When Kris walked into Adam’s apartment, he found him sitting poker-straight on the couch, eyes wide, brow furrowed as he chewed his lower lip. At the sound of the door clicking he startled, turning his head quickly and then wincing, his left hand coming up to massage his neck just below his jaw.
Kris sighed, striding forward to take a seat beside him. He had hoped Adam would be at ease by the time he got there, that he would’ve gotten some good news. It was obvious that he hadn’t, which meant it was now Kris’s job to soothe him.
“So what did the doctor say?” he said quietly.
“They did a scan thing,” Adam said, voice rough, eyes shifting nervously. “They said they’d call me with the results later.”
“Later today?” Kris perked up. “That’s not too bad, then.”
Adam’s hand kept rubbing absently as he shrugged. “I guess.”
Kris scooted closer, letting one hand rest on Adam’s knee. “Hey,” he said. “Let’s put this day in, OK? Make the time go faster. Get your mind off it.”
Adam made a scoffing noise then winced, the hand at his throat tensing and then continuing its relentless massaging.
“You’ve got some painkillers, right?”
“Yeah,” Adam said.
“Aren’t they helping?”
Adam nodded. “It’s not so bad.”
Kris had to suppress a smile at Adam’s martyr face - the way his eyes got all wide and mournful, the picture of brave suffering. He knew he wasn’t faking it, but at the same time it was so perfectly dramatic and earnest that Kris momentarily battled competing urges to both rib him for the over-the-top performance and to pinch his cheeks. Then he remembered what was on the line - the terror of Adam’s mysterious pain and the several possible disasters that could result - and suddenly nothing about it was funny.
He knew he had to get Adam out of the apartment, into the fresh air, and get his mind on something else. They’d both go crazy otherwise. He also knew it would have to be something big; no small distraction would do for a worry this enormous. Kris wasn’t sure he was up to the task, all the while grateful that it was his.
“If it’s not so bad then we can go out,” he said. “I have some ideas.”
Adam shook his head. “No,” he said, and didn’t continue.
“I’m not supposed to talk a lot, you know.”
“Then stop wasting words and tell me why not.”
He shook his head again, brow furrowing further. “I can’t get my mind off it. My career might be over. My whole life. I might never sing again--already, I might’ve sung for the last time. There’s nothing else to think about.” He opened his mouth to say more, then closed it again, seeming to remember that he was bound to brevity. The hand that wasn’t massaging under his jaw made a vague waving gesture - you get the picture.
“You can too think about other stuff,” Kris said. “And you should. Sitting around worrying won’t change what happens. Let’s go outside. I thought we could take a hike.”
“Are you crazy? You want to take me out in the wilderness where I’ll have no cell reception so I can stumble through the woods with my weird lump and my fuzzy painkiller head? Kris, are you--”
“Stop,” Kris said. “You’re not supposed to be talking.” He stood, then turned to face Adam, his hands palms-up. “OK, fine. We don’t have to go hiking - although there are plenty of trails within range of cell towers and I wouldn’t call any of them the wilderness. How about Disneyland?”
Adam shook his head vigorously.
A sour look came over Adam’s face - if you don’t want me to talk, stop asking questions.
“We have to do something,” Kris said. “Because I’m not going to leave you alone until we cheer you up. I’m not just gonna let you sit here moping like--”
“I’ll be cheered up when I find out my life isn’t over,” Adam said, unable to hold it in. “And I’d rather not be halfway through a two-hour line for Space Mountain when that call comes, whether it’s good news or not. Especially if it’s not. Which it may be. You seem to be forgetting that part. And you keep making me talk, you dick. Aren’t you supposed to be helping me?”
Kris sank, sitting opposite Adam on the coffee table.
“You’re going to be fine, you know.”
“You don’t know that.” Adam’s voice dropped to a whisper.
“You don’t know that you’re not. Even if it is--”
Adam shook his head, holding his hand up - stop.
Kris’s shoulders slumped as he closed his mouth, searching his brain for another avenue to try.
“We could go get smoothies?” he said, figuring if his big diversion ideas weren’t working, maybe a small pleasure would. Distraction was the only thing he could think of, since he knew that on at least one point Adam was right - Kris had no real reassurance to offer. “I bet that would feel good on your throat,” he finished lamely.
Adam held up one finger - hold on - then reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his phone. He tapped away on it for a moment and then looked up, a small, sad smile on one side of his mouth. A second later, Kris’s phone vibrated in his pocket.
He pulled it out and read the message: Thx 4 trying.
Kris sighed. “You’re being really pathetic about this, you know.”
Adam’s smile, tiny as it had been, disappeared into a scowl. He looked back down at his phone, composing his next message quickly, his fingers moving with exaggerated force.
A moment later Kris read: Can’t sing = good as dead. When he looked up, face half shock and half anger, Adam shrugged.
“You know that’s not true,” Kris said.
Adam poked himself in the chest three times, hard, mouthing for me.
“Oh, and everything’s all about you, I forgot.” Kris rolled his eyes. “Do you think your mom would think you were good as dead if you couldn’t sing?”
Adam looked down.
“Or your dad, or your brother? Or me?” Kris said.
Adam looked up, then waved his arm in the direction of the large window overlooking the street. Kris understood; he was gesturing to the world, the public.
“You do more than just sing, and I know you know that. I know you’re scared. But you don’t really need them. You’re more than just them. More than a singer, too.” Adam bowed his head again. “And there are a whole bunch of things it could be that are no big deal,” Kris continued. “The doctor told you that, right? Stuff that will go away, that won’t affect your voice?”
When Adam didn’t respond in any way, Kris shifted, moving back to his spot beside him on the couch.
“You’re not doomed. Sitting here thinking you are is a waste of time, and it doesn’t suit you. Let’s get some fucking smoothies.”
Adam laughed, seeming to surprise even himself as his quick succession of chuckles was followed immediately by a pained squeak and renewed rubbing at the now-red patch of skin on the left side of his neck.
“Thanks,” he said, whispering. “It still hurts to swallow, though.”
“Oh?” Kris said, one eyebrow going up as though he’d just had an idea. When Adam nodded sadly in response he continued, voice dropping low, “it doesn’t hurt me to swallow.”
Adam rolled his eyes, then wagged his finger - no teasing.
“I’m 100% serious,” Kris said.
Adam’s eyebrows went up, then came together in confusion. Kris put his hand on Adam’s knee again, then shifted it higher, as if deciding the moment called for more intimacy.
“Would it make you feel better?” he asked, whispering now too, though there was nothing wrong with his throat.
Adam grabbed his phone up from his lap again, fingers flying over the keys.
Don’t put this on me. U want 2 or u don’t.
“That means you want me to, though, right?” Kris said, and felt the tiniest bit like they were in elementary school, negotiating a playground marriage. But he didn’t know how else to ask.
Adam’s answer was to take a deep breath, chest heaving and then falling as he exhaled, long and slow.
Kris read it to mean something between you don’t even want to know and where do I begin?
But mostly, he took it to mean yes.
So he took a deep breath himself, excited, bewildered, having waited for what seemed like decades for a moment like this; strangely glad it had come at a time where it might do Adam the most good.
As he slid from his spot on the couch to kneel on the floor, Adam grabbed him by one shoulder, shaking his head briskly.
“Don’t,” he said so quietly it was little more than mouthing the word.
“Why not? I want to.”
Adam’s face crumpled, and he typed more slowly this time.
Not because you feel bad 4 me.
“That’s not why, you idiot.” Kris sighed. “I want you to feel better and it made me brave. But that’s not--I mean, I always--” He stopped at the sound of Adam’s chuckling, breathy and bitter, as he tapped out another message.
Gonna b my boyfriend then? Take care of me when I have cancer?
“You don’t--” Kris said, then stopped, deciding that wasn’t the most important part of the message, and would be pointless to argue. “I would, yes. To both.”
Adam stared at him for a long moment, looking like he was trying to do complicated math in his head. Finally he started typing again, then stopped and looked up at Kris, that same perplexed look on his face.
“Did you decide fucking with my head was the best way to distract me?” he whispered.
“Yeah, Adam,” Kris said. “I came over here and decided if I couldn’t get you to go to Disneyland with me I’d offer to suck your dick, put myself on the line and maybe fuck up our entire relationship instead. Whatever works, right?”
Adam opened his mouth then closed it again, reaching for his phone. Kris watched, silent, as he struggled with what message he wanted to send, making several false starts and backspacing with a frown. When Kris’s phone finally buzzed, Adam was looking out the window, as if he didn’t want to see the reaction it would get.
Not a good time 2 talk about this.
“I know,” Kris said. “I didn’t intend--I didn’t come over here thinking we would. It just came to mind, and I thought it might actually help, and I--I wanted to. Sorry, I know you don’t need anything else to worry about.”
Adam shook his head, sighing as he typed out his next message.
Also not good 2 start with a bj. WTF?
Kris burst out laughing; he couldn’t help it. He stood, the last of his chuckles dying down as he retook his seat on the couch.
“You’re right,” he said, shaking his head now too. “I am open to... you know, starting with something, though. I mean, if you are. Otherwise I’m going to deny this conversation ever happened, just so you know.”
Adam smiled and scooted closer to Kris, his eyebrows going up as if he were asking a question when he brought his hand to his mouth and laid his index finger over his lips. At first Kris took it to be a shushing gesture, but one beat later he realized what Adam was actually suggesting. He nodded and leaned forward, trying not to gulp audibly.
Adam pulled his hand away and leaned in, too, meeting him in the middle and pressing one soft, lingering kiss on his mouth. They pulled apart just a few inches and stayed there a few drawn-out seconds, breaths intermingling, as both grappled with what was happening, decided it was good, and moved together again in unison.
Some time later - minutes? Hours? - Kris was straddling Adam’s lap, hands in his hair, mouth raw but still exploring, when he became aware of a distant buzzing sound. He cracked one eye and glanced down to where his phone lay on the couch and saw that it was dark and silent.
It took a second for his brain - rendered mushy by the most surreal of days and some really fantastic making out - to realize that meant Adam’s phone was ringing, and broke away abruptly.
“Your phone,” he said. Adam stared at him blankly, lips swollen and face red from his nose to the tip of his chin - and that’s not counting the flush in his cheeks - and for a moment Kris’s brain threatened to mush-out on him again. But the buzzing kept on, and he repeated, “your phone.”
Adam’s face lit up with understanding and he reached for it with such sudden haste that he almost dumped Kris onto the floor. As it was, Kris shimmied out of his lap and perched on the couch, leaning forward in anticipation as Adam stood and brought the phone to his ear, immediately beginning to pace.
When he spoke, his voice was a little more than a croak, his throat sounding completely raw. Kris cringed at the sound of it, wondering if they’d been making it worse--
“Oh my god, really?” Adam said, his eyes widening in something that looked like awe, and for a moment Kris couldn’t be sure if it was a look of relief or terror. But then the smile came on, cracking wide and huge and taking over everything else, and Kris knew he was OK. He exhaled shakily through his own grin as Adam turned to look at him, face still wide open with joy, not seeming to be listening to whoever was speaking to him at all, though every few seconds he croaked “uh huh” or “great.”
When he finally hung up the phone - after some rambled, raspy thank yous - he just stood there a moment, staring at Kris, smiling. He took a series of deep breaths, the smile fading away into a look of wonder, like he was really thinking about the movement of his body as he brought the air in and let it out again.
Kris was afraid to speak, letting him have his moment.
“It’s an inflamed lymph node,” Adam said finally, so quietly it took a second for Kris to understand what he’d heard. “All I need is a course of antibiotics. They don’t need to biopsy or anything, because there isn’t actually a lump.”
“It’s a swollen goddamn gland?”
“Yep.” Adam grinned.
“And you thought you had cancer.”
“Only because the doctors said I might.”
“But you don’t.” Kris’s face was now sore from the sheer enormity of his grin in addition to being raw and, he had to admit, kind of itchy from Adam’s stubble. He’d never felt better in his life, though.
“So what now?”
Adam looked down at his phone and started typing again; Kris rolled his eyes.
We go pick up my rx and some fucking smoothies. Then back here 4 the night. He smirked when he pressed send, and the look made Kris’s stomach dance a jig before he’d even had a chance to read the message. After he had, he discovered that as wide as he had been smiling, his grin was still somehow able to grow.
Without thinking he pressed “reply” and typed out his own message: Best plan I ever heard. He laughed as he sent it and Adam laughed when his phone buzzed in his hand.
Kris stood and stepped toward Adam, taking his hand in his own. “Ready?” he said.
Adam nodded, squeezing Kris’s hand before leaning in for a kiss they just couldn’t quite maintain through their smiles and the giggles that kept trying to erupt. Finally Kris took a step back, then walked toward the door, pulling Adam behind him.
“Come on,” he said, leading them outside into the late afternoon sunlight.