samanthahirr: (Diptych)
[personal profile] samanthahirr
Title: Diptych
Pairing: Kris Allen/Adam Lambert
Genre: Romance, Action, Criminal AU
Word Count: 42,000
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: stalking, violence, language


Chapter  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6



The interrogation lasted for hours. Kris answered every question and even started to volunteer information as he got used to the idea of selling out his former colleagues.

It was terrible to listen to.

Not the words themselves—the evidence the Feds had on the two of them wasn't enough to be a real danger yet—mostly hearsay. The FBI was still waiting for Adam to make a major slipup, to try to move the diptych or to start another black market deal. Getting this news should have been a relief. Instead, a dreadful sense of responsibility started to weigh on Adam's shoulders.

Brad was picking Kris's life apart, destroying all vestiges of Kris's old allegiance to his country, to his sense of justice, and Kris had agreed to it, was a willing participant. All for Adam. The way Kris kept looking at him, brown eyes begging to be told that he was doing well, that he was doing enough…. Faced with that much desperation, Adam retreated to the kitchen for the Catena Zapata Malbec. He brought back three glasses and clutched his own in front of him like a shield.

Kris told them about the FBI's investigation of Sinclair, how agents had caught and turned Sinclair's partner a day too late to stop the unexpected sale of the diptych to Adam. He confirmed that the FBI shared their suspicions: that the thief had gone to ground, presumably hiding from the cops and his partner. He told them about the Madison Avenue apartment across the street and the few salient pieces of information the agents had obtained in four weeks. And how that surveillance had come to an end last Monday, when Kris started calling in bogus fire alarms that forced them to repeatedly evacuate the building. He described the mobile surveillance he'd seen since then: the plain-clothes agents and the van parked down the block.

Whenever Brad paused to mull over some new bit of information, Adam snuck in questions of his own, needing to reassure Kris that he was doing well, that he was more than just a source of confidential information.

So Kris smiled shyly, sipped his wine, and told Adam about his time at the academy, about his mission work, and about how he could be so sure that what he was doing—forsaking the FBI for Adam—was the right decision.

"It's just something I knew," Kris explained. "It's always been like that; something happens—I read a recruitment brochure, I meet someone—and I just know what's right for me."

"What other things have you been sure about?" Adam asked.

"The missionary work. That was my calling for a few years. And then my first girlfriend."

"Why aren't you still a missionary?"

Kris's relaxed face shuttered closed.

"Kris," Adam urged. Unlike Brad, Adam didn't make threats when he wanted answers from Kris. He didn't have to.

Breath exploded from Kris's lungs in a gust. "I found out it was all a lie. The time I spent abroad, actually helping people—that was good. But when I got home, I saw how much of the money we raised never made it to the people who needed it. How it was used to build more churches in rich, first-world neighborhoods, instead of helping people suffering in poverty to find food or medicine. It was all a fraud."

Adam blanched at Kris's vehemence, at the betrayal and anger in his eyes. He didn't like what it implied: that Kris could become disillusioned and turn his back on something he'd been ready to dedicate his life to.

"And the girlfriend?" Brad asked.

Kris glared at Brad mulishly for a moment before nodding. "Fine. She dumped me. Five years together, and she decided I wasn't what she wanted anymore. The day after she dumped me, she was going out with one of my best friends."

"Oo, ouch," Brad smiled.

"And you're positive you're supposed to be with me?" Adam asked, ignoring Brad's attempt to change the subject, because that's what it all came down to. Brad was manipulating this guy to find out what the FBI knew…and then what? They were just supposed to kick him out, barricade the door and let him throw his life away for nothing? Kris was a nice guy. Crazy and obsessive, yeah, but nice. And he was on Adam's side. He was Adam's responsibility now.

Brad shot Adam a warning look and reclaimed control of the conversation, making Kris share everything he remembered from their files. Adam squirmed as Kris recited Adam's arrest record, from the juvie bust for dealing drugs in high school, to receiving stolen property when he'd first gotten started in Los Angeles, and even the solicitation charge from a few years ago—which had been pure bullshit, revenge from one of Adam's black market clients. The guy had assumed Adam's procurement services included other services, and when Adam had refused, he'd had Adam dragged out of a party by a couple of beat cops, ruining some of Adam's legitimate business relationships in the process.

The charge hadn't stuck, but Adam had spent a humiliating night in lockup with the rent boys and drunks. His stomach rolled remembering the disgrace of that night.

"And then I sent Paul to the asshole's house to share his herpes as payback," Brad smirked.

"You what?" Adam gaped, sloshing his wine.

Brad shrugged. "What, he humiliated my boyfriend and had him thrown in jail. I wasn't gonna let him get away with that."

Adam shook his head, not sure if he was grateful or revolted. But Kris was smiling at Brad, and he wasn't looking at Adam like he thought any less of him for the sins of his past. Kris had known his record from Day One, Adam realized, and the knots in his stomach untied.

Until Brad asked about their psych profiles, and Kris reported easily: "The behavioral analysts think Adam has borderline narcissistic personality disorder."

Adam choked on his wine, and Brad lurched forward to slam his own glass down on the coffee table.

"What?" Brad yelled.

Kris's face crumpled at their reactions. He reached a hand across the table, trying to touch Adam's knee. "I'm sorry. They're idiots; they don't know what they're talking about. They don't know you."

Adam shook off Brad's and Kris's comforting hands and stalked to the kitchen, reeling from the unexpected attack. People—professional psychologists—thought he was some kind of self-centered monster, that he loved himself that much…. He couldn't wrap his head around it, couldn't get beyond the devastated astonishment that people were thinking that about him. That the FBI, that Kris….

He couldn't cope.

Adam swiped at his face, trying to clear away any makeup that might have shifted out of place since the last time he'd checked. His fingers itched for the comforting weight of his Christian Dior eyeliner or a heavier set of rings.

Brad's hands landed on Adam's hips before he could retreat to his bedroom. "Babe," Brad whispered.

Adam didn't respond, but he leaned back into Brad's touch.

"Babe, it's bullshit. They don't know you, not like I know you."

That was a truth Adam couldn't deny. Brad knew him, all right; he knew everything Adam tried to cover up, everything he tried to draw attention away from.

"You're not like that at all. You're good," Brad whispered into his shoulder. When Adam still couldn't speak, Brad eventually sighed and backed off. "Try to let it go, okay?"

Then Brad turned and left the kitchen. From the other room, Adam heard Brad tell Kris, "I wanna talk to you. Outside. Now," and Adam braced his hands against the counter. When had their full-disclosure agreement with Kris turned mutual? He cringed as the balcony door closed, wanting to intervene, to stop the conversation before Brad spilled all Adam's secrets—the ones Brad had learned over years of living with Adam, of fucking, of fighting. About the makeup, the clothes, why Adam worked so hard all the damn time.

How Adam was good, but not good enough.




He'd fixed his face and ordered Korean barbecue by the time they came back inside. Kris looked thoughtful, and Brad looked tired. Adam knew that feeling; trying to reason with Kris was exhausting.

Brad tried to broach the subject again, but Adam talked over him, changing the subject to his wine selection for dinner. Brad looked upset but eventually let Adam have his way, and Adam gratefully showed off his carefully curated wine collection, distracting himself with Kris's awed smiles.

They positioned themselves around the kitchen table, and Adam turned up the Jonathan Adler chandelier as the sun set. He'd spent hours, days, entire weeks-worth of his life sitting at this table, just him and Brad, with the rest of the world locked out. He'd never brought another lover to their table, and neither had Brad—whether because his were mostly marks, or because he understood Adam's unspoken feelings on the matter, Adam didn't bother to guess. Having another person at the table now—one Adam had slept with just the night before—was unprecedented, but the Chilean shiraz Adam had picked smoothed things over, and by the time food arrived, Kris's presence felt almost cozy instead of awkward.

They passed the bulgogi and red pepper paste back and forth, rolling the steak in crisp lettuce leaves and catching the juices with their fingers. Adam watched Kris take a tentative bite of the smoky-sweet beef, followed by a surprised smile.

"Do you like it?" Adam asked, already smiling in response.

"Yeah, s'good," Kris mumbled around the food in his mouth and licked his thumb.

"You've never had Korean before?"

He shook his head and swallowed. "Didn't have it growing up, and it's not something you wanna bring to a stakeout."

For once, the thought of Kris's past profession didn't sting. Adam shook his head and tsked, "Burger King all the way, huh?"

Kris blinked at him. "How did you—"

"Adam had me stalking you," Brad interjected cheekily. "Turnabout's fair play."

Kris blushed, possibly from the heat of the spicy paste, and smiled shyly at Adam again.

"Speaking of stalking," Brad said, pulling the bowl of rice closer to his plate. "I saw you at the Wilkstone Gala last night. Where'd you get your invitation?"

"I didn't have one," Kris said, his skin turning even pinker.

"They don't let anybody past that door without an invitation or a badge," Brad said, a teasing note in his voice. "So? Did you keep a little souvenir from your old job?"

"I bought a $3,000 suit," Kris admitted, and lifted his chin. "That seemed to work well enough."

Brad snorted softly and spooned out a lump of rice. "Way to spend that TSP check all in one place. I hope it was worth it," he drawled.

Kris's eyes flitted to Adam's, and then he ducked his head over his wine glass. "It was," he said quietly.

Brad met Adam's gaze and trapped him with a penetrating stare. "Awww," Brad said, "that's sweet," his eyebrows doing a complicated dance, demanding to know if Adam agreed.

Kris's foot slid under the table to nudge Adam's ankle, and Adam turned away from Brad's attempt at telepathy to watch Kris take another bite of his wrap.

"So you blew your retirement plan on a new suit, and you've got essentially zero savings. How're you planning to make a living, Kristopher?" Brad asked.

Kris shrugged and said, with a hint of defensiveness, "I'll figure something out."

"Ever considered a life of crime? There's no medical, but the other benefits are great." Brad stretched his arms wide to encompass the kitchen and beyond.

"Brad," Adam warned. He didn't like Brad needling Kris like this.

"Considering your unreported income last year was over $180,000 in cash, not including the Maserati and other five-figure 'gifts' from your various marks, I'd say medical is superfluous," Kris deadpanned right back.

There was a moment of stunned silence, and then Adam burst out laughing.

Brad kicked Adam's shin under the table and straightened in his chair. "That reminds me," he said, trying to sound dangerous but coming across like a Persian cat getting a bath, "we've been through Adam's file, but what do the Feds know about me?"

Adam snickered and refilled Kris's glass, leaning close into Kris's space and brushing their forearms together.

Kris shifted a little closer toward Adam and smiled a smug smile at Brad. "I'm not sure you really wanna know."

Brad folded his arms and puffed out his chest. "Don't push me, kid."

Adam sipped his shiraz to cover his grin. Brad playing 'tough' was too damned adorable.

Kris held up his hands, said, "Alright," and proceeded to share the names of the marks who had given evidence from the last three years, and the FBI's very unflattering psych profile of one Bradley Bell, conman.

Brad took it all with feigned equanimity, only the barest twitch of his pinky betraying his poker face, until Kris started listing his known aliases. When the name 'Peter March' came up, Brad knocked his glass over, spilling red wine all over his jeans and Adam's table.

"Son of a bitch," Brad squeaked, jumping away from the table. "You can't know— Damn it, that was my best identity!"

Adam got up and got a towel to mop up the spill. "I think this one's pretty great," he murmured, kneeling down on the floor to save the hardwood.

"Shut up, Mister I-Don't-Need-Aliases-To-Make-My-Deals," Brad huffed, and stomped off to his bathroom.

"Is he really upset?" Kris asked, and Adam leaned up to see Kris's eyes over the table, hoping Kris wasn't too worried.

Kris looked like the cat that ate the cream.

Adam knew that look; he'd seen it at Nikko's café, when he'd grabbed Kris's wrist to stop him leaving. This time, Adam felt an answering grin on his lips. "He'll get over it by tomorrow," Adam promised. "But he may be out for revenge."

"I've got eyes in the back of my head," Kris said. "He won't get the jump on me."

Adam would like to jump on Kris right now….

The stray thought brought attraction roaring back to the forefront. It had been buzzing around the back of his mind ever since Kris showed up at his doorstep that afternoon, looking as good as ever in jeans and a faded grey t-shirt, bare feet shoved into loafers like he'd run out of his home at a moment's notice. Adam had managed to hold the lust off all day, but seeing Kris confident again, flirting with Adam, teasing Brad, acting like he belonged in Adam's world, with Adam, suddenly it was impossible to ignore—and nearly as hard not to act on.

He stood stiffly and threw the towel in the sink. Kris was watching him with those mischievous eyes, licking his lips like he'd done before, on his knees for Adam, and fuck, he was really in trouble here.

"I leased the Cozumel timeshare in that name," Brad wailed from his bedroom.

"I'd better go see about his pants," Adam said, seizing the opportunity to get away from the kitchen. "You stay right there." He pointed a stern finger at Kris, who batted his eyes innocently back at him.

He found Brad sitting pantless on his bed in neon-green briefs, desperately flipping through a binder. "The Maserati's gonna have to be retitled. How the hell do I make that paperwork untraceable?" he muttered to himself.

"Hey," Adam said, asking permission before entering.

"Hey," Brad said, scanning over another page of notes. "Do you have any idea how much juggling I have to do now?"

"About as much as me?" Adam asked, and sat on the edge of the bed.

Brad looked up, about to refute him, but he was always quick with the uptake. His lips pursed and he said carefully, "What are we talking about?"

"Him," Adam said. "Is there still a plan? I'm not gonna just throw him out now."

"…It's your place," Brad said slowly. "I can't tell you who to throw out or not."

That wasn't what Adam meant. "Do you still think he's a threat?" Because Adam didn't, not anymore—Kris had chosen Adam's side over everything else. But Adam hadn't been objective about Kris for a while; Brad was the one with the clearer perspective. And if Brad still had doubts, Adam needed to hear that before he put both of them in danger.

Brad's expression softened, a hint of a smile flickering around the corners of his mouth as he said, "I don't have any objections. Do whatever you want with him. It's your call."

It was as though Brad had suddenly handed him all the missing colors for his palette, and he was free to mix them as he pleased. "Okay," Adam said, his fingers itching to get started.

"Okay?" Brad echoed, the stealthy smile reaching his eyes.

"Yeah. Sorry about Peter March." Adam patted his knee and walked out of Brad's room, back to the kitchen to see what Kris had gotten up to.

Kris was still sitting obediently in the chair, but he was watching for Adam over his shoulder, and when he spotted Adam, Kris bit his lip.

Adam wanted to bite it for him.

He held Kris's gaze until he'd reached the table and then ran a hand across Kris's shoulders as he took his own seat.

Kris gave a silent gasp, his mouth falling open in surprise. "Adam?"

"Yeah," Adam said, meaning everything.

Kris was out of his chair and sliding onto Adam's lap in the blink of an eye, his arms winding around Adam's neck, and his lips pressing hot against Adam's mouth. Adam got his hands on him like he'd wanted all day, squeezing Kris's ass with both hands, and Kris arched for him, radiating an eagerness that matched Adam's. Kris had been waiting just as long, had been kept on the other side of that line all afternoon, all evening, and he threw himself over it with abandon now. Adam groaned and took what Kris offered, drinking the taste of shiraz off his lips, stealing the heady heat of his body with his hands.

He stood up and tugged Kris into his bedroom, watched with indulgent pleasure as Kris's eyes strayed from his face to take in the room, the bed he'd only seen through binoculars. He looked stunned. Adam swung Kris around by the hips, kissed him hard, and pushed him down on the bed. "Feel them," he whispered, pressing Kris down and nuzzling his cheek.

Kris's arms spread slowly, his hands flattening greedily against the crimson sheets and his eyes sliding shut. "I watched you sleep here," he moaned. "I dreamt about this, about us."

"This isn't a dream," Adam said, admiring the way Kris's tanned skin looked against the sheets, so touchable and soft. "You look so good here."

Kris rubbed his cheek against the setting of his fantasies, his mouth open and panting.

Adam palmed Kris's cock, already hard, and felt the pleasure in his own dick as Kris thrashed his head helplessly. He leaned in and bit at Kris's jaw, kissed his throat. "Look at you. I wanna see more. Strip for me."

Kris slid his palms across the sheets in another slow caress before he caught the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it up and off in a fluid movement. Adam knelt over him and ran his hands over those glorious pecs and shoulders, feeling the strength under satiny skin. He wanted them both naked, wanted to roll Kris in these exquisite sheets, hot skin and fine cotton tangling together.

"Pants," Adam said breathlessly, and stood up to remove his own. He tossed his jeans and t-shirt on the window seat and helped Kris kick his pants off, freeing his ankles. Adam grinned and caught Kris's leg, lifted it up to kiss the inside of his left ankle. "What do you want?" he asked, holding Kris's leg captive with a lascivious smile. "My mouth? My cock? Should I suck you off or fuck you?"

Kris stared up at him, naked and beautiful, his mouth trembling and a flush creeping down his chest. "Adam," he squirmed.

"I'll give it to you, whatever you want," Adam soothed him. "But I wanna hear you ask. I wanna hear the words on your pretty tongue."

"I want," Kris stammered, and his cheeks darkened to match the sheets. "Please, I…." His gaze fell to Adam's hard cock and he licked his lips.

Adam thrust his hips, making his cock bob slightly, and said, "Is this what you want, honey?"

Kris nudged his foot against Adam's hip and whispered, "I want your cock, want you to fuck me again," not meeting Adam's eyes, like he was suddenly shy after everything they'd already done, and Adam laughed.

"What's the matter, nobody ever made you talk dirty?" He released Kris's leg and climbed onto the bed to lick Kris's lips and rock their hips together. "Such a good little missionary boy; you're blushing like a virgin when I know you've had cock before," Adam teased, getting his hand wrapped around both of their cocks.

Kris bucked his hips up, sliding through Adam's hand, and squeezed his shoulders. "Yours," he whispered fervently, and Adam tightened his grip, jacked them both roughly, until that single word registered.

Adam stopped moving. He let his hand fall open and their cocks slide out, his mind reeling from the implications, the fucking terrifying implications of Kris's admission, of what Adam had done…or hadn't done…. Last night was a blur. He couldn't remember if he'd been good to Kris. He'd been drunk, and Kris had been eager, begging for it, and Adam hadn't fucking seen…. And Kris was blushing under him now, pressing his face to Adam's throat like he was ashamed.

Adam rolled to the side and dragged Kris further up the bed, sealed their mouths together in a kiss because he couldn't apologize—it was much too late for that—but he could make up for it. Kris made a desperate noise, clutching at Adam's waist, and Adam had a guilty, greedy thought that Kris had never made that sound for another man, only him. Only ever him. Adam's fingers tightened in Kris's hair, and he growled, "That's good. That's so good, Kris," and kissed him again, hard and possessive.

He took his time sliding down Kris's body, mouthing along Kris's collarbone and biting at his nipples, listening to the noises Kris was trying to hold back.

When Adam settled between Kris's thighs and licked Kris's cock for the first time, Kris sat halfway up, shuddering. Adam caught Kris's right hand and put it on the back of his head, encouraging him to pull, to thrust and take what he needed as Adam took him in, sucking gently to get the taste of him.

But Kris didn't pull; he ran his fingers through Adam's hair, trailed them down to Adam's face and lips, his touch adoring, and Adam had to pull off and kiss those fingers before swallowing him down. Kris cried out and fell back, finally rolling his hips up into Adam's mouth and down his throat, his fingers clawing at the sheets. Adam hummed and sucked devoutly, making it right, making Kris feel everything he should have felt last night: treasured and wanted.

When Kris cried out Adam's name, coming in hot spurts across his tongue, Adam had to fight the urge to shout his possession. He stayed there, licking the very last drops that leaked from the slit to keep Kris shivering on the sharp edge as long as he could, until Kris's body completely unwound like a spool of gold thread, muscles gone lax under Adam's hands.

"Beautiful," Adam whispered, brushing a kiss to Kris's inner thigh. Kris sighed, a thoroughly contented sound, and didn't move. Adam grinned, kissed his cock, and crawled up to find his mouth.

"Love you," Kris said, hooking an arm around Adam's neck to draw him close.

Adam opened his mouth and nearly said it back, happiness an impossible pressure in his chest, and arousal throbbing through him, a hectic drumbeat in his veins. "You're so hot," he said instead, "fucking incredible," and sucked on Kris's lower lip.

Kris made more pleased sounds as he kissed him back, his hand fluttering up to hold Adam's hip.

Adam trailed kisses along his jaw and around to his ear, blew cool air over it and said, "Ready for round two?"

"Oh god," Kris moaned, and Adam urged him over onto his stomach. "Are you gonna—"

"I'm gonna do you right," Adam whispered in his ear, nuzzling along his hairline and closing his eyes to promise, "It's gonna be better than last night—make you love it."

"Last night," Kris said, and Adam's hands stilled on his back, breath caught in his throat at what Kris might say. "You can't top that," Kris said and arched his shoulders up into Adam's hands.

Relief left Adam flat-footed for a moment before he narrowed his eyes and leaned over to see Kris's face. Kris's eyes were scrunched up above a smug smile, and Adam growled, "Was that a challenge?"

Kris chuckled into the sheets and spread his legs. "Only if you think you're up for it."

"You cheeky bitch," Adam accused and swatted his hip. Kris was laughing at him, relaxed and happy, and Adam couldn't hold back his smile as he said, "I'll show you up for it." He settled himself on top of Kris, lined up his cock with the cleft of Kris's ass, and rocked their bodies together in a slow, delicious slide.

"Fu-uck," Kris gasped.

"Yeah," Adam breathed. He could get off like this, rutting against Kris's gorgeous skin until he spilled on Kris's back, branding him. But he had another plan in mind and he was sticking to it. Adam hurried to get his stuff from the drawer and pushed Kris's legs wider, running a hand from Kris's lower back over his round ass. "You're gonna love it," he said again, sure of his talents, and then delved in with a long lick over Kris's hole.

"What?" Kris squeaked, his ass cheeks clenching adorably.

"Mmm, relax, honey," Adam crooned, and did it again, getting Kris's hole wet and then rubbing the pad of his thumb over the puckered muscle.

"Oh my god," Kris moaned and dropped back down to the mattress. His whole body twitched as Adam licked over and into him, pushing his tongue in just enough for Kris to feel it. Kris groaned and shifted his hips a little, obviously sore, and Adam purred and opened the lube.

He spent long minutes working Kris open with his tongue and his fingers, switching up the sensations to make Kris squirm, rubbing his prostate to make him arch and buck. Kris's whimpers and prayers were heady, and Adam let the taste and smell of him, the sight and feel of him, draw him into an ecstatic state, like a painter caught up working on a masterpiece, so focused on his canvas he would let himself waste away in order to create something beautiful and perfect.

When Kris was shivering and panting, three of Adam's fingers rocking into him, easy like he was made for it, Adam leaned back and urged Kris to roll over. Kris kicked Adam's shoulder with a knee, but it was worth it when Kris groaned and arched as he rolled, Adam's fingers still in him, knuckles twisting deep. Kris's cock was hard and red, his balls pulled up tight to his body, and Adam gave his cock one more lick, swirling his tongue around the crown as he pressed with his fingers again, curling and dragging a shout out of Kris.

"You ready, baby?" he asked, his throat dry and voice rough.

Kris looked up at him with wet, shining eyes and nodded, "Yeah, yeah, Adam…."

Adam pulled his fingers out, and Kris groaned at the loss. Adam moved quickly, sliding on the condom, applying another coating of lube, and then he picked Kris's legs up and braced them on his shoulders. "Hang on, honey," he said, and slid in slowly, Kris's passage hot and slick and still so tight. Adam had to stop to catch his breath, trying not to come just from this, from the long buildup and Kris's tight embrace, from Kris looking up at him with trust and awe and love. He had to look away, and his gaze landed on the windows, the blinds he'd kept shut for weeks. He wanted to open them, show anyone who might be watching that Kris was his.

Kris turned his head, too, following Adam's gaze to the windows, and he made a sound deep in his throat, his hips bucking up onto Adam's cock. Adam was suddenly certain that this was what Kris had imagined when he'd pictured himself in Adam's bed.

"Look at you," Adam said, wanting Kris to see himself through Adam's eyes. "You're so good, honey, so gorgeous taking it like this. You're amazing. I wanna fuck you all night. I wanna watch you come apart, just for me."

Kris threw his head back and howled, thrusting his body up until Adam relented and pushed in the last few inches, Kris's knees pressed tight against his own chest as Adam leaned down and kissed him.

Adam started to move then, speeding up and slowing down in response to Kris's sounds, the way he arched off the sheets. And Kris begged again and again, his fingers knotted in the sheets as Adam worked him over, claiming Kris with kisses and promises that turned into nonsense words the longer Adam teased them both, driving them to the brink until they both found ecstasy, coming together with one last hard thrust that took them over the edge.




Angry voices woke him with a start.

"What did you do?!" Brad was screaming.

Adam sat up in bed and winced at the muscle aches throughout his body. It was 8 a.m. on a Sunday, why was Brad up already? And why was he shouting? And why did Adam smell smoke…!

He stumbled out of the bedroom, one arm in his silk dressing robe as he fought to get it untangled, and he found Kris and Brad facing off in the kitchen under a cloud of white extinguisher chemicals sparkling in the morning sunlight.

"You did it on purpose! You're trying to fucking turn him straight, aren't you! I should fucking slit your throat right now!" Brad screeched, reaching for the knife block.

Kris reached for his shoulder holster—absent, considering he was only wearing a pair of NY Yankees boxers—and held his ground. "Try it, and I'll end you," Kris growled.

"What the fuck," Adam demanded.

Two sets of eyes turned to look at him and then drifted appreciatively down his naked body before turning to confront each other again.

"I was making you some cinnamon rolls—"

"Like hell! Adam, your little Fed just torched my backup stash of Euros. €30,000, up in flames!"

"I was preheating. Who the hell keeps cash in the oven?"

"I didn't have a lot of time to clean yesterday," Brad snapped. "And who just walks into someone else's kitchen and starts baking at ass-o'clock on a Sunday?"

"Adam has a sweet-tooth," Kris snapped back, as if that explained everything in the world.

Adam rolled his eyes, dropped the robe in the doorway, and shuffled to his bathroom to take a shower. He was not awake enough to deal with this shit.




Brad flopped onto the couch next to Adam and said under his breath, "So when Thomas gets here, what should we do about…." He jerked his head in the direction of the kitchen, where Kris was dressed in a pair of Adam's yoga pants and an old FCUK t-shirt, cleaning up the mess from the fire extinguisher.

Adam looked up from his newspaper. "Who's Thomas?"

"Didn't I tell you about him? I found the perfect Emilio-replacement at Café La Thé yesterday. Tall, looks like he's not fucking around—he totally fits the bill and he's a player. He's stopping by to go over the ambush on Justin in a few."

"That's why you're up so early." Adam wondered in passing if Brad was going to sleep with this Emilio, too, but the thought didn't stick, and he focused on Brad's question. "Kris is fine. Don't worry about him."

Brad nodded and then narrowed his eyes at the kitchen. "Well, not unless he goes near any other major appliances. Seriously, if he so much as looks at that freezer, I'll kill him."

Adam didn't want to know what Brad had stashed in the freezer. He grinned and went back to his article on the Belgian Avant-Garde exhibit at the MoMA this month. None of his clients were particularly interested in the movement, but he'd always had a soft spot for Ensor's masked portraits. Maybe Kris would like them, too.

Fifteen minutes later, the doorbell rang. Kris came out of the kitchen, and Brad practically skipped to the door. "Okay, don't mess with this guy, okay? I need him. You," Brad warned Kris firmly, "not one word about our friends in the van outside. And nobody mention a 70/30 split."

Kris shrugged and watched the door curiously.

Brad undid the three deadbolts, pulled the door open, and said, "Hi, thanks for coming."

"Hi," a deep voice said, and a man with brown hair and stubble walked in, towering nearly 18 inches over Brad.

Adam immediately approved of the distressed leather jacket and heavy boots, but something about Thomas's face seemed too delicate and thin to pull off "menacing badass."

Brad started introductions with, "This is my roommate Adam, and this is—"

Without warning, Kris shoved Brad to the floor and lunged for Thomas, smashing his fist into the taller man's face once, twice.

"Kris—" Adam gasped, shocked at Kris's unprovoked attack. What kind of rabid animal had he brought into his home, his bed?

Thomas ignored the blood gushing from his nose, reeled and spun, catching Kris's shoulder and shoving him away, sending Kris tripping against the back of the couch. Kris tried to straighten up, but Thomas was on him. He drove his knee into Kris's stomach and his elbow between Kris's shoulder blades before Kris grunted and wrapped his arms around Thomas, forcing him to stumble backward and slam into the doorframe.

Thomas winced as his head connected with wood, his eyes and expression suddenly familiar, and Adam remembered. His mouth fell open to shout some kind of belated warning as Kris punched Thomas again and again, aiming for his neck and chin. Thomas raised an arm to ward off the blows, and Kris swung low, just below his ribs.

Thomas gave Kris a desperate shove and lurched away and out the door, his footsteps running for the stairs.

Kris held onto the doorframe and watched him go, panting for breath.

"What the fucking, fucking, fucking hell!" Brad yelled at Kris's back as he picked himself off the floor.

"Who was that?" Kris demanded. He turned, and his eyes locked on Brad.

"Alexander…" Adam said, trying to swallow the icy lump of panic still lodged in his chest.

"That was $90,000 you just chased out the door!"

"Who was that?" Kris said again, advancing on Brad, and Brad fell back a step at the dangerous look in Kris's eyes. "You brought him here; you knew him. Who was he!"

Adam got around the couch and pulled Kris under his arm to keep them separated. Kris was tense, taut muscles vibrating against Adam's body, but he didn't struggle against Adam's grip. "That guy," Adam told Brad, "that's the guy I was flirting with on Friday. He had blond hair, said he was a Russian fashion designer. Kris got in a fight with him at the party and took him out."

Brad blinked at them and then looked at the door, a deep crease in his forehead.

Adam pressed, "And he just happened to meet you at our coffee shop the very next day, with new hair and a new name, and got an invitation back here?"

Brad's eyes flashed with anger. "You mean I got played? Son of a bitch! What the hell did he think he was doing, conning a conman!"

"He's after Adam," Kris growled.

There was no proof of that, Adam thought, but everything about that guy's presence set off warning alarms Adam couldn't ignore. "You have to be more careful," he told Brad, and ignored the way his ex-boyfriend bristled. "What happened to your instincts? You've been warning me for years about walking into somebody else's play. And first the Picasso deal, now this?"

Kris took a step in front of Adam and faced Brad down. "Don't let anybody else in here. I can't protect him if you're bringing the enemy into his home."

Brad looked like he dearly wanted to argue with somebody, anybody, but he just glared at the two of them and said, "Fine. Can we close the door already?" He stomped past them and slammed the door shut.

"Could he've been part of the Picasso crew?" Adam asked Kris, wrapping an arm around his waist.

"No way," Kris said. "I sicced Interpol on them before I quit. No way those guys are still in this state." He looked at the blood on his hands and said, "I think I'm gonna need a gun."

"I can get you a gun," Brad said and turned the last lock.




Later, with Kris curled up sated and warm against his side, Adam's fingers traced the thin lines of light filtering through the blinds across Kris's bare skin. When he closed his eyes, he could still see Kris clearly: the soft curve of those lips, the strong frame of his body—they were burned into Adam's mind, unforgettable now.

He felt like humming, like singing, from a pleasure far more profound than sex. He knew who was in bed with him, and who would still be with him in the morning. And he couldn't believe how much he'd missed that in the years since Brad, missed it like a part of himself had been cut off and left behind in Los Angeles. The years of hookups had been good—had given him what he needed, but this was indescribably better.

His fingers twitched as it occurred to him that the FBI had watched him for weeks, had judged him for his flirting and conquests and interpreted it as vanity of all things. The next realization cut through him like a knife; that Kris had seen him, watched him….

Adam pressed his hand flat against Kris's chest as he tried to block that thought with the simple fact that Kris was right there. Whatever Kris had read in that hideous psych profile, and whatever he'd seen Adam do, Kris was here with him. He'd chosen Adam over the FBI, over everyone else in the world, and if Adam could just wrap his head around that and understand why, he could let this sudden, gnawing uncertainty go.

Why me? Adam thought helplessly, and didn't realize he'd spoken aloud until Kris turned his head toward him and blinked his eyes open, a frown wrinkling his forehead. Adam kissed it away, smoothing the corner of Kris's lips with his thumb.

"Why you what?" Kris asked when Adam pulled away.

Adam wanted to pretend he hadn't said it, didn't want to be this vulnerable in front of Kris, but his heart was breaking with the need to know. "Why do you love me?"

Kris shrugged. "I told you, I just know it's right. You're who I'm supposed to be with."

Kris's blind conviction was sweet but far from comforting. Adam twined his fingers with Kris's and placed their joined hands over Kris's heart. "What about me do you love? What makes me different from everyone else?" he pressed, even though he hated how it sounded: like he was begging for compliments.

Kris rolled over onto his stomach and leaned up on his elbows to look down at Adam. "Everything about you," Kris said. "The way you look, the way you dress—unapologetic about who you are. You've got this whole illegal operation, but you live your life in the open, like you don't care how much attention you attract. You're fearless and charming and loyal—I don't know how you put up with Brad for so long…." Kris flashed a grin so Adam knew he was joking about that part, at least partly.

But Adam lay decimated by Kris's words. Because he hadn't known what answer Kris would give, but that…. Kris was wrong, completely wrong about him, and Adam couldn't remember how to breathe for a minute, he was so shocked. "What did Brad say about me yesterday?" he croaked. "On the balcony."

Kris's grin turned into a scowl for a moment. "He tried to tell me you weren't perfect." Kris snorted, "Which is crazy. You're beyond perfect." He leaned down and kissed Adam's cheekbone, his eyelid. "You're the most beautiful, brilliant, incredible person I've ever met, and when you smiled at me, talked to me at the coffee shop, I was gone for you."

"You really think of me like that?" Adam asked, trying to keep his voice steady.

Kris nodded and settled down, one arm draped over Adam's chest and his head pillowed on Adam's shoulder. "You're the only thing I want in the world, and I'll do anything to keep you safe." He gave Adam a squeeze.

Adam slid his arm around Kris and squeezed him back as he blinked up at the ceiling. He was still alive, despite the way it felt like his heart had been ripped out of his chest. He'd been nervous before; now he was flat-out terrified. Kris seemed that much closer to walking away from him, even though he was still in Adam's arms.

Adam ran his hands over Kris's hot skin, traces of their sweat still on his body, and he knew he couldn't let this go without a fight. He would have to work for it if he wanted to keep it, just like he worked for everything else he loved. If Kris thought he was beautiful and brave, loyal and smart, then that's what he would be.

And he would start by getting rid of the fucking cement block that was weighing him down.

"I'll sell the diptych," Adam said, and Kris shifted slightly, letting Adam know he'd heard. "If I don't have it anymore, the Feds can't touch me. Eventually they'll give up and leave us alone." He liked the sound of that; them, alone. He liked it more than the half million he'd paid for the diptych and the $350,000 profit he'd been expecting. "I'll make some calls tomorrow, see who's still interested. I'll finish this." It was the smart thing to do; dropping the price, setting his pride aside, and admitting he'd lost this round.

Kris apparently agreed, because he looked up and said, "Yeah?" smiling. And maybe it didn't feel so much like a loss after all.

"I'll have to go to my storage locker tomorrow. My contact list and phones…."

Kris kissed his collarbone and throat, moving slowly up. "They'll try to tail you."

"Yeah," Adam said. "You got any suggestions?"

"I know just the trick," Kris said, and found Adam's mouth in the moonlight.




On Monday morning Kris kissed Adam goodbye and left the condo in his own clothes, with a bulky copy of Caravaggio: The Complete Works wrapped in newspaper and tucked suspiciously under his leather jacket.

Adam listened to Kris's fading footsteps, his forehead pressed against the door for a long moment, before he turned to Brad and said, "Let's go."

They took the elevator down to the basement and used the heavy, steel access door up to the alley to make their exit, dressed in their most conservative business suits and briefcases to blend in with the morning commuters. Adam approached the mouth of the alley cautiously, darting his head out to make sure Kris had made a big enough diversion.

He spotted Kris at the far end of the block, surrounded by half a dozen agents. As he watched, Kris was thrown up against the side of a van and searched, and Adam's heart squeezed painfully.

"Shit," he whispered, hand tightening on the handle of his Dunhill Sidecar briefcase.

"What went wrong?" Brad asked.

"They're taking him," Adam said, his throat closing up as Kris was manhandled into the back of the surveillance van. They'd talked about this possibility last night, but the Feds hadn't bothered with obstruction-of-justice charges so far; Kris had been certain his friends wouldn't arrest him.

"Then we have to go," Brad hissed. He darted a quick look for himself, grabbed Adam's wrist, and dragged him out onto the sidewalk of Madison Avenue just in time to fall into step with a pair of well-dressed businessmen.

They walked at a fast clip, Adam barely paying attention to where he put his feet, his thoughts still behind him, on Kris's defiant smirk as his arms were twisted up behind his back.

"He'll be fine," Brad said under his breath just before they split up at 63rd Street.

Adam wasn't sure if Brad was talking to him or not.


Chapter 5
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samanthahirr

October 2014

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