Kris knew it was just a harmless game; for the most part, he liked playing along. It reminded him of the way that he would interact with his friends from college. Someone was always hugging him or stroking his face or hair; someone was always picking him up; someone was always tucking him against them. Until Kris met Adam’s friends, he hadn’t realized just how much he missed the easy affection with the boys.
And he could admit it to himself, at least, that he liked seeing Adam stare at him with hooded eyes, his pretty blue eyes nearly black as he watched Kris with an intensity that it sometimes scared him – what that meant.
He never shied away from telling Katy about it. She knew him best and she knew that he was affectionate by nature; that Kris needed that physical affection from his friends, no matter if they were guys or girls. At the end of the day, Katy knew that Kris came home to her and he would shed the outside world when he stepped into their home and curl up in her arms. Their marriage was never threatened; and Kris prayed his gratitude every day for Katy’s constant understanding.
Being out in Los Angeles alone made Kris touch starved. He missed Katy’s special way of hugging him, the way she smiled at him and kissed him. He missed his dad’s shameless hugs and his mom’s unconditional love and his brother’s closeness. He missed Charles’s familiar gentleness and Cale’s good-naturedness and warmth. He found LA people to be hard to know; and Kris was leery about getting affection from some of his fans because they were all so young. Thankfully, Adam’s friends were very accommodating. Nearly all of Adam’s friends seemed to play the “flirt with Kris in front of Adam” game – and it was a harmless game. He knew that they liked him, that they were affectionate with each other, and that they transferred that affection to him.
Brad was, of course, the boldest of Adam’s friends. He had no concept of personal space, at least not with Kris, and whenever Kris sat down, Brad lounged behind him, draping his arms over Kris’s shoulders and pressing his face near Kris’s cheek, whispering in his ear.
“We could be twins,” Brad murmured, rubbing his nose along Kris’s neck. “That’s always been Adam’s fantasy, you know, fucking twins.” Kris laughed, rolling his eyes. “Look at him, Kris, if you were free to say yes, he’d be ripping your clothes off and throwing you down where you stood.”
“You are such a brat,” Kris said, chuckling. He flicked his eyes over at Adam and saw him staring at both of them, his eyes lingering everywhere Brad touched Kris.
Tommy was just as bold. He always greeted Kris with a kiss on his mouth (no tongue, though). “It’s payback for all the times that Adam sticks his tongue down my throat due to fan service.”
“Because you hate it so much,” Kris teased, laughing gently. “And because you’re so straight.”
“I am straight, just ask my girlfriend,” Tommy said, pouting slightly. “But…he does kiss really well, I have to give him that.”
“Sure, you just keep telling yourself that, Tommy Joe.”
“Did you know that Adam always kisses me after I kiss you?”
“What?” Kris said, blushing. “No way. Really?”
“Just watch,” Tommy said, holding Kris’s chin with his fingers and turning his head so that he could press his lips against Kris’s mouth.
Kris kept his lips pressed closed and laughed in his throat. Tommy pulled away and smirked as he turned to pick up his drink. But before he could take a sip, Adam’s large hand cupped Tommy’s cheek, turning his face towards him and kissed him, his tongue licking across Tommy’s mouth.
“Tommy! I’m glad you made it,” Adam said, licking his own lips.
“Right,” Tommy drawled, snickering softly. He gave Kris a knowing look and then took a long drink of his cocktail.
Kris laughed, leaning back in the booth as Adam walked past him, his hand caressing the back of Kris’s neck for a moment. He closed his eyes and enjoyed it, leaning his head back to look up at Adam. He grinned as Adam bent forward to kiss his forehead. “Hey!”
“You doing all right?” Adam said, smiling down at him. “Having fun playing this game with the boys?”
“Yeah,” Kris murmured, shyly. Adam gave him a wink, walking away.
Tommy turned and looked at Kris. “We all play by the rules, you know.”
“Rules that Adam laid down a long time ago,” he said, shrugging. “Rules about you; how far we were allowed to go with you.”
Kris scrunched up his face in amusement. “Really? Why—“
“You really have to ask?” Tommy said, raising his eyebrow at him. “Come on, you’re not that dense, Kris.”
Kris blushed and looked away, nodding quickly. “I’m not…I won’t ever…” He would never cheat. He would never be disrespectful to Katy…or to Adam.
“He knows,” he said, kindly. “We all know; but we do it because we love you and it drives Adam crazy. Mostly to drive Adam crazy, but we love you anyway. ”
Kris rolled his eyes. “Gee, thanks.”
Taylor was the shyest of Adam’s friends – if there was such a thing – and he enjoyed just hanging out with Kris, his arm around Kris’s shoulders, letting Kris talk a mile a minute as he laughed and made thoughtful and funny comments. Taylor liked to pet Kris’s hair, sometimes taking a gentle fistful, sometimes ruffling his hair like he was a kid, but mostly just wrapping an arm around his neck and pulling him close to laugh together. Taylor and Kris shared the same dorky sense of humor and Kris liked spending time with him because he just seemed to understand all of Kris’s quirks without Kris having to explain any of them.
“Kris Allen! Dance with me!” Cassidy screamed, taking Kris’s hand and pulling him away from Taylor to the packed dance floor.
“Taylor, save me!”
Taylor laughed, shaking his head. “Your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, Kristopher!”
Kris laughed, throwing his head back as Cassidy grabbed his hips, pulling him close and tight. Kris always felt so out of place, dancing surrounded by men who were tall, buffed, oiled, and half naked. He was like the ugly duckling in an ocean of swans. Really, straight guys just didn’t take care of themselves like this, it was unreal.
Cassidy moved him to the beat, rolling their hips together in a classic bump and grind that always managed to make Kris paranoid that Cassidy was going to bang his hipbone into Kris’s balls. But Cassidy was a pro and he held Kris close, looking at him, eyes dark, smirk in place, leaning forward to lick along Kris’s neck, his hands sliding down Kris’s back to curl around his ass, pulling him in tighter for a moment before putting his hands back on Kris’s hips.
The guy did have moves, Kris admitted, laughing at Cassidy’s antics.
He caught Adam watching from the edge of the dance floor, Taylor saying something in his ear but even Kris could tell that Adam wasn’t paying any attention to his friend. He was watching them…watching Kris.
Kris shivered against Cassidy, which made Cassidy look at him. He turned his head and saw Adam and then he grinned slow and hot, gazing at Kris.
“That wasn’t for me, was it, baby?” Cassidy shouted into his ear.
“Shut up,” he said, teasingly, but Cassidy just gave him another one of his knowing looks and hugged Kris tight, moving to the beat and dragging Kris along for the ride.
He ended up dancing with Tommy, Brad four times, a gorgeous blond named Miles who was really sweet and didn’t put his hands anywhere that made Kris uncomfortable, Adam twice, and then Taylor, until Kris called it quits and retreated back to their booth to drink some water and to cool down. He unbuttoned a few buttons of his shirt, feeling it drenched with sweat and sticking to him. He picked up a few of the bar napkins and tried his best to dry his face and neck.
He looked up to see one of Adam’s theater friends, giving him a friendly smile. “Hi…Doug, right? Do you want to sit down?”
Doug nodded, slipping into the booth beside him, putting his drink on the table. “I don’t know how Adam can share you like that with all the boys.”
Kris laughed. “We’re all just good friends; it’s all good, clean fun.”
Doug moved closer and Kris blinked up at him. “If you were mine, I’d never let any of them put their hands on you like you were some cheap slut.”
“Uhh, thanks,” he said, warily. “But really, it’s no big deal, I don’t mind.”
“You don’t mind, huh?” Doug said, smiling widely. He pressed a hand on Kris’s chest, pushing him back against the booth seat, moving in close to him. “Maybe you are a cheap slut—“
“Hey, back off,” Kris said, frowning as he pushed Doug away. “Come on, just be cool—“
Doug stuck his tongue into Kris’s mouth, making him want to gag. Kris pushed him off and got to his feet, moving around to the other side of the booth when Doug grabbed his wrist, hard enough that Kris felt his wrist bones ache. “Where the fuck are you going? I didn’t get a turn at the American Idol—“
“NO!” Kris shouted at him, his free hand curling into a fist. “I will punch you in the face if you don’t get your hand off me right—“
Kris looked up to see Adam, Brad, Tommy, Cassidy, and Taylor standing around them. Adam fisted the back of Doug’s shirt, jerking him back.
“What the fuck are you doing, Doug?” Adam snarled at him.
“I was just having my fun with Kris—“
Adam leaned down, his face menacing. “You were having your fun with Kris?”
“Why are you so worked up? It’s not like—fuck!”
Kris blinked as Brad punched Doug in the face and then punched him again.
“Fuck you!” Doug screamed, pressing his hand against his bleeding nose. “You fucker!”
Adam and Taylor grabbed Brad from punching him again. Kris watched as Tommy pulled Doug out of the booth and Cassidy shoved him away, making him bump into the guys standing nearby who watched the whole thing. No one caught Doug as he fell to the ground.
“If you touch him again – if you even look at him again, I will fucking end you,” Adam said, pointing his finger at Doug. “You’re dead to me, Doug. No one – no fucking one treats my friends like the way that you just did, do you fucking understand me?”
Kris was shaking, both of his hands curled into tight fists.
“You’re finished in WeHo, you asshole!” Brad screamed at him. “I’ll tell everyone that you tried to force yourself on someone who wasn’t fucking interested in your sleazy Herpes ass!”
Tommy pushed Doug away. “Get the fuck away from us, loser.”
“You all right?” Adam said, reaching out slowly, tentatively, asking for permission first. Kris nodded, his shoulders dropping. Adam put his hand on Kris’s shoulder, squeezing gently. “Kris? Come on, let’s get out of here. I think the night is finished.”
Kris nodded sharply, barely able to contain his anger. He grabbed his jacket and slipped out of the booth as Adam and Tommy tossed bills on the table. Brad slung his arm over Kris’s shoulder, guiding him out of the club. Kris leaned against him, feeling stupid and confused and…what the hell had just happened?
The night air was cold and Kris shivered, pulling on his jacket. He huddled in close to Brad and Cassidy as Tommy and Taylor ran down the alley to get Adam’s SUV.
“Calm down, Adam,” Cassidy said, his voice soft and neutral.
“That fucking prick,” Adam growled, running his hand through his hair. “God, Kris, I’m sorry. He was one of my friends – I thought he was a good guy. I’m so sorry.”
Kris shook his head, his teeth chattering. “It’s okay—“
“See, that shit is not okay, Kristopher,” Brad said, turning to stare at him. “You think it’s any different because we’re men; that we have to put up with that shit? Fuck no.”
He nodded, rubbing his forehead with his fingers. “He said that he saw me…with all of you. He said that he just wanted his turn.”
“Fuck,” Adam spat, taking a few steps away. “Fuck!”
“Adam! Get it together!” Brad yelled at him.
“I will! Fuck!” Adam shouted back, taking a deep breath. “God…Kris. Kris! I’m…so sorry.”
“I’m all right,” he said, softly.
Tommy pulled up with the SUV with Taylor in the front seat. Cassidy, Brad, Kris, and Adam got into the back. Adam put his arm around Kris’s shoulders and Kris finally – finally – unclenched enough to relax against him.
“It was just a game,” Kris said, sighing. “I should’ve known that someone on the outside would’ve thought—“
“That’s no excuse,” Cassidy said, shaking his head. “We’re friends; we have—“ Kris watched as Cassidy stopped abruptly, looking over at Adam.
“Rules. I know,” Kris said, smiling a little bit.
“Yeah,” Adam murmured into his ear, his arm tightening around Kris. “There are rules. We all follow the rules.”
Kris looked down at his feet and took a deep breath. “Well, you mind actually telling me the rules? I mean…maybe I should know what they are.”
“Rule number one – Never without Kris’s permission,” Tommy said, looking at him from the rearview mirror. Kris nodded, smiling slightly.
“Rule number two – Kris likes affection,” Taylor said, turning to look at Kris. “Affection includes hugging, closed-mouth kissing on the mouth, kissing on the cheek or neck, tickling, ruffling hair, playful smacking on the ass.”
Kris snorted, letting out a soft laugh. “You defined the different ways you can touch me?”
“Some people needed it spelled out,” Adam said, looking pointed at Brad. “Rule number three – Only what Kris is comfortable with.”
Kris blinked. “Thanks.”
“Rule number four - Stop when Kris wants to stop,” Cassidy said, stroking Kris’s head and tweaking his earlobe with his fingers.
He laughed. “I never say stop to you guys anyway.”
“Because you trust us, Kris,” Tommy said, softly.
“Yeah,” he said, nodding. “Yeah, I do.”
“Rule number five – Drive Adam crazy,” Brad said, snickering.
Adam gave Brad the finger. “That rule doesn’t actually exist; they made that one up themselves.”
“Well, we had to do something with you lording it over us about how we’re allowed to interact with Kris in ‘appropriate’ ways,” Brad shot back. He did air quotes around “appropriate”.
“Wow, guys…” Kris started, taking a deep breath. “I don’t know what to say. Am I really…do you guys think I’m that breakable or—or so naïve that you have to make up rules about how to—“
“No, not because of you,” Adam said, shaking him slightly. “Because of us; because sometimes we go too far with each other but we’re used to it; we didn’t want you to be uncomfortable around us. That’s the last thing anyone wants. Like that – tonight. You don’t have any kind of personal space when it comes to your friends, but everyone has limits. You have limits.” He sighed, tucking Kris closer to him. “Plus, Katy told me that you missed having people you could be comfortable with, be physical with, being out here all alone.”
Kris looked up at him. “You talked to Katy?”
“Well, she approved the rules,” he said, smiling broadly.
Kris just laughed, shaking his head. “It’s a conspiracy.”
“Yeah, it’s a conspiracy to hug you and feel you up, Kris Allen,” Brad said, laughing. “With Mrs Allen’s approval.”
He gave a sigh and leaned back against Adam. “Well…I guess I am a touch slut.”
Everyone in the car laughed and Kris blushed to his ears.
Kris cleared his throat. “Brad?”
“Thank you for punching that guy.”
Brad grinned at him. “Twice.”
Kris laughed, nodding. “Yeah. Twice.”
Adam hugged him close and Kris let out a deep breath, smiling as he tucked his face against Adam’s shoulder.
“For what, baby?”
Kris chuckled. “For playing by the rules.”