“Hi there.” Adam startles and looks up for a second, then casts his eyes back to the ground. “You want to come in?”
It’s a friendly voice. A warm and inviting one. When he looks up again, the woman behind it smiles carefully but doesn’t speak a word again. Adam sighs and takes a step closer to the door. It’s not like he has much choice. This month’s money is all gone with still two weeks to go, and he really needs to eat. His mother would cry if she saw how Adam looks nowadays. The thought makes him take the final steps and he finds himself inside the building that belongs to Helping Hand.
Someone is talking to him and he tries to focus on the words. “Do you need a bed tonight?” Is that what she asked? “We have thirty beds available every night.”
Adam shakes his head. He doesn’t have much, but a bed he has.
“Okay. Then please follow me to the dining room.” Adam’s mouth starts watering just at the mention of food. Without a word he starts following. The woman, he’s sure she must have introduced herself somewhere in this short time but he totally missed it. She doesn’t seem to mind him not having spoken a single word yet. She just smiles when they reach a new room, filled with people already and tells him to sit wherever he wants to. That dinner will be served in twenty minutes and he can just join the line then. All Adam does is nod and then she walks away. He looks over the room and focuses on a corner in the back, making that his destination.
Adam hasn’t thought in big steps for about a year now. He had to stop that when all he could do was take things from day to day. Rehab does that with a person. So now he doesn’t even think twice about setting a ridiculously small goal as getting to the other side of a room. Truth is, for him, getting to the other side of the room is quite an ordeal. It’s a mission on itself, which he used to realize must be silly to other people if they knew. But now he hasn’t had someone to talk to in so long, so somewhere along the line he stopped thinking about what other people might think. Because there are no other people, it’s just him.
It’s been just him for a while now. He used to feel bad about shutting everyone out. He thought he owed his family to stay around and just be there and after a while he realized he owed them nothing. Instead, he owed his mother and father and brother to become happy and get the life he had always wanted.
Now look at him. Sure, he’s in Los Angeles, the city of angels, which is quite ironic if you ask him, but he also doesn’t have enough money to pay rent and food for an entire month. And since his priority is still to always have a roof over his head, food just has to take a second. He’s no longer the chubby kid, he lost all those pounds in less than a couple of months. And then there was just no food and he dropped even more. He doesn’t have a mirror, but he’s not sure if he’d want one at this point.
A touch to his shoulder snaps him out of his own mind and points his attention to the man now sitting next to him. “I’m sorry, didn’t mean to scare you, there.” It doesn’t get a reaction from Adam so he adds: “Dinner is being served, if you want.”
His eyes shoot to where there’s a line of hungry people and suddenly Adam realizes this is what he has become. He promised his parents, in front of everyone, he would make them proud. And now look at him. He needs a fucking charity to give him food. All those people, he doesn’t know their stories, but he knows they must all look exactly like him. Starved, lonely and shabby. He doesn’t want to be here – but fuck - he needs to. He can’t go another day without anything to eat, and he refuses to steal again.
“Are you okay?” Adam looks at the man again, for real this time, and he can’t ignore how cute he is. It hits Adam hard, real hard. He hasn’t had opinions about other people for a long time, other than them being happy when he wasn’t. “My name is Kris.”
Adam doesn’t know what to do or say, so he tries a smile. It falls flat, but somehow Kris appreciates the gesture because he smiles back and visibly relaxes. It may sound weird but Adam can’t find his own voice to introduce himself to the man - Kris. He whispers: “Adam”.
“Adam. Well, welcome to Helping Hand. Now, would you like some dinner?” Adam nods. “Great! Come with me, I’ll show you around a little bit. This is your first time here, am I right?” Adam nods again. He doesn’t know if he should feel relieved or uncomfortable at Kris’s enthusiasm. Automatically the latter wins.
After a while, though, when Kris has shown him how things work and they’re both seated at a small table in the same corner Adam was sitting in before, uncomfortable makes a little place for relieved. Content.
“Right about now, music should start playing. People like to shove the tables aside and dance a little after they’ve eaten.”
Well Adam certainly won’t be dancing. Not tonight. Not ever. He doesn’t even know if he’d physically be able to.
He used to love to dance.
They eat dinner in silence and Adam finishes much sooner than Kris does. This time, it does make him think of what Kris must think of Adam. Probably because it’s Kris, and Kris is the person making Adam feel slightly good again. “Well, that didn’t take you too long. You can get another plate if you want, there’s more than enough.”
He wants to take that comment as an insult but the mention of more food distracts him, and shyly he walks back to the counter and collects another plate. Kris watches him, interested, with a look on his face telling Adam he wants to ask something but then he holds back and doesn’t. Adam hates when people hold back around him even though it’s easier if they do most of the time. “You can ask.”
His voice is nothing more than a mumble – he wouldn’t know how to – and Kris looks at him for a while before pointing his full attention on Adam. “I noticed you – well – you have a limp. It’s just that – we have this free doctor that comes in on Saturdays.” He sounds so unsure of himself and Adam wants to feel bad for the man but he can’t over the panic building up in his chest. He doesn’t know why the mention of his limp hits him so strongly but it does and if he doesn’t collect himself soon this is going to end up in a full blown anxiety attack.
Squinting his eyes to calm down, he tries to even his breath in a steady rhythm. Kris frowns at Adam’s reaction and squeezes his shoulder to hopefully be somewhat of a support. “Adam? Are you okay?”
Adam nods desperately but he’s really not okay and Kris knows that too. He’s got eyes, you know. “I’m sorry if I said anything that –”
“’s okay.” Adam is starting to calm down, finally, and he can’t look away from his hands in his lap. “Sorry.” He doesn’t look up to see if people have noticed and he can feel Kris’s look almost burning him but he ignores it.
“Nothing to apologize for. You want to get some fresh air? Would that help?”
Not really, no, but Adam doesn’t dare say that to the man that’s being this friendly to him. He’s only trying to help. Adam can still appreciate that. If there’s anything he’s learned it’s to appreciate the little things in life, like someone suggesting something that’s probably good for him, and only him. “Yeah.”
Without a word Kris stands up and waits until Adam’s ready to follow him to the small outside patio they have at the back. Kris didn’t show it earlier during the grand tour which really wasn’t all that grand. “We can sit here for a while. No one really comes here when someone’s out already. It’s this unspoken rule that somehow happened.”
Adam likes Kris’s random little facts about this building and charity. It distracts his mind from other things.
“Or if you want to be alone, I can go back inside. I don’t have to –”
“No, you –” Somehow Adam really doesn’t want to be alone right now. He’ll be alone again the moment he leaves this place and he’s not quite ready for that yet now that he’s experienced companionship again.
“I’ll stay then.” Thankfully Kris doesn’t make a comment on how desperate Adam sounded. Or was that just Adam’s mind telling him that? Who knows.
He doesn’t ask Kris.
This one's a bit shorter, but I'll update tomorrow to make up for it ;)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So do you want to tell me something about yourself?”
Adam wonders if Kris had to scrape all his courage together to ask that question or if by now he’s so used to meeting new people in this setting that it’s become natural to him. It sounded like no effort was needed for it, like he is genuinely interested and will completely accept a negative answer. But there’s something about Kris that draws Adam right in. Maybe it’s the eyes. They look so friendly and accepting.
Adam has always had something with eyes. They’re the way to the soul, they always say, but in many cases they are. In Adam’s opinion at least.
He decides to start out easy. To not overdo things. “I’m nineteen.”
“Yeah. It’s – yeah. Young.”
“Let’s do this game. I often play it with people just coming in and I feel like it makes things easier sometimes, but tell me if this does nothing for you because it really depends, you know.” Adam nods. He’s up for anything. Or almost anything. “You can ask me anything you want. There’s one catch.” Did he just smirk? “You can only ask me things you’re willing to answer yourself. Say, I ask you how old you are, you tell me you’re nineteen and I tell you I’m twenty-five. Okay?”
“Okay.” That actually does sound reasonable. “You start.” Adam doesn’t really have any questions. None he would like to answer himself, at least.
“Okay. Let me think.” Adam starts to get nervous. “Have you always lived in LA?”
Adam can’t do this. He really can’t.
He shakes his head and tries to keep a straight face when looking at Kris. Thankfully, that’s all the answer Kris expects. “Me either. I’m from Arkansas originally.”
Wow. Arkansas. “Okay. What – uh – what made you come here?”
Shit. Now Adam will have to answer the same question after Kris. “Music, honestly. Never thought I’d be a big city dude at one point in my life. But I like it here. There’s certainly a lot of charity to work with. What’s your story?”
Now Adam really hopes he can keep this part up. He kinda needs to because he really doesn’t want to break down in front of someone he only knows by name, age and origin. “San Diego. I grew up there.” So far so good. “I also came for music. Just not really going anywhere. Yours?”
“I have a loyal fan base, but wouldn’t say I’m really big.”
Adam would do anything for a loyal fan base. Or at one point in his life he would’ve. Right now music kind of took a back seat. Just like everything else that was once important to him. “Okay.”
“Your turn”, Kris states and Adam has to really think before asking another question. He’s really crap at this game.
“Uh. I don’t -” Gosh, he really sucks at this game. “You go.”
Kris laughs softly and for a moment Adam smiles back slightly. Until Kris asks his question. His smile falters and so does Kris’s. Adam can kind of hear Kris ask if he’s okay, but the buzz in his ears makes it really hard to focus on anything else. Of course Kris wants to know if Adam has siblings. That’s a basic question everyone asks when meeting someone. Right?
Little did Kris know.
“Adam? It’s okay. Just try to breathe in deep.” Kris watches how the boy in front of him sinks to the ground and presses his forehead to the ground, arms clutched to his chest and heart wrenching cries coming from his mouth. Kris feels stupid asking about his family, when obviously something must have happened to make Adam come here on his own, not with his family like some did. Adam was on his own and so reserved and Kris wants to smack himself for being so careless.
But first he’s going to do his best to get Adam out of his own mind.
“Adam? Adam, can you hear me?”
He keeps crying and shaking and suddenly loses all the strength and falls to the floor in fetus position. He sees Adam struggling to calm himself down and also sees how every time it fails, which sends him in another panic every time. “Adam, try to breathe in deep and do the same when breathing out.” Nothing changes. “Adam? Nod if you can hear me.” Nothing. “Adam, listen to me. Can you nod if you hear me?” Adam nods, or at least Kris thinks he did, but he’ll go with it. “Follow my breathing, okay? Just take your time and try to follow my breathing. You’re going to be okay.”
It takes Kris more than five minutes of obnoxiously deep breathing in and out, but eventually Adam calms down enough to become embarrassed of what happened. He rolls on his side, away from Kris and sheds some more slow tears. It takes Adam another couple minutes to croak ‘Sorry’ and push himself up in a sitting position. From there, he pushes himself up to a standing position and to Kris he looks lost. Like he has no idea where he is and how he got there. “Sorry”, Adam mumbles again and moves towards the door. Kris wants to stop him, but knows he has no right to. If Adam wants to leave, feels like leaving is the best thing to do, then Kris isn’t going to stop him. He has no right to decide that for Adam.
All mistakes are mine (as always)
I also figured out these chapters, although I'm thinking of still adding some things so it might still change. But as it stands now, there will be 10 chapters.
as promised, here's the next chapter. Hope you like it :)
Kris waves one last time before Caroline, one of the other volunteers at Helping Hand, walks around the corner. Only after she’s out of sight, does he turn around to start the walk to his car a couple blocks away. Long live Los Angeles and its impossibility to find any parking spot near where you’re ought to be. It’s a humidly warm evening and Kris is already sweating twenty seconds into walking. He slows his pace in hopes of cooling down a bit, although he’d rather like to get to his car as soon as possible. Los Angeles at night isn’t when he feels safest, let’s just put it that way.
It takes him ten minutes of walking before he finally reaches the corner of the street his car is parked in. He sighs with content and looks for his car key that’s somewhere inside his pocket (along with some chewing gum, his phone, little earphones and some change money which definitely does not help). When he looks up again, he sees him. Adam. Sitting on a bench on the sidewalk, sweat covering his bloodshot face. Kris quickens his pace and stops next to the bench, coughing softly to inform Adam he’s there and about to sit down next to him.
When Adam looks up, though, he makes an attempt to stand up and walk away but he falls back on the bench again with a pained expression and grabs for his left knee. The limp-y leg, Kris remembers.
“Hey, you okay? Are you in pain?”
Adam grumbles and snaps. “I’m fine.”
In any other situation, Kris would take the hint and do as told between the lines; go home. With Adam, though, the mysterious guy from earlier, he can’t. He won’t. Because even sparing him one glance, Kris knows he’s not fine. He’s not even good. He’s in pain, and if the facial expression is anything to rely on, a whole lot of pain. “I don’t want to be rude, but you don’t seem fine to me.”
Adam’s face goes through a hell of a lot expressions then. Anger, embarrassment, disbelief, sadness and eventually relief. It’s as if he’s given up the fight of protecting the walls around him, kind of, because Kris is not that naïve as to believe that it’s this easy. No matter whom with. “Whatever.”
“You know, you can tell me if you want. People always say I’m a good pair of ears.”
Adam looks at him for a second and looks down at his hands again. “I can’t walk.” He sighs and looks into nothing across the street. “I got this far and the pain is almost unbearable. I can’t walk further.”
Kris looks down at the knee Adam is still clutching and then back to Adam’s face. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.” Kris stands up and reaches his hands out. “Do you think you could walk when you lean onto me?”
“I don’t know.” He’s on the verge of crying, Kris knows he is. He can already see the tears forming in his eyes, but he’s not judging. Adam looks like a tough guy, not complaining easily, and if he says the pain is unbearable, Kris has no trouble taking his word for it. And non-verbal behavior never lies.
“Okay, keep sitting. I’ll get my car and drive it here and help you in, okay?” Adam nods wearily. “Hey”, Kris crouches down in front of Adam and makes sure to not touch his sore leg. “It’s okay.” And that’s when the first tear falls. It breaks Kris’s heart. He’s in LA, partially to help people like Adam. He hates not being able to. Not knowing how to. “You want to go home? Or do you want to just sit and talk for a bit?” Adam merely shrugs. “Either’s fine with me. Your choice.”
“Home”, Adam mumbles. “I need painkillers.” He chuckles wetly and wipes some tears away. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’ll go get my car and we’ll be on our way then, okay?”
“Okay. Thank you.” For a second, Adam looks right into Kris’s eyes and tries a smile. It kind of falls flat before it even really was there, but for Kris it’s more than enough.
When Kris is gone Adam allows himself to cry full out. It’ll make his eyes bloodshot red and glassy and it will be obvious but he’s in so much pain he honestly doesn’t care all that much. He knows something is wrong with his leg, that he’s overdone himself and pushed too far. But it was either that or no food for another day. So he can’t regret his choice. Not completely, anyway. Also, there’s Kris. And somehow that makes his choice even more worth the pain. Maybe.
Eight minutes and a whole lot of curse words later, both Adam and Kris are seated in the car. When Adam reluctantly gives Kris his address, Kris doesn’t comment on the neighborhood it’s in. He hadn’t really expected much different. “Are you sure you don’t need to see a doctor?”
Adam nods his head. “It’s okay. I just walked too much.” As in, he walked all the way from his studio apartment to the Helping Hand building. He’d walked for hours, and after sitting on his depressed ass for the past couple weeks – months – he’s not used to it anymore. It’s like doing sports again after not doing any for weeks in a row. It takes training again, and it hurts starting. “Some painkillers and I’ll be good.”
“Okay”, Kris gives in although he’d rather have Adam see a doctor just to make sure. But he knows that going to a doctor is a nearly impossible thing for some people. Sure, there’s the free clinic and the doctor at Helping Hand, yet he notices restraint when it comes to asking help from either one of those. It’s this feeling of shame that takes over, someone once told him, and he hadn’t known what to say. Because, being honest, he’d feel the exact same thing if he were in their shoes. Kris could say that with quite some certainty. “Just wanted to make sure.”
Adam smiles gratefully to himself wondering why he deserves to stumble in someone like Kris’s path. “Thank you.”
Kris starts driving and decides to not talk unless Adam starts a conversation. He won’t force the man into anything. He does, however, look to his right every once in a while and notices how Adam turns white the longer they’re driving. Stopping in front of a red light, Kris asks if he’s okay. Adam – grasping both sides of his seat with full force – nods quickly. Again, Kris doesn’t buy it, so the next spot where he can safely park his car; he does, and shuts off the motor. “Do you get carsick?”
Adam’s head hangs low again, hands now nervously playing with the seam of his jacket. “No.”
Kris knows he can’t force Adam to talk, but right now he has to know why Adam is so frightened sitting in this car. “Am I driving too fast?” But Kris doubts that’s it. When people complain, it’s because he follows the speed limits or drives even slower. Definitely never faster, and most definitely not in LA with passengers in his car. Adam shakes his head and sighs and turns his head to the right to look out the window. Kris can see how he has his eyes shut and a tear escapes the corner of his eye.
“Adam?” Silence. Nothing but the whimpering sound of Adam trying really hard to cry in silence. Kris lays his hand on Adam’s shoulder and squeezes softly. “I don’t want to force you into anything Adam, but you’ll have to tell me what’s wrong.”
Adam shakes his head again and that’s all the response Kris gets for a while, until suddenly Adam’s raw and broken voice speaks up whispering: “I was in a car accident.”
And then it all makes sense to Kris. At least the part where Adam’s so afraid whilst Kris is driving. The rest he’s still in the dark about, but that’s okay for now. Little steps are what’s most important, is what he’s learned in the past few months. “Okay. Do you need me to drive slower?”
He hides his face in his hands, and Kris’s heart breaks again when he hears the heart-wrenching sob coming from Adam. He unclicks his seatbelt and undoes Adam’s as well, then turning in his seat so he can easily reach over to Adam and pull him into an awkwardly positioned hug. But Adam immediately grabs onto Kris so he can’t even think about it all that much. This is obviously something Adam needs right now, so Kris is going to give him that exactly and nothing less.
And Adam sobs for everything that he’s lost. For everything that he misses so much. His family. Dancing. Singing. Walking without being in pain. He sobs and clings to Kris but for the first time since that day, he allows someone to get close to him and lets himself be close to them and pull strength and support out of the hug. It doesn’t fix anything. His parents and brother are still dead, he still doesn’t want to sing, but he has a shoulder to cry on that he feels comfortable with. It doesn’t feel good, but it definitely doesn’t feel bad either.
It takes Adam a good fifteen minutes to calm down and five more to pull himself together completely and thank Kris before asking to continue their way to his home. He falls asleep two minutes in. He hasn’t had much sleep ever since the accident – being haunted by nightmares most nights, even after all this time – and especially the past couple of weeks living towards the anniversary, if you could call it that because to Adam an anniversary is something to celebrate, have been hard. Pure exhaustion took over his body, and Kris thinks it’s good that he’s not awake for the drive. That way he can’t be faced with his anxiety even more when it’s obvious he can’t really have much more.
The hard part about Adam falling asleep in the car, though, is having to wake him up when they finally reach Adam’s studio. Kris shakes Adam’s shoulder lightly but the only response he gets is that Adam turns away from the touch and sighs deeply before staying still again. “Adam?” He whispers, because he doesn’t want to be too harsh on Adam. He shakes his shoulder again and this time it has more effect. Adam snuffles and opens one eye a tiny little bit.
“Hey, wake up, we’re at your place.” That makes Adam lift his head and look out the window at the place he’s forced to call home but has never felt like it. And just like that, the –for once – dreamless sleep he was having is abruptly disturbed and the world comes crashing down again. He has to fight the tears already forming in his eyes, and when he’s succeeded, he turns towards Kris and pushes himself in an upright position.
“Thank you for driving me.” He’s really thankful. “I appreciate it.”
Kris smiles and shrugs. “No problem. Are you going to be okay getting in or do you need help?”
Adam hadn’t thought of that yet. “Oh. Uh – I should be fine.”
Kris doesn’t take that as a good enough answer. “Come on, I’ll help you get in.”
“It’s okay”, Adam immediately rejects.
“I know, but I don’t want to drive home without knowing you’re safely inside. Call it over-protective, I’ll tell you you’re right.”
A small genuine smile colors Adam’s face and Kris almost feels his heart melt. This is exactly why he’s a volunteer. This exactly.
“Okay.” He reluctantly accepts. “It’s a dump, though.”
Kris shrugs. “I’m not here to judge.”
People always judge, Adam thinks. That’s one thing he’s learned a long time ago. Too long, actually. He was way too fucking young to learn something that serious about real life. But he doesn’t say that to Kris, instead he smiles and gets out of the car. So Kris follows and double checks the lock on his car. Adam notices and hangs his head low, having a hard time with seeing Kris judge involuntarily. This neighborhood definitely isn’t the best, Adam knows that, but even the dump he’s renting here is too expensive for him already, so it’s either this or a cardboard box under a bridge. Adam refuses to let that happen, which is why he made an agreement with himself to never use his parent’s money for anything else but rent. He’ll work for money to buy food with, and if he doesn’t work, he’d rather starve himself. So he sucks it up and tries to get through every single day. Most of the time. It’s not really going anywhere, to be honest, but even that is something he can’t be bothered with most days.
Adam snaps out of his thoughts when he feels Kris’s hand on his arm to guide him to the door, so Adam holds himself up around Kris’s shoulders and stumbles through the door and towards the stairs after unlocking it. There, he immediately drops down like he always does, his butt on the fourth step and that’s how he starts pushing himself up the stairs. It must be a ridiculous sight to Kris, but this is the only way Adam knows to get up the stairs without hurting himself. Much.
“Looks like you’ve done that before”, Kris tries to joke lightly, but he’s the only one laughing. When Adam’s reached the top of the first pair of stairs, he shoots Kris a look that says it all.
“I have.” He snaps back, and pulls himself up, only to sit down again on the next – and thankfully last – couple of stairs. Kris reaches the top of the stairs the moment Adam pulls himself up again. He offers his support again, but Adam shrugs away and limps badly towards his front door. “I’ll be okay from here.” He says and gets his key out but doesn’t move to open the door. Kris doesn’t know whether it’s because he hurt Adam by saying what he said, or because Adam’s ashamed to show Kris exactly where he lives. “Thank you for driving me. I appreciate it.” He looks up for a second so that he can smile at Kris, and then he shuffles in place, obviously nervous.
“Let me at least help you get inside.”
“Adam. You can barely walk.”
“I’m fine”, Adam mumbles.
Kris’s reply comes immediately. “You’re in pain.”
“I’m fine!” Adam shouts it right in his face, causing him to take a step back. He can see the tears form in Adam’s eyes already, but doesn’t comment on it. He wouldn’t know what to say really. What do you say to someone refusing to accept your help? Someone too ashamed to. Doesn’t know how to. And Kris is no expert at situations like this, okay? He’s not. He may be a volunteer, and a good listener, but he’s not a therapist, and he’s only human. And as a human being, he does retreat this time. He decides to give up, feeling bad about it before even doing anything. He holds his hand up, taking another step back and nodding.
“Okay, Adam.” Another step back. “I’ll see you around?” Adam just looks at him with shiny eyes and it takes everything Kris has in him to not walk right back towards him and pull him in for another hug. “Goodnight.” He waits another couple of seconds but when Adam doesn’t answer, he turns around with a sigh and walks down the stairs he only ascended two minutes ago.
In his car, he takes another deep breath and drops his forehead to the steering wheel for a minute. And then he remembers he’s sitting in a neighborhood known for violence and robberies, and gets away from there as fast as possible. He feels bad about leaving Adam there, fearing for his safety, but he won’t take Adam out of his home like that. It’s his decision, his choice, and Kris has nothing to do with it. He has no claim of Adam or what he decides to do. He’s not here to take over Adam’s life, he’s here to make him feel comfortable and make sure he gets food and a roof above his head if for whatever reason, he finds himself without one at one point.
Let me know what you think. I'll update tomorrow :)
So I was going to update this afternoon, but then I read the chapter and it didn't feel right. And then I just added around a 1000 words to it, so there's that. I know the other chapters aren't too long, but this one should make up for it. Hope you like it and let me know what you think :)
Adam wants to run after Kris, but he has to do what he can with his crutches, which definitely won’t be running. He goes as fast as he can, only to lose all hope when he realizes he’s stuck on top of the stairs. There’s no way that he can reach Kris’s car before he’s gone. He hears the door downstairs fall shut and that’s it. Kris is gone. And Adam can’t blame anyone but himself. Stupid fucker. Always ruining things for everyone.
He stumbles back inside his studio apartment, locks the door, stumbles to his bedroom and falls down in bed with a deep sigh. He looks at his leg and then the tears are unstoppable.
He hates this. He hates every part of the day, but especially night time. And the hardest thing about that is that night time used to be his favorite part of the day. No school, no stress and most of the time it was spent either in theater or with his theater friends. They used to have so much fun going to the beach together, or that one time they went to Disneyland. He had his first kiss with a guy in there. It was truly magic, pun not intended. But then he graduated and left for San Francisco and everything changed. Everything. There was the accident, and in between mourning over losing both his parents and brother and trying to accept that his left leg had been amputated knee down, he hadn’t had time to think of his friends, or anyone else for that matter.
They’d visited, his family had taken him in without a fuss and did everything in their power to make life as comfortable as possible for him. But he couldn’t deal with everything. The pitying frowns on his friends’ faces, and even more on his family’s. He hated it. And then there were doctor appointments and rehab and physiotherapists and it was way too fucking much for any eighteen year old, let alone one that is also dealing with loss and a lot of grief. There are stages. Denial and isolation. Adam doesn’t even remember how long he kept thinking that his parents would come home from picking his brother up and doing some shopping. And every night he went to bed heartbroken because it hadn’t happened.
Anger. Adam doesn’t remember much from this stage. He’d lost himself in the anger, projected it on everything and everyone. The only thing he remembers is making his grandmother cry. It drove Adam fucking insane thinking of what he could’ve done differently. Could he have saved his mother? But he wasn’t there. He wasn’t there on that one fucking moment she’d needed him the most and that is something Adam will never forgive himself. His family (and his therapist) all said he shouldn’t feel guilty, there was nothing he could do, and so Adam went back to the anger stage (which he’d never really left anyway, it was so easy to get him angry at the time). And so he ran away. He was sick of people telling him how to feel and what he shouldn’t be thinking because he was thinking it and it made him feel as if they weren’t taking him seriously. So he’d packed a bag and left.
Depression. And now this stage. Adam got stuck in that one. After depression comes acceptance, but he doesn’t get how anyone could ever accept their parents and brother dying and being the only survivor. He just can’t. Anyone that can is a sick fuck, that’s what he thinks about that. He now sometimes realizes that there wasn’t anything he could have done to save his family. Sometimes he knows that if he could’ve, he would have. But most of the time he’s stuck on ‘I should have died as well’ and that’s that. It pulls Adam down and leaves him breathless and hopeless.
And that’s where he finds himself every night. The mourning. The fact that he’s not with his friends. But not with his parents either. He’s alone in a dump that can’t even be called an apartment. It’s shit and it’s tiny and he doesn’t even want to think of how many bugs he shares this space with. And he feels bad using his parents’ money to pay for this, but with no job and no desire to find one, he has no other option. It’s this, or a cardboard box. He’d feel worse about that, because sometimes he thinks of what his parents would think of him now, and he cries. He has no trouble imagining what they’d think. They’d cry as well, but they can’t, so Adam cries for all of them. It doesn’t bring him closer to them, but it gives him a headache he can concentrate on instead, which is good enough. He’ll take anything to not feel pain for a while.
And tonight, that’s two painkillers and a sleeping pill all at once. And he hopes they kick in before the tears find their way out. For once, he wants to go to sleep without tears making his eyes puffy and stinging in the morning.
Kris is scheduled for studio time the next three days, not giving him any time to do anything else than sleep, eat, piss and make music. Or think about Adam. There’s something about him that pulls Kris in. Something that’s different than all the other people Kris has met since starting his volunteering at Helping Hand. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a closed book. There’s no way to get Adam to talk, and Kris sees it as a challenge, although he must admit that sounds as if Adam’s a project. Not a human being he wants to help desperately. And that’s so not true. All Kris wants to do is help Adam get out of his shell a little. Give him someone to talk to and trust. He knows that’s a lot to ask.
He doesn’t plan on writing a song about it, but whenever he finds himself writing lyrics it reminds him of Adam. He doesn’t even do it on purpose. Doesn’t even really think about Adam while writing. He’s only just writing what he feels and thinks. And lately, that’s all Adam. How he’d broken down in his car the other day, or at Helping Hand that night they met. Kris has a hard time forgetting that look of agony on the young man’s face, the tears clogging his eyes.
The writer he’s working with looks at him knowingly, but Kris pretends to not notice. He has nothing to hide, yet it feels like something private. Like he doesn’t want to turn his back on Adam, and telling someone else about Adam would do just that. So he says nothing and writes two songs. One about loss and one about making beautiful memories only to have them taken away with other, awful memories. The moment they’re finished he already knows he’s not going to use them. No one asks him to.
“Well look who decided to show his handsome face again”, Bianca chatters when she spots Kris. He snickers and goes in for a hug and a kiss to the cheek. “Were you too busy being a star again?” She jokes.
Kris makes a scene of taking his sunglasses off and smirks.
“Always. You know that. How have you been?”
“Great, what about you? How’s the album coming along?”
“We’ve been writing mostly. It’s fun but nowhere near finished yet.”
Kris waves to some other volunteers standing a bit further inside the building. “Awesome. Can’t wait!”
When the first couple of people start coming in, Kris can’t help but look out for Adam every couple minutes. Or every time the door opens. Whatever. But it’s never Adam. And when there’s still no Adam an hour after dinner was served, Kris knows he’s not coming at all. It does nothing to the guilt and worry that was somehow building up inside Kris over the past couple of hours. He can’t help but hope that Adam’s had dinner tonight. Or the past couple days. Yes, he admits, he asked about Adam. He’d been told that no Adam had come in while Kris was absent. Kris just hopes it’s not Adam’s leg. It makes him want to get up and jump in his car to go check up on Adam.
Which he does eventually. He cracks after another hour and a half, and by nine, he’s on his way to Adam’s place. He can’t forget where he lives, which – he admits – is one of the many reasons why he’s in this current situation. Maybe he’s in trouble. Or robbed. Or killed. And now that thought makes him put down his foot down even harder. It’s not a question if he breaks any speed limits, it’s a question of how many. But he doesn’t care one bit as long as police officers don’t pull him over right this moment.
He makes it in a little less than fifteen minutes instead of the mere twenty of last time. He parks and that’s when it hits him that Adam might actually not be pleased at all with his surprise visit. He tries not to think about it and chicken out when he walks up the stairs and steps close to the door to Adam’s place. Before he can think twice about it, he knocks on the door three times and waits. And waits. And waits.
He knocks again, and not even a couple seconds after the last knock, the door opens slightly and Adam looks through the little gap. “What’re you doing here?”
“I – uh. You weren’t at Helping Hand tonight and I – well – I don’t know.”
“So you thought it was okay to come here?”
Kris shrugs. “Look, I worry, okay? It’s what I do. People often hate me for it, really.”
Adam puts his defenses on, just to be sure. It worries him how quickly he’s taken to Kris. Like, he literally met him once. It’s scary. “I don’t need you to worry about me. I’m a big boy – I can look after myself.”
“Have you eaten since you came in?”
Adam glares at Kris. “What the fuck?”
“I’ll take that as a no.”
“Take it however the fuck you like, I don’t care. Just fuck off.”
“Look, I brought food, okay?” Kris sees something on Adam’s face change, but it’s gone as quickly as it came but it gives him hope that Adam won’t close the door in his face. “I just brought food. I don’t ask for your life story, nothing. I just can’t help but worry.”
Adam sighs and unlocks the bolts and then opens the door. “You do this with everyone that comes in once and then doesn’t show up again for four days?”
Kris wants to answer, but first he had to stare at the crutches for ten seconds. “Shit, are you okay?”
Adam frowns, then looks at his crutches and back at Kris. And the wall is up again. “I thought you didn’t come for my life story?”
Kris has no idea how that has anything to do with the crutches, but apparently he’s almost gone through all his luck so he ignores the damn crutches and steps inside Adam’s apartment.
“So do you?” Adam asks after he’s locked the door again. Kris looks confused. “Bring food to anyone that doesn’t show up again.”
“Oh.” Kris blushes and shrugs. “No.”
“Lucky me, then”, Adam deadpans and leads Kris inside (not that there’s much to it) and sits on his couch slash bed, whatever. It’s multifunctional which is practical. Or so Adam likes to tell himself sometimes. “Should I start feeling special?”
“You are special.” Kris gasps. He did so not mean to say that and especially not to Adam himself. Crap. Thank God Adam never comments on it.
Kris doesn’t know whether he eats the food so quickly so he wouldn’t need to talk through this awkwardness, or because he’s that hungry. Either’s possible, really.
“Thank you”, Adam mumbles when all the food is gone and a small smile breaks through. Kris likes seeing that smile more than anything already. “You shouldn’t have done that. But thank you.”
“You need to eat, Adam. Regularly.”
Adam looks down at his lap and nods carefully. “I know. I just -” How the fuck do you explain to someone that you can’t afford to buy food for an entire month? How do you tell someone that’s obviously doing quite well, that you barely even work, so no money comes in and you just can’t. Adam doesn’t know. And so he stays quiet until Kris breaks the silence again.
Kris doesn’t know how to ask everything that’s on his mind. Half of the things he’s wondering about are too personal to ask already, or ever. He wants Adam to trust him, confine in him, and the only thing he’s certain of is that butting in completely is disrespectful and will get him the complete opposite. “How is your leg?” It’s not what Kris really wants to know, but it’s up there.
Adam looks away, jaw clenched and Kris really shouldn’t have said that, not after what happened at the door but he can’t stop himself from worrying. Plus, he’s inside now so, he’s kind of hoping that Adam won’t throw him out. “Not your life story. Just want to know if you’re still in pain.” Adam doesn’t answer and that’s all the answer Kris really needs, yet he waits for Adam to give him a definite answer. Not only because he wants to be completely sure, but mainly because he needs Adam to trust him and to start telling him things. He won’t reach that by always assuming things.
And Adam can’t lie, because Kris has seen him limp not even fifteen minutes ago, so there’s not much he can say. “A little better”, is the best he can do. And even that’s a complete lie. Adam’s painkillers are all gone since yesterday and cleaning the wounds with water seem to do nothing at all. He needs a doctor, but even if he wanted to get over his ego and go to the free clinic, he has no way of getting there.
“Did you have a doctor look at it?”
Adam gets a little pissed off at how much Kris wants to know, but he also can’t really blame the man. He brought him food, came all this way just to bring Adam food and to check on him. The least Adam can do is not snap at the man he needs to thank for his first meal in three days. “It’s just a twisted ankle”, Adam whispers because he can’t lie out loud. “It’ll be fine.” He needs to get Kris to believe him. As far as he knows, Kris hasn’t seen his fake leg yet. And Adam’s wearing it because not wearing it is worse than wearing it, right? He’s not a doctor. He should ask one, though, but that’s another story.
“Are you sure it’s not broken?”
Adam sighs. “I’m pretty sure I would know.” He knows what it’s like to have broken bones. “Wouldn’t be able to lean on it.”
Kris is pushing his luck, but Adam’s not opening up and he has patience and he won’t push Adam, but he needs to do a little pushing or nothing will ever come out. “Seems to me as if you can’t really put much weight on it.”
“It’s fine. Just haven’t taken a painkiller yet.” Adam’s failing and because he is, he’s starting to slowly slip into panic. Kris only seems to be waiting until he takes them.
“I can get them for you.”
I always tell myself to update every other day, but I started my summer job on Saturday and that's until 10:30pm every day so I forgot about this updating a little bit. Sorry!
It all went downhill from there, if you ask Adam. There’s no way he can talk himself out of this one. He keeps digging deeper and deeper into the hole he started, and eventually it’d collapse anyway. So short pain, he decides. “It’s prosthetic.”
Kris looks at him funny. “What is?”
“My leg. My limp-y leg. It’s fake.”
Kris tries not to look too shocked, tries not to look down at Adam’s leg, but he can’t stop himself and it makes Adam look away. He knows what comes after shock. It’s compassion, and he doesn’t want – need – compassion. There’s nothing he can do with it. It only makes him feel worse than he already does. “How?”
The million dollar question Adam’s always afraid to hear. Which is why he’s surprised to find himself unhappy of being reminded, but not unhappy because someone is asking. He doesn’t mind Kris asking, and that’s a first. There’s something about the man that makes him feel more comfortable than he’s ever felt with anyone. “The car accident.” He has a hard time breathing but he wants to get this out. It’s been a year, almost, and he’s never talked about it. Not even to the therapist his family and doctors recommended. “Leg was stuck. They couldn’t save it.”
Adam’s dreading the oh my god Adam I’m so sorry, but it doesn’t come. Instead, Kris stands up and sits right next to Adam and hugs him. Adam’s so shocked that he doesn’t even think about crying or panicking anymore. He just sits there. Dumbstruck. Adam wants to tell him more. But all the words get stuck in his throat. A desperate Kris is the only thing that passes his lips and Kris holds him tighter. “It’s okay. You can cry, Adam.” And as if that was his cue, the tears start streaming down his face, and it’s not until a couple minutes after they’ve stopped that Kris lets go of Adam. But only so he can go get some paper for Adam to blow his nose and retake his position.
Adam’s hiding his face behind his hands by the time Kris returns, though, and not even saying his name makes him look up. “I don’t mind, Adam.” That’s all Kris feels like saying. Adam doesn’t need him to give a huge speech about how he doesn’t care if Adam cries or holds onto him like he did minutes ago. All that Kris hopes is that Adam already trusts him enough to believe him right now.
“I don’t – I”, Adam shakes his head and takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
Kris takes a light, non-coercive, hold of Adam’s lower arm and shushes him. “Don’t ever apologize for being human.” That makes Adam look up. With glossy, bloodshot eyes, looking guilty. “Whatever you feel is completely fine. Sounds like you haven’t had it easy.”
Adam’s eyes well up again and he shakes his head and bites his lip to stop the tears from falling. Kris lets him be for a minute and just sits there. Except for his hand that’s still on Adam’s arm, he’s not doing anything that could push Adam even further or give him a feeling of being forced to talk. Which he doesn’t, and that’s fine by Kris.
Adam’s thinking a million things at the same time, and if he doesn’t stop some of them soon, he’s going to drive himself completely mad. So he focuses on one thought, an important one, and scrapes all his courage together to ask (read: beg) Kris to help him. He hopes Kris doesn’t mind, but then; he’s already proposed himself so Adam doesn’t think he does.
“Kris?” It’s not more than a whisper, but with the silence throughout the tiny space, it might as well have been shouted. Kris turns his body towards Adam and pulls one leg up on the couch. “I – Could you -” Shit. “The doctor?” Adam hopes Kris knows enough with that.
“Oh.” He looks at his watch even though he knows it’s too late. Ten fifteen pm. Crap. “The free clinic closes at eight.” Adam’s face falls. He should’ve known that. Although he has no clue what time it is now. “We can stop by tomorrow morning, though. I can come pick you up.”
Adam sighs. “Okay.”
Kris hates not being able to help Adam right this moment. “So where are your painkillers? You should take one and go to sleep. You like tired.”
Adam is tired. Fucking drained. He also can’t ignore that question again. Kris would notice something’s up. “I don’t have any.” Kris curses under his breath and Adam cringes. “I took the last one yesterday.”
“How much pain are you in exactly?”
Adam shrugs. “It’s not too bad, actually.”
Kris almost believes Adam, but doesn’t comment on it. “Okay. Do you think you could manage while I go get some?”
Adam casts a look at Kris’s watch. “Where will you get painkillers after ten pm?”
“My house”, Kris smiles and shrugs.
Adam sputters. “No.” Seriously? “I’m not letting you do that.”
“I don’t know where you live, but it must be at least a thirty minute drive. That’s an hour.”
“I don’t care, Adam.”
“There’s no other option.”
“I won’t die if I don’t get any now.”
“I do not want you to be in pain.”
Adam growls with frustration. “I told you I’m good. I’ve had worse, okay?” And that shuts Kris up alright. At least for a minute.
“Can I see?”
Kris blushes. He can’t believe he actually asked that. “No, it’s okay. Forget I asked. I’m sorry.”
Adam looks at his hands. “I’m sorry.”
“No. Damn. Stop apologizing. I shouldn’t have asked. I keep telling myself not to push you and then I ask the most inappropriate question ever.”
Adam smiles. It’s a broken smile but Kris doesn’t care. “It’s okay. You don’t push me. You care. I feel comfortable around you.” Adam can’t believe he admitted to that. So embarrassing. “As comfortable as I get, though.” His smile goes crooked. But Kris’s intensifies and even if he wanted to he couldn’t stop it.
“That’s good. That’s really good, Adam. I’m so happy to hear that.”
Kris sounds a little like a therapist maybe would but that’s okay. He’s not. He’s not here because he needs to be. He’s here because he wants to be. To Adam, it makes the world he's hated for so long a little less painful for a while.
Adam’s walking on crutches when Kris arrives, and it takes him a couple of minutes to realize that Adam’s not wearing his prosthetic leg. His pants are way too loose for that on one leg. Kris feels a little special that Adam allows him to see him like this. But then he sees the pain on Adam’s face and the shame and he knows that it wasn’t Adam’s choice. So he doesn’t comment on it. Not that he was planning on doing that. Last night’s mistake was more than enough, thank you very much.
“I brought you some painkillers.” He hands Adam the new box of medium painkillers, because he had no idea which ones Adam usually takes (soft or strong ones), so he played safe. “And breakfast”, he smiles, showing Adam the box with donuts.
“You did not have to do that.” But Adam has no trouble accepting them anyway. He shuffles to the kitchen (which is in his living/bedroom anyway), pops one pill into his mouth and drinks from the tab. Probably not the best choice around here, but Kris doesn’t say anything. He makes a mental note to bring water the next time, though. And then Adam attacks the donuts and Kris decides to bring him breakfast every day from now on.
“Are you ready to go?”
Adam checks his pocket for his keys and wallet and nods. “I think so.”
“Let’s go then. I parked as close as I could.”
When Adam leaves the doctor’s office, Kris is there waiting for him and that sight alone is enough to not be able to hold the tears back. Kris wants to cry with him. The woman that looked over Adam’s leg stays in the back but Kris can see the struggle on her face. As if she also wants to help, but the system doesn’t give her many options. Kris already feels like Adam needs more than a free clinic.
“I will see you in a week, Mr. Lambert?” Adam cringes at the name. That’s his dad. Not him. It hurts. He merely nods before stumbling past Kris and out the door. Kris smiles at the doctor politely and follows Adam. He’s not even halfway to the car when Kris gets outside, and he waits by the door to make sure that he doesn’t walk past Adam. Somehow it feels like a rude thing to do. It’s only when Adam almost reaches the car that Kris starts walking towards it too.
He doesn’t know what to say – if there’s anything to say at all – when he sees Adam’s tired and closed off face. “You okay?” was probably not the best option, but it’s the best he can do.
Adam answers by wiping a tear away and opening the door only to struggle getting in. His crutches are in the way and the car is too low and when he’s halfway to the seat he just drops himself onto it and smacks his stub onto the side of the seat which makes him cry out in pain. And then he throws the crutches to the ground and disappears into a mess of tears and whimpers and sobs. Kris is in front of Adam almost immediately. “You okay? Did you hurt yourself badly? Want me to get the doctor?” He’s already pushing himself up when Adam whimpers a barely audible no.“You want to go home?”
Adam wants to tell him it’s not home. It never was and it never will be. His home is with his family. But his family is fucking dead and he’s all alone in this cruel world.
He smacks the car door and doesn’t feel the pain in his hand. It annoys him even more. He needs to feel some ache that’s not emotionally.
“It’s infected.” But Adam knew that already. “Antibiotics and painkillers.” Adam starts crying a little again. It was so awkward when the doctor told him to take antibiotics for a week, specifically mentioning that it was to be taken with food. Adam didn’t tell her that he doesn’t have money for food. He’ll just have to risk taking them without and hope it doesn’t fuck up too much else. He also got painkillers, so maybe he could give Kris’s back.
“Okay.” Kris sighs in relief for a moment. An infection isn’t too bad if the antibiotics do their job. But the look on Adam’s face tells him more is up. He can’t be this broken over having to take pills for a week. “Anything else?”
Adam sighs. He shrugs. How the fuck does he tell Kris this? “I need a new prosthetic.” There’s no easy way to say this anyway, so he might as well just drop the bomb immediately.
Kris curses under his breath and Adam wonders if that’s something Kris does a lot since it’s happened a couple of times already. But then Kris looks at him and Adam looks down because he can see that Kris has figured it out. “I’m sorry, Adam.”
Adam nods and shuts his eyes to keep the tears at bay. “It’s fine. I’ll just have to”, his breath hitches, “have to go with crutches for a while.” A long while. Maybe forever. He can’t afford a new fucking leg. The only reason why he has one is because his parent’s social security still covered it right after the accident and his grandparents paid for the rest.
“There’s no other options?”
Adam shrugs again. What does Kris expect him to say? He knows nothing about law and financial support possibilities for cripple people. “They can measure me up here, but a new prosthetic is too expensive for a free clinic. It’s normal.”
“There must be a way.” Kris is already dead set on finding a way to get Adam a new prosthetic. “I can help you look into it.”
“I can ask my lawyer.”
Kris has a fucking lawyer. Of course he does. Adam scoffs. “Stop it. I don’t need your fucking empathy”, he snaps. “Just take me back, please.” He turns sideways in the car and fastens his seatbelt before Kris sighs and pushes himself up to walk around the car and take Adam home.
This took a while again, for which I am sorry. But I went to see Nile Rodgers with Chic on Saturday, came home on Sunday to find out we had visitors and then had work yesterday and today. So I took my laptop to work to post this chapter today, after changing it up a little bit again (of course). I'm still not happy with how this one turned out, but then I never am, so I hope you at least like it :)
Also, reminder: all mistakes are mine.
It’s an understatement to say that Adam doesn’t like Kris’s daily early morning visits with breakfast, with an invitation to lunch almost every single day. It makes him feel inadequate, as if he can’t look after himself, which is kind of true, but he doesn’t like to be reminded of it every single damn day. Kris always shows up in between eight and nine in the morning. Except for studio days, which, Adam can honestly say, are his least favorite because Kris shows up at fucking seven in the morning, all chipper and happy with breakfast or ingredients to make one. Like three days ago, when he taught Adam how to make blueberry pancakes at half past seven in the morning.
Adam’s stomach, on the other hand, got used easily to the frequent visitations of Kris. And after not more than a week, his stomach starts rumbling at eight, and Adam doesn’t mind Kris stopping by all that much anymore. It’s good company, and he’d like to think that they’ve become friends in this past week. Adam feels like an equal around Kris, and Kris treats him as one.
Kris even tells everyone at Helping Hand that they’ve become friends, which Adam didn’t know was really allowed but if it’s not, Kris doesn’t seem to care. It’s not as if he could deny it after arriving with Adam in tow for a week straight already now. Even if Kris has to be in studio, he picks Adam up, drives him to Helping Hand, goes back to studio and picks Adam up at ten to go back home. It’s become a routine and Adam is slowly starting to accept Kris’s help, mainly because it doesn’t feel like Kris is going out of his way helping Adam. He helps him up until the point Adam tells him to stop, and he stops. He’s not helping him out of compassion, he’s being a friend. And Adam’s not used to people wanting to be his friend anymore. He hadn’t even talked to anyone for at least a couple months before meeting Kris. And now Kris is there for Adam whenever, even gave him his old crappy cellphone with a recharge card that Adam refuses to let Kris pay for. But at least Kris can call him now.
He always does when he’s running a bit late, just to make sure that he doesn’t find Adam in tears when he’s ten minutes late. That happened once, and even though Adam was so embarrassed to go straight to worst-case-scenarios, it’d broken Kris’s heart and once again he was faced with the impact the car crash had had on Adam’s life. It’s in the small things, and it’s in everything, and Kris is still learning and finding out but he’s doing the best he can to just be the best friend possible to Adam.
So yet again Adam finds out how quickly life can change, only this time it’s for the better instead of the worse.
They’ve talked a little, but mostly about Kris. Adam doesn’t mind filling Kris in on little things, but he’s not ready yet to share his life story with him. He’s getting there though.
And eighteen days (yes, Adam counted them) after the breakdown in Kris’s car, is when that happens. It wasn’t Adam’s choice. Not really. But then there is that car crash that they have to drive past to go back to Adam’s place and there’s police cars and two ambulances and it reminds Adam too fucking much of that fatal day. Kris only needs one look at Adam to know that once they’re well past the accident, he needs to pull his car over somewhere safe so he can tend to Adam and keep him from slipping further into the panic attack he’s already halfway in.
“Adam, look at me. Can you hear me?” Adam’s eyes are closed shut so hard that it looks almost painful to Kris. What worries him, though, is Adam not answering him. “Adam. I’m going to unbuckle your seatbelt, okay? Adam?” Adam nods and sits back in the seat for a moment so Kris can unbuckle him and it helps a little with breathing. Not much, though. Once the seatbelt is gone, he leans forward again, head in his hands and he tries to calm his breathing. He can faintly hear Kris trying to calm him down. And the longer he sits there and tries to focus on Kris’s soothing voice, the more the words make sense to Adam’s foggy mind. When Kris asks Adam if he can hear him, he nods once and he can hear Kris’s sigh in relief.
“Can you look at me?” Adam does look at Kris. For one second, and then he needs to look back down, because there’s a road behind Kris and a lot of traffic and Adam really can’t deal with traffic right now. Not even knowing that they’re on a safe enough distance and nothing is going to happen. He needs to get out of this car.
“Need to – out.” Kris nods and turns around and leaves the car, only to open Adam’s door barely five seconds later to help him get out of the car, crutches in one hand and using his other hand to support Adam enough to get out of the car.
He plops down onto a bench with his back to the road in the near distance and tries not to focus on the sound of cars driving by. Kris sits next to him and grabs a hold of his hand, which does more than enough to distract Adam. He’s still breathing too heavy and shallow in Kris’s opinion, but it seems to be going in the right direction so he’s not too worried yet. The last thing Adam needs is to have Kris panic too.
When Adam starts talking, Kris doesn’t expect it. Not at all. But it’s happening and he’s going to be the best friend he can possibly be to Adam and hope it’s enough. But it will probably never be enough to make up for what Adam’s been through. He learns that with every single word that comes out of Adam’s mouth.
“Roadtrip. For graduation. I’d always wanted to go to San Francisco, so my parents planned it all without my knowledge.” Kris stays quiet because he wouldn’t know what to say even if he felt like he could interrupt Adam. “We were almost there when –” he shuts his eyes quickly and breathes in deep. And again and again and again. “She drove into us. Head on collision. My dad. He couldn’t –” Shit. “He couldn’t do anything. And Neil wasn’t wearing his seatbelt as always, stupid fucker, and I want to be angry but I can’t!”
He needs to say something. But he can’t come up with something. “What about the other car?”
Adam shakes his head fervently. “She had a seizure. She couldn’t do anything. She survived and I can’t even be angry at her but she took my family away.” He pulls his hair. “I can only be furious at myself because I’m the reason we were in that car at that place at that moment.”
Kris tells Adam that that’s not true, but it doesn’t matter anyway, Adam doesn’t hear him, or chooses not to. Adam’s had so much guilt inside him for so long. It’s eating at him.
“My dad and brother, they were –” He has difficulty breathing but he wants to get it out. “They were dead on impact.” He clears his face from tears and takes a deep breath before continuing now that he still can. He wants – needs – Kris to know his story. It’s not as hard as expected, but it’s definitely not easy either. “My mom.” This is the part he has most difficulty with. Always. “She survived the crash. Died two days later in the hospital.” Adam always feels like he could’ve saved his mother, if only he had looked after her right after the accident. Maybe he could’ve reduced the bleeding, tell her to fight and to not leave him behind. But Adam has been stuck in the car, his leg stuck between his dad’s seat and his own. And he couldn’t use his arms, or anything at all for that matter. The world was blurry and then went black for a while. He remembers screaming for Neil, who wasn’t beside him anymore, and trying to move but not being able to. He remembers his father’s bloody face in the rearview mirror and his mother’s whimpers before she went quiet.
And then there were sirens and blue lights everywhere and next thing Adam knows is how he woke up in a room that wasn’t his and his grandparents were crying and kept repeating Oh Adam, oh Adam until a doctor came in to tell him the news. Adam’s injury list. Five seconds in Adam asked where his parents and his brother were. He’ll never forget that look on that doctor’s face, or how his grandmother had started weeping again beside him.
His mother had died already. He’d been asleep for almost four days and his entire family had died and his leg was gone from the knee down. He never got to say goodbye to his family.
“I don’t remember the funeral. It’s one big blur. My family told me it was beautiful and they got the goodbye they deserved. But I don’t remember”, Adam weeps. “All I remember is the accident. The rest is a blur. I don’t know if I said something to them and I hate it because I want to know if I told them that I love them, even though it was too late.”
Kris is in tears as well but he tries to stop them from falling. He needs to support Adam right now. Adam’s nineteen. So young still. That also means it can’t have been more than a year since the accident and his heart plunges to the ground when he thinks about how much pain Adam must’ve been through, both physically and emotionally. He can’t even bare thinking about his parents being gone right now, at the age of twenty five, let alone at nineteen because of a car accident you were in too.
It makes Kris pull Adam in his arms when he seems to be done telling and hold onto him strongly. “Thank you for telling me, Adam.” Adam sniffles and pushes himself closer towards Kris. “Thank you so much. You’re so strong.” Adam wants to tell Kris no, he’s not strong, but the words don’t come out. Kris is his lifeline at the moment and Kris will give him as much time as he needs to calm down and let go of him. Which doesn’t happen for at least five minutes, but Kris is completely fine with that. And Adam kind of feels bad but he voices that thought to Kris once, only to be told that it’s all fine and he shouldn’t think ridiculous stuff like that.
It has him smiling a little.
Fifteen minutes later Adam lets go of Kris completely and he sighs.
“You want to go home?” It’s a good enough assumption. Adam’s tired to the bone but his place is the last place he wants to be at right now. He doesn’t want to be there anymore. Every time he’s in there, he’s reminded of what his life has become. And he knows it’s not fully his fault, but he can’t help but feel guilty. As if he let his parents down.
He shakes his head and turns to Kris. “You think I could get a bed at Helping Hand?” Kris hates how small Adam sounds. “Never mind”, Adam quickly adds. “I have a bed. It’s okay.” He should leave the beds for people who need to sleep on the streets otherwise.
“Stay with me. I don’t have a spare room, but I have a pretty comfy couch.” He doesn’t know why he suggested it, but it doesn’t feel wrong and he’d be actually relieved to know that Adam’s not in his own studio apartment in that neighborhood. Adam wants to say yes so badly. The only thing stopping him is, yet again, his ego. “You’re my friend, right?” Adam nods. They already had that conversation. “So stay with me. You don’t want to go home, and to be honest, neither do I.” Adam looks at his lap. He knew Kris would judge one day. “Because I don’t want you to be alone right now. You shouldn’t be alone. I’d worry too much.”
Adam smiles, too tired to object. “Thanks Kris.”
Kris smiles too, because Adam never tried to fight his suggestion. “You’re my friend, Adam.”
I keep adding things to this story and it's starting to annoy me that I'm never happy with the way it turns out. I hope you like this one :)
Adam agrees to Kris buying him clothes, but he makes him go to Target only and only chooses one shirt (because he still has a couple even though they’re way too big on him, he tells Kris no more shirts), a flannel and a zip up sweater and two pairs of jeans. He claims it’s too hot for a jacket and it would be stupid to buy a pair of shoes when he only has one foot. Kris feels okay snickering because Adam does too.
They’re still not talking about the prosthetic leg. It’s stuffed in a corner of Kris’s apartment with the rest of Adam’s belongings (which, sadly enough, aren’t even enough to fill up the entire corner). It’s not that he hasn’t tried, because Kris sure did. He asked his lawyer, who asked one of his friends that’s specialized in medical law instead of musical business law and together they found some options that might apply to Adam. Only problem is that the moment Kris mentions lawyers and prosthetic leg in one and the same sentence, Adam grabs his crutches and disappears. At first he only hid away in the bathroom. But the third time, he actually left the apartment and didn’t come back for four hours.
And so Kris doesn’t talk about it anymore.
Adam’s watching television when Kris comes home from a meeting with his manager. Now that the album is done, things are going to get a little busier again for Kris. The timing couldn’t be worse, because as things stand now, Kris will be out of town when the one year anniversary of Adam’s accident is. He hasn’t told Adam that yet, because it only got confirmed today, and even though he has no idea how to break the news to Adam, he promised himself to do it today instead of pushing it forwards. But only so that he has time to convince Adam to go with him.
“Hey Adam.” Kris walks towards the couch and presses a kiss on the top of Adam’s head. It’s become a thing he does, and Adam never said anything about it so he keeps doing it. “What’re you watching?”
Adam looks up at Kris and smiles. He still lives to make Adam smile.
“Don’t know, honestly.” Kris sits next to Adam. “How was your meeting?”
Kris shrugs. It’s now or never. “I need to tell you something.” He turns towards Adam, who nods nervously. “I have to leave town for a bit.” Adam says nothing, just looks and waits. “Promo, but mostly rehearsal back in Arkansas with my band.” Still no reaction and Kris is starting to get worried. “It’s easier for me to go to Arkansas than to get everyone and their instruments here.” Believe Kris when he says he tried. That’s why he sounds so sorry, because the moment the words had left his mouth and he’d seen the look on his manager’s face, he knew it was a ridiculous idea. “Say something.”
Adam’s answer is reaching for his crutches that are next to the couch and shuffling towards the corner where his bag is. When he’s got a firm hold on it, he looks at Kris with this sad look in his eyes and asks Kris to take him to his place. He hasn’t been there in three weeks and it doesn’t sit well with Kris that this is the time that Adam wants to go back. Especially since they let the landlord know that Adam’s moving out to put in his two month notice. Which would leave Adam with six weeks to find a new place. Kris is not doing that.
“Adam, please sit down and listen to me.”
“You don’t get to decide what I do”, Adam snaps.
“No”, Kris defends, “I’m asking my friend to hear me out.”
Adam sighs and looks down. “I can’t, Kris. Not now. I can’t handle –” he falls silent.
Kris panics. “Come with me.” Okay, so maybe that’s not how he wanted to break that to Adam, and seeing the look on his face, he remembers exactly why. Adam thinks he’s joking, making decisions without thinking them through. He’d prepared an entire speech to convince Adam that he’s not making decisions on a whim, that he really wants Adam with him and that it could be good to get out of California for a while and visit Arkansas, a state with nature and no pressure and traffic jams.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Adam! Listen to me. I want you to come with me. I told my manager and she’s fine with it. I’m driving and I need companionship anyway.”
Adam hates this. “I’m not some charity case, Kris. Don’t fucking tell me what to do.”
“You do”, Adam counters, “you have it all figured out and asked everyone before you thought of telling me. Tell me what that is then if it’s not telling me what to do.”
“I’m trying to help, Adam.”
“I know! And I’m trying my best to accept it all without giving anything back because I have nothing.”
“I get to live in your home, use your water and electricity, your soap and shampoo. I get to use your couch and eat your food and buy clothes with your money. I’m trying, Kris!”
That gets Kris quiet because he never knew or thought that Adam had that much difficulty with it, even though he should’ve figured. They’ve talked about Adam not accepting help from his family. How he felt like a charity case that everyone was fighting over to help and invest in the most. That that’s why he fled even though he left his entire life (what was left of it) behind. And now Kris is doing the exact same.
Kris’s return is weak. “I get your friendship.” Adam’s ready to object but Kris doesn’t give him a chance. “And for now that’s enough. I know that the moment you’re ready, you’ll find a job and work your ass off, but I don’t expect you to do that yet. And I don’t care. You’re my best friend and I want to help you. I don’t want to make you feel sad or inadequate because you’re not. You’ve had bad luck and it sucks and I’m cutting you some slack because you deserve it. I love you, I want to protect you and I’m sorry if keeping you from going back home is one of those things.” Kris is actually breathless after his entire tirade, but Adam’s look has changed so he calls it a win. Adam drops his bag to the ground. “I’d miss you. So this is really more a selfish thing to do, you know.” He snickers nervously.
Adam doesn’t want to smile, but Kris is so tiny and cute and making some really good points here. He whispers Kris’s name and then doesn’t know what to say once he’s looking at him. Adam’s mind is pretty stuck on I love you. He’s had a hard time hearing the words since the accident. When his family told him they love him, he ignored them, because it’s not their love he wanted. He wanted his father and mother to tell him they love him, and that was never going to happen again so he didn’t want to hear the words. For a second, he wants to tell Kris not to say it, but the feeling is gone as quick as it came and he’s left with a feeling of hope and a lot of things he can’t put his finger on. He wonders if there’s a name for what he’s feeling.
He doesn’t try explaining it to Kris because he doesn’t know how to even start. He settles for shuffling to Kris and hugging him once he gets there. When he pulls back a little while later, he shifts his hands to Kris’s shoulders so he doesn’t lose balance and he looks Kris right in the eyes. And then it hits him. And scares the crap out of him, which is why he lets go of his hold so quickly that he almost topples over if Kris hadn’t been there to catch him. It’s one big mess of almost falling down and then Kris pushes him towards the couch so that at least he falls somewhere soft.
“What happened?” Kris asks once Adam’s put himself to a sitting position. “Should we not have hugged? Did you have a flashback?”
Kris won’t shut the fuck up. Just keep rambling and rambling. Adam wants to snap but instead he finds himself laughing. “Would you stop.”
Kris blushes immediately and snorts. “Sorry. What happened?”
“I need to tell you something, too.” Kris sits down next to Adam when he pats the couch. “You’re the first one. I never got a chance to – anyway.” He rubs his hands on his pants nervously. “I think my parents always suspected, and I was going to tell them, but I never knew how. And then I didn’t tell them because – It was too late. I waited too long.”
“Kris, please.” He’s really struggling through this and Kris interrupting him isn’t helping.
“Adam, it’s fine.”
“No, you don’t – I want to tell you this.”
“Adam. It’s fine.” And somehow it sounds different. Kris isn’t saying he doesn’t have to tell, he’s saying he doesn’t need him to.
“No. You can’t – no.” Adam’s pissed. When Kris wants to hold his hand the pulls it away and moves further away from Kris. Is there seriously nothing he can have to himself? Not even his deepest secret? “Fuck you.”
Kris watches Adam stand up and go into the bathroom with a frown. Before he gets to lock the door, he’s in front of it stopping him. “What the fuck, Adam?”
Adam enjoys Kris cursing. It’s better than the compassion and the sweetness. Adam doesn’t know how to handle that. He’s figured out how to deal with anger, though. “Shut up.”
“Why are you angry? I didn’t even –”
“I wanted to tell you myself.”
“I wanted to help. Fuck, Adam.”
“I share everything with you. You know every fucking thing. You know when I’m in pain, you know when I’m crying because you can hear it at night. You know when I eat, what I eat, where I go because you always have to take me there. I told you my story, Kris! You know everything without me having to say more. This was one thing I wanted you not to know until I was ready.”
“I’m sorry”, Kris whispers and reaches out for Adam. He opens the door completely and holds onto Adam so they don’t have a replay of five minutes ago. “I thought you needed help.”
“I need help for everything. I wanted this to do by myself.”
Kris sighs. To anyone else this would be a ridiculous thing to be upset over, but he gets why it has Adam so angry. He gets it. “So say it. No one’s said it yet. For all we know, I’m thinking the complete opposite of what you wanted to say.” Which would just be fucking awesome, no?
“You don’t.” Adam sighs.
Kris smirks slightly. “Are you sure?”
Adam rolls his eyes and gives Kris a little push. “Asshole.” Kris smiles.
“So tell me.” Adam sighs and feels embarrassed now that it’s been taking so long. He doesn’t even know what the big deal was, but he made it one and that’s his thing, right? He makes problems where there aren’t any. He should’ve just smiled when Kris said he knew and kissed him. But no, he didn’t and now it’s one big mess again. He hates his damaged self so much.
“I like boys.” And then it doesn’t even come out the way he wants it to. He sounds like a fucking child. He grunts and slaps one hand in front of his face. “I like you.”
Kris carefully pulls the hand away from Adam’s face so that the younger man can see the smile on his face. So that he can see that he means when he says that he likes Adam too.
This is it. The end. I hope you liked reading it as much as I (most of the time) enjoyed writing it. I've had a major case of writer's block in the middle of this one so I can't believe it's done now.
Make sure to listen to those songs I used in this chapter, they're amazing! (you should be able to just click on the title of the songs)
And last but definitely not least: thank you for every comment and kudos. I appreciate every single one of them. You're the best! Thank you for reading! ♥
That night is the closest Adam comes to music again since his family died. He writes a song. Or parts of a song, or multiple songs, he’s not sure yet. In the end it looks like this, and he’s sure it’s one complete song.
Maybe I’m wrong – or maybe I’m right
Maybe it’s just too late – but this is keeping me awake all night
Maybe say yes – or maybe say no
Maybe I’m just too shy to admit that it’s time to go
We go out on our own
It’s a big bad world outside
Carrying our dreams and all that they mean
trying to make it all worthwhile
or maybe don’t care
Shit, maybe there is no god in the big white cloud up there
maybe live long
or maybe die young
Or maybe live every day like it’s your last day under the sun
We go out on our own
it’s a big bad world outside
Carrying our dreams and all that they mean
Trying to make it worthwhile
(Kodaline - Big Bad World)
He just wrote without thinking, and even though he doesn’t know where the words came from, they resemble perfectly what he feels right now. It’s scary being without his family. It’s scary to care for someone again – realizing that he might lose them again. But he’s trying the best he can to not let previous happenings decide the rest of his life.
And then there’s this, which he has no idea where to go with – but it’s something and he’s proud of it.
You gave me wings and taught me to fly
When I was out there on my own
You gave me wings and brought me to life
and now I need to know
If you wanna fly – Cause I wanna fly
That one makes him cry a little. But maybe that’s his eyes tearing up because it’s 4 am and he’s still awake. He falls asleep with the papers still next to him. First mistake.
Second mistake was picking a fight with Kris (who’d found the lyrics and read them) because he’s saying stupid things.
“I’m not kidding, Adam. This is your songwriting? It’s amazing!”
“You don’t need a fucking songwriter, Kris. You write your own songs. You told me so.”
“I don’t always write them on my own. I often get help from other songwriters. It’s what makes it fun and challenging and diverse.”
Adam can see that. He bites his lips and looks up at Kris through his lashes. “You really like them?”
“Are you kidding me? I love them.” And okay, Adam can’t help but smile a little at that. Kris crouches down in front of him and places his hand on Adam’s thigh. “They’re really, really good.” And this time Adam believes him.
“So that’s a deal, then? I don’t expect you to write songs every week. Just – whenever you want to. It gives you a job, Adam, until you’re ready to find something you want to do yourself.”
“I do want to do this.”
“The job’s yours for as long as you want it, okay?”
Adam needs to think through his ego wanting to say no, you’ve done more than enough already, Kris, because this job is good. It’s amazing. And it takes pressure off for a bit. “So will you – I mean – I guess you will use these, yes?”
Kris smiles and squeezes Adam’s thigh. “I won’t. These are yours. You need to sing these.”
“I’m not –”
Kris can feel another argument coming up if he doesn’t clarify himself soon. He doesn’t give Adam a chance to start freaking out. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Adam smiles. “I like how you’re already anticipating my arguments.”
Kris laughs. “I like that, too.”
He kisses Adam’s scalp and starts breakfast for two.
13 MONTHS LATER
“You feel like getting out of bed, love?” Adam lifts his head to look at Kris and drops it back down on the pillow. Kris doesn’t push him to go down and have breakfast. He probably knows today’s one of those days where he shouldn’t try too hard to get Adam out of bed because it probably isn’t going to happen. Kris says he’s allowed to not be strong sometimes and just lie in bed and cry. Today is definitely going to be one of those days.
Kris does want Adam to eat, though, so he orders breakfast in bed and plucks one of the flowers off the table as decoration once it’s arrived.
Adam smells it long before Kris comes in and can’t help but smile through the tears. He’s very lucky to have found Kris. It’s days like today that remind him. Special dates.
Two years without his family. It’s hard and he aches, but Kris is there for him every single day and that helps. More than a therapist ever could. Kris is his all-in-one therapist/best friend/boyfriend/boss.
There’s not much Kris hasn’t seen or heard him do – except singing. That’s the one thing Adam still can’t do. Not for himself and especially not with other people around. It’s a work in process. He’s come up with melodies and ideas for some lyrics he’s written. Kris is a great help. Sometimes he wishes that Kris would push him a little harder to try, because it would make his parents proud, but he reckons it’s just going to happen one day when he wants to. When he’s fully ready. He still doesn’t plan ahead too much. Kris’s schedule is as far as he plans ahead.
“Hey handsome”, Kris says when he enters the room.
“Hey”, Adam’s tear-filled voice replies.
Adam nods and shrugs. “I’m okay.” And he means it. “Thank you.” He doesn’t mean the breakfast. Kris’s smile tells him he knows and he squeezes Adam’s ankle.
“So”, Kris says when he sits next to Adam on the bed. “You feel like sharing a memory today or do you want to skip it?” It’s something they started on the first anniversary of the accident. Not on purpose. It just happened, and then Kris thought it would help, and Adam could already feel how it helped him to just talk about one memory he had about his parents and his brother, so ever since, whenever they wake up together Adam tells him a story about himself with his parents or his brother (which were mostly about them fighting). He doesn’t always feel like sharing, especially when he already woke up in a gloomy mood.
Today he wants to, and so he gets closer to Kris, who puts a strawberry in Adam’s mouth in the process, and thinks. He’s never short of memories. He has eighteen years to choose from. He just has to decide which one to tell. Sometimes he even uses the family photo albums he took with him from San Diego.
“Can I ask you something first?” Kris nods and wraps his arm around Adam’s middle. “I’ve been thinking lately, and there’s something…” Kris kisses Adam’s jaw. “You think we could go to San Francisco some day?”
Kris looks up in surprise. He can’t believe how strong Adam is sometimes. “Of course! Whenever you want, baby.”
“Well.” Adam plays with a cherry and plops it in Kris’s mouth. “Not yet. Not ready. I want to drive there. Have you drive there, I mean.” Because Adam’s not ready to drive himself yet. He only just got used to being in a car again without freaking out. “But I don’t think I could right now.”
Kris kisses Adam’s cheek at that. “Just let me know when, whether it’s next week or a year from now, just tell me and we’ll go, okay?”
Adam nods and pulls Kris closer. “I love you.”
Kris kisses his lips. “I love you too. I’m so damn proud of you.”
“You think my parents would be happy?” With everything he does he also wonders what his parents would say on the matter.
“I’m sure they always wanted you to be happy and as long as you were, they were too.”
“You make me happy”, Adam says. He’s a big sap sometimes. He admits.
“I hope I always will.”
Adam smiles, and over the past year that smile has changed. It’s become less forced and instead got genuine and reaches his eyes. Kris still remembers the first time Adam’s smile had reached his eyes. He doesn’t think he’ll ever forget. And the way he had jumped Adam (in a loving and caring way really), Adam probably wouldn’t either. But then who forgets the first time they make love, right?
“I love when you laugh with your eyes.”
Adam blushes. “You big sap.”
Kris laughs and so does Adam.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a boy and his laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering. – Nicole Krauss