When Kris was eight, he moved to San Diego.
California was warm and sunny, and most of the people Kris met were nice to him. Conway had been nice too, but he didn’t remember much about it, except that it was small and his best friend had been a pretty blonde girl named Katy who lived down the street.
Their new house was big, and he got to have his own room instead of sharing one with Danny. They even had a backyard—smaller than the one they’d had in Conway, but still nice; his mama talked about planting flowers and maybe getting a dog.
It was the best almost birthday present ever.
When Kris was nine, he met Adam Lambert.
His mama made fast friends with their neighbor, a nice lady named Beth Saunders. Her house was even bigger than theirs, full of nice things that his parents told him not to touch, because they were expensive and breakable.
His parents were in the backyard with Mrs. Saunders and her husband, talking about adult things that didn’t interest Kris at all. He was bored because he wasn’t allowed to touch the pretty, shiny things—despite the house being full of them. It wasn’t like he was the only kid in the house; Mrs. Saunders had three kids: two girls and a boy.
Cameron was two years old and toddled around after Danny, grabbing at everything and screaming loudly. Kendall had the prettiest hazel eyes he’d ever seen, but she kept blushing and holding onto her mom’s hand whenever Kris tried to talk to her. The oldest wasn’t home, out doing preteen things, whatever that meant. Kris was alone.
He sat on their living room floor huddled into a corner, trying to make himself as small as possible and hugging his knees to his chest. He didn’t have any friends here, and there was still another month of summer left. Tears slid down his face. Maybe he missed living in Conway more than he thought he did.
That was when the whirlwind known as Danielle and Adam swept in. They were best friends, attached at the hip. Danielle, who had just turned thirteen, was tall, blonde, and pretty; the chubby, freckled redhead next to her looked out-of-place. They were talking loudly, giggling at some random joke.
Kris froze, trying not to make a sound. He hoped they didn’t see him. He didn’t like it when other people saw him cry.
“Dani, I don’t know why you’re so bent out of shape.”
“Because, Adam, my mom made me come home early. We have guests.”
“Yeah, our new neighbors. The Allens? I wasn’t really listening when my mom told me.”
“Way to be a bitch.”
Loud, sudden laughter filled the entryway and Danielle flounced over to the couch, not catching sight of Kris, but Adam did.
“Adam? What are you—is that a kid?”
He nodded absent-mindedly at her question, crouching down in front of Kris. “What’re you doing here, little guy?”
Kris refused to look up, curling into a tighter ball. He didn’t want to say anything—couldn’t say anything—because everything here was strange and new and unfamiliar.
He just wanted to go back to Conway.
“Hey, it’s alright. Dani and I don’t bite.”
Kris peeked out from the shelter of his arms and saw that the freckled boy was beaming brightly at him.
“Are you okay?”
“No,” Kris stammered out before he let the tears flow unchecked, talking about how much he missed having friends, and being in Conway, where he wasn’t lonely all the time because people liked him there. The redhead was watching him with compassion in his eyes.
“If you want me to, I’ll be your friend.”
“Really?” Kris asked, brown eyes wide and teary.
Adam pulled him into a tight hug. Kris tensed in Adam’s hold, but relaxed into it after a minute, squeezing just as tight.
When Kris was ten, he had his first kiss.
It had been in August, after he had lived through a year and then some of being a California boy. He’d decided it really wasn’t that bad living there. He liked his house and he had a lot of friends—including Neil, Adam’s little brother—but he was closest to Adam and Danielle. They were really nice to him, even though he was younger and it probably wasn’t cool to hang out with a ten-year-old; they did it anyway. Kris felt like they knew him better than any kid at school.
But no one knew him better than Katy. He’d kept in touch with her, because she was still his best friend—even if she was a girl—and he told her everything about Arkansas that he didn’t miss, but that he missed her all the time and he couldn’t wait until she got to his house. She and her parents were only a few hours away, after days and days of driving across the U.S. They were only going to be there a week, but Kris couldn’t wait to see her.
Finally, the O’Connells reached the Allen house. Kris took Katy’s hand and ran next door, ringing the doorbell over and over until Mrs. Saunders opened the door, scowl melting at the sight of Kris standing there.
“Kris, honey! Good to see you.” She swept him into a hug and kissed his cheek. “And who’s this lovely lady?”
Katy blushed, gripping Kris’ hand tighter.
“This is Katy O’Connell. She’s my best friend from Conway. Katy, this is Beth Saunders.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Mrs. Saunders laughed loudly, the same way Danielle did, and slung an arm around Katy’s shoulders. “Well, aren’t you a sweetheart? Adam and Dani aren’t home right now, but they’ll be back soon. Why don’t you two come in? Kendall’s in her room if you want to play.”
Kris grinned at her before going up the stairs to Kendall’s room, even though she still ran away from him and always looked away when he waved. But he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so he knocked on her purple door and smiled when she opened it.
Kris decided he liked Kendall better when she didn’t say anything and just ran from him, because she was glaring at Katy. Katy looked nervous, her hand tightening around Kris’ until it hurt.
“This is my best friend, Katy. She’s from Arkansas.”
“Oh. Nice to meet you.”
She looked torn between being mad and wanting to cry. He’d almost reached out to her when the loud noises he’d learned to associate with Dani and Adam were bursting through the house.
“Krissy! Beth told us you’re here!”
“I’d hurry if I were you; Adam looks like he needs his huggle monster.”
He stared at Kendall, upset and confused by the way her eyes glistened, when he felt a tug. Katy was looking at him with anxious eyes, and Dani and Adam were just getting louder.
“Sorry, Kendall, but we have to go. I’ll see you later.”
He didn’t see Kendall for the rest of the week.
Katy was always with him, and the two of them were always with Adam and Dani. They kept teasing him about her, but Kris didn’t like Katy like that, even if she did have pretty blonde hair, a real-life ray of sunshine.
He didn’t like-like her because she was his best friend, and it would be like having a crush on his sister. Of course, that didn’t stop the teasing, because Adam and Dani liked to tease Kris about his “girlfriend” and how cute they were.
Suddenly, the week was over and Katy was leaving; he probably wouldn’t see her again for a long time. He gave her a big hug before her family’s red minivan drove away, watching as it went down the street and then turn a corner, out of sight.
He didn’t want to go home, not when the remnants of Katy’s presence were all over his house, so he went next door. To his surprise, Kendall was the one who answered the door.
“Hi. Did she leave?”
He’d never seen her look so angry before. It was kind of scary.
The scowl slipped off her face. “You look sad. Is it because of her?”
Kris nodded silently. Kendall was looking at him strangely, like she wanted to look at him forever. She moved closer to him, staring up at him with her beautiful hazel eyes.
“I can make you smile.”
Then she was tiptoeing a bit to reach his face, just a quick brush of lips before she stared at the floor, blushing brightly. Kris raised a hand to his mouth, touching his lips, helpless to do anything but gape at her.
“Ken doll, is that Kris? Don’t just stand there, let him in!”
Adam ran down the stairs, crowding into the doorway with Kendall and Kris. Neither of them were meeting the other’s eyes and Kris still had a hand frozen to his mouth. Adam had a very bad feeling that he had interrupted something monumental.
“Did I miss something?”
Kendall finally moved away from the door, breaking into a sprint up the stairs. Kris didn’t move.
“Kris? Krissy? Hello?”
Adam waved a hand in front of the bewildered boy before shaking him. He was jolted out of whatever trance he had been in and just blurted it out.
“Kendall kissed me.”
Well, Adam had always known Kris wasn’t exactly tactful. Everyone else knew that Kendall had a major crush on Kris, but he hadn’t thought she’d ever act on it. Apparently, he and Danielle were very, very wrong about that.
And his poor baby looked so confused by it all; he needed a cuddle. Adam pulled him inside, closed the door and practically launched himself at the smaller boy. Kris just buried his face in Adam’s chest, hands clasped tightly around his waist. He’d always liked Adam’s hugs the best.
“I don’t get girls, Adam. I really don’t.”
“Me neither, little guy. Don’t worry. It’ll get easier when you’re older. I promise.”
When Kris was thirteen, he decided girls were nothing but trouble.
Adam had lied. Kendall Saunders was living proof that it never, ever got easier.
After she had kissed him that one summer, she had become more…determined in her pursuit of him. It was a bit disturbing. Eleven-year-old girls shouldn’t be this crazy, damnit. Especially for this long.
The timid little girl with the wide hazel eyes had disappeared and been replaced by a brash, stubborn creature who insisted that Kris was going to be hers someday. Having a stalker was never something Kris had had on his list of things to experience.
It’d started with Kezia Lewis, a pretty Asian girl who was so cheerful and so herself that he fell for her instantly. When he told her he liked her, she’d just finished weaving her daisy chain, placed it around his neck and said, “I don’t like boys that way yet. Give me a few years. Want to be best friends instead?”
Kris had looked at her, bewildered, but nodded anyway. Then Kendall had appeared out of nowhere to dump the contents of her juice box on Kezia’s head. Kezia had just laughed loudly as Kendall stomped away and hugged Kris to her tightly, getting cranberry juice all over him. He didn’t mind.
The next had been Mandy Williams, the girl who sat next to him in seventh grade English. She was blonde and soft-spoken, but incredibly smart. She was always reading books and writing in her blue notebook instead of listening to the teacher.
They had been walking to his house to work on a project together when they passed by the playground. Kendall was playing with her friends, and she got this dangerous look on her face when she saw the way Mandy leaned into Kris as they talked and laughed together.
The next day, after the project had been finished, Mandy had asked to be moved to a new seat. She avoided him whenever he tried to find out why, when Neil told him that Kendall had talked to her that morning. She’d made up some sob story about how much she liked Kris but he was always so mean to her, telling her all the reasons why he would never like her. Mandy had been no match against those wide, teary eyes, and believed her, deciding she didn’t want to be near someone so cruel. Mandy still didn’t talk to him.
The worst had been Amanda Dunaway. He’d had a crush on her since eighth grade, but he’d been too shy to act on it. She’d never noticed him, because the glamorous Amanda Dunaway was way out of Kris’ league.
At least she had been, until their freshman year of high school when they’d ended up in choir together. For the first time, she’d noticed him. Amanda was blonde, blue-eyed, and almost too beautiful to be real, with a sweet voice to match. She reminded him a bit of Katy, but taller, almost the same height as he was. She was also an actress, a fourteen-year-old with numerous roles in community and school theatre on her resume. Kris wasn’t sure if he genuinely liked her or was just in awe, like so many others were.
But they had flirted in class, a lot of shy glances, brief brushes of hands. He knew that Tyler Albright, a guy who had starred opposite Amanda in many of their roles, had had a crush on her for years, and wasn’t too thrilled by the moon eyes he and Amanda had started making at each other.
Then Kendall had gotten wind of their almost something. He never knew how, but she’d somehow gotten Amanda to believe that Kris had gone around bragging that he was going to get into her pants. Which was far from the truth, but she didn’t know him well enough to realize that he supposed. Amanda had glared at him for months and turned to Tyler for comfort. He smirked smugly in Kris’ direction as Amanda leaned against his shoulder, planting a small kiss on his cheek.
There were others in between that Kendall had driven away, one way or another. It was driving Kris insane. If she kept this up for the rest of his life, well, Kris figured he could go into the Witness Protection Program, change his identity, and be paranoid until the day he died.
Except that really wasn’t tempting at all. He wanted to have a family and not die alone and bitter. He sat on his front step and put his head in his hands.
“I hate my life.”
“It can’t be that bad, Krissy.”
He looked up, and Adam was standing there. He’d shot up the past few years, and at seventeen, he stood at 6’1, towering over Kris. But his freckled face was familiar, blue eyes warm with affection. They’d grown apart since he was ten, and most of the time, Kris was with Neil instead of Adam, but he was still willing to be Kris’ shoulder to lean on.
“Kendall being obsessive isn’t that bad?”
“You’re just exaggerating.”
Kris launched into a heated rant about Kendall and her “incredibly evil machinations”. Adam stood there, looking at him as if he didn’t know whether to laugh or comfort him. He sat down next to Kris and threw an arm around him, smiling slightly as Kris immediately laid his head on his shoulder.
“Ah. I take that back then.”
They sat there in comfortable silence for a while, watching the cars pass by -not that there were many.
Kris let out a loud sigh. “You’re such a liar, Lambert.”
“You totally said this would get easier when I was older. I’m older, and this isn’t any easier; you’re a liar.”
Adam looked down at him. “Am not, Allen. It gets easier when you don’t happen to have a crazy little girl who thinks she’s in love with you.”
“Well, I do. I don’t get why she’s so hung up on me. I’m not even that great.”
“Psh. Krissy, you’re amazing. You’re cute, relatively intelligent and a total sweetheart. Girls will be falling all over themselves for you in no time.” He paused, biting his lip nervously. “And I might have encouraged her.”
“What do you mean relatively intelligent? Wait,” Kris tensed under his touch, “You did what?”
“Well, I didn’t know she was talking about you at the time. I thought that she’d gotten over you. I mean, childhood crushes fade eventually. You and Katy got over it didn’t you? Yeah, yeah, I know, you didn’t think of each other like that. Look, Kendall said there was a boy that she really liked but he didn’t notice her so I said she should try and get his attention and I’m really, really sorry I’m the reason you’re having all this trouble but I didn’t think she’d go psycho on you and sabotage all your relationship attempts.”
Kris shoved Adam, “You traitor! You’re the reason I haven’t been able to have a girlfriend. Well you and Kendall. But I expected more from you Adam.”
“It’s not my fault, I’m innocent!” He raised his hands in surrender, pouting when Kris just scowled at him. “Come on, don’t be mad at me. My huggle monster can’t be angry forever can he?”
Kris felt a blush spread across his face at the old nickname. “I can try.”
Adam rolled his eyes, “Girls are always going to be difficult. Even the ones you don’t date. You just have to roll with the punches. And maybe let it slip to Dani that Ken doll’s been a little loopy lately. She used to be such a sweet kid. I think she’s just going through a phase. A really, really bad phase.”
Kris sighed again, leaning back into Adam, “I hope so. I really don’t want to live with her hanging over my head the rest of my life. How do you deal with all this girl crap?”
“I don’t date girls. That’s how.”
Damn it. This is what he got for being too relaxed around Kris. He never needed to censor his words around him before, but this was different. Adam knew he was branded a freak by the general public, for many reasons, and he didn’t know if he could handle Kris reacting like them. Not his Kris.
“I can hear the wheels in your head turning Lambert.” He felt an arm wind around his waist, tugging him even closer for a reassuring squeeze. “I don’t care if you don’t like girls. You’re still Adam and I still love you.”
His eyes darted to the boy in his arms. No, definitely not his Kris. He hesitated for a moment before planting a kiss on Kris’ forehead.
“Love you, too, Kris.”
When Kris was sixteen, he was confused.
Kris liked to watch people.
Not in a creepy stalker way or anything, but he found something fascinating in the traits and quirks that made up a person. The way they interacted, the way they moved, the way they looked. He appreciated the beauty of the human body, regardless of the gender said beauty belonged to. The strong, solid angles of a male body were just as interesting to him as the willowy grace in a female’s.
He didn’t think he necessarily had an attraction to the people he observed, but he did have a fascination with it. Probably because his own face was always animated, always expressing what he felt, whether he liked it or not.
Adam, on the other hand, was brilliant at hiding what he really felt. Kris figured it was the years of being onstage, adapting to and emulating whatever emotion the script called for. But Kris could always read him.
That never changed, even with the passing years and growing distance. They could have entire conversations without saying a word. At least, they could the last time he’d seen Adam, but that had been almost three years ago.
As soon as he’d graduated, Adam had spirited himself off to LA, to make a name for himself. He’d gotten a few performing gigs, done some shows, and called Kris once a week. The calls had stopped about six months into his move.
So when Adam showed up at his house, out of nowhere, Kris didn’t recognize him.
He’d opened the door to a tall dark-haired man, with a freckle-free complexion and liner-rimmed eyes. The leather jacket, skintight jeans and snakeskin boots didn’t help either.
“Can I help you?”
He smirked. “Do I really look that different?”
“Umm…I know you?”
“Honestly,” he sighed, rolling his eyes before grinning widely and pulling Kris into a tight hug.
It was the smile that had done it, the way the joy spread across his face until Kris felt like smiling too. It was the way Adam’s hug still felt the same, arms gripping tight as if he never wanted to let go.
He pulled away, hands on Kris’ shoulders, biting his lip nervously.
“What do you think of the new look, Krissy?”
“I, um, it’s…you look-”
Fumbling for words because this was Adam and at the same time it wasn’t, familiar and unfamiliar all wrapped up in one incredibly attractive package, and it was screwing with Kris’ mind so very badly.
“A complete sentence would be nice.”
He sounded confident, but Kris saw the flicker of uncertainty in his eyes. His arms wound around Adam’s waist as he nuzzled into his neck, bringing him back into a hug.
“You look great,” he whispered when they finally separated. Kris’ fingers ran through Adam’s newly dark hair, “The black suits you. Brings out your eyes.”
Blue, blue eyes.
It was the right thing to say because Adam grabbed him in another hug, sunny smile on his face the whole time.
“Of course I do! I’m fabulous.”
And then he just flounced into the house, yelling something about catching up and how much he missed Mama Allen’s cooking. Different look, same old Adam. Except the old Adam hadn’t messed with Kris’ head, not in the way this one did.
Obviously his body hadn’t gotten the memo that sexy or not, Adam was still Adam, and Kris could not—and did not—have a thing for him.
Because this was Adam, his first real friend here, who had helped him through anything that had gone wrong in his life and celebrated with him when everything was right. It was a stupid crush that would pass eventually.
Except it didn’t.
He tried to ignore it at first. He thought it was just the shock of this new Adam who was more confident in his skin, who looked good and knew it. Kris caught himself staring at the freckles on Adam’s lips and wondering if Adam would mind if he licked them.
When ignoring said attraction didn’t work, he threw himself into his social life. He went out with his friends as often as he could and dated as many girls as possible. Shoving his tongue down the throats of numerous girls didn’t fully erase Adam from his mind.
Shoving his tongue down a boy’s throat, however, worked wonders.
When Kris was seventeen, he did something stupid.
“We need to talk.”
Kris stared at Kezia blankly. “Are we breaking up? Is this the Speech?”
She gave him the Look, the one that meant he was being stupid again. “To receive the breakup speech, there must first be a relationship to break, and since you and I are not romantically involved, or will ever be, it is impossible for me to make a speech on that particular topic.”
At his confused gaze, she sighed loudly. “Short answer, no. But this is an intervention.”
“An intervention? What for?”
“You’ve been avoiding Adam.”
“Don’t even, Kristopher. You’ve had an odd increase in dates lately. And whenever Adam’s free, you’re busy.”
“We’re graduating next year; I have a lot to do.”
He sat down on the couch, avoiding her eyes. She sat down next to him, pulling him close and leaning her head against his shoulder.
“You’re a terrible liar, sweetie. You always found time for Adam before, even if you were doing a million other things at once. You always say that he’s your best friend and that he means so much to you, but ever since he came back, you’ve been distant.”
“I don’t mean to. Stuff’s just been happening and I needed time to think-”
“Stuff like what?”
Kris’ head ended up in her lap and she ran her fingers through his hair.
“I’ve kinda been noticing…things…lately.”
“What kind of things?”
“Kris.” Her fingers tightened warningly in his hair.
“I made out with a guy.”
“Who?” She had that excited “I’m about to squeal all over you” tone in her voice.
Her fingers stilled.
The grip she had on his hair tightened until she was pulling—hard.
“Jacob Kramer? Jacob that goes to our school Jacob? Jacob from theatre who I’ve been the opposite of in every musical our school’s ever had Jacob? Jacob who I’ve had a crush on and been trying to go out with since freshman year Jacob?!”
“Yes,” he whimpered.
She shoved him off her. “You traitor!”
“I didn’t plan it, it just happened! We were hanging out and it was a nice night and he looked so—”
Much like Adam. His eyes held that same intensity, and in the dark, Kris could almost… But he didn’t say that. He let the sentence hang in the air, unfinished.
“Oh, honey.” She planted a kiss on Kris’ forehead. “Is this why you’ve been so high strung these last few months? Were you worried about what I’d think? You idiot! You had me so scared!”
She whacked him upside the head; he winced. “Damn it, Kezi, wasn’t the hair pulling enough?”
“Serves you right,” she huffed. “If you were freaking out over liking guys, you should’ve told me.”
“I don’t like guys.”
Kezia gave him the Look.
“Okay, I don’t like just guys. I wasn’t so much freaking out over the thing with Jacob as the thing with Adam.”
Oh, he really shouldn’t have said that. He needed to work on thinking before he spoke. Maybe she wouldn’t notice.
“What thing with Adam?” Now she had the look she got whenever she discovered something she wanted to dissect and analyze to death.
Damn. He had the worst luck.
He blushed a bright pink. “It’s nothing, Kezi, forget I said anything.”
“Oh no you don’t, Kristopher. You can’t say something that monumental and expect me to ignore it! First, you tell me you made out with the hottest guy in theatre—who I’ve had my eye on since forever—and then you mention the ‘thing with Adam?’ You have to tell me what’s going on. You owe it to me.”
“I owe you nothing.”
“You made out with a guy I’ve been trying to date since the ninth grade. You owe me your firstborn or something.”
Her eyes softened and she pulled him close. “I’m one of your best friends, Kris. I want you to feel like you can tell me anything. You didn’t have to go through all this by yourself, I mean, if I can’t give you a shoulder to whine on, then why the heck are we still talking after all these years?”
Kris hugged her tightly. “Have I mentioned how grateful I am that Kendall poured that juice box on your head?”
“Seriously, Kezi—thank you.”
“Now, about that thing with Adam-”
“There is no thing with Adam. He’s just been really…distracting lately.”
“Distracting? Kris, is this your way of telling me you’re in love with your hot male best friend?”
“I’m not in love with him!”
“Oh my God, you totally are!”
“You have a major crush on Adam—who happens to be a sexy gay man.”
Kris rolled his eyes. “That’s besides the point, Kezi. Even though he’s into guys, he won’t be into me. He’s known me since I was nine. He still sees me as the little boy from Arkansas who cried in his arms the first time they met.”
“No he doesn’t. You don’t give yourself enough credit sweetie. Anyone would be lucky to have you. You’re sweet and caring and gorgeous-”
“Yes, gorgeous.” She brushed a hand across his cheek. “You’re one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, inside and out. You’re so understanding and accepting of everyone; I admire that. And if Adam never realizes how wonderful you are, well, I know several people who’d be happy to get a piece of you. It helps that you’re adorable and have a great ass.”
Kris threw a throw pillow at Kezia when she pinched him and it degenerated into a disastrous pillow fight after that, conversation lost in their laughter.
Things almost went back to normal with Adam after that. Kris told him that he was just having teen angst issues and Adam accepted it without question, but Kris still couldn’t resist that urge to stare, to watch. Because Adam was different and always had been, fascinating and captivating everyone. He was sure Adam noticed, but he wasn’t going to bring it up first, not if he could avoid it. Fate decided to be a meddling bitch and do something about it anyway.
There had been a big bonfire party at the beach. Someone had decided to sneak in drinks and everyone had had a little too much. Kris’ car was in the shop so he’d asked Adam to give him a ride home. They’d gotten home in one piece, but Kris was so obviously drunk that Adam just dragged him to his own house and watched Kris stumble onto the bed.
“Adam? Adam this isn’t my room. This is your room. When did your room get into my house? Did you move in when I wasn’t looking?”
“Kris, you’re drunk, and as accepting as your parents are, they probably wouldn’t be too happy if their seventeen-year-old son came home reeking of beer.”
“M’not drunk, just tipsy. Jesus, Adam, I’ll be fine, just help me outta this shirt. It keeps trying to choke me.”
Adam tried not to laugh at the way Kris’ fingers kept missing the buttons or how his head got stuck in the neck hole of his shirt. He couldn’t stifle the laughter when he rolled off the bed after he finally freed his head with a sharp tug. “You’re hopeless, Allen.”
Kris just gave him that lopsided grin he loved so much and scrambled back onto the bed. “You love me that way, Lambert.” He stretched out on the bed like a cat, toes not even reaching the end of Adam’s bed. Adam’s eyes landed on Kris’ bare chest, golden in the soft lamplight of the room. His gaze followed the lines of Kris’ body, taking in the slender waist and narrow hips.
When the hell had he grown up? This Kris seemed almost foreign to him. But there were still hints of the boy he’d been in the brightness of his smile and eyes. Adam felt a grin spread across his own face.
“Yeah, I really do.”
Kris held a hand out to him and yanked him onto the bed, Adam sprawled on top.
“I knew you did.”
Kris pulled him closer, gaze locked on Adam’s mouth as he licked his own lips. Kris’ arms wound around his neck, pulling him closer. They were a breath away when Adam finally found the words.
Kris whimpered—actually whimpered—looking up at him with big brown eyes. “Why?”
“Don’t people only do things they mean when they’re drunk?”
“Don’t people lose higher brain function when they’re drunk?”
“I’m not one of them.” He gripped the back of Adam’s neck, playing with the hairs at the nape. “You’re still on top of me,” Kris pointed out.
“That’s because you have your arms around me.”
Kris flushed, dropping his arms limply to his side, avoiding Adam’s gaze and worrying at his bottom lip. Adam moved to the foot of the bed while Kris stayed huddled at the head.
“I’m sorry. But you confuse me more than any girl I’ve ever been interested in and I can’t stop thinking about you, no matter how hard I try. I’ve been going crazy over this, I have no idea what to do! I mean, I made out with Jacob freaking Kramer just to forget about this! Kezi found out so she’s kinda pissed but she’s also convinced I’m in love with you and I’m trying to handle this rationally, but I can’t. I’m a teenager for God’s sake, I don’t do rational!”
He was nearly hyperventilating by the end. Adam knelt in front of him, running soothing hands across his back.
“Whoa, Kris, slow down.” He could feel the shudders running through Kris’ body. He pulled him close until Kris was seated in his lap, face buried in the curve between neck and shoulder. “Is this the craziness I’ve been missing the past few years? Kris, you can’t not tell me these things! When exactly did your life turn into some sort of soap opera?”
“Around the time you decided to be too damn hot for your own good,” he mumbled into Adam’s neck.
“What was that?”
“Around the time I got into a car with Jacob and decided it was a good idea for us to suck face?”
“You know, it’s alright to be curious, honey. There’s nothing wrong with wondering.”
“So why won’t you let me kiss you?”
Kris had left the shelter of Adam’s neck and, oh for God’s sake, was pouting.
“Because,” he said, exasperated, running a hand through his hair.
Because this was Kris. Because he’d known him since Adam was twelve and he’d immediately trusted Adam to dry his tears and be his friend. Because Kris was the same age as his little brother for crying out loud, which meant this was definitely illegal. Because he absolutely did not want Kris.
He wriggled a bit in Adam’s lap and nipped at his neck. “That’s not a reason.”
Even if he was his type and looked really good in his arms and felt even better in them.
“Kris, stop, please. This can’t happen; we’re friends. Things will get messy. And not in the good way.”
“It could be the good way.”
He felt lips feathering light kisses against his neck, his jaw—and hello that was his crotch Kris’ hand was getting acquainted with.
“This is so not happening.”
“Why not? Why can’t it be you? Would you prefer it if I did this with some random stranger instead?” Another squeeze of his hand made Adam groan. “I want it to be you. I’ve always trusted you with everything. Why can’t I trust you with this?”
His hand moved to Adam’s waist, the other one caressing his bottom lip lightly. “Let me finish. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. I need to know if this is real or I’m just a hormonal teenage boy with a best friend who’s universally sexy.”
“Oh, Kris.” He tangled a hand in Kris’ hair, pulling him close, cradling him in his arms. “I’m flattered, sweetie, but I love you too much to fuck us up. You’re my best friend and I don’t want to lose you because we had some weird, random, hormone-fueled fling.”
Kris looked like someone had punched him in the stomach. “Oh.”
“Baby, don’t look at me like that.”
Adam held him tight as they shifted on the bed and laid down, Kris’ head resting on his chest.
“You’ll figure things out, with or without my help,” he said, planting a kiss on his forehead. “Sleep it off okay? Hangovers can be killer.”
Adam reached over Kris’ body to turn off the lamp. They laid in the dark silently for a long time.
As Kris drifted off to sleep, he thought he felt the soft brush of lips against his own.
He woke up alone, head pounding, mouth too dry, and a note on the pillow beside him.
I need some time away.
The “from you” was unwritten but implied.
And he tried to, he really did.
But he stopped talking to him after that.
When Kris was nineteen, he lost his virginity.
It’d been just another college party, filled with booze and horny college kids. Kris had been getting steadily drunker, the cup in his hand refilling itself when he wasn’t looking. He almost fell over but strong arms caught him.
“Easy there, short stuff. Wouldn’t want that pretty face to get damaged.”
He looked up into green eyes.
“You have pretty eyes.”
The stranger grinned widely at him. Kris felt the blush spread across his face and down his body as those eyes raked over his form.
“You’re even cuter up close,” he whispered, leaning in until all Kris saw was bright green before he was pulled into a kiss.
Kris didn’t resist the hands that dragged him up the stairs or pushed him onto the bed. He didn’t resist when those hands scrabbled to remove his shirt, his jeans, his briefs. He didn’t resist the urge to moan as he was sucked into a warm mouth while insistent hands spread his legs obscenely. He resisted the impulse to cry out Adam’s name as he was filled again and again, Adam on his mind, behind his eyes, watching him, wanting him.
The morning after, Kris woke up next to a black fedora with a neon pink Post-it note on the brim.
Hey, sweetness. Last night rocked my world ^_~. You know, for coming in pocket-size, you make a lot of noise. Don’t worry, I like them loud.
-Matt (So, what’s your name? We kinda didn’t get around to introductions last night.)
And that was how Kris met Matt Giraud. Somehow, Matt tracked him down, and that night, they had a repeat of their first meeting, sans alcohol. That was the start of their strange arrangement. Kris had never really believed in having friends with benefits but somehow Matt had convinced him. A bed may or may not have been involved.
Even though it hadn’t been serious, Kris and Matt had become close. Matt was attractive, funny and good with his hands—and other choice body parts.
Eight months later, it all went to hell.
His mom had been worried about Kris being in LA all by himself, so she’d told Adam to “check up on Kristopher” every once in a while to make sure he hadn’t drunk himself to death during a party or something like that. He loved his mom, he really did, but it was a bit irritating that she felt he needed a babysitter.
The fact that it was Adam only made it worse.
They’d never really talked about what happened that night—hell, they didn’t talk at all anymore—but it hung between them, unacknowledged yet constantly replaying itself whenever they saw each other, which meant Adam tried to keep the visits to a minimum. They were sporadic at best, and Kris never knew when he’d magically appear.
He should’ve known Adam would show up at the worst possible moment.
Kris and Kezia were sharing an apartment off-campus, and for the first time that week, he and Matt had the place to themselves. Needless to say, they were taking advantage of that fact.
They’d been watching a movie on his bed when Matt’s hand made its way inside his jeans. The next thing he knew, he was straddling Matt’s thighs, grinding down as large hands gripped his ass, pulling him closer as Kris struggled to remove his clothes and undo the zipper on Matt’s jeans at the same time. They fumbled for the lube and condoms in the nightstand, and then slick fingers were pushing into him.
“You look so good like this.” Matt’s fingers curled, a satisfied smirk on his face as he drank in the way Kris’ head tilted back, mouth open wide in a silent moan.
“Shut up and fuck me.”
The fingers slipped out and Kris slowly slid down the hard shaft, moaning into Matt’s neck. Hands made their way to his hips, holding him tightly and pulling him back up before letting him sink back down. Kris writhed in his lap, movements getting more and more frantic.
“Kristopher Neil Allen, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Fuck. Adam. When Kezia got home, he was going to kill her for giving Adam a key.
Matt’s hands flew away from his body and Kris buried his face in Matt’s chest, groaning. They pulled apart and dressed quickly. It was the first time Kris saw Matt nervous; his hands shook as he tried to button his shirt. Kris reached for them, doing them for him, smiling crookedly at the soft thanks Matt uttered.
Adam cleared his throat loudly, and Kris already knew that he was going to be bitchy about this. Instead of answering him, he pulled Matt to the door.
He silenced him with a kiss. “Don’t worry about it, Matt. I’ll talk to him and it’ll be fine; I think he’s just in shock. I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”
Matt nodded, shooting him one last concerned glance before he left. Kris closed the door behind him and slumped against it, waiting for the explosion.
“I’m still waiting for an explanation, Kristopher.”
Kris shrugged. “It’s exactly what it looked like, Adam. Not many other ways to interpret it.”
Adam glared at him, eyes cold, voice just as icy. “You were letting him fuck you.”
“Yeah, I was. And I was enjoying it until someone decided to barge in and ruin the first moment alone we’ve had for a week.”
“Oh, so this is a normal occurrence? You do that with him regularly?”
“Eight months now.”
“Oh, friends with benefits. Even better.”
The scorn and derision in his tone made Kris’ nails bite into his palm. Adam was looking at him like he was the gum stuck to the bottom of his stupid snakeskin boots. He was sick and tired of dealing with Adam’s inner diva.
“You have no right to tell me what to do! You made it perfectly clear that you didn’t want me. You don’t want me and Matt does, so just fuck off and leave me alone.”
“He doesn’t care about you!”
“And you do?”
Hands twitched, wanting to touch but knowing they couldn’t, not anymore.
“Goddamnit, Kris! Don’t do this.”
Pleading eyes, hurt and lost, yearning. Too much.
“Don’t do what, Adam? Huh? Don’t do what, be happy? Am I not allowed to have a boyfriend? Am I supposed to wait for you to pull your head out of your ass and notice me? Because I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to be a fucking charity case and wait for you. You had your chance and you didn’t want it. He likes me, he cares about me, and we’re good together.”
Pain. Sharp, biting pain, because Kris never lashed out at him, not at Adam, never at Adam. It felt like a chasm between them, and Adam couldn’t believe this was Kris, who he used to know better than anyone, who used to come to him for anything.
“That’s because you’re putting out.”
That one hit its mark and he felt a curl of vicious satisfaction that died a little at the utter anguish in Kris’ eyes. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.
“So what? He’s good to me, in bed and out.”
Hurt for hurt.
Kris’ fists were clenched, tension in every line of his body. It broke Adam’s heart because this was his fault; he did this. He hurt his Kris, and Adam was terrified that they couldn’t fix this, fix them.
Hands reached out, almost touching. Kris put a hand to Adam’s chest, kept him away. “Save it.”
Adam slammed him against the door and pulled him into a rough, desperate kiss. Kris was rigid in his arms at first, then he pulled Adam closer. Kris bit Adam’s bottom lip hard, tasted the tang of blood.
“God, I hate you, Lambert.”
“I love you. Always, Kris, always.”
“You’re such a fucking liar.”
Adam held him against the door, slowing the kiss down until it was softer, gentler. “Never to you,” he whispered against Kris' lips.
Kris’ eyes stung as Adam wiped away the tears. Kris shoved him away. “Damn it, Adam, you can’t do this to me! You can’t say you don’t want me and then decide you do; it doesn’t work like that.”
“I’m sorry. But I couldn’t handle it, Kris. I mean before that, the last time I saw you, you were freaking out about girls and you’d just started high school. You hadn’t even hit your growth spurt yet!”
The joke fell flat. If anything, it fueled the growing anger in Kris’ eyes. “And you think I had this easy? Do you think I wanted to become obsessed with my best friend who isn’t the least bit interested in me because he thinks I’m still the little boy he met ten years ago?”
“That’s beside the point anyway. The point is, you have no right to me, I can do what I want. End of discussion.”
“You can do what you want? What if this got back to your mom?”
“And who’s going to tell her? You?”
“You know I wouldn’t.”
“Then I have nothing to worry about.”
“Kris, this isn’t fun and games. If you’re serious about this, then fine, you keep screwing your little friend. But if this is just straight boy curiosity getting out of hand, well, you’ll save yourself and everyone else a lot of trouble if you quit now. I’ve seen how this ends up honey, and it isn’t pretty. Sooner or later, you’ll get bored and then you’ll freak out about how abnormal you’ve been acting and try to compensate by going through as many girls as possible.”
“Thanks for having faith in me. Have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, I know what I want and I’m going after it?”
“I don’t think you know what you want.”
“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
“Well, you’re getting it. You’ve always been smart, Kris. You know better. And if you keep dicking around like this, you’re going to get burned.”
“And you thought kissing me would help me realize the horrible mistake I made?”
Kris’ arms were crossed, hands clenched tightly. Adam took Kris’ tense hand in his.
“It was the first thing I thought of that would catch your attention.”
He jerked his hand out of Adam’s grip, shoving past him to stand on the opposite side of the room.
“You don’t know what I want. You don’t know anything about me, not anymore. You’ve made your obligatory visit, so you can go tell my mom her baby’s doing fine away from home and that I’m not doing anything that’s gonna get me killed. Now get the hell out.”
He walked back to the door, opening it and letting it slam against the wall. Kris glared at Adam expectantly, waiting.
“Can’t we talk about this?”
But Adam was walking to the door anyway, crossing the threshold, rarely seen vulnerability in his eyes.
Kris couldn’t bring himself to care.
“We’re done talking. In fact, I’d love it if we never spoke again.”
Kris slammed the door in his face.
Adam stood in the hallway, staring. He had to fix this, he couldn’t leave things like this. He reached for the key, fumbling through his pockets until his fingers gripped the cold metal.
Kris, upset and angry, rage directed at Adam. “God, I hate you, Lambert.”
His fingers slackened. Kris had made his decision. He should respect that. He owed him that much.
Kris as he’d first known him, sad and lonely, big brown eyes filled with tears. Trusting Adam not to hurt him, to take care of him. To be there.
Adam walked away.