lambert even getting a hang nail would be big news. This is epic. Kris follows the intern up to the surgical floor. The nurses at the desk smile at him politely, then burst into excited whispers as he passes. He doesn’t care—if it means getting to see Adam again, he’ll personally sign their underwear. Tonight, he’s all about making sacrifices for Adam.
Camden meets him outside of Adam’s room. “He’s still out of it,” Camden explains. “Technically we don’t allow visitors until the patient wakes up, but I, uh…Katherine called and asked if there was anything I could do.”
‘God bless that woman,’ Kris thinks. Although Camden seems like he has enough guilt pouring off of him to have let Kris in here of his own volition.
Camden gestures for Kris to step inside the room and Kris takes a deep breath. Adam is half sitting up in the bed, still asleep. There is an oxygen tube in his nose, and an IV snaking out of his right hand. More wires hang out of the hospital gown covering his chest and are attached to machines making a variety of beeping noises. Kris really, really hates hospitals.
Tentatively, Kris walks around the bed and reaches down towards Adam’s left hand.
“Can I?” he asks Camden.
On the other side of the bed, Camden nods. “He should sleep for a while yet. Just use this call button here if he wakes up.”
Kris nods at the instructions and sinks down in a chair by Adam’s bed. He hears Camden slip out behind him but doesn’t turn to say good-bye. All of his efforts are focused on not crying and keeping his body awake and alert. He has to watch over Adam. He has to make sure nothing like this ever happens to him again. Kris should have seen this coming. Kris did see this coming and did nothing to stop it. He feels like an ass.
Laying his head down on Adam’s leg, Kris runs his fingers across the back of Adam’s hand. Bumpity-bump-bump—he just wants him to wake up so he can see his blue eyes again. Softly, he hums the first few notes of a song he’s forgotten the words to. The melody is not really important, it’s just soothing, and if Adam can hear anything in this state of consciousness, Kris wants him to hear his voice.
Kris is exhausted, but he doesn’t sleep, not really. He wavers between humming the same song, then letting his voice die away, before resuming humming again. His thoughts are obsessed with telepathically begging Adam to wake up. He’s going to be okay. He has to be okay.
He’s still singing his song, humming the notes mindlessly and rubbing his thumb over the back of Adam’s hand when there is finally a groan from Adam. Kris’s whole body jerks forward, he rises to his feet and stares.
Adam groans again and blinks his eyes open, his face twisted into a grimace. Another groan comes out of his mouth, followed by a hoarse cough.
“It’s okay, you’re okay,” Kris says quickly, gripping Adam’s hand. He feels helpless, just watching Adam suffer.
Adam’s eyes open and Kris’s fill with tears. He reaches out to run his knuckle down Adam’s cheek. “Welcome back,” he whispers.
Adam doesn’t speak, he just stares at Kris with a thousand questions printed on his face.
“Your appendix,” Kris says bluntly. “It was…I was so fucking scared.” He runs his hand over Adam’s face, dropping down to his shoulder, memorizing the feel of him alive and alert and back in this realm.
Adam tugs at the oxygen tub in his nose, pulling it out with a frown. “Appendix?” he asks roughly. “Isn’t that major surgery?”
“You’ll have an impressive scar.”
“So much for bikini season,” Adam says, leaning back against his pillow.
Kris relaxes his stance, removing his hand from Adam’s shoulder to reach for the buzzer. “I’m supposed to call the nurse when you wake up.”
Adam reaches up with his left hand, wrapping his fingers around Kris’s wrist. “Don’t,” he manages, his voice still weak.
Kris stills; he’ll do whatever Adam asks him to. If he tells him to jump out the window and fly, Kris is ready to grow wings.
Adam slowly brings their arms down together, sliding his fingers around Kris’s wrist until he’s palming his hand, fingers stretched along the length of Kris’s. “You’ve been here all night.”
“I have an ‘in’ with your doctor.” Kris doesn’t want to identify Camden yet. That would just take this conversation in a whole other direction.
“Small towns,” Adam mutters.
Kris sits back down in his chair as Adam lowers their hands all the way to the bed sheet, fingers pulsing a little where they rest against Kris’s wrist. Kris thinks it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world, just feeling movement there. He’s been holding Adam’s hand all night but there’s been no reciprocation. It was like…it was almost like…
Kris pushes his thumb against his lips, he really isn’t sure he can stop the tears from flowing this time.
“Hey, I’m the one that’s in the hospital bed here,” Adam teases, fingers tickling beneath Kris’s wrist.
And Kris loses it. He shuts his eyes, tears leaking out onto his cheeks. His thumb presses his lip so hard against his teeth, he thinks he’s making it bleed, but he can’t stop. If he lets go, he’s going to be sobbing like a child. As if crying is not already embarrassing enough.
“No, don’t cry.” Adam’s voice is soft, still scratchy. That is not making it any easier for Kris to bring himself under control.
“I thought I lost you,” he whispers, opening his eyes to stare at a blurry Adam.
“No, I think…” Adam shakes his head, he looks confused. “I think you found me. You were singing?”
“I heard you.”
Kris closes his eyes, bringing his hand up to wipe away the tears. He pulls his other hand to free it from Adam’s, but Adam curls his fingers, catching Kris in his grip like a hook.
Adam holds on tight, searching Kris’s face with his eyes. “You kissed her,” he finally says, like the memory just came back to him.
“It was a good-bye kiss,” Kris explains weakly.
“Why would you kiss her at all?” Adam casts his eyes downward, his face crestfallen.
Kris sits forward, digging his fingernails into Adam’s hand where he still holds them. “It really was goodbye. There’s nothing left there anymore. You know me, Adam. You know I wouldn’t do that to you.”
Adam raises his eyes to meet Kris’s. He seems to be contemplating what Kris just said. He’s got to believe him. There’s no way Kris could survive any other ending to this night.
“I thought we were past kissing anybody else.” Adam smiles a small smile, still sad. “I don’t want you to kiss anybody else.”
Kris nods his head, this isn’t exactly a hardship, but Kris is ready to agree to anything at this point. “No kissing other people.”
“Come here,” Adam begs, tugging on Kris’s arm. “It was a stupid thing to fight about anyway.”
Kris stands up to move toward the bed. “Yeah, well you can be pretty stupid sometimes.”
“Hey, sick and bleeding here.”
“Stupid and should have gone to the hospital two days ago when I told you to.”
Adam holds up his hand with the IV in it, looking at it like the sight of it might make him throw up. “I promise I will never go against your medical wishes for me ever again.” He pulls on Kris’s hand, begging silently for him to come even closer.
Kris leans over the bed, bracing his hand on the other side to keep himself bridged across Adam’s body. “You’re hurt,” he explains, leaning down to kiss him just lightly on the lips.
“I’ll heal,” Adam says, stretching up for more.
Kris kisses him longer and slower, still keeping his body raised a safe distance away. Adam mews into his mouth, reaching to run his hands along Kris’s side.
“How long do I have to stay here?”
“Camden says only a couple of days.”
“That’s forever…” Adam flops back against the pillow, then stares up at Kris, shocked. “Tell me there is more than one doctor named Camden working in this hick town.”
Kris stands up, shaking his head. “I’m afraid there’s just the one.”
Adam closes his eyes with a defeated sigh. “So the guy that’s fucking your ex-wife has seen me naked?”
Kris hadn’t thought about the surgery that way. “Maybe just your stomach?”
“That is far too much for me.” He pulls Kris in close again, running a hand along his side teasingly. “And how long until I’m back in functioning form?”
“Maybe two weeks.” Kris pushes Adam’s hand away with a grin. “Patience, grasshopper.”
“One thing you should know about me, Kris Allen. I am not a patient man.”
“You waited for me,” Kris says, pulling back to stare into Adam’s eyes. The effects of the sedation have worn off. He looks tired, but alert. It’s like Kris is seeing the real Adam again after the last few days of the pain clouding him.
“That was totally worth it.”
Kris sits back down in his chair, leaning forward to run his hand along Adam’s arm. “Jaime says maybe we can hide out together, if your mom doesn’t come swooping in here to take you back home.”
“You let me deal with Leila. I haven’t lived at home in a long time. I think recuperating in a nice fancy spa somewhere in the Hollywood Hills sounds just about perfect.”
“How about a cabin in the woods of Arkansas?”
“You know of a place?”
Kris smiles. “Jaime may have been on the phone all night.”
Adam leans back against the pillow and yawns tiredly. “So sleepy,” he says. He wraps his fingers around Kris’s arm tightly and tugs. “Cuddle me.”
“I can’t fit in the bed with you.”
“If you can fit in the bus bunk, you can fit in the bed. You are very little.”
Kris manages to balance one hip on the edge of the bed and keep his arm from hitting anywhere near Adam’s midsection. In minutes, Adam has drifted back to sleep and Kris is free to get back up. He doesn’t though. Instead, he runs a finger along Adam’s arm, memorizing the dip of his elbow, the blue and purplish veins that match the colors in his hair at the moment. The same song from before comes to his lips and he starts singing.
And no one else has ever shown me how
To see the world the way I see it now
Oh I, I never saw blue like that before
The lyrics flow this time without hesitation and Kris trips on the words to the chorus, realizing what the song is and why it’s been circling his brain. It’s Never Saw Blue Like That by Shawn Colvin and Kris thinks he couldn’t have made it through another day if he never saw Adam’s eyes again; never saw the piercing blue that managed to cut right through the bullshit all the way to his soul. He falls asleep with the last whisper of a note on his lips.