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through the storm we reach the shore

Chapter Text


[2009
idols live tour press day]


They're in between interviews, the last local music journalist having just escaped with barely concealed relief written all across his face about thirty seconds ago.

Kris leans across the not terribly far distance between them, his breath warm against Adam's ear.

"Think that poor guy was bored by me?" he says, amused and a little bit sassy, and this is exactly why Adam finds annoyed Kris so entertaining.

Annoyed and slightly bitchy Kris should come out to play more often. Never mind that, when it comes to interviews, having anything resembling Kris's actual personality on show would help. Adam thrives on being unfiltered, especially after the controlled environment of Idol, and he doesn't believe in being anyone but himself. On a fundamental level, he doesn't really get why Kris guards himself like he does.

"You could try engaging with everyone and not just the interviewers you like," he says eventually, the words laced with exasperation and affection.

Kris smiles at that, but it's fleeting, there and gone in a second. He casts his eyes down at the shiny Aviators clutched in his right hand. "They can't take anything from me unless I give it to them. It's how I cope."


[2014]
Q: This is your fourth studio album in five years. Any particular lessons learnt from previous experiences that you've applied this time around?

A: I feel like I rushed things a little with the last album, because it had to be done before Nightfall's release date. Don't get me wrong, getting to provide the soundtrack for the film was a really great opportunity, but the time constraints were insane. It made me realize that making an album a year just isn't realistic. That's why I took my time with this one.


RCA have been pretty good to him through the years, but everybody fights with their label, and Adam's never been closer to storming off in a huff than the shouting matches – no, sorry, meetings – about his new album.

The results are more than worth it, though.

Singers who got their start on American Idol can't really afford to be precious about their art, especially for the first couple of albums. Adam accepted that as part of the deal and lived with everything that came with it, but it's been five years. He's allowed to be a little self-indulgent now.

His phone vibrates when he's leaving the studio. It's from Kris.

Lil birdie told me you're finally making a rock album. Bout time

Adam has to tamp down the urge to grin at his phone. 'Rock' is probably a misleading description, but sure, it's different from anything he's ever done before. He's ridiculously excited about it.

You mean pls give me a sneak peek right?

The reply comes after about five minutes.

Duh, don't make me ask you nicer

He'd prefer to play some songs for Kris over the phone, get his often entertaining and always useful reactions completely unfiltered, but they're both far too busy to make that work right now.

That's the thing about friendships in this business – there's a lot of compromise involved, and nothing's ever ideal. Fortunately, Adam's always known how to make do.

A week later, he gets an email from Kris with comments on every song, ranging from just emoticons and capslock abuse to detailed suggestions on production. And also this, at the end:

this is seriously AMAZING, man, screw the label if they try to tell you different

- which kind of makes Adam wish Kris could magically appear so he can give him an overenthusiastic hug.

----------------------------------

Both his manager Lizzie and his publicist Lara look like they've been losing weight ever since the separation went to the lawyers. Kris makes a mental note to get them both something nice – he can't really send them on holiday with everything going on, so maybe a pay rise? – once this is over.

He feels bad for making them worry. The problem with being an established musician is that his career isn't his own any more – there are people who'd get in trouble, maybe lose their jobs, if his next album tanked. So even if he doesn't care what the divorce does to his image – and he does, though probably not in the way people expect him to – he sort of has to.

Of course management are worried that the 'failure' of his marriage is going to play out badly in the press. That's how they think. Kris wasn't even that surprised when Brian very gently raised the possibility of blaming it on Katy.

He was a little surprised that they thought he would even consider it.

Maybe they're not as close as they used to be, but there's no way he can call what happened a failure. How can a relationship that lasted almost half his life be called that? They made it work when he was all over the country touring, and they made it through three years of Katy being based in Vancouver half the time for her CW show. He's still proud of that. Both of them are.


* * *


After it's done, official, all the papers signed, they go out for dinner. Nothing fancy, though, because they're both flying out early the next day, Katy back to Vancouver and Kris heading to Nashville for a couple of final writing sessions before he starts putting the album together.

(Somehow, this is their life. When he feels like he's barely treading water, like right now, it's an effort to remember what it's all for.)

Kris reckons the relaxed atmosphere as they eat is about half genuine. The other half is their collective determination to not be weird about this.

It would help if Kris could stop fiddling with his wedding ring.

The timing's not great for either of them, so they're waiting for a while before going public with it. Somehow that knowledge is making him hyper-aware of the ring's presence against his skin, and he can't stop touching it.

Katy notices it about halfway through dessert. The way she smiles at him, equal parts sad and affectionate, makes his chest ache.

"You know, I'm going to be holding your next girlfriend to a ridiculously high standard. It's not even jealousy, I'm just going to be really critical."

Kris grins. "That's nothing next to what's going to happen when you try to introduce me to your date at the next awards show party."

"I'm serious," Katy says, but she's grinning back.

"I know, I'm a special snowflake, I should look for someone who likes me for me," Kris laughs, "Katy, I – "

He wants to say sorry. Or maybe thank you. But suddenly whatever it is doesn't seem enough, and the words get stuck in his throat.

Katy shakes her head. "It's okay. You don't have to."

"I do have to," Kris says, frustrated. "You're a better friend than I deserve."

"No, I try to be exactly the friend you deserve," Katy grins, carefully stealing a bite of his ice cream cake.

"…even if I end up with a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend?" Kris says quietly. Holding her warm gaze is an effort, and he just about manages.

Nothing at all changes in Katy's eyes. That's all the answer he needs, really.

"You have to ask?"

No, he really doesn't. But it's always nice to hear.

"Although, the 'does he hold a candle to Adam Lambert' test will be rigorously applied. I'm warning you now."

Kris smacks his forehead with his palm. Now he can't quite meet her eyes. "Why you gotta bring that up? You know he's not the only guy I've ever looked at like that."

She taps his nose playfully. "True, but I know you. Come on, finish your cake, we've got places to be."

A certain outre rock star is contemplating taking a break from all the glitz and glamour after recent revelations about his increasingly bizarre behaviour published on a well-known gossip site were sourced to his ex.

The damage isn't actually that bad. Sure, the timing is terrible, he doesn't need this bullshit while he's touring on the back of a successful new album, but people who think that Adam is 1) a diva and 2) freakish and about to corrupt all their children already do without any 'evidence'. His actual fans are always on his side, and as childish as that sounds, at times like these he can only be thankful for their loyalty. As it stands, album sales will probably go up once all the gossip sites and magazines start digging into this story.

Adam really shouldn't be so pissed off and hurt, but he is. Betrayal stings, even after five years in this business and plenty of cautionary tales. He feels like an idiot, even though intellectually there's really no way he could have known.

Maybe part of it is just him not being used to messy break-ups, and the nasty consequences that might follow. He's only ever had two proper, serious, head-over-heels relationships before Sam, and both Brad and Drake are still friends.

Right on cue, the door of his hotel room bangs open.

"I always thought that bitch wasn't good enough for you."

Adam can't help a laugh, even if it's a bit bleak right now. It's Brad - resistance is futile, especially when he's clearly relishing playing to type. "Thanks."

"So...what? Do I have your permission to go ahead and ruin his reputation?"

"Maybe later. I - I'm just tired, you know? I thought Sam would be safe because he's not Hollywood, but…look what happened."

Brad shakes his head slowly, eyes softening.

"You don't need this bullshit right now," he says, wrapping wiry arms around Adam and pressing a kiss to his forehead. "Go be a rock star, finish your tour, let the people you pay to handle situations like this take care of it. And don't stress so much, for fuck's sake. Next time you show up at one of my parties you better have some flesh back on your bones."

Adam exhales slowly, feeling himself unwind for the first time in what feels like forever. "Bossy. Nice, I like it."

"Shut up and acquire better taste in men. Present company excluded, obviously."


* * *


Kris texts him the next day.

Hey, you okay?

Adam hesitates a moment, thinking.

Coping. You know. You?

Coping. We shld hang out. Talk.

It's not the reply he was expecting. Adam makes a mental note to check up on Kris, see if he's having problems with his label or something.

After tour, def. Take care.

The reply only takes a minute.

It's a date

It's been a big year for Kris Allen. He experienced significant upheaval in his personal life, spent a month working with various charities in South Africa and finally nailed down a release date for his third major-label album.

Maybe a part of Kris just wanted to run away for a while. But mission trips have always centered him and made him happier, more certain of who he is and more comfortable with his place in the world. Most importantly, he's never stopped wanting to help people. It all makes sense, even if Jive had to be brought around to see things from his point of view.

(They really should know what he's like by now.)

Anyway, it was probably the best thing he could have done. The point of going on these trips is always to do something meaningful for people who need it, and he tries not to forget that. But at the same time, as soon as he touched down in South Africa and got to work it felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest.

Kris doesn't want to leave when the month is up. The experience remakes him – these things always do, but this time, somehow, it feels like more. Like he's been made anew right down to his bones, armed with new strength. Like he can not only look the world in the face again but laugh while he does it.


* * *


Immediately after news of the divorce finally goes public, Kris invites Katy to his concert in New York. They spend far too much time in different countries these days, but she's in town for a week filming some pick-ups for her first movie role - an ambitious but minimal-budget project with an up-and-coming director. ("It's not much, but it's a start, you know?")

The concert's at a decent-sized venue, but not so big that he can't feel the energy of the crowd around him, which makes it just about perfect. Towards the end of his set, he looks out into the crowd, searching for one particular face.

"Okay, I'm going to play an older song – "

He's drowned out by the ear-shatteringly loud response of the crowd.

" – ooh, you like that. I wrote this song before I went on this crazy show you may have heard of – yeah, a couple of you remember Idol, nice – and it's always meant something to me. I wrote it for someone and – and what it means hasn't really changed, at all. No matter what else has."

She's looking up at him, eyes wet but lips drawing up into the smile he'd fallen in love with all those years ago. He smiles back and tries not to let his voice get choked up.

"So one more time, for one of my closest friends, Miss Katy O'Connell, this is Red Guitar."


Q: I've heard some people say your split was almost too amiable, that they find it odd that you're still so close.
A: I don't - we didn't get divorced for publicity, if that's what you're trying to get at.

Q: So if you don't mind me asking - what happened?
A: You know, I think…we don't love each other less. Just differently.


It sounds good when he says it, and has the added benefit of being true.

One day, he'll be able to look at her and only feel warmth and a little wistfulness. One day, there won't be this phantom pain like peeling off a scab. For now, they're slowly learning how to be 'just' friends again.


* * *


Adam calls him from London at 2AM when he hears about it.

"I'm sorry, I had no idea – why the hell did you not tell me?" he says, sounding angry, in lieu of hello.

Kris sighs. "I knew you had a lot going on."

It's more complicated than that, really, but he's not up to talking about it. Especially over the phone on an international call.

"So? This is more important."

Adam is actually upset, he can tell. Maybe that's why they've managed to stay friends through all these years of not having time to see each other. Neither of them can stop caring.

"More important than your album and your international tour? Not even getting into everything else that you've had to deal with – "

"I'm never too busy to help a friend. You know that."

"Adam."

"…yeah?"

"It's not – I didn't want to talk about it, and I made sure I was too busy to think about it for a long time. That's why."

When Adam speaks again, his voice is soft, and times like these it feels like Kris is seeing something few others even realize exists.

"Are you okay?"

Kris has to think carefully before he opens his mouth. It's a difficult question to answer, these days. "Of course it's not what we wanted. It's – you don't know how bad it was, not knowing what to do. And it was hard seeing her sometimes, but we're going to be okay now. That's all that counts."

Adam is silent for a long moment. "Remind me next time I see you – I owe you like a hundred hugs."

"I will," Kris says, knowing that Adam can hear the smile in it.

"You're still talking to each other, right?"

"What do you think?"

"Say hi for me, would you? And give her a hug for me too, if that's not too weird now."

Kris chuckles. "That's never going to be too weird."

It's part of who they are and how they live. Simple as that.


Her character on a popular CW drama may be having relationship trouble, but our sources are questioning the actress's real life separation from her dreamy troubadour husband after the two were spotted getting cosy at a party in LA.


Enjoying industry parties is a skill Kris still hasn't mastered, unlike other more easily acquired skills such as dealing with the paparazzi and playing hardball with record label executives. Mostly he finds them exhausting, especially when he's alone.

(And worst of all, he blames them for his newfound love for girly cocktails.)

So when he spots Katy coming in, glowing in a pretty red gown, any awkwardness he might have felt is overwhelmed by relief.

She checks her step when she sees him and they just look at each other for a moment, completely ignoring the curious glances being directed their way.

Here's the neat thing about Katy: no matter what they're wearing or where they're at, when she smiles at him like that it's like nothing's changed at all.

"Fancy seeing you here."

Faced with that, it's difficult not to beam at her.

"Yeah? You look nice."

"So do you. How's the party?" she says, eyeing the scary looking, vaguely couch-shaped thing he'd been trying not to sprawl on.

Kris waves an arm aimlessly. "Oh, you know…I think I'm literally dying of boredom. Where's your date?"

"Ditched him at the last afterparty we went to. He looked happy as a pig in mud but the conversation about fitness regimes was sapping my will to live."

Kris finds himself grinning helplessly. "In that case, wanna be dateless buddies? The cocktails here are pretty good," he says, standing with an effort and offering her his arm. "What do you say, Milady?"

She takes it with a soft laugh and no hesitation at all.

"Forget about drinks, I'm just happy to see real food. Lead the way."

Half an hour later, Kris is maybe a little drunk. Or at least that's his excuse for leaning into Katy's side, stifling his giggles against the hollow of her throat. Judging by the way she's stroking her fingers through his hair, careless of whatever the stylist had done to it earlier that day, she doesn't mind.

They'd found a slightly less scary-looking couch in a corner, away from the most of the crowd but still perfectly good for people-watching.

"What's so funny?" Katy says, the words breathed against his ear, making him shiver, and maybe he should put a little more distance between them right now. That would probably be the smart thing to do, because if they were getting weird looks before it's nothing compared to now.

Here's the thing, though – he can't bring himself to care.

"It's like we're giving off a force field of potential awkwardness that's warding other people off," he says in an exaggerated whisper, and stays right where he is.

"Their loss," Katy says lightly. "Wanna know a secret?"

"Yeah?"

She looks down and away. "I miss you sometimes."

"I miss you all the time," he says in a rush, too quiet and soft to laugh it off as a joke after the fact, and hates himself a little when it makes her eyes snap back up to his face, wide with worry.

"But…we're okay, right?"

He doesn't really have to think about it.

"Yeah. Of course. Ignore me, it's just."

Please change the topic.

Luckily, she's always known when he needs rescuing.

"I know. So tell me about the new guy."

Kris sits up - probably too fast. Definitely too fast. "What new guy?"

"Oh, Kristopher," Katy says, shaking her head and grinning. "It's like that, huh?"

Crap.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he mumbles unconvincingly, looking down at his shirttails.

Katy laughs outright. "I was asking about your new guitar player. What did you think I was referring to? Come on, you promised to keep me updated on these things."


* * *


Kris hadn't wanted Jonathan in his life. He would have preferred it if Cale didn't have to take breaks from the band or LA at all, really, but that's not how it works. Friends get married and have kids and don't come around as much any more. That's life. It's just hard to take when the friend's been with him so long he feels the loss like a severed limb.

Right now, they're making the rounds promoting Break Me Down, the first single from the new album he can't quite decide on a name for, and Andrew is the only one who's still around from the early post-Idol days. Which is – well.

One night last year, sitting around in their hotel suite a couple of hours after an acoustic gig, Andrew had haltingly admitted that he never imagined sticking around for this long, at least not when they first met.

"But we changed your mind, right?"

"You did."

The point is, he doesn't like having to break in new people. It takes time and effort, and Jonathan is even more resistant than Andrew was, mostly for the same idealistic music snob type reasons. Which Kris mostly respects, even if he thinks their total disdain for anything popular is silly, and he'll happily have that conversation at 3 AM on the tour bus as long as the other person makes some effort to engage. Right now, that last part's the problem.

"So what are you going to do about Mr Tall, Dark, and Silent?"

When Andrew describes someone like that, there's definitely something going wrong.

Kris rubs a hand over his face. "You try telling him that having a good time doesn't mean he's sold his soul to the devil. Maybe he'll believe you."

"I already did."

"And?"

"He accused me of being Stockholmed," Andrew says, smirk belying his even tone. "I think he was joking."

Kris suddenly has the uncontrollable urge to beat his forehead against the nearest available surface. Which, as it happens, turns out to be Andrew's chest. "Oh for - fine, if he wants to be difficult, we can totally do this the hard way."

Andrew winces, enough for Kris to feel it against his body.

"What?"

"Your hazing methods are sadistic."

Kris grins crookedly. "Only a little bit."

And that's that. He even pretends not to hear Andrew's muttered reply.

"Even if you already know how to press his buttons?"

It may be unscrupulous, but he'll take any advantage he can get.


* * *


Kris isn't in the habit of lying, either to himself or other people. He knows that part of the reason he's so determined to get Jonathan to crack is just how frustratingly aloof he is. The other part, maybe, is the person he can see underneath that surface. Kris had glimpsed a different man at the auditions – still quiet and soft-spoken, but not nearly so closed off, and he wants to see that Jonathan again. So that the band will work better together, of course.

And if he's really honest -

Kris's never been good with temptation. Especially when it comes in the form of the flush that creeps up Jonathan's neck when Kris gets down on his knees and sings the pleading bridge of Break Me Down at him during a concert; the way he stills, grey eyes darkening, when Kris climbs all over him to get to the other side of the couch; the way he stares at Kris's hands on the keyboard when he thinks nobody's paying attention.

He's walking a fine line, which isn't a problem. A part of him enjoys that. The problem is not knowing where to stop, because as fun as it is to get a rise out of Jonathan, his own reactions are starting to make him pause.

It's just harmless fun. Wanting more isn't in the script.


* * *


Javi drops in on them at rehearsal, making Kris get all nostalgic. Mark the new drummer is great, but he's still too wary, not quite as easy-going he could be. Javi had got Kris from the day they met.

It helps that they have a similar sense of humour (of the anything goes variety) and personal boundaries (best left behind while on tour), which means that Javi happily submits himself to Kris's idea of a hug ("man, it's like you're trying to crawl under my skin and set up camp there…I like it"). And he just sort of settles in when Kris doesn't let go straight away, not at all tentative about putting his hands on Kris's waist.

When he sneaks a glance back, Jonathan's doing a hilariously terrible job of trying to hide his disapproval from the rest of the guys.

"Does he realize he's doing that all the time?"

Andrew doesn't even look up. "Oh, he knows. You should probably think about this, though - Kris only goes for the willing victims."

Kris wouldn't put it quite like that, but – sure.


* * *


It's a nice night, and his hotel room has a balcony. He's just standing outside enjoying the slight breeze and offhandedly looking for familiar constellations when there's a knock on the door.

On the other side is Jonathan, looking as serious as Kris has ever seen him.

"Can we talk?"

Kris can feel his heart sinking. He'd actually thought things were going pretty well with the band, all things considered. Now what?

"Sure, come on in. You mind if we go outside? It's nice."

He waits for Jonathan to nod before turning to head for the balcony again, tracking Jonathan's progress by his soft footsteps, and finally the hand he places on Kris's shoulder. Kris takes a moment to enjoy the warmth of it seeping through his shirt, fighting down the sudden urge to lean back into his body.

(If this was Cale, he'd do it, no hesitation required, and Cale would know he's just touch-starved, looking for uncomplicated contact, someone to hold him up for a bit.

But with Jonathan, things are a little different.)

When he finally turns to face Jonathan, it's without the rueful grin inspired by that thought. Little victories and all that.

"So. What's up?"

Jonathan holds his gaze for a while, silent, maybe looking for something there. Judging by the frustrated sigh he lets out as his eyes drop, whatever expression Kris has on his face isn't it.

"I'm just going to come out and say it, and if this conversation goes completely off the rails I'll pack up and leave, no strings attached. Okay?"

Uh, how about no?

It's Kris's turn to place a hand on his shoulder, just resting there for now, feeling the strength there beneath the skin but ready to turn restraining at the slightest hint of trouble. He smiles, trying for encouraging. Not that Jonathan seems capable of meeting his eyes right now.

"What's wrong?"

Jonathan's shoulders tense up, his whole posture as defensive as Kris has ever seen him. And that's saying a lot, because Kris was there that time Andrew got on his case about his not-so-secret love for Shakira.

"Why's that something to be ashamed of, anyway? I don't get you snobs."

"We just have standards. In theory," Andrew says, raising his eyebrows at Jonathan, who very carefully waits until Kris isn't looking before glaring at Andrew. Or at least he thinks Kris isn't looking.

Really, it was kind of adorable.

"You've been driving me to distraction, I think on purpose," he says, a quiet murmur barely making itself heard over the sudden overwhelmingly loud hammering of Kris's heart. "I just – I need to know what the point is."

Kris takes a deep, steadying breath. A part of him is glad to be put on the spot. The rest is terrified.

"Usually? Nothing."

Jonathan's face shuts down and he tries to leave, only freezing in place when Kris slides his hand down, grabbing his arm in a tight grip that's probably just this side of painful.

He can't help it right now.

"But sometimes, sometimes it's different – "

Jonathan's still all tensed up as Kris tugs him closer, whole body thrumming with it, at least right up until Kris kisses him, mostly chaste but for the way Jonathan shudders when Kris bites at his bottom lip, then it's like he's flipped a switch.

"Do you get it now?" Kris says after they break apart, once he remembers how to breathe. Jonathan's staring at his face again, but with a wondering smile this time.

It's not the first time Kris has seen Jonathan smile, not even the first time it's been in response to something he did. But it might be the first time Kris's been meant to see it.

Jonathan should smile more. It transforms the harsher angles of his face from the unapproachable distance of a nice medieval statute to something closer to home, and the way his lips curve up at the sides makes Kris want to taste.

"You could explain it again."


American's Sweetheart just separated from his actress wife last year, and now he's running around playing with boys. But is this change of heart for real, or does it have more to do with the new album he's got coming out early next year?


It's a quiet dinner on a Thursday night, but there are still some paparazzi lurking outside the restaurant when they come out. No way they're there just for Kris, and if this was two months ago they might even leave him alone, but it seems with all the rumours he's suddenly enough of a story.

"Hey Kris, nice night out?"

You know you've lived in LA too long when -

"Yeah, sure. How's it going, Vince?"

- you actually know your TMZ stalker's name.

"Good, good. Who's your friend? How about those gay rumours?"

Kris flashes his press grin, the no comment ready on the tip of his tongue, but the deer-in-headlights look on Jonathan's face when he glances back stops him dead.

What the hell.

He waits for Jonathan to take the step that brings them level and holds out his hand, palm up, lips curling into the teasing smile that never fails to - there - make Jonathan's eyes crinkle at the corners. It's not quite enough to get him a smile back, but they are in public and surrounded by paparazzi. Kris will take it.

There's a far too long moment of indecision - long enough that Kris's TMZ friend has probably noticed - where Jonathan bites his lip, looks down at Kris's hand, back up at Kris's expression and down again, before he reaches out and laces his fingers through Kris's.

"We're heading home now. Good night, guys."


* * *


In the car, Jonathan is deathly quiet. Normally that's not a problem - they can go hours without saying much of anything to each other, and Kris likes that - but right now, there's an uncomfortable quality to the silence.

"You know I do that kind of thing with my guy friends all the time, right? Nobody's going to believe the people jumping to conclusions."

Jonathan gives him a startled look. "That's not - Kris. I'm not afraid of people knowing that we're together."

"Uh huh."

He doesn't mean to sound so sceptical, it's just that Jonathan's never been with a guy before and Kris's not sure he's even told anybody beyond his parents that he's got a boyfriend, let alone that it's someone semi-famous.

Kris doesn't mind making it up as he goes along, but it would be nice to know what the boundaries are, here.

"Really. What kind of jackass would I have to be?" Jonathan says, a little wide-eyed, his expression going rueful when Kris starts to smirk. "Uh, don't answer that. I'm just fearing for my life when Lara and Lizzie hear about this."

Kris shrugs, not as easily as he wants to, but close enough. "They know what I'm like by now."

"You're hopeless," Jonathan says, voice soft with affection. The guitar-made calluses on his fingers drag against the sensitive skin at small of Kris's back where his shirt rides up, and his eyes darken when he feels Kris lean into the touch, demanding more without words. "Hopeless."


* * *


Kris isn't naïve. He knows how important and fragile image can be, he'd just rather make his own calls on what people get to know. The label found that out early enough. Sometimes, though, they still think they get to decide how he comes across.

It's pretty hilarious.


* * *


He feels kind of bad the next day, when Lara shows up at the studio looking more frazzled than usual, but not nearly enough to regret what happened.

"That was – that works, it's not too far off what we planned, in case we had to say something. It's going to be fine."

She's trying really hard to smile and look reassuring. It's just not working for her today. They've been working together for four years, and he's never seen her look so stressed.

Kris grins, bright and careless, and goes in for a quick hug. They don't usually do this, but it is a special occasion.

"I'd say sorry, except – "

He's really, really not.

When they both pull back, Lara's laughing in his face. "How long have I known you? Just shut up and get on with it."


* * *


When Kris was fourteen, he had the conversation with his mom, the one about wanting too many things and sin and what was right in the eyes of God. It's still one of his most vivid memories from those years, her arms holding him close and her voice as she said you're not wrong, because God made you this way – and God can't be wrong, her voice almost cracking before that little pause.

It had been difficult at the time – so difficult he doesn't remember how he got up the courage, except he'd always talked to her about everything and wasn't about to stop. But he's been thankful ever since for that conversation, so many times and for so many reasons.

"Well, at least one of my boys still remembers to call their mother," she says, lightly, but Kris still makes a mental note to check up on Daniel, who's usually so good about that kind of thing.

No use delaying the inevitable, though. "I - I have to tell you something."

She laughs, soft. "I had a feeling you might. Should I sit down?"

He really didn't want to do this over the phone. But there's no room on his schedule for a trip back to Arkansas, not for a while.

"Maybe? I don't know. It's not a big – " She's not making a sound, but he can sense it when he's being laughed at. By his own mother, no less. And…now he's blushing. "Oh, fine. I kind of – met someone? His name's Jonathan. I don't know if you remember him - "

"Your new guitar player, the one we met last time?"

"Yeah."

"Kind of quiet, but really polite?"

"That's him."

There's a short pause.

"He's so skinny, have you not been feeding him right?"

The breath Kris had been holding leaves him in a choked laugh. "Mom, come on."

"I taught you better than that. I'm sending extra cookies for him in the next batch, don't you eat them all."

And that's apparently that. Kris feels his numb fingers unclench a little around the phone.

"Thanks, mom," is all he can manage. It's not enough – how can it be? – but he trusts her to know what he means. Everything he means.

"They're just cookies," she says, and she's definitely making fun of him now. "Are you going to try to hide it?"

Yeah, that would be the million dollar question. And that's also the other reason he's calling.

"I could just keep it low key. It's none of anybody's business who I'm with."

He can picture with absolute clarity the small frown that would go with that particular sigh. It's always made him feel guilty on sight.

"Who are you trying to convince, Kris? Think about it."

That's the problem. All he's done lately, in between working on the album and spending time with his band – okay, a specific member of his band - is think about it. Then he realized what he really needed was advice from the person he trusted most to give it. Hence the phone call.

"You think I should let people know. You guys wouldn't – mind?"

His parents are good people who've made their friends with care, but Kris is under no illusions. Not everybody's going to just shrug and let it go.

"I think God gave you a voice that was never meant to be silent," she says, gentle but firm.

And that, really, is that.

"Thank you. I…I understand."

That sigh, on the other hand, means relief. "Could you do something for me?"

"'course."

"That new song of yours, my favourite one, sing me a few verses."

Kris's been thinking of making it the album title track, actually.

and I know, I know that love never fails…


Q: Let me just set the record straight. Are you dating your guitarist Jonathan O'Hara?
A: Yeah.

Q: Oh. Okay. Are you – that is, would you like to make a statement about your sexuality?
A: Not really. I want to say it's always been about the person to me, more than anything else, but I know that's not enough. So…I guess bisexual's probably the right term. So, you know, that's that.


It wasn't an interview set up especially so he could come out, not matter what people are saying. They were supposed to talk about his single and the album coming out next year, the question was half a joke, none of it was really planned beyond Kris's team and the label having agreed that he might say something during an interview sooner rather than later.

That hadn't been a nice meeting, but in the end all it amounted to was this: someone was going to ask eventually, and Kris was going to answer. No one at the label was going to talk him out of that.

He'd like to say, in retrospect, that he had no idea that enough people would care enough to make it a thing, but that would just be dishonest. He didn't know for sure, he was just hoping it wouldn't.

(That was him being an optimist. The other, more pragmatic side made sure he called Katy right after he left the interview to warn her about what might be coming.)

It's never been a big deal to him, even when he was young and knew nobody else who wanted all these different things like he did, things that maybe he wasn't supposed to want in the eyes of God, at least according to some people.

Even back then, Kris never bought that. How could it be wrong to just want, when it doesn't hurt anybody? He learnt his faith from his parents, who preferred actions to words when it came to God, and what he saw growing up gave life to those words in the Bible, about love being the greatest virtue, above all else. About how the little differences didn't matter.

That's the God he knows. That's how he's learned to live – quietly, but honestly. If other people have a problem, that's their business. And if their problems come from some weird ideas they have about him because of the way he's been perceived ever since Idol, well.

That was the thing about Idol, all those years ago - as he kept trying to say after the finale, it was about singing, sure, but it was also a popularity contest. Which is disgusting, but most of them walked into it knowing that. He and Adam, especially - they were just in it for the recording contract, not to win the love of millions or whatever. That stuff doesn't mean anything, and it's not even real. The guy people fell for is a cardboard cut-out of him, because that's what reality TV does. In 3D he's got edges that can't be sandpapered down to nothing, and not everyone likes that.

That's just fine, though. He knows what he's doing and those people don't know him. The ones who do will understand. And something like his faith, his relationship with God – that's private. No one has the right to ask him to explain that.


* * *


It's like all the crap Adam gets, just for trying to be himself. Kris can't really explain it in words, but he's honestly thought about Adam in pretty much the same way ever since that first moment in Hollywood, when their eyes met and they both had to stifle a laugh at whatever stupid shit that one crazy girl had been pulling on stage, and Kris couldn't take his eyes off the curve of Adam's smile, the light in his eyes, just like he couldn't stop staring when Adam had been up there singing his face off. Right then, he knew they'd get along. He just had to make it happen.

The part after that is the bit that everybody knows.


Q: Let's get into the stuff fans really want to know, then. So about Adam Lambert...sorry, just kidding, don't answer that.
A: It's okay, I'm used to it. Adam's like my bromance life partner, man. Is that - I think I just made that term up. We're like a package deal. He's great.


The last time they saw each other, Adam introduced Kris to his latest boyfriend, Sam, who was very pretty and didn't give Kris weird looks when he tackle-hugged Adam from behind for a greeting, stretched up to brush his lips against the back of Adam's neck, breathing out his words against the skin there - "sorry I missed your birthday," - and only letting go once he felt the resulting shiver.

(So the guy was totally okay by Kris, or at least he was before all the National Enquirer crap.)

That was almost six months ago, though. Sometimes being busy sucks, even if it's supposed to be an indicator of success.

----------------------------------

Adam was at a party for most of that day, which is why he hears it first from his publicist of all people when she's giving him a quick run-down of things to watch out for when he's out doing press the next day.

"Oh yeah, you might get asked about Kris. People are buzzing about him right now."

"What about Kris?"

She stops. "You haven't - Oh."


* * *


Adam feels kind of wrong googling Kris, like he's personally invading his privacy, even though this is the sort of thing he wishes Kris would have told him about before the rest of the world found out. He's busy, sure, but they still text each other regularly enough.

Truth be told, though, Adam's been preoccupied with album promo and the tour and sorting out the mess from the wreckage of his last relationship. Kris disappeared into his studio about a year ago and aside from running off to South Africa that one time, only seems to come out occasionally to play shows and attend a few parties. It's easy to lose touch when they're both that busy, getting by with just the occasional email or text message, and it's a startling thing when Adam realizes that they haven't actually talked for at least four months.

Whose fault is it that they practically inhabit different worlds? Adam goes to award shows and industry parties; Kris doesn't unless he has to. Adam just did his first world tour; Kris's last album got raves from the critics ("Did you know that it's apparently cool to like me now? I'm kind of weirded out," Kris had emailed him after the glowing Rolling Stone review) but his tour consisted of playing colleges and clubs. He covered a lot of ground and sold a lot of albums that way, but got far less press.

Their paths just don't cross all that much, or at least not long enough for a heart-to-heart, the kind of barnstorming chats they'd had back in the Idol mansion all those years ago. Back then, even with that crazy schedule 19E had them on, it felt like they had all the time in the world.

Adam's world is so much bigger now, beyond the confines of that silly mansion and a cheesy reality show that got cancelled years ago, but somehow, sometimes it still feels like his horizons are too small, and narrowing all the time.


* * *


The pictures are...kind of adorable, in a deeply wrong way. Most of it is the playful smirk curving Kris's lips and the light in his eyes in so many of them, making Adam's head spin with the familiarity of it. He recognises the way the photos progress, in a through-the-looking-glass way.

Kris leaning on his mic stand, grinning madly and singing straight at his new guitarist, the tall, pretty one who's filling in for Cale. The caption says his name is Jonathan and he's from LA, but the only thing Adam's really noticing is the look on his face as he stares back at Kris.

Caught, and painfully obvious about it because the guy's probably never had to think about hiding it before. Maybe he doesn't even know how far gone he is.

The next one is from the same concert, Kris down on his knees in front of a surprised looking Jonathan, the kind of move that might seem calculated from some people, but doesn't when Kris pulls it. It's the blissed out look on his face, eyes closed, lips just grazing the mic - he's not thinking, just performing, putting everything out there without a care in the world.

Adam gets it - he knows how that feeling inside out, practically lives for it.

The last picture is them outside (after a concert a month later, says the caption). The lighting is terrible, but not enough to hide the way Jonathan has his fingers curled in Kris's hair, mouthing kisses down the long line of Kris's neck, or the small, satisfied smile curving Kris's kiss-swollen lips.


* * *


It takes Adam a while to figure out how he feels about it.

He's…not exactly shocked, but it's close. Kris had always been matter-of-fact about Adam's sexuality from the first moment they met –

"That guy's kind of cute."

"Who, Ricky? Yeah, I see it. He's got a nice smile."

- and he'd happily joke about frat boy behaviour during his college days, but that had more to do with him trying to be exactingly open-minded, and being at pains to make sure that Adam would be comfortable with him, than anything else. Or so Adam had assumed.

Sure, Kris was (and probably still is) an indiscriminate flirt, but that was irrelevant, because he only had eyes for one person in the end. That was one of the things Adam liked about the Allens - their utter security and faith in each other.

The end of a relationship as long and influential as that had to cause some shockwaves. That was, after all, partly why Adam had been trying to keep an eye on how both of them were doing, at least when he had a moment to spare. What he'd seen was mostly encouraging – yes, even the part where Kris left the country for a month - and now this.

He feels sorry for Jonathan. Kris must be at loose ends right now, casting around for something to hold on to. It's not like him to be reckless with his personal life, but then it's not like him to make out with guys in public either. What happens when the novelty wears off? That break-up isn't going to be pretty, especially since he's essentially an employee. And it's not like Kris has any experience with navigating the kind of media reaction that's coming for him.

Whether it's his place as a friend to comment on all of this – that's a different question.

What he wants to do more than anything right now, though, is to check up on Kris, make sure he's still handling it all with something approaching his usual cool, even if that might be too much to ask right now.