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The whip in Philadelphia is the absolute last straw.

"Oh!" Adam says into his microphone, delighted, and bends over to pick it up. "Missed that!"

For a second, Kris can't see what's caught Adam's attention. "What did they throw—" Allison starts, but then Adam straightens, swinging the whip above his head. Kris has just enough time to think, Oh, shit, before Adam brings his leg up and the whip down, and strikes it hard against his thigh. Kris makes a desperate, involuntary noise, and slaps his hand over his mouth.

"Nice!" Anoop says cheerfully from Allison's other side. "He hasn't done that for a while! Although I guess it's been mostly underwear on the Eastern Seaboard."

Kris can cope with the underwear; the whips and handcuffs are something else entirely. He swallows hard, and carefully takes his hand away from his mouth. "Yeah, I guess."

"Great crowd!" Allison says, rolling her shoulders back and straightening her jacket.

Anoop gives her a quick hug and says, "Break a leg, Al," just like he always does, and grins at Kris before turning to go back to the green room. The crowd is cheering even louder, now—basking in Adam, Kris thinks, and shoves his hands into his pockets.

"I love you all, thank you!" Adam tells the audience earnestly, the whip loose in his hand, and then his eyes flick sideways to Allison, waiting for her cue. He doesn't linger on Kris—Kris is here every night, like clockwork, so consistent that even Maggie in make-up has stopped yelling at him for rushing out in time to catch Adam's set—but his grin widens, and he laughs as he strikes the whip again, one quick hit on his ass before he sweeps it out like a baton to call Allison onstage. His laugh is rich and real and thrilled, and Kris is—

Kris is so impossibly frustrated.

Adam has been driving Kris crazy all summer. It was different when Adam was something Kris could never have, when watching Adam strut across the stage and rile up the audience left Kris uncomfortably turned on, familiarly dissatisfied; but he was used to the dull ache of longing, and mostly Adam was just—hot, untouchable, his friend. Maybe it should be easier, now that he has Adam in hotel rooms and broom closets and three times on Sundays, but there are three weeks and five days left of the tour, and Adam is wasting them, whipping himself in front of thousands of people when he could—should—be whipping Kris. In private.

In Boston, Adam had pinned Kris's wrists to the bed with one hand and fucked him slowly, refused to let him come until Kris begged, shaking, his wrists jerking in Adam's hand. In Florida, before Katy came out for the Newark shows, Adam curled Kris's hands over the hotel headboard, ordered him to stay still while he licked him open. In Newark, Adam held Kris down while Katy fucked him with the strap-on, hands rough on his shoulders and hips. Everything with Adam is good, but Kris has seen Adam's easy comfort with the whips and handcuffs the audience throws him, and he knows about the flogger Adam has in his luggage, and he wants—he wants everything, and he doesn't want to wait.

"Just ask him," Katy had said, when he'd called her on the bus from Boston to Albany. It was after midnight in LA. Everyone else on the bus was asleep, but Kris was curled up on the couch in the back lounge, absently fingering the barely-there bruises on his wrists. "Also," Katy added, sounding a little annoyed, "you couldn't have brought this up while I was there?"

"I just—" Kris started, not quite sure how to say what he was feeling. "It's just that he should already know."

"He isn't psychic, Kris," Katy snapped. "You really do have to talk to each other, if this is ever going to work."

"Couldn't you—" Kris asked, because Katy was always better at the talking parts. Katy thought this would work; Kris mostly felt like he was hanging on by his fingernails, trying to have as much as he possibly could for as long as this lasted. If they actually started talking about it

"No," Katy said firmly, "on second thought, I think it's better that you didn't bring this up while I was there. You two are going to have to work it out by yourselves." He could hear the smile in her voice. "Or rather, together," she added, and nothing Kris said after that could make her change her mind.

The stage goes dark at the end of 'Slow Ride', and Kris blinks; Adam and Allison are coming offstage, half in shadow in the dim backstage light. "That was awesome!" Allison says, leaning up to give Adam a quick peck on the cheek. "See you later!" she says to Kris, and whirls off to her dressing room.

"Yeah," Kris says faintly, "awesome."

Adam smirks, wicked and bright, and Kris can feel himself blushing. "Hey," Adam starts, but then the ASM calls, "Places for Bowie," and Adam rolls his eyes, and squeezes Kris's shoulder—not quite a caress, but Kris shivers anyway—and goes back on. Kris looks away; tonight, the Bowie medley is more than he can stand.


Kris goes straight for the shower when they get to the hotel. It's not that he's avoiding Adam, not exactly. It's just that he's all worked up from the show, sticky and sweaty, and a little exhausted from channeling his frustration into music. If he's alone with Adam now, finally in the privacy of their own connecting rooms, he might—he could say anything. It could all come tumbling out, unclear, unfiltered, everything Kris wants and fears and doesn't quite understand, and Katy told him to just talk to him, but Kris doesn't trust his own control.

He leaves his clothes on the floor and turns the water up past hot, until the bathroom mirror and shower door are clouded with steam. The water scours away the sweat and dust, and the steam clears his head, but nothing can quite shake the vivid memory of Adam and the whip. He's been dwelling on this, wanting this without knowing what to ask for, without knowing how to ask, and for it to be so easy for Adam onstage—

He picks up the soap and scrubs his neck and shoulders, washes behind his ears, and slides his soapy hands down his chest. Adam did this for him yesterday, in Albany: pushed him up against the tiled wall of the hotel shower and washed his back, trailed soap-slick fingers over his ass, and then turned him around. Kris had slid to his knees and mouthed at Adam's cock, sucked him off with Adam's hands gripped tightly in his wet hair and water falling in his eyes.

The hand he has wrapped around his cock is not helping his control. It isn't even what Kris wants, though, not now; now, all he can think about is Adam's hand on the whip, Adam holding him down—and Kris doubts he can take another show like tonight's if he can't have this.

He ducks his head under the spray and scrubs his hands over his face. He doesn't hear the bathroom door open, but then Adam says, "Hey," loudly enough to carry over the sound of the shower, and Kris steps out of the spray. He can see Adam's silhouette through the cloudy glass: he's still dressed, but barefoot—his feet silent on the tile floor—and he's leaning languidly against the sink.

"Hey," Kris says. His voice sounds rough to his own ears, muddled by the acoustics of tile and water.

"Are you okay?" Adam asks.

"Sure, yeah." Kris picks up the shampoo and dumps the bottle over into his hand; it smells faintly of oranges.

"It's just that you've been in there for a while," Adam says. Kris puts his hands under the water and lets the shampoo run off his fingers. "You don't usually take long showers unless you're jerking off," Adam continues, and then his voice goes dark and smoky, "but we have tomorrow morning off, and this nice hotel for two whole nights."

"I—" Kris starts, "um, I—yeah."

Adam is quiet for a moment, and then he sighs. "Okay, what's going on?"

"Nothing!" Kris says reflexively, and then winces, and ducks back under the water.

"Kris," Adam says patiently, "not that I am complaining about this in any way, because I am seriously not complaining about this in any way, but you have jumped me at every available opportunity since we left L.A." The door of the shower slides back, and Adam's no longer in silhouette; he's taken off his make-up, and in the warm, wet air, his freckles stand out against his skin.

"I don't—" he still doesn't know what to say. "It was kind of an intense show." He turns off the water. "Can I have a towel?"

"Hmm," Adam murmurs, and rakes his eyes very slowly down Kris's body. "No."


"Kris." Adam looks back up at Kris's face, "Something is clearly bothering you. Are you going to tell me what, or do I need to tie you up and torture it out of you?"

Kris freezes. He can feel himself flushing. "Uh—" he says involuntarily, and he knows his eyes are too wide, too shocked, too obvious when he's so naked, half-hard and dripping water onto the shower floor.

"Really," Adam says softly, his eyes fixed on Kris—and Kris must look so stupidly ridiculous like this, damp and blotchy and awkward, Christ. He stares helplessly back until Adam smiles, the corners of his mouth soft with surprise. "Okay," he says, almost to himself, and then he straightens abruptly and takes a step away from Kris. He tilts his chin up and puts his shoulders back, his mouth hardening into a smirk, and Kris can't look away—he doesn't think he could look away if the building was on fire.

Adam picks up a towel and holds it out to Kris. "Dry off."

Kris blinks. "What—"

"Dry off," Adam says, quiet and irrevocable. "Get on the bed. I'll be back in a few minutes. Then we'll talk."

Kris takes the towel and wraps it quickly around his waist. "Leave the towel," Adam says, sounding almost amused, and goes out of the bathroom.

"Oh my God," Kris breathes, staring after him. If this—maybe Adam does already know, maybe Kris won't even have to ask. He takes a deep, steadying breath, and gets out of the shower. In the bathroom mirror, his eyes are a little wild. "Okay," he says to his reflection, and unwraps the towel.

The lights are all on in the other room, and the connecting door is slightly open, but Adam told him to get on the bed, so he gets on the bed. He leans back against the headboard, propping his chin on his hands on his drawn-up knees. He's just starting to get antsy when Adam comes back in, carrying a canvas bag. Adam sets the bag down on the end of the bed and closes the door behind him, leaning against it with his arms crossed.

"Have you talked to your wife about this?"

"She said you and I had to work it out by ourselves," Kris says, only a little petulantly.

One corner of Adam's mouth twitches. "Has she done this for you?"

"Done—" Kris starts, and then stops. He was about to say "Done what?" but that isn't—it wouldn't be—"Not exactly," he says, instead. "I—she got a pair of fuzzy handcuffs as a bachelorette gift, and we—there have been blindfolds and things, but not—I wouldn't have—I didn't know—"

"No," Adam murmurs, "I suppose you didn't." Kris shivers; the hotel room is cold, the air-conditioning chilling his bare skin, but Adam's eyes are hot. "Do you know what you want now?"

"I—" Kris looks away, suddenly panicked. He wants Adam to tie him up, he wants Adam to hit him, he wants—he wants Adam to do whatever he's done with people who know more about this than Kris, but he doesn't know how—and he's completely out of control, and one of these days he needs to finish a damn sentence—

"Stop that," Adam says sharply. "Look at me."

Kris looks up, and Adam's eyes go suddenly soft. "Oh fuck," Adam breathes, "I am going to kill Katy. Or get her something really fucking nice, holy shit."

"What—" Kris asks, but Adam just shakes his head and comes over to sit on the bed.

"The way this works," he says, still gentle, "is that you have to trust me to take care of you. Do you trust me?"

"Yes," Kris says instantly.

"For today," Adam says seriously, "I will stop if you ask me to stop. You can ask me to stop at any time, for any reason. Asking to stop is not a bad thing, and it doesn't mean we can't try this again. Do you understand? This is important." Kris can't imagine asking Adam to stop—Adam hasn't even started—but if Adam says this is important, then—Kris trusts him.

"Okay," he says, and Adam smiles and puts one hand on Kris's face, tugging him in for a kiss.

"Oh—" Kris gasps into his mouth. Adam laughs, low and wicked, and sucks hard on Kris's tongue. The kiss gets dirty fast; Adam bites Kris's lips and licks roughly into his mouth, and then he pushes Kris's knees apart so he can kneel between them on the bed, his hands bracketing Kris's face. Kris is caught between Adam and the headboard, nowhere to go and Adam's hands holding him in place, but they've done this much before—

Adam bites down sharply on Kris's lower lip. "We really have to get you out of your head," he murmurs, sitting back on his heels.

"I'm sorry." Kris licks his lip, worrying his tongue over the bite.

Adam shakes his head, "You have nothing to be sorry for." He rests his hand on Kris's thigh, just touching. "If I'd been paying the right kind of attention, I would've seen this earlier, and then you wouldn't be so knotted up over it," he grins widely, eyes dancing. "Pun intended." Kris laughs, at ease for just a moment.

"I read some things wrong," Adam continues, serious again, "and when we've got you sorted out I need to have a talk with Katy, but that isn't important now. This is about you, and what you need, and what you haven't been telling us that you need."

"I don't—"

Adam takes Kris's chin in one hand, "Baby," he says, gentle, inexorable, impossible to resist, "let me take care of you."

Kris nods; he doesn't trust himself to speak.

"Good." Adam smiles again, but it's a different smile, full of dark, complicated things that Kris doesn't know how to read and wants desperately anyway. "Stand up."

Kris scoots to the edge of the bed and stands up. He feels ridiculous, standing naked next to the bed, and cold. He hugs his arms over his chest. "Are you cold?" Adam asks.

"Yeah," Kris says sheepishly.

"Stay there." Adam slides smoothly off the bed and crosses the room to the window. When he crouches down to turn off the air conditioning, the long line of his back is breathtaking; his clothes are dark and impenetrable, though, and it almost doesn't matter that Kris knows what's under them. "You'll warm up," Adam says, and Kris shivers again.

"If we were in L.A.," he continues, standing up and turning around, "I'd put you on your knees and tie you to the headboard." Kris swallows hard. Adam's bed is enormous, with an iron frame and a headboard of elaborate wrought-iron loops and whorls. Kris had admired it in May, before he knew exactly what Adam's smirk meant, before wanting him was anything more than idle speculation. He hasn't been in Adam's new house, though, hasn't been in Adam's bedroom since they started this—and all of a sudden he wants Adam to fuck him in that bed, in L.A., wants to be tied up to that headboard, where Adam's tied everybody else before. But that's—all they have is now.

"We'll have to improvise," Adam says, picking up one of the chairs from the round table in the corner. The chair is wooden, with a cushioned seat and a crossed back, and Adam puts it down against the bare stretch of wall between the dresser and the connecting door. "Come here."

Kris goes. Adam grabs his shoulders and pulls him in for a kiss, sliding his hands down Kris's back to cup his ass. Kris kisses him for a long, dizzying minute, until Adam pulls away. "I want you to kneel on the floor in front of the chair." He brings his hands back up to Kris's shoulders and gives him a gentle push. "Face the chair," he says as Kris drops to his knees.

The carpet is thick and plush under his bare knees, and Kris turns away from Adam to face the chair. "Put your arms on the chair," Adam says, "you can lean against it, get comfortable. You will have to hold this position, so make sure you can." Kris sits back on his heels, folding his arms on top of the chair and leaning forward against the edge of the cushioned seat. He turns his head, trying to see Adam, but Adam is standing behind him and to the side, and his face is in shadow.

"I—" he says, and is immediately embarrassed by the shakiness of his voice, "like this?"

"That's good," Adam brushes his hand over the top of Kris's head, reassuring, "that's good, baby, stay like that."

"Where are you going?" Kris asks as Adam moves away. He doesn't know if he should ask—if asking is even allowed—but he needs to say something to fill the sudden silence. He needs Adam to keep talking.

"I need rope to tie you up," Adam sounds amused. "This sort of thing requires supplies."

"You have rope?" He didn't know that Adam had rope. He knew about the flogger, but—

"I have rope," Adam confirms. "I have my flogger, which I have in fact noticed you admiring." Kris can't control his reaction to that, and Adam laughs softly, "I'm not going to gag or blindfold you this time. I want to hear you, and I want you to be able to tell me to stop, if you need to." He comes back over and kneels next to the chair, where Kris can see him. He has a thick coil of thin, strong-looking rope in his hands. "Give me your hands."

The coil of rope turns out to be two coils. Adam puts one of them aside and uncoils the other, and then he picks up Kris's left hand and wraps the long, doubled-over rope around his wrist. His hands move quickly, wrapping and looping and knotting the rope around Kris's wrist with the ease of what must be long practice. Kris is mesmerized, watching the rope become a cuff, and then Adam is tying the trailing ends of the rope to the back of the chair. "How does that feel?"

Kris gives the tie an experimental tug, and feels the rope tighten minutely around his wrist. He isn't going anywhere. "It's not—it's not that tight?"

"It shouldn't be too tight," Adam says, smiling at him, "we don't want to cut off your circulation."

"Oh, yeah, I guess—" Kris tugs again, "I guess that would be bad."

Adam laughs, "Yes." He tests the knots on the chair, and runs one hand down the rope to where it curves smoothly around Kris's wrist. "The rope has to have some slack, because we also don't want to break the chair, or you. Katy would never forgive me."

"For the chair?" Kris asks dryly, clinging to familiar ground.

"Naturally." Adam picks up the second coil of rope and stands, walking around Kris to kneel down on the other side of the chair. "Other hand." This time, Kris watches Adam; his head is bent, dark hair still styled from the show, and he bites his lip when he concentrates.

"That's—" Kris starts, and then he doesn't know what to say. "You—have you done this a lot?" He doesn't really want to know the answer.

"Mmm," Adam says, "enough." Kris breathes out, and Adam looks up, the barest hint of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "Ready?" Kris nods, and Adam ties his right hand to the chair. The ties on both wrists are tight, but not too tight; they tighten when he pulls against them, but there's just enough slack that the chair stays stable against the wall.

Adam wraps his hand around Kris's right wrist, over the rope. "You're doing great, baby. How does that feel?"

"Good—I think, I—it feels good." It does feel good: secure, and safe, and very new. The newness is a little thrilling, and the fact that he can't go anywhere—he shifts a little on his knees; his cock is getting harder.

"Good." The look in Adam's eyes is appraising and predatory, familiar, and not familiar at all. Adam squeezes Kris's wrist once, hard, and stands up. He paces around Kris, agonizingly slowly, while Kris tries not to squirm. "You have no idea how you look right now," he murmurs roughly, at last.

"Are you—" Kris swallows. "Are you going to—" The back of his neck is hot; he can feel himself turning red.

Adam laughs, low and rich and dangerous, "That depends."

"On what?"

"On you." Adam's voice is very quiet. Kris wishes he could see his face. "What do you want?" he asks, deceptively gentle. "Do you want me to whip you?"

Kris is shaking a little against the chair, and he can't touch himself, he can't do anything, he can't move— "I don't—" he stumbles, "I don't—know—I—"

"If you want it," Adam says, "you have to ask for it."

"Oh," Kris breathes, "but I—" He can't ask for it. He can't even say it. He thought Adam knew that. "I can't," he gasps, frustrated and shaky.

Adam is suddenly right behind him. He squeezes the back of Kris's neck, and then he scrapes a fingernail down the center of Kris's back, sharp and hard. Kris shivers violently under his hands. "That's the rules," Adam says, as sharp and hard as his nails, "you don't come until I say you can, and you have to ask for what you want. I can leave you tied up here for hours, baby, I don't even have to touch you."

"Adam," Kris moans.

Adam scrapes his nails across the top of Kris's ass, "Kris, baby, all you have to do is ask." He lets go, and straightens up, and steps away. Kris cannot believe—but he got himself into this. He's here now, tied to this chair, and he—he needs to know how this feels.

"I want—" he starts, and stops, and takes a deep breath, and tries again. "I want you to—would you—whip me?" He sounds hesitant, uneven, his voice lifting uncertainly into a question, but he says it, and that has to be enough for Adam. It has to be.

"You don't sound very sure."

Kris grits his teeth and tugs at the ropes, but they hold. "I—fuck," he says, "I don't—please, Adam."

There's a sound, like leather tapping gently against skin, and then Adam says, "Don't move."

Kris freezes, his hands clenching tightly on the ropes. Adam comes closer, and trails the soft leather tails of the flogger down Kris's back. "Please," Kris whispers, and Adam lifts the flogger and hits him. The sound of the flogger smacking against his skin rings out in the quiet room, and it hurts. Kris doesn't know why he's surprised, because of course it hurts, it's supposed to hurt, but—he's shaking again, pulling at the ropes, but he's still—he's so hard. Adam crouches down behind him and puts a hand on his shoulder, and then his mouth is on Kris's skin, his tongue tracing lines across Kris's back where the flogger came down.

"Do you want me to hit you again?" Adam asks, warm and wet against Kris's spine.

"Yes," Kris gasps, stunned, "I—yes."

"Good," Adam's mouth is gone. "If you want to, you can scream." He stands up again, and then he lands a second blow—lower, this time, the trailing ends of the flogger striking Kris's hip. Kris moans.

"I want you to tell me," Adam says, quiet, thoughtful, dangerous, "what brought this on tonight."

"I—" Kris is almost beyond coherent thought, but he can't—he doesn't want to talk anymore. He thought that when Adam started hitting him—why are they still talking? "It wasn't—"

"You were upset," Adam murmurs, "I want to know why you were upset. If you want me to hit you again, you have to tell me why you were upset. You have to tell me how long you've wanted this."

"Please," Kris groans, "Adam, please—"

"You beg very beautifully," Adam says, "but that isn't enough. Tell me why."

Adam isn't touching him, and he isn't whipping him, and Kris is tied to the goddamned chair and can't see Adam's face, and he breaks. "You were—tonight, on stage, you had that whip that somebody threw you, and you were so—when you—and it's not fair, that you do that onstage, where everyone can see you, but you don't do it for me—"

"Kris," Adam says incredulously, in something like his normal voice, "are you jealous of the fans?"

"No! I—no." He pushes up a little on his knees, resting his chest on the seat of the chair. "I know this is—I know this is something that you do. Everybody knows this is something that you do, they throw you freaking floggers! I don't know why you weren't—why you weren't doing it for me, if I was doing something wrong, or I wasn't—wasn't good enough, or—" Now that he's started talking he can't stop, everything pouring out like a humiliating flood of obviousness. "I want everything, Adam, I want you, and, and we might not—I don't know what's going to happen, after the tour, and I thought maybe—I thought maybe you weren't because I, because you didn't want, because—"

Adam hits him again. "Oh," Kris cries out, "oh, I—"

"I do want," Adam says, "and you haven't done anything wrong, and now I know." He strokes a hand down Kris's back, palming his ass, and Kris pushes back against him, shivery and desperate, until Adam pulls away again. The next blow lands across his shoulders, and the one after that lands sharply on his lower back, the snaking tails of the flogger whipping across his ass. This time he does scream.

"Beautiful," Adam murmurs, "baby, that's beautiful," and then Adam is hitting him in a hard, fast rhythm, and Kris can't—he can't breathe, he can't—he's so hot, sweating and shaking, pulled between the ropes anchoring his wrists and the stinging blows on his back and his shoulders and his ass, and he can hear himself, crying and yelling, and begging Adam to—not stop.

Adam stops. "That's enough."

"No," Kris moans, "no, Adam, please, don't stop—"

"That's enough, Kris," Adam says sharply.

It isn't anything like enough, Kris thinks, because they don't have time— "But, I, I need—" he tries.

"Quiet," Adam snaps. Kris can hear him moving away, and then there's a sound like the click of a belt buckle, and rustling like clothes coming off, and maybe—oh—

Adam's hands are warm on his stinging back, pushing him up and over the chair. "Spread your legs," Adam whispers in his ear, and Kris shivers under his hands and moves his knees apart. "That's good, baby," Adam says, sliding his hands back down and kneeling behind Kris. There's another click; Adam's hand moves away and comes back wet, and then he pushes one long finger into Kris's ass.

"Oh God," Kris gasps. "Oh God, Adam—"

"Don't come," Adam orders, bringing his other hand around and grabbing Kris's cock, squeezing hard. Kris almost swallows his tongue. Adam squeezes harder—almost too hard, just enough to bring him back from the edge—and Kris takes a shaky breath. "Good," Adam says approvingly, sliding a second finger into Kris's ass and working him open.

Kris pushes into his hands, "Christ, Adam, come on."

Adam laughs, "Not yet." He twists his fingers, rough and perfect, and Kris groans helplessly. "When you're ready."

"I'm ready, Adam, fuck me." He's been hard for hours, desperate, tied up, and he can still feel the flogger on his back. He needs this. He knows how to ask. "Please."

Adam strokes his cock once, thumb pressing hard against the head, and then he lets go. "When I say you're ready," he says sharply, and smacks Kris's ass with the palm of his hand. Kris jerks, surprised, and Adam slides a third finger into his ass and presses up against his prostate, sharp and startling and—fuck.

Then Adam is pulling his fingers out and moving away—condom, Kris thinks hazily—and then he's back, his hands hard on Kris's ass, and then he's pushing in, smooth and slow and relentless. Kris shoves back, wanting more, and then Adam is all the way in, and Kris can hear himself gasping. Adam bites his ear and says, low and rough, "Hang on."

Kris grabs the ropes binding him to the chair. "That's right," Adam says, and then he's slamming into Kris, fucking him hard—and fast, and the chair is shaking with him, with Adam, and Kris can't—he can't do anything but hold on, but he needs—

"Fuck," he groans, "Oh God, Adam, fuck—"

Adam laughs breathlessly and fucks him harder. "You feel amazing," he says, and if anyone else said that to him, Kris would laugh, embarrassed and awkward, but with Adam—with Adam, he just moans again and clings to the ropes.

"Please, Adam," he gets out, barely able to form words, "please, can you—"

Adam doesn't stop fucking him, "Tell me what you need, baby."

"Touch me," Kris gasps, and hopes that's enough, because he doesn't have anything left to give.

"Yes," Adam grabs Kris's hip with one hand, and his cock with the other, and finally—finally, fuck—jerks him off. He matches his strokes, fucking Kris in time with the fast, hard, inexorable motion of his hand on Kris's cock, and Kris is so—fuck, he's so close, and he can't—Adam said not to come

"Come now," Adam says in his ear, and Kris is coming almost before he realizes that he can, hard and sudden, tension and build-up and release leaving him shivery and spent. He hangs shakily from the ropes while Adam fucks him through it; he feels like liquid under Adam's hands, and Adam fucks him even harder, three more strokes until he comes inside of Kris, hot and shaking as they both ride out the aftershocks.

Eventually, Adam pulls out and goes to get rid of the condom. Kris clings unsteadily to the chair, dazed, blissed out; his ass hurts, and his back stings, and the ropes are tight and hard around his wrists, and he kind of wants to stay like this forever.

Adam kneels next to the chair, smoothing one hand down Kris's spine. "I'm going to untie you now, okay?" Kris mutters a vague, wordless protest, and Adam laughs. "Trust me, that is going to get really uncomfortable in a few minutes, and not in a good way." He unties each of Kris's hands from the chair, and then he slips the knots on Kris's wrists, gently untangling the rope and winding it back up into two careful coils. Kris watches; he's having trouble keeping his eyes open, but Adam's fingers on the rope are beautiful. Kris stays bent over the chair until Adam puts the ropes down on the floor and takes both of Kris's sore wrists in one hand to tug him gently to his feet. Adam's other hand is firm and reassuring in the small of his back.

"Come on, baby," Adam says quietly, "bed." It's good that Adam's holding him up, Kris thinks, because he doesn't trust his knees. Adam pulls the sheet and duvet back to the foot of the bed, and fluffs up the pillows, and then he pushes Kris down onto the bed. "Lie on your stomach," he says. Kris falls face-first into the pillows.

Adam sits down on the bed beside him, and leans over to kiss the back of his neck. "How do you feel?"

"Wow," Kris says shakily, turning his head to look up at Adam.

Adam laughs lightly, "Does your back hurt?"

"Yes," Kris admits. He can still feel every stroke of the flogger. "It was worth it, though."

"I know," Adam sounds pleased, "I'm glad you think so." He kisses Kris lightly. "I'm going to get you some water, okay? Don't fall asleep yet."

"Okay," Kris says, and Adam gets up and goes to the mini fridge. He comes back with a bottle of water and helps Kris sit up; Kris drinks the water quickly, more thirsty than he realized. Adam takes the empty bottle away from him and puts it on the nightstand, and then he slides in under the covers and puts both arms around Kris. Kris rests his head on Adam's shoulder and burrows in; Adam is warm, and he smells like sweat and hair products and sex, like Adam.

"How do you feel, really?" Adam says softly, seriously, "I know this isn't easy for you to talk about, Kris, but the talking part is important."

Kris feels warm, sleepy and comfortable in Adam's arms; the constant buzz in his head, fear and desire and uncertainty and desperation, is—not gone, exactly, but quiet. Burnt out. "Good," he whispers, "sore, but—I think that's good. I think I—needed this?"

Adam laughs into Kris's hair, "You know, somehow, I figured that out."

"I—" Kris turns his face into Adam's neck, "yeah. Thank you."

"Really," Adam drawls, stroking one hand down his back, "my pleasure."

Kris laughs and leans up to kiss him, slow and sweet and sleepy. "Can I ask you something?" he asks, finally pulling away; with his head on the pillow, he and Adam are eye-to-eye.


"How do you—when you do that onstage, or when you—do that with me, and then when you're—" he stops, frustrated, and tries again, "with the, the whipping, and—how do you keep it separate? From—everything else?"

"Mmm," Adam says, "it is and it isn't."

Kris frowns, "What do you mean?"

Adam slides his hand up Kris's back and into his hair, his thumb tracing the curve of Kris's ear. "When I'm in a scene—that's what we did tonight, it's called a scene—it's like a performance, like being onstage. Not totally, obviously," he smiles wickedly, "but there's a certain set of rules, and when the scene is over, it's like—getting offstage at the end of a performance. You can break a scene with a safeword, or tonight you could've broken the scene at any point by saying stop, just like somebody could end one of our shows by yelling fire in a crowded theater." He stops, mouth quirking, "Or, well, that's not the greatest analogy."

"Okay," Kris says, "but—"

"I'm not finished." Adam tightens his hand in Kris's hair, and Kris stills instantly. "What we do in a scene—that's in the scene. That's what the scene is for, but if I were to—" he pulls hard on Kris's hair, sharp and painful, "do that, right now, or on the bus, or while we were eating breakfast in a crappy diner, that wouldn't be okay." He lets go, and moves his hand down to cup Kris's face. "Do you see the difference? Between my hurting you in the scene, with rules, when you want it, or need it, or ask for it, and my hurting you for real?"

"You couldn't," Kris says firmly, "and even if you could, you wouldn't."

"Well," Adam looks away, "yes, okay, but not everyone—"

Kris reaches down to take Adam's other hand, "I get it."

Adam smiles and meets Kris's eyes, his thumb sliding along Kris's bottom lip. Kris shivers. "So you see how it's separate," he says, "but it also isn't, because it's part of you. It's part of what you want, and part of what you do. Performing onstage isn't separate, either, even when you're playing a character that isn't just a facet of you. It all comes from somewhere, and trying to keep it separate, or isolated, or secret, or locked up—that never really works out, does it?"

"I—" Adam's thumb on his lip is warm and dry. "No," Kris says, "I guess—not."

"Trust me," Adam says dryly, "it really doesn't." He shifts closer, until their legs are tangled together and they're pressed chest to chest. "Did I answer your question?"

"I think so," Kris murmurs, "for now. Did I—did I answer yours?"

Adam smiles, so close that it's almost a blur. "For now," he says, and leans in to kiss Kris, his tongue following his thumb across Kris's bottom lip. They kiss for a long time, until Kris is drifting, warm and loose and safe, all wrapped up in Adam. Adam kisses him again, and keeps both arms around him. "Go to sleep," he whispers, "we can talk more in the morning."

Kris nods into Adam's shoulder. "G'night, Adam. Love you."

"You too," Adam murmurs, right on the edge of Kris's consciousness, and then he's asleep.


He wakes up to Adam's voice. Adam's not in the bed, but the sheets are rumpled and still warm. Kris stretches carefully; he's sore, but the good kind of sore, and his back only hurts a little—just enough to remind him of everything that happened last night.

"No," Adam is saying quietly, "it's as much my fault as yours. I've been doing this for years." Kris rolls onto his side. Adam is sprawled out in the armchair by the window, wearing pajama pants and nothing else, and talking on his phone. "Okay, well, not this exactly, no, but—I shouldn't have been so quick to assume that you had it covered. I—" He pauses, listening, and then laughs a little sheepishly. "Thanks, darling. I do appreciate the fact that you are toppy as fuck."

Kris pushes himself up on his hands, leaning back against the pillows. His wrists don't really hurt, but they're circled in marks: faint, dark bruises under the red lines left by the ropes.

"Yes," Adam says into the phone, and then he's quiet for a minute. "Katy," he says softly, at last, "I don't know if this is—he needs it, and apparently he needs it from me. I can't object, when I want it just as much. But this is serious, and if you're not—" He frowns, slowly, and then smiles. "Okay. If—okay, but at some point I should show you, just—no, I know, but just in case."

Kris shifts, and the headboard creaks. Surprised, Adam turns his head quickly, catching Kris out; Kris smiles at him, trying not to be embarrassed about eavesdropping. "He's awake," Adam says to Katy, and then laughs. "Mmm, me too. I'm not—well, I'm not exactly sorry that you weren't here last night—I'm a little possessive about things like this—but I do wish you were here now," his voice lowers and darkens, "he's so beautiful this morning." Kris rolls his eyes, but he's blushing.

"Oh yes," Adam says, nothing but sex, and Kris shivers involuntarily, like he always does when Adam uses that voice. "He was perfect. Not that there isn't plenty I can still teach him, but last night—yes." Adam stands up and walks towards the bed. Kris looks quickly away, his cheeks hot. In an entirely different tone of voice, Adam says, "Kris, talk to your wife."

"Oh," Kris turns back. Adam is holding out the phone, grinning, and Kris glares at him as he takes it, "Hi, Katy."

"Hey babe," Katy says in his ear, her voice warm and familiar and just like home, "Did you have fun last night?"

"Um," Kris hesitates, because fun is maybe an oversimplification. "I—"

Katy laughs, relenting, "Relax, Adam told me," Kris blinks up at Adam, who shrugs and sits down on the bed. "I'm glad you finally worked this out, Kris, but you shouldn't—you really shouldn't keep things like this from us."

"I told you," Kris says, "and you said—"

"I know," Katy cuts him off, "and I was right about the fact that you and Adam needed to work this out without me, because you—you need different things from us. I can't give you the same things he can, that's why—but it doesn't work when you bottle up all your needs, either, because neither of us can read your mind." She sighs, "You're not wrong. Adam says I should have said something to him. He says if I had, it wouldn't have taken him so long to figure out what you needed and pry it out of you, because he thought that I—well. He can probably explain it better than I can."

"It—" Kris starts, "I think—we did work it out." The marks on his wrists are proof of that, he thinks, and blushes again.

"Yes," Katy agrees. He can hear the smile in her voice, can picture her, sitting at the kitchen table in their rented house—or on the couch in the living room, maybe, bare feet tucked up beneath her. "I'm glad. I just want to make sure that we can all talk to each other, when we need to, that we do talk to each other. This is going to be harder, after you come home."

Kris reaches out blindly, and Adam catches his hand and raises Kris's red wrist to his mouth. Kris shivers. "I know," Kris says carefully, to Katy, "thank you." Whatever happens, three weeks from now, after that, in L.A., Kris will always be unspeakably grateful to Katy for giving him this at all.

"Well," Katy says dryly, "my pleasure, really."

Kris closes his eyes. Adam's mouth is soft and wet on his wrist, and across the phone line and long, echoing distances, he can hear the quiet clink of something that sounds like a coffee mug. For just a minute, he wishes desperately that they were all together. "Still."

"Mmm," Katy says, and then, abruptly, "shit, I have to go, I have an audition. You'll call me tonight?"

"Of course—oh. Unless—" Kris opens his eyes and glances at Adam.

Adam shakes his head and lowers Kris's hand, twining their fingers together. "Not two nights in a row."

He stamps down on the sudden rush of disappointment. Adam knows what he's talking about, better than Kris does. He knew when to stop last night, and Kris trusts Adam to take care of him. "We'll call you," he confirms, trying not to let the disappointment into his voice, and Katy starts laughing. "Hey," he says guiltily, "I'm looking forward to it! We haven't—I miss you."

Katy stops laughing. "I miss you, too," she murmurs.

"Break a leg at your audition," Kris finishes, only a little awkwardly.

"Oh," Adam says, surprised, "yes, break a leg, Katy!"

"Thank you both," Katy says, still sounding amused at Kris's expense, and then she adds wickedly, "be good for Adam, sweetheart," and hangs up before Kris can protest.

Kris sets Adam's phone down on the nightstand, and Adam lets go of Kris's hand and crawls up the bed. "Let me see your back," he says softly.

"Oh," Kris says, "yeah, okay." He scoots down the bed and turns over, lying on his stomach with his face in the pillows.

Adam pushes the sheets down to Kris's thighs, "How does it feel?"

"Sore," Adam's hands are gentle on his back, and Kris pushes into them, just a little, "but like a good workout, not like—it's not painful."

"That's good," Adam murmurs, and then he puts a hand on Kris's waist and rolls him back over. "The marks are fine," he adds, "a little red, still, and you'll have some bruises, but nothing will scar. Although you should probably avoid open-backed gowns." Adam grins and Kris laughs, sitting up against the pillows. He leans into Adam's side, and Adam puts his arm around his shoulders.

"What did Katy mean," Kris asks, "about you thinking that she was—what?" He doesn't really know what question he's supposed to be asking. "She said you should explain."

"Yeah." Adam slides one foot down to press against Kris's ankle. "Katy and you—you're married, is the thing, and Katy's very—very toppy, so I naturally sort of assumed—wrongly, it turns out—that Katy was also—your top." He frowns down at the bed, not looking at Kris. "Probably if I'd thought that through, with everything I already knew about you both, I would've realized that neither of you were—quite so far along." He pauses, and sighs, "My instincts said you weren't mine, but there you were, being so—so fucking good—and I just—you wouldn't know this, there's no reason you should, but you can't be a good top when you don't know what you're allowed to have."

"Oh," Kris says, a little dizzy, "I didn't—"

Adam puts a hand on Kris's knee, "Of course you didn't. I didn't explain." He looks up, meeting Kris's eyes, "you made it clear that—that I was in fact doing you a great disservice by not tying you up and whipping the crap out of you." He grins, and Kris can't help smiling back. "Katy explained that she isn't that, for you, and that what you need from us is—different." He picks up Kris's hand again, and wraps his fingers around his wrist. "Apparently you are mine, after all. I'm learning how to share."

Adam's fingers on his wrist are sending hot, torturous shivers down Kris's spine. "Yes," Kris says, "I—yes."

"Yes?" Adam murmurs.

"I don't know—" Kris starts, "I don't know how long we have, but for—for as long as we have, I—" he takes a deep breath, "I want to have everything I can, and I want you to have everything, and—and I trust you, to be—that. For me."

Adam smiles, dark and beautiful and dangerous and perfect. "I'm glad." He slides the hand on Kris's knee up to his waist, and tugs. "Now come here," he says, "we don't have to be anywhere until noon." Kris kisses him, and doesn't think about the future.