nsync in black and white

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Bouquet

A big thank-you to my betas: Nopseud, for story doctoring par excellence; Phaballa for general beta work, Brit-picking and AI canon, and MusicDiamond for a final Brit-pick. Mistakes that remain were put in afterwards...

Betony
surprise

Kris was counting the minutes until they could leave. His smile muscles were aching even more than the rest of him. It was too much, having to do this private party, when they'd already done the show and the meet-the-fans stuff tonight, he wanted to get upstairs to his room with his wife, preferably while he had the strength not to fall asleep right off. The tour was brutal, and they didn't often get the chance to sleep in a bed instead of a bunk, but with two shows in the same city a night in a hotel made a very welcome change. It came with a price, though, and the price was New York record company execs and a bunch of celebrities drinking cocktails. But, some of the others didn't have contracts yet, and if this kind of thing helped, then of course it had to be done.

"Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!"

"What is it, honey?"

"Oh my God! Over there. Lance Bass!"

"Who?"

"Lance Bass! From Nsync! Oh my God!"

Kris looked at his wife in surprise. Katy never got like this. She'd met a whole bunch of famous people now, and never been so jittery about any of them.

"Oh, my God, I was such a fan when I was a kid." She didn't seem to be hyperventilating, but he kept a suspicious eye on her. "I got all the CDs, I had posters all over my bedroom, I had the lipgloss, everything. I went to a concert, and I was, I was like, high, for days! I mean, Nsync! They were the biggest thing ever."

"You want to meet him?"

"I, I, I don't know, I'll probably, I won't know what to say, it'll be so embarrassing." She really, really wanted to meet this guy, Kris could tell. There was a gleam of longing in her eyes that reminded him of his own fans. It was very strange. He'd gotten used to classifying 'The Fans' as a sub-category of their own, and to find that his wife was one...

"Looks like you're going to get the chance," he murmured. The guy was coming towards them.

Katy squeaked. Actually squeaked, and grabbed his hand. Kris patted her reassuringly, and smiled in the direction of the incoming guy.

"Hi, I'm Lance Bass. Congratulations on your win," he said, and he sounded sincere and had a big, open smile. "I saw the show tonight, really enjoyed it."

Kris shook the offered hand. "Kris Allen, but I guess you know that. This is my wife, Katy."

"Pleased to meet you, Katy. You must be very proud of your husband."

"Yes, I, uh, did you vote for him?"

"Ah, some of the time," said Lance Bass. "I thought Heartless was a fantastic performance. Loved it."

You voted for Adam, didn't you, Kris thought, but he actually had no problem with that, and it was a bit mean of Katy to put the guy on the spot the way she had. "My wife's a big fan of yours," he said, slyly.

"Really?" He looked pleased. "Mine in particular, or were you an Nsync fan?"

"I loved Nsync! I thought I was going to marry one of you when I was thirteen years old."

"Not me, I hope," said Lance, and grinned. "Who was your favorite?"

Ahaha, thought Kris, revenge for the 'did you vote for my husband' thing.

Katy blushed. "JC," she admitted.

Lance nodded. "You have excellent taste," he told her, gravely. "Though I don't think he'd make a very good husband. And now you have your own superstar."

"Not so much a superstar," Kris said.

"You will be," Katy told him, loyally.

"You have a record contract, and a whole lot of national exposure," said Lance.

"Yeah, it's a great start. I never thought I'd actually win."

"It must have been a nerve-racking experience," Lance said, "all those eliminations to get through."

"Yeah, it really was. It was nearly as bad saying goodbye to some of the others as it would've been getting eliminated myself. It's great to be back together again for the tour."

"I know what you mean. You get real close to people on a show like that, even though you're supposed to be in competition."

Kris wasn't sure what to make of that, but Katy knew. "I voted for you all the time on Dancing with the Stars," she said. "And for Joey. I thought that British judge was real nasty to you and Lacey. You should have won."

"Eh, that's how it goes, I guess. We got to the final, which is way better than I thought I ever would. But Brooke's a sweetheart, we got to be such good friends, and she deserved to win. And Lacey and me got to do the tour, which was a lot of fun. Are you traveling with Kris, or just meeting up sometimes?"

"I wish she could be there all the time," Kris said.

"Nah, you and Adam need some boy time," Katy said, poking him in the ribs. "And I have to work. But I get to join them sometimes, like now, and it's great. Oh! Lance, did you meet Adam yet? You have to meet Adam. He's wonderful."

*

Lance was not sure he wanted to meet Adam Lambert. On the one hand, incredibly hot guy, great singer, on the other hand, there was that little throwaway dig he'd made about 'celebrity-magazine bullshit' in his coming-out interview. Lance wasn't sure if that meant him or not, but he'd had too much experience of that kind of crap to discount it completely, and he didn't want to risk having his fears confirmed. "I'm sure he's gonna have a great career, too," he said. "That duet you guys did with Queen in the finale was amazing. Anyway, I guess I should be—"

"Adam!" Katy called, beaming.

"Hey, beautiful," Adam Lambert said, sweeping her into a mighty hug. "You having a good time? Can I make it better?" He was ridiculously good-looking, and that smile.

"I want you to meet Lance Bass," she said, proudly. "Lance, Adam Lambert."

"Oh. Hi."

"Pleased to meet you," said Lance, offering his hand. They shook. "Congratulations on the—"

"Excuse me. Kris, there's someone I'd like you to meet." It was the PR rep from Jive, smiling her shark smile as she propelled Kris ruthlessly on towards the next group of Useful People. Katy, rather uncertainly, grabbed his other hand and was swept away, much to Lance's regret.

It seemed, however, there was no escape.

*

"So... this is where we make polite conversation for about two minutes," said Lance Bass.

Adam was startled. "I wasn't planning on being rude," he said.

"No, that's not what I—We just. If we don't talk to each other at all, tomorrow's gossip column is all about us having a bitchfight about who's the most famous gay in America, and if we talk for too long it's, are Adam and Lance dating now." Bass paused, gave a bright, toothy smile, and looked up at him expectantly.

He thinks I'm going to hit on him, thought Adam. Arrogant little prick! Drake's right here in the room, and anyway it's not like I'd hit on some vacuous guy who spends all his time being photographed coming out of nightclubs. "What, you're saying those are the only two options? That's ridiculous."

"It is, but people like that only think in cliché. If you think it won't happen, it's only because you haven't been in the spotlight long enough yet. These people have one-track minds, and they don't need a whole lot of facts to make up a scenario."

"Does it matter what kind of bullshit goes into a gossip column? Maybe you should just not read them."

"I don't. And it doesn't exactly matter, but you're just getting started, you don't want to be stuck with whatever image they choose to fit on you. You want to make your own story. We should have a, like, a business conversation, talk about your music or your recording contract or something, so if anyone overhears, that's all they got."

"Why would us having a conversation makes the gossip columns at all?"

"It shouldn't, but it will. Look over my left shoulder. The brunette in the pink dress that does her skin tone no favors at all? She's a feed for Perez Hilton. And if you think she hasn't noticed us together..."

"Pretty sure she has," said Adam. "She's coming over."

"Crap," said Bass. "So, when do you start work on your album?"

"Hi, Lance!" It was the brunette in the pink. It really was a dreadful color on her. She and Bass, however, exchanged air kisses—the hypocrite—and she introduced herself as Milla Somethingunpronounceable. "So, the two most gorgeous unavailable guys in New York. You two must have so much in common."

"We were just—" Bass began, but Adam had a better idea.

"We were just talking about music," he said with a carefully engaging smile. "Thinking maybe we should record something together."

"Seriously?" She looked delighted. "That would be so awesome! Are you planning to write something new? Will it be a gay love song?"

"No," said Bass. "We're going to do Flower. The Liz Phair song."

"You heard it here first," Adam said, brightly.

"How fabulous!" Milla Unpronounceable sounded quite breathless. "I should let you boys get back to your conversation. Great to meet you, Adam, love the outfit, mmmm, so hot!" And she flittered away, presumably to text Perez Hilton his completely fabricated story.

"Are you insane?" said Bass, just as though he hadn't played right along.

"Like you said, I want to make my own story. Anyone who runs with that is going to look very foolish."

"Okay, yeah, but—"

"Hey there." It was Drake. "Oh, hi, you're Lance Bass, right?" He leaned forward to shake hands. "I'm Drake LaBry."

"Hi, how're you doing?" Bass said in response.

"Hey, baby." Adam slung his arm very deliberately over Drake's shoulder. "Didja miss me?"

"I did kinda think we might get to spend some time together," Drake said. "Didn't really come right across the country to make small talk to a bunch of... uh."

Lance Bass raised his hands and smiled. "I will let you guys talk to one another," he said, and backed away. "Nice meeting you."

"I didn't mean—damn," said Drake. "I was rude. Was I rude? I didn't mean him, I meant the boring guys in the suits. He's way better looking when you actually meet him, isn't he?"

"Oh, baby, you have been away from me for way too long," Adam said. "Think we can sneak out now?"

* * *

"They were not manufactured! They really sang, all of them!" Katy was pink with indignation. It looked good on her, Kris thought. But then, he was pretty sure anything looked good on Katy. "Anyway, I thought you liked Justin Timberlake!"

"Psst—sweetie? I think that's just 'cause Adam thinks he's hot," said Kris in a mock-whisper.

"Well, and he can sing! Adam wouldn't like him if he couldn't sing!" Katy was not quite getting the idea that guys could lust after people for all kinds of reasons, and talent didn't have to be one of them.

"Okay, okay, I give! I believe you!" Adam had his hands up and was laughing, but Katy wasn't convinced.

"When I get home," she said, "I'm gonna send you proof. Just you wait. If we had time I'd do it now, but the car will be here any second."

"Yeah," said Adam. "And that means, I'm gonna say goodbye now and leave two you alone until it gets here." He got up, hugged Katy, and headed for the door.

Kris wrapped his arms around his wife. "I'm going to miss you so bad," he murmured.

"Me, too. But you'll call."

"Every night," he promised.

"And I will email with those songs," she said, determined. There was nothing quite like a fan whose idol—hah—had been dissed. Adam was in for a hard time.

And then the car was there, and she was gone until September second, Rosemont, Illinois.

* * *

The email didn't come through until three days later, but Kris, very much amused, showed Adam the links, made him promise to listen to all of them (because he wasn't going to lie to Katy, and she'd been very insistent), and being a true friend, sat with him while he did. Turned out, it wasn't painful at all. Katy had sent not song files but YouTube links of some acappella numbers. The video and sound quality on the first one were a bit scratchy, and Adam squawked with laughter at the sight of a very young Timberlake with a ridiculous mass of curly hair, but had to admit, it sounded like they could sing without Autotune. Then a version of O Holy Night, a BeeGees set, and a concert performance with Tim McGraw. Tim McGraw!

"So. Okay." Adam looked thoughtful. "Bass isn't exactly a solo singer, though, is he." Kris looked at him. "Oh, don't give me the puppydog eyes! He can sing. You can tell Katy I said so."

"My wife knows everything," Kris said contentedly, leaning back on the couch. "Did Perez Hilton ever actually run that story?"

"Don't think so. Must not be as stupid as we thought."

"What was the name of the song? The one Lance said you were going to sing together?"

"Flower. By... huh. I don't remember. Liz somebody. You know it?"

Kris shook his head, and, without much expectation, typed Flower, Liz into Google. "Oh, hey. Lyrics." He clicked the link, and read...

"Kris?" Adam snapped his fingers. "Kris? What did you find? You have animé eyes."

"Uh. See for yourself." I want to fuck you like a dog. Not exactly what he'd been expecting.

Adam hauled the laptop across. "What did you—" He stared at the screen, then he looked back at Kris, and howled with laughter.

* * *

Viscaria
Will you dance with me?

September 15th, and those damn papers ought to be here by now. Lisa was chasing them up, but Lance was already feeling doubtful. Why have a business relationship with someone who wasn't proving to be very businesslike?

He snatched up his cellphone as soon as it started to ring. "Hey, babe, did you get it?"

Yeah, thanks, I got plenty. I think we should record together.

Lance stared at his cell in amazement. "Uh. Who is this?"

You don't remember me? I'm heartbroken. We met after the Idol show on Long Island. Adam Lambert. I think you and me should record that song together.

"What? What song?" Actually, he did remember, he remembered very well, but this was still bewildering.

I didn't notice at the time because I didn't know the song, but you had such a great idea, that we should record Liz Phair's Flower together. So, let's do it.

"Okay, this is a joke, right?" Maybe some radio station somewhere was recording this for laughs.

Come on, I don't play jokes on people unless I know them really well. Look, it's a cool song, and I know you can sing. So how about it?

"I'm not really, I don't, I have a project here in New York. I'm not looking to record anything, I don't have time. Besides, aren't you doing your own album?"

Maybe I should come see you. We can talk about this.

Lance considered. This was bizarre beyond words. Obviously it would be completely impossible for him to record something with Adam Lambert. Adam's record company would never allow it. And even if they did, which they wouldn't, Flower? No way. Absolutely no way.

But, if Adam Lambert wanted to try to persuade him, what the hell, why not?

"I'm having some people over for brunch Sunday. If you wanna show up early, say, eleven thirty, I'll listen." He hung up. If Adam Lambert could get ahold of Lance Bass's private number, he could find out where Lance was living. He had five days. Not that Lance expected him to show up. He couldn't possibly be serious.

* * *

Lance Bass's face, as he let Adam into his Manhattan apartment at precisely eleven thirty on Sunday morning, was completely bland. Not a trace of surprise, even, and he had to be at least a little bit surprised that Adam had managed to find out where he lived, didn't he? Not that it had been Adam's doing, he'd just told his PR manager that he needed to go see Lance Bass, and Sheilagh had done the footwork. Sheilagh knew people.

"Come on through. I'm not quite done yet." Bass led the way into his kitchen.

That was a surprise. There were piles of food all over every surface and piles of pans in the sink. Looked like Bass did his own cooking. Adam had assumed he'd have it catered.

"Here, grab a seat." Bass gestured towards one of the tall stools. "Let me get you a drink. You want a mimosa? Or there's coffee, or orange juice."

"Mimosa, thanks," Adam said, settling himself onto the stool. He never ate much breakfast, this stuff looked good, and the kitchen smelled very appetizing. He sipped at his drink and admired the view as Bass bent over the oven and inspected a tray of something. "So." He'd done his research and he was pretty damn sure he could overcome whatever opposition there might be. Just as he was about to get started, his cellphone chirped. "Sorry, excuse me."

HOW R U DOING? It was from Kris.

I SHALL PREVAIL, he texted back.

SOON?

ILL LET U NO.

He would prevail. He wanted to do this. This was going to happen.

"Did you enjoy the tour?"

"The tour? Yeah, it was amazing. I love performing live. You get such energy out of the crowd."

"Yeah."

"It was pretty intense, though. We mostly played five or six nights out of seven, and with all the traveling it was kinda grueling."

"So do you get a rest now? Here, want one?"

Bass was offering him a platter of tiny bomb-shaped things. "Er. What is that?"

"Prunes wrapped in bacon."

"Oh. No thanks." Prunes? Ew.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry, I forgot. Uh. There's some smoked salmon on that platter in the corner, if you want, or there's plenty of pastries. Lots of stuff, really. Uh."

"I'm fine. Really." Bass was slightly flushed, and Adam realized he was embarrassed at offering bacon to the Jewish boy. He clamped his jaws down on the grin that wanted to form. "Anyway, tour's over now, so here I am."

"How's the album going?"

"It's going great. I'm having such an amazing time with it. But we have more work to do on the writing before we can record anything more." He grinned. "Whereas the song I want you and me to work on is all written and ready."

"I don't even get why—"

"See, I'm not talking about including Flower on my album. It wouldn't fit, not the way I want to do it. I was thinking of a web-only release, something viral, you know?"

"And the RCA suits think this is a good idea?"

They hadn't, but Adam had already gotten Sheilagh on his side, and the two of them had been unstoppable. Pity she wasn't here now, but he couldn't exactly invite her along when he was only here on sufferance himself. But they'd worked out exactly what buttons they should be able to push to make this happen. "They do. A little publicity to keep things hot while the album gets made."

"Seriously? Your record company would actually go for this?"

"Sure. I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. I mean, I like my balls right where they are. They won't be officially involved, but they've okayed the idea."

Bass closed his eyes, and sighed. "So who pays for the recording?"

"Me," said Adam, firmly.

"Oh, man," said Lance Bass, and ran a hand through his spiky hair. "I don't know."

"What do you have to lose?"

"I just. I don't."

The entry chime sounded.

"That'll be Lisa," said Bass, with enormous relief.

Fuck it, thought Adam, I had him, I had him! But the moment was gone, so he downed the rest of his drink and waited for Bass to return.

A short, chubby girl bounced into the room and gave him a huge smile. "Hi! I'm Lisa, pleased to meet you! I'm glad you found the place okay."

"She's my assistant," said a voice from the doorway. "And, apparently, a spy in the camp."

"Hey, you invited him, didn't you? Of course I told him where you live. Well, I told Sheilagh, but it's the same thing. You wouldn't want a guest wandering around New York all morning, would you? See, I'm a very efficient assistant," she told Adam, and winked.

Bass glowered at her. Lisa beamed at him. Adam watched, amused and strongly inclined to like her.

"Efficient, hah. You were invited for noon, you're early."

"Only five minutes," Lisa said insouciantly. "I wanted to get one of those cheesy things while they're hot, and I know you, you'll be getting them out the oven any second now, and they're just not the same when they've cooled down."

"You," said Lance Bass, "are a pest. And a mooch." Then the oven timer began to ping. Lisa and Adam grinned at one another as Bass, muttering, got the trays out, and carefully slid a pastry onto a plate and handed it to Lisa. "You want one? It's just cheese and herbs in filo pastry. Or those ones there have mushrooms."

"I should really be going," said Adam, sliding reluctantly off his stool. It was obvious their conversation was over. "You've got guests coming,"

"You're not staying?" Bass sounded mildly scandalized. "I thought you were coming for brunch. I mean, you came across town, least I can do is feed you."

"No, really, it's fine. I wasn't fishing for an invitation."

Now he looked almost pained. "You can't come to my house and not eat something. My momma, and my mimi, and my grandma and all their mothers and grandmothers would rise up in wrath or something. Please. Unless—I mean, if you keep kosher, there's a deli on the next block, I could—"

"No, no, this is fine," said Adam, trying not to laugh as he accepted the hot pastry.

"Good," said Lisa, through a mouthful. "He was going to send me out to get stuff."

"Why d'you think I have an assistant?" said Bass, refilling Adam's glass from the mimosa pitcher. "Oh, somebody else arriving. Excuse me."


Once the first guests started to arrive, the entry chime was in action pretty much constantly, and Adam had no chance of saying anything at all to Lance Bass. There was enough food for every gay man in New York City to show up, but there wasn't that much of a crowd, around two dozen, Adam thought, and not all of them pretty boys, though there were a handful of really cute ones, and the most adorable of the lot—whose name seemed to be Piper—was showing definite signs of interest, so things were looking up. Things with Drake were a bit sticky at the moment, and with a continent between them there wasn't much chance of getting it sorted out. A pretty boy with willing eyes was just what he needed right now.

Lisa plied him with food and drink and introduced him to people. Adam flirted lightheartedly with anyone who wanted to flirt back, accepted the praise of most of the guests and shrugged off the oh, I never watch reality television of two who obviously knew exactly who he was and were trying to make themselves out to be superior, and realized he was having a good time. He would wait until Bass was mellowed by partying and lots of mimosas, and give it another shot.

"Everything okay?" Here was Bass now, urging everyone back to the kitchen for more food. Then he looked up and past Adam's shoulder, and his face lit up with a smile that made him look like a happy teenager. "Fatone! You're late!"

"Some people are never satisfied," whispered Lisa, and Adam snickered behind his mimosa as he turned to see Bass being engulfed by the large embrace of someone who looked almost familiar... from the YouTube stuff, of course, that was the big one who wasn't Justin. Put on a bit of weight since those days.

"I found someone wandering the streets, so I brought him along," Fatone was explaining, and there was another excited cry from Lance Bass, and another full-body hug, this time with a short, stocky guy with dark hair and beard and a laugh like a machine-gun. He looked familiar, too, but Adam couldn't remember his name. Lisa had abandoned him to go and be hugged by the new arrivals, so Adam took his plate back to the kitchen. The food was seriously good, and he'd also happened to notice Piper heading in there just a minute ago.


Adam was—slightly guiltily—making his third trip back for yet more smoked salmon, because it was too delicious to resist, when he bumped, literally, into the stocky guy with the laugh.

"Oh, hey," said the guy. "Haven't seen you at Lance's parties before, do I know you?" He narrowed his eyes and examined Adam interestedly, but seemed to conclude that no, he didn't.

"You're Adam Lambert, aren't you," said a new voice. "Congratulations on making the finals. I'm Joey Fatone." They shook hands. "And this is Chris Kirkpatrick."

"Finals of what?" said Chris Kirkpatrick, juggling plate and bottle (he had, mysteriously, acquired beer) to offer a hand.

"American Idol, dumbass," said Joey. "Don't tell me you didn't watch it."

"Nope," said Chris. "Except for Bikini Girl, saw that on YouTube. I'm guessing you lost, since Joe didn't say anything about winning."

"Nothing wrong with coming second," said Joey.

"I bet Kelly doesn't think so," said Chris. He snapped his fingers. "Hah! Knew I recognized you from somewhere. Rolling Stone, right? So you've joined Lance's gay mafia now?"

"Ah, I don't think so," Adam said, because really. No. "Strictly speaking I'm here on business, I just couldn't escape until I'd eaten."

"He's from Mississippi," said Joey, who apparently thought that explained... something.

"Business?" Chris looked at him with interest. "What kind of business?"

"Ignore him," said Joey. "We never could teach him manners."

"No, it's fine," Adam said. Maybe these two could help him out. "I want Lance to record something with me, but I don't think I persuaded him yet."

"Really?" Joey looked surprised, but not hostile to the idea. "What do you have in mind? I mean, Lance likes those eighties power ballads and stuff, but he hasn't really done anything like that except at karaoke."

"Liz Phair's Flower," said Adam.

"Awesome!" There was the machine-gun laugh again.

"Interesting choice," said Joey, sounding doubtful. "It's not exactly your trademark sound, is it? I mean, there's not a lot of scope for, um, interpretation."

"I think I can do something with it," said Adam, grinning. "Besides, it wasn't my idea. Lance suggested it."

"Really?" said Chris, sounding absolutely enchanted. "Hey, Bass, get your ass in here!"

"Did we run out of something? What's wrong?"

"So how come you haven't given this guy an answer yet?"

Bass looked cornered. Adam felt a tiny bit guilty about that, but not enough to let him off the hook.

"I haven't exactly—"

"It's about time you got back in a recording studio," said Joey, helping himself to more of the evil prune things.

"Oh, like you can talk!"

"But we're not talking about me. We're talking about you—" he prodded Bass in the ribs, "being offered a chance to record with a hot new artist and apparently not saying yes."

"Particularly," said Chris, "when it was your idea."

"It was not my idea!"

"You did suggest the song," Adam reminded him. "I'd never even heard it before."

"You didn't have Chris Kirkpatrick doing his best to corrupt you when you were sixteen," said Bass, testily. "But I didn't—you know I wasn't serious. I just, it seemed like, it was just an impulse."

"Meaning," said Joey Fatone, "that you had a million really good reasons at the time and you don't want to admit to them now." Bass sent him a glare that would have shriveled a buffalo. Joey, unshriveled, calmly ate another prune thing. "Anyway, here's Adam Lambert asking you to record with him, so why not?"

"It's not like we can just step into somebody's garage and make a record," said Bass. "There'd be a lot to arrange. Studio time, and a producer we could agree on, and who exactly pays for what—look, I know you said you'd pay, but that's ridiculous. And I don't even know why you want to do this, it's not part of your album, it's not part of your image, so what is it for?"

"It's," said Adam, and hesitated. How to explain without sounding like an idiot? Because there wasn't a commercial reason for this, not at all, even if he had managed to convince first Sheilagh and then the suits that it would be great publicity. It was just that he'd got that song permanently looping in his brain, despite the frantic rush and adrenalin of the past few weeks on tour he could hear it so clearly, his own voice and the mellow octave-down echo, and it was crazy, it was unnecessary, it was irrelevant, but it was awesome and he passionately wanted to make it happen. How did he convince Lance Bass that it had to be done? "It's... I don't know how to explain. I listened to the song, and I love it. It's stuck in my head. You're right, it's not my style at all, that's why I had to work things out with my PR manager and the record company and figure out a way we could do this. It's right here," he tapped his temple, "the way it ought to be, and I need you to sing it with me. It's, kinda, symbolic? Two completely different gay guys, you see? I mean, you're right, it might even be a crazy thing to do, but I. I really want to do this song."

"Oh, man," said Bass, and it sounded like Adam might just have persuaded him. "I just. I don't know. We'd have to—Chris? What are you doing?"

Chris Kirkpatrick held up his cellphone to his ear and made eloquent 'quiet, now' gestures with the other. "Hi," he said. "It's me. In New York, I crashed Lance's brunch party. Hey, do I sound like I care? It's time you were out of bed, anyway. Listen, I got a producing gig for you." He paused. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. It's Lance. Yeah, seriously. He's going to record with Adam Lambert, and guess what? Liz Phair's Flower. I know! So, you up for it?"

"I am going to strangle you." Bass, in a furious whisper. "Is that—?"

"JC? Yeah. I'll pass you over now," said Chris Kirkpatrick, and handed the cell to Adam, who was a bit taken aback, but offered a cautious hello to whoever was on the other end.

Hi, Adam, I'm JC Chasez and I think it's awesome that you're going to do this with Lance, do you really want me to produce for you, I think you should because I know Lance's voice and I know he can do more than he thinks he can and besides, what a great song, I'm thinking you want it kinda angry, not monotone like the original, build up the emotion and get it really hot, I mean, smoking, we can do a whole lot with it, I think it'll sound amazing, you have a great voice, I saw you on Idol— JC had remarkable breath control, Adam thought, wondering if he'd ever get the chance to speak. He wasn't sure about this new development, working with one of Lance Bass's sometime boybandmates hadn't been part of the plan. On the other hand, JC seemed to have the same handle on the song that he did himself, so maybe it was doable. And JC was suggesting they go out to LA to record in JC's own private studio, which would simplify matters, and while Adam was out there he could spend some time with Drake, which was long overdue.

He handed the phone over to Bass, who said Hi and But and Are you sure? and, eventually, Yeah, okay, and disconnected. "All right," he said. "I'll do it. So long as we get JC to produce."

"Done," Adam said instantly, and they shook on it. Bass looked as though he'd just signed up for one of those Japanese reality shows where you got to stick your head in a tank of cockroaches, but Adam wasn't asking him to look happy about it, just to say yes.

"I think that calls for another drink," said Chris, so Joey popped open a fresh bottle of champagne and they didn't bother with the orange juice. Bass drained his glass, muttered something about having other guests, and fled the kitchen.

"Dude," said Joey, "you're still an evil genius."

"He never could say no to JC," said Chris, grinning. "It's a good deal, though, seriously. 'C knows what he's doing."

Adam was too pleased to argue the point. He'd have time to find out a bit more about Chasez as a producer. "Thanks, guys," he said, happily. "I really want to do this." And, however bizarre it was, even to Adam, he really wanted Lance Bass to do it with him.

"It's about time for Lance to do something crazy again," Chris said. "But you'd better be serious about this. If you make him look like a tool, you're gonna regret it."

"Yeah, that bit about 'two completely different gay guys'? He has to deal with that a lot, so don't fuck him up," said Joey.

"I'm not gonna—I am taking this seriously. If Lance looks like a tool doing it, then so do I, okay? But we won't."

The two of them exchanged glances.

"Okay," they said in unison.


Unsettled by the sudden change of atmosphere in the kitchen, Adam snagged the last of the cheese pastries (Lisa was right, they were better hot) and wandered back to the living room. Most of the guests seemed to have figured that brunch was over now, at, woah, five pm, but he was heartened to see that Piper was still hanging around chatting with Lisa and another brunette Adam recognized from somewhere.

"So, um," said Piper, as Adam insinuated himself into the small space on the couch next to him. "You and Lance—are you—?"

"No!" said Adam.

"God, no!" came a deep and unflatteringly horrified voice from behind him.

"You're not?" Piper looked surprised.

"Absolutely not," said Lance Bass. "Purely a business arrangement. Besides, I met his boyfriend."

"Not boyfriend," Adam said calmly, "we're dating, we're not exclusive. So," he put his arm around Piper's shoulders, "you can take me back to your place with a clear conscience."

* * *

Angelica
inspiration

Lance had not expected to be the odd one out in JC's house. He should have known, he told himself, sourly. He should have known that the two of them would get along like long-lost twins. Apparently they had been 'bonding' over the phone while he had been getting on with his actual work, and when Adam arrived, JC had greeted him with cries of rapture. Their excitement now they were actually in the same room was running at fever pitch, and the decibel level in here was getting dangerous.

It was fucking irritating. The fact that Lance felt like a sucker had already put him into a bad mood—which he was doing his best not to reveal—and the sound of the two of them finishing each other's sentences was just too fucking much. Added to that, it turned out they weren't going to record this thing at all how Lance had expected. He'd assumed—yeah, that was dumb—he'd be singing the lower line, the monotonous bit, and Adam would sing the high, more melodious part. Turned out, Adam was going to do both, and just wanted Lance to sing the monotonous bit an octave down. Which he could do, sure, but he could have done it back in New York and emailed the file. Instead Lance had let himself be persuaded by Adam's sincerity (and Chris's interference, but mostly Adam), and allowed himself to be caught up in JC's excitement, and Lisa's, and actually flown back to California for, what, a half-hour in the studio that was probably going to be semi-audible on the finished song, just like always. It wasn't going to take him long, not even JC's perfectionism could get much of a hold on this.

"It's good to see you back in the studio," JC said, startling Lance out of his thoughts. Damn JC for his endearing smile. Lance could feel himself smiling back, and knew that he was going to forgive JC for this whole stupid endeavor, because he always did. He should stop doing that, Lance thought.

"I've been in plenty of studios," he replied. Not completely true, 'plenty' was a bit of an exaggeration, but he'd done enough session work over the past few years not to have forgotten how to do this. He hadn't been in JC's own studio before, though, and he was impressed—it was a whole lot bigger and more comprehensive than Chris's, but then, he'd expected JC to have the latest everything in here. JC never scrimped on music stuff.

Adam, it was decided, would go first, and of course it took a while to get everything set up, so Lance fitted himself into the chair in the corner, ignored what was coming through JC's spare headphones, and got out his cellphone. Might as well catch up on his emails.

But communications from Wendy about pre-production meetings and from Lisa about his schedule and from Tommy and Joe about the New York set-up and from Stacey about Leighton and the boys didn't hold his attention once Adam started on the song. It was. It was. It was not what he'd expected at all.

Fuck.

They couldn't be expecting Lance to do that? Could they? Surely they'd just want him for balance, just a straightforward bass line singing the tune, such as it was, all, what, five notes of it? They wouldn't want him to sing something so fierce, so aggressive, so furiously sexual? They knew—JC knew, surely, surely Adam knew that Lance wasn't a solo singer, not like that, he couldn't do it like that?

His stomach felt full of knotted snakes. He might not know Adam but he knew JC, and he was beginning to be certain that JC would want him to do it exactly like that. And he didn't know how. He was going to make a complete ass of himself in front of Adam Lambert. Shit, shit.

CALL ME PLS!!! VV URGENT He sent the text, and prayed.

JC and Adam were conferring together, nodding over tiny improvements that might be made. Adam seemed to be encouraging JC's obsessive tendencies, and obediently sang again and again until both of them seemed to be happy with what they'd got. Lance would have been happy with the first take, which was probably why he wasn't a music producer. Or a solo singer. Fuck.

He went outside to warm up. Come on, Joe, come on. Call me.

All too soon, JC's voice summoned him back inside. And, blessedly, at that instant, the ringtone started up.

"Sorry, 'C, I gotta take this," he mumbled, and JC sighed at him in exasperation (because Lance had only been kept waiting for hours already, and JC was going to have to wait for, oh, five minutes now) and went back inside.

He had so much to say to Joey, a tumble of words inside his head, but all that came out was, "Oh, God!"

Oh, man, what's up?

"Joey, I—I need help. I need, like, an emergency. I can't do this."

Sure you can. What is it?

"This fucking song! I can't do it like they want me to!"

The thing with JC and Adam Lambert? What's so hard about it?

"It's not like I thought it'd be. I can't sing it like Adam sings it."

He doesn't want you to sing it like he sings it. He wants you to sing it like you sing it. Joey's voice was entirely too calm and reasonable when the situation called for panic. Otherwise he'd just have gotten a producer to repitch his own voice.

"Yeah, but he was amazing, all growly and, and I have to do it, like, angry, and I don't even know how to do that. How do you sing angry?"

You just—Joey sighed. Lance couldn't blame him. It was a lot to ask—teach me how to sing in a completely different style, right now. Can't you, like, think about something or somebody that makes you angry, and sing it at them? Sing it like you're telling them how angry you are—like they're in the room with you?

He wouldn't even need to imagine, Lance thought, darkly. "I, but. I'd feel stupid. It'd just sound dumb."

Not if you do it with everything you got. You have to forget about looking dumb and do it anyway, do it like you really mean it. Throw everything into it. Take it all the way. Trust JC, he'll tell you if you go too far, he'll pull it back for you if that's what it needs.

"I know what it needs." He knew what it needed. He'd heard Adam, he knew exactly how he ought to do it. He just didn't know if he could.

So, then you can do it. You do this all the time, you take on stuff nobody thinks you can do, and you do it. You did acting classes, you did a Broadway show, you can do this.

"That was easy," Lance protested. "I mean, I just had to look like I was having fun. This is like—"

No. No arguments. You do it.

"I just... I hate feeling stupid. I can't, like..." bare my soul, he thought, but didn't want to say it because how melodramatic was that?

I know, but trust me, you can. I know you never did it before, and nobody pushed you because it wasn't what we needed you to do, but you can do it if you want to. Joey paused. You just gotta commit. It only looks stupid if you hold back. Do you get what I'm saying?

Lance heaved in a breath. "Yeah. I. Guess."

Then get in there, and don't hold back.

"I'll try."

There is no try!

Lance disconnected, and snarled at his phone in frustration. Shit. No escape. He went slowly inside, and down the stairs. "Sorry," he said briefly. The two of them looked up at him in surprise, as though they'd forgotten he was there.

"Right," said JC. "So, okay, Lance, this is what I want you to do—"

"Look, JC," Lance interrupted, "can I just do it like I want to do it? At least the first time?"

"I... guess." JC looked confused. He probably didn't expect Lance to have any input. Lance had always been willing to do just as he was told in the studio before, but Lance had a strong feeling that if JC came up with a list of precise requirements for exactly how he was to hit each syllable, he'd never manage it. They could be here for years.

"Gimme a few minutes, I need to, uh, get it clear in my head," he said, feeling extremely foolish. But he couldn't just go straight in there and do it, not when the song he'd been practicing before had been easy and expressionless.

"You want a drink of water? JC?" Adam suggested, brightly. He was all pleased with himself. He hadn't had any problem with the fucking song.

"Please," Lance said. At least it'd get him out of the room for a few minutes.

"I'll, um, you won't be able to find stuff," said JC, getting out of his chair.

"I'm sure I can find your kitchen, JC. And the refrigerator."

"No, but, there's—I keep the—I'll come show you." And mercifully, the two of them cleared out, leaving Lance with his lyric sheet and the stubby pencil he'd brought for notes.

Who was he angry at? Stupid business partners, he thought, who didn't do what they said they would. Russians. Asshole comedians. Perez Hilton. Reichen Lehmkuhl. Jesse. Justin, for being Justin. JC Chasez, nitpicking record producer.

Adam Fucking Lambert.

Okay. He scanned through the lyrics again, though he knew them by heart, and scrawled the names where he needed them, where he needed to remind himself to feel rage or bitterness or some other flavor of angry. Commit, he told himself, and felt kinda sick. What if it came out sounding dumb anyway? He thought it worked, the new version in his head, but...

JC and Adam came back down the stairs, and Adam offered him a bottle of Evian. Lance took it with automatic thanks, put it straight down without noticing, then headed for the microphone. Headphones on. Listened to the track once, trying to hear his own voice with the intonations it needed to hold. Looked up at JC to signal him to cue it up again, and caught sight of Adam Lambert smirking at him.

Fuck you, he thought, and sang.


That... actually felt like it went well. Lance took a deep breath and raised his eyes. Adam Fucking Lambert was still smirking at him, but JC had producer-face and was nodding his head. "That was good, Lance, that was great, next time can you get a bit more, like, venom in the second verse, and build it even bigger at the end?"

Here we go, Lance thought. Years. But he thought maybe he could do it again better, so he did.


It was better, even better, than the first time, and he really hoped JC would just let it go at that, but of course JC couldn't make it easy, there had to be dozens of micro-adjustments before he would let Lance get out of here. Sometimes he didn't even bother to discuss them with Lance, only with Adam, and Lance would stand there with a fuzzy noise coming through his cans and the two of them enthusing at one another over some detail that could be perfected. The trouble was, the longer this went on, the more Lance could feel his hold on the song slipping away. He was pretty sure it was actually getting worse, and JC was all frowny and frustrated.

"Can I make a suggestion?" Adam said, mercifully to both of them. "I think we should sing it at one another."

"Uh..." said Lance, uncertainly.

"Just to get the feeling that we're fighting as we sing. I think if we get up in each other's faces we can get that hostility back again."

"Sure," JC said, eagerly. "Go for it."

He played the bare, minimal backing track through the speakers, and the two of them stood there, a yard apart, singing the fucking song at each other, and Lance had never felt so ridiculous.

JC stopped the track. "Lance," he said, sternly. "Don't hold back, you don't have to. You're not singing with Justin here. Adam has a big voice, you don't need to keep it low power, just let it out. Hit it hard."

Yeah, Lance thought, because it's just that easy. But he was damned if he was going to let Adam Lambert laugh at him again, so he filled his lungs and said, right, and this time he sang it hard, he sang it like a weapon, glaring up into Adam's eyes and hurling out the words point blank, fuck you, I'll make you like it.

Then it was done, and he was suddenly exhausted. I'm never going to do solo stuff, he thought to himself. Not if they have to do this all the time. Pulling out emotions and throwing them at the music, it was too much.

"You got a lot of voice there," Adam said, and was that grudging admiration? Surely not.

"Yeah!" said JC, almost whooped, in fact. "That was fantastic! You guys wanna hear how it sounded?"

So they listened to it, and after that, Lance thought he could try it one more time because he was still feeling the rage, and this time it came out perfect.


"Are you sure you don't wanna take another shot?" JC sounded more disbelieving than disappointed, which Lance figured meant it was fine.

"Is there something you want me to change, 'C?" he asked, and drained the last drops of Evian with relief. He'd never felt so shattered in the studio before, not even after one of the marathon sessions.

"Nnnn-o-o-o," JC admitted reluctantly. "But, you know."

"No, then." JC would do a thousand takes, if a producer was fool enough to let him. Lance wasn't willing to do that. He was done. He felt better, a lot better, because he knew he'd gotten it right. JC could use what he'd got, and Lance was going to take Wendy out to dinner, far, far away from here, and talk about his nice, familiar business.

"I'm gonna want to do mine again," said Adam.

"You don't need me around for that," Lance said quickly. "I should get over to see Wendy. I'm done here, right, 'C?"

"Oh, yeah, sure, almost," said JC. "All I need from you now is sex noises."

"What?"

Adam Lambert burst out laughing, an annoyingly rich belly laugh, seized JC by the ears and kissed him right between the eyes. "Sex noises! JC, I love you! You are a genius."

JC backed up a bit but grinned enthusiastically. "Yeah. Just background, you know, but it'll be really cool. We want some really happy noises, like, moaning, and some grunting and, you know, uh, uh. Just like you were fucking."

"You want me to make... sex noises." In front of you and Wonder Boy here. Not going to happen. "No."

Two pairs of beautiful, sea-coloured eyes looked at him like he'd just killed their puppy.

"But," JC began.

"Absolutely not." Nobody had said anything about sex noises. JC seemed to realize that it was game over. He still looked pathetically disappointed, but Lance was not giving in, not this time.

"You would make such great noises." Adam didn't appear to recognize a flat veto when he heard one. "All deep and dark and sexy, grarrrr! Don't say no! This song is going to be so, so awesome, let's make it perfect, yeah? It won't be right with just my voice in the background, we need your bass. Please?"

And Lance felt his resolution sliding. God damn it, he thought, how does he do that? I didn't even want to be here in the first place, and now... "Oh, for fuck's sake," he said.

*

"Is JC out?" Adam asked curiously as their distracted host checked his files just one more time. "I don't wanna say the wrong thing."

"JC? He's not gay."

"Really? But he's all..."

"Oh, yeah, he does that. Music turns him on."

Adam looked at him suspiciously, but Bass didn't seem to be joking. "Did he get hard on stage?"

"Oh, yes."

"So... didn't it get kinda embarrassing with all those thirteen-year-old girls watching?" Adam knew the feeling, but he was generally playing to a more mature audience.

"I think the girls who were old enough to notice were also old enough to appreciate it," Bass said. "Google 'JC Chasez, happy pants'. You'll see."

"And he's—just enjoying the music, right now?"

"I think music and sex are pretty much different places on the same spectrum for JC."

"Huh. Interesting. Maybe we should write something together."

"Hoo, boy," said Bass, and laughed, but didn't explain what he meant. Ah, screw him. It could be cool, writing with JC. Adam had looked him up on Wikipedia and talked to a few people—he couldn't rely on Katy for all his info—and his solo album was a blast. Plus, they were totally on the same wavelength with Flower, which was going to be the awesomest thing ever. Well, until the album was done.

"JC, I am not doing any more grunting. If you haven't got the perfect orgasm noise, do it yourself. I'm leaving."

JC emerged for a quick hug. "Fucker. You know, if you get horny later, you could always tape—no, okay, okay. We're good."

Bass rolled his eyes, but grinned. "You just go put it all together and make it sound like some crazy orgy, or whatever it is you're gonna do." He held out a hand to Adam. "Thanks for asking me to do this. I hope it turns out okay."

"Thank you," said Adam, promptly. "You did a great job."

"Give me a heads up when you're leaking it, okay? We don't want to get our stories crossed." And he left.

Adam turned to JC. "You got some sounds you can use, right? I wasn't so convinced by the sex noises."

"I can use them. Have to do some tweaking. I don't think it was exactly Lance's thing, you know?"

"Maybe he just has a boring sex life," Adam suggested.

"I wouldn't know about that," said JC, primly, then looked at Adam with a frown. "So, you and Lance, you're not—"

"No, we're not!" Really, why did everybody assume he was fucking Lance Bass?

"No, I guess you wouldn't shake hands if you were. Huh. Lance does all kinds of crazy stuff for his friends. But I really didn't think we'd get any kind of sex noises, not after he said no, usually when Lance says no, that's it. He was always the final word, you know, on all the business decisions for the group, and when Lance said enough, we stopped."

Adam was surprised. He didn't get the impression of Bass as an authority figure. Anyway, it didn't matter. "I wanna re-record my track, before we get on to the countermelody. I think I can do more, now I have the bass line to work with."

"Let's get to it," said JC, eagerly.

* * *

So, how'd it go?

"Hey, Joey. How did what go?"

The recording session, what else?

"Oh, yeah. Good. It was good."

You managed to sing angry?

"Yeah."

Told you. There is no try. What was he like to work with?

"JC? Surprisingly—"

Hey, none of that. Adam Lambert, what was he like? Did you enjoy it?

"We sang together, Joey, you make it sound like we did something dirty."

I bet you don't wanna play your grandma that song, Joey said, evilly.

"Oh, God. JC had us make... never mind. But I think it's going to be good."

And Adam?

"What about Adam?"

How did you get along?

"Fine. He's very professional."

Is that it?

"What else is there?" Lance kept his tone light and indifferent, hoping that for once in his life Joey Fatone would take the hint, but no.

The way I see it, he's just your type, tall, dark and handsome, and gay. So...?

"He's really not my type," Lance insisted. But Joey knew him well, and just laughed. "Okay, he's good-looking, but, you know. We're a lot different. He wears dresses!" Lance knew that wasn't entirely fair, but there were pictures.

You look good in a dress, remember?

"I thought we were trying to erase that from our minds?"

I'm just saying. Adam Lambert, hot guy. Surely you've thought about it?

Attack was the best form of defense. Lance deepened his voice. "Think very carefully, Joe. Do you really want to know about my sex fantasies?"

There was a long pause. Briahna really loves that book you sent her, Joey said eventually.

"Horton rocks." Lance smirked. "Is she reading it on her own?" He didn't think he'd have any more nonsense from Joey.

* * *

Purple Carnation
capricious, whimsical, changeable

"So, how are you?"

Oh. You know. Fine, really. Busy.

"Okay, that sounds terrible. Come on, tell Uncle Kris all about it."

It's just that, I don't know, I thought Drake was going to stick around for longer. I mean, sure, I was touring, but he knew that, and he came to visit and I thought he was okay with it, and I thought he was okay with us not being exclusive, it didn't seem any more fair to him than to me.

"Because he got just as many guys coming on to him as you did, right?"

I—no, but, you know what, he probably had more time to go out looking! Kris's mouth twitched. Right. And then he said it's all or nothing, and so...

"And you went for nothing," Kris said.

I wasn't ready to commit to Drake that way. He knew that, at least I thought he did. I couldn't lie to him, I wouldn't do that.

"It seems like you did the right thing. You wouldn't want to be in a relationship that felt wrong."

I just don't seem to be able to get it right. But Kris thought he sounded as much puzzled as miserable, so maybe things weren't quite so bad after all.

"Maybe he was just your rebound guy. You aren't supposed to stick with your rebound girl, guy, whoever. Now you can start again."

See, I don't really buy that. I don't see why the relationship right after a breakup should automatically be doomed. I mean, if that's true, all relationships would be doomed, wouldn't they, except your first love.

Kris, who had married his first love, could see the justice in that. "But it was your choice, wasn't it? You chose to break up with him."

Yeah.

"So he wasn't right for you."

Adam sighed. No, I guess. But what if that wasn't true? What if I just made the wrong call?

"Do you think you made the wrong call?"

...No.

"There you go, then."

You know, Uncle Kris is supposed to be a lot more sympathetic than this!

"Tough love, baby. It's what all the coolest uncles are into these days."

Well my favorite uncle was the one who used to sneak me candy when I was little and cash when I was a teenager, so I think you've got a ways to go. He paused. I guess... it's not really Drake I'm missing, it's not like we got to spend that much time together anyway. It's, it's having someone. Ah, hell, let's talk about something else.

"Tell me how the album's going," Kris said before Adam could ask him the same thing. Because he had a notion that Adam's mood wasn't just caused by the breakup, and hearing about Kris's completely problem-free life might not help a whole lot.

And that was Adam's rueful laugh. Yeah, you know how I told you there'd been some changes among the suits at RCA? Turns out some of them are a bit wary of me doing the music I want to do. There's been all kinds of talk about how I should tone it down, make it a bit more respectable, bit more mainstream, whatever. It's so fucking stupid, it makes me crazy.

Kris shook his head in disbelief. "So... not going so well, huh?"

Most of it is going great. I've been working with these amazing people, so much of what we're doing is exactly what I wanted to do. Then the fucking suits come around and whine about needing something commercial for the single, which I get, I really do, but you know.

"They really don't know what they've got, do they." It wasn't even a question. Kris's own album had been going so smoothly it was hard to believe, he still woke up every morning thinking, is it real? Is it really happening? But he could imagine how Adam's brand of flamboyance was hard for the 'suits' to get a handle on.

Plus, they don't want me to write songs about fucking boys. He sounded downright sulky about that, and Kris had to stifle a laugh.

"How many songs do you have about fucking boys?"

Oh, you know. Not that many. Not all of them. I have plenty of songs that aren't about fucking at all. But I'm not going to write stuff about falling in love with some girl when everybody knows that's not me. And there has to be room in the market for somebody to be doing this stuff. My fans are going to want it, and people who don't get me and don't like The Gay aren't going to be buying my album anyway, so what are they about? Sorry, I guess I'm getting very boring on the subject. Let's just say, I'm mostly happy in my work, so long as I'm allowed to actually do it.

"Everybody hates management," Kris offered, helplessly. Truth was, he was getting on fine with his own suits, but then, there wasn't exactly an image problem with a sweet, old-fashioned, happily married Christian boy who wore plaid because he liked it. His problem, he thought, would be getting himself noticed among all the other nice guys. The only solution he had to that was writing the best songs he could write and singing them the best he could sing them, and he was doing that, so. "Oh, I almost forgot. Katy wants to know when she's going to hear that song you did with Lance Bass. She about died of envy when I told her you were recording with JC Chasez."

Yeah, JC's great. And that's another thing, I wanted to maybe do a couple of numbers with him, but—sorry, sorry. Back to the whining, gotta stop that. I don't know if anyone's ever going to get to hear Flower. It kills me, it's so good and I can't—Sheilagh and I managed to convince the old suits that it'd be good publicity, but the new ones aren't going for it. They say I don't need that kind of publicity. It's all the same crap, over and over. But I can send you a copy. I, um. Not sure Katy's going to love it, though.

"I'm pretty sure she will."

Adam laughed. Um. Hmm. Okay. I'll email it, but if she doesn't like it, tell her it's okay, she doesn't have to.

* * *

Katy thinks it's fantastic. So do I, by the way, but she's about ready to fall down and worship you.

"Cool!" said Adam. "I love that girl."

Yeah, me too.

No kidding, they were adorably gone on one another. Sweet and... uncomplicated. Adam envied that. It felt like he was never going to find someone who'd stick with him. Ironic how Drake had finally ended things while Adam was in LA, when he'd been one of the reasons Adam had wanted to record Flower there. Not the only reason, sure, but still. Drake wanted more than scraps of time and he didn't have any more than scraps while his career was taking off like a runaway semi, he couldn't just abandon the wheel.

"So," Adam said, wrenching his thoughts back on track and trying to sound upbeat. "A positive audience reaction. That's good!"

And, if you want more, Katy told me, well, she has some advice for you. Marketing stuff, how to speak to the suits. You get them to look at Flower as a market test.

"Er, yeah?"

You weren't planning to use it on your album, right?

"Of course not."

So you persuade the suits to use the song as a test of the market. Let it out, pretend it got leaked by accident, see what the response is like. People do it all the time. If it gets hot, then you'll have the proof that the kind of stuff you want to do is going to sell. If it doesn't... okay, if it doesn't do anything, then the suits win. But it will.

Adam felt a slow grin spread across his face as he assimilated this. "You know, that's—that could work."

You need to talk it up better'n that, obviously. I don't do the marketing-speak, but.

"That's okay, Sheilagh can do that. She was pissed when they vetoed it in the first—the second place, she'll go for this, I bet. I think we can make it work." He laughed. "And if we can't, at least I'll get to see their heads explode when they hear it."

* * *

Lance had this weird feeling in his stomach. It took him some time to figure out why it felt familiar, because it had been a while, but eventually he identified it as the same feeling he'd had back when they'd had an album out, or a new single. Especially way back at the beginning. When they'd just recorded their first single, it had been agony waiting for it to hit the airwaves, hit the stores, waiting to see if anyone liked it. He'd had the same kind of feeling waiting for No Strings to make it big, too, not as much, though, because he'd been confident it would, and by the time Celebrity came around he'd been pretty calm about the whole deal. He hadn't felt so involved with Celebrity anyway, not when he'd been up in Canada filming while half the album was created, and it had been the Justin and JC show all the way.

But now. Now, he'd been really involved. He'd been important. His voice mattered. He'd heard the finished track—JC had sent him a copy a mere three days after their studio session, which had to be a record for JC—and it was amazing, yes, even the sex noises. As long as his parents never, ever got to hear it, he wanted it out there. He hadn't even played it to Lisa, because he had promised not to share it with anyone, and Lisa had given up pleading and just went around with big sad reproachful eyes all the time, which was fucking irritating.

And it seemed that Adam Fucking Lambert wasn't going to do anything with it after all. Not a word, nothing, and the song was just languishing. It was all right for Adam, he was busy making his actual record, and if he recorded a bunch of tracks that didn't make it onto the album, that was just par for the course. But he'd made out that Flower was so important. Maybe Adam had seriously just wanted to make the recording and it didn't matter what happened after, but Lance wasn't like that, he didn't record stuff just for the artistic satisfaction, he wanted it to have a point.

Eventually, Lance couldn't stand it any longer. He called Joey to gripe.

Oh, yeah, Flower. It's amazing, man, I was going to call you right this minute! I told you you could do it. How come you didn't send me a copy?

"I was just—I was—it was Adam's thing, not mine, I didn't share it with anyone yet. Don't tell me JC sent it you."

Sure. I called him just a few minutes ago, he said he was leaking it and did I want it, so I said sure.

"JC is leaking it?" Lance felt something clutching queasily in his stomach. If Adam wasn't ready to have this public, and JC let it out...

Yeah, of course. You know he's been letting a bunch of songs out onto the internet lately, he just passed it along like usual.

"Oh. Okay. I should probably call him, find out what the story is."

Sure. But, Lance? It really is good.

"Yeah. Thanks, Joe."

*

You did know it was going to be leaked. JC sounded as though Lance was the one being unreasonable. I mean, that was the point, right from the beginning.

"Yes, but, I didn't—how come you leaked it?"

Oh, you know, plausible deniability for Adam. He talked his suits into it—

"He told me they agreed already!"

Oh, that was different ones, you know what record companies are like. And I've been letting stuff out anyway, you know, so this was the easiest way to get it out there. Can't wait to hear the buzz!

"No. I mean, right."

So the story is, we were just messing around in the studio together, and you guys tried this song, you know, just casually, and then it got mixed up with some other stuff and was never supposed to be leaked.

"Nobody who's ever met you will believe you produced it 'casually', JC."

JC huffed. Okay, just for fun, then. Anyway—

Lance's phone beeped. He checked the number. It was Adam Lambert. "JC, I have a call waiting, I think I should take this one. Talk to you soon, okay?"

* * *

Zinnia
thoughts of friends

Katy says thank you for the flowers.

Adam grinned. "She deserves them. If it wasn't for her, I'd never have gotten Flower out, and if it wasn't for that, there's at least four songs that wouldn't have made it onto the album."

Your suits were convinced, then.

"Oh, yeah. The fan sites are buzzing like crazy. It's been such a trip watching it all, like, people not believing it was for real, and all the arguments about who was really singing it. Did you see what Lance Bass put on his Myspace?"

You linked me to it, remember?

"Oh, right, I forgot."

I thought he did it beautifully, pitched it just right.

"Hmm. I thought he could have used a spellcheck," said Adam, who was particular about spelling. Lance had called him to suggest he should put out a 'confirmation of the fan rumors' message, and he had done a good job, it was true, but 'absolutly'? Pah.

But it was sorta bashful, gee shucks mom, I did this thing with some friends and now everybody knows about it, I thought that was smart. And hey, if you think Lance's spelling is bad, don't read the comments.

"God, no. If they're like everywhere else it'll be all speculation about are we sleeping together."

You can't possibly be surprised about that. Two famous, good-looking gay guys, what else did you expect?

"You think Lance Bass is good-looking?" Adam pretended to pout, which was a bit pointless since Kris was five states away.

Hey, don't pout. But obviously psychic. Adam sat up and stopped pouting. Sure, he's good-looking. You could do a lot worse. Anyway, if it takes the heat off me... And there was Kris's wicked, deep-in-the-throat chuckle.

"You know, it's funny, I thought I'd get the song out of my head when we'd recorded it, and I kind of did, except... now we're working on the video for my single, I can't help wishing we could do one for Flower. I mean, it's crazy, but it's in my head."

Did you ask Lance if he'd make a video with you?

"Oh, hell, no. I said I thought it would be cool, and he got all practical about how much it would cost and how it wouldn't fit with our story about just doing the song for fun."

He probably thinks you're a lunatic.

"Nah, he's just boring. I mean, okay, I know it's crazy when I have so much else going on that I need to do, stuff that actually matters, that I have this completely unnecessary thing in my mind. It's funny. It's like, I'm giving myself time not to think about my own songs and how important this album is for me."

Thinking about a video you can't make lets you relax a little bit?

"Yeah, it does. There's no stress, you know? I mean, I love what we're doing with the single, I really do, it's going to be fabulous. It's just, you know. Pressure. The single really matters. And I've been focused on the album for so long. And we shoot the video the day after tomorrow. I have to think about something else or I'll really go insane! And with the Flower video I don't have to get into the actual details, you know? Just the concept and the imagery and how to make it sexy."

I'm afraid to ask.

"Oh, no, it's not, well, it is a little, it wouldn't be that outrageous. Not like—wait till you see what we do for the single! No, it was just, when we were working on recording with JC, the two of us sang it sort of at each other, because honestly I think he was having trouble keeping the focus and I thought maybe doing it together would help, and it did, and now I have this visual of us singing right in each other's faces." Himself in something black and leather and flamboyant, big flashy rocks in his ears; Bass in a white T-shirt, tight across the shoulders. "Profiles, either side the screen, getting closer all the time until we're up in each other's faces. Of course, he'd have to stand on a box. He's practically a midget." Adam grinned to himself at Kris's splutter of indignation. Bass was taller than Kris. "And images, hands crushing flowers, pink roses or peonies, something big and showy, and petals falling down, and also..." Also clothes ripping and falling, and images of sheets and naked flesh and hands, too quick to be sure what was happening. Though the fans would frame by frame it, he thought wistfully. "Oh, well. Not gonna happen."

Hmm. It sounds kinda sexy.

"Oh, yeah. It'd be really hot."

So are you rethinking the whole Lance Bass, not my type, thing?

"What? No!"

Are you sure?

"You know, that's the thing people seem to be missing about Flower. Everyone's obsessed with are we fucking now, but it's really about us being completely different. Like, I'm me, and he's just... He's all wholesome and family-friendly, and spends half his time at the gym and the other half in the pool." Not that he had noticed Lance Bass's exercise-toned waist. Or his arms. Not noticed noticed.

You seem to spend an awful lot of time thinking about stuff the two of you could do together.

"It's not Lance Bass, it's the song! Seriously, he's so not my type."

You know, Katy said to me, if one of her girlfriends kept insisting that a guy wasn't her type the way you keep saying about Lance, she'd be sure they'd be dating within a month. And in my house we have a rule that Katy is always right.

"Maybe, but I'm not a girl."

You look awful good in a dress, though.

"You know, if you were here right now I would so smack you for that!" Kris chuckled. He was an evil little brat sometimes. Which was basically why Adam liked him so much. "Anyhow, I'm sorry, but Katy's wrong about this. I am not interested in dating Lance Bass."

Maybe you just wanna have sex with him.

"Okay, I think we're done with the subject of my repressed longings for Lance Bass's fine, fine body. Tell me what you've been doing since last week."

*

Adam didn't have a lot of time to spare for watching television, but Katy had emailed to let him know that Lance Bass was going to be on one of the late-night shows and she was sure he'd be asked about Flower. He didn't intend to bother with it, but somehow, he found himself channel-surfing at the right moment and ended up watching Lance Bass being sweet, charming and self-deprecating (and fidgety as hell) as he talked about some TV pilot he'd done. They played a clip of it, and Adam was surprised. It was funny.

He answered the Flower question very cleverly, too, managing without actually lying to convey the impression that he and Adam had just somehow happened to find themselves in JC's studio and he was as surprised as anyone to find that the song had become something of an internet phenomenon. Looked completely genuine, too, all big green eyes and toothy smile. And he said some very flattering things about Adam that he didn't actually need to say. Which was nice.

Whatever. He still wasn't Adam's type.

*

Writhing and heat and the most fantastic noises and slicksmooth sweaty limbs tangled and big green eyes and hothothot fucking, slamming, ramming, and—

Adam woke up suddenly, heart racing and almost painfully hard.

He was not alone in the bed.

He couldn't have, surely he couldn't have... except, right next to him, an untidy dirty-blond head facing away from him on the pillow, and the sheets were a riot, and had he really had incredible sex with...

"Lance?" he said tentatively, touching a bare shoulder.

"The fuck?" said a voice that was more of a tenor than a bass, and when the guy turned around his dark brown eyes were glaring. "The name," he said, coldly, "is David." And got out of bed and went... wherever. Adam was so thrown by the whole thing he didn't get his wits in order in time to cajole, er, David out of his perfectly justifiable pique. Not that it would have been easy. Adam knew he'd gaped like a goldfish when the face that turned to him wasn't Lance Bass's face. Crap. If he'd ever been more embarrassed in his life, he couldn't remember it.

It had been good sex, too. But the dream sex was better.

*

A couple of mornings later, he was fortunately alone when he woke up to the memory of another ridiculously erotic dream featuring Lance Bass, and a raging hard-on. Okay, he thought, let's go with it, so he deliberately conjured up the images again, those strange green eyes looking up at him, that mouth stretched around his cock, deep silk-wet heat and bass vibrato.

Ohhh, yes.

Showering off the mess, he had to think about this. Why the fuck was he fantasizing about Lance Bass? Dreams—couldn't help what happened in dreams, except if they were supposed to mean... something. But Lance Bass as a symbol of—of what? No, that didn't work. These were sex dreams, no significance attached. They just meant that somehow he'd got Bass and Flower permanently mixed up in his head. He'd been thinking of the video images, that was all.

Because of course he'd been imagining a video with blowjobs.

Admit it, he told himself, that doesn't fly either. Even if it was just the association with Flower—and if Adam was going to be truly honest with himself he had to concede that it wasn't—he was going to have to admit it to himself. He thought Lance Bass was... attractive. Sexy? No, not sexy, fuckable, he was fuckable. Sexy implied it was Lance Bass in his entirety who was attractive, and Adam was not going there. He stepped out of the shower and began to towel himself dry.

Leaving aside the fact that he and Bass had nothing in common apart from being gay, it would be insane to even contemplate getting involved with him. The publicity would be horrendous. It had been bad enough when they'd leaked Flower, every prurient paparazzo in the city—in the country!—assuming they were fucking and doing his best to get pictures of the two of them together. "Which, luckily, we weren't," he reminded his reflection, which nodded decisively back at him.

Anyway, he didn't have any desire to get involved with Lance Bass, who was as conventional as an ex-boybander turned Hollywood businessman could possibly be. Adam tried to imagine Bass at Burning Man, shaking hands with everybody and handing out business cards. He couldn't be interested in someone like that.

He was probably dull in bed, too, or at any rate he'd be conventional. Safe. Missionary position and blushes. What would it be like to kiss him properly, deep and dirty and wet and—

Adam was supposed to be not thinking about that.

No, wait, maybe he should think about it. Maybe if he thought about it when he was awake he'd stop having these incredible dreams.

Or. Maybe. He should do it. Maybe the way to stop the fantasies was to have the reality right there for reference, reality sex that would just be ordinary sex, not blazing white-hot erotic masterpieces.

Hmm.

Adam examined the idea as he dressed. Fuckable Lance Bass was not, as far as he knew, in any kind of committed relationship, so no foul there. The paparazzi had stopped paying them particular attention, so no risk of anything crazy blowing up from it, not immediately anyway. What was the worst that could happen? Bass might turn him down... Like that was going to happen—Adam's memories of their first meeting were clear enough. No, he thought. He won't do that. So the worst that could happen... would be bad sex, which would actually be good, because that would stop the fantasies. Really, this was the perfect solution. The more he thought about it, the more appealing it was. In fact, if he didn't have to get back to work he'd lie back down on the bed and think about it some more, but he couldn't be late.

Anyway, problem solved. All he had to do now was have sex with Lance Bass.

* * *

Pink
boldness

Now that Adam had decided to go along with his subconscious, he didn't see any merit in waiting around. The bold approach, he thought, that was the one to go with. So he dialed, and when the phone was answered with a cheerful Hello, he said, "I think we should have sex."

There was a pause. You know, Lance Bass said, eventually, it wouldn't hurt you to make a phone call like a normal human being once in a while. Hi, this is Adam Lambert, how are you, is this a good time, that kind of thing. And then I could say something normal too, like, Hi Adam, good to hear from you, let me take you off speakerphone.

There was a distinct, unquestionably feminine giggle.

"Ah. Am I on speakerphone?"

Not any more.

"Er. Oops?" said Adam, trying not to laugh. "Sorry."

Don't worry, it's only Lisa. Who is leaving the room RIGHT NOW. There was a faint "Bye Adam!" then a very pointed sigh from Bass. So, what can I do for you?

"Like I said, I think we should have sex."

Seriously, I have actual work to do, could you get to the point, please?

"Sex. S - E - X. You, me."

There was a bewildered laugh. But, I—why? I mean...

"Because," said Adam, carefully, "even though you are totally not my type—"

You're not my type either, just so you know.

Strange how that stung, a little, even though he didn't care if he was Lance Bass's type or not. "So what is your type, then?"

Let's see. My last boyfriend was a fighter pilot turned model. He had the most magnificent thighs ever.

"Wasn't he also a psycho?" Adam said, unwisely.

Apparently you know all about my relationship with Reichen. I suppose Cheeks is also a psycho, and that's why you're not dating any more.

Adam's breath caught in his throat, and he opened his mouth to say something blistering, but before he could, Bass interrupted.

I'm sorry. That wasn't—but, you know. Reichen was, he helped me a lot when I came out. I won't ever forget that. And just because other people see it one way, doesn't mean that's how it was. You must know that.

Adam paused. He had been out of line, after all, and if Bass had a hell of a return, well, he was probably entitled to be pissed. He took a deep breath. "Okay, bad line of conversation. Not helpful. So you're not looking for me and I'm not looking for you. But I think you're... I think you're stuck in my head. So maybe we should, how shall I put this, suck it and see?"

Oh, Lord. A pause. All right. Okay. Sex it is. Where and when do you want me?

That was unexpectedly easy. "Uh. I'm in New York right now, doing some TV appearances. Then I go out to LA day after tomorrow for some more."

Okay, then, said Lance Bass, altogether too cheerfully, when you get to LA and have some free time in your schedule, give me a call. I'll see if I can fit you in.

He hung up on me, Adam thought, incredulously. And he wasn't taking me seriously at all.

But Adam was going to be free Sunday, after the early morning thing, and most of Monday. So hah, Lance Bass, you'd better get ready, because Adam Lambert is coming.

At which point the double meanings got too much for him, and he collapsed onto the couch and laughed until his stomach hurt.

* * *

So Adam Lambert was really on his way here, to Lance's house, ostensibly for sex... Lance couldn't actually believe that. This was obviously some weird mind-games thing Adam was playing, for reasons Lance couldn't begin to guess. Or else there was some new gay-friendly TV show doing the Punk'd thing that Lance hadn't heard of, except that Lance not knowing about such a thing was actually even less likely than Adam Lambert wanting to have sex with him. He thought it was. He was pretty sure.

He'd find out soon enough what was really going on, as the gate had just called to say they'd let him through. And he was on his own, no attendant camera crew, apparently.

So maybe... No, he must try to convince himself there was something else, something completely different, behind this. Because he was getting awful butterflies. If Adam was, could he possibly be serious? Was there any chance that he'd actually been thinking about Lance, too?

And there was a car crunching on the graveled drive. Lance liked gravel. Nobody could sneak up on him.

Calm, keep calm. Cool, calm and collected, Lance told himself as he went to the front door.

The dogs, excited, followed Lance to the door, and greeted the visitor with their usual idiotic rapture. Adam scored quite a few points by bending down to greet them back, until Lance managed to quell the riot and persuade the dogs back into the house.

"So, hi," said Adam Lambert, taking off his sunglasses.

"How are you doing?" Lance greeted him automatically. "Come on inside." He ushered the dogs through and out into the back yard.

Inside, Adam looked around, apparently not much impressed. When he got enough money for a place like this, Lance thought, Adam would probably hire a very much more adventurous decorator. Instead of a tasteful (and okay, arguably dull) vestibule in various shades of beige, he'd have purple suede walls and snakeskin tiles and mirrors everywhere. Or something.

"I'm sorry, I'm expecting a call any minute, but, uh. Can I get you anything?"

Adam produced a somewhat predatory smile. "No, thanks, I'm good."

I'll just bet you are, Lance thought. "Why don't you make yourself comfortable."

"Mmm." Adam looked around the room, in which there were pale, comfortable couches and easy chairs and giant cushions, and waggled his head. "I'm thinking we really need a bed for this. I hope you changed the sheets."

"Oh, God, no. I have people to do that for me," said Lance.

Adam laughed, and Lance was yet again annoyed with himself because he liked that laugh, the way it seemed to come from deep inside, the way it sounded so spontaneous and. Sexy. Damn it.

His cellphone chirped out Wendy's ringtone, and he blessed her immaculate timing. "Sorry—this won't take long."

"I'll just go upstairs, then. Your bedroom is—?"

"Left at the top of the stairs, far end. Hi, Wendy, how's it going?" Adam sauntered out of the room, swinging his leather jacket over his shoulder. His jeans were very tight. "I—sorry, could you repeat that? I was distracted for a moment there."

Wendy, bless her, was as crisp and efficient as always, and they ripped through her list in no time. Just as well, as Lance's concentration was good for maybe another thirty seconds. "Okay, babe," he said. "Have a good flight." She was leaving at ass o'clock tomorrow, hence the conversation now.

So. Time to find out.

Lance went upstairs.

Adam had not bothered to close the drapes, so the mid-afternoon sunshine was blazing in. There was a black leather jacket slung casually over the chair by the door. Firmly suppressing a smile, Lance put it onto a hanger and hung it behind the door. Everything else he left on the chair.

He looked at the long, pale streak of self-confidence lying naked on his bed. "Nope, not my type at all," he lied cheerfully, and grinned to himself as he undressed.

* * *

Lupin
voraciousness; admiration

Adam, supine on the plum-colored comforter, stroked his cock lazily as he watched Lance Bass take off his clothes. The body underneath was the color of pale toast pretty much everywhere. He was a lot more solid than Adam's usual partners—but there might be something to be said for abs that actually rippled, and those thighs were definitely giving Adam some ideas. With the sunlight on him, Bass was—yeah, okay, he could admit it, so long as it didn't have to be out loud. Bass was fucking gorgeous.

Lance Bass slid carefully onto the left side of the bed and lay down on his side. "So, Adam Lambert," he said, and he was using a register that ought to be illegal, "what do you like to do in bed?"

That was easy. Adam tilted his head sideways and let loose his most shameless grin. "Everything." Come on, then, Bass. Show me what you got.

"Mmm. Ambitious." Lance Bass had amazing yellow-green eyes, unblinking, like a cat's. "Me, I'm just a sweet old-fashioned boy. How 'bout we stick to the basics, okay?" He leaned forward and brushed the feather-lightest of kisses over Adam's lips. Adam was about to reply when he shifted closer, and their mouths met again, tentatively. Like baby dykes learning to kiss, Adam thought, and it made him smile, and Bass's tongue darted into the corner of his smile, flickered there, and licked carefully along his lower lip to the other corner, then traced back across the top. Adam allowed himself to be kissed like this, restrained and delicate, strange. Good, but strange. Exploration. Negotiation, even. There was a hand on his face, touching his right cheek almost tenderly.

Screw that. Adam rolled onto his side so that their bodies aligned, not-quite-touching, and opened his mouth purposefully for more.

Somehow they were plastered together, and kissing hard and deep. Adam loved kissing, loved making out, all the preliminaries. Maybe he shouldn't have taken his clothes off, because undressing someone and being undressed was so much fun, sliding hands up underneath and inside was so much more illicit and naughty than having free access. Still, he'd enjoyed watching Lance Bass take off his own clothes, neatly, no wasted moves, no showiness, that was oddly appealing.

Besides, free access was in no way a bad deal. Adam's hand curled over Bass's smooth, bare hip, then glided slowly up over waist and ribs to neck, and there was a deep, needy sound, and Adam thought, aha! and set about exploring the offered throat. It stretched out for him as Lance broke the kiss and angled his face into the pillow. Adam mouthed down along the proud tendon from ear to shoulder, and nipped with calculation. "You were holding out on us," he murmured. "You make really excellent sex noises." There was an impatient snort, and more stretching of the neck. "Given," Adam's teeth closed again, "the right incentive." Really excellent noises.

There was another shift, and Adam was on his back, with cat's eyes staring down at him. "You too, I hope," Lance Bass said, and kissed him again, tonguing deep and slick, then closing his teeth on Adam's bottom lip. That hand was back touching his face, and Adam knew he was in trouble when fingers found his ear. He twitched helplessly. Lance took immediate advantage. Adam couldn't keep still, his ear was zinging, and when Lance's other hand started tracing over his other ear, Adam had to make it stop before he melted into a whimpering puddle. He grabbed Lance's wrists and rolled them over so that he was back on top and straddling those sturdy hips.

By unspoken consent they were both ignoring their cocks right now, although like this, balls to balls, it was hellish tempting just to slide down and suck him in. But Adam was going to do this the hard way, the slow way, he was going to find out exactly what made Lance Bass moan and beg for more. With one hand pinning Lance's shoulder down, he planed the other across Lance's chest and circled his fingernails round one tiny nipple.

After a moment, he realized that Lance was looking at him curiously, like a cat presented with an uninteresting toy. "This doesn't do anything for you, does it," he said, ruefully.

"Not so much," said Lance, "but I'm guessing—" and he copied Adam's technique, the bastard, and Adam tensed and groaned, because his nipples were oh so very, very receptive, and when Lance curled upwards—hours of abdominal exercises, presumably, good to see those muscles were actually useful—and applied his tongue, wide and wet, and then blew in a little circle, oh, he was so lost. Adam sat back on Lance's thighs and clutched at Lance's shoulders and proved that yes, he also made excellent sex noises.

Lance's hands slid slowly down Adam's sides, and Adam cringed just a little bit, suddenly self-conscious. So he pushed, until Lance was on his back again and Adam was kneeling above him, and Adam spread his fingers and slid lightly over Lance's chest and flat belly—which quivered and retreated from his touch. "I didn't think you could squeak so high," Adam said, and if he was a little bit smug, well, why not? But he saved the information for later, because his hands had found the sweet silken skin at the top of Lance's thighs, and Lance was doing his best to spread his legs and not wriggle, and Adam loved that so much, when a guy was trying to restrain himself and not totally managing it. So he shifted, one knee between Lance's, and when Lance opened wide for him he teased mercilessly, all around and never quite touching.

"You know, if you need a map," said Lance.

"Map?" Adam said, innocently. "Is there something you want me to do?"

"I want you to fuck me," said Lance. "Stuff's in the nightstand, top drawer. But lots of prep first."

Adam leaned over, and found a collection of neatly organized condoms and lube. No toys, though, because Lance was a sweet old-fashioned boy. "You nervous? Has it been a while?"

"I just like having fingers in my ass."

Adam grinned and uncapped the lube. And Lance really, really did like having fingers in his ass, which was good, because Adam loved it, fucking a guy helpless on his fingers and watching him writhe. Lance looked so fuckable, toffee-gold and smooth, laid out with one ankle on Adam's shoulder, the other leg stretched wide, and his hands clenched at his sides with the effort not to jerk himself off. He made such exquisite noises, low whining in his throat, deep, rich moaning, and when Adam swirled two saliva-wet fingers over the head of his cock, an amazing growly-purr that Adam was pretty damn sure meant he was good and ready.

"How do you want to be fucked?" he asked.

Lance brought his leg down and sat up, efficiently ripped open the chosen condom and rolled it down onto Adam's cock. "Give it your best shot," he said, leant in for a quick and dirty kiss, then flipped himself over onto all fours and hauled a pillow beneath him. Adam gave himself a moment to appreciate this new view and stroked his thumb down from the tattoo between Lance's shoulder blades along the groove of his spine to the cleft of his gorgeous ass, then positioned his cock and pushed forward. Best shot, hah! Like he ever did anything less.

He loved this, sleek muscled flanks under his palms, tight, tight grip around his cock. Watching it slide inside, never get tired of seeing that, never. The soundtrack of beautiful noises, the yesyesyes and the please and the fuck, fuck! And Lance did something, he rippled, fuck, if he was going to do that, fuck, again, yes, Adam was going to have to—have to let loose, have to reach his hand around and hold Lance's cock, strip it hard in time as he thrust, the two of them working for it, pushing at each other, fighting for it, hard, hard, finding their rhythm and going all out until Lance shouted and shook, and Adam followed him right over the edge.

Legs quivering, Adam pulled out, and Lance muttered and rolled sideways and dumped the beslimed pillow on the floor. Adam got rid of the condom into that handy little trash basket under the nightstand. He flopped flat onto the bed and breathed. Fuck.

"Okay, then," Lance said after a few moments.

"Uh huh," Adam replied. "One of my better ideas, I think." So much for bad sex. But hell, who wanted bad sex anyway?

"I did not think you were serious. I thought I was being Punk'd, or something. You sure there isn't a hidden camera in here?"

Adam laughed aloud at that. "Oh, man, that would be something. Think we could break YouTube?"

"Probably." Lance paused. "But then I'd have to have you killed, which would be kind of a waste."

Adam turned his head and met the yellow-green cat's eyes, wide and innocent and apparently fine with death threats. Hmm. "Nah. Don't worry, I'm not that kind of exhibitionist." But he thought about his impossible video for Flower, and how very, very perfect the images would have been, and sighed.

"How do you feel?"

Adam considered. He'd just had objectively fantastic sex with someone he wasn't sure if he actually liked. How did he feel? Satiated? Confused? "Hungry," he said, firmly.

Lance snickered. "I guess you earned dinner," he said, swinging himself off the bed. "Gimme a few minutes to clean up."

So Adam lay there while Lance was in the bathroom, and thought about whether he might, maybe, have been mistaken about having a type after all. Lance emerged and said, "All yours. Use the green towels," and started rummaging around in the dresser, so Adam went into the palatial bathroom, white and green and mirrors, with a pile of fresh dark green towels on a rack and a couple of rumpled white ones on a rail. He was bewildered by the array of settings for the shower, but the shower head was the size of a serving platter, and he sang merrily as it emptied over him like a rainstorm. Afterwards he failed to locate a hairdryer, though there had to be one here somewhere. The hair would have to do whatever it wanted, then. He put his jeans and T-shirt back on and found his way to the kitchen, there to be offered a hot roast beef sandwich so mighty he could hardly get his teeth around it. There was a bowl of strawberries on the table.

"Drink?" said Lance. "Vodka?"

Adam smiled around his sandwich and nodded enthusiastically. He received a very large glass of red stuff which turned out to be vodka with cranberry, lime and Triple Sec, about five times the volume of any Cosmopolitan he'd ever been offered in his life before.

"Looks like you and me got something in common after all," he said.

"Hmm?"

Adam waved his glass. "This is good."

"You want another sandwich?"

Adam considered, and decided not. The one he had was like an entire three-course dinner already, and he could probably do something provocative with strawberries for dessert. "So," he said, about two courses in, "when you agreed to do Flower, was this what you had in mind?"

"This, like, specifically, you showing up and getting naked with me, or this, generally, with the internet notoriety and the vaguely horrified interviewers, stuff like that?"

"You have horrified interviewers, too?"

"Let's just say, the cool gays have some trouble getting their heads around it." Lance bit into his own sandwich, which meant Adam had time to think what to say to that.

"I haven't noticed anyone having trouble with it. Okay, no, I guess that's not exactly true. Carson Daly was a bit, you know, trying to wipe his hands clean, and that time I went on Regis and Kelly, they were all, We can't play you this song because it's not suitable for national broadcast, and all wide-eyed and deliciously outraged and trying to find ways to get around everything the song was about. So prissy. I thought it was hilarious."

"Yeah," said Lance. "You get the straight people being horrified. Didn't you get any of the, like, you did something with Lance Bass, oh my God you traitor from the gays? 'Cause, you know. You got the stamp of approval, I didn't."

"I guess that's what happens when you come out in Rolling Stone magazine instead of People," Adam said, and wished he hadn't because it felt like totally the wrong thing.

"Yeah, well, it helps when you get a choice," said Lance. "You want a refill?" He had made, it turned out, a pitcher of the red cocktail. "I wasn't exactly happy with the way it was done, but hey. Turned out to be the best thing I ever did, even if I did say some stupid stuff in the interview. Didn't really know what I was doing, I guess. But it'd be good to have a statute of limitations on saying the wrong thing." He seemed more resigned than resentful, and Adam felt a twinge of sympathy.

"Like, what wrong thing?"

"Oh, you know, straight-acting gays, that kinda stuff."

Adam winced. He remembered that, he remembered talking about Lance's coming-out interview with friends, and the level of bitchery had been extreme even for that particular bunch. "It must have been tough," he said cautiously.

"It was a very... strange year," Lance said. He looked very young, Adam thought, with those amazing eyes so wide and serious. "What with having to tell my family, and everything. And then when it happened, things went so amazingly well, better than I ever thought they would. I guess it all worked out. I'm much happier now than I ever was when I was trying to hide it all the time."

"Why did you hide? I mean, c'mon, you were in a boyband. People must have been speculating."

"Sure, but. You know, image, and all that. I thought it would destroy the group if people knew. It's funny, though, I think I have more fans now than I did then."

"Yeah, isn't it weird? So many girls who just love us. The only thing I could say that'd make my female fans more enthusiastic would be, I'm thinking of trying pussy."

"Do not do that. You'll be killed in the stampede."

Adam laughed. "I wouldn't dare," he said. "But you didn't answer my question—about Flower. You were the one who thought of it. Why was that? What made you pick that song?"

"Oh, God, I don't know," Lance said, his gaze straying around the kitchen. "Probably it just came into my head."

"Your friend Joey seemed to think you must have had a good reason," Adam said, watching Lance closely.

"Joey likes to think I'm really smart." Lance said, shaking his head with a rueful smile. "Truth is, I say all kinds of crazy stuff. I don't do crazy things, at least, not unless I thought about them and decided it was worth it. But I say things off the top of my head all the time. I guess I was just thinking about it being an outrageous number."

"Huh. Okay, then." Adam had a niggling feeling there was more to it than that, but he clearly wasn't going to get any more out of Lance.

"I really liked the take you had on it all, the aggressive thing, it came across so well. I'm really glad I did it."

"Me, too. I mean, it helped a lot with my album, but even without that, I just love the way it turned out. I had this really cool idea for a video, with us being as different as we could be, you know?"

"Eyeliner and platform shoes versus jeans and T-shirt?"

"Yeah, that kind of thing." Adam had finished his sandwich. Deciding not to spill out the details of his impossible video treatment, he took his plate across to the sink. "Us not being each other's type, but, you know."

"Yeah." Lance followed Adam and deposited his own plate. "Although, about that 'not my type' thing. It's possible I wasn't... entirely truthful about that."

"Really?"

"Mmm," said Lance, dropped to his knees, and had Adam's jeans open and Adam's cock in his mouth before Adam could move.

Fuck! he thought, taken completely by surprise.

Not that he had any objections.

Adam's cock was soft, but with that hot wet suction all around it, that was changing real, real fast. Lance's tongue slid back and forth along the underside, his face was buried in Adam's groin, hands pressing Adam's hips against the cupboard, he was going full out, zero to sixty in about three seconds, Adam could hardly catch his breath. Every nerve seemed to be centered in his cock, like taut ropes of sensation stretching back right through his body, it felt like his balls were being sucked dry, Lance's throat was working round him now, it felt like his bones were being sucked out, fuck, fuck that was intense, he couldn't think. He clung to the countertop to keep himself upright as his orgasm rushed right through him and out, leaving him giddy.

"You want to go back upstairs?" Lance said, his deep voice a little hoarse.

"Huh?"

"Upstairs. Bed? Lie down? More sex?"

Adam looked down at him. Did he mean, like, move? "Brains. Out. Sucked," he explained.

Lance stood, and tidied Adam's junk more or less back into his jeans. "Come on then, tiger," he said, took Adam by the hand and led him back upstairs, where he undressed him carefully and ushered him under the comforter.

"I, uh. Think I'm gonna..." Adam felt a vague need to apologize for something, but sleep claimed him before he could figure out what it was.

* * *

Sitting up against his pillows with Variety propped open on his knees, Lance was glad to have the chance to think while Adam was fast asleep beside him. Otherwise, this was a bit... overwhelming.

The sex had been even better than he'd imagined. He'd tried to be cool about it, but...

And it was almost strange how comfortable it had been talking with Adam afterwards. Lance had expected a bit of awkwardness. After all, it had been the oddest approach he'd ever experienced, a phone call out of the blue from someone he'd honestly thought had no interest in him. And who had, until recently, been dating someone else anyway. Which had been a shame, because Adam was about as gorgeous as a man could be, just the right blend of beauty and masculinity. And now, here he was in Lance's bed. Lance looked down at the sleeping face, admired his strong jaw and the pretty fringe of his closed eyelashes, and felt distinctly hopeful.

He should probably try not to think about what happened next. Lance pushed his glasses firmly onto his nose and did his best to pay attention to the words in front of him.

A few minutes later he felt the man beside him begin to stir, and put his magazine aside.

"Er. Hi," said Adam, blinking. "This is mortifying. What time is it?"

"Don't worry, the night is still young. It's not much after ten. And I'm taking it as a compliment."

Adam narrowed his just-opened eyes. "You did not wear me out. I mean."

"And the fact that you just totally crashed would not be, you know, some kind of evidence?"

He had a perfect mouth for pouting. Lance leaned down and took the jutting lower lip between his teeth, pulling on it gently until Adam laughed against his mouth and opened up. Lance's glasses poked against the side of his nose: Adam reached up, removed them and dropped them on top of the nightstand.

"Why, Mr Bass. You're beautiful without your glasses."

Lance rolled his eyes, but was more than happy to be pulled down into the bed and into a full-on embrace. Adam was obviously determined to compensate for his embarrassing lapse into sleep, because the kissing was spectacular, hot and wet and demanding. There was no more of the careful exploratory politeness from earlier. Their hands went everywhere, their legs twined and rubbed, their erections slid against one another's bellies. Adam's hips were miraculous, the way he moved was pure sex, Lance just hooked himself onto him and hung on.

He traced around Adam's ear with his tongue, and bit his earlobe. "You going to bottom for me now?"

There was an, "Mmm, sure," in response, but Lance wasn't totally convinced by it, and he'd expected to be. It wasn't the instant, eager assent he'd been hoping for, and he couldn't tell if it was just Adam not being thoroughly awake yet, or if 'everything' maybe didn't cover as much as he'd assumed it did, or more simply if he just wasn't in the mood. They didn't know each other well enough.

No problem. If Adam wasn't happy about bottoming, he'd try something else. "If I was topping you, I'd want to start off by licking you all over," he murmured into Adam's ear. He loved it when a guy had sensitive ears. So convenient. "Find out if you have any imperfections." There was a grunt at that. "Maybe your elbows are just ugly. Maybe the backs of your knees are grotesque. Maybe the soles of your feet—"

"Do not even think of licking the soles of my feet. Ew!"

"Hmm, would that be a ticklish spot then? Good to know." Lance grinned and tightened his teeth on the earlobe within range, and there was a corresponding wriggle beneath him that nearly blew his resolve right out of the bed.

He settled them more firmly on their sides. "I'd turn you onto your front," he promised, "and lick my way down your backbone. Such a long way. I like a guy who's tall. So much more to play with." His free hand tricked its way down Adam's back, two fingers, little strokes, like a cat's tongue. "All the way down. Then I'd spread your ass open and keep licking. I'd make you get your knees under you, bring your ass up for me, and I'd keep licking." He brought his hand up to his mouth for a moment. "You'll like that, won't you, you'll love it, my tongue in your asshole, you know how good that can be, don't you, you love it." His fingers were there, spit-slickened, playing over Adam's opening and little teasing thrusts just inside.

"You like rimming?" Adam gasped, muffled against Lance's face.

"Ohhh yeah. Love it, the feel of it, the taste of it. I like having a man come apart on me, like making him spread himself open for me, you can do that, can't you, hold yourself open so I can fuck you with my tongue." His fingers moved deeper, and Adam whimpered and bucked. "Only I won't let you come while I'm rimming you. I don't want to fuck you like that, want to see you, want to watch your face as you come. I'll turn you onto your back," he pushed, gently. Adam lay back on the bed, eyes closed, mouth open, and his hips wouldn't keep still.

Lance leaned over for condom and lube. Adam's eyes flew open, startled, as the condom rolled down on his cock and Lance slicked him with an efficient hand. "I thought—"

"I'm going to take my time, I'm gonna make it last as long as I want," Lance told him, leaning down almost nose to nose. "Just a little way in, just that first inch, that's so good, isn't it, that first inch, the way it feels when you open for me, your ass is so tight around my cock, just rocking there so I can feel you gripping me tight." He rocked, tiny movements, on the tip of Adam's erection, taking him just inside. "As long as I want," he said, "and you know it's good, you know it'll be better if you let me do what I want with you, you know I'll make it good for you. But you wont' be able to help yourself, you'll want more, you'll want my cock inside you all the way and you'll beg me for it."

Adam made an incoherent noise, so Lance kissed him, thrusting his tongue hard and deep, and keeping the penetration shallow in his ass.

"And when I don't want to wait any longer, I'll slide right into you." He slid down so slowly his thighs could feel the strain, until his ass was pressed against Adam's pelvis, and then lifted himself up again to that last inch. "How good that feels, don't it, deep inside you, and I'll keep it slow, so slow, so you can feel everything, the way my cock fills you up, then slides oh so slow out of you again." He resettled himself carefully, shifting weight, and spread his right hand over Adam's chest.

"Fuck, fuck," Adam groaned, "please, I want, please."

Lance quickened the rhythm of his rise and fall, just a little, and squeezed, and rolled Adam's nipple between his finger and thumb, and when Adam's hips rolled upwards, he rose too, keeping control, keeping the penetration exactly where he wanted it. He pushed back down. "You feel it, don't you, feel my cock dragging over that sweet spot inside you, you know it's going to get better every time, and you want more, you want it harder and faster but you know it's going to be so good if you can keep still and take it the way I want to give it to you." He began to move steadily, long, deep strokes, still talking, telling Adam how good it was going to be when Lance fucked him, still tormenting his nipples, and watching his face for every flicker of pleasure.

The tension was almost painful. Lance wanted to slam down on Adam's cock, wanted to give in and hurtle them both towards their climax, but he wouldn't. He kept his relentless rhythm, slow enough to feel everything, every cleaved inch, and Adam's hands grabbing his thighs and clutching at his arms. He could see the orgasm building in the tension of the beautiful pale body under him, the way Adam stiffened and arched, and Lance bent to his offered chest and pinched a nipple, hard, and Adam screamed and came, pushing up so hard Lance's knees lifted off the bed. As soon as he was down, Lance's hands went to his own cock and within seconds he was coming too, grinding down onto the cock buried deep inside him as he ejaculated.

He was going to be sore in the morning, but hell. So, so worth it.

* * *

When Adam woke up, there was sunshine behind the drapes, and Lance Bass was snuggled against him with his head on Adam's shoulder and one arm flung across Adam's chest. It was nice. Really, if there was a better way to wake up than with a sexy guy curled up against him, Adam couldn't think what it was. Mmm, possibly a sexy guy giving him a blowjob.

Lance opened his yellow-green eyes. "Hey."

"Good morning."

"I suppose you want breakfast?"

"Oh, no hurry, unless you have somewhere to be?"

"No, it's cool."

"We could shower, first," Adam suggested. "I mean, you could hold orgies in your shower. It's amazing."

"You know what, I never had an orgy in the shower. Or anywhere else. Obviously I missed out."

"Really, never? You seem to have a nice-looking posse around, it never came up?"

"Amazingly, no."

"Mmm. Well, it's mostly hotter for the idea than the actual sex," Adam said. "More'n three people, and everybody stops using their imagination, it just turns into a by-the-numbers game of which combination didn't happen yet."

"Okay, I'll strike hold an orgy in the shower from my list."

"No, no, you should try it once. Everybody should."

"I'll... keep that in mind," said Lance, in a tone that meant, I'd rather stick a chainsaw up my ass.

"No, really," Adam said with all the earnestness he could muster, "it's good that you haven't. I mean, everyone should have some first times left to look forward to, right?"

"Uh huh. So what kind of firsts do you have left? Apart from women?"

"Oh. Huh. I'd have to think about that."

"You... actually might be a first for me," Lance said, sounding very tentative. "I'm not sure yet."

"Really? What kind of first?"

"I never had sex with any man I didn't have a, a relationship with."

"Really?" Adam sat up. "Seriously? No, that can't be. You must have so many guys coming on to you! Seriously, you never had a one-night stand?"

"I never did."

"But... wow. I mean, that's, wow. Are you sure you're gay?"

Lance looked at him pityingly. "Pretty sure, yeah. Couldn't you tell?"

"I thought it was in the rules. Rule twenty-seven, you will have a slutty phase, or something."

"Guess I didn't get the handbook."

"Is that the one where they wrote the gay agenda?"

"Probably," said Lance, swinging his feet out of the bed. "You ready for that shower now?"


Adam washed Lance's back for him. And his chest, and his arms, and his belly, thighs, calves, feet. Then he blew him, there under the deluge. Afterwards Lance jerked him off with hot, soapy fingers, and it was all good.

*

Lance looked a little stiff, moving around the kitchen for eggs and toast and coffee makings, and grumbling at the dogs as they pleaded for breakfast. When asked, he muttered about exercising his thighs, and said he'd be fine provided he didn't have to go horseback riding today, which he didn't.

"Have you ever been horseback riding?" Adam asked, expecting a negative. Foster came and sat beside him and rested his head on Adam's leg and permitted his silky ears to be fondled. Adam hoped he was not going to be rewarded with drool.

Lance handed him a mug of coffee and orange juice in a cut crystal tumbler. "Sure. Not for a while, but back home, when I was a kid, lots of times."

Adam couldn't imagine the kind of childhood that naturally involved lots of horseback riding. He had tenuous memories of ponies at somebody's birthday party, but that was all. "We're even more different than I thought," he said.

"You know, we've got more in common than you think," said Lance. "I mean, I've been photographed wearing eyeliner, and with a snake, and on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Just not all at the same time." He paused to sip thoughtfully at his coffee, then added, "My snake was a lot bigger than yours."

"You—your—!" Adam leapt from his stool. In seconds he had Lance pinned and was tickling him ruthlessly, the dogs were wildly excited and trying to join in the fun, and Lance was shrieking and batting at him and begging him to stop.

"No, no! Uncle! Uncle! Don't—don't spill my—coffee! Mercy!"

Adam tickled just enough longer to make the point, then set Lance free, eyeing him very sternly. Lance was still flushed and giggling as he turned his attention to scrambling the eggs.

Breakfast, and a long kiss, and that was goodbye.

* * *

Then it was back to the publicity grind, and yeah, it was good that so many shows wanted Adam Lambert, it was great, but it was exhausting. And there were still final details to be sorted for the album, and he wasn't sure if his feet got to touch ground at all for several days. And the first single was out, and he seemed to hold his breath for ever, but it was up there in the chart, it did great, it was fantastic, and at last he could relax a bit, except that then there were decisions to be made about the tour, and it really felt like he'd never get a rest.

He did, though, take the laptop to bed, and googled for Lance Bass+snake before he collapsed into sleep.

He didn't find any snake pictures. But he found a lot of other stuff. Interviews he hadn't noticed when they'd happened, the old Rolling Stone covers, a picture of Lance wearing the world's most fabulous jeweled coat (and eyeliner!) and posing with Alan Cumming, both of which filled Adam with a vast and passionate envy, and a photoshoot of a younger Lance on the beach which was ridiculously beautiful and proof positive that Lance didn't have to have rippling abs to be fuckable.

It surprised him that he could not get Lance out of his head. He didn't always have the time or energy to go out at night, find an appealing boy to spend the night with, so his masturbation fantasies were getting more of a workout than usual. And he had a new one now. Sure, the old favorites would never lose their appeal—jerking off on stage with the whole audience screaming and applauding, or having four gorgeous guys work him over—but now, he found his hands drifting down to the replay of that last fuck with Lance, and he was Adam Lambert fucking Lance Bass, and he was Lance fucking Adam, and he was being fucked, Adam, Lance, it didn't matter, it was all unbelievably hot.

He found the snake picture, in the end, by emailing Katy. A few days later she sent him a picture which made him laugh and laugh. Okay, Lance Bass, gotta give you that one. Your snake is bigger than mine.

* * *

Tuberose
dangerous pleasure

The cheerfulness of the first few post-Adam days gradually faded into a twitchy discomfort. The delightful knowledge that they had had spectacular sex and were going to do it again turned into an uneasy conviction that he had been a fool. The confident expectation of a call turned into dread, dread of answering his phone to yet another caller who wasn't the one he wanted to hear from. As the days slipped by, Lance realized that he hadn't gotten what he'd thought he was getting, not at all. It had not been a beginning, it had been just another one night stand.

Lance remembered Piper, dazzled into Adam's bed and afterwards, holding his chin up just a little bit too high when anyone asked. He didn't think Adam really understood what a potent effect he had on people. Lance wasn't surprised it had taken Piper a while to get over Adam. It was going to take Lance a while. And he'd gone into it with his eyes wide open.

He worked damned hard to get that night out of his head.

Lance was completely taken by surprise when the invitation came through. Adam Lambert's album release party, November twenty-fourth. He'd tried not to be aware of the date.

He should go, he supposed. If he didn't, probably people would notice, what with Flower having gotten so much attention. And JC would be there, since he'd worked with Adam on a couple of songs. JC was not good at this kind of shindig, and would be grateful for backup. And Lisa would—

Lance's forehead met his desk. It hurt, but he deserved it. He was trying to find excuses to go. Pretending to himself that he needed to be there for JC's sake, or to avoid gossip, or whatever. Total crap. He was just trying to find reasons to see Adam again, and that was a route to nowhere.

Except.

If, if there was a chance, he had to take it.

He could tell himself over and over that he was insane, that if Adam had wanted more he could have called, any time; he could tell himself that he was fine now, and over it. He could face the reality he was stuck with. But he couldn't help hoping.

He'd have to go. And he didn't know how he felt about that. He didn't know how he'd feel about seeing Adam again. Or which would be more impossible to deal with, if Adam wanted to fuck him again, or if he didn't.

*

He still hadn't figured out how he felt about it when he arrived at the party, with Lisa practically jigging up and down with excitement on one side of him (she'd finagled an invite of her own, probably from the mysterious Sheilagh) and Wendy, who did not jig but was still pretty excited to meet Adam Lambert, on the other. The place was packed already, and though he could see Adam holding court, there was no way of getting near him. Lance was... okay with that. At least for now.

Someone he did see on the far side of the room was JC, looking hunted; someone else he spotted and wanted to talk to—as opposed to the crowd of familiar faces he didn't much care about—was accessible, so he smiled his way through the throng and greeted Kris Allen and his wife, who were both gratifyingly quick to tell him how impressed they'd been with Flower. Kris's album was out already, it hadn't had the same problems to get through that Adam had encountered, and Lance assured him with perfect truth that he liked it a lot.

"I guess I don't need to introduce you to JC," he said to Katy, who beamed at him and said they had met when he and Kris were working together.

"Is JC here?" Kris asked.

"He's over there, and I'm pretty sure he'd be glad of some company he actually wants to talk to," Lance said. So they fought their way through, and JC greeted them like they were the US Cavalry.


Lance was having a good time, after a while. There were inevitably plenty of people there he knew, and quite a few he actually wanted to talk to. At some point he'd have to go and congratulate Adam, he supposed, but there was no shortage of people lining up to talk to Adam, so for now he could table that and just have another vodka cocktail.

He stepped back, and bumped into someone behind him. Lance was about to turn and apologize when a very familiar voice spoke into his ear. "You know the one thing that could make this evening better than it is?" Adam murmured. "If it ends with you spread out naked and handcuffed to my bed. Think about that."

Lance found that he didn't want it to matter that Adam had said nothing else to him all evening. He didn't want it to matter that he still dreamed of something he wasn't going to get. Adam wanted him now. That could be enough.

Naked and handcuffed to my bed. Think about it, yeah. Like he could do anything else.

* * *

Adam had not been able to stop thinking about this, not since he walked into his hotel and saw the sturdy railings at head and foot of the bed, and thought, yay, handcuffs! and then thought, Lance Bass would look very good cuffed to that bed. And now, here Lance was, with that same guarded, cat-cool look in his eyes, luscious as ever in his jeans and dark grey T-shirt, the perfect end to a truly excellent day. Adam had him up against the bedroom door in no time, kissing him hard and sliding his hands across Lance's flat belly and inside his jeans. Off came the T-shirt, and Adam mouthed his way down Lance's neck, and there were those noises again, so fucking perfect. "Shoes, off, take them off, babe, want you naked," he instructed, and soon Lance was naked, and Adam pushed him down onto the dark blue sheets and pressed his arms into a wide V, and fastened the cuffs onto him, then spread his legs wide and cuffed those, too.

He paused, then, to admire. Lance, spread out and helpless, all for him. Breathing fast, his chest rising and falling, his belly taut, his cock swelling and shifting. Smiling, and maybe even a little bit smug, Adam took his time removing his own clothes, and settled an array of necessities on the bed next to Lance—condom and lube, of course, a smallish dildo, and his favorite vibrator.

"This okay?" he asked, and Lance nodded slowly, and licked his lips. "Good. Very good. Just look at you." He sat on the edge of the bed, and ran his hand over Lance's body. "All pretty, like that. Cuffs all right? Not hurting you?" Lance shook his head. "Good. Pain is not what we're going for, here. I'm going to take you so high, I'm going to find every button you have and press them all, I'm gonna make you come so hard you'll think you've died and gone to heaven."

Where to start, where to start? The arms, he thought, straddled Lance's chest and smoothed his hands along them both. He played with the fingers of Lance's left hand, tugging gently on each, then shifted across and took Lance's fingers into his mouth, suckled them one by one. That was working. Adam kissed his way back along Lance's arm, the tense muscles hard under his lips, and back to that vulnerable neck for some more nibbling.

Now to surprise him. A deep, wide-open kiss, and Adam groped for the lube, slicked up his hand and took a firm hold of Lance's cock. Slow, deliberate strokes. "If you want more," he said, "if you want harder, or faster, you have to ask." Lance said nothing. Good. Adam grinned. "Going to make a fight of it? That's good. I like that." He added a wicked twist, and had Lance gasping, then stopped and shifted position again. Crouching between Lance's legs, he applied mouth and tongue to Lance's balls, sucking, licking, working out what only had Lance moaning with pleasure and what brought him up off the bed.

"You ready for more?" He smiled down at his captive. "Ready for toys?"

Lance closed his eyes.

"Hey," said Adam, holding him by the chin. "Look at me. Don't hide. I want you to see everything I'm going to do to you. I want you to know exactly what's going to happen. Open your eyes."

Lance looked at him, cat's eyes, still unreadable. Adam wanted to see them pleading, awash with pleasure, he wanted them unveiled.

He reached for the vibrator, flicked it on, and rested it against Lance's hip, loved the way Lance's body tensed in anticipation, but when he looked up again, Lance's eyes were closed. "I won't give you what you want until you open your eyes. I want to see exactly how you feel."

Lance's eyes opened. Adam smiled, and moved the vibrator down the inside of Lance's thigh.

"Stop, stop. Let—get me out of this. Please!"

Lance sounded panicked, this wasn't the kind of pleading Adam wanted. "Hey, hey, it's okay, it's okay."

"Let me up, Adam. Now."

"Sure, of course, don't—here." Worried, he fumbled with the locks at wrists and ankles. The instant Lance was free, he was off the bed and pulling on his clothes and shoes. "Wait, wait, Lance, what's wrong? Did I hurt you? Tell me, I can make it right—"

Lance was already dressed, though he hadn't bothered with the socks, which were still lying on the floor along with his boxer briefs. "No, you can't," he said. "And, Adam? Next time you want a booty call? Call someone else." And he was out the door, and gone.

"What? Wait, wait! Shit." Adam dressed frantically, fumbling with his clothes in desperate haste, damn these jeans, how was he supposed to get them fastened when he had such a hard-on, it took forever, and he tore along to the elevator but he knew as he ran that he'd taken too long, that Lance would be gone. He dashed into the lobby, heedless of security, ignoring the excited shrieks from a handful of women at the reception desk, and ran outside. "Lance Bass," he gasped to the doorman on duty, "did he leave?"

"Yes, Mr Lambert, just a few minutes ago. Is there something wrong?"

Fuck. "No, no, it's fine. I just—doesn't matter. Thank you." He went back to his room, and swore fiercely. What went wrong? What the hell happened? What had he done?

* * *

Yellow Roses; white chrysanthemums
friendship, jealousy, try to care; truth

"I thought you didn't even like Lance Bass. You said you were too different. I thought it was one of those high school football things," said Kris.

I—high school football? What?

"You know, when you're in high school the football games with schools from right across the county are just games, but when it's the other high school in town, or the high school from the town just upriver from your town, that's the one you have to win, that's the one where there's a real rivalry thing going on, the school you have most in common with is the one you just have to beat."

Okay, you lost me. Football?

It made perfect sense to Kris, that Adam and Lance had so much in common that a few minor differences would seem huge, but Adam didn't seem to get it at all. "You know, the way people fight more with the ones they're closest to. Like, um. Like fans. Like, your fans probably fight all the time about which is the best song on your album. People who aren't serious fans just aren't that worried."

You know, if you're trying to be sympathetic here, it's not working for me. I don't get what being a fan has to do with the way he walked out on me in the mid—uh. When we. You don't want to know about that.

"Never mind, forget it. Bad analogy. So, what, you like Lance Bass now?"

I wouldn't exactly put it like that. But he—we—something went wrong, and I don't even know what it was, and he won't take my calls.

"Um." This sounded strangely like a lovers' quarrel to Kris. Was that the reason for Adam's unusual reticence? "You could, um, try sending flowers, that's a traditional way to apologize, and you know where he works, right?"

Flowers to his office? I think he'd have me killed.

"Oh. Can you find out where he lives?"

I know where he lives, but it's a gated community, and they won't let me in. Anyway, I'm not sure flowers—oh, wait! I know someone who can get me in there. Kris, you're a genius.

"Uh, okay," Kris said, but the connection was already broken. "Honey," he called, "I think I owe you money."

* * *

"Just so long as you remember, you owe me big for this one," said JC, as his car was waved through. "I may just have to leave the country for a while. Lance is going to be so pissed at me."

"Not if I can sort things out," said Adam. Truth to tell, he was nervous about this. If Lance would listen to him, it should be okay, because it seemed like he'd pushed too far, too fast, and he was willing to admit to being stupid. So long as Lance would listen to him. "Is there anything, I mean, you've known him a lot longer than I have, what should I say?"

"Oh, man, do not pull me into this. Whatever it is."

"I already did," Adam pointed out.

"Yeah." JC sounded not at all sure he was doing the right thing. "Look. Lance... kept things secret for a long time. Partly he was scared, I guess, of what we'd say, partly because he wanted to protect us and he thought it was the right thing to do. If he doesn't want to tell you something, he won't tell you, but he might make it obvious—I mean, he brought his boyfriend to Challenge one year."

Was any of this was supposed to be useful advice? It sounded like JC rambling. Adam was on his own. And here they were, at Lance's house.

"Good luck, man," said JC, and Adam got out, clutching his bouquet, and went to the door. Flowers would be good, JC had said, he's from Mississippi. Adam didn't know what that meant, but he was willing to give it a try.

* * *

The gravel crunched, the dogs barked, the door chime sounded. Lance levered himself up from his desk and went to let JC in. He allowed himself a moment of curiosity—why was JC coming over? Normally, 'C would just talk about whatever he wanted to talk about on the phone. But if 'C wanted to continue their conversation from the release party in person, that was more than fine with Lance.

It wasn't JC on the doorstep.

Lance found himself clutching a bunch of flowers, and the dogs flowed past him, yelping ecstatically. Traitors.

"I'm sorry," said Adam, with his best I'm a sweet little boy look. Hah.

"What are you doing here? Did you get JC to bring you over, is that why he called?" Lance was already pissed at Adam, and this brought the temperature up nicely. Using JC was not acceptable, and Lance was in no mood to be friendly.

"They wouldn't let me through the gate, and you wouldn't take my calls."

"Get a clue—I didn't want to talk to you." Lance folded his arms.

"It's important. Please."

"Can't imagine we have anything to say to one another." Besides, Lance thought, you never wanted to talk to me before, except to fill in the time between one round and the next. "And the only times you ever called me were when you wanted something from me. What do you want now, and what makes you think I want to give it you?"

"I want to apologize, I want to make things right."

Lance laughed. "Fine. Apology accepted, we're good. So you can get out of here." He grabbed at the dogs with his free hand, caught Foster's collar easily, but Dingo was still wagging around Adam and wouldn't come to heel. Stupid animal.

"Please, Lance. We need to talk. Let me come in." Adam, infuriatingly, got a hold on Dingo's collar, and the ridiculous dog kept twisting his head to look up adoringly.

Okay, then. He was in the mood for a fight. Lance shoved the door wide, and stepped inside with Foster, and Adam and Dingo followed. Lance looked in irritation at the flowers in his hand. What, was he a girl now? He stomped into the kitchen and filled the sink with water for them. He turned around, and a quick flash of memory hit him, Adam standing right here and Lance on his knees. He moved away from the sink.

"So," he said. "Let me get this right. Last time you called me, you wanted us to have sex. Which we did. And after that, let me count the times you called to say hi, how are you, to fill me in on what you were doing, to talk about world peace or football or the price of sushi or whatever, oh, wait, that's easy. None." He was not, he was absolutely not going to tell Adam Fucking Lambert how much he'd been hoping for that call, how much it had hurt when it never came. "Which is fine, because I get it, one night stand, that's how it works. But now I'm supposed to want to talk to you?"

Adam looked pissed, now. Good. "You could have called me!" He stepped closer.

Lance moved in, got up in his face. "What for? I get plenty of sex without you, with guys who actually want to spend time with me."

"I was busy! It's been crazy, this last month."

"And besides, it never even crossed your mind, did it?"

"I thought about you!"

"Well, fuck you very much!"

"I did! A lot! Every night."

"You—fantasized about me when you jerked off?" It wasn't the inevitable conclusion, but he'd hit the target dead center, because Adam reddened.

"Yes, okay, I did," Adam said, snarling at him from six inches away. Damn him for being so much taller than Lance. "You were fucking hot, okay? It's not a crime to remember great sex! Yeah, I fantasized about you, I thought about what we did and what we could do next time, and I guess I extrapolated too much, I pushed you too far because I'd been thinking about all the ways we could fuck."

"You wanted to play games with me because of all the hot sex we'd been having IN YOUR MIND?"

There was a loud bark from Dingo, excited to join in the shouting. Foster nosed worriedly against Lance's hand. And Adam looked so embarrassed, suddenly, Lance wanted very much to laugh. He clamped his jaw down on the impulse. "I'll put them in the yard," he said, coolly. Trust the dogs to turn a dramatic moment into a farce.

He let them outside and closed the door. Sighed. Refrigerator, vodka, tonic, ice, two glasses.

Warily, Adam took his drink and sat as indicated at the far end of the kitchen table. "I am honestly sorry, Lance. I didn't think of it as a booty call, or if I did, it wasn't a bad thing, I just, I'd been imagining... And I was kind of excited by the whole album release, it was such a high I didn't stop to think. I'm sorry I pushed you into something you weren't ready for. If you hadn't freaked, we could have talked. I guess going kinky right off was too much."

Lance gaped at him. "Kinky? Do you seriously think—tying someone to the bed isn't kinky, it's, it's, like, everyone does that! Sixteen-year-olds in their first relationship do it! Missionaries do it!"

"Oh. Er. Was it the vibrator?"

"Did you even look in the second drawer of my nightstand? Come on, Adam, toys aren't scary." He took a deep breath. "Look. I owe you an apology too. I'm sorry. It was a shitty thing to do, running out like that, I should have figured out that I couldn't deal with it before we ever got that far."

"I don't understand what... what I did wrong. I mean, I asked if it was okay, and you said yes."

"Yeah. I—it wasn't the set-up, being tied up is great and toys are fun. It was—you wanted me to be—to give you more than I was ready to give. I mean, it was all about sex with us, and then suddenly you were all, look at me, I want to see how you feel, and I wasn't, I don't." He'd felt a chill of panic, of terror that he'd do what Adam wanted. No way in hell was Lance willing to let Adam see how he felt. He'd had to get out of there to save something of his self-respect. He lifted his chin and looked Adam straight in the eye. "We just had sex, Adam, that's all. You don't get any more than that."

There was a thoughtful pause. "It doesn't have to be just sex, does it?" Adam said. "You said you never had one night stands."

"Not until you, no." Lance remembered it very clearly, his own admission that every other man he'd slept with had been more to him than a one-off. He'd given Adam the choice of making it more, and Adam's resounding silence had made it clear that he wasn't interested. "You said it all, five minutes ago, you said you were busy. I know what that's like, I know exactly what it's like, but people make time for things that matter. I've seen all of my guys take a moment to call their girl, in the car on the way to an interview, or between takes on a video shoot, or whatever. I always called home, or sent a postcard, even when we were doing three shows a day and so tired we could hardly move. If it matters, you make time." If you don't make time, it doesn't matter.

"I read your book."

Lance stared.

"I read your book, I googled you, I—it was like, I spent time with you."

"You just didn't actually need me around," Lance said, dryly.

"That's not what I meant," said Adam, helplessly.

"No, I get that. I do." Lance was, actually, quite touched, much against his will. Anger was such a useful defense, but... Adam had been thinking about him, even if Adam was also an idiot who couldn't pick up the phone. "So, what are we talking about? I mean, you want us to get to know each other, what?"

"I don't know, I just... I don't even know if we have anything in common, but we could maybe find out?"

"I guess," said Lance, guardedly.

"I'm not looking for a boyfriend," Adam clarified. "What with the tour coming up and all that's happening with me right now, I'm not ready for that. No exclusivity deals."

"That's fair." It wasn't what he wanted, but it was honest, and Lance appreciated that. As far as it went. "Not with all those twinks out there going Oh my God It's Adam Lambert, quick, lube me up!"

Adam snorted vodka tonic. He spluttered and flailed and coughed, waving helplessly, and tears ran down his cheeks. Lance found him a box of Kleenex and watched in amusement as the paroxysms died down.

"Oh, fuck, that is so exactly true!" Adam wiped his eyes—just as well he wasn't wearing eyeliner today. "You get that, too?"

"Oh, yes." Lance grinned. "Reminds me of the groupie days. Never was tempted then, either."

"Okay, so, yeah. I do take advantage—now I'm going to start laughing next time I get some guy—you are evil, Lance Bass! Damn, I wish I'd known that! I guess it comes back to, I should have made some time. Look, I want to see you again, if we can make it happen. If you want to. I'd like to get to know you better. We seem to be able to talk, um, in between sex, we should be able to talk and not actually end up in bed, don't you think?"

Lance wasn't sure he saw the appeal. He was all for them getting to know each other, but Adam, right there in the room, and no sex? The hell with that. Still, he had a feeling he didn't need to worry about it—the two of them together, sex was going to happen. "Then... we're kind of dating, without the going out in public together part?"

"Yeah. If that works for you? I guess we don't get to go out to clubs together. The gossip would be hideous."

"Just as well," said Lance. "I'm not much of a dancer."

"That's not what Katy says," said Adam, and grinned.

"She's adorable, but I think she's biased."

"I think there's some fan site she still visits. She found the picture of your snake."

Lance offered an innocent, inquiring expression.

"It had a caption on it. I are size queen." Adam nodded regretfully.

Lance burst out laughing. "It was a hell of a snake!" he insisted.

Adam tried for an innocent look, failed, badly, and couldn't stop his own laugh bubbling out. Really, he had the sexiest laugh in the world, not that Lance was going to tell him so. "And the stuff you've done," Adam said eventually, "it's like you live in a completely different world from me, so, you know, we could talk about all kinds of things. Now, if you like—I have this thing tonight, and I'm rehearsing like crazy the rest of this week, but we could talk now."

"The Christmas Auction charity thing?"

"Yes. You too?"

Lance nodded. "I think everyone's going to that."

"But we have three or four hours, so we could, um, order pizza? You get deliveries out here, don't you?"

"Sure, but. Pizza? I'm pretty sure I have food in the house."

"Yeah, but you know what, I'm in the mood for pepperoni. You do like pepperoni, right? Otherwise we may have to re-think the whole dating deal."

"You, hold on—pepperoni? Pizza? Wait a second, you wouldn't eat, I thought you—" Lance spluttered indignantly. He'd been so careful not to fix bacon for breakfast!

"I don't like prunes," said Adam, obviously trying not very hard to keep a straight face. "Besides, you were so sweet, offering to send out for kosher deli for me."

Lance attempted a reproving glare, but in the face of that gleeful grin, gave up. "Pepperoni pizza. Right." He didn't treat himself to pizza very often, but there were menus on the mutt-shaped pinboard Briahna had given him for his last birthday. They negotiated briefly about ham, mushrooms, onions, and he dialed and ordered for delivery in ninety minutes. He had plans for the next hour or so.

"Okay," Adam said. "So, we talk. Um. Where d'you want to start?"

Lance looked at him.

"If... uh."

Lance raised an eyebrow, just a little.

"Or," said Adam, "possibly..."

"In the circumstances," said Lance.

"It would be kinda nice," said Adam.

"Since you made such an effort to come see me," said Lance, "and brought me flowers an' all." He abandoned his own chair and straddled Adam's lap. "It'd be ungracious to send you home without saying thank you."

"And a nice Southern boy like you would never be ungracious."

"Absolutely not. So do you have any idea what I could do to express my appreciation?"

"Hmm," Adam said, thoughtfully. "You know, sixty-nine has always been one of my favorite numbers."

"There you are. Something we have in common."

* * *

"Yeah, Joe, I have something to tell you, and it's not something I say very often, in fact I may never ever say it again," said Lance.

Oh. Okay. Joey sounded baffled. What is it?

"You were right."

Woo hoo! Yay me! Uh. What about?

"Adam Lambert kinda is my type."

Ah-HAH! See, I'm Italian. We know these things.

Lance rolled his eyes, but Joey was entitled to his moment. "Yeah, you knew best."

So are you, what, are you guys dating now?

"Kind of. It's pretty casual."

Casual. That doesn't sound like you.

"Well, no. Not really. But casual is better than nothing at all, which is what I thought we had. He doesn't have a lot of time, anyhow, he's preparing for his tour, so. But we keep in touch."

Doesn't sound like you're getting enough hot man sexin', Joey said, as Joey inevitably would say.

"I'm doing all right. Maybe not enough quantity, you know what rehearsals are like, but I can't complain about the quality."

The trick is to get both, Joey said, irritatingly smug.

"Yeah, yeah, one of these days I'm going to tell Kelly about how you brag, and she'll cut you off, and then where will you be?"

Joey just laughed. I'm guessing you guys are trying to keep things quiet.

"Yeah. The good thing is, there was all that fuss about were we dating when Flower got leaked, and we weren't, so I think people were finally convinced there was nothing to find, and they don't seem to be looking anymore. At least, not right now. I can probably turn up at one of his shows and nobody'll think anything of it."

You don't—make sure you don't short-change yourself, Joey said, serious now. I know you, you want the whole deal, you're not good with casual. Don't let him dictate.

"No, it's good, we agreed."

Mmm. So you're going to take advantage of not being boyfriends, and keep seeing other guys, right?

"Er, I. Probably. Sure. And we do talk a lot even if he's not here, we call."

Phone sex isn't like the real thing.

"Joey!" It wasn't as good as the real thing, but it wasn't a bad substitute, Lance thought. "We actually have conversations." Usually after the phone sex, which was maybe weird, when he thought about it, but he and Adam seemed to have a habit of getting to the sex before the talking.

Chris always said you had the best voice for phone sex.

"Okay, Chris is back on the List." Lance hadn't kept a serious shit-list for years (except for the handful of people who would never, ever be off it), but Joey loved the whole concept.

Oh, I meant to ask, is JC on the List? 'Cause he was pretty worried there.

"No, JC's fine. I called him, I told him he actually did me a favor. Anyway, I can't seem to say no to Adam, no sense blaming other people for the same thing."

You take care, you hear?

"I will. I am."

And you know, if you need to have him taken care of, I know people. I'm Italian. I got connections.

"Yeah, but Joe, you're big hugs and lasagna and crying at weddings Italian, not the sleeps with the fishes kind. Anyway, I know what I'm doing. I'll be fine."

Okay. Joey didn't sound convinced, and Lance knew he wasn't going to be able to convince Joey of something he wasn't absolutely sure of himself, so he asked what Briahna wanted for Christmas instead, and threatened to buy her a pony. That worked.

* * *

Blue Salvia
I think of you

Adam lay back on the couch and dabbed at his sticky belly with a Kleenex. Lance really knew how to talk to a guy. And his voice, when he dropped into his sex register, was a turn-on in itself, and listening to him come... JC had been on the right track, back when they recorded Flower, asking Lance to tape himself masturbating.

He wasn't ready to end the call, and he didn't want to break the mood totally by talking about his tour itinerary or the screw-up with his dancers during this evening's show. But there was something he had been meaning to ask... "So what is kinky, then?"

Adam could almost feel Lance frowning at him. He grinned. Discomposing Lance, the most fun they could have without an orgasm at the end of it. But he did want to have this conversation, and now seemed like as good a time as any. "Tying someone to the bedposts doesn't count. So what does?"

I. Um. Pain? And, um, humiliation. I wouldn't want that. Not sexy. Or anything public.

"No fantasies about having sex on stage, then," said Adam, vaguely disappointed.

Oh, well, fantasies, said Lance. I wouldn't do it, though, or, I mean, anything where people could see. If it was risky enough to be hot, it'd be so risky I wouldn't take the risk. I really don't want the entire world knowing what I do in bed.

"No, me neither." Adam shuddered at the thought. Perez Hilton gloating over the details of his sex life, ick. "What else don't you do?"

Lance sighed resignedly. I'm not into serious bondage, the kind that involves specialist equipment or intricate things with string.

"Intricate things with string?" Adam snickered. It wasn't even that funny, it was just somehow the way Lance put it, it sounded so ridiculous.

You know, where someone is all trussed up, more like an art exhibit than sex. I've seen some photos, they were beautiful pictures but they didn't turn me on at all. I think maybe if something is too precise, it doesn't feel like sex any more, not for me. I guess. Honestly, I don't really think about this stuff much. If there's something you want to do, we can try it and see how it feels.

"So if I wanted you to wear stockings and silk panties?"

Silk is nice, Lance said agreeably.

"Or watersports?"

Sure.

"I'm kinda... impressed." It was true, Adam thought. He'd started out with a lot of assumptions about Lance and most of them didn't seem to hold up at all. "You told me you were a sweet old-fashioned guy."

Well, you know how it goes—I'm normal, you're kinky, he's a filthy pervert. I think sex should be about having a good time and making sure your partner has a good time, so if something turns you on, then I guess I'll try it.

"I'm going to start a list," Adam said.

I still have some of your IOUs, Lance reminded him.

Yeah, they were only half-way through Lance's toy drawer. But right now Adam was touring, and it was going to be a while before he got to play with Lance in person again. "Did you do any of this stuff before? Stuff that fits your definition of kink, I mean."

Not really. I guess my long-term guys weren't interested and with short-term ones we never really got to that level.

"Me, I like a bit of variety. The spice of life, and all that."

You mean you just have a short attention span.

"Nnnnnnnnmmmmaybe. I mean. I don't seem to be very good at long-term." There was a pause, presumably Lance assimilating that. It was only fair to warn him, Adam thought.

You and, um, Brad lasted a while, though.

"Yeah."

So, you know you can do it if you want to.

"Yeah, but. I wanted. I thought we were going to be, I guess it sounds crazy to say it but I thought we were going to be forever. I mean, he was, we just, we fit, he was like my soul-mate. My perfect match, all the way. And... I couldn't hold on to him, so what chance do I have with anyone else?" Adam's stomach tensed. He had not meant to say that.

Lance was silent for a moment. Sometimes what you think you want isn't what you need.

"Hey, are you quoting the Rolling Stones at me?" Adam said, lightly. "If so you need to get the words right." He was not going to get teary, not now. He was over Brad. Really.

No, but, I'm thinking of me and Reichen. You know, he might have been tailor-made for me, everything I thought I wanted in one big handsome package, but it didn't really work out for me either, so.

"It must have been hard, breaking up with the guy you came out for. I mean, not that you exactly, but you sort of did."

That was probably why it went on as long as it did. I didn't want to admit it wasn't working.

"Public breakups are a bitch," Adam said, feeling as though he ought to offer a bit more consolation, but he remembered the gossip about Reichen Lehmkuhl and he couldn't think of anything better to say.

Yeah, but private ones are almost worse. I mean, at least if the whole world knows you broke up with someone you're allowed to be miserable. When it's all a secret, you have to pretend nothing's wrong.

"You said in your book..."

Jesse. Yeah. We're friends again now, not good friends but we're okay. It's real hard to be friends with the guy who broke your heart.

"Yeah." Sometimes Adam thought it would be easier on him not to be friends with Brad.

Time helps, I guess. You move on.

"I guess," Adam agreed, unconvinced. He hadn't been able to make it with Brad, he hadn't been able to keep Drake either, all those fans screaming and fainting over him thinking he was the best deal on earth and still he couldn't keep the guys he wanted. He just didn't seem to be any good at relationships. It was probably better to concentrate on his career right now. It wasn't exactly compatible with anything long-term. He said so.

It's okay. I'm not expecting us to be all hearts and flowers.

"Hey, I gave you flowers!"

That is true.

"Which is more than you ever did for me," Adam pointed out, relieved to be on easy ground again.

* * *

They talked, now. In bed, before Adam went off on his tour right after Christmas; and now that he was several states away, in late night phone conversations after Adam's shows. But sometimes Lance wished they hadn't. The conversation about being in love had set up a twisty ache around his heart. Even now, thinking about Jesse left him a little bit wrung, because it had been so perfect back then when he was innocent, and the memory of Jesse with someone else was still a pinprick of hurt. And now, he knew Adam was—even though they'd agreed, they weren't exclusive, it wasn't a betrayal, but. Lance was not good at casual.

And Adam was so sure what he wanted, and it didn't sound like Lance at all. Adam wanted a soulmate, someone who matched him all the way and shared his ideas and the way he looked at life. And Lance knew about Brad, Cheeks, whatever he was calling himself these days. He'd seen the videos; a beautiful, dark-eyed faerie boy, sharp and fascinating in a way Lance knew he himself could never be. Lance was a nice guy, he thought. He wondered if it would ever be enough.

Lance was also guiltily aware that hadn't been as honest with Adam as Adam had been with him. He hadn't admitted that he'd never quite loved Reichen—it would have seemed all kinds of wrong, when Reichen had been so good for him and he had been honestly happy while they were together. But Lance didn't want to be the shining one in a relationship, he was a backing singer by nature as well as by voice, he was a producer not a star, he wanted to have someone who needed him, someone he could support and cherish... and Reichen hadn't been good enough. How could he possibly admit that without sounding like, without being, all kinds of a jerk?

* * *

Lance wasn't home, and he wasn't answering his cellphone.

Of course there was no reason Lance shouldn't be out enjoying himself tonight. He wasn't scheduled for any appearances—Adam had a list of those so that he knew which nights not to call—but there was no reason at all why he shouldn't have gone out with friends. No reason at all.

Adam had been looking forward to the call. He had no show tonight, they'd arrived in Denver just before eight, he'd had dinner and gone back to his room. Touring was hard work. He didn't have the energy to spare for going out tonight, so he'd settled down alone on a hotel bed as broad and green as a sports field and made himself comfortable for a long conversation, and Lance was out, and not picking up his phone, and Adam did not want to think about what Lance might be doing because there was no reason, no reason at all why Lance should not go out and enjoy himself with other people. Adam could do that too. He was here overnight. He could go out, find a club, find someone. Have a good time.

He poked at his phone instead.

Hey, Adam! How're you doing?

"I'm good, I'm very good. How are you? How's Katy?"

We're great. Things are—man, do you ever get the feeling you're just having this really amazing dream and all the stuff that's happening to you isn't real?

"Is it still like a dream?"

Yeah, pretty much. I'm gonna be touring myself soon.

"Yeah? Fantastic!"

And I've been writing, and—you know, it's just. It's incredible. Still.

"It really is. But I bet it's a lot easier in dreams, right?"

That sounded heartfelt. Are you okay?

"Yeah, yeah, I'm great. Seriously, I couldn't wish for anything better than this. It's just—" he laughed, a bit self-conscious, "it's all happening so fast, it's like, when do I get to slow down? You know, take a breath, take it all in. It's a hell of a ride." Like being on a roller coaster for months.

I guess. So what's it like—is it harder touring on your own that it was doing the Idol tour?

"It's... I don't know that it's harder. It's different. In some ways it's easier, because it's my tour so everything's the way I want it. At least, as much as it can be. I have a rest night tonight and I'm sitting here in a hotel room that's twice the size of the apartment I was living in a year ago. And you know what? It doesn't even feel that weird."

We got used to luxury, didn't we.

"Yeah, luxury and no time to enjoy it. Which is kinda still true. You should see my tour bus!"

If it's better than the one we had...

"I don't have to sleep in a bunk, I have a big bed, not as big as the one I'm sitting on right now which I swear you could play baseball on, but it's nice. But you know, the pros are kinda the cons at the same time. It gets a bit lonely, touring by yourself."

I thought you were too busy to get lonely. And you must have plenty of people around.

"Once you're into the routine it gets easier. Okay, a little bit easier. But it would be kinda nice to have someone to talk to who wasn't working for me. Oh, God, that sounds terrible! Listen to me, I'm a diva."

It was so good to hear Kris's laughter. You just now realized?

"Hey!"

But you know, you don't have to be on your own. Get someone to ride along with you.

"I don't know... "

So how is Lance, anyway? There was a knowing tone in Kris's voice. Adam could just imagine his sly little grin. Not right there with you swinging a big ole baseball bat?

Adam broke into helpless laughter and collapsed backwards into the pillows. If he could find someone who made him laugh like Kris did... "No. Sadly, not," he said when he could speak.

But he's still around, yeah?

"Yeah, yeah. He's still around, he's fine. He's. He sent me the biggest damn flower basket I ever saw in my life." It had been waiting for him in his dressing room a few days ago—where was that, Portland?— taking up half the floor. With a little note attached to it that was just a smiley face with its tongue sticking out, and Lance's initials. "He does make me laugh," he said, surprised.

That's good, right? Unless it's the wrong kind of making you laugh.

"There's a wrong kind?"

If he dresses up in a gorilla suit and runs around the bed making monkey noises? I'd say that's the wrong kind.

"You know, I worry about Katy. She's such a sweet girl, and she's stuck with you, and you are a perverted little freak. No, Lance does not wear a gorilla suit."

Hey, I said it would be wrong, didn't I?

"I'm just disturbed that you thought it up at all," said Adam. Then something occurred to him. "He would if I asked him to." For a moment, he was tempted to make the request. Lance's face would be something to see.

O. Kay. Definitely heading into TMI territory there. So, red roses or thistles?

"What? Oh. No, not red roses. Yellow tulips, plus those lilies that look like angel trumpets." About a thousand of them. "It was a joke, really. Definitely not a red roses moment."

So do you think there's a red roses moment in your future?

"I... I'm not ready for anything serious right now." It was the wrong time. Touring, recording, when did he even have five minutes to make a relationship work, if he even could? And, with Lance? "Anyhow, you know we're still, we're really different."

But you get along pretty good.

"Yeah, we do." Not just in bed, either, Adam thought, although that surely didn't hurt. "But he's into producing and business stuff, that's what he does, and I'm a performer, I do the creative side, I just don't see how that can really work out. Not long term."

Uh huh. Right.

"Well, you know. I need to find someone who really fits with me, with the way I am."

Mmm. You do know Katy's in marketing, right?

Adam opened his mouth to say—something—and a strange noise came out so he closed it again. Kris's merriment resounded from the cellphone that was now on the floor. He picked it up. "Uh. I didn't mean. Do I have my foot stuck in my mouth here? Should I just chew on my toes for a while?"

No, man, but you know what? You could kick yourself in the ass a few times.

"I could do that, sure."

Adam, nobody's perfect. Not even—I mean, Katy snores. Oh, yes you do! Which one of us is asleep when you snore? It's really cute, these little tiny—ow! No, no, stop! There were some very strange noises. Adam waited patiently. If you can believe it, I'm not perfect either.

"Really? No! That can't be!"

I'm actually really ticklish. So you see... He turned serious again. Just—keep an open mind, y'know? If this thing with Lance is good, then it's good. So it's not what you expected. Life's full of surprises.

"That, I cannot deny."

So don't rule the guy out. See what happens.

After he put the phone down, Adam stretched out and stared at the ceiling. He'd have to think about that for a while.

* * *

Carnation
bonds of affection, health and energy, fascination, alas for my poor heart

It was shaping up to be just another Monday when the call came.

Hey there. You got a few minutes?

Lance checked his watch, surprised. "Hey, Adam! I didn't think I'd hear from you until later. You've just finished soundcheck? Or are you about to start?"

No, we're done. Time to go eat.

"You sound..." very down, he thought, but amended it to, "tired."

Oh, God, I'm just so... I sometimes think I'm not going to get through this tour. It's three more weeks, and it just looks like forever.

"You getting enough sleep? Taking care of yourself?"

I have so many vitamins every day it's a miracle I don't rattle. But sleep, I wish. It's crazy, I'm so tired, but after a show I'm just wide awake, the buzz, you know? And I can't go out to a club and dance it off because I get right back on the bus and we're off to the next city, and I'm lying there replaying the show in my head instead of getting to sleep.

Lance summoned Adam's itinerary onto his screen, though he'd practically memorized it. "Chicago should help. You have an overnight there, don't you? Maybe you can go out after the show tonight." Lance cringed from the thought of Adam going out. There'd be a sea of eager fans, and a cute boy would no doubt help him relax. It still wasn't something Lance wanted to have to think about. He made a practice of going out on the nights he knew Adam was not performing, just so that he didn't have to think about it. It sorta helped.

I have this meeting tomorrow, one of the RCA execs is coming to talk me through the schedule they've worked out. Taking advantage of the fact that I'm in a hotel tonight. So I don't get to sleep late.

"What's their rush? They couldn't wait until the tour's over?"

I don't know. I think there's some talks going on about my contract. Anyway. They want me to sign off on this thing. He sounded so miserable, Lance wondered what the hell was going on. Surely the record company weren't planning to drop—no, no record company would be that stupid. But something was clearly not right.

"Is there a problem with that?"

I guess... not. I just thought I'd have a chance to rest, you know? I mean, they want me to start working on the next album right off, they have release dates already, and I know it's great that I'm getting the chance to make another one—

"With your sales figures they'd be insane not to want one."

Two, they have two more on the schedule, but the way I feel right now I don't know if I can, I haven't written anything in weeks, and I need to, like, recharge. Maybe I'll feel better after the tour, sleep for a few days before I think about what the next one's going to be.

Lance did not like the sound of this. It seemed like a recipe for burnout, what were RCA thinking? "What does your agent say?"

Oh, full steam ahead, grab it while you can, all that. I'm tied in to the AI contract anyway. And I mean, they're right, obviously, I can't let things cool off, I have to be out there, put my music out there. I'll feel better about it when I'm not so tired. Is it always like this near the end of a tour? With the Idol tour everyone was getting sick close to the end.

"Would it help," Lance began tentatively, "would you like—would it help if I come spend a few days with you? I mean, I know about touring, I know what's involved, I can keep out of the way while you're working, and maybe take a few things off your plate."

I can't ask you to do that. You have your own work.

"I can bring my laptop. And you aren't asking, I'm offering. Seriously. I'm sure I could help you relax. It's up to you. If you want me there, I can take a few days, no problem."

I don't think I should ask, but yes. Please come.

"Of course you can ask. I'll be there as soon as I can. I—I actually miss you." The second the words were out of his mouth, Lance froze with horror. "I'llseeyousoon," he gabbled, and cut the connection. That was incredibly stupid, he thought, Adam doesn't want to know that I—hell.

But there was no time for brooding, he had calls to make.

* * *

Showering off the night's sweat, Adam wondered how it was possible to feel so weary and so fizzingly awake. The performance adrenaline was still buzzing in his bloodstream. Thank God for crowds, for their life and energy and the way they shared it with him. He loved performing and he loved his audiences. But he was so tired. He seemed to have been running at top speed for months, ever since the whole Idol thing started, he just wanted to lie down.

Still, Lance would be here tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow. He shouldn't count on that, it might take a while for Lance to rearrange his own schedule, but he couldn't help hoping. Tomorrow. He smiled to himself, turned off the water and wiped himself down before stepping out to dry himself off .

Should he re-read the details for the morning's meeting? Might send him to sleep, but no, more likely keep him awake worrying even after the adrenaline was gone. He picked up his book instead and settled into bed.

The sheets of paper mocked him silently from the table.

Adam did his best to ignore them, but the words in front of him wouldn't settle into sense, and after five minutes he gave up, slammed the book down on the nightstand next to him, and got out of bed. He'd just read it through one more—

There was a knock at the door, the correct knock, the one that meant it was safe to open, not some intrepid fan who'd managed to get hold of his room number. Adam's heart sank. Nothing good would come of a knock at his door at this time of night, unless—he brightened—tomorrow's meeting was canceled and he could sleep late.

He hurried into the bathroom, hauled on the fluffy white hotel bathrobe, padded barefoot across the sitting room and opened the door.

"Oh!" he said, astonished. "Hey!"

Lance's smile lit the room.

"I didn't—I thought, tomorrow, you—how did you get here?"

"Lisa actually is very efficient," Lance said, and looked at him in amusement. "And probably happy to get me out of the office."

"I can't believe you got here so fast."

"United Airlines, man, it's just a four hour flight." Lance looked up at him. "Do I get a kiss hello?"

Adam seized him, pulled him inside and kissed him with great thoroughness.

"You know, I was going to ask if you were pleased to see me, but apparently you are," Lance said, grinning wickedly.

Adam gave his tush a quick smack, then hugged him again. "I missed you, too," he muttered, suddenly convinced it was important to say so.

"Well, now I'm here," said Lance, briskly, but he was smiling too, and ducking his head, a little bit shy and a little bit pink, which meant he was well pleased. Also, incredibly cute. "All ready to provide congenial company, moral support and," he set his duffel down and dropped his voice into sex register, "relaxation."

"You don't want, I mean, food? Something to drink?" However pleased he was to see Lance, it wasn't fair to drag him to the bed and ravish him without letting him, oh, take his shoes off first.

"Nah, I got dinner on the plane."

Adam grimaced.

"No, no, they look after you okay in first class. Mind you, I thought for a while I was going to have to fly coach." He shuddered theatrically.

"I appreciate the sacrifice," Adam said, trying to sound solemn, but he couldn't stop smiling.

"Don't worry, it didn't come to that. So." Lance unwrapped the hastily tied belt from Adam's waist and slid his chilly hands inside the bathrobe. "How much help do you need to get to sleep?"

"Nothing you can't supply," Adam said into Lance's neck, stretched so invitingly before him. "I mean, I don't think we even need to, if you're tired from traveling, if you wanna wait till morning." He really hoped Lance didn't want to wait.

"Adam," said Lance, firmly, "I am not tired. It's not even bed-time on the West coast. I have been thinking about you for the past seven hours. Do not tell me you want to wait until tomorrow."

"I won't do that," Adam promised. "I definitely won't do that. I seem to be really awake now. Not tired at all."

"In that case, I have a lot of work ahead of me, don't I?"

"Mmm. Maybe you should get undressed."

"That sounds like a plan."

"Do you need any help?"

"I don't know. Do I?"

Adam's smile grew. "Mmm, yes, I think you do. I think you do."

*

Adam opened his eyelids just enough that he could navigate to the bathroom, do what he had to do, and find his way back to the bed. It seemed to be empty, but through the not-quite-closed sitting room door he could hear Lance rumbling. "—massive revenue opportunity—potentially huge—squandered on short term profit—" Okay, he'd said he would bring work with him. It occurred to Adam that it was kinda sexy, hearing Lance being all stern and businesslike, but he wasn't really awake enough to process that. He groped for his wristwatch, squinted at it, and realized he could spend another hour in bed. He crawled gratefully between the sheets and dropped back into sleep at once.

When he woke up again, there was coffee.

A moment later, Lance stuck his head around the door. "Ah, good," he said, and brought breakfast through into the bedroom. Adam found himself sitting up in bed, faintly bewildered but not unhappy, with a plate of protein-heavy breakfast on a tray, and fresh orange juice. Lance, dressed but barefoot, settled beside him cradling a cup of coffee, and explained that he'd eaten already. "Sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you. Am I supposed to eat all this?"

"Yep. Carbs later, before the show."

"Okay," said Adam, who had by now realized that he was hungry, and began to eat.

"I, uh. Did something I probably shouldn't have," Lance said, carefully.

"Mmm?"

"You did tell me, last night, I should read the schedule from RCA."

"Yeah, and?"

"I thought you might not remember. You were practically asleep."

"No, no, I remember," Adam said, gulping down a mouthful of scrambled eggs. "So you read the schedule."

"Mmm. And then I called an old—well, not a friend, but I knew he'd take my call, at 19 Entertainment, and told him they were being screwed." He hesitated. "I should have talked to you first, but I was pissed, and you needed to sleep."

"Oh," said Adam. "What did he say?"

"Let's just say, I persuaded him to re-evaluate some revenue projections," Lance said. "I mean, there's no use talking to record company execs about reasonable treatment and decent human behavior, because they are all sharks and were raised in petri dishes, but they understand money. It's just like Hollywood, really. Anyway, 19 have seen the figures, they want you long-term—which, incidentally, don't sign up for that either, but we can talk about that some other time—anyway they definitely don't want RCA screwing with you just because they have you on license right now. He was furious about it. So, um. If the guy puts that schedule in front of you, don't sign it."

"Oh, shit, the meeting! What time is it?"

"Don't worry, you have forty minutes to shower and dress. But, um. Are you okay with that?"

Adam looked at him in astonishment. He'd never realized Lance had a secret super-power. "So what are you—you're saying, 19 still get to over-ride what I do with RCA?"

"They have some clauses in the contract which will cover it, yes."

"And I don't have to stick with that schedule?"

"Apparently, and you don't know this, okay, they have some negotiations scheduled in about a month. If you agree to what RCA want now, it weakens 19's position. I think there's some personal grudge stuff going on in there, too, one of the new RCA suits just came from Jive and there's all kinds of backstory, trust me, you don't want to go there, but anyway. Just go into the meeting and tell them you really don't feel you can commit to the schedule right now, you can talk about artistic freedom or whatever you want, doesn't matter, the important thing is, don't agree to it. Say you need to get the tour finished first."

"Sounds good to me," said Adam, amazed. It hadn't felt right to him, but he'd been willing to go along with the advice from his agent and the record company, they were supposed to know what they were doing. He'd learned an enormous amount about the practical/creative side of the business, how to put a show together, how to put an album together, how to put a tour together, but these executive-class shenanigans were beyond him. "Thanks, babe." He leaned over to plant a kiss on Lance's nose. "Maybe I'm supposed to be angry with you, but I'm just. Wow."

"You're not mad at me?"

"So very not. God, what a relief!"

* * *

Red Tulip
Believe me; declaration of love

Despite Adam's obvious approval, Lance was feeling a shade guilty at having rearranged his life without asking first, and vowed not to interfere again. The rest of the day went well. He kept out of the way during the meeting, sitting on the bed working on a couple of reports, and declined to attend soundcheck on the grounds that Adam certainly didn't need him there and he could get some emails done. They had a merry meal together before the show. Adam was a lot more relaxed already, with a good night's sleep behind him—Lance was happy to take the credit for that—and no punishing schedule to fret about.

He watched the show, of course, from a discreet vantage point backstage, and was blown away afresh by Adam's sheer strutting presence, the way he ruled the audience and flirted and teased them all, the incredible range and power of his voice. The perfect, slutty way he moved his hips. To his regret, he couldn't stay for the encores, but boarded the bus tidily ahead of time so that Adam could make a quick getaway.

"I was hoping you'd be naked," Adam said with a grin as he came on board, visibly alight with the excitement of the performance.

"Thought about it," said Lance, reclining on the bed with a magazine and wearing only T-shirt and boxers. "But I wasn't sure what your bus routine would be."

"Eh, I'm kinda rank. I'm gonna shower."


Adam emerged from the shower wearing the most magnificent robe Lance had ever seen. He blinked and shaded his eyes. Adam stuck out his tongue, sat down on the bed and put a hand on Lance's thigh. Lance had discarded the boxers and T-shirt.

"So, Mr I-can-help-you-relax. What are we going to do tonight?"

"Whatever you want."

"Whatever I want?"

"Anything."

"Lance... "

"Well, I have limits, but you already know what they are." Lance looked at him steadily.

"No pain, no humiliation, no intricate things with string." Adam grinned but did not snicker at that last part. Lance was impressed.

"And I figure," he said, "you don't seem to want to ask for those things anyway, so. Anything you want."

"Even handcuffs?"

Lance nodded.

"Really?" Adam looked at him searchingly. "I wouldn't, I mean..."

"I didn't trust you then," Lance told him, and it earned him a kiss.

"You looked so fucking beautiful," Adam murmured. "I want to do that again, properly. We will. But," he sighed, "I didn't bring the cuffs."

Lance smiled, and leaned over for his duffel. It was mostly unpacked already, but... "I don't have handcuffs," he said. "The bedposts are too big. I have these." He produced four coils of thin, flexible rope and laid them on the bed. "More practical."

Adam breathed an almost reverent sigh as he drew one of the ropes through his hand. "You like being tied up," he said thoughtfully.

"Mmm. Everyone deserves to be the center of attention sometimes," Lance said. "Being tied up means you don't have to do anything. Just be—pleasured. The other guy gets to do all the work. And I like tying my partner up and enjoying his pleasure, seeing how much I can give him. Sauce for the gander, and all. And I thought, either way, we might find these useful. So, Adam. What do you want?"

* * *

Lance seemed to have appointed himself bus chef, for when Adam awoke the next morning he was presented with freshly brewed coffee, and informed that breakfast would not be long.

Adam set the coffee on the bedside locker and circled Lance's wrists with both hands to tug him closer. There was a tiny, conscious smile on Lance's face as he knelt on the bed and bent down for his good morning kiss. He really had been beautiful last night.

"Your turn next time."

Adam narrowed his eyes and raised a brow, trying for intimidating, but apparently not achieving it. Lance just laughed at him and escaped to go scramble some eggs, and a few minutes later Adam, in his gorgeous robe, settled at the little table to eat.

"I could get used to this," he said happily. He didn't mind fixing his own breakfast, but this was nicer. "My very own cook and problem-fixer."

"I'm kinda taking over," Lance admitted. "I always used to do breakfast on our bus, when we had breakfast, anyway. Joey fixed dinner. Tell me how you like to run your day. I don't want to cause you extra stress by getting in the way, I'm here to make things easier on you."

"Could you get my tour manager to stop complaining about how much the costumes cost?" He was mostly joking, but Lance brightened.

"You wanna show me the budget? I like budgets."

"You are a sad, sad person." Adam thought for a moment. "I don't think we've overspent. Costumes matter, and I wanted them spectacular. And we agreed this stuff beforehand, but Maurice won't let up with the complaints."

"I'll take a look, and I'll talk to Maurice."

"Honestly, you don't have to do that. I know you have your own work to do."

"It's cool. I'm nosy, I like to know everything."

"Oh, and I almost forgot, I have something for you." Where had he—there it was on the couch. His favorite of the three tour designs, in Lance's size. Lance exclaimed in delight and promptly pulled off the T-shirt he was wearing so that he could don the new one. "You don't get to wear it tonight, it's a rest night."

"Well, damn," said Lance. "What are we going to do with ourselves?"

* * *

A couple of days later Lance announced that he thought Maurice was happy with things now, which proved to be true.

It was a nice feeling, that someone was there just for him, someone with no financial stake and no reputation to uphold, just someone looking out for him. He mentioned this to Kris that afternoon when Kris called just after soundcheck.

There you go, business people can be cool, too.

"I guess they can. Lance is pretty cool."

See, Uncle Kris always knows best. Uncle Kris happens to be a business major, so...

Adam laughed. "I am taking your advice," he promised. "I'm just gonna see what happens."

* * *

Saturday morning, en route to Boston, MA, and Adam woke with a delicious langour in his limbs, a feeling of perfect well-being, and a sense-memory of soft rope around his wrists. Beside him, Lance was still serenely asleep. Adam stared down at the messy faux-blond head next to him. Lance had been so, so intent, last night, so focused. Adam found it easier to understand, now, why Lance had panicked and run when they'd tried the handcuff thing before. Lance hadn't trusted him enough, then, and he'd probably been right. It was a lot to handle, it was almost terrifying being the recipient of all that concentrated attention, he hadn't realized how hard it would be to give himself over completely to the receiving of pleasure and just accept it all.

Or how incredibly good it would feel when he did. Almost an out-of-body experience. He wouldn't tell Lance that, because Lance wouldn't get it and would just mock. Strange, that someone so pragmatic could take him so high.

There were adorable little waking-up grunts, and Lance's eyes opened.

"Hey," Adam murmured. "Sleep well?"

"Mmmm. Not 'wake yet." Fuck, but his early-morning voice was ridiculously sexy.

"And I thought you were a morning person."

"I worked hard last night. There's a lot of you to cover." Lance seemed to find Adam's height very pleasing. It was sweet. They'd have a proper-sized bed tonight, he had a stopover. Tomorrow Lance would go to the airport and Adam would get back on the bus and head for Philadelphia. He thought about trying to persuade Lance to stay longer, but it wasn't fair, Lance had his own work to do, and Adam didn't truly need him there any more. It was going to be hard to let him go, it had been a great almost-week, not just the spectacular sex but the other things Lance had done, little things like making sure he ate properly, occasional neck rubs, the way the problems that had been draining Adam's energy so badly had smoothed themselves out of the way. But now Adam was refreshed and ready for the rest of the tour, he was going to make the final two weeks the best ever. He'd even found time to write up a few ideas for songs.

"Next time I go on tour," Adam said, petting Lance's hair, "I'm putting you on retainer."

Lance raised himself on one elbow and looked down at Adam. "Don't think you can afford my fee," he said. How had Adam ever thought those eyes were hard to read? He could see everything in them now.

"I was hoping you might do it for..." he hesitated over the word, suddenly terrified, and made a last-minute substitution, "free."

Lance looked at him very carefully, and Adam felt a thrill of panic. He wasn't ready, he couldn't be sure. He was terrible at relationships. "Well, you know," Lance said, "I don't do anything for free. But I will," and he grinned, "go anywhere for VIP tickets and a classy T-shirt. Ask anybody."

Adam grinned back, enormously relieved. "I think I can promise you VIP tickets and a classy T-shirt."

"In that case," said Lance, "sign me up." He settled back down against Adam's side, and Adam tightened his arm around him.

They snuggled for a while longer, and Adam could just see the corner of Lance's mouth turned up in a tiny little smile. He loved that little smile. Eventually, he had to kiss it, and the snuggling seamlessly turned into making out and then hot, sticky, joyful mutual handjobs.

*

At breakfast, Adam had what had to be a long overdue brainwave. "Lance. Tonight. Come on stage with me."

"That sounds like an awfully adult show," Lance said, blandly, not looking up from his newspaper.

"Bad Lance! No biscuit!" said Adam, startled into laughter. "Although, give the audience what they want, right?" Lance eyed him disapprovingly over the top of his glasses. Adam grinned. "We should sing together. Do Flower, before you leave."

"I, wow," said Lance, faced with Adam's best persuasive face. "I haven't sung in front of people since... " He thought about it for a few minutes. Adam concentrated on his breakfast and waited for Lance's decision. "Oh hell, why not, let's go for it. Promise me we'll get a chance to rehearse. And do you have the words somewhere? I need to study up."

"You forgot the words?" Adam said, incredulous. He still knew the words for every song he'd ever sung. "I'll teach you."

"Best not," Lance said. "I think we might get distracted. I'll Google them."


They rehearsed before the fans were let in for soundcheck. Lance did okay on the words but he seemed to be holding back. Possibly he was nervous. "Can't you get a bit more, you know, hard-assed with it? Remember how you sang it in JC's studio. I want us all up in each other's faces for this song."

"More likely I'll be about level with your nipples," Lance said, "if you're wearing those ridiculous boots."

"Do not diss the boots," Adam replied automatically, but Lance had a point. So, after soundcheck, he had a word with his stage manager and arranged some adjustments for the encores. The raised step around the rear could be re-set forward most of the way to the front of the stage, like a catwalk. That should even things up a bit. And it'd keep him alert, he had a feeling he was getting a bit samey with the way he used the stage.

*

From the moment Adam strode onto the stage that night and opened his mouth to sing the first number, Lance knew it was going to be one of the special performances that show up like magic once in a while. He was on fire, the crowd was on fire, they loved each other, everything worked. Watching from his privilege vantage point, Lance got so caught up he forgot to be nervous and just enjoyed the spectacle of Adam being utterly and completely fabulous and let himself be mesmerized as always by Adam's hips. He was going to have to sneak back at the end of the tour and see the final show from out there, somewhere, if he could possibly swing it, somewhere he could be a part of the frenzied crowd and really feel the atmosphere.

*

By the end of his second encore Adam was on an incredible high, and the crowd went into a frenzy when he asked if they wanted just one more number.

So he and Lance did Flower just the way he'd imagined it, facing off on opposite sides of the stage and gradually meeting in the middle, fierce and hard and angry, and he had a handful of petals which he crushed and let fall, and Lance had to step onto the catwalk so they ended up nose to nose, I want to fuck you like a dog I'll take you home and make you like it, and the roof practically came off the building. He stood there, glaring into Lance's eyes, Lance's wide black pupils, Lance was just as turned on as he was, and Adam had a sudden impulse to kiss him hard, right there on the stage. He thought about what the audience would do—and what Lance would do. Okay, so, not. No public stuff. But he didn't know how he was going to make it back to the hotel room.

He grabbed Lance's hand instead and they bowed together under the tumult of applause, and ran offstage. Lance pushed him back on for one last bow, and when Adam got back to his dressing room Lance had banished everyone else, because he was smart that way, and he got his clever, clever hands straight to the fastening of Adam's pants and said, "Do you want me to blow you or do you want to fuck me?" and Adam said, "I have to choose?" so they did both.

* * *

Sunday morning, and his ride to the airport would be here soon. Lance rolled his T-shirts and boxers into neat sausages and re-packed his duffel. As he coiled the ropes, he glanced up to Adam, sitting cross-legged on the bed watching him, and grinned. "No, I am not leaving these here. You'll have to make other arrangements." He slid the coils neatly into the slim front pocket of his bag. Was there anything he'd forgotten?

A moment later Adam had slid off the bed and pulled him upright into a tight hug. "I don't want you sleeping with anybody else."

Lance blinked. "Okay," he said, surprised. Pleased.

"I'm serious. I don't want—you'll just have to survive on phone sex and toys until I get back to LA, you hear me?"

"Okay," Lance said again, trying not to beam. Adam was being possessive. It made him feel warm and sappy and he should probably try to keep some kind of cool, here. Things were going so very well, he didn't want to screw it up by going too far, too fast. Adam wasn't ready.

Adam looked at him, uncertainty written all over his face.

"I can do that," Lance assured him.

"And I, you know. Same deal for me, I won't."

He looked as though he honestly believed Lance might not agree. Or might not care. Maybe keeping cool wasn't important after all. Maybe waiting for the right time didn't even matter. Maybe it was more important to make him understand. "Adam," Lance said, picking his words carefully, "I don't want anybody else. I'm not going to say anything you don't want to hear, but you know I don't need the VIP tickets and the free T-shirt, right? Wherever you want me, I'm there. So," he hugged tight and spoke fiercely into Adam's ear, "you just keep on being awesome for the rest of your tour and you come find me the second you get back to LA, okay?"

There was a knock at the door.

"My car's here, baby. Gotta go." He pressed a quick kiss on Adam's lips and stepped back. Grabbed his duffel. Headed out.


He was belted in and ready to go when Adam hurtled down the steps and skidded to a halt next to the car. Lance pressed the button to open the window, and called to the driver to wait just one second.

"Lance—I just. I wanted to say. I love you too."

He was out of the car in what felt like no time at all and so tight in Adam's arms he couldn't breathe for a moment. "I really have to go," he muttered, and they unwound, and he got back in the car, and this time it really did leave.

At the airport, he got out his cellphone and ordered another delivery for Adam. This time, he thought, he'd send roses.

* * *

 

On to the Outtakes.

 

 

Yellow tulip Hopeless Love
Calla Lily Magnificent beauty
Red Rose Love, I love you

Flower meanings from The Language of Flowers http://www.thegardener.btinternet.co.uk/flowerlanguage.html)

The YouTube links:

I Thought She Knew http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncKE1mBpr9s
Oh Holy Night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXzJqRXLI08
Bee Gees Medley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGbNQ1-Ty_A
Atlantis Concert (Tim McGraw medley) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3qMyVnR6RQ

Snake picture: http://community.livejournal.com/popmacros/27491.html
Lance with Alan Cumming: http://pics.livejournal.com/pensnest/pic/0005z7g9 (okay, I cheated with this one, I couldn't find it except by looking where I knew it was)

 

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