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Indirect Communication

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It was perhaps superstitious of him, but Kris could swear he knew the exact moment Adam arrived. In reality, it was likely a combination of registering some commotion at the side of the stage – not enough to disturb the set, but enough to notice – and the way one of the crew members grinned at him when he walked over with a new guitar between the songs. Kris blinked, thinking fleetingly that the task didn’t seem to merit quite that level of happiness, before the discrete signs somehow coalesced into a full realisation of utter certainty: Adam.

Adam was here.

Kris waited until end of the song before looking over, using the applause and the noise like a cover to incline his head just enough to confirm what his senses already somehow knew. Truthfully, the delay had less to do with self-restraint and more to do with needing to gather his courage.

Kris was afraid to look at Adam, scared of what he would see on his face – not something he’d ever thought possible.

In the months after the Idol tour, they had resorted to texting to keep in touch. Neither was one for long emails and trying to find a convenient time to call turned quickly into a frustrating exercise of logistics that neither of them needed. What Kris needed was a way to tell Adam about this great new song he heard, or how mustard was weird, to ask if fourteen was too young to start using make-up (his cousin’s oldest claimed not) and to just have Adam there, at the end of the text, when he no longer was within touching distance. It was the same for Adam, it seemed. Kris got baffling updates about Adam’s friends’ relationship drama (‘context is for the weak, Kris!’), photos of colourful cocktails, messages about how great sleeping was and ‘these pillows man, I’m going to buy you a pair of them, send me your address again’.

In some ways, they talked more now that they were apart than they had when they’d been together. It made Kris glad he’d had the foresight to sign-up for a cell plan with unlimited texts. It also simply made Kris happy, period.

It wasn’t a surprise then that eventually the conversation turned deeper, more intense. Not all the time of course, there was still plenty of random observations, stupid jokes and links to interesting or weird internet articles, but it was clear – at least to Kris – what was happening here. By now he was back on tour, while Adam was busy organising his, and Kris just… He missed Adam. Missed him more than you missed a colleague, or a friend. It was a constant, low level ache, more sweet than painful and entirely unsurprising. This wasn’t a realisation so much as Kris finally settling into the inevitable. He’d thought it was the same for Adam. Adam who texted things like ‘the sunset is amazing tonight, wish you were here to see it’ and ‘Wild Horses just came on the radio, made me think of you’ and ‘miss you’ – the last one sent at 3.48 am, Adam’s time zone.

So when Kris finally texted ‘hey, can I tell you something?’ and Adam answered with ‘anything’, it didn’t seem like such a scary thing to just… to just say it.

‘You know I had a crush on you during Idol,’ he’d typed. It wasn’t a question, because he was sure Adam knew. The whole world did, after all. ‘It hasn’t gone away.’ He’d sent it, breathed for a minute and then added: ‘It’s not just a crush either.’

Kris hadn’t expected Adam to answer straightaway – after all, if their roles had been reversed it sure would have taken Kris a while to figure out what to say – but he had expected him to answer.

Only… There was nothing. After an hour, Kris texted back with a simple ‘Adam?’ which also disappeared into the ether.

It hadn’t been until the following morning that a reply came. Five words that had made Kris cold to his bones: ‘I can’t do this anymore.’

As messages went, it seemed pretty clear. Kris had messed up, crossed a line he thought was no longer there and in the process ruined the best friendship he’d ever had.

That was three days ago. Adam hadn’t texted back since, and Kris… Well. He’d said all there was to say, hadn’t he?

Except… Now Adam was here, standing at the side of the stage, far enough not to be seen but close enough to watch Kris, and clearly not nearly as done with their conversation as Kris had assumed. He looked over just long enough to confirm that his mind wasn’t playing tricks on him, but didn’t risk trying to catch Adam’s eyes.

The rest of the set was… Well, actually Kris had no idea how it was. They weren’t booed off stage at least and the audience seemed happy enough at the end so he could only assume he got through the songs – encore and all – convincingly enough. Perhaps he should’ve gone into acting instead, because for once Kris’ mind and heart were not fully in his performance. He took his bow, smiling blindly at the crowd, and for one wild moment considered just flinging himself into it like some kind of rock star at a stadium concert – like Adam would, he was sure – and letting strangers’ hands carry him away.

Except it wasn’t strangers’ hands he wanted on his skin.

Squaring his shoulders, Kris exited the stage through his normal route.

“Kris,” Adam said in greeting. His mouth was smiling but his eyes were serious and uncertain, hands hovering in mid-air as if unsure of their welcome.

“Adam,” Kris answered. “This is a… surprise.” His own arms opened automatically and then his body kind of… froze. They stood like that for a moment, had a few false starts, and finally managed something resembling a hug on Planet Awkward that Kris was now apparently the Supreme Leader of.

The post-show bustle of laughter and congratulations, dinner plans and packing up, carried them from the venue to the hotel. They ended up pressed against each other in the car, but being surrounded by other people distracted Kris just enough to be able to carry something resembling a normal conversation. No one else seemed too surprised to see Adam here, most sending Kris approving smiles and even a few winks that made him want to hide. Okay, so he may have been a little ‘Adam said…’ and ‘Adam did…’ and ‘Guess what Adam…’ lately but that was no reason to go making assumptions.

Back at the hotel Kris denied invitations for drinks, shooing the band and crew off with an exaggeratedly jaunty wave while Adam stood by the elevators, hands stuffed into the pockets of his leather jacket. He looked simultaneously entirely out of place and like he was exactly where he should be.

“Do you…?” Kris started, meaning to ask… something – if Adam had a room, if he wanted a drink after all, if he was here to give Kris another chance – but Adam interrupted his rattled thoughts before they had a chance to form into mangled sentences.

“Could we… Could we talk, Kris?” he asked. “I came to… Can we talk?” His gaze flitted from Kris’ face to the walls, taking a long tour around the nearly abandoned hotel lobby. He kept jingling something in his pocket – keys, coins, lighter – over and over, oddly jarring for such a bright sound.

He’s nervous, Kris realised. He nodded once, walking past Adam into the elevator. “I’m on the fifth floor,” he said, just to have something else in his mouth except the ‘please, don’t’ that pushed at his tongue, desperate and hollow. They rode up in silence, each keeping to their side of the small cabin.

Kris’ room was untouched. They’d arrived late and his suitcase still sat by the door where he’d dumped it. He carried it further in, briefly considering starting to unpack just to have something to do with his hands, never mind that they were here only for two nights. But no, best to get this over and done with. Like ripping off a bandage, right? Though Kris doubted anything would make this hurt less.

He left the suitcase by the wardrobe and turned to Adam who was standing in the middle of the room, looking more unsure of himself than Kris ever remembered seeing him.

“So what did…” he said at the same time as Adam said: “I wanted to…”

They both trailed off, chuckling awkwardly. After a few seconds, Adam visibly straightened up to his full height, drawing his shoulders back as if preparing for battle.

“Did you mean it?” he asked, holding Kris’s gaze though Kris got the distinctive impression that it cost him something intangible to do so.

Kris licked his lips, wondered if lying would salvage their friendship but knowing he couldn’t, not about this, even if it did. “Yeah,” he said, clearing his throat when the word came out hoarser than he expected. “Yeah, yes,” he tried again. “I did. Do.”

Adam stared at him. Kris shifted, suddenly tired. “I’m sorry,” he added, helplessly.

Don’t. I…” Adam shook his head, clearly frustrated though it seemed to be directed at himself rather than Kris. “Look, just… Here.” He dug out his cell, tapped it a few times and then thrust it at Kris. “Read that.”

“What?” Kris took the phone automatically, confused. “What is it?”

“The draft folder,” Adam said, flushing. “For texts.”

Kris looked down, eyes widening at the number of half-composed messages. He scrolled to the first one, time-stamped two minutes after Kris’ text about his stupid worse-than-crush.

‘You’re joking,’ it read. The one underneath it, five minutes later, adding: ‘It’s not funny.’

Kris glanced up, ready to argue but Adam waved a hand at him. “Keep reading,” he said. “All of them.”

Kris counted five variations of ‘you’re not serious and it’s cruel to make me think you are’ before Adam had actually sent his damning ‘I can’t do this’ message. But it was the texts after that that really caught his attention. There were dozens of them, charting Adam’s fluctuating mood over the last three days, from…
‘Fuck you, I never asked for anything, why are you throwing this at my face now, you know how I fe—’
…to
‘I miss your skin, even if I’ll never see enough of it, enough of you, Kris please, let me—’
and everything in between.

What came through crystal clear though was that whatever had prompted Adam’s text and his three day silence, and maybe even this impromptu visit, had nothing to do with him not reciprocating Kris’ feelings.

“Why didn’t you send these?” he asked quietly, after reading all the messages, some of them twice.

“I don’t know,” Adam said. He seemed calmer now, less fidgety, like his own brand of confession really had been good for the soul. “I was going to. Every time. But it was like… There were so many thoughts in my head, I couldn’t figure out which one to send and the more time passed, the more difficult it got, and I realised you’d be mad by now and I just… I had to know, if you… If we…” He shrugged, expression somewhere between pleading and hopeful. “I just, I never thought… I had to know if you meant it.”

There was a smile, wide and heart-deep, threatening to break over Kris’ face like the sun. He let it. “Well now you do,” he said slowly, feeling weightless with relief, light and giddy like he’d eaten a mountain of cotton candy and was going to float away any minute.

The expression on Adam’s face was caught somewhere between joy and disbelief. They stared at each other for a long minute, frozen in their shared revelation.

Finally, Adam blinked, breaking eye contact and looking down. “Uh,” he said, shifting a little from foot to foot and still looking way too uncertain in Kris’ opinion. “No what?”

Kris had an idea. “Here,” he said, grinning so hard it hurt. “Take this back.” He handed the phone to Adam. Then he fished his own out of his back pocket, quickly tapping a text and sending it.

Adam jumped slightly as the cell in his vibrated, chiming with an incoming message. Kris watched his face carefully, seeing the exact moment the words registered: ‘Now you kiss me,’ the text read.

This time Adam didn’t wait three days to respond. Not even three seconds. Kris barely had a chance to take a step forward before Adam was already in his space, fingertips ghosting his cheeks, nudging his chin up, tracing the outline of his bottom lip. “Kris,” he breathed, eyes impossibly dark, hand shaking against Kris’ skin and the power of that, of knowing he was the cause, made Kris tremble in return. “Kris, Kris, please.”

Yeah,” Kris sighed, rising on tip-toe to close the distance between them, “I want you to.” The words dissolved into pleasure as their mouths met, the kiss making other, more imperfect forms of communication altogether redundant.