Kris is so out of practice it's embarrassing.
He should be studying his notes right now instead of wearing a hole in the rug, but the last time he did an appearance like this was…Jesus, three years ago. And if he spends any more time focusing on that part, on how epically unprepared he feels, he's going to run out of his dressing room screaming.
He forces himself to take a couple deep breaths the way his coach taught him. Visualize success, feel his fingers and toes and every muscle in between, all connected and working together. Trained and ready. He's trained and ready. He can do this.
His nose twitches with the teasing scent of sandalwood, and he blinks his eyes open to frown at the incense sticks burning on the low table. He's sure his dressing room rider—if he had a dressing room rider—wouldn't have included those.
…or the makeup strewn across the counter. Or the brown fur coat draped across the worn leather couch. Or the pair of spiked, platform shit-kickers in the corner.
…and this isn't his dressing room, is it?
Heart sinking with impending embarrassment, Kris turns to the door...just as it opens and a dark-haired guy bursts in.
"Have you seen my peach gloss?" Adam-freaking-Lambert demands, running straight to the mirror and pawing at the array of tubes on the counter.
Kris freezes, stunned.
"It was right—wait, what are you doing in here?"
Kris's hands fly up instinctively to prove he wasn't stealing anything. "Sorry, I don't know, they just put me in here—" he starts apologizing.
Adam Lambert spins away from the mirror and pins Kris with his stare. "Oh my god, you're—"
And there it is: the inevitable gleam of recognition.
Not that Kris is surprised. Of course he recognizes him; NBC has that damn commercial on loop again. The "inspirational" one with Bob Costas's voiceover invoking the struggles of years past, the passion, the dreams, the heartache—and Kris's fall captured in excruciating slow motion, keeping his memory fresh in everyone's minds.
"Got it in one," Kris says, politely ignoring the way Adam's eyes are popping out of their sockets. "Hi. Sorry about intruding."
"Yeah," Kris agrees, glancing at the open door. When Adam keeps staring at him, dragging the humiliation out a little longer than Kris can stand, Kris sticks out his hand and says, "And you're Adam Lambert. Nice to meet you."
Adam reaches out and shakes his hand, a giddy grin spreading across his face. "I can't believe you're in my dressing room."
"Sorry," Kris says firmly, hoping the third apology's the charm. "There must've been a mix-up with the room assignments. I'll just—"
"No, that's cool," Adam blurts, flailing a hand to ward off Kris's explanation. "I don't mind. There's enough space in here for two. Do you want to sit down?" He lunges for the couch, snatches up the coat, and heaves it into a corner. "See? Lots of space for you," he says proudly.
Okay, Kris really doesn't know what's going on here. Thirty seconds ago, he expected Adam to call security on his ass. Instead, Adam seems almost nervous about meeting him. Which is beyond ridiculous. Kris may be infamous, but Adam is an international rock god. Kris is the one who should be intimidated.
And yet he isn't. Huh.
"There's a fridge, too," Adam is saying, pointing to the mini-fridge under the makeup counter. "Water and energy drinks. Are you thirsty?"
He looks so eager that Kris has to chuckle. "Nah, I'm good, thanks. And don't worry, I didn't touch anything—too busy having a nervous breakdown about the show. I only realized I was in the wrong room a second before you came in."
Adam is nodding like he's hanging on every word, and as bizarre as this situation is, it has at least distracted Kris from his earlier performance anxiety. The thought occurs to him that maybe Adam has his own stage fright issues and that's why he's wound up so tight and trying to get Kris to stay. Well, if Kris can do anything to set them both at ease, he'll do it gladly.
"I must've been blind," Kris says, leaning in like he's about to share a secret. When Adam takes a step closer to listen, Kris turns up the aw-shucks country-boy drawl that's charmed so many reporters and fans and says, "That clothes rack definitely should've tipped me off."
He points toward the wardrobe, crammed to bursting with leather and silk, and Adam snorts delightedly, some of the tension dropping out of his shoulders.
"What, you don't do glam?"
Kris glances down at the "accessible celebrity" outfit Katy had picked out for him. New jeans, white t-shirt, dark sports coat—they're fine, but he'd rather be wearing a comfortable henley and Chucks. "I don't think I know the meaning of the word," he says, gesturing to his ensemble. "This is as glam as I've ever been."
Adam hums thoughtfully, eyeing Kris's clothes and tapping his chin for a moment before smiling wickedly. "Or maybe you've just forgotten your roots. I mean, nothing says glam like spandex leotards."
Kris hasn't heard a spandex joke in nearly two years—he's out of practice for a lot of things, apparently—and it sets him off giggling and blushing.
Adam beams at him and starts flipping through the wardrobe. "You're right, though—you're in serious need of some glamming up. I can't let you leave this room without at least one accessory."
"Not the boa," Kris teases, pointing to the purple feather concoction dangling off the end of the rack.
"Purple? With your coloring? No way. You'd look good in hot pink, though."
"Yeah right," Kris laughs. "Like I'm gonna wear pink."
"You say that now, but I can be very persuasive," Adam says over his shoulder. "I've got a sequin tank in here with your name all over it. And you are so putting it on for me."
"I don't think I can watch this," Kris says. He props himself against the back of the couch, marveling for a moment that he's hanging out with Adam Lambert in the man's private dressing room. And even having a good time.
"I promise not to take any pictures," Adam says. "Video, on the other hand…."
"Adam!" someone shouts from down the hall, a woman's frantic voice accompanied by pounding feet. After a confused moment of staring at each other, Kris and Adam turn to the door just as a young woman runs up, panting, "Adam! Come on, they needed you five minutes ago!"
Adam jumps guiltily away from the rack, his hands empty. Kris doesn't entirely appreciate the reprieve he's been granted.
"Sorry, I know, just one more second," Adam says. As soon as she leaves, he heaves a deep sigh. "Sound check, fuck, I gotta go."
He looks indecisive again, like he isn't sure what he should do or where he should be. Kris sympathizes; he's felt the same ever since agreeing to this appearance. "Did you find your lipstick?" Kris asks, trying to help Adam focus.
Adam blinks and then shakes his head. "I totally forgot." He heads over to the counter again, and with his back turned, Kris allows himself a couple seconds to just look. At the long legs in tight leather, the broad shoulders and hard angles of shoulder blade under a thin cotton tunic, the strong back, slim hips, and the appealing dip where they all come together. Kris is a total cliché, ogling a celebrity the second his back is turned, and he almost feels guilty enough to stop.
Too soon, Adam makes a small sound of victory, swipes a tube over his mouth, and smacks his lips in the mirror. Kris yanks his gaze up before Adam catches him checking him out.
"Uh, good luck," Kris says to his reflection. "With the performance."
"Thanks," Adam says, dropping the tube and hurrying to the doorway. "Listen, it was an honor to meet you."
"You, too," Kris says.
Adam takes a step into the hall and then turns back and says, "I meant it, I don't mind if you wanna use my room. I promise I'm not a spaz; I'm usually a lot cooler than this." He gives Kris one more earnest smile and disappears, hurrying silently down the hall.
Kris picks up his duffel bag and makes his own exit, determined to find where he actually belongs. As he looks for a staffer to direct him, he can't help picturing himself in a hot pink, sequin tank top. The mental image is ludicrous…but no stranger than Adam looked, shuffling off to sound check in a pair of leopard-print bedroom slippers. Kris adjusts his grip on the bag and smiles to himself.
Once he finds the correct dressing room, Kris spends nearly an hour and a half doing stretches and centering exercises to clear his head. By the time the producers send him out on stage, he's as calm as he's ever been before a live audience. He just wishes he could forget about the dozen cameras zooming in.
Max Henson, the self-proclaimed King of Late Night, slaps Kris on the back like they're posing for paparazzi and then invites him to sit on the couch. Kris knows these motions by heart, rusty though he may be, so he smiles and laughs along with Max's gentle ribbing over that one disastrous performance and the commercials he can't escape. (It doesn't matter how many gold medals he won at Worlds before and after; to his fellow Americans, Kris will always be that kid who blew the iron cross at the Olympics eight years ago.)
With the studio audience sufficiently charmed by Kris's modesty and boyish looks (Katy's words), Max gets to the meat of the interview, quizzing Kris on the 2012 gymnastic team's chances in London. Kris obliges, following the script for a minute…but only one. As soon as he's finished the first question, Kris hijacks the interview just like Katy coached him. It's so easy—he just slips in a caveat that he's been absent from the sport for the past few years, so no one should place any bets just on his opinion. It's the perfect segue to their second topic, too well-placed to pass up.
Max may narrow his eyes at Kris's premature topic change, but he still plays along, asking Kris what he's been up to recently.
So Kris tells him. He talks about Africa, about the communities he's spent the last two years in and the charity he's heading now, based out of L.A. The audience awws over the children's faces projected on the wall behind Kris—children who are already benefitting from his nonprofit's efforts in Ethiopia and Kenya. And Max gamely plugs the online donation portal, encouraging the studio audience and viewers at home to donate to this worthy cause…and then Kris is done. No sticking the landing, no judges' scores to wait for—he's just promoted his charity on national television, and it went well.
He sinks back on the couch as the cameras spin away, his pulse elevated and breathing a little shallow as he listens to the crowd's applause. They're cheering for the late show's musical guest—Max is standing in front of the desk announcing Adam Lambert's song—but it sounds familiar, like standing ovations, like victory.
And then Adam starts singing.
The lights strobe and flash, the cameras pan in for the best shots, and Adam's band of tattooed, pierced musicians play and stomp their way through a song about dying on the dance floor. Every eye in the room is on Adam as he prowls the stage, shimmying and purring impossible scales into a rhinestone-studded microphone. Kris gets caught up in the spectacle and the rhythm of Adam's body, his graceful steps, the elegant lines of his arms and back, his thighs all the way down to his pale, bare feet. He remembers the ridiculous leopard slippers and has to blink at the juxtaposed images in his head.
There's no way Adam was suffering from performance anxiety before. He owns the stage in a way Kris hasn't witnessed since Yang Wei's run in 2008. Every flick of his fingers and cock of his hips is perfect and perfectly thrilling. He's the total superstar package, and the audience holds its collective breath, silently spellbound, desperate to see what he'll do next. And then Adam turns his head in Kris's direction for just a second before returning to the camera with a flirtatious grin, and Kris's breath catches. His pulse is still racing, his palms a little damp from adrenaline, and he rubs his hands on his thighs to dry his grip.
There's a sexy-as-fuck rock star performing not thirty feet away…and he just winked at Kris.
Kris needs a moment, okay?
He doesn't remember the entire second half of Adam's performance, his focus caught by Adam's hips, his feet, his lips. There's a melody his ears pick up that he starts humming at some point, but Kris is caught off guard when the lighting changes and the crowd bursts into a screaming frenzy of catcalls and applause. Kris blinks and smiles, trying to clap harder than 'politely' but lighter than 'I want to fuck that man.'
And then Adam is walking toward him, padding lightly across the stage, and Kris stands when Max does. If Adam shakes Kris's hand before Max's, Kris doesn't count it as a win. Honest.
When they all sit down again, Adam is in the seat closest to Max's desk, his legs crossed so one thigh presses hot against Kris's leg, and Kris has got to get a grip. There are three cameras pointed at him, and each time the producers cut to a wide shot of Adam, they'll catch Kris drooling on the damn couch.
Max is asking Adam about his upcoming tour, and Kris tunes into their conversation just in time to hear Max ask, "Kris, are you a fan of Adam's music?"
"Uh," Kris says, his eyes cutting from Max's smirk to Adam's indulgent smile. There's glitter in the peach gloss. "I, um…I've caught a few singles," he says lamely. "I never bought an album, though. Sorry," he adds, because he is an idiot. What was that about sticking the landing before? He feels like he's just fallen on his face.
"That's okay," Adam laughs. "I don't get a lot of radio saturation in those parts of Africa."
"Here, Kris," Max says, holding out the CD he's been waving around. "You can have my copy. Maybe Adam will even autograph it for you?"
"I'd love to," Adam says, passing the CD to Kris. "And maybe Kris will sign something for me."
"Oh, are you a fan of gymnastics?" Max asks, and Kris bristles at the innuendo he puts in his voice.
Adam ignores the tone and tells Max, "I used to be. I was all over the 2004 Olympic team." He coughs politely. "Not in that way, of course."
Max scents fresh blood and leans in. "So you remember Kris?"
"Oh my god, I had the hugest crush on this guy, let me tell you," Adam says, turning bright eyes on Kris.
Kris gulps and clutches the CD case tighter.
"And now?" Max asks, digging like he's auditioning for the E! network. "Still have a crush on our little Olympian?"
"Are you kidding?" Adam says, finally releasing Kris from his gaze. "You heard what this guy's been doing for the past two years. I'm practically head over heels for him." The audience titters, and Adam calls out to them, "That butt doesn't hurt, either. Right?"
Kris is flustered, flattered, mortified, but the audience goes crazy for it, hooting and clapping. When Adam slides an arm across the back of the couch behind Kris's head, Kris hopes the cameras don't catch the shiver that slips down his spine.
The backstage area is choreographed chaos, with production staff moving props and cameras and cables every which way. Kris ducks into a bathroom to pull out his cell phone, needing to check in with his head of communications ASAP or risk evisceration. Katy doesn't even say hi, just asks whether they put up the URL for donations (they did), whether they played that damn clip from 2004 (they didn't), and if Kris thinks it went well (he does). Satisfied, she gives him the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head, and Kris flushes with relief that he didn't screw up his biggest appearance in three years.
He slips off his jacket and folds it over his arm as he heads down the hall to his dressing room. Most of his attention is on Adam's CD, the cover art staring up at him, daring him to go ask for that autograph. Given his reaction to Adam on stage—and the lingering tightness of his jeans—he doesn't think that's a great idea.
Sandalwood hits his nose as soon as he ducks into his dressing room, and he freezes. Oh no. He turns slowly on his heel to find Adam Lambert spinning around from the makeup counter, a smile spreading over his handsome face.
"Hey!" Adam says. "You came back!"
"Hi, sorry, wrong room again," Kris mumbles. His fading blush is staging a comeback, and his dick is at full attention. And there's no one to blame but himself this time. "I'll get outta here—" Kris reaches for the door knob.
"I hope I didn't embarrass you out there," Adam says, stopping him. "You probably weren't expecting that kind of attention."
"No," Kris says and lets his hand drop reluctantly. He turns around to meet Adam's eyes, giving a weak chuckle. "Definitely not."
"I meant it, though. The hugest crush on you. My boyfriend was so jealous."
If Adam could do him a favor and stop looking so damn pretty right now, Kris might stand a chance at putting actual words together. Or at least looking away from Adam's mouth, his lips clean and red from scrubbing. "Um, thanks."
"When you showed up in here earlier, I was kind of overwhelmed."
Kris knows the feeling. It's almost painful to look at Adam for how much he wants. "Likewise," he says. "I never met a rock star before. You're kind of a big deal. Even in Africa."
Adam smiles at the compliment, stepping around the couch to get closer. Kris watches Adam's toes sink into the plush area rug and he bites back a whimper. Even the man's feet are sexy. Kris can probably hold out two more minutes before he humiliates himself by propositioning Adam Lambert and getting shot down.
"I hope I didn't disappoint," Adam says, his voice pitched an octave lower than it was a second ago. "I definitely don't want to let you down."
Make that one minute. Kris risks a glance up at Adam's eyes, dark blue and lined with smoky shadow, just like on the album cover. Adam's wearing the same expression, too: predatory. Lustful.
Kris is pretty sure no one has ever looked at him like that—not even the men and women he's dated. Adam's gaze gets under his skin and makes him break out in a sweat. Kris fidgets, throwing his jacket over his shoulder and ducking his head, and Adam whispers, "Oh fuck. You've still got 'em."
Adam looks gutted. He's staring at Kris—at Kris's curled bicep, more specifically—and Kris lowers his arm in confusion. "Got what?" he asks, breathless.
Adam crowds into his personal space, and Kris swallows the urge to retreat. "Those arms, shoulders, pecs—fuck, all of you. I bet you could bench a brick house."
Oh. Oh. Kris sends a mental thank you to Katy for picking out this t-shirt. And then he takes a step forward, so Adam's hovering fingers land on his upper arm. "Yeah," he says, looking up at Adam from under his eyelashes. "Wanna see for yourself?"
Adam's fingers squeeze hard, hot on his skin, and then Kris's back is against the door, and Adam's mouth is on his, both of them moaning into the kiss. Kris drops his jacket and the CD, and Adam goes straight for the hem of his shirt, dragging the tight t-shirt up, up, until Kris has to let go of Adam's hips and pull the shirt off completely. Adam whimpers and presses a series of searing kisses to Kris's neck, his long fingers tracing over Kris's skin, mapping his body.
Kris can hear himself babbling, words pouring from his mouth, begging, demanding, offering anything Adam wants if he'll just—. Kris doesn't even care, so long as Adam doesn't stop.
Adam's fingers slide down to the button of his jeans, and Kris is a quid pro quo kind of guy—equal nudity and giving as good as he gets—but Adam seems set on having it all right now, yanking Kris's jeans open and pulling him out. Kris can't bring himself to complain.
"Shit, eight years I've dreamed of this. I even jerked off to those fucking commercials," Adam moans. And then he's down on his knees and taking Kris's cock in his mouth, perfect heat and soft lips, and Kris can't get enough breath to answer, to say thank you, or you're too kind, or please please please. All he can do is hold on and bite his lip.
And swear to send Bob Costas a fruit basket for Christmas.