About a week of mansion life it was becoming glaringly obvious that Kris was going to have to say something. He didn't want to, really, but Danny was turning twitchier by the day. He'd spilled the OJ onto his lap while trying to pour it into his Trix, and Kris figured enough was enough. It was getting hard to watch.
It wasn't hard to find the opportunity either, not with Matt's inexplicable need for truth-or-dare melding sessions. (“Like bonding, only stickier!” “Who took off his gag?”) All Kris had to do was sit through the standard cliches—amateur stripper pole dance, bout of gay chicken, licking someone's toothbrush, the when/where/who virginity question—before getting green-lit with the right opening.
"I had an invisible best friend."
Anoop snorted. “Childhood secret, Allen, not everyone-and-their-grandmother's-dog cliché.”
“Your grandmother had a delusional dog?” Mike asked. “How would you even know that? Were there therapy sessions? Did you sit in?”
“I think it's adorable.” Lil pressed her mouth to Kris' cheek with a loud, fake smack. “I bet he was the nicest, coolest delusion ever. Right?”
“Right. We played every night.” Kris grinned. “He lived in my closet.”
“Dude. Dude.” Allison rolled over, berry hair waterfalling off the couch's edge. “Dark? Closet? That's not a best friend, that's a—”
“Metaphor!” Matt crowed. Megan batted him with the unopened bag of chips. “What, it is! Tiny gay boy whose fantasy mate is in the closet? It's, like, Freud jacking Shakespeare.”
Megan hit harder. “What have we told you about using people words around actual people? Come closer and let me brutalize you into civility. Also, you're not British.”
“He's sort'a right, though,” Kris said. Megan moaned, falling back and trying to suffocate her face with the Lay's. Anoop poked it experimentally. “I mean, it helped in a way. Thinking there was someone on my side no matter what. Unconditional support.” Kris shrugged, watching Danny out of the far corner of his eye. “Nice thing to have when Brian Whittiker is telling your bunk mates to guard their butts from the “ass pirate” and you're twelve.”
“Kids are the devil.” Matt nodded. Megan whipped him with a Twizzler.
On the other side of the couch, Danny's hands trembled. A little, just enough.
Clearly, this was going to take more than a story.
Plan B wasn't much harder than the first, requiring much of the same: patience. Sufficiently exhausted by Megan's high-calorie beat down, Matt collapsed into hibernation like a January grizzly. Kris listened to him shuffle and wheeze peacefully across the room before rolling out of bed with his jeans on and finding a shirt.
It wouldn't' do to get caught sneaking into Danny Gokey's room topless. On top of everything else (that Kris suspected) it'd probably disintegrate something vital in the guy's circuitry.
The house felt curiously uncanny with the lights off, the giant space suddenly grim and vaguely unreal, the hallway too open, too long. Kris hadn't been afraid of the dark in years, but he preferred smaller spaces. They were—comforting.
He had a brief, passing fear of Danny and Mike actually locking their door—which would be a futile overall but pointedly inconvenient for Kris—but the knob turned obediently in his hand. Kris slid in and shut the door behind him very, very carefully.
Inside the room was a sibling, if not quite a twin, of his and Matt's: generous twin beds, tall ceiling, casual but pricey furniture. Mike was a rumpled blob of sheets but Danny...Kris sighed noiselessly. Even in the dark he could make out the grooves in the his forehead, the clenched jaw. He twisted in his sleep, miserable and restless.
Shaking his head, Kris opened the door and stepped through.
Into the closet.
There was always a moment—that first, shaky moment—when the darkness tasted empty and absolute. When reality reminded, harshly, that the six impossible things before breakfast were little more than morning news soundbites about taxes and lost dogs, and weather angst. That life made sense and was, occasionally, sensible. That it didn't matter if a door opened in or out, because it still led to the same typical, unremarkable thing.
There was always a moment when Kris remembered that life was...normal.
“Adam?” he asked a little louder because either someone outside would hear him or, well, they wouldn't. And if they did it then it wouldn't matter because the only way they wouldn't hear him would be if something interfered, something unexpected and unusual and—and— “Adam?”
Arms wrapped tight and warm around Kris' middle, lips teasing his neck. “Did you miss me, baby?”
—and sometimes life was anything but.
“Okay, you've got to stop it,” was not the first thing Kris said.
He tried, he really did, but there was some trouble getting the actual words out what with Adam's mouth being busy with Kris' mouth and Adam's hand being equally attentive to Kris' belly—the sweet, shivery spot just above the hip—and Adam's other hand being—“Hey!”
“Sorry.” There was familiar nip at his ear. “Missed you like crazy today.”
“You saw me last night,” Kris said. But he patted the arm around his waist just the same.
Adam set his chin against Kris' collar. “Not the same, baby, not even close. Not when I have to actually let you go and sleep.”
“For the record, the competition was your idea.”
“I didn't think it'd take so long for people to realize the obvious,” Adam huffed. It rolled another shiver down Kris' neck. “Can't they just give you the crown and get on with it? I'm tired of skulking around backstage listening to butchered disco.”
“Yeah, you need to stop doing that; the tech guys are getting freaked out. They're starting to think the wiring is cursed.” Which was all kinds of hilarious actually, yeah, but it brought back the point of the conversation. “What did you do to Danny?”
Characteristically, Adam sailed past the unwanted. “They need to be more subtle with the setting, anyway. Those damn flares they're using bleach you out. Are they trying to cook you?”
Soft, cool hair brushed his cheek. “Too late, tonight, to drag the past out into the light...”
“Adam.” He pinched the wrist near his hip. “Come on, we talked about this. I don't want that kind of help.”
“It wasn't help, it was karma. Comeuppance. Justice, even.” The grip around him tugged back, and back, and back, sinking. Kris let himself fall back until he was down on the floor, back to Adam's chest with his legs stretched out comfortably against black, black leather. The fact that the closet didn't have enough space to provide room for two people to do anything except stand and hug was irrelevant; Adam tended to rewrite the rules, geometry being the least of it.
“Making Danny a nervous wreck is not due process,” Kris said firmly.
“It's only a smidgen of insomnia. A tiny nocturnal tickle to the psyche. He'll be good as new, I promise.” Adam's palm rubbed soothingly, warming and electric and so, so good. “Once he's out.”
Kris stiffened. “You promised not to do this. You promised you wouldn't interfere.”
“No,” The rubbing slowed. “I promised not to pull him into a dim corner, stick my arm down his throat and squeeze till the lungs pop. Sleep is fair game.”
“Not to me. If you want to play it that way, fine, but don't call it righteous and don't wait for applause.” Resolutely, Kris got an elbow on the floor and started angling himself upward. He wasn't terribly surprised when the grip around him slithered, twisting, and he was suddenly on his back with a hand cradling his head and another propping the long stretch of intensity above him.
“Forgive and forget needn't pardon every bigot you meet,” Adam whispered fiercely. He always sounded like that, honey and ice, when he thought Kris was getting hurt.
And maybe he was right, and maybe Danny deserved some of it. But Kris hadn't forgotten being the one who opened the boathouse door to find Brian with his knees to his chest, his face white and faint. The counselors never figured out how he'd managed to lock himself in or why he hadn't yelled for help, or why nobody had even noticed Brian missing—and, in a way, Kris had never forgiven himself for any of that either.
“Do you think he'd treat you better if the positions were reversed?” Adam persisted.
Kris reached up to tangle his fingers in the soft, deeper darkness around the pale face. “And when he's dating the monster in his closet that will be his choice to make. But it's not mine.”
“No, it's mine.” But he sounded less feral now, less brutal. “I didn't bring you here to face things like—like him. Like any of that.” The darkness sighed, wistful. “If only there was a way to have them shut up and listen...”
“All right, then.” Kris smiled and pulled. “Shut up.”
The kiss was slow and light like the first kiss had never been, an astonished sweep across Kris' mouth when he was sixteen and barely awake, tumbling back to his bed, nor was it like the second, the steadier, sweet push of that same day's end, when he'd spent the day thinking and worrying and realizing that he didn't care if he was crazy or if Adam was impossible; he just wanted to do it again, and again.
“You really should get some sleep,” Adam finally said. “If you're going to fairly annihilate Gokey, that is.”
“Okay, I will.” Kris relaxed further back. “But not right now.”
After a moment, Adam settled down beside him, a shape more felt than seen in the darkness. “No, not right now.”