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Like a Ghost of the Past

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Now

The first time Tommy hears about Adam Lambert, it’s thanks to a cousin who keeps going on and on about the guy’s voice. Tommy watches one of Adam’s Idol performances just to make her shut up. His jaw drops to the floor, and her answering smirk has “I told you so” written all over it.

He finds himself caught somewhere between holy shit because Adam’s voice is what he can only call out of this world, and a strange sense of familiarity. He wonders aloud if he’s heard Adam before, and she shrugs. “Maybe you have. He’s done gigs all over LA.”

He agrees that she has to be right, since he can’t figure out how the hell he would have heard Adam otherwise, but he has a feeling that there’s something else, just out of his reach, far enough away that he can’t put his finger on it.

He forgets all about it until he gets the call from Barry on his birthday, asking him if he wants to audition for Adam’s band. He can’t say yes fast enough.

The first audition, in front of Barry and Brian, who turns out to be Adam’s MD, goes well beyond Tommy’s expectations, especially considering how little time he’s had to learn the songs. He still waits anxiously for Barry’s phone call, and has the hardest time waiting until they hang up before he lets out a “Fuck yeah!” that has Mike asking from the other room, “You okay, man?”

When he meets Adam at the second audition, he’s once again hit by the strange feeling that he knows him, even though he’s sure they’ve never met before. He schools his face into a neutral expression, as best as he can, because between that feeling and the fact that Adam is his type of guy to a tee, it’s the only way he can make sure he doesn’t screw this up.

So he forces himself not to wonder about the way Adam’s gaze keeps coming back to him, again and again, as if Tommy’s some kind of mystery that he wants to figure out.

He does a couple of Adam’s songs, and when asked to, some of his own favorites. He allows himself to show off a little – he’s still very, very far from where he wants to be, but he knows he’s good enough for this – and finishes with 20th Century Boy. That seems to catch Adam’s attention more than anything else.

When Tommy’s done, Adam examines him from head to toe and says, “You’ve seen the movie.”

Tommy can’t help but smile. “Velvet Goldmine? Of course. It’s one of my favorites.”

There’s something in the way Adam drops his gaze and mutters, “Figures,” that makes Tommy’s stomach tie itself into knots. He doesn’t understand how it could be a bad thing, but from the look on Adam’s face, it’s not that good, either.

He reminds himself that this isn’t something he can control and does his best to ignore it. When, a couple of days later, he learns that Adam’s chosen him, he even thinks that maybe he imagined whatever it was.

That is, until he starts rehearsing with the rest of the band. He has an easy time getting along with Ashley, who’s on bass and acts like a teasing, loving sister from the moment they meet, or with Isaac, the drummer, who’s so easy going that he reminds Tommy of some of his friends. The only one with whom there could have been friction is Brian, but he made it clear from the start that the only reason he’s that demanding is that he’s intent on giving Adam the best band he can and there’s no way Tommy can disagree with that.

And then, there’s Adam, who never seem to know how to behave around Tommy. That becomes more and more frustrating as Tommy realizes how easy it is for the others to get along with Adam, while he feels like he can never say the right thing.

It gets bad enough that he hears Adam and Brian arguing at the end of a rehearsal. As soon as he hears his own name, he’s walking out of there as fast as he can, angry because he’s feeling like he’s screwing up the best chance he’s ever had to prove what he can do, but he has no idea how to fix it.

He’s so lost in his own thoughts that he’s about to unlock his car when he hears Adam calling his name. Turning around, he spots Adam walking toward him as fast as he can without running and he leans back against his car to wait.

Adam takes a moment to catch his breath and smiles at Tommy. “Either you’re really fast or I’m really fucking out of shape.”

Tommy tries to hold in a laugh, and just like that, the tension disappears. “Whatever you say, dude.”

“Look,” Adam rakes a hand through his hair, looking embarrassed, “I just wanted to say I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting. I was an ass to you.”

Tommy shrugs. “No big deal.” When Adam stares at him like he doesn’t believe him, Tommy adds, “I was starting to wonder why I got the guitar spot if you can’t stand me.”

Adam stares at him before saying, “Whoa, Brian was right. I was fucking this up and badly. I’m really, really sorry.”

“Can I ask what happened?”

There’s a long pause as Adam seems to be searching for the right words. “You remind me of someone I knew a long time ago. You and I should get along like a house on fire, but it’s a little disturbing how much you remind me of him.”

Oh. Suddenly, Adam’s attitude makes a lot more sense. “He broke your heart.”

Adam shakes his head. “My own fault, really. I was hoping for something that wasn’t possible.”

There’s a twinge in Tommy’s heart, and he has to force a smile. “Yeah. I know the feeling.” For a second he’s tempted to tell Adam about the guy he met in New Orleans a couple of years ago, the guy who rocked Tommy’s world in more ways than one.

He hoped for a phone call for months after coming back home, but it never happened. So he understands wishing for something that just isn’t possible.

But he’s aware that this urge is ridiculous. He and Adam barely know each other, after all.

“Anyway,” Adam adds when it becomes clear that Tommy won’t say anything else, “This will be a lot easier if we can be friends, and it looks like the only reason we aren’t is that I’ve been keeping you at arm’s length.”

Tommy snorts. “Not just arm’s length, dude. I thought you hated me.”

Sighing, Adam says, “Not at all, but… yeah. Like I said, I was an ass. Think maybe we could start over? Try again and see where it gets us?”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

Adam beams, and Tommy’s heart does a ridiculous little flip in his chest. He has a feeling he’ll have a hard time holding back enough not to fall for Adam.

“So, do you have time now?” At Tommy’s nod, Adam continues, “Why don’t you come to my place? You know, something easy, just drinking and listening to good music.”

Tommy can’t help the tiny smile that threatens to spread over whole face. “Depends on what you mean by good music.”

Adam straightens his shoulders, raises his chin, making himself appear even taller and not helping Tommy’s growing attraction to him in any way, and says, “I’ll have you know that my tastes in music are excellent.”

Still smiling, Tommy shakes his head. “I’ll believe it when I hear it.”

Adam arches an eyebrow like he’s taking that as a challenge. A shiver makes its way up Tommy’s back as Adam’s expression brings, again, a strange sense of familiarity that Tommy can’t explain.

“Let’s go, then,” is all Adam says.

*

As it turns out, Adam’s taste in music is as eclectic as his taste in pretty much everything else. And while some of it is the kind that makes Tommy grit his teeth, a lot of it goes right along with Tommy’s own tastes. Like when Adam puts on an old Zeppelin album and Tommy can’t help but say aloud, “Thank fuck,” making Adam laugh.

“Come on, the rest wasn’t that bad.”

Tommy takes a long drink of beer while he finds the courage he needs to answer. “Dude, if I have to guess which instruments are playing in the background because I can’t recognize them? It’s not music.”

“Yes, it is. It’s just another way of making music, but it’s still music. Experimenting can be interesting in its own right.”

“Maybe,” Tommy says then shakes his head. “But it’s not experimenting when everyone does the same thing, in the same way. Music should be about the way it feels. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I think I get it. More like…” Adam changes to another album again, something that Tommy doesn’t recognize. “Like this, right?”

Tommy closes his eyes, rests his head on the back of the couch. “Yeah, exactly. Technically it’s not perfect, but who cares? It means something.” He sighs happily. “You can feel it.”

“I know.”

When the song ends, Tommy opens his eyes to find Adam staring at him. Any other day, the way Adam’s looking at him, fond and proud, would have made Tommy’s heart beat faster. If it were somebody else, Tommy might even have been tempted to kiss him.

However, the stern talking to that he gave himself on the drive over about all the reasons why falling for his boss is such a bad idea – including the fact that, you know, even though they’re on the verge of a nasty break-up, Tommy still has a girlfriend – seems to have worked.

“Okay,” he finally says. “Maybe your taste in music isn’t as bad as I feared it would be.”

“Maybe? Just maybe?” Adam huffs. “Stop messing with me.”

Tommy smirks. “You still have a thing or two to learn, baby boy.”

The pet name makes Adam burst out laughing. “Oh my god, you’re such a shit. You’re what, three months older than me, tops?”

“Still older than you. You should listen to my wisdom and all that shit.” Tommy’s grin widens when Adam laughs again.

“Oh, really? Is that the way you want it to go?” Adam’s smile gains a predatory edge. “There are a few things I could teach you, too.”

Oh, shit. Tommy walked right into that one. And it’s tempting, so very goddamn tempting, because he has a feeling that he and Adam would get along very, very fucking well in bed.

Before he can wonder if the offer is real, Adam laughs again and the tension disappears. Tommy breathes a sigh of relief. The whole not falling for his boss thing might not be such a success if Adam keeps this up.

 


Then

Adam and Danielle are drunk, it’s their last day in New Orleans, and they’re going home tomorrow. That might be why this seemed like such a good idea back in the bar.

As it is, goosebumps prickle over Adam’s skin. He’s far from sober, Danielle is laughing like everything is fucking hilarious, and their new friends are writing cryptic signs on the ground. He leans against a tomb and remembers – a cemetery. They’re in a fucking cemetery at midnight in New Orleans. All they need is a full moon and they’d have a perfect cliché.

If he tried, he couldn’t even remember their names. They are just faces, people he will forget as soon as the sun is up. If he blinks, they will look like shadows, moving around in the dark. As if they were never really there. Hidden. Nonexistent.

Adam shakes himself, trying to get back in the moment. He wants to remember why this sounded like a good idea, like a fun game back in the bar. Why both Danielle and he believed it was just about having fun. He knows, now, that that’s not all there is to this. But he’s powerless to stop it.

A chalk is dropped on the ground, and one of the people around them smiles. “There. It should work now.”

Hands in his pockets, Adam looks around. He can’t see anything weird, but he knows something is wrong. It’s a feeling, deep in his bones. Yet he doesn’t say anything. He knows that if he does, he will only end up being teased again.

A hand tugs his out of his pocket, and a smaller body wiggles into the spot underneath his left arm. Danielle smiles up at him.

“What are you waiting for? Make a wish!”

He forces a smile on his face but shakes his head. He doesn’t trust his voice. They are messing with stuff they shouldn’t, and he can’t get himself to see it as she does, like a big joke.

“No need to ask. We all know what he wants. Fame.”

His blood turns cold. He’s panicking. He did say that at some point in the evening, to the boy he was flirting with, but it was a joke more than anything else. He wants to make a living from his music and connect to people through it a lot more than he wants actual fame, but it felt like the boy in the bar wouldn’t understand if he tried to explain that.

Danielle is still smiling, like she didn’t hear whoever spoke, and Adam doesn’t recognize the voice. His only certainty is that it wasn’t one of their new friends.

He swallows once, trying to get words past the dryness of his throat. “It doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Let’s go back to the hotel.”

If she’s surprised, Danielle doesn’t let it show. She shrugs. “All right. It was supposed to be fun, remember that?”

“It’s not anymore.” He can’t look at her while he says that. She just grabs his hands and pulls him along when it seems like his legs won’t obey him.

“Shouldn’t we wait for…” Even as he speaks, he’s already forgetting. There’s no one in the cemetery, just shadows. They’re alone. They have been for two weeks, mixing with groups in bars but never making any real friends. After all, they’ve only been playing tourists, taking some time off before real life becomes even crazier.

As they walk out of the cemetery, Danielle bumps his hip with hers and says, “Who would have thought someone who believes in astrology wouldn’t believe in wish granting?”

He laughs, but it comes out forced. It’s not that he doesn’t believe; it’s more that he believes too much. He’s aware there is much more at work here than silly games.

The wind howls, like someone screaming, as the night’s darkness swallows them again.

*

Adam is tossing and turning in his bed, not asleep but not quite awake either. A soft breeze is sliding through the open window. Danielle’s quiet breathing is the only other noise in the room.

A shadow creeps over him. His eyes open, then he feels a hand on his forehead, and his eyes flutter shut again. For a moment, it’s a young hand, and the image Adam sees in his mind is one of a cute boy from the bar, one of those who were with them in the cemetery. Someone he forgot as soon as he stopped looking at him.

There’s a soft caress on his cheek. He turns his head toward it, a purr rumbling deep in his chest. The hand stays just within Adam’s sight. Somehow he can see it through his closed eyelids as it grows older, wrinkled, dark blue veins showing through paper-thin skin. Calloused, used fingers trace Adam’s face, but the voice that sing-songs in his ears is still young and melodic.

“You want fame, boy? No one will ever remember your name.”

The shadow cackles as dark light surrounds Adam, his whole body glowing. It doesn’t last, maybe a second or two, then he’s left alone in the room, diving into a deep, quiet sleep.

*

As soon as the first rays of sun enter the room, Danielle is up and moving. Her plane is leaving early and she can’t afford to miss it. She moves swiftly around the room, making sure she doesn’t forget anything. It’s barely ten a.m. when she rolls her small luggage out of the room and heads for the airport.

Adam sleeps on.

*

When the plane lands in LA, Danielle takes a taxi with only one thing on her mind: get home as soon as possible. She’s exhausted and a vicious headache has taken her brain hostage, probably due in part to how drunk she was last night. She slips into her place, glad that her roommates are still out. Right before she collapses into bed, she fires off a few texts.

Home. Safe and sound. Exhausted. Will call as soon as I feel more human :)

She copies and pastes the words, sending them to a couple of family members, some close friends, and of course, Adam.

*

Adam wakes up around mid-afternoon, like most days. He’s living in a small place on top of the bar where he sings every night; it’s not great, but it’s not bad either.

If you asked him, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you how he ended up singing here, living here in the first place. On days like this, he doesn’t care.

In a couple of hours, he’ll be heading down to the bar, helping the employees setting up the place, listening and laughing along to everyone’s stories about families and friends, not realizing that he, himself, never has any to tell.

Right before he leaves the bar, Katie, a cute barmaid, will chat him up and give him a kiss on the cheek, leading him to tell her, once again, that he’s gay. She doesn’t seem to remember from one day to the other.

He won’t be coming back to the bar until it’s nearly time for his set. He will walk through the people sitting and talking animatedly about tonight’s singer, feeling pride when he remembers that they’re all there to hear him sing. Not a single one of them will be able to say what his name his, but Adam won’t notice.

During his set, he’ll be flirting heavily with some boy he’ll find staring at him, a different one every night. It’s a game, a bet with himself, just to see how long it’ll take for said boy to be ready to cream his pants.

Afterward, Adam will bring the boy back home and fuck him. They won’t talk, won’t even exchange names. The boy will be gone before the sun comes up, and won’t ever come back to that bar. If he even thinks about wanting to hear that singer everyone is going crazy about, something will stop him.

The next day will be exactly the same. Adam doesn’t see what’s wrong with that.


Now

After that first evening at Adam’s place, Tommy and Adam become friends and rehearsals get a lot easier. Tommy tries his hardest to stay on the right side of the ‘not falling for his boss’ line, but Adam doesn’t make it easy.

Thing is, Tommy can’t even blame Adam. After all, he’s the one who stupidly said, before they shot the video for FYE, “You can grab me and stuff if you want. I don’t mind.”

Considering how close Adam is to Tommy’s type, and the hints of something more that Tommy keeps catching, the hints that Adam really isn’t as vanilla as he says he is… Giving him that kind of freedom really wasn’t smart.

Tommy was telling the truth: he doesn’t mind. He so doesn’t mind that being hauled around by his hair gets him half-hard and so fucking glad that he has his guitar to hide behind.

The problem is, that the more Adam manhandles him, the more Tommy has to keep himself in check and remind himself that no, going to his knees for his fucking boss was never part of the deal. Especially considering how awkward things were to start with. The last thing Tommy wants is to find himself right back at square one, wondering if he made the right decision when he auditioned for Adam’s band.

But keeping a hold of himself gets harder with every day that passes. Especially once, thanks to the AMAs, Tommy knows how good a kisser Adam is. The way Adam takes and takes on that stage, leaving Tommy with no choice but to give him everything, almost sends Tommy to his knees. It takes everything Tommy has in order to keep playing instead of collapsing at Adam’s feet.

And then, when everything is said and done and it becomes clear that the fallout is going to be epic and not in a good way, when Tommy is hoping to escape and rub one off real fast to be ready and clear minded for whatever comes next, Adam has to be… well, Adam. Saying over and over that he’s sorry and that he didn’t think of the consequences and, did he say he was sorry already?

In the end, Tommy has to push Adam in the right direction, promising that he is “okay, really okay, I don’t mind, told you that already, come on, you have bigger things to worry about than me!” Because, as flattering as all that attention is, now isn’t the time. Later, maybe, they can talk this out. Not now.

And when Adam goes through the motions of the interviews that quickly replace the ones that were cancelled because of what happened, instead of finally having a second to breathe, Tommy has to deal with Ashley and Brian and Isaac, all looking at him like they’re expecting him to break down.

It lasts until maybe half-way through the plane trip, when Tommy looks up from his laptop. They all stop talking, and when he raises his head, he finds them all staring at him. “Are you done looking at me like that? I’m not a porcelain doll, I’m not gonna break!”

Since Adam is nowhere in sight, Ashley moves and sits in his seat, right next to Tommy. “Sorry. We were expecting a little bit more of a freak out from you.”

It takes Tommy a minute to process this, and once he’s done, he still doesn’t get it. “Why?”

Ashley shrugs. “Because you’re straight.”

Doing his hardest not to burst out laughing, Tommy asks, “Who the fuck said I was straight?”

Ashley tilts her head but is prevented from saying whatever she intended by Adam coming back.

“You have a girlfriend,” Adam says.

Technically, not anymore, but the last thing Tommy wants now is to get into how trying to preserve at least some kind of friendship with Delmy only seems to be making them crash and burn faster.

“Yeah, well, it’s not like being with a girl now means that every guy I’ve been with before her doesn’t count.” Tommy shrugs. “I’m into both guys and girls. Always have been.”

“Oh. So, not freaking out, then?” Ashley asks. Her knowing smile tells Tommy that she knows he’s actually having a bit of a freak out, even if she doesn’t quite get why.

As Ashley gives Adam his seat back, Tommy admits, “Not over that.”

He expects Adam to ask what he’s talking about. He’s both relieved and nearly disappointed when Adam doesn’t.

But that’s his problem. All he needs is to talk himself down until his stupid attraction to Adam finally leaves him in peace.

*

Tommy soon realizes that when he thought he could talk himself out of what is quickly turning into a crush, he completely forgot one thing about the situation: Adam.

Like how much about Adam feels so familiar that, more than once, Tommy wonders if he’s met Adam before. He knows that’s not the case, if only because if he had, he’s sure he would remember it and would have recognized Adam from the moment he walked into that audition. That doesn’t change the strange feeling that he’s known Adam at some point in the past, even though Tommy couldn’t say how or when.

It would be so much easier if Adam wasn’t always there, in a way that makes him impossible to ignore. If it was just his behavior on stage, Tommy would still react to it, but he knows that he could enjoy it for what it is: a game that won’t ever lead anywhere.

Well, except to an amazing lot of fantasies to jerk off to, because Tommy has long since accepted that the whole not turning his friends into porn because it pushes far too many boundaries thing doesn’t apply to Adam. It should, obviously, but no matter how hard Tommy tries, his dick never seems to get the message.

But if it was only that, Tommy could deal with it. Instead, it’s the little things that happen off stage that tilt his whole world sideways, all so minor that he can’t call Adam out on them. Especially once he notices that Adam’s caretaking, let-me-fix-everything attitude applies to all of his friends.

Besides, there’s no way Tommy can get angry over little things like Adam wrapping his own scarf around Tommy’s neck when he notices Tommy shivering, or bugging Tommy about eating more healthily. It’s not Adam’s fault if Tommy sees a lot more into the gestures than what actually exists.

Maybe, sometimes, the reason why Tommy grabs juice alongside his morning coffee, or water instead of a beer halfway through rehearsal is because Adam tells him too. But he’s doing his best to keep that under wraps.

He gets that, whoever that guy was who broke Adam’s heart and who Tommy reminds him of, he’s still a pretty big ghost standing between the two of them. So, even though he does his best not to wonder what more would be like – because he has a feeling that Adam’s version of more would be right up his alley, and he’s not enough of a masochist to torture himself with those kinds of thoughts – he also isn’t making that much of an effort to tell Adam to stop.

Because, if that’s all Tommy’s ever going to get from Adam? He’ll take it.

*

It takes Tommy a couple of weeks to realize that not talking about whatever is going on – or not going on – between him and Adam might not be such a great idea. With how far Tommy’s gone, once alcohol comes into play, he’s fucked.

His good resolutions last only until the Gridlock show. Between the way Adam acts, the prominent boner he sports on stage that makes Tommy’s mouth water, and how being drunk always turns Tommy into a cuddle slut, there’s no way this could go well.

Long after the last notes have been played, Tommy keep being drawn to Adam like a moth to a flame. All the good reasons why he shouldn’t be doing this don’t seem to matter so much anymore, not when being close to Adam, anyway he can, feels so good and safe and familiar.

Tommy blames the alcohol for the way he can’t help but stake his claim, slipping under Adam’s arm and fitting himself to Adam’s side as if he belongs here, kissing him breathless before he goes outside.

He sees the surprise on Adam’s face, along with something else that makes Tommy’s blood heat up. Instead of making him back off, though, it makes him want more. Within a second, there’s no other thought in his head but the idea of finding out what, exactly, would more be like.

If he wasn’t as drunk, Tommy would remember that their friendship is so new and fragile that pushing really isn’t the right way to get what he wants. Right now, he doesn’t care.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason why he says yes when that girl outside asks for a kiss is because, from the corner of his eye, he spots Adam walking through the door at the same time.

Adam’s firm, “Tommy. Tommy, we’re going,” is everything Tommy was hoping for and enough to make his toes curl.

And maybe Tommy says a lot of stupid things during the ride home, because he’s too far gone and so drunk that he doesn’t care what the consequences will be. Things like how Adam should punish him for what he did, or how much Tommy likes it rough, how it could be so very fucking perfect.

Enough that Adam lets his head fall on the back of his seat with a whimper that sounds like Tommy’s torturing him. “You’re drunk out of your mind, baby.”

He’s not just drunk, Tommy would like to argue, but somehow he never gets to. They end up at Adam’s place and Tommy finds himself in the guest bedroom and not, as he would have wanted, in Adam’s bed.

He wakes up a couple of hours later, hoping that he didn’t say everything that he remembers, but the headache slowly building behind his eyelids suggests the contrary. He dives for the painkillers and the bottle of water on the bedside table and downs the entire bottle before he falls asleep again.

When Tommy opens his eyes next, it’s close to midday. His headache has relented a little but he’s still very much hungover. The scent of coffee lures him to the kitchen, where Adam is sitting, looking just as sleepy and hungover as Tommy feels.

With a smile, Adam points Tommy toward the coffee. “There’s milk and sugar over here if you…” The look on Tommy’s face makes him trail off. “Right, you drink it black. Sorry. I forgot.”

While Tommy has a hard time believing that, he lets it go. By now, they’ve spent enough time together that they know a ridiculous number of little details about each other, down to the way they drink their coffee.

Tommy grabs a cup and sits across from Adam. When he finally has enough caffeine in his body that he doesn’t feel like a zombie, he asks, “Guess it would be too much to hope that I didn’t say all the stupid things I remember saying last night, right?”

Adam’s kind look makes Tommy want to bang his head against the table.

“I could pretend not to remember, if you’d like.”

It’s tempting, but Tommy shakes his head. “No. I don’t think that will help.” He hesitates a second, then says, “As long as I didn’t freak you out.”

Adam blinks at him, looking completely lost. “Why would I be freaking out?”

With a shrug, Tommy says, “You’re the one who keep saying you’re vanilla.”

That nearly makes Adam choke on his coffee. Once he’s done spluttering and coughing, he says, “Oh. You mean the whole thing about punishing you for kissing that girl?”

“Yeah. That.” Tommy looks down at the table. He was really hoping he hadn’t said that out loud because it was a very, very stupid move. If he hadn’t been so drunk, he would have realized that pushing against boundaries that don’t actually exist wasn’t going to get him anywhere.

“Honestly? If you hadn’t been that drunk, I would have had the hardest time not taking you up on it.”

For a second, Tommy wonders if Adam is just saying that without really meaning it, but that suspicion disappears as soon as he looks at Adam again. The intensity in Adam’s eyes is the kind that can’t really be faked, and Tommy knows Adam enough to be aware that Adam would never pretend like this.

“So I’m not imagining it, then?” Tommy waves a hand between them. “This… thing between us? The way you take over sometimes?”

Adam tightens his grip on his coffee cup and Tommy can hear his sharp intake of breath, but Adam’s voice is almost too even when he says, “No, it’s not just you.” He winces. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

“Didn’t mean to what? Be who you are?” Tommy shrugs. “S’okay, Adam. It’s not like you knew how I’d react to you.”

“Yeah, but…” Adam sighs. “Don’t you want me to, I dunno, be more careful or something?”

Tommy shakes his head. “Not really. I like this, whatever we have right now. It’s good. If anything, it’s me who needs to be more careful, like, of what I think.”

“You shouldn’t have to be.” Adam rakes a hand through his hair. “I like you, and I like the way you react to me, there’s no question about that. But I…”

When Adam doesn’t add anything else, Tommy asks, “There’s this other guy, right?”

Adam stares at Tommy, looking completely lost. “Who?”

“You know.” Tommy shrugs. “The guy I remind you of.”

The weirdest look passes over Adam’s face, a fond smile with a sad edge. “In part, yes. And I didn’t want to make things too complicated, for you, or me. Or the band.”

“Honestly? The only thing making it complicated was us not acknowledging it. I mean,” Tommy smiles and grabs for Adam’s hand, “You like to take control and I like it when you do. It can be just that, and us being friends. Don’t you think?”

Adam stares at their linked hands, but doesn’t let go of Tommy. “I thought that if I let myself have that, all it would do was make me want more. I’m more of an all or nothing kind of guy.”

“I’m not saying it won’t happen,” and Tommy who wouldn’t be opposed to a lot more, but he has a feeling he doesn’t need to say that, “But us having actual boundaries would help. If only to avoid situations like last night and stop our dynamic from bleeding into everything.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Adam doesn’t sound that convinced, though, and Tommy wonders what the fuck happened to him to make him that hesitant when it’s clear that they want exactly the same thing.

“So we’re friends, right?” Tommy can’t help but ask.

All of a sudden, Adam’s smile lights up his whole face. “Of course we are.”

He releases Tommy’s hand and a peaceful silence settles over them. Tommy knows that the pleasant warmth in his stomach isn’t due only to the coffee. “You’ll have to tell me about him at some point.”

Adam looks surprised, but his smile doesn’t disappear. Not entirely, at least. “I will. Not just yet, but I will.”

They keep talking through more coffee. That conversation covers so much ground that at some point, Tommy’s eyebrows go up nearly to his hairline. There are so many dots that he just can’t connect in the puzzle Adam is.

“What is it?” Adam asks.

Tommy has no idea how to explain it, so all he says is, “That ‘I’m vanilla’ line is complete bullshit, right?”

Adam rubs a hand over the back of his neck, looking a little embarrassed. “Not exactly.”

Tommy blinks as he tries his hardest to understand. “Explain.”

With a shrug, Adam says, “By my own standards? Yeah, I am. I know a lot of people who play a lot harder than I do. Hell, I’ve played a lot harder in the past than I do now. As I said, with me, it’s usually all or nothing. I’ve tried a lot of things. So if you ask me? Yeah, I think that I’m fairly vanilla now. I’m aware that what I mean and what people hear when I say that are two different things, but,” he smiles, “No one has ever asked what I mean. So I’m not lying.”

Tommy considers it. “You know, that actually makes sense. In a weird kind of way.”

Adam laughs. “I know I don’t have much of a brain to mouth filter, but I’m not a complete idiot, either.”


Then

A week after coming home, Danielle starts to wonder why Adam isn’t calling back. She’s left him messages and sent him texts that he never answered. The she tries to call him again and gets a pre-programmed message telling her that Adam’s voicemail is full.

Just as she decides to investigate – with how worried he was at the idea of her going to New Orleans alone, it doesn’t make any sense that he hasn’t called her back yet – she gets a call from Neil.

“Do you know where my brother is?”

She sighs as she gets herself a glass of iced tea and goes to sit in the living room. Not even a hello. This is going to be fun.

“How would I know that? I was in New Orleans for two weeks, I just came back, and he hasn’t called me yet, no matter how many messages I leave him.”

There’s silence at the other end of the line. Danielle sighs again, drinks some iced tea, waits. She’s pretty sure Neil’s not done.

“He didn’t tell you what he was planning when you came back?”

Danielle takes a deep breath, then answers, slow and careful, “What part of ‘I haven’t talked to him in a week’ did you not get? I was so freaking tired when I arrived in LA that I didn’t call anyone, then I had the same problems as you do. He’s not answering his phone, doesn’t text back, nothing.”

“But he was with you in New Orleans!” Neil insists. “Didn’t he say anything to you? Maybe on the plane or something?”

“He wasn’t…” Danielle never finishes that sentence. She puts a hand against her forehead and closes her eyes as pressure builds behind her forehead. She makes an effort to think about those few days before her trip, when everyone was telling her that she shouldn’t go alone. She remembers that Adam was one of the most vocal. She didn’t listen to them. After her last break-up, she needed to get away from LA for a while.

The headache intensifies as she does her best to remember. Why the hell is this so hard? Her brain isn’t cooperating, and she has no idea why. It’s like her mind is smothered in dense fog that she’s trying to crawl her way through.

“Danielle? Are you still there?”

“Can you shut up and let me think?” Somehow it works, her impatience seeping through her voice and wonderful silence setting on the other end of the line. She wanted to get out of LA, true, and everyone was telling her not to go by herself, that it would be too risky. At the end, Adam’s gig had fallen through and he’d suggested that, if she really wanted to go, he’d go with her. While she’d been mad at being treated like a little girl, she’d agreed anyway, knowing she would have a lot more fun with him than if she went all by herself.

A small smile graces her lips as she remembers those few days away from friends, families and obligations. Goofing around and enjoying themselves like on the trips they went on when they were in high school.

She remembers that last night at the bar, then arriving in LAX, by herself. No Adam. In between those two memories, there’s nothing. Complete and utter black out.

“I don’t remember.” Her voice is so low it’s a miracle Neil hears her. She can’t believe she’s lost about twenty-four hours of her life and has no idea where Adam is.

“Well, if at some point you do…” Neil’s voice fades in the background, becoming white noise while panic bubbles up in Danielle’s throat. She tries to tell him that Adam is probably still in New Orleans, that she’s got a bad feeling, but the words refuse to come out.

As soon as he hangs up, she starts going through her cell’s contacts, looking for Adam’s name again. As the phone rings, and then rings again, she murmurs “please answer, please,” like a mantra, like a prayer. All she gets is, once again, the recorded voice that tells her that Adam’s voicemail is full. Danielle bites her lips, hesitates before hanging up. There’s nothing she can do for now. Nothing but wait and hope Adam comes back to LA, safe and sound, and she’ll have worried over nothing.

*

In New Orleans, it takes Adam a couple of weeks to realize something isn’t right. He’s in the bar, helping the employees to set it up like he does every day he sings here. They’re in a middle of a conversation, talking about one of the bouncers’ five year old kid, when suddenly someone turns to him and asks, “And what about your family?”

He shrugs. At first he doesn’t know how to answer. Then he says, “They all live in LA.”

“Aww,” the barmaid continues. “You must miss them.”

Adam has to think before he answers. How long has it been? He can’t even say. Sometimes it feels like he’s always lived here. As if he’s never known anything but this place and this bar. He sings here every night and enjoys the hell out of it, but once in a while, he forgets there is a real life outside.

“Yes,” he replies, and as he speaks, he realizes how true it is. “I miss them.”

Adam hopes they are done now, but the barmaid keeps going, “I guess you’ll go see them soon, won’t you?”

“Maybe I will.” Even as he says those words, he feels his throat close up. Even if he wanted to add anything, he wouldn’t be able to. It would clog his mouth, the words thick on his tongue, refusing to come out.

When Adam is back at his place, a couple of hours before the bars open up, he searches until he finds his phone. He hasn’t touched it in months; he didn’t even remember he had it. Now he’s quickly thumbing through pictures of himself and Danielle in New Orleans, trying to remember why he’s not back in LA. He can’t remember choosing to stay, but he must have at some point.

He keeps looking. More pictures, from LA this time. Faces of people he hasn’t thought of in months. Family. Friends. Brad. Sutan. Neil. His mom and dad. Tears pinprick at the corner of his eyes. How come they didn’t call? How come he hasn’t talked to them in so long?

Next he checks his texts. Full. Text after text, varying from the funny to the desperate, from a simple, Where the hell R U? to, If you don’t call within a week, I’m hunting you down and killing you w my bare hands, jsyk. The last one is from three months ago, and just says I don’t care if you’re too busy with your new boytoy, fucker, you better call mom so she stops freaking out.

Adam closes his eyes. Fuck. His mom. How could he forget her? He’s never done that before. His mother has always been his rock, the one person he could always count on, no matter what. He doesn’t remember leaving her without news for this long. He’s not that kind of person. Never has been. Never will be.

When he opens his eyes again, his breath catches in his throat. When did he become such an ass? He hits one button, calls his voicemail, and he listens to weeks of messages, each and every one of them asking the same questions, getting more and more desperate as he moves forward in time.

The last one is from his mother. “Adam, baby, please call back and tell us you’re still alive. Please.”

Thing is, he tries. He thumbs through his contacts when he realizes that he doesn’t remember any of their phone numbers. When he finally finds his mother’s, it’s like he can’t move anymore. He’s frozen in place, fingers a few inches from the phone, his mind caught in a fog that won’t let go. For a moment he’s not in his room, he’s back in the cemetery, back in the bayou. He can’t see, he can’t hear; there’s just the feeling that got him that night, right before…

Then he’s back in his room, his phone lying on the bed, forgotten. He grabs it without looking, just hits a button. The call connects.

“Adam? Why did you wait so long? Where are you?” It’s Brad’s voice on the other side. Adam opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. Words get lost somewhere between his brain and his mouth. He tries. Nothing.

“Adam? What’s happening? Where are you?” Brad is still talking, and Adam can’t answer him, no matter how hard he tries.

He hangs up. Something is wrong. As soon as he’s by himself again, words come easily. “I’m in New Orleans. I have no idea why I stayed.” Somehow he knows that if he called back, if he managed to, the same thing would happen again.

He grabs his laptop and starts looking. Within minutes, he has a plane ticket for LA. His heart beats faster as he thinks that this is just a little bit too easy. He enters the details, then waits a few seconds before clicking “confirm”. Whatever was stopping him from speaking on the phone with Brad is now gone. Adam waits. In a blink, a message pops up on the screen. Transaction refused.

His credit card was cancelled. Looking closer tells him that his bank account in California doesn’t exist anymore. That doesn’t make sense. He knows he doesn’t have one in New Orleans. Yet he’s been living here for six months now. Adam doesn’t remember having paid the rent, at all. He always has money on him, but he doesn’t remember getting paid for his singing gig, either.

That evening, when he goes back to the bar, Katie greets him with the same enthusiasm as she does every day. “Hey there. How are you today?”

When Adam finally escapes her heavy flirting, he realizes one thing. She never uses his name. No one ever does.


Now

Tommy’s aware that his idea could have been a complete disaster. Instead, it seems to be enough for them both, giving him just enough of a taste to rein him in. It doesn’t stop him from getting hard whenever Adam pulls his hair or takes over in every possible way when they’re on stage, but he’s admitted that expecting his dick to calm the fuck down whenever Adam’s concerned is a lost cause.

If he were honest, he would have admitted that this isn’t exactly what he wants from Adam. But somehow, this peculiar brand of friendship seems to work for them and doesn’t leave Tommy with the need to push for more. He knows himself and he’s aware it won’t last forever, if only because his default mode is to push against boundaries, even the ones he’s agreed to. For now, though, it seems to be enough.

So Tommy allows himself to be swept into the storm that being friends with Adam can be, especially given how crazy his life is becoming. They make music and go to concerts and spend long evenings talking and just being together. And, in January, when Adam decides that he wants to spend a couple of days in Cabo with some friends, Tommy’s invited.

He gets along with Roxy and Sutan from the moment they meet and is delighted when he realizes how crazy they can both be. It turns into one of the funniest trips he’s ever been on. He tries a lot of new things, including letting Roxy dress him up in a skirt and a corset. It isn’t a perfect fit, and it’s silly more than anything else, but Tommy loves the feeling enough that he’s tempted, once he’s back in LA, to look into buying a corset that actually fits. Especially once they’ve retired to their hotel room and Sutan works his magic on Tommy’s face. Watching Adam’s expression morph into pure desire makes Tommy want to do this more, more often.

Tommy hasn’t had that much to drink, but he’s drunk enough that the alcohol is a good excuse, once they’re finally alone, to try and climb Adam like a tree, to straddle his lap in the chair he’s sitting in and kiss him, softly.

It takes maybe a second before Adam kisses back, before he has a hand in Tommy’s hair to hold him right where he wants him to be. Tommy goes soft and pliant. This is everything he was hoping for.

When they separate, Adam trails kisses along the line of Tommy’s jaw, down his neck. It’s like he already knows each and every one of Tommy’s weak spots. He teases Tommy’s pulse point until Tommy can’t help but fight the grip Adam has on his hair to try and offer more of his neck.

There’s a whisper in Tommy’s ear, “What do you want?” right before Adam teases him again with just a hint of teeth.

Tommy groans in frustration. “Like you don’t know what I want.”

“Maybe I just want to hear you say it.”

Tommy sucks in a breath. “How do you do that?”

He almost whimpers when Adam releases his neck to look him in the eyes. “How do I do what?”

“It’s like you know where all of my buttons are without even trying. Like you already know me.”

Something strangely hopeful passes in Adam’s eyes. “Maybe I do.” His smile softens. “You know, from a past life or something.”

Tommy bursts out laughing. “You really believe in all of that?”

Adam’s face falls. “Don’t you?”

With a shrug, Tommy says, “Not really. It all seems like fairytales to make people feel better.”

“Maybe.” Adam says it like it isn’t such a big deal.

Yet Tommy has a feeling that he just messed up.

With a soft smile, Adam says, “So I guess you don’t believe in magic and curses either.”

“Why would I? They don’t exist.”

Adam’s smile gains a sad edge, almost like he’s hurt, and Tommy knows that he was right. He made a mistake, but he has no idea what it is or how to fix it.

“You’re probably right,” Adam says. Again, Tommy can hear that he’s doing his hardest to pretend it doesn’t matter. But it obviously does to him. The heat between them is gone.

“We should go to bed.”

Tommy forces himself to agree even though he wants to scream in frustration. What the fuck just happened?

And, because he has no idea what he did wrong and even less of an idea how to ask, he forces himself to be satisfied with Adam’s last, almost chaste kiss, before they head for their own, separate beds.

Maybe Adam falls asleep. Tommy, however, is left staring at the ceiling as he tries to figure out where the hell things went wrong, and why innocent-looking questions seem to matter so much to Adam. Enough that Tommy’s answers broke something in what was building between them before Adam asked the questions.

Before sleep claims him, Tommy hopes that he won’t find himself back at square one as far as Adam is concerned. Especially since he has no idea why.

*

To Tommy’s relief, while things don’t change for the better, they don’t take a turn for the worse, either. He still doesn’t understand what happened – or didn’t happen – in Cabo, but he doesn’t ask.

As they get to know each other, the wall that Adam seems to have built between them becomes more and more frustrating. Tommy tries to convince himself that it’s nothing. Before Cabo, it would have worked. It’s not even a question that Adam has thought, just as much as Tommy has, about all the reasons why anything between them isn’t a good idea. Starting with the fact that, if it goes wrong, it could mess up a lot of things in their professional lives.

But there was Cabo. And Tommy’s left with this feeling that there is another reason why Adam’s trying to keep this distance between them, but Tommy has no idea what it is.

He doesn’t push. The last thing he wants is a fight, and he has a feeling that’s all he would get. Any real explanation will have to wait until Adam’s ready. However, if it doesn’t happen soon, Tommy’s nearly ready to kick Adam’s ass to get him talking.

Before he has a chance to do that, though, there’s the concert with Kris and Allison, in New York.

The evening starts pretty well, with both Allison and Kris hanging out with them after the concert. Then, at some point, Adam and Kris disappear. Tommy wouldn’t have paid it any attention if it wasn’t for the fact that, when they come back, Kris looks uncomfortable as hell and sits as far away from Adam as he can.

Tommy would ask what happened, but when Adam sprawls on the couch next to him and downs Tommy’s drink in one go before grabbing himself another one, Tommy decides that whatever’s happening, it doesn’t matter. All he cares about are the consequences it has on Adam.

At the end of the night, Adam’s drunk out of his mind, in the way of someone who’s obviously trying to drown his sorrows. It gets bad enough that Tommy takes it on himself to get Adam back to his hotel room in one piece.

Just like everyone else, Tommy’s heard Adam say many times that there isn’t anything between him and Kris, that there never was. Today, though, Tommy wonders because it’s obvious that no matter what’s going on, it’s serious enough to knock Adam completely off-kilter.

Whatever it is, Tommy’s aware it’s not his business unless Adam decides it should be. So he gets Adam back to his room and into bed as best he can. He tries his hardest to convince himself that he’s just being a good friend until he’s about to go and Adam grabs his hand. “Stay. Please.”

There’s no way Tommy can refuse, even though he’s painfully aware that he’s falling for Adam a little more every day. Without hesitation, he strips down to his underwear and climbs into bed, fitting himself to Adam’s side.

They don’t say a word, but Tommy can feel Adam shuddering in his arms in an effort not to cry. So he asks, “Are you okay?”

There’s a long moment of silence as Adam stares at Tommy, as Tommy wills him into understanding that it was a serious question.

Slowly, Adam shakes his head. “I feel like such an idiot.”

Tommy pulls Adam closer, until there’s barely a breath between them. “I’m here if you want to talk about it.”

Adam’s snort is akin to a sob. “That’s what I’ve been doing for months. Talking and talking and fucking talking. It hasn’t gotten me anywhere.”

There’s so much pain in Adam’s voice that Tommy has to bite his tongue on the instinctual, let me be what you need. The realization that he already trusts Adam so much should be scary, but somehow it isn’t. It’s just right, in part because of the nagging feeling Tommy can’t chase away: that he’s known Adam already, at some point. It doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t change the way it feels to him.

Anything happening tonight would be a terrible idea. Tommy knows things could only go wrong, with how drunk Adam is and how much he’s been hurt. Add in the fact that the only thing stopping Tommy from falling head over heels for Adam is that they’ve managed to keep the way they interact under control by only letting it out full blast when they’re on stage, and they’ve got a recipe for disaster.

However, watching Adam hurting so badly and feeling like he can’t do anything to help is more than Tommy can take. So he tries to push himself closer to Adam, even though there isn’t any space left to do so, and he says, “I’m here.” He presses a kiss against Adam’s neck. “I’m not going anywhere.” That’s as close as he’ll dare to get to the offer that he’s tempted to make.

Within seconds, Adam has Tommy flat on his back, immobilized, and is staring at him. “We shouldn’t be doing this. Not here. Not now.”

Tommy’s heart does this ridiculous pitter-patter in his chest at the thought that, maybe, in another situation, it could happen and not end with him feeling as lost as he did in Cabo.

He wants this so much that he doubts his own sanity. Yet he forces himself to say, “We don’t have to do anything. It just feels like you need someone to be there for you.”

Adam rests his forehead against Tommy’s chest. “Why do you have to be so perfect?”

“I’m not.” Tommy patiently waits until Adam releases his wrists. He brings his hands down and brushes his fingers through Adam’s hair. “You’re drunk, Adam. Things will look better tomorrow. And you’ll remember how very far I am from perfect.”

“You could be.” Adam raises his head, and the look in his eyes makes Tommy’s breath catch in his throat. “For me. I know you could be.”

Once again, Adam’s words hit all the right spots, but Tommy tries his hardest not to react. Instead, he pulls on Adam’s hair a little. “Come here.”

Adam crawls back up Tommy’s body until Tommy can pull him down to kiss him, resting his hand against Adam’s lower back until Adam stops hovering above Tommy and rests his weight on him.

“Maybe,” Tommy admits between kisses, because it’s so tempting and he wants nothing more than to say yes, to know how it would feel to fully submit to Adam instead of being in this strange in-between situation where some things are so very perfect and others not so much. “But it’s not something we can work out tonight.”

“True.” Adam’s breath is a whisper against Tommy’s lips.

They keep kissing, slow and soft and tender, their hands barely straying over each other’s skin.

Tommy’s aware that they need to talk, and that sooner would be better. For now, though, being together like this and sharing unhurried kisses is more than enough.

*

The next morning, they take their breakfast in Adam’s room. In part because Adam is nursing a hangover from hell, but Tommy is glad for the excuse. He understands that Adam probably doesn’t want to talk about whatever happened last night to put him through the wringer, but as far as talking about everything else is concerned, it’s past time.

Tommy waits until he’s sure that they’ve both had enough coffee for Adam to start feeling a little more human before he asks, “Do you want to tell me what happened last night?”

Adam makes a face. Tommy has no idea if it’s because of what happened or because he just put way too much sugar in his coffee.

“Nothing.”

Staring at Adam over his coffee cup, Tommy says, “You want me to believe that you got yourself that worked up over nothing?”

“Let’s just say that I was reminded that, no matter how much some things mean to me, they’re unimportant. And that friendship doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody.” Adam shrugs. “As I said. It’s nothing.”

“If you say so.”

Tommy’s still trying to figure out a way to talk about everything else when Adam solves the problem for him by asking, “My turn. What the hell happened last night?”

“You needed someone to help you get back to your room.”

“I know. Thanks for that. I mean, afterward.”

The answer is easy, but Tommy has a hard time putting it into words. He hopes like hell that Adam will understand what he means when he says, “You were having a rough time. I wanted to be there for you, in any way you needed me.”

Tommy holds Adam’s gaze for as long as he can take it before looking down at the table. He feels like he just stripped away all of his protective walls and laid himself bare.

Adam’s sharp intake of breath is the only sign that Tommy took him by surprise. “Tommy. Look at me. Please?”

It’s the please that does the trick and makes Tommy look up at Adam again.

“Does that mean…” Adam toys with his cup, takes a small sip like he needs something to keep himself busy. “I’m not sure if I’m hearing you right.”

Tommy hesitates. He knows that he needs to explain, but as it is, the situation could easily be forgotten or explained away. The truth would make everything so very fucking complicated.

But at this point, Tommy’s ready to admit he wants everything so damn hard that if they don’t have that conversation, they’ll keep running into the same obstacle again and again.

Since he isn’t sure how to say it, he goes with a simple, “Let me be what you need.” Adam stares at him like he’s seeing him for the first time and Tommy has the hardest time not to look away. “That’s what I wanted to say last night.”

Adam releases a breath like he had no idea he was holding it in until this moment. “It’s a good thing you didn’t.”

Tommy tries not to show how deep Adam’s words have cut and how much they hurt. Judging from the way Adam looks at him, he failed.

Slowly, Adam reaches across the small table and takes Tommy’s hand in his. “All I mean is that I was both too drunk to do things right, and too drunk to tell you no.” He tightens his grip on Tommy’s hand. “Did you really mean it?”

“I wouldn’t say that just to mess with your head.”

“I know that.” Adam releases Tommy’s hand and moves to clear the spot next to him on the couch. “Come here.”

It’s like Tommy is glued to his chair. The only reason he felt comfortable talking was the little distance between them. But there’s no way he can resist Adam’s invitation.

Besides, it isn’t unlike all of those times when Tommy crawled into Adam’s lap when they were relaxing at Adam’s place, a little drunk or a little high, and nothing happened. Except for how Tommy feels frustratingly sober, even though he was working a good buzz last night.

Adam doesn’t ask again. He seems okay with waiting for Tommy to make up his mind. The realization that this is entirely up to him is what finally gets Tommy moving.

Once Tommy is tucked into Adam’s side on the couch, Adam says, “I just want to be sure I’m not misunderstanding you.”

Tommy takes a deep breath. “I mean, everything we’ve been doing and the way we play it up on stage?” He waits until Adam nods before he continues, “If you wanted to take it off stage, push it farther and see where it’ll get us, I would be very, very good with that.”

Adam’s eyes darken but he looks uneasy. Before he can say anything, Tommy adds, as fast as he can, “Unless it’s not something you want, but then, you have to tell me. Because when shit like last night, or that one time in Cabo happens, it feels a lot like you’re stringing me along.”

The silence lasts so long that Tommy’s sure he’s about to hear exactly what he just said. Instead, Adam whispers, “This is so not what I meant to do.”

Tommy hangs his head and tries to move out of Adam’s embrace. Instead of letting him go, Adam tightens his grip on him. Gentle fingers under his chin make Tommy look at Adam again.

Their first kiss is a barely there pressure of lips, soft and sweet, that ends before Adam asks, “You sure?”

It’s as if all of Tommy’s brain cells short-circuited at once. All he can get out is an almost desperate, “Yes, fuck, I’m sure, please.”

The next thing he knows, Adam is on him, manhandling him to be exactly where he wants him to be and kissing him breathless. Adam holds him down, letting his weight press Tommy into the couch until Tommy’s left with nowhere to turn, until he has no choice but to give as Adam takes and takes, possessing him with a single kiss.

When Adam finally raises his head like he isn’t sure if he wants to let Tommy go, the look in his eyes is enough to make Tommy hard as a rock within a second. He wants to reach for Adam and bring him back down, but Adam’s holding Tommy’s wrists over his head, hard enough that Tommy can’t move without struggling. And as amazing as the bruises would feel to him, Tommy’s aware that they’re very far from being done with talking.

Once he realizes that Adam won’t move to kiss him again, Tommy asks, “What now?”

“I never meant to string you along, baby,” Adam says. This time, Tommy can’t resist the heat in Adam’s eyes. He arches toward Adam, making Adam smirk. “It just felt like it wouldn’t be fair.”

Tommy freezes mid-move. He’s completely lost. “It wouldn’t be fair to whom?”

“To both of us. Because of the reason why I’m attracted to you.”

Rolling his eyes, Tommy says, “Let me guess. It has to do with your mystery guy?” When Adam doesn’t answer, Tommy sighs. “In that case, you’re right. Holding me up to a standard that has nothing to do with me is unfair.”

Adam releases Tommy but doesn’t let him go far, keeping Tommy in his arms as he sits up again. “That’s not what I’m doing.”

“Then what is it?”

“It was so many years ago and it never went farther than a one-night-stand, but it meant so much to me.” Adam’s still looking at Tommy, but Tommy has a feeling that Adam doesn’t really see him. Instead, he’s lost in his memories. “And when we met, that’s part of the reason why I was acting like a dick. Because I was attracted to you like crazy, but it felt like you were… I don’t know, a ghost of the past coming back to haunt me. Or like I was expecting something out of you that you couldn’t give me.”

Tommy turns around as best as he can in Adam’s arms until he’s straddling Adam’s lap. “I get it.” And he really, really does. The situation Adam’s talking about reminds him of the guy he met in New Orleans, right after his father became sick. Because even though Tommy never really expected that guy to call him, he’d still hoped for a phone call or a text for weeks after he returned to Burbank. “But here and now? I’m pretty sure we’re on the same page. We want the same thing. So can we give this a try without a ghost between us?”

The pure joy in Adam’s expression makes Tommy’s heart hammer in his chest as Adam says, “Yeah. I’d love that.”

With a hand twisting in Tommy’s hair and pulling until Tommy closes his eyes on a moan, Adam brings Tommy closer so he can kiss him again. Tommy can’t resist rocking his hips, once, twice, just to feel Adam’s clothes covered boner against his.

Adam’s phone start beeping right when it feels like things could finally take a turn in the right direction. Reluctantly, he pulls Tommy away by his hair, his smile growing predatory when Tommy strains against Adam’s grip to try and keep kissing him.

“I’m gonna have to answer that.”

“Not right this second?”

“Stop pouting.” Adam nips at Tommy’s lower lip and kisses him again, long and soft and sweet. “Can I ask you something?”

“What is it?” Tommy asks in between kisses.

“I know I can’t tell you what to do.” Adam doesn’t add yet, but all of Tommy’s blood rushes south because Tommy hears that clear as day. “So I’m just asking. Wait for me, please.”

“What does that mean?”

Tommy sucks in a breath when Adam smirks and presses his palm against Tommy’s dick. “Don’t jerk off.”

Bucking against Adam’s hand, Tommy hisses, “If I die from blue balls, it’ll be your fault.”

“No one ever died from blue balls.” But Adam doesn’t ask again.

The feeling that it’s up to him is what makes up Tommy’s mind. “All right. But you better make some time for us in your schedule before we fly home.”

Adam’s smile turns downright evil. “We’ll see.”


Then

Over six months of questioning, of saying the same thing over and over again. Thing is, Danielle is sure no one really believes her. Her friends know that she would never lie if Adam was in danger, or if something bad happened to him. So does his family. However, once the police get involved, suddenly her, “I don’t remember a thing, I would like to help you but I can’t,” is doubted.

Danielle gets it, in a way. Adam just… disappeared. When everyone got worried and they started really looking for him, it was to discover that he wasn’t answering his emails, he couldn’t be reached by phone, his bank account was closed, and he moved out of his apartment. No one has any idea where he is.

Except Danielle. She remembers leaving New Orleans without him, and would bet anything that he stayed there. Why? She can’t say. Whenever she tries to push farther, the same headache she got the first time Neil asked her comes back.

So she doesn’t talk about it. Either she won’t be able to say what she wants, or people won’t believe her. She doesn’t bother trying anymore. Danielle is still worried, still hoping that Adam will somehow come back. She knows that if he does, it won’t be thanks to her.

When she comes back home from work, it’s to find Brad sitting on her couch. She looks at the keys she just used to open the door, and asks, “What are you doing here? How did you get in?”

“Your roommate let me in before she left. Do you ever answer your phone?” As Brad talks, Danielle goes to the kitchen and puts water on to boil. She doesn’t know what he wants but would bet anything that tea is going to be necessary. It’s far too early for alcohol.

“Yes, I do,” she answers while getting the tea out of the pantry. “But my battery’s dead. I had no idea you called me.”

“I’m not the only one who did.” Brad hops onto one of the stools on the other side of the counter.

The cup she’s reaching for almost tumbles out of the cupboard and she barely manages to catch it before it falls to the ground. She put it on the counter before her hands starts shaking. “Did they find him?”

She can barely bring herself to look at Brad. He slips off his stool and walks around the counter, taking over the preparation of the tea when it becomes clear that Danielle’s hands are shaking too badly. With a gentle hand on her arm, he gives her a little push toward a stool. “Not exactly.”

Danielle waits, watching him as he busies himself with the tea. Long minutes of silence follow while the water boils and the tea steeps. She knows she should say something, but she can’t bring herself to until she has a cup to hide behind. She nods her thanks when Brad hands her a cup, then takes a sip to calm herself before she finally asks. “That means what? Don’t play with me now.”

Brad puts his cup back on the table, but his hand stays around it. “Did they tell you that someone tried to use Adam’s credit card?”

Danielle nods. “Yes, they questioned me again after that. Why?”

“Did they happen to tell you where or why it was used?” asks Brad. Danielle shakes her head. Brad keeps going. “Someone tried to buy a plane ticket. New Orleans to LA.”

As soon as the words leave Brad’s mouth, Danielle brings a hand to her forehead. Her ears start ringing as a new headache builds up. Moments later, she runs to the bathroom to throw up. Brad appears at the door while she’s still heaving, nothing but bile coming up.

“Are you okay, Danielle?”

She shakes her head, unable to answer. She manages to stand up, grabs herself a glass of water, rinses her mouth. Then she turns to look at Brad. “Adam never left New Orleans. Don’t ask me why, I don’t fucking remember, but he didn’t come home with me.”

As Danielle talks, Brad gets out his cell phone and hands it to her. “Well, it would explain that. Look at the call history.”

As she does, Danielle’s eyebrows go up nearly to her hairline. One of the most recent calls received is from Adam’s number, the same one that hasn’t worked in months. She has a hard time making words come out of her mouth. “You spoke to him?”

Brad shakes his head. “No. Whoever it was, they didn’t say anything. It’s still the best clue we have. So I was wondering if you wanted to take another trip to New Orleans with me.”

Danielle bites her lips. “Does anyone else know?”

“No,” is Brad’s answer. “And we’re not telling them. You know if we do, Neil will want to come with, and there’s no way their mother is going to let him out of her sight right now. If we do find Adam, we’ll tell them. If we don’t…”

If they don’t, they will be the only ones disappointed. No point in getting everyone’s hopes up. Danielle is already counting days in her head, trying to figure out when she’ll be able to take a few days off from her job again. It might take some time, but they will try, that’s not even a question.  


Now

Tommy soon realizes that he made a mistake. If he hadn’t said his, you better make time for us, he’s pretty sure that he and Adam would have fallen into bed a lot faster. As it is, Adam does his best to keep Tommy in a state of constant frustration. They share Adam’s bed more often than not, but Tommy doesn’t get anything more than breath-taking kisses that leave him feeling dizzy. As amazing as they can be, they’re far from being enough.

When they fucking finally make it home, they don’t even bother dropping Tommy’s luggage at his place. Adam has to fight to put the key into the lock with Tommy trying to climb him like a tree.

“We need to talk,” Adam whispers. Yet he claims Tommy’s lips for another kiss.

“What we need is less talking and more fucking. Like, right the fuck now.”

“Before we do that…” Adam loses his train of thought on a whine when Tommy unzips Adam’s pants and wraps his fingers around Adam’s dick.

“Talking can wait,” Tommy insists, slowly stroking Adam. “Right now, what I want is your dick in my ass. You’re good with that?”

Adam rocks into Tommy’s grip. “Yeah, I’m good with that.” His eyes darken. “But only if it’s the way I want to give it to you.”

Tommy’s mouth goes dry at the thought. “Oh, fuck yes.”

“Bedroom.” It sounds like an order, one that Tommy is only too happy to follow.

Except they never make it to the bedroom. In between deep kisses, they shed their clothes on the way. The last couple of days of frustration have left Tommy desperate for anything and soon he finds himself bent over the back of Adam’s couch, hands digging into the cushions in order to stop himself from reaching for his dick.

He gasps when Adam breaches him with his fingers. “Hurry up, come on, I won’t last long.”

Bending over Tommy, fitting his chest to Tommy’s back, Adam teases the piercings in Tommy’s ears with his tongue and his teeth, pulling until Tommy whimpers. “You will last, Tommy. Or else you’ll regret it so badly, you have no idea.”

It’s a threat. Tommy can’t mistake it for anything else, but all it does is make his dick harden even more. He lets out a shaky breath when two fingers become three. “Come on. I can take it.”

Adam kisses the line of Tommy’s spine, making him shiver. “Always so eager, baby.”

Tommy has barely a second to wonder what the fuck Adam means. All thoughts fly out of his head when Adam pulls his fingers out, leaves Tommy waiting just long enough to put on a condom before he thrusts into him, so slowly that it does nothing but make Tommy ache for more.

Once he’s all the way in, Adam stops.

The pause lasts long enough that frustration seeps into Tommy’s voice. “What the fuck are you waiting for?”

There’s a soft kiss on Tommy’s ear. “I’m sure you know what I’m waiting for.”

Tommy stifles his groan into the couch. Yes, he knows, but he was hoping not to go there today. Begging for it always sends him spiraling toward subspace, and he’s made it a rule not to go down the first time.

It would be easy to say no. What scares Tommy the most is that he doesn’t want to. He longs to give in and let go. But he has no idea why he wants it so badly.

In the end, what comes out is a very small, “Please. Fuck me, please.” And Tommy bites his tongue to halt the deluge of words that want to follow.

When Adam finally moves, it’s slowly enough that Tommy’s frustration climbs until he can’t take it. “Asshole.

Adam’s low chuckle brings shiver down Tommy’s back. “Why? Did you want something else?”

He thrusts inside Tommy again, far too careful.

“Come on, Adam.” Of course, that doesn’t have any effect. “Harder. You have to fuck me harder, please.”

“Like this?”

Tommy’s breath is knocked out of his lungs when Adam slams into him. He holds onto the couch like his life depends on it. “Yes, yes, fuck, please!”

And Adam gives him exactly what he wanted, a hard fuck that hurts in all the right ways and that has Tommy clawing at the couch as he tries his hardest not to reach for his dick.

The mix of the almost brutal way Adam fucks him and the soft kisses he presses on Tommy’s skin, of the moments when he bites down, making Tommy wish Adam would leave bruises and marks behind, and the downright filthy, “You feel so fucking good around my dick, baby,” that Adam whispers in Tommy’s ear hits all the right spots.

It’s a matter of minutes before Tommy’s right on the edge and asks… begs, “Let me come, please.”

“I’m not stopping you.”

Tommy throws a suspicious look at Adam over his shoulder when Adam stops moving. It’s true that Adam isn’t stopping him, but even as he thinks that, Tommy remembers what, exactly, Adam asked the other day. Wait for me.

While Tommy could reach for his dick if he really wanted – he doesn’t owe Adam anything, not yet, at least – he’s also very aware that it would bring a lot of things to a screeching halt. If he wants this, he has to let it happen at Adam’s pace. And he realizes that he’s very okay with that. Well, fuck.

Instead, Tommy digs his fingers deeper into the cushions. He’s rewarded with a long, hard thrust that makes him see stars, and Adam’s “so good for me, Tommy.”

The praise warms Tommy all over, and he holds on with all of his will in order not to fall. He hopes like hell that Adam won’t push him any further because he’s already far too close to subspace for his own comfort.

Because of that, he can’t quite allow himself to get lost in the sensations. That is, until he finally feels Adam’s hand around his dick, jerking him off hard and fast. Tommy comes within a matter of seconds, moments before Adam does. He goes limp over the couch as he tries to catch his breath, barely aware of Adam pulling out and throwing away the condom.

He lets Adam gather him in his arms and pull him onto the couch, still feeling a little lost. Adam kisses the top of his head. “You okay, baby?”

“Hmm-hmm.” Tommy doesn’t have any words to answer. He doesn’t get it at all. He’s never skirted that close to subspace with a new partner, but he can’t help the way Adam feels to him, safe and comfortable and familiar in a way Tommy can’t explain.

But trying to understand what the hell just happened while Tommy still feels so close to the edge of losing himself in Adam’s presence is useless. Instead, he allows himself to appreciate Adam’s attention.

And when Adam suggests, “How about a hot bath?”

Tommy can’t help but smile and say, “Yeah. I’d love that.”

*

Much, much later, after they have to get clean twice because the bath ended with Tommy straddling Adam’s lap as Adam jerked them both off, almost too slow but oh so very perfect, they cuddle in Adam’s bed.

Tommy feels like he could fall asleep here and now, even though it’s still quite early, when Adam says, “Let me ask you something.”

Tommy rolls over to face Adam. “Go ahead.”

“Why did it feel like I lost you halfway through, earlier?”

Tommy looks away. He’d hoped that his hesitation hadn’t shown that much.

It takes him a minute and the gentle caress of Adam’s fingers on his neck, before he finds the courage to look at Adam again. “I never go down too far with a new partner. It’s not just that I don’t want to,” well, there’s that too, but this is so not what they’re talking about, “But it never really happens until we’ve known each other awhile. It’s a question of trust. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I think I get it. But I don’t understand what that has to do with what happened.”

“I was so close to falling, you have no idea. And it scared me. You’re an amazing friend and I want more than what we’ve had until now, but I don’t… know you. Not really. Not like this.”

Adam gives him a small smile. “So you shut me out in order to protect yourself.”

Tommy hesitates a second before he asks, “You’re not angry?”

“Why would I be?” Adam pulls Tommy closer. “You’re right. We need to give each other time. And we need to do some serious talking. You know that.”

“Yeah, I do.” Tommy sighs. “I’m sorry. I thought tonight was going to be a nice, hard fuck with a bit of orgasm control, not… I wasn’t supposed to react like this.”

Because if he’d known it was a possibility, he definitely wouldn’t have pushed for them to fall into bed without talking first.

“Don’t be sorry, baby. You couldn’t know.”

Yet it still feels like Tommy should have seen it coming, somehow.

“Sometimes it feels like I know you already. It’s weird.”

He can practically feel Adam hold his breath before saying, “Maybe you do.”

Tommy frowns as he tries to figure out if Adam is serious or not. “Stop mocking me!”

“I’m not.”

As he says that, the light in Adam’s eyes seems to dim a little. But the change is so subtle that Tommy thinks he must have imagined it.

Adam was obviously teasing him.


Then

From the moment Adam realizes that he’s stuck in New Orleans and that no one can remember his name, his pattern of taking boys to his bed without knowing their names leaves him feeling empty. There’s no connection, and even though the sex is amazing, it starts to weigh on him. It’s so far from who he is and the way he’s always lived his life that it feels like he’s losing himself.

So he stops. Until the night he meets Spencer.

Spencer is a nice guy, fun and flirty and unashamed about the fact that he doesn’t want just Adam-the-singer. He appears at the bar really early in the evening and stays throughout the whole night, talking to Adam in between his sets and glaring at any guy who looks like he’s even thinking about making a move.

Adam laughs and kisses the pout off Spencer’s lips every time. By the time the bar closes, he knows that Spencer is a dancer from New York who’s visiting New Orleans with his sister.

Before he knows what’s happening, he’s telling Spencer about his life in LA, the friends he’s made, some of the shows he’s done.

By the time they step foot in Adam’s apartment, they know way more about each other than just their names. This kind of closeness is everything that Adam didn’t realize he was missing.

They keep teasing each other until they both can’t stand it, until Spencer pushes Adam onto his back on the bed and rides him, slow and all kind of perfect.

They share a shower, laughing at how small the shower stall is in Adam’s place and how it’s so not practical that they would have been better off to do it separately, but neither of them seems to want to give up.

They watch the sunrise through the open window. Adam allows himself to enjoy how easy it is, how peaceful and sweet.

Before he leaves, Spencer enters his phone number into Adam’s cell, and he says, “I’ll be here until the end of the week. Call me.” And Adam knows that he means it.

But when he does exactly that, two days later, it’s to be greeted by a, “Wait. Who are you? How did we meet?”

Adam wants to laugh like Spencer’s joking, but he’s far too close to sobbing.

Right then, he decides that knowing people by name hurts far too much. From that moment on, never again does he take a boy to his bed knowing his name. Because, even though it leaves him feeling empty, it hurts less than getting to know someone only to see them forget him, something that seems to happen almost in front of his eyes.


Now

After that very first time, the promised talking doesn’t happen. Every time they breach the subject, Tommy digs in his heels and they don’t get anywhere. He’s aware that the discussion needs to happen. If it doesn’t, they’ll only find themselves facing more and more problematic situations until this whole thing between them explodes in their faces.

But he can’t bring himself to let it happen. Not understanding his own reactions is something he’s not used to, and with Adam, it happens so often that it’s like Tommy doesn’t know which side is up or down anymore. So many things about Adam feel so damned familiar in a way Tommy can’t explain that it scares him.

It would have been easier if Tommy could have kept his internal turmoil to himself, but of course, that doesn’t happen. The situation takes up so much space in his mind that it requires an effort not to talk about it, and the more he tries to avoid that fucking conversation, the more what he’s feeling leaks into the way he acts. Challenging Adam on little things that barely make sense. Fighting the goddamn impulse to do as Adam says at all moments. And, during the sound check for Fantasy Springs, nearly biting Ashley’s head off when she makes a small suggestion while Tommy is tuning his guitar. “Like you know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

The slap upside his head that would be her usual reaction to him acting like an ass never happens. Instead, her whole face closes off.

Later, in the elevator that takes them back to their rooms, he tries to say that he’s sorry, but she stops him with a hand in the air. “Come talk to me when you’ve dealt with whatever crawled up your ass.”

When she gets out of the elevator, Tommy’s tempted to follow her. But Adam saying, “You’re coming to my room,” stops him dead in his tracks.

“Why?” Tommy hasn’t let the elevator door close yet, as if the feeling that he still has an escape route is the only thing making this bearable.

“Because we both know your problem is with me.”

As much as Tommy would like to deny it, he can’t. He sighs and backs away, letting the elevator door close. They don’t exchange another word until they’re in Adam’s room.

The silence lasts maybe another second before Adam asks, “What the hell, Tommy Joe?”

If Adam’s tone of voice weren’t enough to clue Tommy in to the fact that he really is in trouble, the use of his full name would do the trick. Still, he only offers a shrug as he says, “What if I don’t have an explanation?”

Adam arches an eyebrow. “You better have one, because right now? I’m really fucking tempted to tan your ass.”

Tommy shivers at the thought. He curls his hands into fists and digs his nails into his palms in an effort to get himself under control as he realizes that he would let Adam do it, even though this is a line they’ve never crossed before. Fucking hell.

He forces himself to sit on the bed when Adam points at it, waits for Adam to pull up a chair and face him. “This, right here. This is my problem. I would have let you.”

He can see in Adam’s face that a slap would have hurt less, but Adam’s voice is still even when he says, “Why is that a problem?”

“Because I never trust anyone that easily, like, ever. Because it makes me feel like I can’t trust myself when I’m around you and that fucking sucks.”

There’s a long pause before Adam asks, “Are you sure you want this?”

“Yes.” The word is out of Tommy’s mouth before he even has time to think about it. “What has me lost is how much I want it. I’m long past the point where it feels like I have to try everything at once, so I don’t get it.”

“So your problem isn’t with me.”

“It never was.” Tommy sighs. “My problem is with the way I react to you, not the way you actually act.”

Adam takes Tommy’s hands in his. “What can I do to help?”

Tommy’s breath catches in his throat. This is a perfect example of why this thing they’re building together sometimes has him so lost. Because Adam just has to try and fix everything for everyone he cares about and sometimes, it’s far too tempting to just let him.

“I don’t know if you can,” he finally says. “This is all on me.”

Shaking his head, Adam says, “But we’re in this together, Tommy. We have to be, or it won’t work. You know that.”

Even if he wanted to, Tommy can’t deny it. “I know. But it still feels like it’s something I have to deal with on my own.”

“I’d agree with you if it wasn’t for the fact that you’re not dealing.” Adam keeps his voice soft enough that it doesn’t sound like an accusation, but the words sting anyway. “You’re pushing me away and you’re taking it out on everybody else, like you’re hoping I’ll bring you back into line. I could do it, and I wouldn’t mind,” Adam admits with a smile that brings shivers down Tommy’s back, “But not until you give me that right.”

And for that to happen, they need to have exactly the kind of talk that Tommy’s been trying so hard to avoid.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” Adam says when it becomes clear that Tommy won’t answer him, “But something has to give. Acting out the way you have been won’t get us anywhere. And it has to stop before it starts messing with the band.”

Tommy sighs. He understands it all too well. Either they need to stop everything – but, if you ask him, that is so fucking not an acceptable option – or they have to figure things out and find some kind of balance before it upsets everything else in their lives.

“I get it,” is all he dares to say.

“But? There’s a but, right?”

“But it’s like all is well and then a second later, we’re heading toward too fucking much, too fucking fast.”

“We can take things slow,” Adam says and, like he suddenly understands exactly what the problem is, “I can slow you down, too, if necessary.”

Now that the door is open, there’s no way Tommy can pretend it doesn’t exist. “I hate feeling that out of control.”

“Is that how it feels? Like you can’t control yourself?” When Tommy nods, Adam adds, “Do you think letting me take over would help?”

It’s both an honest offer and a way out if Tommy needs one. He can hear that clear as day in Adam’s words. But as much as it confuses him, how easily he wants to give in, he knows that it would hurt even more to lose everything that he and Adam already share.

“It might.”

“Do you want it?”

The answer to that is so easy that Tommy can’t help but laugh at himself a bit. “A little too much for my own good, yes.”

Adam’s smile warms Tommy to his core. “Then you and I need to talk. And look at that, we have a couple of hours to kill.”

“Now?” Tommy can’t help how incredulous he sounds. He was hoping to have a little respite.

“Yes, now. We’ve already let things go on far too long without doing anything. I’m not saying we’ll manage to work everything out today, but it’ll give us a place to start.”

Tommy wishes he could say otherwise, but he has to admit that Adam’s right.

As Adam said, they don’t talk through everything in one sitting, but they make enough progress that, right before they head out, Adam feels comfortable enough to say, “I don’t care how you do it, but you’re gonna have to work things out with Ashley before tonight’s show. Got it?”

“Yeah.” Tommy swallows hard against the dryness in his throat. “I get it.”

The kiss Adam gives him feels both like a reward and a promise. Coupled with the, “good boy” that Adam whispers in Tommy’s ear, Tommy feels ten times lighter.

*

Tommy finally manages to catch Ashley maybe fifteen minutes before they walk on stage.

“Ashley?”

She doesn’t smile when she looks at him, but just from her expression, he knows that she’s had more than enough time to calm down, too.

“Yeah?”

He says, as fast as he can, “I’m sorry. It’s just… there’s a lot going on in my head right now. I never meant to take it out on you. Forgive me?”

She makes him wait for a minute that feels like an hour. “All right.” Her smile is finally back, with a mischievous edge to it. “Does that mean you and Adam have worked things out?”

Caught by surprise, Tommy blinks at her. “Huh?”

With a shrug, she says, “Come on, Tommy. You two are anything but subtle. And I’m not blind.”

“Yeah,” he admits after a couple more seconds of silence. “We’re trying.”

Ashley’s smile turns into a frown. “You don’t sound that happy about it.”

Shaking his head, Tommy says, “It’s not that.”

“Then what is it?”

Tommy shrugs. “I’m not sure I know how to explain.”

Leaning against the wall, Ashley smiles at him. “Try. Maybe I can help.”

“We’ve known each other for what, a couple of months? And we’ve spent at least half that time dancing around each other without anything happening. But sometimes, it feels like I’ve known him before. Like he knows the right way to hit all my buttons and I want nothing more than to let him.”

“Why is that a bad thing?” The way Ashley stares at Tommy almost makes him uncomfortable. “I mean, sometimes, you meet someone and you just… you click. As if you’ve known them your whole life.”

“Maybe.” Tommy swallows against the dryness in his throat. He has no idea how to have this conversation without revealing a lot more than he wants to. “But with the way things are going, it’s not something I can walk into blindly.”

Just when Ashley’s about to reply, they’re called to get into place. She starts to walk away, then looks back at Tommy over her shoulder. “You know, maybe you don’t understand why you already trust him the way you do. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong to do so.”

Tommy’s eyebrows go up in surprise, but he doesn’t have time to ask how she knows so much.

Later, he thinks that it’s almost a good thing that the conversation ended when it did. Her last words keep replaying in his head, again and again, to the point of driving him crazy. Mostly because Tommy has to admit that she’s right.

It isn’t that the way things are going with Adam is making Tommy uneasy; it’s more that it feels like it should, and it freaks him out that it doesn’t. And if you add to that the way Adam feels almost too familiar sometimes, it’s a complete mind fuck.

The show itself goes even better than they could have hoped for. All though the night, Tommy can feel the heat climb higher and higher, a low buzzing under his skin that only one thing can stop.

When they’re finally off stage, high on life and adrenaline, Tommy grabs onto Adam as soon as the others are out of the elevator.

He lets his head fall back when Adam pulls his hair. “Eager, aren’t you?”

Tommy’s breath catches in his throat. All the heat he feels is showing in Adam’s eyes.

“I still don’t get it,” he says, as fast as he can. “And I don’t care. I want you, I want this, I could…” He swallows down the I could love you because it’s too soon, way too soon, and says instead, “I want everything.”

“Oh, Tommy.” Adam’s expression softens in a way Tommy can’t explain. “You have no idea what…” He trails off on whatever he was going to say.

Tommy has to restrain himself not to roll his eyes. “I know exactly what I’m offering. Because this?” He waves at the hand in his hair when he can’t say exactly what he means. “Everything we’ve been doing? It feels like a tease of everything we could have, of what we both want.”

“We’ll have to take things slow,” Adam says, very, very softly.

With a shrug, Tommy says, “We’ll have the time. But I’m tired of fighting this just because I don’t understand everything. I trust you.” And Ashley was right. Maybe he doesn’t get why it’s happening this fast, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

When Adam kisses him, it’s soft and mellow and so damned sweet that if he were just a little less sober, it would make Tommy want to cry.

Instead, he grabs onto Adam’s shoulders and molds his body to Adam’s just as the elevator dings, letting them know they’ve reached the right floor.

“Shower,” Adam says in between kisses, as soon as the door to his room closes behind them. “Need to get the sweat and make-up off of us.”

Tommy doesn’t respond beyond a small nod. He’s too busy licking into Adam’s mouth and pulling at his clothes. Anything to get Adam naked as soon as possible.

He keeps it up until they’re in the bathroom and Adam grabs for the make-up remover before Tommy can, before turning around to face Tommy. “Let me.”

That stops Tommy dead in his tracks. They’re finally getting somewhere. “Yes. Please.”

“Over here.”

Tommy hops onto the bathroom counter. It makes him feel a bit like a kid, but his embarrassment at the situation lasts but a second, gone as soon as he gets Adam’s assured hands on his face, carefully wiping away sweat and make-up and glitter alike.

He closes his eyes when Adam tells him to, turns his head this way and the other. Beyond telling Tommy how to move, Adam doesn’t say a word until he’s done, and the steady motion of Adam’s hands on him is enough to have Tommy breathing evenly, his train of thoughts slowing down.

“Gorgeous,” Adam whispers as he trails his fingers along the lines of Tommy’s jaw. “When it’s just the two of us and we have nowhere to go, I don’t want to see anything on your face.”

Tommy blinks his eyes open, his throat gone dry. Everything around him already feels softer and Adam has barely done anything yet. “All right.”

That gets him a smile and a kiss, a butterfly-light press of lips. “Start the shower. Make sure it’s not too hot.”

Barely managing to hold in the yes, sir that comes to him on instinct, Tommy steps into the shower. While Adam takes off his own make-up, Tommy starts the shower and takes one deep breath, then another. He’s already gone so far, it’s not even funny.

Adam steps into the shower and pulls Tommy back against him with an arm around his waist. “You okay, baby?”

Turning around in Adam’s arms to hold him close, Tommy gives the smallest nod against Adam’s skin. For a second he gets a flash of another night, another shared shower, of kisses and promises and hot water that felt so good after running through the rain. The image is so familiar that it makes him dizzy.

“Are you still with me?”

The memory, if it really was one, is already gone, leaving nothing in its wake but Tommy’s feeling of being right where he belongs.

He forces himself to open his eyes and look at Adam. “Yes. I am.” His tone of voice is more formal already. He could stop himself if he really needed to, but fuck, he so doesn’t want to.

“Good.” Adam’s eyes darken. “Give me your words.”

Because he already has a hard time thinking, Tommy says, “Let’s keep it simple. Yellow for slow down, red for stop.”

“Works for me.” With a teasing smile, Adam continues, “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

From that moment on, it’s a blur of sensations until Tommy finds himself clinging to Adam, doing his hardest to stay still even though he’s hard as a rock as Adam pushes soapy fingers into his ass.

His knees buckle when Adam’s mouth finds his neck, teeth teasing at his pulse point, not even enough to call it a bite. “Goddammit, fucker, don’t tease!”

Adam laughs. “You can never stay quiet for long, can you?” It almost sounds like a challenge. “I’m curious to see what it will take to keep you quiet.”

Tommy’s heart hammers in his chest as it feels like all of his blood is redirected toward his hard, aching dick. “You think you can do it?”

Two fingers under Tommy’s chin make him look up at Adam. He has no idea what hits him the hardest: Adam’s amused smile or the darkness that’s taken over his eyes. “Let’s find out.”

Once they’re out of the shower, they dry themselves and each other as fast as possible before Adam manhandles Tommy onto the bed.

He barely has the time to take a breath before he finds himself head down onto the bed, his arms over his head as Adam pushes his legs under him and makes him spread them until he can feel the burn in his thighs.

“Stay there.”

Tommy twists his fingers in the sheets in order to obey. He’s already breathing hard, feeling like he could spill any second.

There’s the soft, soft caress of fingers down his back. “A lot better.” The approval in Adam’s voice warms Tommy all over, but he can’t help but laugh into the pillow.

Turning his head to look at Adam over his shoulder, he says, “Better. But I’m not there yet.”

Adam’s hand in his hair forces his face back on the sheet. Tommy’s mouth opens on a moan when Adam teases at Tommy’s piercings with his tongue and his teeth. “You’re such a little shit.”

Tommy’s aware that he might be pushing a little too much, but that doesn’t stop him from saying, “Come on. Do your worst.”

This time it’s Adam who laugh. “Be careful what you wish for, baby.” He drops a soft kiss on Tommy’s shoulder. “Don’t move.”

The words are barely above a whisper but they hold Tommy in place better than binding ever could. He closes his eyes as his skin gets goosebumps all over from Adam’s gentle touch, from his soft, “Such a pretty baby” and “So very good for me”. With every caress, with every word, he takes Tommy down a little farther. Until Tommy’s willing and pliant under Adam’s touch. Until the only sounds he can produce are soft, sighed moans. Until his own pleasure barely even matters.

And then, Adam attacks, using his teeth and tongue all over Tommy’s skin, leaving bite marks over Tommy’s back, his thighs, his ass, holding on until the pain goes right to Tommy’s head and he has no idea if he’s begging Adam to stop or to never let go.

“One of these days, I want to mark you all over.” The idea makes Tommy keen. “Tie you up and really take my time.” Another breathtaking bite on Tommy’s inner thigh, the pain bright and sharp until Tommy’s almost sobbing.

He has no control over the words that tumble out of his mouth after that, a litany of “please” and “fuck” and “anything” that goes on until Adam finally licks into Tommy’s ass and the only word left on Tommy’s lips is Adam’s name.

He feels himself open up, first for Adam’s tongue then for his slick fingers, with just the right kind of burn when Adam goes a little too fast from two to three to four. Tommy forces himself to breathe through the pain as his world narrow down to the pressure of Adam’s fingers in his ass, pushing and stretching and filling him so perfectly. Until the moment when every time Adam crooks his fingers to hit just the right spot feels like nothing but a tease of what it could be, and Tommy can’t help but ask, beg, “More, please.”

The loss of Adam’s fingers makes Tommy whimper. He barely has time to catch his breath before Adam is back, entering him in one long, slow thrust. And then Adam stays right where he is, waiting and waiting and waiting.

Yet Tommy stays immobile. He can’t even think about trying to make Adam hurry up. He can do nothing but beg, again and again, barely aware of the words he’s saying.

“So pretty, baby.” Adam pulls out a bit before pushing back in. “Giving it all up to me.” Another small thrust, still nowhere near what it could be. “Just like I knew you would.”

Adam’s last words somehow reach Tommy because something sounds not quite right, but he doesn’t have the time to wonder. Suddenly Adam’s fucking him for real, hard, punishing thrusts that push Tommy into the bed and almost make him scream. He’s so ready and open that it’s an easy slide, but Adam is giving it to him exactly the way he loves it, rough and fast and fucking perfect.

It’s only when Adam wraps a hand around Tommy’s cock that he realizes how close he is, leaking precome at a steady pace. “Go ahead, pretty.” Adam strokes Tommy once and grinds into his ass. “Come for me.” And he bites Tommy’s neck, right on the pulse point, while Tommy shivers through his orgasm, spilling over Adam’s hand.

A couple more thrusts and Adam follows him over the edge, buried deep in Tommy’s ass.

When Adam pulls out, Tommy collapses on the bed, feeling like all of his muscles just turned into jelly. Adam kisses the marks he left on Tommy’s neck, making Tommy hiss. But he pushes up into the sensation of Adam’s mouth and can practically feel Adam’s smile on his skin. “Let me grab something to clean you up.”

Tommy just nods as he grabs his pillow. He’s grinning like a loon, feeling too good to say a word.

Later, though, once Tommy’s all clean and they’ve burrowed under the covers, with Tommy clinging to Adam like a second skin, he asks, “What did you mean?”

Adam looks completely lost. “What are you talking about?”

“Something you said.” Tommy shrugs. “How you knew what I’d look like. Or something.”

“Just that I’ve been waiting to see you like this since we’ve met. Nothing more.”

It doesn’t sound wrong, not exactly, but the way Adam blushes to the roots of his hair makes it seem like he was just caught in a lie.

But Tommy’s still riding the high of subspace, and he’s feeling too happy and giddy to push farther.


Then

It’s not that Adam doesn’t try to leave New Orleans. It’s just that nothing seems to work. He doesn’t have that much money, even if he somehow has everything he needs to live. He turned his whole place upside down, only to realize that all of his personal papers are nowhere to be found.

Every time he tries to call someone, his voice fails him. Or if it’s not his voice, his fingers freeze, and he can’t even look through the contacts on his phone.

One evening, he strikes up a conversation with a guy he’s seen in the bar a few times. Somehow it requires him to make an effort; it doesn’t come as easily as it used to. There’s a fog in his brain, stopping him from thinking about what’s happening to him, making it even harder to talk about it.

Somehow Adam manages to, but he can’t go about in a straight line like he would normally do. Instead he says, “It’s this story about a guy who comes here, and then he can’t leave anymore. It takes him a couple of months to realize it because he’s in this routine that stops him from thinking.”

Blond guy – Adam doesn’t know his name, but said guy didn’t ask for his, either – smiles. “Sounds like a wicked curse.”

Adam’s heart beats faster. He hadn’t thought of that. “A curse?”

“Yes. I should take you to see my grandmother. She knows a lot about those things. It could help make your novel more realistic.”

They make plans to go in a couple of days, but Adam writes down the address of the guy’s grandmother, just in case. He has a feeling he’s going to need it.

*

Adam doesn’t see the guy again. He’s not really surprised, but he hoped it wouldn’t happen. He waits a few days, just in case the guy shows up again. When he doesn’t, Adam takes an afternoon to go look at the address the guy gave him. It’s a really small shop, the kind that, from the outside, looks like a tourist trap. The front window is decorated with multiple gris-gris and pieces of jewelry that catch the light.

As he opens the door, the smell of dust and something else he can’t identify catches in his nose. He makes his way to the front counter, behind which the guy from the bar is sitting, reading a book. Adam waits a few seconds before he clears his throat. The guy looks up from his book.

“Hey there,” Adam says, his fingers tapping out a rhythm on his thighs.

The guy looks at him, a vacant look in his eyes, like he’s trying to figure out where he’s seen him before. He asks, “Do I know you?”

Adam wants nothing more than say yes, he does. That they’ve spoken before, when the guy came every night to the bar where Adam sings. That they talked for a whole evening and that that’s the reason why Adam is here. But instead he just says, “I don’t think so”.

A door opens behind his back. The sound of steps and of a cane on the ground fills the place. As Adam turns around, he is faced with a little old woman, so fragile looking he’s afraid she would break into pieces if he touched her. Her dark grey hair is pulled up in a braided bun. As she smiles, lines appear around her eyes and her mouth.

“Who is this, Randall?” the old woman asks as she slowly walks toward them.

“I have no idea, grandma.”

Her expression changes as she approaches. Her smile disappears, as if all the suffering of the world has fallen on her shoulders. She stops in front of Adam, her hand going up toward him then stopping midway, as if she doesn’t dare. “My poor boy. What have they done to you?”

Instead of making him feel better, this just scares him even more. That he doesn’t have to say anything for this woman to know there is something wrong with him. He swallows once, twice, forces words past the dryness in his throat. “I don’t know.”

The old woman steps backs and point toward a curtain behind the counter. “Come here. I’ll have a look at you.”

Without hesitation, Adam follows her, his heart beating faster. He needs to believe she will be able to help him, and he will manage to get back home. He’s been in New Orleans for nearly a year now. He needs to go home.

Adam sits in the chair the old woman indicates. She sits in front of him. “Give me your hand, please.”

He does. The old woman grabs his hand, closes her eyes. After a few seconds, she lets go as if she’s been burned. Adam blinks, but no, he still sees it. Before the woman opens her eyes, his hand has a smudge of black where she touched it.

When she opens her eyes, she’s looking at him with such sadness, like she pities him.

Adam has a feeling he shouldn’t ask, but he still does. “Can you help me?”

The old woman shakes her head. “I wish I could, boy. This is no simple curse.”

“What is it, then?” Adam waits while the woman looks away.

When she answers, her voice seems really far away, calling to him from another world. “A cursed soul attached itself to you. They can’t move on, caught somewhere between life and death, and so are you now. I don’t know how whoever cursed you managed to do that. You must have opened up a lot for it to happen.”

For a moment, her words lift the fog surrounding Adam’s brain, as he remembers the last night Danielle spent in New Orleans before she left. They spent the evening at the Bayou, the bar where Adam is now singing every night, and he and Danielle quickly made new friends.

He remembers flirting with a guy who was just his type, who seemed fascinated by him. No matter how hard he tries, Adam can’t remember his face. What he does remember is the instant connection between them.

He spent the whole evening listening and talking, because that’s what he does. Except for a short period of time after Brad and he broke up, he’s never been the type to pick up someone if there wasn’t anything more than physical attraction. That’s what he’s always enjoyed about sex. Being with someone with whom it can be fun, even if it doesn’t go anywhere after dawn.

New Orleans is changing that. By now, he’s figured out that anyone he brings home, anyone he speaks to, won’t remember him as soon as the sun comes up. So he doesn’t make an effort. He doesn’t see the point. The boys he fucks these days are just faces and bodies, ways to pass the time while he works on finding a way to go back home.

Adam knows that he sometimes let people in too easily. He never expected it to have these consequences.

“Guess I did. There really is nothing you can do?” he asks, barely above a whisper.

The old woman shakes her head. “I really wish I could. From what I can see, that soul linked itself to you so tight that it can’t be undone. Somehow you gave it access to your deepest dreams. It has so much power over you right now.”

She stops for a minute, looks at him more closely. “Can you tell me what is happening, boy? Are you able to do that?”

Her hand presses his knee, grounding him, somehow making it possible for him to explain. “It’s like I don’t exist anymore. My bank account vanished, my IDs too. If I try to call or email anyone I knew before… my body freezes, my voice doesn’t work. Anyone who talks to me one day, doesn’t remember me the next. No one even knows…”

You want fame, boy? No one will ever remember your name! A shiver creeps up Adam’s back. He doesn’t know if he dreamed that, or if it was real, but he remembers it as if it were.

The old woman takes her hand away. “Someone needs to remember you. That could work to free you. As to how you can do that…”

She never finishes that sentence. Adam hangs his head in defeat. With the way things are going these days, that is not likely to happen.


Now

Tommy wouldn’t quite say that things are easy after the Fantasy Springs show, but they sure get easier. He admits that fighting himself and his reactions to Adam did nothing but exhaust him and make this thing building between them far more complicated than it has to be.

However, even though they’ve agreed to take things slow, they soon find themselves spending almost all of their free time together. Somehow, even when Tommy desperately needs time on his own to breathe and recharge, being with Adam doesn’t feel like it’s asking too much out of him. In large part because Adam always seems to know when Tommy’s feeling up to being sociable and when being together, without saying a word, is all Tommy can give.

It’s a nice surprise, because Tommy’s met many people who thrive on social contact the way Adam does and who couldn’t understand that sometimes, he needs to be left alone. Or at the very least, to have the people around him not expect anything out of him.

So that makes it simple to never feel that being around Adam means he has to be on all the time. That it’s okay for him to need his downtime. Because of that, the time he spends with Adam never feels like it’s too much.

When Adam is in Europe and Tommy is still at home, they skype almost every day. Tommy has no idea how Adam manages to find that kind of time in his schedule, but he’s very, very glad for it.

Usually, that means a call at some point in Tommy’s evening and Adam’s “far too fucking early” morning. If that doesn’t happen, Tommy assumes that he’ll get a text later on and it’s not such a big deal.

He certainly doesn’t expect his laptop to start beeping at almost midnight. He’s so surprised that it takes him a minute to figure out that the noise isn’t coming from his phone.

When he finally answers the call, the first thing he hears is, “Oh, there you are. I was worried you would already be asleep.”

Tommy snorts. “Come on, it’s barely midnight over here. Of course I’m not asleep.”

Adam arches an eyebrow at him. “What did we say about trying to have a regular sleep schedule?”

“I am trying.” Tommy shrugs. “But there’s no point going to bed if I know I won’t fall asleep. You know that.”

“You have a point,” Adam admits with a smile. “How was your day?”

“Spent most of it with Mia and Chantala.” The memory makes Tommy grin. “You’re gonna have to meet them at some point, you know. They keep grilling me about you and my supposedly awful taste in guys.”

Laughing, Adam asks, “That bad, eh?”

“I made one or two mistakes in my early twenties. They’ll never let me live them down.”

“That’s what friends are for. Making sure you never forget how badly you fucked up.” Since Adam’s still laughing, Tommy sticks his tongue out at him. Of course, that only makes him laugh harder. “You’re asking for trouble, baby.”

Tommy flushes, his heart hammers in his chest. “So what if I am?” He smiles before he continues, all soft and sweet, “You don’t have the time to do anything about it, anyway.”

“Who says I don’t have the time?” It’s only then that Tommy realizes that Adam still has bed-hair and not a hint of make-up on his face. “The meeting that was planned for this morning got cancelled. So I slept in and I called you.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Are you alone?”

“Yeah. Missing you like crazy.” Tommy really didn’t mean to say that aloud, but the words are out before he can even think of holding them in.

Adam’s smile loses its edge. “Miss you too. I wish I could have you here with me.”

The words makes Tommy feel warm all over but he does his hardest not to let it show. “I’m sure you get plenty of propositions from guys wanting to warm your bed.”

Adam shrugs. “Maybe you’re right. But just because they offer doesn’t mean I take them up on it.”

Tommy’s breath catches in his throat, fast enough to make him dizzy. They haven’t talked about this, and even though he hasn’t been seeing anyone else – as stupid as it sounds, it feels like no one can measure up to Adam – he wasn’t expecting Adam to do the same. Especially not when he’s away from home and getting to enjoy his newfound fame.

It has to show on his face, because Adam asks, “What is it?”

“I didn’t think you’d want to be exclusive already.”

For a second, something that looks a lot like hurt crosses Adam’s face, but it’s gone before Tommy can wonder.

With a self-deprecating smile, Adam says, “I told you, I’m a bit of a possessive bastard. And if don’t want anybody else to gets their hands on you, I have to offer you the same. That is, if you want to.”

In that moment, Tommy hates the fact that there’s an ocean between them. He wants nothing more than to be able to crawl in Adam’s lap and hold him close and tight. Instead, all he can do is hope that the conviction he feels shows in his voice when he says, “Of course I want to.”

It almost looks like Adam doesn’t believe him. “I was expecting you to tell me that it’s a little fast.”

“It is,” Tommy admits. “But… I dunno. Sometimes it feels like we’ve known each other for years and we’re just picking up where we left off.”

“Maybe we did.” Adam’s looking everywhere but at Tommy’s face. “Meet each other before.”

Tommy has the hardest time not to laugh. “Oh come on, Adam. Sounds nice and all, but if we’d already met, there’s no way I would have forgotten you.”

“Yeah. Guess you’re right.” But it doesn’t sound like Adam agrees.

After a short silence, Adam says, almost hesitant, “I wouldn’t mind meeting them. Your friends, I mean.”

It takes a minute for Tommy to realize that Adam was picking up their earlier conversation right where they left off. He can’t help but ask, “Really? I thought… we said that we wanted to wait until we had something solid before involving others.”

“I know,” Adam says. “And I wouldn’t go public now – can you imagine the kerfuffle? But as far as our friends are concerned, well… this feels pretty solid to me.” His voice goes all soft on the last sentence, like he’s expecting Tommy to shut him down.

“To me, too.”

Adam’s smile seems to light up the whole room.

*

Once Adam is back from Europe, he meets Mia and Chantala and Mike, one evening after rehearsal. It definitely wasn’t a planned thing; Mia and Chantala invited themselves, so Tommy asked Adam to come along.

They all get along almost too well for Tommy’s comfort. When Tommy and Adam step in Tommy’s apartment, there’s a moment where both Chantala and Mike stare at Adam like they’ve seen him before but have no idea when and where. However, neither of them ask about it.

Adam is his usual, charming self. Still, Tommy expects at least one of his friends to get their protective side on and warn him to be careful.

Instead, when he closes the door behind Adam and turns around to face them, he finds them all smiling at him. “What?”

“I think your taste is improving,” Mia says as Tommy sits on the couch. He throws a cushion at her, but she’s laughing too much to throw it back at him.

Later, once the girls are gone, Mike says, “Stop worrying. We can all see how happy he’s making you. We’re not gonna try and talk you out of this.”

Tommy releases a breath he had no idea he was holding. As much as he doesn’t care what everybody else thinks because it’s his life, not theirs, he’s also very aware that it’s a lot harder when he knows that his friends are only tolerating his lover because they’re his friends, but that deep down, they really wish he was with somebody else.

The next week, he also meets Adam’s mother – thankfully not in an official, let’s-meet-the-parents kind of way, because Tommy is so not ready for that. But he quickly realizes that when Adam says that his mom is one of his best friends, he actually means it. That Leila is someone he confides in and takes to concerts and to some special events, sometimes even when he has a date.

Of course, after saying that Adam turned bright red and started stammering about how he’d said date but meant date that isn’t really one, obviously. Tommy had the hardest time holding his laughter in because Adam thinking that he just put his foot very deep into his mouth was way too cute. When he couldn’t hold it in anymore and broke down in peals of delighted laughter, Adam called him a brat, turned him over his knee and left Tommy’s ass deliciously warm.

And Tommy doesn’t mind that Adam takes Brad or another one of his friends to special events. He knows it doesn’t mean anything, and besides, it’s not like either of them is ready to have everyone and their mother try to tell them how to live their lives.

He gets along with Leila – she insists he call her by her first name nearly from the moment they meet – even better then he expected. She’s nice and sweet, and whenever she asks a question, she always seems to care about the answer.

Between rehearsals and shows and preparations for Glam Nation Tour – and Tommy has to pinch himself every time he thinks about it because he can’t believe that he’s leaving soon for a real tour – plus all the time they spend together outside of that, Tommy almost expects them to get tired of each other at some point.

That doesn’t happen. It takes a lot of effort, but they manage to find a balance that they’re both comfortable with between the time they spend together and the time they spend apart, and Tommy finds himself falling for Adam a little more every day.

By the time they go on tour, Tommy has met most of Adam’s friends and family and has adopted them as his own. Adam hasn’t met Tommy’s parents yet, but since they’ll be gone for a couple of months at most, and that’s only if other concerts are planned along the way, Tommy decides that they will have plenty of time once they’re home.

As soon as the tour starts, Tommy realizes that, no matter how much fun it is to go out with Adam, it’s also definitely not a good idea. Not when the mix of Tommy plus Adam plus alcohol still equals trouble. At this point, it’s not so much that they don’t want people to know but that they want to be able to reveal their relationship on their own terms. Since one picture by one fan catching them being far cozier than friendship can justify is all it would take, Tommy spends a lot of time on his own after the show, enough that everyone starts teasing him about his “Tommy-time”.

And when he feels up to it, he goes out with Ashley, Brian and Isaac. They’ve become friends over the months of rehearsal and doing one-off shows here and there. On those nights, they drink; sometimes they dance, but mostly when Ashley pulls one of them on the dance floor and doesn’t give them a choice.

Ashley scares the crap out of Tommy every time she climbs on a random thing because he’s sure she’s going to fall and break her neck. Brian is a good sport and takes the picture of her newest feat while Isaac calmly asks her to “please come down before you give Tommy a heart attack.” Tommy starts breathing easier only when Ashley has both feet back on the ground.

And it’s fun, to go out while still running the high from the show, when they’re all feeling larger than life and ready to do anything.

Even if it means it sometimes take an effort for them to find their way back to the busses in time to leave.

It’s one of those nights, when they’re all drunk and stumbling and laughing. Tommy’s mostly sober because he stopped after one drink, thanks to a text Adam sent him before they even left the bus. If you want anything to happen tonight, don’t have more than one drink. They’ve barely done anything beyond a rough fuck here and there since the tour started, so the allusion was enough to make Tommy half-hard. Not that he has anything against gentle, slow lovemaking, but sometimes, he really needs more than that.

So he doesn’t even have the excuse of alcohol for not realizing that there’s something wrong with Ashley, Brian and Isaac all following him onto Adam’s bus. Technically, Tommy has a bunk on the band’s bus, but he’s barely been using it. Everyone knows that.

He doesn’t really pay attention, making a beeline for Adam’s room as soon as he’s on the bus, and only realizes that he’s somehow led the whole band on the wrong bus when Ashley says, “Good night” and climbs into what she thinks is her bunk.

Tommy’s eyes go wide and he turns around as fast as he can, but he isn’t quick enough. Moments later, Brooke is screeching “What the hell?” and Ashley almost falls to the floor in surprise.

“What are you doing here?” Ashley is still holding onto the side of the bunk for dear life.

Brooke pokes her head out. “I should be asking you that. This is our bus.”

Ashley shakes her head as she steps back onto the floor. “No, it’s—”

She’s interrupted by Adam coming out of his room to see what’s happening. “Why is everyone screaming?” He blinks at Ashley, Brian and Isaac. “Why are you all on the wrong bus?”

Ashley throws a look at Brian and Isaac, like they could have an explanation, but Brian only shrugs. “Don’t ask us, we were following you.”

“And I was following Tommy.”

“And,” Terrance pulls the curtain from his bunk, “you apparently missed the memo that Tommy’s been sleeping in Adam’s bed since… well, almost every night since we left LA.”

Blushing, Tommy thinks that he really, really should have realized that the others were following him before they woke everyone. “Not every night.”

“Considering how loud the two of you are, yep, I’d say every night,” Taylor pipes in.

Glaring at Taylor, Tommy replies, “You’re just jealous that we’re the only ones getting any.”

“Or really fucking annoyed that it’s already hard enough to get some real sleep on this thing and you two are making it even harder on us.”

Terrance groans out loud at the pun while Brooke lets out a fond, “Oh, god, Tay-Tay…”

Tommy flips Taylor off and only makes him laugh. He hides his face in Adam’s shoulder. He’d completely forgotten how thin the wall separating Adam’s room from the rest of the bus is. “Kill me now, please.”

Adam laughs just a bit before he says, “Whatever. My brother’s probably about to have a stroke because you three aren’t back yet and we’re supposed to leave,” he looks at his phone, “Well, now. We need to get you back on the right bus.”

Brian snorts. “He’s just going to think that it’s a welcome change that for once, you’re not the one who’s late. How the hell did that happen?”

This time it’s Tommy who laughs while Adam sputters. They get Brian, Ashley and Isaac back on their bus without too much trouble and with very minimal embarrassment when it becomes clear that Tommy, however, isn’t going anywhere.

Tommy starts laughing again when they get out and he hears Ashley says, “You knew it wasn’t the right bus, didn’t you?” He doesn’t hear the answer, but judging from Ashley’s shriek mere seconds later, yeah, they probably did.

When they’re finally in Adam’s room, with the door closed behind them, Tommy presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. “What the fuck was that even?”

Adam chuckles, low and dark, and trails his fingers on Tommy’s neck. “From your reaction, I take it you’re still sober?”

Dropping his hands back down to his sides, Tommy says, “Far too much to deal with that kind of shit, yes.”

“But also,” Adam lowers his voice to a whisper, “More than enough for what I had in mind.”

Tommy swallows hard. “What is it?”

“They have a point, you know. About the noise.”

Tommy barely restrains himself from rolling his eyes at that.

“So tonight, I don’t want to hear a sound coming from you. No matter what I do,” Adam curls his fingers in Tommy’s hair and pulls his head back to tease Tommy’s neck with his teeth, “You stay silent.”

An almost bite on his neck makes Tommy’s knees buckle. “And what if I can’t?”

“If you can’t?” Adam’s breath is a hot puff of air against Tommy’s neck, making him shiver. “I’ll just have to gag you. But if I have to do that…” He can practically feel Adam’s smirk against his skin. “I’ll make you come, again, and again, and again. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll be coming dry.”

Tommy can’t even say if it’s a promise or a threat. He doesn’t care. “Fuck, yes. Please.”

The night is as intense as Adam’s words promised. It’s so hard to keep all the sounds inside, all the moans and whimpers that threaten to escape from Tommy’s mouth while Adam licks into his ass, taking things down a notch every time Tommy gets close to the edge. It’s even harder to not say a word. He has to bite his tongue on the yes and the please and the stop teasing, please because Adam keeps him in a state of constant frustration.

And, when Tommy really can’t take it and lets out a sobbing, mewled, “please”, there’s a gag in his mouth and the novel Adam’s currently reading next to him on the bed, so that he only has to push it to the floor if things go too far for him.

He screams around the gag, tears falling from his eyes at the mix of blissful pain that leaves him covered in bruises and too much stimulation.

Adam only stops when Tommy can’t help himself and tries to move away from his touch. He cards his fingers through Tommy’s hair in a gentle caress. “Are you still with me?”

Tommy blinks. It takes a second before he can come up enough to give a firm nod of his head.

“Do you want to keep going?”

Making sure to catch Adam’s gaze to let him know that he hasn’t gone so deep that he doesn’t know his own limits anymore, Tommy nods again.

Adam’s smile gains a predatory edge, right before he attacks again.

Much, much later, when Tommy’s feeling so light that he thinks he could melt into the bed, when Adam’s holding him tight and close as they make love, almost too sweet and so very perfect, Tommy has a flash of another night, another man, years ago.

Unhurried caresses as they discovered each other’s body. Him, saying, “Roll over.”

And Tommy locking his legs around strong hips. “No. I want it like this.”

Somehow that memory makes Adam’s embrace matter even more, as he holds Tommy like Tommy’s something precious that he never wants to let go.

*

Things are almost perfect. Until Tommy gets a phone call from Lisa in the middle of one of their True Blood marathons.

He escapes to Adam’s room to take the call. After he hangs up, he stays right where he is, feeling like someone just dropped a ton of bricks on his head.

He stays there long enough that, at some point, the door opens and Adam joins him. “Are you okay?”

Tommy shakes his head. Without a word, Adam sits on the floor next to Tommy and pulls him into his lap. They stay like this for long minutes, Tommy clinging to Adam until Adam asks, “What’s going on?”

“Did I tell you that my father had a cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago?”

He hears but doesn’t really pay attention to Adam’s sharp intake of breath. “Yeah. I think you did.”

Tommy nods. He can’t remember doing it but that’s exactly why he asked. “Things went a lot better than the doctor was expecting. He wasn’t cured, but…”

“Is it back?”

With a shake of his head, Tommy says, “If only it was that.” He sighs and hides his face in Adam’s shoulder. “He has an infection. He’s really not doing well.”

“Oh, Tommy.” Adam pulls him closer, until there’s barely a breath between them. “Do you want to go home?”

“No.” He’s thought about it, but when he suggested it, Lisa said that it wouldn’t change a thing. And that their dad wouldn’t want either of them to put their lives on hold because of him. Thing is, she was right. “There’s nothing I can do.”

Tommy’s glad that Adam doesn’t say a word. He so doesn’t want to hear an I’m sorry that makes it sound like Tommy’s dad is already dead – and that’s the last thing Tommy wants to think about – or a banality along the lines of everything will be fine when no one knows what will happen.

He tightens his grip on Adam. He’s feeling numb, like it’s not true, like it can’t be true, not after the cancer scare. He doesn’t want to think that that was just a little respite, but the thought is already firmly into his head, making his stomach clench and his heart sink.

After a couple of minutes, Adam asks, “Are you feeling up for watching TV or do you want to stay here?”

Regretfully, Tommy pulls his head away from Adam’s shoulder. “I’ll be okay.” The only way not to think about this every second of every day is to keep going. “Just gimme a minute?”

“Sure.” He kisses Tommy, slow and gentle. “Take all the time you need.”

Before Adam can go, Tommy grabs onto his hand. “Sorry for being such a downer.” He hates the way his voice almost cracks, but he can’t help it.

Adam kisses him again. “I love you, baby. I don’t care, I just want to be there for you if I can.”

Tommy’s heart soars in his chest and there are almost tears in his eyes. He can’t answer, but he knows everything he’s feeling has to be written all over his face.

Once Adam’s gone, Tommy bends his legs and presses his forehead against his knees. He takes a deep breath, then another, until he feels like he can stand without his legs giving under him.

When Tommy finally comes out and joins the others in the living room area, the spot he was occupying minutes before, tucked into Adam’s side on the couch, is still free. Tommy barely takes a step before he stops, his breath catching in his throat at the sight of the pillow on the ground at Adam’s feet.

In the earliest days of the tour, they both toned things down a lot more than they had with Adam’s friends. But it didn’t take long for them to realize that no one would say anything, that no one would judge. So they’ve been more open, even if it can never be the same as when it’s just the two of them.

Even though Tommy has a tendency to sit on the floor instead of claiming a spot on the couch, this isn’t something he’s ever done in front of anyone else. But right now, it’s so close to what he needs that it could almost make him cry.

So he walks over and, without hesitation, he drops to his knees by Adam’s side, settles on the pillow, rests his head on Adam’s thigh and lets the worries of the world drift away.

Even the presence of the others around them does nothing but turn the bus into a big cocoon of love and safety and understanding.


Then

When Danielle finally gets the week off she’s been begging for – as in, groveling on her knees and bugging every single one of her coworkers to exchange a shift here and there until she can put all of those days together – she and Brad catch a plane to New Orleans.

It’s such a strange feeling. They go back to every single place Danielle and Adam visited, using Danielle’s pictures more than her memories to figure out where they need to look. Brad and Danielle are both aware this is turning into a wild goose chase, but they have no other clues.

At first, they try asking in those places specifically, but they soon realize that most people don’t remember Danielle’s face. It isn’t that surprising when you put together the fact that it’s been over a year and the number of tourists they must see every day.

They look everywhere, ask everywhere, but Adam’s name doesn’t seem to ring a bell for anyone. Neither does his description. Their questions are always met with blank stares and shrugs.

The night before they go back to LA, Brad enters their hotel room, waving around an ad for some kind of bar.

“Why don’t we go there tonight? I’ve heard that this singer they have is amazing.”

Danielle stares from the ad to Brad’s face and back again. “Are you serious? Do you really think you could enjoy it?”

Brad looks almost guilty. “Well…”

“I know I won’t. I’m getting another migraine.” She rubs her forehead, trying to chase away the hint of a headache.

Brad stares at her like he wants to say something but it never comes out. And just when she thinks that this should mean something, the thought disappears as her headache throbs even harder.

“You’re right,” Brad sighs. “Too bad, though. Everyone I’ve talked to told me that this singer is the best ever.”

He lets the ad for the Bayou drop to the bedside table. Danielle closes her eyes as blood beats in her temples. This whole trip is a failure.


Now

It’s halfway through summer when Tommy gets the call from Lisa.

They’re at some point between two cities – Tommy couldn’t say which ones by now, they’re moving too fast and the itinerary doesn’t seem to make sense most of the time – and they’re having another True Blood marathon on Adam’s bus.

He pulls his buzzing phone from his pocket, extricates himself from Adam’s arms with a mouthed and silent, Lisa, so Adam knows what’s going on, walks around the others as best as he can and hides in Adam’s room so he can talk in peace.

It’s almost half an hour of talking about their mother and Lisa’s fiancé and everything and nothing before Tommy dares to ask, “How’s dad?”

Lisa sucks in a breath like she’s trying very hard not to cry. “He’s worse.”

Breath catching in his throat, Tommy forces himself to ask, “How bad?”

“Bad enough that,” Lisa’s voice trembles as much as Tommy’s hand on his phone, “I was told to call you and tell you that, if you want to see him, you have to come home now.”

It feels as if the world suddenly comes to a halt and is about to collapse on him. “I thought he’d be getting a transplant.”

“He was supposed to.” Lisa takes a shaky breath. “But it’s too late now.”

The words seem to resonate in Tommy’s mind. Too late.

For the longest time, they don’t say anything. Lisa’s harsh breathing is the only thing breaking the silence. Tommy knows she has to be crying, but he feels frozen in time, aware that there is nothing he can say to make things better.

When Lisa seems to have herself under control again, she asks, “Are you coming home?”

Without thinking, Tommy says, “Yeah. I’ll figure something out.”

After they hang up, Tommy takes a deep breath, and another, before he decides that there is no way he can walk out there and face everybody. While he’s aware that he wouldn’t have to pretend that he’s okay, he also doesn’t think he could stand telling them all now.

Instead, he grabs his phone and texts Adam. I need you.

It takes maybe a minute for Adam to join him. “Are you okay?” he asks as he closes the door behind himself.

Tommy shakes his head, stands up and grabs onto Adam, holding him tight as he presses his face against Adam’s chest. His shoulders trembles with silent sobs, but there are no tears.

Without a word, Adam moves them both to the bed, letting Tommy cling to him for as long as he needs. His hands trace slow circles over Tommy’s back, waiting until Tommy pulls away, just enough that Adam can see his face before asking, “How’s your dad?”

The words stick in Tommy’s throat. It’s as if, as long as he doesn’t say it aloud, it isn’t real. His voice is barely above a whisper when he says, “He’s dying.”

As soon as the words are out, Tommy hides his face in Adam’s shoulder. He doesn’t want to see the pity that he’s most likely to find in Adam’s expression.

Dropping a kiss on Tommy’s hair, Adam asks, “What do you want to do?”

“I have to go home. Just for a couple of days.”

“Okay.” He makes it sound so simple that Tommy can’t help but stare at Adam. “I get it. So will everybody. We’ll find a way.”

Tommy has a hard time believing it can be that easy, he chooses to trust Adam. While it might be more complicated than Adam makes it sound, that’s exactly what Tommy needs to hear.

*

Somehow, though, it really is that easy, and before he knows it, Tommy is spending three days with his family. It’s not much, but it has to be enough.

Tommy and Lisa takes turn relieving each other at the hospital. Neither of them is really comfortable with the idea of leaving their father alone, but being there together would make it impossible to get their mother to go home and sleep and eat. They quickly figured out that the only way to get her out of their father’s room was for someone to really insist and take her with them.

When they talk, it’s in hushed voices, like they’re afraid to wake their father up.

At some point, Tommy finds himself alone in the room. He’s sitting in a chair next to the bed, holding his dad’s hand. The room is silent except for the beeping of the machines around the bed and, without meaning to, Tommy finds himself talking.

He stops thinking and talks to his dad about everything. About the tour, how amazing it is to play and live this life that he thought for so long wouldn’t be his. He tells him about Adam too, how good things are between them and how, maybe, even though he hasn’t found the courage to say it yet, he loves Adam. How much it sucks to know that his father won’t get to meet him, not properly, at least.

When Tommy finally stops talking, he feels his dad squeeze his hand. At first he thinks he imagined it, but when he raises his head, his dad is smiling at him.

“You sound happy.” Tommy’s father’s voice is barely above a whisper. He seems so frail, miles away from the man he once was.

Tommy smiles, too. “I am.”

“That’s all I was hoping for you.” His dad squeezes his hand again. “Remember that. I’m so proud of you and everything you’ve done.”

Tommy tries to force words past the lump in his throat, but before he can, his dad closes his eyes and falls asleep again.

Maybe it’s better like this. I’ll miss you would hurt too much, for both of them. But before he leaves, Tommy kisses his dad’s cheeks like he hasn’t done since he was a kid. “I love you, Dad.” His voice breaks on the last word.

*

While Tommy’s around, he and Lisa also start talking about what will happen next. As much as it hurts to think about it, they’re both aware that afterward, there will be bills to pay and things to take care of and that their mother will need them like never before.

The last day, Tommy hugs both his mother and Lisa so tight that it feels like he’ll never let them go. Then before he knows it, he’s on the plane and on his way back to the tour. And to Adam.

He lets himself be swallowed up by the blur of going from city to city and playing a different place every night. And, whenever it feels like he doesn’t know which way is up or down anymore, Adam is always present, solid and grounding and there. Slowly, things get a little easier.

Then, the world seems to slow to a halt when, a couple of days after Tommy comes back, he gets another phone call from Lisa. Long minute of heavy silence go by before she finally says, “He’s gone.”

Tommy’s so very, very glad that it’s happening early in the day. Early enough, in fact, that he’s still lounging on Adam’s bed, and that Adam’s just getting them some coffee, and hasn’t already been swept up by his storm of obligations.

So when Tommy hangs up and Adam sees his face crumble, it makes it easy to accept the comfort Adam’s offering. Tommy clings to him, afraid that he will drown in his grief if he doesn’t.

He doesn’t cry, though. He doesn’t shed a tear. He’s vaguely aware, in a distant part of his mind, that it would help, but it’s as if he hasn’t realized it yet. He’s feeling numb, like none of it is really true. He could almost believe that, when they finally come home at the end of the tour, his father will be waiting for him.

Adam holds Tommy close, traces soft circles over the skin of his back, and whispers, “It’s okay. I’m here. It’s okay.” Tommy knows Adam means that he’s safe, that it’s okay to break down.

But he can’t.

*

He talks to his mom and Lisa on a regular basis. He knows that they’re not alone, that the family has closed ranks around them and that everybody who can is helping them, that Lisa’s fiancé is there and supporting her any way he can.

And he’s aware that no one wants him to put his dreams to the side because of what happened, but at the same time not being able to be there makes him feel powerless. It’s like there’s this big black hole, eating him from the inside, and there’s nothing Tommy can do to stop it.

Sometimes he thinks it would be easier if he was home, but then he remembers that, if he was, he would have to try to be strong to support his mom and Lisa, just as he did when he went back to see his father the last time. While he wants to be there for them, he’s also aware that it wouldn’t help him deal. At all.

He’s still desperately trying to keep himself together until one night, when he’s cuddling with Adam on Adam’s bed, and he’s been fidgeting long enough that Adam asks, “Are you okay?”

The first wall breaks down when Tommy admits, “No, I’m not. What I need is a good cry. But I can’t get there on my own.”

Adam moves a hand from Tommy’s back to his chin, tilting his head. “Do you want me to help with that?”

There’s nothing Tommy wants more than that, yet he says, “We don’t have the time. And I thought you left everything at home.”

“We have a hotel night tomorrow, and a day off after that,” Adam reminds him. “That’s more than enough time. And it’s true that my toys are home, but you know I’m good at using what I have. And I have a belt that could do a pretty good job at getting you out of your head.”

Tommy’s mouth is so dry that he can’t answer.

Adam offers him a small smile. “So the real question is, do you trust me enough to let me get you there?”

After pushing close enough to Adam that there’s barely a breath between them, Tommy whispers against Adam’s skin, “Yes. Yes, please.”

*

They discuss the details over the next day. By the time they’re through talking about limits, wants and needs, Tommy’s anticipation has kicked up enough notches that he can’t focus on anything else. Enough that he doesn’t even make a face at the discovery that, at some point between Allison’s set and Adam’s, his cup of beer has been replaced by something far too sweet and without alcohol. Tonight, he doesn’t even roll his eyes, because it’s a reminder of what he’s hoping for.

After the concert, when they make it to their room – and Tommy wonders when he started thinking of Adam’s room as his without realizing it, even though Brian’s been joking for weeks about how he gets a room booked all to himself whenever they have a hotel night – Adam gives Tommy a little push in the direction of the bathroom. “Go. Take a shower. I’ll wait for you here.”

Tommy can’t resist grabbing onto Adam’s hand. “You’re not coming with me?”

With a loose grip on the back of Tommy’s neck, Adam pulls him closer. The gentleness of his kiss is a perfect contrast to the steel in his gaze. “Not tonight.” Another soft kiss. “Go ahead. Don’t make me wait, pretty.”

It’s like all the random pieces in Tommy’s mind are suddenly slotting together in a perfect way, like he had no idea how much he needed this until this very moment. “Yes, sir.”

In the shower, Tommy is as fast and efficient as he can be. Once he’s done, he dries himself, then rests a hand on the mirror as he takes a deep breath. It doesn’t matter how much he wants this. It still scares him.

This, tonight, means letting go of the walls he carefully constructed when he decided that his demons weren’t going to get the better of him. Sometimes, it feels like this way of protecting himself is the only thing that lets him keep going. However, as he told Adam, right now, it feels like it’s the one thing that’s stopping him from letting go and facing the loss of his father.

And even though he knows he has no hope of stepping through those walls on his own, the idea of trusting anyone with such a vulnerable side of him is fucking scary.

Yet that only makes him want it more.

He doesn’t bother with clothes. Once he’s out of the bathroom, he finds Adam waiting for him, sitting in a chair, bare-chested, and his belt undone.

Tommy freezes in the doorway as his mouth goes dry. Adam’s gaze sweeps him from head to toes. “Kneel on the bed. Hold onto the headboard.”

He can feel Adam’s eyes following him as he obeys. When he’s in position, a gentle hand following the line of his spine is enough to make his heart beat rabbit-fast.

“Give me your word, pretty.”

All the air seems to leave Tommy’s lungs in a rush. “Velvet.”

With a hand on the back of Tommy’s neck, Adam brings his mouth to Tommy’s ear. “You use it if you need it, you hear me?”

It’s a second before Tommy finds his voice. “Yes, sir. I will.”

“Unless it’s to safeword, try and stay silent.”

Tommy blinks as he wonders how he’s supposed to achieve that, and then he realizes that Adam’s just reminding him that they are in a hotel room and he has to be careful. “Yes, sir.”

“Good boy.”

Then Adam’s gone, leaving Tommy waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Not a touch, not a word, not even a sound, until Tommy’s anticipation turns into the bright certainty that he shouldn’t try to control this. Until he’s okay with the fact that everything that will happen tonight is out of his hands.

He rests his cheek against the headboard, grounding himself a little more. He can’t help but push into the first, smallest touch of Adam’s fingers. It’s so close to a caress and so far from what he expected that it’s almost too much for him.

Adam’s fingers on the inside of his thigh make him spread his legs wider. It takes everything he has not to tense again.

The first lick of the belt tears a surprised, “oh,” from his throat. There’s almost no warm-up, no warning, just a long line of pain on his upper back. He’s barely half-hard and aware that he might not get anymore turned on, but it doesn’t matter. Tonight isn’t about the release of an orgasm. It’s about making him feel safe enough to cry.

Soon he’s breathing hard through his mouth. Something akin to a sob is ripped out of him every time the leather kisses his skin, seemingly leaving no surface untouched. His upper back, his ass, his thighs, everything is so sensitive that each new touch of leather feels like a lick of fire on his skin.

He arches into each new hit of the belt and lets his whole body fall into the sensation, until he’s so open to everything that nothing exists but the bright, bright pain wrapping over him. Each caress of leather brings him a little closer, chipping away his protective walls until it feels like the only thing still holding him together is Adam’s will.

There’s a mix of pain and a newfound fear when the belt wraps around his leg to caress his inner thigh, so very close to his cock and balls. The hint of what Adam could do, the reminder that he knows exactly how to bring Tommy where he needs to be is what gets the first tears out of Tommy’s eyes. It’s so freeing that he allows himself to bask into that feeling. Even being afraid doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Not when it’s linked so tightly to the certainty that Adam will always be there, safe and grounding and being everything Tommy ever needed.

Tommy lets out a little hurting noise and gets another kiss of leather in the exact same spot, and a mirror one on the other thigh.

When Adam doesn’t hit him again, Tommy just about stops breathing. He’s barely riding the edge, letting out a tear here and there but nowhere near enough to break him down.

Instead of stopping, though, Adam says, “Turn around.”

A sob of relief tears its way out of Tommy when he realizes that Adam isn’t done. He lets Adam arrange him the way he wants to, hands behind his back and upper back leaning against the headboard. The new position puts a strain on his thighs and makes him hyperaware of all the marks already blooming on his skin.

“Fall into it, pretty. Let it go.”

Tommy closes his eyes, Adam’s words feeling like a caress on his skin.

He almost screams when the leather strokes his thighs, again and again, while Adam’s assured hand keeps Tommy’s cock and balls out of harm’s way. The leather follows the line of his upper leg to his hip, long lines of pain that seem to last until there’s nothing else.

Until, at the first touch of leather on his chest, and the feather-like kiss of the belt on his nipples, Tommy’s back arches as he sobs freely, tears falling from his eyes in a steady stream.

One last light, light touch of leather on his cock sends him over the edge, and he barely feels Adam pulling him into his arms, holding him close and tight. He hurts everywhere, but the pressure of Adam’s hands on the marks he just made all over Tommy’s body is welcome. It makes Tommy sob harder, his body bending in half under the weight of the pain he can finally release, of the fear and the stress and everything else that he couldn’t deal with before now.

Everything is coming out of him, everything that he was feeling before but couldn’t allow himself to recognize because he was too busy trying to be strong, to be the rock his mother and Lisa needed in order to make it through. Everything that he’d been feeling but held back as best as he could, because he was aware that his mother needed him, that if she didn’t have him she wouldn’t have anyone to rely on.

Adam holds him tighter, his hands caressing Tommy’s hair, drawing soft circles on his lower back. He doesn’t say a word beyond the occasional, “Let it out, pretty,” as he waits and lets it happen, allows Tommy to pull him closer and closer, until Tommy isn’t sure where Adam begins and he ends.

*

Two days later, when they kiss during Fever, it’s Tommy who pulls Adam closer, pouring everything he’s feeling into the kiss. Since he’s not that comfortable with words, he lets that moment speak for him, and hopes like hell that Adam understands the I love you that Tommy can’t say yet.


Then

Adam hasn’t given up on the idea of going home, but it’s looking more and more like a fantasy and less like a possibility. He can’t earn the money he needs to catch a plane. He can’t communicate with anyone in LA or anywhere else outside of the little world of the Bayou, no matter how hard he tries.

The last time he tries, he’s been in New Orleans for over a year and a half. He still can’t receive any phone calls, but for some reason, when he tries to call someone, it always connects. It’s only once he hears the other person’s voice that things go to shit. Suddenly, he can’t get a word out.

He thinks that maybe this time, it will be different. He’s aware that it’s a stupid kind of hope, but he’s getting to the point where, beyond singing, there’s nothing to keep him going.

When, for the first time in months, he can make his fingers work on his phone after the thought of calling his mom hits him, he takes it as a good sign. He needs to.

He hits the call button. It takes so long for her to answer that he thinks her cell battery might be dead and he wonders if the curse would let him leave a voicemail.

“Hello?”

Adam’s breath catches in his throat. He hasn’t heard his mother’s voice in over a year. It feels like coming home, like everything safe and comfortable he can think of. He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out.

“Hello? Who is this? Hello?”

He tries, he really fucking tries, but he can’t force words past the lump in his throat.

There’s a long pause. Adam expects his mother to hang up. He can’t bring himself to do it.

Instead, he hears her voice again, with a desperate quality to her words that makes Adam want to scream.

“Addy? Sweetie, is it you?”

The tears Adam could barely hold in until now roll in a steady stream down his face. He’s choking on sobs but not making a sound.

“Addy? Please say something!”

He wants to but nothing works. Not even a short I’m okay.

He forces himself to hang up the phone, aware that all he’s doing is torturing them both.


Now

“Your turn, Tommy.” Ashley smiles wickedly, her hand hovering between the two boxes. “Truth or dare?”

Another far too long bus trip has turned into a game. Once they get tired of watching DVDs, they all seem to regress to Allison’s age and unearth the games from their teenage years. Tommy has a feeling that it’s in part because the others are always trying to get his head back into the present when they realize that he’s drowning in painful memories, but he really doesn’t mind.

“Truth.”

“You’re no fun,” Adam says.

Tommy looks up at Adam, who’s sitting on the couch with Tommy at his feet. “With how much imagination everyone here has, no way am I risking it.”

Ashley rummages through the truth box while Terrance says, “He has a point, you know.”

“Okay.” Ashley reads the paper she pulled out of the box once then asks, “What’s your biggest regret?”

Tommy takes a second to think about it. A year ago, it would have been his failed attempts with multiple bands in the hope of making it with his music, but thanks to Adam, that doesn’t apply anymore. There’s also everything related to his dad, but those scars are too fresh for him to want to talk about them.

Finally, he says, “I’m not sure if it counts as a regret. I mean, there’s nothing I could have done differently.”

“Who cares?” Brian says as he grabs two beers out of the small fridge and hands one to Tommy. “Just tell the story.”

Tommy scratches at the label on the bottle with his nail. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It was a couple of years ago, right after we learned that my father was sick. I needed a change of scenery and not to think for a while, so Chantala and Mike suggested a trip to New Orleans.” He can feel Adam stiffen behind his back, but soon Adam’s hand is back in Tommy’s hair, a gentle, soothing caress as if it nothing happened.

Guessing that Adam is just worried that it might hurt too much to talk about his dad, he grabs Adam’s other hand and squeezes once, promising that he’d be okay. He doesn’t let go of Adam’s hand, though.

“We were there for two weeks, I think? Something like that. Anyway,” Tommy can’t help but smile at the memory, “Maybe about halfway through, we went to this bar because we’d heard that their main singer was amazing. And he really was. Out of this world kind of voice. Almost as impressive as yours.” He rests his head against Adam’s legs.

The whole room is so silent you could hear a pin drop.

“So what about this guy?” Ashley asks.

Tommy almost blushes as he remembers. “So we went there, and I kind of caught his attention.”

“And you dumped your friends for him,” Terrance says. “Classic.”

Shaking his head, Tommy replies, “No. They dumped me first.” That makes everyone laugh. Everyone except Adam. “I swear, that’s what happened. They stayed for most of the first set and then they told to have fun and disappeared. Maybe half an hour later, Chantala was texting me to ask if I wanted our place to myself for the night. I said yes.”

“So you spent the night together?” At Tommy’s nod, Ashley keeps going, “Then what? I don’t understand what makes you regret what happened.”

“I don’t regret it. But…” Tommy sighs. “It felt like it was more than just sex. Like, that was so much fun, but there was something more. A connection, something. I even felt comfortable enough to tell him about my father. Nothing that night was as I expected it to be.”

He shrugs. “Since he told me he was from LA, I gave him my number. It was dumb, I know, but… it felt like there could be something more between us. We fitted together in a way I can’t explain.” He smiles a little sadly at how very naïve he was. “Of course, he never called. So I don’t really regret any of it, but… I do regret thinking that we could have been more than a one-night-stand.”

When he raises his head again, it’s to find both Brian and Terrance staring at him like they’re seeing a ghost. “What?”

After a second of silence and of their stares starting to make him uncomfortable, Terrance asks, “When was that, exactly?”

Frowning as he tries to remember, Tommy says, “Four years ago, maybe. We’d just learned about Dad’s cancer, so, a little less than that, I think. Why?”

This time, Terrance is looking at Adam. “I was just curious.”

Tommy doesn’t learn anything more, but it wakes something at the edge of his mind, like an itch he can’t scratch. He’s tempted to ask Adam if he understands what that was all about, but the situation reminds him of all the times Adam has almost told him something that seemed so important before backtracking at the last second. He has a feeling it wouldn’t go any better this time.

Instead, the next day after sound check, he follows Brian to the parking lot when Brian escapes for a smoke.

He has no idea how to ask. So he doesn’t say a thing until the smell of Brian’s cigar is burning in the air around them and Brian asks, “What do you want?”

“Why were you and Terrance looking at me so weirdly, yesterday?”

“Weird how?”

Tommy sighs. “Don’t fuck with me. You know. When I told you that story about the guy I met in New Orleans.”

Brian takes a drag, gives a slight shake of his head. “I shouldn’t be the one telling you this.”

“Well, no one else is going to.”

The silence lasts so long that Tommy starts to think that Brian won’t tell him anything.

Just as he’s about to turn around and go, Brian says, “If you look up Adam and you pay close attention to the dates, you’ll realize there’s a four year gap in his resume.”

In a split second, all of Tommy’s attention is on Brian.

“Don’t ask for more details; I don’t have them. I wasn’t living in LA yet, so all I know is what I’ve been told.”

“And that is…?”

“He went on a trip to New Orleans with Danielle, but Danielle came back on her own. Lee and Scarlet found him there, four years later. In the meantime, no one heard from him. It was almost like he disappeared.”

Tommy rests his back against the building as he tries to take it all in. The itch is getting worse: like there’s something he’s trying really hard to remember but can’t put his finger on just yet.

“If you ask Adam,” and Brian’s smile says that he did just that, not letting it go until he got some answers, “He’ll tell you that he was cursed. That he spent four years singing in a bar every night, watching people come and go. Watching them come to that specific bar to hear him sing, and then to forget everything about him, his name, his face, as soon as they walked out. People never came back twice. The guys he took to his bed forgot him as soon as the sun came up. He said it felt like he was a living ghost. He couldn’t contact anyone he knew before the curse, he couldn’t leave New Orleans, no matter how hard he tried.”

Tommy’s mouth goes dry. “So you were looking at me like that because why?”

“Because the story you told sounded way too familiar. Like one we’ve heard Adam’s version of many times. If you add to that the fact that the dates fit, and Adam’s face while you were telling it, well…” Brian trails off, letting Tommy draw his own conclusions.

“It’s impossible. Don’t tell me you believe in curses and shit like that.”

“Honestly? I dunno. As I said, I wasn’t living in LA, and I didn’t know him back then. But if it’s not true, there’s no explanation for the fact that Adam just about dropped off the face of the earth for four years. And if you ask anyone who was around at the time, that’s the way they’ll describe what happened.”

Tommy shakes his head. “It can’t be.”

“If you say so.” Right before he goes back inside, Brian looks at Tommy over his shoulder and says, “The bar he was singing at was called the Bayou. Does that ring any bells?”

A wave of nausea grabs hold of Tommy as Brian walks away. It’s impossible, and yet…

He finds himself a quiet corner in their dressing rooms. He remembers that night very well, but he forgot the guy’s name a long time ago.

He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath as he tries to think. That whole evening was Chantala’s idea, because the guy was one of the best singers ever, or so everyone was saying.

Chantala and Mike left before the end of the first set. Tommy remembers the sultry looks that made him feel like the guy could see deep inside of him, and a dick that skin-tight pants did nothing to hide and that made his mouth water.

Once his friends were gone, Tommy went over to the cute little barmaid who seemed to be friends with the singer and asked for the name of his favorite drink. She was laughing before Tommy was done speaking, but agreed to help.

Later on, the guy joined him, glass in hand.

“Thanks for the drink,” he said as he sat next to Tommy, so close that Tommy could feel the heat of his body. “It was a nice surprise.”

“Surprise?” Tommy asked. “After that little display, how is it a surprise? What I understood was that you were interested. My bad if I was wrong.”

“Nah, you’re not wrong. Let’s just say you’re… not what I was expecting.”

“A lot of people tell me that.” He offered his hand. “I’m Tommy.”

“Adam.”

Tommy gasps for breath as his eyes open wide. Adam.

Brian was right. It was Adam that Tommy met that night.


Then

Someone needs to remember you.

As silly as the old woman’s words sound, after his last, failed attempt at contacting his mother, Adam holds onto them with all his will. The odds of it happening are next to none, but he has to try. If he doesn’t, he knows that his mother’s desperate plea will keep going round and around in his head until he can’t take it anymore. Until he has so little hope left that he’ll do something stupid.

He tries. He talks to the people who work at the Bayou, those he sees every day, only to realize that from one day to the next, they can barely remember his name or any details he’s given them about himself. All that they really know about him is that he’s an amazing singer. While there was a time when that would have made Adam’s day, now, it only reminds him that it’s all they remember him for. He sees them every day; yet they know nothing about him.

It hurts, sometimes more than the knowledge that he can’t go home. Adam has always thrived on human contact, on connecting with others, both through his music and who he is. Now he’s deprived of it all and it’s killing him.

Then, when that doesn’t work, he tries with the people he sees at the bar, the ones who are there to hear him sing. If he talks to someone and it goes beyond a simple exchange and small talk, he never sees them again. Trying to open up to them is the best way to make sure they never step foot in the Bayou again.

Since he knows that the guys he takes to his bed won’t remember him in the morning, he stops making effort to know them and, instead, loses himself in their bodies, as if he believes that it can stop him from giving into despair. Soon, though, he realizes that it doesn’t do a thing beyond numbing him that much more.

He’s starting to give up on the idea of ever going home. The thread of hope tying him to his old life is growing thinner and thinner every day.

He expects tonight to be a night like every other. While he waits until it’s time for his set, he sits at the bar and talks softly with Katie. It took over a year, but she seems to have finally grasped the fact that he’s gay and has stopped flirting with him. Which is a very good thing, because he’d been about to start running every time he saw her; having to explain that he isn’t interested in girls at all every time he said as much as “hello” to her was exhausting for him.

He’s resting his back against the bar, scanning the room and trying to figure out where he might find his fun tonight.

He hasn’t made a choice yet, but his eyes go back to a guy sitting near the stage often enough that Katie, who’s on break and standing next to him, tries to hide a giggle by coughing and says, “Okay. Which one?”

Adam laughs too at how predictable he’s turning out to be. “Near the stage. Cute, blond. You see who I mean?”

She nods and turns her head to have a good look while still trying not to be too obvious.

“Nice,” She agrees. “I’d say straight, though.”

Sadly, Adam would agree. If you put together the too-baggy jeans, the short spiked hair and the way that cute-blond-guy – Adam should add probably straight to that nickname before he gets his hopes up, but right now, he doesn’t care – is trying to appear bigger and taller than he actually is, he’d say straight, too.

However, when cute-blond-guy walks toward the restrooms and Adam gets his first good look at his face, he has to change “cute” to “pretty” and all bets are off. He smirks. “Who cares?”

Katie shakes her head at him. “You’re evil.”

She’s getting it all wrong. He’s forcing himself not to care because if he does, this guy will be nothing more than another hurtful reminder that any boy he sets his sights on will have forgotten him the next day.

He can’t say that, though.

“Nah, I’m just getting my fun where I can. Besides, I’m not planning on fucking him. I just wanna mess with him a little.”

*

Usually, when Adam spots a guy he’d want in his bed but who he thinks is straight, he keeps up the game only long enough to make the guy uncomfortable. Sometimes, all it takes is staring at them, because Adam became an expert at eye-fucking long ago. That, coupled with the suggestive way Adam always moves when he’s on stage, means that within a couple of minutes, the poor straight guy Adam set his sights on is stuck with a boner that he has a hard time explaining.

Or they leave before that can happen. It’s a game, really. A challenge to himself, seeing how seriously he can mess with someone who probably never gave guys a second look before they had the bad idea to spend the evening here.

He’s expecting this to go the same way it always does.

What he doesn’t expect is the way cute-blond-guy throws him off his game within a couple of minutes, with an arch of his brow and a slow, calculated biting and licking of his lips.

After that moment, it’s like they’ve exchanged roles. It’s Adam who can’t help but stare and watch out for every single one of the guy’s reactions. Even though his set is as heated as it always is, because his way of moving is just an extension of who he is and not a role he creates for himself, he can’t help but look over at cute-blond-guy, again and again.

They stare at each other, as if they’re each daring the other to look away first. If it were anybody else, Adam would swear that the spread of the guy’s legs is an invitation, but that’s impossible.

The last thing he needs is to believe that this can turn into more than a staring contest. He turns things up another notch and does his best not to look in cute-blond-guy’s direction again, but he soon finds out that he’s drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

Adam’s feeling so unsteady on his feet that he escapes to the bar where Katie’s handing out drinks as soon as he’s done with his set. He barely has time to sit down before she puts a drink in front of him.

He stares at it, then at her. “You know I don’t drink that much between sets.”

The truth is that he doesn’t drink much at all anymore. For a couple of weeks, the alcohol stupor that let him forget his situation felt like a good thing. Soon, though, he realized that those little moments of oblivion only made the time when reality came crashing back on him harder.

He’s always enjoyed getting drunk, but the way everyone keeps forgetting him like they’re having the worst alcohol blackout has made it lose most of its appeal.

“It isn’t from me.”

She points to a spot at the other side where cute-blond-guy is sipping his whiskey. Surprised, Adam blinks as she shrugs.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t bet on that,” she whispers in his ear. “I think we would have both lost.”

Adam laughs, salutes her with his drink and heads for the place where cute-blond-guy is sitting.

“Thanks for the drink,” he says as he sits next to the guy, just a little too close for comfort. “It was a nice surprise.”

“Surprise?” the guy repeats. “After that little display, how is it a surprise? What I understood was that you were interested. My bad if I was wrong.”

“Nah, you’re not wrong. Let’s just say you’re… not what I was expecting.”

“A lot of people tell me that.” He extends a hand. “I’m Tommy.”

“Adam.” With a smile, Adam pulls gently on Tommy’s hand, until he steps off his chair and comes to stand between Adam’s spread legs. “And you’re cute, but I think you have no idea what you’re getting into.”

Tommy snorts. “Dude, unless you turn out to be a serial killer or some shit? I know exactly what I’m getting into.” He steps closer, presses his knee against Adam’s dick, smirking when Adam hardens against him. “I know what I want, and I think you and I could get along very fucking well. What do you say?”

Adam never takes a guy up on his offer this early in the evening. It’s been months since he’s taken someone to his bed knowing their name. It always hurts too much in the morning. No matter how tempting Tommy is, there’s no way this can end well.

Yet he hears himself saying, “I still have a couple of sets to do. If you hang around until the end, I might consider it.”

“Liar,” Tommy drawls, still smirking at Adam. “You want to fuck me and you know it.”

Seconds later, Tommy’s pulling Adam closer with a hand on the back of his neck and licking his way into Adam’s mouth. Of their own accord, Adam’s hands drop to Tommy’s ass. He barely resists the temptation to use the fact that Tommy’s jeans are anything but skin-tight as they kiss. It would be far too easy to get his hands down Tommy’s pants and take him to the edge, here and now.

When they separate, they’re both breathing hard. Adam spreads his legs wider, using his grip on Tommy’s ass to grind against him, making sure that Tommy can feel every inch of him.

“You’re sure you can handle me?” He’s teasing and at the same time, not really.

Tommy kisses him again, taking possession of Adam’s mouth until Adam’s whole body is burning with desire.

“Oh, I know I can.” Still smiling, Tommy brings his mouth to Adam’s ear. “I’m a bit of a size queen, and those pants do absolutely nothing to hide what you’ve got. I’ve wanted to feel your dick in my ass from the moment you walked on that stage.”

Adam tenses, lust settling in his balls, heavy with anticipation. “You better still be around at the end of the evening.”

“I will be.” Tommy slips out of Adam’s arms, but his words sound like a promise.

*

By the time the bar is about to close, it’s raining outside. The kind of rain that’s heavy and cold and feels like the sky just opened up over their heads.

Adam and Tommy are standing in the doorway, looking at the rain and at the people running to get to their cars.

“The place I’m staying at is like, five street away. We’re gonna be dripping wet, but if we run, we can make it,” Tommy suggests when it becomes clear the rain isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

Any other night, Adam would tell Tommy about his apartment on the second floor. But tonight can’t compare in any way to every other night that came before. He fights the curse and doesn’t breathe a word about it. “Won’t your friends be coming back soon?”

In between Adam’s sets, they’ve been talking. That’s how he knows that Tommy’s from Burbank and spending just a couple of days in New Orleans with a bunch of friends, not unlike Adam and Danielle were supposed to do. The reason for the trip, however, seems to be a sore point that Adam didn’t dare to press on.

Smiling, Tommy shakes his head. “No. I already texted them and told them I’d need the place to myself for a couple of hours.”

“You sound awfully sure of yourself.” Stepping closer, Adam rests a hand on the wall next to Tommy’s head. “That’s not nice, you know. Leaving them without a place to sleep…”

“Oh, please.” Tommy rolls his eyes. “They’ve both pulled the same shit on me at least once in the last week. Fair’s fair.”

“If you say so.”

With a smirk, Tommy closes the small distance remaining between them, fitting his body to Adam’s. “What do you say? Do you want this bad enough,” he presses the palm of his hand against Adam’s cock through his pants, “to brave the rain?”

Once again, Adam is reminded of his apartment that wouldn’t necessitate running in the rain. Instead of suggesting it, though, he puts a hand over Tommy’s throat, just holding him, smiling like a cat that got the cream when Tommy tilts his head to give Adam better access.

Without a hesitation, he kisses Tommy, licking his way into Tommy’s mouth.

When they separate, they’re both breathing hard, and Tommy’s lax against the wall, his cocky attitude gone, leaving him open and willing.

“Lead the way.” Adam has to fight the curse and force the words out, but the smile on Tommy’s face makes it worth it.

He takes Tommy’s hand in his and they run, both laughing and swearing thanks to how cold the rain is.

*

By the time they get to Tommy’s place, they’re both dripping wet and Adam’s teeth are chattering.

“Come on. Let’s hit the shower.” Without waiting for an answer, Tommy slips his shirt over his head as best as he can, obviously having to fight with the long sleeves when they cling to his arms before attacking his belt.

“What are you waiting for?” he asks when he seems to notice that Adam hasn’t moved. “A shower’s the only thing that will make us feel warm right now, and Chantala will kill me if we drip water all over the floor and I forget to dry it. And you can bet I’ll forget.” As he says that, he licks his lips, giving Adam a good idea of how, exactly, he intends to forget.

Adam doesn’t need any more encouragement. He fights with his shirt then nearly ends up falling flat on his ass when he tries to take off his pants. Those are a bitch to get out of on a good day, but now that they’re clinging to his skin, it’s almost impossible to do.

“You want help with those?” Within seconds, Tommy’s kneeling next to Adam.

“Please.” Instead of feeling ridiculous, the moment is suddenly so full of heat that, if it weren’t for the fact that his dick is still shrinking from the cold, he would be hard in two seconds flat.

Between the two of them, they manage to get Adam’s skin-tight pants down, and Tommy holds the pants while Adam steps out of them.

Instead of standing, though, Tommy raises himself up on his knees. “Still cold?”

“What do you think?” Adam forces the words out between the chattering of his teeth.

Tommy finally tears his gaze away from Adam’s dick and looks up at him through his eyelashes, making Adam realize for the first time how long they are. “Too bad. I’d have loved to blow you, here and now.”

That tears a growl out of Adam’s throat. The little shit knows exactly what he’s doing. “I’m not even sure I could enjoy it.”

With a shrug, Tommy pushes himself to his feet. “Shower. Then we’ll see. Yes?”

Adam reaches for Tommy, curses his too-short hair that stops Adam from getting a good grip and fits a hand to his throat instead. “Fuck, yeah.” He brings Tommy closer, smirks at how easily Tommy follows his lead, and licks his way into Tommy’s mouth.

Tommy kisses right back, licking and sucking and giving everything.

When they separate, Adam can’t help but say, “I want to taste you all over.”

Tommy’s hands go to Adam’s shoulders like he’s afraid he’ll fall if he doesn’t have something to hold onto as he shudders. “Shower,” he says again.

*

After the rain, the hot shower feels like heaven. Soon, though, Adam barely notices the flow of water over his body as Tommy crowds him against the wall, pulls his head down with a hand on the back of his neck and devours his mouth with kisses.

Adam grabs Tommy by the ass to bring him closer, rubbing their dicks together, slowly bringing them both to full hardness. They keep kissing, hard and hungry, until Tommy slips a hand between them and closes his fingers around Adam’s cock. “This is nice, but I really want to blow you. And no way am I going to my knees on the bathroom tiles. Not when we have a bed a few steps away.”

The air is knocked out of Adam’s lungs as he lets Tommy steer him by his dick – literally – to the bedroom.

They don’t make it to the bed. Trying to dry each other turns into more and more heated caresses until Adam can’t resist pressing the pad of a finger against Tommy’s hole, just to feel his warmth, and Tommy bucks into his touch, trying to get his finger inside.

As soon as they’re in the bedroom, Tommy pushes Adam against the wall and drops to his knees. His breath is warm against Adam’s cock. It’s nearly enough to drive Adam right out of his mind.

“I’ve wanted to do that all fucking evening.” Tommy says, right before he opens his mouth and licks Adam’s cock from root to tip.

Adam finds it almost impossible not to thrust into Tommy’s mouth. Instead of the wet, warmth he’s expecting to feel surrounding him, he gets another lick, a tease around the head. He drops a hand to Tommy’s head, fingers slipping through hair that’s far too fucking short for Adam to get a good grip. He rests his hand on the back of Tommy’s head, holding, not pulling, no matter how tempting it is.

Tommy smiles up at him, making Adam groan. “You’re killing me.”

With a chuckle, Tommy answers, “But what a way to go.” Then he finally takes Adam into his mouth, sucking and licking, all tight suction and wet heat, making Adam sag against the wall.

“Fuck…” If Adam had any doubts left that Tommy was just a curious straight boy, they would have flown right out of his head. There’s just the right mix of skills and enthusiasm in the way Tommy bobs his head up and down, surrounding Adam in tight, wet warmth, his tongue a constant pressure on the underside. He uses his hand on what he can’t get into his mouth, keeping Adam right on the edge.

Until Adam knows that if Tommy keeps this up, he will come, here and now. He tries to warn Tommy, but all he can get out is, “Careful, gonna—”

Tommy smirks up at him before taking Adam’s cock into his mouth again, taking more and more of him, slowly going down to the root. Then he swallows, once, and then again.

Adam’s eyes roll back in his head as his orgasm hits hard, leaving him feeling boneless. He closes his eyes, trying to catch his breath as Tommy licks him clean.

When he finally has himself under control, he looks down at Tommy, who hasn’t moved from his spot at Adam’s feet. “I thought you wanted me to fuck you.”

With a shrug, Tommy says, “Still do. If you’re up for it.”

“Not yet, but I will be.” And in the meantime, he knows exactly how to keep himself busy. “Get on the bed.”

Tommy pushes himself to his feet, finding Adam’s mouth for another kiss. They lick and suck kisses into each other’s mouth as Adam chases his own taste into Tommy’s mouth.

“How do you want me?” Tommy asks when they separate.

It hits Adam as hard as it did when they got out of the bar, the dichotomy between the way Tommy goes after what he wants with all of his strength but also falls to his knees, pretty as you please, if he is with the right partner.

“Bed,” Adam says again. “Head down, ass high.”

Adam can practically see the heat and desire written all over Tommy in a full-body shudder before he asks, voice rough, “What’re you gonna do with me?”

“You’ll see.”

Adam’s cock valiantly tries to get hard again, even this soon after his first orgasm, at how easily Tommy obeys. He climbs onto the bed, gets on his knees and down onto his elbows, arching his back.

“You’re killing me.”

Tommy grins at Adam over his shoulder. “You’re not allowed to die until after you fuck me.”

The words shock a laugh out of Adam as he walks toward the bed. “You little shit.”

“You love that about me, and you know it.”

Adam kneels on the bed, pushes Tommy’s legs open farther. “Shut up.”

“Why don’t you make me?”

The challenge in Tommy’s eyes makes Adam smirks. “With pleasure.”

Without another word, he spreads Tommy’s ass with his thumbs and bends over, getting close enough that he knows Tommy can feel his breath but no further.

“Don’t tease me, come on!”

Adam finally gets his tongue on the skin of Tommy’s lower back. He follows the line of Tommy’s spine with his mouth until he reaches Tommy’s neck, until he can play with the piercing in Tommy’s ear, making Tommy shudder again as Adam says, “Didn’t I tell you? I am a tease. You’ll get what you want, but how and when I decide to give it to you.”

He’s expecting Tommy to protest again. Instead, Tommy drops his head against the bed, and whimpers, almost whines, “Fuck. Please.

It hits Adam hard enough that his cock makes another valiant effort to try and get hard again. He kisses and bites Tommy’s neck, feasting on Tommy’s skin. “Soon, baby,” he whispers, promises.

Tommy’s whole body goes rigid under the assault as Adam makes his way down Tommy’s back, spreads his ass open again and licks, just once, at Tommy’s hole. Just to hear the soft plea falling from Tommy’s lips. Then he does it again, and again.

Soon he’s licking and kissing and biting, losing himself in the smell and the taste of Tommy’s sweat, the little hint of soap from the shower washed away under the strength of Tommy’s desire.

The sounds coming out of Tommy’s mouth drive Adam all the way to hardness. He fucks Tommy’s ass with his tongue, aware of every tiny, tiny thrust of Tommy’s hips, like he doesn’t really dare try to get any kind of friction until Adam allows it. The sight, the feel of him goes straight to Adam’s head until nothing exists but the desire to sink into the tight heat of Tommy’s ass.

Yet he forces himself to wait, aware that it will make this even more intense and so much better for both of them.

He licks and sucks until Tommy can’t wait anymore, until he slides a hand down to his own cock. In a second, Adam has Tommy’s hand captive against the bed. “Not until I say so.”

Tommy looks at Adam over his shoulder and just about growls, “Then you better fucking stop teasing.” Yet he doesn’t try to free his hand.

“All you have to do is ask.” Adam smirks. “Nicely.”

Tommy sucks in a breath. “Push all my fucking buttons, why don’t you.”

“I’m waiting,” Adam reminds him. Lust builds up in Adam’s lower back at the sight of Tommy trying to get himself under control. It’s ridiculous how every single one of Tommy’s reactions gets to him. He’s going to have the hardest time not coming as soon as he’s inside Tommy.

Instead of the plea Adam wants to hear, though, Tommy hisses, “Fucking tease.”

“Oh, baby.” Adam presses his hands on Tommy’s thighs to make him get his legs under him, pleased at how easily Tommy does so. “You haven’t seen anything yet.” He bends again, licking a stripe up from Tommy’s ass, his cock twitching at the way Tommy bucks into his touch. “I can keep going and do much, much worse than this. I can wait until you’re wrecked and begging.” It isn’t even a lie. Since he’s already come once, he can wait. It doesn’t mean that he wants to, but Tommy doesn’t need to know that. “Or you can ask nicely, now, and we both get what we want.” He licks his way back down to Tommy’s ass. “Your choice.”

There’s a long silence. Then, just as Adam’s starting to wonder if he’s pushing too far, Tommy whispers, “Please.”

The first plea breaks the dam, and it’s like Tommy can’t stop himself after that. “Fuck me, please. Get your dick in me and fuck me hard. Please, stop teasing.” Tommy’s voice breaks on the last words, and if possible, that makes Adam’s cock harden even more.

After that, it takes a second for the haze of lust to clear and for Adam to realize that, since he usually brings his one-night-stands back to his own place, he doesn’t have anything. “Oh, shit.”

Tommy glares at Adam over his shoulder. “If you dare to stop now, I’ll kill you.”

Adam sighs. “I don’t have anything.” Tommy looks completely lost. “You know. Lube. Condoms.”

Comprehension dawns on Tommy’s face, but judging from the way he snickers, it doesn’t seem to bother him.

Adam has half a second to feel insulted before Tommy says, “Come on, you really think I don’t have any?” He’s still laughing a little as he spreads his legs wider and arches his back in a clear invitation. “Bedside table.”

The few seconds it takes for Adam to find Tommy’s stuff is long enough for Tommy to grow impatient, for him to ask, “Need help?”

“Nah. Got it.” Adam settles back between Tommy’s legs, slicks his fingers and presses one finger, just one, against Tommy’s hole. He isn’t pushing inside, not yet. He just wants to feel Tommy’s heat and imagine what Tommy will be like on his cock.

When Adam doesn’t move, Tommy pushes back on Adam’s finger, taking him inside. He groans and drops his head forward as he exhales a shaky breath. “Come on, you gotta give me more than that!”

“Ask for it.” Smirking, Adam pushes his finger in and out of Tommy’s ass, fully aware that after all the teasing, it isn’t enough. But he wants to hear Tommy beg.

“Fuck,” Tommy drawls when Adam teases him with the hint of two fingers before, once again, fucking him with just one. “I’d never have gone for you if I’d known how much,” his breath catches when Adam rubs inside him, “of a dominant streak you have. Bastard.”

“Oh, baby.” Adam teases Tommy with the hint of two fingers again, barely up to the first knuckle. “Like you didn’t get a hint when I was on stage.”

Tommy looks at Adam over his shoulder. “Being on stage is always about being larger than life. No way to know what’s real and what’s not.”

“How do you know that?” Adam finally relents and pushes two fingers inside Tommy’s ass, a new wave of desire grabbing hold of him when he feels all of Tommy’s tight heat around his fingers. “And if you can still hold that kind of conversation, we have a problem.”

“I wouldn’t be able to if you stopped teasing and started fucking!” Tommy says through gritted teeth.

“All you have to do is ask.”

Tommy shivers. “Please,” and it’s barely above a whisper, “will you fuck me, now, fuck, please,” his voice gains certainty as he keeps talking, “like you don’t want this as much as I do, come on, please.”

Adam pushes his fingers deep inside Tommy, his cock leaking precome at the sight of Tommy rocking his hips to take more of Adam’s fingers. “Don’t you want one more?”

It’s Tommy’s turn to smirk. “I can take you like this. I want to really feel you.”

Adam’s left speechless. In a nanosecond, he has his fingers out of Tommy’s ass, wipes them on the sheets and is grabbing for a condom. “You little shit.”

Tommy laughs, low and pleased. “You’re not the only one who knows how to tease. Come on. Give it to me. I want your dick in my ass.”

Adam fumbles with the condom in a way he hasn’t in years. Tonight is turning into so much more than he thought it would. Too much, maybe, because he’s aware it will only make him ache for everything he can’t get anymore. But he can’t stop.

Instead, he lines himself up. They both groan when he finally pushes into Tommy, slowly, far too slow for it to be really good. But they both need the time, Tommy to relax a little more – no matter what he said about wanting to feel it, the last thing Adam wants is to hurt him – and Adam to get past the amazing feeling of tight heat surrounding his cock as he does his best not to come on the spot.

He waits until Tommy fucks himself back on Adam’s cock, until he hisses, “Move.”

One slow slide in and out has Tommy snarling, “Bastard. Harder, come on, I’m not gonna break!”

Adam smiles at that. As much as he would love to see more of Tommy than the glimpses he’s seen, those moments when he was willing and open, with just a hint of submission that makes Adam think they could get along very fucking well, it’s not going to happen tonight.

He bends over, just enough that he can whisper in Tommy’s ear, “Remember that you asked for it.”

Then he slams home, hard and fast, losing himself in the tight heat of Tommy’s body and the sound of Tommy’s “harder” and “more” and, even, once or twice, “please.”

It has to hurt, and Adam knows it. But he can’t stop, not when he sees how much Tommy gets off on it. How, even when it feels like it should be too much, when even for Adam it’s a little too much, Tommy keeps egging him on, taunting him until his voice breaks, until he can barely move back into Adam’s thrusts.

Until Adam has to curl his hand around Tommy’s cock to jack him off because all of Tommy’s strength is focused on keeping himself up on trembling arms.

It’s like he can’t stop, not even when Tommy comes all over his hand, his ass tightening around Adam like a vise. He has to keep thrusting, as hard and fast as he can, until Tommy’s sounds of pleasure turn into sobs of pain because it’s too much, too soon after his orgasm, and he’s sensitive all over.

The realization that Tommy doesn’t want him to stop, that he’s getting off on the pain hard enough that he wants Adam to keep going until he comes, too, even if it hurts, maybe especially if it hurts, is what pushes Adam over the edge and makes him spend himself, buried deep in Tommy’s ass.

Tommy collapses onto the bed, his arms giving out underneath him. Adam barely has enough energy to pull out and take off the condom. He rests his forehead against Tommy’s back as he tries to catch his breath, feeling like all his muscles have turned into jelly.

When Adam finally feels like he can move again, he presses a kiss on Tommy’s spine. “You okay?”

Nodding before pillowing his head on his arms, Tommy’s voice is soft and dreamy when he answers, “That was so fucking good.”

Slowly, Adam pushes himself to his knees. “Let me grab something to clean you up.”

The look Tommy throws at Adam is amused and a little lost. “You don’t have to.”

“But I want to.”

Somehow it’s enough. When Adam comes back from the bathroom with a damp cloth, Tommy spreads his legs to let Adam clean him up, then follows Adam’s lead when Adam pulls him out of the wet spot on the bed and fits them together, back to front.

Adam is half expecting Tommy to try and pull out of his embrace.

Instead, Tommy turns around and pulls Adam closer with both arms around him as he whispers, “Of course, you’re a cuddler. Figures.”

“You don’t like it?” Adam knows it can’t be true, not with how tight and close Tommy’s holding him. But he has to ask.

“It’s the other way around. I like it a little too much. And of course, I had to meet you here. That couldn’t have happened in LA.”

Adam smiles. “It could have. I’m from LA.”

“Really?” Tommy raises his head to look at Adam. “What brought you here?”

For a second, Adam is tempted to try and tell Tommy the truth. But even to himself, it sounds like such a crazy story that he doesn’t dare. Even if the curse let him, there’s no guarantee that Tommy will believe him.

Instead, he shrugs, and says, “A trip with my best friend. How that ended with me singing at the Bayou every night, I couldn’t even begin to tell you.” He trails his fingers down Tommy’s back. “What about you?”

A shadow falls over Tommy’s face. “I needed a change of air. Chantala and Mike thought that the best way to do that was to take a vacation.”

It isn’t hard for Adam to realize this is the same sore point they kept hitting on at the bar, except back then, Tommy did his best to pretend it didn’t exist.

Gently, he asks, “What happened?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t. But you don’t have to tell me.”

It seems to be what finally decides Tommy. “I just learned that my father has cancer and it doesn’t look that good. Doctor says that they caught it early, so it should be okay, but...”

Adam pulls Tommy closer as he whispers, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s just, there’s all this shit that needs to be dealt with, and there’s mom and Lisa and—” Tommy sighs, shakes his head. “And I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this.”

Bussing a kiss against Tommy’s hair, Adam says, “I don’t mind.”

“I needed not to think for a while, you know? To stop worrying about dad being sick and how the hell we’re going to pay for everything. That’s why we came here.” Tommy smiles a bit. “That’s why I wanted to bring you back here with me. I had no idea I’d end up telling you all this, though.”

“Maybe you just needed to talk about it.”

“Maybe.”

Tommy doesn’t say a word after that, and they fall asleep in each other’s arms.

When Adam opens his eyes, he doesn’t think more than an hour has gone by. The sky outside is still dark, but he’s alone in bed.

Now would be a perfect time to make his escape before he can get too attached, before things become even more complicated and he gets his heart broken over a hook-up. It’s impossible that things could end up any other way, since by the time the sun comes up, Tommy will have forgotten everything about tonight. Or at least, if he remembers, he won’t know it was Adam that he shared everything with.

Instead of leaving, though, Adam puts on his shirt and underwear, and goes looking for Tommy.

He finds Tommy in the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge.

“You couldn’t sleep?”

Tommy shrugs as he tries to keep the small pyramid in his arms – berries, a container of ice cream, plus the bowls and something else that Adam can’t identify – upright while he closes the fridge with his foot. “I’m a night bird at the best of times. And I’ve been suffering from a bout of insomnia since we learned the news about my dad.” He puts everything on the counter, next to Adam. “You hungry?”

“Not really, but that looks far too tempting to turn down.”

Tommy smiles as he gets to work.

“You’re awfully well supplied for someone who’s just staying a week.”

“This place is owned by an old friend of mine. His family moved here before we started high school, but we never lost contact.” The berries go on top of the ice cream before Tommy drizzles them with chocolate syrup. “He’s out of town a lot because of his job, and he was leaving right before we arrived. So he left the things he would have usually thrown out for us. Works well for everyone.” He sticks a spoon in each bowl and hands one to Adam. “Bed?”

“Lead the way.”

They sit side by side on the bed, with their backs to the wall while they eat.

Between two mouthful of ice cream, Adam asks, “What did you mean earlier? About,” he adds when he realizes that Tommy has no idea what he means, “being larger than life on stage?”

“Just the truth.” Tommy licks his spoon and Adam has the hardest time focusing on the actual words Tommy’s saying. “We all do that. Push some things to the forefront and play them up. Sometimes it’s just that, using part of who we are. But for some, it’s all fake, a made-up personality that disappears as soon as they’re off stage. Makes it hard to know what’s real and what’s not.”

“How do you know that?”

“I play guitar. So, yeah, I know a thing or two.” Even as he says it, Tommy blushes and his smile takes on a self-deprecating edge.

“Who do you play for?” Adam can’t help but ask.

Tommy snorts. “Not anyone you’d know. A couple of bands here and there, but nothing that ever got me anywhere.”

“It’s the same thing for all of us,” Adam shrugs. “I’d love to hear you play.”

“When you’re back home, maybe,” Tommy suggests. “I left my guitar in Burbank.”

The offer is so unexpected that it rips Adam apart, because he has no idea when – if – he’ll be back home. It hurts, because he knows that, if they’d met in LA, he would have done everything he could to make sure that he saw Tommy again. But here and now, it’s a whole other story.

Yet he says, “That would be nice.”

Tommy’s smile lights up his whole face. “I think so, too.” He puts his empty bowl on the bedside table and, once Adam has done the same, he opens his arms. “Come here.”

The kiss they share is long and soft and sweet, a slow dance of lips and tongue. The hunger of earlier is all gone, leaving behind something easy and soothing that Adam knows he’ll have a hard time living without.

When they separate, he can’t help but pull Tommy closer, gathering him into his arms and holding him tight. Tommy presses a kiss to the side of Adam’s neck.

“You don’t talk much about yourself, do you?”

Adam did, back at the bar, when he thought that Tommy would be nothing but a quick fuck. But nothing important, that’s true. Talking about the music doesn’t hurt too much, but everything else would be a cruel reminder of the things that Adam took for granted and that he can’t have anymore: his friends, his family, his fledging career.

“There isn’t much to tell. My life is pretty boring these days.” It goes beyond boring, every day exactly the same as the one before, but Adam can’t explain that.

“Somehow I have a hard time believing that.” Tommy makes Adam bend his head and kisses him again, gentle and tender.

Adam’s throat tightens at how close this is to everything he’s been missing, everything he’s been deprived of since he started living here. He keeps kissing Tommy, as if they had all the time in the world, as if this was something he could hope to get every day.

It’s the kind of kiss that doesn’t need to lead anywhere, that’s just about being here, and now, and present, about knowing that no matter what, he’s not alone. It’s an illusion, but for now, it might be enough.

After a moment, Tommy pushes away to roll onto his back. Adam follows him. Tommy doesn’t let him go anywhere, kissing him again and again as they undress each other again. This time they take the time to explore each other’s bodies in a way they hadn’t earlier.

Adam laughs when he trails his fingers down Tommy’s side to grab the edge of his shirt and Tommy wriggles away from the touch. “Ticklish?”

“Just a bit, yeah.” Tommy blushes but he’s smiling, in a sweet, fond way that makes Adam’s heart hammer in his chest.

They kiss again then Tommy pulls on Adam’s shirt to make him take it off. Now that he’s not lost in a haze of desire, Adam can’t help but suck in his stomach.

Tommy shakes his head. “Don’t feel like you have to do that. I don’t give a fuck. You’re gorgeous anyway.”

The words make Adam kiss Tommy with renewed ardor, but they shed the rest of their clothes like they have all the time in the world.

“This is crazy,” Adam says when they finally break apart. Tonight is so far from what he expected.

“But in a good way,” Tommy murmurs against the skin of Adam’s neck.

And Adam has to agree with him, because this feels so right. Like this is where they both belong.

Slowly, they finish undressing, as if nothing exists but this moment, the two of them and the way they are learning each other.

When they’re finally both naked and hard, Adam reaches for another condom. “Roll over.”

Tommy raises his legs and locks them around Adam’s hips. “No. I want it like this.”

It breaks Adam’s heart. Once again, this feels like so much more than just a one-night-stand, yet he’s painfully aware that it can’t be, that this won’t last beyond the moment when the sun comes up.

It hurts but he can’t find it in himself to deny Tommy. He wants it just as much.

It’s slow and tender, and nothing like it was earlier in the night. Adam lets his fears show, holding onto Tommy with all the fear inside him, because he’s scared that if he stops, Tommy will vanish into thin air. He drowns his moans in Tommy’s kisses as he thrusts inside Tommy, so gently that it should be driving them both to frustration. Instead, it feels perfect, intimate, their movements answering each other, moving together as if they did this every night, as if they knew each other inside and out.

Adam’s orgasm takes him by surprise, a gentle wave that washes over him before setting him down on the shore, exhausted and lost in bliss. Tommy follows him seconds later, coming only from the friction of Adam’s body against his and the sheer perfection of the act.

*

The next morning, instead of disappearing before the sun comes up, Adam stays and watches Tommy sleep. He knows he should head back to his place – there’s no doubt that, as soon as he wakes up, Tommy will have mostly forgotten about the guy he just shared his bed with. If he sees Adam, he’ll wonder who the stranger in his room is.

Adam wishes things could be different. Before they fell asleep, Tommy had grabbed Adam’s cell and entered his own number. “You said you were from LA, right?” He’d handed Adam his phone back. “Hit me up when you’re home.”

Adam had stared at his cell for long seconds. Or minutes, maybe. He isn’t sure. Then he finally looked at Tommy and he said, “You won’t even remember me, Tommy.”

Tommy had kissed him, soft and sweet. “Don’t be silly. How could I forget you?”

This morning, though, Adam can’t stand the idea of watching Tommy wake up and not recognize him. He gets dressed, drops one last kiss on Tommy’s cheek, and walks out.

He knows, because Tommy told him, that he and his friends are staying in New Orleans for one more week. Many, many times, Adam finds himself walking back to Tommy’s friend’s house. Once, he even makes it as far as the door. He’s surprised that the curse is letting him.

The old woman’s words dance into his head again. Someone needs to remember you. Maybe it could be Tommy. Yet Adam can’t bring himself to knock. If the curse has let him come this far, it has to be because Tommy won’t recognize him. Adam can’t imagine this going any other way. He’s hoped and been disappointed too many times already to believe otherwise.

The week passes and Tommy leaves. Unsurprisingly, he and his friends never step foot in the Bayou again. Adam’s life goes back to its routine. Singing is the only thing that keeps him going. He focuses on how good it makes him feel to forget that it’s also the only thing he has left.


Now

No matter how tempting it is to scream at Adam, Tommy has to wait while Adam goes through the usual cycle of pre-concert interviews. He barely manages to hold on until Adam’s alone in his dressing room before the concert before he bursts in and asks, “Were you ever planning on telling me?”

“On telling you what?” Adam looks completely lost.

“That you were the guy I met in New Orleans.”

“You remembered.”

It’s like someone punched Tommy in the gut. Adam admitting it so easily hurts more than anything Tommy could have imagined.

“No thanks to you. After seeing Brian and Terrance’s expressions after I told that story, I asked Brian. It’s only after he told me what happened to you that I remembered.” Tommy grits his teeth. “I should have heard it from you.”

“You didn’t ask me,” Adam reminds him. But he doesn’t sound angry.

“Because you had so many opportunities to tell me, and you never did. It felt like, even if I asked you, you wouldn’t tell me the truth.”

From the look on Adam’s face, Tommy knows that his words have cut deep, and hurt. He doesn’t feel even the smallest hint of guilt.

“I didn’t lie to you!”

“Maybe you didn’t lie,” Tommy admits, “But you sure hid a pretty big part of the truth.”

Adam sighs. “Every time I tried to tell you, you shut me down. Every time I thought I had managed to open a door that would allow me to tell you, you’d say something about how curses and magic and all that shit don’t exist. What the hell was I supposed to do, Tommy?”

“You should have trusted me.” Tommy almost spit the words out before he walks out. That’s why he’s so angry. After everything they’ve done, everything he’s trusted Adam with, this feels like the worst betrayal. Like it was always going only one way. And it hurts like hell.

*

When they head to the hotel after the show, Tommy snatches one of the keys to Brian’s room, making both Brian and Neil, who was handing out the keys, stare at him.

Tommy only shrugs. “What? It’s still my room, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.” Tommy’s scowl seems to be enough to stop Neil from asking any questions. Tommy’s very, very glad of that.

Later, there’s a knock on their door. When Tommy opens it, his heart beating faster because he knows exactly who he would like it to be, he’s faced with Ashley and Isaac. “What are you two doing here?”

Ashley shoves her way past him. “We are not letting you get all mopey again.”

“I’m okay.”

“Sure,” Isaac agrees. “You’re fine. And that’s why you’re sleeping in this room, right?”

Tommy sighs. “I really don’t feel like going out tonight.”

“We were expecting that,” Ashley says, displaying a bottle of whiskey. “So we brought the booze to you.”

Tommy can’t help but laugh a little at that. “You guys don’t have to—”

Brian rests a hand on Tommy’s shoulder. “Who the fuck said we were giving you a choice?”

It makes him smile, how intent they all are on being there for him in any way they can, even though they have no idea what happened. “As long as you don’t ask questions.”

“Just answer this one, first,” Isaac says. “Do we have to kick his ass?”

Tommy laughs again, but he knows that Isaac is very serious, that they all are. He shakes his head. “No. It’s between me and him.”

He’s expecting one of them to ask again, but that seems to be enough.

*

Tommy really has no intention of talking about it. All he wants to do is get drunk, so he has no explanation for the fact that he ends the evening with his head in Ashley’s lap and her fingers brushing gently through his hair as he tells her the whole story.

When he’s done, she asks, “What did he have to say about that?”

“I don’t know.” Tommy shrugs. “I didn’t stay to listen. It doesn’t matter, though. He lied to me.”

Ashley bites her lip. “I’m not saying he did the right thing, because he obviously messed up, but maybe he had his reasons. Not that they are necessarily good ones, but with the whole curse thing—”

“Please tell me you don’t believe that.”

“Why not? You did forget him, Tommy. You forgot his name, his face. How do you explain that if the curse thing isn’t true?”

“It doesn’t make sense!”

“You can be very annoying, you know that?” Ashley sighs. “Who cares if it makes sense? What matters is that Adam believes it. And just think about how it must have felt, to find you again and to realize that you’d forgotten him. Because, whether you believe it or not, it happened.”

Tommy swallows hard. He hates to admit it, but she’s right. “What is it that you’re saying?”

“That it might be worth it to listen to him. It obviously won’t solve everything, but it might at least let you understand what the hell happened between the two of you. And why he didn’t tell you.”

“I trusted him with so much, you know?” Tommy whispers. “And he never called. And now he hasn’t talked to me, again, and I had to hear it from Brian. It feels like I’ve given him so much of myself but it only ever went one way. That fucking hurts.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Tommy gives a little nod.

“Do you love him?”

He looks away from Ashley. “Yeah. I feel very stupid for that now, but yes.”

With gentle fingers on his cheek, she makes him look at her again. “And anyone with eyes can see that he loves you. So it might be worth it giving him a chance to explain himself. Don’t you think?”

“Maybe.”


Then

As weird and wrong as it feel to be at a Zodiac show without Adam on stage, Danielle is still glad for Alisan’s invitation. They’ve never been that close since the main thing they have in common is that they’re both friends with Adam, but finding themselves part of the very few girls in a group full of gay guys on a regular basis has ensured that they get along.

After the show, they go out and get drunk enough that Alisan crashes at Danielle’s place. The next morning, when Danielle finally hauls her hung over ass to the kitchen, Alisan is sitting at the table and there’s the smell of fresh coffee in the air.

While Danielle grabs and downs her first coffee before serving herself a second cup, Alisan asks, “What is this?”

Danielle adds some sugar and cream to her coffee before having a look at the flyer that Alisan’s handing her. Her stomach ties itself into knots when she recognizes it. “It’s some bar that Brad suggested we could go to, when we went back to New Orleans together. Apparently their main singer was amazing, but I was too tired and headachy. I don’t know why I still have this.”

Staring at Danielle like she’s seeing her for the first time, Alisan says, “I asked because I had a feeling you brought this back from there but, wow. Did you even listen to yourself?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Let me get this straight.” Alisan puts her cup on the table, wrapping her hands around it. “You and Brad went back to New Orleans to try and find our friend who has one of the best voices of his generation, or so says everyone who’s heard him sing. There’s this bar that supposedly has an amazing main singer, so good that you guys heard about him, even though you were there only for a couple of days, and you think it wasn’t what you were looking for. You didn’t go because you were too tired.” Alisan waits until Danielle nods before she continues, “Yet it didn’t occur to you or to Brad that this singer could be, you know, Adam?”

The realization hits Danielle like a ton of bricks. Within seconds, her head is pounding like a drum. She barely has time to run to the bathroom before she throws up.

With shaky hands, Danielle pushes herself away from the toilet and curls in on herself. She takes the glass of water Alisan hands her and rinses her mouth before taking a couple of sips. “I had a very bad migraine. I couldn’t think that far.”

“What surprises me is that Brad didn’t, either.” Alisan joins Danielle on the bathroom floor, sitting in front of her. “Is it just me or do your headaches get worse whenever we talk about Adam?”

“It’s not just you.” Danielle shrugs. “But it doesn’t make sense to think that they’re linked to his disappearance.”

“Not much about the way he disappeared makes sense. Don’t you agree?”

“You’re right. So what do we do now?”

“We go back there, and hopefully, we find him.” Alisan says like it’s evidence.

“I can’t. It’s gonna sound silly, but… Brad would have gone to that bar if I hadn’t stopped him. Don’t ask me to explain why, but if I’m there, I have a feeling that we don’t stand a chance of finding him.”

“Okay. Then we ask somebody else to go there for us. Deal?”

Danielle nods. She doesn’t want to get her hopes up, but it might be worth a try. It’s not like they have that many other possible solutions.

*

Scarlett’s leg only stops shaking when Lee closes his fingers around her knee.

“Don’t make yourself sick over it. If it’s not him, there’s nothing more we can do.”

“I know.” She sighs and looks at the ground. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told his mother.”

“Hey.” The gentle pressure of Lee’s fingers on her knee makes her look up at him again. “Leila needed hope. We all did.”

Slowly, Scarlett nods, even though she thinks that at this point, any hope is foolish. If she were honest, she’d have to admit that Danielle and Alisan’s theory is ludicrous at best, especially since it didn’t explain why Adam would have been stuck in New Orleans all this time. But when they came to her, both convinced and desperate, there was no way Scarlett could turn them down.

The lights dim and the music starts. Scarlett grabs Lee’s hand and links her fingers through his. “Here goes nothing.”

She just about stops breathing when she recognizes Adam’s voice. Through the whole set, she’s frozen into place, finding it impossible to believe that the girls were right.

As soon as the set ends, when it becomes clear that Adam won’t be walking around the bar tonight, she looks at Lee. “We need to find a way to go backstage and talk to him.”

*

Weeks pass, then months. Every little thing stays the same. People and tourists from everywhere hear about the amazing singer at the Bayou, but no one can remember his name. If they try too hard, they even have a hard time describing him.

Then, one night, between Adam’s sets, someone knocks on the door of his dressing room. Thinking that it’s Katie or another one of the girls bringing him tea because his voice isn’t a hundred percent tonight, he calls out, “Come in.”

The door opens. Adam blinks as he stares in the mirror. He can’t move, he can’t think, he can’t say a word as Scarlett Cherry crosses the couple of steps separating them and rests a hand on his shoulder. “Adam?”

Without a word, he turns around. He can’t believe what he’s seeing. “Scarlett?”

He grabs her hand, afraid, suddenly, that this is just a dream and she will vanish if he lets her go.

“Were you here all this time? Oh, Adam, everyone was so worried about you…”

Tears fill his eyes. Too many months of watching strangers walk by him, forgetting him as soon as they’re out of sight, hit him all at once, and he sobs in Scarlett’s arms when she pulls him close. He closes his eyes and presses his face against her stomach, wetting her shirt with his tears as his mouth open on a silent scream.

He puts his arms around her to bring her closer, to make sure that she isn’t going anywhere.

“Shhh.” She presses a kiss against his hair. “It’s okay, Adam. We’ll get you home. I promise.”

*

Much, much later, that same night, Adam tells Lee and Scarlett what happened to him. He doesn’t tell them everything. There are details that he doesn’t want to dwell on because it would hurt too much. But he tells them about the curse. About everything he did to try and go home. How everything failed until he had next to no hope left of going home.

He doesn’t know if they really believe him, but he’s sure of one thing: they know that he believes it. And between what he tells them, the weird phone calls from his old number, and the fact that otherwise, there is no explanation for the fact that it was like Adam had dropped off the planet for four years – Adam’s jaw just about hits the floor when Scarlett says that; he had no idea that he’d been gone that long – they don’t really have a choice but to believe him.

The next day, before lunch, Scarlett hands her cell phone to Adam. “Call your mother.”

He stares at the phone in Scarlett’s hand. He’s afraid that it will be a disaster, as it has been every time he’s tried before. Even Scarlett’s presence isn’t enough to reassure him. “Can you do it for me?”

“Okay.” With a smile, she hits Leila’s number. “Hi, Leila, it’s Scarlett.” She laughs. “Yes, we went ahead with our crazy idea. I’m in New Orleans. And there’s someone you’ll be happy to hear from.”

Scarlett gives her phone to Adam. He brings it to his ear, swallows hard once, twice, and he says, his voice breaking on the word, “Mom?”

Adam?”

For the longest moment, they don’t talk at all. Adam barely feels Scarlett put her arms around him and draw his head down to her shoulder when he starts crying. At the other end of the line, he can hear Neil making shushing noises in a broken voice. He’s glad that his mom isn’t alone.

At the end of the phone call, Scarlett promises at least five times that she won’t let Adam out of her sight until she has him home. Adam has a feeling she really means it and he’s grateful for that. He’s so scared that he’ll end up forgotten and left behind again.

Just before they hang up, Neil grabs the phone and says, “It’s good to know you’re on your way home.” He doesn’t say anything more, and neither does Adam, but it reminds him how many people must have been worried about him after he disappeared.

It feels like Adam doesn’t start breathing again until they’re on the plane to LA, as if it’s only then that he really believes that Lee and Scarlett finding him isn’t a dream.

After they land, Scarlett and Lee get him to his mother’s house. His father and Neil hug him so tight that he’s almost scared they’re going to crush him, but he doesn’t care. He cries in his mother’s arms when she hugs him, and he can feel her own tears wetting his shirt.

He finishes the evening sitting on the floor in the living room, with his head in his mom’s lap. It’s strange to see both his parents at the same time – it really hasn’t happened that often since their divorce – but right now, it’s the reminder that Adam needs, to know that he’s home, that he’s safe.

He tells them everything that happened and why he disappeared for so long. He doesn’t know if they believe him; he probably wouldn’t have believed it, either, if it were somebody else in his place. But it feels good to finally be able to talk about it. At first, he has a hard time getting the words out, then he realizes that it’s only his own fear that’s stopping him. He can’t feel the curse, at all.

His heart beats faster but he has a hard time trusting that it’s really gone.

Right before they head to bed, his mother hugs him again and says, “I believe you. I know you wouldn’t have left us without news for so long unless you had no other choice.”

It makes him feel better than anything else could have.

He sees Danielle the next day. When she finds him on her doorstep, they stay there just staring at each other for the longest time before she crumples into herself and pulls him into her arms.

“I’m so sorry,” she sobs, again and again, as Adam holds her as close to him as he can, his own eyes full of tears. “I have no idea how I could forget you were with me. I’m so, so sorry.”

Slowly, life goes back to normal, or at least, as normal as it can be after everything Adam has gone through. He spends a lot more time with his family and his friends. He knows that he’ll never again take anyone for granted, because he knows, now, how easily things can slip through his fingers.

Once he’s settled into his old life, he realizes that he still has Tommy’s phone number. He’s tempted to call him, to try and see if maybe, just maybe, Tommy hasn’t forgotten him. In the end, though, he doesn’t dare. The night they shared was so special, in the middle of all the shit Adam was going through, that he doesn’t want anything to taint the memory.

When he finally feels like the curse has no more hold on him, when he knows he can trust himself and live again, he remembers the night in the cemetery, in New Orleans, the shape beside his bed, later, that woke him up. The words it uttered. You want fame, boy? No one will remember your name.

It makes him even more determined to do something with his life. To find a way to make sure that people will remember his name. That’s why he gives up his contract with Wicked when he realizes all he’ll ever get out of it is being an understudy, and takes the risk that American Idol represents. It scares him shitless because he has no way to be sure that he’s free of the curse. He can’t help but think that maybe, something like getting the fame and the career that he’s wanted all of his life will trigger the curse again, and make people forget him.

However, he needs to do something to feel like he has control over his life again, and Idol is perfect for that.

It works out even better than he was hoping for. He finishes in second place, with a record contract and a die-hard battalion of fans.

Everything seems to be going his way. That is, until he’s auditioning for band members. Things go smoothly, starting from the moment when Adam contacts Brian, who he knows from his time with the Zodiac show, and gets an enthusiastic yes when he asks Brian to come on board, as both keyboardist and MD.

It’s the second audition that trips him up, the first time Adam will meet the potential members of his band. Brian has already seen them all; he and Barry have made the first cut, and both of them have given Adam notes on the candidates. Really helpful notes, at least until the moment when they’re about to see one of the guitarists, and the only thing on the sheet Brian gave Adam is, you’ll like him.

Adam raises an eyebrow. “Are you fucking kidding me? I thought this was about the music, not about me wanting to fuck them.”

“You know me, man. If he wasn’t good enough, he wouldn’t be here.” Brian shrugs. “That being said? Yeah, he’s your type, all right.”

Shaking his head, Adam waits for the guy to make his entrance. His breath catches in his throat when he recognizes the guy immediately.

Tommy’s hair is longer, dyed half-black, half-blond. Gone are the baggy clothes and the obvious attempts to bulk up. In their place are skinny jeans, black t-shirt, leather jacket, heavy make-up that makes his elfish-like features stand out. All are things that, on any other day, would make Adam’s mouth water.

If it weren’t for the fact that, when Tommy steps into place, he faces Adam with a polite smile and a blank stare.

Of course. Tommy doesn’t remember him.


Now

The next couple of days, Tommy shares a room with Brian or uses his bunk on the band bus for the first time since the tour started. He knows that Ashley’s right and that he has to listen to whatever it is that Adam has to say, but he can’t bring himself to. His feeling of betrayal runs too deep, like Adam’s been playing a game with him since the beginning.

He can’t avoid Adam, of course, but he can easily sidestep the kind of complicated conversations they need to have. Especially now that they are in Asia, where interviews and meetings are eating up all of Adam’s time outside of concerts.

That lasts until the night of his birthday. When they go back on stage for the encore, Brian, Ashley and Isaac start playing something that is so different from what Tommy was expecting that it takes him a few second to realize which song it is. And when he does, he still can’t play, because his jaw just about hits the ground at what Adam says next.

“Tomorrow is Mister Tommy Joe Ratliff’s birthday.” He joins Adam when Adam motions him forward, feels like his heart is about to beat right out of his chest when Adam rests a hand on his back. “Our birthday boy! And in celebration, tonight we’re gonna sing one of his favorite songs.”

Adam walks toward the front of the stage while Tommy finally catches on and starts playing. “And I kinda know the words. Sort of. So it’s like karaoke, I got it written down right here. Don’t judge me.”

Tommy sings along, banging his head through the whole song. As far as birthday gifts go, this is insane, and he loves every second of it.

At the end of the song, the whole band sweeps him up in a group hug that has him clinging to them and saying, “You’re all completely crazy.”

It’s much, much later, when he’s well on his way to being drunk right out of his mind that he thinks to ask, “Whose idea was it?”

Isaac bumps Tommy’s shoulder with his. “Whose idea do you think it was?”

Tommy smiles and his throat tightens because there’s only one possible answer. He throws a look at Adam, who’s sitting way out of Tommy’s reach, and wonders when things became that messed up.

The next day, he finally follows Ashley’s advice and waits in Adam’s hotel room until Adam is done with his interviews.

Adam stops dead in his tracks when he sees Tommy sitting on his bed. “Are you ready to listen to me?”

Nodding his head, Tommy moves farther back on the bed to make space for Adam. Instead, Adam grabs a chair and sits in front of Tommy.

It feels like a slap in the face, but Tommy’s aware that he’s the one who’s been pushing Adam away. So he gets it, even if it hurts.

“Maybe eight years ago,” Adam says, breaking the silence right before it becomes uncomfortable, “Danielle was planning a trip to New Orleans. She’d just broken up with her boyfriend and she said that she needed a change of air. No one was feeling that great about the idea of her going on her own, so when it became clear that she wasn’t going to change her mind, I suggested going along. We spent two amazing weeks there together.”

Adam takes a deep breath. He’s practically vibrating with tension. It’s obvious that this is one of the hardest things for him to talk about this.

So Tommy opens his arms and says, “Come here.”

Adam grabs onto the arms of the chair so tight that his knuckles whiten, like he wants nothing more that but is determined not to. “I need to tell you this. I should have done it a long time ago.”

Tommy grabs one of Adam’s hands and pulls him onto the bed. “But it’s hurting you. It’s my turn to be there for you.” When Adam barely moves, he adds, “Please, let me.”

This time Adam follows Tommy’s lead and sits on the bed with his back against the wall. Tommy tucks himself into Adam’s side and looks up at him. “What happened?”

“The last evening, we went out to this bar we’d heard about. It was called the Bayou. We made new friends and there was this guy.” Adam shrugs. “He was nice and we connected, but he was also… I dunno, a little weird. Like he wasn’t really listening to what I was saying and only heard what he wanted to hear.”

Tommy tightens his grip on Adam’s hand to stop his fingers from trembling.

“At the end of the night, they convinced us to try a wish-granting ritual. I didn’t go through with it, but it was already too late.” Adam shudders. “I don’t know if it was a dream, or not. But I remember a dark shape next to my bed, saying, ‘You want fame, boy? No one will remember your name.’”

Looking down at their joined hands, Adam continues, “And that’s exactly what happened. Danielle woke up the next day, completely forgot that I was there with her, and went back to LA on her own. I woke up in a little apartment in the same building as the Bayou. It never cost me a cent to stay there. I was singing at the Bayou every night. People came by just to hear me sing, but they couldn’t remember my name. They knew I was a great singer, sure, but they had no idea who I was. It took me six months to realize there was something deeply wrong with that, and three and a half years after that to finally get the hell out of there.”

The sound that makes it out of Adam’s mouth is akin to a sob, but somehow his voice is still steady. “My credit card was cancelled; my bank account was closed; my apartment in LA went to somebody else. I couldn’t call anyone. Either I couldn’t hit a fucking button on my phone, or my voice would give up at the last moment.” He sucks in a breath. “Do you have any idea how much it hurts to be on the phone with your mother, to hear her begging you just to tell her that you’re okay, and to be unable to produce a single sound?”

Tommy doesn’t answer. He can’t understand, but just imagining it makes him feels like his heart is being ripped right out of his chest.

“Very early on, I met a guy. Spencer. We spent a night together and it was amazing. He even left me his phone number. When I tried to call him, he didn’t remember me. I’m not even sure he remembered spending the night with me. After that, I forced myself to stop caring. If I did, it would hurt too much when they forgot me. From then on, I never took anyone to my bed if I knew their name. You were my only exception.”

Adam sighs. “Thing is, I thought about calling you. When I finally got back to LA and I realized that I still had your number. But I couldn’t bring myself to. The last thing I wanted was to talk to you only to find out that you’d forgotten me. It hurt me less to keep that memory and wonder what could have been than it would have to try and find out that I was right.”

“I understand,” Tommy says, “But that doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me after we met again. You had all kinds of opportunities but you never did. Even after we got together.”

“You’re angry.”

Tommy shakes his head. “No, I’m not angry. I’m hurt, because right now, it feels like you’ve been playing a game with me since we met.”

“Do you have any idea how it felt, for me, when I saw you walk into that audition?”

With a shrug, Tommy says, “No, I don’t.”

“It was like a ghost from a past that I’ve tried so hard to put behind me was coming back to haunt me. Ever since I returned to LA, I’ve wondered if that was all I could hope for. If that twisted, horrible version of what I’ve wanted my whole life that I got in New Orleans was all I could have. What if going after fame and the career I wanted made the curse come back? What if it made people forget me again?”

“It didn’t,” Tommy reminds him.

“I know,” Adam says, “But the fear is still there. The idea that everything will be ripped right out of my fingers just when I think it’s mine won’t leave me in peace, no matter how hard I try to shove it away. So when I saw you, it scared me shitless. What if that was just the beginning?”

Tommy stares at Adam like he’s seeing him for the first time. “That’s why you acted like such a jerk when we first started working together, right?”

Adam nods. “You have no idea how scared I was. And then, later, after we got involved, every time I thought that I had a chance to tell you, you would say something about how curses and magic don’t exist. And every time, it felt just like all those times, back in New Orleans, when I tried to get help and couldn’t because the curse stopped me. So I always thought, what if it’s the curse again? What if it’s going to ruin my life again? And what if I told you, and you didn’t believe me? What if you still didn’t remember that night?”

“I would have remembered,” Tommy argues. “All it took was Brian telling me what he thought, not even what happened.”

“But I didn’t know that. And after four years of people forgetting me… It wasn’t a risk that I felt like I could take. I’m so sorry.”

Gently, Tommy pushes Adam away, putting just a little distance between them. “But to me, it feels like you didn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth. And after everything we’ve done and how much I’ve trusted you, it’s like I just discovered that it only ever went one way.”

Adam grabs Tommy’s hand in his. “It’s not true.”

“I know,” Tommy says, “But that doesn’t change how it feels to me.”

Barely over a whisper, Adam asks, “Think you can give me a second chance?”

Tommy stares at the bedcovers. “I don’t know.”

*

Tommy continues to share a room with Brian, but he doesn’t try to avoid Adam anymore. While he’s still betrayed and hurt, he’s also very aware that the last thing he wants is to lose Adam and everything they share.

They go back to the fragile balance of their early friendship, and Tommy soon finds himself caught between what he wants and his desire to protect himself. The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that he’s hurting himself by keeping this distance between he and Adam, and that this might actually be hurting him more than it would to try and trust Adam again.

He lasts as long as he can until he feels like it’s going to drive him crazy. And then, on the night of their concert in Amsterdam, he finds his way to Adam’s dressing room once he’s sure that Adam is alone.

He closes the door and walks toward Adam, who’s staring at him in the mirror.

“Is there anything else I should know?”

Adam shakes his head. “No. Everything else, I’ve already told you.”

Standing besides Adam’s chair, he says, “Don’t ever hide anything that big from me again.”

“I won’t.” It sounds like a promise, and it’s enough to make Tommy pull Adam from his chair and hold him tight. “Does that mean…” It’s almost like Adam doesn’t dare to ask.

“I know I’m gonna have a hard time getting over this,” Tommy admits, “But I love you enough that I want to try.”

He lets Adam pull him closer and sighs. No matter all the other bullshit, this feels right.

“I love you too, baby,” Adam whispers. “We’ll figure out a way.”

They stay like this, holding onto each other like they never want to let go.

*

During the encore, when Adam wails through Whole Lotta Love, Tommy’s drawn to him like a sailor to the song of a siren, like a moth to a flame. Because, even though they have a long way to go in order to find that comfortable place they were in right before Tommy learned the truth, Tommy’s aware that this, by Adam’s side, is right where he belongs.