One: roads in front of me, leading me astray
“It just didn’t work out,” Kris Allen said, putting as much sincerity into his voice as he could manage. “Me and Katy grew apart years ago. My life is on the road and here in LA. She’s happy in Arkansas. Our lives didn’t fit together anymore. When all you have in common with your wife is that you both love your dog, it’s probably time to get a divorce. For the two of us, it actually feels like we’ve been divorced for a while, because we’ve spent so much time apart from each other.”
The words flowed out easily; all that rehearsing had done its job. He couldn’t stop himself from fiddling with the cord on his wrist, though, that last small tell. Almost no one would notice it, he told himself.
After the interview, he absently wiped at his mouth, smearing lipstick onto his fingers. One of the stagehands removed his microphone and Kris said a soft thank-you. The pad of his thumb was slightly waxy and he rubbed it against his jeans to get the make-up off. Kris didn’t let himself dwell on his thoughts, twisted up as they were; he headed off to meet up with his manager.
When he got backstage, Hannah was practically euphoric, her auburn curls bouncing a little as she waved her phone at him. She was always good-natured, but he’d rarely seen her quite this excited.
“We got Zooey!” she said, in that light and clear voice that always made him think of a songbird. “She’s said she’ll do it.”
“What?” Kris asked. “Zooey?”
“If you tell me you’ve already forgotten, I won’t believe you,” Hannah said, quieter now, leaning in to make it more of a private discussion.
“Please tell me this isn’t about the girlfriend thing,” Kris said. He’d said ‘no’ to it. At least a dozen times.
“Your first date will be in a month,” she said.
“I can’t date someone I don’t know,” Kris said, but he’d already said that in the meeting. It hadn’t made much impact there, either.
“You’ll love her,” Hannah said. “Everyone loves her. It’s not like you have to sleep with her, so suck it up. It’s only dinner. Wear something nice. Wear—I’ll pick it out for you. You’ll look great together. She’ll wear flats. Plus, she’s just your type.”
“Last time I checked, she was still a girl,” Kris said.
“I swear, it’s like you don’t listen to half of what I say,” Hannah said, still cheerful. “Oh, good news!” When Kris didn’t say anything, she grinned, teeth flashing white. “It really is good news, I promise. Adam Lambert is single again.” She said it the exact way that Katy would always tell Zorro that she had a treat for him. Kris wasn’t sure if he felt more embarrassed for himself or for Hannah.
“I know,” Kris said. He shrugged at her raised eyebrow. “He told me.”
“And nothing,” Kris said. Hannah’s smile faded but she moved on to business after that, which was a relief, because that was not a conversation he wanted to have with anyone.
Kris was still hoping he could find a way out of this whole ridiculous idea. Even if he could pull off all the pretending, it would be exhausting. Faking a relationship with someone was almost as time-consuming as actually being in a relationship. He didn’t want to do it again.
Unfortunately, the list of people he could talk to about it was pretty small. Of the people who knew the truth, most would say that he should play along for the sake of his career and his relationship with his label and management—or they would say that he should tell everyone to go screw themselves. He couldn’t talk about it with Adam, of course, and the guys would be supportive but probably wouldn’t be able to give him any advice.
He went back to his apartment and messed around on a guitar for a while, but it didn’t clear his mind any. Zorro’s interruption was a nice distraction and they spent an hour or so playing together before the little guy wandered off to sleep on his living room cushion.
Kris thought about picking up the guitar again but after a moment or two of indecision, he gave in and called the person he‘d wanted to talk to from the moment Hannah had told him the plan was going ahead.
“Kris, it’s good to hear from you,” Leila said, warm as always. “I feel like it’s been forever. How’s the press treating you?”
“It hasn’t been that bad,” Kris said, leaning back on his couch and closing his eyes. “Lots of questions about the divorce, but I was expecting that. How are you? You were just with Adam in Asia, right?”
“We got back two days ago,” Leila confirmed. “Adam is currently emptying his house of everything that belongs to Jason. I was helping yesterday, but some things a mother doesn’t need to see, no matter how well she knows her son.” She paused briefly, her voice softening. “Are you calling to ask about Jason?”
“No, I...it’s not about that,” Kris said. “I just needed to talk to someone and you’re...talking to you helps.”
“Oh, honey,” Leila said. “What’s wrong?”
Kris opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling, watching a spider building a web in the corner. “They want me to publicly date Zooey Deschanel. Is it crazy of me to hate the idea so much?”
“Not at all,” Lelia said without any hesitation. “I can’t believe they’re asking you to...well, I suppose I can believe it, but they shouldn’t be asking.”
“Thanks,” Kris said. “I just wish I could think of how to convince them it’s a bad idea. I’ve been trying and trying, but I never get anywhere with it. Nothing I say ever seems to make a dent.”
“It’s such a conservative industry,” Leila said. “I never realized how much before Adam started trying to get into music. They are so afraid of what’s new and different. And when you’re dealing with people who are operating out of fear, it can be so hard to get them to change their minds.”
“Yeah,” Kris agreed. “Sometimes I think I should just do it anyway—come out in an interview and damn the consequences.” He closed his eyes again, swallowing hard. “But I can’t.”
“It might be worth it,” Leila said.
“Maybe,” Kris said, not able to hide the flash of bitterness that swept through him. “If I could be sure my mom would ever speak to me again.”
“She’s still having a hard time dealing with everything?” Leila asked. Her voice was light and careful, and Kris appreciated it. Nice as it had been to have Leila angry on his behalf, it hadn’t ever really helped. He didn’t want to be mad at his mom. It’s not like she was mean about it or anything. It was only that she didn’t want her life turned upside down because of him. And he’d already done enough of that just by getting divorced.
“She’ll come ‘round,” Kris said. “She just needs more time.”
“Of course,” Leila said, quietly. “Kris, honey, did you want to come over for dinner tomorrow? I’d love your company.”
“I don’t want to be a bother,” Kris said.
“You never are,” Leila said. “Especially if you bring over some food and cook for me.”
Dinner with Leila was peaceful. She had that way about her, calming and safe. He brought over shrimp and cooked it up along with some pasta she had in her cupboard. They didn’t talk about Zooey or his label, just about music, but Adam came up in the discussion—somehow he always did—and Kris relaxed on Leila’s couch and sipped a glass of wine as she told him a story about Adam as a kid, one that she’d never gotten around to telling him before. She kissed him on the cheek before he left and he hugged her tight, soaking in her affection. He didn’t deserve it anymore, not from her, but he was glad that she was still willing to give it.
He didn’t have any answers at the end of the night, but he felt better anyway.
His first private meeting with Zooey was at the end of the week, so he spent some time checking out old episodes of The New Girl—he watched the show sometimes, but only casually—and while he’d briefly met Zooey when they’d been at the same events, they’d never spent much time together. He studied her face while watching the show, trying to imagine having people think they were dating. Weird. It would be weird. There wouldn’t even be the familiarity of having known her for years. He’d just have to tell her, tell everyone, that he couldn’t pull it off.
“I don’t think it can work,” he told her after their respective management teams cleared out to let them discuss things in private. In person, her eyes were almost the same shade of blue as Adam’s. “I’m not an actor. I can’t do it.”
“It’s not as hard as you think it is,” Zooey said, crossing her right leg over her left and delicately placing her hands on top of each other on her knee. “Acting, I mean. After all, you’ve been in the closet for...how many years?”
“Several,” Kris said.
“That’s acting,” she said. “And, sure, some people might be able to guess that you and I aren’t really together, but I’ll tell you a secret—most people want to be fooled, as long as you’re telling the right lies. They’ll do half the job of lying for you.”
“Yeah, but doesn’t that make things worse when the truth finally does come out?” Kris asked.
“Sometimes,” Zooey said. “Are you planning on coming out? Because your people didn’t say anything about that.”
“I hate lying,” Kris said. He shrugged. “Most of the time, at least. You’re really willing to do this? I don’t want to be rude, but...what’s in it for you? Why would you want a fake boyfriend?”
“Cards on the table? I can do that,” she said. “The truth is simple. I’m still not ready to date again after my last break-up. Thing is, I’m supposed to be wacky and fun. The kind of girl who doesn’t wallow over a broken heart.” She said that with an exaggerated eye-roll. “So, I need a boyfriend but I don’t want to actually have a relationship. When I heard someone was looking for a beard, that seemed pretty perfect.”
“They really put it out there like that?” Kris asked. “That’s blunt.”
“Don’t worry, they didn’t tell me who you were until I signed the non-disclosure,” Zooey said. “Not that I’d tell anyway, of course.” Of course, because that was the way everyone here operated. Hiding secrets was considered standard procedure. There were so many things Kris loved about LA, but this wasn’t one of them. Even if he did benefit from it. “Look, the truth is they can’t force you. They can try to persuade all they want and I’m sure they’ve got all sorts of market research to back up why you should do it, but they can’t make you say you’re dating me.”
“They’re not very subtle when they try to persuade people,” Kris said.
“Well, they aren’t creatives, they’re management,” Zooey said. “That’s a gap no amount of talking can ever truly cross. And we’re the ones who get the shit end of the stick when it comes to figuring them out, unfortunately. In the end, whatever happens, you’ll be able to use it in your music. That’s what I remind myself when I’m frustrated—I can pour it into my acting and music, use what I’m feeling to fuel my characters and give more depth to my songs. Look, if you can’t do it, then you can’t do it, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. If they’re sure it’ll be good for your image to date me, it’s probably true. They’re right about things like that, generally.”
“I’ll think about it,” Kris said.
Two: spinnin’ back around now
Adam Lambert dropped the final photo in the box and then sealed it up. “There,” he said. “Done.”
That was the last box of things that needed to be sent back to Jason. He should be feeling more heartbroken, but what he mostly felt was tired. Some part of him had known from the beginning that it wouldn’t last, but he hadn’t been expecting to be broken up with by text message of all things. It was just tacky—and cowardly, considering Adam hadn’t even been in the country at the time.
“What a loser,” Danielle said, with great feeling. Her hair was beginning to escape the ponytail she’d put it in, wisps of dark hair curling around her face. “You should have kicked him to the curb months ago.”
“I only started dating him months ago,” Adam said, but Danielle bumped shoulders with him and he smiled. “Jason wasn’t so bad. I’ve dated worse.”
“Is this the part where you want me to disagree with you so that you can feel good about hearing me say mean things about him while not having to say them yourself?” Danielle asked. “Because I’m so prepared for that. I already have a list.”
Adam laughed. “Yeah, you never did like him.”
“Never trust a man who doesn’t love dogs,” Danielle said. “He called Sunshine dirty. She’s not dirty; she’s brown. And even if she were dirty, which she is not, she’s a dog. You can’t hold her to human standards. It’s not like she smells bad or anything.”
Adam would never call Danielle’s dog any bad names, of course, but she was dirty sometimes. That’s what happened when a dog gleefully rolled around on the ground. And she’d always seemed to take particular delight in trying to jump into Jason’s lap right after she’d gotten herself covered in dust and gravel. Especially if Jason was wearing white that day.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about that happening again,” Adam said. “Even if he changed his mind, I wouldn’t take him back.” His phone buzzed in his hip pocket and he pulled it out. “Oh, it’s my mom.”
“I’ll take this out to the car,” Danielle said, hefting the box up and heading out the door.
“If you’re looking for your watch, it ended up in my suitcase. I can put it out on the hall table so you can grab it the next time you come by,” Adam said into the phone. There was a moment of silence at the other end.
“Oh! I’ll stop by tomorrow,” his mom said. “But I’m actually calling about Kris. I’m a little worried.”
“You talked to Kris?”
“I talk to Kris sometimes,” she said. “Just because the two of you broke up doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore him.”
“Mom, you shouldn’t say that out loud,” Adam said, lowering his voice and taking an involuntary glance around, feeling a silly a second later when he remembered that Danielle was the only other person in the house right now.
“Don’t worry so much. I’m at home, all alone. And I’m pretty sure that my son is smart enough to never put his phone on speaker in public,” she said. “When was the last time you spoke with Kris?”
“We texted just last week,” Adam said. “The album promo is going fine, he said. Nothing seemed wrong.”
“He’s looking tired, kiddo,” she said. “I think he could use someone in his corner right now.”
“So call Cale! Just because I’m single again doesn’t mean I’m getting back together with Kris,” Adam said. After he said it, he felt the urge to smack his head against the wall. If he wanted to convince his mom that he wasn’t still interested in Kris, a knee-jerk reaction to a gentle suggestion wasn’t the way.
“Well, you can probably remember how to be his friend,” she said, sharply. “I’ll give you a hint—it starts with calling him, not texting but calling, and asking him how he’s doing.”
“Adam, I’m serious,” she said. “He’s having a rougher time of things than he’s letting on, especially to you, I’d bet.”
“Life isn’t exactly a cakewalk for me right now, either,” Adam said.
“Good, you can bond over that,” she said. Adam couldn’t keep himself from laughing. Out of all his recent boyfriends, it had to be Kris that his mom had gotten unreasonably attached to and not any of the easy ones. Still, it was hard for him to be too mad at her about it—when he was being particularly honest with himself, he had to admit that he was in the same boat. Kris Allen was a hard habit to break.
“Fine, fine. I’ll talk to him,” Adam promised. “Come by and pick up your watch. Love you.”
“Love you, too,” she replied. Adam ended the call and slipped his phone back in his pocket. Danielle was hovering in the doorway and Adam waved her in, tugging her close and giving her a hug.
“My mom drives me crazy sometimes,” Adam said. “She was about a minute away from telling me that I should get back together with Kris.”
“Are you tempted?” Danielle asked. “Because I can still remember Kris’s list, if you need it.”
“That might not be a bad idea,” Adam said, dropping down onto the couch. Danielle snuggled in next to him.
“Okay, he’s not married anymore, so we can cross that one off, but he’s still in the closet and that was a pretty big one,” Danielle said, ticking it off on her fingers. “You guys had some really horrible fights and he made you cry—more than once. You hate the way he walks off in the middle of an argument instead of staying to talk things out. Oh, and he used to leave his glasses in the bathroom instead of remembering to put them on his nightstand.”
Adam waited a second, then nudged her. “Was that the whole list? I thought it was longer.”
“He broke your heart,” Danielle said softly. “That’s the biggest one.”
“Yeah,” Adam breathed out. Danielle rubbed his back and he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “My mom thinks he’s not doing okay right now.”
“And you still want to be his hero,” Danielle said, poking Adam’s arm. “No point in pretending that you don’t. Not with me.”
Maybe Adam wouldn’t have put it quite that way but...well, she wasn’t wrong.
The first time he’d met Kris, he’d put the way Kris’s attention followed some of the guys—including Adam—together with the wedding ring and the accent, and he’d known that there would be trouble there, though he’d never have guessed just how bad that trouble would end up being.
Kris had said once, a couple of months after the tour, that he’d started to fall in love before they’d even officially met. Some ridiculous—insanely romantic—line about how he’d seen Adam across the room and everything had changed.
You’re inside me all the time, he’d said. Every time I close my eyes, I see you.
“Maybe,” Adam said. “But I never did manage to save him.”
It was a few days later when he finally got around to calling Kris, half-hoping that it would go to voicemail. Of course, that meant that Kris picked up almost immediately. And Mom was right—he did sound tired.
“She was worried about you,” Adam explained.
“It’s...it’s not that big a deal, not really,” Kris said, words coming too fast and rushed for them to be true. “It’s just PR stuff; you know how it is. I’ll figure it out.”
“Kris, don’t bullshit me—are you okay?”
There was a long pause. He could hear Kris’s unsteady breathing on the other side of the line. Just when Adam was about to ask again, Kris said, “I haven’t been okay for a while.” Kris’s voice was thin and raw and Adam closed his eyes, pressing his lips together. There were only two ways this call could go.
“We should talk. In person,” Adam said, and those words were always so fucking easy to say. “Maybe I can get RCA to arrange for somewhere discreet—”
“We don’t need that,” Kris said, cutting Adam off. “We...we can meet at the house. If you want.”
Adam breathed in, sharp and surprised. “Oh. I...I don’t have a key anymore.”
“I’ll leave the door unlocked.” There was caution in Kris’s voice—not surprising, considering. Adam licked his lips, and there was that nervous fluttering in the pit of his stomach, back again like it’d never left.
“Have you been...have you taken anyone else there?”
“Adam,” Kris said, and the things that he didn’t say—that he didn’t need to say—were all Adam could hear. Adam held back the first impulsive words that wanted to come out, waiting until he knew his voice would be steady.
“Okay,” he said. “We meet at the house. Tomorrow morning? Around 10?”
“I’ll be waiting,” Kris said, softly.
Three: you could end it all with just one touch
Right up until the door actually opened, some part of Kris hadn’t quite believed that Adam would come.
“Hey,” Kris said softly, staying out of the line-of-sight to the outside until Adam had closed the door again. “Sorry you got dragged back into all this. I shouldn’t have talked to Leila.”
Adam didn’t seem to hear him, reaching out and running his fingers over the empty glass vase on the little table in the entryway. “It hasn’t changed a bit.”
Kris bit down on his lower lip and watched as Adam looked around the hall. It was brighter, with Adam there. Every time Kris had come here alone in the last couple of years, he’d always been struck by how empty the house was, but tonight it felt full, with memories tight and fragile, like strings about to snap.
Adam’s hand hovered over the little metal dish in the shape of a hollowed out guitar. He picked Kris’s keys up out of it and rubbed his fingers along the house key before dropping them back down into the dish with a clink. “Is everything the same?”
“Yeah,” Kris admitted, his hand tightening convulsively on the stair rail. “It was just...it was easier.”
Kris watched as Adam walked further into the house and made soft sounds as he rediscovered all the decorations he’d picked out in the first place. Adam’s hair was down today, and it looked like it would be soft. Tight pants, but not so tight that Kris wouldn’t be able to slip the tips of his fingers down inside. No jewelry except stud earrings. Only a slight brushing of make-up on his face.
It had been...had it really been over two years since the last time?
“You were right,” Kris said when Adam had almost reached the stairwell. Adam kept staring at the painting of the rising sun that he’d put up four years ago, and Kris waited and hoped Adam had heard him, not wanting to say it again. Then Adam turned around to face Kris again, slow and graceful, like the first steps to a dance that they’d done over and over. Kris reached out but stopped shy of touching Adam’s face, pulling his hand back down. “They don’t want me to come out. Ever.”
Adam moved closer and Kris breathed in sharply, feeling like every inch of his skin was trembling in anticipation. There, Adam’s hand on his wrist, keeping him from drawing back all the way. “I did tell you,” Adam said, but the words were meaningless when Adam’s thumb was sliding underneath Kris’s bracelets and stroking along his pulse point. Kris wondered whether Adam could hear Kris’s heart speeding up from just that simple caress.
Kris twisted his wrist, grabbing onto Adam’s hand and tugging Adam toward him. With Kris on the steps, they were just about the same height. Adam took a step up, taller again, and desire pulsed in Kris’s stomach. It should have died or at least faded by now, but it was stronger today than it had been the first time Kris had touched Adam.
“I missed you,” Kris said. They’d been just friends for a long time—the longest since they’d met—and Adam was single again. It wouldn’t hurt anyone if Kris were honest, would it? He took Adam’s hand and pressed it against his hip, then waited, feeling a little light-headed.
Please—the word hovered on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t say it.
Adam let out a slow breath, his gaze dipping down slightly to take in Kris’s chest and shoulders, and Kris shivered at the heat in his eyes. Adam slid his fingers underneath Kris’s shirt and Kris swayed into his touch.
“I think you actually got skinnier,” Adam said, and Kris couldn’t tell whether or not he approved. Maybe he was just noticing. Adam tugged up on Kris’s shirt with both hands, helping Kris pull it up and over his head, then dropping it behind him. Adam framed Kris’s hips with his hands, tilting his head as he studied the changes—Kris didn’t think there were that many, but Adam took his time over it, stroking the thin skin of Kris’s hips with his thumbs.
“Don’t tease,” Kris said, not trying to hide the break in his voice. He was more than half-hard already and Adam had to have noticed. Kris leaned forward, steadying himself with Adam’s hands, and he captured Adam’s mouth. He’d forgotten how good Adam could taste. Kris wrapped his arms around Adam’s shoulders and sank into the kiss, letting himself get lost.
Adam unbuttoned Kris’s jeans, fingers brushing against skin. Hastily, Kris toed off his shoes, stumbling on the steps and needing to rest his full weight against Adam while getting his balance back. Adam was pushing down his jeans and underwear and wrapping a hand around Kris’s cock—it made Kris’s throat tighten with need, Adam’s hand on him big and certain and exactly what Kris had been missing.
Too soon, Adam pulled away, resting his forehead against Kris’s. “Let’s get you upstairs,” he said, and they left Kris’s pants behind on the staircase as they slowly moved up, step by step, not able to stop kissing for more than a moment at a time. Kris’s hands felt clumsy, but he did his best to unbutton and unzip Adam’s clothes, fumbling at times but determined.
There was a new tattoo on Adam’s left arm, right above the bulge of his bicep. Kris had known about it from interviews, but this was the first time he’d seen it in person—a stylized sun in a simple black outline, not yet colored in. After he got Adam’s shirt off, he pressed his mouth over the lines of it and imagined that he could taste the difference between that and Adam’s unmarked skin.
By the time they got to the bedroom, they were both naked. This room, too, would look the same to Adam as it had when he’d left—Kris had spent more than one night sleeping here alone but, apart from that, he hadn’t had the heart to do more than clean up the dust from time to time. Adam didn’t look at the room though, just at Kris, and the look in his eyes stole Kris’s breath away.
The light in here was dim but golden, filtered through curtains that were never opened up. It softened the lines that had started to mark Adam’s face at the corners of his eyes and his mouth. Kris reached up and stroked his thumb across those lines, only there because Adam was smiling, because being with Kris still made Adam happy even after everything. Your heart is in your eyes again, darlin’, he thought wistfully. Adam wouldn’t laugh at him for talking like that, but even so Kris didn’t have the right to say anything like that, not now.
Adam wouldn’t thank him for it in the morning.
He went up on his toes and kissed Adam, pressing their bodies together, skin sliding against skin. He’d ached for this after Adam had left, for the slick movement of Adam’s body against his. Adam was touching him, whispering words against Kris’s mouth, dirty and sweet. They fell back into the bed together and it became their world, like it had so many times before. Kris came like that, rubbing against Adam’s stomach. He reached down and it only took a few tugs of his hand before Adam was coming, too. Adam gave him a slow smile and then kissed his ear, nibbling gently.
Kris tucked himself against Adam, slinging his leg over Adam’s hips and sighing a little when that pushed his softening cock against Adam’s stomach. He should probably get up and grab a washcloth before things started to dry and get uncomfortable, but he didn’t want to break the moment. There would be enough time for that later.
He kissed Adam’s shoulder, nuzzling against the soft skin. Adam pulled him closer, hand curling around Kris’s back. Adam’s heart was still pounding—Kris could feel the pulse of it—but the beat was slowing down again now.
It was a few minutes later when Adam sighed and pulled away just slightly, enough so that he and Kris could look each other in the eyes. Kris reached up and stroked his fingers over the freckles on Adam’s shoulder, but met Adam’s gaze readily enough.
“Up to talking yet?” Adam asked. Kris shook his head, pressed his fingers against Adam’s mouth. Adam’s lips parted easily, letting Kris inside, and when he sucked lightly on Kris’s fingers, Kris shivered and rocked his hips against Adam’s. He wasn’t getting hard again, not yet, but it wouldn’t take long.
He took away his fingers and replaced them with his mouth, letting himself be sloppy and careless—Adam had always liked that. Adam’s hand shifted down and curved around Kris’s ass, fingers teasing. Kris’s moan was lost inside Adam’s mouth, but he hitched his leg up more on Adam’s, opening himself to Adam’s touch.
Still, Kris gasped as Adam’s finger pressed into him, his body shuddering as it tried to tighten up and relax at the same time. “Little...little out of practice,” he managed. And he’d been so afraid that Adam wouldn’t come to the house at all that he hadn’t dared to tempt fate by getting himself ready. Adam backed off and stroked his knuckles over the swell of Kris’s ass, giving Kris a chance to catch his breath.
“How long?” Adam asked and Kris just shook his head.
“You know,” he said. “You know, Adam.”
“I was hoping I was wrong,” Adam said and Kris ducked his head when he heard the tremble in the words.
Kris pressed another kiss against Adam’s arm, against the tattoo that Adam hadn’t had there the last time they’d done this. I love you, he didn’t say, the words caught sharp against the roof of his mouth.
That was something else Adam already knew.
“Shower?” Adam asked. Kris tried to remember if there would be anything useful in there apart from a bar of soap. There was still some shower gel, maybe. He hadn’t used any of it himself. Kris shifted away from Adam and knelt on the bed, resting his hands on his thighs. He bit back a smile when Adam’s eyes wandered down. Adam propped himself up on his elbows, those lines creasing the corners of his eyes again, and Kris leaned forward to kiss him.
Adam welcomed him in, all warmth and openness. Kris crawled forward and straddled him, hands on Adam’s shoulders, and let himself just take for a long moment—Adam’s heat and his joy and his sweet mouth. After the kiss ended, Kris rested his forehead against Adam’s, closing his eyes and breathing in Adam’s familiar scent, all sweat and cologne and sex.
“I missed you, too,” Adam said, the fondness in his voice making Kris’s chest ache.
Kris tipped his head down to kiss Adam again, and then he said, “A shower sounds good.”
There was some uncomfortable sticking as they pulled apart to get off the bed, but it just made Adam laugh, always a welcome sound. The shower gel was still good enough to wash with and, now that Adam was here, Kris didn’t mind smelling like him. Adam pinned Kris up against the wall in the shower, his hands wrapped around Kris’s wrists. Water pounded against their skin and Kris had to blink to clear his eyes.
Adam’s skin was glistening, water beading wherever it got the chance. Kris licked his lips, keeping them parted when Adam’s gaze dropped to focus on Kris’s mouth. Kris closed his eyes and wrapped his leg up around Adam’s thigh, pressing his shoulders back against the tile and holding himself up, skin gliding and clinging.
He felt like he could do this forever; that he could just kiss Adam and rub up against him until the world ended and he’d be happy. Still, when Adam pushed Kris’s leg back down again, he went with it, the kiss breaking as Adam backed off just slightly.
Kris opened his eyes when he felt Adam’s hands sliding down his arms. Adam went to his knees with a smile. Kris brushed his fingers through Adam’s wet hair, pushing it back from his face, and traced the forms of Adam’s face, along the line of the cheekbone and down the curve of his jaw. When he reached Adam’s mouth, Adam licked his fingertips and Kris couldn’t hold back a delighted laugh.
These were the moments that he remembered and held onto during the nights without Adam—the times when happiness just welled up from within, filled every part of him, and came simply from Adam existing and being here with him.
Adam leaned forward and kissed Kris’s stomach, right next to his cock, and Kris stroked his hands across Adam’s back. “Tease,” he said but he didn’t mean it, and he could feel Adam’s smile against his skin.
Adam didn’t keep Kris waiting any longer, his lips closing over Kris’s dick and making him gasp. He clenched his fingers on Adam’s shoulder, keeping himself from pushing into Adam’s mouth, letting Adam control how deep he took Kris. Stay polite, he reminded himself. Wait.
It felt like forever between the time Adam first took Kris inside and when his fingers tapped on the outside of Kris’s thighs—Kris’s hips snapped forward as soon as he felt Adam’s signal. If Adam’s hand after all this time had been wonderful, his throat was heaven, taking Kris in like he’d been missing it just as much.
Kris couldn’t have said how long he lasted, but the water was still warm when he finished in Adam’s mouth, his hand cupping the back of Adam’s head. He stayed there a moment longer, shivering as Adam’s tongue worked over his softening cock.
He pulled out when he couldn’t take it anymore and let himself slide down until he was on the floor of the tub next to Adam. He leaned his head back against the wall and just breathed for a minute. When he felt like he could speak again, he cleared his throat. “Want me to return the favor, darlin’?”
The corner of Adam’s mouth kicked up at Kris’s words and Kris reached for Adam’s hand, placing a kiss on the center of his palm. He shuffled closer to Adam, slipping a little on the slick surface of the tub, and Adam shifted off his knees, spreading his legs. The water was on Kris’s back now, a relaxing thrum, and he bent down to taste Adam’s cock. At first, he didn’t taste like much, overwhelmed by the water covering them both, but as Kris sucked, the favor intensified. Kris hadn’t remembered this right—Adam hadn’t tasted this sharp in his memory—but the stretch of his mouth around Adam was exactly as it felt in all his worn and reused fantasies. He didn’t try to take Adam all the way down, stroking his hand over the extra inches near the base. If he had time to get used to deep-throating again, he’d do it, but he didn’t trust himself to be able to pull it off right now.
When Adam’s fingers tightened in his hair, Kris shivered, a strange kind of peace flooding over him as Adam came. He swallowed reflexively, sucking to get the last pulse, holding Adam inside until Adam pushed at his shoulders. He let Adam touch his mouth, fingers tracing over lips slightly swollen. He knew Adam loved the way Kris looked after a blowjob, so Kris was content to sit there until Adam was satisfied.
Finally, Adam reached behind Kris and turned off the water, which had cooled while Kris had been busy with Adam’s cock.
“Talk in the morning?” Kris suggested and Adam nodded, accepted Kris’s terms.
They managed to get up and out without injury and then Kris pressed Adam against the doorframe, playfully dropping kisses all around his face but avoiding his mouth until Adam narrowed his eyes and grabbed Kris’s chin, tilting it up and kissing him, quickly but firmly. They were still a little damp when they made it back to the bed, but it was a nice enough night that Kris didn’t mind. Adam snuggled up against Kris’s back, wrapping an arm around Kris’s waist and draping his leg over Kris’s. For his part, Kris shifted back slightly, until he could feel Adam’s warmth from head to toe.
Sleep came quickly.
Four: we used to be a jungle, sticky and wild
The moment never came, Kris remaining solid and real in his arms as Adam’s brain caught up to last night not being a dream after all.
“Oh, sweetheart,” he said under his breath. “What am I going to do with you?”
He kissed the back of Kris’s neck, tender and chaste. Then he carefully untangled himself and made his way to the bathroom to pee and try to find a sealed toothbrush. He found some at the bottom of a drawer and opened one up, using the old and half-filled toothpaste from the cabinet. When he was done, he leaned in the doorway between the bedroom and bathroom, just staring at Kris, who was only half-covered by the sheets. The flashes of bare skin were distracting—Kris was always distracting. Kris stirred in the bed, his hand reaching back and grasping out at the air, then twisting restlessly into the loose fabric.
And, fuck it, the only thing Adam wanted to do was go to Kris and cuddle up next to him in the bed again.
Years later, Adam was making the same mistake all over again. Even if Kris was divorced now, he wasn’t out. If he were planning on coming out, he would have told Adam yesterday. That he hadn’t wanted to talk yet meant that he knew Adam wouldn’t like whatever it was that he was planning to say.
There were times when Adam wished he didn’t know Kris so well.
Kris sighed in his sleep, frowning slightly. He made a small unhappy noise and Adam was across the room and kneeling next to the bed before he even had a chance to think about it. He stroked away the lines on Kris’s forehead, leaned down to kiss his mouth lightly. Kris woke up slowly, eyelashes fluttering as he murmured and opened his mouth against Adam’s.
Adam rested his hand on Kris’s stomach, just above his cock. Half-hard and getting harder, and Kris’s hips were beginning to shift under Adam’s hand. He kept steady, but pressed down harder with his mouth, kissing away the taste of morning in Kris’s mouth. Adam pushed right up against the bed, his own dick aching against the side of the mattress.
He pulled away from the kiss, panting slightly, and said, “I really wish I could fuck you right now.”
“Shoulda brought something,” Kris said, with a hint of a smile. “I’d do a lot of things for you, Adam, but I’m not gonna take you with just spit.”
“It’s not like I was planning to—”
“Of course, you were,” Kris said, pushing himself up on his elbows. His stomach contracted, muscles tightening under Adam’s fingers. “You knew what would happen if you came here.”
Adam looked away from Kris’s face, focusing on his own hand where it rested on Kris’s skin. He hadn’t taken off his rings last night, and his green nailpolish was flaking, too. He’d need to reapply it. Kris said his name and Adam nodded.
“Yeah,” Adam said, slowly. He trailed his fingers over Kris’s cock, watched the way it made Kris’s whole body shudder. He wanted to suck it down again, wanted to stay in this bed until the world ended. But the world would keep on spinning and he still had to live in it. “Yeah, I knew. And I came anyway.” The way he always came when Kris called. Like this was still two years ago, or three, or, hell, all the way back to the beginning. “So, come on. Tell me what you didn’t want to tell me last night.”
There was a long silence and Adam peeked up at Kris for a second—he wasn’t smiling anymore, his mouth serious and still. Another moment passed and Kris sighed, slow, like all the air was being let out of him.
“They want...I’m supposed to...” Kris faltered. His hand crept down and folded over Adam’s. “Publicly date. They want me to date someone.”
“A woman,” Adam said flatly. It wasn’t a question.
Last time, there had been nights when Adam really had wondered if a person could die from a broken heart. Every time they’d had a plan, it had gone to hell. Every time he’d thought the path was finally clearing so that he and Kris could be together, Kris would have another marital obligation pop up, another reason why they both had to wait.
“I can’t do this again,” Adam said. It was the same script he’d used before but he’d finally realized what was wrong with it. Every other time he’d done this, he hadn’t gone far enough. He stood up, away from Kris, who sat up in the bed. Adam’s eyes followed him, because he could never stop looking at Kris for long. “I just can’t.”
“I’m trying,” Kris said, wrapping his arms around his knees and looking as small as Adam had ever seen him. “Adam, I am trying.”
“I know, honey,” Adam said. He couldn’t look at a clock—they’d never had one in this room—but he knew he needed to leave soon, or he wouldn’t be able to leave at all. “I can’t...I can’t stay.”
But if he was going to do this, he couldn’t do it without a real goodbye. He leaned down, resting his fingers against Kris’s cheek and stealing one last kiss.
He and Kris had shared half a dozen ‘last kisses’ by now. One more probably couldn’t do that much damage.
Kris sighed when Adam pulled away and the raw longing in his eyes nearly made Adam tumble right back into bed with him.
“Love you so much,” Kris said, so quietly that Adam almost didn’t hear him, that Adam doubted Kris even realized he’d said it out loud. Kris reached up and placed his hand against Adam’s chest, palm flat and steady, right over the beat of Adam’s heart.
Another kiss, and Adam closed his eyes and threw himself into the feeling of Kris’s mouth against his—trying to stop himself from saying the words back to Kris.
Not that it would make a difference whether or not he said the words. Kris already knew.
They always ended up in the same place, no matter how hard they tried to be just friends.
“We have to stop,” Adam said, barely able to get the words out. “Cold turkey.”
“I don’t mean like before. I mean...no more texts. No more phone calls. No more I need you,” Adam said, struggling to keep his voice from trembling too badly. Kris’s eyes were wide, his gaze fixed on Adam’s. “All of it has to end. I’ll keep following you on twitter, because you don’t...you don’t deserve that shitstorm, but we...we can’t be friends. I think we’ve proven that. We aren’t any good at it.”
“No,” Kris said, fiercely, surging up onto his knees in the bed and grabbing onto Adam’s wrist with both hands. He was shaking his head, and his fingers were clutching Adam so tightly that it almost hurt. “Adam, no.”
“Baby, I can’t do this all over again,” Adam sighed. He cupped Kris’s face with his free hand and this time the kiss was messy and they were both close to tears now. “I can’t,” he whispered into Kris’s mouth. He closed his eyes for a second, swaying on his feet. Kris’s breathing was ragged and uneven.
“Please don’t go,” Kris said, but when Adam tugged gently to free himself, Kris didn’t try to hold onto him. Adam walked over to the dresser and opened up the top drawer with a hand that, he was surprised to see, wasn’t shaking too badly. The clothes were old and out of style, but they would fit. He stepped into a pair of casual black pants and had just tugged a faded green shirt over his head when he saw the key on the top of the dresser.
The place he’d put it two years ago, the last time he’d tried to end this.
He picked it up, tightening his hand into a fist around it until the edges were biting into his skin. This—this—was exactly why he was doing the right thing. Two years and Kris had never taken the key off the dresser. Kris wasn’t even trying to move on.
Adam turned around, leaning his back against the dresser. Kris was watching him warily, gaze flickering between Adam’s face and his hand.
“You’re really gonna walk away again,” Kris said. His mouth tightened and Adam could see there, underneath the hurt, Kris was getting angry. “Not even gonna talk about it? Don’t you love the talking?”
“What’s the point?” Adam said, swinging his arms open wide. “Are you gonna tell them that you won’t do it?”
“I did,” Kris said, off the bed now, crossing his arms over his chest. “They ignored me, Adam, and just made plans for it anyway.”
“Plans that you’re going along with.”
“Right, because telling my management to...to fuck off, that would be the right solution,” Kris said.
“Yes, it would!” Adam took a step closer to Kris. “Tell them to fuck off. Tell them you’re in love with me and you won’t pretend any more. Tell them—”
“—look, I’m sorry that I hurt your pride, because that’s what this is about, right? You’re pissed off because I can’t—”
“Won’t, Kris. Be honest about it,” Adam said. “For once in your life, just be fucking honest.”
“You lied just as much as I did,” Kris said. “Don’t pretend your hands are clean, Adam. And don’t you dare pretend that you’re the only one who got his heart broken. You walked away, not me.”
“I’d have gone crazy if I stayed,” Adam said, and Kris flinched, his gaze dropping.
Adam hovered between apologizing and leaving, some small part of him counting Kris’s ragged breaths—one, two, three, four—and feeling them echo in his own breathing.
“Fine,” Kris said, and there was a wild moment where Adam hated himself for making Kris sound like that, so lost and empty. He bit down on his tongue. Saying that he was sorry was the worst thing he could do right now. It would make Kris think that they might still get back together. It would give him hope.
They had to end it. Here and now. So he swallowed what he wanted to say, anything that might soften the moment.
“Okay, fine,” Kris said again, in that subdued voice. “You should...you should leave, I guess.”
“It’s not...it’s not that I don’t—” Adam forced himself to stop, because he was doing it again, giving Kris that spark of hope that...that Adam just needed to be talked around and then everything could be like it had been two years ago. “You’re right. I should leave.”
Kris had looked back up when Adam had spoken, serious and still but not calm, nothing close to calm, not with his breathing still that unsteady. “If I’d...if I’d asked you here to tell you that I was coming out—”
“But you weren’t,” Adam said, as gently as he could manage. “You won’t or you can’t or—the reason doesn’t matter. We both know it isn’t going to happen, so why dwell?” Adam took a step forward and wrapped his hands around Kris’s, lifting them up to press his lips against the fingers of Kris’s left hand, where Kris had once worn a wedding ring. He could remember feeling it slide against his skin too many times to count, could remember the first time Kris had touched him without wearing it and how that had made him believe so many things that he shouldn’t have dared to believe. Then he let go of Kris’s hands and took a step back again, his gaze meeting Kris’s head-on. “It wasn’t ever going to happen, so don’t worry about how things would be different now if it had. All you’ll do is screw yourself up in the head.” He reached up and touched the curve of Kris’s jaw, something inside him sighing at Kris’s involuntary shiver. Get out, he told himself. Get out before you give in again. “I hope...I hope we can be friends someday.”
Kris’s lips moved, mouthing words that Adam didn’t try to read. He pushed away before he could pull Kris in for another kiss, before his nerve could break; then he turned around and walked out.
He didn’t let himself stop moving, not even when he heard Kris’s rough breathing break into sobs. He grabbed his clothes from last night off the floor, roughly shoving his feet into his boots, and then he kept going and it wasn’t until he was in his car that he realized he’d put the house key in his pocket, just by habit.
Going back to give the key to Kris would just be kicking him while he was down. He couldn’t do that.
Adam drove to the only place he could right now—straight to his mom’s, only needing to stop a couple of times to wipe his eyes along the way. She wasn’t home, but he knew where she hid her key, so he let himself in. He turned the TV on to Animal Planet and just stared at the screen, trying not to think about Kris.
It was roughly two and half shows later when his mom got home, and she came into the living room still carrying a bag of groceries, which she set down on the little end table next to the couch before she sat down next to him. They watched a cheetah attempt and fail to take down a zebra and then his mom put the show on mute, saying, “I’m going to guess it didn’t go well.”
“No,” Adam said as the cheetah gave up on the chase, loping back towards the water hole that it had started from and drinking lightly. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, doing his best to find the right words, but it was hard to think of anything that wasn’t an accusation. “Did you know?”
“Yes,” she said. He was glad that she didn’t try to pretend not to know what he was asking.
“Why did you tell me to talk to him?” Adam asked, and when he felt his mom’s arms encircle him, he let himself collapse into her tight hug. Maybe it shouldn’t be as comforting as it was, but he knew that she hadn’t...his mom hadn’t wanted to make his heart ache like this. She’d have a reason.
“I’m sorry,” she said, first of all. She stroked his hair and he let himself be soothed. “I was hoping...Oh, I was hoping that if he saw you again, he wouldn’t be able to go through with it. He’s just so alone, Adam. With you—I worry about you sometimes, but you have me and your father and so many friends that you can trust completely. Who does Kris have? His friends don’t know most of the truth and his family—” He hadn’t heard his mom get angry very often, and the heat in her voice only lasted for a moment before she went on more calmly. “Well, they aren’t of much help to him, not yet. But I wasn’t picking him over you, not at all. I was hoping you could help each other.”
“I didn’t know how much I wasn’t over him until he wanted to see me,” Adam said. The words were heavy on his tongue and Adam felt so tired, sitting there in the dark with just the flickering light of the television playing over them. “Shouldn’t I be over him? I’ve tried so hard to move on, to fall in love with someone else, but it never works.”
“Maybe...maybe some things we don’t get over,” she said. “Maybe some heartbreaks we never recover from. Maybe some things just settle into our hearts and ache for the rest of our lives.” She sounded wistful and it was strange how he’d never thought before about how she hadn’t dated again after she and his dad had gotten divorced. All these years and never anyone new, never anyone who mattered enough to introduce to her sons. “I’m sorry, hon, that I pushed you back into something that got you hurt again. I promise that I’ll stay out of it from now on.”
“Thank you,” Adam said, when he could manage it, his voice still rough.
The rest of it—trying to forget about Kris and move on with his life—would be up to Adam.
At least any heartbreak he showed over the next couple of weeks was easily assumed to be about Jason, and most interviewers didn’t push him on the details when he implied that it was too hard to talk about it. Jason hadn’t been famous in his own right, so the story would die down soon enough, and then Adam would be able to stop talking about it.
He should have been smart enough not to watch Kris’s interviews, but when he couldn’t sleep at night, he would find himself looking for new ones and listening over and over as Kris talked about his divorce. Kris still sounded tired—exhausted—and Adam would always wind up wishing that he hadn’t gone looking.
Still, he would find himself doing it again the next night, listening for the breaks in Kris’s voice as he talked about how sometimes relationships just didn’t work out. He’d erased Kris’s number from his phone, but he couldn’t make himself forget it and he had to force himself not to call, not to text.
He’d done this part the other times, too, except that before, he’d always given himself an end date—a month with no contact, then he’d let himself text Kris something polite but not intimate, something that made it clear they were friends. So, a month wasn’t long enough. He’d proven that. Two years wasn’t long enough.
Fuck, in some ways, Adam had been trying to get over this from the first time he and Kris had met. And if more than seven years wasn’t enough time to get over someone, he had no idea how long it would take.
Five: the only thing this stubborn heart knows how to do is fight
The next morning, his stomach was complaining enough that he dressed and went to the grocery, stocking up for a few days, then he went over to his friends’ place to get Zorro. After that, he should have gone back to his apartment, but instead he found himself outside the house again. He was pretty sure Hannah would call his behavior ‘counterproductive’ and he was equally sure he didn’t care.
That afternoon, he picked up Hannah’s call and let her talk at him. He’d missed a phone interview yesterday—she’d had to make excuses for him. He had to work with her or she couldn’t be effective. He made the right noises in response and let her tell him his new schedule.
He didn’t have to be anywhere except LA for a while, so he let himself slip into a rut—going where Hannah told him to go, talking to the people she told him to talk to, and going back to the house and letting himself just...exist.
Zorro would creep into his lap whenever Kris was feeling especially down, and the little guy had probably never gotten brushed as often as he did that first week after Adam walked out again.
Maybe the worst part was how silent the house was—Kris couldn’t manage a single word, couldn’t put a note down on paper or play a chord. The other times when he and Adam had been apart, he’d still been able to write—to channel his feelings into his music, like Zooey had said. This time...
This time, there was nothing.
We both know it isn’t going to happen, Adam had said, like it was a fact. Because Kris had let him down enough times that it felt like a fact to Adam, just part of reality. The sky is blue, birds fly, grass is green, and Kris will never come out of the closet.
He and Zooey met again that Friday and she seemed to easily pick up on his mood. She talked logistics and Kris nodded, not outright agreeing to anything but not saying ‘no’ either and...and it seemed so ridiculous that anyone could live if their life was based on lies. He wasn’t sure how he’d ever thought it was possible. Living like this...he wasn’t even sure if it counted as living.
Another half-week passed in something of a blur, and then, during one of their phone calls, Kris said to Hannah, “I need to go to Arkansas.”
He hadn’t planned to say it but once the words were out, he could feel the rightness of them.
He heard her murmur and then the soft humming that she lapsed into whenever she was checking his schedule before she cleared her throat and said, “You’ve got Sunday and Monday clear—if you leave Saturday night after your meeting with Jennifer, will you have enough time to do whatever it is you need to do?”
“I’ll make it work,” Kris said. He’d need to call and make sure that his parents would actually be around, but he thought they would be. If not, he’d have to figure something else out.
He called his dad after he got off the phone with Hannah. His dad wouldn’t be in town that weekend, but his mom would be. That would be enough, he figured. His father asked if he wanted to speak to Kim now—she was just outside—and Kris hesitated for a moment and then said it would be better to talk to her in person.
That Friday, he and Zooey met up again at the offices and he warmed his hands on a cup of coffee as he watched her pick the berries out of a blueberry muffin and eat them one by one. She tore the muffin to pieces to get every last one, then she mashed the bits of muffin together with a fork and ate them too.
“You’re right,” Kris said. He debated about whether to get a muffin—there were four left in the basket in the middle of the table—but he hadn’t been hungry all that much lately. “I am used to lying. When I say that I’m not, that’s a lie, too.”
“You shouldn’t think of it as lying,” she said with her mouth half-full of muffin; then she swallowed and took a drink of water. “It’s a lot easier if you think of it as acting.”
“I’m not really a good actor,” Kris said.
“Well, we’ll work on it. Only seven days until our big public debut,” Zooey said, tucking a strand of dark hair behind her ear. “I’m thinking that I’ll reach out and lightly touch your hand during the lunch; that’s enough PDA for the first date. You need to smile more out there than you do in here, though, otherwise everyone will think I’m just a rebound girl.”
“Which would be bad?”
“Which would be terrible,” she said. “I’m not going to be your fake rebound girlfriend. That’s not what I signed up for at all. I’m going to be your fake real girlfriend.”
She grabbed another muffin out of the basket and began to pick it apart.
“‘Fake real’,” Kris muttered under his breath.
He dropped Zorro off with his friends before he went to his meeting with Jennifer. After the meeting, he headed to the airport and his flight. When he arrived in Arkansas, he crashed in a hotel near the airport.
He could have headed straight over to his folks’ place. It hadn’t been that late; his mom still would have been awake. But he hadn’t been back in four months and he didn’t want to talk to her while he was feeling so tired. He slept until noon the next day and then spent another hour staring up at the ceiling before he got around to getting out of bed and getting dressed. Hannah had arranged a rental car for him, so that made things easier.
He texted his mom before he left the rental place to let her know how long he’d be and when he got to the house, he could see a movement through the kitchen window. He rang the doorbell and waited for her to answer.
“Baby, you know you can come right on in,” she fussed at him after she opened the door, shooing him inside with quick movements. “I’m doing up a pie; thought you could use something solid. You never eat enough in that city.”
He let her herd him into the kitchen and he sat at the table and watched as she went back to the stove, opening the oven door and checking on the progress of the pie. She’d already made one earlier, he noticed. He wasn’t the only one who was nervous.
“You’re only staying one night?” she asked disapprovingly, but she shook her head a little and smiled. “If you’d come by earlier, we could have gone to church together.”
“Was it a good service?” Kris asked.
She beamed at him. “Lovely, simply lovely. And I had lunch with a wonderful couple afterwards.” She turned away to pull the pie out of the oven and set it on top to cool. Still facing the stove, she added, “Their daughter, Shannon, was with them. She’s twenty-two. Such a nice girl, Kristopher. And she sings. If you have time, we could have lunch with them tomorrow before you leave.”
Kris traced his fingers along the grain of the table, polished smooth but with the slightest hint remaining of the roughness underneath. Five years. Five years since he’d first told her about himself but his mom hadn’t budged an inch.
His management. His mother. They wanted the same thing, really, when it was boiled down to the basics. They wanted him to be the person he’d pretended to be for years and years, not the person that he really was underneath.
“Was there ever any chance I would come home and you’d say you have a nice boy for me to meet?” he asked.
“If you’d only talk to her, I promise you’d like her,” she said, turning around. She didn’t look at him, though, her eyes focused on her hands as she wiped them clean on a kitchen towel. “Just because things didn’t work out with Katy...well, I told you years ago you could do better than her. Shannon is better.”
“There wasn’t anything wrong with Katy,” Kris said and that night of sleep hadn’t done any good after all, not when his mom was bringing up arguments that Kris had thought they’d buried years ago. “I like guys. It wasn’t that she was Katy; it was that she was a girl.”
“But if you’d just meet Shannon—”
“Look, I’m not saying she isn’t nice. I’m sure she’s a great person. But I don’t want to date her, Mom, and I’m not gonna want to marry her. I’m not going to make that mistake twice,” Kris said. “It wasn’t Katy that was the problem. It was me.”
“You won’t even give her a chance?” she asked. “Kristopher, I hate thinking of you all alone out there. You—” She hesitated for a moment. “I want you to be happy.”
“I’m happy enough,” Kris said, mouth twisting a little. “Look, I wanted to tell you—I came out here to tell you that my management set up a fake relationship for me, but I’m not really dating her. I just wanted you to know the truth.”
She looked at him for a long moment, making him feel all of thirteen again and like he’d just gotten in trouble for toilet-papering a neighbor’s tree.
“I don’t understand why you’d play along with something pretend but you won’t give yourself a chance to have a genuine relationship with someone. A nice girl who shares your interests,” she said.
“I had someone nice who shared my interests,” Kris said. “He dumped me because I wouldn’t come out, remember?”
“Well, I see,” she said. “This is all about Adam, isn’t it? I don’t know why I thought it was about anything else. Ever since you met that boy, you’ve changed.”
“You liked him well enough before,” Kris said. And she would know exactly what he meant by ‘before’—before Kris came out to her, before she suspected that it was because he was attracted to Adam, before he’d finally confessed to her that he and Adam were in a relationship. Before he’d told her that he was divorcing Katy and had made plans to come out to be with Adam publicly. “You say you want me to be happy? Adam made me happy, Mom.”
“Did he? How can you be happy in a world that will treat you so horribly, baby?” She was slightly teary-eyed now. “Adam’s tough. He’s had to handle people saying mean things for years. But you—baby, the words that people use—it’s awful.”
“So pretending is better? Lying is?” Kris paused, trying to think of some way to get through to her. “Is bearing false witness better than being honest?”
His mom took a sharp, surprised breath. For a second, he thought that he’d made her understand, but then she shook her head.
“It doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t want you to lie,” she said. “I want you to honestly find a nice young lady—”
“I can’t,” Kris said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I can’t. I won’t. It’s never gonna happen, Mom.”
“Well, you just told me that you’re willing to pretend to date some girl I’ve never even met in order to make your management happy. How can that be better?” she asked. “Some part of you wants to think you could...could come out and everything would be wonderful and you and Adam would be happy...but you know better than that. You know what the world is like, how people judge without ever asking any questions. I’ve had people asking me, you know, when you’re going to start seeing someone new—if she’ll be from the church or if you’ve just abandoned us.”
“I guess they can keep on asking,” Kris said.
He’d thought—against all evidence—that if he could only figure out the right balance, he could manage to satisfy everyone. Even after Adam had walked out two years ago, he’d convinced himself that Adam would change his mind any day and come home. That all Kris had to do was work out a plan slow enough for Arkansas but fast enough for Adam, and it would fall into place.
But maybe there wasn’t a plan that would work for both sides. Trying to find that middle road had cost him Adam. It might lose him his mom. And it hadn’t done much good for his career, either.
“Don’t you use your sass on me; I’m the one who taught it to you,” she said, tartly. “Kristopher, if you are pretending to date someone—is she at least a believer?”
“I didn’t ask,” Kris said. His mom’s mouth twisted unhappily. That had been part of her objection to Adam too, when he’d finally told her. “She’s a good person, though. Talks a lot.”
“You probably give her plenty of silence to fill up,” she said. “Oh, baby, let’s not fight about this, okay? Just...have some pie and we’ll talk about something else.”
The first pie was a spiced-apple and the second a lush mixed-berry, and Kris took small servings from each. His mom tried to push seconds on him, but gave up when he told her he couldn’t eat any more. They talked about Daniel for a while, until the topic exhausted itself, then Kris mentioned Zorro and talking about him was good for some time, too. When they were done with that, it was late enough that Kris excused himself to go to bed. His mom had long ago turned his old room into something more useful, but the guest room was comfortable and familiar enough.
When he woke up the next morning, he went to the kitchen and examined the shelves before starting on pancakes for the two of them. The morning conversation was lighter than last night’s, empty pleasantries about the weather and local news.
Before he left, his mom said, softly, “This pretending business...Kristopher, you say it wouldn’t help to date a girl, so how can pretending to date one help? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Kris just gave her a wry little smile and kissed her on the cheek goodbye.
It wasn’t like he could explain it, after all.
When he got back to LA, there was a voicemail from Hannah on his phone, telling him that she needed to talk to him immediately. He touched the call-back button and waited for her to pick up.
“How can there be news?” Kris asked. “You talked to me this morning and there wasn’t any news then.”
“I got you on Ellen,” Hannah said. “Well, technically, Zooey got you on Ellen; you’ll definitely need to say thank you to that girl when you have lunch with her this Friday. I can’t believe the big first date is less than a week away!”
“It’s definitely hard to believe that,” Kris said. “When am I supposed to go on the show?”
“So, the story is—you want to hear the story, right? Of course,” she said, barreling ahead without waiting for an answer. “Originally, Ellen was going to have that Jack Peters guy on—do you know him? He’s a comedian, but that’s not important—anyway, he had to cancel. Some sort of family-related problems. Ellen was talking to Portia and then Portia was talking to Zooey, and Zooey mentioned how much you love Ellen. Well, Portia went home and mentioned you to Ellen and Ellen remembered you—‘such a nice boy’—that’s what Zooey told me that Portia told her that Ellen said to her. So you’re going to be on the show the Tuesday after your date with Zooey, and the episode should air the next day. Isn’t that the best news ever? What a wonderful way for us to introduce your new relationship. I thought we were going to have to settle for you mentioning it in a radio or internet interview. This is so much better. Aren’t you already in love with Zooey? What a woman. And you get to date her!”
“You do remember that it’s not real, right?” Kris asked when Hannah finally paused to breathe.
“Oh, you say the cutest things. Anyway, be up bright and early tomorrow. I’ll pick you up at nine. See you then!”
Kris sighed and put his phone back in his pocket. He spent the rest of the day hanging out with his friends and playing with Zorro, who was as thrilled to see him as if he’d been gone a month.
The next day, Cale called to complain that Kris had been in Arkansas and hadn’t visited.
“I keep telling you to move out here,” Kris said. “Plenty of room. You could stay with the guys or you could come stay in my apartment and look after Zorro.”
“Ah, you just want me there for the free dog-sitting,” Cale said. “You know, it’s not that bad an idea. It’s just...you know, I’d miss all the people here. Don’t know how you can stand it, being away from home for so long.”
“Planes work in both directions,” Kris said. “And it gets easier the more you do it. Come out for a visit, at least.”
“Maybe I will.”
“Come next week; you can sit in the audience when I’m taping Ellen,” Kris said. “I’ll get Hannah to set it up. If you want me to, I mean.”
There was a brief silence and Kris could almost picture the way Cale’s forehead would be wrinkling up slightly as he considered the offer.
“You’re gonna be on Ellen?” Cale asked. “Okay, I might be able to swing it. When are you going to be on?”
“I might only be there for Tuesday, but I’ll make it work,” Cale said.
Hannah grumbled about it when he called her, but said that she was sure she could get Cale a seat. He was pretty sure that she wanted to complain about the short notice, but since she’d only been able to tell him about the show yesterday, she didn’t have much room to argue.
That Friday, instead of meeting inside a conference room, Kris and Zooey met at a restaurant. They got an outdoor table and Zooey chatted lightly while they were looking over their menus and then, after they’d ordered, Kris said, “Thank you. For getting me on Ellen.”
“I listened to your album last week,” she said. “It’s good. I didn’t mind mentioning you to Portia. I’ve been thinking about your music a lot the last few days.”
“Thanks,” Kris said. Zooey half-glanced out of the corner of her eye and then she smiled, bright and happy, reaching out to gently stroke his hand where it rested on the table. Kris smiled back, pretty sure he was going to look queasy rather than like he was having fun. “Thank you, but this is so—I’m still not sure I can do this.”
“You can,” she said, slowly pulling her hand back and making it look natural and not like she was giving him space again. “You definitely can, Kris.”
“I’m not sure I want to be the guy who can,” he said, more quietly. “You’ve been nothing but kind to me and I appreciate that so much, I do. I know I haven’t been great company, so you’ve been doing all the work. The thing is—I don’t want to be someone who spends his whole life lying. I thought I could do it, back when I thought my life would just be in Arkansas. And I could do it here as long as I knew it would end someday. But I can’t just keeping doing it, day after day.”
She sat back and studied him carefully, though she kept her mouth curved into a friendly smile. “You know, Ellen is a great platform for all kinds of different topics.”
It took Kris a moment to realize what she was suggesting.
“You wouldn’t mind?” Kris asked. Her smile widened.
“I didn’t want a new boyfriend anyway,” she said. “So, I’m willing to be your fake girl, if you want. That option is still on the table. But I also wouldn’t mind being a genuine friend. And that’s why I got you the gig on Ellen.” She spread out her hands. “Do what you want with it.”
“Thank you,” Kris said.
Hannah had a lot of suggestions for him on how exactly he should break the news that he was dating someone new. Kris made a lot of vague noises in response and thought about what he should do.
Cale arrived on Monday night and Kris took him back to the apartment, where Cale spent some time petting Zorro while Kris made dinner.
“On Ellen tomorrow. I’m not sure what I’m going to say,” Kris said, after they’d eaten.
“It’s not about the album?” Cale asked.
“Not really,” Kris said. He sat down on his couch, reaching to grab Zorro and pull him up to sit next to him. “I’m kinda having a disagreement with my management.”
“And that gets you a spot on Ellen?” Cale raised his eyebrows dubiously. “What kind of disagreement?”
“Well, they want me to say that I’m dating someone,” Kris said. “And I don’t want to say that.”
“They expect you to say it on the show,” Cale said, rolling his eyes a little. “And they’ll be pissed off if you don’t. Yeah, that sucks.”
“It does,” Kris said. “Anyway, I just thought it’d be nice to have someone in the audience who...I don’t know.”
“Sure,” Cale said, sitting down next to Kris and slinging an arm around his shoulders. “Why me, though? Why not one of your friends here?”
“You know things about me and Adam that they don’t know,” Kris said, letting himself lean sideways against Cale. He was warm and strong, and if he were at all inclined toward men, Kris probably would have let himself try something back when they’d first met. Probably for the best that he never had. “You know things that barely anyone knows.” Kris breathed out, slowly, thinking of long nights on tour and midnight confessions. “I really do wish you’d move out here.”
“Obligations back home,” Cale said, softly. “You know how it is. But as soon as you need me for performances, I’ll be there in a second.”
“Yeah,” Kris said. “I know. Thanks.”
“About you and Adam—”
Kris shook his head. “We’re not...we’re not anything right now.”
“The two of you are always something,” Cale said. “But that’s probably another reason you wanted me to come to California.”
Kris couldn’t argue with that. And it was comforting that night to be sleeping in his bed and know Cale was just a room away on the couch. It was true that out of all of the people in his life, Cale probably knew the most—maybe even more than Adam, because Cale knew what it was like for Kris when he and Adam weren’t together.
Hannah came over to his apartment the next day to make sure he was ready for Ellen, and she drove him and Cale to the studios in Burbank. She was in the best mood he’d ever seen her, bubbly and talking about how wonderful this partnership was going to be for both him and Zooey. She floated the idea of putting a duet between the two of them out there—“because she does sing, you know”—and how Zooey and Zorro needed to meet, which set her off on a tangent about how cute it was that their names were so similar.
Cale hadn’t spent much time with Hannah before, and seemed pretty stunned by the whole experience. It had taken Kris a few weeks to get used to her, too.
When he was finally out there, on stage with the cameras rolling, he took a second to look at Cale before he could start chatting with Ellen. She was welcoming and warm, though, and it was easy to relax for her this time. He tensed up a little as she mentioned that his divorce had been announced a little while back. That was his signal to bring up Zooey and their first date, according to what Hannah had told him twenty times over the weekend.
“Katy wanted to live in Arkansas and I needed to be in LA for my music,” Kris said.
He couldn’t let this be the rest of his life.
Kris took a deep breath and he didn’t say the words that Hannah had fed him. Instead, he said, “No, that’s not why. That’s the easy answer. It’s not the real one.”
He let himself forget all the consequences, just for now, and he told the truth. He kept expecting someone to stop the cameras and yell, ‘cut’ but he couldn’t hear anything over the sound of his own heartbeat anyway. He just talked and talked and he couldn’t have repeated any of it back to someone for the world. Everything inside him, everything that had been building up for years and years—finally, it all just came out.
And that was it. He was done.
He didn’t need to look to the side to know that Hannah’s good mood would be gone now.
After the cameras stopped rolling, Ellen came over to sit next to him on the couch, wrapping her arm around his shoulders, and she gently pried his fingers up from the armrest.
“That was very brave,” she told him softly. “There’s no going back now, you know. Even if we don’t air this, the audience will be getting on their phones the second they leave the studio. It’ll be everywhere soon. We can’t stop people from talking about something this big, not unless you want to go on record as having been lying and even if you do, people won’t believe you. Not after this.”
Kris nodded. He’d known that when he started talking.
“I gotta...I gotta...” he pulled out his own phone and stared down at it. Adam had maybe blocked his number but this was something that he deserved to hear from Kris, not from the internet or his management. Kris typed something quickly and sent it off to twitter before he could second guess himself.
His hands were shaking.
“Were you this scared?” he asked Ellen. She brushed his hair back from his forehead and he could see her nod out of the corner of his eye. Kris continued, “But you’re happy now.”
“Happier than I ever was before. Honesty does that for us. It helps, even when things get a little rough because of it.”
“I hope so,” Kris said.
Six: give me more than your touch
Tommy stopped humming and looked up at Adam, flipping his hair out of his eyes. “Because, boss, I know when to stop drinking.”
“I know when to stop,” Adam said. He sounded sulky, even to his own ears. He should have known better than to drink that much last night. And it was especially stupid to get drunk just because Kris had been spotted on a flight back to Arkansas.
Kris could have a million different valid reasons to go to Arkansas.
Also, Adam had permanently broken up with him.
Really, it made no sense for him to be concerned.
He wished he could call, though, just to see if everything was okay with Kris and his family.
“So, I didn’t get the whole story last night, because of all the booze and shit,” Tommy said. “But I got enough to know that this is about Kris Allen. Seriously, you know I like the guy, but I’m starting to think being in love with him is not good for your health.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Adam grumbled, turning back towards the couch. Tommy took that about as seriously as Adam expected him to, and proceeded to sit on Adam’s legs.
“I guess I can’t blame you,” Tommy said. “I mean, if I did guys, I would do him—”
“You would not,” Adam said, lifting his head up to glare at Tommy, who just laughed.
“—but I don’t think I’d drink myself to sleep over him. Again. I’m just saying that there’s a bad habit going on here.” Tommy patted Adam’s knee in an approximation of comfort. “Maybe we should look into it?”
“I broke up with him,” Adam said. “Problem solved.”
“See, I feel like we went back in time last night,” Tommy said. “Didn’t this happen, like, two years ago? I remember having this conversation. You were all ‘hey, Tommy Joe, don’t talk to Kris Allen for a while, because we’re over forever’ and I was all ‘sure, no problem’ but then I ran into him at a studio, like, a week later, so I kinda had to talk to him there and then I had to call him afterwards because I’d forgotten to ask him something but by the time I got around mentioning it to you, the two of you were talking again anyway.” He paused for a moment, shifting his weight off Adam’s legs and sliding further down the couch. “So, yeah, if I dreamed the two years in between then and now, I’m gonna be pissed that I didn’t look up the lotto numbers.”
“We hooked up a few days ago,” Adam said. Tommy faked a shocked gasp and Adam rolled his eyes. “And then I told him we needed to stop pretending we could be friends and I walked out on him.”
“Ouch,” Tommy said. “That’s kinda harsh. What brought that on?”
“He’s going to start publicly dating,” Adam said. Even just saying it made his stomach feel like it was twisting into knots. “A girl, obviously. Just the same shit, different day. And I...shit, you know what it’s like when Kris and I are together. It’s stupid and crazy and...and—” He bit down on his lip and stared up at the ceiling. “—and the best feeling in the world. Fuck.”
He was absolutely determined not to cry. Crying while hungover always made him feel pathetic. He wasn’t going to do it.
“You sound like a man who could use breakfast,” Tommy said, hopping off of Adam and leaning over to give him a hand. “How’s that sound?”
“Fantastic, actually.” Adam got up from the couch.
In the interest of not calling Kris to ask him if something was wrong, Adam kept as busy as he could on a vacation day. Monday, at least, he actually was busy, and he threw himself into the work of rehearsals. He tried to keep himself away from the internet, mostly succeeding. Friday, there was a flurry of speculation about Kris having been seen out to lunch with someone. He did his best to ignore it. That weekend, he invited some friends over for an impromptu listening party. On Monday of the next week, rehearsals started up again—breaking in a new band member always did take some time—but he’d managed to go almost an entire week without checking up on Kris.
That Tuesday, he was already on his phone when the message came in—Kris was in his @ replies. He had a second’s worth of time to be mad at Kris before worry took over and he read the tweet: So people might want to check me out on Ellen tomorrow. @adamlambert I hope you get a chance to see it.
He blinked, then he called Patricia, his manager.
“Is Kris Allen on Ellen tomorrow?” he asked.
She coughed and there were a few moments of silence and then she said, cautiously, “Seems like he’s on as a last-minute replacement, yes.”
“What aren’t you telling me?” he asked.
“Check online,” she said. “Or just go on twitter. People have started tweeting about the show.”
“That’s not helpful,” Adam said. Kris wouldn’t ask him to watch the show if he was announcing that he were dating that new public girlfriend of his—would he? Kris had never been vindictive, even when things were at their worst. “I can’t...I don’t want to see audience distortions of whatever he said. I want to know what really happened.”
“In that case, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” she said. “I can’t exactly ask for you to be forwarded an advance copy of the episode. I don’t have that much pull, and as much as Ellen loves you, neither do you.”
He put his phone away after that and concentrated on rehearsals. They didn’t finish up until so late at night that it was morning already, so it was easy for Adam to convince himself that he needed to rest before facing whatever Kris had said on Ellen.
He knew what he wanted Kris to have said, but believing that it had actually happened was something that he was having a hard time wrapping his brain around.
He had to see it for himself. That was all. No vague reports from whoever happened to be at the show that day. He needed to see the words coming out of Kris’s mouth.
At quarter to one on Wednesday, he found a live feed of the East coast viewing and put it on. Kris was finally on toward the end of the show.
Ellen asked Kris a little about his album, but it was obvious that it wasn’t where her focus was. Only a minute or so later, she brought up the divorce.
“Katy wanted to live in Arkansas and I needed to be in LA for my music,” Kris said, and Adam could see the moment when things changed—could see Kris straighten up a little and shake his head slightly. “No, that’s not why. That’s the easy answer. It’s not the real one.”
“What is the real one?” Ellen asked, leaning in, startled but only barely showing it. Kris was off-script, then, and realizing that made Adam smile, just a little.
“I got married because I was running away from myself,” Kris said, looking past Ellen, stuck somewhere in his own head, the words coming out slowly and Ellen waiting patiently, not interrupting. “It’s...it’s hard in Arkansas sometimes. You watch kids—other kids like you—get teased and sometimes they get hurt or worse and it’s...and it’s scary. You don’t want to be one of those kids that gets teased. That gets bullied.” Kris’s lower lip trembled but after a moment, it firmed again and he nodded, as if he were just thinking out loud, getting things straight in his head. Some of these things were things that Adam remembered—secrets that Kris had whispered to him during their hours together. “So you play sports, and you figure out who other guys think is the prettiest girl in school, and you ask her out and the whole time, that fear is just...just pounding at the back of your head. What if people realize? What if they know? So you write that girl song after song, hoping that if you just make the song good enough, you can make yourself be good enough for her, too. Maybe you can convince yourself that it’s all true.”
Kris shook himself all over, like a dog coming in from the rain. “Me,” he said, and for the first time since this topic had come up, he looked right at Ellen. “Not you, me. I married her because I was trying to make myself not be gay anymore.”
Adam could hear the murmur of the studio audience, some soft gasps when Kris finally reached the end of his confession.
“And it didn’t work,” Ellen said, softly.
“No,” Kris said. “It didn’t.”
“Oh, fuck, baby, you did it,” Adam said. “You really did it.”
He just sat there for a while, even after the credits had rolled and the next show had started. Back at the beginning, he’d expected this moment. He’d planned for it. Finally getting it was was...nothing like he’d expected. He wanted to throw up, wanted to dance, wanted to scream in the streets, wanted to grab Kris and put him up against a wall and kiss him until he couldn’t breathe.
He grabbed for his phone to call Kris, but then he stopped and thought for a second. Kris had made things public. Plus, he’d made it so that even if the episode hadn’t aired, everyone would associate the confession with Adam, but in a way that could leave Adam in the clear—Kris wanting Adam to know that he’d been hiding was something that could leave Adam spotless, if that’s what he wanted. Kris had given Adam a place to stand and it was Adam’s turn to decide what path for them to take. Kris had made the offer public, but he hadn’t committed Adam to anything.
Patricia would tell him to deflect. That he should say in interviews that he was flattered and then—sometime in the future, sometime when people would stop thinking about the fact that Kris and Adam had shared a room for months, on that magical future day that might never come—they could start to be seen in public.
Danielle and Tommy would tell him to be careful. His mom...well, his mom had promised to stay out of things. His dad would tell him to go after Kris full-throttle. Alisan would...
Well, he could play that game all day.
Adam thought about his options—he could just call Kris privately. Obviously, Kris wasn’t going to call him, but he was sure Kris would pick up if he chose to call. Or he could text Kris and ease into talking to him. Or he could...he could be as brave as Kris had been yesterday. He could be honest.
He set the recipient to twitter and carefully typed out his message, hitting ‘send’ without letting himself overthink it.
Just watched @theellenshow. So proud of you @krisallen!!! Wanna meet up for dinner sometime?
He waited for an hour or so, spending the time surfing the web and checking out the reaction to Kris’s announcement. It was...mostly not at all calming, though there were enough positive reactions to roughly balance out the negative.
And some places were downright ecstatic, though Adam could have predicted that. Kris was going to make a high showing on the AfterElton Hot 100 this time around, no doubt.
Adam’s feed was pretty active, too—lots of responses to his tweet—so he finally had to shift over to watching Kris’s twitter page to get away from the noise. His phone buzzed but it was just Patricia calling. He figured that he could guess what she’d want to talk about, so he made the strategic decision to ignore her call.
Kris’s twitter page finally showed a new tweet. Adam clicked to refresh.
Is that dinner or dinner? RT @adamlambert: Wanna meet up for dinner sometime?
Adam smiled and hit reply: @KrisAllen lemme call you. we’ll talk.
He dialed Kris’s number and Kris picked up almost the moment it rang.
“I guess you liked the interview,” Kris said. He sounded a little breathless. “At least, I hope that’s what you were saying.”
“I loved it,” Adam said, leaning against the wall. “How angry are they at you?”
“Take as mad as you’d think they’d be and then double it,” Kris said. “So, dinner, huh?”
“Name the place,” Adam said. “I’ll treat you.”
“How about tonight we just meet up at the house and then we can go out to eat tomorrow—or are you busy?” Kris asked.
“I have rehearsal, but if I wrap up on time I’ll be free after ten,” Adam said. “You?”
“I suspect my calendar is going to be pretty open for a while,” Kris said. “I’ll have something in the oven when you come home.” Kris said the words carefully, without pretending they were casual. This was another offer, if Adam wanted it.
“I’d like that,” Adam said.
Neither one of them wanted to be the one to say goodbye, but finally Adam had to go to his rehearsal.
When he got there, Tommy gave him a tight hug and Isaac saluted him with his drum stick.
“Knock off the silly stuff and get to work,” Adam said, but it was hard to be stern when all he wanted to do was smile.
This time, when he got to the house, he unlocked it with his own key. Zorro was right there in the hallway, giving him a dubious look. Adam reached down and scooped him up and Zorro grumbled a little but then settled down in Adam’s arms. “Hey, there, little guy. Wasn’t expecting to see you.”
He carried Zorro into the kitchen where Kris was, as promised, just finishing up making dinner. Salad and tofu burgers, looked like. Kris looked more delicious than the food, in skin-tight jeans and a light grey shirt. Adam set Zorro down and he immediately went over and rubbed his head against Kris’s legs. Kris waved a finger down in Zorro’s general direction and said, “You are getting none of this, mister.” Then he looked up and caught Adam’s eye. The smile that spread across his face was warm and open. “How’d rehearsals go?”
“Dreadful,” Adam said, walking over and tugging Kris away from the stove. “All I could think about was you. My concentration was shot. Really, it’s a miracle the guys didn’t throw things at me. That’s how off I was.”
“Sorry to ruin your day,” Kris said, and the light caught his eyes, making them sparkle. Adam pressed Kris up against the counter and leaned in for a long kiss. When he pulled away, he tugged at Kris’s lower lip with his teeth for just a second. Kris smiled up at him and said, “Hungry? It should be almost ready.” Kris was resting his hand on Adam’s waist and his thumb was stroking underneath Adam’s shirt, a constant tiny little temptation.
Adam was distracted the entire meal, gaze focusing on Kris’s mouth and throat, on his hands, on his eyes as he tossed flirty looks Adam’s way. When they were done, Adam washed the few dishes off and set them to dry, while Kris, cap pulled down low on his forehead, took Zorro out for a walk. Kris wasn’t back by the time Adam was done, so he spent some time getting to know the house again. He went through the drawers in the kitchen, looked inside the cabinets—broke out a bottle of wine and checked to see if there was enough ice in the freezer to set it to chill. There wasn’t, so he put the bottle in the fridge instead. He and Kris could have a glass later tonight.
Adam went to the hallway and, once there, he carefully straightened a picture that he noticed was just slightly off. He rubbed his hand over the post at the bottom of the stairway. Kris had really kept renting it all these years? A month ago—or a week ago—finding that out would have been nothing but frustration for Adam. More proof that Kris was willing to put his effort into hiding but not in being open. Now, though, it was another fact that got painted over with happiness.
He knew it would fade, this sunshiny glow of being content with the world and everyone in it, but when this new giddy feeling had gone, he would still have Kris. He would have Kris in all the ways he’d always wanted to—it would be honest and free.
His phone buzzed again—his mom, this time.
“You still haven’t picked up your watch,” he told her. She laughed, bright and relieved.
“I never really use it these days anyway,” she said. “I wanted to call and see how you were doing. I was just online and I saw the excitement going around about a certain set of tweets.”
“Yeah, things are...Kris is out walking Zorro right now,” Adam said. “He’ll be back any minute.”
“Well, I figured he wasn’t with you right now or you probably wouldn’t have answered your phone,” she said.
“Am I wrong?” she asked. “Anyway, honey, I wanted to say how glad I am that it worked out.”
“So am I,” Adam said. “And, you know, thanks for interfering. Not that I want you to do it again but I think...I think it actually helped this time.”
“It’s good to hear that. I was a bit worried, I have to admit,” she said. “All right, you and Kris have a nice night and I hope that I’ll see you both for dinner soon.”
“You can count on it,” Adam said. There was some noise at the front door. “Okay, I think he’s back now. Love you, talk to you later, g’night.”
He was just slipping his phone back into his pocket when the door opened. Zorro came in first and Kris followed, leaning over to unhook Zorro’s leash and set it up on the hall table. He shut the door and looked up to meet Adam’s eyes with a smile.
“You planning on meeting me at the door every night?” Kris asked.
“Sounds like fun,” Adam said. He held out his hand toward Kris and, when Kris took it, he tugged Kris toward him, pulling him into a hug. He pressed a hand against Kris’s back, needing to be closer still. After a long moment, he stepped away from the hug, letting his gaze wander over Kris. He plucked at the bottom of Kris’s shirt. “You know, it’s kinda hot outside right now. You’re probably overdressed.”
“You’re not very subtle, you know,” Kris said. “Let me just feed Zorro and I’ll be right upstairs.” He smiled, with a hint of a smirk about it. “You should check out the night stand.”
Kris moved up for a brief kiss and then he went off to take care of Zorro. Adam went upstairs. This time, instead of throwing his clothes all over the hallway, he took them off and carefully folded what should be folded, hanging up the rest. He took off all his jewelry and put it in the mostly-empty box on the dresser. Then he went over and explored the night stand. Ah, condoms and lube. He rested on the bed, crossing his ankles over each other and his shoulders propped up on a pillow, hiding nothing.
When Kris came in, Adam said, “You aren’t subtle either.”
Kris started a little when he saw that Adam was already naked, but he shut the door behind himself with a grin. “I wasn’t really trying for subtle.”
“Neither was I,” said Adam. “How about you get over here?”
Kris took off his shoes and then climbed onto the bed, straddling Adam and kissing him, with a steadying hand on the middle of Adam’s chest. Adam stretched up to meet him as best he could, but the angle meant that Kris could tease, keeping the kiss light. After a while, Adam just couldn’t take it anymore, and he put his hand on Kris’s hip and pushed him over into the center of the bed, rolling on top of him. Kris laughed and squirmed underneath Adam.
Adam reached down and opened up Kris’s jeans, palming his cock through his briefs. “You didn’t keep any of the sexy boxer-briefs that I gave you?”
“Those things are not comfortable,” Kris said. “And it’s not like there’s any point to wearing them. Either I’ve got clothes on or I’m about to not have clothes on. It’s not like I ever wander around in just briefs.”
“But if they were sexy ones, you could,” Adam pointed out.
“Or you could just concentrate on getting them off,” Kris said, wiggling again, and, yes, point taken. Later, Adam would take his time, but right now, he really did just want Kris to be naked.
He tugged Kris’s jeans down over his hips, and skin-tight was great for looks and not quite so great for getting someone naked quickly, but soon Kris was as bare as Adam. He pressed a kiss to Kris’s hip, and reached over for the lube, which he’d moved to the top of the night stand. Adam covered his fingers with a thin coat, and he reached down and gave Kris’s cock a few strokes before he moved his fingers down lower.
It had been two years since Kris had done this—that wasn’t long enough ago that his body would have forgotten. He just needed to be reminded.
Adam teased his fingers against Kris, carefully watching Kris’s face for his reaction. Kris was staring down at Adam’s hand. From the angle he was at, he might not be able to see exactly what Adam was doing, but Adam understood why he wanted to look. Adam slid the tip of a finger inside and it went in easy—Kris was expecting it, this time, and that helped. Kris closed his eyes and sighed, with something that sounded close to contentment.
As Adam continued to open Kris up, he couldn’t stop watching Kris’s face—the hints of pleasure and surprise that would flicker across his features, the way his lips parted when Adam put a second finger inside, how his breathing got less and less steady, how his hips moved against Adam’s hand. This could have been five years ago, but Adam could see the changes that maturity had brought to Kris—his face was more angular now and less soft, and the muscles he’d spent the last few years building up were all on display as he twisted and flexed into Adam’s touches. This could have been five years ago, but it was so much better.
When he pulled his fingers out, Kris frowned a little, which was the best sign that he was ready. Adam rolled the condom over his cock, lined himself up and slid in with a whole-body shiver of delight. Kris opened his eyes with a gasp, but he was pushing back against Adam, bringing Adam deeper into him. When Adam was in as far as he could go, he took a moment just to breathe. He hadn’t been a monk in the time since he and Kris had been together, and the sex generally had still always been good, but it hadn’t been the same. It hadn’t been...Adam reached up and stroked his thumb along the curve of Kris’s face. Kris smiled up at him, satisfaction radiating from him so clearly that Adam felt like he could almost trace the curves of that feeling.
Adam reached down and wrapped his hand around Kris’s cock, bringing him off in only a handful of firm strokes, watching as Kris fell apart under his hands. He wiped his hand off on the bed covers and braced himself as he rolled his hips against Kris’s.
Adam came while Kris was still shaking, and he reached down to hold the condom in place as he slid out again. He tied it off and tossed it onto the night stand and Kris made a face.
“You know we’re going to have to clean that, right?” Kris asked.
“Well, if we’re going to be a public couple, we might actually be able to hire someone to clean,” Adam said.
“I’m not sure I want someone else cleaning up my spunk,” Kris said. Adam slid off the bed and grabbed a washcloth from the bathroom, dampening it and cleaning himself off and then going back to the bed and doing the same for Kris. Then he took the blanket off the bed, leaving just the sheet. He patted his hand over where the wet spot had been on the blanket, and the sheet was only mildly damp.
“It’s fine for now,” Adam said. “We can toss the blanket in the wash.”
“We can do that later,” Kris said. He slipped back into the bed, then lifted the sheet up in invitation.
The wine could wait until another night. Adam went over and flipped the light off, then got in next to Kris, pulling him close enough to kiss. Kris was settled in Adam’s arms, warm and close. Adam’s eyes had adjusted enough that he could make out the expression on Kris’s face, thoughtful and reflective.
“I’m sorry that I took so long,” Kris said at last. Adam shook his head a little, resting his hand on Kris’s waist.
“I’m sorry that I was so impatient,” he said. “I...I knew how bad things were for you, but I still kept pushing. I just...I just didn’t want not to be with you, but the way things were...it was killing me. It was.”
“Do you wish we’d waited? That you’d said ‘no’ when I asked you to—” Kris paused, licking his lips. “—how did I put it?”
“What I remember best is the part where you wanted to have sex,” Adam said dryly. “But I...I’m not sure regretting it would even matter. I couldn’t...fuck, Kris, you were one of the cutest guys I’d ever seen, and you said you thought I was beautiful—”
“You are,” Kris said, draping his leg over Adam’s hip, pressing their bodies closer together, skin to skin. He reached up and touched Adam’s face, fingers gently skating over Adam’s features. “So beautiful.”
“—and you wanted to jerk me off. I didn’t stand a chance,” Adam said. He’d felt like a stranger to himself the next morning, had felt horrible and amazing and certain that he was about to keep making what might end up being the biggest mistake of his life.
Kris kissed the curve of Adam’s neck and Adam resettled his hand onto Kris’s hip, letting out a content sigh. “I still want to jerk you off,” Kris said, tracing his fingers down Adam until he was just barely touching the tip of Adam’s cock. Adam shivered, but it was too soon for him to get hard again. Kris didn’t seem bothered though, and he gently touched Adam for a little while longer before pulling his hand away. “Tomorrow morning, maybe,” he said.
“Tomorrow,” Adam whispered back, like a promise.
Tomorrow and, hopefully, the rest of their lives.