Length: 4600 words
Disclaimer: Not mine, clearly.
Notes: Written for the reel_idol challenge. I picked Toy Story. Yes...they are dolls. Real dolls. Adam looks like this and this (to me). I know it's absurd...just go with it.
First, this crazy fic has many friends:
drgaellon for the speedy and thorough beta
katekat1010 for the cover art below
shiningartifact for podfic
cybel for a podbook
and, lastly, jerakeen for gifting me with the treats above, and teaching me that inanimate objects really can fall in love
Adam's first recollection of being the American Idol is finding himself on stage all alone with a waiting crowd at his feet. There's a fog in his mind that makes the details of how he got here fuzzy, but he's onstage and the crowd is screaming, so he just goes for it. His band has apparently decided to skip their first performance, but there are three little buttons on the floor near his microphone stand that appear to control the music. He stomps on one and the beginning notes of 'For Your Entertainment' come pouring out of the speakers. Who needs a band anyway?
Adam makes it through all three buttons, and repeats the first song again for lack of an encore. He throws up his arms to the roar of the crowd and feels the adrenaline wash over him. He doesn't remember how he got here, but this feeling is worth it. He can’t wait to do this again tomorrow night.
Reluctantly, he parts with his audience and makes his way backstage. The roadies should be packing up the stage for their next tour stop, and he has to find his bus to check on his hair. The backstage area is deserted, save for one guy tuning a guitar in the corner.
"Where's everyone else?" Adam asks as he walks over.
The guitar player looks up from underneath his cowboy hat. He's sitting on the ground with his legs stretched out in front of him. He's wearing a red plaid shirt and dark blue jeans. Cowboy boots add to his country-boy image. His face looks friendly; Adam feels like he's supposed to know who this guy is.
"This is pretty much it," the guy says. "No one else really comes back here. But I like the quiet. Until they set up your stage that is."
Adam looks around. There isn't much to see besides a metal wall, and dust bunnies as big as he is. There's no tour bus anywhere, and his entourage (surely, he has an entourage) are nowhere to be found.
"I probably need to be at a meet and greet. Do you know where I find my schedule?"
The guy laughs and lays his guitar aside to stand up. "Your schedule? You've got 10 hours before the people come back; you can do whatever you want."
Adam has never been left alone for 10 hours before, well, except to sleep. But he's the American Idol, he doesn't just get left alone at a tour date. He has press commitments and photo ops, and there has to be someone somewhere who has a mirror that he can use to check his hair.
Adam must look as panicked as he feels, because the guy seems to soften a bit. He holds out his hand for Adam to shake.
"I'm Kris, by the way. I can show you around if you want. It's a pretty big place. Takes a while to get used to it."
"Adam," he replies, shaking Kris's hand. "Do you live here?"
Kris walks back out near the front of Adam's stage. "For a few months now, ever since the big Christmas rush started."
"Christmas rush?" Adam says, following.
"Yeah, I'm in the display over there." Kris points to a large mountain of boxes next to Adam's stage. It's gigantic, larger than 10 of his stages piled on end. Adam looks over the edge of the platform they are standing on and sees that the pile extends all the way down to the ground below.
"Wait, how do you…where do you…you can't live there?"
"Sure, fourth from the left on the top row. 'Arkansas Kris', that's me. Lots of good ol' cowboys in Arkansas, apparently."
Adam stares harder at the pile of boxes. The front of each is clear plastic, and in most, a Barbie-doll type of toy is peering out at him. There is one for each state, with names written on the front like 'Alabama Anna', 'Alaska Sara', 'Arizona Mona'… The one for Arkansas has a picture of Kris's face on the front, but there is no toy inside.
"But that's impossible..." Adam turns back to look at Kris. He looks real enough. Maybe Adam was in a car accident and has brain damage. That would explain the fuzzy memory too. "Dolls can't talk. Or walk."
"I prefer the term 'posable figurine', but yeah, plastic through and through."
Human civilization has been replaced with posable figurines; how did he not know this? "I need to find my manager."
"Sorry, I don't think they make a manager doll."
Adam frowns. He doesn't want a manager doll, he wants a manager person. A real live person, just like him, who can explain how he got booked to do a tour in a friggin' toy store. He runs his hand up in his hair but hits something solid instead. His other hand flies up to feel the top of his head—instead of hair, what he feels is a smooth plastic dome on the back and sides and some flippy plasticy thing right on top.
Now he's really panicking.
"I need a mirror. Quick! I need to check!"
Kris points to a shiny metal strip against the edge of the platform they are standing on. Adam runs over and squints at the blurry image of himself. What the hell is sticking out of the top of his head?
Slowly, his hands run down over his face—satiny smooth. His body is tight, abs to kill for except they're molded out of plastic too. And between his legs…Adam leans over and throws up nothing but air.
"Hey, it's okay." Kris is beside him rubbing gentle circles on his back. "You just came out, it takes a while to get used to it."
Adam is pretty sure he 'came out' a long time ago, but apparently those memories were implanted from someone else—someone real. Because, apparently, he is not real. He is a doll. He glances back at the metal strip—the side of a shelf, upon which he is standing. He's a doll—a very good looking doll, if he does say so himself—standing on a shelf in a toy store. In the Christmas rush.
"Come on, why don't you let me show you some more of your people?"
He has people? Probably an army of zombie-doll fans. Adam follows wordlessly as Kris walks to the edge of the shelf and jumps off into thin air. Adam yelps, then peeks over the edge to see that Kris has landed effortlessly on the floor and is waving to Adam to come on down. It's not like he has anything left to lose; he's just a doll, right? Adam flings himself off the edge and lands with a splat on his face. That's gonna sting.
Kris is actually laughing at Adam as he pulls him up. "Nothing as tough as plastic!"
Adam feels his face—intact, and it doesn't even hurt. Huh, maybe this plastic business has some benefits. He catches a glimpse of himself in a mirrored display for Transformers. His hair does look great—and the wind didn't budge it a bit.
A car brakes to a quick stop beside them and a girl with fiery red hair jumps out. "You got him down off the shelf!" She runs up to Kris and Adam, wrapping her arms around a very surprised Adam tightly.
"We were wondering when they were going to take you out of the box. Kris went up there every night for a week, waiting for them to set you up."
Kris shoots the girl a 'shut up now, please' look, and Adam grins.
"I'm Allison," the girl says, slinging one arm around Adam's shoulders and the other around Kris's. "Awesome set, by the way. I'm in Barbie's band. Back-up singer." She rolls her eyes. "You'd think with hair like this they'd let me sing lead, but oh no, not with her around." Allison gestures over her shoulder to a blonde girl with purple streaks in her hair walking by. She looks just like a real Barbie doll.
Adam's imaginary stomach rolls as he realizes she is a real Barbie doll.
"Come on, we'll show you where they keep the Adams."
"The what?" Adam asks Kris as they both climb over the car doors (which do not open, Adam realizes) and take a seat. Allison peels away and takes a sharp turn as Kris answers.
"The Adam dolls. There's a whole series."
Now he's really going to be sick. One of him, he could almost handle. There was no proof he was a doll if he was the only one of his kind, right? But more than one?
Allison screeches to a stop in the middle of an aisle. On either side are towering shelves piled with boxes. There are groups of people (dolls, Adam reminds himself) talking and laughing everywhere he looks. And to his left, piled one on top of the other all the way up to the ceiling, are purple boxes with the American Idol logo on the front. Adam climbs out of the car and steps back to get a better look. As far up as he can see, an identical him stares out of the boxes at him.
The last thing he remembers is his face hitting the floor…again.
Adam wakes up in a sea of cotton candy. There's pink beneath him, above him, and on either side. He's breathing in pink air, with pink stars circling overhead. He reaches out to push some of the pinkness away and his arm collides with something solid. There's a soft twang, and Adam hears a voice filtering through the fog.
"You came back."
He opens his eyes to see a red plaid body sitting on the bed beside him. Kris. Adorable cowboy doll Kris from Arkansas. Oh, God, now he has it bad for an inanimate object.
"I thought you went back to sleep," Kris says. Almost sadly, from what Adam can tell.
"I think I fainted."
"Dolls don't really faint." Kris smiles. He's a saint, Adam decides.
"You're just awake or asleep, there isn't really an in-between. And I thought maybe…well sometimes…"
"Sometimes toys break and don't wake up again?"
Adam isn't sure if he should congratulate himself for figuring that out, or scream at the absurdity of it all. He chooses to rub his shiny head, verifying that there are no dents. "I think all the me dolls staring out of the boxes creeped me out."
"That happens. You should have seen Allison the first time she met another her. The other Allison was trying to color her own hair black with a Crayola marker. Allison had to take her out."
"Remind me never to cross Allison." Adam looks around at the ungodly pinkness they are bathed in. It's a bedroom, he finally realizes. And he is lying next to Kris on the bed.
"Is this your place?"
"No," Kris laughs. "It's Barbie's Winnebago. Didn't you have one of these when you were a kid?" Kris is teasing, but Adam blushes.
"I did, actually."
"Oh!" Now Kris is just laughing at him, but Adam doesn't take it too personally. It's not like Adam the doll actually had one, right? It was Adam the person—and how they got the man's thoughts into his doll brain he doesn't know. That's a question for a much later time. Right now, he plans to enjoy his time in Barbie's bus with Kris.
"You know," he says, settling back against a pink pillow with Barbie's face on it. "Maybe I could get used to this doll business. Never grow old, right?"
"Never get wrinkles," Kris confirms.
"I like that!"
Kris strums a few chords on his guitar, humming softly.
"What are you playing?" Adam asks.
"Oh, I can't really play," Kris admits, blushing. "I think I'm supposed to be able to, but my fingers..." He lifts his hands up for Adam to see his fingers. While quite attractive, as hands go, they don't actually bend like real fingers are supposed to.
Adam tries out his own fingers—minimal bendage. That could be an issue if he had a few additional body parts he'd like to access.
"Right. So we have all of the instincts and memories of a real person inside, but we are still just plastic shells." He thinks there should be a silver lining here—he's not tied to being an exact model of his real self—but so far he's not finding it.
Kris lays his guitar aside and slides down to rest his head on a pillow next to Adam. "I think you're based on a real person, but I'm just the embodiment of a state. Maybe." Kris shrugs. "Maybe I'm just someone's idea of a cute outfit."
Adam lays his hand on Kris's chest—he can feel rippled abs through the thick material. "Well, I, for one, think you make a very cute outfit." He leans up to tower over Kris, smiling at him. "But you know what they say about a cute outfit?"
Kris shrugs. "It's nothing without the shoes?"
Adam checks out Kris's cowboy boots. Cute, but not what he was going for. He swings his leg across Kris and rises up to straddle his body. "It's nothing without a cute face."
Kris must want it as bad as Adam does, because he doesn't get a chance to lean down before Kris is hauling Adam down on top of him. Kissing a doll is nothing like he ever could have imagined. They are both hard plastic and molded joints, but together, they move seamlessly. Kris's lips move beneath Adam's, and his fake plastic hair (that actually looks like hair, instead of a shiny dome), feels soft in Adam's fingers. Adam lets himself drift down into the soft pink duvet with Kris in his arms and pushes all thoughts of absurdity from his mind. He's a doll—a bit freak-out worthy. Kissing another very cute doll—not so freak-out worthy.
He rolls over, bringing Kris up on top of him, and decides he's just going to go with it. He might as well enjoy life without consequences while he can.
A week later, Adam gets taped into his box.
He doesn't remember anything before being set up on his stage, but Kris and Allison explain that it's like that for a lot of dolls. They just hibernate until they are freed of the tie-wraps and tape keeping them bound inside a box, then they either get purchased or find their way out of their boxes to hang out in the store at night. Kris has been 'out' for months—loose tie-wraps; and Allison was part of a Barbie display in a glass case that all the dolls could climb out of at night.
Adam woke up the moment he was set up on stage; his first experience as a doll. But today someone decided to pack him back up in his box (in favor of an Elmo display—just to add insult to injury), and while he can get free of the tie-wraps easy enough, his box is impossible to open. Kris and Allison spent hours trying.
"It's okay," Adam says. "I know you tried." He's sitting by the plastic screen at the front of his box, leaning his hand against the imprint of Kris's on the other side. This is how they spend their awake time now. Kris slips out of his box and climbs up onto Adam's shelf every night. He spends a while checking out the tape situation, just in case, but Adam's box is the deluxe American Idol stage version—it's twice as tall as Kris, and wide enough to have a shelf all of its own. There's no way Kris is freeing him.
"One of the new Buzz dolls said he'd blast the tape with his laser. Allison made him watch Toy Story."
Adam leans his forehead against the plastic and looks down at the Barbie gang splashing in a pool. All he's got is his three songs and a doll-sized cardboard cutout of Ryan Seacrest—which doesn't wake up, thank God. And Kris. Adam has got Kris sitting outside his box keeping him company.
"Play me a song," Adam says.
Kris is holding his guitar, like always, but he can only make a chord after careful placement of his fingers. Then he has to move them all again and strum a second series of notes.
"I wish I could."
"Then sing me one."
Kris looks down at his guitar and changes his fingering. He strums one chord and sings the starting notes to one of Adam's songs.
Adam smiles and scoots closer to the plastic. He joins Kris in a slow acoustic version of 'Whataya Want From Me', singing the first line to the ringing notes of one chord, while Kris moves his fingers in place for chord two. They sit that way for a while, Kris strumming, both of them singing. It's one of the best experiences Adam has had in his short life as a doll, trapped in a box or not.
Just before the store reopens, when toys everywhere are heading back to their boxes or displays, Kris presses his hand against the plastic and paints on a brave smile.
"See you tonight?"
Adam matches his hand to Kris's and returns the smile. "I'm not going anywhere."
He presses his lips against the plastic, feeling the shape of Kris's from the other side. Then Kris is gone—diving off the platform to the floor far below. Adam hears his cowboy boots echo softly on the floor, then he moves to the back of the box and slips back into display position. At least he's not aware of the passing time while he's sleeping. Adam just has to close off his thoughts, and in an instant, he's back with Kris again.
That night, Kris doesn't come. Adam thinks maybe he woke up too early, but soon enough, he can see Pool Fun Barbie snapping at Veterinarian Barbie to get her dogs out of the pool. And Rock Star Barbie is trying to organize a concert rehearsal (for who, Adam doesn't know) with only 2 of her 5 band members. He strains his neck to try and see if Allison is with the band when suddenly, she pops her head over the edge of his shelf.
"Why are you up so freakin' high?" she pants, as she hauls her leg over the edge. "I've been climbing for an hour!"
"Kris gets the Lego crane to bring him up."
"Of course he does," Allison says, brushing dust off her pants. "Well, Kris isn't here anymore, is he?"
Adam feels his imaginary stomach drop. He isn't? For real?
"Oh honey, I'm sorry. Shit, I shouldn't have blurted it out like that. I have no tact. They should call me Tactless Barbie."
"Wha...where is he?"
"It was just before the store closed. I was supposed to be asleep, but no one was around, so I woke up. A little girl was begging her mom for the 'cute cowboy' and I saw her mother sneak it through the cash. Probably a surprise for Christmas." Allison steps up close to the plastic. She looks devastated—like someone told her they were going to shave her head. "I'm so sorry, babe."
Adam turns away from her. He can't produce real tears, but it feels like his plastic eyes could cry rivers. Kris is gone—just like that. Adam doesn't know what it feels like to have someone die, but he's pretty sure it isn't any worse than this. He's never going to see Kris again.
"It's not so bad," Allison calls out to him. "We all want to go to a nice kid for Christmas, right?"
Adam stares at the stupid grin on Ryan's face and wonders if he can just go to sleep and never wake up again. Without Kris, it doesn't seem like 'life' is worth living.
"I could bring up one of the other Kris dolls," Allison offers.
"No! Don't..." If it's not the real Kris, Adam doesn't want to see a doppelganger. "Don't," he says more softly. He glances back at Allison, but doesn't turn completely around. "Thank you...for telling me."
"Sure, babe. Is there anything I can do?"
"I think I just want to be alone."
Allison nods and jumps off of the shelf. In the distance, he can hear the muffled sounds of the other toys playing. He walks further back in his box. The light from the aisle doesn't penetrate all the way back here. He can imagine he's all alone in a world by himself—a world where there never was a Kris doll to love. All alone, Adam sings the acoustic version of 'Whataya Want From Me' and mourns the loss of his friend.
When Adam wakes up, he's being attacked by dancing snowmen. It takes a minute to get his bearings, and strategize his plan of attack, but soon enough he realizes it's just paper of some sort covering the plastic at the front of his box. Great. He's been bought.
He feels so...used.
But this is why he became a toy, right? Not like he had a choice, but Kris said this was the ultimate goal for any doll—get taken home by a nice kid, and, most importantly, loved. Except Adam felt loved when he was still in the toy store. He doesn't think anything can compare to that.
Suddenly there are sharp vibrations of earthquake proportion and he's being tipped upside down and shaken, quite literally. He can hear squeals coming from beyond the paper, and then the snowmen are cast aside to reveal the face of a very excited little girl.
"EEEEEEE!!!!" she squeals, ripping open the side of his box with ease.
Apparently the tough tape job was no match for her strength. The tie wraps take a bit longer (funny, since Adam can actually get out of them himself), and then he's free and being whirled around and around over the little girl's head. He'd be queasy if he had a stomach.
Eventually, she lays him aside to rip open about a gazillion other presents, and when all are done, there's quite a collection of toys piled up next to him. Nothing as squeal-worthy as him, it seems, but Adam doesn't care either way. He just doesn't have it in him to be loved by this child yet.
Arms overflowing with loot, the girl (Abigail, her mom calls her), makes her way into her bedroom and dumps the toys on her bed. Carefully, she selects Adam from the pile and smoothes her hands over his head.
"So real!" she says, and places Adam in a house full of other dolls before leaving the room.
There's a collective groan from the pile of toys on the bed as soon as the door closes, and slowly, limbs and wheels belonging to different toys begin to untangle. Adam just slumps against the wall, he doesn't feel like being social. Around him dolls are waking up, some giving him cursory glances, others stopping to say 'Welcome'. He smiles, but his heart isn't in it.
As the dolls filter away to inspect the other newbies up on the bed, Adam hears the faint sound of music coming from somewhere in the house. He stands and makes his way through a cut-out in the wall to a kitchen area. From there he can see stairs leading to a second floor. He follows the music upstairs to another level, with a balcony leading off of the far side.
The music is louder now, and definitely recognizable. Adam can't stop himself from running across the room. He stops right in the doorway, checking to make sure he's hearing what he thinks he is. Yes. It is definitely his song. And something just around the corner is playing it on a guitar.
Adam takes a deep breath and walks out onto the balcony. A doll that looks exactly like Kris looks up from where he is sitting on a chair in the corner, his fingers poised over his guitar, hand stopped in mid-strum. Adam takes in the hair—soft and almost real; the guitar—identical to Kris's; even the jeans and boots are the same; but the shirt is not red plaid with tiny black and grey lines, and diamond peaks on the chest. This shirt is purple, with a god awful green stripe running through it. The doll looks so much like his Kris that Adam could cry. Life as a doll is not fair.
Then Kris's twin speaks. "Adam?"
Adam's heart soars for a millisecond, but then he realizes that everyone and their stuffed dog must know who the Adam Lambert doll is.
"Yeah," Adam says resignedly. He sits down in a chair next to the fake Kris. "It's me."
"Adam, Adam?" Fake Kris is saying. "From Toys 'R Us, Adam? Who got taped in his box and I sat outside and played your song while you sang, Adam?"
Adam takes in the Kris doll—it looks exactly like him (obviously), but how can that be? How did they possibly end up with the same child? And… "Where did you get that ugly shirt?" Adam blurts.
Kris stands up and lays his guitar aside. He walks across the small balcony towards Adam, his face blistering into a blinding grin. "Abigail has a thing for purple," he says, shrugging his shoulders. "You're lucky I'm not wearing Barbie's royal ball gown." Kris drops to his knees on the floor by Adam's chair and just stares at him.
Adam doesn't hesitate. Kris is hard and plastic, and somehow still feels soft and pliable beneath Adam's fingers. He attacks Kris's mouth, sending them both tumbling to the floor of the balcony. Here, behind the small railing, no one can see them. It's like they're in their own private universe again.
"I thought I lost you," Adam whispers when he finally breaks free.
"It happened so fast; there was no way for me to tell you I was leaving."
Adam stares at Kris, making sure he's really real. "How did this happen? How did she buy both of us?"
"Well, I may have been whispering subliminal messages in a certain mother's ear every night," Kris confesses.
"Hey, how else was I supposed to get you here? It's not like I can drive!"
Adam kisses Kris again, over and over in quick succession. "I love you," he says, not worrying at all about Kris's response.
"I love you, too." Kris replies, running his hand along Adam's cheek. His hand slides upward, over Adam's shiny hair and up to the top of his head. "Even if you do look a bit like a rooster."