The first time James punches Kendall in the face on camera, Kendall lets him get away with it. James’s brain tends to scramble whenever he gets within a mile of fame, and Kendall has long since learned to forgive him for being a moron.
Plus, he’s kind of busy picking the trash out of his bathing suit, thanks to Carlos.
The second time it happens, the ache in Kendall’s jaw leaves him feeling a bit less charitable, but it’s not like James puts his weight behind it. Kendall is fully aware of what a punch from James feels like, full force. He’s been on the wrong side of more than one hockey brawl with his best friend. His ribs hurt just thinking about it.
Still. A person can’t just go around, punching other people in the face. But.
He can forgive this, he tells himself. Kendall’s used to James going overboard about stupid shit, like Cuda, fashion magazines, girls, and fame. Himself. Himself on TV. James is easily excitable, like a puppy, and you don’t yell at puppies for peeing on the carpet. Much.
The third time it happens, though, yeah. They’re in the limo on the way to convince Griffin to stop this sham of a reality show, and Kendall kind of has to restrain himself from knocking out James’s thousand dollar veneers. It’s only a deep seated fear of Brooke Diamond’s wrath that keeps him from putting a fist through all that expensive dentistry she paid for.
Anyway, Kendall has way more important things to focus on than the purple-black bruise he can feel forming along his jaw line. He has to get his butt back from a tyrannical reality TV producer.
Just another day at the Palmwoods; home to the psychotic and deranged. Kendall’s really looking forward to the day he can knock that future off the phrase future famous and afford to live in an actual home. Where no one will hit him.
Or insult his looks.
Or rope him into a relationship against his will.
He takes a lot of abuse, man.
Kendall manages to stop himself from beating the living daylights out of James, ‘cause god knows the boy can’t afford to lose any more brain cells. He very calmly goes back to the apartment after his defeat with Griffin. He channels all his anger into strangling a pillow that he pretends has James’s face. It helps. Kind of.
But James? He just doesn’t know when the leave well enough alone.
Kendall’s in the midst of developing a very involved plan that involves stealing footage using a pen, some duct tape, and an orange peel all MacGyver-like when James comes along and knocks it right out of his head. With his fist.
When Kendall recovers his wits, he finds himself staring straight into a glass lens, red blinking light tracking his every move.
“James,” he grits out.
“Yeah?” James asks sweetly, already scanning the room for Carlos or Logan or something else he can hit.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“It’s Dude Time!”
“Yeah. You need to stop.” It comes out as a growl that makes Snake Timmons shiver in his boots and murmur something about striking gold. James squats down next to where Kendall is sprawled on the floor. On his butt. Which is still unfortunately on film.
“Kendall,” James says very seriously, and for a second, Kendall is distracted from the pain edging around his eye socket; more interested in the gold flecks deep in James’s irises. It only lasts a moment, because James is saying, “The price of fame is heavy and vast, but one day, this too shall pass. What’s a little-“ James glances at Kendall’s face and his lips quirk. “–discoloration between friends? You know, it probably wouldn’t even be noticeable if your pores weren’t so dirty. I have a great exfoliating cream that would really-“
“James.” Kendall groans.
James focuses. It looks like a difficult task for him.
“Oh. Right. Vast and immense. But the payout’s a million bucks. Which puts me one step closer to superstardom.”
“Kendall, don’t you want to see my name up in sparkling lights?” James’s fingers dance outward in little starburst motions.
“Not at the expense of my face.”
James casts him a disapproving look, full of melodrama.
“Sometimes, buddy, you need to man up and take one for the team.”
Oh no he did not. That is Kendall’s hockey captain speech. James can’t just- go around stealing other people’s pep talks.
“That’s it. I’m leaving.” Kendall starts to get up.
James yells, “Bam!” and hits him again. What the actual fuck?
“James, give peace a chance,” Kendall commands, pretty sure that there’s a molar loose somewhere in his mouth.
Apparently, James is not taking orders today, because it does not work.
James says, “Peace is for suckers.”
Then he attempts to land his knuckles in Kendall’s gut. Kendall sidesteps him, looping a foot under James’s ankle and pulling it forward so that James falls flat. He allows himself a moment to feel awful, because James can’t be too happy about face-planting on national television, but weirdly, James doesn’t seem to mind. He grabs onto Kendall’s leg like a baby lemur and proceeds to topple him onto the floor. Kendall tries to wrestle him off, but James seems pretty content to do whatever he can to pin Kendall down.
Kendall’s shirt starts riding up and he’s going to be partially naked on TV in a few seconds. Again.
“Let. Go! James, ge’off, James, no!”
James bites the exposed flesh on his side, more a graze of his teeth and his tongue than anything skin breaking. It doesn’t stop Kendall from yelping, heart pounding hard in his chest.
“What are you, rabid? That’s not- appropriate,” he splutters, cheeks bright red. James grins at him, winking all seductive like, and Kendall has to repeatedly remind himself that they are being filmed. He’s not sure if he needs the reminder because his dick is actually kind of interested in the cooling saliva against his skin or if it’s because his hands are twitching to give James a black eye, but. Yeah. He definitely needs the reminder.
Just then, Carlos comes walking through the apartment door, and James launches himself at him with all the fury a desperate wannabe reality TV star can muster up. Kendall uses the opportunity to duck away.
He then proceeds to hide away in the air ducts to consider his options. There are not very many.
He’s not going to be able to get anything done if he has to wear a face guard around the hotel. James needs to stop fucking attacking him so Kendall can focus on saving himself from a lifetime of humiliation and possible seclusion in a hermitage.
And maybe he should add stopping his friends from selling out to the list.
Kendall sighs and dials Jo.
She’s good at calming him down. Usually. They’re on a break, at the moment, which. He kind of resents it, because it wasn’t his idea, but whenever Jo goes off to film in exotic locales for New Town High’s movie specials it can take up to three months. She says it’s not fair to him or her to have to be lonely and hard up in the interim.
Kendall doesn’t know if that’s some kind of code that means Jett’s giving it to her on the side or if she just doesn’t like the unfairness of long distance relationships, and he hasn’t asked. Part of it has to do with his mild concern that Jett might not be interested in Jo at all. He’s patted Kendall on the ass more than once, and not in a locker room go-team kind of way.
That train of thought brings Kendall to asses, which brings him back to his butt. And how all of America’s going to see it, prime time, in high definition. Which is so not cool. He feels shame creeping up the back of his thighs, reddening his shoulders and neck. He really, really hates being embarrassed.
The phone rings. Once, twice, and then-
“Kendall?” Jo sounds surprised. “I’m on set.”
“Yeah, I know. But. I need a consultation.”
“What kind of consultation?” Jo asks warily.
“Griffin thought it would be a good idea to film a reality show about the band.”
“That’s great.” She sounds genuinely proud of him.
“…And then my bathing suit fell down while I was getting out of the pool.”
Jo, thankfully, stifles her laughter. She pretends to have a coughing fit until she’s recovered. Kendall rolls his eyes.
“And now James won’t stop punching me. I think he made me bite my lip.” Kendall rubs his tongue over his mouth, tasting something metallic, like blood.
“Poor baby,” Jo says, but she mostly sounds amused. She obviously does not understand the gravity of the situation, here. “Why is James punching you?”
“Because apparently our real lives are boring, and lack the amount of sex and violence you need to make an interesting show.”
“Logan and Camille,” Kendall says by way of explanation. “There’s a lot of kissing. And then hitting. And then more kissing.”
Jo makes an ah sound. “They are the poster couple for future domestic violence. So what do you need my help with?”
“I need James to stop punching me so I can get my butt back.” He pouts. It’s okay to do that here. He’s locked in an air duct. No one can see.
“But your butt is cute.”
“You are an awful girlfriend,” Kendall retorts, because who wants their guy’s ass in every household in America?
“I’m not your girlfriend right now, remember? I’m your friend. Who is a girl.”
“Breaks suck,” Kendall whines.
“You’re just saying that because you have no one to hook up with.”
“I’m just saying that because the only person I want to hook up with is you.”
“That’s sweet, Kendall. But-“
“I know, free love, rah, rah.” He pauses, considering. What the hell? He might as well go all in. “Are you hooking up with Jett?”
“I think Jett’s gay.”
“I knew it,” Kendall mutters.
“That’s because you have eyes.”
“Are you hooking up with anyone?”
“Hey. Don’t ask, don’t tell, remember?”
Kendall makes a noise, frustrated. If the uber-conservative military can do away with that rule, he figures he should be able to eliminate it between him and his girlfriend, but no. She has to care about his feelings. Gah. Dating in Hollywood is fucking hard.
“Look, I have to get back to filming, but if you want some help, you should ask Camille.”
“Camille scares me.”
Jo laughs that little laugh she has when she thinks he’s being stupid. “Don’t be a wimp. She’s great with schemes.”
“Fine. I’ll ask Camille,” he grumbles. More gently, he adds, “Come back soon, okay?”
“I hope so. Miss you.”
“Miss you too. And if you are going to hook up with anyone, may I recommend that cute brunette you tried to set Carlos up with? She’s foxy.”
Jo laughs again, sing-songing, “Don’t ask, don’t tell, remember? But you know what? Maybe. If you get it on with James.”
Jo hangs up the phone, still laughing, but Kendall is staring at the receiver, wondering, for just a beat, if that means he has permission.
He finds Camille and Logan in his kitchen. Kissing. Rather fervently. The camera crew is watching their every move, and Kendall wonders idly about the legality of this.
“Camille. I need to talk to you.”
Camille cranes her head away from Logan to look up at him, but he obviously only has half of her attention. Logan is kissing a line down her throat, and she’s leaning into it, hands resting around his neck.
“Yeah?” She asks, voice strained.
“I need scheming advice.”
“Oh. I’m good at that,” Camille brightens, but then a tiny tremor goes through her body. She blushes prettily as Logan works his way back up her neck, sucking at the soft skin and making her moan, “Logan.”
Kendall quickly covers his eyes with his hand, because he is so not interested in watching this. He peers out the side of his eyes at the producer. “You know they’re minors, right? So you can’t, like, actually air this.”
Snake grins. “If it gets really steamy, we’ll use a filter so you can’t see anything.”
Kendall’s mouth gapes open. He’s offended on his friends’ behalves. “Logan, are you listening to this?”
“Ngh,” Logan says, still sucking a hickey into Camille’s neck. Her body is pressed in tight to his, and Kendall groans.
“Camille, I really need you.”
“Yeah, but- I’m busy. Um. We’ll talk later.”
She pulls Logan in close and starts attacking his mouth.
“Don’t swallow each other.” Kendall grumbles. He thinks about texting Jo that the plan’s bust, but he’s not really sure about the rules of their break, and how much contact is too much.
Over a healthy, nutritious lunch of corndogs, Kendall turns to Carlos. “I need you to distract James. It’s hard to concentrate on my butt when he’s up in my personal bubble.”
“Okay.” Carlos shrugs, looking totally unbothered. “He got in a kidney shot before, so I was planning on taking him down anyway.”
Carlos grins, and it looks like one of his teeth might be loose. Gustavo will not be happy. He’s already paid for Carlos to get more dental work than Carlos’s own parents.
“Don’t hurt him too bad.”
“Like he could,” James yells from the bathroom, where he is fixing his hair from the latest tussle.
He apparently tried to take Logan down, but Camille laid the smack down on him.
“You just got your skinny ass handed to you by a girl. It can’t be too hard,” Kendall yells.
“Camille is not a girl. She spent three weeks in training for Hippolyta: Warrior Queen.”
“Is that the show about lesbians?” Carlos asks through chews. “Hot.”
“Queens are still girls,” Kendall calls back.
“Girls don’t get frontline combat training. The military says so. In Call of Duty,” James adds, because they all know he doesn’t have a clue what the military does or does not do. That would require reading a newspaper.
“Now you’re just being chauvinistic.”
“I am- not completely sure what that means,” James announces, emerging from the bathroom. “But take it back.”
“No,” Kendall scoffs, shoving his corndog in his mouth and mumbling, “Means you’re a sexist.”
“You’re the one who said getting beaten by a girl is sad.”
Kendall nods, because that is a valid point. “Okay, fine. It’s not sad you got beaten by a girl. It’s sad you got beaten by someone who’s five foot nothing and probably, what, ninety eight pounds when wet?”
“Take that back,” James intones in his manly voice. The one he’s been practicing for years and years and mostly makes him sound like he swallowed bad eggs. He marches towards Kendall like he’s about to hit him, and Kendall can physically feel the cameras zooming in.
“Got it.” Carlos pats his helmet and throws his corndog to the side. It hits Kendall in the face, splattering ketchup and mustard everywhere, but its well worth it when Carlos yells out a battle cry and tackles James to the floor.
Once the fight between Carlos and James has moved to the hallway, Kendall settles down on the couch, trying to pretend that he’s doing homework so that Snake will turn his creepy little cameras elsewhere.He only gets to pretend for a few minutes though, because there’s a quick knock at the door, and then it swings wide open. Kendall rolls his eyes. Everyone in the hotel acts like 2J is a public common area and not the place where he lives.He mock gasps when it turns out to be Camille entering the room.
“What?” She looks confused. Camille’s fingertips graze her forehead and her cheeks, checking for something on her face.
“I thought you and Logan were surgically attached now,” Kendall explains.
Camille seems to be seriously considering a glass on the counter, like she wants to throw it at him.
Just to be safe, Kendall dives over the back of the couch. He can’t handle these people and their violence issues. “Seriously though. I thought you were. Um. Occupied.”
“Prude.” Camille grins at the way Kendall’s nose wrinkles. “My lips and hands are getting all bruised and banged up. Fake relationships are hard work.”
“Aw, keep it to yourself. Please.”
“Why? Isn’t Logan going to tell you all about it later?”
Probably, Kendall thinks. Out loud he says, “What do you want?”
“I thought you needed my help.”
Oh. Yeah. He could use a hand. Carefully, he stands up straight. No glasses come flying towards his head, so he considers himself safe. For the moment.
“Alright.” Camille sits cross legged on the couch and goes into lecture mode. “Sun Tzu says that to defeat an opponent you have to-“
“Who’s Sun Tzu?” Kendall jumps in, because he knows from a thousand years of Logan that you have to get your questions in before a full blown lecture can develop. Kind of like how you have to stop a ballistic missile before it breaks the atmosphere.
Camille blinks at him. “He wrote The Art of War?”
“Is that a Nicholas Cage movie?”
“Oh, sweetie.” Camille reaches out and Kendall instinctively flinches away, but she just pats his cheek. “You should read more books. It’s not like you can survive off your looks, like James.”
“Harsh.” Kendall gasps.
“It’s better that you hear it from me than some casting couch director who’s going to rate your talent based off your hair and your oral sex skills.”
Which, from what Jo tells Camille, are pretty fantastic. Although she’s mentioned that sometimes Kendall seems to forget that vagina and penis are two different entities. Privately, Camille thinks that’s probably because Kendall isn’t one hundred percent hetero, but she doesn’t ever share that with Jo.
If he is completely straight, Camille would rather not know. It might ruin her private fantasy where the band has boxer-clad pillow fights and occasionally cleans the sweat off of each other’s hard abs with their tongues.
Kendall crosses his arms, and Camille tries to shake the very pretty image of his mouth around some guy’s cock from her head. “I do read.”
“Harry Potter doesn’t count.”
“Well, what does?”
Camille rattles off a list of authors they’ve had to check out for school. Kendall makes a face and says, “Ah. That’s what Logan is for.”
“Cliffnotes?” Camille raises an eyebrow, “You make Logan summarize your schoolbooks?”
“I am a busy man, Camille. I’m perfecting my slapshot for future scouts, and singing all those harmonies every day, and- Well. Smoothies don’t just fetch themselves,” he admits. “Besides, I’m his hockey captain. It is a leader’s job to delegate.”
“You are a lot lazier than people give you credit for, aren’t you?”
Kendall considers. Pretty much. It pays to have minions. He probably shouldn’t give a voice to that. He prompts, “Sun Tzu?”
Just as Camille opens her mouth to explain, James runs into the apartment. He smacks Kendall in the face, calls, “Hi, Camille!” and keeps on running by too quickly to catch.
Carlos is hot on his heels, yelling, “Sorry Kendall. I almost got him!”
He charges past Kendall, who’s still seeing double from this latest assault.
He wonders if he can get a restraining order against his best friends.
Camille watches quietly until both boys race back out of 2J. She nibbles on her lip and says, “You know what? Screw Sun Tzu. He’s dead. Beat James at his own game.”
Kendall stares at her blankly.
“Outshine him.” She elaborates.
“Is that going to involve body glitter?” Kendall asks, wrinkling his nose.
“No, but.” Camille sniffs the air. “Some cologne wouldn’t hurt. You smell like a barbecue.”
“Carlos threw a corndog at me.”
“Oh. And what’s the-“
“That is my manly odor.”
“Manly. Odor?” Camille cocks an eyebrow.
“I worked up a sweat trying to dismantle a camera, alright? It’s a learning process. Sorry I don’t smell like a grapefruit.”
“You’re kind of sensitive.”
“I’m in a fragile place right now.” Kendall rubs his jaw.
“Fine, since you counted out eyeliner-“
“Body glitter,” Kendall corrects. “Guyliner is a masculine statement saying that you’re not afraid to show your sensitive side. Like pink shirts.”
Camille blinks. “You just quoted James verbatim. You guys really have been friends forever.”
“You try living with him forcing fashion advice down your throat twenty four seven. You pick up a thing or two.” Kendall shifts from foot to foot, looking slightly sick with himself.
“Right. So what I was saying is, you should just punch James back. Show the producer of your show that you’re better at violence than he is.”
“I’m not beating the shit out of my best friend for all of America to see. And the outlying territories. And Italy, if we get syndicated.”
Camille’s great aunt moved to Italy to find herself, like that one chick from that one movie in Tuscany. Camille does not want her ninety year old great aunt to see her tongue in Logan Mitchell’s cute little mouth. Obviously, Kendall has the right idea about stopping this show before it airs.
She shrugs. “So don’t punch James on camera.”
“The cameras are everywhere. Waiting ‘til the show’s done won’t help.”
“No. Don’t wait. Sun Tzu definitely does not recommend that.”
Kendall decides to google this Sun Tzu guy.
“Look, I’m just saying, you can’t focus on getting your butt back from the commandant if you’re getting punched every fifteen seconds, right? And Carlos can’t hold him off forever. He doesn’t have that kind of attention span.”
True enough. Kendall frowns. “So your plan is just hit him back?”
He can’t just wait for James to wander into a camera free zone. He’s going to have to do it live, for the whole world to see, if his plan to get his butt back doesn’t work.
“Yeah. But- don’t beat the shit out of him. He’s got a pretty face. It would be a waste.”
“Yeah,” Kendall says thoughtfully. He’s never really punched James unprovoked, but he figures the bruises he’s sporting are enough provocation. His face feels all greasy and gross from where he made Katie do a quick application of his mom’s concealer.
Just to be sure he understands the plan, Camille repeats, “You punch him and then you kiss and make up. It’s simple.”
Kendall feels like nothing with James is ever that simple, unless there is pie or Xbox involved.
Kendall walks right up to James in the midst of the apartment half an hour later and punches James. He might correct his trajectory at the last second and accidentally-on-purpose aim for his face. It gives him vindictive pleasure for all of two seconds when James goes sprawling against the side of the coffee table.
“You hit me. I can’t believe you hit me.” James glares at him, outraged. “In the face.”
“You did it on purpose.”
“You kind of did,” Carlos agrees, peeking his head out from the top of the swirly slide. “Gustavo’s going to murder you.”
“Gustavo is staring vacantly at a camera. Besides. I can fix this,” Kendall says, reaching out and running a finger along the hollow beneath James’s eye. It’s already starting to swell.
“Fix. This!” James hollers, diving after him. Kendall narrowly dodges a hit before the door opens and he hears, “Ooh, this is good TV,” and decides that he is not about to do this for an audience of a couple million, plus Snake and his entourage.
He strategically rolls to the side, finding his feet and shoving past the camera crew. He runs down the hall, and already he can hear the pounding footsteps that mean James is on his tail. His suspicion is confirmed seconds later, when James yells, “Kendall!”
Kendall will bet anything that the camera crew is tramping along behind James, so he decides to institute evasive maneuvers. He runs for the stairwell. The camera crew is mostly pretty fit, but they’ve got all that bulky equipment, and James and Kendall are varsity athletes.
Kendall dashes up two flights, sticking to blind spots, opening and slamming the doors on each floor before racing up the steps to the next flight. He runs out into the hallway of the fifth floor, hugging the wall, James right behind him. The camera crew’s just thundering into the stairwell, and it’s going to take them a few minutes to figure out which way the guys went. Which buys Kendall just enough time to pound on Camille’s door, cowering before James’s raised fist.
Right before impact, the door opens, and Kendall topples back into Camille’s living room. She takes one look at James all ready to strike and grabs hold of his earlobe.
“Ow. Ow. Ow,” James whines. Kendall thinks about laughing, but then Camille’s got him by the ear too, and she’s dragging the both of them over to her sofa, plopping them both down unceremoniously.
“Okay. This needs to end.”
Kendall raises his hand. “Um, that’s what I’ve been saying. I need to get my butt back.”
“Who cares about your butt, dude?”
“It wouldn’t be such a big deal if you’d gotten a spray tan like I told you to. And maybe came along on my morning runs.” James sniffs.
“Right, because then the fact that I’d be publically naked would be completely okay.”
“It would,” James insists, rubbing his eye. “Ow.”
“Don’t be such a pussy.”
“Pussy?” James sounds scandalized. He stands, but Camille cranes up, putting a hand on his shoulder and shoving him back down.
“We’re not actually dogs,” Kendall grumbles, “No matter what Gustavo says.”
“You respond well to simple commands. Like dogs.” Camille says. “I’m leaving the room for a sec. If I come back and you’re not in the exact same position, I will injure you.”
Kendall swallows. He sits perfectly still, resolutely not looking at James while Camille stalks down the hall.
James is not very good at things like directions. He says, “You didn’t have to hit me so damn hard. I was being nice to you.”
Kendall thinks about not answering, because Camille is scary, but he’s got a problem with other people’s authority. That’s what they tell him at the anger management class Kelly’s making him attend with Gustavo every Sunday, anyway.
“You shouldn’t have been hitting me at all. You should have been helping me take down this farce of a reality show. Instead, you’re driving me insane with Dude Time.”
“It's good publicity for the band.”
“There won’t be a band by the end of this.”
Kendall sighs. He knows he’s going to have to give some big speech to Logan and Carlos later anyway, so he figures he might as well save it. “Why are you pulling your punches, anyway? Aren’t you all about making it look realistic?”
“Bloody knuckles don’t make pretty photo shoots. And- I don’t want to hurt you, dude.” James scoots closer, touching Kendall’s leg.
Incredulous, Kendall demands, “Hurt me?”
“Fine. Be that way. I was just trying to distract you from the pictures. I mean, you’re never going to get that footage back. The contract’s airtight.”
Nothing’s airtight. Kendall just needs to find a little wiggle room, and he’ll be in.
“You’re right. I shouldn’t have punched you in the face. But. You bit me.”
“It wasn’t like you didn’t like it,” James says, licking his lips, and oh. His eyes are really- and his mouth- Kendall shifts a little, his jeans growing hot and tight.
James is leaning in close to him, his fingertips resting high and light against his thigh. If Kendall scooted forward just a smidge, James would be touching his dick. His gaze darts from his own crotch to James’s face. James sees him looking at both, and he doesn’t really seem bothered by either.
Kendall feels weird. He says, “James. Remember how, in kindergarten, you used to pinch that one little girl on the arm. ‘Cause you liked her?”
James’s smile widens.
“And in first grade, you’d pull Jenny Tinkler’s hair.”
His smile dims slightly, and he shudders. “That was a mistake.”
“And that other girl, you used to kick her in the shin in first grade. But then you stopped, ‘cause you got detention and your mom got so mad.”
James shrugs. “Then she told me there were better ways to get a person’s attention. And then Carlos’s big sister showed me.”
“You hooked up with Carlos’s sister?”
“Does he know?”
“He’s the one who set it up. It was kind of awkward.”
“If you ever hook up with Katie, your time on this Earth will be short,” Kendall warns.
James looks horrified. “Your sister’s eleven.”
“And in six years, she’ll be seventeen, and you’ll be twenty two, and it will have gotten a whole lot more acceptable.”
“Dude, no. She’s like, my baby sister.”
“Good,” Kendall says.
“Besides, I’ve got my eye on a different Knight.”
“Aha! You were punching me because you- like me?” Kendall tastes the words. They’re strange on his tongue.
“What? You’re freakishly immune to my charm. I don’t do my naked yoga in your bedroom for my own enjoyment, okay?”
“You do naked yoga in my room?”
“Every morning at six thirty sharp, while you’re pretending to sleep.”
“James. It’s six thirty in the morning. I am sleeping.”
“Oh. I knew you weren’t that good an actor,” James curses. “But there’s been other stuff. I offered to wash your back in the shower that one time.”
“Last week, on, um.” James thinks. “Saturday. Around noon?”
“James. I was in the studio on Saturday. All day. Getting extra choreography help from Mr. X? So were Logan and Carlos, remember?”
James pales at the same time that Kendall whispers, “Mom.”
James says, “Wow. That explains why your voice got so high pitched.”
“Asshole!” Kendall thinks about punching James’s shoulder, but he figures the black eye he’s already sporting kind of makes them even. They’re going to have to slap some concealer on that.
“And, um, I-“ James hurries on. “I’m always flirting with you.”
“You flirt with anything that has legs!”
“True. So, can you really blame me for reverting to preschool? Punching you is the only way to get your attention these days.” James crosses his arms and pouts. It’s so cute that Kendall almost forgives him for nearly seeing his mom naked.
Almost. A mom is a sacred thing, man.
“But- you punched Carlos. And you tried to punch Logan.”
“Ha, very funny.” James glares in the direction of Camille’s room. “That’s different.”
“It just is, okay?” In a timid voice, James tacks on, “I just wanted you to pay attention to me. And stop worrying about your butt. You have a nice butt. It will look great in high def.”
His hand is still on Kendall’s thigh, and Kendall is acutely aware of how close their faces are now. It wouldn’t be hard to cross the distance. Hell, Jo even gave him close-to-explicit permission. But- its James, and. Kendall stops, hovering a millimeter away from James’s lips.
“You moved,” Camille’s voice rings out, all accusatory. James and Kendall jump apart.
Camille emerges from the hallway, brandishing a ruler and wearing quite the outfit. Kendall doesn’t know whether he should be looking at her kitten heels, her silk stockings, her business savvy starched shirt, cat eye glasses, or the pencil holding her hair in a tight bun.
“I work better in character,” she explains.
“What character is that?”
“I was the sexy dominatrix librarian in an amateur slasher flick,” she explains, “For some film student. I was promised a prime role in his first feature if he makes it big.”
Kendall and James exchange a look. “Are you sure you weren’t just making home videos with Logan when you were still together?”
Camille reddens. “No. What? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. And classified.”
She slaps the ruler against her thigh. Kendall jumps. She does it again, whacking the ruler against her hand like it’s a riding crop.
“Why does she have a ruler?” Kendall hisses, scared.
“Alright. You two are going to kiss and make nice.”
Kendall gulps. James is still so close that their knees knock together. At Camille’s words, he scoots a little closer, his jean clad thigh pressing into Kendall’s.
Camille’s apartment is a safe zone. There aren’t any cameras anywhere on the premises. Kendall feels breath hot on his collarbone and he turns, startled, to face James. Their noses are nearly touching.
“Guys,” Camille says warningly, and she obviously has not caught on to what’s going on here.
It’s so damn tempting. But it’s James.
James, who he used to build pillow forts with.
James, who used to spend hours in Kendall’s bedroom back when Logan and Carlos had no interest in fame, talking about what it would be like when they were both well known for singing and being the world’s best hockey player, respectively.
James. The kid whose hand Kendall had to hold when his parents got divorced. The kid who looked up at him with dark, tearful eyes and asked what he’d done wrong.
James, the kid who held Kendall’s hand when his own dad left. The kid who told him that he understood, when no one else could. Who taught him everything he knew about girls and loyalty and friendship and beauty.
Kendall crosses the distance between them, crushing their lips together.
“Guys!” he hears this vague exclamation, but he’s too focused on the gentle, hesitant way James’s lips move against his. He’s occupied by the soft, slick motion of his friend’s tongue and how James has never been tentative about anything before. Kendall takes initiative, wrapping his fingers around the back of James’s neck and hauling him in so close that James is practically straddling him. He cups his other hand against James’s face, tracing his fingers against his jaw. It’s like the simple movement launches James into action, and now he’s taking over the kiss, hands fisting in Kendall’s t-shirt, tipping him back onto the couch.
Camille frowns at the sight in front of her. “I didn’t really mean kiss and- oh, for the sake of- I am not explaining this to Jo. I take no responsibility, and- you’re not even listening to me, are you?”
She tilts her head thoughtfully. A smile creeps up on her lips as James moans into Kendall’s throat. It would be creepy to stay and watch, but. She takes out her phone and snaps a quick video. She figures it’ll come in handy for her personal gratification.
Depends on her mood.
“I’m going. Don’t swallow each other!” Camille orders a little vindictively, turning on her heels and marching out to go find Logan. They have some serious kissing and slapping to do. Logan does love this outfit.
At least ten minutes later, Kendall breaks from James’s lips. James is all red, sweaty, and very, very sexy, and Kendall is having a hard time remembering the English language. He vaguely remembers being a native speaker of it at some point in his life. He says. “Um. So. Does this mean you’ll help me get my butt back?”
James rolls his eyes, grabbing Kendall by the roots of his hair, fingers buried deep in his scalp and pulling him forward until his lips are less than a centimeter from his. He says, “Like I’m going to let anyone else see it. Mine, now.”
James’s hand darts down to squeeze Kendall’s ass, and yeah. There’s time to teach that insane producer a lesson later.