Warnings: None? Language, sexuality?
Word Count: 51,021
Part: ONE: A STORY NEEDS A SETTING
Summary: Adam knows there is a difference between wanting and waiting. Waiting means you're expecting change or a shift in events. He isn't waiting for Kris Allen to suddenly realize he's in love with him, but it's something he's been wanting since the day they stepped off tour.
Author's Note: Thank you to idolmeta for giving feedback, amazing fic writing tips and providing a really positive, accepting place for discussion. Thank you to all my misfits & pervs for listening to me whine endlessly. Thank you to heartsasmagnets for looking this over in it's very early stages, to xbeyondinsanex for the writing parties and for answering all my questions, to kissoffools for being my cheerleader, to littlepunkryo for googling shit when I was too lazy and to everyone who showed interest in this fic while it was being written.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST .. thank you to my AHH-MAZING beta, geekinthepink82 , for being with me every step of the way, for spending an unbelievable amount of time reading my many drafts, for giving me the not-so-gentle pushes I often needed and for making this story fabulous with his critiques and suggestions. Without him, this story would not exist... or worse, it would completely suck.
I've worked on this for an EPICALLY long time. Like it? Review it. REALLY like it? rec it. Deal? Deal. Let's do this.
Want a playlist? You got a playlist! http://www.playlist.com/playlist/182629
“Gifts have ribbons, not strings.” - Vanna Bonta
NOVEMBER 20, 2009
“Kris, no. I’m not coming.”
“Why? Don’t be such a martyr.”
“Because I’m not. I’m not inconveniencing your family like some charity case.” Adam drummed his black lacquer coated fingernails against the dresser as he contemplated what he had left to pack. Kris was seriously distracting him and it was taking all of his self-control not to say fuck it and just start chucking random things into the bag. For as much as he loved clothes and experimenting with his looks, he despised packing. Sighing, he tucked the cell phone between his shoulder and ear to free up both hands and dragged the large suitcase closer.
Clearing his throat, Kris commanded Adam’s attention.
“Seriously, Adam? Stop being dramatic. You’re more welcome at my parent’s house than I am and you know it. You’re coming.”
“I’m not.” He pulled open another drawer, rifling through the piles of shirts in search of something appropriate for a possible night out on the town, should the occasion call for it. If he’d learned anything over the past few months it was to be prepared for anything.
“Fine, but you’re telling my mom you aren’t coming. You’re telling her you’d rather order room service and rent porn in some hotel room than hang here and have a home cooked meal on Thanksgiving.”
Adam sputtered into the phone and tore a hand through his rumpled, blue-streaked hair in exasperation.
“I am not going to rent porn, Kristopher, and frankly I am appalled you would even accuse me of such filth. And for your information, it’s a hotel suite. So, if you would kindly relay my love and deepest regrets to the wonderful Mrs. Allen, I won‘t have to kick your ass. I‘ll send you guys a fruit basket.”
Kris’s laugh filtered through the phone and, despite his current annoyances, it made Adam smile.
“A fruit basket? You’ll be joining us in spirit?”
“Low blow, Allen. Now I’m really not coming.”
Kris sighed heavily into the phone again before Adam heard the squeak and then slam of a screen door opening and closing
“Mom!?” Kris yelled, though his voice sounded far away, as if he were holding the phone away from his mouth. “Ma, are you in here?!”
Adam had changed focus and was lost in packing again so it took him a minute to realize what Kris was doing. As it dawned on him, he clutched his cell phone with both hands, shouting desperately into the receiver.
“Kris, stop. Kris? Kris, come on! You know I’ll come! Kris, I swear to fucking God if you-”
Instinctively, Adam felt his face grow warm and silently he cursed Kris, wishing horrible things upon him - a recall of all things plaid or a nationwide ban of cheese dip. However, after a deep breath he collected himself and said in a much softer tone, laying the charm on thick, “Mrs. Allen! Hey!”
“What’s this Kris tells me you’ll be in the area during Thanksgiving? Recording in Memphis I believe?” asked the familiar, warm voice on the other line. “I know you are not considering spending the holiday alone, are you?”
Adam sighed and took a moment to bang the cell phone against his forehead before answering sweetly, “No, Mrs. Allen.”
“Good. We look forward to having you. Tell your family we said hello.”
“I will. See you soon.” Adam rubbed his eyes, vowing to kill Kris Allen the next time he saw him - which coincidentally would be in less than a week.
He knew Kris was back on the line when a fit of laughter met his ear.
“I hate you,” he seethed, kicking his open drawer closed in frustration.
“No, you don’t. Call me when you get to Tennessee.”
Adam opened his mouth to complain further, but the line went dead before he could get another word out. He sighed and tossed his cell phone on the dresser, pulling at the collar of his tee-shirt.
When the option to record over the holiday had presented itself, Adam hadn’t wasted any time saying yes. Holidays were a strange time. With divorced parents, even ones who remained cordial, there was always a divide, always the feeling of being cheated - especially when you knew just how good things could be when your family was whole. It would break his mother’s heart to hear it, but it was the truth.
Since the time he turned twenty-one, holidays became just another excuse to party - going out with friends, themed clubs, all the added fanfare. It was usually a blast and the company was always top-notch, but it wasn’t traditional and he longed for the childhood days around the dining room table, flicking peas at Neil while mom and dad teased each other affectionately over a bottle of wine.
But things changed. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not so much.
This year, Adam had vowed that things were going to be different.
Drake had a huge, close family and a Thanksgiving steeped in years of love and traditions. Adam had seen no better way to christen his new home in Los Angeles then by having them and his own motley family over for dinner. Neil was even flying in from New York to join in the festivities.
Adam had been looking forward to it for weeks, brushing up on his rusty cooking skills, buying autumn themed place settings and just generally feeling like life was finally as it should be. He was twenty-seven, he was making an album, he was in love and surrounded by friends and a supportive family. He was settling down, and he was content.
Except content, he had come to realize, didn’t necessarily mean happy.
The concept of being unhappy in the face of his dreams coming true had seemed like such an irrational and ungrateful thought. He had everything he could ever ask for and yet, the moment he’d stepped off tour and into his new life in the spotlight as an up and coming artist, he’d been battling an unexpected darkness that no one could understand. No one, but Kris Allen.
The only way to describe how Adam felt about Kris was smitten. Sure, the entire world knew about his crush and physical attraction to the twenty-four year old married man from Arkansas, but there was so much more. From their running battle of practical jokes on the tour bus to their late night ponderings of life and religion, crammed in tiny bunks across from each other, they easily fell into a natural step of finishing each other’s sentences. Adam knew when the laid back, nice-as-pie Kristopher Allen was annoyed or upset and Kris knew when eager-to-please Adam Lambert was at the end of his rope. Together, away from the crowds and the interviewers and the spotlight, they were just Adam and Kris - two guys who only wanted to sing and have fun and enjoy life.
And, ironically, two weeks ago when Drake had packed his shit and walked out, Kris was the first person Adam called as he tucked into the fetal position on the bathroom floor and then later threw things angrily around the apartment.
The root of the irony was that Kris, in fact, was the reason Drake felt the relationship could no longer continue or move forward. According to Drake, Kris was Adam’s crutch. At first, Adam assumed the issue was jealousy, and that, at least, he could understand. Despite being thousands of miles away from him at any given time, Kris was his best friend, his person. He was the first number on his cell phone’s speed dial, the first person to hear news, good or bad, and the first person he called after a day in the studio. It was easy to see how Drake could misconstrue their friendship and feel second.
But that wasn’t it. Or, at least, that wasn’t all of it.
Two weeks ago, as Drake had thrown his jeans and tank tops in an open suitcase with Adam watching in confusion from the doorway, he had muttered, “Kris is straight. Maybe when you stop waiting for that to change, you can try being in a mutual relationship, instead of one that is delusional and one-sided.”
The words had hit Adam like a truck, so much so that he’d literally reeled back in bewilderment. Drake was wrong and Adam couldn’t believe that such a ridiculous thought could even be considered plausible, let alone the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. He’d immediately gone on the defensive.
“Kris is my best friend. That’s it,” he’d countered, furrowing his forehead as he struggled to understand Drake’s accusation. “How could you even fucking say something like that?”
“Your best friend who you publicly admitted to having a crush on?” Drake had snapped, zipping the suitcase closed with excessive vigor.
Adam’s feelings had changed then, from confusion to white, hot anger. The whole crush thing had followed him ever since the moment he’d said it, and now it was screwing with his personal life. In his new rage, he had strode up toe to toe with Drake, hands clenched and chest heaving, fully intending to put him and his bullshit delusions in place. Except, Drake hadn’t been finished doling out his portion.
“Seriously, Adam. Are you happy? Honestly?”
There had been no anger or reproach in Drake’s voice this time, just a tired sort of resigned sadness that came from someone who had fully given up. Adam couldn’t help but deflate, realizing that, no, happy certainly wouldn’t be a way to describe the way he’d been feeling over the past two months, though by no fault of Drake‘s. It was his own issues, his own fucked up and selfish mindset, his own longing for August, or even July, or anytime when he was back with the Idols, back with Kris, back with people who understood and could commiserate.
“I’m not and neither are you,” Drake had said softly. “And you’re not ever going to be happy unless you deal with whatever feelings you’ve got for Kris. You have to resolve it, or confront it, or you’re going to be very lonely.”
The truth was, Adam had grown tired. Drake had grown tired. Despite the fact that his accusations had been completely ridiculous, there was no way things could continue, no way things could improve. There had also been no use arguing. It was over.
So, as much as it had pained him to do so, Adam had bit down on the inside of his cheek, hard, to keep his emotions in check and hoisted the suitcase off the bed, slinging the strap over his shoulder. He didn’t need to answer Drake’s question. The fact that he was not only letting him go, but helping him leave was enough of an indication of his feelings.
They didn’t speak until they were standing outside of Adam’s home in Los Angeles; the first thing he’d purchased after tour, the first material thing he’d wanted. Adam had pushed Drake‘s suitcase unceremoniously into the backseat of his modest Camry then stood, shifting awkwardly on his feet and staring down at the driveway.
“Call me sometime, if you’re not too busy being a huge, famous music icon,” Drake had said, his mouth attempting and failing at a genuine smile.
Adam had run a hand through his hair, not caring that a slick of gel coated his palm and made his fingers stick together.
And then they had both sort of nodded, accepting that things were over. Drake had gotten into his car and pulled out of the driveway, leaving Adam standing on the black asphalt, no longer able to cling to the claim that he was at least content.
Adam hadn’t realized just how much he’d relied on Drake to maintain the contentment he’d found. Drake had kept him tethered to reality, as a link to his old life and a constant in his new one. So he had surprised himself when he calmly walked back up to the house, through the front door and stumbled down the hallway as his vision became oddly blurry until he reached the bathroom. He had closed the door behind him, even though he was, painfully, the only one in the house, then slid down with his back against the door until his butt reached the floor. He pulled his legs up to his chest and hung his head, letting the tears come; a diluted trail of black makeup running down his cheeks and dripping off his chin, onto his shirt.
Still breathless and sniffling, he’d reached into the pocket of his jeans and slid out his cell phone. In a childish and entirely immature gesture, he flipped the phone open and scrolled down through the names in his address book until he got to the ‘D’s’. He hesitated, his finger hovering over the button, then with a sigh he deleted Drakes name. Feeling nowhere near as satisfied as he thought the act might make him feel, he had continued down the names, stopping when he reached the ‘K’s’. This time there was no hesitation. As soon as Kris’s name appeared on the screen, he’d pressed the call button, wiping at his eyes with the back of his free hand.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d spent on the floor of the bathroom, talking to Kris - about Drake, about music, about the speed at which one must eat Fruity Pebbles before they become an unappetizing, milk-logged mush - but by the time they hung up, Adam had uncoiled himself from his fetal position against the door and the small rectangular window above the shower revealed a dark and starless California night sky.
He had felt better - not healed - but bandaged at least and although he’d bounced between bearing his soul and sharing frivolous cereal preferences with Kris, one topic had not been truthfully aired out - Drake’s ultimate reason for leaving. He claimed Drake left on the grounds that life in the spotlight just wasn’t for him then quickly changed the subject.
It was the very first time he had ever blatantly lied to Kris. He’d told himself he wasn’t even going to bother entertaining the ridiculous accusation long enough to explain it, but in reality it scared him and he didn’t know why. The rationalization that he just didn’t want to make Kris feel uncomfortable did hold some truth, but it wasn’t the truth.
So, when he’d moved to the next stage of grief - anger - it was coupled with self-disgust and an unshakable panic. Throwing shit around the apartment helped, as did four pints of Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, but eventually exhaustion and then acceptance helped him to get his emotions in check. It was easy to convince himself that Drake was wrong, that he had lied to Kris selflessly and that life would go on.
For the days that followed, Kris had called him regularly, and although it was often under the ruse of needing to know a producers name or which brand of cologne would best suit him, Adam knew he was just being checked up on. Not that he minded. Talking to Kris became the highlight of his day, again; the way their chats on the tour bus after a show had once been.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving, a month after Drake had left, Adam was offered the opportunity to record in Memphis over the long weekend. Seeing as he no longer had plans, nor wished to make any on the now tainted holiday, he took the opportunity and booked a room. Kris, however, had other ideas and suggested, or rather demanded, that Adam spend Thanksgiving with his family in Conway, a drive that would take less than three hours from his hotel.
Adam had put up a valiant effort, outright refusing, and when that yielded no results, trying to politely decline. His attempts were thwarted by Kris’s persistence. Eventually, he resigned himself to the fact that he would be spending the holiday with the Allens, and although he acted less than thrilled, he was actually looking forward to seeing Kris for an extended period of time. With the both of them so busy lately, bi-weekly phone calls and the occasional dinner and drinks was usually the best they could manage.
Sighing, Adam sat on the top of his suitcase, squishing down the contents so that he could pull the zipper closed. Then he lugged it out into the foyer where his other luggage waited. Not more than fifteen seconds later, there was a honk announcing the arrival of the car to take him to the airport.
He glanced around quickly, at nothing in particular, a sort of silent goodbye. Had he known how much things were about to change, he might have done something more profound. Instead, he hoisted his bags up onto his shoulders, gripped the cool silver doorknob and walked out, leaving behind more than he could ever have imagined.
Adam stepped out of the green Ferrari in a pair of dark blue jeans that hung low on his hips, tucked into an untied pair of black boots. A tight black tee-shirt hugged his torso beneath a light grey hoodie, and his hair was without product, feathery and mussed from habitually running his fingers through it. He pulled off his aviator sunglasses and grinned at Kris who was coming down the front porch steps beaming.
“I’m here,” Adam echoed, rolling his eyes, but opening his arms wide.
Kris crashed into him, hugging so tightly that the air rushed out of Adam’s lungs. He squeezed his arms around Adam’s middle then pulled back and shook his shoulders enthusiastically.
“Upgrade?” he asked, pointing a thumb at the car as he released Adam from his grip.
“Rental,” Adam answered, spinning the key ring around his index finger. “I figured I might as well go big.”
He moved around to the trunk and popped the latch.
“You’re in Arkansas. A Jetta would have been big.” Kris laughed as he reached for one of the two medium-sized suitcases Adam pulled out of the trunk.
Taking the other himself, Adam offered Kris a lop-sided grin in thanks and a shrug then roped his free arm around Kris’s shoulders.
“How was the ride?” Kris asked as they started up the front walk.
“Not bad. Oh, wait!” Adam spun away from Kris and jogged back over to the car, opening the driver’s side door and leaning in. He retrieved what he had forgotten and returned to where Kris stood waiting, watching him curiously.
“Here. I couldn’t come empty-handed.” He handed the green bottle in his hand to Kris, who took it and spun it so he could see the label, brushing away the gold ribbon tied around the neck.
“Dom Perignon?” Kris read out loud, raising his eyebrows. “Adam, you didn’t have to do this. I thought you said you were bringing a fruit basket.”
“I said I would send a fruit basket, assuming I spent the holiday with room service and porn, remember? And it’s for your parents, not you, anyway.” Adam playfully pulled the bottle out of Kris’s hand and followed him up the front steps and into the house.
“My mom’s in the kitchen cooking. She sent Katy and my dad out for wine and dessert, but I think she just wanted them out of the house. You can put your stuff in the guest bedroom,” Kris said, shifting Adam’s suitcase strap to the other shoulder.
Adam nodded and motioned for Kris to lead the way.
Kris had a small studio apartment in The Valley, about forty minutes from Adam’s place in West Hollywood. It was his base when recording in L.A., though he rarely spent more than a single night there at any given time. For the most part ‘home’ was in Conway, Arkansas. While things were still crazy with the album and studio time all over the globe, he and Katy moved in with Kris’s parents. It was the easiest solution and he liked the idea of Katy not being alone all the time. They planned on settling permanently in California once the craziness died down, but for the time being Katy could keep her job and Kris could hop from studio to studio without worrying about real estate shopping or the logistics of making house payments.
The Allen’s owned a modest home with mismatched furniture and family photos lining the walls of the hallway. Every table and shelf held frames and knickknacks, though somehow it didn’t look cluttered. It was everything a home should be - lived in, warm, personalized. It was nothing like Adam’s monstrous split level back in Cali, where he’d barely had time to pick out a bed let alone choose matching drapes and hang pictures, though one day he wanted to. He wanted a home, not just a house and sadly, that was all he had right now. A Home had very little to do with purchasing material possessions and more to do with the people living in it. For now, that was him, alone, and the foreseeable future didn’t show that changing anytime soon.
“In here,” Kris said, opening the last door at the end of the hallway.
The guest room was humble at best. The bedspread matched the carpet in a light blue color scheme, offset by light grey walls and stripe patterned curtains. There was a day bed pressed up against the farthest wall, flanked by a white wicker chair and nightstand, and a dresser next to the closet on the left. Save for a small ceramic lamp on the nightstand, the room was illuminated by natural light, filtering in through two East-facing windows.
"I'm sorry. It's not the penthouse at the Hilton, but the sheets are pretty comfy." Kris dropped Adam's bag on the bed and jammed his hands into the pockets of his jeans, looking around the room sheepishly.
"It's great," Adam assured him, and it was. It was warm and homey and lived in. He wouldn‘t ever admit it outright, but it beat the hell out of even the most upscale, generic hotel room.
It was quiet for a moment, and although the atmosphere wasn't uncomfortable, something certainly felt off. After months crammed into the tour bus and holed up in hotel rooms, being in Kris's childhood home was a completely different experience. There was a completely new set of rules and boundaries and etiquettes, the differences highlighted by the inclusion of Katy and his parents.
"I'm really glad you came." Kris was looking at him, smiling, and it was infectious.
“I’m glad I came too,” Adam answered.
Again, they stared at each other in silence, until an enthusiastic voice and blur of blonde entered the room, causing them both to jump.
Katy wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his cheek, hopping up on her tip-toes to reach. Laughing, Adam hugged her around the waist, lifting her up off her feet.
“Oh my gosh, Kris!” Kris imitated Katy with mock bitterness, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Oh, hush, you!” she teased, linking arms with Adam. “I see you all the time.”
Kris rolled his eyes while Katy redirected her attention to Adam, chattering on in some strange fashion conscious language that went right over Kris’s head. He let them talk for a few minutes while he sat on the bed, feigning interest, before stepping in and interrupting, even though Adam was genuinely enjoying the conversation.
“Come on, let’s go,” Kris said, tugging Adam by the arm while Katy pouted comically. “If my mom finds out you’re here and haven’t said hello yet, you’d better hope she hasn’t got the baster in hand.”
Adam wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and winked at Katy who giggled while a blush crept up Kris’s neck.
“Oh, just come on you perv.” Kris pulled Adam from the room, shaking his head, his cheeks a deep shade of crimson.
When they entered the kitchen, Mrs. Allen was facing the stove with her back to the doorway. Adam had been hit with the aromas of cooking turkey and sweet yams as soon as he’d stepped into the house, but in close proximity the smells were positively mouth-watering.
Kris looked at him and pressed a finger against his lips, signaling for him to be quiet. Adam grinned, shaking his head in warning, but Kris ignored him and tip-toed silently up behind Mrs. Allen.
“Mom!” Kris yelled, grabbing his mother by the shoulders so that she shrieked, spinning around and slapping him in the arm with a wooden spoon.
“Kristopher Neil Allen, what in God’s name is wrong with you?”
Kris’s eyes flashed to Adam’s as he shrugged and grinned sheepishly, and Adam felt something odd pull in his chest. Ignoring it, he stepped forward, hoping to put out the flame.
“Mrs. Allen!” he gushed, crossing the kitchen and embracing her in the same way he had done Katy, lifting her up off her feet so that she giggled like a teenager.
Again, Kris crossed his arms over his chest and rolled his eyes, clearly the only one unimpressed with Adam’s charm.
“Oh, honey, we are so happy you’re here!” she fawned, stepping back and giving him a once over. “And you’re looking so good!”
“Ma, please!” Kris groaned, dropping his head into his hands.
“Be quiet, Kristopher. Adam’s my son just as much as you are, and, actually, after that little stunt you pulled you’d better hope no one makes me choose favorites.” She winked at Adam while Kris continued to shake his head.
“Did someone say something about favorites?” Kris’s dad came into the kitchen balancing two bottles of wine on top of a white pastry box.
Adam moved to help him, taking the items from his arms and placing them on the counter, before turning to politely greet him.
“Hello, Mr. Allen.”
“Hey, Adam.” Mr. Allen stuck a hand out, but when Adam grabbed it, he pulled him into a rough hug. “Good to see you.”
“Thanks for having me,” Adam said, laughing.
“Kristopher Neil!” They both turned to see Mrs. Allen swatting Kris away from a pot on the stove, a lump of mashed potatoes on his index finger which he promptly popped into his mouth.
“Ok, all of you out! Out, out, out!” Mrs. Allen was attempting seriousness, but fighting a smile. “Dinner will be ready at six.”
Laughing, the boys followed her orders and headed out into the living room to relax and watch television until it was time to eat.
Adam’s beliefs we’re always transient. He figured it was because he was still trying to find something he could fully and unconditionally affiliate with. Undoubtedly, there was a higher power, even if only in the form of energy and light, but how much control, if any, this had on one’s life was still a mystery to him. The only ill will Adam held towards those secure in their religion was a slight jealousy that they had found something they could invest their beliefs in without question.
So, when Mr. Allen said Grace, it was the same as if Adam were hearing the Gettysburg Address. He politely dipped his head, hearing the words objectively. He didn’t miss the way Kris glanced up from beneath his lashes and offered him a small smile and shrug from across the table, but it was unnecessary. Adam was much more comfortable knowing they weren’t catering to him then he would be if they’d changed their traditions based on his inclusion.
“So, Adam, are you ready for that album release?” Mr. Allen asked, passing the cranberry sauce to him.
“I think so,” Adam answered, taking the bowl. “I mean, can anyone really be ready? I think I‘ll just be happy knowing it‘s done and we can‘t make any more changes.”
“Oh please,” Kris scoffed, piling mashed potatoes onto his plate. “You’re going to be amazing. The album is going to be amazing.” He turned his attention to his father, his eyes wide with excitement. “I’ve heard some of the tracks. It’s really something else.”
“Kris,” Adam said, waving his hand to silence him. “Please, if my album sells half as well as yours in the first week, I’ll be thrilled.”
Kris bit his lip and grinned, his cheeks turning slightly pink.
“Well, you did help out when I needed someone to bounce ideas off of. And you put up with my three a.m. phone calls when I was convinced it was all going to crash and burn.”
Katy leaned over and poked Kris in the side.
“Excuse me, but when you’re done falling all over each other, could you please pass the gravy, Kris?” she teased.
Everyone laughed and Kris grabbed the boat, demanding a kiss on the cheek before he’d hand it over.
It made Adam feel odd. He couldn‘t exactly define the reason why he felt compelled to look away, so he rationalized that it was a private moment.
If he was being honest, everything felt a bit strange at the moment. As conversation flowed and laughter came easy, usually at the expense of someone sitting around the table, he couldn’t help but mourn his previous Thanksgiving plans. Besides just spending it with Drake, he was going to be spending it with family - settling down and creating new traditions. He was incredibly grateful to the Allens for having him, but the fact that he was a guest remained. This wasn’t his family.
Although, as he looked across the table at Kris, he found a pair of soft brown eyes looking back at him and for a fleeting, terrifying second he wondered if maybe one day it could be, before he repressed the thought and forced a giant piece of cornbread into his mouth. He was just melancholy and nostalgic he assured himself.
After dinner, and thanking Mrs. Allen profusely, he and Kris did the dishes. Kris was up to his elbows in soap and water while Adam stood by with a dishtowel, ready to do the drying. They laughed, Kris splashing Adam over his shoulder while Adam pretended to lose his grip on Mrs. Allen’s prized, antique gravy boat. It was odd to be doing something so domestic after living out of suitcases for months together, but comfortable. When everything had been cleaned and the kitchen was spotless, Kris leaned back against the counter while Adam collapsed, tired and full, into one of the dining room chairs.
“I’m glad you came,” Kris said, rolling his sleeves back down over his forearms.
“I’m glad I came too. I guess this does beat staying in a hotel, even if there is no porn,” Adam grumbled, smirking at the end.
Kris cocked an eyebrow.
“Who says there’s no porn? You do know this is where I lived when I was fourteen. The farthest floorboard in the guestroom closet is still loose, you know.”
Cringing, Adam ran a hand through his hair.
“Oh. Oh! Right.” Kris blushed and scratched the back of his neck, looking at the floor. “Probably nothing you’d be interested in. Well, too bad, you already admitted that being here is better.” He looked up, and even though his cheeks burned red, he smiled.
Something in Adam’s chest fluttered. How he’d ever ended up with a friend like Kris, he’d never know, but if anything reaffirmed his beliefs that there was something out there - fate, Ra, Xenu, a six-headed woman playing Russian roulette with people’s lives, anything - it was the unlikely relationship that he had formed with the unassuming Kris Allen in the most unlikely place.
“So, listen.” Kris was looking at the floor again, scraping at the tile with the toe of his sneaker. “After everything gets cleaned up, it’s kind of a tradition that I play.”
“Play?” Adam asked, thankful to have been included in the festivities, but not entirely sure he could handle family game night.
“Yeah. The guitar. And sing, too, I guess. My mom sort of looks forward to it.”
Grinning, Adam nodded. There were few things he enjoyed better than watching Kris perform, and lately it had become a rarity.
“I’m warning you now, they’ll try and rope you into singing too. You can say no, though. Don’t feel like you have to.”
Adam couldn’t help but laugh. Reporters and paparazzi be damned, it would be Mrs. Allen to bring him to his knees.
“I think I can handle it.”
Kris raised his eyebrows and shrugged as though he didn’t believe him, and even if Adam would never admit it out-right, Mrs. Allen could probably be more frightening then even the most aggressive gang of paparazzi if she really wanted to be. It was one of those intrinsic qualities women were gifted with when they became mothers.
Kris put on a pot of coffee and they left it brewing in the kitchen to rejoin the rest of the Allen family sitting in the living room.
Right away, Adam saw that Kris hadn’t been kidding. Mrs. Allen was holding his guitar on her lap grinning and practically vibrating with excitement. Mr. Allen, on the other hand, was sitting on the couch and leaning anxiously over his knees, waving his hands at the television. Katy was next to him with her legs tucked up under her body, laughing as she pulled her hair into a ponytail.
A whistle was blown and Mr. Allen groaned.
“Do you watch any football, Adam?” he asked, scratching his chin thoughtfully.
“No, not really,” Adam answered, shooting a sideways glance at Kris who snickered as he moved past.
Mr. Allen nodded.
“Good. More stress than it’s worth.” He leaned forward, grabbed the remote up off the coffee table and clicked the set off.
Mrs. Allen stood and Kris reached out to grab the guitar from her, taking the loveseat as she moved to sit on the couch next to her husband. Adam simply sank down onto the carpet, crossing his legs and leaning back against the coffee table.
Kris played for almost an hour, singing whatever came to mind. Sometimes it was a song in its entirety, sometimes it was just a few lines and the chorus. Adam found himself joining in quietly when he recognized the tune, much to Katy and Mrs. Allen’s delight, and they harmonized easily, without missing a beat.
“Alright, one more,” Kris said finally, stifling a yawn with the back of his hand.
“A duet?” his mother asked hopefully, nodding towards Adam. “Maybe one of your new songs? Oh, Kris, do one of your new songs with Adam!”
“Ma, Adam doesn’t know my songs.” Kris shook his head and rolled his eyes at Adam who cocked an eyebrow curiously.
“Oh, I’m sure he does. They’ve been on the radio!”
Kris sighed, his cheeks turning pink.
“One of them has been on the radio and the album has only been out a week!”
“Oh, alright,” she sighed, leaning forward and patting Adam on the knee. “He’s off the hook for now.”
Adam shrugged and breathed a sigh of relief, but not because he didn’t have to sing. It would have been far worse to admit that, yes, he did know all of Kris’s songs - every single line - and yes, the album had only been out for a week. Immediately, he reminded himself that he’d helped Kris out on the album quite a bit, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that he was familiar with the words. He had even heard a few of the songs that didn’t make the cut. Except, he knew every lyric of those too.
“Ok, how about something festive? You know, to kick off the holiday season?” Kris suggested, adjusting one of the tuners.
The offer seemed to appease Mrs. Allen, and Katy nodded enthusiastically.
Kris cleared his throat and ducked his head, biting his lower lip in concentration just as he always did before beginning to play. Adam swallowed and forced his eyes down to his lap.
It was a classic, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and though he didn’t celebrate the holiday, Adam was familiar with most of the words. He didn’t join in though, just concentrated on Kris voice, taking in every inflection and riff.
“Through the years we all will be together,
If the fates allow, yeah,
But ‘til then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”
Adam could feel Kris’s eyes on him so he looked up, and when he did he saw a desperate intensity in them that he wasn’t expecting. It made his heartbeat stutter suddenly and for some reason, he held his breath. The sound of his pulse pounded in his ears, competing with Kris’s sultry voice.
The strength of the stare was crushing, and Adam had to look away to get his bearings. Quickly, he looked down, then back up again, forcing his lips into a small smile. Kris didn’t return it and suddenly he realized Kris wasn’t looking at him, he was looking past him.
Adam glanced over his shoulder and saw Katy sitting on the couch behind him. Her hands were clasped under her chin and her face was glowing, her eyes gleaming with emotion.
His tongue felt thick as he swallowed and pulled his eyes away, back to Kris who was now looking down at his fingers as they moved along the guitar strings.
Kris was looking at Katy, not him.
He would have bet his Mustang on the fact that Kris had been looking at him, right at him, but the longer he wrestled the probability in his head, the more ridiculous it seemed. The emotion contained in his eyes wouldn’t be meant for Adam. It would be meant for his wife. It would be meant for Katy.
It shouldn’t have made him feel as uncomfortable as it did, nor should he have reacted in such a way even if Kris had, in fact, been looking at him. On tour they would often look off-stage to each other for a small smile or nod of support that would get them through their set. Even towards the end of Idol, when their friendship was still blossoming, they’d make quick eye contact during their performances for that little sense of encouragement, the feeling that someone was rooting for you no matter how badly you might screw up.
Kris finished out the song and Adam joined the small round of applause his family offered, punctuating it with a dramatic yawn. He wasn’t particularly tired, and he was certainly used to surviving on minimal sleep, but he was more than ready to slip away and clear his head.
“Well, I’m going to call it a night,” Mr. Allen announced, standing and stretching his arms over his head. He pulled Katy into his side and kissed the top of her head then did the same to his wife.
“Goodnight, Dad.” Kris stood and placed his guitar on the loveseat behind him and embraced his father.
As Adam watched, he couldn’t help but feel a familiar twinge of nostalgia. This holiday was supposed to be different. This holiday was supposed to be about solidifying a family and making a new tradition. This was his turn to make something more permanent, despite the tumultuous turns his life had been taking. It was something he’d finally decided he wanted, after years of resistance.
“I’m tired too,” Adam said, forcing another yawn. “Thank you so much for everything. It was all delicious.”
He could swear Kris looked the slightest bit disappointed, but Mrs. Allen pulled him into a tight embrace, drawing away his attention.
“Any time, Adam. You’re a member of this family now.”
He returned the hug, unexpectedly affected by her words. He swallowed hard and she released him so Kris could hug him.
“I’m really glad you’re here,” Kris whispered as Adam pulled him into his chest, wrapping his arms around his shoulders.
Adam simply nodded, unable to respond.
He felt heavy, yet with Kris’s words the weight seemed to lift.
“Goodnight,” he managed, and after giving Katy a tight squeeze and shaking hands with Mr. Allen, he excused himself down the hall to the guest room.
Closing the door behind him, he didn’t bother turning on the light. The room was dark, but the outline of the bed was visible and he easily maneuvered across the room. Dragging his hands roughly through his hair, he sat on the edge of the mattress and stared into the nothingness, thoughts of family and Kris and Drake and all the things he thought he wanted clouding his mind until he finally began to slip into unconsciousness.
The time between the last chord of Don’t Stop Believin’ and the moment they could disappear into the confines of the tour bus moved excruciatingly slow. Beginning at opposite ends of the barriers, they busied themselves with signing autographs and making small talk with fans, all the while shooting anxious, secret glances at each other from across the lot.
They were assaulted with hundreds of blinding flashbulbs and manic screaming and grabbing and touching and the complete invasion of all personal space. It was chaotic and exhausting and loud and the only thing that should have been on their minds was the thought of collapsing into bed and getting some much needed sleep before replaying the entire day over again, in a different city less than seven hours away.
But, it wasn’t.
All they really cared about were those few free hours before the sunrise, where they could talk about their dreams and fears and cookie preferences without pretense or a PR briefing. It was the sacred time that they could spend pretending that they were just two normal guys who weren’t on a national tour, teetering on the cusp of something huge and life changing.
When they passed by each other, midway down the line, Adam snaked an arm out, sliding it around Kris’s waist and pulling him back into his chest. He planted a chaste kiss into Kris’s hair, much to the appreciative scream of the crowd, then released him and continued without a word.
It was an innocent enough exchange and the crowd was used to the easy displays of affection between the two best friends. What they didn’t know was that Kris was practically buzzing with anticipation and the awkward way he tugged his tee-shirt down was less about being unconsciously adorable and more about covering the embarrassing reaction he had to Adam’s soft lips pressed against his head. On the opposite end of the barriers, Adam seemed cool and collected, while underneath the surface his blood boiled hot with want and anxiousness.
By the time the last program had been scrawled with Kris’s rushed signature, he was literally bouncing up and down, shifting from one Converse clad foot to the other while he watched Adam linger at the other end of the line. Adam was throwing his head back and laughing, exposing the length of his throat in a way that made Kris hum with excitement and without hesitation he took off, jogging back past the group of screeching fans he had already passed. When he reached the place where Adam stood, thoughtfully chewing on the back of a black Sharpie as he admired a portrait done by a blue-haired fan, he stopped.
Kris knew it was rude and his parents had brought him up better than to behave as such, but he couldn’t help himself. He reached out and snagged Adam around the forearm, tugging impatiently like a petulant five year old, his lips pressing into a pout.
Adam arched an eyebrow in amusement, but smiled. Kris watched his mouth move, undoubtedly charming the crowd with a few appreciative parting words, but the sound of his own heartbeat thudded in his ears, drowning out all other sound. He wondered what Adam would think if he knew exactly what Kris wanted. If he could see the desire and the need and even the hint of fear reflected in his eyes, what would he say? Would he deny him?
With a short nod, Adam gently pulled his arm free and tossed it around Kris’s neck, steering him towards the tour bus.
Adam’s legs were long, but Kris had no problem keeping in stride. He was practically running, and even with the weight of Adam’s arm wrapped around his shoulders, he felts as though he was floating across the parking lot.
When Adam woke, it was with a start. He was tangled in the sheets and sweating profusely, though the dream he’d been having had already slipped from his consciousness. His body ached from restlessness, his arm tingling from being tucked awkwardly under his body. Groaning, he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with the heels of his hands and sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the mattress.
He hadn’t bothered changing into pajamas, just kicked off his jeans sometime during the night so that he was now in a pair of blue boxers and his black fitted tee-shirt. It was chilly and he shivered a bit as he stood, then grabbed his bag and crept quietly out into the hall. He could hear voices in the kitchen and the smell of batter browning wafted through the house, but he needed to clean up first before he could join the Allens. Tiptoeing down the carpet, he slipped into the bathroom and clicked the door closed behind him.
Looking in the mirror, he saw that his eyes were red and smudged in black rings of makeup. Leaning down into the sink he scrubbed his face clean with water so hot it was almost scalding. He pulled off his shirt, using it to blot himself dry then his boxers and jammed them into his bag, pulling out a new outfit and putting it on. He retrieved his stick of black liner, and with a steady, practiced hand, applied a thick line beneath his eyes. With the pad of his thumb, he smudged it into a perfectly imperfect smoky, subtle charcoal. Wiping the makeup residue off his hands on the butt of his jeans he stared into the mirror.
He sighed heavily at his reflection. After everything that had happened last night, he felt oddly stripped. He’d shown Kris a small part of him that had been tucked away. It hadn’t even been a conscious decision; it had all sort of tumbled out.
He hesitated momentarily before leaning over and pulling a tissue from the shelf behind the toilet. He made quick work of removing the eyeliner he had just applied, feeling oddly lighter as he dropped the black stained tissue in the trash.
It was strange to be in Conway, in the bathroom of the home Kris had grown up in. Being part of something so personal should have made him uncomfortable, but it didn’t.
Things were not supposed to be like this. His life was not supposed to be like this. The internal conflict by both having the things he wanted and being denied them was threatening his sanity. He didn’t know how to feel.
He ran his hands through his hair, letting it fall haphazardly over his forehead.
And yet, somehow, here in Conway, he felt nothing.
But, it wasn’t the indifferent, numbing kind of nothing that he had been growing used to. It was the freeing, live in the moment kind of nothing, when what he had or didn’t have or was on the cusp of having didn’t matter. The past and future only existed as markers of time. What was real and relevant was the smell of pancakes and it could be that simple.
Adam left the bathroom, stopping quickly to deposit his bag in the guest room and then headed to the kitchen, where Mrs. Allen was, again, standing over the stove, this time with a spatula in hand. Kris sat at the table, resting his chin on a fist and looking over the sports section of the paper.
“Morning,” Adam said as he entered, announcing his presence so as not to startle them.
“Adam! About time you bum.” Kris dropped the paper and grinned.
Mrs. Allen turning away from the griddle that sat atop the burners.
“Sleep well, hon?”
“Very,” Adam lied politely. His sleeping issues were unrelated to his place of rest. He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since September, though he saw no need to share the fact.
“Milk and juice are in the fridge. Coffee is on the counter. Help yourself. I hope you like pancakes.” Mrs. Allen waved her spatula in the direction of the refrigerator and turned back to the stove.
Adam grabbed an empty cup off the table and as he stepped forward, Kris stuck out his glass.
“What do you want?” Adam took it and rolled his eyes.
“What ever you’re having. Thank you,” he answered with a smirk.
Adam shook his head in mock annoyance and continued over to the fridge. Smiling he saw two articles cut out and taped next to each other against the stainless steel door. One read ‘Seems The Fans Can't Stay Away, Allen's New Album Is Written All Over the Charts’, the other ‘Glitter, Glam and Greatness Guaranteed: Adam Lambert Fans Anxiously Await Highly Anticipated Album’. He touched the edge of the newspaper thoughtfully, skimming the words before pulling open the door.
Musing over the articles, he grabbed the carton of orange juice and filled his own glass, then took out the milk and did the same to Kris’s. He closed the door with his hip and walked back over to the table, handing Kris his glass.
“Thank you,” Kris said, taking a gulp. As he moved the glass away from his mouth he paused and cocked an eyebrow, looking curiously at the drink still in Adam’s hand.
“Oh.” Adam stopped and tilted his head, looking at the creamy white liquid in Kris’s glass then back at the orange in his own. “Yeah, I felt like OJ, but the orange juice had pulp. You hate pulp,” he answered, taking a seat at the table.
Kris’s eyes widened an imperceptible amount and the corners of his mouth curved into a small, salient smile.
It had been a completely unconscious observation on Adam‘s part. He’d registered the fact, remembered Kris’s preference and made the decision without actually giving it any thought. Obviously they had spent many a breakfast together over the past year, and any best friend would have picked up on his aversion. Right?
“Here you go boys.” Mrs. Allen interrupted the moment, placing a platter of hot silver dollars on the space of table between them. Strangely relieved for the distraction, Adam began pulling pancakes onto his plate.
Kris did the same, drenching them in sticky, brown syrup before pausing, looking down at his breakfast thoughtfully.
"When do you have to be back in Memphis?"
Adam answered cautiously.
"I've got a recording session with Cavallo tomorrow at eleven-thirty." He wasn‘t sure where the conversation was going. He didn’t want to overstay his welcome, but a larger, unexpected part of him wasn’t ready to leave just yet.
Immediately, Kris's head popped up and he was grinning. Something fluttered in Adam's chest and he swallowed hard against it.
"Good. Let's go out," Kris suggested, forking a piece of pancake into his mouth. "I'll show you some of my roots."
Kris had to phone in for a radio interview at eleven, but it wasn’t long and by twelve-thirty they were cruising through Arkansas in Adam’s rented Ferrari. It was a gorgeous day, sunny with a slight chill in the air as fall battled to stave off winter.
Kris directed him through Conway, often shouting out directions as they were already passing the turn, but eventually they pulled into a spot on a street in the busy part of town lined with restaurants and businesses.
“Downtown Conway,” Kris announced, spreading his arms and motioning around him when they got out of the car.
They spent the day strolling around town, visiting various places that had been a part of Kris’s childhood and Adam learned the stories behind them. He commiserated over Kris’s first and last tee-ball game, laughed over his awkward first date experience at the Oak Street Bistro and listened quietly, filled with an odd sense of awe, when Kris showed him the hole-in-the-wall pubs he’d played at before Idol.
Every time their shoulders bumped or they knocked elbows, Adam reflexively stiffened and held his breath as though he might spontaneously combust from the contact, but he never did and Kris never seemed to notice. He didn’t understand what was bringing about this automatic response, but he didn’t like it. At one point, they stopped for coffee and when they both reached for the same cup, their hands brushed. Adam had been so unexpectedly flustered that he’d grabbed the hot drink and took a thoughtlessly large gulp, doing a pretty thorough job burning his mouth and tongue. He didn’t mind. The pain distracted him from the confusing and unwanted involuntary reactions his body was having.
Other than that, the afternoon was pleasantly uneventful. They were only stopped a handful of times, but the people were friendly and genuine, shaking hands and congratulating them on their successes, rather than demanding pictures and autographs.
Adam decided early on that he really liked Conway, and perhaps he’d done himself a disservice by buying a house in L.A.. Having a place here, somewhere to tuck away to when the routine and the spotlight got to be too much, would be a vacation in and of itself. He’d always assumed he’d be happiest in West Hollywood. Growing up it had been easy to find the spotlight there, but what he hadn’t anticipated after Idol was that the spotlight now followed him. He no longer needed to thrust himself out there.
It was beginning to get late and the sun was setting, but Kris insisted on visiting one more place, so Adam obediently followed him down the sidewalk. He could tell Kris was excited and it made him strangely excited too, as if the emotion was contagious, though he had no clue where they were headed. The crossed a few streets and made a few turns and when Kris stopped short suddenly, Adam stumbled into him from behind. After getting his footing, Adam looked up at the place in front of them.
It was aged, the wood was splintering and the paint was chipping, but somehow it was more appealing that way. There were two large, plate glass windows on either side of the door, both filled with various instruments, some that Adam didn’t even recognize. The place was mostly dark, save for a dim yellow glow that seemed to emanate from the very back and no one appeared to be inside.
“And this,” Kris said, motioning forward with a wide grin, “is where I got my first guitar.”
Adam looked up and read the weathered wooden sign above the door that read simply ‘Mike’s Music’.
“I used to stand right here, in front of this window and look inside, with my face pressed against the glass. My mom would always let us stop when we were shopping, but she says I never wanted to go inside.” Kris leaned forward and placed his palms against the window. “It’s like I was scared if I went in, if I actually got close to the instruments, I wouldn’t be able to leave. I had about six quarters to my name. I knew I couldn’t afford any of them, so if I went inside…if I got too close…I would be stuck there forever,” Kris paused and dropped his arms. “It sounds so stupid now,” he laughed.
“No,” Adam said sharply, imagining a six year old Kris standing in that exact spot, with his hair all disheveled and grass stains on the knees of his jeans, looking into the store, unaware of the amazing things that waited in his future. “It’s not stupid.”
Kris smiled sheepishly and shrugged, looking down at his sneakers.
“I still come here sometimes and just look in through the windows. Of course, I’m not so easily awestruck now. Violins and cellos don’t do it for me anymore. But that,” he tapped his finger against the glass, “that still does.”
Curiously, Adam leaned forward and looked into the store, trying to see what Kris was referring to, his lack of instrument knowledge hindering his search.
“There on the back wall.”
Adam pressed his face closer to the glass and looked in. Sure enough, on the back wall, in its own mounted case was an expensive looking guitar.
“It’s a 1942 J-45 Gibson Legend with a nitrocellulose finish and custom white button tuners,” Kris said, practically bouncing up and down. “The body is spruce and mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. She’s beautiful, and the sound projection is unbelievable.”
Adam had only the very basic knowledge of guitars so most of what Kris said flew right over his head, but it didn’t take away from his enjoyment of Kris’s raw, innocent excitement. It made his chest feel full and warm and he couldn’t help the goofy grin that spread across his face.
Kris looked longingly into the shop; his nose pressed against the glass and he sighed.
“It’s been hanging in there for years.”
“So why don’t you freakin’ buy it?” Adam asked, confused as to why this option hadn’t yet appealed to Kris. He tilted his head as Kris turned slowly, frowning.
“I’ve got a guitar. I don’t need it.” His eyes seemed to become unfocused and he ran a hand through his hair. “My guitar has been good to me. It’s modest and nothing special to look at, but I’d feel bad giving it up for something flashy and high end. I know my guitar. We make a good partnership. Besides, it’s $9,000.”
Adam was surprised to hear the price, but not convinced by Kris’s reasoning. He crossed his arms over his chest.
“I think you should just buy it.”
“I don’t need it,” Kris laughed, shaking his head.
“So? You want it don’t you? I mean, ok, you probably don’t need a $9,000 guitar, but, what if this is, like, the guitar you’re supposed to have. I mean, hell, it’s flashy and extravagant, but what if it turns out you can make music that’s even more amazing with this guitar. You want it, you should have it.”
Adam took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure why he was suddenly so invested, but he really wanted Kris to buy the guitar. It made no sense, really, and Kris was right. The guitar he owned now was more than capable of accompanying his vocals.
Adam, however, had little time to muse over his motivations, because Kris reached out, grabbed him by the sleeve of his jacket and began pulling him down the sidewalk, away from Mike’s Music and away from the expensive J-Gibson-whatever guitar.
“You’re really a terrible influence, you know that? Pressuring me to cheat on my guitar. She’d be so hurt.” Kris laughed and Adam joined in, though he was feeling oddly disappointed by Kris’s resistance. He had no stock in whether or not Kris bought it, yet somehow he felt oddly affected.
They walked a ways more, Kris pointing out his favorite spots and telling stories of his childhood before they headed to Adam’s car. Mrs. Allen was planning dinner for six and if they didn’t start back, they’d be late.
As they drove through town, Adam was thankful for Kris’s persistence in having him over for Thanksgiving. If he’d backed down the first time Adam had said no, this afternoon would have never happened, and Adam’s life was better because it had.
“Next time, I’ll show you around where I grew up,” Adam said, once they’d gotten into the Ferrari and he was pulling out of the spot.
“Okay,” Kris answered. “Soon?”
“Soon,” Adam echoed, realizing silently that if Kris had said ‘tomorrow’ he would have agreed without hesitation, Robert Cavallo be damned.