THE FIRST FAVOR
Adam hadn't even walked over to the table yet, and Robin was already irritated. Which was nothing compared to how tense Jules was, sitting next to him, seeing as how Jules didn't want to do this in the first place. But they didn't have a ton of options, and this seemed like the most reasonable.
He looked over at where Adam was talking on the phone just inside the coffee shop doorway, and amended that to, it was theoretically the most reasonable -- depending on Adam. Who glanced over at them, waved, and went back to his call, smiling into his phone.
Jules made an impatient noise and crossed his arms. Robin shot him an apologetic look.
"You know he's probably talking to his agent right now," Jules said.
"It'll be fine," Robin said, though he doubted it. He'd come to the same conclusion Jules had -- that was a quite a grin Adam was sporting, an expression of delight that made it easy to guess he'd just gotten good news. Which they were about to crush. Robin actually felt a little bad, but… not very. Which probably wasn't nice of him. He didn't see a ton of reason to go out of his way to be nice to Adam.
Finally, Adam slipped his phone into his pocket and looked over at them. He pointed at the drink line questioningly, and Jules pointed at a take out cup sitting on their table -- they'd already gotten Adam's drink, mostly to save time and make this unpleasant encounter as quick as possible.
Adam finally walked over and plopped into the third seat at their table, took a swig of the drink and set it back down. "Thanks. It's cold, though."
"You were late," Jules said, voice tight.
"Important call?" Robin asked.
"Oh yes." Adam smiled again.
"Your agent?" Robin asked, trying not to wince. This would not be pretty.
But to his surprise, Adam said, "Nope. Boyfriend. With news excellent enough that not even your scowl is going to put me in a bad mood, J., though it's looking particularly judgmental today."
"Since when do you have a boyfriend?" Robin said.
"Since about a year ago, give or take." Adam's smile wavered and his gaze darted back and forth from Robin to Jules.
"Sure," Robin snorted. Adam was usually a better liar than that -- no one in their right mind would believe he was dating someone in the first place, since if he was, it would be all over the gossip rags. And no one who knew Adam would believe he'd been dating someone for so long. Adam just wasn't that good at relationships.
Adam took another sip of his drink and made a face.
"You don't have to drink it," Jules snapped.
"Yeah, but if I go get something I actually like, you'll complain about how long I'm taking," Adam snapped back. "So let's get this over with. After months of pretending I don't exist, to what do I owe the honor of cold coffee and being glared at?"
Jules looked over at Robin and gestured a little. Which meant this was on Robin. Great. Not that it shouldn't have been -- it was his idea to actually talk to Adam, an idea Jules hated with every fiber of his being, but that meant Robin was the one who'd have to be the badguy. He could do it, but he wasn't very good at it. Though Adam's amused look was annoying enough to make it easier.
"Well, don't keep me in suspense or I am going to go get that coffee," Adam said.
Robin glanced at Jules again and finally said, "Okay. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but -- Adam," he took a deep breath, "I need to ask you for a favor."
Adam's eyes went wide and he laughed. "Wow. No wonder Jules is so grumpy. I mean, the only reason I could come up with for either of you wanting to talk to me was if you were contacting past partners about an STD -- but this is much better."
"This isn't a joke," Jules said.
"No, but it's definitely funny." Adam smirked, then he gestured that away and said, "So what can I do for you?"
"It's what you can not do," Robin said.
"Intriguing, considering I've been on my best behavior for awhile now. The list of stuff I'm not doing is depressingly long. Including contacting either of you, per your very pointed requests."
Robin ignored that. Those pointed requests had been extremely justified. "Within a week or so, Art Urban is going to contact your agent asking you to audition for a recurring guest role on Shadowland. I'm asking you not to do it," Robin said, and there it was.
Adam froze. There was very little in the world that he took seriously, but his career was on that list, and though he was currently lighting up the country as an indie darling, Shadowland was bigger than anything he'd done since American Hero. It was certainly more prestigious.
Jules tensed again, and Robin braced himself for the fight. He had no doubt Adam would make this hard. If he was going to give up such a career win, it wouldn't come easily, and the prolonged silence was probably his inner battle between refusing outright and finding the best way to exploit their request for a favor.
"Wow. Turns out, you can ruin my good mood," Adam said. He stared down at his coffee, not up at them, and added, "Okay."
"Okay?" Jules sounded skeptical. "Just like that?"
Something Robin couldn't quite read flashed across Adam's face. "You think I want to sit here and listen to you spout off the reasons why I owe you? No fucking thank you, I'd like to spare myself that, so yes, okay, just like that. Jesus, my agent is going to kill me."
"Thank you," Robin said.
Adam shrugged, his hand clenching the coffee mug. "If I was you, I wouldn't want to work with me, either. And if I was you," he looked at Jules, "I definitely wouldn't want him working with me. Them's the fucking breaks, I guess."
"I'm glad you understand, after all the history between --"
"Yeah." Adam cut Robin off, waving his hand. "But I'm new at this maturity shit, I'm not very good at it yet, so do you need anything else or can I go complain about this to people who actually like talking to me?"
Jules actually gave a startled laugh. "Since when are you so self aware?"
"About a year. The boyfriend has been a good influence."
Huh. Maybe Adam hadn't been lying about that. But Jules cocked his head. "Wait, you aren't… are you actually still seeing the tadpole?"
It was Adam's turn to laugh in surprise, but he lit up a little, some of the bitterness easing. "Yep."
"Wait, what?" Robin turned to Jules now, confused and a tiny bit irritated. Why would Jules know anything about Adam's relationship? He'd thought they'd both banished him from their lives, their very thoughts.
"Sam mentioned it to me, ages ago," Jules said quickly. "I honestly forgot, sweetie. I wasn't trying to keep anything a secret. And I figured it was just a fling, anyway."
"Why would Sam…" Robin trailed off, the pieces suddenly fitting together into a bizarre portrait. SEALs referred to newcomers on their teams as tadpoles, and though Sam hadn't been a SEAL in years, he was still close with Team Sixteen. And Robin was pretty sure at least one of the younger members of the team was gay. Not that he'd ever asked, of course, because of DADT.
Come to think of it, DADT was a pretty good reason for Adam to have kept his relationship out of the gossip rags.
"Tony?" Robin guessed.
"Shh shh shh, we try not to say his name in public," Adam said, and again, the bitterness seemed to melt away. "But if you think I haven't spent the last year making every single Village People joke possible, well, think again. In the navy…"
Robin actually, genuinely, laughed. "Wow. You sound… smitten."
"He gets home next week. Which was the good news, by the way." Adam ducked his head a little, which did nothing to hide the smile on his face as he said it. It was actually almost funny to see Adam like that. Not mocking or smirking or being a pain in the ass. He just looked… happy. Which was not how Robin thought of him at all.
"I'm glad to hear that," Robin said, and to his surprise, he meant it.
"You might want to give him a heads up," Jules said.
"About…" Adam glanced around. "This? Because I was literally on the phone with him when I walked in. You think I didn't mention who I was meeting? No, of course you think that." He rolled his eyes.
"I honestly didn't give it that much thought," Jules answered. "And I didn't mean about this, I meant about the rest of it." He looked over at Robin.
"Okay. So… the rest of it is… what?"
Robin sighed. So much for the respite from everyone's bad moods. "The reason Art wanted to offer you the role was -- it was stunt casting, for a story that's… basically, he's giving Joe Laughlin his very own Adam."
"Yeah, well, it was high drama, wasn't it?" Robin rolled his eyes at his idiotic past self. "Closeted actor makes a very stupid mistake with a co-star, rumors abound, and co-star remains in his life for awhile as a pain in his ass."
Adam's expression went sour. "Ripped from the headlines. How very SVU. Is there a point, here?"
"You know with that kind of story, and the parallels between me and Joe, it won't be hard for people to figure out Art's inspiration. Those old rumors are going to get dredged up, and there's no way we won't all be asked about them," Robin finished.
Adam gave him and Jules a long look again. "And … what, you want to make sure we've all got our story straight? I don't mind lying to reporters, but that's not usually your style."
"We're not lying," Jules said, firm and edging towards angry. "If -- when Robin's asked, he intends to tell the truth. That he made a lot of mistakes before he got sober, and you were one of them."
"Wow, J., for a guy asking me for a favor, you're kind of being a dickhead." Adam looked at Robin. "It really doesn't bother you when he literally speaks for you like that?"
"It's nothing I wouldn't have said," Robin said, spreading his hands on the table.
"Well. With that final, super fun blow to my ego out of the way, is there anything else you need?" Adam crossed his arms, huffy, as if his ego was what was really at stake here.
But Robin suspected his bluster covered for actual hurt feelings. Not that he hadn't been perfectly clear with Adam about where they stood ages ago -- when he'd ended things between them. But he'd ended things because he thought of Adam as just a guy he was fucking, a particularly pleasurable form of self-loathing because he wasn't good enough for Jules, but Adam… Adam had been falling in love with him.
He could still remember the look of evisceration on Adam's face when Robin told him to stop calling, stop coming by. That he didn't want to see him again. But it had only lasted a second before Adam had grabbed for his leather jacket and walked out, tossing back over his shoulder, "Jules is never going to want you, babe. Not unless you're out and proud. But feel free to call me if you change your mind, 'cause unlike him, Scarlet, I don't give a damn."
Adam hadn't been wrong about Jules. But he'd been wrong about Robin. He'd been assuming Robin wouldn't ever come out just to be with Jules -- but Robin had known, even then, that Jules was worth it. He just hadn't been willing to admit it yet, not even to himself.
Adam had always been so miserable and bitter. And the second he was in a room with Jules, that bitterness boiled over into sheer combativeness -- and he brought it out in Jules, too. Even just talking about Adam got Jules pissed off. No wonder Jules hadn't wanted to do this.
Jules hated the whole storyline, even though it was good. Robin had asked if he'd wanted him to talk to Art about not doing the story, but Jules had shaken his head. It was fine, he said. He'd grit his teeth through it. Until Art had started talking about casting Adam, capitalizing on those old rumors and the narratives of Robin's real life to get publicity for the show.
A fictional Adam with a fictional, darker Robin was one thing. But the real Adam…
Their choices had been to talk to Art about it, or to talk to Adam. But Art had his heart set on the idea, and it would be such good publicity. So Adam it was. Jules had insisted on setting this up -- using a burner email, not giving Adam any contact information whatsoever -- and insisted on coming to the meeting.
Where, despite being not exactly the most polite person in the world, Adam hadn't even held out for a full minute before agreeing to everything they asked him to. No arguments, no extortions, no attempts at blackmail. He'd just… agreed.
So yeah, maybe they could have been a little bit nicer about this. Robin looked down at the cold coffee. "That's it. Thank you, Adam. And… for whatever it's worth, I'm glad you're with someone who makes you happy."
"Not worth a lot, but I'll take it." Adam stood. "Like the comedy genius says, don't think it hasn't been a little slice of heaven. 'Cause it hasn't."
He walked off, leaving the cold coffee on the table.
Jules sighed and sank down in his seat. "That could have gone better."
"Could it have?" Robin shook his head. "For a conversation with Adam, that actually went pretty well."
Jules considered that, then shrugged. "I guess. God, he just makes me… I'm sorry thirty seconds in his vicinity reduces me to an angry twenty-five-year-old."
"I know, babe. It's fine." Robin took Jules's hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "…comedy genius?"
Jules gave a short, flat laugh. "Bugs Bunny."
Somehow, Adam quoting Bugs Bunny seemed just about right.
THE SECOND FAVOR
Jules knew it was huffy and immature, but he still crossed his arms and said, "I don't like this."
"Trust me, babe, that point has been made very clear," Robin answered, and Jules immediately felt guilty, because this wasn't Robin's fault, it hadn't been Robin's idea, and Robin was somehow still patient with Jules after all his years of jealous bullshit. "But Charlie has been throwing up in the bathroom for twenty minutes now, and we're slightly out of options."
"I know." Jules took a breath. He could be a grown up about this. He didn't have to let his ex turn him back into the angry person he'd been all those years ago. He shot Robin an apologetic look and Robin smiled back. Endlessly patient, as always. Jules wasn't sure he deserved that, and he definitely didn't deserve the way Robin stepped closer so Jules could put a possessive arm around him as Adam and Tony walked up, led by a harried, stressed out AD.
They looked fantastic together. Of course they did. Jules didn't spend more than a second glancing at Adam, but he did give Tony a second look. Tony was just about average height -- taller than Jules, shorter than Robin -- with his blond hair carefully gelled and his tux pristine and sharp. A shoulder holster under his jacket ruined that effect just a little, and for a moment Jules was surprised to see him in a tux instead of dress whites. But Tony still wasn't exactly out, and was probably risking the wrath of DADT just by being here, so maybe not wearing his uniform made sense.
"Hey," Adam said. "Sorry to hear about Charlie."
"Yeah," Robin said ruefully. "Bad shrimp. There's a car waiting to take him home, once he, you know, stops throwing up long enough for the ride."
Adam wrinkled his nose. "Gross."
Charlie Vancamp was the actor who'd eventually been cast in the faux Adam role on Shadowland. Charlie was a reasonably good actor and he'd become a friend of theirs, and he was supposed to introduce Robin at this event -- where Robin was being honored for his contributions to the LGBT community, live on LOGO. Except, of course, Charlie couldn't do it. The desperate producer had scanned the audience, seen Adam, and sent an AD out to grab him.
The decision made sense. Adam was more closely linked to Robin than anyone else at the event, and he was great on camera. He'd be able to improvise an introduction with no prep time. If Jules were the producer and not Robin's husband, it was the choice he'd have made.
But he was Robin's husband. And he didn't like even seeing Adam, let alone relying on him.
But Robin, ever the diplomat, said, "Thanks for doing this. It's kind of a last-minute favor, I know."
"No problem," Adam said. "Like I ever mind being on camera?"
Jules did not make a comment about Adam somehow being responsible for the food poisoning that made this happen. Even he knew that was well into the realm of paranoid and definitely hadn't happened.
"Mr. Wyndham, if you could step over here…?" the AD asked, beckoning Adam over so they could give him a quick check for hair and makeup -- Adam was basically camera ready, but hadn't anticipated actually being on camera. Adam followed the AD, and Tony watched him go, smiling.
"Hey, TV. It's good to see you," Robin said. "I didn't expect you to be here, but, well… I also didn't expect the shrimp to be bad."
Tony laughed a little. "Nice to see you, too." He looked over at Jules. "Hi, sir."
"Hey." Jules forced himself to unclench. Little by little. "I admit, I'm surprised you're here too, you know…"
"As Adam's bodyguard?" Tony raised his eyebrows.
Jules laughed. "That's a new one."
"It's totally legit. Cleared with the senior chief and everything," Tony said, not quite defensive, but not… not defensive, either. "And if I happen to see Adam home safely afterwards, well… no one's going to ask what happens when I'm off duty."
"I'm glad you two have found a way to make this work," Robin said.
Tony nodded, but he was looking over at Adam, who was talking with the AD.
"I hope this was a good idea," Jules muttered. Robin shot him that you put your foot in it look, but Tony's eyebrows climbed a little.
"Any special reason why it wouldn't be?"
Jules shook his head. "Sorry."
"Have a little faith in him," Tony said.
"Yeah, historically that has not worked out well for me," Jules said, even though he knew, absolutely, that he needed to stop talking. It was bad enough that he was so immature just around Adam. He didn't need Tony -- a colleague, of sorts -- to see him at his worst.
But Tony shrugged. "Fair enough. I'm just saying, it actually has worked out pretty well for me. He's not… he's changed a lot."
Before anyone could say anything to that -- probably for the best for Jules -- Adam was walking back towards them. It had only been a small makeup touch up, but even so, he posed a little and said to Tony, "Well?"
"Yeah, like you don't already know you look amazing," Tony said, sounding so… so fond, Jules almost didn't know what to make of it. "Stop posing and go work."
"Bossy," Adam said, and he was looking back at Tony like Tony was a delicious dessert he was about to devour.
Tony must have recognized that, too, because he mouthed, Later.
Adam started towards the stage, led by the AD, but paused to turn back. He flashed a W for whatever at Tony, both thumbs and pointers, and Tony laughed. Jules tried not to wonder what in-joke that was, but he was a little curious.
"See, the thing is," Tony continued, though he was watching Adam take the stage, "the only way to be with him? Is to have faith in him. He's too smart and too jaded not to realize when people are half-assing it, and he's never going to stick around for that."
Jules did not respond with the first thing his brain spat out, about the fact that he'd never half-assed it with Adam. He'd always been there, been all-in, waiting for the faith he had in Adam to mean anything at all. But all it had ever meant was that Adam took advantage of him, used him and then left him. And left that faith shattered, until Robin had managed to heal it.
Maybe that was why he couldn't stand Adam. He hated that he'd ever been so naïve, that he'd let someone crush him like that. He hated just how crushed he'd really been.
Robin took his hand. A solid reminder that things could work out. Faith could be rewarded, and people could change.
On stage, Adam was at the podium, talking into the mic: "I'm a last minute substitution, here, and working without a script, so -- I promise I'll try not to swear too much, okay?" He got a laugh and he continued, praising Robin's integrity -- the honesty that had led him to risk his career by coming out, and the talent that had allowed him to rebuild it from the ground up after rehab.
He was still Adam. There was still a little bit of nose-tweaking, about how literally every gay actor in Hollywood had been passed over at one point because casting directors always wanted a more-Robin-Cassidy type. That got a laugh too, and Jules knew Adam himself was included in that group. Maybe it wasn't fair, but for whatever reason, Hollywood had continued to love Robin. He could have his pick of any gay role. In fact, producers and directors begged him to take those roles. But Robin rarely did; especially since he was playing gay on Shadowland, he was concerned about being typecast.
But overall, it was a very nice introduction, with no hint of the actual animosity between Adam and Robin, and the two of them stopped for a handshake-hug-backpat thing as Adam walked off and Robin walked on.
Adam walked over to Tony and they shared a smoldering look -- but didn't kiss. They were still in public, after all. That had to suck a lot. Then Adam looked expectantly at Jules. "No comments from the peanut gallery?"
"No, that was… that was nicely done," Jules conceded.
"Be still my heart," Adam said, pressing his hand to his ribcage. "That was almost not filled with hate. Don't tell me you're going soft on me, J."
Jules snorted. "Every time I almost do, you remind me why I don't like you."
"I'm wounded," Adam said. "Your good opinion means so much to me."
Jules opened his mouth, but Tony cut him off. "Adam."
"Yeah, scolding me is super hot, babe," Adam said.
"Hey, if you act like a child, I'm going to treat you like one." Tony rolled his eyes.
"Does that mean you want me to call you Daddy?" Adam returned.
"Maybe I just think you need a good spanking."
"Ooooh, promises, promises."
"Whoa, okay, you two," Jules interrupted, but he couldn't stop himself from laughing awkwardly. They may have been bickering, but the looks they were giving each other were red hot and not going to help Tony's flimsy pretext of a closet. "That is way more than I needed to hear."
Adam smirked. "You're so easily scandalized, J. That's why I love Tony. He can keep up with me." He was already locking eyes with Tony again as he said it, but his tone of voice… it was like Tony's had been, earlier. Somewhere under the snark, there was genuine affection.
Genuine and Adam were not concepts that fit together in Jules's brain at all.
Though it made a little more sense when Adam, who'd always prided himself on being up for anything, anywhere, any time, added, "Come on, babe, let's go have sex in a broom closet or something."
He reached out for Tony's tie and tugged him away as if it were a leash, not looking back. But Tony did, glancing over his shoulder. He shot Jules a tiny shrug and then let Adam drag him away.
Jules shook his head and turned his attention to Robin's speech, not entirely sure if Adam had been joking or if they were, in fact, about to go have sex in a broom closet. With Adam, it could honestly go either way.
THE THIRD FAVOR
Tony was the first one out, to make sure the coast was clear. Then he pushed the door open far enough to let Adam out too, and shot him a smirk. God, Adam looked good like this. Slightly disheveled but still dressed up, his Emmy -- his Emmy! -- held loosely in one hand.
Tony might actually have been more excited about the award than Adam was. So excited that when Adam had sat back down next to him after accepting it (with a short, lovely statement in which he'd had to say and thanks to… yeah, he knows who he is, because DADT meant Adam couldn't say his name) that he'd mumbled in Adam's ear, I really want to blow you in the bathroom. Right now.
He couldn't think of a single time in their relationship, not one, that Adam had turned him down for sex. Adam was always willing to drop literally anything and rock Tony's world -- and he was enough of an exhibitionist that he had no problems with semi-public sex. So he'd just looked back at Tony and smirked and said, You're on.
Tony knew it was dangerous. It was risky enough just attending the Emmy's with Adam, bodyguard excuse or no. Being seen sneaking around with him would just lead to rumors, which he really didn't want anyone to investigate. But Adam, flush with victory for his win (lead actor in a miniseries for a five-part drama he'd starred in about the early days of ACT UP), had just been too enticing. And with risk came rewards.
Really incredible rewards. So now they were sneaking back out, both of them extremely satisfied, and --
Tony froze and Adam just about walked into him before he, too, went still. Jules Cassidy was looking at them, phone in one hand, grim expression on his face. Tony couldn't imagine that Jules would out him, but… something bad was definitely happening.
Sure enough, Jules continued, "You're playing bodyguard again -- are you carrying tonight?"
"Yes, sir." Tony pushed the champagne-like feeling of joy in his chest aside. Jules looked like serious business was happening, and that wasn't a casual question.
"Good. Shit. I hate to… I need a favor." He met Tony's eyes, grim.
"How can I help?" Tony asked. Any situation where Jules needed backup with a weapon was probably ugly.
But Jules released a long, deep breath and said, "I need to go catch a flight. They're holding it for me at LAX. But since I was with Robin, he doesn't have an extra security detail tonight. I really shouldn't wait for someone to arrive for him, so…" He glanced back at Adam, then right back to Tony. "I would really appreciate it if you could make sure he gets home safely."
Meaning, actually spend the rest of his evening as a bodyguard. Looking after Robin, on behalf of Jules. The two people who disliked Adam most in the world. But Adam stepped up so he was even with Tony and said, "No problem, of course he will. Tony's very reliable for things like that."
Jules looked at Adam, his expression pained, but Adam held up his hands in surrender.
"And I, meanwhile, will be sitting by quietly on my very best behavior, not causing trouble or being a pain in the ass, so you can go save the world without having to worry about it."
Now Jules looked surprised. "Thank you. I'm sorry to ruin your night."
"Please, I won an Emmy, nothing can ruin tonight," Adam said. "So it's fine by me. I mean, assuming Tony's up for it. Which he is, because all SEALs love you. It's kind of bizarre, frankly."
Tony managed not to laugh, but only just. "What Adam means to say is yes, of course we'll help. Have you talked to Robin yet?"
"No, and I need to call Max back." Jules shut his eyes, sagging for a moment, then dialed and lifted his phone to his ear. Tony looked back at Adam as they waited.
"You really okay with this?" he asked. Adam was supposed to spend the night doing press stuff and partying, celebrating his big win. There was no way they'd be dragging Robin along for that; instead, this would mean skipping out on the party scene and putting Robin to bed safely.
But Adam nodded. "That celebration we just had? That was all I really needed. Besides, I've got morning shows to do anyway, just as well to get out of here early."
"Okay." Tony really wanted to pull Adam close and kiss him, but he couldn't. Not out here in the hall, where anyone could see them. FuckingDADT.
Jules finished his call with Max and led the way back into the main hall. Tony hung back, Adam with him, as Jules gestured Robin over -- it would be easier to explain in the aisle than it would be sitting down. He could make out their hushed voices -- Jules's apologies, Robin's unhappy acceptance. The bad news about who'd be taking over Robin's security.
Robin looked over and met Tony's gaze. Tony stood up straight, trying to look like a professional despite his rumpled tux and mussed hair. He was glad this was all Jules had needed -- from his expression, Tony had half-expected news that terrorists were in the parking lot.
They had to do a bit of musical chairs so he and Adam could both move up to the row where Jules and Robin had been sitting. Jules and Robin shared a quick goodbye kiss, and then they all sat, Tony between Robin and Adam. And well, this was awkward. It would have been easier if he hadn't needed to stay with Adam too, but for all they joked about Tony being his bodyguard, Tony actually was. For a guy who'd once had an armed stalker come after him, Adam was pretty lax about the whole concept of security, so Tony was it.
Not that Tony spent a lot of time dwelling on that when he was overseas or anything.
Robin sat morosely on his left. He didn't realize just how awful Robin looked until Adam leaned across him and tapped Robin's shoulder. Robin gave him a withering look and demanded, "What?"
"Smile, Boy Wonder. The camera keeps panning across you." Adam glanced over at the camera people placed in the aisles. "Trust me, I know it blows, but you've gotta fake it until we're out of here."
"Shit." Robin leaned back in his seat, but a moment later he plastered on a smile, even as he hissed, "I want to fucking leave."
"Can't until your award," Adam whispered back. "We'll take off as soon as your speech is done."
"God, I hope I lose," Robin said. "I can't fake being grateful for anything right now."
"You'll be fine," Tony said, but Robin didn't even look over at him. Just sat there with a plastic smile. Tony looked over at Adam, who shrugged.
They announced Robin's category at last -- lead actor in a drama for Shadowland, of course. Robin's face briefly lit up, and Tony couldn't tell if his mix of nerves and hope was real or not. He actually crossed his fingers, hoping for Robin's sake that it was a win, because Robin deserved it.
But it wasn't.
Robin gave the cameras a rueful smile, and Tony knew that was fake. The applause settled down, the winner took the stage, and they waited. The show wasn't over yet, but it was Adam who nudged him a few minutes later. "Let's get out of here now, the longer we stick around the longer it'll take to get the car."
Robin looked over at him and nodded, so Tony ushered them out. Even leaving early, extricating themselves took awhile. There were reporters and cameras, the line for the valet was already long, and the whole thing was way more stressful than it needed to be.
Especially when Robin muttered, "This had better not get those fucking rumors started again."
"Don't worry about it," Adam answered calmly. "The big rumor now is that I'm fucking my bodyguard. We may need you to vouch for the fact that I'm not."
"I'm not going to lie for you."
"Obviously. You'd be lying for Tony. Duh."
"No one's lying for anyone," Tony interrupted.
Robin looked at the two of them and asked, finally, "Does anyone actually buy the bodyguard story?"
"Nope," Tony said. "But they don't have to, I just have to give everyone some plausible deniability. Though honestly -- I would never, ever ask you to lie, Robin, but helping you and Jules tonight does sort of prop the bodyguard story up."
"I'll be sure to mention it to Cos, then," Robin said.
Adam opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again. Which was probably for the best. He'd promised to behave, and agreeing to leave early was a huge concession. This was supposed to be Adam's night. But being around Jules and Robin brought out Adam's less mature side, and fighting that down was always a struggle for him.
Finally, their car was brought up by the valet. Adam handled the tipping but Tony always drove. Though first, he opened the back door for Robin and Adam scoffed, "Oh sure, for him you get all gentlemanly. For your actual gentleman, however…"
"I'll carry you across the threshold later, if that's what you want, babe," Tony offered. "Please get in the car."
Adam slid inside. "I am holding you to that."
"Of course, it'll be over my shoulder in a fireman's carry…" Tony shot him a smirk.
"I'll take it, so long as you're tossing me down on a bed afterwards," Adam said.
"That I can definitely do," Tony agreed. He glanced at Robin in the mirror. Robin didn't look terribly entertained. Tony cleared his throat. "Was there any advanced warning about…"
"Yeah," Robin said. "Things have been tense for a few days. Jules asked Max if he needed to cancel coming with me, but Max hoped it wouldn't escalate. I guess it did." He took a breath. "For now he's only heading to DC. He'll let me know if he has to leave the country. Given it was important enough to pull him away from the Emmys… seems likely."
"Jesus," Adam mumbled. "All of my asshole comments aside, I really am sorry. I know how much this sucks, and the timing on top of everything…"
"Yeah. Fuck. My publicist is going to murder me, I should have stayed and shaken hands with fucking Bryan Cranston." Robin leaned back against the seat, eyes shut. "I need a meeting."
"Is there one we can --" Tony started, but Robin cut him off.
"No, it's fine, I'm heading down to San Diego tomorrow, Jane'll take me to one."
Tony frowned. "I assumed Jane and Chief Richter were going to be up here when you got home."
"No, they were just letting me and Jules crash and… have the house to ourselves." He sighed.
Tony looked over at Adam, pausing before they finally were able to pull out onto the street. Adam caught his eye and nodded, then looked over his shoulder to ask, "Do you want us to just take you down there now?"
"Don't worry about it," Robin said.
"Who's worried?" He glanced over at Tony, then back to Robin. "Tony's apartment is down there, remember? We'd be making the trip tomorrow anyway."
Robin still looked hesitant. "You don't have to…"
"Look." Adam twisted as far around as his seat allowed. "I get that you don't want to spend that much time in a car with me; god knows, under normal circumstances, Jules wouldn't want you to, either. But these are not normal circumstances. I know, okay, I know how much it sucks when they man you love has to vanish for work. I hated it when I was with Jules, and I hate it now. No offense, babe."
"None taken," Tony said.
"And I also know," Adam continued, "that right now? You shouldn't be alone. That makes the anxiety worse, and I'm betting it also makes sobriety harder. And if Jules had to choose between those things -- you stuck with me for a couple hours, or you facing that kind of bullshit alone? Even he would tell you to take the ride. At the end of the day, he loves you more than he hates me. Way more."
Robin looked a little stunned.
"Just say yes, man," Tony told him.
"Yes, man," Robin parroted obediently. "And thank you."
"No problem," Tony said. "Text Chief Richter, let him know we'll be in around," he glanced at the clock, estimated the traffic, and finished, "two AM."
Adam sighed. "I should text my publicist. Stand by for angry phone call…"
"Why?" Tony asked. "Skipping the party circuit is not that big a deal. You'll still be at the morning shows."
"Um… no?" Adam gave him a weird look. "Because of how we'll be in your apartment in San Diego?"
"Oh." Tony laughed. "I thought you were bullshitting that for Robin's sake. I figured I was driving you back up afterwards."
"What?" Robin asked, looking up from his phone, but Adam talked over him.
"I'm not going to ask you to drive me back up here after we drop him off, that's at least another three hours, that's literally all night."
"You're not asking." Tony would have rolled his eyes if he wasn't watching the road. "I don't mind, I like driving. You can nap in the car on the way back, then I'll crash in the green room while you're on. We'll get brunch so you can get your picture taken, then we'll nap for a few hours, and then we drive back to my place."
"I didn't realize you'd planned a whole itinerary," Adam said, now amused. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"I definitely don't," Tony said, then made eye contact with Robin in the mirror. Not ideal, but he was driving. "You got that, Boy Wonder? I really don't."
"Sure," Robin said, but then he looked over at Adam and said, a little thoughtful, "Thanks."
THE FOURTH FAVOR
If Tony didn't stop smirking at him, Adam was going to get really annoyed. As opposed to right now, when he was only mildly annoyed. But Tony's lips were twitching up, he was so obviously trying not to smile, and the fact that he raised his coffee cup to cover his mouth did absolutely nothing to hide that.
"Jerk," Adam muttered.
"Actually, I think I'm being the opposite of a jerk right now, and you, baby…" Tony put the coffee down and actually smiled. "Are being kind of unreasonable."
"I am not!" If Adam hadn't been holding his own drink, he'd have crossed his arms and huffed.
"You… oh, hey. At your three o'clock."
It took Adam a second -- he wasn't a SEAL, he actually had to stop and visualize the clock before glancing off at his right, towards the handful of people who were waiting for their drinks. A group that included Jules -- and, oh, Robin, yeah. Adam had looked right past him at first; he had a hood pulled up, sunglasses on, and hadn't shaved. His attempt to look incognito had worked, but actually made him look a little hung over, which was probably not the goal. Jules, however, was unmistakable -- even dressed down in a t-shirt and jeans, he was gorgeous enough that people were making eyes at him, all of which he ignored, naturally.
"Great. Fantastic," Adam muttered. Just what he didn't need today, on top of Tony's apparent decision to become an enormous jackass. But it was too late, because Tony had waved hello to them, and gotten a hello wave back. Adam sank down in his seat as the two of them accepted their drinks from the barista and wandered over.
"Trying to steal our coffee shop?" Robin asked, smiling. Adam rolled his eyes. Yes, it was the coffee shop he'd been dragged to a year ago so they could yell at him not to do Shadowland. It was also conveniently close to his agent's office, and not quite trendy enough for paparazzi to stake out, which meant it was a relatively safe place for him and Tony to grab a drink on their way home.
"Yeah, absolutely, and this place isn't big enough for the two of us. Four of us. Whatever," Adam said. "Feel free to leave."
"Don't mind him, he's in the middle of losing an argument, that always puts him in a terrible mood," Tony said cheerfully.
"You." Adam pointed at him. "You are so not getting laid tonight."
"Yes I am," Tony said, eyebrows raising.
The annoying thing was, he was, because Adam had pretty much no willpower when it came to sex with Tony. Especially because Tony would probably be deploying in a few weeks. So yeah, if he gave Adam that scorching look and started taking off his clothing, there was roughly a hundred percent chance of Adam breaking and getting down on his knees for Tony, and not even complaining about it after.
"Jerk," Adam muttered.
"Okay, well, uh, we'll leave you to… whatever," Jules said.
But before he could edge his way further away from them, Adam called, "Wait a sec, actually, J., could you do me a huge favor? Don't wince, you'll like this. Please remind Tony, who seems to have developed some very selective amnesia all of a sudden, that I am not a very nice person, I'm a terrible boyfriend, and I'm a really terrible roommate."
Jules blinked at him. Then Jules blinked again, staring.
"I asked him to move in with me," Tony explained.
"Yeah," Adam said. "So I am begging you to let your loathing for all things me out, and save him from himself."
Jules glanced over at Robin, and Robin… Robin looked like he was trying not to laugh, which was extremely annoying. And then Jules smiled, which was even more annoying, and said, "Actually, I've recently felt slightly less loathing towards you. You seem to have gotten your act together quite a bit, and you two have been together for what, almost two years?"
Tony grinned into his coffee again, and Adam stared. "Are you kidding me? Did you really pick the least convenient time possible to decide not to hate me anymore?"
"The timing is coincidental, though, yeah, kind of funny," Jules said, and Adam felt like the entire world was laughing at him now. But Jules turned to Tony and continued, "You're really thinking about moving in together? I thought you were still closeted."
"Meh." Tony shrugged. "Everyone knows. Literally everyone, now, since I brought him to Jenk's barbeque last weekend. I don't see much point in pretending and I’m just… tired of waiting." He turned his attention back to Adam, and in his most sincere voice added, "You're the love of my life, and I'm tired of waiting for that life together to begin."
Adam rolled his eyes and made flappy-mouth gestures with his hand. "Big words, yes, very sweet and all, but I am not going to ruin your life like that."
And there it was. The truth that Adam knew, was certain of, that Tony had so casually dismissed. Adam was a terrible boyfriend all around, but for some reason Tony found him endearing -- but as soon as they lived together, Tony would start to notice it. Everything he'd overlooked about Adam would be in his face 24/7, to the point where he'd probably be counting down the days until he deployed and could get a break. Over the past few years, Adam had lost his last few illusions about himself. He knew he was hard enough to date. Living together would ruin everything.
But Tony shook his head a little. "How, with your terrible decorating skills? Not even you are tacky enough to actually ruin a life. Though you do come pretty close." He continued before Adam had a chance to do more than sputter: "And we're not hanging up the nudes. I refuse to live in a freaking Maplethorpe exhibit."
"Excuse you, those nudes are classy," Adam snapped.
Tony shot a look up at Jules and Robin. "Would you please tell him that hanging up naked photos in the bedroom is pretty much never classy? And no," back to Adam, "we aren't hanging the in the guest room, either, I am not explaining that to my mother when she visits."
Adam snorted. "Your mother has met me, if they aren't there she'll just ask where they are."
"Fine. The guest room," Tony agreed, and barreled on, "But that ratty-ass bedspread of yours is getting tossed. Or burnt."
"Hey!" Adam snapped. "My bedspread is fine. Yours is orange." It was his turn to appeal to Jules and Robin. "Like, Nickelodeon logo neon orange."
"Maybe Nickelodeon logos are what you get for dating a pre-teen," Robin said.
"Hey now, I'm the same age as you are," Tony said, then mumbled, "Almost." He cleared his throat. "Fine, we might as well get a new bedspread, then, along with a new bed. Mine's not big enough, and your mattress is a hundred years old. Just imagine not sleeping on that stupid spring anymore."
"That would be nice," Adam conceded, then realized that he had actually conceded, and glared. "Hang on, back up, I did not agree to this!"
"You kind of did," Jules said. "It was implied when you started bickering about the décor. Nicely negotiated, Tony."
"Thank you, that means a lot coming from you, sir," Tony answered.
"For Christ's sake, don't call him sir," Adam muttered. "God, how are you not getting this? You don't want to live with me. It would… I'd ruin everything, you know I would."
Jules cleared his throat. "Not to overstep, considering we're not exactly friends, but…" He gave Adam a serious look, and ugh, Adam had hoped that ruining Jules's life at least had meant an end to having to see that expression. "Adam, you are never going to convince Tony of that, because he has nothing but faith in you. Which I know, because he told me, months ago." He glanced at Tony. "He said every time he has faith in you, it's rewarded. So maybe have some faith in him."
"I can not believe that after everything, you think I'm going to listen to relationship advice from you!" Adam had gotten a little bit too loud, judging from the looks they were all getting now, but he didn't particularly care. Maybe he'd already lost this fight, but he hated losing.
"Oh yeah, what would I know?" Jules rolled his eyes. "I've just been happily married for two years."
"Yeah? Well, what about you, Boy Wonder? You never liked me."
Robin considered it and took a sip of his drink. "Mostly I've just been enjoying watching Tony outsmart you. But honestly? I can't remember you ever being really happy before Tony and now… now you're grinning and bickering about the color of your bedspread. Do yourself a favor and say yes."
"Do myself a favor?" Adam rolled his eyes, but…
The happiest he'd ever been before Tony was with Robin. Maybe Robin just didn't remember that because he'd been drunk the entire time they'd been together, but maybe…
Being with Tony didn't feel like being with Robin had. Or like being with Jules had, for that matter. Tony wasn't jealous, like Jules had been; and he didn't have a foot already out the door, like Robin had. He'd taken all of Adam's flaws and his tendency to melt down frequently in stride, and was always there to reassure him. He was strong and steady and when Adam was with him, he felt like he was…
All three of them were looking at him expectantly, and he hated losing, so he gestured it away. "Yes, sure, whatever. Since we're apparently replacing my bed, let's go see if we can break it once and for all."
Tony laughed, positively beaming at him, and Adam tried to pretend that he didn't want to smile back. Tony scooped up Adam's empty coffee cup and his own and stood. He gestured at the table and said, "Here, you two take it, I have to go celebrate with Adam."
"Thanks," Robin said, and shared an amused look with Jules. "Congratulations, you two."
"Thanks," Tony said, and dropped the cups in the trash. He tucked an arm around Adam, pulling him close in a way that he almost never did in public, and Adam felt a jolt of anticipation run down his spine. Yes, they were definitely going to celebrate, and this… this might not be the worst idea.
"Hey," Jules called, as they headed for the door. Adam glanced back. "Invite us to the house warming."
Adam stopped walking, turned around, and stared. "Seriously?"
"If you want," Jules said, shrugging as if it didn't matter, and wasn't a peace offering after years of hating each other. But Jules seemed to mean it, and Adam wondered when that had changed, too. When Jules had stopped hating him, and when he'd stopped hating Jules -- because for the first time, he didn't have the urge to say something to get under Jules's skin.
So he just nodded and said, "Will do. See you," and waved over his shoulder as he walked away, letting Tony lead him towards what felt an awful lot like a new beginning.