Adam moves through the party easily; a drink in one hand; the other free to slap someone's back, or pinch someone else's ass; or sling an arm around a shoulder, fake-smile in place as a picture is taken.
The party is a big deal – 10 years of his magazine and at 35, he's at the top of his game; RockOut is selling better than ever, even though every single person he knew back then had told him there was no way a gay skin magazine was going to be successful - especially if he planned to show all of the male anatomy as Robert had said to him right before the magazine launched, a prissy sneer on his face.
But what was the point, Adam thought at the time, of launching a magazine like that for gay men – if it didn't show the goods? That wasn’t his style – all or nothing was the only way to go.
A smile curls his mouth as he watches Brad darting though the crowd towards him; he can't help it. They have ... history, but now Brad's pretty much just a friend (with benefits sometimes, because ... why not? Brad’s still got the prettiest eyes Adam’s seen, and it’s nice, once in a while, to have those eyes – and other things – focused on him) and a fairly awesome photographer, with a scary, chameleon-like ability to be exactly whatever the person on the other side of his lens needs to bring out the best in them.
"Having fun?" Adam asks as Brad winds an arm around his waist, leaning against him easily. He's warm and smells like tequila and cologne; a heady mix for whoever Brad ends up taking home tonight – he never leaves one of Adam's shindigs alone.
"What's the point?" he'd said to Adam once. "You lay out this gorgeous buffet every time. It would be rude to turn my back on it."
"Mmmhmm," Brad says, tucking himself into Adam's side more, and swirling the dregs of his drink around in the bottom of his glass.
"Ten years," he says softly, his eyes roaming around the room – a strange mix of celebrities, pretty boys and girls, and industry high-ups. There are authors and artists scattered about too; respected journalists; columnists; and Adam feels his heart swell a little bit with pride. RockOut might be a gay skin mag, but it's always been so much more than that.
"Yeah," he echoes, stealing Brad's glass and draining it. "Ten fucking years."
Brad leans up and kisses Adam on the cheek; a soft brush of memory that makes Adam smile. "Congratulations, baby. You fucking did it."
Adam smirks again as his eyes roam the room. "We did it," he says; because without Brad's support, and his photos, Adam knows that RockOut wouldn't be half the success it’s become.
He lets his eyes drift over the crowd; taking in some of the pretty boys with a professional eye, and smiling unconsciously when he sees one of his boys looking like they're having a good time.
He can see Tommy and David; heads close together on a couch and that always makes him smile. Tommy was his first – well second if he counts Brad, but Brad always maintains he was never one of the horde, thank you - and David sort of came along by default, having known Tommy for years, and not wanting to be separated. After that, it was just a matter of time before the others came along and before Adam knew it, he was happily living in a mansion with his own private mini-harem of pretty boys.
He has very little to complain about.
Tommy looks up, a quick grin lighting his features, pushing back his long, blond fringe and arching his neck like a contented cat when David whispers something in his ear. Adam's gaze moves on; drifting to where Daz is ... talking? To some actor, Adam thinks, who's drunk, and leaning in way too close but Daz can take care of himself.
Rahab is glittering and gorgeous; charming some studio bigwig and Adam smiles as he watches her move through the room with grace; easily supplying the guy with drinks and chatter; working even though it's a party, and Adam knows he's going to have a phone call in the next few days – looking for advertising space, or offering an A-lister for an interview, because Rahab is always on in a way that Adam envies, even though he's the boss and technically, she doesn't work for him.
Simon is dancing with Jakob in the middle of the tiny dancefloor; their bodies fitting together easily as they just sway in time to the music.
Adam casts his eyes around the room and frowns a little, even as he winds his arm around Brad's narrow waist, resting his hand on his hip.
"Do you see Johnny anywhere?"
Brad cranes his neck and scans the room, his sharp, dark eyes taking in everything around him. "There," he points, finally. Johnny's been cornered by some wife-of an actor, her arms glittering with diamonds and Johnny has his politest, most bland look on his face which spells nothing but trouble later.
Adam half-shrugs. He can deal with Johnny if he has to. Brad's still scanning the room and nudges Adam sharply in the ribs, nodding over to another part of the room.
"Who's the kid? The wide-eyed one being hit on by that asshole I had to shoot for your fucking bear issue?" Adam looks in the direction Brad is pointing in and frowns. The guy – big and muscular; hairy – is looming over the kid who looks terrified – and about 14. Adam knows he's over 18 – this party with its half-naked waiters and waitresses and pole dancers of all genders – is definitely adults only – but he might as well be wearing a "JUST GOT OFF THE BUS FROM THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE" sign around his neck.
Adam shakes his head, frowning. He'd had a couple of agencies send over a bunch of pretty boys – and girls (hey, they might not flip his switch, but he can look at pretty things all day) - to scatter among the guests and guesses the boy came from one of those.
The bear – a big, muscular guy, the tendons in his arm cording as he props it on the wall behind the boy - leans right into his personal space, leering. Adam twitches to move, but Johnny's faster; having seen what was happening, and say what you like about Johnny – that he's a bitch, or a diva, or whatever (all of which are true) – he's protective of what he calls 'new boys' and this boy is so new, Adam would not be surprised to find he's still wet behind the ears.
Johnny moves in; insinuating himself somehow between the bear and the new boy; and Adam knows without hearing what's being said that Johnny's somehow being charming and cutting all at once; one hand laid protectively on the boy's arm as he tilts his head at the bear in the way that means 'bitch, if you don't leave right now I am going to start screaming.'
Adam relaxes when the guy backs off and drifts into the crowd. He takes a closer look at the boy, and looks down at Brad, his eyebrows raised in a silent question.
"I don't know. Haven't seen him around. Looks like he might've come from Kara's."
Adam nods absently, watching Johnny talking to the boy; casually leaning against the wall beside him, subtly blocking him off from other potential predators, and it makes Adam smile.
He does look like one of Kara's boys – he's got the same young, pale slightly-twinky look that most of the boys on her books have and Adam can only smile at that.
Brad's still staring, his gaze intent. "He looks ... really young."
Adam tilts his head down, ignoring the people eddying around them like ocean tides and says, "He does, but he has to be at least 18 to be here – what are you thinking?"
"Hmmm? Oh – just that it's been a while since RockOut did a virgin issue, you know? Lots of pretty boys with wide eyes and open ... minds, looking like they've never been fucked. You know how fast that ... shell comes down in this town."
Adam nods absently, accepting a drink from a waiter wearing little but gold hotpants and a wide smile. He checks the boy's ass as he sashays away – more out of habit than anything – he's got more than his hands full with seven boys living with him as it is, but he can appreciate a nice view.
"A virgin issue," he says thoughtfully, though of course they'd never call it that outside of the magazine itself.
He eyes the boy again, noticing with amusement that Johnny's moved a little bit closer and is saying something in the boy's ear that's making him blush, but he's smiling and it's somehow hot and adorable all at once.
"Mmmhmm. Imagine that boy at the centre of it – all ... milk-fed goodness and wide-eyes. Tell me that there aren't a million gay men out there who would love nothing more than to fuck him into next week."
Adam shifts on his feet and flicks his tongue out; catching a drop of his drink that's hanging from his bottom lip. "And there's at least one man in this room who would happily take one for the team," Brad says, his voice dry as he watches Adam's reaction.
"Funny," Adam says, just as dry, putting his empty glass on the tray of a passing waitress.
"I should circulate. Can't stand here ogling pretty virgins all night."
Brad snorts inelegantly and rolls his eyes. "Uh huh. Mogul," but he pokes out his tongue to show Adam he doesn't really mean it and swirls off into the crowd.
Adam shakes his head and starts working his way through the crowd – making small talk here; charming some bigwig there; subtly keeping an eye on his own boys – and the new boy – at the same time.
The party winds on, and there's a giant cake; out of which bursts one of the waiters, wearing nothing but a sparkly g-string and eyeliner, and Adam laughs, enduring the slightly drunken lapdance with good grace even as he wishes he could just gather up his boys and leave.
Not that he still doesn't enjoy a good party, it's just ... maybe i'm getting old he thinks, as the boy spins away in a dizzying arc of lights and glitter.
He shifts his shoulders restlessly, feeling vaguely dissatisfied. The feeling dissipates when Tommy comes and curls up beside him on one of the plush couches dotting the more shadowy corners of the large hotel ballroom where the party is being held.
"All right?" Adam asks as Tommy leans his head on his shoulder and lets out a contented little noise.
"Yeah. 'M drunk though. Some fucker tried to – to hit on me. So I thought – I'd come find you."
"Uh huh." Adam curls his arm around Tommy's waist, pushing his fringe back when it falls into his eyes. "Where's David?"
"Hmmm? He's with Daz. They're doing shots with some ... drummer. Something. He's with Daz," Tommy says again, turning his head so he's breathing his words against Adam's neck. Adam closes his eyes and lets his shoulders down, feeling tension leach out of them as he just stops for a minute; enjoying the warm boy curled into his side and savouring the fact that this party is for him.
"Ten years," he says softly; not exactly to Tommy, just to feel the shape of the words in his mouth.
He'd scraped together the initial capital to start the magazine; borrowing money from his parents and holding his breath when it struggled for the first year.
Then RockOut had published an interview with a highly visible actor who had just come out of the closet alongside some gorgeous black and white nudes of him – shot with incredible sensitivity by Brad.
After that ... RockOut's circulation just kept going up and up, and Robert had had to eat his words, his own magazine – a softer version with polite bare-chested boys peeking shyly at the camera – folding seven months later.
Adam had felt no particular triumph with that – had even offered Robert an editor's position, but he'd refused and ended up starting a very successful independent record label.
"Ten years," Tommy echoes, moving so he's pressed even closer to Adam if that's possible. He kisses Adam's neck and murmurs a sleepy "Congratulations," before leaning his head on Adam's shoulder.
Adam slips his hand under Tommy's shirt and absently rubs his thumb over bare skin; enjoying the small shiver it sends through his body. "Thanks, baby."
The hotel politely kicks the stragglers and hangers-on out at 5am and Adam gratefully tumbles into his ridiculous stretch limo, mentally doing a head-count to make sure everyone is there.
Brad, he knows, has gone off with some jock from the magazine’s most recent issue ("Jocks and Cocks" – not the headline Adam would have chosen himself, but the circulation figures were amazing, so he can't really complain) and soon there's a tired – and more than slightly drunk - pile of boys leaning against each other as they make their way back to the RockOut mansion.
Tommy's curled against him again, almost asleep now, and Rahab is on his other side, tidily going through a pile of business cards that she hands one at a time to Hayden, Adam's assistant, sitting on the other side of the car. Adam watches as Hayden takes the cards and studies the names.
"Anyone interesting?" Adam asks, idly stretching out his long legs and knocking Johnny's boot with his foot. Johnny just rolls his eyes and pulls a face, pointedly leaning over and reading the names on the cards over Hayden's shoulder.
"Couple of names," Hayden says vaguely, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, before shoving Johnny off his shoulder. "I'll look at them tomorrow."
Adam nods, and knocks Johnny's foot again.
"Stop doing that! What?"
Adam just raises his eyebrows and waits. Johnny tries to stare him down, but it's so late it's early, and everyone is tired.
Johnny huffs out an irritated breath and folds his arms. "His name is Chris. He's 19. Usual story. Fell off a bus from ... somewhere. Came to LA with a friend of his who wanted to be an actress. She got a part in some soap or something and ditched him. He's living in some shitty studio apartment – signed on with Kara as a last resort. Done a little modelling, you know – usual stuff. Couple commercials maybe?
"Anyway," Johnny says, wriggling back into his seat and making himself comfortable as he gets further into his story, "He hasn't been able to find anything for a while and with his room-mate bailing on him ... he's about to be evicted. Apart from the fact he's kind of adorable ... he really kind of needs a job before he ends up on the streets, or worse, on the bus back home to ... wherever he said he was from. Which he doesn't want to go back to, he told me.
"He liked the – modelling, or the commercials, or whatever it was - said he liked the attention, people said he was pretty, and the camera likes him. He – wants to find more work like that, he says. Money's good, and it means he wouldn't have to go back home."
Johnny kicks back against Adam's foot, still resting against his ankle and raises his eyebrows. The "Well?" is silent, but everyone in the car can hear it.
Adam rubs his free hand over his face and sighs. He marvels silently for a moment at Johnny’s ability to wring so much information out of a virtual stranger as he rolls his shoulders back; they feel tight under his shirt, and he’s tired. There's no point making the 'I'm not running a charity' speech to Johnny – or any of them really – given the varied circumstances by which they all ended up living with him, but ... he's just not sure if he really needs another project.
However, he is going to need wide-eyed, innocent – or at least innocent-looking boys if they go ahead with the virgin shoot, and they're not going to be easy to come by in LA as it is ...
"Fine," he says, conceding, because it's after 5am and arguing with Johnny is never on his list of things he wants to do, and although he's telling himself that he's conceding because it's easier, the truth is that Johnny's instincts are usually spot-on and he's probably right about this boy, too.
"Fine," he says again. "I'll call Kara about him. Happy?"
Johnny just offers up a smirk and stretches his arms above his head, humming a little. "I'm always happy."
Adam laughs at that, and feels the slight tremor of Tommy's body against his side. "Gonna remember that next time the kitchen's out of that stupid cheese you like," Tommy says, his voice thick with exhaustion and alcohol. Johnny just pulls a face and rests his own head on Jakob's shoulder, his eyes half-closing involuntarily.
The rest of the ride is quiet, and it feels good to get home, like always and Adam watches as everyone scatters: Hayden to his own little apartment at the back of the house; Daz and Simon heading for the kitchen, which means the housekeeper is going to be complaining to Adam tomorrow about the mess they're about to make, but that's nothing new. Johnny winds an arm around Jakob's waist and whispers something in his ear that makes the tips of his ears go red as he nods, ducking his head down when Johnny says something else.
Adam can't hear what it is but he knows it's filthy, and if it weren't so fucking late he'd consider ... "You coming?" Tommy asks. He's leaning heavily against David; his eye makeup smudged and his hair sticking up. He rubs at one eye with the heel of his hand, further smearing it, smiling a slow, sleepy drunk smile.
"I'll be up in a bit," Adam says vaguely, watching as David guides a stumbling Tommy to the stairs.
Rahab rests her chin on Adam's shoulder and he leans back easily, grateful for her silent supportive weight. "C'mon," she says softly. "Keep me company for a while."
Adam nods, following her to her rooms near the back of the house. Adam had been ... indulgent to say the least when he'd had the mansion built and it was big enough for twice as many boys as he had living with him now. While he had entertained the odd idle fantasy about that once in a while, he had to admit, just having seven of them in the house was more than enough for anyone.
Rahab's rooms are tucked around a corner in one wing of the mansion; giving a small illusion of privacy. She's got her own little sitting room, bedroom and bathroom, and Adam finds himself spending a lot of time in here, especially when his days seem like they're going off the rails.
He always seems to find at least one other boy in Rahab's sitting room: asleep on her couch, or curled up in a chair; watching TV or just hanging out. There are plenty of living areas in the mansion but somehow they all gravitate to Rahab's rooms – they're quiet and inviting, and feel set apart from the insanity of the rest of the mansion.
Adam collapses on Rahab's bed, completely ignoring the perfectly made covers, and makes an appreciative groaning noise that he doesn't even try to hide. Rahab just laughs softly as she slowly crawls up the bed until she's straddling Adam's hips, mischief dancing in her dark eyes.
Adam slides his hands around her waist, the silky fabric of her dress slipping through his fingers.
"It's ... late," he says, even as she slips her hand under his shirt, seeking skin; tracing abstract patterns with her fingertips. She hums a small agreement, but moves her hands to the buttons of Adam's shirt anyway, undoing them slowly, not taking her eyes off his face.
"It's late; it's early – does it matter?" she says, as she pushes the shirt aside and scrapes her teeth lightly over a nipple; leaving a streak of red lipstick behind. Adam groans a little, low and quiet; pushing one hand through the sticky product Rahab had put on her hair before the party; the slightly floral scent releasing into the air as he pushes his fingers through the strands.
She looks up at him from under her lashes; thick and dark, and Adam can see tiny black specks on her cheeks from her mascara giving up the fight. He resists the urge to rub his thumb over them as Rahab slowly kisses her way down his chest and stomach; in no hurry.
Adam tucks an arm behind his head, and just watches; enjoying the feeling of Rahab's mouth – lipstick-slick and sticky - and her hands, sliding over his skin.
She opens his pants the same way she unbuttoned his shirt; slowly, teasing the fly down, and Adam can't help shifting his hips a little bit as she pushes his pants down his thighs, skimming her fingers lightly over his cock; half-hard, because it's late, and Adam's a little drunk himself, but Rahab's mouth just curves in a wicked smile before she licks a slow, lazy stripe up the underside, making Adam groan again, and making his cock twitch.
Rahab hums again, gently sucking just the head into her mouth, and Adam can feel himself getting harder, his cock thickening as it pushes past Rahab's generous lips.
He pushes his fingers through her hair again; silently encouraging. Rahab flicks a look up at him, her eyes heated and wide as she slowly sucks Adam's now-hard cock into her mouth, swallowing and savouring each inch.
Adam tips his head back against the pillow and closes his eyes, his fingers still working through Rahab's hair; breaking apart the product-sticky strands. Rahab's mouth is warm and wet around him and it feels kind of amazing. Adam rolls his hips up, lazy and slow; not really fucking into her mouth, just letting her know that he's fully on board, even though he's not really saying anything.
He can feel the curve of her smile and scratches his fingernails lightly into her scalp as she starts to speed up a little bit, and the fact that his cock is probably smeared with bright red lipstick now just makes Adam even harder, and he pushes his hips up again, a little more urgently. Rahab knows him though – knows him well enough to match his upward thrusts with her mouth; knows when to press down on his hips to keep him in place, and Jesus, it's 6am or something, and Rahab's fingertips on his hips feel a lot hotter than they should – Adam tangles his hand in Rahab's hair, grabbing at the short strands as he comes, a cry strangling tight in his throat.
Adam opens his eyes and looks down at Rahab, who's smirking up at him as she gives his soft cock a few gentle licks before moving back up the bed.
Adam curls a hand around her hip and kisses his taste out of Rahab’s mouth; her lips no longer slick with lipstick.
"Happy anniversary," she says, pulling back, her breath catching as Adam slides his hand under her skirt, tracking it slowly up her smooth, warm thigh. Rahab ghosts her mouth along Adam's neck, scraping her teeth over his pulse as he slips one hand inside the waistband of her silk panties, sliding them down over her ass.
Rahab groans quietly in relief as her own hard, leaking cock is freed, and she pulls up her skirts, grinning against Adam's neck as he rubs his thumb over the sensitive tip, before slowly feathering his fingers down the hard length. Rahab slides her hands under Adam's shirt, gripping his shoulders as she breathes out his name against his neck.
"Adam – A-Adam," she groans as Adam strokes, slow and languid at first, but faster and tighter when Rahab's voice devolves into nothing more than breathy moans. She comes, almost as silent as Adam had been earlier, but Adam can feel the tips of her fingers digging hard into his shoulders.
He kisses her quickly, smiling, and rolls on to his back, sparing a quick glance for Rahab's alarm clock. Shit.
"It's after 6," he says, exhausted and dazed. Rahab looks at the clock, and rolls to sitting; perching on the edge of the bed as she quickly strips her clothes, dropping them to the floor, before pulling Adam's boots off. They land on the carpet with a quiet thunk and he lets Rahab strip his pants off, then his shirt.
Rahab settles beside him, and Adam slides a hand down her back, savouring the feeling of smooth skin under his fingers. "Your makeup?" he asks, because Rahab is usually fastidious about taking it off. She yawns and shakes her head before pulling the bedcovers up over both of them and tucking her head on Adam's shoulder.
"I'll get it later," she mumbles, already mostly asleep. "Hangover day."
Adam laughs at that, and wriggles around until they're spooning, his hand splayed out over Rahab's flat stomach. "Mmmmhmm," he mumbles. "Hangover day."
Adam wakes up a few hours later, the vague edges of a headache pushing at his temples, but nothing too bad. Rahab's side of the bed is empty, and he can hear the shower running. He stretches out, savouring the feeling of life coming back into his muscles. He can hear the muted sound of something coming from Rahab's sitting room – cars, and soft voices, but he can’t quite make out who they belong to. Tommy and David maybe, he thinks vaguely, playing some kind of video game.
He grins as Joshua comes out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his hips; his face scrubbed clean.
"Morning," Joshua says, perching on the edge of the bed. Adam drags himself up to sitting, reluctantly and pulls a face. "Morning to you too. Well – afternoon," he amends, glancing at the clock.
"Thank fuck for hangover days."
Joshua laughs easily as he starts getting dressed. "Advantages of being the boss, yeah? You get to make the rules."
"Uh huh. Be nice if it was that easy all the time," Adam says as Joshua pulls a face at him and throws a pair of sweat pants at him. "I'm guessing you don't want to go running around the house naked."
Adam nods, and pulls the pants on – a pair of his that he must have left in Joshua's room at some stage. "I want a bath. For an hour. And then -"
"A boy?" Joshua says, laughing, a hand on one cocked hip. Adam laughs at that, and rubs the side of his head when it echoes through his headache.
"Always," he says, planting a teasing kiss on Joshua's mouth. "I really am going to go upstairs and take a bath. Maybe sleep some more. Can you – can you make sure everyone is around later? About nine maybe? I have something I need to talk to you all about."
Joshua quirks an eyebrow, amused. "Hmmm ... cryptic. But we'll be there, sunshine. Don't worry."
Adam shakes his head and kisses Joshua again, leaving through his sitting room. Daz and Simon are on the couch, bickering quietly over whatever game they're playing, and they both hit pause when they see Adam.
"Simon is cheating," Daz says, almost pouting as Simon nudges him hard in the side. "I'm not. This was your idea. I wanted to -" Adam holds up his hand, his temples throbbing.
"Whatever it is, I don't want to know," Adam says, smiling at them both to take the sting out of his words. "I have a headache, and I'm – tired. I'm going upstairs to take a bath, and get some more sleep. Play nicely. Where's everyone else?"
Daz pouts again, but half-shrugs and settles back against the couch cushions, picking up his controller. "Don't know. I've been in here since I got up."
Simon rubs at his nose and sighs, glaring at Daz. "I think Tommy and David are still asleep – haven't seen them. And Johnny and Jakob are in the studio. Jakob's practising his audition I think, and Johnny's ... helping."
"Helping," Adam echoes, biting his lip. Johnny had had a promising career as an ice-skater as a teen – a career cut short by some kind of injury – he'd never been specific about it; even in the depth of night; curling his lithe body around Adam and whispering his secrets.
Johnny had gravitated naturally to Jakob when Jakob had come to live at the mansion, and it was a natural fit most of the time – Jakob was a dancer, and his life was informed and infused with passion. Johnny understood that, and they were close, but sometimes, Adam knows, watching Jakob dance, hurts Johnny deep down – in the place where the ice-skater that might-have-been lives, and it's something he never lets anyone see – how badly it hurts him sometimes to watch Jakob dance.
Sometimes, though, when it's too much to hold on to, he lets Adam see; or Joshua; but never Jakob.
Adam mentally braces himself for whatever fallout might come his way later and makes his way upstairs, to his own rooms.
He pauses in the doorway of his bedroom; taking in the sight on his bed. He's exhausted; his head hurts and he feels vaguely itchy, but he's never been one to turn down a pretty picture. Hell, that's how he got the mansion and the boys in the first place.
Tommy and David are curled up together in the centre of Adam's very large bed. The covers are a tangle at the bottom of the bed, and both boys are naked; David's lanky frame curled around Tommy's smaller one, one arm flung carelessly across his waist.
David stirs when Adam moves into the room, opening his eyes and blinking slowly. Adam puts a finger to his mouth and points at the bathroom. "Bath," he whispers to David, who nods, and tucks his head back on Tommy's shoulder. Tommy shifts and grumbles, but doesn't wake up.
Adam shakes his head and makes his way quietly across the too-large bedroom to the too-large bathroom, closing the door behind him with something like relief.
He loves all of his boys, in different ways, but sometimes he just needs ... quiet. Adam starts the bath running, fishing in the cabinet for Tylenol; filling a glass with water from the tap. He feels marginally better and strips gratefully, easing his tired body into the hot water.
He tips his head back and lets his mind wander, pondering the news he's going to be sharing in a few hours. Some of them, Adam knows, will take it well – will even be excited.
Johnny for sure, and probably Jakob. David ... Adam's not so sure. David's been living at the mansion with him – with Tommy really – for five years, and Adam still feels like he doesn't know him all that well. Simon ... Adam's not sure what Simon will do; whether he'll agree to be part of it or not. Daz – Adam's pretty sure Daz will love it ... Joshua and Rahab ... Adam smiles at that. Rahab will probably love it, but he's not so sure about Joshua.
And ... Tommy. Adam sighs, and shifts in the cooling water, leaning forward to turn the hot tap on.
Tommy's the one Adam's having the hardest time getting a read on.
He's been with Tommy the longest and he had been completely on board with Adam bringing the others to live with them. In a way it had been Tommy who had planted the idea, because he hadn't wanted to be separated from David and Adam had casually suggested – after he and Tommy had been seeing each other for about six months – that they both move into the mansion.
But how Tommy will react to this ... Adam doesn't know, and if he's honest with himself, as he hauls himself reluctantly out of the bath, he's a little worried. Because if Tommy says no; if he vetoes the project; then it won't go ahead at all.
He absently dries off with a towel, and slips the sweatpants back on again, before heading back out to his bedroom. David's disappeared, but Adam can hear the muted thump of bass through the connecting door to his room, and Adam smiles as his eyes fall on the bed. Tommy's still there; still curled up and sleeping.
Adam glances at his clock, and stretches his neck; his muscles feeling loose from the bath. There's a few hours still, before he needs to talk to the others, and the curve of Tommy's back ... Adam gives in to temptation and slides into bed, curling around Tommy and burying his face in his neck.
Tommy grumbles into his pillow, but shifts to accommodate Adam, who wraps an arm around him and strokes over his bare hip with a thumb.
"You awake, baby?" Adam asks softly, his thumb moving in a hypnotic circle over the jut of Tommy's hipbone.
"No," Tommy mumbles into the pillow, even as he arches into Adam's touch, almost by instinct. "'M asleep. And hungover. Sleeping."
"Uh huh," Adam murmurs, sliding his fingers down Tommy's thigh; earning a small, full-body shudder. "So – should I stop? You want me to stop?" he asks, teasing, as he traces lightly over Tommy's cock – half-hard, but it twitches under Adam's fingers, making him smile against Tommy's neck.
Tommy doesn't say anything, but he pushes – hard – against Adam, which makes him groan; his own cock hardening. Adam pushes his sweatpants off, and fumbles in the nightstand drawer for lube and a condom. Adam resettles behind Tommy, still lying on his side, and slicks up his fingers, sliding one in. He has to bite down a groan when he realises Tommy is still loose from David fucking him earlier.
Tommy pushes back on Adam's fingers, finding an easy, familiar rhythm that Adam flows along with, planting tiny kisses and whispers against the sensitive skin on the back of Tommy's neck. Adam fucks him open slowly with his fingers; not because he needs to, but because he enjoys the sensation: the feeling of his lube slick fingers twisting in and out; Tommy clenching around them as he moans low in the back of his throat.
"Adam ... c'mon ..." Tommy's voice is raspy and rough as he pushes back on to Adam's fingers, impatient; stroking his own cock, which is hard now. Adam just watches over Tommy's shoulder for a moment, mesmerised by the steady rhythm of his hand moving up and down.
Tommy breaks the spell himself; pushing hard against Adam's fingers this time, his head falling back when they ghost over his prostate. "Jesus, Adam, come on."
"So impatient," Adam says, as low as he can without whispering as he slowly draws his fingers out and manages to get the foil off the condom even though his fingers are slippery.
He rolls the condom on and shifts them both slightly before easing into Tommy; slick but still tight, and hot and "Oh ... fuck," Adam breathes out and even after so long; it never gets old or routine, being with Tommy like this. Adam tightens his hand on Tommy's hip as they move together into an easy, slow rhythm.
Adam comes first; biting down on Tommy's shoulder, his hand gripping too tight on Tommy's narrow hip. Tommy follows right after, his orgasm pulled out in little gasps and groans as he strokes himself; faster, and faster, spilling finally on a low moan.
They lie quiet for a while, sweaty and sated, and tired. Adam pulls out gently, tossing the condom before lying on his back and staring up at the ceiling. Tommy turns slowly and curls into the crook of Adam's arm.
"Hangover days," he says, slow and sleepy. "I fucking love hangover days."
Adam just laughs and lets himself drift off again; only waking up when Joshua comes in to tell him it's time for "whatever your big announcement is, honey," he says, from where he's sitting cross-legged at the bottom of the bed. "Everyone else is downstairs, and Clarissa and Hayden have put on one hell of a spread."
Adam nods, rubbing at his face as he sits up, prodding Tommy until he unglues himself from Adam's side and pushes himself up, glaring at Joshua.
"What's going on?"
"I asked Joshua to get everyone together. I have ... something I need to talk to you all about."
Tommy stares at him for a minute, blinking. "What is it?"
"I – I wanted to talk to everyone at the same time. Just – can you tell them we'll be down in about half an hour? Really need to have a shower."
Joshua shrugs and rolls off the bed. "Sure, honey. Take your time."
Adam stands up, holding his hand out for Tommy. "C'mon. We can save water."
Tommy pulls a face, but crawls off the bed anyway. "I still want to know what you're being all mysterious about. And how come you didn't tell me before?"
Adam reaches out and turns the water on, stripping his pants off again. "I wanted – I needed to think about it. And – I needed – objective opinions at first." He steps under the water and tips his head back, letting it warm him up as it runs all over his body. He's vaguely aware of Tommy stepping in as well; the water shifting.
Adam drops his head and studies Tommy's eyes as the water beats out a rhythm around them.
"Objective," Tommy echoes, idly, as he picks up the shampoo bottle, handing it to Adam.
Adam grins and tips some out on to his palm. "Turn around. Yes. Objective. I needed ... I don't know. Clarity I guess? The only other person who knows what it is right now is Hayden. That's it."
Adam digs his fingers into Tommy's scalp, massaging the shampoo into his long, thick fringe. Tommy leans back against him, making small, pleased noises, and normally Adam would linger a lot longer, but ... "We have to move. Everyone's waiting, and Daz and Johnny are going to be pissed if we take much longer."
Tommy just leans back heavier for a moment, and Adam braces himself as best he can in the slippery shower, but he's smiling.
"Fine; let's get this show on the road," Tommy says, his voice muffled by the water.
By the time they get dressed, and downstairs, everyone's in the large dining room off the kitchen. It's not a room Adam or any of the others use much – Joshua mostly; when he needs to spread out his jewellery equipment. Otherwise everyone eats in the ridiculously large kitchen; coming and going as they please, with Clarissa somehow presiding over it all, and knowing exactly what everyone needs at any given time.
She runs Adam's household with the efficiency normally found in the army. The fact that she's an ex-servicewoman is purely incidental, Adam's sure.
The dining room table is groaning under way more food than any of them can eat, and Hayden is humming to himself as he adds more food. He'd been a personal chef before coming to work for Adam – citing personal reasons for the change in career.
"I just need to – put my universe in order," he'd said at his interview, and Adam had found to his eternal delight and gratitude that Hayden was also good at putting Adam's universe in order.
Cooking remained a passion, though, and Hayden could be found in the kitchen during any down time that he had. He and Clarissa had circled each other a little warily at first, but soon bonded over a mutual love of food, and cooking.
Clarissa raises an eyebrow in question as she comes over to kiss Adam on the cheek, absently tucking a grey strand of hair back behind her ear. She still had a military bearing; shoulders back; back ramrod straight, but her blue eyes were full of nothing but warmth.
"I think this is enough for everyone," she says, sitting down at the table. Adam laughs and says, "We'll be eating this for a week! Everything looks amazing."
He looks around the table; mentally counting. Daz is there; already eating; his plate piled high with bacon and eggs. Joshua is sitting beside him, deconstructing what looks like a chicken salad. Simon and David are sitting at the end of the table; talking quietly. David looks up and smiles as Tommy makes his way down, pulling up a chair and stealing something off David’s plate.
Adam’s about to ask where Johnny and Jakob are when Jakob comes tumbling into the room, a flush high on his cheeks and a sheen of sweat still shining on his skin.
"Sorry! Lost track of time – rehearsing," he says, breathless, absently kissing Adam on the cheek, sitting down, and reaching out for a bottle of water all at the same time somehow.
Johnny smiles at Adam as he follows, slower than Jakob. Adam studies him carefully – the smile is genuine, but there's a tightness around his eyes. Adam touches Johnny's shoulder briefly before sitting down himself and reaching for a plate.
There's silence, for a while, as everyone eats, and talks softly. Adam watches his boys – and Hayden and Clarissa, half-smiling. Sometimes in the rush of his busy, breathless days, he forgets exactly what he has. And it's far from conventional, but they're a family of sorts, and it just – works.
He watches without comment as Johnny goes to sit beside Joshua, picking out a few things to put on his plate; only adding more, reluctantly, when Clarissa says something sharp about him being too thin.
Adam studies Johnny for a moment, and he realises Clarissa's right. Johnny's naturally lean anyway; and stays in good (great, Adam's hind-brain supplies) shape most of the time, but he's starting to lose a little too much, his face a sharp relief of narrow planes and high cheekbones. Adam makes a mental note to talk to him, and picks up his wineglass; which is apparently a signal of some kind because everyone stops what they're doing to look at him.
"So – what's the big announcement?" Daz asks, reaching for his beer and wrapping his lips around the top; his eyes mocking as they meet Adam's.
"Brat," Adam says idly, putting his glass down.
"Okay," he says. He looks around the table, at all the expectant eyes on him, and seeks out Tommy; out of habit. He's sitting close to David, tearing apart what looks like his tenth buffalo wing. He catches Adam's gaze and smiles; his eyes full of nothing but love and support.
"Okay," Adam says again, drawing strength from that look. He smiles at Tommy, involuntary and instinctive as he drains his glass. "Last week, I had a meeting with Ryan Seacrest – from E!"
Johnny gets it first. He sits forward in his chair, from where he had been leaning back against Joshua, his green eyes big and round. "Are you – you mean - "
Adam nods, suddenly not able to meet anyone's eyes. "E! Wants to do a show about – me. About us. Sort of like The Girls Next Door, but - "
"With cocks," Daz says, interrupting. "And a way hotter and younger Hugh Hefner."
Adam jumps a little when he feels Daz's hand on his leg, but doesn't swat it away. He gives Daz a quick, filthy grin and says, "Something like that." Absently he traces over the back of Daz's hand while he talks. With seven boys in the house, it's hard sometimes to give them all attention, and it's been a while since he spent any time with Daz ...
"The plan is to film here, and at the magazine's office. Anyone who doesn't want to be in it, will be edited around - you all have the say there, if you want to be in the show or not. The central focus is – it's supposed to be me, and the magazine, but ..."
"But the freakshow will be too entertaining," Johnny says, his dry voice cutting through the heavy silence.
"That's why participation is up to you all. I don't want this to become some kind of ... laughing-stock. And I know – it's going to be on E! But …”
Adam pushes his free hand through his hair, even as Daz moves his hand to wind his fingers through Adam's.
"But," Joshua echoes softly from the other end of the table. "But it could be a good thing, too. Ridiculous and over the top, which I don't see as being a bad thing. I'll do it! It'll be fun."
Johnny sighs, and picks up his glass, swirling the dregs of the white whine he's been drinking. "It will be a freakshow," he repeats. "And I am not missing out on that."
Everyone laughs at that, and some of the tension that had been laying over them all is released. Daz squeezes Adam's thigh and grins at him. "You know I'll be in for that. I can't wait."
Adam laughs at Daz's enthusiasm, and turns his focus to the rest. David's whispering with Tommy, who has his head down, his fringe falling over his face, so Adam can't read it.
Simon's watching him, quiet, considering. "I'll be in it," he says, quietly. "Although I don't suppose I'll get much footage – not with the likes of Johnny and Daz running around."
"I think I'll be lucky to get footage with Johnny and Daz running around," Adam says, earning a hard squeeze on his leg from Daz. He does swat Daz's hand then, but, unrepentant, Daz just sticks his tongue out and waggles it.
Tommy looks up then, and he's smiling – a rare; unguarded wide smile, that's somehow for Adam alone. "I'll do it. It could be fun." David looks at Tommy for a moment, then back to Adam, and nods. "Yeah. Me too."
"Um - what about ... can I still audition?" Jakob looks young, suddenly; way younger than 19, and Adam swallows, hard.
"Ryan checked for you. You can do So You Think You Can Dance and be on the show for E! But – you can't be in the magazine."
Jakob studies him for a moment, his head cocked like a bird, listening intently to something unheard. "Were you going to put me in the magazine?"
Adam half-shrugs. Johnny's been in RockOut – a couple of times. Daz; Tommy ... he'd considered all his boys at one point or other, and if they worked for the particular issue, he'd put them in. If not; then ... not.
"I was thinking about it, maybe. But – not if it's a condition of you getting on your show."
Jakob props his head in his hands, pushing his elbows on to the table; ignoring Clarissa when she frowns at him. "Okay. Then I'll do the – I'll do your show. I just – I don't want to fuck up my audition."
"You won't," Johnny says, his voice almost tender as he strokes a hand over the back of Jakob's hair. "You're going to be amazing."
Jakob offers him a quick smile as he leans back into Johnny's hand. Adam watches them for a moment – Johnny still looks a little sad around the eyes from watching Jakob rehearse, but he's focused on Jakob as well, so Adam lets himself relax; pulling Daz on to his lap, laughing.
Now that the news is out – the decision is made, and they're all still in it together – Adam feels tension leach out of his shoulders that he didn't know he'd been carrying. He grabs Daz's wrists and kisses him, deep and slow. Daz wriggles a little, and whispers something in Adam's ear; his British accent making it sound about twice as filthy as it probably is.
Adam laughs, and tightens his grip around Daz's wrists, rubbing his thumb over the sensitive skin.
"Come on then," he says, grinning like a fucking lunatic.
"Night, honey," Joshua calls from the table, tipping his glass toward them before draining it. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Adam snorts out an undignified laugh as Daz pulls him along. He catches Clarissa's eye as they pass, but she just shakes her head, waving them off. "Daz helped me yesterday. There's more than enough hands here to make light work of this. Go. Oh – the cleaners are coming tomorrow. 9am."
Adam nods, and lets Daz pull him along; up the stairs to his room – much smaller than Adam's, and much messier, but cosy in its own way.
Adam wakes up a few hours later, to Daz swearing like a sailor, and battering blindly at Adam’s phone, abandoned earlier on the nightstand along with his rings. A couple of them roll to the floor as Daz finally hits the button on Adam’s phone, to make it stop making the godawful buzzing noise Adam uses as an alarm.
“Jesus Christ that thing is loud. Why is it going off so fucking early?”
Adam grabs his pillow and puts it over his face, groaning. It’s too early for Daz – too early for everything.
“I have to go to work,” he says, his voice muffled. “And the cleaners are coming at nine, so I want to get there before they come.”
Adam lets out an oof! When he feels Daz’s weight land on him suddenly, and the pillow pulled away from his face.
“How early?” Daz asks, his face lit up with mischief.
Adam moves then, lightning-quick, rolling them both over and pinning Daz to the bed by his wrists. “Earlier than I want to. Brat. I need to go and have a shower and get ready. I’ll see you tonight,” Adam says, rolling off the bed and groping for his pants. He switches on Daz’s lamp and hunts around the floor, finding his rings.
“You know, that’s a great view from here,” Daz says, lying sideways on the bed and openly staring at Adam’s ass. “Remind me to drop things on the floor more often.”
Adam slides the rings on, picks up his phone, and bats Daz with the pillow.
“Funny. Now go back to sleep so I can bust said ass to keep you in style.”
Daz kneels on the bed, naked and oh, so pretty, smiling widely as he reaches out; pulling Adam in for a long, filthy kiss.
“I love your style. See you tonight, Hef.”
Adam swats him on the shoulder again, shaking his head as he makes his way back to his own room, mentally unfolding his day.
Tommy and David are buried under the covers, and all Adam can see is their heads - one blonde and one black – poking up.
Sighing a little, he heads to the bathroom and begins his day.
Shower, clothes, phone, he thinks vaguely, running downstairs to the kitchen. Coffee is next on his mind.
Joshua and Johnny are sitting at the table by the window, deep in conversation. Joshua has one hand on the back of Johnny’s neck and is rubbing small circles as he listens to Johnny talk. Adam quietly pours himself a cup of coffee and goes to sit on Johnny’s other side.
Johnny rubs his eyes and smiles, picking up his own cup, and grimacing. “Cold?” Adam asks, picking up the mug to refill it. “Here. You okay?” Johnny picks up the fresh coffee and nods, staring out the window.
“I’m all right. I just – couldn’t sleep.”
Adam meets Joshua’s eyes over the top of Johnny’s head, and Joshua shakes his head slightly, a worried frown on his face.
Adam runs a hand down Johnny’s back, feeling his muscles corded and tight; and frowning a little at the sharp outline of his ribs. He rests his chin on Johnny’s shoulder. “You know, you don’t have to -”
Johnny moves abruptly, putting his cup down and pushing back his chair, making Adam start back.
“I – ” he looks down at his hands, then back up at Adam.
“I know that. I know. I just – I want – I want …”
Adam rubs Johnny’s lower back, until he can feel some of the tightness in Johnny’s muscles ease off. “I know, baby, I know,” he says, quietly as Joshua strokes down Johnny’s neck with his thumb.
“Some days are – harder than others, that’s all,” Johnny says, making an obvious effort to straighten up, and let his mask slip back into place.
Joshua moves then, saying something about sleep. He drops a kiss on the top of Johnny’s head; busses Adam quickly on the cheek as he passes, and Adam catches his hand, sliding his thumb over the smooth skin of Joshua’s palm and smiling at the small shiver.
“You have work,” Joshua says, almost prim, before laughing at himself a little.
“I’ll see you tonight, gorgeous. Oh – maybe not. Rahab is going out with Daz, Simon, and I think Jakob … what about you, Johnny?” but Johnny’s already shaking his head. “Not tonight. I’m going to need my beauty sleep to avoid serious circles.”
“Staying in?” Adam asks softly.
Johnny nods, and picks up his cup again, not looking at Adam at all.
“What if I packed Tommy and David off to David's room? Just … you and me?”
Johnny tilts his head so it’s resting on Adam’s shoulder and half-closes his eyes. “Mmmm … that sounds kind of perfect, actually. Bubble bath? Wine? Horribly bad for me foods?”
Adam laughs, a knot in his chest loosening a little bit. He lifts Johnny’s hand from the table top and kisses the tips of his fingers, one at a time, not taking his eyes off Johnny’s face.
“I’ll feed it to you myself. For now – I have to go and look at pictures of naked men who have never had their backs waxed.”
Johnny snatches his hand back, his eyes still wide and dark, his lips parted. He shakes his head and picks up his coffee again. “Ew. Way to kill the mood, Adam.”
“You love it, secretly. All that hair …” Adam dodges out of Johnny’s reach, laughing, nearly running into Hayden, who already has his phone open, tapping away.
He glances up and manages to dodge around Adam just in time. “Breakfast here or on the way to the office?” he asks, calm as always.
Adam runs over his day in his mind – layouts for the next issue … planning meeting with his editors … “On the way. We better move.”
On the whole, Adam loves his job – loves the magazine. He built RockOut himself from the ground up; putting it out month after month, even when sometimes it seemed it would fold in on itself, due to lack of advertisers. But once it took off … Adam still gets a secret thrill out of walking into his offices every day; talking to his staff – even attending photo shoots when he has time – or when he has a vested interest…
Adam and Hayden take the elevator to the top floor; Hayden easily juggling his phone and a bag from the bakery across the road; the smell of the pastries inside making Adam’s mouth water. He adjusts his tray of coffees and sighs.
“Uh … approving the photos for the, uh, Bears in their natural habitat shoot. Then – editors’ meeting, and story meeting. Then – ”
Adam holds his hand up to stop Hayden’s flow. “That’s plenty of thens. Okay,” he says as the elevator doors open, “Let’s get started.”
Adam and Hayden go down the hallway to Adam’s top floor corner office; the rest of the office a quiet hum of activity around them. As they walk Adam finds himself approving ad copy; okaying an interview, and stopping to talk to one of the magazine’s regular contributors.
By the time he gets to his own office, his editors are waiting for him, and the photos for the next issue are spread out all over the large table in the corner.
His creative director, Cassidy, is sorting the pictures into some kind of order with his long fingers, frowning down at them in concentration. Adam’s managing editor Cam – who he had shamelessly headhunted from another magazine seven months before and never regretted the decision – is watching Cassidy, making occasional suggestions.
Adam and Hayden distribute the coffee and the pastries, then Adam lets the work carry him away for the rest of the day.
He brings up the show at the planning meeting later in the day. The sun is setting, striping his office carpet with gold. He rubs his eyes and sighs, another long day almost behind him.
“I want it to be primarily about work, and the magazine, but the show wants the boys in it, and they’re all happy to be in it so …”
Cam curls her fingers around her takeout coffee and shakes her long black fringe out of her eyes. “So it’s likely that the focus will shift towards them. Are you okay with that?”
Adam twirls his water bottle and looks out the window. “Yes, and no. I’m okay with them being in it, but I don’t want it to be all … boys of the RockOut mansion, you know? I want the primary focus to be the magazine. And I have final control over the edits.
“If any of you don’t want to be in it – we’ll work around it. Okay. Let’s talk virgins.”
"Virgins," Cam repeats, her mouth quirking up in an amused smile.
"Blame Brad," Adam says, picking up his phone from the table and scrolling through the pictures. Brad had spent the party taking photos, and had sent Adam the ones he thought Adam would be most interested in.
Adam had tried to make Brad the magazine's chief photographer a few months back, but Brad had refused the job, saying he didn't want the responsibility of taking care of staff, and he was making a very nice living freelancing. Still ... "Hayden - can you call Brad and make sure he's going to be available when we're ready to shoot? I don't want anyone else for this."
Hayden nods, and leaves the office, his phone glued to his ear.
Adam glances down at his phone, and hits the link to the picture he wants.
"Here - this is the boy that started it all. He was at the party the other night."
He hands his phone to Cam, and waits, as she and Cassidy study the picture of Chris, tipping his head back against the wall behind him as Johnny talks to him.
Cam nods to herself as Cassidy takes the phone, studying the picture closer. “So – we’re going to build the issue around him? I mean – I know we need others, but he’s kind of the quintessential virgin fantasy isn’t he?”
Adam reaches for his phone, nodding. “That’s what Brad said. Well – close enough. But, yes. The issue will be built around him. We’ll get other boys for photos, and give him a little bit of a storyline. Maybe shoot him with someone else, but I’ll leave that up to you and Brad to work out – see what works better.
“This means – ” Adam addresses Hayden as he comes back into the room – “We need to start looking at potential boys as soon as possible.”
Adam tilts back his chair and stretches, grinning as he looks out over the Los Angeles skyline.
“Sometimes, I really love my job.”
“I take it this means you’ll be helping me this time? You were noticeable by your absence when we were choosing guys for the bear shoot,” Cassidy says, shaking his head as he takes a drink from the tea he always has at this time of day.
“Hey, it’s good to be the boss,” Adam says, unrepentant. “And yes. I’ll be helping you choose the boys for this issue. Starting with this one.” Adam gently taps the screen of his phone as he studies the photo again.
It’s only been a couple of days, really, but he had almost forgotten what the boy looked like. He’s cute in that new-to-town-show-me-the-sights kind of way, and Adam thinks he’ll photograph well; even this picture taken from Brad’s cameraphone shows an unconscious kind of grace to his limbs, his pale skin shining slightly under the strobe lights.
Cassidy laughs as he pulls the book towards him for next month’s issue, idly flicking through the pages. “I’d say you’ve already made your decision there. Now – can we talk about the book?”
The meeting goes late, but at the end of the day everyone is happy, and Cam signs off on the book for the bear issue. Adam lets out a breath he holds every month until the book for the next issue is approved and lets himself relax properly – until it all starts again, for the next issue.
The house is unusually quiet when he finally gets home, making last-minute plans with Hayden for the next day. Adam can see a light under Rahab’s closed sitting room door, and figures that Johnny has banished Tommy and David there.
He says goodnight, vaguely, to Hayden, and heads upstairs to his room, his exhaustion from his long day nearly forgotten.
Johnny’s sitting neatly in the middle of Adam’s bed, cross-legged. He’s picking at food from a plate on a large tray, that Clarissa had obviously prepared, and Adam leans over, snaring a piece of cheese, savouring the burst of flavour on his tongue.
“You’re late,” Johnny says by way of greeting, leaning back against the pillows. Adam shrugs his jacket off and hangs it up in the closet, noting the extremely tidy state of his room, before turning back to the bed.
Johnny’s lounging back; all too aware of the picture he’s making as he bites a grape in half, his eyes nearly fluttering closed; his hair falling over his forehead in messy, inviting strands. His movements are slow and almost languid; his eyes fixed on Adam’s face. He’s wearing faded blue jeans that ride low, and a t-shirt that’s riding high; exposing the narrow jut of his hipbone.
Adam stares openly for a moment, and Johnny pushes the tray back, before rolling on to his side, posing a little; one hand cocked on his hip, smirking up at Adam.
Adam laughs as he climbs on to the bed, poking at the food on the tray before lying down, idly chewing a piece of Clarissa’s home-made bread.
“Sorry. I’m here now, though,” he says, giving in to temptation and sliding his hand under Johnny’s shirt, tracing a pattern over the curve of his hip.
Johnny wriggles closer, getting as near to Adam as he can, tucking his smaller frame against Adam’s body and resting his head on Adam’s shoulder. Adam moves his hand to Johnny’s back, running it up and down in long, slow, soothing strokes, the bumps of his spine shifting under Adam’s fingers.
“All right?” Adam asks softly, because it’s okay to ask now – now that it’s night time, and the house is nearly empty, and silent.
Johnny just nods against Adam’s shoulder, but his hands reach out, sliding around Adam’s neck, winding his fingers together, locking them in place. They lie like that in the quiet for a while, Johnny silently pressing close, as Adam keeps rubbing his back, content to wait until Johnny’s ready to talk.
He breathes out, hot against Adam’s neck, and Adam feels the tension ease out of his back. “You want to talk, or –" but Johnny’s already shaking his head.
“No. I’m – I’m fine. Really,” he says, pulling back far enough to look Adam in the eye. “I’m fine. Now – I believe you said something this morning about a bubble bath …?”
Adam studies Johnny for a moment, and the sadness from around his eyes seems to have faded, for now anyway.
“Hmmm … all we need to complete this scene is some Barry White.”
Johnny laughs, the tremors going through Adam like some kind of aphrodisiac. He’s tired from his long day, but Johnny feels warm, and he’s slowly relaxing under Adam’s hands – the tight tension that’s been in his muscles for the past couple of days working its way out.
“Shut up. You can’t seduce a sure thing, anyway. And if you start playing Barry White and – God forbid - dancing - I’m leaving right now.”
Adam rolls his eyes before disentangling himself enough from Johnny to sit up. “You’ve been watching Ally McBeal reruns again. Come on. Bath. Before it gets too late.”
“It’s never too late for a decent bath,” Johnny says, rolling easily off the bed and making his way to the bathroom.
Adam sinks back into the hot water gratefully, pulling Johnny back against him so his back is flush against Adam’s chest.
“Oh my god - why don’t I do this every night?”
“Because you work stupid hours and by the time you get home we’re all either out, asleep or … otherwise occupied,” Johnny says, slumping down in the water so he can tilt his head back to rest it on Adam’s shoulder.
“Hmmm … I could take a bath on my own, you know. Peace and quiet … no bossy boys –”
He’s cut off when Johnny moves suddenly, turning around lightning-fast in the deep, wide tub, kissing Adam hard on the mouth, but quick; pulling back when Adam goes to chase him.
“Bossy boys,” Johnny echoes, the corners of his eyes twisting up in amusement. “Your life is so hard. Wash my back?”
Adam’s laugh is a low rumble that echoes around the bathroom even as he reaches for a washcloth and the bodywash that Johnny likes, watching the trails of soapy water slide down his back, until Johnny’s nearly boneless against him, sliding down into the water until it touches his chin, his skin smooth and warm under Adam’s hands.
Johnny half-turns his head, his green eyes slitted. “Perfect,” he says, stretching cat-lazy in the deep water. “Now – can we get out before I shrivel up completely?”
Adam grumbles a little as he slides his hands down Johnny’s wet, warm back, but reaches past him to let the water out of the tub.
“Come on,” he says, getting out of the tub and easily lifting Johnny over the side, ignoring his slightly indignant squeak. “I have plans for that ass of yours.”
Johnny rolls his eyes as he grabs a towel, but he’s smiling. “Really? Care to share?”
“Nope.” Adam nuzzles slowly up the line of Johnny’s neck, licking around the shell of his ear – a particularly sensitive spot. “It’s a surprise.”
“Uh huh.” Johnny leans into Adam shamelessly, tilting his head back. “Though I’m pretty sure I know what the – uh – surprise is.”
“Mmmmhmm,” Adam hums against Johnny’s thumping pulse as he guides them both back into the bedroom.
“You don’t know all of it,” he says, almost cheerfully as he ties Johnny to the bed, face-down, his wrists straining against the black scarf Adam has used to tie him to the rails on the bedhead.
Johnny curses as he pulls against the restraint, lifting his ass in the air as he pulls his knees up.
Adam covers him with his own body, propping his hands on the pillow by Johnny’s head. “Surprise,” he says softly.
“You - fucker. Oh my God, Adam …”
Johnny’s still moving, and Adam shifts so he can plant his hands on Johnny’s hips. “Lie still.” He waits until Johnny stops moving, but he can see his breath heaving his body up and down as he pulls on the scarf.
“I’m – I’m okay,” Johnny says, subsiding under Adam’s hands, his eyes half-closing, his arms going slack against the restraints.
Adam smiles and runs one hand down the curve of Johnny’s back, watching with appreciation the way he arches up; responding to Adam’s touch.
Adam takes his time; taking Johnny apart slowly, and as methodically as he can with a bound, writhing boy under his hands, making his skin feel like it’s going to ignite. Adam makes his way down Johnny’s back slowly, mapping a path with his mouth and his teeth, occasionally stopping to suck out a red mark.
Johnny groans into his pillow, pulling on the scarf as Adam gently spreads his ass cheeks – the muscles clenching – with his thumbs, before flicking gently at Johnny’s hole with the tip of his tongue. Johnny arches up, gasping at the unexpected touch, before pushing back.
“Oh God. Please.”
Adam smiles against the too-tempting curve of Johnny’s ass and says, “Whatever you say.”
He goes slowly; savouring the feel of Johnny’s tight ass, clenching and unclenching restlessly around his tongue and fingers, until Johnny is reduced to senseless babble, begging Adam to just fuck him already please.
Afterwards, Adam unties Johnny as gently as he can, massaging feeling back into his hands as Johnny sort of collapses against him; sweaty and sated.
“Better?” Adam asks, planting a kiss on each of Johnny’s palms.
“Mmmm … no talking. Sleeping.”
Adam laughs, and pulls the bedcovers up – the tray long since discarded on the floor – and Johnny fits himself against Adam’s body; wriggling until he’s comfortable.
Adam wraps an arm around him and traces lazy circles on his back. He’s beyond tired, and it’s late; and he has another long day at the office ahead of him, but right now, he can’t bring himself to care.
Johnny breathes out a small sigh, his hair tickling Adam’s chest.
“To answer your question,” he says, half-dazed and sleepy. “Yes. Much better.”
“Good. That’s good. Hey – I want you to come to the office next week with me.”
Bad timing Adam knows, but he’ll forget later, and he hasn’t mentioned it to Hayden, so it’ll slip his mind altogether.
Johnny opens his eyes and rests his chin on Adam’s chest.
“Why? Is it take a gay to work day?”
Adam half-heartedly shoves at Johnny’s shoulder. “It’s that every day. No. We’re going to be looking at boys for the next issue, and you have a good eye. So I want you to help us. You know the drill – look at pictures; pick the prettiest.”
Johnny wrinkles his nose as he studies Adam’s face.
“Jakob’s audition is next week. I promised I’d go with him. But as long as it’s not the same day as that, then I’ll come with you. It’ll be like going to an art show, except I won’t have to make stupid small talk.”
Adam falls asleep laughing at that, his arm curled warm around Johnny’s lean form.
Johnny wakes up and rolls over, automatically reaching out. He blinks and opens his eyes when he encounters empty bed space, and stares at the rumpled sheets for a minute.
He’s never at his very best early in the mornings, and it takes his brain a moment to catch up.
Audition day. Jakob’s audition.
Johnny collapses back on to the bed, pulling Jakob’s pillow over his face, resisting the urge to scream into it.
A promise is a promise, though, Johnny thinks as he reluctantly puts the pillow back and gets out of bed, stopping for a moment, when his knee twinges badly – a painful reminder of his own might-have-been.
Johnny sits on the edge of the bed, waiting for the pain to subside enough for him to move around. Some days, he forgets it happened – some days it doesn’t hurt at all. Some days though … and of course, Jakob’s audition day would be the day.
Carefully, Johnny stands, testing his balance, before heading to the bathroom that connects his room with Jakob’s (not that he’s slept in his room for a long time – he’s either with Jakob, or Adam; or – like everyone else in the mansion – he’s gravitated to Rahab’s rooms. Johnny’s not even sure what his own room looks like any more.)
Mostly he tries not to think about it, because “living in a mansion with several other boys and the owner of RockOut” was certainly never on his goals list.
The Olympics were.
Being a world champion.
Johnny shakes his head; trying to dislodge the things that he doesn’t want to stick in there – not today – as he opens the bathroom door and follows the sound of the shower running.
Jakob’s bouncing around like a puppy – his excitement and nerves spilling out everywhere, and Johnny finds it impossible to be morose in the face of that energy, even after he realises that promising to go with Jakob to his audition means a lot of sitting around.
He manages to still Jakob for a few minutes; kissing him in the shower – slow, sweet kisses that ordinarily would have led somewhere else, but Jakob’s too keyed up, even though he responds like he always does – immediately and open.
“You ready?” He asks, even as he strokes his hands through Jakob’s hair, running them over his shoulders.
Jakob steps out of the shower, hands a towel to Johnny and grabs another for himself.
“I have to be.”
Adam’s in the kitchen, deep in conversation with Hayden; and Joshua is there too – half-listening while he drinks his coffee, fiddling with a piece of his jewellery – a ring, Johnny thinks, catching the sparkle. He goes to the coffee machine, and realises, slowly, that they’re all there.
Including the cameras for that damn show, that had started filming at the house at the weekend. Of course. They’ll be wanting to film Jakob’s audition.
Johnny plants his best fake-smile on his face, and does his best to hide his limping, which is barely noticeable anyway, but of course - Adam notices.
Johnny reaches into the fridge, grabbing an orange juice for Jakob – because the last thing he needs right now is coffee - and sits down, just containing a sigh of relief.
He looks up to find Adam’s eyes – strikingly blue this morning Johnny notes without meaning to – studying him closely.
“You all right?” And to anyone else in hearing, it would sound like a casual inquiry, rather than “are you sure you’re up to this today?” which is what Adam might have said except for the cameras and the lights, bright and hot in the kitchen.
Even Daz is there, ostensibly to wish Jakob luck, and Daz is about the most self-absorbed person Johnny has ever met – including himself, he’ll own.
Between the crowd in the kitchen, and the camera crew; he’s feeling a little closed-in.
But he sets that aside – because he’s good at that – and offers Adam a tight smile, that he knows won’t fool him at all.
“I’m fine. It’s just going to be a long day,” he says quietly, under cover of the noise of everyone else wishing Jakob luck, and Joshua giving him the ring – “Not for luck, you don’t need luck. For … hm … all the good things, honey. How’s that?”
Johnny watches as Joshua kisses Jakob on the cheek, and has to look away for a moment from Jakob’s bright smile.
“Are you – I mean, do you still want to come in and help us? We’re set up for Friday.”
Friday. Johnny stares at Adam for a moment; then what he’s talking about slots into place. “Yes, of course. I’m looking forward to it.” Johnny grins suddenly, and the camera catches it, even though they don’t catch his words, and his face lights up. “Spending a day looking at pretty pictures isn’t really something I consider work, you know.”
Adam laughs easily and says, “I should make you come with me on deadline day sometime. Then it’ll look like work.”
Before Johnny can come up with a decent retort, Jakob comes over to them, and to the delight of the cameras straddles Adam’s lap and kisses him, biting at his bottom lip; his own mouth quirking up in a smirk that Johnny recognises, and he finds himself smiling, although reluctantly.
“Wish me luck?” Jakob says, cocking his head and opening his eyes wide, the picture of innocence.
Adam laughs easily, running his hands down Jakob’s back, making him arch into a near-perfect curve.
And now Johnny’s just staring, wanting – “I think Joshua is right – you don’t need luck. But you know we’re all behind you on this.”
Jakob ducks his head as he winds his arms around Adam’s neck, holding on tight for a moment, and Johnny feels something almost wistful pass through him, lightning-fast, before it’s gone and he’s left just feeling restless.
He doesn’t want to break the moment, or the spell, but he doesn’t have to – Hayden – all business as usual says, “Adam – we’re going to be late.”
Johnny watches as Adam breathes out a small sigh against Jakob’s neck and flicks a heated glance in Johnny’s direction, which doesn’t help his restlessness at all.
“All right. Go knock ‘em dead, baby, okay? I’ll see you tonight.”
Johnny somehow manages to talk Tommy into coming with them – David’s got some session work, and he’s at a loose end.
“I was supposed to be playing as well,” he says, as they pile into Johnny’s car, “But I sprained my thumb or something last night and it hurts to strum the strings. So – no playing for a while.”
“Uh huh,” Johnny says vaguely, more to show that he’s half-listening than anything else, because although he likes Tommy, right now he does not want a vivid description of whatever he’d been doing the night before to hurt himself.
Tommy catches his eye in the rear-view mirror, and grins, wide and somehow filthy. Johnny shakes his head, but lets out a small laugh, causing Jakob to turn from the window, and look at him.
“Nothing, honey. Tommy’s just fucking with me.”
Jakob turns in his seat to look back at Tommy, now the picture of innocence; his long blond fringe nearly concealing his eyes.
They get to the audition venue, Jakob’s details are taken; he’s given a number, and they get ready to sit – and wait.
By Jakob’s actual audition – and he’s been filmed two or three times already – Johnny and Tommy are already bored, and playing ‘pick the losers’ with the other auditionees they can see. They’re idly debating the merit of one girl who seems to be able to put her leg behind her head, but is loud, and obnoxious, when Jakob finally gets called in.
He gets through, of course, and the cameras from So You Think You Can Dance, and the E! show about Adam both catch the look of pure joy on his face as he runs straight for Johnny, holding on tight.
Johnny ignores the spike in his own heart and wraps his arms around Jakob, whispering: “I told you. I told you that you could do it.”
He’s happy for Jakob, of course he is, but he kind of just wants to … disappear. Make Adam get rid of everyone else like last week, when Johnny’s skin felt too tight all over his body, and just … just.
Instead, there’s an impromptu party, which of course, the show loves and Johnny finds himself in Adam’s room with Jakob, much later on; having the kind of private celebration that will never be seen on E!
Or anything outside of pay TV, Johnny thinks, as he watches Jakob lower himself on to Adam’s hard cock. Jakob reaches out to Johnny, kissing him even as he starts to ride Adam slowly, and when Tommy joins them, it only seems polite to let him suck Johnny’s dick. (Johnny prefers ‘polite’ to ‘so desperate right now I can’t see clearly’). Tommy’s accommodating as always – and kind of sweet about it; so Johnny just pushes his hands into Tommy’s hair, and lets himself be taken away.
The next few days feel like a rollercoaster to Johnny – like he’s stuck at the top forever before someone releases the mechanism and he’s in freefall.
Jakob has an intensive round coming up for So You Think You Can Dance – the first audition a mere pre-cursor, and he’s stressed and scared. Johnny does his best, but there’s only so many times he can say the same reassuring things over and over before they start sounding insincere.
Adam watches from a distance, his clear blue eyes taking it all in, and he quietly takes charge the night before Johnny’s due to go to the office with him – banishing everyone but Jakob from his room, and sending Johnny out with everyone else – some club opening that a friend of Rahab owns.
Johnny doesn’t want to go, but Jakob doesn’t have another round of auditions until the week after, and he knows that Adam will take care of him, so he lets himself be carried along by Rahab and Daz’s enthusiasm; even though he bitches about it to anyone who will listen. (Mostly Tommy.
But Tommy will also sit and listen to Daz talk for hours about how much he misses London; or to Joshua about his jewellery line and his patchwork philosophy on life – Johnny’s even stumbled across Tommy listening to Clarissa with rapt attention as she explained to him in great detail how to make the perfect crème brulee. Tommy’s just somehow easy to talk to. Or he tunes people out easily, which is Johnny’s theory when he’s feeling particularly bitchy.)
Rahab just slides her hand up Johnny’s back; curling her fingers around the back of his neck. “Relax and let go,” she whispers, her mouth right against Johnny’s ear. “Dance with me …”
“If the next thing you say to me is ‘And I’ll set you free’ I’m not going anywhere with you ever again,” Johnny says, even as he leans back into Rahab’s touch. She just laughs, happy and free, and winds their fingers together. “Come on, gorgeous. Let’s make it pretty for the cameras.”
And they do. Johnny sticks close to Rahab all night; letting her natural sparkle carry him along. And it’s fun – just dancing, and making out with Rahab – it’s easy, even though Johnny’s pretty sure he gets lipstick on his collar (and his dick. The bathrooms – because the club is so new – are surprisingly clean) and counts it a successful night out.
He leans back against Rahab in their booth; the show camera – well, one cameraman with a handheld camera – barely obtrusive as they watch Tommy and David on the dancefloor. (Not so much dancing as leaning against each other and lazily making out, but it’s pretty to look at.)
Daz is dancing with some friend of his, and Simon’s … by the bar; Johnny thinks. He can never quite get hold of Simon as a person, and almost forgets, sometimes, that they live together.
“How you feeling, gorgeous?” Rahab says low in his ear; her voice sending a shiver through Johnny’s nervous system. He’s tired and sated; a little sad, but – “Good,” he says, picking his glass up off the table and draining the contents. “I feel good.”
The camera guy has to finish work by a certain time – union rules or something – Johnny doesn’t catch it (and doesn’t particularly care, to be honest) so they leave well before closing time for once; piling into the car to take them back to the mansion.
Daz and Johnny take quiet bets on whether David and Tommy are going to make it to their room – “No – the mansion” Daz corrects, watching as David latches on to Tommy’s neck as he arches his head back against the seat, David’s hand sliding under Tommy’s shirt.
“Adam’s going to have to give the driver another raise,” Johnny replies absently; feeling like a voyeur, but unable to look away.
“And a big fat bonus,” Daz says, giggling a little drunkenly.
Rahab’s the one who spoils their fun, reaching across the back of the car to nudge David’s ankle with the tip of her high heel. “Cool it boys, wait till you have a room with a door you can close behind you,” she says, but she’s smiling.
Tommy blinks like he’s forgotten there are other people in the car (it’s possible that he has – Johnny’s seen that before too – Tommy will get so absorbed in whatever he’s doing at the time – fucking; playing his guitar; beating the shit out of Daz at some stupid video game – that he literally forgets where he is), and David buries his head in Tommy’s neck, laughing.
The mansion is dark and quiet when they get back; and Johnny hesitates at the base of the stairs, ignoring David and Tommy who are already discarding their clothes on the way up to David’s room.
Rahab pauses behind him, laying a warm hand on the small of his back. Johnny’s vaguely aware of Simon and Daz going to their own rooms, and he knows he should do that too – especially if he’s going to work with Adam tomorrow … but he can’t move.
Johnny half-turns in Rahab’s direction, managing to plaster a half-smile on his face. “I’m fine. I just –” He’s cut off when a door opens and closes from upstairs and then Adam’s at the banister, looking down. “You want to come up? Jakob’s still awake.”
Johnny lets out a breath, and Rahab gives his waist a silent squeeze before waggling her fingers to Adam; heading down the stupidly large hallway to her own rooms.
Johnny makes his way up the staircase slowly, stopping in front of Adam, who’s wearing low-slung sleep pants and nothing else. There’s a bruise blooming on his chest and his hair is a mess. He leans down to give Johnny a light kiss, and Johnny moves in, deepening it instinctively, tasting Jakob on Adam’s tongue.
Jakob’s laid out on Adam’s bed, his limbs a messy sprawl; his eyes wide and his mouth swollen. He’s got red marks on his torso and his wrists, and he puts his arms up lazily for Johnny.
Johnny goes easily; lying down beside Jakob and letting him wrap him up in his arms and legs. He’s shifting carefully, but he looks more relaxed than he has in days.
“Mmmmmm …” Jakob lets out a contented breath against Johnny’s neck, and he’s half-aware of Adam settling on the bed behind him; pulling up the covers. Johnny carefully feathers light strokes down Jakob’s back with the tips of his fingers, almost instinctively seeking out the marks he knows Adam will have left. Jakob sleepily arches under his touch and presses himself even harder into Johnny’s side.
“Sleep,” he mutters, his eyes fluttering closed.
“Sleep,” Johnny echoes, getting himself settled as best he can with Jakob heavy and warm against him. He turns his head to catch Adam’s mouth in a lazy open-mouthed kiss. “Thank you,” he half-whispers. Adam smiles and kisses him again; deeper.
“Anytime,” he says, somehow sounding sweet and filthy all at once.
Johnny drifts off in Adam’s impossibly large bed, his arm protective around Jakob, even as he feels Adam tuck the covers around both of them, and settle himself; his own hand broad and warm on Johnny’s stomach.
Going into Adam’s work is always a little … intimidating, though Johnny would never admit it to anyone. He’s only been here a couple of times, and he never really gets used to the … scale of it. He forgets that Adam’s basically a mogul – that RockOut is more than just a successful gay skin magazine – that Adam’s built an empire.
(Johnny tells himself that this isn’t intimidating. And most of the time, it’s not; because Adam doesn’t act like a mogul, ever. He’s always the same: sweet, and attentive with everyone. He’s just more … focused at work.)
Johnny leans against Adam in the elevator, the E! cameraman such a constant now that Johnny’s able to ignore him. Adam winds an arm around his waist and Johnny can feel his heart beating, which always calms him down.
Adam’s explaining to the cameraman – a single operator with a handheld again, because there’s not that much room in an elevator - why Johnny’s coming into the RockOut office, and he’s rambling a little as he does when he’s trying to explain things in great detail. Johnny nudges him with his elbow when he starts talking about how the Chinese restaurant they’d ordered lunch from that day had fucked up. “Adam. I’m pretty sure E! doesn’t care about that. I think he’s got it.”
Adam blinks, like he’s coming back from a long way away, and smiles down at Johnny, pulling a face. “Got carried away did I? Sorry. You ready to spend your day looking at photos of boys?”
Johnny laughs as the elevator stops on the top floor. “That’s a rhetorical question if ever I heard one. And you know the answer is always.” Johnny poses a little on the last word; hand on one hip, his back half-twisted, looking over one shoulder towards Adam, who’s laughing. (The fact it will look good on camera later doesn’t occur to Johnny at all. At least – it’s no more than a fleeting thought, at best.)
Adam stops where he is – just outside the door of the elevator - causing the cameraman to stumble into him. “Sorry,” he mutters, not taking his eyes off the curve of Johnny’s back.
Johnny grins, wicked and fast, before heading for Adam’s office. Adam catches up with him just outside and leans down to whisper something in his ear; too low for the camera to catch but Johnny nearly stumbles over his feet. He stops and looks around; the outer office is a constant low-grade hum of activity, and no one’s paying them particular attention.
He leans back against Adam again; never worried that Adam’s not going to catch him, and smirks up at him from under his eyelashes. “Well – it depends how long this takes, doesn’t it? And whether you’ve fixed the lock on your bathroom …”
Adam digs his fingers briefly into the back of Johnny's neck. "I had it fixed last week."
Johnny lets out a slow breath, shifting his feet a little - he's half-hard already from Adam's possessive hand on his neck, and there’s a long day still ahead.
"But we have work to do first. Come on. You haven't met Cam yet." And just like that, Adam switches from the Adam Johnny knows best - always toppy; but sweet and attentive - to all-business. Johnny has to stand still for a minute, as the switch makes him a little dizzy - it's heady, and he idly wonders for a moment how much it would take to persuade Adam to stay at the office after everyone has left and fuck him over his desk ... Johnny shakes his head and swallows hard; pinching the soft skin on his inner arm to bring his thoughts under control.
Cam is skeptical at first when she meets him; but when Adam tells the story - again - of how Johnny was the one who had talked Adam into using this guy who had been nothing special in person, but Johnny had just known he would photograph like a dream ... "Even Brad couldn't see it. But Johnny made us contact his agency, and take the photo, and it turns out he was right. We still haven't topped that issue's circulation figures."
Johnny sees Cam’s shoulders shift, like she’s relaxing and Johnny finds himself feeling a little more comfortable about today.
"It's just a shame that guy was a complete asshole," Cassidy chimes in, shifting papers and photographs to one side of the table, quirking an amused eyebrow at Johnny, who laughs. "He was."
"Okay. Enough bonding. Let's go get to work," Adam says, putting his phone on the table and sittig down, reaching for a batch of photos.
Johnny sits down beside Adam, and he’s vaguely aware of Cam sitting on the other side, and Brad, and the magazine’s chief photographer Lil coming into the office.
Johnny glances up and grins, as he’s bizarrely reminded of Top Model, with the way they’re all picking up photos and casually accepting or rejecting each one. He turns to Adam and says, “So – am I Tyra, or Miss J?”
Cam gets it first, and laughs. It’s loud, and echoes around Adam’s quiet office. She swivels in her seat before leaning across the table, pushing her elbows through a pile of rejected photos, causing Cassidy to grumble in protest as he tidily shuffles them off to the side. Johnny finds himself preening a little under her sharp scrutiny.
“Well – I would say Adam was Tyra, which definitely makes you Miss J …” Cam cocks her head to one side, considering. “But what does that make me? And Cassidy?”
“You, my lovely, are noted fashion photographer, Nigel Barker,” Adam says, getting into the game. “And Cassidy is –”
“Cassidy is the fabulous guest judge. Except that’s backwards, because Johnny’s the fabulous guest judge. Which makes me Miss J.” Cassidy tips back in his seat and stares up at the ceiling.
“H’m. I’m not sure I’m entirely on board with this development.”
“And what are me and Brad? Optional extras?” Lil asks, raising her eyebrows at Adam.
“You would be extra guest judges. That Tyra brought in to Teach The Girls A Lesson,” Adam says, grinning and Johnny doesn’t know how he manages to make the words sound like they all have capital letters, but he does.
Cam laughs and shakes her head, reaching for a photo as she says to Cassidy, “You’d need a mad wig, or giant collar, or something.” Johnny’s a little surprised – he wouldn’t have thought Top Model would be Cam’s thing at all. (Based on knowing her for all of five minutes, which is the worst kind of snap judgement Johnny knows, but he can’t help himself.)
She catches Johnny’s surprised look and smiles. “My girlfriend loves it. She’s watched every season. Makes her happy so …’’ Cam shrugs, turning her attention back to the photographs on the table when Brad picks one up that they end up debating over for the next half an hour.
Johnny nods, although Cam isn’t looking at him any more, and he thinks, briefly, of all the time he’s spent watching Jakob practice for his audition. “I get it,” he says quietly, and Cam smiles at him before turning to listen to Brad and Lil who are having a tangential discussion of what will be expected at the shoot.
Chris’s photo is about halfway through the pile. Cam picks it up first, and studies it. She glances up at Johnny, and back to the picture. He can’t see it because she’s holding it up but her scrutiny is making him a little nervous.
“This is the boy you met at the party the other night? The one that Brad took a photo of?”
Johnny nods, and his fingers twitch involuntarily on the tabletop. He’s dying of curiousity to see the photo close up – he only caught a swift glimpse before Cam picked it up - but Cam’s holding it just out of reach. She gives Johnny a long look, before handing the photograph over.
“Hmmm. I thought I saw something in Brad’s candid shot from the party, but I can really see it here. Adam’s right. You do have a good eye.”
Johnny preens a little at her compliment and rolls his eyes at himself as he takes the picture from her. It’s a pretty standard shot: Chris is facing the camera; wearing a white shirt and faded blue jeans. The shirt is unbuttoned and he’s got the tips of his fingers pushed into the pockets of his jeans.
It’s kind of cheesy, but it sort of … works. Chris’s head is down, but he’s looking up at the camera from under his lashes, as a wind machine of some kind blows his shirt back from his pale, lean (slightly too skinny, Johnny thinks) torso.
The pose is a cliché and the wind machine … overdone. But there’s something about the way Chris is looking up at the camera; innocent and sweet, but there’s a hint of something else at the corners of his eyes: it’s an invitation to … Johnny puts the photo on the table and spins it with his finger, distracted as Adam and the others debate another possible candidate for the magazine.
Sin maybe; Johnny thinks, although that doesn’t quite fit. But whatever he’s doing with his eyes – and his hands, Johnny notices; even though he’s got his fingers in his pockets, pushing his jeans down just a little bit over his hips; his palms resting against his bare skin and that – that’s definitely an invitation. Johnny hands the photo to Adam, who studies it while talking to Brad about something else.
It turns out to be a long day and by the end of it Johnny’s muscles feel stiff and sore, and his bad knee is locking up. He feels a vague sense of accomplishment, though – apart from Chris, he’d had input on getting another three boys to be considered that even Brad might have overlooked. So certainly not a wasted day.
He tries to hide his slight limp from Adam, but Adam’s way too perceptive and makes him sit on the leather couch that sits under one of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Adam hands him water, painkillers and lifts Johnny’s legs up, settling them over his own thighs. Johnny tenses at first, but relaxes into Adam’s touch as he gently massages the knee.
“How is it?”
Johnny swallows the pills and drinks the water, because it’s easier than arguing that he doesn’t need them, and considers. “It’s not bad. I just need a few minutes, and to walk around for a bit. I shouldn’t have sat for so long. Really,” he says when he sees the look Adam is giving him.
“Hmmm … all right. But you tell me if –”
“I’ll tell you if it gets worse, yes. Now stop motherhenning me. You know I hate that.”
Johnny could kick himself for not stretching out his knee earlier when he felt the stiffness first creep in. It would have meant the difference between being bent over Adam’s desk and … this. He puffs out a frustrated sigh and stares out the window as lights start to spark on all over the city, and he realises for the first time how late it is.
Adam follows his glance and says, “Come on. Home. I’ll make it up to you.” He helps Johnny up off the couch and kisses him briefly before calling downstairs for a car – even Hayden has gone home.
Nothing’s going to happen tonight (not for Johnny, anyway,) but Adam spends the ride in the elevator and home in the car whispering all of the filthy things he would have done tonight, had Johnny’s body not betrayed him.
Johnny’s a little hazy from the painkillers, and exhausted, so it mostly sounds like a good story; told from a very great distance, (That he will remember in great detail later) but Adam's voice is low and soothing in his ear.
Jakob's away - some kind of boot camp for the dance show, and Johnny never sleeps well without him, so he spends the next few days trying not to bite everyone's heads off - especially the particularly persistent producer of the E! show who is determined to get him to talk about his ice skating, even though he absolutely vetoed that as a topic from the very beginning.
In the end, Adam calls Ryan, and threatens to pull the plug on the whole thing if she doesn't leave Johnny alone, and that's the only thing that works. Johnny's pretty sure - based on the looks she gives him - that he's largely going to be cut out of the footage, but he can't bring himself to care.
He talks to Jakob every night on the phone, and tries to distract himself as best he can (when Adam, or Joshua, or one gloriously debauched night, Rahab and Tommy, aren't trying to distract him) and manages to almost ignore the restless shuffle he feels deep down in his bones.
The photoshoot for the issue (called 'Beautiful Boys' rather than 'virgins we know you want to fuck') comes around, and Adam invites Johnny along. It's not unusual for one of the boys to tag along to a photoshoot; Adam likes company when they turn out to be long days - when he actually goes to a photoshoot. Most of the time he trusts his team to get his vision right, but sometimes he likes to be more hands-on, as he tells the E! producer - with an absolutely straight face.
Johnny has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.
"You up to another long day?" Adam asks quietly as they ride the elevator to the studio, which is the floor below RockOut's main offices. Johnny nods, absently. "I'll be fine. I just need to move around more. Plus, I can always take the car and head home, if it gets to be too much."
Adam nods and smiles down at him; warm and sweet, and Johnny feels that little heart-turn that always happens when Adam smiles at him like that. (It's not just him - he's asked the others, and it happens to all of them.)
Johnny can appreciate a nice view as much as the next person, and he knows to keep out of Brad and his assistant Megan's way as they go about the shoot. There's three different sets put up in the studio: a simple bedroom; a living room and a kind of ... classroom.
"Hot for teacher, huh?" he murmurs in Adam's ear from where they're sitting on a battered sofa on the sidelines. Adam just smirks a little and doesn't say anything; his arm warm and heavy around Johnny's shoulders.
Chris is one of the first boys of the group to be shot that day, and as soon as he walks on to the set; Johnny knows something's wrong.
His mouth is turned down, and his eyes look dull. He responds mechanically to Brad, who glances over at Adam and Johnny, his eyebrows raised.
"Something wrong, honey?" Adam asks.
Chris looks over at both of them, and bites his lip, rocking back on his heels, his hands shoved in the pockets of the jeans he’d been given for the shoot. "No. I mean - "
"Let me?" Johnny says, reacting instinctively. "I think I know what's happened," he says quietly to Adam. "There's a group of them all waiting together, and if it got out that he's being considered for the cover ..."
Adam's eyes widen in understanding, then narrow, as he takes in Chris' slumped form.
"You think one of them got bitchy with him?"
Johnny nods, because yes. That's exactly what he thinks.
"Let me give him a ... pep talk, okay? See if I can get him back on track."
Adam tilts his head as he considers Johnny's proposal, still looking at Chris. "I should really ..."
"No - I mean ... you might intimidate him. Not that you're intimidating as such, but he doesn't know that. Lower down the food chain, I think?"
"Mmmmm ... all right. Try not to take long, okay? We can shoot him last, but I don't want to get behind schedule. And don't force him into anything."
Johnny rolls his eyes as he stands up, planting a light kiss on Adam's mouth. "Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
Adam just laughs, and settles back on the couch to watch the next boy being photographed.
Johnny approaches Chris, now watching from the sidelines and says, "Come with me for a minute. I want to talk to you."
Chris turns to face him, a puzzled frown on his face that clears when he recognises Johnny. "I met you at the party the other week," he says.
"Yes, you did. And now you're coming with me for a little chat," Johnny says, taking Chris' hand and half-dragging him out of the studio into the bathroom across the hall.
Johnny shuts the door and locks it, leaning against it as Chris stands in the middle of the bathroom, blinking in confusion under the bright fluorescent lights.
"Okay. Who got to you?"
"Um - what?"
"Who got to you? While you were waiting. One of the others must have said something, for you to show up to a photoshoot with that attitude - that you know isn't right."
Chris sighs, leaning his hands on the marble countertop (no expense spared at the RockOut offices - even in the bathrooms) and stares at himself in the mirror.
"Just ... one of them said that he ... didn't think I was - was ... pretty enough. To be in the magazine. Then he ... someone told him that he'd heard a rumour I might be on the cover, and he started - laughing. And I thought - he's right. I'm not ... gorgeous like those other boys out there. I'm not - special; I'm not going to sell any magazines, what was I thinking?
"I should just -"
"Do you want to do it? The magazine shoot, I mean," Johnny says, interrupting like he hasn't been listening.
Chris stares at him for a moment; blinking. "I - yes. I do. Apart from the money, which will come in handy because I got evicted last week on my birthday ... I do want to do it. I'm just not sure if I'm up to it."
Johnny nods, and considers for a moment, storing away the news of the eviction until he can tell Adam. "Well - you can't do it in this state, that's for sure. You need to be ..." he gestures with his hand; seeing in his mind what he needs Chris to see, but not sure how to tell him.
"Take your shirt off," he says, suddenly, making up his mind. Time for show, not tell.
Chris stares at him for a moment, but instead of asking why, slowly peels off the t-shirt that Johnny knows has come from Cassidy’s seemingly endless stock, dropping it to the floor.
Johnny moves to stand behind him - he's tall enough that he can see over Chris' shoulder, watching their reflections in the mirror. He rests his chin on Chris' shoulder and lightly strokes down his arms with his fingers, earning a small, hard shiver.
"You're going to have to trust me, okay? If you don't think you can - you can leave and I won't stop you. But I want to try something that I think will help."
Chris studies Johnny’s face in the mirror for a moment, before nodding. “All right,” he says, his voice quiet but sure.
“Close your eyes. Don’t open them until I tell you.”
Johnny waits, and watches as Chris’ eyes flutter closed and he relaxes slightly against Johnny, his hands falling by his side.
Johnny shifts slightly, so he can accommodate Chris’ weight - not that there’s much to accommodate, Johnny thinks, sliding his hands around Chris’ waist and gently stroking over the smooth skin of his stomach with his fingers. Chris tilts his head back against Johnny’s shoulder, making a small, pleased noise in the back of his throat.
“You’re gorgeous, you know that?” Johnny says, tracing patterns over and over with his fingers; sliding them over Chris’ flat stomach. “That guy – whichever one he was – he’s jealous because he doesn’t have what you have.”
Chris shifts restlessly against Johnny, his eyes still closed, but Johnny just slides his hands down, curling them around his hips and tucking the tips of his fingers into the waistband of his jeans.
“It’s true. None of those boys have what you have. Which is why you’ll be on the cover, and they won’t …”
Johnny keeps talking softly; rubbing his thumbs over Chris’ hipbones until he’s nearly groaning, pushing against Johnny’s hand. Johnny has to take a shaky breath because oh god, now he’s hard.
He slides his hands over the front of Chris’ jeans and says right against his ear: “Can I?”
Chris - his eyes still closed – just nods, his breathing getting faster and shallower.
Johnny unzips the fly slowly and Chris groans in relief when Johnny slips his hand inside his underwear, wrapping his hand around his dick, and stroking. He keeps talking; his voice low, as he moves his hand – teasingly slow at first, and faster and faster when Chris pushes back against him, hard.
He comes, suddenly, a broken oh spilling from his lips, and Johnny grips his shoulder, unable to stop himself pushing against Chris’ ass until he comes, hard.
“Open your eyes,” Johnny says softly, when his heartbeat stops roaring through his ears.
Chris opens his eyes and stares at himself in the mirror: his hair is sticking to his forehead, there’s a red flush riding high on his cheeks, his eyes are wide, an electric shade of blue under the harsh lights, and his mouth is swollen and red from where he’s bitten down on his bottom lip.
Johnny carefully lets go of Chris’ dick and steps back slightly, running his clean hand down Chris’ back. “That is what they will see in the magazine. A gorgeous boy. Just waiting …”
Chris grips the counter again, as Johnny goes in search of something to clean them both up with. There’s a cupboard at one end of the bathroom, stocked with towels and washcloths, and Johnny takes one of the latter (only wondering briefly why there are towels and washcloths in an office bathroom, no matter how nice). He wets it and cleans up Chris’ stomach, zipping his jeans back up and giving him a quick peck on the lips.
“Now. Go out there. Show that asshole what you can really do.”
Johnny stays behind to clean himself up as best he can; grimacing at the mess. “Jesus, I haven’t done that since I was 14.” It’s uncomfortable, and all he wants to do is go home and have a shower; but he heads back across the hall to the studio, sliding into place beside Adam, who is watching Chris’ shoot intently.
“Whatever you did – it’s working,” he murmurs softly to Johnny.
Johnny watches the shoot for a moment and grins at the difference in Chris: his whole demeanour has changed, and he’s still got the same sweet, open expression on his face, but he’s moving differently – like he’s not apologising for being there any more.
“Can I ask a favour?” Johnny asks, curling up and settling against Adam’s side.
“You can ask,” Adam says idly, stretching out his legs and pulling Johnny in close.
“It’s Chris – he got evicted last week, and I don’t think he’s found anywhere else to live. I was wondering …”
“I’ll talk to him when his shoot is done,” Adam says, frowning.
Chris is a little shy with Adam at first, but he has this way of putting people at ease, and it’s not long before Adam, Johnny and Hayden are hearing the eviction story in gory detail on their way back to the mansion.
“You’ve been sleeping in your car? Why didn’t you tell Kara? She would have helped you.”
Chris looks up at Adam and half-shrugs before staring out the window. “I didn’t think of it, I guess. I was just trying to … survive.”
Johnny smiles as Adam wraps an arm around Chris’ slight form and draws him in close. “Okay. Fair enough. But you can stay here – ”
Chris turns to look out the window as the car rounds the long driveway heading up to the mansion. “Oh my god. It’s a fucking palace.
“- for as long as you like. No strings,” Adam says, as Chris turns back to him, his mouth open in surprise.
“I don’t know what to say.”
The car pulls up at the front door, and Johnny climbs out first, waiting for the others. He’s suddenly pushed up against the side of the car, surprised by a speeding Jakob who had obviously been watching for them to arrive.
Johnny holds on tight, gripping at Jakob’s shoulders. “What are you – I thought you were in boot camp, or something. What – ”
“We all got a pass for 24 hours. I have to leave this time tomorrow –”
“But you’re here now.”
Jakob laughs. “Yes. I’m here now. Who’s this?”
“This,” Adam says, “Is Chris. He’s coming to stay with us for a while. I need to talk to Clarissa about getting a room ready. Hayden can you go with the driver and fetch Chris’ car? I’m assuming there’s some things you want from it?”
“Just – some clothes and things. The car’s a piece of shit though. I’m not even sure it’ll run.”
Hayden just nods, and makes a note on his blackberry, before getting into the front passenger seat of the car.
They’re all watching it drive away, when Simon comes out of the mansion, trailed by the inevitable E! cameras (unhappy, to Johnny’s vast amusement, about being banned from the photoshoot – Adam’s revenge on the pissy producer who wouldn’t leave Johnny alone).
Simon stops in front of Adam, and looks around, obviously feeling awkward.
Johnny pulls Jakob back against him and buries his head in his neck; closing his eyes as he inhales the smell of soap and sweat and Jakob. He catches Chris giving him a curious look, and just smiles.
“Adam can explain it all better than me,” he says, and is relieved when Chris smiles back at him. “Okay.”
“Adam,” Simon says, quietly.
“Can I – I need to talk to you. In private.”
Adam doesn’t like surprises. He’s built his empire – slowly and surely – taking risks when he needed to, but surprises are something else, and he’s feeling a little blindsided.
He takes a deep breath, and pinches the bridge of his nose, feeling a headache creeping up. One thing at a time, he thinks, watching as Johnny practically chases Jakob into the mansion. Well. One thing dealt with, anyway. Simon is looking at him, an expectant, nervous look on his face, and Chris is watching him as well, biting his bottom lip which is way more distracting than it should be right now.
“Give me a second to get Chris settled in, okay – and no, you can’t film him. He hasn’t signed anything,” Adam says to the producer as she makes a move towards them. He puts a protective arm around Chris’ shoulder and leads him into the house, making idle small talk as he does; feeling the boy’s shoulders tighten under his hand.
Adam absently rubs a soothing thumb over the worn fabric of Chris’s shirt as he guides him towards the kitchen, where he leaves him in Clarissa’s capable hands, with the instructions to find him a room, and get him settled in.
Okay, Adam thinks. Now for Simon.
He leads Simon to his home office; a room he doesn’t use much, but whatever Simon has on his mind doesn’t feel feel to Adam like something that can be discussed in his bedroom.
Adam ignores the infrequently used desk and sits down in one of the armchairs under the window, waiting until Simon sits down opposite him.
Simon fidgets in the seat, looking down at his hands, out the window, anywhere but Adam.
“Simon,” Adam says finally, his patience starting to give a little. “What is it?”
“Sorry.” Simon shakes his head a little and gives Adam a shy half-smile. “I. Um. I’ve been offered a job. In New York. It’s with a small record company – a starter, but I really want to do it and I didn’t know how to tell you …”
Adam sits back in his chair, feeling a little winded. He takes a deep breath and stares out the window, noting that it’s getting dark and pinches the bridge of his nose again. “You want to leave,” he says, his voice inflectionless.
“I – well. I don’t want to leave, but the company is in New York, so I have to …”
“You have to move,” Adam says softly turning back to look at Simon, who’s watching him with a slightly wary expression on his face.
“I have to move,” Simon echoes, nodding. “And I thought about it for a really long time, because part of me really, really wants to stay here, with you, and with the others, and I’ll miss you all, but – I really want to do this too.”
Adam leans forward in his chair and reaches out his hands to Simon. “I wish you had told me before. I would have helped you,” he says, rubbing his thumb over Simon’s clenched knuckles.
Simon shifts his hand so he can link their fingers, and smiles. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. I love you and all, but you can be … overwhelming. I needed to know I could do this myself. And now …”
“Now you’re leaving,” Adam says quietly, tightening his hand around Simon’s for a moment before letting go. “I’ll miss you. We all will, but if this is what you really want …”
Simon moves then, out of his chair, on to Adam’s lap; easily straddling his hips. “It is,” he says, before leaning down to press his lips against Adam’s in a firm, deep kiss. “It is,” he says again, right against Adam’s mouth.
Adam smiles as he slides his arms around Simon’s back, letting himself get lost in the kiss for a moment before – reluctantly – pulling back. He rests his forehead against Simon’s for a moment and just … breathes. “I have …”
“I know. You have a million things to do on the other side of the door. I was hoping …” he bites his lip and studies Adam’s face for a moment. “I’ll kick everybody out tonight,” Adam promises, smiling as he tucks the tips of his fingers into the waistband of Simon’s jeans.
Simon pushes back, briefly, against Adam’s fingers, and pouts a little when Adam moves his hands, so he can stand up.
“Like you say, I have a million things to do. But I’ll see you tonight.”
Simon nods and grins; his expression a little shy and Adam squeezes his arm briefly, before heading out to deal with whatever’s next.
He watches quietly, for a moment, as the E! producer talks to Chris in the kitchen. He’s sitting at the table, his hands knotted together, the knuckles white. He looks kind of … pinned; his eyes wide and terrified and Adam’s had enough. He strides into the kitchen, making as much noise with his boots on the linoleum floor as possible, making them both jump.
Adam slides into a seat beside Chris and grits his teeth together. “Having a nice chat?” he asks, his voice mild, but he can feel Chris tense up beside him, and sees the woman’s throat working as she swallows, hard. “What were you talking about that’s so interesting?”
The producer – Diana – has the grace to at least look guilty, but Adam makes a mental note to talk to Hayden about setting up a meeting with Ryan. If the show’s going to go ahead, he doesn’t want her anywhere near it, if the look on Chris’s face is anything to go by.
“Nothing. I was just suggesting a … storyline. For the show. That’s all.”
“Okay – first. I thought we talked about this. No storylines. At all. Second – Chris only just got here, so – respectfully and all – back. Off. In fact – you’re done for the day.”
“But I’m supposed to be –”
“Done,” Adam repeats, his tone not allowing room for any arguments. She tries to stare him down, but ends up just pinching her mouth in and sighing. “Fine. I’ll see you tomorrow. And you, sweetie,” she says to Chris who looks exactly like a rabbit that’s about to be run over by a car.
Adam turns in his chair and studies Chris’s face for a moment. The boy looks pale and tired, and like all he needs in the world is a decent feed and a good night’s sleep. “What did she say?” Adam’s careful to keep his tone mild, because he’s boiling mad – but not at Chris.
Chris flicks a quick, scared look at him from under his lashes. “Um. Not – much. She – it was kind of an overload. You’re doing a show?”
“Yes. Well – as soon as I can get Ryan to fire her, and hire a new producer, yes. She was talking to you about it?”
“Yeah. Something stupid about how my rags-to-riches story would make great viewing and how it feels to be the latest of Lambert’s ‘conquests’.” He does the air-quotes with his fingers on the last word, meeting Adam’s eyes for the first time. “I didn’t know what to say.”
Adam sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “She’s fired anyway – not that she knows that yet – but now she is so fired. Look – she’s been trying to push this storyline bullshit since she started working on the show. I want something more … organic. And she shouldn’t have been talking to you about it at all.
“Look – Chris …” Adam waits, patiently, until Chris looks up from where he’d been studying the table with apparent fascination. “Nothing is going to happen here that you don’t want to happen, okay? That woman … she’s caused trouble here before, and I just haven’t had time to deal with it. You can stay here as long as you like. Like I said in the car - no strings. At all.”
As he watches, some of the tension leaves Chris’s body, and he smiles; small, but genuine. “That’s what I … thought, but then she was saying all this stuff and – I don’t know. I’m not used to people just being … nice to me, you know?”
Adam feels his heart turn over at the thought of what Chris might have gone through but manages to force a smile. He’s about to say something else when Clarissa comes back into the kitchen. “You,” she says, pointing at Chris. “Upstairs, third bedroom on the left. I’ve left the door open. I found some clean clothes that will fit, leave … those … out and I’ll burn them or something,” Clarissa says, eyeing the clothes Chris had changed back into after the shoot. Adam has to admit, they’re threadbare at best, and not especially clean.
“Have a shower,” Clarissa continues, “And then come back down for something to eat.”
Chris turns from Clarissa to Adam, looking confused. “It’s my darkest secret. I’m not actually in charge in my own home. Go on. It’s fine. I’ll talk to you later. I have asses to kick.”
Chris laughs as he gets out of his chair, and stands, awkward, with his hands in his jeans pockets for a moment and Adam has to shift his gaze because, oh, pretty and he wants, but more than anything he doesn’t want to scare Chris off.
“Thank you. For … for everything. The, the job, and the bed, and … well. Everything.”
“That’s his other secret,” Clarissa says, cutting through the odd tension of the moment. “He’s the biggest softie in the world. Well, maybe that’s not such a secret. Now go on!”
Adam scratches a hand through his hair in frustration and sighs as Clarissa wordlessly puts a cup of coffee and a sandwich in front of him. His stomach growls suddenly and he realises he hasn’t eaten all day. “Thanks,” he says, picking it up and taking a bite.
“He’s a cutie,” Clarissa says, sitting down with her own food, and smiling at Adam. “I assume he has some kind of a story?”
Adam fills her in while the others filter in and out; some staying for food, or gossip, or drifting back out again. He catches Simon’s eye when the latter comes in search of food and says, “Do you want to tell everyone all at once? It might be easier that way.”
“Um. Yeah, I guess … I know Diana wanted to film it for the show, but …”
“That’s fine – it’s your news and it’s up to you to share it any way you see fit. I have work to do,” Adam says, looking up in time to see Hayden crossing the foyer, “But I’ll see you tonight, all right?”
Simon nods and smiles, a little shy, as Adam plants a small kiss at the corner of his mouth before catching up to Hayden and saying, “Everything go all right?”
“Yeah. His car’s in the garage. And it is a piece of shit, but it’s here. It’s full of clothes, a few books … ” Hayden shakes his head. “I’m glad he’s here.”
“Me too. Right. Office?”
Hayden blinks in surprise but nods after a moment, because it’s rare for Adam to do any work at home.
“I need to get hold of Ryan. We need a new producer for the show. Diana was pouring poison into Chris’s ear before, and after the stuff with Johnny … if the show is going to go ahead, I need to be working with a producer I can trust. So – set the meeting up for as soon as possible – tomorrow would be ideal – move around whatever you need to, okay? I know that the show is going to be … well, kind of a freak show, like Johnny said, but I’m not having her pressuring anyone into making stuff up, or doing stuff they’re uncomfortable with, just to make good television.”
Hayden nods, and makes notes on his blackberry, as calm as ever, and Adam finds his own nerves soothing out.
“Okay. I think that’s enough work for the day, don’t you?”
Hayden nods and says, “Definitely. I’ll call Ryan in the morning and see what I can arrange. If we’re done – I’m going to go and see if Clarissa needs any help.”
Dinner is a noisy affair, even though – Adam notes with amusement – that Johnny and Jakob are missing. He keeps half an eye on Chris, who’s quiet throughout but seems relaxed enough sitting between Tommy and David, listening to them tell him about how they moved into the mansion.
Simon gives his news after dinner, and – somehow – that turns into an impromptu party and Adam finds himself sprawled out on a large leather couch in one of the mansion’s rec rooms. His arms are full of a very drunk Simon, and Tommy’s curled into his side like a lazy, entitled cat.
Even Johnny and Jakob are there; curled around each other in a giant armchair, their limbs so tangled that Adam can’t tell where one starts and the other ends.
Chris is watching everything slightly wide-eyed and Adam hears him lean over to Daz, who’s prone on the floor, his arms and legs sprawled out. David’s lying down there, too, his head on Daz’s hip; his eyes closed. “Is it always like this?”
Daz looks up at Chris and grins, cheeky and a lot drunk. “No. Most of the time it’s better.”
Joshua – leaning back against the arm of the sofa Adam is sitting on, stretches out his legs to tuck under Tommy’s thighs, and laughs. “That is the smartest thing I have ever heard you say.”
Joshua turns his head lazily to study Chris for a moment, who’s still a little hunched in on himself but opening up a little more all the time and says, “Honey, you are going to love it here. I promise.”
Adam can’t quite tell over the next few days if that’s true, as he’s busy with the last-minute details that always come up right before another issue is set to go to the printers. So he takes another gamble, and lets Clarissa and the others envelop Chris into the fold as best they can.
But he keeps an eye on Chris as best he can, in the whirl of work, and boys, and the show – now with a new producer he’s much happier with – one who not only listens to what he wants but talks to each of the boys and Hayden and Clarissa in turn. Janine’s a natural listener, and Adam has no qualms at all about the show – called Rock Out after the magazine – going ahead in her capable hands.
Jakob’s show starts running, and for a while, that becomes everyone’s focus. Especially Johnny, who watches it with a kind of intensity that makes Adam worry about him a little, but he has to trust that Johnny will come to him or Joshua, if it starts to get too much.
Chris – after a few days – seems to find a space for himself, and settles in, though Adam notices – with a certain amount of relief – that he sticks close to Joshua and Rahab, until he gets his bearings.
Once the bear issue is put to bed, and the book for the next issue is under way, Adam can breathe a little again.
He finds himself unable to sleep one night – it’s hot, and despite all of the windows in his room being open, it feels like everything is sticking to him. He gently nudges at Johnny, who’s plastered to Adam’s side, even in the heat. Johnny’s been spending a lot of nights with Adam lately, Jakob’s absence having unsettled him more than he’s willing to admit to anyone. Adam doesn’t mind – not at all – but right now, it’s just too hot to be this physically close to someone.
Johnny doesn’t even wake up. He just mutters in his sleep, rolls over, and pushes at the rumpled sheet with his foot.
Adam sits on the edge of the bed for a moment, getting his bearing. He gropes on the floor and finds his discarded pyjama pants, the worn cotton smooth under his fingers. He pulls them on, and quietly heads out of the room.
He roams the mansion as quietly as he can; avoiding all of the boys’ rooms – not wanting to wake anyone up. He finds that his feet are slowly leading him towards Joshua’s rooms, and he’s content to let them lead the way, until a light in one of the mansion’s large living spaces catches his eye.
Tracking down the source, he finds Chris asleep – curled up on a large, wide sofa that Adam remembers Rahab talking him into buying. He studies Chris’s face for a moment, and is suddenly glad that Cam had insisted on double checking his age. In the low lamplight – the only illumination in the massive room – Chris looks about 15. The TV is on, but the sound is muted. It’s some movie playing silently and Adam’s about to move away as silently as he can when Chris stirs.
He blinks his eyes open slowly and looks up at Adam without moving. “Time is it?”
Adam sits down and reaches for the remote on the coffee table, clicking the off button. “It’s about 3am I think? I guess you fell asleep watching a movie.”
Chris sits up, rubbing at his eyes, his hair sticking up on one side. “Uh … I must have. What are you doing up?”
“Too hot to sleep.”
Adam turns his head and studies Chris’s face. He’s filled out a little in the few weeks he’s been living at the mansion. He’s still slender, but doesn’t look as though a stiff breeze is going to knock him over any more. He uncurls his legs and stretches his arms above his head, giving Adam a tempting glimpse of pale skin as his t-shirt rides up.
He glances at Adam as he brings his arms down and although the light isn’t strong enough to really tell, Adam’s pretty sure he’s blushing.
“I know it’s stupidly late, and I should let you go to bed, but I’ve been ridiculously busy and I wanted to ask how you were settling in.”
Chris half-turns, curling his legs under himself and leaning his head against the back of the sofa. He blinks, once, slow and lazy and smiles. “Good. Everyone’s been … everyone’s been really nice to me. It’s weird,” he continues softly, staring past Adam and frowning, before bringing his gaze back.
“Everything before feels like some kind of strange dream, you know? Moving to LA, and trying to find work, and sleeping in my car … and now this …” Chris laughs. “It’s like the craziest fairytale ever. And I’m having a great time.”
Adam finds himself responding to Chris’s enthusiasm despite the late hour and grins, relieved. “Good. Hopefully now that the magazine is at the printers, I’ll have a little bit of time. Then, of course, we’ll be working on your issue …”
A wide grin breaks out on Chris’s face and Adam can’t contain his own smile in the face of his excitement.
“That’s so … strange to think about. That I’m going to be … in a magazine. Be in your magazine – I actually asked Daz to pinch me yesterday, because I thought I was dreaming and was going to wake up in my car.”
“What did he say?”
Chris shakes his head and holds out his arm. Adam takes it, his fingertips sliding over smooth skin, and studies the purple bruise fading there. “Well, at least you know you’re not dreaming …”
Chris wrinkles his nose and laughs. “Joshua told me I should never ask Daz that question. Because he always pinches. I should … let you go to bed.”
“I was just going to say the same thing to you,” Adam says softly, feeling a change in the air around them. A familiar change, but one that always makes him hold his breath. Chris moves slowly, leaning forward until Adam can feel his breath on his cheek.
“Is this okay?”
“If – if it’s what you want. Don’t do it just because you’re grateful. Do it because you –”
Adam’s cut off then, by Chris’s mouth. As far as kisses go, it’s not the best; the angle is awkward and it’s a little clumsy but Adam shifts, a little; making small adjustments – just enough to draw a small moan from the back of Chris’s throat that vibrates in his own mouth.
Chris pulls back first, smirking a little. “I want to. But …”
“But it’s something like half past three in the morning. You have the worst timing,” Adam says, rubbing his thumb over Chris’s bottom lip.
“I was going to … talk to you tomorrow – today, I guess, after work. I was hoping, I mean …”
“You want me to kick Johnny out for the night?”
Even in the dim light Adam can see Chris’s face flush as he nods once, quickly. “I mean – if he doesn’t mind – Joshua said he has a hard time without Jakob …”
“He does, but I’ll talk to him. He’ll be fine.”
Chris bites his bottom lip and Adam thinks that shouldn’t be as hot and sweet as it is, even as he can’t take his eyes off Chris’s mouth.
Adam reluctantly stands up then, holding out his hand. “Come on. I’ll tuck you in.”
Chris giggles as he takes Adam’s hand and pulls himself to his feet. He tightens his grip for a moment and leans up, landing a small kiss at the corner of Adam’s mouth. “Well, maybe just this once …” Adam kisses him properly then, if only to muffle the laughter that wants to bubble out of his chest. “You’re trouble, aren’t you?” he says softly as he can when he breaks the kiss, but he’s smiling.
“You have no idea.”
Adam finds his concentration at work that day is totally shot, and knows he can’t just blame it on being tired. He’s been with a lot of guys over the years, but the excitement of being with someone new is always a buzz. And Chris is so sweet, with a very distracting mouth …
When Adam finds out it’s Cam’s anniversary, he makes the decision to send everyone home early. “You should have said – taken the day off. Hell, take tomorrow off! God knows it’s going to get busy later in the month, with the magazine, and the show launching … speaking of, are you set for the party?”
Cassidy looks up from the table where he’s sorting through photos again, and grins. “Oh yes. We’re all ready for the big launch party. Are you?”
Adam stretches and grabs his jacket, shrugging it easily over his shoulders. “E! is doing all the work for it, and paying for it. All I have to do, is open the door of the mansion. So – yes. I’m ready. Right. Let’s all get out of here before another crisis comes up.”
One of the things Adam loves about his life, is that he never knows what he’s going to find when he gets home from work. What he really loves, is that all his boys still have the capacity to surprise him. He stands in the entranceway to one of the living areas, a small private smile playing about his mouth as he watches – of all things – Rahab and Johnny doing some kind of … waltz, he thinks.
Johnny’s arms are wound around Rahab’s neck and he’s laughing at something she’s said; looking lighter than Adam’s seen him in weeks. Rahab spins him, suddenly and waves at Adam over his head.
“Hi, honey. Nice day at work?”
“Oh, you know. The usual. Boys, boys, and more boys.”
Johnny turns his head and laughs at this, before resting it in the hollow of Rahab’s shoulder and closing his eyes.
Rahab runs her hands down Johnny’s back, resting them in the curve, and splaying out her fingers. Adam watches for a moment; the quiet scene enough to start the work-day tension unravelling.
When Rahab looks up again, Adam mouths thank you, as she makes a shooing motion with her hand. Johnny half-turns his head and opens his eyes, giving Adam a sweet, lazy smile. Adam blows him a kiss, and heads upstairs to his own room.
He has no idea how Rahab’s managed it, but he doesn’t encounter anyone else, and the only person in his room is Chris, who’s reading one of the battered paperbacks Adam keeps on his nightstand.
He leans on the doorframe and just watches for a moment, as Chris’s eyes move rapidly over the page. He looks good, Adam admits privately. He’s put on weight, and he’s getting more and more comfortable around the mansion, and around the others, as he settles into his own place among the busy household.
Chris jumps slightly and flushes when he sees Adam standing in the doorway. “Oh! I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry – is this okay? I mean Rahab said it was okay, but I felt a little … weird, so I picked up one of your books and …”
Adam holds up his hand and his gaze is caught – again – when Chris bites his bottom lip to stem the flow of words. “It’s fine. Better than fine. I’m certainly not complaining,” he says, as he slips his jacket off and hangs it up in the closet, before climbing on to the bed as Chris puts the book on the nightstand, his eyes fixed on Adam’s face.
Adam reaches out to stroke a thumb over one sharp cheekbone, setting up a soothing rhythm. “You still okay with this?”
Chris turns his face into Adam’s touch, his eyes fluttering closed. “I’ve always been okay with this. Yes.”
“Good,” Adam says, before pulling him in for a kiss that deepens quickly, but he doesn’t feel any sense of urgency; content to just lie back on his stupidly giant, custom-made bed, and make out with the cute boy beside him.
Chris apparently has other ideas, however, and it’s not long before he’s pressing closer, and making small, needy noises in the back of his throat, sliding his hands under Adam’s shirt and pushing the fabric out of his way, which is enough to make Adam move a little faster; eager, suddenly, to feel Chris’s bare skin against his own.
Clothes are rapidly discarded and Adam slides his hands over Chris’s arms; his torso, fluttering his fingers around his sharp hipbones, and tracing lazy circles on his skin until Chris is clenching and unclenching his hands on Adam’s shoulders, digging his nails in and begging, almost breathlessly, “Adam please.”
Adam moves as slowly as he can; partly for Chris’s sake, but also because he loves the feeling of a new boy under his hands. The slide of skin is always different; the noises are different; the look on his face … Adam finds it all fascinating, every time he’s with someone new, and it’s always something that he wants to lock in his memory.
Chris is amazingly responsive, and open, which Adam can’t help but respond to himself, and he smiles down at him, wide and bright; even as he slides in as slowly as he can; murmuring soft endearments in Chris’s ear the whole time.
Chris wraps his legs around Adam’s waist, and his arms around his neck, pushing his hands through Adam’s hair, and all Adam can do is hold on, and swallow Chris’s delicious noises as best he can with his mouth. He rapidly loses the ability to do anything slowly as Chris goes over the edge, and Adam follows, coming hard and fast.
“You are something else,” Adam says after, as Chris tracks a lazy pattern over Adam’s freckled shoulders with his mouth, their legs in a careless tangle. “Mmmmmhhmmmm … so are you.”
Adam laughs, a low rumble in his chest, and pushes Chris’s fringe back from his face, carding his fingers through his hair. “Boys,” Adam says, as Chris leans up for a kiss. “Always my weakness.”
“You’ve done all right out of it,” Chris says, teasing back, his eyes firmly on Adam’s mouth, before he starts tracking a far less random path down Adam’s body; his lips almost too much on Adam’s overheated, oversensitive skin, but all he can do – all he wants to do – is curl his hands into the sheets, close his eyes, and let himself go.
Adam has cause a few nights later to remember Chris’s words, as he looks around his room. Everyone is there – even Jakob, the show having given him permission to be here – lying on the end of the bed with Johnny, who keeps reaching out to touch, like he can’t quite believe Jakob is real.
As Adam watches, Jakob tilts his head back, so Johnny can kiss him, and whispers something against his mouth. Adam doesn’t catch it but whatever it is, it makes Johnny’s face flare red and the kind of smile that Adam hasn’t seen on his face for too long appears as he kisses Jakob back; slower and deeper, like they’ve forgotten they’re in a room full of people.
Daz – sprawled out in the middle of the bed – nudges Jakob with his foot. “Either share, or get a room.”
Johnny pulls back and shakes his head, like he has forgotten he’s in a room full of people. Jakob pulls a face at Daz and says, “Sorry,” unrepentantly as they re-settle in their previous positions on the bed.
Simon’s still there – his flight set to leave a couple of days after the launch party for the show. He’s stretched out on one side of the bed, with Joshua, who’s absently playing with Simon’s hair, his eyes fixed to the wide-screen TV at the base of the bed.
Joshua glances back at Adam, and purses his lips, blowing a small kiss that makes Adam – nervous already – feel a little better.
Adam feels a little bit like he’s holding court – he’s sitting in the centre of the bed, with Tommy curled up one one side, his head on Adam’s shoulder, and Chris on the other, his arm around Adam’s waist.
David is lying with his head on Tommy’s leg and Tommy’s playing with his hair; pushing and pulling at the strands, his hand occasionally drifting to David’s neck, which sends a delicious-looking shudder through him each time, and Adam finds himself staring.
He shakes himself out of his reverie when he feels Chris’s fingertips pressing into his back. Chris is right. He has done all right. Better than all right.
Taking a deep breath, Adam picks up the remote control. “Ready?” The DVD had arrived that morning, with a bunch of promotional posters, and a party atmosphere had pervaded the house, even though the official launch wasn’t for another couple of days.
But Adam had insisted that his boys get to see it first – before Cam and Cassidy; before Ryan and Janine, even. He points the remote at the TV and waits for the DVD to come to life; as the first episode of Rock Out starts playing.
My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard … I could teach you, but I'd have to charge … starts playing over the opening credits of the mansion gates opening, as the camera pans up the driveway.
Daz starts giggling when the song starts playing, and it’s infectious. Before Adam knows it; everyone is laughing, and he finds himself relaxing, properly, for the first time since Ryan first proposed the show idea.
Everyone settles down when the doors of the mansion open on screen, with Adam standing there; commanding the space, spreading his arms wide. “I’m Adam Lambert. And this … is my life.”
Adam does his best to set aside his own vanity at seeing himself on screen (I’m fat; oh my God my hair; you can see my freckles) and watches carefully as he can with two warm boys pressed to his sides; making sure that the cuts and changes he’d agreed on with Janine had made it to the final edit.
After it’s finished, he switches it off, and waits, holding his breath. Daz breaks the silence first. “Well, fuck me. It’s good! Though, god, I look so fat!”
Adam relaxes as Daz sparks a discussion among the others about how they all looked, and sounded, and turns his head to meet Tommy’s gaze.
“Well? What do you think?”
Tommy just smirks and moves until he’s straddling Adam’s hips. He pushes his long fingers through Adam’s thick hair and leans in, kissing him quickly on the lips. “It’s good. It’s kind of … amazing. Oh, fuck. We’re all going to be famous!”
“Honey, this is just the start of what we’re going to be,” Joshua says, leaning over to pick up the remote from Adam’s side.
“Again?” There’s a noisy consensus, and Joshua hits ‘play’ again; the Milkshake song filling the room with its cheerful rhyme, as Tommy rolls off Adam’s lap and curls up beside him again, making grabby hands until David re-settles in his previous position.
“You know, I think I’ve done better than all right,” Adam says low in Chris’s ear. Chris looks up at him and smiles, tucking himself in tighter against Adam’s side. “Yeah. Me too.”
Adam takes a deep breath, before hitting the first link of the list of review Hayden had emailed him. The show had debuted on the E! network the night before, and – as luck would have it – Adam had had too busy a day to read them until right now; even having to turn off his phone as calls and texts kept coming in about it.
“Time, and the magazine industry waits for no one,” he explains to Cassidy, as he hits the power button on his phone. “I’m dying to see what the reviews are like, but we still have work to do …”
“Bad timing; that interview falling over like that,” Cassidy says, curling his hands around his steaming cup of tea.
“Really bad timing. Hopefully this lead that Sasha’s following up will go somewhere.”
“Plus, she’s a fast writer. Problem solved?”
“Hopefully. Look – we’re nearly done here. Why don’t you head out? I’m just going to check my emails before I go home.”
Cassidy unfolds his long frame from his chair and rests a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “The show is great, Adam. Don’t worry. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Adam nods absently as he opens his inbox, staring wide-eyed at the sheer number of reviews which – for a reality show on the E! network – is … well, there’s a lot.
Hayden knocks on the door and sticks his head around; looking Adam’s way. “I know you turned your phone off, boss, so I had your calls forwarded to my phone. Nothing urgent. I’ll be out here, catching up on stuff when you’re ready to go.”
“Thanks, Hayden. Remind me to give you a raise.”
“I’ll be sure to.”
Adam waits until Hayden closes the door before opening his email and clicking the first review – from the afterElton.com website.
Taking a deep breath that he lets out slowly, Adam begins reading.
Rocking out with Adam Lambert
We all know who Adam Lambert is, right? Media mogul and all-round nice guy, but something of an enigma – until now.
He’s been the talk – and let’s face it – the envy of the gay community for many a year, for his seemingly effortless ability to attract the prettiest boys, and has no compunction – and no regrets according to the new show on Tuesday nights, 10pm on E! – about having several living with him at a time. He’s never felt the need to explain himself, and Rock Out - named after Lambert’s uber-successful gay skin magazine - goes for show; not tell.
It shows Lambert in his natural habitats: at his ridiculous (his word, not mine) mansion; always in company of a pretty boy or three (although, Lambert, if you ever get tired of your latest pretty cover-boy; let us know …); and at his RockOut offices.
Lambert is hands-on (pun intended) in all aspects of his life; and his magazine is clearly his passion, but what’s really fascinating about the show is the easy relationship he seems to enjoy with all of his boys, each of whom seem imbued with personality-plus, although the natural standouts – so far - seem to be Johnny Weir and the deeelightful Rahab.
Rock Out is my new not-so-guilty pleasure – and it should be yours, too.
Join me next Tuesday, 10pm on E! and dish in the comments after!
Rock out, indeed!
Adam skims the rest of the reviews quickly; and they’re overwhelmingly positive. There’s a couple of less-than-glowing ones, but Adam had expected that – had expected more than that, and he can’t contain his excitement.
He shuts down his laptop, and practially bounces out of the office. “Come on,” he says to Hayden, who has to rush to catch up to Adam’s long strides, suddenly eager to be at home, among the people who love him best.
“We’ve got celebrating to do!”