Word Count: ~3,200
Song: As The World Falls Down, the theme from Labyrinth
Warning(s): Swear words, and hand-holding.
Summary: "Hellooo?" The tall man with hair like Elvis was staring at him, sing-songing across the flush of cars dividing the sidewalks from one another. He waved an arm and smiled when he was sure that Kris was looking at him, a big, warm smile that cut across a striking face. Kris flushed. "Hi. Hello. D'you have a light?"
Kris Allen was lost. Very, very lost, deep down in the belly of south of Houston Street. A SoHo, in a New York City that had opened itself to winter. One of his arms was more sore than the other, because his duffel bag was heavier than his guitar. Besides the duffel, and the scuffed guitar case, he had a big, square Tupperware that Mama Allen had packed to the top with her famous potato salad. He'd eaten some as the Greyhound bus slid him from Arkansas to obscurity, the warm, heavy feeling of food in his stomach helping to distract him from the fact that he was probably making the absolute worst decision of his young life.
It was the day after Christmas in New York City. He was nearly broke, very homeless, hungry, and cold. The streets of the famed "City That Never Slept" were indeed alive, but with a frightening sort of energy that made Kris feel like even more of an outsider. Among all of these handsome people pushing by in their warm, grey pea coats with the secrets to being pink-cheeked and sure of themselves close to their chests, he was definitely the ugly duckling of the scenario. He looked around. Everyone looked so purposeful. Purposeful even the day after Christmas, when everything was either up in the air, or on the rocks.
On Christmas Day back home – it was only yesterday but felt much farther away – he had sung carols for his mom, eaten until he felt ready to burst, and hugged his dad and brother goodbye. He'd left his thick gold wedding band in the bathroom of the Greyhound bus for some other wandering soul to find and claim for themselves. There wasn't any love left for him in it, it was just a circle of metal, ready for a new home.
That was yesterday. And today he was Kris Allen: Struggling Artist, starving his way into the New Year in New York City, looking for a shitty apartment, and a life that would let him play music for money. Today, in the now, the curb he was sitting on was really fucking cold. And he had a life to find. He stood up, brushed off the seat of his jeans and looked around. He had lost himself among the passive faces of apartment buildings and one low awning over some grubby neon sign calling itself a club. As he watched, two tall men in dark jeans and leather jackets emerged from the entrance. As the door opened and closed, the low rumble of a bass drum beat spilled out into the night. The shorter man talked to the taller man with strong shoulders, and jet hair spiked into a pompadour reminiscent of Elvis. There was a little bit of friendly jostling, and the shorter one disappeared back inside. Kris couldn't hear the rhythm of whatever song it was playing, but he could almost sense the bouncing riffs from the synthesizer. The kind of music that made drunk people want to dance.
"Hellooo?" The tall man with hair like Elvis was staring at him, sing-songing across the flush of cars dividing the sidewalks from one another. He waved an arm and smiled when he was sure that Kris was looking at him, a big, warm smile that cut across a striking face. Kris flushed. "Hi. Hello. D'you have a light?"
Kris patted his pockets jerkily, even though he didn't smoke, hadn't since college. "No, sorry."
"Damn." The man across the street was still smiling. "Are you waiting for someone? You've been over there for a while." He had a loud voice, like syrup, that carried easily across the traffic to where Kris was standing awkwardly.
"What? Oh. I… no. " He looked down at his feet. They weren't even making eye contact. They weren't even within fifteen feet of each other, and he was blushing like a schoolgirl. Maybe he was still drunk from all of that eggnog he drank last night.
"Are you going somewhere?" The other man called, persisting despite Kris being completely deficient at holding conversations with strangers across the street.
"What?" Kris called back.
"You have your luggage with you. I thought you might be going somewhere."
Kris turned to look at the duffel bag that was still sitting on the sidewalk by his feet. His guitar case slipped over his shoulder and bumped into the side of his face. He readjusted it mindlessly, calling: "No, I just arrived in the city. I'm looking for somewhere to live, but it's not going well."
"Ooh, do you play guitar?" The man called, and then, "You have a little bit of an accent. Where are you from?"
"Arkansas!" Kris shouted over a war of who could honk loudest between two yellow c abs. "But I'm a New Yorker now."
The man threw his head back and laughed. "Honey, don't even. Come over here; let me get a look at you. You look like you're freezing to death." He beckoned with big hands, that Kris somehow knew were warm, and Kris threw all of the warnings his mother had given him about strangers in the big, bad city to the wintry wind, and crossed the street. The man was even taller in person. "Hi," he laughed. "Wow, you're shorter than you look from a distance. I'm Adam."
"Kris." The man's hands were warm, and he tutted when Kris offered him cold, dry fingers and cupped his own hands over Kris'. He lifted the little knot of hands he had made to his mouth, and blew warm air between his knuckles. Kris shivered.
"It's nice to meet you Kris. Why are you wandering the streets by yourself at night wearing a hoodie? It's freezing outside, don't you own a coat?" Kris hesitated, and Adam rolled his eyes dramatically. "Jesus, you're such an ingénue. It's sort of adorable." He dropped Kris' hands and shrugged off his own leather jacket, sculpting it carefully against Kris' shoulders. It was warm from being on his body and smelled like cigarette smoke, and cologne. Adam smiled as Kris tilted his head to look at the studs and chains dangling from the shoulders, and grabbed his hands again. Adam's nails, Kris noticed, where painted a shiny, smoky grey. It looked natural on him, like he woke up every day, and his hands looked like that.
"Thank you. I'm…" Kris sighed. "I'm sort of out of my element, here."
"Do you have someone to stay with?" Adam asked, his fierce baby blue eyes clouding over with worry. There was glitter on his eyelids. Somehow, it worked. "Are you lost?"
"No, I… I was looking for somewhere to rent an apartment, but everything's closed or too expensive. I was thinking of going back and sleeping in Grand Central. In that room with the constellations on the ceiling."
Adam looked alarmed. "Are you crazy? You're so green you can practically smell it. You'll get stabbed." Kris shuddered involuntarily. "Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic. But…" Adam paused, grinning wickedly. "I have an idea."
"Usually that's a good thing, but you're making it sound dangerous." Kris said, but couldn't help smiling back, which made Adam smile even more. He was practically thrumming with energy.
"No, no, it's a really good idea. See this club? My friend owns it. We used to date, but that's a long and complicated story. The important thing is that we're still friends, and there's an apartment above the club that I live in. I don't even pay him rent; I just work as a bartender, dancer, DJ, and general bitch around the establishment. It's a pretty nice apartment, and I've been looking for a roommate. I mean, there's only one bed, but…"
"I can sleep on the floor." Kris interrupted. "Are you seriously offering?"
"Totally." Adam said earnestly. A strand of jet black hair dislodged itself from the general sweep on top of his head and fell down around his eyebrows. He tucked it back, behind his ear. "Look. You might think I'm just a New Age crazy, but I read my horoscope, and study astrology a lot. The moon is in Aries right now, this is a crazy time, and I've been getting these premonitions that someone new and important is going to come into my life. And then I saw you standing there, and I just, I knew. It's weird, I can't explain it. I think we were meant to find each other."
"I don't know about any of that." Kris said slowly. "But, I feel like you're a good, honest person. And if you're really offering what you say you are, then you're a godsend. "
Adam beamed. "Do you know how to mix drinks?"
"I can open beers?" Kris offered. "I mean, I'm pretty handy with a bottle opener and a cork screw. But I could learn."
Adam furrowed his eyebrows. "I can teach you how to bartend, but maybe you could do some promotions. If we stand you outside the door in some tight clothes the boys will come running, trust me." He grinned, and picked up Kris' heavy duffel bag easily. "Follow me."
The bar was half full of bodies moving in time to the music. The club had a sort of futuristic theme to it, lots of black and silver. Adam fit right in. Kris, most definitely, did not.
"Who the hell is that?" The man behind the bar yelled as Adam pulled Kris through a crowd of people waiting for drinks and snagged a lighter off of a low table.
"My new roommate." Adam yelled back. He unlocked a door and hurried Kris through. "That's my friend James." He said, locking the door behind him and sneaking past Kris on the slim staircase. "He's not as scary as he looks. He likes to pretend that he's intimidating."
Adam was wearing some kind of heeled boots that clattered on the tiled staircase as they climbed up. There was another locked door at the top of the stairs, and he paused outside of it, key in hand. "I just wanted to warn you about something else my horoscope said." Kris raised his eyebrows. "You might fall in love with me, in the coming weeks." Adam said breezily. "So if you can't handle that, you might want to leave now."
Kris grinned. "I'm pretty sure I can handle you. "
Adam laughed. "I like you. We're going to be just fine." He unlocked the door and walked through, welcoming Kris. The room was a little cold, but manageable. There was a mattress on the floor, and a meticulous rack of clothes pushed to one side. The walls were plastered with posters and Polaroid's. Kris tripped over a pair of heeled, metallic, Camden boots on his way in and Adam caught him with a firm hand on his arm.
"Thanks." Kris breathed. "It's awesome up here. I can put my stuff just right over here…" He put his guitar case down and Adam laid down the duffel. "When do you want me to start working? Because I can start now if you need that. I can just change into a black shirt I have, and…"
Adam shook his head. "Don't be stupid. You have bags under your eyes the size of the Midwest. You get some sleep and I'll work my shift, and get you some food when the club closes. If the noise gets too loud just turn on the radio, okay?"
Kris nodded, numbly, letting himself be pushed over to the bed, where Adam made him sit down and pulled off his shoes, and then pushed his chest gently until he lay down on a pillow that smelled like hair product. "Thank you." He whispered. "You're like some angel of mercy or something, helping lonely boys from Arkansas find places to live."
Adam laughed. "How did you know?"
Kris smiled, sleepily. "You're not going to kill me, are you?"
Adam turned off the light, and his smile nearly glowed in the dark. "I don't plan on it." He closed the door quietly behind him, and Kris was asleep before the sound of his heels on the stairs receded.
Kris woke up much later to the pervading smell of Indian food. Adam was sitting on the foot of the mattress, wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt, and texting quietly. The idea that Adam had changed while he slumbered innocently made Kris' cheeks heat. Again. He shifted, and Adam looked over, closing his mouth around a bite of curry.
"Hi." Kris said. "What time is it?"
"Almost 3 am." Adam said. "I got you some food, but you looked too gorgeous while you were sleeping to wake up." He put down his plastic fork and nudged the big paper bag over to Kris, who sat up with a satisfied yawn.
"Your bed smells nice." There was curry and rice and naan wrapped in warm tinfoil, and Kris unwrapped it eagerly, too engrossed in the picnic meal to notice the intense, doe-eyed look Adam gave him. "Wow. This is amazing. You're amazing. I will totally pay you back."
"Don't bother." Adam said, waving a hand. "What's mine is yours. This is your welcome-to-New-York-City-and-my-apartmen
Kris beamed. "I'm so glad I met you." Adam's cheeks flushed delicately – he had a lot of freckles Kris hadn't noticed before – and he looked down at his hands. The curry was delicious, and good and spicy, and they ate in silence until it was gone. When it was, Adam dumped all of the tins into the paper bag and pushed it into the corner, demanding that Kris play his guitar.
So Kris crawled on his knees over to his guitar case and unsnapped the latches, while Adam spread out on his bed on his stomach and watched intently while Kris tuned his guitar by ear. "Any requests?" Kris asked, slipping the worn guitar strap over his shoulder. "Not that I have a huge repertoire of songs I know, or anything."
"Can you do any David Bowie?" Adam asked, eyes sparkling.
Kris sang the riff from Rebel Rebel hesitantly before shaking his head. "Sorry. It's mostly soft rock and country here."
"Whatever you want, then." Adam said, stretching languidly in a way that made his t-shirt ride up his back. "I'll just lie here and be an ear."
Kris laughed softly, and played Blackbird. Adam perked his head up when he recognized the song, and watched, open-mouthed, as Kris matched his voice to the strings. "You have an incredible voice." Adam said quietly, before sitting up and adding some higher harmonies to the chorus. "Fucking Jesus, Kristopher, you didn't tell me you were talented."
Kris shook his head silently and concentrated on forming chords with his fingers. He played all of the Beatles songs that he could remember and then some country songs that had played on the radio and gotten stuck in his head. He played one or two of his own songs, and only admitted that he had written them under great prodding from Adam, who quite literally poked him in the side with his toes until he sang uncle.
"You're amazing." Adam said, earnestly. "Really Kris, you are. I get why you moved to New York, now. You have a genuine chance of making it."
"I don't know if I want to make it." Kris let his guitar lie slack in his lap. He had migrated over to the bed halfway through Rocky Raccoon. "I'd be perfectly happy getting paid to play in dark little venues across the city a couple times a week."
"I have friends." Adam said, looking down at him from where he was curled against the pillows. "I could help you make that happen."
Kris looked down at his hands. "I don't know what to say."
"Don't say anything." Adam said. "Just stay up and watch the sunrise with me. It's in half an hour or so."
Kris his guitar down gingerly and lay back on the bed, Adam's feet pushing into his thigh. "I feel like I've known you forever." He said. "It's sort of incredible."
"You're sort of incredible." Adam scoffed, reaching down blindly to pat Kris on the head. "Do you want to go up on the roof?"
It took them nearly half an hour to get ready. Adam looked over the clothes Kris had brought and deemed them all far too nineties for an early morning viewing of the sunrise on the buildings in the New York City skyline. He let Kris keep his jeans, and then lent him a warm, black sweater, a sheer scarf, and a jacket with a hood to keep him fully warm on the roof. He took the blankets from his bed, as well, and a half empty bottle of vodka he had stashed in his freezer.
"Are you trying to seduce me?" Kris joked as they climbed out onto the roof. Adam propped the trap door open, with a brick, and wrapped the blanket around Kris' shoulders.
"It's never too early for vodka." Adam said, taking a swig, and handing the bottle over. "It keeps you warm, too."
Kris took a tentative gulp and sat down next to Adam. "It's really nice up here."
"I know." Adam said quietly. "Here, I brought up music, too. It's a shame to watch the sunrise without a sound track." He produced an iPod from his pocket and handed Kris a headphone.
There's such a sad love
Deep in your eyes, a kind of pale jewel
Open and closed within your eyes
I'll place the sky within your eyes
There's such a fooled heart
Beating so fast in search of new dreams
A love that will last within your heart
I'll place the moon within your heart
…I'll paint you mornings of gold
I'll spin you Valentine evenings
Though we're strangers till now
We're choosing the path between the stars
I'll leave my love between the stars
…As the world falls down
…Falling in love
On cue, the early lemon light of the sunrise began creeping across the buildings. Kris watched it through eyes heavy with sleep, food, company, and the perfect soundtrack to the first morning he'd seen dawn across the city. It was beautiful. Beside him, Adam stirred and found his hand among the folds in the blanket. When he tangled their fingers, Kris just smiled and looked forward, squeezing pulses of melody into Adam's palm.