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S.W.A.K.

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It’s not like he couldn’t pick somebody up if he wanted to. It isn’t like he couldn’t walk into any bar or club- maybe not a sports bar, okay, but within reason- and walk out in under fifteen minutes with a solid thing about to happen.

He’s just… tired.

Everyone looks the same. Everyone sounds the same. It’s like a freaking Twilight Zone episode with clone zombies. Cute zombies, sure, but still, so not what he’s looking for.

He’s too old for this.

No. No, he is not old. He’s just… tired.

So, S.W.A.K. Club it is. He’ll go in, have a drink, look at some pretty boys, and go home.

It’s not like anyone interesting is going to be there.

 

 

 

 

Situated in the bar area, Adam watches the lights go down on the stage. He sees shuffling, then two people running off toward the back, leaving one small-framed man -it’s a gay strip club, it’s not like it’d be a woman, even if the guy does seem to have some cute little girlish hips- teetering awkwardly in the dark.

A flash of a strobe light. Then another. Then a series of them, in sync to some electro beat Adam isn’t familiar with.

With the lights pulsating all around, one beams down right onto Girl Hips. Jerking bits of him in rhythm, the dancer starts getting into the groove of the song, not yet looking up.

He works his way to the front edge of the stage, being quite a tease, working the audience like a pro, which surprises Adam a little, because based on what he’d seen at first, he’d have pegged this guy as only a first or second timer.

The beat stops, taking the lights with them.

In a thunderous boom, the same music begins again, this time heavy and thick, saturating, at the same time the single light is back on the dancer, who rips off the first of his layered tops. Whoops and shouts erupt from the crowd.

That’s one thing Adam doesn’t like about strip clubs: the other people. They get drunk, loud, obnoxious, and they end up puking on Adam’s second-favorite pair of boots. Well, maybe that puking thing only happened once, but the point stands.

He supposes a bawdy crowd is better than a bored one, though, and this particular crowd is certainly not bored.

Adam had turned away to take a sip from his drink, and when he turns back around, he is just in time to witness the petite but well-built dancer take off the second thin layer of shirt, leaving a gauzy, faintly sheer t-shirt to pretend like it’s hiding any of the boy’s body.

Doing something that looks kind of complicated with a horizontal swing-bar, that last upper vestige is removed, flittering to the ground like tissue paper.

 

Oh. Well. That’s interesting.

 

Adam perks up a little. Not everyone can look that delicious under hot, flashing neon lights. Apparently, this boy does not suffer from that particular malediction.

The dancer is really getting into it, now, collecting cash like a pimp, making the growing mob work just as hard as he is.

Fleetingly, the question of what his face looks like crosses Adam’s mind, which makes him realize the boy hasn’t raised his head the whole time. It tipped back once when he was upside down, but it may as well have been a blank space, for all anyone got to see.

Then Adam starts noticing other little oddities. His movements, his reactions- or lack thereof- lead Adam to wonder if maybe the kid’s sleepwalking, the behavior is that strange. Or maybe -oh, gods-- What if they drugged him? There were those two guys at the beginning, and--

 

Oh, hello! Pants came off. Taking a second to fully appreciate the view.

 

Adam thinks maybe he’s over-reacting. He does that sometimes. The boy is probably just tired and has done this a hundred times and is, like, balancing his checkbook in his head or something.

That’s got to be it. Well, probably not the checkbook thing, because if that were the case, what is a genius like that doing stripping? Shouldn’t he be an accountant or an engineer or whatever it is smart, mathy type people do? So, yeah, definitely not the checkbook thing.

Also, he’s back on that swing-pole, so Adam’s higher brain functions have ceased.

 

I could take him home. So many things I’d love to do to him, my gods.

 

No! Adam Lambert, you stop that right now. Stick to the plan. Have a drink, see the pretties, go home. It’s a good plan, a safe plan, an easy plan. Don’t deviate because of a pretty… um, face.

 

Now it’s got Adam curious. Is the guy horribly disfigured? Does he have two noses? Is there a scar of some sort? Scars can be hot. With a body like that, Adam could deal with a little facial aberration. Maybe not the two noses thing, though. Although, there are ways of doing things where he doesn’t have to actually look at the guy’s face.

What is he thinking? No. He said he wasn’t doing this, and he isn’t, so it doesn’t matter how pretty or revolting the kid is. Adam’s betting on pretty, though, in case anyone asks.

 

And then it’s over. The lights go out, and Adam makes a special effort to watch what happens next. The two men, who had helped the boy onto the stage, meet the staggering, confused-looking kid at the back of the runway and lead him away.

Alright, something is definitely wrong.

Adam sighs at himself. Too much curiosity for his own good, isn’t that what they used to say about him in school? Not much has changed. This warrants further investigation, and Adam can’t resist.

Putting on his charm, Adam makes casual conversation with the bartender.

“New kid’s pretty good.”

“Yeah, we’ve pulled in more customers on the weeknights than we used to get since he started. Seems like a nice enough guy, too.”

“That’s unusual?”

“It’s hard to be that pretty and not let it go to your head. Don’t you think?”

The insinuation is unexpected, and puts a bump in Adam’s smoothness, but he recovers quickly.

He smiles, “Ah, flattery will get you everywhere, my friend.”

After a few minutes of busy time, Adam gets the guy’s attention again.

“Hey, do you know if the new guy does any work in the backrooms?”

The backrooms are made for solo interactions- dancers behind mirrored glass windows and personal lap dances, mostly. Adam’s never used one, but he figures if he can get alone in a room with Girl Hips, he’ll be able to solve this mystery.

“I don’t think so. I think he’s just for the stage. Honestly, I rarely see him other than when he’s up there.”

“Does he, um-- This is gonna sound crazy, but does he have a scar on his face or something?”

“Not that I’ve noticed. Why?”

“It’s just, he never looked up. Not once did I get a good look at his face.”

“Yeah, I know, he never does. I guess maybe he’s shy about the crowd, or is really focused, or, I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t like the lights. But, yeah, you’re right, he never looks up. Funny that you noticed that.”

Adam shrugs. “One of those things, I guess.”

It’s vague enough that it can be taken as a perfectly fine answer, while not actually responding at all.

He downs the last of his martini -only one, tonight, he’s driving- nods and waves a ‘thanks’ and ‘goodbye’ to the bar tender, now serving other customers, and heads for the door.

 

It’s December, and since Adam had to move from his beloved LA, where it is never winter, to this god-forsaken place, home to Jack The Ripper Frost, there’s snow on the ground and a chill in the wind that Adam is sure will permanently freeze parts of himself he’s very fond of if he doesn’t get somewhere warm soon. People think he wears leather pants because they’re cool or they make a statement, which, yeah, that’s true, but also because nothing else keeps out the cold.

It’s a still night, clear, and Adam knows it’s going to be icy in the morning. It depresses him that he can read the weather like this, but the thought is quickly dismissed when he notices a car sitting in the parking lot behind the club, the cab lights on, and a man just sitting in the driver’s seat.

Normally, Adam would give the man his privacy, but there’s something familiar about that hair sticking out off to the side, and the shape of those shoulders. The dancer.

He’s just sitting there. It doesn’t look like he’s jacking off, so either he’s texting really intensely, or he’s a narcoleptic, or he’s been killed.

Adam’s intrigue beats out his other sensibilities, and before he’s aware of it, he’s three yards from the kid’s car. There’s no movement from inside, even when Adam walks right up to the driver’s side door.

He tries peeking around to check if there’s blood or if the guy’s eyes are closed, but feels kind of like a creeper doing that, so he taps gently on the window with the pad of his index finger. When there’s no response, he taps a little harder.

Wide, brown eyes burst open and stare up at Adam, a look of confusion and slight panic on what turns out to be a very pretty face.The guy swallows visibly, and rolls his window down.

“Yes?” He asks, tentatively.

“Are you alright?”

The kid stares blankly some more, like he’s translating the words or something. A slow, jerky, obviously untrue nod.

“I- I don’t know how I got here.”

The poor thing sounds scared out of his mind. Also, he sounds southern, and isn’t that just perfect? There isn’t much Adam loves more than a pretty little southern boy.

“What do you mean?”

The kid shakes his head. “I mean, I’m sitting in my car, in the middle of a dark parking lot, and the last thing I remember is it being five thirty and I was getting off of work. I don’t know where I am.”

Adam is having a hard time putting together the pieces of this increasingly strange puzzle, and not just because he thinks his brain is actually starting to get frostbite in spots.

He puts his hands in his jacket pockets. Fingerless gloves: an awesome accessory, unless you live in the North Pole, in which case they’re just finger homicide enablers.

That pretty, scar-free, single-nosed face seems to recognize something. “It’s freezing out there.”

“Yes. Yes, it is,” Adam agrees, genially.

Fuzzy, spiky hair is turned around, and the boy points out more obvious facts. “You’re standing in the cold.”

“Yep.”

“Why?”

“Something didn’t look right over here, so I thought I’d make sure you were okay and not, like, dead or anything.”

 

Probably would have been good to just stop at ‘okay’.

 

“Oh.” He contemplates that. “Well, thank you. That’s- that’s very nice of you.”

“Sure.” Adam shrugs. It really isn’t that big of a deal.

“Um, not to sound rude, but you don’t seem to be okay, and I don’t want to leave you here if you’re having blackouts or something.” More to himself, “I knew something was wrong.”

Surprised, the man in the car says, “You saw me? Before? You know where I was?”

Oh, right, that. “Ye-eah.”

Before he can say any more, the car doors unlock. “Get in. Please. I’ve got to know what I’ve been doing. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I always end up here, and then I end up at home, but the in-betweens are a total blank. Please, help me.”

Like Adam’s gonna turn that down, are you crazy?

Once inside, the kid holds out his hand. “I’m Kris, by the way.”

And we have a name! Although, Adam might still think of him as ‘Girl Hips’ from time to time.

“Adam.”

Kid’s got a good grip. Kris. Kris has a good grip.

“So, how long has this been going on?”

Kris rubs the back of his neck with his palm. “About two weeks, almost three, now. I- What have I been doing? Where am I?”

Adam thinks he probably should approach this delicately. “You’re on Mulholland, off of Bell.”

Still a bit slow, Kris tries to sludge through his brain and make connections. “I have no idea where that is. Oh, wait, is it near that shopping district, over on Shea?”

“Not too far from there, yeah.”

Kris looks around, and Adam can tell he’s wondering what all the neon is about. “You’re- you’re at S.W.A.K. Club.”

“I’m where?”

Of course he doesn’t know the place. Kid’s far too wholesome to actually be a stripper, or even a patron of said establishments.

Normally, Adam isn’t nervous or ashamed of anything he does or anywhere he goes, but for some reason, he’s a tiny bit anxious about telling Kris where Adam first saw him.

“It’s, um, it’s a strip club.”

It was almost worth the embarrassment, Kris’ reaction. The face he makes is quite possibly the cutest thing Adam has ever seen. Huge eyes, shocked, gaping mouth -a very nice mouth that Adam can imagine in all kinds of scenarios, but that’s for a later time- and a whole face that blushes so hard, so quickly, Adam swears he hears it light up like the whoosh of a sudden blaze.

Now it’s Kris’ turn to avoid Adam’s eyes, like he’s the one who’s done something to be shy about.

“Look, you don’t have any reason to be embarrassed, okay? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m here, too, so…”

Kris grins lopsided and appreciative over at Adam, that adorable pink still very firmly in place.

And then, because Adam has a big mouth and no filter, “I kept thinking something was wrong, but there wasn’t- I couldn’t just go up and ask, ya know? Most of the time you seemed fine, except for not looking up the whole time, and how confused you looked when the lights were down. I asked the bartender, actually. He said you’ve never looked up, not any of the times he’s seen you, but didn’t think anything of it, so I figured I was just overreacting, since I tend to do that. Then I saw someone sitting out in a dark parking lot, leaned over, not moving, and I normally wouldn’t have gotten involved, but when I really looked, I recognized your hair, and--”

“You-- Wait. Wait, wait, wait.” Kris holds his hand up, eyes closed, brow furrowed, deep confusion and problem solving etched across his face. Adam bites his lip; worried Kris will think he’s some kind of stalker or something.

 

Shut up, he’s totally not.

 

That pretty mouth opens and closes a few times, sentences and questions aborted before they’re begun. Finally, “You said I’m at a st- a strip club, right?”

 

Poor thing can’t even get the word out.

 

He takes Adam’s nod, and continues on.

“What have I-- Have- have I been-- Am- am I--”

Adam can’t take it. He will not be responsible for this kid having a coronary over one question. “Have you been part of the entertainment?”

There are those big brown eyes again.

“Yes.” Belatedly, “Sorry.” He really isn’t- sorry, that is- but it felt like the thing to say, given the stricken expression that plasters itself all over Kris’ features.

 

His pretty, pretty little features. A modicum of self-control, please. Good gracious.

 

After a few moments, Kris clears his throat. “We-- This is our first time running into each other?”

“Um, yeah, I’m not here very often.”

Adam’s eyes make him think he may have seen actual lightning strike Kris’ head, the way the guy jolts, swinging around to look full on at Adam.

“A-- Y- You’re… not part of the entertainment, are you?” Kris figures it out halfway through speaking, ending with less of a question and more of a resigned confirmation.

Adam can’t help his smile, and fortunately, it seems to put Kris at ease somewhat.

“No. I’m… just visiting.”

Kris chuckles, and then realizes something else. “So, but that means-- Does it mean…?”

Okay, Adam got lost on that last turn, there. “Mean?”

Kris flails, and it’s more freakishly adorable than the face earlier, which Adam did not believe possible.

“I-” Kris lets out a heavy breath. “Okay, I’m just gonna ask this, so don’t get offended or anything, alright?”

“It’s pretty hard to offend me, don’t worry.”

“Did I just strip at a gay club?”

Not expecting Adam to laugh the way he does, Kris jumps and stares at him for a second before joining him. “Yeah, you really did.”

Kris rests his head on his steering wheel, still amused. “Awesome.”

“You kinda were, actually. I mean, I tend to notice odd things that no one else does, like how out of it you seemed, but you had everybody in there trampling each other to get closer to the stage. I bet you made a couple hundred bucks in those few minutes.”

“Seriously?”

Adam sort of smirks, raises an eyebrow, and nods. Kris contemplates this new information. Adam isn’t sure what’s going on in there, but the result is sort of unexpected.

“Hm. Cool.” Off of Adam’s reaction, “You’re laughing again! What?”

“That just really wasn’t the response I would have expected.”

“Well, I suppose I’d be freaking out more if I had been doing this brain-dead stripping, and sucking at it. At least I know I’ll be good on my bills this month.”

“You said you’ve been doing this for three weeks? Let’s say you work four days a week, and the club takes twenty percent of what you make up there, hypothetically. I’m sure my numbers are way off, but go with me on this, cuz if that’s the case, and you consistently score the way you did tonight, then you’d be pulling in close to a grand a week in tips alone.”

Kris’ eyebrows shoot up, and his whole countenance behaves pleased. “You did all that in your head just now?”

Adam shrugs, “I’m not exactly Good Will Hunting or anything.”

They both appear to have either run out of things to say, or have involved themselves in an accidental staring contest, because they’ve caught one another’s eyes and are not looking away.

Adam shakes his head to clear his brain. “Anyway, um, you, uh, you have a problem.”

“Yeah, I’ll say.”

Adam thinks a moment. “Have you taken anything? Sometimes certain drugs can cause blackouts and lost time.”

“I don’t take drugs.”

“Of course you don’t,” Adam mutters under his breath. Why did he even suggest such a thing? “Okay, how about any strange foods or-- Have you pissed anybody off, recently? Cuz I know there’s some interesting substances going around on the black market.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, did you accidentally cut somebody off in traffic and they got your license plate number and have done some kind of wacky voodoo on you?”

Kris stares blankly at Adam, all his features lying level on his face. “Are you joking?”

“Hey, I’ve seen it, man. It sounds cracked, but I’ve seen a guy drop to the floor and do twenty push-ups every time he hears the phrase ‘how are you’.”

“No way,” Kris chuckles, dubious.

“Dead serious. Andy was his name, and he ended up looking like a Mr. America contestant by the time they figured out what was wrong with him and how to fix it.” Adam thinks a second. “He’s a trainer at a gym, now.”

“So, every time I leave work I’m compelled to go strip at a gay club?”

An apologetically clueless face and a shrug are all Adam can provide. “I wish I could be of more help, I really do.”

“Thanks. Me, too.” Kris gives Adam a rueful grin, and something in his eyes sets the pit of Adam’s stomach on fire.

“You know, I- I can ask around, I’m sure I can get a hold of Andy again, I’ve still got his number in my phone. He’ll be able to at least put us on the right track.”

Those brown eyes light up with gratitude. “Really? Man, that would be great. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I’m really not the stripping type, ya know?”

“Yeah, I’m getting that.”

“Oh, I-I hope--”

“I told you, it takes a lot to offend me. Honestly, I don’t think you have it in you.”

“I guess that’s a good thing. Although, sometimes I think I’d like to. Have it in me, I mean.”

Kris’ words make him pause, now that his ears have heard them.

“Um, wh-well, I mean, sometimes I wish I could be more assertive. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll stand up for myself or for someone else if I need to, but I’m one of those people who would let it go if they get cut in front of in line, rather than make a big deal out of it.”

“Huh, and I’m the kind of guy people don’t usually dare cut in front of. Seems like we’d make pretty good shopping buddies.”

Kris smiles, then looks puzzled. “Why wouldn’t they dare?”

Adam leans in a little, like he’s sharing a silly secret. “Well, apparently I come off as intimidating.” He shrugs with his whole body, face and all.

When Kris looks him up and down, Adam is forced to swallow hard and turn away for a moment. Kris notices and quickly stops what he now recognizes as checking his new friend out. Not that it was exactly an unpleasant view or anything, Kris just doesn’t want Adam to feel uncomfortable being ogled by a tiny, damaged southern kid. (If he only knew…)

Kris runs his fingers through his hair, leaving them there as he rests his elbow on the steering wheel, holding his head up and turned toward Adam. A quirked grin finds its way to Kris’ face.

“I can’t imagine what my workmates would think if they saw me right now.”

“At a strip club, at a gay strip club, or outside a gay strip club in your car with a guy?”

Adam smiles at the beginnings of yet another panicked expression on the sweet face he can’t stop staring at.

Taking some pity on the poor little thing, Adam assures him, “It’s just a question, Kris. You have got to calm down.”

He gets a darling blush for his efforts. “Sorry.”

“And stop apologizing; you haven’t done anything wrong.” “So-- um, okay.”

“Better.”

Kris scrunches his face up in the most unbelievably endearing manner, leaning back and raking his hand out of his hair. “Um, all three?”

After a moment of obvious blankness, “The answer to your question. Although, the first two would be more surprising than the last one.”

Adam thinks hard about what he’d said, one eye squinting in the process, and Kris can’t take his eyes off of Adam’s lips; the bottom one being chewed on from the inside. Most of the lip gloss has either worn off or been eaten, and Kris can now make out freckles scattered over them. He wonders where else Adam has freckles.

Finally, “Being seen in a secluded, poorly-lit parking lot of a gay strip club with a guy who looks like me,” because Adam has no delusions as to how he appears to other people, “That’s the least cause for concern from your workmates? What aren’t you telling me, Mr. Kris?”

“Allen.”

“Who’s Allen?”

“Me. It’s my last name. Kristopher Allen.”

“Oh, I see.” Adam draws out the first syllable exaggeratingly. “Well, then, Mr. Allen, are you often found conversing with strange men in the middle of the night in your car?”

“Normally I’d say no, but considering the last few weeks, I really couldn’t tell you.”

If Kris hadn’t said it in the manner in which he did, Adam would have felt bad for being so insensitive and unthinking, but Kris seems to be exceptionally chill about the whole situation. Of course, that checks another box on Adam’s Things I Like In My Boys list. And, yes, he named it that for all of the reasons you’re thinking.

 

A fistful of that hair, knees spreading his wide, deep accent shouting muffled into a mattress… look at those thighs… I bet I could fit my hand all the way around his hipbone… I’d flip him around just in time to watch his face when he-- Oh, crap!

 

Adam rearranges himself, so it looks like he’s just changing sitting positions instead of desperately trying to hide his sudden hard-on.

“I’m sorry, I’m keeping you here, and you probably have work early tomorrow, and you’re being so nice--”

“Hey, what did we just say about saying you’re sorry? And, no, actually, I don’t work until the afternoon tomorrow, and you are far better company than you think, because I have no intentions of leaving until you kick my butt out.”

Kris joins in Adam’s chuckling. “Somehow I don’t see that happening.”

Startled by his admission, Kris’ wide eyes and goldfish mouth stutter out a series of words to try and backpedal or excuse what he feels he shouldn’t have said. Adam lets him trip and cartwheel verbally for a minute before Kris notices the expression on his face. It’s this highly amused smirk, but the kindest Kris has ever seen.

“You are adorable when you freak out, you know that?”

Rolling his eyes at himself and thinking he’s probably going to be permanently stained pink with all the blushing he’s doing, Kris huffs self-deprecatingly. “I keep thinking that there’s no way I could possibly embarrass myself more, and then I come up with something like that and just--”

Adam halts his hand from its automatic course to pat Kris in comfort. “If it makes you feel better, I don’t think you’ve done anything embarrassing at all tonight.”

He mulls it over for a second. “Hm. Yeah, that helps a little. Except for how I still feel like a gigantic doofus. A gigantic, stripping doofus, who can’t keep his mouth under control and say things that are normal instead of accidentally flirtatious and awkward.”

“Aw, honey, I haven’t been able to keep my mouth in check for years. Besides, ‘normal’ and ‘awkward’ are relative. So is ‘flirtatious,’ if you think about it.”

Kris seems to consider this. “So, you don’t think I’ve been flirting with you?”

 

Warning! Warning! Do not answer!

 

“Heh, with my luck, this whole stripping thing would have been some elaborate payback for gay bashing, and you’re about to chloroform me and leave me in the snow to die.”

 

Good job. Saying ‘I wish’ or ‘Please, yes’ or ‘If you are, I must have saved orphans and baby animals from burning buildings in my last life’ would have been very bad.

 

“Oh, no, I’m not- I’d never- I mean, my brother was a cheerleader, so I’ve had friends who are gay since junior high school.”

It’s obvious Kris is about to continue, speaking at a breakneck pace without pausing for breath.

“Kris! It was a joke. I know you’re not that kind of--” And then Kris’ words finish getting processed by Adam’s brain. “Your brother was a cheerleader?”

Kris shrugs, a half-smile easing down the panicked eyebrows. “We had two male cheerleaders in school, both gay, and when my brother and his friend saw how close they got to get with the girls, they signed up for the next tryouts.”

“Ah. Okay, that makes sense. I was having a very strange mental image of a slightly taller, blonde version of you wearing a half-top, a short skirt, and some pom-poms, and that had to stop.”

“Oh, jeez, thanks. Now it’s in my head. Although, we don’t really look alike.”

“No? Too bad for him.”

It just came out. It wasn’t even in a flirtatious tone, but the words just skipped right on out Adam’s mouth, and now it’s his turn to be nervous. Being the dear boy he is, Kris doesn’t seem phased at all. Actually, the expression on his face indicates he may not have even heard Adam.

“Um, are you-- How did you get here?”

“Well, when two people love each other very much, or they get very drunk…”

“Shut up! You know what I mean. Do you, um-”

He’s shy and it’s the cutest thing Adam’s ever seen. He’s getting flirted with -probably- and it could be really awkward, but, ya know, cute, so.

“Do you need a ride home, is what I’m asking.”

Adam smiles, enamored with the fluctuations of Kris’ expressions. “That totally just sounded like a horrible pick-up line, didn’t it? I’m sorry. I’m not- I wouldn’t embarrass myself like that by trying to hit on you. I think I’ve had enough humiliation for one night.”

The cavalier, flippant tone is proof of sincerity, and Adam cannot comprehend how this kid can think Adam wouldn’t throw him in the backseat right now for a round of what could get them arrested if they got caught, and then take him home and do even more to him.

“Oh, that’s um-” What does he even say to that that isn’t ‘assume the position because I’m about to blow you blind’? He decides to avoid that whole topic for now. “That’s really nice of you, to offer that. I’m good with taking the bus, though.”

What? He’s not lying; he’s totally cool with taking a bus. Just because he drove his vintage Cougar here doesn’t mean he’s above accepting a charitable ride home from an attractive stranger.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve been so nice to me, there’s no way I’m letting you get on a scary bus at night all by yourself.”

“Aw, that’s sweet, but I’m a big boy, I can take care of myself.” Adam watches Kris fight his mind on acknowledging the possible double entendre.

“Yes, well, then it’s a selfish thing. I want to know where you live so I can have you help me figure out what the heck is wrong with me.”

“So, what you’re saying is I’ve just earned myself a stalker.”

“Pretty much. But, I’m a stalker who will drive you places, so, there’s some payoff.”

Pretending to consider the offer, Adam can only hold a straight face for so long before Kris’ grin gives Adam one of his own. “Alright, it’s a deal.”

Kris smiles harder, and then draws it into a silly smirk, waggling his eyebrows. “So, Adam… where do you live?” The lascivious drawl is beyond ridiculous, and the two continue to laugh about it as they pull onto the street and toward Adam’s apartment complex.

 

Here’s the thing, though: Adam doesn’t live in an apartment. Adam’s family owns several buildings, including the complex Adam is directing Kris to, now. He may not like deep math, but Adam has an excellent head for business, and has turned his brains and entrepreneurial mindset into quite a lucrative enterprise all his own.

“Let me just text my friend. He lives near me, and he has heat in his place, so--”

“You don’t?”

Adam words his next thought carefully. “Uh, well, this thing happens when certain bills are not paid for certain apartments, where said apartments no longer receive services according to the bills attached.”

“You didn’t pay your heating bill and they shut it off? In the middle of winter?”

“Something like that.”

The apartment Adam has in mind is one that is not being occupied at the moment. They don’t heat rooms not being used; that’s just a waste.

A determined set to Kris’ jaw, the tight line of his lips, and a heavy breath out through his nose indicates Adam has accomplished his goal. It’s hard to date someone when they know you’re wealthy right away. You can never tell if they like you or just the idea of dating someone like you. Plus, Kris seems pretty down to earth, and Adam doesn’t want to intimidate him with the obscene size of his home.

 

It was a graduation present from his parents, it’s not like he could turn it down. Besides, it’s really frickin’ awesome.

 

Kris turns left at a light, while Adam points out the window to the right. “Um, your other right, Kris.”

“I’m not taking you to some ice box, and I’m not having you be forced to impose on your friend in the middle of the night.”

“No, it’s cool, he doesn’t care. We used to date, a long time ago, and we’ve stayed friends. I’d do the same for him. It’s not a big deal.”

Kris doesn’t understand the twist in his gut at the idea of Adam staying the night with an ex after being at a strip club. Why would he care if Adam hooks up with this other guy? Jealousy is a stupid emotion, and completely unnecessary and uncalled for in this situation.

Adam was watching Kris intently to see if any hints of jealousy peeked out, and sure enough, there’s that tiny shift in his shoulders. Excellent.

“I don’t want to pressure you or anything, but it would make me really happy if you’d come home with me.” He pauses. “Crap. That didn’t come out right. Whatever, you know what I mean. Just… stay with me tonight. We can work out what’s wrong with me, and I’ll even make French toast in the morning.”

“Complimentary breakfast? Dude, I’m in! Brad never makes me breakfast.” That is actually true. Brad is kind of a terrible host to Adam, mostly because Adam is so at home with Brad, and vice-versa, that whatever they need, they just get it, no need to bother anybody else about it.

Adam texts Brad, pretending to cancel his request for a sleepover, but really is asking Brad to go pick up his car at S.W.A.K. The ruse works, and Kris fails to hide the pleased smile and relaxation of his hands on the wheel.

 

Conversation goes better than expected, there being a surprising lack of awkward silences and topics. Winding through a cute, well-established neighborhood, Kris pulls into the driveway of a modest duplex.

“Home sweet home?”

“Yep, this is it. I’m on the right, there. A sweet couple in their late 60’s lives on the left. They keep the yard manicured and Joyce is always leaving me plates of cookies or muffins or she’ll bring me my own serving of whatever she’s made for dinner that night. I’ll do their taxes or explain confusing bank statements or legal jargon, I helped them with their wills, and do some of the heavier maintenance work so Bill doesn’t have to. It works out really well.”

“Sounds like it. My neighbors… well, we don’t have a whole lot of interaction, and I like it that way.”

The boys exit the car, and Kris opens the door to his duplex. “Come on in, make yourself at home.” He pauses briefly, about to say something about not taking him up on that invitation if Adam walks around naked at his home, but decides that the whole topic is better left alone.

Adam can see it, though, and it reminds him of something. He isn’t sure if it’s an excellent development, or one that’s going to mess up his night. “Um, I think I’ve found a flaw in our brilliant plan.”

“What’s that?”

“No jammies. Normally I’d just sleep in my clothes, no problem, but have you ever tried sleeping in leather pants?”

Kris pauses. “No, actually I haven’t, but I’ll assume it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world.”

“It’s really not.”

“It’s cool; Daniel’s got a spare set here in case of emergencies. They might be a bit short on you, fair warning.”

“That’s fine. Thank you.”

Wanting to breach the subject gently, Adam aims for casual when he asks, “So, Daniel is your boyfriend?”

Aimed, fired, failed. Okay, so, Adam can’t do easy or casual. Duly noted.

Kris makes a sound that can only be described as a strangled guffaw. “No! My brother.”

“The cheerleader, right. Sorry.”

Exiting the bedroom with a pj set in hand, Kris shrugs -casually, Adam notes- and gives them to Adam. “S’okay. I’m going to have nightmares for a week, thinking about that, but it’s fine,” Kris teases, and Adam is no closer to finding out Kris’ orientation. Screw subtle. Subtle never got Adam anywhere.

From the bathroom, “Are you seeing anyone?” He can almost hear Kris’ raised eyebrow and smirking face. “Just because I don’t want to get the crap beaten out of me if someone decides to surprise you and finds me here.” Thinking about it, Adam continues, “Or get you into trouble. Unless, of course, this is a regular thing for you, the picking up strangers and taking them home like stray puppies.” Kris laughs, and Adam comes out of the bathroom just in time to see those pretty features scrunched up in amusement.

 

No, you are not allowed to nibble those lips, or finger along that ribcage, or shove him against that wall and rut a leg in between his. You don’t even know if he’s gay, for cryin’ out loud. One thing at a time, perv.

 

“Nah, nah, man. You’re safe. No jealously vindictive surprise guests, promise. And, no, this isn’t a regular thing; dude, come on. I might be a zombie stripper, but I’m not a slut.” Kris’ eyes bug on a suddenly stricken face. “Not that I think you are, or anything. I--”

Adam waves him off, chuckling. Kris takes a breath, looking a little lost, suddenly. “Kris? You alright?”

Slow eyes drag their way over to Adam’s face. “Um, yeah. Yeah. Sorry.” He shakes his head, confused but back to normal. Well, normal for an amnesiac zombie, gay-bar stripper.

They meander over to the couch, continuing a conversation they’d had in the car, and before they know it, another hour has passed.

“Oh, jeez, I should let you get to bed.”

“It’s cool, man. It’s kinda nice having someone to talk to, ya know? I mean, I’ve got my neighbors--”

“The old couple.”

“Right. And my family--”

“Who don’t count, sorry.”

“Yeah. And my coworkers are nice and all, but--”

“You don’t have anything in common with most of them, and the ones you can relate to are kinda douchey.”

“Seriously, are you reading my mind or something?”

Adam chuckles. “No, but I’ve been listening, and I’m pretty good at putting things together. You’re not lonely, but you don’t have more than three or four people you’d actually call friends.”

Kris blinks at him a few times. Then his eyes narrow, and he stares at Adam so intensely that it almost makes him uncomfortable. Still, cute boy staring? Never a bad thing. “You’re in charge, or close enough, where you work. You’re used to people taking your orders, and you’re never sure if someone is being nice to you because they want something or because they’re genuine. You tell yourself it doesn’t bother you, because you do have a good core of steady friends, and you like your family, for the most part, but it does. It does bother you, because you feel like you’ve lost something in learning that you can’t trust everyone. It’s sad; your nature is to be open and generous with your emotions, and you’re stuck building walls to protect yourself. You don’t feel safe, though, you just feel trapped.”

Adam gapes, just- mouth hanging open, unhinged, eyes as wide as they can go, unblinking.

Kris smirks, and it’s still adorable. He’s sweet when he finishes, “I listen, too.”

It’s an impulse, pure and simple. Adam’s arm reaches out without any thought on his part, and his hand wraps around the back of Kris’ neck at the base.

He almost does it. It’s such a natural reaction to everything he’s been experiencing, that Adam truly almost forgets himself. At the last second, he remembers, no, Kris is still not kissable, and alters his actions so that he’s only pulling Kris into a hug. One that Kris seems to have absolutely no qualms about, and is actually eager to lengthen and intensify.

 

A cuddle bug. Perfect. If there are divinities in the stars, let him at least be bi-curious, please.

 

Without letting go, Kris starts chuckling into Adam’s shoulder. When Adam tries to pull back and stare at him questioningly, Kris holds on tighter, shifting his face so it’s turned into the dip below Adam’s collarbone.

“Hug slut.”

“Excuse me?”

“My friend, Charles, he dubbed me a ‘hug slut’ because I’m always looking for, like, any opportunity to cozy up to people. I’ve always been really affectionate. Sometimes it kinda freaks people out, so I’ve been learning to, ya know, keep my hands to myself.”

Adam makes an involuntary noise that says he thinks that’s a horrible thing to have to learn, and Kris should have no such reservations with him. Well, the reaching up and petting the back of Kris’ head -those soft, short hairs above his collar and that warm skin of his neck- probably attested more to that last part, but the message got across.

Kris shuffles in closer, and Adam can feel puffs of breath on his neck, wisping down the opening of his shirt. A deep, contented sigh has Adam clearing his throat and bordering on desperate for a distraction. “You know, I was thinking--”

And then Kris lifts his head from Adam’s chest, blinking up at him with huge, sleepy, doe eyes, and curious eyebrows, and whatever Adam was about to pretend he was thinking, dissolves in a hissing rush out of his ears, leaving his brain deflated and thumping limply in time with his heart.

Finishing with a brilliant, “Um,” and a whole lot of imagery behind his eyes, Adam watches Kris’ attention flit between intense blue and soundless pads of freckles.

“Do-” It’s an unintentional whisper. Kris licks his lips and tries again, still quiet, but with actual sound instead of just air, “Do you, um, do you want--”

And at this point, Adam is thinking, ‘Yes. Yes, yes, holy frickin’ gods in all of time and space, yes I want. Whatever it is, I want it. He probably isn’t even-- I doubt he’s offering what my libido is hoping for, but, (1) the boy could be asking if I want to take his pet iguana for a walk, and I’d say yes, and (2) there’s something in Kris’ eyes and demeanor that tells me he’s thinking of a little bit more than friendly cuddling.’

“…Bed.”

 

Okay, maybe not too far off from the libido, after all.

 

Adam refocuses, scrunching his eyebrows at Kris for clarification. “W-What I mean is, um, th-the couch is kinda short, and you’re, well, not. And the bed would be more comfortable, anyway. So, if you want, you can take it.”

 

Oh, you sweet, silly, naïve little thing. Do you have any idea what words you just spoke?

 

“Take…” Just to be clear, you see. There are all sorts of things Adam would love to take right about now.

“The bed.” There’s a flush rising from his chest up, and he’s not letting go of Adam, but he isn’t making much eye contact, either. “I can fit just fine here.”

 

Yes, you do. You fit exceptionally well right here.

Oh-wuh! Stop that!

 

“I don’t want to take your bed from you; that’s not good house guest behavior.”

Kris gets more animated. “Really, it’s cool. I don’t want you to wake up tom-- well, later today, and be all stiff and sore, ya know? That’s not good host behavior.”

The expression Adam can’t keep off his face lets Kris know that him waking up stiff and sore sounds like excellent behavior to him, and Kris blushes deeper crimson.

“Uh, maybe that could have been phrased better.”

Adam laughs. “I think that was awesome phrasing. I mean I see how it is. You invite unsuspecting strangers into your home, luring them with a false sense of security with your shy, adorable, plaid manners, and then you pounce with sneak attack cuddling and offerings of your bed. You play all innocent, and then bam! Poor fools end up chained to your wall and you notch your bedpost. Nope, I totally see where this is going.”

Fortunately, Kris gets the joke, and isn’t offended. In fact, he actually plays along. “Yep. It’s all Southern charm until you get here and I lead you to your doom. Come downstairs with me, pretty boy, come see what I have in my basement.”

Adam gets stuck around the time Kris calls him ‘pretty’, but recovers quickly. “It’s impressive, too, your racketeering. ‘Oh, no, a stripper? Me?’ I almost bought into the whole thing.”

Kris feigns a small, disgruntled pout. “I know. Pushed too hard, too fast. Next time I’ll take it slower. Maybe I’ll make up the couch, first, and then offer the bed.”

Pushed, hard… fast… next time- take it slower. It echoes in Adam’s head, and he knows it’ll be playing on a loop for a while.

“Do a little more sizing up; make a show of it. Good idea.” It comes out much less strangled than Adam was anticipating.

Head-butting Adam in the chest, Kris does the laugh of someone exhausted and giddy.

“Aw.” Adam can’t help it; this kid is frickin’ unreal in his cuteness. He scratches his blunt nails up the back of Kris’ neck, raking through his hair the wrong way, then smoothing back down and settling his palm high in between Kris’ shoulder blades.

“Let’s get you to bed, hm?” Adam whispers after a long moment, and he’s almost expecting Kris to be asleep already.

“Mmm, okay.” He doesn’t argue, his tongue thick and lazy in his mouth, because, yeah, he was seriously falling asleep right there on Adam, and, wow, that could have been humiliating.

They drag their way into Kris’ bedroom, Kris nearly falling down every time he trips over his own stuck-to-the-carpet feet.

There’s a moment where Kris has that same spaced-out, lost look on his face, like he can’t suss out where he is or what he’s doing. Adam figures he’s just really tired from work and all the stripping and being cursed; that probably takes a lot out of a man.

He almost forgets, but while Kris is being tucked in -because there was no way Adam was passing up that opportunity, thank you very much- Adam asks where an extra blanket could be found.

Kris’ eyes shoot open, and he grips Adam’s wrist, a little panicky. “I- I thought you--” Kris shifts his eyes nervously from Adam to the empty side of his bed, and back.

Surprised, “Oh. Oh, you-- But you’re--” He’s shy, but his sleepiness trumps the blush trying to tint Kris’ face. “It’s a big bed; there’s plenty of room, and, as you can see, no chains, so…”

Adam softly rubs the backs of his fingers against the thin inner skin of Kris’ wrist. “Well, I don’t know. Should I be worried for my virtue?”

An edge of something shakes Kris’ voice. “Oh, no, I would never-- Not that you would-- It’s a joke, obviously, I mean, I--”

“Kris. Holy crap, man, get a grip.” Because all the color has drained from Kris’ face, and his eyes won’t focus, and this is more than just being modest. Something is desperately wrong, and Kris is shaking, trembling like he’s a rag doll in the hands of an angry child.

“Kris?” Adam reaches out to him, holding both of his shoulders in an effort to keep him still. “Kris-- God, you’re burning up.”

He isn’t going to ask anything stupid like ‘can you hear me’ or ‘are you okay.’ He had a friend in school who had seizures, so Adam forgets about social norms and manhandles Kris into leaning back onto his own chest.

Snatching the wallet lying on the dresser, Adam shoves it between Kris’ teeth and holds onto the boy, soothing him the way that always helped his friend.

“All around me are familiar faces…”

 

 

 

The next thing Kris remembers, after the gripping panic overwhelming him that Adam might think Kris is masochistic enough to hit on him (of course it has nothing to do with not wanting Adam to leave), is hearing the most ethereal sound, this haunting melody that could charm the stars from the sky.

“…look right through me. And I find it kinda funny, I find it kind of sad- the dreams in which I’m dyin’ are the best I ever had. I find it hard to tell you; I find it hard to take. When people run in circles it’s a very, very… Mad World. Mad world, mad world.”

Kris’ mouth says ‘wow’, but no sound comes out. Senses start coming back online, and Kris realizes he has something thick and leather between his teeth, and his jaw is aching like crazy.

“Kris!” Adam exclaims in a voice barely above a whisper, trying to be gentle with the smaller man between his legs.

Spitting the wallet out into his hand, Kris takes a moment to realign his face and tongue before twisting his head around to look up into Adam’s concerned, expectant features. He will, for the time being -and for the sake of his own sanity- be ignoring his body’s positioning in relation to Adam’s.

“Hey.” Good start, Allen, now maybe some actual words? “What- what happened?”

“I’m not totally sure, to be honest. You started seizing, so I did what I used to do for a friend I had in school who was epileptic. I didn’t know what else--”

“You used to sing to your friend in school?”

Adam blushes, and Kris thinks this may be a first, where Kris isn’t the one turning colors. “Um, yeah. He said it was sort of a grounding force. Like, a tether to link him in between those lapsed moments, or something. He said it was comforting.” Adam shrugs. “Like I said, it was the only thing I knew to do.”

“I’m glad you did. You have an amazing voice. I mean, wow. Really. That song always depressed me, and it’s still sad, but at least the way you sing it, it makes sense, and, like, I-- um.” Kris snaps his mouth shut. “Sorry. I get excited about music.”

And the balance has been restored on the cosmic blushing scale.

“No, that’s- thank you. I, um, I’ve always loved to sing, but in my family, music isn’t really-- It isn’t something considered important, so I was sort of discouraged from pursuing it.”

“That sucks! With a voice like yours, you could be on the radio or doing Broadway or something.”

“Says the man recovering from a seizure of unknown origin.” Adam half-smiles and raises an eyebrow.

“Yeah, okay, there’s that. Still. I think you should look into it; that’s all I’m saying.” Kris signals the end of the discussion.

Kris can feel Adam laugh before he hears it, which is weird, because he doesn’t remember that ever happening before. It’s deep, resonating in Adam’s chest, and sweet as it hits the air. Kris blames the stripping/seizing voodoo thing for his desire to curl up against Adam, snuggle in, and hear him make that sound for the rest of his life. Totally the voodoo.

“What did it feel like?”

 

Um- please tell me I didn’t say that voodoo stuff out loud, oh my good lord.

 

When Kris doesn’t respond, Adam asks again, clarifying. “Right before, I mean. We were talking, and then something flipped in your brain and you started shaking…” Trailing off with a quiver in his voice, Adam blinks hard a few times to clear his mind of the visual memory. “Could you tell something was wrong?”

“Yeah, actually. It was like this shot of adrenaline or something. Like when you get surprised- really, tingly all over, breathlessly surprised- and I couldn’t control it. I remember asking you to--” Kris’ words halt, shyness peeking out. “If you wanted to just share the bed, and then there was a sharp spike in my stomach, and that tingly feeling started in my spine and worked its way through my whole body, and then I’m hearing you own Tears For Fears like it’s your job or religious service, and, yeah, now you’re all caught up.”

Yes, he’s still blaming the voodoo. It is totally not Kris’ fault that the rumble in Adam’s chest feels like the world’s greatest massage; or that Adam is so warm and comfortable, Kris has a hard time thinking of any other position that would feel better. Or that Adam smells incredible to the point where Kris wants to lick his neck.

It must be the stripping curse, too, that forces Kris’ face into the inviting vibrations and makes him inhale, deep and relaxed.

Adam has one arm wrapped loosely around Kris, the other laying against Kris’, but on his own leg. He’s got all that gorgeousness pressed tightly up against him- from head to toe, literally- including the sweet backside, wedged snug against his thinly covered dick. And what is it that makes his stupid heart skip several beats, then try and catch up all in a rush? Kris resting his cheek and taking a breath.

Without warning, Kris starts to chuckle.

“Something funny?”

“Just, I guess I got you into bed after all.”

Adam laughs and jostles Kris good-naturedly, keeping his tighter hold on Kris’ waist afterward. Kris must not notice, because he settles right back down where he was, possibly even more languid than before. It still surprises Adam, though, that Kris is so comfortable with a perfect stranger- especially one -it has to be said- like Adam.

“You are a sneaky one.”

“Mm. Like a ninja.”

Adam scoffs playfully, “A plaid ninja.”

“A plaid, zombie-stripper ninja,” Kris continues, finally feeling sleepy, and wonders if Adam would mind staying just how they are for the rest of the night.

Adam’s laugh is full, real, and somehow takes over Adam’s body momentarily, because all of a sudden, Adam’s got both arms wrapped around Kris in a backwards bear hug, and his face is snuggled into the hair behind the upper part of Kris’ ear. It takes several seconds for him to realize where all of his limbs and such are, and by that time Kris has one hand holding Adam’s arms in place. He isn’t sure what he’s expecting Kris to do, but that is most certainly not one of scenarios that comes readily to mind.

 

Strange behavior from the probably straight boy.

 

Whatever Adam thought Kris might say, too, is way off base. “Y’know, when I was growing up, we had a cousin that would visit, and every time she came over she ended up having these horrible asthma attacks in the middle of the night. Momma would sit with her just like this, all night. I guess this is, like, default position for fixing what ails you.”

“I guess so,” Adam responds after a long moment, breathier and more strained than usual.

“You’re prob’ly not gonna want to stay like this, though.”

Adam can’t tell if it’s an actual question, or if maybe Kris is telling him ‘you can let go now, you handsy person, you.’ He’s also not clear on how accurate his reading is on the disappointment he caught in Kris’ voice; that could really just be wishful thinking or projection or something.

After a cleared throat, “I had bad allergies and asthma as a kid, too, and my Mom would do the same for me. I, uh, I was just trying to keep you from bashing your head against the wall or your nightstand, but, I mean, I’m- I’m in no rush.”

A thoughtful, sleepy sigh escapes Kris. “Cuz, I don’t want you to be uncomfortable--”

“The feeling’s mutual,” And he means it in more ways than one.

“Oh, I’m not.” As if to prove the point, Kris burrows a little deeper into his Adam-shaped back support/pillow. “But I’m not the one stuck between a wall and a hug slut, so.”

Adam huffs a short laugh. “Yeah, cuz that’s such a chore.” He really hadn’t meant to let that out, but the pull of sleep is loosening his tongue even more than usual -gods help him- so on he goes. “Cuddling with the adorable zombie ninja; it’s rough, but I’ll take one for the team.”

“Brave of you. Quite a sacrifice.” Kris is already starting to drift, leaving parts of his sentences behind with his wakefulness.

“It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Kris. The man is- well, he’s going to just be insufferable, isn’t he? Because at this angle, Adam can see most of his profile, and this tiny smile unfolds on perfectly distracting lips, and the hand still holding Adam’s arm in place (wrapped around Kris’ body, in case anyone forgot. Adam hasn’t.), pats said arm.

This humming vibration comes through Kris’ body and echoes in Adam’s. “’S weird. Fleel vrry comft’ble with you, ‘n I don’ ev’n know you. ‘S weird, right?”

It’s quite possibly the cutest three sentences Adam has ever heard spoken by an adult.

Fighting back the majority of a grin, Adam speaks softly to the top of Kris’ ear. “Sometimes people just click. No weirder than anything else, and a whole lot nicer than a lot of things.” Adam isn’t sure he’s making sense, but Kris doesn’t seem to notice, if he isn’t.

There’s an affirmative humming, a readjusting snuggle of Kris’ face on Adam’s chest, and Kris’ thumb moves unconsciously back and forth over Adam’s forearm. It’s not five minutes later that Kris is clearly asleep, and Adam forces himself to relax, turn off his brain, and join Kris.

 

~*~*~*~

 

The next morning, Kris is rudely awakened by a slice of the sun attacking his eyelids, and trying to sear his retinas through them. Also, there’s something immovably hard under his cheek, and his blankets are all… lumpy. Seriously, did he fall asleep in the car, or on a--

 

Oh my God!

 

Kris bolts upright, not looking down at his bed partner.

 

No, no, that’s not what I meant! Not ‘partner’ partner. Just, ya know, sleeping… buddy, person, thing? Oh, my God.

 

He’s wrapped himself around one stupidly long leg, and has been snoring with his face all over this guy’s hipbone.

 

Please tell me I didn’t drool. Ugh, this is just--

 

“G’morn’ng.” A sleep-thick voice interrupts Kris’ mini stroke. Adam rubs the back of his hand over his eyes, and opens them, meeting unfamiliar brown ones that are staring at him like maybe Adam snuck into his bed in the middle of the night. Worried that Kris has had another episode or whatever, and is having memory loss, Adam scoots back against the headboard, pulling his still-asleep legs up in front of him.

Before Kris can start freaking out and calling the cops or something, “Kris. How’d you sleep?”

Kris forces a grin. “Um, pretty- pretty good.” He rubs the sore spot on his face where Adam’s hipbone had dug into him. “You?”

Looking concerned, Adam forgets polite, and goes for answers. “You do remember me, don’t you? I’m not some creeper who broke into your house and snuggled with you, I promise.”

Finally, Kris lets himself smile and relax. “Yeah, man, of course I remember. Though, I’m pretty sure you’re not to blame for the majority of any snuggling. I woke up attached to your leg like a baby howler monkey. You got some bony hips, dude.”

A full, loud laugh resonates from Adam’s belly upward, singing its way out of his mouth. “Aw, thank you,” Adam finally gets out, confusing Kris.

“Oh!” Kris jumps up and out of bed, suddenly remembering, “French toast!” And he rushes off to the kitchen.

“Wow,” Adam mouths to himself, shaking the remaining cobwebs of night from his brain.

“These’re gonna take a bit, so you can shower, if you want,” He calls from the kitchen, clanging and thumping accompanying his voice. “Towels are under the sink; you can just use whatever’s in there.”

That actually does sound like a good idea, so Adam thanks Kris, and commandeers the bathroom.

 

Adam comes out, hair dark and damp, face free of makeup, and Kris’ mindless humming comes to an abrupt end while his brain tries to remind his lungs to do their job. “I, uh, I hope you’re not allergic to anything. Probably should have asked before.” Kris rubs the back of his neck, gesturing for Adam to sit at the tiny kitchen table.

“Nope.” And as Kris sets the plate of divine-smelling breakfast in front of him, “Thank you. Wow, this looks amazing. Where’d you learn to cook?”

“My Momma taught me. She said if I had to rely on a woman to survive, she hadn’t done her job properly.”

Seeing as how that’s especially true for Adam, he goes to comment until he tastes that first bite, and all thought skips merrily out his ears.

There’s a hint of vanilla and cinnamon in the sweet, perfect triangle, and it melts on Adam’s tongue.

Eyes still closed in bliss, Adam moans, “Oh, my god, this is unbelievable.” He blinks heavily and finds Kris with a shy, proud smile on his blushing face. “Seriously, Kristopher, how are you even real? I swear, I’m starting to consider kidnapping you and turning you into my personal chef.”

Kris seems to think this over a moment. “Okay, but can we live here? Cuz I’m not fond of being cold, and your apartment doesn’t have heat.”

Chewing slows to a stop, and Adam’s just staring across the table at Kris. Agreeing with the idea was not one of the reactions for which Adam was prepared.

Apparently, it wasn’t one Kris was expecting, either, if that guppy face he’s making is any indication.

Hoping to relax the mildly freaking out, still probably straight boy, Adam merely chuckles, nods like what Kris said was a perfectly fine, normal response, and goes back to eating. It never crosses his mind that maybe Kris’ reaction to his words was fear of possibly insulting Adam’s residence, and therefore Adam, and had nothing to do with living with a strange man at all.

Adam helps clear the dishes, and Kris shows him where the blow drier is kept, so he can do his hair in the living room while Kris takes his turn in the bathroom. Keeping his mind firmly and resolutely on follicular issues and not on the hot, pocket-sized -heh, hot pocket- man in the shower is a real effort, but somehow Adam pulls through.

It’s almost noon by the time both men are dressed and ready. “Hey, I’d better get you to work.”

Adam looks at the clock on the microwave. “Oh, jeez, yeah.” And he’s a little saddened by the idea that his time with Kris is coming to an end. For now, anyway.

“I hope you won’t get into trouble, if you’re late.”

“Nah. The boss is pretty lenient with me.” Because Adam is the boss.

Kris grabs his keys and jacket by the door, and the two men make their way to Kris’ car. “Mornin’, Bill!” He calls out to the elderly gentleman picking up his paper.

“Good morning, son.” Noticing Adam, Bill blinks a little, then asks, “Who’s your friend?”

Kris smiles, brighter than sunshine. “This is Adam,” he waves Adam over to meet Bill properly. “He’s, uh, he’s gonna try and help me with that thing I was telling you about.”

Adam is a little surprised that Kris has shared his blackouts with his neighbors, but then, he didn’t know he was stripping, before.

Stretching out his hand, Adam gives Bill his most winning smile. “It’s nice to meet you, Bill. Kris told me about you and your wife, Joyce. He says you’re excellent neighbors.”

Bill seems to relax somewhat, and shakes Adam’s hand with gusto. “It’s nice to finally meet a friend of Kristopher’s. Joyce and I were starting to worry about the lad.” He winks at Kris, who rolls his eyes affectionately in return.

“Yes, thank you, Bill. Now, we have to get Adam to work, so…”

“Oh, right, right. Well, you take care of yourself today, Kristopher. It was nice meeting you, Adam.” A fatherly eyeball at Kris and a friendly grin for Adam, and Bill is waving his way back into the house.

“You’re right. Bill is good people,” Adam nods, getting into the car and buckling up. Kris grins triumphantly, putting the car in gear and heading out onto the road.

 

 

 

Kris doesn’t ask, and Adam doesn’t offer, and when they pull up to the office building where Adam has a meeting with a few board members on requisitioning the Copperstone building, the question of what Adam actually does for work is left hanging in the air.

They’d exchanged information earlier, and made a plan to meet at S.W.A.K. Club that night (since Kris was probably going to be there, anyway).

“I guess I’ll see you around ten-thirty,” Adam confirms unnecessarily through the open passenger window.

So he doesn’t want to spend a second less than he possibly can with Kris; big deal. It’s not like the kid’s gotten to him or anything. He’s so far from under Adam’s skin that he’s… you know… not… under Adam’s skin. Crap.

“Not if I see you first.” Cheeky bugger.

“Really? People actually say that?”

“This ‘people’ does. Besides, I’m kind of hoping I do see you first, and that’ll keep me from, um…”

“Losing your shirt?” He teases.

“Shut up, man. Go to work,” Kris dismisses him playfully. “Be good.”

“Oh, baby, you know I will.” He winks salaciously, sauntering off with a seductive swing to his hips, turning around once to wiggle his fingers back at Kris, who is sitting in his seat, trying to pretend he isn’t blushing. Adam sighs as he reaches the huge, glass double doors.

 

So pretty.

 

For the rest of the day, he is distracted and occasionally found smiling dreamily out into space for no discernable reason at all.

 

 

~*~*~*~

 

Stupid meeting. Stupid talking people. Work and people and meetings are all stupid.

 

Adam’s mind grumbles, setting his mouth tight and close to a frown as he leaps from the taxi, giving the driver a hefty tip (and Lord knows what he thought Adam’s reason was for insisting on speed and shortcuts to get to a strip club, but that isn’t anything he’s too concerned about right now).

It’s five minutes to eleven.

Some of the board members took Adam out for a congratulatory meal and drinks after work, which was fine, until they got an emergency text from some lawyer or money managing guy- Adam never pays attention to those kinds of things- saying they had to get back to the office immediately, because some document or other wasn’t right.

Of course.

Of course, when Adam does not have time to deal with crossed i’s and dotted t’s, that’s when something inevitably goes wrong, making him late -late, late, late!- and missing the opportunity to catch Kris and stop him from embarrassing himself. Not that Adam finds him embarrassing in the least. Huh. Actually, this is kind of awesome. Now he gets to watch all that pretty be revealed again, and has a legitimate reason for not being able to stop it.

The music has already started, and the man on stage- Adam squints, trying not to run people over- who is definitely Kris, is less one shirt.

He isn’t buzzed- far from it- but he decides drinking here would be a bad idea. A clear head is vital to his mission.

 

Which is to be watching the crowd, Adam, not the show. Who thought this was a good idea, again?

 

Surreptitiously scanning the rows of tables leading back into the dark and ending at the walls, Adam looks for anyone staring at Kris with something besides just lust. Not that he’s expecting a flashing neon sign that says ‘voodoo drugging villain here’ or anything, but maybe a perversely proud smirk or over-plucked, evilly-arched eyebrows or something. Some steepling fingers, perhaps?

No such luck, thus far.

Plus, his eyes keep being sucked back to the stage, and Adam is starting to wonder if he’s more pissed that someone’s done this to Kris, or grateful beyond comprehension. Seriously, the world is a better place now, and it’s going to be a crime to deprive it of the glory that is Kristopher Allen in a red, faux leather pair of bikini briefs. That lace up the sides. And have little spurs on the ends of the dangling strings. That whip around across pale, delicious skin with every swivel and dip and grind of those ridiculous girl hips.

 

It seems like so long ago that that was all I knew of him. My little Girl Hips. …wait, ‘My’? What the--

 

Kris is being led off stage, and Adam forgets all about his mental misstep, and refocuses on the patrons.

No one particularly suspicious. A few heading to the bathroom, but that’s not unusual. Some are coming up to the bar for refills.

“He is a pretty one, isn’t he?”

Adam looks around and down (which, let’s face it, isn’t that unusual; the guy is frickin’ tall, and he wears heeled boots) for the source of the comment, and finds a model-pretty face smirking up at him. Honestly, Adam wasn’t prepared for the man to be talking to him, specifically, but he doesn’t allow himself to be shaken. Soft-looking, slightly curly, naturally pale blonde hair, a cherubic face featuring brown eyes, petite… were this any other night, Adam might have thoroughly enjoyed the offering being made. But this isn’t any other night, and Kris needs him, so Adam shoves down his libido, and uses the opportunity to dig for information. Maybe someone will be overly interested in their topic of conversation.

“The stripper? Yeah, I’ll say. You know him?” Conversational, non-committal, lightly flirty as is expected in a place like this.

“No, sadly. I could know you, though.” And there it is. It’s so standard, so ordinary, so much like everything Adam was trying to escape last night- the never-ending factory line of pretty zombie boys- and everything about the guy loses whatever shine there may have been.

Adam doesn’t feel regretful- or anything, really- when he replies politely, “Oh, baby, I would, but I’m actually with somebody. Thank you, though.”

The guy gives Adam a slightly rueful grin and a one-shoulder shrug, “No harm, no foul. Gotta ask, though, where is he, and why are you here?”

A strange sort of-- not pride, per-se, but something… possessive? It’s like being proud of a favorite musician or athlete for winning an award; you didn’t do anything, but you’re proud to be their fan, and happy for them, for their victory and moment of joy. Yeah, Adam’s got a lot of things going on inside him right now, so. Anyway.

This whatever-it-is swells up, warming Adam’s chest, “Actually, he’s the guy who was just on stage.”

He seems impressed. “Really? Well, nicely done, then,” the guy replies enthusiastically, surprisingly genuine.

Adam laughs, but that warmth turns to a hollow ache in the center, because he knows Kris is as unattainable as one of those celebrities, and anything more is just fanciful dreaming. “Yeah, I got lucky.”

“Indeed. Now it’s my turn to get lucky,” the blonde says with a wink, and sashays off into the crowd.

Checking the club one more time, Adam officially deems it a bust, and heads for the employee’s exit to meet Kris.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Okay, Adam’s been standing out here for a solid ten minutes, where is he? It’s frickin’ cold out here, man! Another dancer leaves, and Adam grabs the door before it locks him out, sneaking into the backstage area to look for Kris.

“Kris?” He calls in the locker/dressing room.

Down the hall a little ways, there’s an inlet and the bathrooms, and that’s where Adam spots him. Back pressed against the dingy wall, limbs tense but eyes unseeing, and it’s clear to Adam even from this far away that something isn’t right with him. The taller man keeping Kris in that unhappy position, though, doesn’t seem to care so much about how Kris is feeling, and is starting to look more like he’s getting ticked off at Kris’ non-responsiveness, and, yeah, that’s a hand. On Kris. On Kris’ person, whom Adam can’t stop his primal brain from calling Adam’s ‘person,’ and as generous as Adam can be, he does not share his persons. Certainly not with creeps like this.

“Is there something with which you need assistance?” Adam growls, insinuating himself between Kris and his company.

The guy backs up, twitchy and ready to fight, and spouts some nonsense that roughly translates into, ‘no’ and ‘who are you?’ but far less succinct or complementary.

“Why don’t you go procure for yourself some other source of entertainment? That might be the wiser course of action.” Oh, how Adam loves to speak using big words and pleasant, mannerly phrasing when insulting people. It just makes him happy.

Turning to check on Kris, he gently lifts the face of the boy with the fragile psyche, palming one cheek, and smiling down softly, unconsciously.

“Hey, you. Let’s get you to the car.” And even though Adam is pretty sure Kris doesn’t totally know what’s happening, it does wonders for more than just his ego when Kris easily moves off of the wall, and leans into Adam’s waiting arm.

“Wait a second,” Angry Drunk Man paws sloppily at Adam’s shoulder, blocking their way out. “Why do you get to walk out with him?”

It comes so reflexively, that Adam will swear to his grave that his mouth worked completely separated from any of his thinking faculties, “Because I’m his boyfriend, you douche! Now move, or I’ll make you move.”

The words don’t even register until he’s got Kris in the car, much like their first encounter -was that seriously only twenty-four hours ago?- and is waiting for him to snap out of his daze. Then, he just prays the memory loss covers him.

 

“Ad’m?” Kris’ sleepy-slurred voice finally makes an appearance.

“Hey, you,” Adam repeats.

“Were you singin’?”

Adam actually has to stop and think. “Probably. Must’a been.” But that’s unimportant, “How’re you feeling?” And he isn’t able to hold back his hand from brushing the errant, messy bangs off of Kris’ forehead.

Of course, Kris smiles and sort of hums at the touch, blinking heavily before focusing on Adam, “Tired. Did I…?” He looks around, seeing the club, then the time on the clock.

“Stupid meeting ran late, so I didn’t get here in time to stop you. Sorry.” He is, if only for Kris’ sake.

“’sokay, man, thanks for tryin’. Well, you ready to get outta here? I got out of work early, so I picked up some groceries- non-perishable stuff-, but I don’t even remember getting them in the car.” He checks behind his seat, and at seeing the bags there, is glad that at least that much worked out. “Dude, I don’t know about you, but I am starving. I guess, in my line of work, you really work up an appetite.” The sly, cheeky expression Kris throws Adam is as unexpected as it is a thing of real beauty.

Kris goes on about what he’s planning on eating when he gets home, ignoring Adam’s quietly questioning, “Uh, Kris?”

When Adam repeats himself, louder, as they pull up to the stop where their directions diverge, Kris barely stops his rhetoric enough to say, “Shut up, Adam, you’re coming home with me, and we’re going to eat dinner, and go to sleep, and in the morning, I’ll take you to your place for fresh clothes, and that’s just how it’s going to be.” And then he’s right back where he left off, talking about potatoes au gratin.

Later, while Kris isn’t paying attention, Adam texts Brad.

need a big favor

oh god what now?

need u 2 put some of my clothes in 14b, remember? Like before? and no heat

There’s a long pause in between.

r u 4 srs rn?

yeah. by morning please

who is this guy??

WTF?

must be a guy if ur pulling out 14b. I demand pics!

not like that!

Well, it sort of-- No, it isn’t, Adam can’t delude himself. Even though it could be. Some day. Maybe when Kris isn’t under a black market stripping curse.

I DON’T CARE, pics!

Adam sighs long-sufferingly, and sneaks a photo of Kris in the kitchen. It’s purposely dark, fuzzy, and indistinguishable from those claiming to have captured Big Foot.

u suck. Is the blunt reply. does he?? ;P

shut up. udk what ur talking about, ok? r u gonna help or not? I can call cass if ur gonna be stubborn about it

*SIGH* idk why I put up w u. FINE. 14b- consider it done.

A minute later, but if anything good happens, PICS, BCH!

Adam lets out a laugh, drawing Kris’ curiosity. “My ex,” Adam explains. “He’s just funny sometimes.” Changing the subject, “So, how’re those potatoes looking?” And he gets up to ‘help’, which is pretty much just standing behind Kris and watching him do all the work.

This is also the safer option. What? People do the cooking for him, and always have, okay? “Oh! I got a hold of Andy’s girlfriend at lunch today.” Well, technically his assistant did, but that isn’t important.

“Andy…” Kris searches his memory banks for the name. “The guy who was, uh, the- the guy who was like me?”

“Yeah. It turns out, I had it wrong. Apparently, you can’t just go around cursing people; you have to be able to get close enough to them or something of theirs, and dose them that way. There’s a whole list of synthetic drugs and chemicals mixed together that practically require a PhD to pronounce, but they’re each formulated for whatever the specific target may be. I think there’s a base drug, and then they’re adapted to fit the person and action of choice. He’d be able to explain it way better than I can, if you’re interested.”

Shaking his head in a ‘maybe later’ gesture, Kris says, “How did he get rid of it? Hey, who was poisoning him, anyway?”

“Workmate who wanted Andy’s job, but wasn’t as good, so he had to cheat. Joke’s on him, though; that division of the company was outsourced six months later, and Andy’s rolling in piles of cash with his gym. Charlie had to go, but said we could come over to their place for dinner tomorrow night, which I thought worked out well, since it’s your day off, and you said you don’t have your blackouts on those days.”

Realizing maybe he shouldn’t have accepted on Kris’ behalf, or even insinuated himself into the arrangements, Adam tries to backtrack and apologize. Kris shuts him down immediately. It’s amazing how they can read each other’s expressions so well, so soon. It almost feels like they’ve known one another their whole lives.

Although, Adam totally would have made major moves on Kris by now, were that the case. If they’d met when Adam was a kid, or even a teenager, who knows where they’d be now. Still friends? Awkward acquaintances? Married, with a dog? They’d have rescued it from the shelter, of course, and it would sleep at the foot of their bed.

“Earth to Adam,” Kris repeats, waving his hand in front of Adam’s face, which had traveled with Adam’s brain to that lovely fantasy place. “Where did you just go?”

“Animal shelter.” It isn’t a complete lie.

Kris scrunches his face, “O-kay, then. I guess we all have our happy places.”

He wants so badly to tell Kris everything that goes on in his head, and he doesn’t even know why. Trying to make up for the fibs he’s forced to tell, “No, I was just thinking, ya know, Andy and Charlotte are getting married next month, and they’re younger than I am. I guess-- I don’t know, I guess I was thinking that, when I was a little kid, I dreamed of what my life would be like when I was twenty, twenty-five, thirty, you know? I always expected to be married and settled and everything, and I- I don’t have any of that, really.” Adam shrugs, pulling himself back from that unhappy, endlessly dark part of himself that he put away years ago.

“Hey,” Kris is closer than Adam remembers him being, and he’s got a comforting, supportive hand on Adam’s shoulder. “You have plenty of time, man. You can’t even be thirty yet, and it’s not like life really starts until then, anyway. That’s what my Pop told me, at least. How exactly do you get ‘animal shelter’ from that, though?”

Adam smiles, “There was always a dog. An awesome dog that we rescue, and it sleeps at the foot of our bed.”

“Sounds nice. What type of dog?” Kris plies him with questions until Adam’s mood lifts, and they’re laughing themselves sick on the couch.

 

 

 

The next day, Adam directs Kris to a sparsely furnished but eclectically (if cheaply) stylish apartment in an older, moderately well maintained neighborhood. Still anxious, wondering if Brad got everything done in time- or, Ra forbid, might still be there- Adam swallows, apologizes for the mess like everyone does when company comes over, and opens the door. And then silently makes a mental note to buy Brad a weekend spa excursion. Or a pony.

“Are you-- Do you live here by yourself?” Kris aims for nonchalant, but isn’t nearly as casual-sounding as he usually is.

“Um, I live alone, yeah. Why?”

Careful wording is necessary; he never wants to flat out lie to Kris. Although, Kris might not see it that way when the whole truth finally comes out.

“No reason,” Kris is quick to blurt out in a high-pitched hurry. “Just… wanted to make sure we weren’t going to, uh, disturb anybody or anything.”

Lame, Kristopher. So, so lame, he berates himself.

Adam hides his smirk by turning his back. “Nope, just me. I thought about getting a pet, but I hate seeing people do that, only to ignore them. Maybe a fish at some point, but I’m still sort of melancholy over losing my last one, so,” He peeks a wry face out of his door, which is only mostly closed for the optimum privacy and conversing combination. “I’m very fragile, you know.”

“You are a delicate flower,” Kris confirms deadpan, unabashedly exploring the place.

A fresh set of clothes do make Adam feel about a hundred times better, plus he now gets to show off his amazing… jeans. The fact that they mold to him like a second skin and make his legs look about a frickin’ mile long, especially with these boots, and that the belt and accompanying buckle are strategically situated and, shall we say, captivating-- that’s all just marvelous coincidence.

Sweeping out of the room with the air of someone in a slight rush, who has not put hours of thought and effort into how they look, Adam goes to the hall closet and pulls out his understatedly sexy leather jacket.

He keeps two spare suits in his office as backup for emergencies, so he’ll just change into one when he gets to work, and then change out again before he meets up with Kris.

Kris does a double take, but hides it well when he turns from studying the little collage of pictures on the wall and gets a look at Adam.

“They let you work in those… boots?” Kris catches himself. Seriously, though, those jeans. Did he just spray paint them on? Which of course gives Kris the mental image of Adam in nothing but body paint, and he becomes enthralled with something that is, uh, not that, though Kris couldn’t tell you what his eyes were actually seeing at this particular moment.

Adam is not fooled, but doesn’t know the extent to which Kris’ mind has gone, which is probably a good thing, to be honest.

He gives Kris a wide grin, “There’s no real dress code, so as long as I do my work properly, and don’t interfere with others doing the same, I can wear whatever footwear I like.” Thinking a moment, “Although they do frown upon stilettos for some reason.”

Kris’ face does something complicated, and it reminds Adam of the way he moves on stage. “Well,” he replies slowly, “Stilettos can be, um, dangerous. And you’re already tall, so maybe they’re worried about neck injuries from people looking up to talk to you.” A small smirk, “Or those caused by whiplash from seeing a rock star in stripper heels walking around the building.”

The laugh surprised out of Adam is loud, real, and Kris wants to hear it all the time, forever.

 

~*~*~*~

 

He’s a little nervous, but doesn’t let it show (he doesn’t think), as the two of them stand on the doorstep of Adam’s friends.

Kris’ friendly smile freezes when the door opens and Michael Clark Duncan’s body double is hulking in the doorway. But, it’s Adam’s friend, so he must not want to grind their bones into a fine powder and use their vitreous as jelly.

“Adam,” the man intones solemnly, nodding once. Adam repeats the process and, yeah, that’s not making Kris any more comfortable.

Dark eyes land on Kris. “This him?”

Adam nods. Kris gulps.

A huge, meaty paw of a hand extends toward Kris, and he struggles mightily against every instinct saying to shrink into a hermit crab and scuttle away as fast as hermitly possible.

Two round eyes under fluffy hair is about all that’s left visible after Kris’ automatic reaction of disappearing, but somehow a hand that refuses to tremble meets Andy’s between them.

“Hi, Kris Allen, nice to meet you.” It comes out clear and strong and not at all something that could possibly be interpreted by some as anything comparable to the real life, vaguely manly version of the sound ‘meep.’ Though the noise made when Kris’ entire hand is swallowed by Andy’s- that’s better left ignored.

Before Kris can completely humiliate himself, a tiny spitfire of a girl hip-checks Andy out of the way. “Oh, stop terrorizing the poor boy.” Her thick Creole accent feels like butter melting on homemade cornbread to Kris.

From far above, a dramatically put-upon sigh blows, “Why you always gotta ruin my fun? I have so little joy these days…”

Their smiles and the adoring way she smacks him on the arm tell Kris two things: the pale brunette who probably weighs 110lbs soaking wet is Charlie, Andy’s fiancé; and Kris is a giant loser for buying into the whole scary, intimidating body builder trick. In his defense, however, Adam was playing along very convincingly.

 

Yes, that was profoundly weak, Kristopher, shut up.

 

“And he’s so polite, too! Adam, shame on you, treating your new friend that way.” Charlie goes over and threads her arm through Kris’, “Come on, cherie, let’s go inside and leave these naughty boys to think about what they’ve done.”

Kris smiles at her, liking her instantly. “I’m Charline, by the way, but ev’rybody calls me Charlie.”

“Kristopher, with a ‘K’, but ev’ryone calls me Kris.”

Charlie beams at him, closing the door while Adam and Andy stand on the icy porch. A few seconds pass, then they ease open the door and sneak inside.

Charlie and Kris are already in the kitchen getting drinks when the two semi-frozen men shiver through the alcove, hopeful looks on their faces.

“You boys learn your lesson?” After their sincere nods, “Well, alright. Now, pay your toll.”

Andy automatically bends down and kisses her cheek, and Adam does the same to the other side.

“That’s right,” she commends, and then Kris is handing them both their drinks.

Charlie smirks at Kris, “See, ev’ryone takes one look at the big fella here and assumes he’s in control.” Three heads shake a definite no.

“They also think I’m the mean, scary one.” Another trio of head shakes, Charlie looking proud.

Kris can’t help but laugh. He can’t quite understand the expression on Adam’s face, but it looks like a happy one, so Kris isn’t too concerned.

“Okay, boys, go set the table,” Charlie commands, and they all hurry right to work. “Oh, not you, shâ,” she says to Kris. “You come sit down here with me and we’ll get to know each other better.”

“I don’t mind helping--”

“Aw, it’s so cute when they’re new and actually try to argue with me,” she says in the voice used on small children and animals.

The glance at Adam while he’s being drug into the living room shows the same fondly indulgent look on his face. It’s possible there’s also something akin to, well, to the look Charlie and Andy give each other, honestly, but that makes less than no sense, and maybe Kris needs to slow down on the alcohol.

 

After dinner…

“So, the first thing you need to know is, it’s not a curse. You aren’t bewitched; that’s all nonsense.”

Andy focuses on Kris so he doesn’t have to see the look Charlie sends him. Before she can go into a rhetoric about her great-aunt Nanee, Adam distracts her with a gesture and face that say he wants to talk to her about something out of the others’ earshot. Pointing a finger at Andy, playfully serious, Charlie takes Adam into the den.

“This is science, okay?” Andy continues, “So you won’t have to eat any newt eyes, or boil puppy ears or something. There are no naked dances in the moonlight.”

“Oh, thank God. I do enough naked dancing thanks to this… whatever it is,” Kris interjects.

“What, if you don’t mind me asking, is it that you’re forced to do?”

Kris is a little surprised, “I thought Adam--”

“One thing you’ll learn about Adam, he may not be able to keep any of his own secrets, but he’s got the loyalty of a mama bear to her cub. Even if I’d asked, he wouldn’t have told me, because it isn’t his to tell.”

Kris can see how fond- and protective- Andy is of Adam. He figures it’s just a side effect of spending time with the man. Kris has known Adam less than two days, and already he’d do about anything for him.

Taking that in, Kris nods, “Huh. Alright, well, uh, yeah, the, uh-- Um, on my work days, I get these weird blackouts between the time I leave work and hours later when I get home. I might never have figured it out, but Adam saw me the other night, and checked to make sure I was okay. Turns out, I’ve been, uh, I’ve been at the, um,” Come on, Kris, spit it out! “I’ve been at S.W.A.K. club?” That was not a question.

To his credit, Andy doesn’t react like it’s any big deal at all; just nods encouragingly. “I’ll assume that you’re not blackout bartending.”

“Not so much,” Kris mumbles, flushing pink to the tip of his nose. “Like I told Adam, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m really not a stripper kind of guy.”

That gets a reaction, “It wouldn’t be a big deal?”

Kris shrugs, “Apparently, I do alright; enough to make a couple hundred bucks a night. Can’t say I’ve got a problem with that.”

Andy’s shaking his head in wonder, “You really are somethin’ else, kid. No wonder Adam likes you so much.” That last part was said in the kind of off-hand manner that bespeaks genuine and obvious truth.

More blushing. Maybe Kris should see a doctor, because this cannot be healthy. “Yeah, Adam’s- Adam’s really nice. He’s been great. He even went to the club last night to try and stop me--”

“Wait, he tried to stop you from stripping?”

“Well, I asked him to.” Kris feels like he’s being scolded, but he wants to make sure he doesn’t get Adam in trouble, too.

“And he couldn’t.”

“He had to work late and didn’t get there in time. He was there when I woke up, though.”

“Good. I mean, it’s good that he didn’t try to stop you. That would have been dangerous for both of you.”

“What do you mean?” Dangerous? Kris definitely doesn’t want to be putting Adam in danger.

“I almost broke my friend’s arm when he tried to keep me from dropping into the push-ups. The scary part is, I don’t remember any of it; people told me later what had happened. I know Adam’s a big guy, but there’s something that happens when we’re tranced that I can’t explain, but it’s a bit like sleepwalking and a mother lifting a car to save her child, combined.”

“Is it weird that I actually understand that?”

“Probably,” Andy shrugs, “But we’re all a little mad here.”

 

Meanwhile, in the den…

“Oh, Adam, you sure picked yourself a cute one,” Is the first thing out of Charlie’s mouth. “Tell me everything!”

Adam, the worrier, turns around to make sure Kris didn’t hear her.

“There is nothing to tell,” He bites out in a whisper. “I haven’t ‘picked’ anything. It’s not like that.” He does well in keeping the undercurrent of disappointment out of his voice.

“Aw, cherie,” She sits on the couch, pats the cushion next to her, and then perches her legs over his when he sits down. “Now that you’ve said your little disclaimer… tell me.”

Sighing with slight exasperation, “Really, Charlie, it’s-- I’m pretty sure he’s straight, actually--”

Charlie snorts with skeptical derision, “Yes, he spent the entire evening glued to your every word and action because he has absolutely no interest in you whatsoever. Either you’re fou delusional, doucement- which I know you’re not, or you’re being entêté, refusing to let yourself see it.” Studying him with eerily perceptive eyes, “What’re you afraid of, sugar?”

Adam fidgets with his answer for some time, finally deciding that keeping it in isn’t healthy. “Scaring him. Doing something stupid. Ruining something that could be epically awesome. Clowns. Being eaten by a shark. You.”

She digs her toes into his side and thigh for that. “What could you do that would ruin things?”

Sighing heavily, he begrudges more spilled secrets, “I can be sort of,” he gestures wildly, “you know? He’s been really cool so far, about everything, but I get the feeling that if he were ever to freak out, like, the San Andreas Fault would explode or something, and I don’t want to be the reason a state cracks in half.”

Taking that, Charlie deduces, “You’re afraid that if you’re totally yourself, bèl gason won’t like you anymore.”

He glowers at her, “Stop being insightful and stuff.”

“Baby, have you ever known anyone to get to know you, and have them freak out?”

Adam starts to enumerate the list, when Charlie continues, “I mean, anyone merite; you know what I’m saying.”

At Adam’s continued silence, “Is this about Brad?”

“What? No! No, I am--”

“Not that, Adam, I mean because of how things turned out, are you afraid of-- Are you trakase, ah, worried that if you get close to Kris, you’ll end up the same way?”

“You’re creepy, do you know that?” Adam informs her.

“I get it from my Nanee; I’ll be sure to let her know, she’ll be very proud.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

“You were right, they are a really cool couple,” Kris confirms before sticking his toothbrush in his mouth.

“Right? They’ve been friends of mine for years. Well, I knew Charlie first, but when she introduced me to Andy, it was like I’d known him just as long.” Adam sits on the bed, taking off his shoes, facing the open bathroom door. “Was Andy helpful? Are you understanding what’s happening any better?”

Kris sends Adam a face, spits and rinses, then asks, “Are you a dental hygienist or something?” He continues, grumbling teasingly, “Asking people questions when they’ve got stuff in their mouth. It’s rude, is what it is.”

Laughing and being completely unable to keep the silly fondness from his expression, “My humblest apologies, sir. It shan’t happen again.”

“Yes, well,” Kris sniffs with faux superiority, “See that it doesn’t. Shan’t-nt.”

It’s like watching a couple of teenage girls, honestly, with all the giggling they do.

Before Kris has the opportunity to breach the topic of preferred sides of the bed -awkward!- his cell phone rings to the tune of something Adam can’t name but recognizes as a Taylor Swift song.

“Oh,” Kris blinks around confusedly, then locates his phone on his dresser. “Hello?” He asks, checking the clock.

“Ohmigosh, I just realized what time it is, there. I didn’t wake you, did I?” A soft, familiar voice comes quickly through the earpiece.

“Nah, I just got in, actually. What’s up; is everything okay?”

There’s a sort of ease to Kris’ demeanor that Adam hasn’t seen, and he figures it must be someone from back home. The spare thought of it being someone Adam should maybe worry about in a ‘Kris’ relationship’ kind of way only troubles him for a minute, but is gone halfway through the brushing of his teeth.

“Yeah, everything’s fine, just checking in on my favorite boy. How’s life in the wilds of the city?”

“Not too bad. Work’s good, my place is good…”

“And friends? You’re making friends, too?”

Kris scoffs, “Yes, mom, I’ve been playing nice with the other kids.”

“Hey, now!” There’s laughter in the faux-offense.

“Well! But, yeah, everything’s- everything’s going really good--”

“Really well,” Adam corrects automatically from the bathroom, then makes an apologetic face.

Kris grins, “Right- really well. Thank you,” he corrects himself.

“Oh, are-- do you have, um-- is someone there, Kris?” She sounds nervous and excited in equal measures, like she doesn’t want to be interrupting, but is a little over-invested in Kris’ social life and can’t help herself.

He isn’t sure what to say, at first. It’s not like he’s got a date happening or anything, but he does have company, and it is Adam, so maybe… but then, does Adam think-- like, if he said ‘yes’, would Adam get freaked out because Kris considers him a ‘someone’? Would Adam think Kris was making him stay at his place just because of the attraction? But what if Kris says he has ‘a friend’ over, and Adam assumes that that’s all Kris sees him as, which would bring up a whole new list of issues? Or what if--

“Kris?”

“Yeah? Oh, uh, yeah. Yeah, I’m um--”

“Kris! Why didn’t you say something? I don’t know how you are living without me, I swear. You do not invite someone over, and then talk on the phone! Go back to, ya know, whatever you were doing, or going to do, or whatever, and stop wasting time with me. Good lord. Oh! And be safe, okay?” He can almost hear her finger wagging at him. As a parting comment, “And remember: I want details!”

And then, much as she had begun the conversation (without the traditional salutations), she abruptly ends it by hanging up.

Staring at the dial tone for a few seconds, Kris finally presses ‘End’, and puts the phone on its charger.

“So. Who was that?” Adam, King of the segue.

“Uh, my, uh,” Kris shakes his head slightly to clear the lingering confusion, then focuses on Adam. “Katy. Her name is Katy; we grew up together. She moved to California to pursue acting about a year ago. We keep in touch.”

This gives Adam no useful, pertinent information. “Ex-girlfriend?” He ventures.

Startled, Kris boggles and stutters a bit. “How did you know?”

Adam shrugs, “You had that vibe.”

“The ex-girlfriend vibe?”

“Yeah, you know, the ‘comfortable, big history, past the drama and into the cool after-relationship area’ vibe.”

“That’s quite a vibe.”

A smile, “Well, I’ve got one of them, myself, so I recognize it. So, tell me about her; what’s she like?” Normally he wouldn’t want to know, and wouldn’t care, but he’s curious as to what draws Kris.

Not for any reason, just pure curiosity. About a new friend. With an ex- -cringe- -girlfriend. Oh, this is going to be sucktastic, isn’t it?

 

~*~*~*~

 

Kris gets a text from Katy around ten o’clock the next morning: Call me at lunch. He’s a little nervous about doing so because he knows she can get excitable, but, seriously, what the heck was that last night?

“Tell me everything!” Is the first thing out of her mouth. No ‘hello’ or other sort of normal greeting, just a giddy demand.

“Hello to you, too, Katy. Why, yes, my day is going well, thank you.”

“Oh, hush. We a so past niceties, Kristopher. Come on, you’re killing me! I could hardly sleep; I’ve been waiting to hear all about your night. Who is he? What’s his name? Where’d you meet him? Ooh- do you have a picture? I bet he’s hot. He sounded hot. Is he hot? Kris, speak!”

“Woof,” comes the humorless reply. “I can honestly say that I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Katy sighs long-sufferingly, “The guy, Kris. Last night? The one in your house? The grammatically correct one? Stop wasting time, Allen.”

“Adam?” Kris is clearly confused, but the moment he says Adam’s name it all starts falling into place. Ignoring the brief, poorly hidden squeal on the other end of the line, “No, Katy, I- I wasn’t on-- He wasn’t over for… that.” Darn it all, anyway. “Adam’s just--” Just a friend? Just helping me figure out who cursed me into stripping at a gay bar? Just this supremely hot guy who sleeps in my bed, and sings to me, and makes me laugh, and who is generally amazing and wonderful in, like, every possible way, except for how he doesn’t seem at all interested in me for anything more than friendship?

“Just…” Katy prompts, drawing the word out, smirk evident in her voice.

Somehow that makes Kris sharply, irrationally angry. “This isn’t a fairy tale, Katy. I did not come here on some quest, you are not my fairy godmother, Adam is not my knight in shining armor, and we are not going to ride off into the sunset together!”

Katy tries to interrupt, softly, “Kris--”

He will have none of it. “No, Katy, listen to me, this is my life, okay?” Calmer, and more to himself than directly at her, “This is why I didn’t want to tell you about the whole gay thing. I know how you get, and--”

And Katy’s had about enough listening, thanks very much. “How I get? You mean excited for my best friend to finally be doing something for himself? To be living his own life? To maybe find someone to be happy with? Yeah, crazy me; I can’t believe you’d tell me anything.” The sarcasm and hurt is thick in the abruptly not so sweet or quiet voice. “You know what, forget it. I’m too mad to-- Why don’t you call me when you’ve decided to have a grown-up phone conversation.”

“Kate-” But she’s already gone. Kris doesn’t throw his phone into the street, but it’s a very close thing.

He doesn’t know what makes him do it, but by the time his brain catches up to the present, the phone is already ringing.

“Hello?”

 

Oh my god, what did I just do?

 

“H-he-” Kris clears his throat. “Hello, Adam?” His voice is still far more choked than it has any right being.
Adam’s whole vibe changes. “Kris? Hey, what’s going on; are you okay?” It’s friendly and concerned and Kris just wants to roll himself into it like the world’s most comfortable couch.

“Uh, yeah, I just uh,” Kris shakes his head, trying to think of any kind of valid reason to have called Adam in the middle of the day.

“Kris?” The background noise disappears, and now Adam sounds on the verge of worried. “Kris, where are you?”

“I’m uh, no, I’m- I’m at work; I’m on my lunch break.” Kris can feel the tension ease from Adam’s grip on the phone, although not completely from his breathing, and when exactly did Kris begin noticing the subtle shifts in Adam’s breathing? Anyway… “I’m okay. This is-” He huffs a self-depreciating laugh, “I have no idea why I’m calling you, actually.”

Adam sighs in relief, and Kris can hear his smile. “Good, okay. You scared me.”

“Sorry. I really don’t know--”

“Hey, no, it’s fine. I’m glad you called.”

That surprises Kris. “Really? Why?” He closes his eyes at himself for asking that.

Before Kris can backtrack, Adam is talking, a falsely casual, teasing air overlaying his own nerves. “What, I can’t just be glad to hear your voice?”

“No, no, that’s- clearly that’s alright with me, considering I think that’s pretty much the reason I called you.” If Kris is going to be embarrassed, he may as well go all out.

Outside Adam’s office wall window, a few interns hurry past the scene of their boss jumping up and down and doing what seems to be a happy dance. Sounding perfectly controlled, “You’re sure everything’s okay, though? You sounded a little shaken earlier.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Had a bad phone call with Katy,” Kris admits.

“Oh, honey, you wanna talk about it?” Because, seriously, Adam is all ears.

Yes, he realizes they’ve broken up and are ‘never getting back together, ever’ but Adam is supportive of Kris being continuously single. Or at least not dating anyone except Adam. No one ever said he shared well with others.

 

Do I want to talk about the fight we had over you? Or about how I had the most pathetic daydream at my desk today about making you French toast every morning for the next fifty years or so?

 

“Nah, it’s just stupid stuff, no big deal. We don’t fight a lot, so I guess I--”

 

I guess I thought I’d bother you in the middle of your work day. Yeah, that’s totally normal.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m gonna let you get back to your day. I shouldn’t have bothered you at work, that was stupid.”

“No, no, don’t worry about it, really. I’ve got a pretty relaxed schedule around here; you can call me any time.”

 

Or something less clingy and desperate, whatever.

 

Kris grins and blushes and is generally ridiculous in front of his building. “Thanks,” he replies quietly but sincerely. “You, too, you know,” Kris returns the offer.

Adam fights down the giggle, but not the little girl dance. “Thanks.”

A short, stern man appears outside Adam’s glass door, taps his watch with a raised eyebrow, and walks away meaningfully. Adam rolls his eyes.

“My break is almost up, so I’m gonna head back inside.”

“Yeah, I should go, too,” Adam responds, reluctant and slightly sullen.

Kris chuckles, “Are you pouting right now?”

Intensifying both his pout and the sound of it, “No.”

Laughing, “You’re awesome. I’ll see you tonight, Adam.”

“Have a good day, sweetie,” Adam teases back. Once he hangs up, he flops into his chair, sighing like the lovesick schoolboy he is. The annoying little man reappears, and Adam is forced to follow him into the next of the day’s series of meetings, his mood remarkably lighter.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Kris, I’m sorry,” Katy tells the machine. “I didn’t-- I have been thinking about our conversation, and I think I get it, now. Why you were so upset, I mean. I know my… exuberance over your love life can be a bit much at times, but I’m just really happy- or maybe proud, or- I don’t know, I just. I want you to have all the experiences that we talked about before; I want you to find your happy place, you know? But, anyway, thinking back to when we talked, I sort of- I didn’t realize or, um, understand, I guess, what your relationship with your guy was. I’m sorry that I did so much assuming; I should have gotten all the details before jumping to the- although you have to admit, it wasn’t a huge leap to be taken. I mean, come on, it was eleven o’clock at night, honey. Anyway, call me when you get this, alright? I love you.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

Since stopping Kris was no longer an option, they decided to continue their Observation and Protection plan.

Adam has this brilliant idea in the middle of one of the Meetings That Are Trying To Eat His Soul, and texts Kris under the table.

Where r u?

He sends it before realizing how stupid and uninformative that was. Kris doesn’t know what Adam’s thinking, and since Adam’s telepathy skills are more than a little rusty…

:\ I mean where do u work?

A reply comes in as he sends the second text.

Um, at work? R u gonna ask what I’m wearing next?

Adam has to stifle his laugh, which turns it into the bastard child of a snort and a cough, and he has to hide behind a long drink of water.

Kris texts him a minute later.

Stanford, Garmin, and Royce. This is Kris, how may I help you?

The grin is wildly inappropriate, but Adam can’t keep all of it down, so there are parts of his face- the corner of his lips, the top of his cheek- that break free no matter how hard he bites the inside of his mouth, and it’s reminiscent of a blouse popping its buttons.

“Sir, are you alright?” One of the men at the table asks, concerned that perhaps Adam is having a stroke of some kind.

In order to respond, he has to let go of his control over his face, and it springs upward all at once, making the others in the room flinch away from the surprising cheer. Adam has a theory that he works with mole people who never see the sun, and are therefore terrified of- and shun- things like fresh air and joy.

“Yes, of course. Carry on.” But he refuses to tie his face back down, because, seriously, a smile will not kill you, Morlocks.

They nervously skitter back into whatever eye-bleedingly dull topic they were on before all that human emotion got thrown at them.

You made me smile at the people around me! Don’t u know that’s like tossing sunlight at a vampire?

This time it’s Kris who gets inappropriately happy, but without the censure, and only the strange glance of a girl passing by and hearing Kris laugh.

Were u just curious, or should I look for a singing candy gram?

Adam contemplates his response, having completely tuned out his surroundings, screw them. It’s their fault, anyway. They have lost priority of attention by virtue of not being Kris.

Just curious. And bored. Good Ra, I am so bored.

Kris is almost done with his reply when another text comes in from Adam.

Oh! I have this plan.

Deleting his silly previous thought, Kris sends back his gut reaction.

Uh-oh.

 

No, it’s really good! I’m gonna follow u after work.

That makes Kris’ eyebrows do all kinds of interesting things.

I thot I was the stalker in this relationship.

 

:D I wanna see u in pre-dancing zombie mode. Maybe get a time frame to work w/, u know?

 

Ah- like a trigger point.

Kris’ work phone starts ringing, and he gets very distracted. Adam allows himself to be drug back into the monotonous droll of this Meeting From The Universe’s Most Boring Hell.

About fifteen minutes later, the phone in Adam’s lap vibrates with an incoming text.

Hey, there’s something I wanna talk to u about.

At this point, Adam is starting to hyperventilate, his brain steadily supplying him with ‘oh god, oh god’ and not much else.

“Mr. Lambert, are you still with us?” The obnoxious man Adam is referring to as White Rabbit asks.

Before Mr. Rabbit finishes his sentence, Adam stands up abruptly, “I’m sorry, gentlemen, something has come up. I need to excuse myself. Just… bullet point the highlights and e-mail me, okay?” The table sits stunned, gaping, watching him leave.

In his office, Adam reads the texts Kris sent in the meantime.

It’s not a big deal. Just something I’ve been thinking about. We can talk tonight.

 

The heck we can, Adam thinks.

After telling his secretary to hold all calls unless it’s an emergency or his mother, Adam activates the tint on his wall windows, turning them into two-way mirrors.

At the third ring, he thinks maybe Kris won’t answer, but then he hears a click and a hushed, “Hang on a minute,” and then muffled scuffling, the sound of footsteps, and a door opening and closing. “Adam?”

“Hey.”

“You know, I didn’t mean we had to talk right away.”

“I know, but this got me out of a conversation where the idea of jamming a letter opener into my eye was preferable to another word from the other people, so.”

Kris laughs, “Glad to be of service then.”

Before Kris can say anything more, “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Oh, uh.”

Adam can hear Kris blush and see the hand he has rubbing the back of his neck. His lovely, yummy neck--

Ignoring the rush of desire to taste the heat under Kris’ skin, “Is it about Katy?”

“What? Oh, nah, man, that’s-- We’ll work that out, it’s not a big deal. Mostly my fault, anyway. I got a little…”

“I’m sure you had your reasons.”

Kris scoffs lightly, “Yeah.”

 

Being forced to face facts, yes, that’s an awesome reason to flip out.

 

“Anyway, uh, no. I wanted to talk a bit about this whole,” Kris gestures wide and useless, “thing. The zombie thing.” He fidgets with his jeans and straightens the Windex bottles.

“Where are you? You sound all echo-y.”

“Oh, um, the- the supply closet? It’s the only private place I could find.”

“Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever put someone into a closet before,” Adam jokes, badly, but he’s still kind of distractedly relieved that he won’t have to talk about Katy.

“Oh, I have no doubt you’ve drawn more than your fair share of boys out of their hiding places, or at least tossed ‘em a flashlight.”

“Probably fewer than you think.” Because it won’t do for Kris to think that Adam’s, you know, a slut or something. He’s totally over his slut phase. Adam refuses to examine why that’s so important. “But, anyway, the zombie thing?”

Kris shakes his head free of the mental pictures of just how… enlightened Adam is and has made who knows how many others, and how maybe he could shine a little light on Kris. “Oh, yeah, uhm. I was just thinking of how I used to end up in the parking lot with no idea what happened between me leaving work and then. But then I’d black out again, and have no clue how I got home. Except that hasn’t happened the last two nights.”

“You did have that weird episode, though.”

“Yeah, exactly, so I think because the cycle got interrupted, something changed.”

“The whatever-it-is itself changed?”

“Yeah. Cuz last night I was fine, y’know? So maybe certain things can knock me out of it. Or- or alter the way it works, or-- I don’t know, it’s just--”

“No, that’s good; keep thinking of things like that. Has anything else changed?”

Just you, Kris thinks, except it didn’t stay a thought, frick it all anyway.

A preoccupied ‘hmm’ comes from Adam’s end of the line. Kris breathes a silent sigh of relief that he didn’t freak out Adam with any blatant inappropriateness that his mouth decided to share.

They exchange ideas and chat about nothing for a few more minutes, and then Adam forces Kris to go back to work because, “At least one of us has to pay their utilities bills.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

So, the Following Kris Experiment was something of a fail. At least they now know that Kris isn’t a hazard on the road, seeing as how he’s able to function and drive normally, even if he isn’t consciously aware of where he’s going. Also, now Adam knows a back way to S.W.A.K.

A few times during his dance, Adam thought Kris actually made eye contact with him, but it was so brief, and the lights and other people were so distracting, Adam can’t be sure. It was probably just wishful thinking, anyway.

The time it takes for Kris to come out of his zombie coma is lessening, and he seems to really like it when he wakes up to Adam singing softly in the passenger seat. “Don’t stop,” he whispers after a sleepy sigh, eyes heavy-lidded and dazed, a dreamy sort of grin on his lips. Adam finishes the entire song for him.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Kris flushes at Katy’s message, but Adam either doesn’t hear or is completely unfazed by the “your guy” phrasing, and the rest of it in general. Or the “love life” part, which, seriously? Kris’ brain makes a small whimpering noise at all the horrible ways that could go.

At least she didn’t say, ‘gee, I’m so sorry I thought you were getting some last night,’ or ‘next time I’ll ask before I assume you’ve finally gotten in on the gay action.’ Because those are totally possibilities with that girl.

In any case, he calls her back, because being tense and upset with his best friend does nothing but bad things for him.

“Hey, is it okay if I call Katy back? Or would that be really rude?”

Adam waves his consent from the living room. “No, please, go ahead. I was thinking about getting a shower tonight, anyway, so I won’t have to in the morning.”

 

“Kris?”

“Hey, Kate.”

“Oh my gosh, Kris, I’m so glad you called. I hate it when we fight.”

Kris can see her twisting the ends of her long blonde hair between her fingers, pouting slightly as she flops onto her bed.

“Me, too. Sorry I was such a dick earlier. I just--”

“Oh, no, it’s--”

“Katy, listen,” Kris checks to make sure Adam is definitely in the shower before lowering his voice to say, “Today was my fault, okay? I was, I dunno, mad or embarrassed or whatever because I… That guy- his name’s Adam, like I said- he’s,” Kris tries to think of a suitable way to describe Adam. He fails. “He’s just amazing, and I’m totally falling for him, and I’m practically forcing him to live with me because his place isn’t heated and it’s like five degrees outside, plus he’s helping me with this whole blackout thing, and--”

“He’s there? Right now?”

“Yeah, he’s in the shower.”

He can hear her blank, disbelieving, somewhat resigned, ‘my best friend is a moron, god help me’ expression.

“You have a gorgeous, amazing guy- whom you like- in your shower, and you’re talking to me? What the actual Hellfire, Kristopher? What, is he- is he straight or something?”

Kris totally doesn’t deserve this level of exasperation, he’s sure. “No. I met him at a gay club--”

 

Crap! Oh, crapity frickin’ crap.

 

“A what?!” Okay, ow, that was shrill.

Kris clears his throat to buy time. “Uh, well, for a few weeks now I’ve been blacking out, losing hours of time after work, and I’ve had absolutely no clue what’s been happening. It, uh, it turns out I’ve been, um…”

“Oh, lord, Kris, spit it out!”

“I’ve been stripping at a gay club called S.W.A.K.,” he rushes out in one breath.

There’s dead silence on the other end of the line.

“Katy?” Kris questions tentatively after a solid thirty seconds.

“Oh, Kris,” she whispers, and Kris can’t be reading this right, because it sounds like… guilt?

The bathroom door opens, sending a waft of steam and yummy clean smells into Kris’ bedroom, the scent making its way to Kris’ nose, and his stomach drops.

He hurries to stand up, tilting a little at the woozy-headed feeling, and says, “He just got out of the shower, I gotta go.”

“No, Kris, wait. This blacking out--” Katy’s voice is a little higher, edging on almost-panic.

“It’s okay, we’re figuring it out. Adam’s been really helpful; he’s been singing, which has nothing to do with anything, except, wow, Katy, you should hear him, it’s unbelievable, but, anyway. Uh, I gotta go make dinner, because he is useless in the kitchen.”

Katy can tell he’s saying that more for Adam’s benefit than hers, so he must be in the room, now. She really, really needs to talk to Kris, though. “Kris, please- you said it’s been happening for a few weeks?”

“Yeah, about a month, now. I’m calling it Zombie Stripping. I’ll tell you more later, okay? And I’ll fill you in on what Adam’s friend Andy told me about this, like, curse thing, except it’s not, ya know, magic or whatever. It’s all very scientific and over my head, but Andy broke his, and I’m starting to break through mine, I think.”

It’s hard to talk on the phone and put pasta together at the same time, and Kris doesn’t want to just ignore Adam.

“Listen, I’ve really gotta go. I’m glad we talked, though. I’ll call you again tomorrow or something, alright?” Completely oblivious to Katy’s desperate attempts to interrupt and get in her questions, Kris talks right over her, “Alright, love you. Bye!” He hears something that sounds like ‘bye’ to him, so he hangs up, smiling over at Adam, who asks how he can help.

“Salad stuff. Nothing flammable.”

“You sound like my mother.” After a short pause, “And the fire department.”

Kris gets a kick out of that, and Adam would do literally anything to make Kris happy.

 

Wait, what? Oh, god, I am so, so screwed.

 

 

Katy stares at the dial tone, mouth agape.

 

What have I done?

 

~*~*~*~

 

Early the next day finds Kris in the kitchen like the little Betty Crocker homemaker he’s turning into (and loving every minute of it), putting together omelets for he and Adam. His phone rings Katy’s song, and Kris contemplates letting it go to voicemail, but fears her substantial wrath, and picks it up on the third ring.

“You’re up early,” he greets cheerfully. He hasn’t slept this well in years. Apparently cuddling with Adam is the answer to both insomnia and an uncomfortable mattress.

“He said there were no side effects.”

“Um. What?”

“It was just to sort of… get you out of your shell a little. To help you have the courage to be the guy that your friends and family all know you are, but that you sometimes have a hard time showing when you’re in unfamiliar territory. To have an easier time finding your happy place. I swear it was only to help.” Her voice chokes up, getting softer and wet, “I only wanted to help.”

“I believe you, Katy, I do, I just have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“The blackouts, Kris! They’re my fault,” she cries. “I didn’t know. I swear, I didn’t know.”

Understanding swirls around Kris’ head, making him dizzy and flash hot, cold, clammy, numb in his fingers, and he has to sit down.

“This was- this was you?” He wants to scream betrayal and anger and the pain of embarrassment and a continued healthy dose of confusion, but he feels like he’s swallowed his tongue, and he can’t see anything, and he’s floating, all the bits of him flying apart like scattered marbles in slow motion.

“Hey, Kris, I hope you don’t mind I used your toothpaste. I don’t know where the-- Kris? Oh my god, Kris!”

At his side in a moment, Adam kneels next to Kris’ catatonic form. Noticing the phone in Kris’ hand, still being held up to his ear, though it’s obvious he isn’t hearing anything, Adam takes it from him.

“Who is this?” He demands.

“A-are you… Adam?” A small, tearful voice responds.

Taken somewhat aback, and still distraught over the state Kris is in, Adam foregoes niceties. “Who is this? What have you done to Kris?”

Palming Kris’ face with his free hand, he tries to get the boy to look at him. “Kris, baby, look at me. What happened, hmm?”

“Adam?” The tiny voice asks, again.

“What?” Adam spits, close to vicious. Someone has broken his Kris, and they will pay for their crime.

“I’m Katy.” It’s all she needs to say.

“Katy-the-ex Katy? Oh, that’s great, that’s just awesome. What, you couldn’t let him go? Can’t accept that it’s over? Trying to get him to run back home to you? Or is this some sort of payback? You know what they say about a woman scorned. Except, I thought you two were friends. How could you do this to Kris? To Kris, of all people! What kind of fantastical monster could ever dream of hurting him?”

Maybe the saying should be amended to ‘a woman scorned or an Adam pissed.’

“We- we are, I’m not- please! What’s wrong with him?” Katy is pretty much sobbing at this point, begging.

“Don’t you know? You did this, didn’t you? He was just fine five minutes ago.”

Adam reaches up and turns off the stove, because they really don’t need to blow up right now, on top of everything else. Though this does both solidify and justify Adam’s decision to never let Kris out of his sight.

“I’m sorry! I’m so- what is he doing?” She can’t hear anything except Adam, and she is in severe freak out mode.

“Nothing! He’s not doing anything; he’s sitting on the kitchen floor like a motherf--” He stops himself, because, while this is an excellent situation for swearing, it’s still rude, and the girl does seem truly upset. Plus, southern, so, manners and stuff, and if he gets on Kris’ best friend’s bad side, it might ruin any chance with Kris he may have.

And he really doesn’t have time for all these thoughts, okay?

“Like a rag doll, and the only reason I know he’s not dead is because he’s breathing and blinking about twice a minute. So, I will ask you again--”

“I don’t know. If I did I’d-- Look, I went to the Alchemist for help. He didn’t say anything about blackouts or- or stripping or any of this. I wanted him to give Kris a boost of confidence, that’s all. To be able to show the people in his new city the qualities that he doesn’t always share. I wanted him to make friends easier. To- to maybe get up the nerve to go on a few dates. It was so hard for him to, I guess to really test himself, here. I mean, it’s not like we’re all a bunch of redneck hicks, but there just aren’t many people or places around to help him explore, or experience, or, jeez, even to date.”

Before Katy could take a breath and continue her ramble, “And you thought that making him dance at a gay strip club was the best way to go about this discovery? Like he could make some really neat friends there?”

“No! I didn’t know what-- All I said was what I told you. Give him more confidence, let him be able to show his real self when he… oh, god.” She trails off into something less than a whisper, trembling, cursing herself and her stupidity.

It strikes Adam then how much of a mistake- a misunderstanding it all was. It’s like everything from celebrity’s quotes to the Bible: a few misinterprets here, a twist of a meaning there, and you end up with something completely contrary to the original statement.

Just as Adam is about to tell Katy what he’s thinking, Kris starts convulsing much the way he did the first night Adam met him.

“Kris,” Adam breathes out, dropping the phone and pulling the jerking body toward him, maneuvering around so Adam is behind Kris, holding him tight with his arms and legs. He snags a dishtowel from the oven handle and places it between Kris’ teeth.

Forgetting about the phone and Katy entirely, Adam starts singing the song that has been floating around his head, but the version he created as a teenager when he used to remix songs for fun. He begins with the chorus, because it’s the first thing he can think of, “You say, one love, one life…”

The seizing had been tapering off, but when Adam gets to the bridge, Kris suddenly arches up, head back and back bowed unnaturally, hips thrusting off the ground, somehow balancing on his heels and where he’s pressed against Adam with his shoulders. Now, normally this would be an extreme turn-on for Adam, but right now, he has never been more scared in his life.

Reaching up and gripping the top of Kris’ hips in an attempt to support him and help him ease back down, Adam abruptly stops singing, snapping Katy out of her mesmerized state. “Adam? Adam, what’s happening? Adam!” Too far away, too inconsequential in the grand scheme of the situation, and all Katy can do is wait.

 

 

 

Kris’ eyelids flutter as he takes what feels like the first big breath in weeks. His chest hurts. Every cell in his body is live-wired, and he can feel them all. Also, there’s something on his mouth. Oh.

“Are you kissing me?” Kris mumbles, trying to bring the world back into focus. “Do we do that now?”

Adam hovers, paler than Kris has ever seen him, looking very much like he’d just seen Marley’s ghost. Large, shaking hands smooth over Kris’ hair, his face, his neck, down his chest and back up, like they’re searching for injuries, or reassuring themselves that there are none.

“Kris. Oh,” Adam sighs hugely with his whole being, letting himself collapse over his own knees, head pressed into Kris’ sternum. He doesn’t think twice about taking a deep inhale, breathing Kris in.

Kris raises his hand, surprised at how weak it is, and pats Adam’s hair somewhat clumsily.

Flopping a hand around in the general direction of the thin-sounding shouts, Adam finally slaps down on the phone, drags it to his ear, and mumbles exhausted, “Katy, he’s fine. He’s alright. He’ll call you back later,” and hangs up, dropping it carelessly to the side, resuming his previous position, only turning his head so he can see Kris’ face. Kris doesn’t stop petting Adam.

Voice found after several minutes, “I thought you were going to die.”

“I’m sorry.” Kris rubs Adam’s shoulder in comfort.

Adam scoffs, “What did we say about you being sorry?”

He thinks he hears Kris say something, but the feeling of Kris laugh under his cheek makes it impossible for Adam to do anything except turn his face back down and kiss the spot. He hunches up slightly and presses his mouth to the soft cotton a little higher up.

The hand on his shoulder stutters and stills for a moment, then lays flat and slides up to Adam’s neck, encouraging. Adam meets Kris’ eyes to make sure he’s reading this right. Visual confirmation achieved, Adam goes back to his ministrations with renewed vigor.

When he reaches Kris’ neck, finally, finally touching skin, they both let out a shudder and a sigh. Kris rakes his fingers up through the back of Adam’s hair the way he’s wanted to since the first time he saw him. A taste of an earlobe followed by a light scrape of teeth, and Kris can’t take it anymore. He turns his head, using his grip on Adam’s hair to direct him, and after a solid week of torture, there’s lips. Plush, warm, soft, so soft, and yeah, Kris is feeling much better.

 

~*~*~*~

 

The bells above the door jingle, letting the bespectacled man in the back know someone has arrived. “Hello and welcome,” he calls from the storage room. “Please be having a look around, and I will come to assist you shortly.”

The shelves of the small shop are lined with place cards indicating the name of the ‘potion’ and its intended results. They’re set in sections- love, intelligence, charisma, etc- and arranged by price. Something as simple as ‘the courage to talk to so-and-so’ might run around thirty bucks. The ability to memorize an entire book or everything read on a specific subject will most likely start at one hundred, if it’s a short book or for a test at school. Retention is not guaranteed.

Rummaging around with his back turned, the man doesn’t notice until it’s too late that he is no longer alone in the room.

Turning around, startled, “This area is off limits, you cannot be back here!” He announces with a nervously high, loud voice. Seeing a face he recognizes, he relaxes somewhat. “Oh, it is you, miss. I thought--”

And then he sees the look on her face.

“You remember me?”

The man nods.

“You remember what you did for me?”

Another nod.

“Good. Now you’re going to tell me exactly what you did, why you thought it was at all a good idea, and then you’re going to reverse it. You’re going to do this now, for free, because if you don’t, or if you try to do anything to further screw with my best friend, I will make you wish you had been born a eunuch. Do I make myself clear?”

Alchemy is a tricky art, and the mind may be a terrible thing, but Katy is pretty sure her point (and threat) has reached the (rightfully scared) man in front of her.

Kris doesn’t strip that night.

Well, he doesn’t do his public zombie strip dance, anyway. He does manage to go the entire night without clothing, though. There are a few moments of fuzzy-headedness, but to be honest, that might just be Kris-headedness.

 

 

~*~*~*~          ~*~*~*~          ~*~*~*~          ~*~*~*~          ~*~*~*~

 

 

“What do you do?”

A strange stiffness settles over Adam’s skin. “You know, office stuff, mostly. And there’s those guys I’m blackmailing, but--”

Kris smacks at Adam, making a funny sound with his tongue.

He waits. There’s something else, and Adam wants to tell him, so Kris will just wait until he’s ready. He isn’t going anywhere.

“Are you a paid assassin?”

“What? No. What?”

“A drug dealer?”

“No! Kris, what are you--”

“Are you Batman?”

That gets a sizeable belly laugh out of Adam. “Yes, my last name is actually ‘Wayne’ and I dress up like a flying rodent on my off-nights. Kris, why are you asking me this?”

“Are you the secret lovechild of some eccentric millionaire?” That brings Adam to a pause, and Kris about swallows his tongue.

“Adam?”

Dropping his arms, Adam steps away, shaken and avoiding Kris’ eyes. “It’s not a big deal, okay? Why is it such a big deal? Why can’t we just go back to kissing? The kissing was good. Kissing and not talking, I was enjoying that.”

“You’re the one fidgeting away from me,” Kris replies, not unkindly. “And I didn’t think you were trying to keep your occupation a secret from me.”

“I’m not- I--” Adam growls a frustrated sigh.

“You do realize that you could be anywhere from unemployed to a foreign prince, and our relationship is going to be exactly the same, right?”

“Really? So if I tell you that I’m a part-time office worker and can barely make rent every month, you’re not gonna look at me any differently than if my family has made some really good business ventures, and we are all ridiculously wealthy, and I never have to work, ever, if I don’t want to?” He says both like they’re the truth, and Kris can’t figure out what just happened in the last sixty seconds of his life.

Still, “Yes, that is what I am telling you. And you know it’s true, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking at me like that.”

Like that.

Like he’s begging every power in the universe to make what he just said true. Like this has been a problem in the past, and Adam is desperate to not have it be one, now. Not this time. Not with Kris.

Adam looks stuck, thoughts jamming up in his cerebral cortex, and it wouldn’t surprise him if smoke started billowing out his ears.

“I don’t live in that apartment building,” he blurts out, brain having shut off, mouth -god, help him- in control.

Kris waits.

“I own the building.”

A slightly raised set of eyebrows gives Adam encouragement. “I own several buildings. And not just apartments. I buy land, build it up, and sell it, with a few exceptions for places that hold special meaning to me.”

Now that he’s started, he can’t seem to stop, and it all comes flooding out. “There are three apartment buildings- well, five, actually, but two are co-owned with my brother.” Adam tries to think of buildings Kris might be familiar with. “The old theater downtown, the one that was going to be demolished? I bought it at the last second and restored it. My parents used to take me and my brother there before the divorce. And… and that trendy new sushi place; I fixed that one up- god, the water damage was ridiculous- and sold it to a friend who loves it and is treating it right, which sounds dumb, but it’s just how some things make me feel. Architecture can be so much like art. Cultures are literally built around it. I’m totally weirding you out, now, aren’t I?”

Adam’s face is creased with resolute defeat being well hidden by years of practice in masking disappointment. There’s a sad wryness in his eyes and in the set of his mouth, and Kris would do anything to make it disappear for good.

“Not even a little. I’m kind of disappointed that you hid all of this from me, but I’m sure you’ll explain your very valid and not at all ridiculous or offensive reasons in the near future. Like now.”

It’s less than three seconds before Adam helplessly bursts out with words like a horse at the starting gate. “It wasn’t you, I swear; the issues lie with me. So many relationships- romantic and otherwise- have failed or crashed before they could begin because of the money. You said the first night we met that you could tell I have trouble trusting people, because I’m never sure of what they want from me. You have no idea how right you were.” He takes a breath. “I knew you weren’t the type to use me, but I didn’t know if it would scare you off, and I couldn’t take that chance. I,” Adam sighs, willing Kris to read his face the uncanny way he does and see everything Adam can’t put into words. “I couldn’t risk losing you before I even had a chance to know you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I hid the full truth from you, even though I never actually told you a lie, but I get that that probably doesn’t mean much right now.”

The expression on Kris’ face says not so much. “No, not really, but it will be worth points later,” Kris assures him.

For a few moments, they just stand there looking at each other, no words pass between them, verbal or otherwise.

Adam gives Kris the time to settle it in his own mind, and somehow doesn’t fall to his knees and begin begging, which he counts as a personal win. Kris finally sighs, signaling the end of the deliberation. He was never going to just give up Adam, especially after hearing him exposit his reasons, the emotion shown doing more than words ever could, but finding the right way to respond took a minute.

“As much as I wish you would have told me sooner, I do understand your reasons.” Kris catches Adam’s eye, “I’m not mad, Adam.” He lets that sink in before continuing. “However, there will be no more lies, or half-truths, or carefully worded craftiness, or whatever you call them. I want to know you, all of you, and I can’t stand lying. That’s a deal breaker, alright?”

Adam nods furiously, too overcome with glee and relief to answer. Kris lets himself smile and holds out his hand, finding himself crushed to Adam’s chest, wrapped up tight in his arms immediately. He hears mumbling and feels Adam’s mouth moving on his hair, but it takes a minute of concentration to understand what he’s saying.

“Never again. Never lie to you, I promise. Need you. Never make you unhappy. Gonna keep you. Keep you. Can’t lose you; can’t.” If there’s a hitch to his voice or slight wetness on his cheeks and in Kris’ hair, it goes unmentioned. And if maybe a mumble or two sound vaguely like something that could be a word starting with the letter ‘l’ and might have a ‘v’ in it, well, it’s muffled enough that they can ignore that, too. Kris holds on, tight and fierce, and dares anything in the universe to try and take Adam away from him.

He thinks a moment, once they’ve both calmed down a little. “So, the next time I offer you a ride home…”

Adam cups Kris’ face in his hands, “I will take you home with me, Kris. I’ll even drive.”

Kris smirks. “Oh, I know you like to drive,” he teases, tugging Adam closer.

Wide eyes and gaping mouth, Adam gasps out, “Kristopher Allen!” Letting out his surprised giggles as his hands roam Kris’ back and shoulders.

“In fact…” Kris maneuvers Adam around and pushes on him until he’s sitting on the edge of the bed, Kris standing between his knees. “I feel like going for a ride right now. How ‘bout you?” Muscular thighs straddle long legs, knees press into the bed on either side of Adam’s hips; large, lithe hands palm the most perfect set of cheeks they’ve ever felt, and they both think, kissing? Yeah, that’s definitely something we do now.

Every once in a while, Kris still surprises himself with his confidence and forwardness with Adam, while Adam revels in the fact that he is neither old nor tired, and can’t even contemplate being bored.

Yeah, love is pretty cool.

 

“So… how do you feel about dogs?”