Notes:

This is a story for [info]wax_jism. Thanks to [info]olivia_circe and [info]sprat.
 
 
APPLES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT
 
The first thing Kris saw was the car. It was huge, and really shiny, and it had clouds of steam billowing out from under the hood, which would get your attention even if you weren’t into cars. The second thing Kris saw was the guy standing in front of it, with his hands on his hips and a trucker hat on his head and a helpless expression on his face.

Kris had broken down enough times himself to know how shitty it felt, especially if you were miles from anywhere, which they were, and you didn’t have anyone to call to come get you. Kris doubted this guy had anyone in a ten-mile radius, anyway, if his car and his enormous sunglasses were anything to go by, and besides the cell reception on this road sucked. Kris tapped his horn to get the guy’s attention, then pulled over and hopped out of his truck.

“Oh my God,” said the guy immediately. He was really tall. “Oh my God, thank you, seriously, nobody has driven along this road for like thirty minutes.”

“Yeah, you’re lucky it’s rush hour.”

The guy laughed, shaking his head. “There’s no cell reception out here at all! I thought I was going to die.”

“Maybe you still are,” said Kris, making his way over to the car. “You should probably check the bed of my truck for dead bodies before you decide you’re happy to see me.”

The guy laughed again. He had a nice laugh, sudden and genuine with a big smile, and when he slid his mirrored sunglasses down to the end of his nose and peered over them, Kris could see his eyes were all crinkled up at the corners. He looked Kris up and down in a way that made Kris shift his weight and wish he was wearing cleaner jeans, then said, “No way. You’re too cute to be a serial killer.”

“Yeah, that’s what my last victim said,” Kris blurted, and then worried that was actually crossing the line into creepy-weird, but the guy just cracked up again and slid his sunglasses back up.

“I’m Adam,” he said, holding his hand out for Kris to shake.

“Kris,” said Kris. Adam’s grip was warm and firm, and he had chipped black nail polish on his thumb. His hand was huge, and Kris stared down at it for way too long, then cleared his throat and let go and stepped back, shoving his hands into his pockets. “So, trouble? Is it your car?”

“It’s a rental,” Adam sighed, in a tone usually reserved for talking about natural disasters. “The guy at the place said something about another model being better for driving cross-country, but I liked this one. It’s so shiny.”

“Shiny and seriously overheated,” said Kris, leaning in as close under the hood as he dared with the heat and the steam still belching out. He poked about a little, then said, “Yeah, you’re almost all out of water.”

“But I have water!” Adam said enthusiastically, diving into the backseat of the car. He emerged a second later with a cooler. When he pulled the lid off, there were like six giant bottles of drinking water in there, some brand Kris didn’t recognize.

“That’s a lot of water,” he observed.

“Well, it’s important to stay hydrated,” Adam said seriously. He pulled one of the bottles out, unscrewed the cap and gestured at the car. “So can I just pour this in and I’m good to go?”

Kris grimaced. “If you wanna crack your engine block, sure.”

Adam put the cap back on the water. “Kris. Come on now. I have no idea what you just said.”

Kris laughed. “The whole system’s like, nuclear right now, man, if you go pouring cold water in there you’ll freak it out. You need to cool your engine down before you do anything else.”

“Oh.” Adam put the water bottle back in the cooler, then closed the lid. He looked over the top of his sunglasses again, sucked his lower lip into his mouth and frowned at Kris. “Okay - please tell me you know how to do that.”

Kris went and got his tow ropes out of the truck, and got Adam’s car hooked up, just in case. He told Adam to restart the engine, but put the heater on full blast and roll all his windows down and let Kris’ truck do most of the work until they got back to Kris’ place (“See, now this is kind of serial killer-y,”Adam pointed out with a sly grin. “Luring me back to your lair with the promise of a landline.”) by which time the engine should have cooled down enough to work with.

Kris got a few curious looks from folks they passed on the way home, but most people were probably busy preparing for the festival, so the roads actually were even quieter than usual. When they got back to Kris’ place, Adam rolled out of his car with a gasp, dragging one of the big bottles of water with him and downing about half of it in four huge swallows.

“Fuck, it was so fucking hot in there,” he moaned, wiping his flushed face with the back of his arm. He tossed his sunglasses to the side, yanked off his hat, and then just upended the bottle over his face, water flowing down over his jaw and throat, soaking into the gray T-shirt he was wearing, rendering it clingy and mostly see-through, and Kris was a nice guy, he was a nice enough guy that he’d help out a stranger with car trouble, but he was not a nice enough guy that said stranger could put on a one-man wet T-shirt contest right into front of him and Kris wouldn’t stare with his mouth hanging open. He totally did stare. What, it was stare-worthy.

There was something naggingly familiar about Adam, but Kris couldn’t place it no matter how long he looked. Kris could see the water shining on Adam’s skin under the sun, could see the lines of his chest and the points of his nipples through the shirt, could see – could see Adam smirking at him, dark wet hair flopping over his forehead and into his eyes, drops of water still clinging to his cheekbones and the bow of his upper lip.

“You want some?” he said, tilting the water bottle towards Kris.

“No,” Kris croaked. “Um, let’s – let’s deal with your car, okay?”

Adam shook his head rapidly so his hair threw water droplets everywhere, then wiped his face off one more time, smirking at Kris again. “Okay,” he said easily. “What’s next?”

Kris showed Adam how to release the pressure in the radiator, then fill it and the reserve tank, and Adam’s huge smile when they were done was so gleefully proud of himself Kris cracked up, leaning against the car.

“You need someone qualified to look at it, though,” he said, wiping his hands on a rag. “You could have a leak, and I’m not sending you off unless I know you’re not gonna break down again twenty miles down the road.”

“That’s sweet, that you’re worried about me,” Adam teased. Kris rolled his eyes to hide his stupid blush, and Adam let him off, just asked to use the landline. “My cell seriously hates your town, I’m getting nothing.”

When they got inside the apartment, Kris found Adam a towel and showed him the bathroom so he could shower and change his shirt. Then he made himself scarce while Adam made a couple of phone calls – and there was something weird about them, something about the way Adam kept insisting that he was all right, that he was safe, that he didn’t need whoever it was on the other end of the phone to do whatever it was they were suggesting. It seemed strange that people would be particularly worried about the welfare of a dude who must have been six feet tall slouching in bare feet, but Kris wasn’t a nosy person by nature, so he told himself to stop being such a creep and concentrated on making sure he had everything ready for the festival later.

“I’m just going to make one more, I’m so sorry,” Adam said then, poking his head into the kitchen. “I can like, pay you for the calls.”

“Please, don’t worry about it,” Kris waved his hand. Then he had a thought. “You know, there’s a mechanic not far from here. You can call Triple A and wait for them if you want, but I’ll bet he can look at your car for you right now.”

Adam swayed back and forth a little. “I don’t want to be any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble,” Kris said honestly. “Harry’s a great guy, and he won’t rip you off, either, if you just need to buy some more coolant or something.”

“Well...” Adam hedged. “Will he take Visa? I don’t carry cash, really.”

Kris stared at him. “Okay, Elvis, I’m pretty sure we have Visa machines all the way out here in the sticks.”

Adam’s cheeks flushed a little, but he grinned. “Well, I was just checking! You know what it’s like, you’re in line somewhere, you have your water and your chips, and you get to the front of the line and they’re all, ‘ten dollar minimum for card payments!’ and you have to buy a shitload of candy bars that your waistline really doesn’t need you to eat.”

Adam’s waistline looked just fine to Kris, but he didn’t say that. Instead he grabbed his keys off the counter and said, “I said he wouldn’t rip you off, man. I think under ten dollars might be a pipe dream, though.”

***

It was a pipe dream, and so was getting Adam’s car on the road that night. It wasn’t just overheated, it was leaking and needed fixing for real. Kris watched the dismay on Adam’s face when Harry explained, watched the sweet, respectful way Adam dealt with Harry’s weird mannerisms and barely intelligible mumble. They went inside to use Harry’s phone to call the rental company and give them the shop’s address, and Adam didn’t even lose his temper when they said they couldn’t get him a replacement car until the next morning. He did look a little panicked, though, and before Kris knew what he was doing the words, “You can crash at my place tonight,” came tumbling out of his mouth.

Adam hesitated, grimacing, and Harry squinched up his red tomato face even further and said, “Best take him up on the offer, boy, unless you want to sleep on the side of the road tonight.”

“You’ve already done so much for me,” Adam said. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”

Kris shrugged. “I wouldn’t offer if it wasn’t okay, man. Seriously it’s fine. And I hear my couch is extremely comfortable.”

Adam grinned a little bit, and turned around to shake Harry’s gnarled old hand. “Well, looks like I’m set for the night. Thank you, Sir.”

Harry waved them off. As Kris drove them back home, Adam looked curiously out of the window at the stalls and bunting getting set up along the side of the street. “What’s going on?” he wanted to know.

“Town festival,” Kris said, rolling his eyes a little and waiting for Adam to make fun.

Adam didn’t laugh, though. He just nodded and looked out of the window again at the signs. “Apple Fest,” he read aloud, and when he turned back to Kris he was kind of biting his lip, his eyes sparkling. “Apple Fest? Seriously?”

“Shut up,” Kris said lightly, and now Adam did laugh, rocking his head back against the seat, mouth wide open and eye squeezed shut. “The big one’s in Lincoln in a couple weeks, but the town like to have a small one here as like a warm-up,” Kris tried to explain, but Adam just laughed harder, dropping his head and covering his face with his hand. Kris looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "I'm letting you sleep on my couch, you know.”

“I’m sorry!” Adam wheezed, pressing his hand over his chest. “It’s just too adorable! Oh my goodness, how does this place even exist?”

“You’re a jerk,” Kris told him. Adam just slapped his hand on the dash and laughed and laughed.

***

“There’s a bunch of DVDs, watch anything you want,” Kris rambled as he ran around the living room collecting his things. “Help yourself to anything you need in the kitchen – I’m really sorry, man, any other night I would stay here with you but I really can’t miss it.”

“The apple thing?” Adam said, from his spot on the couch. He’d been sprawled there since they ate dinner, his long legs taking over most of Kris’ living room. And his attention. Those were some really tight jeans. “You’re going?”

Kris gave him a look. “I have to. I promised my kids.”

Adam blinked. “Kids?” he said carefully. “How many do you have?”

“Like twenty,” Kris said absentmindedly, hunting for his wallet, and looked up to find Adam staring at him. Kris replayed what he’d said, then laughed, waving his hands no no. “I’m a substitute teacher.”

Adam blinked again, then relaxed against the couch, waving his hand in a circle. “Oh, well. Of course you are. You probably volunteer at a homeless shelter too.”

“I used to,” Kris said, feeling a pang of guilt.

“You’re not real,” Adam declared. “I don’t believe it.”

Kris thought that was kind of rich. He wasn’t the one who’d showed up and poured water all over himself like a really tall, really pretty mirage, but whatever. “Well, real enough that my kids won’t forgive me if I don’t show tonight.”

Adam nodded, smiling. “Can I come?”

Kris looked at him sideways. “You want to come to the Apple Festival.”

“I’ve never been to one!” Adam said, bouncing a little on the couch. “I like new things. And I’m really good at apple bobbing, look,” he opened his mouth really really wide to demonstrate.

Kris stared for a second, then cracked up, shaking his head. “Okay, man, you wanna go, let’s go.”

“Yay!” said Adam, springing up off the couch. “Let me just grab my hat.”

***

They walked into town, Adam back in his hat and sunglasses, Kris with his guitar on his back. Adam wanted to know all about it; did Kris play, was he in a band, did he sing, did he write his own music, was he going to play at the festival later, were they his own songs or covers.

“I can’t play anything,” Adam gushed. “The guitar and the piano and the viola and you sing too?”

“And the ukulele,” Kris added, nodding when Adam gawped. “It’s true.”

“Plus you’re practically a saint,” Adam sighed. “The ladies must love you.”

“Uh,” said Kris, who – okay, he liked the ladies just fine but he didn’t really want to talk to Adam about them, if he was honest. “I guess,” he said in the end, shrugging his most casual shrug. “I’m not seeing anybody right now.”

“Oh I see,” said Adam, giving Kris a knowing little look. He knocked Kris’ shoulder with his arm, which almost sent Kris into the gutter and Adam made a big show of setting him back on his feet, grinning the whole time.

“What about you?” Kris said, looking everywhere but at Adam. “You have somebody to worry about you lost in the middle of nowhere tonight?”

“I’m not lost,” Adam said. “I’m with you. And actually, I just broke up with somebody.”

“Oh,” said Kris, wincing. “Sorry.”

Adam shrugged it off. “It’s okay. We actually weren’t even together that long, but it was kind of intense, and the break-up got...messy.”

“Is that what inspired the road trip?” Adam looked over sharply, and Kris held his hands up. “I’m not trying to pry, man, you just don’t really seem like you’re all that enthusiastic about motoring.”

Adam’s mouth twitched, and he nodded. “Yeah, okay, you got me there. I just wanted the alone time, you know? I work a lot, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get some headspace to myself.”

He didn’t seem to want to say anything else about it, and Kris didn’t push. Adam changed the subject back to music, and they swapped stories about pretending to be Michael Jackson when they were kids until they arrived at the festival and were immediately accosted by three girls from Kris’ school, giggling and excited about the festival and seeing a teacher outside of school.

“Mr. Allen!” Jennifer said giddily, all her curls swinging crazily around her shoulders. “You came! Is that your guitar? Are you gonna play later?”

“I am,” Kris confirmed, unable to stop himself from grinning when all three of them squealed. Jennifer’s friend Kaley was looking curiously at Adam. Kris gestured to him. “This is my friend Adam.”

Adam took off his sunglasses and smiled. “Nice to meet you, ladies.”

“You too – oh,” Jennifer gasped, all the color draining from her face. She clutched at Kaley, who looked similarly stricken, and then the color came flooding back to her cheeks with an extra helping of bright pink on the side, and she squeaked, “Oh my God, you’re Adam Lambert.”

“And what’s your name, honey?” Adam said, like people went purple and recognized him all the time, and then Kaley wheezed something about having seen all of Adam’s movies, she just loved him, oh my God, and Kris looked at Adam again, at his profile and his broad shoulders and the bright, wide, Hollywood-white smile on his face, and thought oh, of course you’re Adam Lambert. Of course you are.

The girls were pretty much freaking out – all the commotion caused a few more to drift over, and before Kris knew what was happening he was being press-ganged into taking picture after picture of Adam with the kids, and finding a pen so Adam could sign things, and then Louisa Davies demanded, “How do you know Mr. Allen, Adam?”

“Oh, Kris and I are old friends,” Adam said smoothly, winking at Kris over the top of Louisa’s head. The girls turned on Kris, shrieking and accusing and I can’t believe you didn’t tell us don’t you know how much we love him oh my Goooooooood.

Adam was so sweet with them Kris felt like asking for an autograph himself, it was ridiculous. He didn’t even blink when Jennifer begged to touch his hair, or when Maria started crying, and then Kaley said, “Oh my God, and by the way? When we can afford to buy designer clothes, we are so never ever buying anything by Dmitri James.”

“We’re boycotting,” Louisa nodded furiously. “Because of all those mean things he said about you.”

Adam kind of blinked and cleared his throat. “Uh, well, that’s very sweet of you, girls, but you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers.”

“We didn’t!” Louisa said in a duh voice. “We read it on the internet.”

“Okay!” Kris said loudly in his teacher voice. “Girls, that’s enough for now, I think. Adam and I want to enjoy the festival, and you should do the same.”

They didn’t want to leave, but Kris met their protests with his sternest face, which admittedly wasn’t all that stern but was also showcased so rarely that the novelty alone gave it some oomph. They drifted reluctantly away after a last hug and I love you, and Kris steered Adam to walk behind the line of stalls, where he wouldn’t be so obvious.

“I’m sorry,” he said when they were somewhat hidden from view. “You were trying to get away from all that, I should have known-”

“Dude,” Adam waved him off. “I wanted to come. And it’s not the fans I wanted to get away from, please. They’re just excited. You should have seen me when I met Madonna, I almost threw up on her shoes.”

Kris snuck a look at Adam, who had put his sunglasses back on. It was weird: he looked the same, but now Kris knew who he was he couldn’t un-know it. He’d gone from Adam: Man With Car Difficulties, to Adam Lambert: Man In Kris’ DVD Collection. “I kind of feel like I should apologize or something,” he said honestly when Adam caught him looking and raised an eyebrow. “For not recognizing you.”

Adam cracked up, shaking his head. “Why should you?”

“You’re a movie star.”

Adam waved his hand dismissively. “That’s – whatever, like, I’ve been really lucky. I’m not, you know, some kind of global superstar guy. I’m not Britney Spears.”

“No, I know, but...I’ve seen your movies. Well, some of them. I like the one, um, where you live in the house on the beach, and it rains all the time, and then the things come out of the sea, and there’s that part with the creepy sand animals and all the string music?”

“Thanks!” Adam smiled, big and genuine. “Oh, man, I loved making that so much! I can’t really take credit for much of it, though. Guillermo’s a genius.”

Kris put his head down as they walked on. He felt – he felt kind of stupid, if he was honest. Not because he hadn’t recognized Adam – Kris didn’t devote a lot of time to mooning over celebrities, and besides, Adam looked really different, with his freckles and his plain clothes and shiny-clean hair. It was more because Kris had talked so much about music, about performing, like he knew the first thing about it compared to a guy who’d performed at the Oscars. A guy who’d won an Oscar last year, Kris remembered now, and groaned internally. Adam must think he was completely deluded.

“See, now,” said Adam, “this is – you know now, and you’ve gone and turned all weird and quiet on me.”

“I’m not being weird and quiet!” Kris protested, and then his mom appeared suddenly and Kris realized they’d walked all the way to the stall she was running this year. “Hey, Mom.”

“Kristopher!” she said happily, and pulled him into a big hug. “Oh, you will not believe this crazy rumor I just heard! Some of the little girls from school are running around telling everyone that you walked into town with that boy who won the Oscar for the musical about the green witch last year.”

“Hi,” said Adam, taking off his glasses and his hat, this time. He beamed at Kris’ mom and took one of her hands in both of his. “Adam Lambert, nice to meet you.”

Her mouth hung open, just for a second, and then she gathered herself enough to flutter her free hand in the air and say, “Oh, my goodness, oh my goodness, oh, dear, oh my.”

“Mom,” Kris said, vaguely horrified at the familiar pink flush on his mom’s cheeks. It was exactly the same as the one that had stained Jennifer’s.

“Me and the ladies in my book club, well, we just think you’re a picture,” she was saying now, clutching Adam’s hands. “And you sing like an angel – your Mama must be so proud!”

“She is,” Adam smiled, nodding. “And so must you be, your son was my hero today. I’d be sleeping on the road in a broken down car without his help.”

She turned on Kris. “And you didn’t call me? What kind of son do you call yourself that I have to find out about this from Louisa Davies?”

“I...” Kris looked at Adam for help. Adam just grinned and put an arm around his Mom’s shoulders. “A...bad one?”

His Mom wasn’t even listening, she was pulling Adam over to the stall and telling him about the pie competition. “I tweaked my recipe this year,” she was saying, her fingers curled around Adam’s wrist. “And I know Judy Marlon’s pie is just to die for, but I think I’m still in with a shot!”

“Mom, you win it every year,” Kris said, trailing after them. “You’re gonna win this year too.”

She flapped her hand at him. “You’ll jinx it!”

Kris rolled his eyes.

“It smells amazing,” Adam said, bending over the stall.

“Well,” Kris’ Mom said, her cheeks pink with pleasure and round with smiles, “do you want to try some? Let me fix you a plate!”

“Mom, we just ate,” said Kris. “Maybe later.”

“I’ll keep the best piece back for you,” she promised Adam.

“But I usually get the best piece!” Kris protested.

His Mom flapped her hand at him again. She still hadn’t let go of Adam’s arm.

“Temptress!” Adam said dramatically, fluttering his eyelashes. “I have such a sweet tooth, I can’t even tell you. I could eat everything here, seriously.”

“Don’t say that,” Kris warned him. “She’ll take you up on it, don’t think she won’t. One time I almost ended up in hospital with a serious case of Too Much Cobbler.”

“That was nobody’s fault but your own, young man,” she chided him. “I only left you alone in that kitchen for ten minutes!”

Despite the fact that he was clearly two seconds from cracking up the whole time, Adam actually seemed genuinely charmed by the festival. He wanted to stop at every stall and touch everything, and he kept taking pictures on his otherwise-useless phone. There were four million different ciders to try, and Kris pointed out the non-alcoholic ones but Adam rolled his eyes and went straight for Mike’s Special, which was basically hard cider with a shot of bourbon in it. It was really good, though, warm and sweet and tingly with just the right kick. They were both giggly and bumping into each other every few steps by the time they got to Charles’s stall.

“Hey, man, how’s it going?” Kris greeted him, standing back when Charles raced past to stand over a barrel full of water and apples. A bunch of tiny boys were standing around it with their hands behind their backs.

“All right, you guys know the rules, most apples in your bowls by the time I blow the whistle wins!” Charles yelled. “And – GO!”

The kids submerged themselves face-first and Charles ran in the other direction, towards some more kids who were standing with their faces turned up, underneath apples suspended by string.

“Same whistle rules apply, eat your way to glory!” Charles shouted, and blew three short blasts on his whistle. The kids started buffeting the apples around with their faces, and on the other side of the stall the barrel kids all pulled their dripping heads out of the water and looked at Charles expectantly. Charles rolled his eyes. “Not that whistle! I’ll tell you when, all right, go back to drowning yourselves in the name of victory.”

“You’re very dedicated,” Adam said, observing the scene over the top of his cup.

“I’m very bored,” Charles corrected him, and grabbed Kris’ cider right out of his hand. He took three big gulps, belched enthusiastically, then wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.

“This is Charles,” Kris said to Adam. “Charles, this is Adam. He had car trouble, he’s crashing with me for the night.”

“My knight in shining armor,” Adam trilled, and Charles laughed and thumped Kris on the shoulder so hard he staggered.

“Yeah, that sounds like Mr. Marvelous,” said Charles. He handed back Kris’ cider and Kris held what was left of it protectively to his chest. “You playing tonight?”

“Look at you, you’re like a rock star,” Adam said before Kris could answer. “Everyone’s such a big fan.”

Kris shrugged it off. “He’s my best friend, he has to say that.”

“And you’re my best friend and you were supposed to provide me with a life of touring and pretty girls who need comforting after they meet you,” Charles said, folding his arms and frowning. “But I don’t see my glittering career in tour management taking off any time soon. Jerk.”

“Whatever,” Kris grinned, dodging another thump to the shoulder. “Looks like you got your hands full here, man.”

“I think that kid on the end is choking,” Adam observed.

“Man!” said Charles, and stomped off to give the kid the Heimlich maneuver. Then he looked over at the kids at the water barrel, said, “Shit!” and blew his whistle again, running over to yank them out of the water. “Shake it off, kids,” he said. “I don’t need any deaths on my watch.”

Adam smiled. “He’d be a great tour manager. Although this town might experience an increase in the infant mortality rate.”

“Charles,” Kris called. “We’re gonna get some pie, I’ll see you later?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there,” Charles said gruffly, toweling off some tiny kid’s head. “Watching you waste your life away.”

“He’s just kidding about that stuff,” Kris said when they’d achieved pie and were eating it under one of the big trees. “Tour stuff, I mean. I don’t think that was ever going to happen.”

“Didn’t sound like he was kidding to me,” Adam said. He tasted the pie and his eyes rolled back in his head. “Oh my God,” he moaned with his mouth full, clutching the plate in one hand and gesturing wildly with his spork clutched in the other. “Oh my God, Kris, this is so good, you have to try this.”

“I’ve tried it,” Kris laughed, dodging when Adam tried to feed him a piece. “Adam, it’s my Mom’s recipe, I know what it tastes like.”

“But you haven’t tried the best piece,” Adam insisted, bringing the spork back to the plate and dipping it in the whip cream on the side. “Look, see, I dressed it up for you, come on, just eat it.”

“I have my own, I don’t need to-”

“It’s delicious, what’s wrong with you?”

“Adam,” Kris laughed, jerking his head backwards. “Adam – mmf!”

Adam grinned triumphantly. “Delicious, right?” he said, before scooping up another piece and shoveling it into his own mouth, eyes fluttering briefly closed in bliss.

Kris swallowed hard – the pie was really good, his Mom made the best in the whole world if Kris did say so himself, but even better was Adam moaning and licking his lips like – well. Kris didn’t stop staring in time, obviously, because Adam opened his eyes, gave Kris a dimply little smile and set his empty plate down on a nearby chair before reaching to touch Kris’ face gently. His thumb slid warm and soft over Kris’ lower lip, and Kris had no clue what to do, he couldn’t move, or speak, just stand there like a moron with his face flushing hot while Adam held his thumb up for inspection.

“You had whip cream on your lip,” he explained, and then on instinct – what instinct and where it had come from, Kris didn’t know – Kris opened his mouth and leaned forward enough to catch the tip of Adam’s thumb between his lips. Adam’s eyes flew wide, but he pressed in a little, didn’t pull away, and the pad of his thumb was salty and sweet at the same time when Kris rubbed the tip of his tongue across it.

Adam’s nail was smooth against Kris’ upper lip, and he let his thumb drag the lower lip down a little as he pulled his thumb back. He touched Kris’ chin, wet and brief. “Delicious,” he said again, his voice gone smoky and soft.

Kris wished he could see Adam’s eyes. He wished they were back at Kris’ place. He really wished they weren’t at a festival with, oh, everyone Kris knew and worked with, and that Kris hadn’t just sucked on Adam’s thumb, for crying out loud, right in front of everyone! A quick glance around confirmed that they were mostly hidden behind a tree and nobody was looking, but Kris still had to clear his throat and take a step back and hide his face back in his cider, his mind racing, hot and confused.

“Hey,” Adam started, but they were interrupted by Chase, who wanted to know if Kris was ready to come start setting up.

“Yeah,” said Kris, too eagerly, stumbling over his own feet to turn around. “Um, this – Chase, this is Adam. Adam, Chase.”

“Hey,” said Chase, and he and Adam exchanged nods.

Adam followed them over to the stage area, where Kris’ Mom just ‘happened’ to be hanging out, having apparently left Kris’ Dad to tend the stall by himself. She immediately latched on to Adam, and Kris was kind of embarrassed by it but not as embarrassed as he was by himself, so he let it go. Adam looked happy enough, anyway, and at least this way he was protected from the kids Kris could see lurking a few yards away, trying and failing to look like they weren’t taking pictures of Adam on their phones.

“Guys,” said Kris into the microphone, and they looked up, startled. Kris shook his head uh uh, and they made a few faces but the phones got put away.

Kris moved around the stage, checking the set-up and trying not to think about the fact that Adam was going to see him perform. His stomach was kind of pleasantly twisted up at the thought of it – for a start, Adam was an actual professional, but also there was this tingly thread of doing something he was good at in front of someone he was kind of into. And that was a new thing in itself – Kris had figured out that liking guys as well as girls was his deal a long time ago, but he’d never told anyone about it except Katy. There had never seemed to be any point – it was hypothetical, he’d never had anything with an actual real life guy, never mind a movie star, and the hypothetical thing was a lot different to this new feeling of wanting Adam to think he was sexy, to think he was talented, attractive, hot. And he didn’t think he was a million miles off base, either, movie star or no movie star - Kris might be new to dudes but he wasn’t new to what it meant to bring mouth-touching and thumb-sucking into the mix.

Except, he mused as Chase checked the levels on his mic, maybe now Adam would think Kris was only into it because Adam was famous. But that wasn’t true, so whatever. It wasn’t his fault Adam was famous, anyway.

“Uh, hi,” Kris said into the microphone when they were ready. The kids and most of the grown-ups had gathered in front of the stage by this point, and Jennifer and her friends started bouncing and squealing as soon as Kris spoke. Kris gave them a little wave, said, “Thanks for coming,” and then counted them right into the first song.

Playing at town events was always so much better than a gig at some bar where nobody knew him. Everyone sang along and got into it, like they were an actual band, like Kris had written real songs that people actually liked and knew the words to. He pretty much never felt better than when it was him and his guitar, but when he looked over and saw Adam staring, like staring, his mouth hanging open in a wide, delighted smile, Kris felt a shiver all the way up his spine, and after that they were on fire, the band following Kris’ lead and the crowd pulling eagerly along with them. He could hear Adam cheering with the rest of them, clapping with his long arms held over his head, hugging Kris’ Mom in excitement when she leaned up to say something in his ear. It was awesome.

Kris never wanted to stop, but the unfortunate thing about playing any town event was that eventually there was always a raffle, and the mayor made you stop playing music so you could stick your arm in a bucket of tickets and find out who won a coupon for a free manicure at Sally’s. Kris made a face at Adam behind the mayor’s back, but Adam just laughed and shook his head, another cup of Mike’s Special clutched in his hand. Charles was there too, now, holding his own cup and leaning over to say something in Adam’s ear.

Kris’s stomach clenched a little in anxiety – not that he thought Adam was going to reply all ‘oh hey I sucked Kris’ thumb’, but still. He was so busy watching their mouths move and trying desperately to lip-read that he totally stopped listening to the Mayor, and the next thing he knew Adam was handing his cider to Charles and smoothing his hair back and coming up on stage.

“What,” Kris said dumbly, but Adam just patted his shoulder and pushed him gently towards the steps.

Kris escaped off the stage while the Mayor shook Adam’s hand and introduced him to the crowd. He made Adam stand there while the reporter from the local paper took their picture, and Kris sidled towards his family and cringed a lot while the Mayor bossed Adam around, handing him the prizes for the bake-off and the names of the winners so he could announce them.

He was – he was just so nice, Kris thought, watching the way Adam congratulated each winner with a hug, seeming genuinely thrilled at their giddiness, genuinely pleased for their success. Maybe he really was. Kris had no reason to think otherwise.

“What the hell,” said Charles flatly when Kris squeezed in next to him. “Why is everyone jizzing themselves over your stray?”

“Charles!” Kris’ Mom scolded, and Charles jumped and looked instantly chagrined. “That’s Adam Lambert!”

Charles looked blank, but he nodded anyway, shooting Kris a weird look as he did so. “Yes Ma’am.”

“And language,” Kris’ Mom added as an afterthought.

“Who the hell is Adam Lambert?” Charles whispered loudly to Kris.

“He’s-” Kris sighed and mentally apologized to Adam, who was still up there getting paraded around by the mayor. “He’s a movie star.”

“Oh,” said Charles, deeply unimpressed. “I thought he must be like a football player or something big like that.”

When it was the big prize, the apple pie competition, Kris’ Mom went all tense, her hands clutched under her chin. His Dad was standing next to her, his arm around her shoulders, and Kris wasn’t embarrassed to admit that his own stomach actually tightened up a little. Whatever, it meant a lot to his Mom, and when Adam read out her name, she threw her arms in the air and practically flew up onto the stage. Adam gave her a hug so enthusiastic she was lifted clean off her feet, and Kris could feel the grin on his own face, stretching ear to ear and probably making him look like a moron. A happy moron, though.

“I’m sorry about that,” he said to Adam when the mayor finally let him go. “You’re not here to do that.”

“I like presenting awards,” Adam said, shrugging. “And at least here nobody’s going to slam into me all coked up at the afterparty and accuse me of a conspiracy.”

Kris gave him a look. Adam nodded. “It happens.”

Kris whistled. “Yeah, maybe watch out for Judy Marlon, though. She wants that pie prize bad.”

Adam laughed, rocking close to Kris so that his hair brushed Kris’ ear when Adam dropped his chin to his chest, giggling. Kris smiled up at him, and then Adam sobered suddenly and grabbed Kris’ shoulders. “And what about you? You said you could sing, you didn’t say you could sing. You were amazing up there, are you kidding me?”

“Right,” Kris scoffed, looking off to the side.

“I’m serious!” Adam insisted. “Dude, you were incredible! You should be doing this for real, cutting a record. Your voice is really beautiful. And now is a great time for artists like you, people love singer-songwriters. Look at Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, John Mayer...”

“Maybe I should change my name to Jis Allen,” Kris mused, smiling when it made Adam laugh again, and then they were interrupted by Alex, the reporter who’d taken the pictures before.

“Mr. Lambert,” he said, clutching his camera. “Do you have time for a few words for the local paper?”

Kris could feel the tension start in Adam right away, and the smile on his face slipped minutely into one he hadn’t worn all night, still easy, but easy through practice, Kris thought. “Sure,” he said, letting go of Kris’ shoulders.

Alex asked him a few nothing questions about how he knew Kris (“Old friends,” Adam said again), how he was enjoying the festival (“It’s awesome. Adorable. I’m having a great time.”), whether he spent a lot of time in this part of the world (“Not as much as I’d like. It’s beautiful here.”) and then Alex kind of cleared his throat, visibly steeled himself, and blurted out,

“Is being here helping you get over your recent break-up with Dmitri James?”

The smile on Adam’s face froze completely, went brittle and stiff.

“After the remarks he made about your relationship, it must be good to get away from all that,” Alex pushed. “Is that why you came here?”

“He already told you he came here to see me,” Kris said, putting his hand on Adam’s arm. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to help the reigning pie champion pack up her car.”

“Wow,” said Adam as they walked away. “They really are everywhere.”

“So you’re like famous,” Charles said suddenly. Kris groaned internally.

“I guess,” said Adam, shrugging.

Charles nodded, then leaned in and said, “Do me a favor, man, tell this guy here how awesome it is? Because seriously, whose coat tails am I gonna ride out of this place if not his?”

“Charles,” Kris said warningly.

“I don’t suppose you need an extra security guard or anything,” Charles said speculatively, looking Adam up and down.

Adam cracked up and shook his head. “Not yet. But I do think you should keep encouraging Kris. He’s really something.”

“He is, right?” said Charles, beaming.

“Hello,” said Kris, “’He’ is right here.”

“Whatever,” said Charles, veering off suddenly in the opposite direction. “Consider yourself friend-dumped!” he yelled over his shoulder, then he picked up some passing kid and started zooming him around in the air.

Adam laughed. “He’s awesome.”

“I’m sorry,” Kris said, and grimaced when Adam raised his eyebrow. “I should have known – I shouldn’t have let Mayor Williams get you up on stage. That was totally embarrassing, and then with the reporter...ugh.”

Adam waved his hand. “Kris, it’s their job. I like reading about other people’s love lives just as much as the next person. I don’t get immunity, I know that.”

“Still,” Kris said, scowling a little.

Adam touched the back of his hand, gentle and brief but not casual at all, as they walked. “That was nice,” he said, not looking at Kris. “When you got all protective like that.”

Kris cut his eyes at him. “Nice, huh.”

Adam stuck his tongue in his cheek for a second, nodding. “Uh huh,” he said, grinning into the distance. “Nice.”

Kris looked at his shoes, just enjoying the feeling of his stomach all flippy and tingly. “Hey,” he said, remembering. “How come you’re telling everyone we’re old friends? I mean, not that I mind, it’s just-”

“Not true?” Adam smiled ruefully. “I hate to stereotype, Kris, but I figured, schoolteacher in small-town Arkansas, maybe you don’t need news stories about me picking you up on the side of the road.”

“Oh,” said Kris, a little startled. He hadn’t thought about that. It was maybe true, he supposed, but it was stupid. He frowned, then snapped his fingers and touched Adam’s arm, grinning. “But I picked you up. Right? How about that?”

Adam kind of stared at him, then cracked up, shaking his head. “What are you, seriously,” he said, and wouldn’t explain what he meant.

After they said goodbye to Kris’ parents, they started the walk back to Kris’ place. Halfway there, Louisa Davies and friends pulled up in someone’s Mom’s car and presented Adam with a candy apple they’d bought him, which he accepted like it was made of gold. They drove off, squealing to each other, and Adam waved the apple at Kris. “I got a party favor.”

“You better share,” Kris told him. “I’m your hero, remember? It’s the least you can do.”

“Oh, the very least,” Adam agreed, pulling the crinkly wrapper off the apple and examining it closely before taking a bite. “Oh my God,” he said, turning wide eyes on Kris. “Even the candy apples are better here!”

“Better than that supermarket crap, right?” Kris said proudly. Adam handed the apple over and Kris took a bite of his own. “Mmm. One bite of this and I’m six years old, it’s crazy.”

They passed the apple back and forth for a while, and as they turned into Kris’ street Adam said, “Listen. About the my hero thing.”

“Hmm?”

“I really meant what I said,” Adam said earnestly. “About your music. I’m not, you know, P. Diddy or anything, but I know a few people. I could play them your songs, get your name out there a little bit.”

“No,” Kris said immediately, shaking his head when Adam made a face. “No, come on, I don’t – you don’t have to do that.”

“But I want to,” Adam pressed. “Come on, it’s no different to you helping me today. You know about cars and let strangers sleep on your couches. I know a few record execs, I can-”

“No,” Kris said again. “You don’t have to do anything to pay me back.”

Adam was quiet for a few minutes, twirling the half-eaten apple on its stick between his fingers. “I’m assuming you even want to do this professionally, of course. Sorry, I know not everybody does.”

“It’s not that,” Kris said. “I do. Or – I mean, I did. I used to.”

“What changed?”

Kris shrugged. “I don’t know. Things just happen, you know? I was-” he hesitated for a minute, not sure about sharing this with someone he’d just met. Adam waited patiently, and eventually Kris went on, “I was with someone, for a long time, and she was kind of my head cheerleader, I guess? And when we broke up, I didn’t really want to do much of anything for a while.”

“Your priorities change when you break up with someone,” Adam agreed thoughtfully. “Pretty much ‘find place to live, find way to pay for it, find reason to get up in the morning’, right?”

“Right,” Kris said ruefully. “I don’t know. I do love it. I guess I just stopped thinking it was something that could happen.”

“Well, start thinking it,” Adam said sternly, shaking the apple at Kris. “You’re amazing. Don’t think I’m going to let someone else take credit for you when you change your mind in a year, okay? I discovered you, that’s my ten percent.”

Kris laughed. “I’ll have them write it into my contract.”

“Damn right,” said Adam, following Kris up the stairs to his front door. “You have to diversify your portfolio in this market, I can’t be a movie star forever. I need something to fall back on when I lose my looks.”

“Like you’ll ever,” Kris scoffed, locking the door, and then he felt himself blush like an idiot, because he’d never actually told another man he was pleasing to look at before.

Adam twinkled at him over the top of the candy apple. Somehow Kris was backed into his kitchen, the edge of the counter against the base of his spine. Adam handed the stick to Kris, but didn’t let go, forcing Kris to wrap his fingers around Adam’s wrist as he took the last bite of the apple, some instinct telling him to keep his eyes open and on Adam’s the whole time.

“Mmm,” Adam said appreciatively, putting the stick down on the counter. He braced his hands there, either side of Kris, bracketing him with his arms. “This is the best date I’ve been on in a really long time.”

Kris looked up at him – and that was new, to look up instead of down and think I really want to kiss you. “It’s the best date I’ve been on for pretty much ever,” he said. Adam smiled, and it seemed like maybe he had a fleck of candy stuck to his lower lip, so Kris put his hand up to return the favor from earlier, only when he touched his fingertips to Adam’s lips, the fleck didn’t move. “Oh,” said Kris, stroking a little. “Oh, it’s a freckle.”

Adam parted his lips and bit gently on Kris’ fingertip, then sucked on it a little, curl of wet tongue, and Kris made some kind of embarrassing noise and then Adam leaned down and kissed him, firm and deliberate, no messing around. It was different, definitely, to stretch up like that and feel the burn in his neck; Adam’s mouth was wide and hungry and there was the slight scratch of stubble under Kris’ hands on either side of Adam’s face, but it was awesome different. Kris kissed him back happily, pressing closer, opening his mouth for Adam’s tongue.

“I’ve never been with a guy,” he said, when Adam sucked on Kris’ lower lip and then backed off a little so they could both breathe.

“Okay,” said Adam.

This time when Adam kissed him it was...not gentle, but softer somehow, a little more hesitant. Adam’s hands rested light on Kris’ shoulders, like he was ready to take them away if that’s what Kris wanted, which it wasn’t, so he pulled out of the kiss impatiently. “No, I’m not saying – look, I really wanted to. It just didn’t happen yet.”

The corner of Adam’s mouth quirked. “Okay,” he breathed, diving back in. His hands slid firm over Kris’ back this time, pulling him in closer against his own body. It was nice; Adam smelled gorgeous and he tasted like candy apples, sweet and sharp. His hands felt huge on Kris’ waist, and he was tall and wide and solid, good for Kris to hold onto and press against.

“I’m just saying,” Kris garbled around Adam’s tongue. Adam made an exasperated noise and Kris tugged on his hair. “You don’t have to be, you know. Whatever. Just do it how you usually do it. I want the whole experience.”

Adam dropped his forehead onto Kris’ shoulder and laughed, his whole body shaking with it. “Okay,” he said, and the next thing Kris knew he was being lifted up and his legs were around Adam’s waist, and Adam was pinning him against the wall with his own body, hands sliding up Kris’ arms to hold his wrists above his head.

“Oh,” said Kris, and then Adam leaned down and covered his mouth with his own, licking in deep and relentless, only pulling back to tug on Kris’ lower lip or bite at his jaw before coming back for more kisses. It was new and kind of startling to be manhandled like that, but Kris was really okay with it – he liked the stretch in his arms and the pressure on his wrists, plus this way he could feel how hard Adam was. Kris wriggled a little, or tried to, tried to move against Adam to show that it felt good, and Adam made an appreciative rumbling noise that Kris felt all along his chest and belly.

Adam backed up a little, and for a second Kris though he was going to carry him or something, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but Adam just let Kris slide down to get his feet on the floor, and then took his hands and used them to pull him into his own bedroom, Adam walking backwards and grinning and biting his lip at the same time.

“I really wasn’t planning on this when you invited me to crash,” he said as he steered Kris towards the bed, kicking his shoes off as they went. “But as you refuse to let me repay you in money or industry contacts, I guess you’ve left me no choice.”

“I know,” Kris said sorrowfully, toeing out of his sneakers and then peeling his shirt off for good measure. “I feel just sick that I’ve put you in this position.”

“Shameless manipulation of vulnerable road-trippers,” said Adam, going for Kris’ belt. “Showing me kindness and then abusing my trust like this? I should call Dateline.”

“Your phone doesn’t work. You’d have to use mine and work yourself even deeper into debt,” said Kris, and then he found himself looking at the ceiling because Adam had flipped him backwards onto the bed and was stripping Kris’ jeans and underwear and socks off and tossing the whole big knot of clothing off to the side. Kris propped himself up on his elbows so he could watch Adam strip – it wasn’t like he’d never seen a naked man before, but never when said nakedness and Kris’ own nakedness were about to get acquainted, and besides, Adam was beautiful to look at.

“You’re really gorgeous,” he said out loud, without really meaning to. “More than on TV.”

“Thank you,” Adam said, and got rid of the rest of his clothes before crawling onto the bed and bracing himself on his hands and knees over Kris. He kissed Kris quickly, then pushed back up and just looked, his eyes climbing all over Kris’ body, his chest and arms and down between his legs and back up, and Kris might have felt embarrassed about it if he hadn’t been doing the exact same thing. Adam was so big everywhere, broad chest and long legs and hard cock, completely different from anything Kris had ever experienced before. He couldn’t wait.

Adam kind of shook his head, said, “God dammit, they grow ‘em so hot in the South. Look at you, I’m helpless,” and then he scooted down and laid himself all along Kris’ body and sucked one of Kris’ nipples into his mouth.

Kris kind of checked out for a while after that – Adam seemed to be able to touch him everywhere at once, to kiss him and talk to him at the same time; his hands were everywhere, his mouth was cool on Kris’ throat and sharp at his belly and hot, wet and amazing around his cock. Kris wasn’t selfish in bed, really he wasn’t, but he couldn’t seem to untangle his tongue or make his arms move, so pretty much he just dropped into this blissful whirlpool where all he was aware of was Adam’s body and how good he felt.

“This is a lot of work for you,” he managed to say later, when Adam had Kris’ legs over his shoulders and was easing into him, slow and relentless and huge.

“Yup, what a chore,” Adam said cheerfully, wrapping his hand around Kris’ cock. When he stroked, Kris could feel himself clenching down around Adam, inside, and he made a noise that was basically just a lot of really shocked, enthusiastic vowels. Adam said, “I know, right?” and pulled out so he could push back in again, harder this time, making Kris arch and grab at him.

Afterwards, Kris lay on his back and panted at the ceiling while Adam cleaned him up, laughing at him the whole time.

“It is a damn shame nobody ever got to do that with you before,” he said, tossing the washcloth aside and climbing back into bed with Kris. “You are a delight. Not that I’m complaining, of course. Even I am not immune from the urge to deflower.”

Kris found some breath from somewhere and used it to huff a laugh. Adam lay close, stroking his belly, and when Kris could move again he rolled onto his side to face him, slipping in easily under Adam’s arm.

“Hey,” said Adam. He kissed the side of Kris’ nose and ran his palm down his spine. “You okay?”

“Oh yeah,” Kris slurred. He put his hands on Adam’s chest so he could feel the shake when Adam laughed. “I’m not sure I’m ever going to walk again, though.”

“Oh, you will,” Adam said confidently. “Maybe don’t head off on an impromptu hike tomorrow, though.”

Kris scoffed. The idea of walking to the bathroom felt like a marathon right now. He was happy to lie there with Adam and wait for his legs to re-solidify instead.

They lay around kissing and petting each other for a while, then Adam said, “So, I have a question. How come you were available to rescue me from motel horror tonight? How come you don’t have anybody?”

Kris shrugged. “I don’t know. What about you?”

Adam made a face. “Let’s not forget I’m still officially in recent break-upville. I get a pass for at least a couple months.”

“I can’t imagine it,” Kris said. Adam raised an eyebrow and Kris went on, “When I broke up with the girl I told you about it was like the whole town knew. And that was bad enough. How do you even deal with total strangers getting in your face about it?”

Adam shrugged one shoulder. “Occupational hazard. I just try to rise above it as much as I can.”

“Unlike this Dmitri guy,” Kris said, surprising himself with how pissed off he sounded.

“Yeah,” Adam sighed, and rubbed a hand over his eyes. “He’s not – he’s really not a bad guy. We just weren’t a good fit, I guess. But his clothes – the things he creates, you know? His art, it’s really beautiful. I love it, and I guess I confused that with really being all that crazy about the man behind the curtain.”

“Mmm,” said Kris, unconvinced. Dmitri couldn’t be all that great if he was blabbing Adam’s secrets to anyone who’d listen.

Adam smiled tightly. “The funny thing is, I’ve been on the other end of that so many times, when someone just wants the illusion. You’d think I would know better than to make that mistake myself. Apparently not. Guess we’re all like that.”

I’m not, Kris wanted to say, which was ridiculous so he kept his mouth shut.

“You know his name isn’t even really Dmitri,” Adam said then, cutting Kris a little sly glance. “It’s Dave.”

Kris cracked up, which made Adam laugh too, rolling his head on the pillow. “He sounds like a jerk, I gotta tell you.”

Adam laughed again, shaking his head. “I guess he kind of is. I don’t know, I just wonder-” he cut himself off and made a face. “Why am I even talking to you about all this? You don’t wanna hear my woes, I’m sorry.”

“No, I do,” Kris protested, curving his hand around Adam’s warm shoulder. “C’mon, tell me. It’s okay.”

Adam hesitated then said, “I was in love with this guy. A long time ago now, but it was the full-on, like, truly madly deeply, can’t live without you for real deal, you know?” Adam waited for Kris to nod, then went on, “And obviously it didn’t work out. And I don’t want him back or anything, but I just – sometimes I wonder if that was the one, you know? If that’s – if you just get one, and if you can’t make it work with them then you’re pretty much screwed for life.”

“Bullshit,” Kris said, making Adam blink at him. “No, that’s – come on, you don’t just get to love one person. What kind of crazy system would that be?”

“One designed to make me miserable,” Adam said with a little pout.

Kris rolled his eyes. “Okay – it’s like this. I was with the same girl for like, ever, and I know she thought I was the love of her life. But then she met someone else, and it turns out I wasn’t.”

“Kris,” Adam said, touching his shoulder.

“I thought she was the love of my life too, but she can’t be, because she’s the love of that guy’s. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t love me, it just means, you know.” Kris waved his hand around. “You can love lots of people. You don’t just get one shot.”

Adam hummed thoughtfully. “I hope you’re right,” he said, then he pushed Kris onto his back and rolled over to lie between his legs, his back to Kris’ chest. He sighed and tipped his head back against Kris’ shoulder. “You know, Dmitri’s from the South too.”

“Oh yeah?” Kris wrapped his arms around Adam’s shoulders and kissed the side of his neck, because it was there and he could.

“Mmm hmm. Mississippi. And the guy I was in love with was from Texas, actually. And I dated a boy from Louisiana once...” Adam trailed off, then craned his neck to look at Kris. “Um, I swear I didn’t purposefully break down here just to hit on the first cute Southern guy who came along.”

“No, I get it, I’m just a pin in your sex map,” Kris said, and tickled Adam’s sides, which made him squirm between Kris’ legs, and that felt really good. He unwrapped his arms and moved his hands over Adam’s skin, instead; he hadn’t really gotten to touch him properly before, and now he was curious to feel the lines of his chest and the soft place below his navel, and whether the freckles felt raised under his fingers (they didn’t). Adam shifted and murmured, encouraging; he put his hands on Kris’ legs and slid them up and down, big and warm.

Kris nosed under Adam’s ear and kissed him there again, and then again and again, following an invisible path down Adam’s throat and back up. He wasn’t all that clear on hook-up etiquette – maybe he was supposed to be making gruff noises about showers and banishing Adam out to the couch, but Adam didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave, and Kris didn’t want him to. If Kris had known hooking up with strangers was this easy and comfortable and hot he would have been doing it for years. Maybe it wasn’t always like this, though. Maybe it was just because it was Adam.

Kris knew enough to know that was a stupid thought to have. In the morning Adam was going to back to Hollywood and Kris would go back to being a normal person who didn’t sleep with movie stars on the first surprise date, and he didn’t even know the guy but it was just that he felt so good, his heavy weight against Kris’ body and his skin under Kris’ lips and hands.

“Don’t stop,” Adam murmured, pulling Kris out of his reverie – he’d just been staring at Adam’s ear for God knew how long, great. “That feels so nice.”

Kris moved his lips over Adam’s throat, and moved his hands up to touch Adam’s nipples, just to see – and Adam really liked that, he started pressing into Kris’ hands and going mmmm under his breath. Kris swept his fingertips in circles all over, teasing, and then Adam took his hands off Kris’ legs and pushed the sheets down further, so they were pooled around his thighs and Kris could see his cock resting hard against his belly.

It couldn’t be that difficult, Kris thought, watching his own hand slip down and wrap around Adam’s dick, tightening with a little squeeze, like he did for himself. But maybe Adam wanted something – “Do you wanna, uh, show me, or...”

“Just do it how you usually do it,” Adam said with a little smile. He pressed his nose against Kris’ jaw and whispered, “I want the whole experience.”

Kris was only too happy to oblige.

***

In the morning, Kris woke to find that Adam had cuddled Kris in tight against his side, long arm wrapped all the way around him so he couldn’t go anywhere, but he’d also starfished the rest of himself out across the mattress, taking up as much space as he possibly could. He was face down on the bed and all the pillows were on the floor.

Kris laughed quietly to himself before wriggling out of Adam’s grasp – Adam reacted by grumbling in his sleep and then flinging his arm across the small space Kris had left vacant – and stumbling towards the bathroom. He was sore, kind of, but more in the extreme workout way, not...not really anything more specific. He washed his face and brushed his teeth, pulled on some sweatpants (but not, after a moment’s deliberation, a shirt. Whatever, Adam had seen it all. Literally.) and flicked the switch on the coffeemaker before padding out to collect his paper.

He read the sports section first, out of habit, waiting for the coffee to brew, then turned the paper over and looked at the front page.

He blinked, laughed out loud in his empty kitchen, then took the paper and his mug into the bedroom. Adam was just now stirring and stretching on his back, the pillows in a heap behind him and the sheets twisted artfully around his hips.

“Hey,” Adam smiled around a huge yawn. “Is that coffee?”

“You’re in the paper,” Kris said by way of answer, and tossed it onto the bed.

Adam caught it and rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes, squinting as he lifted the paper up. “Local woman wins pie contest,” he read aloud. “Adam Lambert assists.” Adam lowered the paper and looked at Kris. “You realize I have to get a copy of this.”

“You realize my mom is probably buying them all so she can wallpaper her house with them,” Kris said, and Adam laughed and kind of sat up.

“Do you need me to get up?” he said, but Kris shook his head no.

“I’ll bring you some coffee,” he said. Adam beamed and thanked him.

Kris went back into the kitchen and got down another mug and stared at it for a while. It was – Adam looked good, in Kris’ bed like that, in the messy sheets and warm light that always spilled around the edges of the drapes in the morning. Yesterday Kris couldn’t even have imagined it, and now he was thinking about tomorrow and how Adam wasn’t going to be there. Kris really wasn’t a guy who spent all that much time mooning around over crushes, but – well. He just wished Adam maybe lived in Arkansas, was all. Or that he was a famous musician who was in any kind of position to ask a movie star for his phone number. Or that – the coffee gurgled, and Kris shook himself and filled the mug. He was being completely ridiculous. You couldn’t be bummed about someone leaving when you’d known them for less than twenty-four hours, it was against some kind of rule of get-a-grip.

He turned to take the coffee into the bedroom, but Adam was standing right there behind him. Kris pressed the coffee into his hands. “Lucky I didn’t spill this all over you, Lurch.”

“Angel,” Adam said dramatically, then drained half the cup in one go. “You mind if I use your shower?”

“Go ahead,” said Kris, and Adam hesitated and kind of smiled and opened his mouth like maybe he was going to say something else, or ask Kris to join him (which Kris was really, really okay with) when the phone rang, interrupting.

“Saved by the bell!” said Adam, and went off to the bathroom.

Kris picked the phone up. “Hello?” There was an unintelligible burble on the other end. “Hello, Harry,” said Kris.

Harry burbled some more, and Kris felt his stomach do an unhappy flip as he listened. “Oh,” he said. “Thanks, Harry.”

He put the phone down, then sat on the tall stool at the counter and drank the rest of the coffee, slowly. Then he got up and put two slices of bread in the toaster, stood over it until they popped, and spread them both with grape jelly before cutting them into triangles. He was halfway through the third triangle when Adam swooped in over his shoulder and stole the last piece, cramming most of it into his mouth in one go.

“I bet you can fit a hanger in there sideways,” Kris said.

“Never tried,” Adam said thoughtfully. He brightened and added, “I can do it with a banana though. And tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue.”

Kris gave him a look. “You’re trying to ruin all my future experiences with fruit, aren’t you?”

Adam laughed and finished off the toast. “I do what I can. Jesus, this jelly is amazing. Don’t tell me, it’s homemade by apple-cheeked farmer’s wives. Or your mom again. Do you have juice?”

“Your car is here,” Kris blurted out then, looking away and wiping his hands on a dishtowel. “I mean, Harry called. I can take you there now.”

“Oh,” said Adam, after a second’s pause. Then he cleared his throat and said, “Great! I can get out of your hair finally.”

“You’re not-” Kris started, but Adam was already headed back to the bedroom.

“Let me just throw my stuff together!” he called over his shoulder. “Give me two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

*

The ride to Harry’s was awkward to say the least. All the easy comfort of that morning was gone, and – see, this was what Kris had though hooking up with people was like, and this is why he didn’t, and he was right. The silence in the car was like a third person sitting between them looking expectantly from one to the other, but Kris didn’t know what to say. Thanks for the hot sex? Look me up next time you break down? I’ll think of you every time I eat my Mom’s apple pie – oh, crap, he was totally going to think of Adam every time he ate his Mom’s apple pie. He ate his Mom’s apple pie all the time! He was so screwed.

He was kind of mad at Adam, maybe. Surely Adam knew what was expected in these situations. He didn’t have any problems taking the lead in the bedroom, but now he was just going to leave Kris to flounder without any guidance at all? And he had ruined pie on top of everything. He was a jerk, and Kris should never have –

“I feel like kind of an asshole,” Adam said suddenly, breaking the silence. He looked quickly at Kris. “I mean, if you had asked me where I would least want to be at the mercy of the locals, somewhere like here would probably have been at the top of my list. But everyone’s been so nice to me.”

Kris’ ears went hot and now he felt like the jerk. “You’re a movie star, man, aren’t people nice to you everywhere you go?”

Adam laughed quietly, but it was a little hollow. “You’d be surprised.”

Kris let the stupid silence stretch out a little more, then offered, “I mean, you know, everyone in this town is nice. Mostly. But I can’t vouch for anywhere outside city limits, so maybe try not to break down again until you’re somewhere more familiar.”

“I’ll do my best,” Adam nodded, flashing Kris a smile. Kris’ knees did a ridiculous fluttering thing and he looked determinedly back at the road. He could see Harry’s shop coming up fast, and two guys standing around outside with two cars beside the one Adam had been driving before.

Kris had the craziest urge not to stop, to just put his foot down and keep on driving until the town was behind them – but he didn’t. He pulled in carefully, mirror signal maneuver, and brought the car to a stop.

The dudes started falling over each other to apologize as soon as Adam got out of the car – Kris busied himself getting Adam’s bags out of the trunk, including the stupid cooler. One of the dudes scurried over to load it all into the new car, and by the time Adam had signed whatever he needed to sign, Kris was leaning against his own car, hands tucked into his pockets.

“Thank you so much for your help, Harry,” Adam said, shaking his hand warmly and clasping Harry’s shoulder with his free hand. “You’re a prince among men.”

Harry grumbled and waved Adam off, but if you’d known him your whole life like Kris had, you could tell that he was pleased. Adam turned to Kris and kind of swayed in place for a minute, like he couldn’t decide which direction to go in.

“I don’t even know how to thank you,” he said, rubbing his hands against his jeans. “Seriously, you – Kris, are you sure you won’t let me give your number to-”

“No,” Kris cut him off, because it was even weirder now, after last night. “No, it’s fine. You don’t have to do anything.”

“But I just want to help you like you helped me,” Adam insisted, and Kris couldn’t exactly bust out with I slept with you and now if you do anything it’ll be like that’s why in front of two dudes from a car service and Harry, for crying out loud, so he just shook his head again and felt bad when Adam’s shoulders dropped a little.

“Well,” Adam said reluctantly. “Okay. So – well, I guess I should get on the road.”

“Safe trip,” said Kris, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets so he wouldn’t do something totally stupid like grab Adam’s face and kiss him goodbye.

Adam nodded, slowly, and pulled his sunglasses off the collar of his shirt. “Thanks again, Kris,” he said, and slid them on.

Kris waited for Adam to pull away, then got in his own car and drove home. He undressed when he got inside, crawled into bed, and buried himself in last night’s sheets.

*

Over the next few days, Kris did not:

Watch the beach house movie.
More than once.
Look Adam up on the internet and scroll through his credits, all the way back to the seventeen separate movies in which he had played ‘Man’.
Watch the beach house movie again.
Snap at Louisa Davies when she wouldn’t stop asking him how long he’d been friends with Adam.
Watch the beach house movie one more time, let his hand sneak into his pants, pull it out again, think, ‘screw it’ and jerk off with his eyes on the screen, coming just as Adam’s eyes fluttered open and the first drops of rain began to scatter the sand on his skin.

Okay, he did. He did all of those things, and then after a week he told himself firmly, enough, and hid the beach house movie at the back of the cabinet where he couldn’t get to it so easily. He scheduled extra band practices with Chase, and gave a few guitar lessons outside of school for extra money, and he’d stopped having useless fantasies about Adam more than once or twice a week when the doorbell rang and there was a messenger outside holding a basket of oranges.

Kris blinked at her. “Are those for me?”

“Sign here,” she said in a bored voice, and shoved the basket into Kris’ arms. Kris took it inside and put it on the kitchen counter. It was wrapped in stiff, crinkly cellophane with a big bow on top, and after Kris wrestled that open with the help of some scissors, he found a card inside.

Thank you on a theme, it read in unfamiliar handwriting. Here’s one thing we do better in California. These are from the tree in my backyard. I’m sharing them with you like you shared your apples with me. A x

Kris read the card a few times, then propped it up against his toaster. He reached into the basket and took one of the oranges, holding it carefully in his cupped hands; cool dimpled skin and sharp scent. He rolled it on the counter a few times, then pressed in with his thumb. The skin split satisfyingly, and it peeled off mostly in one large piece instead of a hundred pithy little chunks. Kris carefully separated the segments, laying them in a wheel on the counter top, then popped the first one in his mouth. It was sweet and tart and the skin was papery-soft, and the juice burst out when he pressed the fruit against his teeth with his tongue. He swallowed, then ate the other segments quickly, greedily, licking the sharp juice off his fingers when he was done.

He had a few tiny cuts around his fingertips, he always did, from grading papers, and the juice stung a little. Kris ran his hands under the faucet, and mentally checked oranges off the list of fruit he didn’t associate with Adam.

He tried to make the oranges last, because once they were gone he probably wouldn’t have California oranges again. Or that’s what he said to Charles when he came over, but Charles just looked at him like he was crazy and said, “They sell California oranges at the supermarket, you freak.”

“Not like these,” Kris said, watching Charles tear into Kris’ last-but-one orange, and he must not have kept his voice neutral or he let his eyes flick to the card or something, because Charles got this look on his face, this I know you look and said,

“Are these from that guy? The movie guy?”

“No,” Kris said weakly, but Charles was already reaching for the card Kris had been stupid enough to leave by the toaster.

“He shared your apples?” he said, raising an eyebrow at Kris. “Is that what the kids are calling it nowadays?”

Kris hesitated a second too long, just long enough to think of the right way to laugh, how deeply to shrug his shoulders. In that second Charles’s eyes got so wide Kris was worried he might blind himself, and by the time Kris stammered out, “It’s – it’s not – Charles...” it was too late.

Charles’s mouth hung open too, with an unchewed half-segment of orange resting on the tip of his tongue. He shut his mouth just before it tumbled out onto the countertop. Kris heart hammered in his chest and his ears started ringing. He grabbed onto the back of the stool, and somewhere on the other side of the panic he heard Charles say, “Hey. Hey, man, come on. Sit down. Don’t hurl on me, I’ll kick your ass.”

“Oh, crap,” said Kris, and dropped his head onto the countertop. The Formica was cool against his forehead, and he rested there for a while, working on breathing. After a minute something thumped against the side of his face. Then it did it again. Kris twisted his head to the side to see Charles pulling the last orange back towards himself, then rolling it at Kris’ head with a flick of his fingers.

“You got down with that dude,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Yes,” said Kris. The orange thumped against his nose.

Charles rolled it back again. “Are you gay?”

“No,” said Kris. The orange landed heavily against his cheekbone. “I like girls too.”

“Huh,” said Charles. He pulled the orange back once more. “You didn’t tell me.”

“Never anything to tell until now.” Thump. Against his forehead this time.

“Was it...” Charles trailed off, and rolled the orange under his palm for a while, frowning. “Did he hurt you?”

“No!” said Kris, jerking his head up off the table. He rubbed his forehead and nose, and squinted at Charles around his fingers. “Dude – no. No.”

There was a long, horrible silence. Kris’ stomach folded itself up and tried to eat itself inside out, and his chest got in on the act by doing this freezy shaking thing under his skin, and he gripped the edge of the counter so hard his fingers creaked.

Eventually Charles said thoughtfully, “So you, what, seduced him with your ‘I’m Kris Allen I’m The Nicest Guy Alive’ routine, and now he’s sending you oranges in the mail as a token of his affection?”

Kris swallowed around the huge, cold lump in his throat. “I guess? I mean, I don’t know if they’re – I didn’t expect to hear from him. I think he’s just being polite.”

“I’ve never sent a guy fruit,” Charles said, putting the last orange carefully back in the basket. “But if I did, it would probably be because I wanted him to call me. I mean, if that’s how guys get this type of thing done. The fruit thing is new in and of itself, if I’m honest.”

“To me, too,” said Kris ruefully, and when Charles grinned at him Kris felt a rush of relief so intense and grateful that he had to grab onto the counter again.

Charles patted his hand. “So are you gonna call him?”

“I don’t have his number.”

“Sure you do.” Charles flipped the card over and slid it across the counter to Kris. “It’s right here on the back of the card.”

Kris looked down. Adam’s number looked back. “Shit,” said Kris, looking up again to stare at Charles in horror. “Charles, I’ve had these like a week. I didn’t know his number was there!”

“How are you in charge of anyone’s education, seriously,” said Charles, rolling his eyes.

Kris looked miserably at the number. “I can’t call him now. It’s been too long.”

Charles scoffed. “Dude. If a chick sent me an apple and I didn’t call her to say thank you, I would be a huge jerk. I’m not an expert on oranges but I can’t imagine the etiquette is all that different.”

“But it’s a famous orange,” Kris moaned.

“Be a gentleman,” Charles said sternly, pointing in Kris’ face. “Don’t make me look bad, Allen. You can tell a lot about a man by his friends. I don’t want people thinking I hang out with fruit thieves.”

Kris put his head back down on the counter and sighed.

*

He was going to call. Really he was. He spent another couple of days talking himself into it, and then he planned the whole thing out – evening in by himself, emergency favorite movie already in the DVD player, a couple of beers for Dutch courage, and the phone in his hand.

The TV was on quietly in the background, and Kris paced up and down a little, trying to walk off the nervous twisting in his belly. Adam wouldn’t have sent him his number if he didn’t want Kris to call, and he was – okay, he was a guy, and Kris had never called a guy up like this. But he was just a regular guy, a really, really handsome regular guy who was the best sex of Kris’ life and a movie star and –

Kris threw himself down onto the couch and focused on the TV for a minute, just to calm down. He adjusted the card with Adam’s number on the coffee table in front of him, and adjusted his grip on the phone, ready. Something on the screen caught his attention as he was about to dial, and he looked up to see Adam’s smiling face on the television, on the red carpet at some awards thing or other. The reporter in the shiny dress was asking him something, and Adam was nodding and smiling, and Kris’ stomach kind of flipped over happily before the shot pulled out and Kris’ stomach flipped all the way back over again.

There was a boy on Adam’s arm. Well, not a boy, a young man, some guy Kris didn’t recognize, who was painfully pretty and angular and looked like he belonged there with Adam, poised and perfect, both of them in suits that probably cost more than Kris’ apartment.

Kris looked down at the phone in his hand. He looked back up at the TV. There was a little box in the corner that said, ‘Live from the red carpet.’ On the screen, Adam pressed a kiss to the pretty guy’s cheek.

Kris stood up, turned the TV off, and headed to bed. In the morning, he threw away the card with Adam’s number, and the last orange, too.

*

About a month later, Kris came home from work to find Charles on his couch, watching the TV.

“How did you get in,” Kris started, and then looked at the TV, and there was Adam, standing naked in the ocean while the clouds moved menacingly above him.

“You see,” said Charles, “now I get why you like this movie so much.”

“Oh my God,” said Kris. He dropped his bag on the floor. “Dude, you – I hid this DVD.”

“I know!” Charles crowed, slapping his thigh. “Man, I’m going to mock you for months.”

“Oh my God,” said Kris again. He sat down on the couch and put his head in his hands.

Charles laughed some more, then forced Kris to look up. He’d paused the movie so the screen showed Adam with his back to the camera, the sea frozen mid-swirl around his thighs. Charles pointed with the remote. “That’s his ass.”

“I know that,” Kris groaned.

“You dated Katy for four years and I never saw her naked,” Charles said woefully. “You spend one night with this guy and I know him better than his own mother.”

“Please turn this off,” Kris said. “C’mon, Charles, cut it out.”

“No, you cut it out.” Charles threw the remote on the coffee table and turned to face Kris. “Man, you have been moping all month. This shit has to stop.”

“I haven’t been moping,” Kris said, stung.

“Moping,” Charles said sternly. “Moping like after you broke up with Katy- ” he held up a hand, “I know, it’s not the same. I know it’s not. But do you remember that, how you were so sad, and you wrote all those awesome songs, and then you wouldn’t play them to anyone because they were too personal?”

Kris frowned at his knees. “You want me to play songs about how Katy broke my heart in front of her family? Her friends?”

“That is his bare ass!” Charles said, exasperated, pointing at the screen. “You don’t think his Mama saw this movie? And every dude who’s ever tapped that? How personal can you get?”

Kris winced. “Don’t say ‘tap that’.”

“You basically gave up on music when things didn’t work out with Katy,” Charles said heatedly. “And it wasn’t her fault, but evidently you need someone’s foot up your ass, and if it has to be my foot, then so be it. I’m not letting this happen again.”

Kris eyed him warily. “What are we gonna do?”

Charles thumped Kris’ knee, and then his shoulder, and then his knee again. “Here’s what we’re gonna do, Sad Man. We’re gonna watch this movie and eat some oranges,” he held up a bag of them, “and you’re gonna tell me everything about this one night stand that messed you up so bad you’re hiding your freaking DVD’s, and I’m not gonna wince or anything because I am that good a friend and anyway I’ve seen his ass myself now, too.”

“That sounds like a great time,” Kris said dryly.

“And then,” Charles said, holding his hands up for dramatic effect. “Then you’re gonna write some damn songs about it, and you’re gonna play them and the ones about Katy and the ones about God and all the others, and you’re gonna play them for people outside of this town, and I am gonna be there the whole time, ready to kick your ass the minute you try to back out on me.”

Kris’ head spun a little, and he let it rest against the back of the couch. “Man,” he said, and he didn’t know what came next, so he trailed off.

Charles was quiet for a minute. Then he said, “You have a gift, Kris. For real. I’m just trying to help you share it.”

“You’re trying to help yourself share the ladies,” Kris said, cracking one eye open.

Charles thumped his knee. “Whatever the Lord has in store for me,” he said solemnly, then picked up the remote. “Come on, I want to see what happens to your man’s butt.”

Kris laughed, and caught the orange that Charles tossed his way.

***

Kris didn’t even want to come to the party in the first place. But he was so grateful to John for taking him on tour; it was his first really important run as the opening act, and he felt like he couldn’t say no when John asked him. And that was even before John started rambling on about playing the game and being introduced and positive exposure and a lot of things Kris hadn’t thought were as important as they apparently were.

“Great!” John had said when Kris reluctantly agreed. “I’ll have your invitation couriered over and meet you there.”

“I just want to play music,” Kris said plaintively to Charles when they arrived, Charles with a death grip on Kris’ arm like he thought the doormen might not believe he was the plus one. As if Kris even knew anybody else in L.A.

“And I just want to reap the benefits of your desire,” Charles said happily when they got inside. A waiter swept past with a tray of drinks; Charles grabbed two and handed one to Kris. “Hey look, there’s that guy from that band! I love that guy!”

“What guy?” said Kris, but Charles was already gone, abandoning Kris in the middle of a noisy party full of strangers. Worst plus one ever.

Kris wandered around for a while, looking vaguely for John and expecting to get thrown out any minute. The theme of the party seemed to be ‘Make Everyone Feel Like A Borrower’ because everything was huge; the glasses, the lights, the decorations. The bar, which came up almost to Kris’s shoulder, but he leaned against it anyway, sipping his drink and trying to look like he belonged. There was a stick in his glass with three olives on it; Kris wrinkled his nose and pulled it out, then looked around for somewhere to stash it.

“Let me get that for you,” said a voice, and Kris turned around to find himself nose-to-chest with – oh.

“Adam,” he said, stunned.

“Adam,” Adam confirmed, taking the stick out of Kris fingers. He put it in his mouth and sucked the olives off it, one by one, then dropped the stick on a napkin that was lying on the bar. “You,” he said, not looking at Kris as he chewed, “never called me.”

Kris stared at him some more. He looked – he looked really good. Like really good. “I’m sorry,” Kris said honestly, drinking him in. He was made-up and dressed up and styled to within an inch of his life, but it was still him, Kris could tell.

Adam kind of nodded and kept scanning the crowd, his long fingers wrapped around his own glass. “John bring you?”

“I – yeah.” Kris blinked. “At least, in theory he did, but I don’t actually know where he is.”

“Yeah, that sounds like John,” Adam grinned lazily. “Probably getting into mischief with Pete somewhere.”

“Right,” Kris agreed, even though he had no idea who Pete was and what mischief-making history with John might be.

Adam sipped his drink, then turned to face Kris, finally, and met his eyes. He was frowning, but in kind of a teasing way, and he leaned in so Kris had to look up at him. “I liked the record.”

“Oh.” It was still a shock for Kris to hear people say that – to be reminded that he’d made a record, a real one, and it was in stores where people who didn’t even know him could just pick it up and hear songs he’d written. “Thank you.”

Adam nodded again, looking Kris up and down thoughtfully. “I liked the one about the orange trees.”

Kris’ mouth went dry and he fumbled to raise his glass to his lips, feeling his face flush. He drained half of the drink in one gulp, hoping that maybe when he lowered his glass Adam would be gone and it would all have been a really awkward dream – but of course that didn’t happen. In fact there were more people than there were before, because a guy Kris didn’t recognize had appeared at Adam’s side.

“Hi,” said Adam, his voice gone soft and sweet. He leaned down to kiss the guy on the mouth, arm sliding around his waist, then looked over at Kris again. “Kris, this is Julian. Julian, Kris.”

“Hi!” said Julian, wiggling his fingers in a little wave. His nails were glittery, and under his jacket he was wearing a shirt that looked like it had only just bothered to show up. Kris nodded in reply, and Julian turned back to Adam. “Eva and Nicole are heading up to Jago’s,” he said, fingers curling in Adam’s sleeve. “Do we wanna come with?”

“Do you want to?” said Adam, and laughed when Julian nodded and did this smiley lip-biting big-eyes thing at the same time. “Sure,” Adam said indulgently, lifting his arm and laying it over Julian’s shoulders. He looked at Kris. “It was good to see you, man.”

“You too,” said Kris, although he wasn’t really sure if he was lying. It wasn’t – he didn’t remember Adam like this. “Nice to meet you, Julian.”

“You too!” Julian smiled, and Kris saw him reach up and lace his own fingers with Adam’s as they turned to leave.

Kris stood there by himself for a minute, feeling like a chick in a high school movie after she gets dissed at the prom, and then jumped when a hand landed heavily on his shoulder.

“Here you are!” Charles boomed, as if Kris was the one who’d run off. “Look who I found!”

John popped out from behind Charles then, and did some sort of stupid jazz-hands arrangement before pulling Kris into a hug. “Sorry I was MIA for a while there,” he said, and linked his arm with Kris’. “C’mon, I want you to meet Pete. He loves people who sing about how miserable they are.”

“I’m not miserable,” Kris protested, but John was already towing him along in the direction of the mysterious Pete, and wasn’t listening anyway.

***

“The tour’s going great, Mom,” Kris said, holding the phone between his shoulder and his ear as he wrestled open a bottle of water. “No, I’m not doing drugs. I haven’t thrown a television out the window. No, I – Mom! If I had done that I wouldn’t tell you about it!”

“Well, I’m just asking!” she said, clattering around on the other end, familiar kitchen sounds of home. “Let me speak to Charles now, please.”

“Okay. I love you.”

“Love you too!”

Kris moved over to the couches on the other side of the room and tapped Charles’s elbow with the phone. “My Mom wants to talk to you.”

Charles grabbed the phone. “Mrs. Allen,” he said in a stupid quasi-British voice. “How marvelous to hear your dulcet tones!”

Kris rolled his eyes and went to talk to the crew instead. He liked watching the show get set up, liked doing soundcheck in the empty venue, liked peeking out from the side of the stage as the audience started to file in. He loved the moment when the lights went down and the noise swelled to a roar, and he loved playing his own music every night, even if technically he was playing it for John’s fans and not his own. He thought maybe the crowd was starting to warm to him as the tour went on, though.

“Word of mouth,” John said knowingly, when Kris mentioned it to him after the show. “One kid says on the internet they loved the opening act, another says they hated your guts, thirty people go and download your music and it filters into more people knowing your songs as we go along.”

Kris thought about that. “People on the internet hate me?”

“It’s like five people,” Charles piped up. “So far only two of them had a point.”

“Thanks,” said Kris, taking a long pull on his beer. “It makes me feel so good to know you’re out there defending me on the worldwide web.”

Charles raised his own beer in a toast. “I do what I can.”

This was maybe Kris’ favorite part of the day, apart from the actual show. Hanging out with the guys backstage while they waited for bus call, or like tonight, if they were in a hotel and there was time to go out somewhere after John came off stage. It made him feel like he was really doing this for real, that he wasn’t some imposter they were going to throw out of the moving bus any day now. He liked bonding over beer and music and stupid in-jokes that he could never explain to anyone back home.

What he wasn’t so crazy about was the conversation taking a turn to ‘Sexual Escapades We Have Known’ and Charles grinning over at Kris with a dangerous glint in his eye.

Don’t, Kris mouthed.

“Kristopherrrrrrrrrrrr,” John slurred, hooking his arm heavily around Kris’ neck and breathing beerily in his ear. “C’mon, you never share. You have to share.”

“Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre,” agreed Chad, thumping his fist on the back of Kris’ hand. “Best sex you ever had: go.”

“I’m not telling you, c’mon,” said Kris, wriggling out from between them.

John pouted and leaned dangerously far off his seat to roll his head on Kris’s shoulder. “Don’t you trust us, Kristopher?”

Kris rubbed his nose. “I just don’t think it’s very respectful, is all,” he said, which wasn’t a lie. “To the people we slept with.”

Chad looked at him like he was crazy. “We’re singing their genitalia’s praises,” he said, raising both arms high above his head. His beer tilted threateningly. “What could be more respectful than that?”

“C’mon Kris,” John poked his side. “Play with us, c’mon, who was it?”

“I know!” said Charles in a sing-song voice.

John immediately abandoned Kris and went to squeeze in next to Charles instead. He latched on to Charles’s forearm and made big puppy eyes. “Charles, c’mon, man, tell me. Tell me!”

“Don’t!” Kris yelped, too high and panicky, and Chad gave him a curious look.

“Dude,” he said, sitting up and touching Kris’s shoulder. “Is it a guy or something? Because we’re not assholes, come on.”

“I know you’re not,” Kris said, pushing his beer away. He folded his arms on the table and dropped his head into them. “I just haven’t had a lot of practice telling people,” he told his forearms.

“It’s true,” Charles told John. “In the stable of sexual liberation, he walks on the wobbly legs of a newborn foal.”

“Shut up,” moaned Kris. “You’re fired.”

“No, I’m not,” Charles said comfortably. “If you fire me there’ll be nothing stopping me from telling everyone you had sex with Adam Lambert.”

Kris sat up so fast he was dizzy. Dizzy and horrified. “Dude!”

John’s mouth was hanging open. “Dude!”

Chad’s hands had flown to his face. “Dude!”

Charles grinned. “Oops?”

“I told – you just – I can’t believe-” Kris sputtered, waving his arms around like that could make it not have happened.

“Adam Lambert,” John said wonderingly, shaking his head. “How do you even know him?”

“It’s a long story,” Kris hedged.

“No it’s not!” Charles said gleefully. “Adam had car trouble in Arkansas and Kris rescued him and Adam popped his cherry as a thank-you.”

John’s mouth dropped even further open. “Adam Lambert took your virginity?”

“Adam Lambert went to Arkansas?” Chad demanded.

“Hey,” Kris scowled. “People go to Arkansas, okay. People go to Arkansas all the time. And he didn’t pop my cherry, you huge jerk,” he said to Charles, kicking him under the table. “I had been with girls before, hello.”

“Jesus Christ.” John laughed some more, banging his fist on the table. “Way to jump in at the deep end, dude. That’s like if the Batmobile was your first car.”

“Seriously,” Chad agreed. “If you set the bar so high at the beginning it’s just downhill all the way.”

“Tell me about it,” Kris said miserably.

“Oh my God,” said Charles, rolling his eyes. “Get over it already, dude, it’s your fault you were too big of a wuss to call him after.”

John’s head snapped around. “You didn’t call him?”

“Adam sent him his phone number in a basket of oranges,” Charles confided, and John did some kind of weird body-roll thing in his chair, writhing all over with...either joyful disbelief or he was having some kind of seizure.

“This is the best thing I have ever heard,” Chad said, his chin in his hands. “In the world..”

Kris covered his face and groaned into his hands.

“Let me get this straight,” John said, spreading his hands out on the table. “You slept with Adam Lambert under what sound like extremely unlikely circumstances. Your beginner’s luck was evidently in that night, because he felt moved to woo you with citrus after. And then you didn’t call him and now you’re sad because you basically went to the Moon and didn’t bother to look out of the window.”

“Oh, he looked out of the window,” Charles put in. “Get him drunk enough and he’ll tell you all about the view, too.”

“I hate you,” said Kris. “I hate you.” Charles blew him a kiss.

“It’s more like he went to the Moon and then turned down a free return trip,” Chad said thoughtfully. He turned to face Kris. “Dude why would you turn down a free return trip to the Moon?”

“Because he’s a loser,” Charles said, like it should have been obvious.

“Hey!” said Kris. “I had never been to the Moon before, all right? I wasn’t an expert at space travel or anything, and also – you know, it really wasn’t like going to the Moon,” he said then, tracing a circle on the tabletop with his fingertip. “It was really more like...I don’t know. Maybe Saturn.”

“Saturn,” said Chad.

“Yeah.” Kris looked uncertainly at Charles. “Saturn’s the pretty one, right? With all the rings?”

“Oh my God,” John said suddenly, both hands pressed to his chest. “You are too much, Kris Allen, I cannot allow this to continue any longer.” He pulled his phone out, and when Kris tried to protest he held his hand in Kris’ face. “Shush, I’m making an important Hollywood phone call – Peter! Let me speak to your wife. Because I’m conducting a secret affair with her, why do you think?”

“What is he doing?” Kris said, shaking Chad’s arm. “Who is he calling? Why is this happening to me?”

“Hi, sweetie,” John said into the phone, as Chad patted Kris’ shoulder soothingly. “Do you have Adam Lambert’s number, by any chance? It’s for something nice, I promise.” John listened for a few seconds, grinning. “No, not that nice, come on. Will you text it to me? Awesome. Love to the brood.”

“Listen to me,” Kris said desperately when John hung up. “Listen – John, you can’t call him. You can’t call him, okay? I barely know the guy, and last time I saw him he didn’t seem all that thrilled to see me, and he has a boyfriend, John, just let it go, just – John!”

John already had the phone pressed back against his ear. “It’s already ringing!” he said, making his eyes all wide. “I can’t hang up now!”

“Yes you can,” Kris insisted, grappling for the phone, and then John thrust it at him all of a sudden, pressing it to Kris’ ear, and Kris’ stomach dropped into his shoes when he heard Adam’s sleepy, grumpy voice.

“I swear to God, Neil, you better actually be in jail this time or I am going to beat your face in with a butt plug.”

Kris threw Charles a last, desperate look, but Charles just grinned and gave the thumbs up. Kris scowled at him and stood up, climbing over Chad’s legs to get out of the booth. “I’m – it’s not Neil. It’s Kris.”

Adam was silent as Kris made his way across the room and ducked out into a quieter hallway.

“Kris from Arkansas,” Kris prompted him, because apparently the humiliation of being forgotten was just what this scenario needed.

“I know where you’re from,” Adam snapped, then sighed and cleared his throat. “I thought you were - my brother usually makes a point of calling me whenever he knows I’m trying to sleep off jet lag.”

“Oh,” said Kris, scuffing his shoe on the ground. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you’d be asleep.”

“Whatever,” Adam said, and Kris could hear him yawn. “So what, you kept my number all this time and just now decided to use it?”

Kris closed his eyes and let his forehead rest against the wall. “No. John found out I...I knew you.”

“Oh, well. Of course he did.” There was a long silence. Kris spent it staring at a chip in the paint, so close his eyes crossed. Eventually Adam said, “So did you need something, or are you just in league with my brother to make sure I never sleep again?”

Kris turned around and leaned with his back against the wall instead. His stomach was tight, squeezing itself anxiously. “I know I already said this at the party, but I really am sorry I didn’t call you.”

“Dude,” Adam started, but Kris cut him off.

“That’s not me. I mean, I don’t do that. I’m not that guy. And I know I barely know you, but I just want you to know that.”

There was another silence. Kris winced and waited for Adam to scoff and tell him to get over himself, but Adam just said quietly, “I figured you just didn’t like the oranges.”

“I did like them,” Kris said, holding the phone closer to his face. “I really liked them, a lot. It’s just that...”

“Nobody ever gave you oranges before?” Adam filled in, and for the first time since Kris saw him at the party, he sounded like the person Kris had met in Arkansas.

“Exactly,” said Kris, relief making his knees a little weak. He leaned more heavily on the wall and picked at the chip in the paint. “But it was still rude. And I’m sorry.”

“Thank you,” said Adam after a minute. Kris could hear his sheets rustling.

“I should let you get back to sleep,” Kris said, trying not think about the way Adam looked in bed, if the sheets were twisted around him, if he was naked underneath them. “Do you, um. I could-”

“You have my number,” Adam said, and hung up.

Kris stayed where he was for a minute, staring down at John’s phone in his hand. He pulled his own cell out of his pocket and typed in Adam’s number quickly, saving it in his contacts. “Okay,” he said to nobody, and went back in to find the guys.

***

A week later, Adam showed up backstage.

“You’re here,” Kris said dumbly, after Charles had spent five minutes shaking Adam’s hand and raving about his last movie and talking over Kris every time he tried to speak.

Adam rolled his shoulders. “You did ask me to come see a show, right?”

“I left you a voicemail,” Kris said, feeling his mouth start to stretch into a smile. “And you never called me back.”

“Yeah,” Adam said, shaking his head slowly. “Man, I really hate people who do that.”

Charles hooted with laughter and clapped Adam’s shoulder. “I like this one,” he said, and then he started to go away, thank God. Except it wasn’t over because he leaned back in and whispered, “Don’t think I’m buying you another bag of oranges, Allen,” and winked hugely at Adam before walking off.

“Um,” said Adam. “What did that mean?”

Kris rubbed his eyes. “Something really embarrassing,” he sighed, and then opened his eyes and looked at Adam again. He was wearing a black T-shirt, and jeans. His hair was pushed back under a beanie hat. “Hi,” said Kris.

“Hi,” said Adam, and he was totally starting to smile too, Kris could tell. “Ask me if I liked the show, come on.”

“Did you like the show?”

“Oh my God!” said Adam, hands fluttering around. “Amazing. Amazing!”

Kris let his smile do whatever it wanted, which was to stretch into a giant grin that felt like it was wrapping around his whole head. “Yeah?”

“I knew the record was awesome but it’s so different live,” Adam gushed. “You’re gonna be huge.”

“Well,” said Kris, grinning his stupid grin down at his feet so he wouldn’t blind Adam with it. “Thanks.”

“In fact,” Adam said, stepping a little closer, “I’m still kind of mad that you didn’t let me get in on the ground floor of this.”

Kris rolled his eyes. “I’m an opening act and Charles takes all my money away anyway. Your ten percent would be like five bucks.”

Adam laughed, tipping his head back and opening his mouth real wide, like half the people in the room weren’t nudging each other and watching him. “Still. I wish I could say I had something to do with it. I wish I could say I helped.”

“You did,” Kris said truthfully. Adam met his eyes and didn’t look away, and Kris felt himself flushing. He cleared his throat, embarrassed. “So, uh – is Julian with you?”

“Julian is in Brazil, shooting Ten Thousand Burly Men In Loincloths, or whatever. Having the time of his life too, I bet.” Adam shook his head. “He’s a make-up artist, that’s how we met. He worked on my last flick.”

“Oh. And you’re okay with it?” Kris said carefully. “The burly men?”

Adam flashed Kris a grin. “Julian and I---let’s say our appreciation for each other was geographically dependent.”

Somewhere inside Kris’ brain, something pumped its fist in the air and went yesssss. Kris told it to shut up. “So you’re not, like...”

“Not what?”

“Sharing your oranges with anyone,” Kris blurted, and then looked around for something - anything - he could use to kill himself immediately.

Adam seemed to think it was the most hilarious thing he’d ever heard, though; he did that big head-toss laugh again, and this time when he rocked forward he took Kris by the shoulders, like he had after Kris came off stage the first night they met. “No, my oranges are all my own right now,” he said warmly, still beaming. “What about you? Pick any strangers up off the side of the road recently?”

“Nope,” Kris said, beaming back like an idiot. “I am without co-pilot.”

“Good,” said Adam, squeezing Kris’ shoulders. “Good.”

John wanted to go to this jazz bar he’d heard about after the show. Adam made a face, which made John roll his eyes, which made Adam go, “Don’t start, okay, I just don’t like it when I can’t tell what time signature it’s written in,” which made John get all crazy-eyed and start ranting about abstract sessions and philistines.

They ended up at the bar, anyway, and Kris liked it; it was dark and friendly and they found a little booth tucked away in a corner while John went up and talked the band into letting him jam with them. Kris personally thought the music was great.

“Yeah, this is okay,” Adam said ominously. “But just wait until it’s two a.m. and a random clarinet solo comes shrieking out of nowhere and sends you into cardiac arrest.”

“There’s lots of jazz that’s nothing like that,” Kris said. “What about Miles Davis? Coltrane? Ella Fitzgerald? Nina Simone?”

Adam held up one long finger. “Hey. Hey. Nina Simone didn’t like to be categorized.”

Kris batted the finger away. “I thought you didn’t know about jazz?”

“I know about Nina Simone,” said Adam, like duh. He held on to Kris’ hand, lacing their fingers together and bringing their hands to rest on his thigh. “So what else has touring with John taught you, apart from how to annoy people with jazz music and late-night phone calls?”

“Um,” said Kris, thinking about it. Adam’s hand was warm in his own. “I’ve learned that showering is a luxury, not a necessity or a right?”

Adam laughed. “Lovely.”

“I’ve learned that bunks are cool for the first three nights you sleep in them, and then the novelty wears off real fast after that. I’ve learned that having three people in a room with you counts as privacy, and that food, sleep and phone calls should never be put off until later, because you never know when you’re going to get them again.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“It is,” Kris said, surprising himself with how vehement he sounded. “I never want to do anything else.”

Adam smiled and leaned in suddenly to kiss Kris’ cheek, fast and sweet. “Good,” he said, squeezing Kris’ hand. “You look like you’re having the time of your life up there. And your voice is just gorgeous, Kris, I mean wow.”

“Okay,” said Kris, feeling himself flush under the warmth of Adam’s praise. “One of us won an Oscar for singing, man.”

“Hey,” said Adam. “I won that for acting.”

“In a musical!” said Kris, and Adam laughed and leaned in and kissed him on the mouth this time, and Kris opened up and pressed against him like he’d been waiting for it – which he had, and it was just as good as he remembered. Better.

“I mean it,” Adam murmured when the kiss broke. “The first time I saw you on stage I thought, that boy does not belong anywhere else.”

Kris didn’t know what to say. He leaned in and kissed Adam again instead; it felt secret, shielded from the rest of the room in their booth. Adam untangled their hands and slid his palm over Kris’ cheek; Kris pressed closer, stroked over Adam’s tongue with his own, bit down on his lip to hear Adam’s sharp intake of breath.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about you,” Adam said. His other arm was tucked close around Kris’ waist. “It was so crazy, I seriously considered breaking down in Arkansas again.”

“Me too, I couldn’t either,” Kris got out before Adam’s mouth closed over his again.

They kissed for long enough that Kris’ lips felt used and bruised and swollen; long enough that his breath was coming short and fast and he was almost all the way hard in his jeans. Adam’s hands were all over him, grasping and sliding under his shirt, and then Charles ruined everything by dropping into the booth with them and booming,

“Take it easy on the tonsil hockey, boys, Daddy’s home.”

Kris groaned; he was about to tell Charles to leave them alone, but then John and Chad piled in too and John started badgering Adam about some charity thing he wanted Adam to do with him, and Charles met Kris’ desperate gaze with a huge, evil grin.

It was actually pretty interesting to listen to John and Adam talk. It made Kris feel like a giant nobody, if he was honest, the way they threw around names he’d only ever seen in magazines and talked blithely about getting coverage from this TV show or that celebrity website. Even Charles looked impressed when Adam said blithely, “Oh, Brad’ll do it if I ask him. Trust me, he owes me so big.”

But it was also like – Kris was really here, this was really happening, it was really his life. He really was on tour, playing shows most every night. And he didn’t care about being famous, Kris had never cared about that, but this, sitting around listening to Adam talk about maybe going back to theatre for a while and that he was annoyed his last movie had been edited into something totally different from the one he thought he was making, and how excited he was to be up for Tim Burton’s latest interpretation of a formerly non-terrifying musical, this was part of it too. Part of what Kris wanted. A big part, and he hadn’t realized how much.

Adam kept his arm around Kris the whole time.

The staff in the club started throwing them meaningful glances and cleaning tables real pointedly after a while, so they piled out of onto the street and Kris kind of hovered uncertainly in the doorway for a minute, not sure if he should follow Charles back to the hotel or what.

“I have a room,” Adam said in his ear, fingers sliding easily over Kris’ hip. “Your buses aren’t rolling out until the morning, right?”

“Right,” said Kris, and looked over at Charles.

“No cameraphones,” Charles said, pointing at him. “Bus leaves at ten, okay?”

Adam’s hotel room was nicer than any room Kris had ever seen. It was nicer than most houses Kris had seen.

“This place is huge!” said Kris, staring. “What is it, like half the entire floor?”

“Who gives a shit,” said Adam, and he dropped his jacket on the floor, grabbed Kris, and kissed the hell out of him. “Fucking John Mayer. I thought he was never going to let us leave.”

Kris reached up and pulled Adam’s hat off, sinking his hands into his thick, soft hair. He pulled Adam down to kiss him again, and let Adam walk him backwards to the bed, but then he pushed back and flipped them as they fell, so he ended up on top, his knees either side of Adam’s legs.

Adam looked surprised, and then amused, and then pleased when Kris said, “Off, c’mon,” and yanked Adam’s T-shirt over his head. Adam was wearing four hundred necklaces that got momentarily tangled around his face, but then he was free and Kris could push him down and feast his eyes on all that bare skin spread out against the silky comforter on the hotel bed.

His chest was freckled but completely smooth, hairless, not like before. Kris touched the naked skin curiously, laying his palm there to see how it felt.

“Photoshoot,” said Adam, resting his hands on Kris’ thighs. “They made me wax my chest.”

Kris trailed his hands lower, over Adam’s belly, where the skin was still smooth and missing the thin line of hair that been there last time. “Just your chest?”

Adam grinned and bucked his hips a little, startling Kris into a laugh. “Find out.”

He had one eyebrow raised, like a challenge, and his hands moved to the bed, like he was getting ready to push himself up, like he didn’t think Kris could do it. Kris raised his own eyebrow and put his hands on Adam’s belt, tugging it loose. He looked down at the hard, obvious line of Adam’s dick through his jeans, and pressed down with his palms before working the buttons open. Adam made a soft little noise and pushed up with his hips; Kris took a deep breath because he was a little nervous and a lot excited, and climbed backwards off the bed so he could peel Adam’s jeans down.

He wasn’t wearing underwear. His cock was full and flushed against his belly, and they hadn’t made him wax everywhere, but the hair under Kris’ fingers was cropped real close to Adam’s skin. Lower down, though, between Adam’s legs – he was smooth there, and Kris ran his fingers over that skin too, watching Adam’s face. “Some photoshoot.”

Adam laughed and spread his legs a little wider. “Personal preference.”

Kris kept touching, carefully, tracing the line of Adam’s inner thigh and stroking his fingertips over his balls, the base of his cock, the freckles that hid in the crease between his body and his thigh. He shuffled a little closer on his knees and leaned in to touch his mouth there, hot, soft skin against his lips. Adam tasted salty and a little damp, but before Kris could open his mouth for a proper taste he said, “Wait,” and moved around on the bed, piling all the pillows up against the headboard so he could settle against them and watch Kris between his legs. “Okay.”

Kris kneeled up and struggled out of his own shirt, and unzipped his pants, too, because his dick was starting to hurt, hard and trapped in his jeans like that. Then he folded down between Adam’s thighs again and spread his hands out on Adam’s hips, bracketing his cock.

He hadn’t gotten to do this last time, not like this, not close up. Adam was familiar to him, whether because they’d done this before or because his body wasn’t really any different from Kris’ own, but it wasn’t scary, nothing about Adam frightened him or made him uncomfortable. Basically everything about Adam did make his freaking mouth water, though, which was maybe a weird reaction, but whatever. He pressed his thumbs into Adam’s hips, to hear him catch his breath, and then leaned down and touched his tongue to the head of Adam’s cock.

Adam made an awesome whimpery noise; encouraged, Kris licked over the head in a circle, sharp wet taste on his tongue, then opened his mouth wider and went down. He couldn’t get all that far, and his jaw started aching pretty much right away, and he was drooling over his own fist where it was wrapped around Adam’s cock, but when he sucked and moved his hand at the same time, Adam blurted out, “Oh, yeah,” and slid his hands into Kris’ hair, so he couldn’t be doing all that badly.

Adam helped him out, too: cupped Kris’ jaw in his hand and showed him the best angle, asked him to suck and helped him ease off to breathe and told him when to use his tongue. Kris was fascinated by the rush he could feel under Adam’s skin; when he squeezed with his hand it made wetness bloom under his tongue that he could lick away, and when he managed to stroke and suck and swirl his tongue all at the same time Adam made amazing noises that went straight to Kris’ dick.

“That’s good, Kris,” he crooned, touching the tight seam of Kris’ lips where they were stretched around him. “So good.”

Kris would have given pretty much anything to be touched himself but he didn’t want to stop what he was doing – and that was something people did, right, they did this for each other at the same time. He had a sudden flash of that, of Adam’s cock stretching his mouth out while Adam’s tongue slid over his own dick, and that made him moan around Adam, which made Adam grab his shoulder and say, “Oh, shit,” in a breathy, desperate voice. “Faster,” he begged, and whimpered when that made Kris moan again. “Harder, just a little more, Kris, please.”

Kris’ jaw was sore and his arm ached but he closed his eyes and tried to give Adam what he needed, suddenly desperate to feel Adam come, to feel him fall apart because of Kris. Adam’s hand tightened to the point of pain on his shoulder, and he thrust up, struggling against Kris’ hand on his hip, before going, “Ah – aaah,” and then he was coming, flooding Kris’ mouth as his thighs shook and his breath came fast and hard.

Kris swallowed messily, unwrapped his hand but kept working his mouth gently around Adam for a little while because that was what he liked himself, and then pulled off, leaning on his sore arm to reach up and wipe his face with his other hand.

Adam was spread out underneath him, still breathing hard, with his arm flung across his eyes. He heaved a huge sigh, took his arm away, and looked up at Kris, smiling bright and boneless. “ ‘mere,” he said, and when Kris crawled up the bed Adam rolled him over and kissed him deeply, tongue sweeping inside Kris’ mouth.

After he pulled away, he stripped Kris’ jeans the rest of the way off and then touched Kris through his underwear for a while. Kris flushed, embarrassed by the wide, damp spot under Adam’s thumb, but Adam scooted down and put his mouth right over it, sucking through cotton and rubbing the heel of his hand over the rest of Kris’ cock and making Kris beg and babble nonsense sounds until Adam took pity and skimmed the underwear down Kris’ legs.

When Adam went down, he went down, like all the way, big hands folded hard around Kris’ hips and his nose pressed into the curls at the base of Kris’ dick, and when he swallowed Kris felt it, felt the soft, unbearably good squeeze, and Adam let him push up as much as he wanted, until he was just writhing, a sweaty, happy mess, unable to do anything but call Adam’s name and come hard down his throat.

Adam got them both under the covers afterwards, curled up around Kris, their hands laced on the pillow. Kris could feel Adam’s heart beating against his back. He counted a few of the freckles on Adam’s fingers.

He said, “I want to see you. When I get back to LA.”

“Yes,” said Adam immediately, kissing the back of Kris’ neck. “Absolutely. We should do lunch.”

Kris craned his neck to look at him. “Lunch?”

Adam smiled, hiding it against Kris’s shoulder. “Lunch,” he said innocently, lips moving against his skin.

Kris laughed and squeezed Adam’s hand. “Okay,” he said. “Lunch.”

***

Technically, they did have lunch. Kris had never eaten lunch like this, from Adam’s fingers instead of knives and forks, and usually he had his eyes open when he was eating, but it was early afternoon and there was food involved, so Adam insisted that technically - technically - it was lunch. Kris shifted on the tall stool and kept his eyes closed, waiting to see what Adam would feed him next.

“Open,” Adam said, and Kris did. Adam put a piece of something cool and sharp and sweet on Kris’ tongue, and Kris rolled it around in his mouth for a second.

“Pineapple,” he said, and swallowed.

“Very good,” Adam said approvingly, and gave Kris a kiss as a reward.

“So anyway,” Kris said, picking up where he’d left off before, “Charles realized your number was on the back of the card, and then I was going to call you but I saw you on TV with this other guy.”

“What other guy?” said Adam. “Open.”

Kris opened, and this time the taste in his mouth was fresh and watery and the texture was almost rough. “Melon.”

“Excellent,” said Adam. He gave Kris another kiss.

“I don’t know, some pretty guy. You were at some red carpet event. He had blond hair in kind of a quiff thing?”

“Oh, that was my friend Jay,” Adam said dismissively. Kris could hear him chopping something up. “Dmitri was still falling out of nightclubs talking shit about me to anyone who’d listen, so I couldn’t show up on the red carpet alone, you know? Or I didn’t want to, anyway.”

“Well,” said Kris, but Adam tapped his chin so he stopped talking. Adam popped a piece of something unfamiliar into his mouth – it was refreshing, not overly sweet, and kind of crisp between his teeth. “Nectarine?” he guessed.

“Wrong!” Adam sang, and Kris opened his eyes to see Adam holding a little dish with round white things in it. Adam held them up for Kris’ inspection. “They’re lychees.”

“They look like eyeballs,” Kris said, but he took another one. They were really good.

“I know,” Adam said fondly. He set the dish down on the counter and stroked the side of it lovingly with one fingertip. “Weird little ugly duckling fruit.”

“Your turn,” said Kris, and Adam closed his eyes obediently. Kris picked over the pieces of fruit on the platter, and chose half a strawberry. “Well, anyway, it just seemed like, you know. Like you were in the exotic fruits aisle holding a – a guava, and I would be asking you if you wanted another apple instead. Kind of redundant.”

He popped the strawberry into Adam’s mouth. Adam nipped at his finger, said, “Strawberry,” and then, “I think we might have stretched this fruit metaphor to its limits.”

“I have another one about space travel.” Kris leaned forward and kissed Adam quickly. Adam made a pleased noise, and Kris picked up a grape. “It’s like – well, at first you were the Moon. But then I thought maybe the Moon was too dusty.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Adam said. Kris put the grape in his mouth. “But it’s adorable. Grape.”

“You know all the fruits,” Kris complained. He kissed Adam again, and this time Adam’s fingers pressed lightly against his knees.

“For the record,” said Adam when Kris let him go. “I like apples just fine. I will eat the hell out of an apple, okay.”

Kris felt his face flush and checked that Adam’s eyes were still closed. “I remember.”

He picked up a piece of what he thought might be peach, and touched Adam’s chin. Adam opened his mouth, and this time when Kris pushed the fruit inside Adam caught his fingertip between his lips for a second.

“Mmm,” he said. “Mango.”

“Okay, see, I’m even losing when it’s your turn,” Kris said. “I give up.”

“But I guessed right! So I still get a kiss.” Adam slid off his stool and came to stand between Kris’ legs instead, wrapping his arms around Kris’ waist and kissing him properly, firm and warm. Kris put his own arms around Adam’s neck and opened his mouth to Adam’s tongue; Adam sighed into his mouth and his hand slid up under Kris’s shirt in back.

“I actually have another red carpet thing this weekend,” Adam said between kisses, stroking Kris’ skin and making him shiver. “You could go with me. If you wanted.”

Kris licked the corner of Adam’s mouth and leaned back, frowning. “Are you trying to advance my career again?”

Adam rolled his eyes. “I’m trying to advance you onto a date with me.”

“We’ve been on a date. The first time I met you we went on a date.”

“We haven’t been on a date here,” Adam said. He kind of shook Kris a little.

“Oh,” said Kris. His hands were laced at the back of Adam’s neck, he stroked the soft hair there and thought about the kinds of events Adam went to, and how many cameras there were, and which papers people read back home and if Kris’ Mom would see-

“You know, Kris, I’m not going to take out a billboard or anything, but this is how it is,” Adam said, interrupting. He pulled away a little, pressure against Kris’ hands and a resigned look on his face. “Sometimes there are going to be cameras. And for you too, if things keep going well, right?”

“I know that,” Kris said quickly, holding on to him. “I know, Adam.”

“Charles knew,” Adam frowned. “The guys on your tour knew, I don’t understand.”

“They know, yeah,” said Kris, looking everywhere but at Adam. “They know.”

Adam was silent; when Kris looked up his jaw was set and Kris pulled him in as fast he could, because he didn’t want to see that look on Adam’s face. Adam fought him a little bit; he was tense and his mouth was hard and unmoving. Kris kept at it, kissing Adam faster, deeper, almost desperate to feel him relax, for it to be okay. Eventually Adam softened, put his arms around Kris again, made a soft, helpless little noise in his throat. Kris kissed him until they were both breathless, then tried to explain, “It’s just. It’s just that I-”

“Ssh,” Adam cut him off this time, shaking his head fiercely, his lips moving against Kris’. “Ssh, shh,” he said, and kissed Kris again, pulling him up against Adam’s body, almost off the stool.

Kris sank his hands into Adam’s hair and squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to fall into it, into the place where there was only Adam’s mouth and Adam’s skin and Adam’s hands, only Adam’s breath on his throat and his wrecked voice in Kris’ ear.

Later, Kris lay in Adam’s bed and watched the leaves on the trees swaying slightly in the breeze outside. Adam was out cold, sprawled out like he’d been run over with a truck, and he didn’t even stir when Kris slipped out of the bed and started gathering his clothes off the floor.

Adam’s kitchen opened directly onto his backyard – the patio doors were still wide open from when they had lunch, and Kris leaned on the counter for a second, just enjoying the view. The platter of fruit was still out, and there was a bowl of apples next to it. Kris took one, shoved his feet into the flip-flops he found lying by the door, and picked his way through Adam’s garden until he found the orange tree growing at the bottom.

The tree was heavy with fruit; Kris picked an orange and sat on the bench underneath. He set the orange and the apple down next to each other and looked at them for a while.

The sunshine was different in Los Angeles – it was bright and clear and see-through, or something. It didn’t feel heavy on his shoulders and he didn’t have to squint with the leaves from the tree casting dappled shadow over everything.

His phone buzzed in his pocket; he checked it and found two messages from Charles. One was a rude joke about Adam’s prowess in bed, and the other was to remind him about a meeting they had to go to tomorrow. It was so weird that this was Kris’ life now, that he had meetings. They weren’t his favorite part of the music business or anything, but even the fact that he had the opportunity to be bored by them was pretty freaking amazing. He sent back a quick reply and put his phone away, then sat and looked at the fruit some more.

He didn’t know how long he was out there, but the shadows around his feet had moved on when he looked up and saw Adam leaning in the doorway. Kris raised his hand in a little wave, and Adam disappeared inside for a moment before coming out and making his way down to Kris.

“You took my flip-flops,” he complained as he sat down on the bench and lifted his feet to brush off the soles one by one.

“Sorry,” said Kris. Adam made a grumpy noise and rested his feet on top of Kris’, instead. He wiggled his toes. They were painted blue.

Kris could hear birds singing. The breeze moved Adam’s hair around his face. His eyes were soft and tired.

Kris said, “I want to come to your thing at the weekend.”

“Okay,” said Adam.

Kris stared at the apple for a while. He said, “I don’t want you to find someone else.”

Adam hummed something non-committal. He said, “So.”

“So,” Kris replied, and he had to squeeze his eyes shut when he went on, “I need to call my Mom. I need to tell her – I need to tell her about the oranges.”

He startled when he felt something on his cheek – but then he realized it was Adam’s hand, cupping his jaw and turning Kris to look at him. “Hey,” he said, stroking Kris’ cheekbone with his thumb. “Hey.”

Kris let out a huge, shaky breath, and folded sideways until most of his weight was against Adam’s chest. He buried his face in Adam’s shoulder and Adam rocked him from side to side a little bit.

“I know it’s big,” he said, petting Kris’ hair, hand sliding over the back of his head over and over again. “My parents found out when I was thirteen and it still took me four years to say it out loud.”

Kris rubbed his face against Adam’s T-shirt. He said, “Maybe - maybe after I tell her, I could send her some. Like you sent them to me.”

He held his breath - he wasn’t sure if that was stupid, but Adam said, “Yes, “ said, “of course,” said, “we can pick them this afternoon.”

Kris lifted his arms and put them around Adam’s neck so he could hug him and say thank you with a squeeze.

Adam rested his chin on Kris’ shoulder. He said, “You think maybe you can get her to FedEx me some pie?”

Kris laughed out loud; the big, tight feeling in his chest coming loose and making him fold forward to hide his face in Adam’s neck. Adam giggled in his ear; Kris lifted up in a rush and kissed him, shaking Adam’s feet off his own so he could kneel up on the bench and cup his hands around Adam’s face.

“Mmm,” said Adam, rubbing their noses together. “I was not expecting you, Kris Allen.”

The wooden bench was a little rough on Kris’ knees. The air smelled sharp and green and clear, and the breeze on Kris’ bare feet was gentle.

He kissed Adam again and again and again. His mouth was warm, and sweet, and he tasted like oranges.
 
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