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Life After You

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1.

Adam is just sitting down for lunch when he spots the new guy. There have been whisperings all morning, mainly concerning the fact that he may or may not have a seriously country accent, and that he may or may not be eight foot tall.

That last part, Adam can see right now, was an exaggeration. Fucking hell, the guy is tall though. They’re only in senior year, but Adam stands at six foot, and this guy’s got to have a good few inches on him.

“Yo Carson.” Adam elbows the guy sitting next to him in the ribs, eyes still tracking the new guy around the room. “You heard anything about the new kid?”

Carson seems to know everything about everyone, a natural side effect of being the friendliest senior in the school. He shrugs. “Yeah, sure. Had a history class with the guy earlier. Why d’you care?” Adam shrugs, gaze falling back to his food.

Honestly, he’s not exactly sure why he cares. There’s something vaguely intriguing though, something he can’t necessarily pinpoint. And yes, Adam is purposefully ignoring the fact that, in all likelihood, this is probably further indication of the fact that he’s really starting to lean further towards gay than he is straight.

He ignores it further for the moment, falls back into the easy conversation that he was in the middle of before the new guy had made his entrance.

*

It’s not until a business class a couple of days later that Adam really thinks about the new guy again. He’s standing right next to the table Adam is tucked into, backpack slung over his shoulder and pointing at the empty chair next to him. He’s wearing the exact same thing he was wearing the first time Adam had caught sight of him, and why Adam’s noticed that isn’t a question he’s going to visit right now.

“That seat taken?”

Adam looks up into the bright blue eyes, pulls his pen from where it has strayed over to the other side of the desk. “Uh, no. Go ahead.” The guy settles in next to him, and fully aware that he still doesn’t even know what he’s called, Adam turns to introduce himself. “Uh, I’m Adam. You’re the new kid, right?”

The guy looks across, a strand of his curly hair falling out of place for a moment. “Yeah. Blake, Blake Shelton.” Adam forces away the smile at the guy’s accent. That part hadn’t been an exaggeration. The guy sounds like something straight out of Brokeback Mountain. And Adam nearly face palms right there, because could he have picked a worse movie to think about right now? On the second encounter with this guy, Adam’s pretty much ready to admit that there’s a certain…physical attraction. While Adam is comfortable with his sexuality, it doesn’t mean he’s living under the assumption that any guy he sets his eyes on will automatically feel the same way. He puts his own thoughts aside when he realizes that new guy -- Blake -- is talking to him. “You must be the kid everyone idolizes, am I right?”

Adam frowns, ignoring the entrance that their teacher has just made. “What d’you mean?”

“I mean you got the whole rockstar thing going on. The stupid-ass skinny jeans, the dirt-smudged tee; you’re that guy; the one that every guy wants to be, and the one that every girl wants to go out with. We had one of you back at my old place.”

Adam’s pretty sure his mouth must be hanging open a little right now, because who the fuck says stuff like that? Who the fuck is seriously that rude? But the weird thing is, Blake is still wearing a small smile, like everything he just said is normal social etiquette; even worse than that is the dimples, because for whatever stupid-ass reason, it’s still kind of charming.

Adam has absolutely no idea what he’s thinking, none at all, when the next words tumble out of his mouth. Maybe it’s the sudden rush of anger, or the (completely rational) burst of fury, but it’s still nothing but insane.

“Who the hell do you think you are, you son of a bitch? You think you got me all figured out by applying some generic formula to exactly who you think I should be?” Blake says nothing, does nothing, and Adam’s just searching for something to even surprise the guy, now. “In case you hadn’t noticed, sunshine, we’re not in Kansaa anymore, and it’s not just the girls who wanna date me.” Nothing. Adam is talking in shouted whispers, trying not to attract the attention of those around them. “I’m not some stereotype, alright, and not that it’s any of your business, but I’m bisexual. So let me know how that fits in with the nice little picture you’ve painted yourself.”

Adam doesn’t wait for a response. He gets out of his chair, moves a couple of rows back, and spends the rest of the class cursing himself for that entire conversation, and the guy that had provoked him into it.

And then he spends the next week, freaking out about the possibility that Blake Shelton may well have told half the school about his little revelation. He’s not sure why he cares; Carson knows. Christina knows. Quite a lot of people know, and he’s never hidden it. But there’s something that makes him uncomfortable about the possibility of this guy going around and talking to people about it. Adam’s not an idiot, he knows that it’s not exactly unusual for people from Shelton’s part of the country to take offence at same-sex relationships, and the fact that this guy might be going around mocking him behind his back, it riles him.

So he sits with Carson at lunch, makes an effort with painstaking extensivity to avoid sitting anywhere near Blake Shelton, not even risking looking into the guy’s eyes.

Adam’s just starting to accept the fact that maybe Shelton might have kept his mouth shut, might not have spread his negativity about the issue, when he ends up sitting next to the guy again. It’s another business class, and Adam makes a mental note to be more careful, because there’s something about this particular class, this particular room, apparently.

The giant doesn’t ask this time, he just helps himself to the seat that conveniently leaves Adam blocked in unless he’s up for asking Blake to scoot in a little. “Adam,” he says, and the emphasis on that first part of the name reminds him once again how easy on the ears this guy’s accent is proving to be. The fact that he’s also easy on the eyes is just plain annoying. “Listen, I just wanted to clear the air, y’know. Because I didn’t mean…” He hesitates, frowns, continues. “…What I meant, y’know?”

Adam shakes his head, really wishes that Carson had taken business this semester, because then he could have avoided this situation entirely. “No, I don’t fucking know Shelton. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Because I can’t understand a single word of your stupid-ass accent,” -- lie -- “because I’m finding it hard to look past your stupid-ass clothes,” -- lie -- “and because I’m waiting for the moment that you inevitably give away just how drunk you are.”

Blake smiles, looks down and closes his eyes for a moment longer than a blink. Then he’s grinning, pointing at Adam. “That’s funny. I see what you did there, applying a southern stereotype to me. Fair play, brother.”

Adam fights hard against the instinct to smile, maintains his straight face for the few seconds that it takes for the teacher to call for their attention. Ignoring Shelton is slightly easier after that, with something else to focus on.

But apparently he was naïve in thinking he might be able to get out quick once the class had finished. Blake has made no effort to move, barely an effort at packing up his things. Adam clears his throat, looks across to find him staring right back at him.

“You gonna move out of the way, or what?”

Blake shakes his head, lips pursed, until Adam nods his head impatiently for the idiot to say whatever it is he’s so hell-bent on saying. “You’re not gonna make me say it, are you?”

Adam shrugs. “Say what? I’m not gonna make you say anything, so long as you move out of the way.”

Blake sighs, hunches over in his seat slightly. “I just don’t want this,” he says, gesturing between them. “I’m a nice guy really, I promise. Y’all just intimidated me a little bit on my first day, is all. I’m sorry for being a jackass.”

Adam just shrugs, and when it’s clear that he’s not going to say anything else on the matter, Blake moves out of the way, lets Adam out so that he can finally leave the room and the uncomfortable atmosphere behind him.

Except that he hasn’t quite escaped that atmosphere as completely as he’d hoped, because when he strolls into the lunch room a couple of hours later, he spots Carson in the line a little way ahead, talking to none other than the blue-eyed-tall-as-fuck-curly-haired-country-bumpkin. He’d usually jump the line and join Carson, but he doesn’t bother this time, just stays where he is and gets to chatting with Christina when she joins the line behind him.

And now he’s screwed, because he’s got his tray of lunch in his hand, along with Christina, and she’s now nodding over to Carson, who is apparently now best buddies with Blake-fucking-Shelton. The asshole is sitting in his spot, and Adam is so unimpressed.

“Adam,” Carson grins when they get near. He points down at Shelton. “This is Blake.” He looks back down at him. “You’ve met Christina already, right?”

Blake nods. “Sure have.”

Adam is somehow left with the option of sitting opposite Blake, or sitting at another table, so he reluctantly takes the only seat open, distracting himself for as long as possible with Carson before Blake finds the space to talk to him.

“So I asked Carson about you,” he says, and Adam’s head immediately snaps up at the possibility of him having discussed his sexuality with his pal. It makes him uncomfortable that it might be a topic of conversation, to be honest. He knows Carson is cool with it, and maybe it’s still his extended ill-feeling towards the country guy, but it still makes him a little mad. Blake shakes his head minutely, like he knows exactly what Adam is asking, or not asking. Like maybe Blake thinks Adam is closeted. “He mentioned you sing.”

Adam ignores him, eyes on his food until he has a mouthful, when he finally looks back into Blake’s expectant eyes. He widens them in question, and Adam shrugs. “What? You expecting an answer to a statement?”

Only Carson is paying any attention to their conversation, and trying very hard to look like he’s not.

Blake says nothing, and Adam gestures with the fork in his hand. “No. I don’t think you understand. Y’see, that one was a question, which means you’re supposed to answer.”

Blake sighs. “Look, I’m sorry, okay. I’m sorry that I pissed you off, I’m sorry that even after I apologized, you continue to have some irrational hatred for me, and I’m sorry that I’ve offended you, yet again, by expecting some kind of response and social nicety.” Adam knows that he’s the one making wild assumptions here, but he hadn’t exactly expected something so…together to come out of Blake.

Carson and Christina are both staring now. “So, uh, you guys have met before then?” Christina asks, and it breaks the tension a little bit, allows Adam to look away from this stone-cold staring match they’ve got going on.

He nods. Kind of reluctantly. “Sort of, yeah.”

“You know what,” Blake says, and he’s getting to his feet. “It’s cool, it’s fine. You three stay here, I’ll just go.” And then he’s gone.

And Adam feels like shit.

He knows what it’s like to be the new guy, also knows what it’s like to be the kid sat at a table alone. And in fairness to the guy, he did try to apologize. Except that Blake is alone at that table for a grand total of about ten seconds before someone joins him. Some guy that Blake immediately has in guffaws of laughter.

And Adam feels like shit.

Again.

In fact, he’s not sure what’s worse. Seeing some other guy getting on with Blake like a house on fire, or the guilt of having banished him to loneliness.

When he looks back to his own table, Carson and Christina are both staring at him. “I know, I know,” Adam starts. “I feel bad enough as it is, alright. Our first meeting was just kind of…awkward okay. Leave it at that. I’ll apologize, don’t worry.”

Blake really does seem to be surrounding himself with people though, because every time Adam catches sight of him, every time Adam is ready to go over there and say sorry, the guy has someone standing next to him. In fact, the opportunity for an apology doesn’t really come until the following week, during another one of those business classes. This time, Adam’s the one doing the cornering.

He takes advantage of the fact that the guy is in the very same seat Adam had taken last week, blocking him in against the wall as he pulls his stuff out.

“Hey,” Adam says.

Blake turns, says “Hi,” in his Southern drawl, and promptly turns back to the front of the class.

Adam sighs. If something doesn’t change, this relationship is just going to be a constancy of one of them trying to apologize to the other.

“Shelton, I’m sorry.” Nothing. “About the other day.”

Blake turns, and there’s a moment of awkwardness, until he breaks into a grin. “So we’re finally good then?” Adam can’t help but be taken aback by the guy’s reaction, but he nods. “That mean I get to sit at the cool kids’ table at lunch today?”

Adam rolls his eyes, openly smiling at the guy for the first time.

Blake does sit with them at lunch, and he can see what that guy must have been in hysterics about last week. Shelton is pretty much hilarious. He’s offensive too, seems to talk a whole lot before he actually thinks about it, but mostly it just seems that every other word out of his mouth is designed to make people laugh.

It works, too.

And they continue as such for the next month or so. Blake sits with them religiously, Adam sits next to him in business, chatting before and after and sometimes in between, and by the end of the month he’s pretty much accepted into the little friendship circle they have.

He comes over to Adam’s place one evening after school, doesn’t seem surprised by the expensive Audi that he’s got in the parking lot. Then again, Adam hadn’t exactly been surprised when he’d caught sight of Blake driving in one morning behind the wheel of a pickup truck.

His mom had told him that nobody would be home until late and so the driveway is vehicle-free when they roll in. “You don’t seem surprised.” He’s referring to the house, because visitors to the house (and admittedly, there are few of them), never fail to comment on the size.

Blake shrugs, doesn’t say or do anything other than to smile ever so slightly. Adam gets out of the car, Blake following and looking up at the house as they draw closer. Sure enough, the building is silent, so they keep going through the house, all the way out, through the yard, and into the small, one-story building that’s separated from the rest of the house. Inside is a pool table, a sound system, a big TV, drum kit, bass guitar, two acoustic guitars, and three electric guitars.

Blake lets out a low whistle, and Adam shuts the door behind them both. He’s got his eyes on the guitars. “Wow. When you said you play, you meant you play.” Adam laughs.

“Yeah. You too then?”

He watches as Blake nods, walks over to the acoustics. “Yeah. I think our musical styles might just be a little different, but I play.”

Adam is smiling again. He doesn’t need to guess to know what kind of music this guy is into. “Go ahead.”

Blake looks back at him, cheeks dimpling as he grins and takes one of the guitars off the wall. He pulls the strap on, lines his fingers up on the frets, and begins to play.

It’s nothing fancy, just a few chords, a slow strum pattern, but he knows what he’s doing. Adam’s eyes track his fingers, and Blake doesn’t look back at him for a couple of minutes, right hand stilling and dropping back to his side.

“It’s nice,” Adam remarks. “Don’t know it though. You wrote it?”

Blake shrugs, doesn’t really give him an answer. “You honestly telling me that you’d know any country music past Shania Twain?”

Adam puts on his best offended face. “And there you go with the stereotypes again. Just because I don’t have the Southern accent, the cowboy boots, or the plaid shirt and jeans, doesn’t mean I don’t know country music!”

Blake sweeps a hand through the air in front of him as he pulls of the guitar and replaces it. “Go ahead. Hit me.”

“Okay,” Adam says, and he fists one hand and wraps it in the other. “So there’s Reba McEntire, there’s George Jones, Alan Jackson, Charlie Daniels, Tim McGraw, Allman Brothers, Clay Walker, Kenny Chesney…You want me to keep going?”

Blake’s grinning again, one hand in his pocket. He shakes his head. “Okay, so maybe you know your country a little better than I give you credit for. But I’ve shown you what I got, you gonna return the favor?”

 

 

2.

Blake’s grinning again, one hand in pocket. He shakes his head. “Okay, so maybe you know your country a little better than I give you credit for. But I’ve shown you what I got, you gonna return the favor?”

Blake watches the way Adam’s cheeks dimple, his cheekbones more prominent than usual, if it was even possible.

Adam raises his hands in mock surrender. “Alright, alright,” He grins innocently as he picks up a different guitar, a Gibson, more worn than either of the other two acoustics, slipping beneath the strap and grabbing a pick from the mantelpiece.

Blake waits patiently for him to check the tuning is decent, and then he sits down on the couch, Adam taking the one opposite as he begins to play.

Blake purposefully doesn’t focus on Adam’s fingers. He leans back on the cushions, listens to the gentle riff that begins the song, the way it gradually develops into something a little fuller, and then is determined not to show his complete surprise when the guy starts singing. Carson had mentioned it, Blake had asked Adam about it, and Adam had ignored him. They haven’t really touched on it since.

Beauty queen of only eighteen
She had some trouble with herself
He was always there to help her
She always belonged to someone else

His voice is kind of unique. It’s actually kind of girly, with a sweet falsetto and high pitch to begin with. Blake doesn’t fight the small smile that forces onto his lips, hopes that Adam will be too absorbed to notice.

I drove for miles and miles
And wound up at your door
I’ve had you so many times but somehow
I want more.

Blake risks a glance across at him, finds Adam with his eyes closed and still strumming, fingers moving expertly around the instrument. He looks relaxed, like he’s comfortable with what he’s doing, like he’d be perfectly at home on a sold-out tour.

I don’t mind spending every day
Out on our corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay a while
And she will be loved
She will be loved.

The music quiets for a few more chords, and then stops. When Blake looks up again, Adam is smiling, looking kind of shy and self-conscious. And fucking hell who is Blake kidding, he has definitely got the face to go into music. Certainly has the voice for it, too.

Blake nods his head. “It’s seriously nice, man.”

Adam shrugs. “I dunno. It’s all I got for the moment, though.”

Blake nods, wonders if he’s delving into dangerous territory by mentioning this. “Straight lyrics though. That mean…” Blake doesn’t finish the sentence, he doesn’t really want to. His motive for asking is already muddy, seeing as Adam is bisexual and not gay.

Adam looks away from his gaze and then back again. He bites his lower lip, seems to contemplate for a short second whether or not to lie, and then he shakes his head. “No. Nope, I am bi.” Another shrug. “I just figure, y’know, in the unlikely event that this music thing does go somewhere, straight lyrics are gonna be more marketable. Some of the stuff I’ve written is gender neutral, but I don’t know, didn’t really fit with that one.” He fiddles with the guitar a moment, then meets Blake’s gaze again. His hazel eyes have gone a little electric, and he looks more vulnerable than Blake has noticed before.

Blake has no idea why the fuck he’s even noticing these things. Except that he is.

“I never asked you,” Adam says, “but you didn’t mention that to anyone?”

Blake shakes his head. “Uh, no. I dunno,” he shrugs. “Not like it’s a conversation starter or anything.” Adam nods, seems done with the topic, or at least done with asking questions about it.

They spend the rest of the evening watching some TV, eating pizza, playing some pool. Adam even offers him a beer, which Blake takes and drinks, idly admiring Adam’s parents for being of the kind that’s okay with a bit of responsible underage drinking. It’s a pretty good evening, and Blake’s only now realizing just how much he likes spending time with Adam. For all their huge, state-spanning differences, there are a few things they do have in common.

Music is one. Sense of humor is another.

“You want a lift back?” Adam asks when it’s getting late, and Blake just knows that he visibly tenses up at that.

“No no, I’m good. I just got a little walk…home.”

“You sure, man? It’s no problem.”

Blake shakes his head, pushes up from the couch, and makes his best attempt as his usual cocky smirk. “Don’t worry about it. Just show me to the door, peck me on the cheek, and I’ll walk myself home.” Blake’s pretty sure Adam thinks he’s serious until the moment that his face cracks.

He doesn’t really know what’s happening when Adam pulls him into a half-handshake-half-hug-kind-of-a-thing, but he goes with it, gives a little wave as he walks into the street from what can only really be described as a small mansion.

“Oh,” he turns back at the gate, curious. “I just got one question. That thing you told me, do other people know?”

Adam’s propped against the doorframe, nodding. “Yeah. Not something I hide. Why?”

Blake grins to himself, because it figures. “No reason. Just wondering. Didn’t exactly have you down as the type of guy to keep it to yourself, is all.” His mind is flashing back to their very first conversation.

It takes Blake half an hour to get back to the children’s home, and he hates that they call it that, because he sure as hell is not a child. Mark Burnett, the guy that runs the home, is still sat in his office when Blake gets there, door left open and light on over his desk.

“Hey,” he says, and Blake sighs, walks back a couple of steps before he’s in front of the office. Mark is out of his seat now, leaning onto his fists on the desk. “I got some good news. You’ve been cleared to move in with Luke.”

Blake’s eyes widen, because honestly he thought the thing had been delayed for so long that it wouldn’t happen. “You’re kidding me?”

Mark shakes his head, smiling. “Nope. You can move in tomorrow. We’ll need to check in on you from time to time, but you’re good to go. I’m just sorry it took so long.”

Blake blows out a breath. When his parents had died a couple of months back, he’d pretty much figured that he’d be in a home like this until he turned eighteen, maybe carted between foster homes if he was lucky. Because however much he’d pleaded with the people in charge, it had been pretty clear from the start that there was no way they’d let a seventeen year old live alone.

Luckily Luke, having heard about his parents, having heard about Blake’s residence in an Oklahoma children’s home, had been the one to put in the call. He’s only a couple of years older than Blake, but nineteen is old enough to take custody of an orphan (God, he hates that word). He was a family friend before said family wound up dead, and he’d moved to L.A straight out of high school in pursuit of a girl, broken up with the aforementioned girl, and had stayed there ever since.

Mark rounds the table, holds out a hand for Blake to shake. “We get a lot of troubled kids in here, Blake. But you’ve got a good heart, a good head, you’re gonna go places.”

Blake knows that it may well be the bullshit encouragement that Mark Burnett delivers to everyone through his door, but he smiles none the less, pulling out his cell phone on the way up to his room. He scrolls straight down to Luke’s name, pushes the call button, and waits for the line to connect.

“Blake! You got the news then?” Blake just knows Luke is smiling that stupid, huge, goofy grin, and it forces his mouth into movement.

“Yeah. I just wanted to make sure you’re still cool with all this. Because I know I’m a pleasure to be around, a blinding light that shines brightly in the midst of your days, but-.”

“Shut up, jackass. You still have the truck your dad bought you?” Blake smiles, hums an agreement.“Load your stuff up tomorrow morning, I’ll be there at eleven.” Yeah, they have a pretty straightforward relationship.

The line goes dead, and Blake smiles, because Luke is a great guy. He seriously is.

*

The bell to the children’s home rings at eleven o’clock, and Blake is anxious as fuck to get out of the place. Closest thing he’s found to a friend here is Mark, and even he looks set to leave the place soon, the Brit having moved to L.A for the same reason as most; he was really looking for an inlet into the world of TV.

Blake knows that he’s enjoyed his time managing the home, but he also knows that the guy finds it stressful as hell.

Blake’s smiling as he pulls open the front door, and it feels like his face might just crack in half when he looks down a couple of inches at Luke’s eyes. It’s the second time he’s seen the guy since he moved out here, and they pull each other into a bear hug, standing firm for a good half a minute.

“Aw, man. Great to see you.”

“Likewise, son. Likewise.”

Blake shakes his head. “Jacakass. You ever call me that again and I swear to god I’ll shoot you.”

Luke’s smiling, hands held up. His good moods have always been infectious, and this is no different. “Hello, Mr. Bryan.”

Mark has wandered up to the door, holding out a hand to Luke. Blake’s kind of surprised that he’s so cool with Blake moving out to live with a nineteen year old, but they can look after themselves. They always could.

“Luke, sir. Call me Luke.” He’s still grinning like a maniac all the way through the conversation with Mark, and then while they go and empty Blake’s room for the final time, and still when he climbs into the passenger side of Blake’s truck.

“So,” he says, once they’re on their way. “How’s the new school?”

Blake shrugs. “You know how it is. Fish out of water, all that BS.” Luke nods, but Blake keeps his eyes on the road. “I met a few kids that are alright though. Y’know. I got invited to a friend’s house last night actually, and he’s a pretty cool dude.”

“That’s good, man. I’m glad.” He laughs. “I’m telling you though, you got no idea what you’re getting yourself in for here. Life at that place might have been better. You realize your room has about four square centimetres of floor space. All it’s got in it is a bed and a closet!”

Blake shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter.”

Luke shrugs. “Okay. If you say so. I won’t be home a lot either. I work pretty long days, so you might have to sort dinner out for yourself.”

Luke wasn’t kidding about the room, but Blake wasn’t kidding when he said it didn’t matter. His clothes might be big, but there aren’t a lot of them, so settling in doesn’t take long.

Blake’s new guardian is out working the next day, but Blake wakes with his legs dangling over the edge of the bed, sprawled out on his front. If nothing else, the mattress is comfy. He spends the day doing the bare minimum amount of work that will be needed for the next week of school, and then he takes his guitar out into the living room, and plays until dinner. He feels closer to home than he has in a long time.

 

 

3.

Adam moves into a jog to catch up with Blake in the parking lot. He kind of sticks out like a sore thumb around here, Blake and his truck. He’s already smiling as he claps the tall guy on the shoulder, and it feels like holding onto Michael Jordan, for fuck sake.

“Hey, man. Good weekend?”

Blake turns and nods, smiling, his eyes gleaming with something Adam can’t quite place. He doesn’t ask. “Yeah. You?”

Mostly Adam had stayed in with the drum kit for company, and yeah, he considers that to be a good weekend. “Yep. Pretty good. Listen, heads up for a couple of week’s time. Christina’s throwing a party, your attendance is necessary.” Adam is still working on keeping the increasing lust he’s got for this guy under control, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want Blake Shelton as a friend, because the guy is an awesome one.

“Alright, look forward to it man.”

“Awesome. Also, you wanna hang out again this week?” He doesn’t wait for the answer before moving onto the finer details. “My place or yours?”

Blake nods. “Sure, buddy. You mind if I come to yours?”

Adam shakes his head, resolves again not to ask the obvious question presenting itself. “Sure, no problem. I’ve got the house to myself tomorrow, you up for that?”

*

Blake arrives at school sans truck on Tuesday. It’s happened before, in fact, it happened the last time the guy came round to Adam’s.

“Why no truck today?” Adam asks. They’re settled into his car, nearing the house.

Adam feels Blake look across at him before his eyes return to the windshield. “Oh, uh, I’m only a ten minute walk from the school. Just figured I’d walk it.”

“You don’t usually…” Adam doesn’t want to push it, except that he is kind of curious now.

“No. I used to get dropped off every now and then but, uh, I kind of moved place over the weekend.”

There’s still something waiting to click into place. “Oh, already? You can’t have been in town more than a couple of months.” Adam glances across to Blake, who’s got his eyes cast downwards, posture as relaxed as ever but for the way he’s biting his bottom lip. Adam kind of wants-. Not important now. “It’s fine. Forget I said anything.”

Adam sees Blake shake his head out of the corner of his eye. “No, no. I should tell you, I guess. Luke said I should tell someone.” Adam doesn’t get the chance to ask who the fuck Luke is before Blake keeps talking. “I, uh, I was in a children’s home, had been there since I moved out to L.A. a little while back. I just moved in with a guardian over the weekend though. I’m not eighteen, so I can’t live alone.”

Adam sighs, wishes he could just reach over and hug the guy or something. “Your parents?” Seems like they should have the entirety of this conversation now that they’ve started with it. Saves another awkward moment at a later date.

“They died. Car accident a few months back. No siblings, no relatives, so it’s just me.”

Adam looks across, sees the slight excess of water in Blake’s eyes, and vows not to look across at him again until he’s given him the time to gain some composure. If not to make Blake a little less uncomfortable, then to make sure Adam doesn’t start bawling at his story. It’s kind of heartbreaking though, especially when Adam tries to consider what his life would be like without his parents. “So who are you living with now?”

“A guy called Luke. He was a family friend from Oklahoma, moved out here a couple of years back. He’s only nineteen, but he’s a great guy, has a spare bedroom. They just took a while to assess him as a guardian, I think.”

Adam nods, both hands on the wheel, eyes firmly fixed on the outside world as he waits patiently for the gates to the house to open. “That’s good. Every cloud, I guess. Even if it is the darkest cloud that ever existed.”

Blake seems to appreciate the metaphor, huffing out a small laugh. When Adam looks over, his expression is close enough to neutral that he knows they can resume normal conversation.

He offers Shelton a beer as soon as they’re through the door, grabs one for each of them, and they head straight out to the music room. Mostly they end up playing pool, throwing a few darts, messing around with the guitars and drum kit. Blake is a hell of a lot better at guitar than Adam had first thought, has no problem reaching for the notes with his long-as-chopstick fingers.

Adam tries hard to avert his gaze for a lot of the evening, at the very least whenever the goofball does anything swoon-worthy, which is with alarming frequency. He’s gotta say though, the kind of things that qualify as swoon-worthy with this guy are ridiculous. He’s not exactly…normal, in the nicest possible way.

Adam can’t even explain what he likes about him; Blake sure doesn’t fit his ‘type,’ if Adam has one. But then maybe that’s part of it. Maybe the fact that Adam is yet to meet anyone even remotely like this guy is what draws him in. Adam’s pretty confident that it isn’t the accent; he’s met enough southerners to know it’s not the only thing that does him in.

He’s fairly sure that Blake must catch him staring at him a few times, but he doesn’t mention it, doesn’t falter in whatever he’s doing at the time. Adam escorts him to the door like last time, stays by the door until Blake disappears from view, and then shakes his head as he walks back into the house.

And when Adam goes over to an old friend’s house mid-week, when he ends up kissing her on her bed, when he ends up having to run from the room to stop himself from sleeping with her, he knows full well that it was all a distraction from Blake Shelton; just as he knows that the petite blond-haired, dark-eyed girl, is the furthest person from Shelton on the entire planet.

He feels the soft skin against his face, tastes the fruit chapstick, hears the soft breaths, when what he wants is pretty much the exact opposite. He apologizes, ever the gentleman, and leaves as quickly as he can manage.

*

“You like him,” Carson says. They’re just finishing up with lunch. Christina’s heading in one direction, Blake in another, and Carson and Adam are heading to their next class together. Adam isn’t aware that his eyes are tracking Blake to the door until Carson calls him out on it.

“What?” he asks, because innocence should always be the first port of call. He’s kidding himself though, if he lets himself believe that Carson doesn’t already have the whole thing figured out. He has a knack for reading people, just like that knack for getting along with everybody.

Carson gives him the eyes, the don’t-bullshit-me eyes. “Blake.”

Adam sags as he walks, lowering his voice. He’s not even going to both protesting his innocence for a second time. “I can’t even fucking explain it. What the hell am I doing? Out of every guy in the school, I think he is possibly the least likely to ever turn out gay or bi or whatever.”

Carson shrugs. “So you get over it.” Adam looks at him, like he’s just said the most annoying thing in the world. In fairness, it feels like he might have. “I know it’s not easy, but this must have happened before, you must have had a crush on some guy that was just the other way inclined?”

Adam grins, because yeah, he has. “It’s happened once,” Adam admits, and he doesn’t really have any issues telling Carson about it. He knows what he’s like, knows how he’ll take it. “It was actually you. But that lasted about a week, this has been going on for over a month, and isn’t exactly showing signs of subsiding.”

Carson raises his eyebrows, thankfully doesn’t look too weirded out by the admission. “I have no idea why, but for some reason I’m kind of flattered by that.”

Adam shrugs as they take to their desk. “But what the fuck do I do about Blake? I can’t keep my distance; it’s too late for that. I sure as hell ain’t gonna make a move on him. So what the fuck do I do?”

Carson shrugs, gives him half of an apologetic smile with gritted teeth. “Focus on his less attractive qualities.”

“Like?” Carson shrugs. “C’mon, C. Help me out, here.” Adam isn’t beyond begging because boy, he needs all the help he can get. He can’t for the life of him pick out a single thing about Blake that he doesn’t actually like. Not only is that pathetic, it’s also completely ridiculous. Nobody is perfect.

“Okay. Like, his curly hair?”

Adam sighs, pushes his palm into his forehead. “I kind of like it.” He really does.

“His annoying-as-fuck accent?”

“Kind of love it.” That’s actually one of the things he likes the most. Carson’s giving him a look; raised eyebrows, like he’s just realized that this is deeper. And Adam might be going crazy, but Carson’s obvious disbelief just served as evidence that this time is different.

He gives a half-hearted shrug, as though the next suggestion is pointless anyway. “The limited fashion choices of jeans and flannel shirts?”

Adam groans “Kind of suits the jackass.” Carson doesn’t even try to hide his amusement this time.

“Okayyy,” Carson continues, and his face clears. “Uh, how about the higher-than-usual possibility of him being homophobic?”

Adam shakes his head, looks at him. “Okay, firstly, if we’ve gotten to the point where we’re relying on possibilities, then I’m already screwed. And secondly, he knows I’m bi, hasn’t shown any problems with it so far.”

Carson nods. “Okay. Well then, since we have absolutely no reason to believe that he’s gay, you’re just going to have to accept that you’re screwed.”

 

 

4.

When Blake gets back from school on Friday evening, he’s kind of surprised to hear music from the tiny living room. But Luke is there when he opens the door to the apartment, guitar in his lap as he sings along. It’s nothing Blake recognizes, which means it’s probably something he wrote himself.

“Been writing again?”

Luke nods. “Never really stopped. I don’t think I ever told you, did I? That I had some interest from record execs before I moved out here.”

Blake dumps his bag, sits on the couch. “You kidding me? Why the fuck did you move then?”

He shrugs, looks Blake in the eye, because they both know exactly why. It was her; the girl that dumped Luke for some wannabe actor a month after the move. “You should go back,” Blake says. “Go to Nashville, send some demos out. If you had interest back then, you’ll sure as hell get some now.”

Luke looks up, shrugs. “You actually think so? Or are you just being nice?”

Blake grins. “You kidding me? Have I ever been one to lie to save your feelings?”

*

Blake’s at a loss for things to do that weekend; he actually resorts to doing extra credit work for school until Luke gets back. Then they mostly sit in the living room, and Blake starts helping Luke out with what he jokingly says will be the EP he uses to pitch himself to the record companies. Blake only hopes that it doesn’t turn out quite the joke that Luke thinks it is, because the guy truly deserves a shot.

“When Blake gets to school on Monday morning, there’s a piece of paper taped to his locker. He glances around, wondering if it’s some kind of love note, or worse a practical joke. When he opens the thing, though, he see s the words Invite, along with a time, date, and an address.”

 

He jumps when he feels a hand clap him on the shoulder. “Mornin’ Shelton.” Adam grins back at him. Blake wishes he wouldn’t call him that. And that he wouldn’t stand in such close proximity. “You get the note from Christina?”

“Yeah. Wasn’t much of an invite.”

Adam laughs. “What? You were expecting more? Calligraphy and all that shit? Sorry, Country. So you up for it? Her place on Friday night? House is huge, yard’s even bigger. Pretty sure half the class is coming.”

Blake nods. “I said I’d come, didn’t I?”

“Yeah. You did.” Adam leans close, too close; Blake shuts his eyes and exercises some restraint, Adam’s mouth inches from his ear as he talks. “Do me a favor and lose the farmer shirt though? Just for one night.” Blake gives himself a mental slap.

He probably will lose the ‘farmer shirt,’ if only because this idiot asked him to. His relationship with Adam is becoming a bit of a…problem. Blake kind of hates that.

While he hopes his future holds something in the country music industry, a notoriously hard industry to break into, where homosexuality is frowned upon more than in others, Blake hates that this bisexual-sticky-uppy-haired-kind-of-rockstar that probably has absolutely no interest in Blake anyway, is making him seriously consider what it is he really wants.

And what he absolutely hates, is that said bisexual, rockstar idiot, looks so fucking ecstatic to hear that he’ll be at the party. Sonofabitch. Blake is so gone with this guy.

It’s annoying, too, because Blake’s subconscious wants to kind of sink into his arms, maybe turn around, maybe even-. He wriggles out of the grasp as best he can, relieved (read: disappointed) when Christina walks up, all bouncing blond hair and cute little grin.

*

Blake’s pretty sure he’s never felt quite so out-of-his-element in his entire life; he’s hopping out of Luke’s truck and looking up at a house even bigger than Adam’s.

Blake turns back to the car, leans down to the open window. “Thanks, Luke.”

He nods. “No problem. Just give me a call if you need picking up. Phone should wake me up.”

Blake nods, waits until Luke has pulled away, and then begins walking up the drive of the house. He can see Carson walking up ahead of him, so he runs a couple of steps quick enough that they end up side-by-side for the last stretch.

Carson runs a finger down in front of him. “Whoa. Where’s the plaid shirt, Country?”

Blake looks down, curses Adam and his stupid dimples for convincing him into a grey button up tonight. He’s still wearing jeans, still wearing a pair of boots, and he’s got the shirt rolled up to the elbow, but it’s a noticeable change for someone who usually wears pretty much the same ensemble every single day.

He shrugs, figures he may as well tell the truth on this one. “Some jackass told me my ‘farmer shirt’ wouldn’t cut it for this.”

Admittedly, Carson -- and the majority of the guys here -- have dressed up slightly smarter than usual. Except for-. The fucking asshole. Adam is up ahead of them, his hair and strut unmistakable, sauntering towards the front door. And he, the very person that warned Blake about his choice of shirt this evening, is wearing the same thing he wears nearly every single goddamn day; black skinny jeans and a plain white tee. He looks so fucking good as well.

Carson laughs in response, and they walk in through the door, all the way out to the yard, where the majority of the guests are.

Christina runs up to them near-instantly, hands them a beer each, pecks them on the cheek, and then rushes off in the other direction again.

Carson clinks the necks together, and Adam has spotted them from across the pool, now walking over to them with a blinding smile on his face. Blake watches as he pulls Carson into what a bro-hug, and then proceeds to do the same to him. It’s not a concept Blake’s fond of; either hug him, or don’t, but don’t go for some half-assed alternative that sits between the two.

“Hey, man. You guys just get here?”

“Yeah,” Carson says. “We came in right behind you.”

After that, things are easier. There are plenty of people around, plenty of people to talk to (even if Blake isn’t interested in the vast majority of them), and Blake actually gets talking to a chick called Miranda. She’s cool, from Texas, and moved out here a couple of years ago by the sounds of it. She’s the first person since Blake got here that he could actually see some sort of potential for dating, except that it wouldn’t be fair on her.

So when Adam interrupts their conversation at a little after one AM, grabbing his hand -- not okay -- and dragging him towards the house, he doesn’t ask for the girl’s number. He lets her walk away.

“You done with your girlfriend?” Adam asks, as though he hasn’t already dragged him all the way into the house. Most of the guests are gone by now, and what’s left has moved to the living room. There’s nobody that’s completely wasted, but Blake’s pretty drunk. Drunk enough that he’s near-sure he’s leaning into the arm Adam has thrown across his shoulders.

Everyone in the room is sat in a circle, and it’s now that it dawns on him what’s happening. Adam is already leaping across couches to get to an open spot, so Blake wanders over to where Carson sits, falls to the floor next to him, and crosses his legs.

“Hey, man. How’d you like Miranda?”

Blake shrugs, can’t really be assed with giving any more of an answer. Carson doesn’t ask, which he’s grateful for.

Christina walks in next, smiling with an empty bottle in hand. “Everyone up for this?” Blake hates this shit, but if he says anything other than yes he’ll just look like a pussy. He keeps quiet, hopes nobody dares him to do anything drastic, and tries to sober up. “Okay, good,” Christina continues. “We’ll change the rules as we go, but for the moment, if the bottle neck is pointing at you, you’re up for truth or dare. Person at the other end of the bottle will be your challenger.”

Blake’s pretty sure he can deal with that. There must be at least fifteen rounds before the thing lands on him. Most of the questions are pretty basic; Ever had sex? Ever given head? Ever had a crush on a teacher? Got a crush on anyone in the room? None of the dares are anything to call home about, either.It’s not until he looks up and sees that Adam is the person at the other end of the bottle, that he gets truly worried.

“Truth or dare, Country?”

Blake sighs, “Truth.” But as soon as he sees the glint in Adam’s eye, he’s regretting it.

“Ever had a gay experience?”

Blake swallows, thanks god that the Adam had phrased the question the way he did, and then answers. “No.”

 

 

5.

Adam can’t say he’s surprised. It’s not like the vast majority of guys even have gay experiences, and probably not at their age. He’s not sure why he even bothered to ask, except he is. He knows exactly why he asked. Firstly, out of hope; Adam’s mostly-optimistic personality was hoping that something in Blake’s answer would imply that Blake would be up for such a gay experience in the future. And secondly, he asked because Adam’s looking for some sort of indication that he’s not dreaming up the occasional moment between the two of them.

Christina’s up to her feet a couple of rounds later. “Okay,” she says. “Rule change. Everybody trade seats, and then we’re going old school. The two people at each end of the bottle are making out in the middle of the circle.”

This is the part Blake’s less comfortable with; it’s written all over his face. Adam doesn’t mind it, but then again anybody he’s ever had to make out with usually seems more than willing. And if it’s a guy, a straight guy, then Adam can practically hear them telling themselves that it’s okay, because Adam isn’t the worst guy in the room to have to kiss, and that he’s gay, anyway, so he won’t get off on this. Which is wrong, of course (the gay part). Anyway, the point Adam is trying to make, is that this thing, this game, usually isn’t that bad.

Except that tonight it is, because there’s one person in the room that he actually wants to make out with. And that person more than likely doesn’t feel the same way.

“Oh,” Christina adds. “And another rule, for those that haven’t been here before; doesn’t matter if you’re same-sex or opposite, unless you opt out now, you are making out with your match.”

Adam glances at Blake in the reshuffles, with mixed feelings about the fact that there’s no way the bottle will land on the two of them together.

He’s not even close to being done with that thought when the person next to him delivers an elbow to the ribs, and then Adam looks up, looks at the bottleneck pointing towards him and swallowing when he sees who the other end has landed on. Carson. Carson, the guy he’d told not so long ago, that he’d had a crush on.

Carson’s smiling slightly, like he finds the whole thing amusing. He shrugs, eyes sparkling in a way that says he’s up for it so long as Adam is. And that right there is why they’ve pretty much been best friends since their first day here. Living in L.A, you come across a lot of fakes; this guy ain’t one of them.

Adam starts moving as Carson does, purposefully does not look at Blake as he gets onto his knees and crawls towards the middle of the circle.

Carson seems to pick up on the fact that Adam doesn’t think this is an ideal situation, and Adam finds himself relieved that his friend takes control, lifts a hand to the back of his head and presses their lips together. It’s pretty quick, open-mouthed but without tongue, and it’s enough that Adam can hear the whistles and applause from the group when they move away.

Carson’s smiling, gives him another shrug as though to say what-can-you-do? Adam mouths two words. Thank you.

And then the bottle gets its next spin. Adam isn’t called upon again for the rest of the round, and impressively, neither is Blake.

“Okay,” Christina says, standing in the center of the circle again. “This is the last round, alright. It’s a mashup of Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven. Rules are as follows; the bathroom is our cupboard, we’re actually only playing four minutes in heaven, and minimum is lip-to-lip contact. How far you go beyond that is up to you, but remember you only have four minutes. Everybody change seats.”

Christina spins the bottle for the first time. It lands on her and some guy that Adam recognizes from the school football team. Four minutes later, the bottle spins again, and it’s a couple of girls from Adam’s math class. Which is kind of hot. The bottle spins again and-.

Shit.

Adam finds Blake’s gaze. Christina’s already gesturing with her arms. “Off you go boys. Come back out when you hear the alarm, or we’ll send someone in after you.”

Adam’s ready to make an argument for staying exactly where he is, ready to take off for some emergency situation that he has on his hands, but then Blake gets up, and starts towards the bathroom. Adam follows him, avoiding Blake’s gaze for as long as possible. But once they’re in, with the door locked and a minimal amount of space available, there aren’t a lot of other places to look.

Blake looks nervous, verging on scared. His voice puts on a good show of hiding it though. “People don’t actually do this shit, do they?”

Adam fights the smile at the country twang, nods ruefully with his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, they really do.” Adam doesn’t’ mention Christina’s magical ability to be an expert when it comes to calling people out on this kind of thing. Or the fact that she regularly doles out absurd punishments afterwards. Something must be implied in his tone though, because Blake doesn’t question it further.

Adam’s problem is, he wants to kiss the guy. Bigger problem is that if he does, he might find it difficult to stop.

Adam doesn’t have quite as long as he’d expected to think on that, because Blake’s got his head between his huge hands, pressing their lips together, holding him there, neither of them moving for a good few seconds.

Adam is stunned, eyes clamped shut, hands fisted by his sides, waiting for Blake to pull away so that they can go out, say they’d done it, and move on with their goddamn lives.

Except that Blake is a constant surprise, because his lips soften against Adam’s, his grip loosening, before he finally starts actually kissing him. Adam knows it’s bad, knows he should stop, but fuck, the guy is like a drug.

And this is what Adam had been waiting for, what had been missing from that kiss with the blond-haired-blue-eyed beauty he’d almost slept with last week. Because now there’s the rasp of Blake’s stubble against Adam’s clean-shaven cheeks, there’s the taste of beer on his lips.

And Adam. Is. Gone.

He lets his arms move of their own accord, snaking one around Blake’s neck, settling there as the giant ducks his head a little further, continues the reciprocation like he’s just as into this as Adam is. Which is kind of strange.

They keep going at it right until the alarm sounds through the door, by which point their bodies are flush against each other. Blake jumps back into awareness. The hand that has sneaked beneath Adam’s top moves away like it’s been scolded, his lips still immediately, move away a split second later, and Adam finds his eyes.

They’re wide, pupils blown in the relative darkness, kind of a little bit panicked, and he holds both of his hands up, like he’s done something Adam might have been upset with. A few more moments and he’s gone from Adam’s personal space, gone from the room, gone from the house.

Adam looks after him for a moment, but there’s no way Blake’s coming back. So he steels himself, walks back out into the hall, and then through to the living room. He jerks a hand in Blake’s direction. “Blake had to go. Think he had a curfew or something, lost track of time.”

Christina looks at him, looks down at his lips, and Adam knows she’s trying to determine whether they did what was asked of them. She nods, and Adam breathes a sigh of relief, slips back into the circle, and waits out what is left of the game. Ideally, he’d leave right now, but the catcalls will come, and people will tease him about how well his four minutes with Blake went, and Adam can’t handle that. He just can’t.

So he sits motionless for the remaining half an hour, waits until everyone has said their goodbyes, and he’s about to make a beeline for the door, when Carson lands a hand on his forearm. Adam turns back to him, sighing. You know it’s been a strange night when you’re more worried about the repercussions of a kiss with your crush than the one with your straight best friend.

“You want a lift back?”

Carson frowns. “You haven’t been drinking?”

He shakes his head. He’d figured drinking might be a bad idea, and apparently he’d been right. Because he can’t quite imagine how much worse -- or better, depending on how you look at things -- those ‘four minutes in heaven’ might have been if he were drunk. Carson nods, and neither of them say anything until they’ve made it out into the car.

“So…” Carson says, and Adam’s knows, is almost grateful, that this awkwardness is because of the Blake Shelton topic, and not the impromptu kiss that happened between them. Adam still feels he should clear the air though.

“You know you really didn’t have to do that. Christina wouldn’t have been hard on us, she gets that we’re good friends, man.”

Carson shrugs, smiling a little as Adam starts up the engine and peels out into the road. “Hey, what’s life without a few gay experiences along the way.” Adam laughs, because he loves the guy, he really does. “But I should point that I do expect full recollection of your four minutes in heaven with Blake Shelton for my trouble.”

“Kissing me was trouble?”

He feels Carson’s eyes on the side of his face. “No. Your lips are silky smooth. But stop changing the subject!”

Adam grins. “Okay, okay. I dunno, he asked me some stuff about whether people actually made out in there, I explained about Christina. And then he just…kissed me.” Carson’s still looking at him. “I mean, like, really kissed me, like he was completely into it. I figured maybe he was doing it just so we could say we had, but I dunno, man. That thing lasted a good three minutes, didn’t stop until the buzzer.”

Carson blows out a breath. “So this is a good thing, right? I mean, you like him, he kissed you. Blah, blah, blah, and they lived happily ever after.” Adam wishes it were that simple.

“Did you miss the part where he bolted from the house?”

They know each other too well for Carson to have believed the line about Blake needing to leave. “Okay, so it didn’t go well then?”

Adam shrugs, because what more can he really do? “Honestly, if you were to ask me, I’d hazard a guess that the problem is that he’s against all this.”

“He’s homophobic?”

“I don’t know if he’s homophobic as such. He’s known about me since the first conversation we had, and he sure as hell has never insinuated he’s got a problem with it. But he’s like most guys, I guess. Feeling something for a guy, especially if it’s the first time, that shit’s scary.” Adam shrugs again after a few seconds of silence. “Then again. That could all be wishful thinking on my part. Maybe it’s just that he doesn’t like me like that, hates my personality, and on top of it all, just found out that I’m a seriously bad kisser.”

Carson laughs, and the tension seeps from the car. “You’re not a bad kisser, buddy. Believe me.”

 

 

6.

Blake walks all the way home, doesn’t care that it takes him an hour. In all honesty (and as much as he hates to make the admission), he needs the time alone, needs to think about what just happened in that tiny bathroom at Christina’s.

Because fucking hell. That jackass son-of-a-bitch. His mind is a litany of curses, and he quite literally feels like putting his fist through a brick wall, the look on Adam’s face after they’d pulled away from one another still etched in his memory.

Blake doesn’t know who or what he’s trying to blame, because in the end he has to accept that it was him, it was Blake that had kissed Adam. The accumulation of the maybe-there feelings over the past couple of months had finally got to him, and he’d just…broken. Worst part is, he knows he wants Adam to be the one to put him together again.

And Blake won’t label himself as gay, won’t label himself as bisexual. Adam Levine is the only man, real, fictional, or famous, that Blake has ever felt anything for. It isn’t even just physical attraction; sure the guy is good looking, but the realization that Adam Levine is hot as hell still came second.

If Blake is honest with himself, it was some of the first words out of Adam’s mouth that initiated the crush; in fact, Blake begrudgingly realizes, he can pinpoint the exact phrase:

I’m bisexual, asshole. That enough to stop you applying stereotypes to me left, right and center?

He can’t even justify why, but the look on Adam’s face, the determination not to be played down to a stereotype…it was a feeling Blake could relate to only too well. He didn’t just like Adam; he respected him.

He’s a two-minute walk away from Luke’s place when his cell phone rings. He looks down, sees the caller ID, and presses ignore. No way can he handle talking to Adam right now.

*

“You were out pretty late last night?”

Blake rubs at his eyes, glances up at the clock in the kitchenette. It’s two PM, which is frankly a lot earlier than he’d expected, and Luke is sat on the couch, eyes trained on the TV with a cup of coffee in hand. “Uh, yeah. Sorry about that.”

“No worries,” Luke says. “Long as you don’t get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking, I got no problem.” Luke knows he drinks, and it would be kind of hypocritical for him to try and stop it, given that Luke drinking is no less illegal than for Blake.

Blake nods, and when Luke goes out to the grocery store about an hour later, he finally looks at his cell phone.

7 MISSED CALLS.

They’re all from Adam. He turns the phone off, vows to maybe deal with it tomorrow, if he can stand it.

There isn’t a lot on today’s agenda though. Blake showers, does a little work, plays a little guitar, and goes back to bed.

When he wakes the next morning, Luke is already gone to work. He turns on his phone, only to find four more missed calls before the phone is buzzing in Blake’s hand again, Adam’s name (surprise!) on the caller ID.

Blake sits down on the edge of the bed. Leaning his arms on his knees and with one hand covering his eyes, he presses the button to accept the call.

“Hello?”

“You fucking asshole. You absolute jackass. What the hell is wrong with you Shelton? You walk home alone at two in the morning, ignore my calls for the whole of the next day, and answer with fucking hello, like nothing is wrong? I’ve been out of my mind trying to work out whether you even made it home you giant jackass! I don’t even have your goddamn address, least you could do is send me a fucking text message!”

Oh. That hadn’t even crossed Blake’s mind. And he’s not sure how to feel about the fact that Adam has been ‘out of his mind’ with the worry. Suddenly, he feels like shit.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what? For the fact that you’ve been ignoring me for two days? For the fact that you’ve had me pacing a hole in the floor, wondering what the hell is wrong with you? Or for the fact that you fucking kissed me in the first place!” Blake stays silent. “Which is it, you son of a bitch?”

“I can’t do this?” It comes out more of a question than he had intended.

When Adam speaks again, it’s kind of unexpected. His voice has gone softer, his words less harsh; he sounds like what he’s just said might have caught up with him. “Look, before we even say anything else, can you promise you won’t do that again? Just text me, or text Carson, I don’t care. But don’t shut me out.”

Blake can do that. He nods to himself. “Yeah. Yes, I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about it like that.”

“Okay, good,” he continues. “So now will you please tell me what the hell was up last night?”

“No.”

“Blake-.”

“I mean it, Adam. I can’t. Heck, I don’t even know yet myself.”

“So where the fuck does that leave us, Shelton?”

“Honestly, I don’t know yet.” He pinches the bridge of his nose, sighs. “I just need-. I need some time.”

There’s a hesitation before Adam answers. “Okay. So what, you want me to steer clear? Or you want me to try and act like nothing happened until you decide what you want?”

On paper, those words should sound irritated. But in reality, they don’t. Adam’s just laying out the options, and Blake hates that neither of them are what he really wants. And even though he knows that he should really ask for the former, that it would absolutely be what’s best for them, he answers with the exact opposite.

“Option number two, please.”

He can hear the small smile in Adam’s voice when he speaks again. “Okay. Okay. Can we still hang out and stuff? Because for the record, I still consider you to be one of my closest friends, and I really don’t want that to change.” Blake nods.

“Yeah.”The next thing he says is against his better judgment, but he loses all rationale when it comes to Adam, apparently. “You know what, Luke’s been pestering me to meet you anyway. There’s not a lot to do over here, but you’re welcome to come over for pizza or something?”

“Uh, yeah, okay. Pizza sounds good. When d’you want me?”

“Luke gets off early on Wednesday, I think. Come over after school.”

*

Blake’s not stupid. He knows exactly what he’s doing over the next four or five months. He does his absolute best to completely ignore what happened between himself and Adam; he literally acts as if the whole thing never happened, and honestly, he’s surprised Adam doesn’t call him out on it sooner.

He also knows that, despite his best efforts, the feelings haven’t gone anywhere. And Blake still catches Adam looking at him in that way every now and then, still has to stop himself from looking at Adam like that at least a few times a day.

Fact is, much as Blake knows it could mess up any potential future career in country music, he still can’t stop thinking about the guy. If he looked more closely, he’d know that he’s falling in love with him.

Adam makes that visit to Luke’s place, and Blake makes plenty of visits to Adam’s, but neither of them makes any further mention of that night.

Aside from the Adam issues though, Blake pretty much throws himself into the music thing. As much as he loves it, he hasn’t really done any serious work up until now; so he helps Luke write songs for a potential debut album, writes a couple of tracks by himself, and spends most of his time at the apartment with a guitar in his lap.

But four and a half months later, at the beginning of April, Adam does finally mention It (yes, it gets its own capital letter now). It’s after a week in which he’s been on edge slightly more than usual. Blake is at his house, they’re out the back like usual, playing a game of pool, when he watches Adam throw the cue at the floor and push the heels of his hands into his eyes.

Blake already knows what’s coming, hates that he still feels the same as he did months ago, hates that he still wants to kiss the frown right off of the guy.

 

 

7.

“I can’t fucking take it anymore!” Adam yells. “Listen, okay. I gave you your time, because I thought you’d make a goddamn decision. I let you lead me on for the last four months, and I said fuck all to call you out on all of your bullshit, but now I need to know, Blake! I need to know, because I’m falling in love with you, and if you have no feelings for me whatsoever, then I am the one that’s gonna need some space. I’m gonna need you to fuck off and leave me alone so that-.”

Blake’s lips are on Adam’s. And Adam is completely stunned for all of about three seconds. Then he’s got his hands in Blake’s hair, tugging not-so-gently at the locks, and one of his feet planted between both of Blake’s. And then Adam’s pushing him back, all the way to the pool table, pinning him there with his arms and glad when Blake leans back to bring them to near-level height.

And then, when he’s got Blake in a situation that makes it hard to escape, then, he shoves away. He doesn’t move far, doesn’t really move at all other than to put some space between their faces. But he needs to maintain this control, keep Blake at a height closer to his own, and physically deter him from fleeing the room.

“Blake, you’ve gotta tell me what’s happening here.”

Adam looks into his eyes, can see the underlying fear that’s there. It’s kind of a little bit heartbreaking; on the one hand, Adam wants to tell him that it will all be fine eventually, et cetera, et cetera. But on the other hand, he wants to tell Shelton to man the fuck up and decide what it is that he wants.

He’s nodding though, like he understands Adam’s annoyance. Which is something.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry, okay. It’s just, I’m not gay-.”

“Don’t fuck with me, you jackass!”

“Hey, hey, wait a second. Will you let me finish?” Adam sighs, gives a small nod for Blake to continue, even if he really doesn’t like the direction this is taking. “I’m not gay, in that you’re the first person-. The first guy that I’ve ever felt anything for before. And I mean anything. But you gotta understand, that where I come from, this stuff is just isn’t…” Blake breaks off, lost for words or at least their meaning. When he looks back up to Adam, he can see the worry, the anxiety. “You realize that if my parents were still alive, they’d probably kill me!”

Adam shakes his head, and yeah, now he feels sorry for the guy. Worried about his emotions and the opinions that were held by his now-dead parents. “You’re an idiot. Okay, so maybe they wouldn’t understand it, maybe they wouldn’t talk to you for a couple of weeks. But most parents come around to the idea. Hell, mine did.” Blake looks down and shakes his head, and Adam can tell he doesn’t believe him.

He sighs, knocks Blake on the chin so that they’re looking at each other again.

“Okay. Okay. Just, tell me what you’d want. If nobody else mattered, if every single person on the planet was cool with same-sex relationships, tell me what you’d want.”

They’re staring at each other, and Adam’s finding it hard not to reach out when Blake’s eyes are as blue and innocent as they are right now. He shrugs, like it’s simple, but his eyes say otherwise.

“You.”

Adam fights hard to stop that translating into a face-cracking grin, because what Blake would want, and what Blake does want, might turn out to be two very different things. He does kiss him again though, for however brief a moment.

“You gotta give me more.”

Blake sighs, eyes closed until he opens them again a few moments later. “Can I just…can I have some time?” Adam’s ready to rip him a new one when Blake continues. “I know I said that last time, but I don’t mean four and a half months this time. Just give me the weekend, alright? I need the weekend to think things through.”

Adam nods, because he can wait a couple of days. Or he thinks he can. “Okay, but I’ve got one more thing to say.” He gestures between them. “You do realize, don’t you, that I’m not gonna ask you to come out to the whole school if you decide you want this. I’m not gonna be throwing you a coming out party or whatever. We can keep it to ourselves, until you’re more comfortable with it.”

Their eye contact lingers, and Blake nods, small smile in his eyes. “Thank you.”

Adam nods, holds his hands up, and takes one giant step back. “I mean it though, if I haven’t heard from you before Monday morning, I’m gonna throw a fit.”

Adam watches as Blake nods, then follows him through the house, and waves at the pickup truck from the doorway of the house.

 

 

8.

Blake drives over to Adam’s place on Saturday morning, a full fifteen hours after he’d left the previous night. In all honesty, there wasn’t a lot of thinking to do. Adam had mentioned he’d be home alone all day.

Adam opens the door, looks surprised to see him, and puts up very little resistance when Blake pushes him back through the door with a palm to his chest. He reaches out with one arm to push the door shut once he’s in the hallway, then presses Adam up against the closest wall and kisses him. Hard.

Blake smiles into it. Because he can taste the fruit juice on Adam’s tongue, can feel the few-day stubble against his own skin, can feel the hint of teeth as Adam lets them drag along Blake’s lower lip. It’s probably the best kiss he’s ever had.

Eventually, Blake pulls away. He’s a little breathless, even more light-headed, and he finds Adam’s eyes. “I need you to be cool with keeping this a secret though, at least for the time being.”

Adam just nods, and so Blake lowers his lips to him again, this time softer, explorative, tender. And that is never a word Blake would have used to describe Adam Levine.

“So…” Adam says when Blake pulls him away. He’s still got him pinned to the wall, and Adam’s grinning with those fucking dimples again. “You got somewhere to be today?”

Blake shakes his head. “Nope. You want me to hang around?” Adam nods at him, just once. But Blake really needs to get something out of his system before they do anything else. And apparently Adam can read him like an open book.

“You don’t need to say it. You’ve never done this. I get it, still remember my first kiss with a guy, scared the shit out of me. Just, you’ve done this with a girl, right?”

Blake nods, just once, and Adam’s back to that face-splitting grin again. And in some kind of abstract way, Blake knows he made the right decision with this.

They actually do just spend the remainder of the day hanging out like they usually do though. They might sit closer together, Adam might steal a kiss every now and then for absolutely no discernable reason, but Blake’s comfortable with it all. At least, he’s as comfortable as he could be with the situation, given his limited experience.

It goes on like that, days spent at school, sneaking kisses in hidden corners as everyone rushes off to class, holding hands under the lunch table (and trying to ignore the smug look on Carson’s face), followed by long jam/make out sessions at Adam’s house. They’re careful not to push the other into something they’re not ready for, both seeming contented to kiss and let their hands carefully wander.

It’s another month later, at the beginning of summer, when Blake finds himself at Adam’s house, that he realizes that this is going to go further.

There’s no question any more, as much as Blake perhaps wishes it weren’t true, he is absolutely in love with Adam. There’s also no question that he still wants this to be a private thing, to keep to themselves. Adam hasn’t pushed him on that, not yet. But Blake can feel it coming, can feel that the pressure may begin soon. But school is out, Blake’s started to apply for jobs because he has no interest in college, and Adam seems to be pushing things with his music.

“You want to do this?” Adam asks. He’s got Blake pinned to the back of his bedroom door. “You can say no…” he murmurs, but Blake draws a breath, nods. He can’t lie, this stuff, the physical stuff, well, all of it, it makes Blake nervous. Gay sex isn’t exactly the same as straight sex. Nothing about the relationship seems the same as anything Blake has had before. He’s not entirely sure whether the fact that Adam has more experience makes him feel better or worse.

The way Adam is looking at him though, that definitely makes him feel better. He’s got a hand held against Blake’s face, a minute smile on his lips as he looks straight at him. “Don’t be nervous, alright. Listen, we won’t go all the way today, okay? There’s not a lot that’s different getting a blowjob from me than a girl.” He pauses, grins, shrugs. “Except it’ll be better, obviously.”

Blake smiles, and some of the tension has dissipated from the room. “You’re that awesome?”

Adam nods, self-assured, grinning with confidence; it makes Blake feel better. Then Blake feels hands on his belt buckle, and then on the buttons of his shirt, pulling him away from the door and pushing the shirt back down over his shoulders.

Blake watches as Adam steps back a little, pulling off his t-shirt in one smooth movement, and bending down to lose the socks.

“Okay,” he says, and he leans up to kiss Adam simultaneously. Blake focuses on every little thing he’s doing, tries to stop his mind wandering to the more scary part of what’s happening.

“You sure?”

“Mmhmm.”

With that Adam seems to take control of the situation. Blake usually doesn’t like that, but in this instance, he’s more than willing to go along with it. Adam’s hand lands on his chest, gently pushing him backwards, right until Blake can feel the backs of his legs hit the bed frame. Adam’s hands are back at his jeans again, deftly unfastening the belt and pushing the jeans over his hips, then giving him a final push that has him sitting on the edge of the bed.

Blake rids himself of his socks, trying to keep one eye on Adam, on him losing his own jeans, leaning on the end of the bed, and waiting for Blake to lie down flat.

It’s then that Blake feels Adam’s hands, starting at his ankles, and travelling all the way up until they reach the bottom of his boxers. Blake shivers, can’t help it.

After that, things are pretty quick. Blake could have told you that they would be right from the start. There’s something about Adam, something Blake still can’t pinpoint, that quite literally, drives him wild.

Adam doesn’t waste too much time in wrapping his mouth around Blake’s cock, in licking, in sucking, in humming in a way that he knows is good. And when Adam had all but said it would be the best blowjob of Blake’s life, he was not kidding.

Blake comes with something between a gasp and a groan, the his breath stuttering as he feels the sensations flood through him. It’s been a while since he’s had an orgasm brought about by anything other than his right hand, but even so, he’s pretty damn sure that was among the best.

He feels Adam move away, lying down next to him on the double bed, and Blake lets his heavy breathing die down before he reaches over with a hand and jacks Adam off for the few strokes it takes to have him coming over his hand.

*

When Blake gets home, Luke is already there, looking caught between elation and absolute misery. The expression is completely alien, not least because it’s rare to catch Luke with anything but a smile on his face.

“What?” Blake asks, and he watches as Luke smiles a little, in recognition of the fact that Blake doesn’t need much of a hint to know something’s up.

Luke shrugs, doesn’t bother wasting time in telling him. “You’ve got a meeting with Warner Bros.” Blake frowns.

“Luke, stop fucking with me man.” Blake stares at him, but all he does is shake his head. “I didn’t send them anything. Hell, I haven’t sent anything to anyone!”

Luke looks down and then back up to Blake’s gaze, smiling sheepishly, apologetically. Finally, he shrugs. “I might have sent one of your recordings.” They hadn’t even recorded it professionally. Luke had setup a microphone, and Blake had made a recording of his voice and guitar in the living room. He searches Luke’s face, looking for any sign whatsoever that he might just be teasing him, that this is some kind of sick joke. Nothing.

“You’re serious?”

“Yep. You’ve got a meeting in Nashville this week. They’re gonna want you to sing for them live. If you get the contract, you’ll be there working on an album for as long as it takes.”

Blake raises a hand to his mouth, sits down on the couch to try and take it all in. “Wha-. I mean-. Um, when do I leave?”

“Buddy, I’m coming with you. You think I’m letting you go to Nashville and me not come with you? The lease on this place is up, anyway.”

This should be the most awesome moment of Blake’s life. Ever. But his mind keeps dragging him over to Adam Levine, the guy he’s developed some pretty substantial feelings for, the guy that he’s all but had sex with, the guy that acts as pretty much his only anchor here in L.A.

He looks back up at Luke, summons a smile because, all things considered, this is still fucking awesome. “Okay. So, what time?”

“You’re heading out there two o’clock tomorrow. I’m gonna be here a couple more days sorting stuff out, but Warner are putting you up in a hotel, so I’ll join you when things here are sorted.”

*

Blake can barely breathe, and this is his reaction to telling Carson. He’s stood in the doorway to his house, has just told him what’s going down, explained he’s yet to talk to Adam, and feels like absolute shit.

Carson pulls him into a hug. “When you’re next in L.A., call me.” Blake nods, smiles because Carson has become a good friend. How much he’ll actually be able to talk to him after he’s gone, remains to be seen; if the talk with Adam goes like he expects, there’s a good chance he won’t see him ever again.

Blake heads back out to the truck when he’s done with Carson, feels pretty depressed as he rolls up outside Adam’s. He knocks, waits while Adam’s mom fetches him, and then it’s just the two of them.

What is possibly the most upsetting is that Adam looks so damn happy to see him. And then his eyes zero in on Blake’s face. “What’s wrong?”

Blake shakes his head, can’t even look at Adam as he says the words. “I’m leaving.”

“I don’t get it.”

Blake looks back up, and Adam’s face is clear of any emotions. He looks…hollow. “I’ve got a meeting with a record company in Nashville.” He hesitates, swallows, gets ready to say the next bit. “And if this is happening, if I have a genuine chance at doing this, I can’t see you any more.”

Adam’s voice stutters for a few seconds. “So what? We can’t stay in touch? Visit each other?”

Blake knows it’s not even a remote possibility, and he’s cynical of how well it would have worked anyway, when they’re states apart. “It’s not just the long distance thing, Adam. Look, the country music community is notoriously hard to break into, and it’s damn near impossible if you’re anything other than straight. So this, us, has to end when I leave.”

Adam’s shaking his head, and he seems to realize that nothing he could say will possibly change Blake’s mind, because he’s skipped right past the pleading stage, and straight onto red-hot anger.

“You fucking-. So what, that’s it?” Blake draws a breath and soon realizes he’s not exactly sure what to say next. So he just stares at Adam’s downturned mouth. At the tears pooling in his eyes. At the hand he has on his hip. And at the look of absolute devastation in his eyes.

And then all of that is gone, and he’s left staring at the door. Blake waits there a couple of minutes, considers knocking again, and then walks away when he figures that maybe a clean break is best for the both of them.

 

 

9.

Adam throws himself completely into music after Blake leaves. He sits around the house for a few long days, talks very little and cries quite a lot, with only a guitar for company. But after that, he’s determined as fuck to be successful. He doesn’t want to look too closely at whether it might be a competitive need to be better than Blake, but his first move is to call up a few guys from their old high school.

They’re guys that he knows are good musicians, guys that he’s been kind-of friends with, but who he could see himself being much better friends with in the future. They get together, write some music, and drive around L.A. presenting to every record label that allows them through the front door.

It’s a slog, but when they finally think they’ve made it, there’s elation - and then complete disappointment. The album they’ve created, the album they’ve worked so hard at, is expected to do well, and doesn’t.

It’s after that, that Adam finds himself feeling worse than he has since Blake left, and it’s then, in a moment of absolute weakness, that he Googles Blake Shelton.

Record contract. Number one debut single on the Country Billboard chart and two more that went to top twenty. Adam refuses point blank to listen to any of it, until he’s enrolled in college with Jesse, out in the car, and the track comes on the radio.

Adam can’t bring himself to reach out and press the button, so he listens to Blake’s voice fill the car, the strum of the guitar that Adam knows he’s playing himself. There’s that familiar warble to his voice, the addictive Southern accent, and it’s about halfway through the song that Adam realizes there’s a tear falling down his cheek. He clears his throat, changes the station, and pushes down on the accelerator a little harder.

It’s a couple of years later when everybody in the formerly-named Kara’s Flowers decides they’re fed up of college, and they meet again in Adam’s Mom’s house. They’re back in the studio at the back of the house, all picking up their respective instruments, and it feels right.

It’s not until a friend of Adam’s parents, Jordan, stops by a rehearsal and listens to them, that they get another chance. And god bless the man, Adam loves him so much, because Jordan quits his job so that he can manage the band. It’s then, when Jordan puts that much faith in them, that Adam realizes this could maybe, with a little luck, happen.

They work with Jordan closely, putting together what feels like the thirtieth demo, and after a whole lot more rejection, Sunday Morning finally gets the attention of someone. Someone turns out to be Ben Berkman, and they’ve met before. Adam can’t quite contain his absolute relief when, on seeing him and the band perform live, someone finally gives them a more concrete agreement. They’re told to find a new guitar player, free up Adam himself for moving around the stage a little more, change the name of the band, and they’ll sign them.

James joins them after that, they change their name to Maroon 5, and finally, they’re getting somewhere.

Adam writes an album with the support of the band, writes a track out of sheer frustration that the label deems to be ‘lead single’ material, Harder to Breathe. And it’s that very track that helps them on their way.

It’s during that period of time that it’s easiest for Adam to shed any thoughts of Blake Shelton. Maroon 5 are finally going places, Harder to Breathe makes it onto the radio, and Songs About Jane, their debut album under the new name, makes it into the top 20, twenty six months after they first released it. It’s a long time coming, but fuck, is it worth it.

They spend the following three years touring pretty much non-stop, with the likes of John Mayer, Jason Mraz and the fucking Rolling Stones. Adam’s still not sure the gravity of it all has hit him; he honestly doesn’t think it ever will.

He’s consistently straight these days, picking out whatever girl looks the polar opposite of Blake Shelton, and almost managing to convince himself that he’s happy about it. They drink too much, smoke too much grass, sleep around too much, but it feels like things are coming together, and Adam wouldn’t give it up for the world at the moment.

The band pretty much goes from strength to strength. The second album does ridiculously well, as do the singles from it. Adam and the guys cry a little over the success, and they embark on more and more performances; they do a world tour, which feels like the biggest deal yet, they perform on American Idol, they record with Rihanna, and still it doesn’t really sink in. They accept it though. They accept that they’re now featured on TV shows, they’re recording with world-renowned artists, and Adam in particular seems to get recognized everywhere they go.

Through it all, Adam manages to steer clear of all thoughts related to Blake Shelton, for fear of having a complete breakdown. He still catches the odd piece of news related to the guy, and he still has a hard time dealing.

It’s in February of the next year that The Voice is pitched to Adam with Carson Daly already signed up as the host, and he signs up pretty much on the spot.

 

 

 

10.

The year Blake spends in Nashville is horrible; Luke is just about the only thing that keeps him going, but even he has a hard time putting a positive spin on all the rejection. Blake is ushered into every record label in the city for meetings and demo recordings, after which they all say the same thing: he’s got potential.

And Blake knows what they mean; he could be successful, but he’s been distracted. Blake knows it, and Luke knows it, and it takes a serious pep talk spanning at least a week before Blake starts from scratch.

He strips everything back, starts working on new songs, and after submitting some, gets invited back to Warner where he had the initial meeting. The smile he gets from the executive when he’s finished with the live performance pretty much says it all, and it’s from that point on Blake knows he has one of two options; bottle up absolutely everything he’s ever felt about Adam and keep it there, or let everything flood in. And while the latter would probably improve his music, it would also deem him unable to perform each and every song he writes. So the former is the way to go.

He releases Austin, sees it go to number one on the Billboard Country chart. He quite literally cries into Luke’s shoulder that night.

From then on, things are steady. Blake works hard, he writes songs, he chooses songs that others have written, he splits his time between the road and the studio and in the house he’s sharing with Luke, and then he spends what very little that’s left helping Luke with his own career. He’s had some success, but he’s only now really attracting the record label attention.

When he does get there though, they travel together, perform together, steer clear of L.A., because Blake has heard Adam’s voice on the radio, and going back seems like the worst idea possible. It’s a voice that’s just impossible to ignore, and it’s gotten to the point where Blake has to try to detach the voice from the boy -- Man, he thinks now -- in order to get by. There are only so many times he can change the radio station with other people in the room before people start to realize that every time it’s because of Maroon 5.

Fuck, are the songs catchy though.

Past that, he simply cannot deal with Adam’s face on the TV. His voice is bearable; his face, his body, his tattoos, are not.

Pure BS is a new experience, and it does well. He makes a hard appearance on Nashville Star as a judge, and then another on Clash of the Choirs, but his heart isn’t entirely in it, and while on tour, he can feed off of the audience and forget about the loss. On TV, not so much.

The re-release happens not long later, and then the next EP a little while later, just as Luke is recording a follow-up to his first album. His dreams pretty much come true when he duets with Trace Adkins for Hillbilly Bone, and it’s safer territory, it’s light-hearted and Trace is a great guy.

There’s the greatest hits, the Grand Old Opry invitation which was pretty much his greatest goal in music, and then there’s Footloose, and then, after the awards shows and the craziness of that year, comes the invitation to work on The Voice.

Mark Burnett, the guy who had had so much faith and patience in him back in L.A., had finally seen his own dreams pay off; he had become the king of reality television, producing hit after hit featuring everyday folks chomping on spiders and vying for cash. The latest venture is a singing competition (as if there aren’t a million of those on TV already), and Blake is kind of reluctant; his experiences with television, after all, haven’t been great successes. But everyone tells him what a great opportunity it is, and the producers don’t want to take no for an answer. Blake finally gets on a plane back to L.A. for the first time in years, all for one meeting.

And he’s as shocked as absolute shit when he walks through the door and sees Carson there. He’s the only one here, though Blake knows he’s here to meet the executive producer.

Carson grins, gets to his feet, and pulls Blake into a hug. And fucking hell, does it feel good. Blake shuts his eyes, buries his face into Carson’s shoulder, and just breathes. He’d forgotten just how much he loves him. He knows, of course, that Carson’s career took off after he left, first with MTV and now in late night, though Blake can’t say he’s ever seen Last Call.

“What the fuck are you doing here, man? Don’t tell me you’re presenting this thing?” Blake holds him at arms length, watches as Carson nods, still smiling.

“Yeah, I’ve been signed on for almost a month. But listen, I gotta tell you something before Mark arrives, and you need to absolutely promise me that you will not freak out.”

Blake frowns. “Freak out. What? Why?”

Carson draws a breath. “You haven’t seen who else has signed on, have you?” Blake shakes his head. The agent had said huge names in music were on the table, but he hasn’t had the time to look into it. “One of the coaches already signed on is Adam Levine. Of Maroon 5,” he adds, like Blake could possibly think it was anybody else.

Blake shakes his head, moves a step back, runs a hand through his hair, but Carson follows him, grounding hand planted on his arm. “Don’t, Blake. Don’t.” Blake’s almost certain that Carson knew there was something going on between he and Adam back in high school. “Listen, just, please, I’m begging you, wait out the meeting, listen to what Mark and his team has to say, and we’ll talk about Adam once they’re gone.”

Blake stares at him for a few long seconds, wonders how the hell he’d explain it to his agent and to Luke, and nods. “Okay, fine. Fine, I’ll stay.” He figures staying for the meeting doesn’t necessitate a commitment. He can still follow through on his plans to flee the building just as soon as they wrap things up.

Blake’s nerves are still jangling when Mark walks in, and he has to admit, it feels good to see the guy, to know that he still has that faith in him.

“It’s why I thought of you,” he admits. “You always had a great sense of humor, your music is renowned and awesome, I reckon you’d fit right in.”

That basically sets the tone for the meeting in its entirety, and Mark and his team finish with stating that they’d love for Blake to be a part of the show.

“Why are you even here?” Blake asks Carson when they’re alone again. “You said you’d already signed on.”  He shrugs.

“Because I haven’t seen you in, like, fifteen years. And because I figured you could use some forewarning as to Adam’s involvement in the show.”

Blake’s calmed down enough to realize his reaction was a bad one. “How’d you know? What did Adam say about me after I left?”

“Nothing. Not a single word. That and the way you two had been for the couple of months before was enough for me to come to a conclusion.”

“A conclusion?”

Blake,” Carson says simply. “You gave up what you had with Adam because you knew it would be bad for your career. Might have stopped any career in the first place.” Blake says nothing, which is probably as much confirmation as Carson needs. “But before I start pleading you to take this job, I need to warn you. The press is definitely going to find out the connection between the three of us, and you will get asked about it. They won’t know about you and Adam, because nobody did, but they’ll ask if you were friends, shit like that.”

“It doesn’t matter. I can’t take the job.”

Carson leans back in his seat. “Why not? Whatever happened between you two, can’t you put it behind you? You were great friends even before anything else.”

Blake shakes his head, leans his arms onto his knees. “It’s not that. I couldn’t do it to him. I was a complete jackass. I threw away something good, and I gave him nothing. I gave him a five-minute goodbye, because it was all I could take, and then I did my best to ignore his existence right up until this moment. With him already signed up, it leaves it up to me. He’s the bigger star, he signed up first, and I can’t do it to him. I can’t make him more angry, I can’t make a bad relationship worse.” Really, the relationship is closer to non-existent now.

Carson’s face softens. “And what if it makes it better?” Blake doesn’t have an answer to that, because he doesn’t think it can. “If I call him, will you meet with him?”

“He doesn’t know that Mark’s asked me to get in on this, does he?” Carson shakes his head and Blake groans. Because fucking hell.

He thinks over it, thinks about whether he could possibly meet Adam without cracking up. And then he remembers what he did, why he should be leaving this decision entirely up to Adam himself. “Okay, fine. But I want to hear you make that call.”

Carson pulls out his phone, dials a number, and Blake sits, fiddling with his hands. Blake listens to the side of the conversation he can hear.

“Hey, man. It’s Carson…Yeah…I’ve got something I need to talk to you about…Yeah, the show…Okay…You sure…Yeah, it’s about the third and fourth judges that Mark’s trying to sign up…Yeah, Christina’s on the table, so is Blake Shelton.”

There’s silence after that, silence and then something that’s too loud and too distorted for Blake to hear.

“Adam, just listen to me alright…Don’t say that, man…I know, I know…Yeah, he’s with me now, you want to talk to him…Okay, fine…He said no…Because of you, he said you’d never forgive him…Adam…Because I think you should at least have a conversation, meet him…Do it for the show…I know, but I’m getting desperate man, and Mark knows Blake, he wants him for this…Yeah, you will?”

Carson looks up at Blake for the briefest of moments, giving a single nod before he looks back at the floor.

“Okay, so are you in town?...Okay. Where and when?...Yeah. I’ll give him your address…Mmhmm. Adam, I owe you man, thank you for seeing him…Yeah, but it’s a start…Okay, see you later.”

Carson hangs up. “He’s pretty busy recording the next album and he’s got a show tonight, but if you get round his place by five, he’ll have an hour.”

Blake sighs, but if Adam wants to see him (or is, at least, willing), then it’s the least he can do to try and mend what he did all those years ago. TV show or not.

“Okay, fine. What’s the address?” Carson just shakes his head, and grins

“No chance, I’m driving. C’mon, we’re gonna catch up. I’m assuming you don’t have a car here, so I’ll drop you over at his place at five. Give me your number though, and please don’t ignore me for quite as long this time.”

Blake grins, can’t really help it.

They head out for a late lunch, talk about the past decade. More than that, actually. Carson makes him run through everything he’s done since the week after he left L.A., and Blake does it, skipping over the low points of his emotional state.

And they sit there for most of the afternoon. Blake asks Carson about his show, about his family, about everything in-between, and Blake is relived, because however difficult things are with Adam, this is good. This is probably a friendship he never should have lost in the first place, though he’s not sure Adam would have appreciated him keeping in touch.

Blake gets into Carson’s car at a little past half four though, and they make the journey across town to Adam’s mansion. This time it’s not a little one. Blake knows Maroon 5 have had enormous success over the past few years in particular, and this is evidence of it.

“You gonna be okay getting back to your hotel after this?”

Blake swipes a hand through the air. “Don’t sweat it, buddy. I’ll manage to call a cab.”

Carson nods, leans across the gearbox to wrap one arm around Blake’s shoulders. “It was awesome to see you again. Please, take the job. And even if you don’t, don’t be a stranger.”

Blake nods, gets out of the car, and waits until Carson has disappeared before he approaches the gate.

 

 

 

11.

Adam walks slowly to the phone that controls the intercom, looks at Blake’s face on the screen, second thoughts flashing through his head before finally buzzing him in.

He pulls open the door before Blake knows he’s there, and he looks the man up and down; he’s still absolutely huge, still wears exactly the same thing, but he’s sporting some stubble, and it suits him. Adam really wants to punch him, and Blake must sense as much.

He speaks as he notices Adam’s expression. “You gonna deck me?”

Adam takes a breath with closed eyes, and shakes his head. “No,” he admits reluctantly. “But only because I don’t consider myself to be a violent guy. I do that yoga and meditation shit now, and hitting you would be a leap in the wrong direction.”

As he opens his eyes again, Blake’s gaze is searching, and he says, “I won’t take the job if you don’t want me to.”

Adam sighs, moves out of the way. They both know this conversation isn’t nearly as simple as that makes it sound. “Get your ass into the kitchen, man.”

Adam shuts the door behind them both and then leads the way into the kitchen, pointing Blake over to the table. Adam gets them both a glass of water and joins him.

“I mean it,” Blake says. He looks nervous. Maybe even more nervous than the last time Adam had seen him. “If I had known that you were signed on, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near that meeting.”

Adam runs a hand through his hair. This is hard. Seeing Blake is hard. Hearing his voice is hard. And making the decision as to whether Blake takes the multi-million dollar offer that he’s got on the table; that’s hard too. He knows Blake doesn’t need the money, but this show, what it means, it’s about a hell of a lot more than that. He can’t help but think that just because Blake was an asshole, it doesn’t mean Adam should be.

“Do you think we could be friends again?” Adam asks, and he can tell by the silence that the question is a surprise to Blake. Hell, it’s kind of a surprise to Adam. “I mean, don’t get me wrong; I hated you so unbelievably much for how you left things, and I’m still angrier than you’d think possible, but put all that aside for a minute, and just -.” He takes a breath, puts a stopper on every feeling he has about Blake before it comes pouring out. Then he asks, “If we did the show together, can you see a situation in which it might actually work?”

Adam watches Blake. Watches the way his face moves underneath the emotions, beneath the thought. He watches the way his face transforms slightly with every movement, and then he finds his eyes when he eventually looks up with a shrug.

“I honestly don’t know. D’you want me to be brutally honest?” Adam nods, because anything else isn’t going to help them here. Blake draws a breath. “I’m still in love with you. I think I always have been.”

“But that can’t happen,” Adam says, unfazed by the admission. It doesn’t matter, because it can’t happen; nothing’s changed that much in the world since high school, and all the reasons Blake had put an end to it are still there. Even if Adam wanted to, he couldn’t go through that again. Couldn’t have Blake, fall in love with him, and then have Blake leave him because he can’t come out to the world. That. Can. Not. Happen.

Blake hesitates a second, nods. “Right. That can’t happen. I think-. I think that if we wanted it to work even remotely, then we have to effectively treat it like another world, like we’re different people. We film the show, we talk a little in between maybe, but it ends as soon as we step out of the studio.”

Adam nods, because it kind of makes sense. “Then you should do it. You should sign up.”

Blake shakes his head. “I don’t know if-.”

“Look, as much as I would love to tell you to fuck off back to Texas or whatever, and forget that NBC even wanted you, you’re a good fit to the show. And as much as I wish I did, I’ve got no right to jeopardize the success of the show just because I hate you right now. Do it, Blake. Listen, your music is great, you’ve got the personality for it, and it would probably do the show some good to have a country artist on board. So sign up, and do the job. Just remember that outside of that room, I still don’t like you.”

Adam wants to ask him more. He wants to recount all of the years they’ve missed, and ask about Nashville, and the music, and whether Blake is dating anyone, but he doesn’t.

In fact, he tries not to think about Blake at all in the time between they all sign, and when they start shooting the blind auditions.

It doesn’t take long before he’s being inundated with interview requests though, and it’s only a matter of time before he has to take one.

Among the comments is, ‘So, it was recently revealed that yourself, Blake Shelton, Christina Augilera, and Carson Daly all attended your Senior year of high school together.’

Adam tries his best to sound like he hasn’t thought about answering this line of questioning for weeks. ‘Yeah. And it’s strange, actually. Because we were actually pretty good friends. I haven’t actually seen Blake in a very long time, but the four of us hung out outside of school and stuff, so it was good. I got to sign up to The Voice with Christina and Carson already on board, and then I got the call about Blake a few weeks later.’

He gives pretty much the same answer every time he’s asked the question, and just hopes that no one calls him out on it.

But the first day there it hits him like a freight train, and Adam finds himself thanking the gods for the fact that they’re sat at opposite sides of the studio.

The first day of shooting goes well, and the entirety of the blind auditions isn’t too bad. Nobody expects any of them to be too familiar with each other, and it’s by mutual agreement that Adam and Blake tend to stay away from each other when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Adam can’t help the lingering stare though. He absolutely hates that the thoughts even cross his mind, especially when in all likelihood, Blake is thinking of nothing but the job. Meanwhile, Adam is entertaining the thoughts of what might’ve been, the possibility that had Blake been willing, their relationship might actually have lasted everything they’ve been through since. There’s a part (a large part) of Adam still hates Blake for what he did. The other part of him doesn’t care; he just wants it all back again. But he knows that’s not possible anymore, and suppresses the very inkling.

The hardest part is the on set interviews. The interviews where they’re so often paired together, where they get the endless questions about what their relationship is like, and the ones about how strange it is for the two of them and Christina and Carson to have ended up on this together.

Carson is helpful if he’s there though; he’ll dutifully sit between them and try to handle any of the awkward questions himself, so the real challenge doesn’t come until the first live show. And that really is a challenge.

They open with a performance of Cee-Lo’s Crazy, and Adam can feel himself staring at the drum set in front of him for almost the entire thing. He’s absolutely determined not to look at Blake, and Blake seems in agreement, not looking back to him even once.

It’s then that Adam sort of reconsiders this whole arrangement of keeping their distance; if they’re both having this much trouble with it, and if Blake is truly still in love with him as he’d said, then why the fuck are they even trying to stay away from each other? But then Adam looks at Blake with the guitar in his hand, and remembers: It’s because of the music. It’s because nothing has changed, Blake will never announce it to the world, and he’ll never be comfortable with it.

The last smack to the drum kit is a hard one.

 

 

A/N: The song is actually a Luke Bryan song, called Someone Else Calling You Baby, so look it up if you don’t already know it already and you’re interested. 

12.

Once they hit the live shows, things seem to get infinitely more difficult. Blake has to perform the new track from his album, and is pretty sure it’s the worst vocal performance he’s ever given. His voice is shaky, his volume control is way off, and he can feel Adam’s eyes on him throughout, heavier than every other gaze in the room combined.

What is it that they say about time apart? Absence makes the heart grow fonder. That doesn’t do it justice. Doesn’t even come close.

Adam and Christina perform too, with the rest of Maroon 5, and Blake’s so fucking glad that it’s not just Adam up there, that he’s got other people to look at without the audience at home thinking him a rude son of a bitch for not even watching.

Adam does make it hard though, prancing around the stage in that stupid-and-hot-as-hell suit that he’s got on.

Blake just keeps his head down at the end of it all, distracts himself as best he can by thinking about the comments he’s going to make on each of the acts that Carson will ask him about in a moment.

When Blake manages to skip the after party and gets back to the house he’s renting, it’s the biggest relief of his life. He mixes up some lemonade and Barcardi, downs one and mixes another. By the time he falls asleep, he’s more than a little drunk.

*

As the season goes on, things actually do get a little easier. They whittle down the teams, and Blake has immersed himself in the whole process by the time he’s down to two, showering Dia and Xenia with attention for all of their benefits.

It’s around that time that Luke puts in a call.

“Hey, Blake. Saw the show tonight. Was awesome, man.”

Blake smiles around the mouthful of beer. “Thanks. You know my presence makes it all the more excellent. What’re you up to? There a reason for this call?”

“Yeah, there is. I’m at LAX, could do with someone to pick me up.”

Blake grins. “Uh, I still don’t have a car out here. And I’m drunk anyway. You staying with me?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, listen. I’ll text you the address. Get in a cab.”

Half an hour later they’re sat opposite each other in the living room, a guitar in each of their laps. Blake’s playing a song to Luke. It’s one he wrote a few weeks ago, the day after the first live show of The Voice. It’s slow, about Adam, and the most depressing thing he’s ever written in his life.

It’s also the first time he’s let any thoughts of Adam wander into his songwriting.

“It’s about him, isn’t it?”

Blake frowns, looks up as he plays the last chord. “About?”

Luke sighs, pushes his guitar aside. “Listen, I’m gonna tell you something, alright. Don’t bother arguing with me or denying it, because I’m not an idiot. I know you had a thing with him in your senior year. I’m pretty sure you were in love with him. You still are, if you ask me.”

Blake considers trying for ignorance, but eventually, when Luke continues to stare at him, he just groans. If there’s one person besides Carson that he trusts with this, it’s Luke. In fact, he probably should have trusted Luke with it all those years ago. “How’d you know?”

Luke shrugs. “You remember he came to the apartment once when I was there?” Blake nods. He remembers; Adam came for pizza. “The way you looked at him, the way you talked about him.” He hesitates, still wearing the beginnings of a smile that never leave his expressions. “You broke it off when we went to Nashville?”

Blake nods. “You know what the industry’s like about that kind of thing. And it probably wouldn’t have worked any way.”

Luke shrugs. “Sure, most of them don’t. But you never know, it might’ve.” Blake doesn’t want to think about that, not now. They fall into silence after that, and it’s not until almost half a minute later that Luke speaks again. “So, you putting that track on the new album? It’s the most suicidal song I’ve heard in my life but I think you should.”

Blake shakes his head, doesn’t even need to think about it. “I can’t.” Luke waits for an explanation, and Blake just shrugs. “Because if that’s on the album, then I’ll have to perform it, and I’m damn near certain that I couldn’t do that.”

Understanding readjusts his expression, and he nods. “Too emotional?” It’s not really a question though, and Blake knows Luke must have been there before, with the woman that he followed to L.A. Blake knows what she meant to him, also knows that Luke hasn’t released a single song about her, and there must have been a few.

Blake shrugs. “If you want it for yours, take it.” Luke’s got something in his eye, like it’s some kind of plan. Blake hates the expression, hates what it might mean, but can’t help smile a little anyway.

“And you’re sure you don’t want it?” Blake nods.

“Okay. I’ll make you a deal.” Blake doesn’t like the sound of that. “I’ll take the song, lighten it a little so that every audience I play it to isn’t in fits of tears, but you have to perform it with me. Just once, on The Voice.”

Blake shakes his head. He knows Luke has been asked to perform on the live finals, but no way Blake can sing that song, with or without Luke. “I can’t, Luke. Not with him there. No way.”

Luke glares at him. “C’mon, Blake. You don’t have to speak after we’re done, you don’t have to explain anything to anyone. You’ve just gotta perform it. I’ll be up there with you, you don’t need to look at him.”

Blake shakes his head.

“Blake, I need a song like this.” Now Luke is stooping low, and they both know it. “I need a duet with you. I could do with that last extra push to catapult me into number one territory, into your territory.” Blake can see it in his eyes, can see that Luke is bullshitting him, that success has nothing to do with the reasoning here. He also knows that he can’t say no to that.

He sighs. “Okay. That was a low-blow, but fine. Four conditions. One, you keep to everything you just said. Two, I have the power to veto any parts you want me to sing. There are lines in that song that I can’t go near.” Luke nods. “Three, you do change the song up a little bit, add a co-writer credit in your name.” Another nod. “And four, I perform with a guitar.” Blake needs something to hide behind. Luke nods again.

*

Blake is regretting the decision by the time finale night comes around. He’s waiting in the wings, waiting for the show to go live again following the ad break, and he’s verging on hyperventilation.

Luke is standing next to him, and he pushes the guitar out of the way, turns and clasps Blake’s head between his hands. He slaps the side of his forehead with a familiar smile, and for the first time tonight Blake feels grounded. Still grounded, even as he sees Adam walk past, sparing a glance as he makes his way back out to his chair.

“Listen to me,” Luke says. “Harness the emotion, buddy. Just remember that I’m right there with you. Pretend it’s you and me in the truck, alright. We’re just singing along to the radio or something. You need to look at someone, you just look at me, and I’m gonna be looking right back at you. Keep your mind on the strings, okay. You’re gonna do great.”

The lights are dark when they wander out onto stage, and Blake stands closer than he usually would to Luke once they’re in position, edging the mic stand over a fraction.

His hands settle on the frets, and he starts with the opening chords. A couple of lights illuminate them, and it’s all acoustic for this. Just Blake’s guitar and another in the background. Luke is sans-instrument, but Blake turns, finds him looking at him, with one nod before he starts singing the words that Blake wrote.

I saw a car backin’ out of your drive

You were sitting in the passenger side

Messin’ with the radio, you had your sun glasses on.

I pulled over cause I couldn’t believe

Years ago that was you and me

Hanging in this big old town, singing our songs

Now everybody round our town's been whisperin’

A tear in your eye says I should have been listenin’

 

Baby is someone else calling you baby

It’s driving me crazy

That I let you go

Goodbye ain't never easy

So break it to me hard

If you’re truly over my love

Lay it on my heart

Don’t try to save me

Is someone else calling you baby?

 

I know I hurt you and I gave you your space

I thought I had to leave, do whatever it takes

Always kind of thought you weren’t ready for moving along

Now I’m silently praying that I’m wrong

It’ll be what it will be, it’s either him or me

Give me the word and I’m gone

 

Baby is someone else calling you baby

It’s driving me crazy

This bein in the dark

Goodbye ain't never easy

So break it to me hard

If you’re truly over my love

Lay it on my heart

Don’t try to save me

Is someone else calling you baby?

 

No Goodbye ain't never easy

So break it to me hard

If you’re truly over my love

Lay it on my heart

Don’t try to save me

Is someone else calling you baby?

No, don’t try to save me

Is someone else calling you baby?

Is someone else calling you baby?

Blake plays the last chord, and as soon as he’s pulled off his guitar, he feels Luke’s arms wrap around him, his voice in his ear.

“Told you, you could do it. If you need to get out of here, go.”

Blake pulls away, looks into Luke’s eyes, and nods. Then he disappears, listening to Luke’s interview as he changes his shirt and jacket backstage in the wings.

First is Carson’s voice. “So, Luke. That single’s out first thing tomorrow, am I right? We know you’re a very close friend of our boy Blake, but what’s the song about?”

“Uh, well, it’s actually a song that Blake wrote. About a relationship he had when he was still pretty young. I know it’s a hard song for him to sing, but I love him to bits, and I’m glad he did it.”


 

13.

The way Luke is looking at Adam says that song is about him, but it’s not until way later, after Javier has won, and the after party has died down, and almost every person left in the room is passed out on the floor, that Adam heads over to the guy and offers him a handshake.

“Great performance tonight, man. It’s good to finally see you again.”

Luke gives him a strange look, nodding. “Yeah, yeah. Likewise. Y’know I wasn’t kidding, though. He wrote that song about you, and it was a hell of a lot more self-deprecating when he handed it over to me.” Adam stares at him, not sure what to say. “You still love him,” Luke states. “I know you still love him, and he loves you more than he’s ever loved anyone in his entire life.”

Adam is kind of shocked by the Luke’s bluntness, but outwardly plays it off with a shrug. “It doesn’t really matter though, does it? Doesn’t matter how many songs he writes for me, he’ll never be comfortable in a relationship with me, and I can’t live like that.”

Luke smiles wryly, shaking his head. “God, you’re an idiot.” It’s not said with any serious malice, so Adam lets it slide. “He didn’t write that song for you, he wrote it about you. Blake gave up on trying to win you back the moment we left fifteen years ago. He doesn’t think you’ll ever forgive him, doesn’t think he deserves to be forgiven. But I’m here telling you that I think you should. I think you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t.”

There’s a momentary lapse in Adam’s judgment before he snaps out of it, shaking his head. “Doesn’t make any difference though.”

Luke shrugs. “I wouldn’t be so sure. Feelings as strong as the ones he’s got for you, might surprise you.”

After that, Adam finds the closest remotely attractive guy and rents a hotel for the night.

The guy can’t be older than twenty-five. He knows who Adam is, lets Adam fuck him, and Adam feels like absolute shit when he leaves the room the next morning.

He feels dirty, he feels ashamed, and he feels absolutely no better in regards to Mr. Blake Shelton. It’s the first guy he’s done anything with since Blake (though he’s admitted his sexuality in media interviews since entering the limelight) and it was supposed to help him get over the jackass. It’s done the exact opposite. In hindsight, it was a fucking terrible idea.

Adam heads home quickly; in a moment of weakness, he gets pretty damn close to calling Blake. He calls Carson instead, fed up with doing nothing but contemplating life and staring out at the scenery from his bedroom balcony.

“Adam? You alright, man? Didn’t see you leave last night.”

“Yeah. I’m fine. Listen, can you come around to the house today or something? You busy?”

“No, no. I’ve got nothing until this evening. When d’you want me?”

“Whenever’s best for you.”

“Okay, cool. I’ll get in the car now.”

“Thanks, C.”

Adam steps into the shower after that. He lets the water cascade over him, washes for way too long because he knows he’s trying to scrub away the feelings that came with last night’s escapade. When the intercom buzzes, he’s just about clothed, with a towel to rub at his hair.

Carson’s smiling when he sees him, pulls him into a hug. “Hey, what happened to you last night, man?”

Adam shakes his head with more than a little shame as they walk through to the kitchen. “Something that I really wish hadn’t. I slept for a guy with the first time since…Well, you know.”

Carson sighs, sitting down in a chair at the kitchen table. “Well, you were pretty drunk.”

“I know. I guess I was looking for an answer.”

“Answer to what?”

“I’ve never…I don’t think I’ve really been in love with anyone since Blake. I guess I was just trying to look for a reason as to why I haven’t really felt anything, hoping that it was because I’d eliminated all guys from the equation. But last night, last night was worse than anything I’ve felt in a long time.”

“So, what?”

Adam shrugs, takes the seat opposite Carson and pretty much slumps into it. “I don’t know. I think-.”

Carson cuts him off, shaking his head. “Let’s not fuck around here, Adam. We both know what it means. It means that you’re still in love with him, that you’re likely never going to get over him while it’s still a possibility, that-.”

“But that’s just it.” Adam runs a hand through his drying hair. “It’s not a possibility. It’s not a possibility, and yet I still can’t get over it.”

Again, Carson shakes his head, unconvinced. “That song he sang last night with Luke. Anyone that knows you, anyone that knows what you were like can see that he wrote that song about you. Did you even consider that maybe he feels exactly the same about you, as you do him?”

“Yeah but it doesn’t matter. I can’t live a life where my relationship is confined to my house, a world where we can’t even move in together because of what it might look like to the rest of the world.”

Carson bites his lip. “And what if that’s changed? What if he’s actually in love with you too much for that to matter any more?”

That idea is too much for Adam as he rolls his eyes, not wanting to dwell on it. “Well, now we’re dreaming”, he says, attempting to keep the frustration out of his voice. “But listen, that’s not why I called you.” It’s really not. And they dissolve into easy conversation after that, because Adam asked him here to serve as a distraction, and he can’t face anything to do with music right now.

A couple of days later he has to though, so Adam has the boys from the band over, and they spend some serious time writing and finalizing details for the shows they’re scheduled for in the next few weeks.

 

 

14.

Blake does absolutely nothing after The Voice wraps. He’s got some time before he’s supposed to get back out on the road, and Luke is still staying at his place, still throwing him concerned looks far too often. If he’s honest, though, it’s nice to know that maybe someone still cares.

“Okay,” Luke says one afternoon, and Blake frowns, because that one word alone doesn’t sound too good. “This isn’t happening anymore.” Blake looks at him, and waits, because he knows what’s coming. “You love Adam, am I right?” He clears his throat, tries to look at Luke like the idea is stupid and completely outside of the realms of possibility. He already knows he’s not fooling anyone. “Right, so that’s a yes,” Luke nods, moving on. “Now that’s out in the open, are you gonna let me make a suggestion?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because-. Luke, I know you’ve got it in your head that he’s still hung up on me, but he’s not. He told me it wouldn’t happen.”

Luke laughs humorlessly, shaking his head. “You fucking idiot. He didn’t tell you that. He told you it couldn’t happen. Which means that whether this turns into a relationship or not, it’s entirely up to you. I know you don’t see it, buddy, but the ball’s in your court. You just need to decide which is more important to you; Adam, or maintaining your reputation as an entirely straight country artist in the media.” Blake says nothing. “And? Which is more important?”

Blake thinks about that. But he knows the answer really. He knows it now. He only wishes he’d known it fifteen years ago. “You know which is more important,” Blake states, because he’s fairly certain that Luke knows it just as well as he does. “I just don’t think Adam is interested.”

“So you’re not even going to try? Blake, I’ve known you a long time. And I’m telling you, whether or not you at least try may well make the difference of whether you spend your life feeling like this, or whether you spend it truly happy. You’re never gonna get over him until you know for sure.”

Blake knows he’s right. And he also knows that even if Adam point blank tells him he’s not interested any more, it would still be better than never saying anything in the first place. “So what do I do?”

“You actually want to hear it?”

*

Blake spends the next few days trawling through his iTunes library. He’s looking for songs that jump out at him, songs that convey what he wants to say but can’t. He spends another day or so on the phone to his managers, to his friends, to the record label, convincing them to let him do this, trying to get them to overcome their initial shock, and then he spends one more recording in his living room in L.A.

It’s not where he wants to be; he wants to be in Oklahoma. But Luke is here with him still, and Blake can’t quite bring himself to leave, not with Adam still here.

 

 

15.

Adam isn’t expecting visitors. Which is why he shoos Frankie away to the kitchen and opens the door to whomever it is that’s already made it past the gate. It has to be someone he knows, but that doesn’t mean it’s anyone he wants to see.

Carson.

He can deal with Carson.

Adam hugs him briefly; it’s a Sunday, he’s been doing absolutely nothing, and he certainly wasn’t expecting any company other than the dog.

He’s holding up his phone. “I would have called you, but I don’t trust you to do what I’m about to make you do.” Adam frowns, confused as Carson goes on. “Get me a laptop.”

Adam doesn’t question it as he grabs one from the living room and follows Carson through to the kitchen. He sets it on the counter and watches over Carson’s shoulder as he opens the thing up and sets about clicking on the blue iTunes icon.

And then he begins typing in the search field, Blake Shelt-. Adam slams the lid of the machine shut.

“Carson. Don’t.”

Carson shakes his head, looks Adam in the eye while simultaneously brushing his hand off the laptop. Adam doesn’t resist, not really. “Trust me, Adam. Just listen to four songs, and then I swear to God I’ll leave you alone.”

“Why?”

“Let the music do the explaining.” Adam nods, waits patiently as he watches Carson download a brand new Blake Shelton album. It hasn’t even got any artwork. It’s an EP, all of the songs covers, and it’s a free download. Life After You, is the name of the album, and the name of the first song. It’s by Daughtry, Adam knows that much, but past that, he’s not all that familiar with it.

Carson clicks back to the library and then gets out of his seat. “Hook it up to some speakers, and listen to it, alright? All four songs, and listen to the lyrics. Promise me you’re gonna do it.”

Adam nods semi-reluctantly. “I’ll do it.”

Carson lets himself out.

Adam plugs the laptop into the surround sound and clicks on the first song, letting Blake’s voice fill the room. It’s acoustic, unedited, no autotune. Blake doesn’t need it, and he sounds better than Adam has heard him since-. Ever.

Ten miles from town and I just broke down

Spittin' out smoke on the side of the road

I'm out here alone just tryin' to get home

To tell you I was wrong but you already know

Believe me I won't stop at nothin'

To see you so I've started runnin'

 

All that I'm after is a life full of laughter

As long as I'm laughing with you

I'm thinkin' that all that still matters is love ever after

After the life we've been through

'Cause I know there's no life after you

 

Last time we talked, the night that I walked

Burns like an iron in the back of my mind

I must've been high to say you and I

Weren't meant to be and just wasting my time

Oh, why did I ever doubt you?

You know I would die here without you

 

All that I'm after is a life full of laughter

As long as I'm laughing with you

I'm thinkin' that all that still matters is love ever after

After the life we've been through

'Cause I know there's no life after you

 

You and I, right or wrong, there's no other one

After this time I spent alone

It's hard to believe that a man with sight could be so blind

Thinkin' 'bout the better times, must've been outta my mind

So I'm runnin' back to tell you

 

All that I'm after is a life full of laughter

Without you God knows what I'd do

 

All that I'm after is a life full of laughter

As long as I'm laughing with you

I'm thinkin' that all that still matters is love ever after

After the life we've been through

'Cause I know there's no life after you

Adam sighs, wipes a tear from his cheek. It’s all true of course, but it doesn’t mean anything has changed. He waits for the next track, and almost cracks a smile when he hears it. It’s Hurt, by their very own Christina Aguilera. But it’s in Blake’s Southern drawl, and it sounds…nice. Different, but nice.

Seems like it was yesterday when I saw your face

You told me how you loved me but I walked away

If only I knew what I know today

 

Adam knows this song, knows that was a lyrical change right there, but though it makes the song more appropriate to them, it still doesn’t change anything. Adam’s failing to see what Carson wanted him to listen for, but he promised he’d listen to all four tracks, no matter what.

 

I would hold you in my arms

I would take the pain away

Thank you for all you've done

Ask you to forgive my mistakes

There's nothing I wouldn't do

To have your love again

Sometimes I want to call you but I know you won't pick up

 

There’s another lyrical change, but it’s about as meaningful as the last one. It doesn’t mean anything, but to the two of them.

 

I'm sorry for blaming you for that one thing I just couldn't do

And I've hurt myself by hurting you

Some days I feel broke inside but I won't admit

Sometimes I just want to hide 'cause it's you I miss

You know it's so hard to say goodbye when it comes to this

 

Would you tell me I was wrong?

Would you help me understand?

Do you hate me for what I’ve done?

Do you hate me for who I am?

There's nothing I wouldn't do

To have just one more chance

To look into your eyes and see you looking back

 

I'm sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn't do

And I've hurt myself

If I had just one more chance, I would tell you how much that

I've missed you since I went away

 

Oh, it's dangerous

It's so out of line to try to turn back time

 

I'm sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn't do

And I've hurt myself

By hurting you.

It’s the same throughout, Adam thinks as the melody drifts away. There are plenty of lyrical changes in there, but nothing that really changes things. The third song comes on, and it’s the one he wrote for Luke, recorded as a duet with both of them. It brings a tear to Adam’s eye just like it almost had the first time. Because it’s about them. Blake wrote it, and it’s about them.

But then the fourth song begins, and Adam knows it, it’s a James Blunt song. It’s not hugely known in the States, but Adam has the whole of the first album by the guy, and this song, High, is one of his favorites.

Beautiful man - you light up the world for me.

 

Adam blinks, his head snaps around to the laptop, and he feels his heart beat quicken. Because if that was what he thought it was, then Blake rewrote another lyric. The difference is, this time it’s not straight, this time it’s not gender neutral, it’s gay. And there was absolutely no reason for it to be. Not unless that’s what Blake wanted. The song was written for a guy, and the only possible reason for changing that lyric, is for it to mean-.

He reaches out for the laptop, starts the song again from the top.

 

Beautiful man - you light up the world for me.

There is nothing else in the world,

I'd rather wake up and see (than you).

Beautiful man - I'm just wasting time again.

Think I might die a lonely man, in endless night.

It’s like I was high; can’t believe I let you go.

Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.

 

Beautiful man - you shine like a star, you know.

Do you remember the day when our journeys began?

Will you remember the end (of time)?

Beautiful man - You're just blowing my mind again.

Thought I was gone to endless night, until you shine.

I; can’t believe I let you go.

Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.

 

Will you be my shoulder when I'm grey and older?

I wish tomorrow would start with you,

Like I was high; can’t believe I let you go.

Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me

Large parts of the song have been rewritten, but they’re not what matters. What matters, is the one word that’s repeated over and over, man.

Adam waits to see if the album is finished or not, and he almost jumps out of his skin when the next thing that breaks the silence is Blake’s spoken voice. He’s already got a tear dripping down his cheek, which he hastily wipes away, but this, it sounds like Blake is in the room.

Adam listens to him, listens to the soft accent.

‘If you’ve downloaded the album, thank you. This isn’t something I wrote to make money off of, and I thought about not releasing it all. But while this whole EP was put together for somebody special, I hope it’s something that everyone else can enjoy. If the person I’m hoping to reach listens to it, then he knows who he is. This next song, the last one, is an original. It’s one that I wrote with that person, and our relationship, in mind, and I hope it says everything that I can’t truly say in person, everything that I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying for the first time anywhere but in a song. If you’re a fan of mine, and if you’ve figured out what I’m trying to say with this album, then I hope you’re still a fan. If not, I’m sorry. And if you haven’t been listening close enough, then listen to these five songs again, listen to the lyrics. Thank you.’

Adam swallows. Blake Shelton has all but said the words; I had a same sex relationship. He said it to the world, and Adam couldn’t be more proud of him for it. He waits for the next song, the fifth song that Carson hadn’t even mentioned, and wipes away another tear and shuts his eyes as he listens.

You really don't know what I was thinking,

Well neither do I.

And after the time we spent together,

I don’t think I deserve another try.

 

Boy, I don't know what it is

That you're expecting

But I just want to look you in the eye

 

And say I’m sorry,

Oh, I’m sorry,

I want it back the way it was.

And I'm sorry,

I know sometimes sorry,

Just ain't good enough.

 

You never did a thing to hurt me,

I wish I could say the same.

But I don’t really think you should forgive me,

You’ve got your money and fame.

 

Oh, I remember every time you said you loved me

But I know now I treated you so wrong

 

And I’m sorry,

Oh I’m sorry,

I want it back the way it was.

And I'm sorry,

I know sometimes sorry,

Just ain't good enough.

 

Boy, I don't know what it is

That you're expecting

But I just want to look you in the eye

 

And say I’m sorry...

 

Oh, I’m sorry,

So sorry,

And I want it back the way it was.

Well I'm sorry,

I know sometimes sorry,

Just ain't good enough.

 

Adam pulls out his phone, types out a text to Carson.

To: Carson Daly
He still in town?

He gets a message back with an address and nothing else. Adam grabs his keys and runs out the front door.

 

 

16.

Blake is just back from dropping Luke at the airport when he notices the Porsche parked outside.

He parks up in the drive and then leans down to Adam’s window, finds his expression neutral. “How long have you been there?”

Adam shrugs, and Blake steps out of the way so that he can push his door open and get out. “An hour or so. Doesn’t matter though. Can I come in?”

“Of course,” Blake replies, and he feels his heart rate triple as they walk towards the house. He’s not stupid; he knows that Adam’s arrival means he’s caught wind of the new EP. If he’s honest, Blake is surprised he’s even listened to it, with how much he must hate him.

Neither of them says anything until they’re in the kitchen, each leaning against a counter opposite each other. Blake waits for Adam to go first.

“I listened to the album.”

“You did?”

Adam picks up on the surprise, and he nods. “Carson made me.”

Blake nods, because that explains a lot. “I didn’t write it expecting anything. I wrote it, because until I did, I don’t think there was any way I could possibly get close to happiness again. I’m still not sure there is, but if it will help…”

Adam looks down, and Blake can just about see the small smile on his lips. Then he looks up, and he’s smiling properly, the kind that Blake hasn’t seen directed at him since…fifteen years ago. It takes his breath away a little bit.

Adam shakes his head, and if Blake didn’t know better, he’d think it were almost…fond.

“You’re a fucking idiot.” And he takes a couple of steps towards Blake, and Blake has his arms still crossed against his chest. “Carson was right, the son of a bitch. What exactly did you think my stance on this relationship was?”

Blake shrugs. “That you pretty much hate me and will for the rest of your life. Which I completely understand, by the way. What I did was unforgiveable.”

Adam shakes his head, takes another step closer. “Such a fucking idiot. I told you, that this-. I told you that us couldn’t happen. I said that because of you, because I didn’t think you’d ever really come to terms with me being a guy, with the fact that maybe you’d fallen in love with a man. With me.”

Blake swallows, because he can’t believe that this means what he thinks it means, not when it’s probably wrong.

Adam’s eyes search his face, and Blake feels more vulnerable than he has in a long time. He feels frozen to the spot, can’t or won’t dare to move while Adam closes the distance with one final step.

Adam’s eyes drift shut, and slowly, Blake stares as Adam’s left arm moves, hand landing on his cheek, gentle. And then Adam’s lips are on his own. It’s barely anything, the simplest touch of lips that Blake has ever experienced, but it’s still the best kiss he’s ever had.

Blake moves his hands, plants them on either side of Adam’s waist, and looks straight at him. “Is this a sick joke? Because honestly, I don’t think I deserve this. I don’t think I deserve you.”

Adam bites his lip, shakes his head with his eyes half-lidded. “You still don’t get it, do you? I’ve been through absolute hell in the past fifteen years. Don’t get me wrong; the professional side of things, the music, has been brilliant. But you can ask any single one of the boys, you can ask Carson, you can ask my parents, I haven’t been happy since you left. When you left my house that day, I fell apart. I fell in love once before you came to L.A., and it hasn’t happened since you left. I slept with a guy whose name I didn’t even know on finale night because I thought it was because I’d been suppressing the gay part of me, but I felt even worse than I had before. I have been in love with you for over fifteen years, and I’m going to be in love with you until I die.”

Blake lifts one of his hands, moves it to where Adam’s neck meets his shoulder, and kisses him.

He starts slow, a small movement of lips against each other, and then Adam is parting his lips, inviting Blake’s tongue, and he doesn’t bother fighting it. He lets his tongue run across the roof of Adam’s mouth, lets his hand squeeze Adam’s shoulder, lets his teeth scrape and drag along his lips, and it is the best damn feeling he’s ever experienced.

He pulls away eventually, but only far enough to circle his arms around Adam’s shoulders, pulling him all the way into his personal space, bodies touching from shoulder to hip.

He knows he’s crying, knows that the silent tears are dampening Adam’s t-shirt, doesn’t give a flying shit. When they pull away, when Blake silently wipes away the tears, Adam just gives him a shy smile.

“Fucking hell, I’ve missed you so much.”

Blake nods, because he really can’t argue with that. “I love you.”

Adam’s smile grows, dimples, cheekbones, and Blake literally doesn’t want to stop holding him for the rest of his life. “I love you too.” He laughs. “In a totally sexual, non-platonic way.” Adam moves away a little, gets a glass and fills it in Blake’s sink. He hands it back. “You’ve gotta tell me though, what changed your mind? You don’t care that people know you had a relationship with a guy any more.”

Blake shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s just-. I figured out that maybe this is more important. I figured that any real fans, that like me for my music, will still buy my music regardless.”

Adam smiles. “I’ll buy it.” He shakes his head. “We’ve got so much catching up to do. But I need food.”

Blake nods. “I don’t have anything here, so we’ll have to go out.”

Adam nods. “That’s cool. You ready to go now? I’ll drive.”

*

Blake takes a minute or so to just stare at him. They’ve spent the last hour or so recounting everything about their musical careers. To be honest though, they could be talking about absolutely anything, and Blake would just be happy to be there.

“When are you in town until?” Blake asks.

“I leave in a couple of days. No tour scheduled until next year though, so I’m gonna be back in L.A. and in studios in between. You?”

Blake nods. “I’m out pretty much non-stop next week. I’m touring a few venues with Luke, won’t be back in L.A. until The Voice starts up again.”

Adam shrugs. “So can I join you?”

“What?”

“Can I join you? I can write away from L.A., come and stay with you for a few nights here and there.” Blake laughs, literally can’t believe how lucky he is.

“And you had to ask? I would have absolutely no problem with you joining me.”

Blake phone interrupts them there though, and they just sit and smile at each other as Blake lifts the phone to his ear.

It’s his publicist, with notification that her phone has been off the hook with people asking her about his impromptu album. “Pick out the one you deem to be the most far-reaching, and send them over to the house this afternoon. I’ll be back in an hour, so any time from then.”

 

 

17.

Adam is banished to the second level of the house when the journalist from People Magazine arrives at the house. He does so happily, because he’s completely cool with people not knowing they’re dating yet. Baby steps.

He and Blake are sat in the living room a couple of hours later though, and Adam wastes no time in snagging Blake’s laptop off of his legs, navigating to the website where he knows it will already be on the homepage.

Sure enough, the headlining photo is one of Blake at some awards ceremony. The caption reads: I FELL FOR A GUY.

He reads through the interview, skipping over the parts until he finds what he’s looking for.

Q: Tell us about the lyrical changes you made to the covers, and the meaning behind the new song, I’m Sorry.
BS: I think people understand what I’m trying to say. It means I fell for a guy. The new song is my apology to him. It’s as simple as that.

Adam smiles, reading on.

Q: So you’re gay?”
BS: You tell me. He’s the only man I’ve ever felt anything for, but he’s also the only person, male or female, that I’ve ever fallen in love with. Honestly, I don’t want to talk about it all that much. I’ve said what I’ve said and I’ve written the song because of what happened. But this isn’t about my personal life; it’s about the music. And the music speaks for itself.

Adam shuts the laptop, reaches across to pull Blake’s face in his direction. He is so fucking proud. He pushes up onto his knees quick, lifts one leg to straddle him, and then crushes their lips together. It starts messy and rough, and Adam can’t wait for this any longer. They’ve been sitting around, just being with each other, all afternoon, but Adam needs this. He needs it now.

He rolls his hips, feels Blake’s smile, hears his hum, and slows down the kiss a little. “Fuck me,” Blake says between kisses, and it comes out somewhere between a curse and a request.

Adam grins, pulls back to look into his eyes. Okay, it was a request. “You sure?”

Blake nods, and then he pushes Adam back until they’re both standing, and he can lead the way up to the bedroom.

Blake shuts the door behind them and then he’s got his hands on the hem of Adam’s t-shirt, pulling it up and over his head while Adam lets his own fingers get to work on the buttons of Blake’s shirt. He pushes it down his shoulders, hears it land softly on the floor, and then smiles through a kiss as Blake’s hands travel south to his belt. They’re both kicking off their shoes, pausing to lean down and rid themselves of their socks before the jeans follow everything else to the floor.

It slows down again after that, and Adam knows Blake wants him to take control from here on in, like he did all those years ago when he’d pushed him down onto his bed and made him come. If Blake hadn’t had sex with a guy when they were seventeen, then he still hasn’t now.

Adam pushes him gently, and Adam notices as he stills. “What?”

Blake grins, somewhere between embarrassed and annoyed. “I haven’t got anything here.”

Adam knows what he’s talking about, because what else could he be talking about. “You know, we’re not even gonna waste time talking about it.” He gets up quickly, pulling on clothes as quick as he can. “What’s the code to the gates?” Blake gives it to him, and then Adam turns back from the doorway, points a finger at him. “You move an inch before I get back, and swear to God I’ll make this as torturous as I possibly can for you.” Blake grins, but when Adam does return, fifteen minutes later, he’s exactly where he was before, still wearing just his boxers.

Adam strips back down to his boxer briefs, tosses the box of condoms and the packet of lube onto the mattress before crawling back onto the bed. He hovers above Blake, wastes about a second before he’s got his mouth on Blake’s, licking and sucking and relishing the scratch of Blake’s stubble against the side of his face.

He reaches up, messing with Blake’s hair just because he can. He feels Blake’s hands respond in kind, moving down and pulling at the back of his boxer briefs.

Adam laughs, low and throaty. “Impatient much?”

“Hell yes! I’ve been waiting fifteen years, you son of a bitch.”

Adam grins, gets up to toss both pair of boxers on the floor before resuming his original position.

Blake’s cock is already there, but he circles it with his left hand as he returns for another kiss, and things get a little bit frenzied between the mutual hand jobs and making out.

Adam is determined to do this right though, and they both slow down instantaneously when Adam sinks a finger into Blake. Blake looks the exact way that Adam felt the first time anyone did it to him. Like it’s an alien feeling that he thinks should maybe be a little painful, but in fact actually feels kind of good once you get used to the intrusion.

Adam stays there for a few moments, and then he withdraws, adds some more slick to his hand, and pushes in with two. He watches Blake’s expression carefully, watching for the moment that this might become painful, but he looks fine, waiting out the strange sensation until it starts to feel good again.

The third finger takes longer, but when Adam methodically hooks his finger, pushes it in far enough that he’s rubbing against the prostate, Blake bucks slightly, and Adam knows he’s fine.

Blake’s panting a couple of minutes later, and Adam grins, can’t really help himself. He pulls the fingers out again though, uses the opportunity to kiss Blake pretty damn thoroughly before he’s jacking himself off a few times and tearing open the foil packet to retrieve the condom.

He pushes it on pretty quickly, lubes up again, hovers above Blake, and waits until his eyes are open and looking at him. “You ready?” Blake nods. “Okay. Try and relax. It’s gonna be pretty tight for a minute.”

Adam tries not to think about just how good that will feel for him, as he sinks in. And God. It’s amazing. He takes his time though, goes back to watching Blake’s face, waiting every time his face screws up a little, giving him the time to accommodate, and then moving again.

By the time he’s pushed in and withdrawn a few times though, the facial expressions are relaxing. Adam leans in closer, and now they’re both panting enough that the kisses are completely sporadic and messy. Half the time they’re just sharing breaths, moving to kiss but never quite getting there. When they do though, it’s grounding.

Adam’s got a hand simultaneously jacking Blake off, and he can tell when he’s getting close. The mere thought is pushing him further towards the edge though, and he actually gets there first, a hand just about getting in enough strokes more that Blake comes a couple of seconds later with a groan.

Adam’s breathing heavily, and he pulls out and rolls off of Blake until he’s on his back on the bed next to him. They’re both panting loud enough to break the tranquility of the room, and it’s not until a long few minutes later that they’re relaxed again, breathing silently.

“Ugh,” Blake says, and Adam’s already laughing by the time he lets his head lull to the side, Blake having just run a hand through the mess on his stomach.

“Yeah. We could do with a shower.”

Blake grins, looking light-hearted and mischievous with the telltale glint in his eyes. “You’re on.”

 

 

18.

It’s almost eight months until they’re back filming the first live show of the new season of The Voice. As promised, Adam had spent much of the hiatus flying out to Blake in whatever city he was playing in, and honestly, it’s been some of the best few months of his life.

Contrary to what Blake might have thought, his shows were still sold out, his records have continued to sell well, and his new album went to number one. The filming of the pre-recorded shows has been an absolute riot given that all four coaches are now on very good terms, and the press has pretty much put two and two together and figured out that he and Adam are dating despite no official (or unofficial) confirmation. And Blake is cool with that.

All the confirmation that the world needs, though, comes in that first live show.

Blake is in the middle of offering some highly sought after and completely invaluable advice, giving one of Adam’s acts a damn good compliment in the process, when something happens.

Because before Blake really figures out what’s happening, Adam is out of his seat, drink in hand as he walks around the back of the coaches seats and into Blake’s little booth. Without any invitation and with the crowd getting louder behind them all, he sits down on Blake’s lap, makes himself thoroughly comfortable as he playfully loops his arms around Blake’s neck.

Last season, Blake would have freaked. Today, he really doesn’t give a shit. In fact, any scheme of Adam’s that ends with him sitting in Blake’s lap sounds like a fantastic idea to him.

They’re both grinning as they look back up to Carson, and he’s smiling back, completely knowing and totally happy for them. He’s made that last part pretty clear in the past few months, and doesn’t seem willing to let them forget that he pretty much initiated the whole thing, too. “Uh, so Adam, we’ll come to you next then. Looks like you’re staying there for the time being. She did great, right? Can you give us your view on the performance?”

Blake listens as Adam dutifully responds to the question, and when they go to a commercial break two or three minutes later, he’s completely grateful that personal cameras aren’t allowed in the studio. Because Adam buries his head into Blake’s neck a little, smiling around the straw of his Starbucks cup.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” Blake says. “You realize that, right?”

Adam snaps back upright, frowning. “Hey! You saying you want me to head back to my own chair. That one halfway across the freaking room?

Blake grins, shakes his head and rests a hand atop Adam’s thigh in a request to stay exactly where he is. “Not just yet.”