Summary: “I’m fine,” he says, dragging his hand from his eyes and shifting his hand in Adam’s grip to expose the polish on his thumbnail, “Katy just isn’t too thrilled with the…new direction my sense of fashion is taking.”
Author's Note: This came about because of these posts which noted how protective Kris is of his painted thumbnail, so I thank both of you for feeding my Kradam imaginings. Also, apologies to Katy, because I'm sure this would never happen, but I forget who it was that once said, "Never let truth get in the way of a good story." Hope this one's good enough.
Colliding with Reality
The fight comes out of nowhere, as far as Kris can tell. All he knows is that one minute he and Katy are talking about what they ought to do with the five minutes of free time they’ll have once they get back to Conway for Kris’ Idol hometown visit, and the next, Katy’s grabbing his right wrist and angling sharp, irritated eyes at his hand.
“What is that?”
Kris blinks back at her, at a loss, because as far as he’s aware, all he’s been doing is sitting at the kitchen table in the Idol mansion, unwinding after Allison’s emotional sendoff, having what had been up until this point a completely amiable discussion with his wife, sharing a brief moment alone together while Danny is out spending time with his parents, who had flown in for the performance tonight, and while Adam is taking one of his water heater decimating long showers.
Kris glances down at the hand Katy has wrapped around his wrist, looks at his own trapped hand, and still cannot come up with a better response to her question than, “Huh?”
Katy gives a short sigh, the kind she gives when she thinks that Kris is being deliberately obtuse, and shifts her grip on his hand, dislodging his thumb from where it had been casually tucked under the rest of his fingers. “This!” she says. “Why do you have…” She runs the tip of a finger over the slick, blue-black polish coating the nail of his thumb, shuddering slightly, as if she finds something about the texture distasteful, and releasing his hand. “…nail polish on?”
She claps a hand back over his wrist, stilling fingers he had not till that moment realized were repeatedly stroking over the polish. “And why do you keep touching it?”
Kris looks from his hand, where he’s sheepishly tucked his thumb into the fold of his other fingers, back to his wife. He’s trying to figure out why she’s so obviously irritated about less than a square inch of blue-black polish, because this one’s hit him completely out of left field, and he’s never been that good at reading women, even—or especially—his wife when they’re in the midst of the type of anger that’s all “if you don’t know what you did, I’m not going to tell you, because you should somehow be able to read my mind and apologize for your vile behavior, even if you thought it was some innocent little action, and even if I do forgive you for the moment, you can bet I’ll be holding this one over your head until our golden anniversary, mister.”
Sometimes Kris thinks that Adam has the right idea, playing for the home team.
Especially in moments like these, when Katy’s just leveled a line drive straight at his head.
Folding his hands together on top of the table, consciously refraining from stroking the painted nail against the palm of his other hand, Kris lets the confusion he’s feeling show on his face.
“It’s not a big deal,” he says.
He chooses not to mention the thirty minutes Adam had spent trying to convince Kris to let Adam paint all his nails. Adam had played dirty pool, getting Allison in on the wheedling, and since when had Kris ever been able to say no to either of them, much less both of them at the same time? He had bargained them down to just the thumbnail, not so much because he didn’t want a full complement of polish, but because he wasn’t certain he could take Adam touching him for as long as it would take for all ten fingers to be done. Kris is repressed, not stupid—he knew how much he could take without breaking. But even so, his eyes had bugged out when Adam produced not only the bottle of polish, but also two more. Kris became intimately acquainted with the process of base coat, three layers of polish, top coat—that Adam had insisted on having Kris’ hand on his thigh while he worked was bad enough, but dear God, when he proceeded to blow each coat dry himself, cool air coursing over wet polish and Adam’s lips only inches away from his hand, Kris had had to employ mental exercises he hadn’t used since the first years of puberty to keep from embarrassing himself.
Surreptitiously checking the polish for chips, Kris reminds himself that he has nothing to feel guilty about. Emotions are not something that a person can control, and as long as he doesn’t act on the ones he is starting to feel more and more often towards he who will remain nameless, they don’t count, right?
Katy glances dubiously at his thumb, then raises a delicate eyebrow, and even Kris can tell that she doesn’t believe him.
“I mean,” he continues, shrugging off the sudden impulse to lie because, dammit, he’s not guilty of anything except a few stray thoughts, “Adam took Allison to his hairdresser since they were going to sing together last night, and I guess he thought I felt left out of the whole makeover thing. This—” Kris raises his thumb and turns his hand to expose the nail to Katy. “—was apparently my consolation prize.” He twists the nail back towards himself and smiles slightly. “He said it was for good luck—and hey, apparently it worked!” Kris adds, trying to break the tension in the room, because what is the big deal anyway?
Katy’s eyes narrow, and Kris is taken aback a little at the frostiness that settles like a veneer over her normally warm prettiness. “You do realize that the two of you are each other’s competition, right? That you’re each trying to win the same thing?”
Kris is quickly becoming tired of being confused. “Well, yeah…” he says slowly, trying to figure out where Katy’s going with this. “But that doesn’t mean that we can’t wish the best for each other. Yeah, we’re competing for votes, but we’re still friends.”
The breath Katy lets out sounds like it’s caught between a disbelieving sigh and mocking laughter. It’s a sound that Kris has heard her use before, while watching movies with plotlines best described as dubious, or in church, when the preacher’s sermon takes a turn she doesn’t like, but he’s never heard it directed at him before. This more than anything is what lets him know, quite suddenly, that something is Very Wrong here.
Katy pushes her chair back forcefully from the table, rising quickly and striding over to the kitchen island with the air of someone who is trying to keep themselves from pacing, spinning back towards Kris and bracing her hands on the island. “Are you sure that ‘friends’ is the right word?”
What Kris isn’t sure about is where this line of questioning is going. He does, however, know that he’s probably not going to like it. He turns in his chair to face Katy more fully. “What are you talking about?”
“We agreed, before we got engaged, that you wouldn’t do this anymore!” Katy nearly explodes at him, almost seeming to try to throw herself at him, the majority of her slight weight leaning heavily against the island, and while a small part of Kris’ brain is reminded briefly of a dog raring to attack held back only by the hold of its chain, the rest of his thoughts are spiraling inward towards one terrible idea.
She couldn’t possibly mean…
“It’s a sin, Kris!” she exclaims, and Kris can see tears welling up in her eyes.
Years ago, in high school, when their relationship had been based less on any romantic notion and more on their being in the same Western Culture AP class, Kris and Katy had decided to work together on the mid-semester project for the class. They had been researching the impact of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic philosophies on Weimar Era cinema when Kris had stumbled across Freud’s theories on innate bisexuality.
Kris had become thoroughly distracted from the main purpose of his research, digging in to Freud’s Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, because suddenly, this just explained so much about the things that Kris had been feeling, a certain attraction towards a handful of other boys that he hadn’t been able to explain to himself or to God. He had only just managed to comfort himself with the knowledge that he still found more of the girls in his high school attractive. That it was possible humans were biologically predisposed towards bisexuality, that it was something over which they had no control and in fact seemed to be purposefully programmed into the human machine by no less than God himself was a sudden, and immeasurable, comfort to him.
He’d made the mistake, though, of sharing his discovery with Katy. He’d not given it a second thought—she was as good a friend as any he had, and this rush of joy in discovering that he was not simply born flawed demanded to be shared with someone. He had not expected her disgust or the sermonizing that followed—most of it was a blur, though he remembered Leviticus featuring prominently. She made him promise never to mention the subject again. Had they not been forced together by completing their project, that might have been the end of their friendship; however, as time went by and Kris kept his word and dropped the subject for good, they let the disagreement pass. Kris had thought that would be the end of it.
The last thing Kris had expected from Katy when he proposed was for her to bring up that long-dead subject. He had carefully kept any stray feelings under wraps—it was easy; he loved Katy, and any feelings he might or might not have for another person, regardless of gender, were beside the point. However, before she had agreed to accept his proposal, she’d wanted Kris’ assurance that he was “normal,” that he’d gotten over his curiosity or whatever it was, because she simply couldn’t be married to a man who would willfully commit such a grave sin. He had reassured her that she was the only person for him, but he’d carefully skirted around the issue of his sexuality, because by that point, Kris had matured enough that his personal definition of “sin” was different, sometimes vastly so, from what he’d been taught growing up.
Besides, it was a moot point—marrying Katy meant that she would be the only focus of his sexuality.
Again, he’d thought that was the end of it.
Kris can’t stop the incredulity from creeping in to his voice. “You think that Adam and I—”
Katy cuts him off. “No. No, I don’t think you’ve done anything with him. But I think you want to, Kris, and that’s just as bad.”
Kris finds himself in a strange place, caught between anger that she’s accusing him of some kind of…of mental infidelity and guilt that he has had some stray thoughts about Adam, thoughts that he quickly suppresses. He pushes the guilt back, though, because while he’s not entirely innocent here, hormones are hardly something that he can control, and besides, what goes on inside his own head is his business, so long as that’s where it stays.
His anger rising, though he works hard to keep it out of his voice, out of his gestures, moving slowly and deliberately, he rises so that he is standing on the opposite side of the island, shifting stance to mirror hers, hands flat against the island counter, fingers spread, painted thumb displayed defiantly, almost proudly, a concession to his indignation. “Katy, I would never—”
Again Katy interrupts him. “I was talking to your mother a couple of weeks ago.”
Kris is briefly thrown by the non sequitur, startled slightly out of his anger as his curiosity rises, wondering at the direction of this new line of conversation, and he stays silent as Katy takes a breath.
“It was after one of the elimination nights. She and I were talking about watching you up on stage, how you still had the habit of twisting your wedding ring around your finger when you were nervous.” She holds up her own hand, illustrating the gesture she means. “Or how you’d just fiddle with it at odd moments sometimes.” She takes another breath, and Kris has to remind himself of his own anger to keep from moving to comfort her when new wetness gathers in the corners of her eyes. “And I liked it, Kris. I liked that it made me feel connected to you those times, like you could draw some kind of comfort from me even when I couldn’t be up there on that stage with you.”
Kris shifts his eyes away from the moisture in Katy’s eyes. He hadn’t realized that a nervous habit could mean so much to a person, certainly not something as simple as twisting a ring around a finger. It is just as well she doesn’t seem to expect him to respond. He doesn’t think he’d be able to speak, even if he could find the words to do so; it feels like something thick and dry is lodged in the back of his throat.
Katy takes another breath, slow, shaky. “But tonight, you never touched your ring. Not once. I know because I was watching for it. I had noticed you hadn’t been doing it as much lately, and I thought maybe you were just trying not to look worried on TV or something. But after last week, when you came so close… I thought maybe you’d need it again…need me.”
She’d averted her gaze from him, perhaps embarrassed because of how emotional she was becoming, perhaps too angry or disappointed in Kris to look at him right now, but now she turns her eyes back to him, and Kris can only wish she hadn’t—he’d never actually seen anyone “stare daggers” before, but now he feels their cut as surely as he feels his fingernails biting into the palms of his hands where he’s curled them in on the countertop.
“But you didn’t need the ring. You’d replaced it.”
“That’s not what—”
“You kept stroking that stupid polish just like you used to do your wedding ring.”
“Katy, it doesn’t mean—”
Katy’s face, which had been growing progressively redder as she gave voice to her anger, curse of her fair skin, is practically glowing crimson as she yells, “Don’t lie to me, Kris!”
The silence that follows is all the more profound for the volume with which Katy had uttered her accusation, the white noise so loud in Kris’ ears that he almost doesn’t hear the soft padding of bare feet approaching the kitchen before Adam turns the corner into the room.
His hair is still damp from his shower, the endearingly haphazard mop it always is before Adam takes his arsenal of product to it every morning. He is already dressed for bed, although none of them usually get to sleep until well after the p.m./a.m. switch, t-shirt and loose cotton pants clinging slightly to not-quite-dry skin. His head is ducked over his iPhone, one earbud in place, the other left to dangle against his chest. As he enters the kitchen, he glances up at Kris and Katy.
“Hey, guys,” he says, the wide smile that comes over his face quickly disappearing as he takes in their expressions, because Kris and Katy have had enough time to turn their heads to face Adam, but not to get their expressions under control. Adam can’t miss Katy’s red face and tear-filled eyes and Kris’ expression of stunned bewilderment and rising anger.
Adam quickly takes a step backwards, holding up his hands in a warding off gesture, light coming off his iPhone lighting his face strangely and revealing that he’d been listening to the studio version of one of Kris’ Idol songs, as much as he always denies it. Kris hopes Katy can’t see that from her angle, because really, the last thing their relationship needs right now is that kind of fodder for Katy’s new theory.
“Whoa, bad timing,” Adam says, more to himself than to Kris or Katy, spins on a heel and quickly exits the kitchen, and that tiny, tiny part of Kris’ brain, present in all humans of the male persuasion, the one that makes them hormonally driven cretins at sixteen and dirty old men at sixty, can’t help admiring, if only for a split-second, the grace with which Adam executed that maneuver, or the trim cut of his body barely revealed by the loose sleepwear as he disappears into the shadows of the mansion.
A split-second only, with no intent behind it, but of course Katy would notice.
Her face is an inscrutable mask as Kris turns back to her, eyes cold, and Kris can tell that he’s been weighed and found wanting—in more ways than one.
“I’m going back to the hotel,” she says shortly, and Kris knows that that is a really bad idea, that if they don’t try to work this out now, it’ll be like slow poison to their marriage, killing it, and them, from the inside out. But whether he’s too angry with her, with the situation in general, or already resigned to such a thing, the outcome is still the same: he doesn’t stop her.
Instead he watches her gather up her purse and the keys to her rental car, both of them silent, watches her walk out of the kitchen into the same shadows which had moments ago swallowed up Adam, and as he hears the click that signals the closing of the massive front door, he wonders which sin is more detestable to the version of God in which Katy so vehemently believes: the interest in Adam he’s never thought to actualize or the pride which kept him from stopping Katy from leaving tonight.
Pushing back almost violently from the island countertop, Kris all but flees the poisoned atmosphere of the kitchen, slowing only when he reaches the stairs that lead down to his and Adam’s “secret underground lair,” as Allison had called it, if for no other reason than a broken neck on top of everything else that has happened tonight would not help matters.
He doesn’t slam the door to his room, because not even his anger can make him forget his manners and, regardless of the months he’s been here, he’s still a guest in this mansion. He throws himself onto his bed, staring blankly at the ceiling, and briefly contemplates hitting something, discarding the idea quickly because even though Anoop had managed to get away with punching a wall once with none of the higher-ups remarking upon it, Kris is about to be thrown into the media circus that was the hometown visit, and bruised knuckles would not be the ideal accessory.
It’s only when he hears his door glide open that he realizes he didn’t lock it.
Adam opens the door just wide enough to slip through, though why Kris has no idea because no one but them comes down to this part of the mansion so there’s no one to sneak past, and even if there were, there’s no need because there’s nothing wrong with two guys hanging out, no matter how anyone, even his wife, twists it. At least that’s what Kris tells the little pit of guilt in his stomach when it berates him for being happier to see Adam right now than he was to see his wife after the show wrapped tonight.
Adam sits on the edge of Kris’ bed, next to his hip, and the irony is not lost on Kris when Adam reaches out to grip his right wrist, though where Katy’s grip had been hard and accusing, Adam’s is gentle, supportive, and a little unsure. “You okay?” he asks with a slight squeeze to Kris’ wrist.
The laughter that bubbles out of Kris’ mouth is just this side of hysterical and with a definite self-mocking edge, and he claps his free hand over his eyes as it wracks him because for some reason the concern growing on Adam’s face is just so damn funny in the way that it’s totally not.
Eventually the laughter winds down, and Kris refuses to acknowledge what sounds like a sob that crosses his lips as it finally stops. “I’m fine,” he says, dragging his hand from his eyes and shifting his hand in Adam’s grip to expose the polish on his thumbnail, “Katy just isn’t too thrilled with the…new direction my sense of fashion is taking.”
The confusion in Adam’s eyes quickly turns knowing, and from the moment Kris had met him, he had known that Adam was too damn smart for his own good, because of course Adam would figure it out—he had all the pieces; he just had to put them together.
Adam was only the second person Kris had told about that now long ago day back in high school. After Katy had reacted in such an unexpected manner, Kris had thought it best to keep any and all discoveries about his sexuality to himself, because what did it matter, anyway? It was all theoretical, right? Never something he would act on.
He hadn’t anticipated how lonely it would make him feel, because he’d always been so close to his family, had always felt that he could tell them anything, and now he had a secret that he didn’t dare tell them for fear that their response would be in a similar vein to Katy’s. Worse than that, he’d felt ashamed for being afraid, because the braver parts of him believed that there was nothing wrong with him, just that he had a greater capacity for admiring the human form than most other people.
Adam had been the first person Kris had ever met who was, or at least admitted to being, gay, and Adam just treated it like it was nothing special, similar to his preference for Rocky Road rather than vanilla ice cream and nothing more earth shattering than the sun’s continuing to rise in the east. He had simply wanted to know if Kris would be uncomfortable being roommates with him because of it, and in his haste to blurt out how much it wasn’t a problem, Kris had admitted to his own long-buried sexuality, to Katy’s reaction to it, to his fear that those closest to him would never understand. Anger had appeared briefly on Adam’s face before it was replaced with the most profound empathy Kris had ever witnessed, and Adam had placed a firm hand on his shoulder, his mouth opening and closing a couple of times, as if searching for words, before he seemed to give up and simply pulled Kris into a hug.
And as Kris had returned it with all his strength, he’d had to struggle to keep from crying as a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding for almost seven years was finally released.
Kris sees that familiar flash of anger cross Adam’s face before his expression goes carefully neutral. He releases Kris’ wrist to run his own thumb over the polish on Kris’. “If it’s that much of an issue,” he says, voice studiously bland as he rises, heading in the direction of their shared bathroom, “we can take it off. I’ve got remover in—”
“No!” Kris surges into a sitting position and turns the tables, grasps Adam’s wrist, stopping him before he can get farther away. He tugs the other man back to sit next to him. “This isn’t your problem, or mine. It’s hers. If she wants to create a situation that doesn’t exist, that’s her choice, but it’s not going to…” He pauses briefly, frustrated that he can’t find quite the right words. “…scare me away from spending time with you, or with anyone else, just because she thinks I’ll be damned for it.”
Adam casts his gaze down at where Kris’ hand is still around his wrist, shifts the grip so that their hands are clasped, and Kris can feel the uncertainty in the gesture and, for a brief moment, hates Katy with a force that startles even Kris himself, that she could cause Adam, normally so self-assured and confident, to doubt his position with Kris. “She is your wife, Kris.”
Kris shrugs defiantly. “And you’re my friend.”
Adam smiles briefly at that, finally returning Kris gaze, before continuing, “But if this is something that’s that important to her…”
Kris sighs, resigned. “It’s not about the nail polish—we both know it. That was just a convenient springboard. I never really think too much about my sexuality anymore—it just seemed like a moot point, you know? I was with Katy; I’d never act on it anyway, so why dwell on it? I didn’t realize she didn’t feel the same way. I think she must have thought that it’s like a lightswitch, that I could just turn off that part of my brain when I married her.”
Kris takes a deep breath, surprised by how shaky it is, and thinks that maybe the ramifications of his argument with Katy tonight are finally starting to dawn on him. The weight of Adam’s hand coming to rest on his shoulder is welcome support.
“I just never thought,” he continues finally, “that after we’ve been together for so long that she could just…condemn me so…so quickly.” As quickly as the melancholy came, it fades, and in its place flares up anger once again. Kris shakes off Adam’s hand and bounds off the bed, pacing to the far wall before turning back to Adam, saying, almost shouting, “And I haven’t even done anything!” hand slashing through the air in a violent and vehement gesture of denial, and Kris has no idea who he’s trying to convince—Adam, Katy, the world at large, himself—but there is an idea that he is getting, half formed, half crazed, and all bad.
Kris snaps his gaze to the side, away from Adam, so harshly that the rest of his head follows. “Maybe I should just…just…” Before he can even think further on exactly how bad an idea this is, he’s already stalked back over towards Adam with a ferocity he didn’t realize he possessed, and he’s taking advantage of the fact that Adam being seated means Kris is taller than him for once; he’s framing Adam’s face in his hands, sinking his fingers into soft, ink-black hair, and finally, finally, he’s moving from theory to practice.
Adam’s mouth is wider than Katy’s, his lips fuller, but the mechanics are still basically the same, and Kris is surprised by how exhilarated he feels simply sharing breath with this man. One hand slides to the back of Adam’s neck, supporting its tilt as Kris moves in closer to Adam, slotting himself within the sprawl of Adam’s legs, while the other moves to Adam’s jaw, gentle pressure encouraging Adam to open for him.
For a brief moment, Adam responds, opening his mouth, allowing the sweep of Kris’ tongue, and Kris has just seconds to memorize the taste of him before he feels the pressure of Adam’s hand on his hip, squeezing for a second before pushing him back.
Kris stumbles back as Adam rises off the bed, and save for Adam’s hand still resting on his hip, he would have fallen. Kris is briefly gratified to hear that Adam’s breathing is just as harsh as his own when Adam says, “You’ve got to know that this is a bad idea.”
And just like that, Kris is back to feeling small, and not just because Adam is now on his feet and towering over him like always. Kris’ hand goes to the back of his neck as he ducks his head, shame and horror at his action overcoming him because, God, he’d never even asked if Adam was interested—he’d just taken what he wanted…
“Hey, no…” Adam says, a gentle nudge dislodging the hand Kris has on his neck to replace it with his own, forcing Kris to look at him, and while Kris is grateful that Adam is still amenable to physical contact after what Kris just did, he kind of wishes that Adam would stop touching him right about now, because between the hand still on Kris’ hip and the hand on his neck, he’s about to embark on Bad Idea, The Sequel regardless of Adam’s feelings on the matter.
“Not about the—the actual kiss, because…” Adam lets out a short bark of laughter, and his smile helps to ease what had been a growing tightening in Kris’ chest. “Wow. But, I mean, you’ve got a thousand different emotions pulling you in all different directions right now, and following one as drastic as this before you’ve had a chance to sit down and sort them all out, it’s just…not really a good start to anything, you know?”
So that’s that, then. Kris nods, unable to meet Adam’s eyes, because of course he should have expected this. Adam has more raw magnetism in his little finger than Kris possesses in his entire body—why waste time on some inexperienced closet-case from Nowhere, Arkansas when there is probably a line around the block of people he could choose from—
Kris’ eyes snap back to Adam to find Adam’s own gaze focused somewhere just over Kris’ left shoulder, and he feels Adam’s hands tighten on him just as he is deciding he should probably pull away right about now. Adam bites his lip for a moment, and Kris realizes with sudden and startling clarity that Adam is nervous. Kris had been too involved in his own emotional crisis to recognize that Adam is caught in some kind of similar state.
“When you figure things out,” Adam continues slowly, gaze still averted, “if you decide this isn’t a momentary lapse…something to regret…maybe we can try it again.” His eyes, when they meet Kris’ again, are predatory, and even in stunned speechlessness, Kris feels a thrill run through his body. “But you’ve got to be certain. Because once I’ve gotten to have you, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to let you go.”
Kris can’t find the words quick enough before Adam’s expression turns self-conscious.
“If you don’t want to, that’s fine, too. I don’t want you to feel like I’m pressuring you in any direction—”
And God, Adam thinks that he’s scared Kris.
The loosening of Adam’s grip on him startles Kris into action, and he throws his arms around the other man, pulling Adam tightly to him, because, honestly, what are the chances that he would come all the way to California, make it this far on Idol, and meet someone as amazing as Adam Lambert, who even in the midst of Kris’ emotional breakdown can remain as a tether to hope in the future?
And there, face buried in Adam’s shoulder, arms tightening around the other man as he feels Adam’s rise to encircle him, Kris lets the breakdown happen, lets the weight of the evening come crashing down around him, lets the weakness overtake him, and he cries.
He knows that for now, Adam will be strong enough for the both of them.
“Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.”
I started writing this before the performances tonight (er, last night now), and now that Kris' songs have slotted so nicely into my storyline, particularly the one he chose for himself, I'm thinking sequel, maybe? Well, if I can get myself motivated enough, I guess. Let me know if you think it's worth it.
As always, comments = love.