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Tomorrow Takes Me Higher

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DAY ONE

 

Adam got the call while he was on a transatlantic flight, London to New York, but since his phone was off and he was taking advantage of the downtime to catch up on his sleep he didn't hear what happened until he was well inside JFK, sunglasses firmly in place and rolling his luggage behind him.

He only listened to the first three messages before hanging up on his voicemail, which was more than enough to get a handle on the situation, and could only imagine how many calls his assistant had been fielding for the past six hours if his own voicemail was that full. There was only one call he wanted to make right now though, stopping at the first available empty seat and ignoring everyone around him. Thankfully Kris picked up on the second ring.

"Tell me everything," he said, without making time for niceties. "What the hell happened?"

"I don't know much more than you do," said Kris without missing a beat. "They found him in his hotel room early this morning. Have you seen the news? It's a media circus."

"I haven't had a chance yet," said Adam, ignoring the people were looking at him, who were photographing him. "But I can imagine."

"Only immediate family is getting information right now, so everything I'm hearing is second and third hand. He's stable, that's all I know for sure right now."

"Are you going?" said Adam. "No, of course you're going. Are you already there?"

"In transit," said Kris. "I got into Chicago about half an hour ago. I'm in the back of a cab right now. Are you in New York? When's your connecting flight to LA? I'll keep you updated when I can."

"It's--" Adam began, then stopped almost immediately. Because until now he hadn't given a second thought to catching his connecting flight, and Kris really had been expecting him to do just that. Matt was in a Chicago hospital after ODing in his hotel room and Adam was just going to carry on with his life. "I'll be on the first flight to Chicago I can. I'll tell Julia I won't be meeting her in LA after all and get her on it as soon as I get off the phone with you."

"You don't have to...I can call you as soon as I find out anything. You're busy."

"No," said Adam, shaking his head though the only people who could see were the ones taking video of him on their phones. "I can be there in a few hours. I'm not doing anything that can't be cancelled. I'm not too busy for this."

He started mentally running through everything he needed to take care of but gave up quickly, deciding to leave it in Julia's capable hands. As of two days ago his tour was over, and he was back home - or at least on the right side of the ocean - and whatever he had going on really could be rescheduled. One of his friends had overdosed in a hotel room, alone, and it could've been him.

"Okay," said Kris, and Adam figured he'd really only been making a token argument to begin with, giving Adam an out that he neither needed nor wanted. "Do you want me to call from the hospital?"

"Yes," said Adam, but only because keeping him on the phone the entire time wasn't an option. "If you can't reach me, just keep trying. I'll let you know when my flight leaves. There's got to be one soon."

"Traffic's bad," said Kris. "I won't be there for a while."

"And if they let you see him," Adam added, "give my best to Matt. And then punch him for being an idiot."

"I'll have to punch him twice," said Kris, sounding a little bit choked up for the first time. "Once for you and once for myself."

"Good," said Adam. "Okay, I’m calling Julia. She's probably freaking out that I haven't already. Take care of yourself, Kris."

"And him," said Kris. "I'll see you soon, Adam."

This didn't come out of the blue, that was the thing. Kris had been keeping him updated on Matt whenever they talked, on the conversations he'd been having with him, on the time he'd been spending with him. And Adam had dutifully listened and made sympathetic noises and done nothing more. It was only now, in hindsight, that he really understood what he'd been hearing, and understood just how much he'd left on Kris's shoulders.

Adam was going to Chicago for Matt's sake first, but he was going for his own and Kris's too, and he might as well own that right from the start.

*

Anoop was actually the first person Adam saw after being smuggled inside through a side door and bypassing as much paparazzi as he could. He couldn't avoid all of them though, and pictures of him arriving were probably up on the news blogs before he even reached the waiting room.

"Adam," he said, slowly pushing himself up out of his seat to greet him. "You came."

"Of course I came," he said. "How is he?"

"Alive," he said, and after a few moments of awkward hesitation he let Adam wrap his arms around him for a moment. "Stupid asshole. He never heard of a phone? We would've come."

It wasn't that easy, but Adam didn't need to say it. Anoop knew that. They all knew.

"Who else is here?" he said instead, grasping Anoop's forearms and keeping him there for a few more moments. He looked a little shaky, but Adam guessed the whole situation would make anyone shaky. He knew he was a little wrecked himself, even if he was practiced enough to keep it on the inside.

"Kris," he said, nodding towards a partially-open door. "He's in the private room. I was just getting claustrophobic in there, nothing to do but sit and wait. Matt's mom hasn't left his side since she got here, except to come out for coffee and updates. She's mostly passing them on to Robin, and Robin's passing them on to us."

"Yeah, I've talked to Kris," said Adam, and resisted the urge to head straight in there as soon as Anoop told him where he was. "He's the one who told me."

"At least you didn't have CNN break it to you," said Anoop. "Let me tell you just how much fun that wasn't."

"If I hadn't been on an airplane I might've," he said. If he hadn't been sleeping and had instead been watching the news he still might've. Not that it would've done him much good, but at least he could've gotten in touch with people sooner. "He'll be glad you're here. You always stuck by him."

"But not enough," said Anoop. "I didn't stick by him enough."

"No, you did," said Adam. "You're not his keeper, you're his friend." Anoop might not've looked convinced, but he stoically nodded his head.

If he was being honest, Anoop had seen a lot more of Matt than Adam had these past few years. Just because both of their careers grew stratospheric, Adam's following an expected trajectory and Matt's coming out of nowhere to make an unexpectedly rapid rise, that didn't mean they saw a lot of each other. Pretty much the opposite, actually; when one had the time, the other almost inevitably didn't.

Their parallel careers didn't mean that Adam was his best friend, they just meant that Adam got him, maybe more than any of the rest of them. It wasn't about Idol anymore, the competition six years and three albums in Adam's past. It was about learning how to cope with what came after.

"God, I need to call my assistant, she hates me so much right now," said Adam after a few moments of silence, but he was looking towards the doorway again and not at his phone.

"He's been waiting for you," said Anoop, nodding Adam in the direction he'd already been looking. "He's taking it pretty hard."

"Idiot's probably blaming himself," said Adam, but was glad of the excuse to do exactly what he wanted to do. He barely even had to look down to dash off a quick text to Julia instead of calling. "You coming?"

"Nah, I think I'll get some sandwiches," said Anoop. "You need to eat something too. I'll get you one."

"I don't need--"

"Yeah right," Anoop interrupted him. "Just...I'm getting everyone sandwiches. Go tell Kris you're here or he'll never forgive either of us."

Adam nodded and he didn't waste any more time before pushing through the door into the inner waiting room. It had been way too long since he'd seen him, and it was a shame they had to do it this way instead of two days from now back in LA, at a dinner they already had planned.

"Adam," said Kris, up out of his seat before Adam was even through the door, straight into Adam's arms and holding him close. For a long time they didn't need to say anything at all.

When they finally parted, when Kris finally backed away and sank back into his chair like he couldn't even find the energy to stand up anymore, Adam took the hard plastic seat next to him, ignoring the couches across the room, and said, "It's not your fault."

"I know that," said Kris. "I do know that."

"That doesn't mean you don't need somebody to say it," said Adam. "If there was anything you could do, you already did it."

"I knew he was having a rough time."

"Everyone knew he was having a rough time," said Adam. "You were having a rough time too."

"Not really," said Kris. "Not so much. And I wasn't so busy I couldn’t have come up and just stayed with him instead of trying to do this over phone and email--"

"No, stop," said Adam. "Kris, you can't save everyone, and he has to accept your help before you can give it."

"I know," said Kris, but much like with Matt, it was going to take more than words to convince him of that. "Maybe now he will."

"Maybe now he will," agreed Adam, and put his arm around Kris's shoulders and was glad for this small amount of privacy they were allowed in the middle of this madness. "I guess now we just wait, huh?"

"It's all I've been doing since I got here," said Kris. "Waiting and messaging people and waiting some more. And talking to Matt's ex-wife."

"Oh God," said Adam. "How the hell did that fall on your shoulders?"

"Too nice, I guess," said Kris. While Adam could understand completely why he didn't want to burden Matt's mother with that, it was a job that could easily have been passed on to his assistant, and the fact that Kris hadn't made it seem like the call was some kind of punishment Kris was bent on inflicting on himself. "She's not coming."

"Are you surprised?" said Adam. "Lindsay's handlers probably wouldn't have let her even if she wanted to. They're all over the clean and sober image right now; wouldn't want her associating with something like this unless they had complete control of the media."

"Which they never have," said Kris. "At least now it's done with and nobody else has to worry about it. But you...you must be so jetlagged right now."

"I guess," said Adam, running a hand through his hair and thinking about how wretched it had probably looked when he was rushing through O'Hare (and you'd better believe there were paparazzi there too). "I'm still running on adrenaline right now. I'll probably crash pretty hard later."

"You got a place to stay?"

"Julia set something up," said Adam. "Details are on my phone. I haven't even really looked."

Kris just dug the phone right out of Adam's pocket and looked it up himself. "Okay, good," he said. "She talked to Cameron a few hours ago. You're in the same hotel as me. Same floor."

"What, no penthouse suite?" said Adam, cracking a tired little smile as he rolled his head back and closed his eyes for a moment.

"You'll live, rock star," said Kris. "We can ride over together later."

"I'm not going anywhere till I see him," said Adam, though he probably didn't have a lot of say in the matter. His influence got him a lot of places, but here in the emergency room it didn't mean anything at all.

"That's what I mean," said Kris, and after handing Adam's phone back he rested his head on Adam's shoulder as they waited. Adam didn't relax, but he came the closest to it that he had in what felt like a very long time.

*

"Look, you should just release a statement," Adam was hearing in one ear while he watched Kris pace the room, so worn down he was practically shuffling. "It'll take a lot of pressure off, for now at least."

He really should've done something like that already. He really should've done it back in the airport in New York while he was waiting for his flight, and it wasn't like Adam not to be on the ball about something like this. But this whole thing had really hit him hard, and he wasn't sorry that it had. Better it hit him hard than not sink in at all.

"Write something up," he said, half watching Kris's progress and half watching the door for any news. "Short and sweet. Matt's a good friend and my thoughts are with him in this difficult time while we hope for a speedy recovery. Or something like that. You know how to do this."

"Okay, good, I'll send it to you to sign off on," she said, but as soon as a doctor finally joined the five of them currently in the waiting room he was hardly paying attention anymore. This was the kind of thing he just had to trust other people to do for him.

"I've gotta go," said Adam, and disconnected the call before anyone could say anything else. His assistant really was going to hate him before the day was over.

When Kris reached for his hand, Adam didn't hesitate to give it to him as they braced themselves for the worst and hoped for the best.

What they got was five minutes with Matt each, one at a time, and the assurance that he was going to wake up eventually. It wasn't much, but it was at least enough to ease Adam's fears that Matt was in worse shape than anyone had been letting on. He was sleeping now, just sleeping, and it was clear from the easy rise and fall of his chest that he was out of the woods. This time, anyway.

"All right," said Adam when he left the room, the last person to spend time with Matt before his mother took over her bedside vigil again. "We can go now."

Kris was the only one left, and he nodded his head and grabbed his bag and seemed as happy as Adam to finally feel okay enough to leave.

*

Adam had a huge suite and normally he would've spread himself all over it as soon as he got inside, clothes and accessories and product, and thrown the curtains open and maybe aired out the bed a little before making himself a drink. But today he just dumped his luggage on the floor, changed into pajama pants worn through at the knee and an old, grey t-shirt, and slipped up the hall to Kris's room, witnessed by no one.

Kris held up a finger as he entered and Adam lingered by the door, not quite coming into the room but not quite leaving it either. "Hey, Max," he was saying. "How's it going, buddy?"

Adam nodded his head and motioned towards the bathroom, like Kris needed to know that he would be hiding out in there for the duration of his phone call. But when Kris was talking to his kids Adam liked to give him a at least a little bit of privacy, whether he asked for it or not.

Kris's bathroom was as spare as it had always been. Toothpaste, hair gel, contact lens solution, and a whole lot of empty space. He could still hear the sound of Kris's voice through the bathroom door but he couldn't hear the conversation, just the gentle rumble of speech. Sadie was probably sleeping already, not big enough yet to stay up much past dinnertime, but Max could talk your ear off if you let him. That one definitely took after his mother.

Adam was reading the back of the shampoo bottle for the third time when he heard a knock at the door.

"You didn't have to leave," Kris said, finding the door unlocked and poking his head inside. "It wasn't private."

"Just wanted to give you some time," said Adam, putting the bottle down. "How's the family?"

"Max wanted to tell me about the new friend he met at preschool," said Kris, "and I already talked to Katy before you got here. You know, worked out who gets the kids when during the holidays. Everyone says I should get it in writing but she's still Katy. It'll be fine."

Adam wanted to tell him to get it in writing anyway, not because of Katy but because of the people who were undoubtedly surrounding her. If there was one thing Adam had learned, it was just to make sure terms were laid out clearly no matter how much you trusted the person you were working with.

But this wasn't a business relationship, this was a dissolved marriage, and no matter what the similarities Adam's input was not needed here.

"So did you get Christmas?"

"Next year," said Kris, shaking his head. He looked fine with it, though. Maybe a little disappointed, but not upset. "We're both going to be in Arkansas with our families this year so I can have them Christmas Eve without it being too much shuffling around for them. She wants to go away with them over Easter next year, so I can have them for a week at Christmas. It's a fair compromise."

"Good," said Adam, even though that probably wasn't the best way to put it. Still, in the midst of everything else it was one less thing for him to have to worry about. "Is she going to come up here with them?"

Kris was shaking his head before Adam could even finish. "No, not right now," he said. "They don't need to see this, and I don't know how to explain it to them. I'll spend some extra time with them when I get back home, and call them every night. They're looking forward to seeing you too, you know."

"Sadie doesn't even know me."

"She knows your voice," said Kris, "and Max talks about you all the time. Apparently you give better presents than we do."

Adam didn't have to ask if Kris missed them. He just wrapped his arms around him until Kris pressed his forehead to Adam's shoulder and finally relaxed.

"I'll make tea," said Adam, rubbing his back with one hand, "and then we can talk about--"

"What we're doing here. Matt. Everything," finished Kris, lifting his head. "It's really good to see you again, Adam. This is easier with you."

Adam was pretty sure he wasn't just talking about this, about Matt and about everything he was going though, and the ways in which Kris had been going through it with him. He'd separated from Katy long before Adam had left on his world tour, but divorcing was a process, and even when it was over it wasn't really over.

"We don't have to do this now," he said, but doing this now gave them both an excuse to spend this time together. Otherwise Adam might as well have been in his own room, in his own bed right now.

"I've been trying, with Matt," said Kris. "I knew things weren't great. I knew he needed more help than I could give him."

"And what, you were going to force it on him?" said Adam. "Kris, I can't let you carry this on your shoulders. You weren't telling Matt anything he didn't already know. It was on him to let it sink in."

"I just keep running through it in my head," said Kris, "wondering if there was something I missed, you know? Something more I could've done so it never came to this."

"There wasn't," said Adam, feeling sure of that at least. "Any more than I could've done something, and I actually have experience with some of these things. Second guessing yourself will just drive you crazy. You did everything you could. Hell, I'm the one who should be feeling guilty here, if anyone should be."

"What, why?" said Kris, but Adam shook his head.

"Just be there for him now, because now's when he's really going to need you. Us."

"Is that why you came?"

"Maybe," said Adam. "Partly. I came because...I just had to come. You ever get that feeling, like you just have to do something?"

"All the time," said Kris, lying back on the bed and putting one arm behind his head. "I just probably call it something different from what you do."

"Yeah, maybe," said Adam, stretching out next to him. "So now that we're here, tell me what's going on with you. I loved that song you sent me last week."

"Yeah, been working on that with the band," said Kris, and smiled a little and seemed relieved to be able to talk about something good going on in his life.

Adam didn't mean to fall asleep on Kris's bed, but they were still talking when he finally crashed. And when he woke up again who knew how many hours later, he was under the covers on one side of the bed and Kris was asleep on the other, and it all felt so comfortably much like old times that he had no trouble falling asleep again for the rest of the night.

 

DAY TWO

 

When they returned to the hospital in the morning, shoulder to shoulder as they made their way through the front doors this time, all but the most persistent paparazzi cleared from the area as a dangerous nuisance, they were told that Matt was awake. A little out of it, but awake.

"Doesn't mean we'll be able to talk to him," Adam murmured in Kris's ear, but Kris looked hopeful anyway and for his sake Adam hoped that he would be able to. Adam wasn't sure, now that the opportunity was in front of him, whether it would be a good idea for him to see Matt just yet or not.

They sat down in the same waiting room, with the same nurses at the same nursing station, the same chairs and the same feelings of frustration and helplessness. It wasn't any better now that Matt was awake, because the same unsolved issues still hung over everyone's heads.

Matt OD'd on cocaine, alone in a hotel room, and having him regain consciousness didn't make that okay.

"Do you think they're going to force him into rehab?" said Kris, but Adam shook his head.

"No," he said, "but he'll go anyway, because his publicist will tell him that it's the only way to make this right in the public eye. Minimum program they offer, and who knows if it'll do him any good, but at least it's something."

"That's not very reassuring."

"You'd rather I lie to you?" said Adam, and Kris shook his head and then rested it against Adam's shoulder as they sat there, ignoring their phones and everyone around them.

It was three hours before someone told them they could have a few minutes with him, which was two hours after Anoop had a brief and apparently emotionally draining visit, and following his mother's marathon forty-five minute conversation.

"You should go," he told Kris, but Kris grabbed his arm and they were both going in or neither one would.

Matt looked like a disaster, small and pale and tired against the hospital sheets.

"Okay, I'm trying really hard not to be mad at you right now," said Kris, the first words out of his mouth. "Really, really hard."

Matt just nodded, looking thin and tired and resigned.

"I'm going to yell at you too," said Adam, "I'm just waiting till we're not in the hospital to do it. Idiot."

He nodded again, without saying anything. But he'd talked to Anoop earlier so Adam knew that he could talk, if he wanted to.

Kris looked like he was going to say something else, then just bent down towards the bed and pressed his forehead to Matt's shoulder. "You really scared us," he said, his voice muffled by the hospital gown. "I don't know what you were thinking."

Adam did know what he was thinking, he got that much, and it scared him a little how it got so far when Matt had places to turn and people to turn to. Matt had people, and he hadn't gone to any of them. Or maybe Matt just had all the wrong people now, and had forgotten about the right ones. Adam knew a little something about the temptation of going in that direction.

"Just take a vacation or something," said Adam. "Come hide in my guest room and soak in my hot tub and swim in my pool. Or something. Open invitation."

Matt turned his head to look away, but Adam could see that he was still listening. Not just listening, but paying attention.

"Me too," said Kris. "I don't know what I'd do if this happened again. It could've been so much worse."

"I know," said Matt, without looking at either of them.

Everyone knew he could've died. Who knew how close he'd actually come, maybe only the doctors knew that, but it was a very real possibility. And at least Matt knew that, on more than just an intellectual level.

"If I've been a dick," Adam said after a moment, "I'm sorry. I'm here now."

Kris was the one who looked up at that. "Adam, you haven't--" he started, but stopped when Adam waved him off.

"I just wanted to say it," he said, to Matt, not to Kris. "You don't have to say anything."

Actually, there were probably a lot of things Matt needed to say to them, but not right now, not right this second. He'd open his mouth when he was ready to open his mouth, and not a moment sooner.

And he didn't, not for the rest of the time they were in there, even though Kris kept talking to him quietly. At least he made eye contact with Kris, nodding every once in a while. Adam just sat quietly, rested his hand on Matt's leg and felt like it was enough, for now, that Matt let him.

*

Adam was getting damn tired of his phone ringing. He'd already talked to his family, his friends, his assistant, and had his PR team all over his ass telling him he couldn't hang out in a hospital for a week. To which Adam told them the hell he couldn't, and if they needed anything from him that urgently they knew where to reach Julia. It might not have been much of a break, spending his time here, but it was what Adam had chosen and frankly, since he had just come off tour and had nothing scheduled, it was none of their damn business.

But this call wasn't from any of the people he'd already spoken to, and Adam picked up quickly before she gave up on him.

"Allie!" said Adam before he even heard her voice on the other end of the line. "Hey, how are you?"

"Cut the shit," she said. "Tell me about Matt."

Kris was looking up at Adam over the newspaper he'd been reading - or at least pretending to read - and Adam gave him a smile and a nod and an implicit promise to hand over the phone when he was done.

"He's fine."

"Bullshit."

"Well, obviously he's not fine, but he he's awake and talking and breathing, and sometimes you've got to take what you can get," said Adam.

"Fuck it, I'm booking the next flight," said Allison. "I can be there in, like, twelve hours."

"You don't need to do that," said Adam. "We've got this, Allie. You're in Sweden, for God's sake. You don't need to fly over here just to talk to Matt for ten minutes."

"Then tell me how he's really doing," she said, "and don't spare me the tough details."

"He's okay," said Adam. "No brain damage or anything, unless you already think he has some for getting himself into this in the first place." Allison snorted her agreement. "He's feeling like shit, though, and not just because he's got nothing in his system right now. The entire fucking planet ran with this story, so he can't pretend it didn't happen."

"Well, good," said Allison. "Are you sure I shouldn't come there and sit on him or something? Because you'd better believe I can reschedule some of this shit and show up if I have to."

"Really, we've got this," said Adam. "So hey, Kris wants to talk to you."

"Kris is there? With you? Right now?"

"Yeah, he's right here," said Adam. "Where else did you think he'd be?"

"Nowhere, I guess," she said. "Pass me over and let me give him some instructions too, then. If I can't be there, you guys can at least do my job for me."

"Believe me, we are," said Adam. "There was even yelling, and not just from me. Well, as much as you can yell in a hospital."

"If it was me it would've been actual yelling," insisted Allison. "All right, gimme Kris. He's probably making those eyes at you right now."

Kris was, in fact, making some kind of eyes at Adam, though he wasn't quite sure if they were the kind of eyes that Allison was talking about. Either way, he held out the phone in Kris's direction and Kris wasted no time practically jumping out of his seat to grab it out of Adam's hand.

"Hey, Allie?" he said, then there was a long pause as Kris likely got the same speech Adam had. "Yeah, don't worry, we told him. So how's the recording going?"

There was another long pause as Allison launched into it again, and Adam wandered away to study a painting, nothing interesting at all, or particularly soothing either, but it gave him something to focus on so he didn't eavesdrop on the conversation. Not that either of them probably would've really cared if he had.

He was just trying to figure out whether the figures in the little sailboat were male or female when he felt a hand on his back, then on his shoulder, and didn't even start because he knew that touch was Kris's without even having to think about it.

"Apparently we have some more yelling to do," he said, and Adam laughed as he took back the phone. "I don't even know what to say to him anymore. I just don't. I mean, does he understand he could've had a heart attack? Does he understand he could've died?"

"Yeah," said Adam. "Yeah, he understands that. It just doesn't matter as much as it should."

"Maybe I should kidnap him to Arkansas," said Kris. "I'm not too busy lately. I could babysit him in some cabin in the mountains."

"Then I'd have to come too," said Adam, "and as fond as I am of you, Kristopher, there are some things I’m just not willing to do."

"I knew it was bad," said Kris, "and I didn't do anything."

"You didn't know it was this bad."

"No, I did," said Kris. "I knew it was this bad. He called me a couple weeks ago, all jittery and confused. I talked him through it, told him to get medical help but he wouldn't so I just kept him on the phone with me. I knew it was this bad and I didn't make him get help."

Adam was quiet for a moment, and he'd known that Kris was trying to be there for Matt when he could, one of the closest friends Matt still had who weren't all mixed up in his scene, but he hadn't realized that Kris knew as much as he did. Not that it changed anything.

"You gave him good advice," he said. "You told him to get medical help. And knowing you, you even looked it up for him in whatever city he was in so he wouldn't have to do anything."

Kris's silence was a clear yes. "He was in Philadelphia," he said finally. "I could've--"

"You could've what?" said Adam, turning around and kissing Kris on the forehead. "You did more than anyone else."

"I didn't know about the other stuff he was doing," he added a moment later. "I probably should have."

"Yeah, well, what's that about hindsight?" said Adam. "Keep beating yourself up like this and we're going to find bruises under those clothes, Kris. Seriously. Stop now. Right here and right now, just stop now. The only person who was ever going to stop Matt is Matt."

"But--"

"Stop now," said Adam again, holding both of Kris's upper arms, firmly but carefully, too. "This isn't on your shoulders. We've all made some mistakes in our lives, and maybe a lot of things here could've been done differently, but this isn't on you."

"I guess I got a little more wrapped up in it than I thought," he admitted grudgingly a moment later. "I think Matt ran out of people to call."

"That's on Matt too," said Adam. "Come on, let's go down to the cafeteria. This place is driving both of us a little too nuts. If anything happens, we'll still hear about it."

"I should probably call home," said Kris. "Max'll be getting home from preschool any minute now. If he was good today, maybe he can talk to Uncle Adam."

"He can talk to Uncle Adam when he's bad, too," said Adam, and that was all the encouragement he needed to haul Kris out of the stifling waiting room and lead him downstairs.

*

Room service actually made a mean steak au poivre, which was something Adam had learned not to take for granted. "Good, you do still eat," he said as Kris dug into his burger. "I was starting to think I was going to have to go out and find some fast food for you."

"I don't eat that much take-out," said Kris. "Well, not anymore, anyway. It's a lot less tasty when you have someone on repeat in your head reminding you that one day your metabolism won't be able to keep up anymore."

"Yeah, enjoy that hamburger, then," said Adam, smirking at him but certainly not trying to discourage his appetite. Or his own. If there was ever a time to do whatever the hell he wanted, this was it, and the tour'd taken fifteen pounds off him anyway. "We should've gotten you dessert."

"Or we can save that for later," said Kris, licking his fingers clean. I mean...actually, I have no idea what that was supposed to mean. I'm so hungry, though. I feel like I haven't eaten in days."

"I'm not sure you have," said Adam, "other than cafeteria coffee, and I'm pretty sure that doesn't count."

"I don't know, it might count when you actually have to chew it," said Kris. "My mother would probably argue with that. I probably shouldn't suggest it."

"You look like you're feeling better," said Adam as he finished off as much of his dinner as he was planning to eat, which was actually most of it.

"I'm all right," said Kris. "A little relieved, I guess. I've got this new song I want to work on tonight, so I guess that's got my head in a better place."

"Yeah?" said Adam. "Anything you'd be willing to play for me?"

"Well, I have a feeling you're going to be hanging around in here, so I might not have a choice," said Kris, his smile suggesting he didn't mind that. "You've heard me tooling around on my guitar often enough."

"I do have some calls to make, if you want to kick me out for a while," said Adam. "Actually, I've got some calls to make whether you kick me out or not. I've put them off long enough."

"Yeah, I hear that," said Kris. "I've just decided mine can wait till tomorrow. I'm not in a really urgent place right now, you know? I've got my own stuff to deal with today."

"Yeah," agreed Adam, and even though he knew he actually did need to return a couple of calls today, there were a lot more he was still putting off. "It would probably be a bad idea to find a little hole in the wall karaoke bar and just sing some shit tonight, right?"

"Probably," said Kris, "but hey, do what you need to do and deal with the photographs tomorrow."

If only it was that easy anymore. Unless he found a real hole in the wall, Adam would be mobbed.

"I feel like an asshole, saying I wish he'd never gotten famous," he said after a moment, "but if he'd never gotten famous, we wouldn't be here right now. It wouldn't be like this."

"You don't know that," said Kris. "It might've been just like this. It might've been worse."

"You don't really believe that, do you?"

"We just don't know," said Kris, holding his ground. "Sure, it would've happened differently, but it might've still happened. The only thing we know for sure is that there'd be fewer paparazzi outside, and who knows, they might've still showed up for you."

"They wouldn't have known I was coming," said Adam, not disingenuous enough to deny that he was the big draw. "Apparently no one expected me to come."

"People thought you had better things to do," said Kris. "You have a lot going on."

"I don't, though," said Adam. "Not that's so important that I couldn't be here. Or nothing that should be considered that important, anyway. Is that what people expect of me?"

"It's not a character assessment, Adam," said Kris. "He's not dying, and you've been super busy this year. Sometimes even I don't know how you find enough hours in a day, and I've been there."

"What if it was me?" said Adam. "What if it was me in the hospital?"

"You're not trying to tell me something, are you?" said Kris, looking at him warily. "Because I know you still do stuff sometimes, but--"

"No, no, I'm not," Adam interrupted him. "I don't know what I’m trying to say. Matt, your divorce, my brother's new job...have I lost touch this year? Have I not been here when I was needed?"

"Things are always going to happen in life," said Kris. "You don't put yours on hold to take care of everyone else all the time. I can't speak for anyone else, but you were there when I needed you. The hard part wasn't the divorce, it was the stuff leading up to it."

Adam snorted and gave Kris a weak smile. "So you're telling me I can take my own advice, right?"

"Unless you didn't mean it," said Kris, "but I was just starting to let it sink in, so I hope you did." He polished off the last of his burger and licked off his fingers. "Sometimes I wish we were all just in a some little band that toured the country in an old van and just had a great time. I think I would be okay with that."

"No stress," said Adam, "except trying to make enough to live on." He loved his life, and loved his huge, decadent shows, but he got what Kris was saying. Sometimes he wished for that too. "I'd be lead singer."

"Of course you would," said Kris. "After all, you can't do anything else."

"Oh, snap," said Adam. "I'm getting decent on piano, you know. But keyboard would be Matt's job. You'd be on guitar, of course. We'd need a bass player. Maybe I can just bring mine."

"We'd hang out and play little clubs and sell CDs out of the van and life would be good," said Kris, then sighed. "In another life, right?"

"In another life," agreed Adam, "which we don't have, so I guess we'll just have to fix this one."

 

DAY THREE

 

Because nobody was looking and nobody seemed to care, Adam had his booted feet up on the bed, crossed at the ankle and slouched down in his seat.

"I liked Australia," he said, as Matt mostly sat there and listened. And he was listening, occasionally reacting at appropriate moments. "I wish I could've stayed longer, maybe had an actual visit. I'm thinking about taking a vacation there. Once I have time for a vacation anyway."

Matt nodded and looked out the window for a moment.

"There's never enough time, though, right?" said Adam. "You've sort of got to enjoy things while you can. Sydney's amazing, though, even though I never got out of the city."

"I'm going to get up," Matt said abruptly, not an interruption to the story but, Adam hoped, a reaction to it. "I'm sick of this bed."

"You need a hand?"

"No," said Matt, and Adam knew he was fine, physically, but the lethargy had been a stumbling block before now. While Adam waited he pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and planted himself in a chair by the window. It actually had a really gorgeous view of the city, and as Adam took the other chair opposite him he took in the view for a moment. "I needed to get dressed today anyway."

There was a miniature fountain on the table next to the window, one of those ones that were supposed to be calming, and when Adam checked the card he saw that it had come from Scott.

"We should go out one of these days," he said. "Kris wants to check out the Art Institute while we're here, and I've never been, so...."

"You're not just carefully trying not to suggest anything that resembles partying, right?"

"No, we actually do want to go," said Adam. "I'm a little worried that we'll be mobbed, though. It's no secret we're in town. But that just sort of comes with the territory, right? Plus, he vetoed karaoke." Matt just smiled a little, and Adam nodded slowly and just kept going. "It's nice being back, after that tour. It was really starting to wear me down. I know you know how that is.

"Neither one of us ever really saw this coming, did we?" As much as Adam had always worked hard towards this very career, he still didn't really know what it was going to be like until he was in the middle of it. Nothing could prepare you for that. "I know how hard it is, Matt."

"I know," he said, and stared out the window again.

"It's good to see you again, even like this," he said. "There's just never enough time. It's great to see Kris again, too. I was going to see him again soon anyway, but...well, you know how it is."

"Yeah," said Matt quietly. "Kris is great."

"Have you heard some of his new stuff?" said Adam. "I love it, it's so him. I listened to it on just about every flight, when I wasn't stuck in meetings. It kind of kept me grounded, you know? It's pretty easy to just...get lost in it all."

Matt just nodded, and put his feet up on the windowsill.

"It's good to know that there are always people to bring us back," said Adam.

And then he was quiet for a little while, as they both let the rhythms of the city outside lull them into a comfortable silence.

*

Julia was actually in town, which Adam hadn't asked of her but she said she felt a professional obligation to actually be at his side for at least a few hours. And since she had everything under control in LA on his behalf, it wasn't like Adam was going to tell her no. He knew what happened when Julia was mad at him, and he knew he'd been difficult enough this week.

And honestly, it was nice to have a little face time with his assistant again. He was used to having her by his side throughout the whole tour, taking care of everything that Adam didn't have the time to, so even though he'd been taking a break from all that it was sometimes a little like missing his left arm.

He paid for a very nice lunch for her before she had to catch a flight back to LA, and when he made it back to the hospital, after stopping to sign some autographs in the lobby - patients and their families, not just fans who'd made it inside - he made his way up to Matt's room to see Kris there by his bedside, holding his phone out so Matt could check out a few of the pictures on it.

He hovered in the doorway, unseen by either of them yet, and figured if they really wanted a private conversation the door would be closed.

"This is Max's birthday party last year," said Kris, as Matt took the phone from his hand. "Me and Katy got him this big cake, all his favorite Jumble Jungle Critters on it, and while his friends gorged on the cake all Max wanted to eat were the vegetables from the platters we had set out for the parents."

"Are you sure he's a kid and not some kind of miniature adult?" said Matt, scrolling to the next picture.

"My mom says he was just testing his boundaries," said Kris, "but I don't know how carrot sticks figure into his boundaries. Anyway, we just let him, and after the party he seemed pretty happy to just keep the Elephiraffe figure from the top of the cake."

"How are things with Katy anyway?" said Matt, still making his way through the pictures.

"Good," said Kris. "Really good. We're friends again, which after last year is just really nice. I missed that more than anything else, you know?"

"I'm sorry I never asked before," said Matt. "I should've asked."

"Well, you're asking now," said Kris, leaning over to see what picture Matt was on. "Oh, that's Sadie in Grandma's lap. Mom spoils her rotten."

"I just bet she does," said Matt. "And the kids are doing okay with the split?"

"Sadie doesn't really know the difference," said Kris, "and I think Max is actually doing better now. We're happier so he's happier. And both sets of grandparents spoiling him for a while probably helped. He has more toys than we know what to do with, at both our places."

"So I shouldn’t send more, then?" said Matt.

Kris just laughed. "Hey, send them whatever you want," said Kris, "but I'm going to have to insist you visit in person when you do."

In the end it wasn't Adam who interrupted them but Robin, gently pushing past him into the room. "Matt," she said, "I'm sorry but we've got some things to go through before your discharge papers are processed."

"I'll just go then," said Kris, taking his phone when Matt handed it back and then looking up at the door. "Hey Adam."

"Hey," he said, giving both of them a wave and then moving out of the way so that things could be done that needed to be done.

*

Kris was hovering at the nurses station signing an autograph for one of their young daughters and Matt's assistant was arguing with someone on the phone and someone in a suit who Adam was sure was high up in Matt's management had shown up in person to deal with a few things, so Adam was staying out of the way of what was already a ridiculous assortment of people for a hospital hallway.

Anoop stood next to him, leaning against the wall and watching the door of Matt's room as a lengthy conversation went on inside.

"I need to get back to LA," he said after a moment, "and Matt says he'll kill me if I don't go. He doesn't want anyone to pass up an opportunity because of him."

There were a lot of reasons why Matt might be pushing people away, but this was a completely legitimate one. "Good," said Adam. "What've you got going on?"

"Working with a new producer," said Anoop. "It's a tight schedule, a sort of now or never thing. I know he's right, I'm just worried about him."

"Kris and I are going to stick around a little longer," said Adam, "if that helps."

"It does, a little," he admitted. "I'm surprised someone hasn't come to spirit you away yet."

"Yeah, well, don't think they haven't threatened," said Adam. "And they know exactly where I'm staying, so they could do it."

"Why are you still here?" asked Anoop. "I know it's none of my business, but...."

"Yeah, I know," said Adam. "I just need to be here right now. For Matt, for me, for Kris."

"For Kris, huh," said Anoop, less a question than a conclusion. He watched Kris at the nurses' station for a few moments. "Yeah, I guess you would be."

"Anoop...."

"No, I know," he said. "That was a long time ago. Anyway. Kris seems to have shaken off whatever he had going on when he got here, so whatever you're doing, it seems to be working."

"Kris takes too much on his shoulders sometimes," said Adam. "Even more since he became a father. But Matt's not his responsibility."

"Yet the two of you are still staying."

"For a few more days," said Adam, "or until Matt leaves. I'm still not sure what's happening there, what he's going to do, and I'm not exactly in the loop for that kind of information."

"I don't think he knows what he's doing yet either," said Anoop. "I need to leave for the airport as soon as he gets settled into the hotel, assuming that happens in the next hour or so."

"They're just finishing off the paperwork," said Adam. "Kris and I are heading back to the hotel in a few minutes if you want to ride over with us."

"Cab, or did you get a car sent over?"

"Car," said Adam. "Lots of room for you and your luggage. You already check out of your place?"

"Yeah, this morning," said Anoop, "before I came back to the hospital. Once I knew Matt would be getting out today. Did you see the gift basket from Sarver?"

"Yeah, that was nice," said Adam. "That was smart." Fresh foods and crackers and teas instead of flowers or some ridiculously rich crap that no one would actually eat. Adam didn't read the note that he sent with it, but whatever it was, it made Matt smile. "Robin already sent it on ahead to the hotel along with everything else."

"Does he really need to be surrounded by stuffed animals and flowers right now?" said Anoop.

"Okay, most of those have been shipped home or donated," conceded Adam, "but frankly, he could probably do with a few."

Kris was obviously saying his good-byes, so Adam pushed himself away from the wall and gave him a nod, then checked his phone. The car was downstairs whenever they were ready.

"Okay," he said. "Time to go."

*

Megan arrived just before dinner, breathless and looking spectacular. Adam met her down in the lobby and greeted her with open arms.

"Girl, you did not tell me you were coming!" he said, giving her a squeeze.

"I didn't think I was going to be able to," she said, dropping her bag right there on the floor, "but I got my flights changed. I need to be in New York tomorrow, but tonight I'm all yours. Or his, actually, since you just happen to be here."

"Oh, I see how it is," said Adam, reaching for her bag for her. "Matt's in a bit of a mood right now, but I'm sure he'll be thrilled to see you anyway."

"He'd better be," she said, "that little shit. I just need to throw my things in my room and then you can show me where he is." She reached for her bag, and seemed surprised when Adam already had it. "Wow, a gentleman."

"If you're surprised by this, then you've been hanging around the wrong guys," said Adam, leading the way to the elevators while people snapped pictures of them from many sides. "What's in New York?"

"A shoot for Cover Girl," she said. "Which means I am not allowed to party with you and Kris tonight."

"And you know that Kris Allen," said Adam dryly. "He's such a party animal."

Megan laughed and gave him a nudge as they got off at her floor. "You know what I mean," she said. "I haven't seen you two in ages. And I haven't seen the two of you together since...I don't even remember when."

"Believe me, I know," said Adam. "We've pretty much been laying low since we got here, though. As much as we can, which isn't as much as we'd like."

"I'm surprised anyone's been letting you lay low at all," said Megan. "Did I tell you I was about three hours too late to catch your show in Tokyo? I was so disappointed. By the time I got settled in you were already on your way out of the country."

"Would've loved to have seen you," said Adam as they arrived at her room. "Matt's upstairs from us. He's pissed they won't leave him unsupervised, but he's doing all right. I'll leave you alone with him, but give me or Kris a call later, all right? We're just going to grab something to eat and hang out in his room for a while."

"You know I will," she said, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "He doing all right?"

"Matt's fine," Adam promised her. "He's going to be okay."

"I mean Kris," said Megan. "God knows I've been getting a dozen Matt updates a day, between all of you. But you're here for Kris, right? I mean, I know the two of you...if anyone would know how Kris is doing, it's you."

"Kris is fine too," said Adam. "He's doing really good lately. I think things have been good for him this last while, in spite of everything. And the new album is going amazingly."

"Good," said Megan. "Good. Okay, sweet thing, I'll talk to you soon."

*

Megan brought dessert with her when she arrived at Kris's door, which made Adam both curse and bless her simultaneously. "Shut up," she said before he could even open his mouth. "You're bonier than I remember. Have some cake."

"I do not need cake," said Adam, and enthusiastically accepted it from her anyway.

"Megaaaaaan," said Kris, practically flying at her from where he'd been hanging out on the window seat. "You look amazing."

"Oh my God, Kris Allen, are you hitting on me?" she said. "I always wondered what would happen if you were single."

"Oh, hey, I'm not," Kris backpedaled quickly, but Megan just laughed and Kris hmphed at her. "I take it back. You don't look amazing at all."

"Well, you do," she said as he grabbed her in a full body hug. "And we all know it wouldn't be me you were hitting on anyway."

"Oh, we all know that, do we?" he said archly. "Did you bring Ryder with you?"

"No, he's got school," she said, "and this is such a quick trip, I'll be back the day after tomorrow."

"You need to bring him to visit the kids some time," said Kris. "Is he old enough to babysit yet?"

"Give it a few more years," she said. "How are they doing?"

"They're great," said Kris. "They're amazing."

And Adam got out of the way for the inevitable displaying of pictures on both sides, making up a few drinks for all of them and passing them out before settling down on the chair by the window, scrolling through his messages. Nothing was urgent, as far as he was concerned, except calling his assistant back to confirm everything for tomorrow, and that only took a few minutes. Everyone was so happy that he and Kris were finally taking on some press that no one was pushing their luck.

He'd already heard Kris's latest stories about Max's adventures in preschool, but it was kind of nice to sit back and listen to them again as Kris related them with great enthusiasm to an equally enthusiastic Megan. Who in turn was happy to tell him what to expect when Max was a few years older.

Since Adam was setting his own schedule at the moment, maybe he could finagle himself an extended visit with them when he was back in LA. After all, he'd be in the same city again, it couldn't be that hard. And he could totally do interviews with Sadie in his lap, though to be fair he wasn't sure how much she'd grown since he'd last seen her.

"Hey, do you have a recent picture of Sadie?" he asked suddenly.

Kris just laughed at him. "Is yesterday recent enough for you?" he said, flipping through his phone for a moment and then tossing it in Adam's direction. "That's ketchup, in case you were wondering."

Adam smirked at the red smeared all over her face and dress and thought she was the most adorable kid in the world in spite of it. "Thanks," he said. Yeah, she could totally sit in his lap while he did interviews. "Just working something out."

"I'm not even sure I want to know," said Kris as Adam tossed the phone back and got up to make himself another drink.

"Don't worry, I'm not stealing your child for nefarious purposes," he promised him. "Megan, you want another?"

"Oh wow, is mine gone already?" she said, but she hadn't drunk it particularly quickly so much as the two of them had lost track of time. "Sure, thanks."

"What time's your flight?" said Adam, pouring her another vodka and cranberry from the makeshift bar. "Or really, what time do you have to get up?"

"I need to be out of here by six," she said, "so promise you won't get me too drunk. No one looks beautiful with a hangover. Not even you."

"Make-up can work miracles," said Adam, but he wasn't going to recommend pushing it. There were miracles, and then there were miracles. "Kris, you want anything while I'm up?"

"No, I'm good," he said, still nursing his one drink, the ice long since melted. After handing Megan her drink, Adam sat down next to him on the loveseat and dropped some more ice in, unasked.

"It's your own fault it gets so watered down," he said, then put his feet up. "We've got to be up early too. I think my first interview is at five-thirty."

"Yeah, me too," said Kris. "And I'd like to be at least a little coherent for it. Sleepy interviews never go well."

"Well, they do," said Adam, "just not for you. I get my best blackmail material when you're half-awake."

"Ditto," said Kris, kicking Adam's foot lightly with his own as he put them up on the coffee table next to Adam's. "You want me to call you?"

"No, I'll be good," said Adam. "Don't forget about breakfast at seven-thirty, though, or I'm coming to get you."

"I never forget about breakfast," said Kris. "So when do we get to see you sing again, Megan? I miss it, you know."

"You will," she promised him. "This spring, I'm going to do a little club tour, and nobody's talking me out of it this time. I'll send you the details as soon as we work them out."

"That's great," said Adam. "Seriously great, Megs! Have you written anything since the last one you sent me?"

"Just a lullaby," she admitted. "I haven't recorded it or anything. I used to sing it to Ryder when he was a baby, but I never really set it down before. But he loved it, and you never know when I might need to use it again, you know?"

"What, what?" said Adam. "Are you...?"

"No!" she said quickly. "I mean, not yet. I'd like to actually be in a relationship before I have another. But I'm thinking about it."

"That's so great," said Kris. "You need to send that to me if you record it. Max can fall asleep to Adam but Sadie's pickier."

"Maybe you could record it with me," suggested Megan. "I mean, I have no idea, but it might be fun, since it would never be anything that was ever released."

"I love that," said Kris. "Seriously, just give me a time and a place and me and my guitar will be there."

"Max falls asleep to my albums?" said Adam. "Seriously?"

"He also likes Muse, Lady GaGa and Astrofix," said Kris. "Seriously. I had to wire speakers into his room because you just don't want to hear me trying to hear me sing "Born in the Space Age"."

"Now that you mention it, I really, really do," said Adam, setting his drink down and settling his arm along the back of the loveseat. "You think you're going to see Matt again before you go tomorrow, Megan?"

"Only if he's awake," she said, chewing on her lip before finishing off the rest of her drink. "And from what I hear, odds aren't that great that he will be."

"It's not bad that he's sleeping," said Adam. "It's better than a lot of things he could be doing right now. Was he okay with you?"

"Yeah, he was great," said Megan. "I mean, he wasn't super happy in general, but it was a great visit. I'm glad I came. He seemed pretty glad too, all things considered."

"He is," Kris promised her. "Believe me, he's glad you came. He can't help, you know, the withdrawal stuff. Did you give him a good smack."

"Damn right I did," she said. "Stupid asshole. He's lucky we love him so much."

"Yeah," agreed Adam. "Yeah, he really is."

 

DAY FOUR

 

When Danny arrived at just after seven in the morning, both Adam and Kris had already been working for well over an hour. Adam couldn't even return his call until he finished a quick live interview with Z100, and even then it was only a text to let him know that he and Kris would be down in the hotel restaurant for breakfast in about twenty minutes or so. He managed to tape a segment for the Dallas market and then squeeze in a call to Julia (to her voicemail, because unlike him she was still sleeping) before heading downstairs for a break.

"Hey," said Kris, meeting him in the hallway and looking about as tired as Adam felt. It wasn't even the early hours, which both of them were used to, but the subject matter of each and every interview. "I've got half an hour."

"Yeah, me too," said Adam, and they didn't say anything else on the way downstairs, just leaned against one another in the elevator.

Danny was hanging around by the entrance to the restaurant, talking on his phone and giving them a wave when they got close. Adam waved back, then lifted Kris's sleeve to mimic a wave from him as well. Kris just gave him a grin and shook his head.

"That was Matt," Danny said as he put his phone away. "I guess he's up."

"You heading up then, or...?" said Adam as they claimed a table in a somewhat hidden corner, much to the chagrin of the fans and paparazzi who were still hanging around the hotel. Adam sincerely hoped that someone else did something really stupid soon, so they could move on to their next big story. This one had already gone on plenty long enough.

"After I eat," said Danny. "He sounded like he had someone in there with him."

"He always has someone in there with him," said Kris, looking back over his shoulder for a moment. "Maybe we should've gotten room service."

"I was worried if I didn't get out of the room now, I wasn't going to have another chance for hours," said Adam before turning to Danny. "You been getting hit hard too?"

"Hard enough," said Danny. "I'm sorry I didn't get up here sooner. I've been praying for him."

"Yeah, me too," said Kris quietly. He didn't even pick up his menu, and frankly Adam didn't need to either to know what he wanted to eat. "How long are you here for?"

"Today, all day," said Danny. "I need to be in Nashville tomorrow for a breakfast meeting so I'm flying out tonight, unless something happens to change anything."

"Probably not," said Adam, then paused while they all ordered. Coffee, juice, toast and egg white omelet. Enough to keep him going until he had to take another break, and he could always order up to the room if he had to. "I'm glad you're here."

"Wish I could've gotten away sooner," said Danny. "I would have if he was dying or something. I mean--"

"I know what you mean," said Adam generously. After all this time, he was pretty good at translating from Danny. "He's good, though. He might even talk to you."

"Oh, sweet coffee," said Kris when it was placed in front of him, wrapping both hands around it like it was life-sustaining. "I promise never to leave you again."

Adam would have called him an addict only that seemed really insensitive at the moment. That, and he knew exactly how he felt.

"Can I talk about any of the songs you sent me?" he asked Kris instead. "My tour's wrapped up so that's not a hot topic right now, but your next album is and they know you're with me here."

"That's funny," said Kris. "When mine aren't asking me about Matt, they're asking me about you."

"Yeah, well, you're still Kradam," said Danny, sipping his water. "You can't ever get away from that, huh?"

Adam just shrugged. "I never tried really hard," he said. "So can I, or is that off limits?"

"No, it's totally cool," said Kris. "Hey, any time you want to talk me up is all right with me. Uh, we're still working on recording and no timeline for release yet. Not till after the college tour, though if they ask about the tour you can mention I'll probably be playing some new material live."

"Got it," said Adam. "I have nothing for you to work with. You can just talk about how awesome I am."

"Always do," said Kris, and Danny snorted into his orange juice. "Does Matt sound like he's having a good day?"

"I'm not sure how to tell the difference," said Danny. "He sounded okay on the phone, though. Kind of upbeat. You guys just do what you need to do. I'll stick with him today. We have a lot of catching up to do."

"Yeah, I bet," said Adam, "Thanks, Danny. We've got a lot to get done today." As if on cue Adam's phone rang, but since he had nothing scheduled for this half hour and it wasn't a number he recognized, he let it go to voicemail. "I've stocked up on tea to get through it."

"At least you're still in practice," said Danny. "Never enough hours in the day."

"Ain't that the truth," said Kris and yawned and Adam settled in to wait for their hopefully quick breakfast as flashbulbs went off at the corner of his eye.

*

Mid-afternoon Kris wandered into his suite, earpiece in and still in the middle of a call, and proceeded to help himself to some of the grapes out of the fruit basket on Adam's desk. Adam wasn't even that surprised, just smirked at him, gave him a wave, and kept answering questions from a station in Seattle until the allotted interview time was up.

And even after that he didn't say anything, because Kris was in the middle of talking about his new songs and Adam had another interview queued up and this wasn't about visiting each other, it was just about not doing this whole thing alone.

It was about an hour before Adam had another break, taking off his phone and making some tea partly for his throat and partly because it was just a calming thing to do.

"Can I sneak some of that too?" said Kris.

"What?" said Adam without even looking back over his shoulder. "Have I run out of grapes already?"

"Those are really good grapes," Kris said in his defense. "I'm on hold right now so I don't have much time."

"You know I was already making you a cup, whether you asked for it or not," admitted Adam. "What's the worst that could happen? You'd let it go cold."

"I might end up doing that anyway," said Kris, then Adam heard the faint sound of someone on the line and Kris was back at it again, curling up in the chair by the window and looking out at the city. He looked so worn down that Adam just wanted to wrap his arms around him for a little while, but Kris was strong. He was just tired of so much right now, and there wasn't much Adam could do about that.

When the tea was ready he set a mug down on the windowsill next to Kris then stretched out on his bed and made a quick call to Julia and then to his publicist, just to touch base and make sure everything for today was still on track, that there were no last minute changes to his very tight schedule. Which of course there were, a couple of additions on the tail end and a promise to have a debriefing type conference afterwards, because so much of this was on the fly and there wasn't a lot of prep beforehand.

Julia was still a little nervous that she was working out of LA and not alongside him in Chicago, but as much as he was missing her Adam still preferred it this way. Despite everything, this was still a personal visit and not a professional obligation, and Adam was going to treat it that way. He wouldn't bring Julia with him to a family dinner, or a friend's barbecue, so he wasn't going to make this into anything more than that.

And he definitely wasn't having his PR team along for the ride, but that had been a no-go right from the start.

"It's going great," Kris was saying, with forced energy. "It's going to be a great show. Yeah, it kicks off in Austin, but not all the dates are set yet..."

When Kris caught his eye Adam just gave him a wink and took his next incoming call.

*

Adam actually had more energy at the end of the day than at the beginning, buoyed, perhaps, by the fact that they'd burned through a lot of obligations in one day. People were happy with him, with both of them, and that went a long way to making Adam's life easier when other things were still being very hard.

"Come on, let's do something," he said. "Do you want to do something?"

"We've been doing something all day," said Kris, "which I actually like a lot better than just waiting."

"About a hundred interviews does not count as doing things," said Adam. "Not even when it takes all day. Something not at the hotel."

"Dinner then," said Kris. "Dinner? Nothing too fancy. I just want to sit down and eat something that's not hospital cafeteria food or room service."

"Yes, we certainly have not been living in the style to which we have become accustomed lately," said Adam, though given the quantity of room service they'd been consuming, that was a debatable point. "I could go for a decent meal."

"I just have one more phone call to make," said Kris. "I'm not sure I brought anything particularly nice to wear."

"As long as it's not plaid I'll find it acceptable," said Adam. Actually, he'd be fine with the plaid too. After all these years, he just accepted it as part and parcel of the man. "You calling the kids?"

"Yeah, if we're going out I want to catch them before they're in bed," said Kris. "Actually, it's already getting late isn't it?"

"You make your call and I'll get changed," said Adam, getting up to make his way back to his own room. By the time he was ready to go out, Kris not only would be finished with his call, but would have washed and changed and probably read half a book while waiting for him.

When Adam did arrive it wasn't half a book, but Kris did have a magazine open in front of him. "How's the family tonight?"

"It was mostly Sadie babbling at me," said Kris, beaming up at him a little. "Apparently she's gotten the hang of the phone, even though she's not actually talking that much. Katy had to pry it away from her, I think."

"You'll see them again soon," said Adam, leaning down to kiss the top of Kris's head. "Ready to go?"

"Been ready for a while," said Kris, getting up off the bed and tossing the magazine on the desk. "The concierge recommended a quiet little bistro a couple of blocks from here."

"Perfect," said Adam. "I'll follow you."

While the bistro afforded them more privacy than they'd had outside of the hospital since they arrived, Adam didn't fool himself into thinking they were completely unseen. But he still let his guard down as much as Kris did, and actually enjoyed himself for a while.

He told Kris all about the guy in Venice, all about the day off in Sydney, and Kris told him about Max and Sadie, about the demise of Harry the hamster, and about his plans for the college tour. They'd known each other for years, but sitting there at that side table, splitting a bottle of wine, it was a little like getting to know one another all over again.

It was much later than Adam realized when the wine was gone, desert was finished, and the bistro was starting to look a little empty.

"At least I tip really well," he offered Kris a little sheepishly as he handed over his credit card to the server, but Kris just smiled at him.

"I don't think they're going to complain about us hanging out in here all night," he said. "This place was full from the moment we sat down till the moment they stopped seating people. I don't know, maybe it's always like that, but I don't think we did them any harm."

"Still," said Adam, "I'm not used to staying in one place this long."

"Well, I'd offer to go out for drinks," said Kris, "but I'm pretty sure that when we actually try to move we're going to find we're just about dead on our feet."

He wasn't wrong about that, and the short walk back to the hotel was nice enough for that time of night. They weren't even bothered by anyone, either because the streets were fairly empty or because the dim light kept them from being recognized despite the fact that their presence at the hotel was well known. Or maybe people just decided that tonight was the night to keep a respectful distance.

Whichever it was, Adam was grateful for it, and when they reached Kris's room he was a little reluctant for the evening to come to an end. If they both weren't about ready to fall on their faces, he wouldn't have.

"So I'll see you in the morning," he said, leaning against the wall while Kris had his back to the door, fiddling with the key card behind his back. "Breakfast?"

"Sure," said Kris. "You want me to give you a wake-up call?"

"Yeah, you might want to do that," said Adam with a grin.

Kris smiled back, then finally opened his hotel room door and slipped inside. A moment later Adam returned to his own room, but not before waiting for the door to fully click shut.

 

DAY FIVE

 

Adam saw the pictures before he even had his morning coffee, and though they were nothing unexpected, the captions and accompanying articles were. He thought about calling Kris right away, then decided it would probably go better after coffee and gulped down a cup before hitting the vending machine in the hallway and then knocking on Kris's door.

"I feel like I should apologize," he said when Kris opened it, handing him a bottle of orange juice.

"For what?"

"For people jumping to conclusions about last night."

Kris just shrugged though and looked completely unconcerned as he let him inside. Obviously he'd already seen the morning news before Adam ever got there.

"They can jump to conclusions if they want," he said. "It wouldn't be the first time someone thought there was something going on between us."

"And you and I know what it really was anyway," said Adam. Kris didn't answer so quickly this time. "Don't we?"

"Maybe?" said Kris, then, "I'm not sure." His eyes were on his bottle of juice as he twisted it open, much more slowly than he needed to. "Sorry, this probably isn't something you need right now."

"No, it's fine," said Adam, suddenly all kinds of uncertain. "I'm actually not entirely sure what you're saying."

"We've talked about missing each other," said Kris after another prolonged pause, finally looking up again, "and I have been. Maybe more than I've let on. And there are things that I haven't thought about in a long time that I've started thinking about again. But it's not...maybe we shouldn’t talk about this till things here are sorted out. I didn't mean to spring it on you like this."

"No, I want to talk about it," said Adam. "I mean...we are talking about last night maybe being a date, right? If we are, I should probably be a part of that conversation."

"Probably," admitted Kris, smiling at his orange juice as he looked down again. "Sorry. It just didn't seem to be a great time to bring any of this up, what with everything else that's going on. I was planning on sitting on it till everything with Matt settled down a little."

"Well, next time I'm taking you on a date, how about a heads up before I do it?"

He wasn't angry, but Kris looked up at him like he was. "I’m sorry," he said again. "I didn't mean I thought it was a date, just that it being a date wasn't actually outside the realm of possibility. That it wasn't a preposterous conclusion to come to."

"I mean," Adam went on, "if I'd known it was a date, I would've at least tried for a good-night kiss."

Kris smiled a little again, even if he didn't try to claim the kiss that Adam thought was obviously still on offer. "When we got together in LA, for dinner?" he said. "The plans we had? I was going to bring this up, as a possibility. But then all this happened and it sort of got shuffled down my list of priorities."

"I didn't know," said Adam. "I mean...."

It wasn't that he didn't know there was something between him and Kris. There'd always been something between him and Kris, sometimes to an awkward and unsettling degree, but it had never been the right time and place for them. Adam just didn't realize that they'd finally come all the way back around to it again, and this time neither of them had any reason not to pursue it anymore.

"I know what you mean," said Kris. "And I know it had to be me to say it. I just didn't mean to do it quite like this."

"Why don't we try it again," suggested Adam. "With eyes wide open this time. Dinner tonight? Take two?"

"Yeah?" said Kris, looking up at him a little hopefully. "That'd be nice. Same place?"

"Same time, same place," said Adam. "And if it's all over the web again, then so be it. Deal?"

"It's a date, not a business transaction," said Kris, but he screwed the cap back on his orange juice anyway and took Adam's hand. "Deal. I'm looking forward to it."

*

"Hey," said Adam when Neil finally answered the phone on the seventh ring. "What, were you jerking off or something."

"You are in so much trouble," said Neil, completely skipping over hello. "You know Mom's been trying to call you, right?"

"I just talked to her a couple of days ago!" insisted Adam. "I told her everything that was going on here. I even promised I was eating my vegetables."

"I mean today," said Neil. "About the stuff with that Allen kid? She wants to talk to you."

"I'm pretty sure he's not the Allen kid now that he has a couple of his own," said Adam. "She doesn't believe the tabloids now, does she? After all this time?"

"So you're not tapping that ass?" Adam apparently hesitated a moment too long before answering. "Shit, you are."

"I'm not!" said Adam. "Seriously, I’m not."

"What, then?" said Neil. "Because that was a prelude-to-a-confession pause. I know that damn pause, Adam."

"We're going on a date tonight," said Adam, "and if you laugh at me right now I'm skipping over your birthday this year. I mean it."

"Only you," said Neil, "would tear off to Chicago after a friend overdoses, and end up with a date with Kris Allen."

"I didn't exactly plan it this way," said Adam. "Don't tell Mom. I'll call her later."

"Oh yeah, you are absolutely breaking that one to her yourself," agreed Neil. "I am not taking on that burden for you. So since I'm pretty sure you didn't call to update me on your love life, what's up?"

"Liar," said Adam, "you're dying to have some gossip on me. I'm going to need to call her as soon as I get off the phone with you just to get to her first."

"You can't prove anything," said Neil. "Seriously, are you just this bored? You don't know what to do with yourself when you're not out being fabulous?"

"Right, no," said Adam, "I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to be in New York in about two weeks. I'm doing some stuff, but I'm going to have a lot of free time if you wanted to get together?"

"Well, I'm going to have to check my extremely busy schedule, but...uh, yeah, I guess we could do something," said Neil. "Fucktard, of course we're getting together. Do you know what day?"

"Not yet," said Adam, "but as soon as I do, I'll let you know. I'm sorry I missed you last time I was in the city."

"You were busy," said Neil. "When were you even going to fit me in? Have me watch while you got your costume fitted? Because no thanks, I'll pass. I saw enough of you naked when we were kids."

"Still," said Adam. "Next time I'll make time. With no nakedness."

"You're a good brother," said Neil approvingly. "You should go call Mom now before she decides to do an interview just to get the scoop in return."

"She can't be that frantic," said Adam, but she had left him a couple of messages that he hadn't had time to return yet, and called a few more times, and maybe she really was a little worried about him. After all, she knew what it had been like for him on the American Idol tour, and even after so many years in between mothers still had a sense about these things. "Okay, yeah, I'll do that."

"And don't be a fucking stranger," said Neil. "You have my number."

"I do," agreed Adam. "Bye, Neil."

*

"It wasn't a cry for help," said Matt, reaching for the glass of water he kept next to his bed.

"So you're talking to me today?" said Adam, hauling a chair clear across the room so he could sit next to the bed. Matt was dressed, and on top of the covers, but still looked like he didn't want to go anywhere if no one was making him.

"I just wanted you to know it wasn't on purpose," said Matt. "Yesterday Danny asked me if I was trying to kill myself. How crazy is that?"

"You almost did," Adam pointed out. "Do you even know how close it was?"

"Even if the doctors hadn't told me," said Matt, "my mother sure did. But it was just a stupid accident. I was taking some medication and it did something I didn't expect, that's all that happened."

"You're right, that sounds stupid," said Adam, tenting his fingers in front of his face and trying to tamp down the sudden anger that he knew was still mostly fear. "What, sleeping pills? Cough syrup? If you were shooting up instead of snorting coke, that actually could've killed you."

"Something like that," said Matt. "I'll know to be more careful now."

"You know that's not the answer anyone wants to hear," said Adam. "Come on, Matt, you know what this shit does to people. You've seen it. We've all seen it."

"You're not exactly the poster boy for 'just say no' yourself."

"Maybe that's what makes me so qualified to give you shit about it," said Adam. "I know why you do it. I know how it feels. But fuck...you almost died. Dead. Over. And that's fucked up, Matt. That's too far."

"I've heard all this before."

"But not from me," said Adam. "It's easy for someone to say all that when they don't know how good it feels, when they don't get what it does for you in the first place. But I know, Matt. I've been there. And this is too far. You know that. And you know why."

Matt didn't look happy, but the wasn't arguing. "It wasn’t sleeping pills or cough syrup," he said finally. "It was antidepressants." Adam took that in silently, nodding and trying to decide what the right question was to follow that up. "They tell me they counteracted some of the effects of the coke. That's why I took too much."

"Matt, if you tell me that your solution is to go off them," said Adam, "I'm going to hit you. I'm seriously going to break your nose."

He didn't know if the drugs were because of the roller coaster of coke, or for other issues entirely, and it wasn't really his business to ask unless Matt wanted to bring it up. He just knew that prescription drug trumped recreational drug pretty much every time.

"I know enough to be careful now," he said again, and Adam was pretty clear on what he meant by that this time. "This won't happen again."

"Matt...." he said tightly, then stood up and paced away from the side of the bed. "For fuck's sake."

"Adam, you don't know--"

"I don't know what?" he said, turning back to face him. "I don't know what it's like? Really?" Yeah, that shut Matt up for a minute, but it didn't make Adam feel any better. "Yeah, exactly. Look, I'm not asking you to lie to me, but at least give me some clue that you actually get what the problem is here."

"I'd quit if I thought it was a problem," said Matt, "but this didn't happen because I was habitually taking too much. It was just an accident. I get that you're worrying and I'm sorry about that, but you need to trust me that I know what the actual problem was."

"We have to trust you?" said Adam. "How about you trust us? I don't even think you're listening to yourself."

"You don't think I've had a lot of time to think about this?" said Matt. "You overdose and everyone gets the wrong idea. I wasn't trying to kill myself and I wasn't trying to...I don't know what else you think I was trying to do. It was just an accident."

"Matt," said Adam, his voice shaking a little as he struggled to keep his tone even. "You are so full of shit right now." Matt opened his mouth to say something, but Adam cut him off with a fierce hand gesture. "I know you're a smart guy, so I know you know that you're just justifying this shit right now because you don't want to face that you might actually have to do something about this. And you think I'm a safe person to do that with, because unlike your mom or your staff or your therapist, I know what you're going through. But you're wrong. It's because I know what you're going through that I know you're full of shit. Nobody can make you quit fucking yourself up with that shit, but don't pretend that you aren't."

"But you--"

"There's a big difference between trying things out once in a while, and letting them dictate your life," said Adam. "You don't even have to label what you are, Matt, and I don't know. I don't know. But you've really got some shit to get together."

"This is why I wasn't talking to you before," muttered Matt, but Adam saw it, he saw the tiniest, most unexpected smile on Matt's face.

"So you are listening," said Adam. "That's good."

"Yeah, I'm listening," said Matt. "But it really wasn't a suicide attempt. That much I'm sticking by."

"Well, don't let it ever be one," said Adam. "You hear me?"

"Yeah, I hear you," said Matt. "I heard every word you said."

*

They even got the same table, not on display in the front window but not hidden away in the back either. There was a painting of a fiddler nearby and a tealight burning on the table between them.

"Katy knows," said Kris, breaking open a piece of bread. "About me being interested in you."

"I think Katy's always known," said Adam. "As much as there was to know." Which until now hadn't been all that much. "She's a smart woman."

"I mean we've talked about it," said Kris, "since the divorce. We've talked about the possibility of me asking you out. But mostly I called her this afternoon and told her about our date."

"Oh," said Adam. "Really?" Kris's foot came up and just touched his ankle, for a moment. "How'd that go over?"

"It was a good conversation," said Kris. "I'm glad she already knew before today that it was possible, no matter whether you said yes or no. I wanted it out there."

"You really thought I was going to say no?"

"It was always possible," he said, smiling shyly into his drink. "You might've been involved. You might've thought it was bad timing. You might've been too invested in our friendship to want to risk trying for something more."

"The best relationships come out of friendships," said Adam, "and I've always been someone willing to take risks. This doesn't feel like that much of a risk, though."

"No?" said Kris, breaking his bread into smaller pieces. "What does it feel like then?"

"It feels like picking up where we left off, a long time ago," said Adam quietly. "Not literally, I know things never came to this. But in another time and another place we could have had something. I think we both knew that. No, I know we both knew that, even if we never spelled it out."

"And now it's another time and another place," finished Kris. "And I'm glad it's now. I mean, I'm not glad it's now, because I wouldn't really wish for Matt to go through this in order for us to get here, but I’m glad it's now. I wouldn't have been ready six years ago, Katy or no Katy."

"You don't think so?"

"I didn't know where I was at or what I wanted," said Kris, "I just knew that I was feeling things. Maybe without Katy I would've figured them out faster. I don't know. But here we are now, right?"

"Here we are now," said Adam. "Me with a string of failed relationships and you with an ex-wife and two kids."

Kris just smiled, almost laughed. "Maybe that's just how this is supposed to go," he said. "I don't mind if you don't mind."

"I love your kids," said Adam. "And I love--"

"I think it's okay to say it," said Kris when Adam cut himself off abruptly. "I mean, we've been saying it for years."

"Not like this," said Adam stubbornly. "I think I'm going to sit on that for the right moment, actually. And our first date isn't it."

"Or second date," said Kris, "depending on how we're counting."

"First," said Adam firmly, "because I want to do this right."

"Does that mean you're going to try for the kiss this time?" said Kris. "I almost thought you were going to last night, you know. That moment at my door, when we got back to the hotel."

"If anyone was going to last night, it should've been you," said Adam, "and you'd better believe I'm going to be going for the kiss later. Be ready."

"Been ready for a while," said Kris, then picked up his menu and almost, but not quite, hid his coy little smile behind it.

It could've been just like a hundred other dinners he'd had with Kris, and in some ways it was, in the way it was so easy for them to talk, in the way they could read each other so easily, but it was different too. It was different because there was a new kind of tension there, new kinds of looks between them, new kinds of touches and definitely some new intentions. Whatever might've been brewing between them a long time ago, it was nothing compared to what it was like when they both actually let it out.

*

Adam remembered a night just like this one, years ago now. Sitting with Kris on a rooftop under the dim city stars and talking about life, about the future. He remembered feeling this yearning to share it with him in more ways, in every way, and knew Kris had been feeling it too. But the last time Kris had been loyal to his wife, and Adam had been involved, and just because they were feeling the same things didn't mean it was a good idea. There were too many variables, too much else going on, and everything was too new.

None of those things were relevant now.

"I think we're getting to old for this," said Kris, stretching out on the blanket they'd snuck up with them, bracing himself with his hands behind him.

"Just wait till you're this side of thirty," said Adam. "Then you can talk to me about being too old for this."

"I turned thirty on my last birthday," Kris reminded him. "So I can talk about it all I want. It's a nice night, though."

"Shit, you're right," said Adam, and sat down next to him. "When did that happen?"

"June," said Kris, then gave him a cheeky little grin and sat up a little more so that he could offer Adam his hand.

It was a little chilly, the breeze catching them more up here than it would have at street level, but it was still a nice night. A surprisingly quiet, clear night.

"We are in so much trouble if we get caught up here," said Adam after a few moments, as he tangled his fingers with Kris's.

"Hey, I'm the one who said we should go to the park instead," said Kris. "When the police come for us, or the man in the chopper tries to tell us not to jump, just remember that."

"Noted," said Adam, and rested his knee against Kris's and looked up at the sky. "It's been a strange week."

"Yeah, it has," said Kris. Not strange strange, with odd requests and bizarre people and sights they couldn't have imagined, but a different kind of strange. Emotionally strange. "Good, though." He wrinkled up his nose when he said that, in a way that was, and always had been, endearing. "I feel bad saying that."

"Hard and good," said Adam, and felt a little ping of victory when he discovered he was still able to make Kris blush. "But seriously, it has sucked but it's still good because now that this has happened, maybe things can change for him in better ways."

"Like us," said Kris. "Maybe."

"Like us, I hope," said Adam. "I'm not going to pretend I know how this is going to work out yet, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to be bad no matter what it is."

"I really have been thinking about this for a long time," said Kris. "It's both easier and more complicated than it used to be."

"Yeah, I know, right?" said Adam. "But I think maybe we've got our timing a bit better this time."

"I don't regret that this didn't happen before," said Kris. "I had a lot of really happy years. I have Max and Sadie and the idea of never having had them...I just don't want to even think about it. It's unbearable."

"But now that we're here in this moment again," said Adam, "I kind of want to grab hold of it and hang on, you know? Not just us, but a lot of things. I just don't want life to get away from me. I don't want to miss out on friends and birthdays and shooting stars because I've got so much else going on."

"I don't think you have been," said Kris. "You haven't been that person, Adam. Busy is not the same as neglectful."

"No, I know," he said, "but I could be that person. I can see the road to becoming that person and it's laid out right in front of me. And I don't want to be the person that misses out on the best things in life."

"So don't be," said Kris. "I'm pretty sure it's about as easy as it sounds. If you haven't become a complete wreck by this point, I don't think you're going to."

"I just want to make sure," said Adam, "because I can see the good stuff in front of me right now too and it looks really, really good."

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it?" said Kris, and smiled and leaned back on his hand again as they fell silent and enjoyed the momentary peace surrounding them.

They went back downstairs before too long, before a sensor went off in a little room somewhere and a security guard came up to check on the door that was just slightly ajar, before the fall air got any chillier. Or maybe they'd been on camera this entire time, and someone just decided that if they wanted to take their lives into their own hands up here, that was their business.

A famous face bought you a lot, and this was one time Adam wasn't going to question it.

They lingered just inside Kris's door, and this time instead of letting it close with him in the hallway Adam let Kris draw him inside. This time when the door closed, he was on the other side of it.

Neither one of them said anything, and slowly Adam just let instinct take over, leaning in close and pressing his lips to Kris's. It didn't stay chaste for long, and not because of Adam. Kris grabbed a handful of Adam's shirt on either side of his waist and yanked until Adam stumbled backwards against the wall, then Kris was kissing him hard and kissing him thoroughly, no hesitation at all.

Adam let it last as long as he dared, hot and hard with Kris's body pressed up flush against him, but finally he gently pushed Kris away and gulped in a couple of lungfuls of blessedly cool air.

"If I don't leave now," he said, "this is going to be a whole lot more than a good-night kiss."

"I would be okay with that," said Kris. "Just putting that out there."

Adam would be okay with that too, which made it all the harder to put the brakes on. "Got to save something for the second date," he said though, and pressed his hands to Kris's cheeks and kissed him one last time. "I'll see you in the morning."

"Yeah, I've heard that before," said Adam, but Kris was smiling as Adam slipped out again and he knew he was making the right choice.

Tomorrow, however, all bets were off.

 

DAY SIX

 

Adam talked to Lil at about seven in the morning, and by noon she was arriving at the hotel and giving him a big hug. "You and I," she said, "need to catch up like nobody's business, but right now I need to give a piece of my mind to a certain young man who I hear is also staying here.

"Kris?" said Adam innocently. "Did he raid your panty drawer again?"

"You are a terrible man," said Lil, giving him one last squeeze for good measure, "not to mention a hard one to keep up with."

"I'll take you over to Matt's suite personally," said Adam. "It seems to be what I do around here anyway."

"Not such a hot shot star right now, huh?" she said. "It's probably good for you."

"It probably is," said Adam, laughing as he led the way. "He know you're here?"

"I texted him from the lobby," she said. "I told him I was finding you first, because I like you more right now and Kris isn't in the building."

"Don't be too hard on him," said Adam. "No, wait, I take that back. Just give him a chance to talk if he's willing, which he isn't always."

"You're right, I will be as hard on him as he deserves," said Lil. "I'm also going to make him feel guilty for taking me away from my kids. Who are, it should be said, acting much more adult than Matt is right now. He needs to smarten his ass up. He's better than this."

"Good, you tell him, Lil," said Adam, "and we'll catch up after, I promise. It's good to see you again. It's been too long."

"And you tell that Kris Allen to be there too," she said. "I need to give him a hug."

"I hear you there," said Adam, then tapped on Matt's door for her, and blew her a kiss as he headed back to his own room again to take care of a few things while he had the time and the mental calm.

When he returned an hour later he could hear the voices even outside the suite, which might've been more of a problem if anyone not associated with Matt had been in any of the rooms nearby, or if anyone hadn't known what was going on with Matt. But everyone knew, and there was no one else around.

"Did you lose all of your good sense somewhere?" Lil was saying. "I knew you, Matt Giraud, and you can't be that far removed from the man I knew. So you need to quit with the crap that's coming out of your mouth right now and just let the people who love you love you in the best ways they can."

Adam didn't linger for more than a few moments, instead drumming his fingers against the wall as he thought about what to do instead, finally deciding now would be an excellent time for Starbucks.

*

"It's been almost a week now," said Kris, scrolling through the messages on his phone as Adam joined him in his hotel room after he got back from his interview. "How long do you think you're going to stay? I can't imagine you don't have people screaming at you right now to get your butt back to LA. Or wherever."

"Doesn't mean I have to listen to them," said Adam with a tight smile. "I was going to take a vacation soon anyway. I've been going non-stop for so long...."

"This isn't exactly a substitute for a vacation," said Kris. "You'd probably be better off working than hanging out here every day."

"I'm where I choose to be," said Adam, "and I've earned the right to make that choice right now. How long are you staying?"

"I don't know," admitted Kris. "I haven't really got anyone hurrying me along to do anything. I can do a lot from here, and tour rehearsals don't need to start for at least a month. The guys'll get up to speed fast enough, and I know you're used to spectacles but this is just a small tour while we gear up for the album. It'll come together pretty easily once we get going."

"Is Katy going to bring the kids up after all, then?"

"Or I'll fly down for a couple of days, if it comes to that," said Kris. "We'll work that out. I guess it just depends on what goes on here."

"I don't think it's going to be a problem anyway," said Adam. "Matt's not going to hole up here forever. I give it another day or two, tops. This was only ever temporary while everyone got their shit together."

"It's already at least three days longer than I thought it would be," admitted Kris. "It's been my experience that Matt doesn't do downtime for any longer than that."

"I think it's a little more enforced this time," said Adam, "but it's not indefinite."

"You still think they're going to put him in a program?"

"At this point it'll look good if they do," said Adam, "for all the good it'll do him. He doesn't need twenty-eight days in the desert to pass the public's morality test, he needs something sustainable."

"I've been trying to--"

"And he needs to want that," said Adam, before either of them could go down that road again. "Don't stop offering, but he has to be the one to take it on. Anyway. I can probably push my visit into next week if I agree to a couple of things I didn't really want to do, which is a pretty small price to pay."

"Private functions?" said Kris, wrinkling up his nose.

"Not this time," said Adam. "A couple of club appearances, a premiere, an interviewer I don't get along very well with. Nothing particularly painful, just tedious."

"Cameron's been pretty happy," said Kris, "which means management and my publicist are happy, which means they're probably getting some mileage out of me being here. Good for my image or whatever. I should be paying more attention to how they're spinning my part in this."

"So no dodgy clubs for you, is what you're saying," said Adam. "I might make you come with me, though. Bet you didn't think about that."

"That would be...interesting," said Kris. "Enlightening."

"We should probably talk about that," said Adam. "Not the clubs, but going out with me."

"Or you going out with me," Kris pointed out. "You're worried about me wanting to be closeted. It's okay, I get that. But, I mean, you're you. I knew that going into this. There's no room for a closet when it comes to this."

"And you're okay with that?"

"I'm a little intimidated," admitted Kris, smiling at him, "but my team doesn't think it's actually going to be a huge shocker at this point. Years ago, yeah, but not now. I'm not under any illusions about just how public this is going to be."

"Okay, good," said Adam. "Not that I'm going to flaunt you...well, okay, I might flaunt you a little."

"Yeah, I might let you," said Kris with a soft laugh. "I'm more worried about the kids, but I think that'll be fine. We're raising them well, and this isn't going to change that."

"We can take this however you need to, when it comes to them," said Adam. "We've only gone on one date at this point. I have no expectations there."

"They adore you," said Kris. "I'll talk to Katy about it some more and we'll all figure out how to approach it."

"I'll talk to her too," said Adam as Kris nodded at him. "I want to anyway."

"But you're right, right now we don't really need to do anything differently. When it comes to them, anyway."

"When it comes to them," agreed Adam, "because when it comes to us, I've got a whole lot of different things I want to try out."

"I just bet you do," said Kris, and laughed a lot more openly this time. "Can't wait."

*

Adam had never had any reason to actually include anyone else in his relationships before, but this was a different situation from any of the ones he'd been in before, and he really wanted to get it right. Even if it meant awkward phone calls to ex-wives who also happened to be longtime friends.

Katy didn't sound particularly harried or breathless when she answered the phone so Adam figured he hadn't caught her at a bad time, which was at least a good start.

"Hey Miss Katy, how's life?"

"Adam!" she said brightly. "About time you called. I was beginning to think you didn't love us anymore."

"As long as Max and Sadie weren't thinking that," said Adam. "How are they doing?"

"Great," she said, "but don't tell me you don't already know that. If I know Kris, and I do, he's been talking about them so much you've been tempted to stuff something in his mouth to shut him up." Adam coughed politely, and Katy just giggled. "Wow, I can't believe I just said that. I was going to let you bring that up."

"Wow, okay," said Adam, mentally changing his whole game plan. "But seriously, asking about the kids wasn't just a lead-in. I miss them like crazy."

"They miss their Uncle Adam too," she promised him. "Well, Max does and the amount of time he spends listening to your music, Sadie knows your voice about as well as she knows mine at this point."

"Every time you send pictures she looks like she's gotten bigger," he said, "but I guess that's what kids do, huh?"

"Don't tell Kris," said Katy, "but I think she's going to be taller than him when she grows up."

"I think by the time that happens, he'll have come to accept it," said Adam. "It's really good to hear you doing so well. I know it hasn't been a great year."

"Actually, it's better than last year," she said, "which is how I know we made the right decision, even if it's been hard. And in case you were wondering, that's your opening right there, Lambert."

"And usually I'm so good at knowing what to do with openings," he said. "I'm not asking for permission or anything, but I want to know...what do you think, Katy? How's this going to affect the kids?"

"I don’t know," she said with a soft sigh, "but it's something that was bound to happen sooner or later. Max already knows that sometimes boys date boys and girls date girls, but because it's his dad he might be a little confused for a while. Sadie's so young, she's not even going to remember this one day. We're going to have to play this one by ear."

"At this point, I'm only thinking about dating him," said Adam. "We don't even need to say anything to them at first. They're used to having me in their lives, I'm not a stranger."

"I think that'll make it easier," said Katy, "but I just don't know. I guess you can't really know until you see what happens. I'd like for me and Kris to talk to them together. Max understands that mommy and daddy don't live together anymore, but we haven't really broached the subject of new people."

"So you haven't...?"

"A couple of dates," said Katy. "Nothing serious, and no one I felt compelled to see a second time. The kids just come first."

"They come first for Kris, too," said Adam, but he was pretty sure Katy didn't need to be told that.

"I know this might be one of the more awkward calls that you've ever had to make," she said, "but the fact that you even thought about how this might affect them...thank you. I knew I liked you for a reason."

"You guys are always going to be a family," said Adam. "It's always going to matter. And I know Kris has talked to you about me...about this. I guess I just needed your perspective on how to proceed here. It's all a little new to me."

"It's a little new to all of us," she said. "I kind of always knew it might be you, though. Maybe the kids won't be as surprised as we think."

"I never wanted things to go this way for you," said Adam, because it felt like it needed to be said, "but I...."

"I know," said Katy. "You don't have to tell me this part, Adam. I know. Have you talked about what it's going to mean, publicly?"

"A little bit," said Adam. "I don't want to get ahead of the game. We might date a few times and find out that it's not actually working." Katy just hmmed skeptically. "And we've been friends for long enough that no one's going to think anything of it unless it gets serious."

"And if it does?"

"He knows I'm not going back in the closet, even for him," said Adam, "but we'll all talk about that if and when the time comes. I wouldn't want you or the kids to be blindsided. That's always going to come first. Max'll be starting school soon enough, and school can be rough."

"He's the son of Kris Allen," said Katy. "School was always going to be a little different for him than it was for us when we were kids. Thank you for calling, Adam. It's been...a little weird, but I'm glad you did. Whatever happens, we'll figure it out. And I hope it works out, with you and Kris. I think it will."

*

"If I don't take you to dinner tonight, are you going to think I'm cheap?" said Adam. "I just don't want to deal today. I just want to be with you right now."

"No, I’m going to think you're the smartest man I know," said Kris, and that was when Adam realized he already had the room service menu in his hands. "I forgot to eat again today. Don't tell Katy or she'll yell at me."

"I guess you're lucky that I already talked to her, then," said Adam, taking the menu from him so he could glance at it, even though he already knew exactly what it said. He could probably recite it from memory. "She sounds good."

"We are both good," agreed Kris. "A lot better than we were. It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't been there, but it really is better now. Even if our parents still have a little trouble wrapping their minds around the idea."

"No, I do get it," said Adam. "I mean, I've never been married, but I get it. I'm glad she's actually okay with...not just us, but everything."

"Well, I don't think we're going to be going on any double dates any time soon," said Kris, "but otherwise, we're just moving on now. Do you know what you want to eat?"

"Something light," said Adam. "Salad? They do decent salads."

"Yeah, me too," said Kris, and with no more input than that ordered them up something to eat so that they didn't have to leave the room for the rest of the night. Adam even pulled his phone out and turned it off, then thought better of that and just set it to silent.

"So is this our second date?" said Kris. "I feel like we need to be clear about this."

"So we can sort out appropriate behavior?" said Adam. "Do you want it to be our second date, or should we save that for something more special?"

"I don't know," said Kris, reaching for his guitar and putting it in his lap, strumming for a moment to make sure it sounded in tune. "Do you want to do something special for our second date?"

"I kind of do," admitted Adam. "It should be something we don't already do every day."

"Okay," said Kris easily. "So hey, do you want to listen to something while we're waiting? After Matt yelled at me this morning I started working on it. I don't think they have anything to do with one another but, you know."

"He had a bad morning," said Adam. "I think he had a bad afternoon, too, but Lil was in with him and then someone from his team and now he's not seeing anyone at all."

"Sleeping, maybe," said Kris, strumming again.

"So yeah," said Adam, "yeah, play me what you're working on. You know I'm always into it."

Adam wasn't surprised the song had a bit of a harder edge, all things considered, but then a lot of Kris's newer stuff did. He nodded his head along with it and even mouthed a few words of the chorus once he caught on. It was solid, even just as it was. And Kris was into it, but then that was part of why Adam had always loved watching him perform, even when it was a performance for one.

"Kicks ass," he said when he was done. "And I'm not just saying that because you're now in a position to withhold sexual favors."

Kris laughed and shook his head. "I never really thought about that," he said. "Katy was always honest about my stuff. At least, I think she was always honest. She sounded honest."

"Play it again," said Adam, and as Kris did he moved in closer until he was stretched out on the bed next to where Kris was sitting, guitar on his lap and hammering out the chords hard. And when Kris was done, the last notes still lingering, Adam sat up and leaned in and kissed him. Without so much as hesitating or breaking the kiss, Kris moved the guitar out of the way and placed his hand on Adam's neck, drawing him down on top of him.

This was definitely a position Adam was familiar with. He moved a leg in between Kris's as they kissed but that was all they did. They kissed and they kissed and they breathed and they kissed some more, and Adam's lips were starting to feel full and raw and all he wanted to do was keep kissing him.

He probably would have, except there was a knock on the door and a call of "Room service!", and Adam reluctantly got up while Kris tipped his head back and laughed.

"We're picking this up later," he vowed as he answered the door.

"You'd better believe we are," agreed Kris.

 

DAY SEVEN

 

It was too early, the sun barely poking through the curtains, but Adam was already up and going, hanging out at the desk in Matt's room and scrawling down a few lyrics. He still didn't consider himself much of a songwriter, but sometimes he had something to say.

"I'm checking out this afternoon," said Matt out of the blue.

"Yeah?" said Adam, looking up and proceeding a little carefully. "Checking in somewhere else? Twenty-eight days in the desert?"

To his surprise, Matt shook his head. "They were pushing that at first," he said, "but we decided it wasn't the best idea." He rubbed his forehead like he really didn't want to talk about it. Adam wouldn't have wanted to talk about it either. "This is all kind of fucked up."

"You think?" said Adam, moving closer to give his shoulder a shove. "We've been telling you that for a while."

"I had a good talk with someone yesterday."

"Lil?" said Adam. "I sort of overheard some of that. Unintentionally."

"No, not Lil," said Matt, but he smiled a little so it couldn't have gone over too badly, "though that one was pretty interesting. No, I mean with my assistant."

"Robin?" said Adam. "Huh."

"She, uh," said Matt, then rubbed his forehead again. "She handed me her resignation, then she locked the door and sat down by my bed and listed every single thing she's arranged, fixed and covered up for me this past year. It took two hours, Adam. For just the last year."

"Go Robin," said Adam under his breath. "Wow."

"I snarled at her for a little while," said Matt, "then I ripped up her resignation, and told her that if she stayed, I would do better. She's giving me six months. I'm not going to fuck it up."

"After everything that's happened, that's what it took?" said Adam. "Really?"

"I never had it laid out like that before," said Matt. "I guess she just found the right words to get it through or something. So yeah, I'm going to try this program she found. It's all outpatient, meetings and stuff, and out in the open so I'm totally accountable. It sounds terrifying."

"It does sound terrifying," said Adam. "It's in LA?"

"Yeah, it's in LA," said Matt, "so I'm going to be sticking around for a while. We're rescheduling the rest of my dates for the new year."

"Well, you know I'm going to be mostly in LA for the next couple of months," said Adam, "if you need anything. And you know I mean that, right?"

"Yeah, I know you do," said Matt. "I'm a little surprised you do, but I know you do. Sounds more like the offer I'm going to get from Kris when I tell him later."

"You know Kris has your back," said Adam. "You should spend some time with us, just hang out. Take advantage of the chance while we have it."

"God knows I don't have many other people I know in LA who I trust myself to hang out with right now," said Matt. "It'll give you and Kris a chance to see each other too, huh?"

"Yeah," said Adam, rubbing the back of his neck. He didn't mean anything by it, but Matt narrowed his eyes a little and studied him.

"Really?" he said finally. "You and Kris?"

"How did you even get that?" said Adam, lowering his hand. He wasn't going to deny it, though. "You are not that observant."

"I haven't had much else to do lately," he said. "I kind of wondered, especially when you stuck around."

"That wasn't why," said Adam, then amended it to, "That wasn't the only reason why. It's complicated." But then, wasn't everything? "It's probably going to be pretty wretched for you for a little while."

"It already has been," said Matt.

"Don't make me start singing "Lean on Me"," said Adam, "because I will. You know I will. And then Kris will come in and harmonize and it'll be all kinds of awkward."

"I get it," said Matt, finally giving him a little smack in return. "I do, I get it. I'm not going to be knocking on your door every day or something, but I get it. Swim in your pool, soak in your hot tub. I might take you up on it."

"I guess I'll be heading home today too, then," said Adam. "I should call Julia and get her to make the arrangements. I might actually sleep in my own bed tonight."

"Thanks for sticking around," said Matt. "Even if you just did it to get into Kris's pants."

"Maybe Kris stuck around to get into my pants, did you ever think about that?"

"You think everyone wants to get into your pants," said Matt, and then there was a knock at the door, Robin sticking her head in.

"Matt, I've got some paperwork for you."

"Of course you do," said Adam, getting up and grabbing up all his own papers again. Then he gave Robin a kiss on the cheek before leaving the room. "Matt, give me a call. Robin, you've earned yourself...I don't know, a car or something. Love you, girl."

"You too," she said, standing on her tiptoes to give Adam's cheek a kiss in return. "All right, Matt, we have a lot of work to do.

*

They were booked on the same flight entirely by coincidence, though not the same as Matt's, and wrangled things at the airport so that they'd be sitting together on the plane. Kris grabbed hold of his hand during take-off, and Adam didn't stop him, and though it wasn't like he kept hold of it for the entire flight, just that moment was nice.

"I won't ask to see you tonight," said Adam, "because I know you're going to be busy, but how about tomorrow? Do you want to do something?"

"I kind of like this 'asking me out on dates' thing," said Kris. "I think we should keep this up for a while."

"The traditional response is yes or no, Kristopher," he said. "Don't leave a guy hanging."

"Tomorrow's good," said Kris, after checking his schedule. Adam had a sneaking suspicion he was doing it for show, just because he could. "Can I call you tonight after I get home from Katy's?"

"As long as it's not too late," said Adam with a little smirk. "My curfew's at midnight and my momma'll get mad if I break it."

"Shut up," said Kris, putting his phone away again. "I just wanted to make sure I wouldn't be interrupting anything. And that's assuming I don't just crash the moment I get into my own home and take my shoes off."

"Don't promise anything you can't deliver, then," said Adam, leaning back in his seat. "I'll text you the details for tomorrow night, then?"

"You romantic, you," said Kris. "Dinner, then? A movie? Glow bowling?"

"I don't do anything that requires rented shoes," said Adam. "Food and drinks, that's the plan. Not necessarily in that order."

"And then?" said Kris. "What happens after that?"

"I guess we're just going to have to play that by ear."

*

Adam caught the nightly news from his own home, in his own bed, eating his own food that he had very masterfully thawed and heated in his own oven. He'd almost forgotten what his house looked like, and it suddenly seemed very big and very empty.

But it was also very wonderful.

He was barely paying attention until he heard something about "Taylor Lautner" and "leaked photos" and "top entertainment story" and he dipped his head forward and just had to laugh.

"It's about damn time," he said, and for the rest of the broadcast, and on the front page of TMZ, and on Yahoo, and on E!, there was no mention of Matt at all.

 

EPILOGUE

 

"Since you were a big part of the reason I stayed in Chicago as long as I did," said Adam, fixing Kris's collar before they got out of the limo, "you actually have to do this red carpet with me. You can't just try to fade into the background. If I'm paying for my time, so are you."

"Yeah, like it's such a hardship for you to go to a movie premiere," said Kris. "Free publicity, free movie, free popcorn."

"Yeah, but it's a terrible movie," said Adam, "and I have to pretend I didn't sleep with the lead actor, because he's still painfully closeted. Huge mistake, I know, but you know he's my type."

"That part at least I can help you with," said Kris, and gave him a quick kiss before they got out of the car, Adam's publicist immediately by their side to guide them through the red carpet.

"Adam!" someone called, followed by an almost surprised, "Kris!"

Adam tugged on Kris's sleeve and the let themselves be herded in that direction.

"Well, isn't this a surprise!" she said. "Does this mean one of you might be lending some music to future films in the Lightbender saga?"

"Hey, we're not promoting anything," said Adam, lacing his fingers with Kris's, "we're just on a date. In fact, I have no idea what this red carpet is doing here. Is anyone going to take our tickets?"

Kris laughed and ducked his head. "A good friend's making her debut in it," he said, which was only stretching the truth a little since she was a friend of Katy's, "and I wanted to show my support."

"That's sweet, that's really sweet," she said, "and it's good to see the two of you front and center again. Tell me, how much did Matt pay you to take the headlines off him? Tell the truth."

"This one's a freebie," said Adam, grabbing a quick handful of Kris's ass, which set off a round of flashbulbs. "Next one's going to cost him."

"Classy," said Kris, rolling his eyes, but Adam caught the fond smile he gave him too.

"So you've both been pretty coy for the past few weeks as you've been spotted about town," she said. "Is coming here together tonight a statement?"

Adam and Kris looked at one another, not to decide what to say but to figure out who was going to say it.

"Yes," said Kris finally, then just smiled at her and waited for the actual question to come. Adam finally took pity on her.

"We're dating," said Adam. "I think that's all there really is to tell right now. Unless you want to know where Kris got his shirt, which...actually, I have no idea. Kris, where'd you get that shirt?"

"I dunno, it was a gift," said Kris, giving them an endearing and helpless shrug. "Adam's the fashion guy, not me."

"Well, I can see that you're suddenly in very high demand," she said, "but it's been a pleasure chatting. Best of luck to both of you!"

Adam kept hold of Kris's hand as they moved on, or maybe Kris kept hold of his. It was kind of hard to tell at this point, but either way, this was a choice they were making together.

Hopefully just one of many yet to come.