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Odds Stacked in Favor (of Changing) My Expectations

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Kris looks at Cale. It helps, to have someone he knows so well here. Kris remembers the first night of the Idol tour, everyone supporting each other through the nerves. He's been doing this for almost a year now, and he can't quite shake the nervous energy. But he knows he can use it. He looks at Cale again, and everything calms. He can do this.
The next person he sees is Andrew. Kris hasn't quite figured him out yet. Andrew is very talented, but doesn't speak up a lot. Ryland and Torres have already pranked Kris twice since their first rehearsal. Except for suggestions on the music, Kris cannot remember the last time Andrew has said anything.

It doesn't bother Kris, per se, because, well, he understands how important the music is. But for some reason Andrew doesn't fit the vibe Kris gets from everyone else. They all love music, but Andrew just seems so serious about it.

Before Kris can think about it, it's time to go on. It's not the same as his first Idol show. Instead of millions, it's just hundreds. But it matters oh so much more. This is the beginning.

During one of the songs, Kris goes over to Andrew. Andrew is doing his thing (and amazingly at that, Kris envies his ease with the guitar sometimes), and then it happens.

Andrew looks up, smiles a little. It flashes by so fast, but Kris is sure he saw it. Kris looks at Andrew and then turns to the crowd again.

Maybe they all fit after all.

*

Kris is the one to suggest the Christmas sweaters. He can't help it, his brain sometimes gets ideas he can't avoid. He's sure no one will get it, that there is no reason, except to wear stupid Christmas sweaters on TV. It's months of dealing with Idol and finally being free that gets Kris this way. He likes the freedom a little too much.

Luckily the band totally agrees. Cale rolls his eyes before saying yes, but he's used to Kris's whims by now. Torres makes a joke about what kind of sweater to use, because it absolutely has to match his hair. Andrew quietly nods his assent, and Ryland insists on just wearing a hat.

"Maybe you can be Santa," Andrew says.

The room goes quiet. Andrew has been more vocal lately. But this is unheard of.

"Well, if we're going to be complete dorks, we might as go the whole way," Andrew says.

He looks at Kris and shrugs. Kris smiles back at him. He has the feeling that Andrew may just be the slyest one of all of them, because by keeping quiet, what little he says means that much more.

Sure, the Santa thing doesn't work out. But Torres slaps a hand on Andrew's back after it's over and says

"Well, maybe next time, right?"

It implies that they'll all be together next Christmas. That there are many Christmases to come. Andrew nods, and Kris can't help but be glad. He can't imagine not playing with his band. Ever.

*

It's not that Kris doesn't like interviews. He's just a little nervous because it's the first band interview ever. And it's live and in person. There are no edits.

He expects Cale to come up with an embarrassing college story, or something fun and personal. Because Cale knows him best. Or maybe Drew will make a joke about being the temporary help. But it's Andrew who answers a question, a smile on his face. He's completely relaxed here.

Kris blinks for a minute, trying to figure out when the change happened. But the tour goes on, and it's as if Andrew was never that person before. It's as if he always belonged.

On the plane ride home, Andrew sits beside him for a moment.

"You know, I was wrong about you," Andrew says.

Kris raises his eyebrows.

"I mean, I knew you were about the music, don't get me wrong. But I definitely thought maybe you'd taken the easy road. But I was wrong."

Kris nods slowly. "Well, I thought you were kind of a stuffy know it all who only took this job because you had no other choice. So I suppose we were both wrong."

Andrew laughs then. "Yeah. Sorry about that."

"Don't. I like surprising people, so I enjoy surprises," Kris pauses. "What are your feelings on college football?"

"I'm from Columbus, Ohio. What do you think my feelings are?"

"O-H?" Kris says.

"I-O."

It's said solemnly, almost like a promise, another beginning.

*

When it's Andrew doing the acoustic shows, Kris isn't sure how to act just yet. It's easy with Cale, because they've played together a thousand times. Cale can read Kris like a book, so Kris can just say or do whatever he wants without worrying.

But then he remembers that it's Andrew, and that even though they haven't playing together as long, Andrew understands the music, and has shown some understanding of Kris.

The minute Kris says something about getting married and holds out his hand, he regrets it. He's used to flirting, it comes so easily now, especially after Idol. But he isn't with Cale, who would brush him off and say he was already married, and he wasn't with Adam, who would laugh at him and tell him it was inappropriate.

But Andrew takes his hand, squeezes it.

Kris doesn't let the surprise show, especially when Andrew laughs about it later, rehearsing for the next show.

"Sometimes, Mr. DeRoberts, you are a contrary man," Kris says.

Andrew grins. "I can't help it. You should have seen your face though."

"Thanks," Kris says drily.

"First you complain that I don't talk enough, now you complain I'm talking too much."

"Maybe."

Andrew doesn't say anything, strums a few chords on the guitar. Kris laughs, because it's the opening to "Whataya Want From Me", just the sort of joke Kris himself would make.

"Fine, fine, you win," Kris says. "But no more hand holding. My wife might get jealous."

Andrew fakes a pout before nodding. "All right."

Kris smiles. "Okay, just not in front of the cameras."

Andrew laughs then, and Kris can't help but join in.

*

Kris learns a lot of things during that summer.

Andrew likes to mess around with arrangements. This suits Kris because he likes playing around with music. It surprises Kris that someone with blues training and work in rap tends to lean so country and rockabilly, but he supposes it's probably just the way Andrew feels the song.

Andrew is also the master of practical jokes. From hiding tiny lights to keep Cale awake at night to jumping out from behind the bus, Andrew is the best of them. He is both patient and sly. Plus he can keep his face straight even in the worst situations. Kris can't even break him in a tickle fight. Well, at least until he cheats and involves Cale, but even then Andrew is calm.

Andrew isn't a bragger, but it's sort of intimidating who he's done demos for. Until Kris finally gets tired of the name dropping and calls Andrew Randy Jackson, which of course Cale picks up and runs with, insisting Torres is Paula (the hair), and Ryland is Simon (because no one likes him, which is completely untrue) and that Kris is Ryan Seacrest (because of his height.) Which then prompted Andrew to ask Cale how his audition for Idol went after all. Kris has to admit that Andrew sort of won that.

Kris can probably make a list of a thousand details, but it's sort of embarrassing how much attention he's been paying. He does that sometimes.

*

Kris likes surprising people. He's so used to being the underdog he doesn't even think about it anymore.

It's closing in on the end of the fall tour. Kris has no idea what next year will bring, or whether or not he'll be able to keep his band the way it is. But he can't help but smile, because he's making music with his best friends, and it's all he could ask for.

He turns around during "Everybody wants to Rule the World" and motions for the band to keep vamping. They've talked about this, but never really rehearsed. Kris can see the look in Andrew's eyes, as if he'd been expecting this for awhile.

When they get offstage, Andrew shakes his head.

"I can't believe that worked so well."

"Whoa. Wait. I surprised you? Quick, Cale, write this down!" Kris says.

Andrew rolls his eyes. "I'm never going to win, am I?"

"I don't know, maybe someday I'll let you?"

Andrew gives him a look before starting to pack up "Yeah, right."

Kris shrugs and turns to gather his things.

*

It's the last show. Kris doesn't even think of it now, the time. It's been a year, but it was only yesterday. He's nervous, the familiar feeling of anticipation in his gut.

There are a few moments of expectation right before the lights go up. The crowd is cheering, names lost in the noise. Kris looks at his band from the wings. Ryland is calmly waiting for it to begin. Torres is tuning his bass one last time. Cale is messing with the plugs on the keyboard, as if Steve hasn't checked already. Kris looks at Andrew, who shrugs and mimes some sort of weird dance.

Kris laughs a little, and everything calms. He can do this.