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A Matter of Timing

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“Man, this place is crazy.”

Adam glanced over to look at the boy who’d spoken. He’d already seen the guy around a little - enough to know that he was just Adam’s type, all tiny and sharp and pretty. But this was the first time that Adam had heard his voice and - of course - he had to be Southern.

“The best kind of crazy,” Adam said and he held out his hand. “Adam Lambert. Number One-Eight-Seven-Seven.”

“Nice to meet ya.” The guy didn’t seem to notice as Adam twisted their grip slightly looking for - and, yes, the cute boy had a bare wrist where it counted the most. “I’m Kris Allen.”

Kris Allen had unknowingly been Adam’s favorite eye-candy since they’d all gotten here yesterday, so it was nice to finally get his name. And he might even be the one - though Adam had promised himself that he wouldn’t get caught up in the search for his one the way that some people did. Though American Idol might not be the worst place to look for love, considering how widely it sampled throughout the country.

“So, I kinda think that number three-two-eight-nine-five over there is kinda cute,” Adam said, nodding toward the doorway - he didn’t actually think 32895 was that cute but he was the person in the room who looked most like Adam apart from, well, Adam himself, so it seemed the safest way of evaluating Kris’s potential.

“That guy?” Kris asked, and his voice squeaked up a bit and he flushed all over and tugged his hand out of Adam’s, like he’d just realized that it was still there. “The tall guy with the mohawk and all the chains?”

“Mmmhmm.” Adam watched as Kris reached down and - oh - fidgeted with the shiny wedding ring that Adam hadn’t even looked to see. Well. Shit. “Maybe one of the girls is more to your taste?” Adam asked, sounding as casual as he could and then he searched the crowd, as if trying to spot a potential female person.

“I’m- uh. I’m married,” Kris said. “So, yeah. I’m not looking at cute- at cute anyones.”

“I guess I’ll have to do without a wingman,” Adam said cheerfully, relieved that he hadn’t come on too strong. “Oh, hey, it looks like they’re letting us back into the theater - want to snag some seats near the front?”

Kris agreed easily and, as simple as that, before Adam had even realized it, they were already something close to friends.

Most of the people trying out for season eight didn’t have TiMERs, Adam noticed as Hollywood week wore on. It made sense, when he thought about it. The TiMER was still only two years out of development and, in the States, it had launched primarily in New York and L.A. From what the person who had implanted him had said, TiMER planned to be the mating tool of choice by 2025, but it was still early days for the company. They needed to prove their record, first.

He actually got to explain what the TiMER was all about to Kris, on the second-to-last day of Hollywood.

“True love,” Adam said, sitting down cross-legged on Matt’s bed, watching as Kris tuned his guitar. Kris’s roommate wasn’t in at the moment, so Adam didn’t feel bad about snagging his space. “It’s about finding the one person that you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with.”

“Through a wristband? How exactly - does it flash or buzz or something when you meet your- your person?” Kris asked, setting the guitar aside and coming over to Adam’s side. Adam held out his wrist and Kris examined the TiMER carefully. It wasn’t very impressive just to look at it - only a rounded rectangle of plastic slapped over his pulse point. “Oh, it really is a timer.” Kris delicately brushed his fingers over where the TiMER met Adam’s skin. Adam couldn’t quite repress his shiver, but Kris was focused enough that he didn’t seem to notice.

“It counts down until the midnight before you meet your one,” Adam said, trying to concentrate on Kris’s words, not the tempting warmth of his hand. “Once you’ve zeroed out, you know that you’re going to meet the love of your life the next day. When you... when your eyes meet... then both your TiMERs go off at the same time. It’s... it’s a chime sort of sound. And then you know.”

“But yours is just... blinking,” Kris said.

“Ah, that means that my one doesn’t have a TiMER implanted yet,” Adam said. “It actually-” he laughed, because some day - after he found his one - the story would be funny, even if it wasn’t just yet. “-I went in with my- he... Brad was my boyfriend then. We were sure that we were soulmates.”

“But if you loved each other-”

“He tried,” Adam said, reaching down and touching the TiMER, his hand covering Kris’s slightly. “But every morning, he could look down and see that- that he still needed to meet the love of his life.”

Adam could still remember his implantation with crystal clarity. He’d gotten his put in first, so it hadn’t been strange that it had just blinked up at them. But then Brad’s had been put in and... and instead of chiming out confirmation of their true love, it had started counting down. 621 days until Brad met the love of his life. And it wasn’t going to be Adam.

“But... how can you really be sure it’s right?” Kris asked, his nose wrinkling up in the cutest way- and Adam shut down that train of thought ruthlessly. Married. Not interested.

“You stick around in Hollywood long enough and you’ll get to see it at work,” Adam said. “It’s- there used to be a lot of fake relationships here and everyone- everyone hoping to find something real. The TiMER finds you something real. Some of the pairings have been surprises - you probably heard about George Clooney coming out, even in Arkansas?” Adam teased. “It’s because his TiMER went off - with his waiter for the night while he was on a fake date his publicist set up for him.”

“Yeah, Katy might have mentioned that,” Kris said. Adam had yet to meet Kris’s wife - she was going to come up for the judges’ mansion segment if Kris made it that far, Kris had mentioned - but he was absolutely determined not to be jealous of her. Even if Kris was so unfairly cute and friendly and cuddly. “Um. That seems like something that he wouldn’t want. Being... forced out of the closet like that.”

“It turned out well,” Adam said breezily. George had given an interview, not five weeks ago, when he’d said that his TiMER going off like that had been the best thing that had ever happened to him. “He’s really happy about it now. He wouldn’t have gotten the TiMER if he hadn’t been prepared to risk it, after all.”


“You really haven’t heard about TiMERs in Arkansas?”

“Nah, it’s not really something - it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing most people I know would be into,” Kris said.

“People don’t like love in Arkansas?” Adam asked.

“People like to make their own choices, I guess,” Kris said. “And that TiMER thing - you said that it ruined a relationship that you really wanted to keep.”

“It would have ended anyway,” Adam said. “Maybe not as quickly as it did but... he has someone out there. Someone else out there who has a TiMER counting down to exactly the same day and waiting for the same moment. And when they do meet - that love is going to last the rest of their lives. Who wouldn’t want that?”

“You can’t guarantee love,” Kris said, quietly. “That’s not- that isn’t how it works. You make a promise to work through the bad times and it is work and it’s not- it’s not magic.”

“Of course it isn’t magic,” Adam said. “It’s science. The TiMER is a finely-calibrated scientific tool.”

Kris pulled away from Adam then, finally, and laughed, but Adam could tell that Kris was laughing because he was uncomfortable, not because he was amused. “You guys are so weird out here,” he said. He patted Adam on the knee and then went back over to his own bed, starting up on tuning his guitar again.

They didn’t get a chance to talk much after they both got through the Hollywood rounds, but they exchanged phone numbers, and they texted a little over the break.

so, your timer things showed up in ar. being sold as ‘perfect new years gifts’.

knew they’d get there sooner or later. anyone buying them?

couple down the street got them. zeroed out and chimed at the store. kinda impressive.

yeah. my friend danielle just got hers. she has 5 yrs to go!

my buddy charles is thinking of getting one. he’s a lil insecure around the ladies

Adam didn’t ask Kris whether or not he and Katy had gotten them. If they had, Kris would have mentioned it. Given Kris’s thoughts on marriage, Adam figured that they probably wouldn’t bother, but he hadn’t gotten the chance to get to know Katy at all, to see if she felt the same as Kris did. He had seen her, from far away. Shining pale hair and actually shorter than Kris, even in heels.

The TiMERs seemed to sell really well everywhere over New Year’s, because when the show was gearing to start up again and all the people who’d advanced in Hollywood were ready for the next round, Adam could see way more of them on people’s wrists than he’d noticed last time.

Kris was going to be rooming with Matt Giraud again, so Adam went ahead and followed Matt back to his room once he spotted him.

“You don’t mind if I hang out and wait for Kris, right?” Adam asked, stealing onto Kris’s bed - the one without Matt’s suitcases on it - and cuddling one of his pillows. “I already called him to let him know I’d be in here.”

Matt had a TiMER now - blinking like Adam’s still did, so his one person hadn’t succumbed to the craze yet. “I think he’s going to try to sneak his wife in,” Matt said.

“I know,” Adam said. “He’s going to introduce us.”

“Oh. Won’t that be- yeah, not my business,” Matt said. He pulled out a notebook and sat at the little table the hotel provided, scribbling down some stuff - lyrics, maybe. Adam relaxed back onto Kris’s bed, letting himself zone out a little. He was going to go catch up with some of the other people he’d made friends with in Hollywood week once he and Kris had reconnected - he especially wanted to talk to Allison Iraheta, because she’d mentioned before the break that her mom was thinking of letting her get a TiMER of her own.

The door opened after another couple of hours and Adam propped himself up on his elbows, thinking belatedly that maybe he looked too comfortable on Kris’s bed.

Kris escorted his wife in, closed the door behind them. She had bright, curious eyes that she fixed pretty quickly on Adam.

“So, that’s Matt,” Kris said, motioning toward the corner. Then he looked over at Adam and smiled, and even with the plaid... everything... he was about the most adorable thing Adam had ever seen. “And this is Adam, the guy that you’re bored of hearing about. Adam, Matt - this is my wife.”

“Katy,” she said, with a little wave. She was tiny and perfect and there was maybe one brief moment where Adam completely hated her entire existence. Then he made himself get over it and bounded off the bed to take her hand.

“It’s really nice to meet you,” he said. “Kris has said some great things. You like acting, right?”

She laughed and said ‘yes’ and Adam was able to draw her into a conversation about Hollywood and ended up finding out that she had hopes of trying out for some acting jobs while Kris was in town for Idol.

“If we have time,” she said, glancing over at Kris, who was talking Matt. She leaned in toward Adam and lowered her voice. “We’re trying to keep our expectations manageable.”

Adam wasn’t really sure what to say to that, so he changed the subject to fashion and brought Kris into the conversation by asking him how many different types of beauty products he and Katy each owned, which started a round of light teasing.

After a little more catching up with Kris, Adam wandered off to find Allison and some of the others.

Allison had gotten her TiMER over the break, but she kinda hated it.

“So would you if you knew that you were supposed to wait ten years,” she grumbled. “Ten years!”

“You’ll be just about my age and I haven’t found my one yet,” Adam said. That settled her down a little.

“You’re right. This gives me time to get it wrong a few times,” she said. “Awesome. Hey, I’m going to sneak out for a smoke - you wanna come?”

“No, baby girl, I stopped to save my voice,” Adam said, somewhat pointedly. But he wasn’t surprised when she ignored him. Some things, people just had to learn for themselves, apparently. “Don’t let your mom smell it on you.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered,” she said, with a casual kiss goodbye.

Kris was nervous on their group night. Katy and someone Adam would bet was Kris’s mom were trying to calm him down, but from what Adam could see, nothing was working. Allison had seemed as cool as a cucumber when he’d seen her earlier and he knew that she would pull out that rock wail of hers and kick ass. Kris, on the other hand, seemed a little too nervous. And it probably wasn’t sensible to pick favorites when he was on the show and competing against them but Kris and Allison were his favorites and he wanted them both to move on to the next stage.

Not if it meant that Adam didn’t- or, well, he didn’t think so. But he wanted them there with him. So, he snuck up behind Kris and ambushed him, making him startle and laugh.

“I didn’t see you!” Kris said, as if that hadn’t been perfectly obvious. “This is my mom. Have you- I don’t think you’ve met her yet.”

“I haven’t,” Adam agreed, grinning down at Kris and looping an arm around his shoulder. “But she made you, so I’m sure she’s awesome.”

“She is,” Kris agreed, tilting his head back and meeting Adam’s eyes. His cheeks were slightly flushed. “Your parents are here, right?”

“Gosh, wow, Kris, it might be kinda early in our relationship for all these parental meetings,” Adam teased. He managed to look away from Kris and toward Kris’s mom instead. “Hi, I’m Adam.”

“Oh, I know, honey. I’m Kim. He talked and talked about you over Christmas,” Kris’s mom - Kim - said, shaking his hand. “I feel as if I know you already. I’m really looking forward to hearing you sing tonight.”

“Thanks,” Adam said, a little taken aback. Kim’s eyes flicked over his shoulder and her welcoming smile got another boost.

“And are these Adam’s parents?” she asked. Adam turned his head a little and - yeah, there they were, coming up to join the group.

“Yeah, sorry about that. Mom, Dad, this is Kris’s mom, Kim, and his wife, Katy, and this is Kris Allen,” Adam said, showing Kris off with a little flourish. “Everyone, this is my mom, Leila, and my dad, Eber.”

“I’m so pleased to meet all of you,” his mom said, shaking Kris’s hand first and then moving on to the others.

“It’s weird not to have my dad here,” Kris said, quietly, just to Adam. “But he couldn’t make it out. He’ll be watching on TV, though.”

“You’re going to do great no matter who is watching,” Adam said. “You’re doing that Michael Jackson song tonight, right? You’re going to blow everyone away.”

“I’m pretty sure blowing everyone away is your job,” Kris said. “You’re singing last. Even the producers know that you’re the best singer here.”

“Or they think I’m a glorious trainwreck,” Adam said, only half-joking. He knew that he was good - fuck, that he was great. But that wasn’t the only sort of thing that mattered in a show like Idol. If they wanted to make him look ridiculous on TV, there was probably a way for them to manage it.

But Adam did get through, all three of them did, just like Adam had said - had hoped. After the results show, Allison’s mom couldn’t stop hugging her and Kris and Katy were practically joined at the hip and glowing with happiness. And it wasn’t that he wanted Kris for himself. Adam hoped that he was enough of a grown-up not to pine after a guy who was straight and married. He just... he wanted that connection. Kris and Katy didn’t even need TiMERs to know that they were going to spend the rest of their lives together.

Because both of their roommates went home, he and Kris ended up rooming together for the rest of the stay in the hotel. It was pretty convenient. Kris was already the person that Adam most liked to talk about music with in the entire group, so having him right there, all the time, was nice.

Okay, the part where Kris wandered around in towels sometimes was less nice.

Or, well... it was nice, but Adam was trying not to think of Kris that way, so it shouldn’t be nice.

But most of the time, Kris was dressed, so that was good.

And when they were told that they could choose their roommates for the mansion - they were going to get to live in a mansion, holy shit - he didn’t even think about it before asking Kris. Being around Kris was surprising easy, considering how straight and cute and off-limits he was.

Measures needed to be taken, though, so Adam called up a friend to help with his problem.

“Yello, you’ve reached the fabulous residence of Drake Labry. If you’re calling to commission a painting-”

“It’s me,” Adam said.

“Oh,” Drake only sounded disappointed for a second. “Hey, what’s up, honey? I saw that you made it through to the next round on that show of yours.”

“Yeah, I was actually calling to see if you’d like to come up for some shows,” Adam said. “And maybe a little something else on the side.”

“TiMER still blinking?” Drake asked. “Or are you getting a booty call because you have a countdown now?”

“Still blinking,” Adam said. “I just... I can’t go out to the clubs while I’m here in the mansion and most of my other friends are... well-”

“Either exes, don’t have a penis, or are otherwise unsuitable?” Drake filled in.

“Something like that,” Adam said. “What do you say?”

“Sounds fun. Do I get to be on camera?”

“You get to be on camera,” Adam promised, smiling.

The weird thing was that Kris, who liked almost everyone, didn’t like Drake. Except that Kris refused to admit that he didn’t like Drake. Katy, on the other hand, had practically bounced with excitement and asked if Drake was his boyfriend and Adam had kinda shrugged and said that they were dating, not wanting to get into the complexities of buddy-fucking with someone who’d gotten married to her high school sweetheart.

Drake was perfect, though - he had another three and a half years on his TiMER but absolutely no desire to go without some fun while he waited for his one to arrive in his life.

“I just don’t get it,” Kris said one night. “You talk about love and about those TiMERs like they mean something, but he has one and you guys are still. You know.”

“Screwing around?” Adam suggested. Kris shrugged. “That’s why it’s good. We both know that it’s casual and that it’s never going to go anywhere. I don’t need serious right now, not during the competition, but I do need to relax sometimes. He’s just helping me out. As a friend.”

“I’ve never done that with any of my friends,” Kris said, but it wasn’t- sharp or judgemental. It was almost- it couldn’t be wistful. On the other hand, having recently met Kris’s friend Cale, maybe there was some wistfulness. Cale wasn’t Adam’s type, but he could definitely see why other people would be all over him. Maybe Kris did have some bi-curious tendencies that he’d never explored.

Kris was definitely more comfortable with a gay guy being all up in his space than most straight guys were, but Adam wasn’t sure if that counted for or against the theory. If Kris were repressed, he’d probably try to avoid touching that might make him feel things that he didn’t want to feel. Right? So, he probably was just a cuddly straight boy.


Not that it mattered. Because Kris was married.

All of which worked great as a theory.

Right up until the night that Kris kissed him.

Kris colored bright red afterward and ducked away and Adam couldn’t really do anything about it because they had to be on air in a few minutes. Afterwards, though, and after their tearful hugs to Allison after she’d been voted off the show, Adam locked their bedroom door. And then he grabbed the chair from the desk and wedged it under the handle, just in case.

“Okay, what the hell was that, earlier?” he asked.

“I know, right?” Kris said. “I totally thought Allison would make it for sure.”

“So, what, you decided to say goodbye with your mouth?”

“Everyone says goodbye with their mouths,” Kris said in a mumble. “It wasn’t... I just needed. I needed to- Adam...”

And Kris looked up at him and... shit, those big brown eyes and those full lips and... and the door was locked. Adam licked his mouth quickly and tried to remind himself of all the reasons that he wasn’t going to show Kris what a real kiss was like.

“What is this, anyway?” Adam asked. “Is this- are you curious about what it’s like for guys? Because of what I’ve told you? Is it... it is because you want to know about buddy fucking? Is it-”

“It’s you,” Kris said, taking a step forward. “I just- I think about you, okay? I- I hurry off the phone with Katy so that I can talk to you more. I’m always thinking about what you- about the things that you say and do and the way you- your eyes and the way your hair feels and I can’t stop. I can’t- I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Kris sounded exhausted, like he’d just run a mile, getting all those words out.

“No matter what I do, I can’t stop,” he said again.

“Hey, hey, it’s all right,” Adam said, and he reached forward and tucked Kris against him. Kris was shaking all over, just slightly - fear or nerves or just too much emotion. Kris’s hands grabbed onto Adam’s jacket. They were as close as when they’d hugged tonight on the show, only now there were no cameras. No audience.

No wife.

Adam closed his eyes for a second and he should push Kris away. He should-

He already knew that he wasn’t going to.

Instead, he reached down to tilt Kris’s face up. Kris’s mouth was trembling, lips parted just a breath. “You might not even like it,” Adam said, stroking his thumb over Kris’s cheek, then sliding his hand down to Kris’s throat, feeling the quick beat of his pulse. “Just- if you don’t, it’s okay. We go back to being just friends. This isn’t a burned bridge.” Kris nodded, ever so slightly, his gaze fixed on Adam’s.

Adam slipped his hand around to the back of Kris’s neck, his other hand resting gently on the small of Kris’s back, and he bent down to place a light, teasing kiss against Kris’s mouth.

Kris huffed out a frustrated breath against Adam’s lips and pushed up into the kiss, tongue pressing against Adam’s lips. Slow and easy apparently wasn’t on Kris’s agenda. Adam let him in, pulled him closer, as close as they could get with their clothes still on. He gave a thought to taking care of that problem, but he didn’t get much of a chance - Kris wasn’t letting him go, taking a step forward to stay with him when Adam tried to pull back so that he could get Kris’s jacket off.

“Kris, we don’t have to rush,” Adam said, breaking the kiss so that he could lick Kris’s jaw, taste his skin and feel that edge of stubble that he didn’t always like. “No hurry, baby.”

Kris laughed. “There’s- I- I want to know. I want to know.” And he finally let go of Adam’s coat, his hands sliding over Adam’s body, down to tug at Adam’s shirt. “I have to make sure.”

“Nothing wrong with taking our time,” Adam said, taking the chance while Kris was distracted to pull his own jacket off and toss it to the side. He took a step forward, crowding Kris in the direction of the closest bed - Kris’s, as it turned out. “Or doing it again later.”

“I am so screwed,” Kris said, and his hands were on Adam’s skin now, those hands that Adam couldn’t mistake for anyone else’s - big for how tiny Kris was, with those subtle calluses from playing guitar for years, agile but hesitant. “You- I- Adam, I can’t even-”

“You can,” Adam said, and he reached down to grab the hem of his shirt, pulling it up and over his head smoothly and then sending it to rest with his jacket. Kris had already seen him shirtless, of course. Impossible to avoid that when sharing rooms. But context really was everything.

Kris slid his hands up Adam’s torso and - fuck, he could feel the smooth drag of Kris’s wedding ring and everything just felt sick and sordid for a twisted second but he couldn’t - Kris was staring at Adam’s pale, freckled chest like it was something beautiful and Adam couldn’t push him away.

“Does- do you like it when-” but Kris didn’t seem prepared to wait for an answer, leaning closer and pressing his mouth against Adam’s nipple, first just a light kiss but it quickly turned into sucking when Adam sighed and pressed his fingers into Kris’s hair to hold him in place. Kris played with Adam’s other nipple, too, fingers stroking and flicking and experimenting.

Kris pulled back, dropping a last kiss on Adam’s chest, his fingers tangling up in the necklace that was still hanging around Adam’s neck. He tugged at it, pulling Adam down, and Adam smiled into the kiss, already learning the quirks of Kris’s mouth and how his tongue played, quick and teasing.

Adam wasn’t sure how long they kissed - but after a while, he needed to move, needed to get the fuck out of his too-tight pants. He broke the kiss slowly, sucking at Kris’s lower lip as he pulled away. “How about we get the rest of these clothes off?”

Kris nodded, chest heaving as he panted for air. Then he turned away, his shirt slipping off to land on the carpet. His hands reached down for his undershirt and Adam stepped up behind him, pressing himself against Kris’s back.

“I could do that for you,” he said, whispering into Kris’s ear. This was actually a really good view, all down Kris’s front. Adam put one of his hands over the bulge in Kris’s pants, curling his fingers around the outline of Kris’s dick.

“Oh, God,” Kris said, leaning his head back against Adam’s chest. “Jesus.”

“Not really all that relevant to what’s happening in this room,” Adam said, and Kris’s laugh sounded a little choked as his hips bucked against Adam’s palm.

Adam glanced up and the bed was only a couple of steps away. He rubbed at Kris’s cock one more time and then moved his hands up so that he could pull Kris’s shirt off. He turned Kris to face him and he nipped at Kris’s lower lip before tugging him in for a series of shallow, darting kisses.

“Sit on the bed,” Adam said, popping open the button on Kris’s jeans. “And I’ll blow you.”

Kris nodded slowly, his eyes wide and mouth still slightly open. He slid his jean off his hips, about mid-thigh, and fumbled backward for the bed, not taking his eyes off Adam. With a smile that Adam knew looked a little predatory, Adam helped Kris up onto the bed, stroking the back of his hand against Kris’s blue boxer-briefs. Kris shivered, eyes wide and lips parted.

Adam knelt down in front of Kris, still lazily tracing Kris’s cock. He settled in between Kris’s legs and pressed a kiss to Kris’s stomach. He’d seen this much of Kris already, but hadn’t ever given himself permission to look. Now, though, he let himself take it all in, from the muscled thighs to the flat stomach with that faint scar and then up to the tight nipples and perfect, hairless chest.

He reached down to tug Kris’s shoes off, glad that Kris tied them loosely enough that all Adam needed to do was yank a little. Now he pulled the jeans down and off, letting them crumple on the floor, and Kris was almost bare. Adam slid his hands up Kris’s legs - and here there was hair, though not as noticeable now as it was when Kris was straight from the shower, legs still slightly damp. He pressed a kiss against Kris’s knee, licked his way up Kris’s thigh as Kris squirmed under his hands.

Adam could see Kris’s dick through the fabric of his boxer-briefs, Kris so hard and ready that he was leaking a little. Adam leaned up and lapped at the wetness, sucking at Kris through the cloth. Kris whimpered, hips stuttering up against Adam’s mouth.

Slowly, like he was teasing himself, Adam carefully stripped Kris of the last thing he was wearing. This part Adam hadn’t seen before. Oh, Kris was beautiful here, cock proud and hard and just a lovely handful. He stroked up the shaft, fingers lingering under the head, where Kris would be most sensitive. Kris moaned, his leg twitched and, out of the corner of his eye, Adam could see Kris’s foot kicking in reaction. Adam pet Kris’s thigh soothingly and the muscles were so tense. Hopefully, Kris would be relaxed in a few minutes.

Adam licked at the head of Kris’s cock, able to taste him better now, without the flavor of cotton in the way. Not bad, as far as dicks went. And the way Kris shivered and called out his name made for an excellent sweetener. Adam kissed his way down Kris’s cock, leaving a sucking kiss at the base that made Kris grunt and push toward him. He put his hands on the insides of Kris’s thigh, encouraging Kris to spread them further.

Kris wiggled against Adam’s hands, falling backward on the bed, and Adam could see Kris’s hands grabbing onto the comforter, his back arching in a gorgeous curve. Kris lying down was... was good. Definitely something Adam could work with. He straightened up on his knees and leaned over to snag a pillow from the head of the bed.

“What- are you stopping?” Kris asked, breathless and confused, propping himself up on his elbows to watch Adam. “No. Bad time to stop. No stopping.”

“Not stopping,” Adam said, caressing Kris’s knee fondly. “Making things a little easier. Back up a bit.” Kris blinked down at him and then obediently scooted back on the bed. He had to bring his feet up to do it which was, well, just perfect. Adam stroked under Kris’s thigh. “Lift up.”

Kris’s eyes darted to the pillow in Adam’s other hand and he flushed and gasped, just a little. He raised up his pelvis and waited and watched as Adam slid the pillow under his ass.

“So flexible,” Adam said. “That’s going to be fun.”

He pushed Kris’s feet back and apart, spreading Kris’s legs until Kris’s breathing went ragged and his thighs were trembling, but Kris didn’t say a word, though he’d stopped trying to hold himself up on his elbows to watch, instead collapsing back onto the bed. After Adam got Kris settled where he wanted him, he pet the curve of Kris’s hip and then leaned back up to grab another pillow, putting that one under his own knees. The floor was carpeted here, but Adam planned on taking his time with this and, well, he wasn’t twenty-two any more.

He dragged a finger down Kris’s thigh, tracing the line of muscle back to Kris’s groin. With his knees bent and pushed back, everything was on display, and Adam cupped Kris’s balls, feeling the weight of them in his hand. Then he let them go, moving his hand up to Kris’s stomach, rubbing his knuckles across the place where Kris’s bare chest gave way to that line of hair that widened and pointed the way downward. Kris’s cock was hard and pressed up against his belly, but Adam ignored it for the time being, stroking an outline around it on Kris’s skin.

Kris said his name, low and broken, but he seemed content to let Adam play, holding himself still.

Adam had a brief moment of longing for the condoms that he totally didn’t have in the mansion but- ah, he wouldn’t want to rush, anyway. Not with Kris. There was something that he had that would make things a little easier, though. He dropped a kiss on Kris’s upraised knee and said, “Stay like this.”

He went over to the night stand near his bed and grab the lubricant stashed there for jerking off. There was probably some in Kris’s stuff, too, but Adam didn’t feel like wasting any time looking around and he didn’t want to pull Kris out of the happy, relaxed state that he was letting Adam coax him into enjoying. Then he went back to Kris, dropping back down to his knees. He squirted some of the lube onto his fingers and rubbed them together for warming before taking Kris’s cock in hand and giving him a few light strokes. Even as he kept jerking off Kris, slow and easy, he slipped his other hand down below Kris’s balls, rubbing his wet fingers against Kris’s hole.

Kris was saying things, nonsense words and Adam’s name and any number of promises that he had no way of keeping. Adam leaned forward to take the head of Kris’s cock in his mouth, sucking gently. He didn’t let Kris hurry to the finish, instead pulling back or slowing down whenever he felt that Kris was nearing that edge. Kris was lifting his hips up into Adam’s hand, Adam’s mouth, and his voice had gone high-pitched and breathy.

Adam breached Kris’s hole with one finger, then slid it out again, teasing around the edges. He gave some thought to going further, finding Kris’s prostate and showing him that pleasure, too, but Kris was already so far gone. It could wait for another day - because Adam had already decided that they would do this again, no matter what it took.

So, Adam held down Kris’s hips securely and then he slid his mouth down Kris’s cock, the head sliding against the back of his throat and then down. He stayed there for a second, two, and swallowed around Kris’s cock. It was enough - when he pulled back, Kris jerked under his hands and he was coming in Adam’s mouth, salty and a little bitter and so warm.

And now Kris was relaxed and pliant, barely paying attention as Adam rubbed his hands over the insides of Kris’s thighs. Adam got up, tossed the pillow that had been under his knees back up to the head of the bed, and then stripped off the rest of his clothes. Kris hadn’t moved, though it sounded like - was he giggling? It seemed like he was. Adam touched Kris’s knee and Kris opened his eyes and Kris was pretty much glowing, and anyone looking at him would have been able to tell that he’d just gotten off.

“You look-” Kris’s mouth curved up in a smile. “Can I call a guy beautiful?”

“You can call me whatever you want,” Adam said. He got on the bed and tugged Kris to lie the right direction on it, facing him.

“Are you- are you going to-” Kris blushed a little darker, but he didn’t seem scared.

“Not tonight,” Adam said. He grabbed Kris’s hand and licked the palm, then brought Kris’s hand down to Adam’s cock. “I like it a little rough, so don’t worry.”

Kris was unsure at first, his hand slow and too gentle. But he learned fast, seemed to learn all too quickly where and how to touch Adam to get the best reaction. Adam rested his hand on Kris’s hip, and when he was ready for how he wanted to end it, it was a simple matter of pushing Kris over to his back. Kris’s eyes widened and his lips parted in surprise and - someday soon, Adam was going to need to fuck that mouth of his.

Not today.

“Press your thighs together, as tightly as you can,” Adam said. And then he held his cock and slipped it between Kris’s legs and Kris seemed to understand what Adam was doing, and he squeezed his thighs around Adam’s cock, breath coming quick as Adam fucked between his legs until he came. Adam collapsed on Kris when he was done, but Kris didn’t seem to mind, kissing Adam’s neck until Adam worked up the energy to roll off to the side.

“We should probably sleep in your bed,” Kris said, and his hand was resting right next to Adam’s and it only took a second to turn his palm toward Kris’s and lock their fingers together. “This one is kinda messy now.”

“Shower first,” Adam said, and he tugged Kris off the bed and toward the bathroom.

Getting clean, of course, led to getting dirty all over again and then they had to clean up a second time. But, finally, they stumbled out of the bathroom and over to Adam’s bed.

Neither of them bothered to put on clothes, and Adam wrapped himself around Kris, front to back, his hand reaching down to cup Kris’s soft cock gently.

“Don’t think I can do three times,” Kris said. Adam felt a brief stab of desire to prove Kris wrong on that but- he was pretty tired himself. “God, Adam, that was-”

“I’m pretty good at sex,” Adam said, pressing a kiss to the back of Kris’s neck and sliding his leg over Kris’s.

“Yeah,” Kris agreed. His body stiffened a little in Adam’s arms. “You know- it wasn’t- it wasn’t just-”

“I know,” Adam said. He stroked Kris’s thigh. “Not that I didn’t- love this, but... why now?”

Kris let out a harsh breath. “You won’t- I... Katy’s friends are all getting TiMERs.”

“Oh,” Adam said, and he hadn’t let himself think about Katy during any of this and... even though he knew it was unfair of him to resent that Kris had brought her up... he did, just a little.

“And that means that Katy wants to get one, too. Wants us to get them together,” Kris said. His hand reached down and grabbed Adam’s, drawing it forward around Kris’s chest. “When she said- I just knew, you know. That I’d break her heart.” Kris’s voice was - strange, almost distant. “I’ve done it before. I didn’t- I didn’t want to do it again. But the TiMER wouldn’t...”

“Do you think it’s me?” Adam asked. He didn’t let himself hope.

“I don’t know,” Kris said, sounding very young and a little scared. “I just knew- after meeting you, I knew it wasn’t Katy. I- I want it to be you. But-”

“Once upon a time, you wanted it to be Katy,” Adam said. “Are you going to get the TiMER?”

“I’m going to try to talk to Katy about- about everything,” Kris said. “I guess we’ll go from there.”

There didn’t seem to be much to say after that, so Adam just kissed Kris on the cheek and let them both go to sleep.

Saying good-bye to Kris - even for just a weekend - was something close to torture. Adam tended to wear bands and bracelets over his TiMER a lot, but he kept pushing them aside to look at it, make sure it was still blinking. He didn’t think Kris would do it like that, just get it without warning Adam first, but he couldn’t stop himself from looking.

It was worse when they got back and there was no more mansion, just single hotel rooms. And Katy being allowed to hang out in Kris’s with him. Not that Adam was- fuck, of course Adam was jealous, he confessed to Danielle. He was sleeping with someone who was married.

“How stupid is that?”

“He is pretty cute,” Danielle said, which had been her firm opinion of Kris since they’d met a few weeks ago. “Great ass.”

“Yeah,” Adam agreed with a sigh.

Kris couldn’t have told Katy yet, because she looked at Adam the same way that she always had - tolerant and vaguely amused by her husband’s affection for him. Something would have changed if she knew the truth. And there was so much to do right now, he and Kris barely had time for hellos and goodbyes.

They would have time later. On tour, at the very least.

The night before the final performance episode, Adam opened his hotel room door to find Kris on the other side looking sheepish, with his guitar by his side. Adam let him in quickly, not wanting this chance to slip away.

“I don’t actually need to rehearse anymore tonight,” Kris said, facing away from Adam, carefully setting his guitar down on the table. “If I’m not ready by now, I’m screwed anyway.”

“Kris, I-” Adam put a hand on Kris’s arm, but before he could say anything else, Kris twisted around in his arms and his fingers were brushing Adam’s cheek and Kris’s mouth was on his, hard and desperate.

It was fast and simple in the end, just two guys jerking each other off. They didn’t even bother to get undressed. But Kris kept kissing him the whole time, like he was afraid that Adam would disappear - or stop - if Kris ever wasn’t kissing him.

“I didn’t tell yet,” Kris said when it was over, directing his words at Adam’s chest. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey, you don’t need to worry about that right now,” Adam said. He pulled away, linked his hand with Kris’s, and led him to the bathroom, where they cleaned up with a damp washcloth. “You just worry about giving your best damn performance ever tomorrow.”

“No promises,” Kris said, walking his fingers up Adam’s arm. “Are you going to need help with your hair?”

“Come by in the morning and see,” Adam said. He looked out the door, toward Kris’s guitar. “How late is she waiting up for you?”

They are expecting me back in a few hours,” Kris said. “Katy’s mom is here. Plus my parents and Daniel. It’s a party in my room. I said that I needed to go somewhere quiet to concentrate so that I would be ready for the show tomorrow.” He shrugged. “They’re kinda used to that. And it’s- it’s true. I-” His fingers curled around Adam’s arm. “I need this. Need you. If- no matter what happens this week, being here with you makes me feel like I already won.”

“We did,” Adam said. And then he had to kiss Kris again, lift him up onto the bathroom counter and touch him until he was hard and whimpering. He went down to his knees on the bathroom tile, made it quick and swallowed Kris down. He let his head rest on Kris’s thigh, after, and Kris’s fingers were in his hair.

“I wanna learn how to do that,” Kris said, thoughtful and maybe a little dreamy. Adam got up, gave Kris a kiss laced with come - Kris wrinkled his nose a bit, but didn’t pull away. Adam buttoned Kris back up, fingers lingering on Kris’s softened cock. Adam was half-hard again, but not painfully so, and he did want to go over his songs again, he told Kris.

Kris sat cross-legged on the bed and watched with an entranced little smile as Adam ran through his three performance songs and then his section of the medley that he was doing with KISS. Then Adam waved a hand at Kris and Kris laughed and started up his part of “We Are the Champions”.

When they were done singing, Adam had to kiss Kris again, for all the times that he wouldn’t be able to tomorrow and the next night.

“Should you head back now, baby?” Adam asked, trying to get Kris’s hair to fluff back to how it had looked before Adam had put his hands in it. “It’s after one.”

“I should probably get some sleep,” Kris said, looking up at Adam through his eyelashes. It made Adam want nothing more than to bundle Kris up and take him to bed. “I could text them that I’m crashing in your room, you think?”

“That’s probably a terrible idea,” Adam said, but damn if it wasn’t appealing.

“Yeah,” Kris said, with a bit of a pout. “You’re right. I should- I should get back.”

Adam couldn’t let him leave without another handful of kisses, but after that, Kris was picking up his guitar and heading out the door. Still a little more rumpled than when he’d come in, but mostly respectable.

After all that, Adam had a hard time getting to sleep. He was already missing Kris, which seemed like the worst kind of sign. Married, he reminded himself. And even if Kris had promised to talk to Katy... even if Kris had implied that what he felt for Adam was something real... that might not pan out, in the end. This was exactly the sort of stupid risk that he’d hoped he’d grown out of - falling for someone that was attached to someone else. But he had the horrible feeling that it was already too late to do anything about that.

He’d already fallen. Past tense.

Still, it was hard for him to think about any of that the next day, with all the rushing around and the interviews and the last-minute details that needed to be worked out. And he couldn’t think about it that night, either, run so ragged by the day behind him that he just collapsed into bed when he was finally allowed to sleep.

And then it was the last day.

Everything about it blurred in the back of his mind until it was time for the show. Lights... camera... and Kris.

There was Kris, up on that stage with him, and Adam knew. Millions of people watching them, and the only one that mattered - the only audience that really counted - was that guy, right over there.

Kris looked amazing, too, an inner glow coming out as he sang with Adam.

And then Kris won and there was a slight stab of disappointment but- oh, the shock on Kris’s face was delightful and he laughed when Adam reminded him that he was the one stuck singing that horrible coronation song now.

He wanted to tell Kris more, so much more, but it wasn’t time. And after the song, Kris was hugging Katy and it looked like- like maybe she was crying and this moment had to be overwhelming for her, too.

Life was a whirlwind for a few days, press conferences and saying over and over that he was proud of Kris and happy for Kris’s win and that they hadn’t ever been competing. Then it was over and he had a break, time enough to crawl into a hole somewhere and just sleep, and not think about Kris, who had gone off to Arkansas with his parents and his wife.

“It’s not like he can get divorced five seconds after he wins the show,” Danielle said. “How would that look?”

“He’s never said anything about getting divorced,” Adam said. “I mean... what if it was just... adrenaline? Or he just thought he felt something because we spent so much time together? Or- or maybe he is gay but he’d rather stick with Ms. Blonde Perfection and not deal with it?”

“Or maybe you’re overthinking things,” Danielle said. “Have you talked to him about any of this?”

“Fuck, no,” Adam said, vaguely horrified.

But it got him up off his ass and he texted Kris, just a quick hello. Kris’s response came about an hour later, after Danielle had left and Adam was alone in his apartment.

Hey buddy. hows your break going?

good. relaxing. Yours?

talked to katy

Adam had to take a second just to stare down at his phone, attempting to process that. But before he could respond, another text came in.

she doesnt believe me

Adam didn’t bother texting, calling Kris instead.

“What doesn’t she believe?” he asked.

“Whoa, fast,” Kris said. “Um. Well. She kinda doesn’t believe that I- she think I’ll get over it.” To his credit, Kris sounded embarrassed about that. “Um. She’s being nice about it? I’m sure she’s pissed off, because she’s being really nice.”

“That’s a sign that she’s mad?” Adam asked.

Oh, yeah,” Kris said. “Big-time mad. Which- you know. I can’t really blame her.”

“No,” Adam said. “I guess not. What does- what’s the plan?”

“She says that I didn’t give our marriage a fair try,” Kris said, slowly. “Running off to Idol and everything. So... I don’t know. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I was... rebelling, a little. I don’t know.”

“You don’t know,” Adam said, feeling like he needed to sit down. Luckily, he was right next to his sofa. “So, the two of you are still-”

“I don’t know,” Kris said. “She’s my wife, you know?”

“Yeah,” Adam said. “Look, that’s a good idea. You should- you should go and be married. Maybe that’s just what you need.”

“You think so?” Kris asked, soft. But if there was something more in his voice, Adam was too tired to hear it.

“That’s what I think,” Adam said. “I mean, we haven’t made any promises. You have Katy and I have Drake. It’s not- no burned bridges here. Okay?”

“No burned bridges,” Kris agreed.

Because burying himself in ice cream would have both been too cliché and also fattening, Adam called Drake instead, and had a no-strings night of sex that might have been cliché, but at least was exercise at the same time.

“I was such an idiot,” he said to Alisan the next day. “He’s married. He’s going to give their marriage another try. He’s-”

“Stupid,” she said. Adam opened his mouth to defend Kris, but Alisan kept talking. “What a dick! You just know that he’s going to come crawling out of the closet ten or twenty years from now, begging to be able to do as much as lick your boots and when he does just... just kick him in the face.”

“I’m not kicking Kris in the face,” Adam said.

“Well, I’ll kick him in the face for you,” Alisan said. “I think he’s short enough that I could manage it.”

No one is kicking Kris in the face,” Adam corrected. “Or anywhere else. It’s not- he’s a good guy, Alisan. Maybe the nicest guy I’ve ever known.”

“Pfft,” she said, tossing her hair.

And when Alisan got to the point of making dismissive noises, there was really no talking to her.

Between sex with Drake and talking things out with his friends, Adam felt completely prepared to see Kris on tour. His friend Kris, who was working on his marriage and not someone that Adam was ever going to have sex with again.

Of course, that idea completely collapsed when Kris actually showed up in L.A. for rehearsal.

Because Kris... Kris didn’t act like a man who was working on his marriage. He acted like a man who was working on getting back into Adam’s pants. In front of everyone, too, and so Adam couldn’t even tell him to tone it down. And then Kris slipped him an extra room card and Adam didn’t need to look at it to know whose room it opened.

“It’s just a really bad idea,” Adam said, after he was in Kris’s room. He’d felt dirty going down the hallway, like he was Hester fucking Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. All he needed was a big red ‘A’ to wear on his shirt.

Kris looked up from where he was, sitting on the bed tuning his guitar. It was such a familiar sight that it twisted something in Adam’s chest, seeing that and knowing that he wasn’t allowed to see it every day for the rest of his life.

“I know that,” Kris said. He’d already undressed for the night - loose sweats and a t-shirt and his glasses were all he had on. He looked gorgeous. Kris tilted his head, and he was smiling again, that teasing smile from earlier in the day, when he’d been making Adam blush. “I missed you.”

“What about Katy?” Adam asked. Because he couldn’t not ask.

“Well, she was right there. It’s not like I had a chance to miss her,” Kris said. Then he looked down, fiddling with his guitar. “She’s- she still thinks I’ll get over it or get it out of my system or whatever. I told her- I told her that I probably wouldn’t. But she said... if I give things an honest try, she won’t fight a divorce if it comes to that.”

“She knows you’re flirting with me?” Adam asked, cautiously.

“She knows how I feel about you,” Kris said. “We didn’t talk about any details. She just- she asked if I could just hold off on making any big decisions right now. Because of all the changes from Idol and everything. She thinks it’s just-” he shrugged and looked away. “-I don’t know what she thinks.”

“So, you’re holding off on making any decisions right now, but you still want to have sex tonight?” Adam asked, just to see if he had everything clear. Kris winced.

“Man, that sounds shitty,” Kris said. His fingers tensed up on the neck of his guitar and then relaxed again. “I don’t- you’re right. It’s not fair of me to ask you to get involved in all this.”

And call him a complete idiot, but Adam couldn’t help reaching out to cup Kris’s chin. “Maybe it isn’t fair, but-” he leaned down and kissed Kris on the nose, just a gentle breath of a touch. “What did you tell her about... about how you feel about me?”

How do you feel about me, he wasn’t quite brave enough to ask.

Kris’s eyes were wide and earnest. “I told her that I didn’t- I didn’t expect it. But that I wanted- that maybe I loved you. And I wanted to know for sure.” He took in a shaking breath. “She- she thinks if I sleep with you enough, I’ll get over it. Sex hasn’t-” Kris’s cheeks pinked slightly. “-it hasn’t ever been a big part of our relationship, so I don’t think- I don’t think she gets how much- how different it can be.”

“And you two haven’t ever had great sex,” Adam said. It wasn’t a question. Kris’s cheeks darkened further and he looked away. But Adam still had Kris’s face cupped in his hand and he took advantage of that to press his mouth against Kris’s hot skin, whispering, “If you had, she’d know better than to give you permission to touch me.”

Adam,” Kris said in a husky whisper.

Adam brushed another kiss against Kris’s lips, pushed him back on the bed, and slipped his hand down inside Kris’s pants.

He could hate himself in the morning.

When he woke up, Kris was still in his arms, asleep and naked and beautiful. Then Adam remembered that he was actually the one in Kris’s hotel room. He should probably be slipping out now, trying to make it back to his own room before anyone else woke up.

Instead, he stared at Kris’s profile. Alisan would tell him that he’d made a mistake - that he could never trust Kris with his heart. Danielle would tell him that it might take time and dedication, but that he should follow his instincts. Whatever was happening in Kris’s head, Adam couldn’t make it happen any faster. Any choice that Adam made had to be about what was right for Adam, not Kris.

Kris stirred, mouth quirking up in a sleepy smile. “I can hear you thinking,” he murmured, his fingers stroking Adam’s stomach. “Too early to think.”

“We should get ready,” Adam said. “More rehearsal.”

“There’s no way to make that song sound good,” Kris said, with an exaggerated wince. “Do I really have to sing it? Hurricanes and mountains and just... a load of fake-inspirational bull.”

“The perks of winning,” Adam said solemnly.

Kris laughed.

And everything was amazing for a little while. Tour was unbelievable - a rush better than being on the show, like nothing Adam could have predicted - and he and Kris stole moments whenever they could, like infatuated high school kids hiding from their parents. It was... it was crazy and wonderful and certain not to last.

It all came crashing down just a week into the tour. They’d arrived at the location in Sacramento for the day and the crew was setting up. Adam was hiding in one of the buses, nursing a headache, when he heard a faint tapping at the door.

When he opened the door, blinking against the sudden rush of light, all he could make out at first was the bright glow of blonde hair. His eyes adjusted and there she was - Katy Allen, shifting nervously on the grass in front of the tour bus. Even if Kris hadn’t told him that she knew now, Adam would have been able to tell in the way that she couldn’t quite look at him.

“Is Kris around?” she asked quietly.

“No, he’s- he’s hanging out with Anoop and Matt right now,” Adam said, leaning against the door. He was feeling the expected rush of guilt, but he was feeling more than that, complicated things that he was going to need to pick through and examine later when he was alone.

Katy was fiddling with her rings and Adam forced his eyes away from her hands. Her voice was higher than he’d remembered it, though he wasn’t sure if his memory were wrong or if it was just because she was more nervous this time. She started to turn away but she stopped herself half-way and looked toward him, her gaze falling somewhere around his chin.

“I’m not giving up,” she said. Whispered, really, but then her chin tilted up and her gaze met his. “What he’s doing with you won’t last. Kristopher will come back to me. He always does. He’s not like you.”

“I’m sorry,” Adam said, and he did mean it, as useless as it was for him to say. “I wasn’t trying to screw up your life.”

“No, you probably weren’t thinking about me at all,” Katy said. She didn’t come right out and call him selfish, but it was obvious what she was thinking - what she had every right to think. After a moment, she smiled, bright and forced. “Yesterday was my birthday. Guess what my sisters got me?”

Before he could say anything - not that he would have had any idea of what to say - she turned her arm over and pulled her sleeve up, revealing a brand new TiMER. Blinking, just like Adam’s.

“Kris is my one,” she said, her voice steady as a rock now. “I know it, Adam, with all my heart. And when he gets a TiMER, too, you’ll see. What he has with you - it doesn’t mean anything when you put it up against everything he has with me. I’m his wife and I will be his wife until the day I die and then we’ll be together again in the life that comes after. Marriage is for always.”

“Katy, it’s more complicated than that. Kris-”

“He’ll change his mind,” Katy said. “You should know enough by now to know that Kris does the right thing, by his family and by God. Staying married is the right thing for both of us. He needs to figure it out, that’s all. You’re just a temptation, Adam. We’ve dealt with temptations before, plenty of times. If you’re expecting anything more than lust from him, you’re going to end up disappointed.”

“I’m sorry,” Adam said again, and he couldn’t help the edge that crept into his voice. “I’m sorry that you married a gay man - and he is, Katy, whatever else is happening, he is - and I’m sorry that I didn’t push him away when he kissed me. But he did kiss me, not the other way around. I’ve never made him do anything and that is the absolute truth.”

“Liar,” she said, and she turned on her heel, leaving at a fast walk. Not before he noticed the fear in her eyes, though - he hated to see it, hated knowing that he’d been the one to put it there, but he couldn’t hate what it meant. Katy wasn’t as sure of herself as she pretended to be.

Adam closed the door to the bus again, making his way back to his bunk and collapsing on it as the dull ache intensified in his head.

He didn’t know how much time passed as he lay there, waiting to be called for the show. But it was Kris who came to get him, pressing a gentle hand against his forehead.

“Hey, darling, feeling up to your fans?” Kris’s voice rolled over Adam, inevitable as drowning. “You’ve got a lot of people here just for you.”

“You see Katy?” Adam asked, not opening his eyes yet.

“She found me,” Kris said. He stroked Adam’s face lightly and Adam shivered. Everything about Kris was... overwhelming. He was never ready for the way he felt when Kris touched him. Even with Brad, it hadn’t been like this. Did that mean that Kris was his one? But then wouldn’t Kris know, too? “She has one of those wrist-things now.”

Adam let out a half-strangled sob of laughter. There was something funny about all this, in a twisted way. Katy was forcing the choice. Kris had been content to let things slide, but Katy getting a TiMER... that was a weight and an expectation that all her family would likely expect Kris to fulfill now. Even Adam had been willing to take what he could get of Kris and not demand more. Katy was risking everything on an all or nothing roll of the dice. She might have convinced herself that she would win big but, even so, it was a brave move.

“Do you think I should get one?” Kris asked, but then he made a shushing sound before Adam could answer. “I just- it feels like the coward’s way out. I shouldn’t... I shouldn’t just slap a piece of plastic on and let it tell me what my future’s going to be.”

“I don’t think Katy is going to let you get a peaceful divorce,” Adam said, opening his eyes just enough to make out the shape of Kris’s face. “She thinks you’re her one, Kris. She’s not going to let you go as long as she thinks that.”

“She said-”

“Maybe she meant it at the time,” Adam said. “Maybe she just always figured she’d get you to agree with her. She made it sound like that’s happened a lot before.” It wasn’t quite a question. “You said that you planned to give your marriage another try, back when you were in Arkansas. You keep- you keep changing your mind.”

“No matter what I do, I break someone’s heart,” Kris said. He leaned forward, his cheek pressing against Adam’s hand. “Maybe everyone’s. Before Idol, it always seemed like no matter how fast I tried to run, I was always stuck in the same place but now- now I couldn’t stay still if I wanted to.”

“Do you?” Adam asked.

“My mama wanted me to wait,” Kris said, softly. “Wait another year or two, she said, before getting married. But I figured - I figured there wasn’t any point in waiting. Katy didn’t want to get left behind and I... I didn’t want to disappoint her again.”

“I’m not disappointed,” Adam said, and he felt Kris’s relieved sign more than heard it. “Coming out- making the choice to let everyone know that you’re different- it’s hard. I know that. I didn’t want- I don’t want to force you to do anything you aren’t ready to do. But Katy... Katy just wants to know that her husband loves her and that he’ll be with her for the rest of her life. And if you know that you can’t do that... she deserves to know, too.”

“I never have managed to live up to her expectations,” Kris said and there was a world of weariness behind the words. “She always told me to try harder. That she’d give me another chance to make it up to her. It’s what Jesus would do, after all.” The slightest hint of sarcasm flavored Kris’s words.

The door to the bus was slammed open before Adam had a chance to respond, and the other guys poured in, chattering loudly and then quieting down at a sharp word from Kris.

“Sorry, man,” Matt said. “Still got that headache, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Adam said, closing his eyes again. “I’ll be fine for the show, but I really need to rest until rehearsal.”

When the rest of the guys left to go talk to the fans who’d gathered before the show, Kris went with them.

Adam closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

Things stayed a little calmer for a while after that, especially after Katy went back to Arkansas again. The needy heat of those first few days settled into a slow burn. Adam never got to touch Kris as much as he wanted to, but they were together as much as they could be and still stay safe.

Kris made... not promises, but wishes. He told Adam all the things that he wanted to do, to have, to be. Adam could feel Kris’s fear behind his words, sharp like acid in the back of his throat. That’s what he tried to work on, unraveling Kris’s desires and fears, piece by piece - taking them out and exposing them to the light. Adam wanted - he wanted to be that safe place for Kris, wanted to be the person that Kris could trust. He wanted to know about the boys that Kris had been terrified of wanting at fourteen. He wanted to know why Kris hadn’t even dared to experiment when he and Katy had been broken up - so worried that it would get back to his church and his family, that teasing would become mocking and then hate - and why Kris had gotten back together with her. Every new piece of himself that Kris shared, Adam wanted.

In return for what Kris told him, Adam shared secrets back - his insecurities about life and love, exactly how much it had hurt to see Brad’s TiMER start its countdown, his fear that he would die without ever finding his one. He tried to be as honest as he could manage while still not pressuring Kris.

It wasn’t always easy. Adam spent hours on the phone to Danielle, Alisan, and his mom - the three people that he’d always trusted with this particularly volatile secret - trying to figure out how to keep himself from drowning in Kris’s needs, to not ignore his own. Alisan was good for bluntness and for being the least concerned about Kris as a person; Danielle best for cheerful encouragement. And Adam talked to his mom when he wanted to talk to someone about Kris’s marriage. He needed all of them just to keep him sane, some days, and they were all people that he could count on to keep quiet about Kris.

“Do you think I’m a bad person?” he asked his mom one night. It was a hotel night, but Anoop had claimed Kris’s company before Adam had gotten a chance to, and they always tried not to be too obvious (though Kris would probably sneak in a couple of hours after Anoop left him alone). “He’s married. He’s always been married, as long as I’ve known him.”

“Do I wish you weren’t putting yourself back into the closet-”

“I’m not-”

“Are you sure about that, sweetie?” She laughed a little. “I like Kris, you know that. I don’t like that he’s the reason that you can’t be as honest with the world as I know you’d like to be. I wish that you two would have waited but- I know things got crazy for everyone on that show. In situations like that, bonds form that maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t know, Adam. Do you honestly think that you can stay away from him until he’s divorced?”

“Well, not right now, obviously,” Adam said. “After the tour is over... it might be easier. We’ll both be so busy. It might all fall apart anyway, once we’re not always in the same place.”

“Is that what you think or what you’re afraid of?”

“I wish I knew,” Adam said.

But most of the time, all of them were just enjoying the high of performing every night. Adam had already gotten close to most of the contestants, but the tour seemed to bond them all even more. He’d felt like this before, in successful shows and plays, but he’d never had as many people in his audience as he did on this tour. It made it easy to forget the outside world - to forget everything except the present.

Fifteen days after Katy had laid her challenge down, the tour made its way to Little Rock. The day of the concert started out pretty stressful for Adam. Katy would be there, of course, and so would so many of Kris’s family, friends, and his church. Kris’s parents liked him, but he knew that Kris hadn’t told them the truth, so that made the idea of seeing them a little nerve-wracking, even as he did look forward to it. The concert itself was fantastic - Little Rock was a great crowd for all of them, not just for Kris - but then it was time for the after party.

Katy had arrived along with a whole group of her friends and Kris’s but also with a woman with a briefcase and a professional smile who didn’t quite fit with the rest of them. Adam watched as Kris made his way over to them. When Kris reached her, Katy grabbed his hand and said, in a voice that cut through the room, “Guess what, Kristopher? The TiMER office agreed to let you fill out the paperwork and get implanted right now. They sent out a field officer and everything! Isn’t that wonderful?”

The lady with the briefcase held her free hand out toward Kris, who shook it with a numb expression on his face.

“Hello, Kris. I’m Tamara. We at TiMER are always pleased to deliver a happy ending,” Tamara said with a well-practiced smile. “Your Katy has assured us that the two of you are a classic ‘high school sweetheart’ love story.”

Kris just stood there a moment, and then he gave Tamara a quick smile and pulled Katy away from their group of friends. He said something to her quietly and her words were just as soft, but Adam could see their knuckles whitening slightly from their grip on each other. Katy looked up, meeting Adam’s eyes, and there was a bright flush on her cheeks. Tamara waited patiently until Kris turned back to her.

“All ready?” she asked cheerfully. “I would like to remind both of you that there are no guarantees that HSS is your story. Now if you’ll follow me to a table, I can get set up. It’ll take a moment, but that’ll give Kris time to look over the paperwork and disclaimers.” She opened the briefcase and pulled out a sheaf of papers that she held out toward Kris, who took them silently, tugging his hand free from Katy’s. He started to flip through the papers as Tamara set up her equipment. Adam knew from his own experience that they didn’t need a lot of room.

Adam made his way through the crowd so that he could stand next to Kris. “You don’t have to do it right now,” he said, quietly. “We can think of an excuse.”

Kris looked around them at the crowd that had gathered after Katy’s announcement, then he looked at Adam and he smiled - small and hesitant, but real. “No,” he said. “I think you’re right. This is the only way she’ll ever believe it.”

Kris stepped forward to the table and borrowed a pen from Tamara, signing his name. He handed her the papers and then held out his wrist, palm up. Katy was standing on the other side of the table, her hand wrapped around her own TiMER. Adam resisted the urge to touch his.

Tamara readied the new TiMER, prongs sticking out so that it would easily go into Kris’s skin, and then she pressed it down and into his wrist. After she pulled away, Kris visibly shivered. It would feel similar to getting a piercing but with a sting that reached down more deeply through skin and into muscle.

A moment passed and Adam held his breath, waiting.Then he remembered the most important part and he looked at Kris, hoping with everything in him as their eyes met-


Two TiMERs went off.

Adam closed his eyes, almost boneless with relief. He’d been right. He’d been right.

Kris was his one.

Eight months later:

“We’ll meet you at the airport. Yeah, Adam will be there, too.” When Kris said his name, Adam looked up at him with a smile, though he was quickly distracted again by Bowie squirming back into his lap. Kris continued his phone conversation, though Adam was only half-paying attention, busy pushing Bowie’s nose out of his face. “Yes, you’ll get to meet the puppy. He’ll slobber all over you soon, I promise.”

Kris dropped down on the floor next to Adam and then Bowie - the traitor - abandoned Adam’s lap for Kris’s, whining a little as he pushed his head against Kris’s chest. Adam reached over and stroked his hand over Bowie’s ears, the fluffy pale fur plush against his fingers. Bowie turned and licked Adam’s hand, earning instant forgiveness. “Tell Kim I said ‘hi’,” Adam instructed.

“Adam wants me to tell you that you need to bring cake with you,” Kris said with a sly grin. Then he nodded and his face got a little more serious. “It’s fine, mama. By the time I get that legal sh- stuff fixed, I’ll have so many songs to put on my next album; it’ll be great.” Adam tugged Kris close to him, pressing a kiss against Kris’s ear even as he kept petting Bowie. Kris leaned against him, letting his weight rest on Adam as he kept talking. “She did? That’s good to hear. All right. Yeah. See you soon. I love you, too. Bye now.”

Adam reached up and brushed his fingers against Kris’s chin, encouraging him to turn so that Adam could kiss him, comforting and deep. He knew that Kris was putting on a brave front for his mom - the management struggles with 19 and Idol that had begun after Kris’s TiMER had so publicly gone off for Adam had put a lot of stress on both of them at times. With the label not willing to put any money or time into Kris’s promotion, his first single had died almost before it had gotten to air. Kris sighed into the kiss, clinging for a moment when Adam pulled back again.

“I promise that it won’t always be like this,” Kris said, pressing a brief kiss against Adam’s cheek. “Just as soon as we get things worked out with everyone, I’ll be able to start pulling my own weight.”

“Have I been complaining?” Adam asked lightly. “Like you said, we’ll work it out - if nothing else, your contract will run out in a few years and you’ll be able to sign with someone who won’t screw you over.”

“Ah, the bright side,” Kris said. He smiled quickly, then turned back to Bowie, burying his fingers in the light yellow fur. “It’s been worth it.” Kris spoke quietly, almost to Bowie. “I wouldn’t want to go back to hiding, no matter how easier it might make my career.”

“Even if neither of us can ever play in Arkansas again?” Adam asked.

“Well, they didn’t officially take a day away from you, so you might be okay,” Kris said wryly. He shrugged, pressing a kiss to the top of Bowie’s head. “I’m just glad that none of it backfired on you.” Kris said it so casually, but Adam would never forget the way that Kris had taken all the blame on himself and deflected it away from Adam. Might as well save one of our careers, Kris had said. And mine is fucked, at least for right now.

“Now you’re the one looking for the bright side,” Adam said. Bowie wriggled out from between them, his big paws getting in his own way as he went for his water dish. After Bowie picked himself up from his tumble, he proceeded to drink with loud enthusiasm. “You’ll tell me if things get too hard, right - no macho tough-guy stuff?”

“Not sure I’m tall enough to pull off ‘macho tough-guy’,” Kris said. “Having Bowie around is helping more than I expected. It’s... it’s nice to be able to take care of something, at least.” Kris paused, then added, “Oh, bit of good news from Arkansas.”


“My mom saw Katy last week - her TiMER started counting down. Less than two years, apparently,” Kris said. “That’s got to put her in a better mood for the rest of the legal stuff, right - knowing that her someone is out there waiting for her?”

“Let’s hope,” Adam said. “One day, they’ll probably have instant divorces available for TiMER mismatched couples.”

“As more and more people get TiMERs, everything’s going to change,” Kris said, shifting himself over so that he was straddling Adam’s thighs. Adam put his hands on Kris’s hips, tugging him even closer. “The whole world and how we all think about love.”

“Good or bad?” Adam asked. Kris bit down on his lip for a moment.

“I’m not sure. It didn’t- the TiMER didn’t make me fall in love with you.” Kris said, certainty in his voice. “It just made it easier to prove and... impossible to hide. How can people continue to deny us rights when the TiMERs show that some men are just destined to fall in love with other men and some women with women?”

“Are you thinking of becoming an activist?” Adam asked.

“Well, it would give me something to do,” Kris said. “I can’t spend all my time writing.” Bowie chose that moment to fall into his water dish, knocking it over with a clang. “Or taking care of Bowie.”

Bowie slunk back over, looking hilariously put-upon by the world. He lay down next to them, head on paws.

“I don’t know; that one might be full-time.” Adam scratched gently behind Bowie’s ears. “I think it’s a great idea,” he added more seriously. “The TiMER might end up being something that could really help out. Especially as time goes on and TiMER-mated couples end up staying happy together. 100% success rate so far.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Kris said. He kissed Adam’s cheek. “But, yeah, I can’t imagine it being wrong. At least not in our case.”

“They were testing it for years before the official release,” Adam said. “All the test couples are still together. I, uh, looked it up after the thing with Brad, because I was hoping that it would end up being bullshit.”

“If the TiMER didn’t exist, do you think you would have still been dating Brad when we met?” Kris asked.

“I guess there’s no way to know,” Adam said. “He was... he was starting to get restless anyway - that’s part of why we got the TiMERs in the first place. If the TiMER hadn’t been an option, I don’t know how much longer we might have lasted before he realized that I wasn’t the one for him. I don’t know if I would have figured it out before- well, before-”

“Me?” Kris said it in a way that was half-way between shy and smug. Adam figured that, in a few more months, Kris would have gotten used to how completely Adam adored him and the shyness might be gone then. Or maybe not; it was pretty cute.”You think even if you’d still been with Brad...”

“Yes,” Adam said, wrapping his hand around the back of Kris’s neck and tugging him close. “I think I would have fallen in love with you no matter what. If we’d met when you were forty with two-point-five kids, I think I still would have fallen for you. I... this is it for me, Kris.”

Kris closed his eyes and just breathed with Adam for a moment. “Yeah.”

Years later, marriage and adoption would become possibilities, but the commitment itself - everything that he would have promised in a wedding vow - Adam knows that it happened right then and there, on the floor of their living room.