After the first kiss at AMAs he said to Adam, "I don't care. You can do whatever you want. I trust your judgment." Those three sentences sealed his fate.
His job description is not what he expected it to be when he auditioned for Adam's band. Instead of playing the lead guitar he is actually becoming a pretty decent bassist, and day after day, month after month, he gets his hair pulled, his body groped and his mouth devoured in ways he didn't even know were possible before.
The band, the tour, the fans keep him busy enough, connected enough so he doesn't dwell on things that could otherwise become overwhelming.
He needs contact, needs closeness, after everything that's happened to him. And Adam, he lets people close. Everything is easier because he doesn't have to ask for permission to lean in, to seek comfort. Adam likes it, likes to touch, likes to be touched, and Tommy does that, steps into his personal space and doesn't let go. He needs it, like he's never needed anything before.
Adam gives him a long look, determined and not a little devilish, holding a purple butterfly mask in his hand. They are on the stage of Jackson Theater, rehearsing for tonight's show. "It's going to be great. Trust me," he says but Tommy still has doubts. What's so great about a mask? He'll look ridiculous, and it'll be impossible to see well with it.
He tilts his head to the side, looks at Adam, purses his lips. "Why?"
"You'll love it," Adam says and Tommy believes him. Adam knows what looks and sounds good on stage. He's rarely wrong.
"Try it." Adam hands the mask to Tommy, and he takes it, shaking his head, but puts it on anyway.
Adam smiles. "It's gorgeous." Then he moves to the stairs, to their Fever spot, and takes his mike from one of the steps. "Come here. Put your earpiece on. I want to see if I can pull the mask off easily without taking that with it."
Tommy does what he's told, taking a better hold of his bass. He leans his side against Adam's back and waits. Adam starts to sing, his voice loud and clear even in the empty theater, even when nobody else is listening, except the band members and a few workers there.
"...Sexual tic tac toe..." And they turn to face each other. The next line has Adam pulling the mask off, and Tommy's earpiece goes with it.
"Shit, sorry," Adam says. "Let's try it again."
They do, and Tommy leans a bit closer. He breathes in, listens to Adam's voice, the cues the words give him. "We both know it isn't time..." Adam takes the mask off without disturbing the earpiece, and slides the mask and his hand against Tommy's head, his hair. He leans in for a kiss, his lips ghosting over Tommy's but he pulls away before they touch.
"Let's try it a few times," Adam says as he goes to pick the mask up. Tommy hides his face behind it again, and they start over.
Monte takes a video of their little performance with his cellphone, and Tommy has to admit it looks good, like Adam is undressing him, like he's somehow innocent. "You were right," he simply says, and Adam winks, cocky as hell. Yeah, he knows.
That night, it's even better. The audience always makes Adam hungry for more, more of anything, but mostly just release of any kind. Tommy waits at the end of the stairs, adjusting the mask and his hair, nervous all of a sudden. He has no idea why, though. Adam knows what he's doing.
When Adam leans against him Tommy does the same, trying to follow Adam's movements with his own body. He can't really dance, he can't do what Adam does, but he likes to play. When Adam turns around Tommy freaks out a little, laughing. It's so silly and embarrassing. And when Adam pulls the mask off, hand grabbing his neck, Tommy knows it's going to be one of those kisses, the ones that demand instead of ask. He lets Adam pull him in, and kisses right back, hard, quick, sweet. And when it's over he continues to play like nothing happened. It's a part of his job description: make out with the boss. He enjoys it: Adam and his crazy ideas, Adam and his ideas that don't hold, Adam who takes and always makes sure you're okay with it.
The rest of the gig is great. He gets high from the screams, from the love they receive, from people who know him and show it during the intro. He can't believe it. Not now and probably never. It's cool every freaking time.
When the show is over he goes to backstage with the rest of the band. Everyone is laughing, smiling, their spirits high, and he's with them all the way, his very soul relaxed and happy. Adam grabs him into a hug and he returns it, puts his arms tight around him. Everyone joins them. It's hot, it's suffocating, but it's the best there is. It's family.
After a while, people pull away, and Adam takes advantage of the space around them, grabbing his chin. "Thank you," he says and kisses his cheek. Tommy grins at him, but he's slightly puzzled, too.
"What for?" he asks when Adam lets go of him.
Adam's eyes flash with something Tommy can't quite name. "For creating pop history with me," he says like it's supposed to be crystal clear, like Tommy should have known what he meant. "Some fans say that we're saving the world one kiss at a time."
Tommy laughs. What else can he do? Partly it's probably true, but mostly it's just insane. Yeah, people cheer at two guys kissing, but it's hardly going to change anything with the real world. But it's a pretty thought, and Tommy is all for pretty. He kisses Adam's cheek, whispers in his ear, "I'll save the world with you as long as you want me to."
He can feel Adam's laughter, and it feels good.
Once they have showered and changed into their normal clothes, they go to a bar, have a few drinks, dance a little. It's the VIP section of the bar, and there are mostly people who are not that interested in a crazy group of people who wear too much make-up and manage to create too much noise.
Tommy is sitting next to Adam, his head resting against Adam's shoulder and Adam's hand stroking his hair. Adam is talking to Sasha about things Tommy can't follow at all. It has something to do with charts and planets and how they move to different rooms. It's the kind of shit Adam loves.
He feels like sleeping, but the hand in his hair is too comfortable, and he just wants to stay awake a little longer. Nobody else has ever petted him the way Adam does, and sometimes he wonders if it's a little insane to crave for something like that. Maybe it is, but right now he doesn't give a damn. Right now, he could purr.
"Want to go back to the buses?" Adam asks him at some point, but he just shakes his head. He's not going anywhere, ever. He's just going to sit there and be comfy for the rest of his life.
Eventually he does fall asleep, and it's Adam's fingers brushing his cheek that wake him up. "We're going," Adam says quietly. "Can you get up?"
He stretches first, shirt riding up as he lifts his hands above his head. Adam pushes at him, at his back, getting up himself, too.
"How can you sleep anywhere you like?" Adam asks, but doesn't expect an answer. Everyone else is already getting their jackets, and Adam grips his elbow and pulls him with him.
Tommy is half asleep when they finally get into the night air. He leans against Monte, his chin digging into his shoulder. He needs someone to guide him back to the bus. They'll be driving all night.
Atlanta is as exciting as the other gigs, and the show goes on. September 23rd takes them to Singapore, and the US tour is over for now. Tommy wants to bash his head against the wall for losing his passport on the way from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, but Adam tells him to forget about it. He didn't miss a show, and that's the only thing that matters. It doesn't make him feel better, though, especially since everyone treats him like a child after that, checking on everything he does.
At least they are staying in a decent hotel, and he's sharing a room with Isaac who's maybe enthusiastic and crazy, but oddly lets Tommy do whatever he wants and leaves him alone when he needs that. He calls home, he watches horror movies, he takes a long bath. Tommy-time, fuck yeah.
When the others go to Bali to have an actual vacation he goes back to LA to get a real passport that lets him travel around the world and stay in countries for three months if he likes. It sucks, and he wants to kick his sorry ass to the next year. But he gets to see his family and friends, and that's always a bonus.
The first question his sister asks is: "Can I come to Japan with you?" She's joking, of course, but he knows she wants to. Who wouldn't?
The Japanese fans are intense but respectful. That doesn't make sense, and Tommy likes it. During Broken Open they are quiet, almost serene, but when anything else is being played Adam gets fierce energy from them, giving more of himself in return. It's catching, and Tommy feels the same. Give them more.
Adam is back to hair pulling, and it freaking hurts but who cares. The kiss is passion and screams and fucking masterful, and just a short moment there, he forgets how to breathe. He watches it later from Youtube, and laughs at his own reaction, the wow he can't hold in. It's a genuine moment of shock. Adam can be quite forceful. He was in the receiving end of that in the AMAs, and this felt a bit the same. He hopes it's not the only thing the fans will remember him of: the guy Adam Lambert kissed a lot. To the media, he's been Adam's dancer and keyboardist and whatnot. Whatever. Is he Adam's boy toy to the fans? A pretty glitter kitty? Maybe.
He doesn't want to think about it too much. Instead, he ups the game, and shoves himself into the middle of the fire. He can survive it.
In Manila, he just lets go, and enjoys the flow, kisses Adam, leans into him. Fan service, maybe, but he loves it. He enjoys pushing Adam's buttons. He wants to break that stage persona. It's now a game to him: make Adam lose it on stage. He gets honest smiles. He gets silly movements, and funny expressions.
He trusts Adam, more than he's ever trusted anyone who’s not family. Adam likes his playful nature, and it brings out strange new sides in their friendship. And he's never laughed or smiled as much as he does with the band, on and off stage. Adam makes him smile. That's both liberating and infuriating. He' s not in control of his own facial expressions. He's a god damn adult. He should be, but he isn't.
Adam Lambert rules his universe at the moment. Everything he is right now is because of Adam. And Adam hasn't used it against Tommy, not once. He's never even hinted that he could end it all. Adam could kick him out of the band. He could stop doing what he does. He could end Tommy Joe Ratliff if he wanted to. Adam is the best boss he's ever had. Tommy would do anything for him, especially since he never expects Tommy to do that. Adam just is. Sometimes he's annoying. Sometimes he's fragile. But most of the time Adam Lambert keeps the show moving, makes them all happy. How he does that is beyond Tommy. He couldn't do it. He can barely interact with the fans nowadays because they want so much of him. He wishes he was better, wishes he knew how to keep a distance while getting as close as possible.
He does more than most people. He knows. But most of the time it isn't enough.
"I think you should be a bit more careful," Adam says to him in the mini-bus that's taking them to see places in pretty, pretty New Zealand. Tommy has never seen anything like it, except in the Lord of the Rings movies. New Zealand is a fairy-tale land, and he wants to get lost in it.
He has no idea what Adam is talking about.
"Careful of what?" he asks, looking out the window.
He looks at Adam because his tone is odd. "Why?" Nothing bad has happened. Some people try to kiss him, some succeed in it. Some just want hugs and autographs. He can do that. Some treat him like he's not a human being, but that's doable, too. It's strange as hell, but still, doable.
"Just don't do it alone, don't meet them alone. That's all. I don't want you to get hurt. Even if people don't mean anything bad something can happen in big groups."
Adam is probably right, but the concern makes him feel a bit strange, like something else is being said here and he just can't figure it out. They have security, he can use them. Most of the time he does that, but sometimes things move too quickly and he's alone. Yeah, careful. That's good advice.
"Otherwise I'll call your mom, and tell her that you're being irresponsible." Adam sticks his tongue out, and Tommy feels like they're five. He pokes at Adam's side, and makes him giggle. He loves Adam's giggle. He does it again, just to hear that sound.
Auckland is amazing. It's the first time he almost cries on stage. They surprise him completely with Enter Sandman, and Adam's Happy Birthday Kiss is more than a little tender. He can't say anything after the gig. He's too touched by it, and he just wants to sit for a while. They let him. He loves them for it.
Once he's gathered himself, everyone comes to hug him. The dancers all kiss him, one by one, and he's a big pile of warm happy goo because of them. He can't believe that he was once such a cool guitarist and a wannabe rockstar. He doesn't know what he's now, but he likes it more than he liked what he was before. He's happier now. That has to count for something.
Adam is the last one to congratulate him. He pulls Tommy up from the chair, puts his fingers under Tommy's chin, and kisses him. It's the first time he's ever kissed Tommy offstage. It's soft and chaste, just their lips touching lightly. It's over soon, and Tommy leans into Adam after it. "Happy birthday, glitterbaby," Adam says, his voice full of laughter.
When they go out that night Tommy hangs onto everyone. He feels like cuddling, like he doesn't want to show his face to anyone. He just holds on to the nearest body that happens to be Adam's. He doesn't seem to mind, and it's good. He gets drunk after two drinks because alcohol hates him tonight. It makes him even more touchy feely, and everyone laughs at him. Adam finally feels sorry for him, and takes him back to the hotel. They're leaving in the morning anyway.
"You're impossible," Adam says to him when he opens the door to his room. He has his own room. It's such a luxury that he feels a bit lonely. Adam sits him on the bed, takes off his boots and jacket, and then just looks at him.
"Are you going to wash your face?" he asks after a while. Tommy shakes his head, and Adam sighs. "Lucky bastard." Tommy never has to worry about his skin. It just is the way it is.
He doesn't want to be alone, but he doesn't know how to say that either. Adam wants to go back to the party. Tommy can see it from the way he stands, his hands fidgeting at his sides.
"Go. They're waiting for you," Tommy finally says. He starts to take the rest of his clothes off. He just wants to go to bed, wants to pull the covers over his head and disappear from the world. The room is spinning, and there's something in his throat. He feels like throwing things out the window. He has no idea why.
Adam takes a step closer to the bed, then stops, waiting. Tommy has managed to get rid of his shirt and jeans and he's now wearing only his t-shirt and boxers.
I want you to stay. He doesn’t say it, only stares at Adam.
"What do you want, birthday boy?" Adam asks, and the words hang between them. Adam has given him the right to speak his mind, but still, he hesitates. Everything he says now can be misinterpreted.
He sits on the bed, then falls on his side, goes down because of gravity. His head hits the pillow, his hair covering his face. "Stay," he whispers.
He's not drunk anymore.
Adam takes off his shoes, puts his jacket on the armrest of the reading chair, and goes to the bathroom. Tommy can hear the water running. Adam is cleaning off all the make up. He gets up, pads across the room, and opens the bathroom door. Adam is drying his face with a white fluffy towel.
They are so serious and quiet. Tommy wants to make noise, wants to say something stupid to take the edge off. Instead he turns the faucet on and washes his face, then brushes his teeth. And all the while Adam is watching him.
When he's finished Adam gives him the towel. For a short moment there, Tommy thinks that Adam is going to dry his face, but the moment passes when Adam lets go and goes to the bedroom. Tommy tries to think clearly, but the situation is too wired. He has not agreed to anything, but he's not sure how Adam sees the situation. He wants to make it clear, but he doesn't know what clear is. There are no boundaries in his mind at the moment.
He comes out of the bathroom once he's ready to face Adam. He’s looking out the window, still fully dressed. "Want me to sleep here tonight?" Adam asks.
Tommy nods, but then realizes that Adam is not looking at him. "Yeah," he says. That much is clear.
"What is this?" Adam turns to face him, his expression unreadable.
"I don't want to be alone," he says, knowing it's not an answer. He doesn't want to talk about it, and hopes Adam can see it. He wants to sleep. He wants to feel warm. He just wants.
Adam relaxes. "Okay." He smirks. "Go to bed."
"Bossy." Tommy says, but goes anyway. Adam smacks his butt on the way, and he laughs, all that weird wiredness gone. He jumps on the bed, pulling at the covers, and watches as Adam takes off his clothes. He puts all of them neatly away, and Tommy feels slightly self-conscious about his own clothes that are scattered everywhere.
Adam hesitates only for a second, before he lies down next to Tommy. His body radiates heat, and Tommy sighs. He can't remember the last time there was someone in bed with him. It's been too long. He lies on his back, waiting for Adam to settle down, to switch the bedside lamp off.
Then it's quiet.
Adam moves and the bed dips a little. In the darkness, Tommy can see the outline of his body. He's propped up against an elbow, looking at Tommy. "I never do this, you know," he says quietly.
Tommy can't help the smile. He's pretty sure most friends don't do this. It doesn't mean some don't want to. "Thank you," he says because it's in order. He can't believe he even asked. It's even harder to believe that Adam is okay with it.
Adam slides his hand under Tommy and pulls him against his side. Then he puts one of the pillows under Tommy's head so he won't be resting only against his hard shoulder. "Sleep," he says, and Tommy does, his knee on top of Adam's thigh and his hand in Adam's neck.
In the morning, it takes Tommy a moment to realize who's next to him. He doesn't freak out, but it isn't easy either. He opens his eyes, and finds Adam staring at him. "Hi," Adam says to him. Tommy is lying on his back, and Adam is on his side, hands under his pillow. They are barely touching, but it feels like there’s a direct bond between Adam’s knee and Tommy’s hip. It’s warm and gentle, and Tommy has no idea how to take it. Intimacy comes easily to Adam, but Tommy isn't sure if this is too much for both of them.
"Hi," he says back. He wants to get up, but he also wants to stay.
Adam’s smile is soft. "This is going to be the end of me," he says, and Tommy knows he means it.
"I’m not going anywhere."
"Doesn’t mean you’ll come any closer either." There’s something deep in Adam’s blue eyes, some kind of sadness Tommy has never seen before.
"You know I love you," Tommy says after a long while. He listens to Adam’s breathing, listens to the ruffling of the sheets as Adam turns his face away.
When he speaks his voice is muffled, quiet, almost non-existent. "Don’t use it against me."
It was a bad idea to ask Adam to stay. He has to make it up to him somehow, has to do something, now. He reaches out, strokes Adam’s hair. It’s not the right thing to do either, but he’s returning the favor. Friends do this, don't they? "I won’t. I’m not…" He’s not using Adam or his kindness. He just loves it too much to have proper boundaries.
Adam looks at him, takes his hand and holds it, kisses the knuckles. "I know," he says. "Come here." Adam pulls him closer, flush against his body, Tommy’s head under his chin. "Don’t ask this too often, though."
Tommy nods, closing his eyes. It’s six am. They still have a few hours to sleep.