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Only Forward: A Duet for Three

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When people told Kris his sophomore album was going to be harder than his debut, he always thought they were talking about the pressure to measure up. That was the common wisdom, in his somewhat limited experience. But it turned out it was a lot more complicated than that.

Six months past his original label deadline and Kris was struggling, wondering if maybe it had been easier the first time around because he had people leading him around by the nose every minute of every day and he didn't have time to second guess his decisions. Ultimately he'd had to pick his battles, and that meant fighting for the individual songs he wanted, not trying to take it further and tell a story with his album.

This time around he had the freedom to take the whole thing in his own direction, and now that he could tell one he wasn't sure he even knew what story he was trying to tell. Multiple choice questions had always been more straightforward than essays.

These days every new song felt like it was a personal challenge, not necessarily hard to write but sometimes hard to get, like he was writing from some subconscious place inside himself and once it was on paper he wasn't even entirely sure what he was looking at. He really dug in today though, just pushed through and didn't let himself stop and think too hard about it, and now at least he had something to work with. One step closer to being done.

"Hey, Kate?" he called down the half flight of stairs separating his music room and fledgling home studio from the main level of the house. "You got a second to listen to something?"

For all he knew Katy'd gone out hours ago - the last time he'd so much as poked his head out of the room it had still been mid-morning - but a few moments later he heard her footsteps on the tile floor of the kitchen and knew she was on her way.

Leaving the door open he sat back down on the awful salmon-colored sofa, one of the only pieces of furniture that both made the journey from Conway to LA and then the move from apartment to first house, and started strumming the opening chords again.

"Hey," she said, crossing straight over to kiss him on the corner of his mouth. "Sorry, I was just catching the latest news."

Before he'd holed himself up with his music the latest news had been Hurricane Emily, the Miley sex scandal and the results of the municipal special election, all of which had been just enough of a distraction to pull his attention away from what he was supposed to be doing, hence the holing up in the first place.

"Anything interesting?"

"Nothing more important than whatever you wanted me to listen to," she said, pulling her hair up into a messy ponytail and straddling the piano bench to listen. "Did you finish?"

"I think so," he said, giving her a tentative smile. "Finally, right?"

At least he'd been keeping his name out there, songs on a couple of soundtracks, a cameo on a sitcom. But he knew that this album was what everyone was waiting for, and that meant that he needed to finish it before the world collectively stopped waiting.

The thought made his gut clench in spite of the fact that he knew it was the right decision to wait and put out the album he wanted instead of rush something he didn't, no matter how long it seemed to be taking. But he reminded himself that there was no pressure here, with Katy; she'd heard his worst and his best and loved him then and all the times in between.

The song stretched his voice in ways he wasn't used to, reaching for a note on 'answers to questions I had yet to ask' that was definitely out of his range, but at the same time it felt pretty good to get through it, to just let the music come out the way it wanted to. When he finished, though, he looked to see Katy struggling to figure out what to say, and the smile started slipping off his face.

"Oh, Kris," she said, long moments after he finished, biting her lip and looking like she had something on the tip of her tongue that she didn't know quite how to break to him.

"You hated it, huh?" he said with a sigh, stilling the strings with his fingers.

"No, I think it's amazing," she said, which made the lump in his belly ease but also left him wondering what that look on her face was all about then. "It's just not for you."

Kris tilted his head, uncertain. "I don't know what that means."

"That song wasn't written for your voice, Kris," she said, reaching one arm out to him. If he let go of the strings and stretched his own out, he could just touch her fingertips. "It was written for someone else to sing."

The reaction still didn't quite make sense to him, but if the song wasn't working then he'd rather shelve it and move on than hand it over like a commodity. Not all songs were deeply personal expressions, and he respected the hell out of songwriters who wrote for other people, but Kris wasn’t someone who wrote anything that didn't come from deep inside him. He wrote songs for himself.

"I can't," he said finally. "Do you think I could work on it a little instead? If I change the key, and work on the bridge, I could--"

"I didn't mean just anyone," she interrupted him, squeezing his fingers. "There's only one other person I can imagine singing that song."

Kris's hand slipping on the strings sent a discordant sound through the room, as suddenly he understood exactly what she was saying to him, and what part his subconscious he'd been drawing these songs from. It wasn't just the range of the song that spoke of someone else; he was woven all through it lyrically too.

"Oh," he said. "Oh. Oh, Katy, I'm sorry. I have no idea how I didn't see that. I though it was...I don't even know. I'm sorry."

"It's not something to apologize for," she said. "Have you talked to him lately?"

"Two weeks ago, maybe? He called when I was in the studio; it was just bad timing. And when he's in Bangkok one day and Melbourne the next, there aren't a lot of chances to catch up. He's back in LA next week, though. He'll probably sleep for about twenty-four hours, but at least he'll be back in the city."

"We should have him over," she said, her voice growing noticeably more quiet. "It's been months."

"Well, world tours will do that to you," he said. It had been months. Seven months, to be exact. Sometimes Kris only knew what city Adam was even in from checking his twitter feed.

She let her fingers play with his for a moment, smiling at him warmly, and that was when he finally believed she really did dig the song. That he was on the right track with his album, even if realizing the direction it had taken, and beginning to understand the place it was coming from, was more than a little unsettling.

"Kris, I know you hate talking about it," she said finally, "but it wasn't supposed to be like this. You were supposed to stay friends."

"We are friends," said Kris, moving the guitar aside so he could get closer to her, plant a kiss on the end of her nose. "We're great friends. And it's not that I hate talking about it, it's just that you and I worked through that a long time ago. We don't need to talk about it anymore."

Maybe there should never have been anything that he and Katy needed to work through in the first place, maybe in a perfect world they wouldn't have been in couples counseling in their first year of marriage, but they did work at it and they got past it and things were good. They were wonderful.

"Sometimes it's okay to talk about things afterwards," she said. "We talk about your first year away at university. We talk about when you were sick. But we never talk about this."

"Because we don't need to," he insisted. "Because I love you more than breathing. I'll put that song away and work on something new."

"I would never ask you to do that."

"I know," he said. "That's why I'm offering."

"Well, I think your offer is ridiculous," she said. "Give Adam a call when he's back next week and play it for him, see what he thinks."

"When Adam gets back next week the last thing he's going to want to do with me is listen to some song I wrote about--" About them, about their friendship, about those glorious months two years ago that had been such a revelation for both of them.

"Listen to your wife," she said. "Enough is enough, Kristopher. Call that man and give him a big hug and a welcome home. The rest will come."

"Mm-hm," said Kris, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, but apparently it was enough for her. "Now come here, I seem to remember this couch being good for more than just music."

He could see she knew he was distracting her, but it didn't stop her from slipping off the bench and into his lap. And then there were more pressing things to think about than Adam Lambert or any song.

:::

The next morning found Kris splitting his time trying to write a song that he could sing on his album, one that maybe wasn't quite so personally revealing, and considering dropping everything to help organize the relief effort that was sure to come in the wake of Hurricane Emily, which hit the coast of Florida just before dawn.

"Just write about what you're feeling," said Katy, kissing his hair as she brought him some lunch, just sandwiches and a cold coke. "You're always at your best when you do."

"I don't want to write about what I'm feeling right now," said Kris, even though what he was feeling right now was powerful and raw, the perfect environment from which to birth a song. "How would you feel if I went to Florida?"

While he couldn't have seen the emergency coming, this desire to do something hadn't come out of nowhere. The lengthy album process had slowly but surely fostered a kind of restlessness in him, a longing to get out and do something. The pace of his first album had made him long for slow, lazy days; now his lack of progress made him long for those days when he felt like he was accomplishing something.

"I would feel like you just said 'I' there when you meant 'we'," she said. "I would also feel like you definitely haven't run that plan past your management team."

Kris offered her half of one of his sandwiches as she pulled up a chair next to him, peering over his shoulder not at his scribbled notes but at his laptop screen.

"I've just got this feeling," he said, putting his hand to his chest like he could touch something inside it. "I've got this feeling like it's not enough to just lend my name to some effort or throw some money at this and consider it enough. Maybe this is what I need to be doing right now. Maybe I really need to get outside my head for a little while and remind myself of what's really important."

She touched the neck of his guitar, silent beside them, then looked over at him again.

"Maybe it is," she said. "I can't tell you what's in your heart."

Kris liked to think he listened when God was telling him something, and God was telling him that he had work to do here. He just wasn't sure yet what form it was supposed to take.

"My work's supposed to mean something," he said. "It's been a long time since I did something."

"You do something all the time," she told him, "and it always means something. Just because your work is different now doesn't mean it's any less important. You can do what millions of people can't, Kristopher Allen, and don't you forget it."

"How can I, when people keep reminding me?" he said, but it brought a smile to his face anyway, even if it didn't ease the feeling in his gut. "I'll give it some thought."

"Which reminds me, someone from the label called the house phone," she said after she finished the sandwich. "I told them your cell phone was off because you were in your studio working and couldn't be disturbed. They didn't push it so it couldn't have been that important, but you should call when you get a chance."

"Sure," said Kris, cracking open his drink and putting his feet up. "As soon as I'm finished all this hard work. They do know you're not my assistant, right?"

"If you hadn't given your assistant an extended vacation, I wouldn't need to be," she said, but he knew she didn't begrudge it. And extended vacations while he wasn't busy meant a loyal, happy assistant. "I put her latest postcard up on the fridge."

"She'll be back next week," he said, checking the CNN homepage for the latest news. "I really do feel like I need to do something here. Sometimes you just know."

"Then we'll do something," she said, and though he'd never really doubted it, it still felt good to hear her say it with such confidence and conviction. "Things usually go pretty right when you listen to your gut."

And also, when it came to confronting his management with the idea, being quiet and easygoing ninety percent of the time meant he'd earned the right to get his way the other ten percent, because Kris was stubborn when it mattered. And this mattered.

The events of two years ago, which Kris had pushed down and pushed down until he didn't think about them every day anymore, weren't staying pushed down anymore, and like two years ago, keeping busy seemed to be the best way to deal with that.

:::

Middle of the night and everyone else is asleep, familiar enough with the bus now that falling asleep to the gentle sway, to the steady thrum of the tires on pavement, is second nature. But Kris is still way too keyed up even after everyone else winds down, too much going on as they head steadily for New York.

After everyone winds down, that is, but Adam.

"It's going to be amazing," says Kris, scrunched into the corner of the sofa with him, television long since turned off and practically curled around one another. 'It' could mean so many things, but with Adam Kris doesn't need to clarify.

Adam nods his head, then yawns and laughs at the same time, making a bizarre, choked sound that makes Kris grin at him, overtired and punchy.

"I'm so tired," says Adam, and Kris knows exactly what he means. He's exhausted too, physically, mentally, but it's easier not going through this alone. They're in this together, and they've always been in this together. Even before they were the final two, they were in it all together.

"None of this would be the same without you," says Kris, leaning his head on Adam's shoulder and closing his eyes. If Adam says anything after that, after his arms come around Kris and hold him close, Kris doesn't hear it.

:::

Katy had an audition at nine in the morning, and by noon she was pulling into the lot of the studio she knew Adam Lambert was working in, one she'd been to a dozen times or more with Kris. No one gave her a second glance as she made her way confidently through the hallways, having long ago learned that the trick to making people believe you belonged somewhere was simply acting like you did.

This wasn't a spur of the moment decision. In fact, she'd been planning it since the day she and Kris had hopped on a plane to Florida to spend a week getting their hands dirty, working shoulder to shoulder the way they had in those days and years before Kris went on his fateful audition.

She carefully picked a time when she knew exactly where Adam was going to be, when she knew Kris was going to be in a meeting and when she knew she was going to be in the area. Nothing was going to go wrong, and nothing was going to be put off any longer. She even got into the booth, listening to the last ten minutes of Adam's recording from an unobtrusive chair in the back.

"Katy?" said Adam when he spotted her. She gave him a wave, and knew full well the following glances to each side of her were to see if Kris was there too. "Guys, did we nail it that time?"

He got a 'OK' circle of thumb and forefinger (she was going to assume that didn't actually mean 'you're an asshole, Lambert') and a thumbs up, and hung his headphones up as he headed for the door.

"All right then, I'm taking a break."

Katy met him in the hallway and let him give her a big, enthusiastic hug. "I saw you guys on the news last week," he said. "Every time I think you can't get more perfect...."

"You have no idea how hard Kris had to fight for that," she said, though if anyone did, it was probably Adam. "But you know Kris. Once he gets an idea in his head, he follows through."

Most of the time, anyway.

"Makes me look like a real slacker," he said, with a wide, guileless smile.

"Slacker, right," she said. "Barely back in the country and already back in the studio working on your next album."

"I got two days of sleep before I even answered my phone," he promised her. "You want to get a coffee or something? We can sit down and you can tell me whatever it is you came here to tell me?"

She was glad neither of them was going to pretend she didn't have an agenda here.

"That'd be nice," she said, even if the burnt-tasting coffee came out of a dispensing machine that made her long for the simple, perfect coffeemaker on her kitchen counter. "It's been too long."

"It really has," he agree. "Kris and I have both been so busy I feel like we've been communicating by text for months. I tried to get ahold of him last month but my timing was off."

"You're both pretty busy guys," she said, finding a cold, plastic seat and crossing her legs as she sat down, insulated cup in hand. "Sometimes you just have to make time."

"Sometimes you do," agreed Adam, still smiling but maybe a little wary, too, which she couldn't exactly blame him for. While it was safe to say they'd been friends from the first time Kris introduced them, neither one of them made a habit of getting together without Kris. "So what's up?"

"Kris wrote a song," she said, studying a chip in the nail polish on her thumb, pale fingernail peeking through the plum. "He's probably planning never going to tell you this, even though he should, but Kris wrote a song and it's for you."

Adam shook his head, not understanding, which of course he didn't. There were a lot of pieces missing in the story she was telling him, and he didn't have the information to fill all of the blanks. Just most of them.

"I don't pretend to always understand what's going on in his head," she said, "but he wrote a song that's...well, it's obviously meant for you to sing, whether he realized it or not. And my idiot husband would rather shelve it than tell you, because sometimes he doesn't know when to listen to his gut. I think the two of you should talk about that."

"Okay, huh," said Adam, studying his black coffee without taking so much as a sip. "Certainly not a conversation I thought I'd be having today."

"You were best friends," she said. "And maybe, with a little work, you could get there again." Adam smiled, but she could see the sadness in it. She knew that look, even if she didn't know it on Adam's face. "I mean it."

"I think that window of opportunity has passed," he said. "I'm just glad to have him in my life, I'm glad he's my friend."

"I also think you don't actually understand what happened two years ago," she said, just finally getting that out there even though those words were harder to say, "and I think the two of you should talk about that too."

"Wow, awkward," said Adam after a stunned pause, that sad smile lingering on his face. "I don't even know how to...look, I think we all know there was a line crossed once, and there's really no going back from that. I've never blamed him for pulling away a little. He could've done so much worse."

"No, we can't go back, we can only go forward," she agreed, "but I think things got a little snarled up somewhere. Just give it a try? For me?"

"I do owe you one," he said, which he didn't need to explain and she didn't need to ask him to. "And it's not like you have to twist my arm to want to talk to Kris. It's positively criminal that we haven't connected since I got back."

"You did nothing but make each other smile once," she said, and she'd never minded that. She'd never minded that. "Don't you want to have that again?"

"Probably more than you'd ever want me to tell you about," he said, revealing something she'd known for a long time, and something that had never before been said between them. And there, in that moment, Katy finally had hope that maybe this really could be fixed.

:::

Kris was stuck in traffic when his phone rang and he wasn't going to answer it, hated talking on the phone while he was driving even when traffic was sluggish, but then he saw Adam's name and was picking up before he thought about it.

"Hey, you," he said. "You always have such great timing."

"You're not in the studio again, are you?"

"Stuck in traffic," said Kris, inching his car forward. "I've mostly been working at home lately. Wish I'd been able to stay home today, actually."

"Yeah, that's what Katy said," said Adam, and that was when he got Kris's full attention.

"When were you talking to Katy?"

"She stopped by to see me the other day," said Adam. "Believe me, no one was as surprised as I was. She's looking good. Happy."

A horn sounded somewhere behind him, and Kris was the only person who didn't promptly raise an arm to give him the finger. "Did you see her on CSI Atlanta?" said Kris. "Do they even show that in southeast Asia? They're thinking about bringing her back for another episode later in the season."

"Hey, that's great," said Adam. "She didn't mention that."

"So what did she mention?" said Kris, then, "Wait, hang on." He set the phone aside and braced his hands on the wheel as traffic started to move, but ended up only about ten feet from where he started. "Never mind, false alarm. So I...sorry, it's just a little weird. Did she just stop by to visit?"

"Yeah, it was weird for me too," said Adam, "but I missed her. I miss you too, Kris."

"Yeah," said Kris, and let a silence fall for a few moments. "Yeah, we should do something some time."

"That's what Katy thought too," said Adam. "That's why she came. I don't really know what's going on in your life right now that she thought she had to come visit me to tell me that, but if it's that important to her...."

"It's important to me too," said Kris.

"And...."

There was something in his voice that made Kris glad his vehicle was stationary at the moment. "And what?""

"Okay maybe I shouldn't be saying this over the phone, especially not while you're driving, but the thing that happened was a couple years ago now," he said. Blurted out, really, like he'd been trying to hold the words back but they were coming whether he liked it or not. "I'd like it if we could just maybe finally bury that."

Kris had buried that, and maybe that was the problem.

"It was never--" Kris started, but that was a lie. The awkwardness between them - never at the forefront of their friendship but always there, like background static - was about that, had always been about that, just not in the way Adam thought it was.

"I want that too," he said, instead of explaining. If Katy had actually gone to Adam, then maintaining any kind of distance wasn't anything noble he was doing for her, no matter what he told himself. If Katy had gone to Adam then she hadn't just been saying she wanted this for him, she really meant she wanted it to happen.

And maybe it really was time.

"We've said this before--"

"Right now," Kris interrupted, then inched forward with the traffic. "Come over right now. Can you?"

"I can probably get there faster than you, by the sounds of it," said Adam. "Kris, are you sure you want to do this today?"

"Listen to us," said Kris, maybe emboldened by his conversation with Katy, or his recent reconnection with his roots, or even the fury of the drivers around him that made him feel like the calm and reasonable one even when he was making bold suggestions. "We don't need to be awkward about this just because someone finally said it. Come over, if you can. We'll be normal."

"Just let your wife know I'm coming," said Adam, "or don't, and let me surprise her. God knows I owe her one of those."

"I'll give her a call," said Kris. "No promises whether or not I'll get through. And I'll be there...soon, I hope. I'm almost at my exit."

"If you're sure," said Adam, but didn't wait for Kris to answer. "Okay, get off your phone if you're driving. I'll see you soon."

And he hung up before anyone could change their mind.

:::

It's exhilarating, even after everything they've already done, to perform there and then - New York City, Central Park - and Kris is breathless afterwards, unable to keep the smile off his face. But the way Adam is looking at him is strange, and intense, and intimate in a way that's new and yet not quite unfamiliar.

"Adam?" he says, and then Adam is leaning in, placing a hand on each side of Kris's face and kissing him softly.

"There," he says, when Kris is stunned into silence. "It's done. Now I start to get over you."

"Adam?" he manages to say again, trying to get all of his questions into that one word. "You. I. But this was never--"

"No, it always was," he says. "This is the truth. This is what it's always been for me. And now I move on."

Kris wants to protest, wants to say that maybe he doesn't want to move on, that maybe he doesn't know what this is and maybe they should talk about it, but Adam is backing away, pulling out his phone, and Kris knows in his gut that he's calling Drake.

He knows that somehow, in this moment, and in ways he can't even begin to untangle yet, everything just changed.

:::

Kris did make it home first, but not by much from the sounds of it. He was picking up in the music room, mostly piling things up that had gotten a little out of hand, when he heard voices from downstairs and then heard the creak of the first step.

"What, do you live in a cave?" said Adam. "Open those curtains, Allen, and let the sun shine in."

Kris put down the stack of magazines he was holding and yanked the curtains open before turning back and letting Adam pull him into a hug.

"Do you know how long it's been since I last saw you?" he said. "It's kind of ridiculous."

"It kind of is," said Kris when he finally let him go. "I still can't believe Katy came to see you."

"Why? You always knew your wife had a thing for me, Allen, this is just a long time coming," said Adam. "I can't believe she had to come see me."

"It's just been a weird time," said Kris. "You know how it felt when we were on Idol, and everything was weird and new and changing and you had this itchy feeling that something was coming but you didn't know what?"

"You feeling like that again?"

"Only this time there's nothing obvious on the horizon," said Kris. "I've been grasping at straws a little."

"Florida's a pretty big straw," said Adam. "You did good. You always made me so proud to be your friend, you have no idea."

"Thanks," said Kris softly, reaching to toy with the edge of the curtain. "It felt like the right thing to do. They needed people to do things, not just say things."

"That's why you're Kris Allen," he said.

"Actually, I think I'm Kris Allen because my parents decided not to go with Craig. Can you imagine me named Craig?"

"Wow, no," laughed Adam, making himself at home on the couch. It wasn't as though he'd never been on it before, but seeing him there like that still made Kris feel a little warmer. "So tell me about this song, Kris. Katy seemed pretty adamant that I hear it."

"Yeah, I know," said Kris, letting go of the curtain but not picking up his guitar. "It's just...I think the song is just a symbol, you know? I think she wants you to hear the song because she thinks the song comes from some buried place, and somehow that means she thinks we don't talk enough. The song's not really the important part."

"We don't talk enough," said Adam. "Especially lately. So play me the song and let me decide for myself. Come on, you know you want to."

"Should play you the rest of what I've done too," added Kris. "I recorded a few. Just here at home, just to play with them a little. I'm no producer."

"You're stalling," said Adam, less accusation and more curiosity. "Why are you stalling?"

"It just feels a little weird," said Kris, "like I'll be revealing stuff about myself without meaning to, like I dredged some stuff up without realizing it. I'd rather knowingly expose myself."

"Hey," said Adam quietly instead of going for the obvious joke about just how many times they'd managed to expose themselves when they were living together. "Hey, it's just me, you know? You know I'd never...well, I'm not sure what you're afraid will happen, but I promise I won't do it."

"I'm not afraid you'll do anything," said Kris. "All right, I'm just being stupid." It was just Adam, and Kris remembered the first time he played for him, sitting in their hotel room after making the final twelve, not yet thirteen, and snatched from their former roommates who hadn't made the cut. Even then, Adam had been great. Right from the first moment.

He didn't close his eyes this time, or at least he didn't mean to, but that was just how he sang. He stopped thinking about what Katy had said, or what Adam might think, and just played the song that he'd pulled out of his head and his heart, bit by torturous bit, until the last chord finished ringing out through the room.

He looked at the empty seat on the couch next to Adam, then licked his lips and looked right at him. Adam just looked thoughtful.

"I see Katy's point now," he said, nodding his head.

"That's all you've got for me? 'I see Katy's point?'"

Adam laughed and shook his head. "Don't worry, Kris, you didn't accidentally reveal your secret pain," he said. "But change the key up just a touch and that song's right in my sweet spot, which is definitely out of yours. I could hear the strain there."

Kris touched his throat and he knew he was right, knew Katy had been right about that too. But he didn't need to change the song to suit him. It was right the way it was, it just... wasn't for him.

"It's yours if you want it," he said, and now that he was faced with Adam right there in front of him it wasn't even something he had to think about. "It's just...it's about friendship, you know? Not the cheesy 'I've got a friend in you' stuff, but about meeting someone in your life and slowing realizing that you can give them everything, that you can trust them with it. Like when I met Katy. But not the romance, the friendship."

"Like when I met you," Adam added, without making it more than it needed to be. "Maybe I haven't been giving everything lately, but I've never forgotten that I can."

Two years, thought Kris. Two years gone and just like that he could just let go of all the worries he'd been carrying and remember what they had, the thing that went beyond a comfortable friendship and into...into exactly what he wrote into the song.

"So do it, then," said Kris, putting his guitar aside and sitting down next to him on the couch, right inside his personal space like he always used to be. "What's new, Adam? You still with that guy with the hair?"

"His name was Dane," said Adam, "and I know you hated him, Kristopher, you don't have to pretend."

"Does past tense mean you're not seeing him anymore?"

"It was just a fling," said Adam, "and over three months ago, so I can't believe you even have to ask. Don't you read Perez?"

"Not without a gun to my head," said Kris. "Someone new, then? That you're keeping under wraps, I guess, because even if I don't watch the entertainment shows, Katy does."

"Hard to hold on to a fledgling relationship when you don't have any time for anyone else. Been there, done that, should've learned that lesson. I decided to focus on myself for a little while," said Adam with a sigh. "Twenty-nine and single again. Not all of us are as lucky as you, Kristopher."

"I was always sorry it didn't work out with Drake," said Kris, which was the absolute truth. Two years ago when his world had been shaken up, the fact that Adam was at least with someone Kris genuinely liked had been one of his few consolations.

"Yeah, me too," said Adam, "but that's such ancient history now. We need some kind of a pact, to only look forward for a while."

It sounded like something Katy would say, which in Kris's experience usually meant it was a good idea.

"Only forward," he agreed. "So tell me what's new with you now, then."

And until Katy called up the stairs to say she was going to bed, Adam did.

:::

"So what's the occasion?" said Katy, tilting her head to the side as she put one of her diamond earrings in, a gift from Kris on her last birthday.

"The occasion is, I love you and I don't tell you that often enough," said Kris. "Also, I've been ridiculously moody lately and you've put up with every moment of it. I owe you a nice dinner."

"You don't owe me anything," she said, leaning in closer to the mirror to give her make-up one last check. "But I'm certainly not going to turn it down."

"It's a thank you, too," he admitted, mostly because he was sure she already knew that. "Thank you for giving me Adam back."

"I never had him, baby," she said, kissing his cheek and then giving it a playful smack. "That was all you. But I'm glad you found him again, and I will happily take the thanks if it means a dinner out with my husband. Do you think these shoes will look okay in the paparazzi photos?"

"I think you would look stunning even if you showed up in those terrible workout shorts and the sports bra with the pin holding it together."

"You're not supposed to know about the sports bra with the pin holding it together," she said, smacking his hip this time to get him out of the bedroom. "Snooping through my drawers?"

"Worse," he said. "Doing the laundry when you were working. Also, watching you work out. Which is hot, by the way."

"Only you, Kris," she said, flipping off the light and letting him take her hand as he led the way downstairs. "Are we in a hurry? Do we have reservations?"

"Should I have made reservations?" said Kris, pausing halfway down the stairs to give her a wide-eyed puppydog look. "Am I not famous enough to just show up and get a table?"

"Hang on, honey, we're going to need to puncture that ego of yours before we can get out the front door. Good thing we don't have a reservation to make."

Kris grinned and lay a hand on her waist, then slid it up her side till he could graze one thumb over her nipple.

"Oh, none of that or we really will be late," she said, but she didn't stop him and he flicked his thumb till he heard her breath quicken and saw her cheeks flush. Then he let his hand fall again, leaned up to give her a quick kiss, then led the way down the rest of the stairs.

"Kristopher Allen you are a tease!"

"Am not," he protested, pulling her into his arms again as they reached the landing at the bottom of the stairs. "Consider it a promise for later."

"I'm going to hold you to that," she said. "And if you let your fingers creep up under my dress at dinner I cannot be held responsible for what I do."

"I'll keep that in mind," said Kris. "My publicist did say it would be good to get in the papers again."

"She said that before Florida," said Katy, letting her arms linger around him for a last few moments before they left. "And it doesn't apply to fingering your wife in public. I'll get that in writing if I have to, just watch me."

"What about in private?"

"You did make me that promise," she said, and stepped back to take his hands in hers and then, finally, they were heading for the door.

:::

"Hey," said Adam, stepping inside the house the moment Kris gave him enough room to do so. "Oh, I can come in, right? You're not busy?"

Kris just laughed. "What, do you think I'd leave you on the doorstep when you showed up unannounced?"

Adam held up his iPhone. "I was busy singing into my voicemail," he said, "or I would've called. But I was in the neighborhood, and...."

"You were just driving through my neighborhood?"

"I was just driving," Adam clarified, "and somehow I ended up nearby. Apparently my subconscious had something to say about my plans for today. But I do have something I want to talk about, and it's probably better in person than over the phone."

"Most things are," said Kris, closing the door behind them and giving Adam room to get to the point. "Katy's working, do you want to come up to the music room?"

"No better place," said Adam, putting his phone away again. As he followed Kris to the back of the house, Kris realized he was humming the song Kris had played for him the other day.

"You think you might use it, then?" he said as he sat down, feet up on a Rolling Stone from two months ago, cover already bent at the corner. Adam didn't even pretend he didn't know what Kris was talking about.

"I've been thinking about it since you played it for me," said Adam, sitting down next to him, hip to hip, "and I realized something, Kris. This song isn't for me. It's for us."

Kris chewed on his lip and was shaking his head before he really thought about it. He should've seen that suggestion coming, given what the song was about, but it took him off guard.

"Not that I mind the enthusiasm," he said, "but we've talked about this before. Heck, we've done stuff together a hundred times." Both publicly and, much more often, privately. "In the end we always agree that it's great to work together, but it doesn't mesh well enough to record."

"This is different," said Adam. "This isn't a cover, this is meant for us. This is our song."

These words are the end of a sentence you once began, and I don't have to tell you where or how or when. Kris couldn't argue that it was about their friendship, but after all his angsting about it, giving the song to Adam felt like giving the friendship back to him too, and Kris liked the way that was working out so far.

"It's a song for you."

"Hear me out," said Adam, a bit of a smug curl to his lips. He probably thought he was hiding it as he earnestly worked to convince him, but to Kris it was a clear indication he still had an ace up his sleeve. "I've been approached to record a song for a benefit CD, the proceeds of which will go to the families affected by Hurricane Emily. I know how much that means to you, Kris. Think about how much money it could raise if it wasn't just me, but us?"

Now that was some ace.

Whenever anyone asked, Kris always said that he and Adam weren't very likely to record a duet - and even now people asked an awful lot. They were just too different, artistically; they were going in different directions. Had gone in different directions. It had nothing to do with whether or not they wanted to work together and everything to do with artistic sense.

But the saying went "never say never" for a reason.

"Oh, man," said Kris, rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hand. He'd have to be a real jackass to say no to that. And more than that, when it was put in those terms, something just suddenly struck him as right about the idea after all. "I guess I'd better start coming up with an arrangement, huh?"

Adam actually clapped his hands together, something in between melodramatic villain and teenage girl.

"I haven't said yes yet!"

"Oh, that was a yes and you know it."

"You already told them we would do it, didn't you?"

"I may have hinted strongly," said Adam, "but you know I would never actually promise anything without you on board. Not my promise to make."

"You may have hinted strongly," said Kris with a little smile, and knowing that now it was a wonder he hadn't heard it from someone else before Adam had a chance. Adam was huge, and Kris was pretty big too, and despite their divergent careers they were still linked in so many people's minds. "Hinted strongly right before coming over here to knock on my door?"

"It's possible," said Adam, knocking Kris's knee with his. "So we have a deal?"

Kris offered his hand and they did actually shake on it, and afterwards Kris let his hand rest on Adam's leg and just felt warm and comfortable accepted that he could have this level of friendship again. That it wasn't dangerous anymore.

"So now that you're here," he said finally, "do you want to stay for dinner? You probably already have plans."

"Nothing I can't break," said Adam, clapping a hand on Kris's knee in return. "Katy cooking?"

"She'll be on set till at least midnight," said Kris. "Is that a deal breaker? You're only staying for dinner if my wife is going to cook for us?"

"Maybe I'm only staying if she isn't," said Adam. "Did you ever think about that?"

"Considering that last time I cooked for us I accidentally gave you food poisoning, I wasn't sure you were willing to take that chance again."

"Mild food poisoning," said Adam, "and it wasn't even your fault. Bad shrimp. Not fun."

"Well, I know that," said Kris, "but you're the one who spent the night in the guest bathroom."

"So we're ordering in, then," Adam concluded, punctuating it with a little smirk. "I know what you were angling for right from the start, Kristopher, I'm on to you and your lazy ways."

"You always were able to read me," said Kris. Except, maybe, when it mattered the most, which Kris had always professed to be grateful for.

:::

Kris always knew Adam had a crush on him, but the same way Kris has a crush on Reese Witherspoon. Nice to look at and fantasize about, but nothing more serious than that. He didn't think it was anything more.

But it is.

And when Kris said he had a crush on Adam, he really believed it meant that he wished he could be more like him, that he liked all the time he spent with Adam, that he idolized him in a way. He might've even said it in just those words, if the word 'idol' didn't have too many other meanings now.

But it isn't that. And what's more, it never was that. Kris has a crush on Adam. He wants to sneak into his bedroom at night and kiss him again, lie next to him and share his life and all his secrets. He wants to do that again and again, every day, every night.

No, Kris doesn't have a crush on Adam, he's in love with him.

And now that he's finally realized that, he's going to have to actually deal with it.

:::

Katy was used to Kris being up at all hours, so the fact that the only light on in the house was up in the music room wasn't anything new. Finding Adam Lambert up there with him, however, was.

"Well, look what the cat dragged in," she said, flipping on the hall light. "Have you two been up here all night?"

"All night?" said Kris, moving his legs off Adam's lap. "What time is it?"

Katy looked down at her watch, twisting it on her wrist for a moment. "Just after one," she said. "I hope neither of you has anything to do in the morning."

"Wow," said Kris, hesitating for a moment before pushing himself off the couch using Adam's knee. "Seriously?"

"I'm home, aren't I?" she said as Kris shuffled across the room to welcome her home. From the slight sway to his steps, she guessed that the little army of beer bottles hadn't accumulated over the past few days. More like the past few hours. "You two look like you've been having a good time."

"We've been working," said Adam, then grinned at the both of them. "Sort of. Time for me to head home and leave the two of you alone?"

"Time for you to get me something to drink," said Katy. "I'm the one who's had a long day here. Don't tell me you've cleaned us out."

"Nah, your husband's a lightweight," said Adam, reaching beside the couch and grabbing her a handy beer, popping the cap off for her but not getting up. It was a bit of a relief that most of the bottles were apparently his; Kris's body really didn't handle all that alcohol very well. "I promised him I'd bring pot next time. Wait, was I supposed to tell her that?"

"My husband, the pothead," said Katy, kissing him on the forehead. "Are we out?"

Adam just laughed and held the beer out until Katy let go of her husband and threw her purse on a chair and claimed it from him. "Apparently," he said. "It was our first port of call."

"So how was work?" said Kris, crawling over her to squirm into the space between her and Adam. "Your hair looks crazy."

"Kris, you're not supposed to say that," Adam admonished him. "We have Thai. Do you want Thai, Katy?"

"No, really, it's craaaaazy," said Kris, reaching up and touching it, bouncing his fingers off it. "Crazy lady hair. It's kind of awesome."

"I cut him off half an hour ago," Adam assured her, but Katy just smiled and reaching for Kris's hand, twining his fingers with hers and resting their hands in her lap as she sipped her own beer. "Good day on set?"

"Great day on set," she said, "and a late call time tomorrow, so I can enjoy this beer. Did you say there's Thai?"

"It's down in the kitchen, though," said Adam apologetically. "The mini-fridge up here was still full of beer when we ate."

"Bet there's lots of room for it now," she said as Kris laid his head on her shoulder and let his knees splay open, one side pressed against Adam and one side pressed against her. "Thai can wait. Now that I'm sitting I don't want to stand up again until someone makes me."

"I'll get you food, baby," said Kris. "In a minute."

"Sure you will," she said, kissing his head.

The whole tableau reminded her so much of those months after they first met Adam, the comfort they had with each other, with her. They way they could talk about anything or nothing, either of those feeling completely natural. This felt completely natural again, and the relief was something she couldn't even put into words.

She'd thought very hard about doing this, about pushing this, but no matter what happened now, one look at Kris's relaxed, happy face told her it was the right decision.

"Working, huh?" she went on a moment later.

"On the song," said Kris. "We're doing the song."

When she looked over at Adam for confirmation he nodded his head enthusiastically, and she couldn't help smiling.

"Well," she said. "You'll have to tell me all about it. Tomorrow."

:::

They tried it first with the piano but it felt too disconnected, the instrument forming some kind of emotional and acoustic barrier. It always had though, and Kris had known it was going to before he ever sat down.

"Just your guitar," said Adam. "Just you and me and your guitar, Kris, and see how it sounds. You're always so amazing when you strip it back."

"So are you," said Kris, then grinned at him as he added, "not that you do that very often."

"What, the glittery cape and orchestra in my last show weren't subtle enough for your tastes?"

Kris just snorted and fooled around with the intro a couple of times until he came up with something that felt good, that had Adam nodding along with it. Adam pulled up a stool so that they were sitting side by side, and the next time Kris ran it through he kept going right into the song.

It would take some work to get their voices to blend just right - the one big roadblock that had always existed, though they were closer than they used to be - but the energy, the resonance, the emotion, already they had that down. They had that down without even trying.

"I'm not sorry I've forgotten our last lifetime, because I get to discover you all over again," said Adam, echoing the lyric a little curiously.

"It's something Katy said to me once," said Kris. "That even if we were together in a dozen other lifetimes, she's glad she doesn't remember them because that would ruin all the fun. That even after you get close to someone, even after you get comfortable, the best part is that you never run out of new things to learn."

Adam smiled at his hands, and looked more sad than he should've. "I'm sorry I messed it all up," he said, startling Kris with the direction his thoughts had taken. "I didn't think it through very well. It was supposed to fix things, not break them."

"You didn't mess everything up in the first place," said Kris, and felt like he should kick himself for ever making Adam feel like it was.

"Sure," said Adam, like Kris was just saying that to placate him. "And I know, we're only looking forward, right? But it's been in the back of my head and I just wanted to tell you, because we never talked about it. Even when we talked about it, we never really talked about it. We just pretended it never happened."

"I never pretended it didn't happen," said Kris, but he might as well have for all he'd talked about it with Adam. "I didn't mean to."

"I kissed you and everything changed."

It didn't change a lot, just a little, the moment a small and quiet one instead of huge and monumental. Everything did change, but just enough that nothing ever quite fit again after that.

"It did," said Kris, and licked his lips and hoped Katy would forgive him for talking about this. Because choosing not to talk about it now wouldn't be an oversight or an accident, it would be deliberately choosing to let Adam keep carrying this burden. "But not in the way you think."

Adam was silent, obviously thinking about it and just as obviously unsure of what Kris was saying.

"You never gave me a chance to say it," said Kris, "and I'm glad I never had that chance back then, because it made me really face up and deal with it, with Katy. But it was never about you having feelings for me, it was about me having feelings for you."

"Kris, I...." Adam started, but for once seemed truly at a loss for words.

"I kind of accidentally fell in love with you," said Kris, "and I didn't even understand that was what happened until that moment. Until you kissed me and ended it. But it's not.... You got serious with Drake, right after. And me and Katy, we got some counseling, we worked it out."

Adam looked even more uncertain now, and while Kris expected him to need a little time to take in the revelation, he'd expected a little more relief and a little less horror. Adam licked his lips and opened his mouth a couple of times before actually managing to ask what was on his mind.

"The kind of counseling where they convince you that you don't actually have feelings for other men?"

Oh. "Not that kind of counseling," said Kris quickly. "Marriage counseling. The feelings for other men thing...." He shrugged and realized that huh, he was actually sort of coming out for the first time since Katy. "I'm actually pretty fine with that. It was a surprise, but not a huge deal. The problem was that I was married. I'd already chosen the person I was going to be with, and even if I fell in love with you, I never fell out of love with Katy. I'm sorry. I should have told you a long time ago."

Adam nodded, but it seemed to say 'I'm listening' more than 'I agree with you'. "Or maybe," he said a moment later, "telling me a long time ago would've been a disaster and now is just finally the right time."

"Are you mad?"

Adam sighed and shook his head. "Everything makes a lot more sense now," he said. "I wish I'd known, but I get why I wasn't the right person to talk to about this. Katy was okay with it?"

It was Kris's turn to hesitate. "Yes," he said finally. "It was hard for us, for a while. We didn't really know how to deal with it, and so much was happening at once, but we worked it out. I've loved her since I was sixteen for a reason, you know? She gets me."

"Good," said Adam. "Wow, okay. So it wasn't me."

"I think it was sort of a mutual pushing away, at the time," said Kris slowly, breathing a little sigh of relief when Adam nodded. It had been such an awkward time, both of them a little adrift, best friends with their private struggles trying to pretend there was nothing wrong. "I didn't know how else to handle it."

"I don't believe in regrets," said Adam, "so if we pushed away then, let's just keep on pulling back to make up for it."

"No regrets," said Kris. "Everything worked out for us."

"And right now we have a song to get together," said Adam. "From the top, Kristopher."

"From the top," he agreed, and launched into things all over again.

:::

The album was all but done, which surprised no one more than Kris. Somehow it all just came together at once, and maybe Katy was right. No, of course Katy was right. When Kris wasn't fighting his instincts, things really did start to fall into place. And when things fell into place he was able to direct his energy to where it was needed most.

And now Kris had one track left to record before he had an album he was proud of, which of course meant he was in the guest bedroom rolling joints while Adam cracked a window.

"I need to play the new tracks for you," he said, licking and sealing and twisting and then holding it his arm so Adam could take it and light it. "I swapped out a couple of the older songs and it's really tight now, it really says what I want it to say."

He could add 'unlike last time' but he figured, with Adam if with no one else, he didn't have to point that out.

"I'm glad they figured out what you're best at," he said, sitting in the wicker chair by the window and taking a hit.

"I think it's more like they figured out what people wanted out of me," said Kris, sticking another joint in his shirt pocket and then packing the baggie away before joining him over there. "Sincerity sells."

"Your sincerity sells," said Adam, passing the joint over as Kris perched himself on the hope chest at the end of the bed. "So do you have them here with you, or are you just being a tease?"

"Mm, on my iPod, in my pocket," said Kris, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling. Out of the corner of his eye he watched Adam rummage around behind him for a couple of minutes before asking. "What are you doing?"

"Looking for your iPod!" said Adam. If it were possible to hear an eyeroll, Kris was pretty sure he was hearing one right then. "Which pocket?"

"My pants pocket," he said, pushing his hips up off his seat just enough for someone to get their hand inside and pull it out. A moment later he figured out that someone was supposed to be him. "It's just a rough mix."

He offered both the iPod and the joint, and after a moment of thought Adam took the iPod, motioning for Kris to enjoy the joint a little longer. "Your drug of choice to make up for our night of beer and debauchery."

"My liver thanks you," said Kris, taking another hit while Adam scrolled through his playlists. "It's called 'Kris Allen is Awesome'," he said, and enjoyed watching Adam's expression change from absent protest to amusement as he discovered that Kris had, in fact, called the playlist exactly that. "Tracks ten and eleven."

"Kris Allen is Awesome?"

"I was feeling pretty good when I finally got them down," he said, and as soon as Adam was settled in with the music Kris finally passed the joint over. He shut up after that, watching Adam smile and bob his head, and smiling and bobbing his head along with him as he made a guess as to what parts he was hearing.

"You know, I liked your first album," said Adam when he took the earbuds out, "it was pretty sick. But this...this is you. I mean, this is the you I know, I used to know."

"You still know him," said Kris. "Know me, I mean. I'm still that guy."

"Yeah, you are," said Adam, handing the iPod back then putting his feet up on the hope chest next to Kris's thighs. "And I feel like when you put this out there, other people are going to get to know him too."

"Yeah," said Kris and chuckled nervously. "It's a little scarier when you put it that way."

"It's just so honest," said Adam earnestly. "I mean, it sounds great too, you know you've got a gift for that, but to me it's like you're a whole person on this album instead of pieces of a person. Does that make sense?"

"Not really?" said Kris, taking the joint back from Adam when it was offered. "I mean, yes, but...wait, what was the question?"

Adam smiled at him and a breeze fluttered the curtains beside him. "Your album is great, Kris, don't change a thing."

They didn't manage to get any work in after that, but then Kris felt like they were pretty much ready to head into the studio anyway.

:::

"I've got this thing tomorrow," said Kris, rummaging through the walk-in closet which was three quarters Katy's clothes and one quarter Kris's shirts, even though it was designed to be a his-and-hers. Given Kris's fashion sense, it was more a hers-and-hers with a few traces of his here and there, but definitely by mutual agreement. "That you're going to be able to come to with me, right?"

"The awards thing? Of course," she said. She wasn't the sort to forget about that kind of thing, or book work to conflict with it if she could help it. "I've already picked out a dress."

"Afterwards I thought I might see if I could catch up with Adam. He's supposed to get back from New York around eleven. That's all right, isn't it?"

"You've got more work to do?" she said, unerringly pulling the white shirt Kris was obviously looking for out from amongst everything else and handing it over.

"Just, you know, some last minute things to hash out before we record it on Thursday," said Kris. "I don't know when we'll have another chance before we're actually in the studio."

"It's fine," Katy assured him. "Should we take separate cars?"

"No," said Kris, then after a moment of thought, "actually, that would be convenient, but wouldn't it look bad?"

"You can drop me off at home after, then," said Katy. "It's not that far out of your way."

And she didn't doubt that Kris really did believe he needed to see Adam one more time before they recorded the duet. She didn't doubt that at all. But it wasn't because they needed to work on the song, and it wasn't because they needed to rehearse it any more. Katy had a very good idea why Kris needed to see him, but she didn't think Kris knew.

And maybe, for now, that was okay.

"That could work," he said. "Unless they get us a car. It's not really that kind of thing, though."

"Too bad," she said. "Having someone else to drive us is always kind of fun, after a couple of glasses of wine."

Kris hung the shirt off the closet door and swung her around to kiss her up against her summer dresses. "What about before a couple of glasses of wine?"

"Before a couple of glasses of wine we don't need to climb into the back seat of a car," she said, hooking a finger through the waistband of his boxer shorts and holding him there. "We've hardly seen each other lately."

"I know," said Kris, kissing her again, one hand at the small of her bare back, just sliding down into her jeans. "With the album, and meetings, and Adam, and...."

"And filming and auditions," she added, because it wasn't just him. "Good thing you're so cute, huh?"

"I'm more than just a pretty face," said Kris, his other hand roaming up to her bra clasp. "I don't have any plans for tonight, though. You?"

Given that Kris was in his underwear, and Katy hadn't even put a shirt on yet, odds were good that neither of them was going anywhere.

"I think I do now," she said, letting him unhook it and slide it off her arms. She would've started on her jeans but then Kris slid a hand between her legs overtop of them, cupped her and rubbed a little through the fabric. "Boy do I now."

"Kind of been wanting to do this all day," he admitted, reaching up with his other hand to cup her breast and graze his thumb over her nipple.

"Come on, let me get out of these," she said, scrabbling for the zipper of her jeans. "It'll take two seconds, I swear."

It took him a moment, kissing the side of her neck and finally rubbing just right against her clit through the rough fabric, before he stepped away and she desperately yanked her jeans and panties off, throwing them to the back of the closet. Kris's shorts joined them a moment later before he pressed back in, his thigh between her legs this time and both hands on her breasts as he kissed her again.

"Have I told you in the last few minutes that I love you?"

"If your mouth isn't too busy to talk, you're not trying hard enough," she said, biting down on his lower lip while it was in such tempting close range. "If you wanted to take this slow, you would've led me back to the bed."

"Could still carry you," he said, but he made no move to do any such thing, and he took her advice to shut up and put out, mouthing down the side of her neck to her collarbone. She lifted one knee to run up and down the outside of his thigh and let him press in closer, kissing and sucking her nipples and driving her absolutely crazy with want.

No matter what else was going on in their lives, Kris had always been able to make her feel like this. She couldn't imagine a world in which they didn't want each other this much.

She was so, so wet when she finally shoved a dozen dresses to the side, kicked a few pairs of shoes out of their way and exposed just enough wall for Kris to lift her up against. She wrapped her legs around his waist, desperate for leverage, and Kris finally slid into her.

She refused to close her eyes even when he did, watching every twitch of his muscles, watching every expression that crossed his face as he held her there, strong and steady, and they fucked up against the closet wall. He was, and always would be, the best thing that ever happened to her.

He was gasping in her ear before long, hands sweaty against her ass and thighs, mouth moving from her ear to her throat again. He left little kisses wherever he could reach until she arched her back and he latched onto her breasts again. She tried to say something but when she opened her mouth she just let out a soft cry as he thrust into her a little harder.

"Kris," she managed to get out, right before he sank his fingers into her skin and pulled her onto him, and she felt sparks beginning to shoot along her nerves.

"I love you," he said, and it seemed so silly that that was what did it for her, but he timed that last breathy word right when her orgasm started. Her breath caught and she felt almost dizzy as it buzzed through her, as Kris continued to hold her tight and pant against her skin as he thrust into her.

"Oh," he said, "Oh," and his lips slid against her skin as he shuddered and came.

It was a few moments before he let her down, slipped out of her and pressed his face to her throat as he caught his breath. As they both caught their breath.

"You're not cleaning up on one of my dresses," she said finally. "Just so you know."

Kris laughed and lifted his head and gave her a soft kiss. "Okay, now we can move this to the bed," he said, and Katy thought that sounded like a wonderful idea.

:::

Katy isn't happy about it, but she's not mad about it either, and that's something. Kris isn't really happy about it either, so that gives them a place to start.

"I think maybe it's just because I've never accepted having these kinds of feelings before," says Kris, "and once I do, once I can shrug my shoulders and say hey, guys can be hot too, then my feelings for him will just...fade."

"Is that really what you think, Kris?" she says, dubious at best.

"It's really what I think," he says. "If...you think you can be okay with that."

"That's not even a question, Kris," she says instantly. "You know I'm not like that. If that's what it is, if you're sure, then we can...we can do this."

"I have been in love with you for so long, Katy, and nothing's going to change that," he says, reaching for her hands and holding them both to his chest. "This is just something that we have to get through. I promise. Nothing's going to change."

:::

Someone brought them the details of the live concert in Florida but Kris didn't quite notice whether it was his management or Adam's, not because he was being a jerk but because he was obsessing over some last minute changes to the arrangement.

"Hey," said Adam, squeezing his shoulder. "Hey, stop. Stand up."

"What?"

"Stand up," he said again, and Kris obediently did, leaving his notes on the chair he vacated. "Okay, good." Then instead of taking him somewhere, or doing any work, Adam just wrapped his arms around him. Never one to turn down a good hug, Kris just squeezed him back, face pressed to Adam's chest and breathing in the clean scent of laundry and deodorant.

"Stop messing with it," said Adam. "It's great. When we're on stage, that's when we can change it up."

"And you will," said Kris.

"Oh, you know I will," said Adam as people moved past them on both sides, setting up and talking into thin air and just going about their business. "But today you and I've got this down."

"We do," Kris agreed, still clutching at him long after Adam let go. "I don't know why I'm so worked up about this."

"Because it matters to you," said Adam.

"To us," insisted Kris, and patted Adam's ass as they were finally herded inside to begin recording.

And it was good. It was great. It was everything Kris didn't realize it could be before they started this, when he thought they were too many miles apart in sound and style and personality to make a song work. He should have known that it would be more than the sum of its parts.

"Take twenty, guys," Kris heard, and without even identifying who was saying it he pulled Adam out of the room, trying to find an empty space. They were done, he knew they were done. They just needed someone to confirm they were done, that they'd nailed it.

"In here," he said, and didn't care that there were no chairs in the room, that the walls were bare, that it was obviously not meant to be used for anything other than maybe storage. Adam got him, though, and just laughed as he landed his messenger bag on the floor between them and sat down with his legs stretched out in front of him.

"If anyone asks," he said, "we're not hiding."

"Hard to hide without leaving the country," said Kris, sitting cross-legged on the floor and rummaging through Adam's bag, just because it was there. "And even that's not a sure thing."

"Tell me about it," said Adam, watching him curiously and picking at his nail polish and looking anywhere but at the industrial clock on the wall. "Maybe Antarctica."

"Hey, quit that," said Kris, reaching for Adam's hand to stop him. "And you can't get lost on a continent where there's only one place you can be."

He caught Adam's startled, maybe uncertain, look when he did it, but dismissed it just as quickly as he reached back into the messenger bag. He'd already discovered where Adam kept the bottle of nail polish and didn't even stop to think about it when he pulled it out and started touching up the polish on Adam's thumb. He knew enough now to know it would have been better to start it from scratch, but given the circumstances he figured he was doing a decent patch job.

"So are we still on for tomorrow?" he said as he worked. "Saturday night hanging out with me instead of going clubbing with some boy toy? I'm flattered."

"I don't even have a boy toy right now," said Adam. "Which you know."

Kris did look up at that, Adam's words a little terse. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," said Adam, though his hand was unnaturally still in Kris's. "Anyway, half my friends are up in San Francisco for Cassidy's thing this weekend anyway, which obviously I couldn't make it to. I wished him luck before my radio interview this morning."

"In which you confessed to crushes on half of Hollywood," said Kris, moving efficiently down his hand. "You could've had a dozen dates just by turning around and you know it. Of course, that's always been true."

"They completely blindsided me with that checklist," protested Adam. "I think I might've said I would sleep with Angelina Jolie at one point. Which, in case you were wondering, could not be further from the truth."

"Ew, girl cooties," Kris teased him as he reached for Adam's other hand. "She's probably more my type than yours."

"I hate to break it to you," said Adam, "but Angelina Jolie is about as far from Katy as you can get, in both personality and looks."

"Okay, yeah, I agree on personality," said Kris, "but as for looks...I guess small and blonde isn't my only type, you know? Tall and dark is good too."

Adam fell silent then as Kris worked his way through his other hand, which Kris thought was a comfortable silence until he looked up and saw the expression on Adam's face. Maybe he was more sorry that he was letting on, having to always miss his friends' performances on account of his own career. Maybe his single status was getting under his skin more than he let on. Or maybe he was just ready to get out of the studio for the night.

"What are you doing?" Adam said finally, after Kris went back to work.

"Your nails?" said Kris, looking up at him again in confusion. "Katy lets me do hers all the time now."

"Yes, Katy does," said Adam. "Katy's your wife."

"I know Katy's my wife," said Kris, finishing the tip of Adam's pinky finger and finally letting go. "Which is probably why she let me mangle them till I got it right. I mean, I'm just painting your nails, it's not weird."

"It's intimate," said Adam, still watching him as he capped the nail polish and put it away again.

"I had my hand on your ass an hour ago and this is intimate?" said Kris, still struggling to keep this light. "It's just how we are."

"You're handsy with everyone," said Adam. "This is something new."

"Everything about us is something new. I think we threw away rules a long time ago. It's just nail polish. Our friendship is practically founded on nail polish."

"Forget the nail polish," said Adam. "It's just...symbolic. Kris, believe me, it's killing me a little to say this, but...okay, you said you and Katy worked all this stuff out a long time ago. You told me that everything's fine between you now. But the thing is, you don't have to be having sex to be cheating. Sometimes it's not about that."

"What? Adam, we're not--"

"Aren't we? If I kissed you again right now, what would happen?"

Kris looked at Adam's eyes, then at his mouth, and suddenly understood exactly what he meant. "Oh, fuck," he breathed, and this time around neither one of them was in the dark about what was going on.

:::

He couldn't just not say anything. After everything they'd been through, after how hard they'd worked, he couldn't do that to her. He'd been able to do this once, so he could do it again now. No matter how much it might hurt both of them.

"Kris, what is it?" she said before he could even get a word out, taking his arm and leading him to sit down on the pale cream couch in the living room.

Kris didn't say anything for a moment, wringing his hands in his lap, then he looked up at her and his voice cracked when he said, "I'm in love with Adam."

Katy's eyes were soft, and she didn't even look surprised. It was everything and nothing like the conversation they'd had two years ago, in a hotel in New York City.

"Yeah," she said after a moment. "Yeah, okay."

He wasn't crying, didn't really ever cry, but his head felt thick like he wanted to get it out somehow but couldn't. Everything just felt weird, the heaviness of the confession tangling with the intensity of his love for her, and for him.

"I don't know what to do."

"Does he know this time?" she asked him. Last time she'd been sharp when she questioned him about it but this time she was gentle, reaching for his hand and taking it between hers.

"Yeah," he said, nodding his head. "Yeah, he knows. I didn't say it, but...."

"Did something happen?"

Kris shook his head vehemently. "No, God no," he said. "Katy, I wouldn't do that to you. As soon as I...I'm an idiot. I didn't even realize it till tonight. He practically had to spell it out for me."

"Figures," she said, giving him a wry smile.

"Do you want me to go?" he said, his voice cracking again. The thought was almost unbearable, but this decision was hers now. "Or do you want to try counseling again? It worked the last time, we could try that again."

"Did it?" she said, her words unexpected, like a sucker punch despite the gentle way she delivered them. "I know we talked about it and got past it, and yet here we are again. Maybe it was never the kind of thing that should have been worked through and laid to rest."

"Katy, no," he said. "I love you. I've always loved you."

"I know," she said. "I know that. But if this is happening all over again, then maybe it's supposed to happen."

"Katy, wait, listen to me," he said. "I'll move out if that's what you want, and I know you have every right to ask, but I'm not leaving you for him. That's not what I'm saying. I don't want to leave you."

"And believe me, I would not give you up without a fight anyway, Kris," she said, squeezing his hand. "But I feel like there's a part of you that's already his, and it has been ever since you met him. I never had that piece to begin with, and you never got it back."

"Katy, we worked through this," he said. "I chose you. I still choose you."

"Kris, you need to be quiet and listen to me right now," she said, "because you need to hear this, and I need to say this. I think this is the only thing that's going to make us feel right again."

"I don't understand."

"What if I said you didn't have to choose?"

"Katy...this isn't right. I don't want your permission to cheat on you. I could never feel right about that."

"Oh, believe me, this is anything but that," she said. "I wanted you to love just me, Kris; that's what I always expected love to be. Do you think I haven't been thinking about this for a long time? You are a good man, and you are a good husband, and if after all this time you still have feelings for Adam, well, maybe we made a mistake somewhere. Maybe it's us who haven't been listening hard enough to what God has in store for us."

"Katy...." he started, but he couldn't find the words. There was too much going on inside his head for him to even make sense of it right now. "I love you."

"I know," she said. "And you love him too. You worked so, so hard at us, and then the moment you gave yourself permission to relax you fell in love with him all over again. We thought you were being tested, that you had to be strong, but maybe the test was to see if we could accept this. Because I think it takes more strength to do something that feels right that other people don't accept, than to just follow what they say is the right thing. Listen to what your gut is telling you. You've always trusted it before, even when it was hard. I think you need to trust it here too."

"I've tried to help how I feel," he got out finally, "but it just doesn't go away, not with time and not with space. I've tried."

"So stop trying to hard to go against what everything inside you is telling you," she said, and she was smiling when she said it. Not resigned, not compromising, but smiling. And maybe she'd been going against what everything inside her was telling her too. "Maybe God's been asking us to let him in, and he's been knocking for a very long time."

"I just want you to be sure. I don't want you to do this because you're afraid of losing me," said Kris.

"Baby," she said, using a rare endearment as she stroked his cheek softly. "Has it occurred to you that this is what I want, too?"

"Yes," he said, "but I don't understand. I don't understand what you get out of it."

"When you first started working on the song," said Katy, "you thanked me for giving Adam back to you. But that went both ways, Kris. I got you back, too. You've been easier, happier and more yourself lately than you have been in ages. For the past two years I've just thought it was just the lifestyle, I thought we'd just changed, but that wasn't it. It was him."

"Do you think," he said finally, "that it's possible to have more than one soulmate?"

"I think you're the one who wrote that song, Kris," she said, and suddenly he understood just what she'd heard the first time he played it for her. "Why don't you tell me?"

"I think God doesn't make mistakes," he said. "Katy, I want this so much. Like I've never wanted anything except for you."

"Then go get it," she said, "and we'll work out the rest later."

:::

It wasn't often that Kris went to Adam's house - somehow, ever since they started spending this kind of time together again, they'd just defaulted to Kris's - but he knew his way around, and had the access to get right to the front door.

Despite the hour he both jammed his finger on the doorbell and banged his fist heavily on the door. Unnecessarily, as it turned out, because Adam opened it a moment later. He looked everything like Kris remembered him from their nights at the mansion, t-shirt and shorts and bare skin, and as soon as he saw him Kris threw his entire plan out the window and kissed him right then and there.

For a moment Adam just let him, his mouth soft and pliant, then he pulled away and yanked Kris inside his house. "Okay, there is nothing ambiguous about this anymore," he said, and he sounded almost angry.

"No, there's not," said Kris. "I'm in love with you and Katy knows it."

"Fuck," muttered Adam, leaning against the door on one hand and looming over him without looking Kris in the eye. "You left her."

"No!" said Kris. "No, it's not...no. Will you hear me out?"

Adam nodded his head and finally pushed himself off from the door, still not looking at Kris as he led the way further into his house, finally ending up in the breakfast nook, not the most romantic spot in the house but maybe the most comforting.

"I was in love with you two years ago," Kris started, because that really was the beginning, "and I am in love with you now, and maybe I was in love with you for all the time in between too. And there's a lot more to it than that, but none of it matters until I know whether you...whether we could happen."

"My getting over you was not as successful as I hoped," Adam admitted, "but Kris...Katy."

"I'm in love with her too," said Kris. "I'm in love with both of you. And I think maybe I'm supposed to be."

"Supposed to be?"

"If I can't be around you without falling in love with you, doesn't that mean something?" said Kris. "Katy knows, about you, about her, about how I feel. She wants this. She wants me to...she wants us to be together. Me and her, and...me and you. She wants everything to be right again."

It wasn't often that Kris saw Adam speechless, but he definitely was now. He leaned both elbows on the table and stared at him and his mouth was open like he wanted to talk but had forgotten how.

"So could you do that?" said Kris. "Could you share me?"

If he couldn't, if he wasn't willing, then this house of cards all fell down and Kris might be left with less than he started with. But he'd passed the point of no return a long time ago without even knowing it at the time, and not trying just wasn't an option anymore.

"Can I sleep with you right now?" said Adam finally. "Because I think if I can't sleep with you right now I'm going to die or something."

Kris laughed and reached for one of Adam's hands, lacing their fingers together. "Is that a yes?"

"That's a yes," said Adam, pulling Kris's hand up to his mouth and kissing his knuckles fiercely. "I love you enough to make that work. I always fucking have. If it's what you both want."

"It's what we both want," said Kris. "And yes. God yes. You can sleep with me now."

Kris was nervous as Adam led him up into the bedroom, but he wasn't scared. Nervous because he'd never done this before, nervous because he wasn't sure where things were going to go from here, but if there were two people he trusted more than anyone else in the world, they were Katy and Adam.

Wherever things were going to go from here, it was bound to be better than where they were coming from.

"So when you said I could sleep with you, did you mean...?"

"Yes," said Kris as Adam tugged him straight through to the bed without so much as a pause on the way. "Just...."

"Oh go ahead, say something sweet and virginal," said Adam as he made short work of Kris's clothes. "It'll turn me on."

"Be gentle," said Kris, but couldn’t help cracking up as soon as he got the words out. It felt good to laugh, to be this joyful about something that had been a burden for so long now, even when he hadn't realized he was still carrying it.

Adam seemed plenty turned on already, though, and Kris knew he sure was. Adam's sexuality was something that had been in Kris's face from the day he met him, but this was the first time the full force of it had been directed at him. It was a little overwhelming and a lot exciting.

"You don't even know..." Adam was saying as he finally got his pants off, what had probably taken seconds but felt like hours. "You have no idea how long...."

"No, I think I do," said Kris as Adam climbed over him, straddled him on all fours and stared into his eyes. "Adam, before we do this...."

"Oh God, what?" said Adam. "Do you want a ring? I can do that. Whatever you need, Kris."

"That might be nice, actually," said Kris. He had no idea how that would actually work, but he suddenly very much did want that, in a sort of a vague and long-term way. "But for now just a promise. That this is serious."

"This has been serious for about two years longer than we've been together," said Adam. "No matter who else there was. Even if you'd never come to my door, it would always have been serious."

"I'm sorry, I--"

"Let's not do any more apologies," said Adam, kissing him silent. Even though it was barely more than the touch of lips to lips, soft and wet, again and again and again, it felt like everything. "Not until someone does something wrong."

It was still a little amazing to Kris that this wasn't, it wasn't something wrong, that the very thing he'd been denying himself because he believed it was something he couldn't have was now exactly what he was accepting into his life.

"It's serious for me too," said Kris. "It's crazy and serious and I'm just trying to do this right."

"We've already done the hard part," said Adam, kissing him again and then letting his lips rest almost against Kris's when he spoke again. "And even if you're not sure what you're doing right now, believe me, I do."

It was clear he meant here in bed, not here in this crazy relationship that Kris didn't even know if there was a name for, but Kris took comfort in it anyway. He wasn't in this alone, not any part of it, not anymore.

Silently, slowly, he drew one knee up and slid his leg to the outside of Adam's body, running one bare foot up and down his calf when he did. While he wasn't entirely clear on the logistics of all of this, he was pretty sure they required him to spread his legs at some point.

That one quiet, subtle motion spurred Adam into action, moving smoothly between Kris's legs and laying flat against him, kissing his lips then the tender spot just beneath his ear. Kris instinctively wrapped a leg around him and held him close, Adam's weight a comfortable pressure against his cock.

"Maybe we can save the foreplay for when I'm not just about ready to beg you for this," he said, chewing on his lower lip, already a little soft and swollen from Adam's kisses.

"Just let me do this right," said Adam, kissing his way down Kris's throat. "I'll do it fast, but I'll do it right. I promise you."

"I'm pretty sure you couldn't do it any other way," said Kris, and let Adam move him, let Adam bend his legs and leave wet trails down his body with his lips, let him touch Kris's body in all the ways Kris had always imagined but never felt before. He knew what it was like to be loved, to be cherished, but Adam's hands were different, his body was different, he was something new.

When Adam pushed two fingers into him it wasn't anything Kris hadn't done before, to himself, and with his wife, but in his gut he knew this time it was a prelude to something more, to something he hadn't ever had.

"Please," he said, asking for more than just for Adam to slip a condom on and push inside him. Adam said he would die if they didn't have sex but Kris was suddenly the one who felt like he was going to if he didn't get this soon.

Adam didn't say anything but the way he looked at him then, the intensity of that gaze, made Kris's breath catch. He almost didn't notice when Adam started pushing in until he had to shift again, felt a shiver of tension go up his back.

"Oh God," he said, and was relieved when that didn't make Adam stop because Kris didn't want that, he didn't want this first moment of connection to ever end. "Adam."

"Kris," Adam said in return, then paused once he was inside and just smiled at him, and Kris knew all over again that he was in love with him. He opened his mouth to say it but then he realized that Adam knew, and that he didn't need to say a thing.

After that it was easy to let Adam start to move, to claim his mouth again and not let go this time, not for anything, not even when he worked a hand in between them to help Kris get off, a thumb over the head of his cock and the joint pressure of his body and his knuckles and his cock in Kris's ass moving just right in a way that Kris didn't even know was real.

"Oh," he gasped, and let Adam hold him steady as he shook and panted his way through it, and it sort of hit him then that this was the first time he'd had an orgasm with anyone but Katy. It made him shiver all over again, especially when Adam resumed his thrusts into Kris's pliant, welcoming body.

He could barely hear Adam speaking unless he concentrated, which was really difficult at the moment, but when he did he made out "God" and "fuck" and "Kris" and "love" and then Adam drove in one last time and held Kris as tight as he could, kissing him all over again.

"I'm so in love with you it hurts," Kris whispered, and Adam made a sound like a sob into his shoulder.

"Everything's going to be so much better now," he said a few moments later, his lips against Kris's skin, and Kris believed every word of it.

:::

In a way, Kris still felt like his first trip to Florida, just weeks ago despite everything that had happened since, had been the most meaningful. He felt so removed from the whole situation as he stood backstage, in a venue where no one would ever have known that a hurricane leveled parts of the state not so far away. But then he looked at the numbers and calculated just how much they could accomplish with that kind of money, and knew that in this he was using his time and abilities in the best possible way.

There was more than one way to do the right thing.

"You should get changed soon," said Katy in his ear, tugging at the loose tails of his plaid shirt. "Adam says you're not wearing this."

"Adam says a lot of things," said Kris, but he had let Adam - and not his stylist or anyone else - pick out his outfit for this one event, so what Adam said this time actually went. "Adam also said he was going to use my favorite shirt for rags."

"Empty threat," she promised him. "Adam Lambert has no use for rags."

Kris laughed and wrapped his arms around Katy's waist from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder as they swayed to the music drifting back from the stage. Or not so much drifting at as arriving at such volume that the glasses on the table were trembling.

"Have I told you yet that you look gorgeous?"

"Not as often as Adam has," she said, "but I'm pretty sure he thinks that's my name so maybe it doesn't count."

Kris just kissed her hair and stayed there with her till he felt another presence at his back, felt a hand curl around his shoulder. And even then he didn't feel like he needed to say anything until Adam did.

"Hey gorgeous," he said, and Kris laughed as Katy looked back over her shoulder and beamed at him. "Hey baby." He kissed Kris's cheek and reached past him to give Katy's waist a fond little squeeze.

"It's that time, is it?" said Katy a few moments later.

"It's about that time," said Adam. "We're all three of us going to have stage crew on our asses in about two minutes." Really, Kris was surprised they didn't already, but he and Katy had managed to stay out of the way fairly effectively. "Are you staying back here?"

"No way," she said. "I'm slipping out and cheering from the front row. I might go after your set, though. I've got dinner reservations with a college friend."

"Tell Kerri hi from me," said Kris, turning her around in his arms to give her a real kiss, and a fairly long one, before he had to go. "I'll probably be back to the hotel after you."

"But don't worry," said Adam, giving Katy a kiss on the cheek. "I promise to bring him back to you in one piece. From the looks of what I interrupted here, you've probably got some...unfinished business."

Kris hid his face in his hand but Katy just laughed. "One piece, and not to tired to take care of it," she insisted, though Kris knew she'd be just as happy if he climbed into bed and fell asleep with his arms around her. As long as he made up for it in the morning, anyway. "You're only down the hall from us if I have to go looking for you."

Adam even patted down his pockets until he found what he was looking for, and slipped an extra key card into Katy's purse. "Just in case," he said. "Use it wisely."

"I think I'll knock," she said while Kris hid his face again, but if he fell asleep in Adam's bed, he wouldn't mind if Katy tracked him down and slipped in behind him, wrapping her arms around him and sleeping there too. And neither would Adam, as long as he'd escaped to the shower before the inevitable morning sex. "Have a great night."

"You too," said Kris, and kissed her one more time before he saw what looked like a battalion of people with headsets and clipboards heading for them. "I think that's us."

"Come on, we're on in five," said Adam, taking his hand.

Katy turned back one last time to blow them a kiss before she slipped away towards the barricades, and Adam gave Kris's hand a squeeze and a caress with his thumb, and there was just nowhere in his life Kris would rather have been than here.