The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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airpsfic: (this is) not a statement, 5/10
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
(this is) not a statement, 5
by Seperis
AIRPS, Adam, Kris, Adam/Kris
Notes: Thanks to transtempts, tricksterquinn, and cathalin for reading, beta, and suggestions.
Warnings: please see beneath first cut.

first part, second part, third part, fourth part, fifth part, sixth part, seventh part, eighth part, ninth part, tenth part



Warning: discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault.








Kris hates promotions, hates them in ways that Adam really doesn't. It's not simply a difference in personality, either; the first time around hadn't been nearly as rough as it could have been, but Kris had taken up a proxy hatred of the media from Adam's experiences over the last five years, took offense even when Adam could easily blow it off.

It's sweet and just a little insane, but then, you don't go into this business if you're sane. "You'll be fine," Adam soothes at soundcheck, ignoring frantic hand signals and demands for his attention to focus on the faintly frantic edge in Kris' voice. "Look, this is new to Leah; you gotta be there for her and the others." Because Adam trusts that Jared's lack of good sense could and will end in disaster, and while Leo swears that Leah and Kris can keep him under control, the guy is not the type to take that kind of shit well. If he's honest, Adam reflects sourly, Jared's behavior isn't exactly unfamiliar or anything. "Think of Leah. And not strangling the paparazzi with their own cameras."

Kris sighs a little mutinously, but it's not like he won't do it. "Yeah, I know. And this isn't--going to be that big, not like Idol, I get that. But--"

"Jared," Adam sighs, frowning at the tour manager making an appearance to stare at him bitterly.

"Jared," Kris agrees hopelessly. "Okay. It's just an album, and all I have to do is nod and why do I have to be there again?"

Technically speaking, he didn't; songwriters weren't usually forced into being a part of the media attention during an album release. "For the same reason 19E nearly shit themselves in joy when you told them what you were doing and why you agreed to do this in the first place. Your album is coming up, and you need the exposure. And because they need the exposure, too. It's a mutual parasitic relationship."

Adam may have been hitting wikipedia a little too much, but three am is three am and sometimes, Kris actually does sleep at night.

"That's--really disgusting," Kris says after a moment. "Thanks for the image. Okay. I can do this."

"You can," Adam agrees. "Leah should be there soon, so be nice and do as she says, okay?"

Kris hums absent agreement that comes to a startled stop. "Leah isn't coming over," Kris says in bewilderment. Adam hears his phone ping a text message and settles back in his chair, flagrantly pretending he's not blowing off pretty much everything, because he's been waiting for this all day. "Adam, my doorbell just rang."

Adam bites his lip against a fit of giggles and obediently gets to his feet when his PA shows up with a look on her face that says "resignation and I have lots of paparazzi friends, fucker".

"Adam," Kris says dangerously as he pads through the condo and starts unlocking the door. "What did you do?"

"I like Leah," Adam says brightly. "Awesome girl. Can we keep her?" just as Kris says, resigned, "Hi, Leah. I see shopping bags. I don't even need to ask, do I?"

Leah makes a soothing sound; she's dealt with Kris enough to know how to handle him.

"You told Leah to pick out my clothes?" Kris hisses into the phone. "Are you serious?"

"Of course not," Adam says, offended. "I did; she just went to pick them up and will make sure you wear them. I want pictures, baby. Have a good night!" Hanging up before Kris can try to argue his way out of the inevitable, Adam gives everyone a bright look. "So. Did I miss anything?"




He didn't need to worry about pictures; apparently, Jared's fucking around Hollywood and getting involved with B-list stars in compromising positions had paid off a lot better than anyone would have suspected. Which Adam has in fact followed, kind of hating himself but fascinated at the same time. Jared's the platonic wet dream of the paparazzi and if the album does as well as Adam thinks it will--and in this, he's never been wrong--it's not just Romantic Embargo that's going to benefit from their raised profile.

Adam reminds himself that he does not have to like them to appreciate what they can do for Kris.

Adam keeps the best of the pictures; Kris, unbelievably hot in the silver grey suit with a fit that makes Adam think of porn and art at the same time, the professional mess of hair that sometimes falls in his eyes in terribly distracting ways, the easy way Leah fits under his arm with her tall husband almost invisible behind them; only one of Jared and Kris, a casual snapshot that proves once again the pararazzi have all the insight of a block of wood.

Kris and his tie have long parted company, jacket open, two buttons undone--fuck, Adam thinks sadly, that's so not playing fair--with Leah standing inches away, distracted, and Jared leaning to murmur something into Kris' ear, one hand curled around Kris' wrist and the other resting with easy familiarity on the back of his neck. Kris is laughing, eyes half-closed, flushed and maybe drunk, maybe pleased, like maybe this time it was actually fun for him.

Adam suspects he knows who is responsible for that because yeah, Adam's totally that kind of asshole.




Kris mailed him a key to the condo a week before Adam was scheduled to return to LA along with a copy of Romantic Embargo's new album and a note, security code scrawled beneath: because they're kind of stalking your house and sleep is good.

Adam grins; Kris is back to eighteen hour days in the studio and still manages to think of that.

To his surprise, Kris is waiting at the airport, sunglasses pulled down and almost hiding the growing circles beneath his eyes that the month since Embargo's album release should have erased. Of course Kris went right back to the studio; not like Adam didn't see that coming.

"Hey, baby," Adam says as Kris smiles, turning into the hug as easily as he ever had, and something in Adam relaxes just a little. Seeing it in person made it true, the way the phone calls and text messages and three am emails should have and still hadn't quite.

"Hey yourself." Pulling back a little, Kris peers up at him through the dark lenses; amused, Adam plucks them off. "Hey!"

"It's ten at night. It's like I don't even need to make fun of you; you do it to yourself." Setting them back on his nose, Adam glances around from habit as Kris sighs and pulls him toward the doors. "What about--"

"Jim will drop them off." Kris looks up mischievously. "When you've eaten and slept and--"

Adam snickers, leaning against Kris' shoulder. "Fine, whatever, it just better be an amazing dinner."

"Well," Kris says, peering at Adam over the edge of the glasses, "that part's up to you."




"Okay, as a guest," Adam says, trying not to breathe through his nose; his mother banged that much into him about cutting onions, "why am I being pressed into manual labor here? Also, done." Sliding the cutting board over, Adam squeezes his eyes shut and turns on the faucet to wash his hands, breathing thanks he'd showered before they started and he didn't have to deal with the effects of tears and eye makeup tonight.

Kris scrapes them cheerfully into the simmering butter and various food-related shapes already cooking in the pan. "People with keys aren't guests. You're lucky I made the guest bed up for you." Leaning over his shoulder, Adam tries to identify what they're eating. There's onions and chicken and some vegetables and a pot of rice on the stove. Adam's thinking stir-fry, or a delicious-smelling facsimile thereof. "Besides, you eat out too much on tour."

That's true, and it was just as true before tour. Between his mom, Brad, and Danielle, he probably averaged one non-takeout meal a week, maybe, and that was when he wasn't recording.

"So do you," Adam says, not even looking at either the trash can or the refrigerator, loaded with leftovers in various stages of potential sentience, though at least Kris had actual food as well in a valiant attempt to pretend he's a normal human being. "I like the place, by the way. Lots of space."

Despite not being all that large, it's still half-empty because unsurprisingly, the only furniture is the stuff Katy had helped him buy, and Kris only bought what he'd notice he lacked. That would be, a living room in hotel-anonymous neutrals, a huge TV and entertainment system, and two beds. Adam had been surprised and pleased there were actual headboards. "Might spring for a dresser one of these days? Maybe, I don't know, a dining room? Some chairs? Plates not of the paper variety? What do you think?"

Kris rolls his eyes. "It's not like I'm here that much," he answers as he stirs, like that isn't pretty obvious. "Besides, it gives the cleaning service less to do."

Kris might be their favorite client at that; obviously, Katy had trained him to pick up after himself. It's an unsettling combination if Adam thinks about it too long; there's no sense of Kris here at all. He'd left a bigger impression in a room on an overnight at a hotel, on the bus with his guitar and notebooks and the random abandoned shirt marking territory as much as the rest of them. This--isn't Kris, but it's not Katy, either, not even in the furniture she'd helped him choose, and Adam doesn't want to interpret what that could mean.

We're working on it, Kris had said, half-relieved and half-surprised, but she's been here several times, stayed at least a week after Kris was done with Romantic Embargo's album, and there's nothing of her, of them. He can't ask, not now, probably not ever, he knows that, but he's fucking up as a friend that he's letting it slide, and he knows that, too.

"Maybe curtains?" he says lightly. "Less the abode of a serial killer, more well-adjusted member of society? For me? Please?"

"Jared said that too," Kris says sourly, and thank God; while they can't talk about Katy, Adam doesn't have any scruples regarding Jared. "He asked if there was a basement he should know about. Hand me the mushrooms?"

Adam picks them up and tries to remember if stir-fry has mushrooms, but it smells amazing, so really, who is he to judge? "How is Jared doing these days?" Adam asks as casually as he can. "Any new arrests?"

Kris levels Adam with a wary look as he takes the mushrooms and dumps them into the pan. "Nah. Got tossed out of a few clubs, but nothing that needed stitches this time around." Stirring the mushrooms in, he shrugs. "He comes by to drop off songs and complain about Leah sometimes, but he's been kind of busy--"

"Busy, yeah, that's a word for it. I know some better ones. Want to hear what they are?"

Kris wrinkles his nose, but the wary look increases, like maybe he suspects this conversation is going somewhere pretty specific. "Busy enjoying himself, but yeah, pretty much. He's a kid--"

"What definition are we using for that?" Adam leans against the counter to keep Kris' face in view, letting his smile fade. "Funny story. I got a call from a friend who told me--"

"Oh," Kris says too quickly, stabbing at the pan with unusual viciousness, "someone told you something? Glad you're keeping up on the gossip--"

"--he's playing a little rough, and not just with people that like it." Before Kris can pull away, Adam takes the spatula away and turns Kris' hand, running a thumb over the fading bruises spread fading purple and yellow-green along his knuckles. "What did Leah tell you? Jared doesn't think, so a punch to the face reminds him? What did he need to be reminded of?"

Kris' eyes narrow.

"You don't want to talk about it, fine, but I know you. This," Adam presses his thumb into the bruised bone, "means he didn't just cross some lines, he fucking jumped them."

Kris huffs a breath, making a half-hearted attempt to pull away. "It was--it wasn't that big a deal--"

"Kris," Adam says incredulously, closing his fingers involuntarily around Kris's thin wrist, intensely aware how much smaller Kris is than he is, but more, how much smaller he is than Jared. "You hit him hard enough to hurt yourself. You're telling me--"

"I overreacted," Kris says shortly, a slow flush creeping up his cheeks that Adam realizes is shame. "He was--he was being Jared and I wasn't, I didn't stop him before he--"

"Stop it," Adam says, tightening his grip on Kris' wrist instinctively. That's a familiar beginning, matched with the sound of Kris' voice, the way Kris looks right now; Adam's heard it before, more times than he can count, heard it said deprecatingly, with a little laugh and a little smile and maybe even a little guilt. Kris has heard it too, probably talked to girls who looked like this, who acted like this, and yet he can still stand there and say that and never notice the dichotomy. Because he's Kris, and because he's a guy, and guys only see what they want to, interpret it into what they can live with.

Adam hadn't liked Jared much before, but now he hates him, hates him, because of what he did to Kris, what he's made him think, and what Adam has to do now.

Licking his lips, Adam tightens his grip until he can feel bone shift and Kris' voice breaks off, startled. "Were you asking for it, baby?" he says gently. "Is that what happened?"

Kris' eyes widen, trying to jerk away. He doesn't get far.

"Or maybe," Adam says, straightening as he pushes Kris hard against the counter, staring down at him, making sure he understands this, gets this, the difference in height and weight and strength, but also in intent, "you teased him too much and he couldn't help himself? I mean, if you didn't want it, you wouldn't put it on offer like that, right?"

Kris blinks up at him in shock as Adam gets both his wrists, pinning them to the counter, putting his weight behind it so it hurts, so he'll remember this. "Adam--"

"Did you play with him a little just because you could?" Adam breathes against his ear, struggling against nausea rising sour on the back of his tongue; he's done this, fuck, he's held someone against a wall or a bar or the fucking floor and loved what he could do to them, but he's never done it like this, never used it like weapon, just because he could. "And Kris--was your skirt too short?"

When Kris' head snaps up, Adam lets him go, wiping sweating palms against his jeans, fighting back disgust, and not just with Jared; if he has to do this, he has to get it right. "Because you can. You can do those things. You can do all of those things, you can strip naked and fucking dance in front of him, in front of anyone, but that doesn’t mean they get to touch. Not when you don't want it. And you know that. You know that."

Kris looks away, cheeks hot.

"That rule doesn't just apply to girls; it covers everyone," Adam continues, relentless. "Do you understand me? If Jared--if anyone, ever--crosses those lines, don't ever, ever think it was your fault."

"I'm not--" Kris swallows, fingers closing convulsively over the edge of the counter. "It wasn't--he thought I did. He thought I wanted him to." Kris opens his eyes, bright with guilt and shock both. "How could he know that I didn't--"

"Because you know. And if you don't, you fucking ask." Adam takes a deep breath, wanting to touch him so badly his hands shake with it, and he can't, not now. "And then you listen when they say no. It's not rocket science. It's life."

Kris doesn't answer, staring at the floor, shoulders slumping. "I never--" stopping, Kris shakes his head. "I never really--thought about what I was doing. I mean, you called me a tease before--"

Adam wonders if he ever really thought that shit wouldn't come back to haunt him.

"--but I didn't know it was--that I was like that." Kris looks up, stricken. "He said I drove him crazy. Did I do that to you? When I--when we--"

There are so many ways to answer that question. Yes, of course, Kris is hot and Adam's a guy; yes, because he's Kris and Adam's never wanted anyone like he wants him; yes, and that's okay, because Adam loves him and loves he can touch him and can't give that up. Yes, and I don't care. You can do anything you want. I'd never tell you no. I'll never want to. I don't even think I can. Because you're you. Because the lines Adam drew with Kris were never entirely appropriate and it's way too late to know how to change them even if Adam could learn to want to. They're true, they're all true, but that doesn't make them right, because they won't answer the question Kris is asking him.

"You said I was cute," Kris says too quickly, guiltily, "but I don't think I really--that I got that--"

"I'm going to kill Jared," Adam says; it's not helpful, but wow, just thinking it makes him feel better. "You have his address?"

Kris looks away, flushing. "I'm sorry," he whispers, sounding lost. "I thought--I don’t even know what the fuck I thought I was doing, and you didn't say anything… But I didn't ask, either--"

"You don't need to." Kris' head snaps around. "You've never done anything--anything--I didn't want, and I swear to God if this gets weird--" Adam breaks off helplessly. "Give me his address? Where's your phone? You have it on there, right? It won't take long. I'll be back for dessert."

Kris bites his lip, corners lifting reluctantly, and finally, the tight grip on the counter eases by degrees. "He's probably out. Adam." Kris hesitates, then looks at him, eyes dark. "You--did I ever--"

"No. Never." Adam tilts his head, waiting until Kris relaxes, because Kris needs to hear this, and maybe, maybe when he thinks of what happened on the bus, Adam does too. "Did I?"

Kris' eyes widen, appalled. "No. No, Adam, never." Pushing off the counter, Kris wraps his arms around him, almost tentative but not quite, and even that eases away at the first touch; the relief is so strong Adam's surprised he can still stand, dizzy and impossibly grateful. Gently, Adam hugs him back, letting himself breathe for the first time in what feels like years instead of minutes. They're okay. They're going to be okay.

"I can't believe I just had to listen to someone give me the speech about bad touch," Kris says after a while, incredulous, muffled against his t-shirt. Adam pats his back sympathetically; he'd never thought he'd have to give it, so they're even. And so unironically at that. "I think dinner is going to burn. I should take care of that."

Freeing one arm reluctantly, Adam stretches enough to turn off the burner with an unsteady hand. "In a minute," he says, clearing his throat at the rough sound of his voice. "Not yet, okay?"

Kris nods agreement. "Yeah, okay."




It's not burned, but Adam wouldn't have cared if it was. Kris picks out one of the bewildering number of remote controls to flip on the movie, empty plates settled on the coffee table, and leans back against the couch with a sigh. "It's cute you want to defend my honor and everything, but let it go already."

Adam looks up from the tenth try at the password on Kris' phone. "I'll just, you know, rough him up," Adam says hopefully. "I can do that. I can totally do that. In heels, if I feel like it."

Kris tilts his head back, intrigued. "I kind of want to see that. And yet, you really don't need to, promise. Katy took self-defense classes in college, you know. I helped her practice."

"How progressive of you." Adam stares bitterly at the blank screen. "You only use like, three passwords; when did you get unpredictable and shit? What the hell--"

Swiveling around, Kris rests his elbows on the edge of the couch. "I learned a lot from her," he says, mouth curving in a slow smile, edged with something just a little mean. Adam loses interest in the phone as Kris rests his chin in his hands. "I'm not a girl," he adds, "but I still know how to use my knee."

Adam drops the phone in surprise, taking a blissful moment to enjoy the image. "Did you make him cry?"

"Oh yeah." Kris picks up the phone, typing in the password, and then hands it back with a smirk. "I can take care of myself, you know."

Adam glances at the bruises on Kris' knuckles that will eventually fade to nothing and thinks of the ones in his mind that Jared had left that never will, not really. "I know," he says finally, hoping Kris won't hear the bitterness. "That doesn't mean you always have to."

"I'll keep that in mind," Kris answers after a second of thought, then climbs on the couch, curling up comfortably against his side and pointing the remote at the TV. "He hasn't gone clubbing for a while," Kris whispers, soft and maliciously pleased. "Just so you know."

Adam wraps an arm around his shoulder and squeezes happily. "That's my boy."




Adam had set his phone's alarm to go off at the ungodly hour of seven, because music executives are fucking sadists, but it's the pounding on the door that wakes him up just as dawn filters through the blinds and right, curtains. Before he leaves, Kris is getting some goddamn curtains. Sitting up, Adam hisses at the crick in his neck from sleeping half-upright against the arm of the couch, Kris drooling into his lap, looking young and delicious and kind of illegally adorable.

This is my life, Adam thinks fatalistically, easing Kris down with a mumble of vague protest and getting to his feet. Later, he'll blame the life-destroying ache in his back from the couch and two days of insomnia followed by Kris-related stress for the fact he actually makes it all the way to the door and has it open before he realizes he probably shouldn't do that, and for so many reasons.

Jared is better than coffee and a hit of speed, though. Adam almost goes with his first instinct to slam the door shut, but Jared's eye is even more spectacular than description had indicated, skin swollen and a little shiny, the socket deep black and shading pale green down one high cheekbone and edged in sickly yellow. Kris hadn't held back even a little, and Adam knows from experience Kris is a hell of lot stronger than he looks and knows how to use it when he means it. This time, he meant it.

"How's the eye?" Adam asks softly, leaning into the door before Jared can cover his shock. "And in related events, what the fuck are you doing here?"

Jared grits his teeth. "I want to talk to Kris," he says finally, taking a step and stopping uncertainly when Adam doesn't move. "Look, it was--stupid. I need to--I need to tell him I didn't mean to do that. I'm not that kind of guy."

"Except that you pretty much are." Adam had thought he'd known how pissed he was, but he was so fucking wrong. "You know as well as I do the shit you pulled is what homophobic fuckwits use to justify their fucked-up worldview, and don't tell me you don't get that. And you did it to him?"

"I'm not," Jared says urgently, expression melting into desperation. "I'm not, I've never--I've never pushed like that before. I fucked up, okay? Look, I get that, but I need him to know that--that it won't happen again. Leah already kicked my ass when I told her--"

Adam lets his expression reflect how little he cares.

"--and I told the rest of the band. They're pissed--and right, they should be, I’m not making any excuses, Lambert. But they're--he's not just a gimmick for any of us. I fucked up, but they didn't, and they don't deserve to lose him, too. That's--I want him to know that. Just, he can hate me, fine, I fucked it up, but I'll do whatever he wants if he'll be okay with them. Stay away, take out an ad in Variety, whatever it takes." Jared takes a shuddery breath, abruptly exhausted and showing it. "Just--just tell him that, okay? I don't--I don't want him scared of me."

Adam takes a deep breath, struggling to push down the memories of last night in the kitchen and what Kris had said. "He's not afraid of you," Adam says slowly, holding Jared's eyes. "You're not that special. You made him afraid of himself."

Jared flinches, shutting his eyes. "I never--fuck it. Yeah, just--tell him the others, Leah, they'll give him all the time he wants. And tell him I'm sorry." Looking up, Jared meets Adam's eyes, wide and clear and devastated. "I'm not that guy. I won't be. Not to him or anyone else. Tell him that, too."

Adam wants to let him leave, and for a second, he thinks he just might, but there's still Kris, and Adam remembers how Kris looked last night. Kris might believe him, but hearing it from Jared may be the only way to be sure. They still live in a world where a woman can be asked what she wore when she was raped, where a gay man can still be assaulted and never get as far as a trial, if he reports it at all. It's not that Adam thinks he can change the world on the strength of sheer will, but what the fuck, that doesn't mean he can't try.

"He's sleeping," Adam says carefully. "I'm not waking him up for this. But I'll tell him you came by. He can decide what to do about it."

Jared nods jerkily. "Fair enough." Shoulders slumped, Jared turns away, and Adam makes himself watch for a few seconds before shutting the door. Going back to the living room, Adam crouches by the sofa and looks at Kris' sleeping face. He has to get ready for a meeting that impossibly, he cares even less about than he did before, but he needs to do this first.

"Kris," he says, reaching carefully and shaking one thin shoulder. "Hey, wake up a second. I gotta go."

Kris opens his eyes sleepily; unfiltered, because Adam's earned the right to see it, and Kris sometimes forgets how much he shows of everything he'll never tell. "Um." Kris nods drowsily, lashes almost concealing the flare of regret. "Okay. Call me before you leave--?"

"I'll bring lunch back with me," Adam says firmly. "I might even cook."

Kris' mouth curves in a surprised smile, brown eyes warm. "Should I disable the fire alarms now?"

"Step off, bitch. Brad's been teaching me; I can do this." Ruffling his hair, Adam stands up. "Get some sleep. I'll wake you up when I get back."

Kris nods contentedly, relaxing into the couch, already halfway there. "Mmkay. See you soon."




sixth part

And it's kind of an affront to your dignity, too, (and boy, is an icebreaker needed) which is why it was so perfect there.