Length: 3600 words
Disclaimer: Not mine, clearly.
Notes: jerakeen and I felt like lolitaray deserved some good karma – the Karma Project, jerakeen called it. We had planned two 2000 word fics to be done in a week...I didn't go that much over. Her on the other hand...well what did we expect? Read That Old Black Magic for a second dose of fate.
Thanks to drgaellon for the speeding and thorough beta as always.
As if missing the American Idol auditions in Louisville wasn't bad enough, Kris has now started having nightmares. He hasn't had a nightmare since he was 8, and Daniel told him the scritch-scratch on his window was a skeleton who wanted to get in. 'Honest to Gawd, Krissy, I saw it!'
He'd wanted to choke his little brother for putting skeletons in his head, literally, back then; he'd like to choke him now for making him miss the Idol auditions. But he can't blame the nightmares on Daniel. It's the same every time—he's on a beach, soft sand underfoot, sitting back relaxing and playing his guitar, but way up high in the sky, where the sun is supposed to be, is a dark, black, very ominous-looking eye. Kris wakes up in a cold sweat and can't erase the image burned into his brain. There's no explanation, and Kris doesn't recognize the picture, but week after week, he falls asleep and dreams about the eye.
"Well, what do you think the dream means?" Katy asks.
Katy is his ex-high school sweetheart, turned best friend and confidant when he came out to her almost three years ago. She's Arkansas-faithful through to her soul, so Kris is surprised when she says, "Maybe it means you should be playing music on a beach. Like a beach in LA?"
Kris is not sure his dream is actually that literal. Still, it's not like he can get a decent night's sleep here, and he did promise himself that this would be the year he would finally go for it with his music.
Her hand is soft on his leg when she leans over and gently prods him. "Go to LA, Kristopher. You owe it to yourself to try."
Katy's an angel, Kris has decided. She even helps him cram his clothes into a backpack for lighter travel. When he arrives in LA, it's just him, his backpack, and his guitar. He has a place to stay with his cousin, Julie, and there are promises of open mike nights in all the coffee shops nearby, according to her. It's scary and busy, and bright hot white under the California sun, but Kris's world doesn't explode wide open until three days after he arrives when he goes to buy groceries... and runs into Adam Lambert.
Literally... Kris is walking into the store and slams into a man's chest. The paper bag the guy is carrying gives up the ghost with a pop, and the contents spill out onto the sidewalk with a crash. Kris jumps backwards, hopping to avoid some of the splash, but ends up getting green goop all over his shoe. What is that? It looks like baby poop.
"Oh, sorry, are you okay?" the guy says.
He's apologizing to Kris, like Kris didn't just completely destroy a bag full of groceries. And what the hell is that on his shoe?
"I'm fine, sorry, I... shit." Kris sees a glass bottle of what was likely red wine bleeding all over the concrete. "I'll pay for this. I'm so sorry."
"What?" The guy looks down at the ground, seemingly fascinated by the red rivulets snaking their way into the cracks of the sidewalk. A lock of jet black hair falls across his eyes and Kris notices a shock of bright purple behind it. It matches the glittery purple eyeliner across his upper eyelid, and there is a purple earring dangling from his left ear.
"Huh, that guacamole looks good, hey?"
He gestures towards Kris's foot. So that's what's on his shoe. It really does not look good at all to Kris.
"Oh, well, it's an excuse to go shopping again, right? I'm Adam." He holds out his hand for Kris to shake. There is a silver ring on each finger, including his thumb, and at least five bracelets jingling on his arm. Kris has never seen so much jewelry on a girl, even.
"Kris," he finally manages to choke out in reply. He rubs his eyebrow and looks down at the mess on the ground. "Should we clean this up?"
"Someone inside will take care of it. And now I get to go shopping with you."
Adam links his arm in Kris's—actually links his arm in like they are going skipping down the sidewalk—and ushers him into the store. Kris follows, because he's linked in—no other choice—and tries not to stare at Adam... too much. Kris has been in LA for three days and while, so far, nothing reminds him of Arkansas at all, Adam is a whole new kind of different.
Kris is infatuated.
Almost a month passes before Kris runs into Adam again. It's not as literal this time, no one drops anything on the floor, but Kris is playing at an open mike night at the bar near his house when Adam walks in. Kris sees him right away. Kris almost senses him opening the door, because he's playing a riff and there's a voice in his head screaming 'Look up!' He does and sees Adam, and loses complete track of what his fingers were trying to accomplish. He laughs and tries to cover it for the audience, but his concentration is completely blown. Adam is sitting at a table in the back with his friends, and it's not until Kris clears his throat and announces that this will be his last song that Adam looks his way. Adam looks mildly interested in the person on stage, then realization dawns over his face and his eyes brighten (Kris is pretty sure they brighten, but that could be his overactive imagination). Adam does smile though, and gives Kris a tiny wave. Kris sits up as tall as he can and resolves not to make any mistakes on this song. It's an easy one, one he knows by heart, and he can play with his eyes closed. Which he does. Because watching Adam watch him is too nerve-wracking to deal with.
After the song, Kris slides up to the bar and orders water. Anything stronger will just make his hands shake even harder. He's gulping the first mouthful when he feels Adam beside him.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," he says, laying his empty glass down on the bar.
Kris chokes on his water and Adam has to pat him on the back until he regains air intake. "What?" Kris manages to choke out.
"Wasting your talent in this dinky little dive. Why aren't you out there playing for real? Or auditioning for American Idol? You would be great on Idol."
Kris shakes his head, smiling wryly. Idol is not exactly the easiest of subjects for him to discuss. "I'm just going to try this for a while. See how it goes, I guess."
Adam nods, biting his lip and staring at Kris. Kris has to look away—Adam is an intense guy.
"Join us," he finally says. He orders another drink from the bartender and waits for Kris to do the same.
Kris signals that he's good with his water; Adam's presence is drug enough for one night. He follows Adam to his table and meets his very loud group of friends. It's nice, comfortable. For the first time since Kris arrived in LA, he doesn't feel lonely in his own skin.
As the night drags on, Adam's friends leave, one by one, until it's just Adam, his brother Neil, and Kris left at the table. Adam has been regaling Kris all night with stories about his work in the theatre. Adam's life is like Wonderland, and Kris is Alice—completely out of his element, but totally charmed by each new discovery. No matter how much he learns about Adam, it's not enough. And when Adam finally leans over to kiss him... well Kris is lucky he doesn't fall right through the rabbit hole and out the other side.
It's last call, and they are alone at the table, Neil having excused himself to get one more drink, when Adam takes Kris's hand in his.
"I want to get a tattoo," he says out of nowhere.
"Oh?" Kris replies, too focused on his hand in Adam's to form a coherent answer. Adam's fingers are like electrical prongs, sending shocks to Kris's skin wherever they touch.
"Right here." Adam's fingers slide around to Kris's inner wrist, caressing the soft skin. "Something symbolic. Cryptic."
He traces an invisible shape on Kris's skin, around and around, the very edge of his nail scratching the tender surface. Kris gulps, his wrist feeling like it's on fire.
"You know, I think you should try out for Idol next year," Adam says, completely changing the subject.
Kris hasn't told him that he wanted to try out this year. It feels like he failed the audition before he ever got to go on it. "Maybe you should too," Kris replies. "You sing, right?" He's never heard Adam sing, but he's been talking about the theatre all night. He's got to be decent.
Adam smiles. The heat of his thumb is scorching Kris's wrist and Kris licks his lips to cool off. Adam leans in, sliding his tongue along Kris's bottom lip before painting his lips to Kris's and kissing him, hot, brief, intense.
He pulls away, grinning at what has got to be a shocked expression on Kris's face. "Maybe I will."
Neil comes back and downs his shot.
"That's what you wasted your last call on?" Adam teases him, and their private moment is over.
Kris keeps it with him, though, as they walk outside and Adam and Neil hail a cab. Kris insists that he's fine to walk; it's just around the corner. Adam tries to convince him to get in the cab, but Kris really needs the walk to clear his head. Adam smiles and lets his fingers trail down to the very tips of Kris's as they say goodbye. Then he's in the cab and gone.
Kris picks up his guitar and stuffs his other hand in his pocket. He takes the next right to cut down the alley behind his cousin's house. He's floating so high, his Sketchers are barely touching the ground, when suddenly he's face first in the dirt and there's a knee pressed hard into his back.
"Your wallet, shit face," a voice growls.
Kris's right arm is pinned underneath him, his left splayed out to the side still gripping his guitar case. The guy doesn't waste any time waiting for Kris to offer up his money; he gropes into Kris's back pocket and grabs his wallet. Then he's prying Kris's hand off of the guitar case while Kris is holding on for dear life.
"No, it's empty, not worth anything," he protests.
That gets him a mouthful of gravel and his head slammed into the ground. He's dazed and hurting and it's easy for the attacker to grab the guitar case and climb off of him. Before he runs off, he delivers three good kicks to Kris's ribs. He can barely move from the pain, and his face grinds along the dirt as the guy reaches down to bash his head into the ground one more time.
Everything is foggy. Kris can feel the guy's footsteps vibrating through the ground rather than hear him running away. There is one light shining brightly at the back of Julie's house. As he tries to focus, it dips and swirls in the darkness, making his stomach turn. He coughs puke, blood, and gravel onto the ground and collapses onto his back. The stars up above look surprisingly the same as the night sky back in Arkansas, but now Kris knows for sure that he's fallen through the rabbit hole—and he doesn't like the place he's ended up in.
Kris doesn't remember Julie finding him, or bringing him to the hospital, but the pain from his bruised ribs, and the scream he let escape when they set his broken wrist, are very real. His father flies out the next day. Kris hasn't seen the full extent of his facial injuries, but one look at his father's expression when he walks into Kris's room is enough to tell that it's as bad as it feels. He doesn't object when his dad takes him back to Julie's and packs up his suitcase. He doesn't even object when his dad tells her to rent out the room—Kris won't be needing it again. A broken arm and no guitar do not a musician make.
He has only one request before they leave for the airport. He hands Julie a note he's slowly scrawled with his left hand. He asks her to bring it to the bar and leave it for 'Adam'. That's all Kris has, a first name, but the bartender seemed to know Adam and his friends, so all Kris can do is leave it up to fate.
He climbs into the taxi cab, exhaling at the sudden jolt of pain, and leaves Adam behind him in LA.
The next time Kris sees Adam, it's in his bedroom. Not that Adam is actually, physically in his bedroom, but Kris is trying out his newly cast-free wrist with his guitar when he hears Adam's voice from his TV. His guitar almost falls on the floor as he dives for the remote. He punches up the volume and watches, breathless, on the edge of his bed as Adam laughs and crinkles his face, and did he really have that many freckles in person?
Kris loses half of what the interviewer is saying because he's so intent on burning the image of Adam into his retinas. He catches the word 'audition' and 'celebrity'. Adam is laughing and shaking his head, and brushing off the compliments. What did he do? Win some sort of award?
Finally, the interviewer turns to the camera and says, "Watch Adam Lambert, local resident, on Fox's American Idol this week."
And Kris throws up in his garbage can.
"He's living my life!" he moans to Katy. Who tells him to grow up, as she should, and who then softens her voice, as she also does, and asks why he can't just be happy for Adam.
One thing about Katy, she never lets him be a petulant child. He has Daniel for that if he really needs it. It's just tough, reading about Adam, listening to Adam in interviews, searching for pictures of Adam on Google. Anyone looking at his laptop would think he's taken up internet porn as a hobby for all the pictures of Adam in drag he manages to uncover.
Kris has no way to contact Adam. No phone number, no e-mail address. He doesn't know if Adam ever got his note, although Julie swears the bartender promised to deliver it. Back in Arkansas, with his injuries mostly healed, it's as if he never went to LA at all. Except for the fact that he's miserable, and not just because he's having nightmares every week.
In May, Adam is crowned the new American Idol over Danny Gokey. Kris has become addicted to talk shows and early morning TV. Every station covers the win, and there's a new interview on the internet every day. He joins all the fan groups he can find, and signs up to follow Adam's Twitter account. ArkansasKris should be a dead giveaway, he hopes, but despite checking Adam's tweets every day, there is never any sign that Adam knows Kris is out there. Kris was a one-time kiss, back when Adam wasn't famous at all. Now, he's lucky if he's just a memory.
Katy gives him the tickets for his birthday. He tries to give them back right away, even tells her to take one of her girlfriends, but she won't take no for an answer.
"You have to see him one more time. Then you'll know if there's anything there."
So wise, and so annoying, but Kris can't deny that he holds his breath the whole way home from his birthday dinner. He is going to see Adam again, even if only on stage, when the tour comes to Little Rock. He counts down the days on his calendar—34 days. He hasn't seen Adam since December, and he's still breathing. He can wait for 34 days.
The night of the concert, Kris tries to act nonchalant and cool, but the screaming 13-year-old girls in the audience get his heart racing. By the time Adam takes the stage last, Kris is jumping and yelling like a little girl. And Adam's performance doesn't disappoint. Kris has watched and rewatched, and downloaded and watched again, every single performance from this season. But seeing Adam perform live is like transcending to a new level of bliss. Kris swears Adam is singing just to him, even when he's off at the other end of the stage—his connection with the audience is just that real.
Afterwards, Kris deflates like a balloon leaking helium—slowly and reluctantly returning to his former state. A life where he's 'Kris Allen from Arkansas', not 'Kris Allen who was kissed by Adam Lambert'. But Katy has one more birthday surprise for him, and drags him along with all the still screaming 13-year-olds to the backstage area. There's a table set up for autographs, and Katy tugs him as close as they can get without trampling some little child. Kris doesn't think this is real; Adam will be sick or tired or have some other commitment besides signing autographs for a few fans in Arkansas; but Adam emerges with the other idols, freshly showered and looking like he could give another concert right away.
Kris lets the little kids go ahead of him—he's mostly content to stay among the crowd and watch Adam from a distance. His hair is still wet against the back of his neck, and there's a trace of green glitter trailing like a fading kiss along one cheek. Kris wants to rub his thumb along that spot, to take a piece of Adam back home with him to cherish.
Finally, he and Katy are up against the table and Adam turns to reach for whatever they have brought to sign. Kris has nothing—he never thought to bring a CD or picture, both of which he has plenty of—so he softly says, "Just wanted to say hi."
"Hi," Adam replies, glancing up with his trademark 'I'm bored but I can still smile pretty' smile (Kris would know that smile anywhere). Then recognition bursts over his face and he's leaning over the table to grab Kris in his arms.
"I thought you were dead!" Adam yells into his ear, pulling back to look at Kris's face, as if to make sure it's actually him, before hugging into him again. "Come here, come here!" Adam waves to Kris to come around the other side of the table. There's a security guard at the end, but Adam says something in his ear and Kris slips behind the table where the Idols are all sitting. Katy yells that she'll see him later, while Adam takes Kris by the arm, pulling him into a room next to the table. Kris's wrist aches from where Adam has his fingers gripped around it, but he'll take the pain for the pleasure that's rushing through him right now.
Behind him, Kris hears a fan yell. "Adam, don't leave, I love you!" And Kris bursts out laughing. How can this be Adam's life?
Adam pushes Kris into a dressing room and closes the door. He leans his back against the door for a moment, staring at Kris like he's trying to figure out if he's actually real. Kris rubs his wrist absentmindedly and averts his eyes. If he stares at Adam for too long, he's not going to be able to control what he does next.
Adam walks across the room and reaches out to run a hand down Kris's cheek. "Where did you go?"
Kris closes his eyes, leaning into Adam's hand. He smiles, remembering the same touch from so many months before. Opening his eyes, he starts to explain, somehow, what happened, when he sees it—on the inside of Adam's left wrist. It's been so long since Kris started dreaming about the eye, he'd recognize it anywhere, yet he's never actually seen it in person... until now. Indelibly branded into Adam's skin.
"What..." Kris removes Adam's hand from his cheek, holding Adam's wrist in his hand. "What is this?"
"Oh, I got a tattoo," Adam says easily. "It's called the 'Eye of Horus'. I wanted something symbolic. This just spoke to me."
Kris traces the pattern with his finger, every line a perfect match to the image burned in his brain for so long. He shakes his head, looking up at Adam's face with the faint trail of green glitter. He could try to explain—the dream, the eye, his move to LA, and escape back to the safety of home—but none of that seems to matter now.
"I didn't go anywhere," Kris finally says. He shrugs. "I think I was just waiting for you."
The kiss is as intense as the first one, but crushing and feverous and full of seven months of waiting and wondering and longing. They end up on a couch on the corner of the room, sequined tops and a glitter hat falling to the floor as they land. Kris doesn't care about anything outside of Adam though—outside of this moment, there is nothing else in the world that matters.
That night, after Adam safely tucks Kris into a cab before climbing onto a bus, Kris closes his eyes and for the first time since the dream, doesn't see the eye. He smiles and goes home to wait for Adam to call.
That Old Black Magic by jerakeen