Lance and Adam

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

Wanna Tell Me About It?

written for the Cockbertbigbang, 2012
Thanks to Sperrywink, Quiet00001, Topaz and Zebraljb for the beta help

It wasn't much of a dressing room, but at least there was a good-sized mirror over the cluttered table, and light enough to check out his makeup. Adam peered at his reflection, tilted his head, and nodded. Theater makeup was the best thing ever, in his opinion. Awesome coverage.

He was perfecting his eye glitter when Tommy and Danielle burst into the room, apparently in the middle of a quarrel. Why they had to do it in here, he did not know. Neither of them took any notice of him. Adam returned his attention to the mirror—lucky he hadn't striped right across his cheek when the interruption came.

"He had his arm around her! Don't tell me he isn't interested!" Tommy announced.

"They're friends. Anyway, he's gay. He came out, don't you remember, I'm sure it was him—"

"So why'd he come in here with a girl, then? Wouldn't he be looking to hook up? I say she's protection for him."

Danielle paused. "Yeah, maybe. I mean, if he's not looking to hook up, then—but they're friends. I told you. She was in season four, she was that girl, the one with pigtails like spaniel's ears, she was the cutest thing ever. And they used to do red carpet stuff together. What's her name, wait, wait, I know this—"

"Do you actually need to be discussing this in here? It's not like there's room for three of us, and I do need to move my elbow," Adam said, trying to sound superior but probably, he thought, achieving only plaintive.

"Emmanuelle!" Danielle burst out.

"What?" said Adam. "Emmanuelle who?"

"Emmanuelle Chriqui, who played the girl next door in the fourth season of Synchronicity."

"Oh, right. She was cute, you're right."

"Adam, do not tell me you watched that show!" Tommy said.

"Of course." Adam turned back to the mirror, hoping the stage makeup would cover the warmth he could feel in his cheeks. "Had to see what the cool kids were wearing that week."

"Yeah, right," said Tommy. "Anyway, there's one of them out there.

"What?" said Adam, startled. "Who—"

"Which one was your favorite?" Danielle interrupted. "Mine was Joey. Especially when he had the red hair."

"Joey?" Adam said, momentarily diverted from his train of thought. "Joey? Seriously?" He'd never really had a thing for Joey, well, except for moments, because he had a great smile, and the red hair had been pretty cool, but still, Joey?

"He looked like he wouldn't break, know what I mean?" Danielle had the dirtiest laugh, she really did.

"Oh my God," Adam muttered. "You were a child when that show was on!"

Danielle rolled her eyes so hard she probably sprained something. "Who was your favorite?"

"Oh, come on. Like I cared enough to have a favorite." He'd made a mistake admitting he knew who Emmanuelle Chriqui was, Adam knew, but he might get out of this one with his dignity intact if he didn't—

"I bet it was JC," Danielle said. "Or was it Justin? Did you like him best when he had curls or after he shaved his head?"

When he pouted, Adam thought. Justin's mouth.... Although it was true that JC, with those incredible cheekbones and that endearing, slightly bewildered look he sometimes had in his pretty eyes, and the way they scrinched up when he laughed, had turned out adorable. His hair had been amazing after he outgrew the hideous season one Caesar. Adam had definitely had a JC phase. Chris first, because Chris was funny and sharp-edged and had ridiculous hair. Adam had admired anyone who could carry off some of those styles without appearing ever to notice they were ridiculous. Or at least, never to care. Chris first, then JC, then maybe a little bit Justin, because of the pouting and the smile, and then—

"Hey, Lance Bass is out there." It was Monte, sticking his head around the door to drop his casual bombshell. "C'mon, Adam, did you warm up yet?"

"Yeah, I mean, no. These two are distracting me," Adam said, and Monte ushered Tommy and Danielle sternly out of the room and left Adam to put his eye makeup away with a suddenly shaky hand, and start vocalizing.

Yeah, he'd had a favorite. Not at first, because right at the beginning Lance had looked like some kind of alien life form who'd landed there by mistake and wasn't sure he belonged, and besides, there had been Chris and JC to occupy his attention, but somewhere in the middle of season three, Lance had suddenly gotten hot, really, really hot, and Adam didn't care anymore that his storylines had mostly been kinda stupid. He'd started rating the episodes by how much screen time Lance got, and had once actually made a list of the Best Lance Moments and disputed them hotly with other people on the Lancephiles newsgroup. There was not enough alcohol in the world to make him admit this to a living soul, but, still.

It wasn't like the Bowie crush, which would never leave him. Hell, if he ever got within twenty yards of Bowie, Adam would probably lose his mind, his ability to speak, and all sensation in his legs. But Bowie was to all intents and purposes a god—the Synchronicity boys were different. Approachable. The boys next door, if the boys next door were unfeasibly pretty and wore the most ridiculous street clothes ever. So he'd spent a lot of time fantasizing about Lance. About meeting him unexpectedly in some hangout somewhere and getting to be his friend. About impressing him. About auditioning for the show and getting to play scenes with Lance and hang out with him after. And of course, of course, about doing all kinds of dirty and delicious things with him.

Lance Bass was in the audience tonight.

Holy shit.

Adam did not get stage fright, not ever. A little nervous, sure, a little adrenaline buzz that kept him sharp and made him give his best. The flutter in his belly was a bit more than usual tonight, like the butterflies were wearing boots, but he could use it, channel it, pour it into the singing.

He really wanted to do his best tonight. Really, really.

"Where's he sitting?" he hissed at Monte as they waited for the curtain to open.

Monte gave him a knowing grin (probably knowing the wrong thing, though, for which Adam was grateful). "Second row table, a bit left of center."

And they were on.

He blazed onto that stage like a comet, and from the first note that came out knew that this was going to be a killer performance. He was absofuckinglutely "on". He could feel the reaction shivering through the audience and it picked him up even higher, like a wave he could ride all night.

Adam spared just a little bit of his attention for that table in the second row, a bit left of center. He wasn't going to play the show to him, he wasn't stupid, but he couldn't help hoping for a reaction. Was that a smile? Adam suppressed his glee and strode across to the opposite side of the tiny club stage and slid to his knees, swayed back, shimmied up again and strutted back across and—

—and Lance Bass was no longer at his table.

It took Adam's brain a moment to process that. Monte's solo—which he noted disinterestedly was fucking awesome—gave him a moment to glance back to that table, where a woman whose face he also recognized was sitting alone.

In those scant seconds the fantasies he'd had about meeting—praise, admiration—something in common—wanna have a drink—I know a record producer who—wanna stay over?—oh, yeah, do that more—flashed into oblivion and were replaced by a fiery resentment which fueled his performance just as well as, maybe even better than the excited optimism of a few moments ago.

The table was still half-empty when their set closed and Adam bowed to a tsunami of applause.


The others were high-fiving one another as they ran offstage. Tommy fisted the air in triumph as he skipped down the steps. Someone—Monte—slapped Adam heartily on the back as he went by. "You did great tonight. Exceptional." Even LP was pleased.

It was true. That had been a brilliant show, one of those lightning-strike performances that just works incandescently well. Adam was still feeling the glow from it, the pure satisfaction of having done a perfect set. At the same time his gut was roiling, disappointment curdling in his stomach and making him feel like he might actually vomit. He'd never seriously expected to meet Lance Bass, he'd stopped hanging out online with other fans after the show finished, hadn't really thought about him for years (excepting the masturbatory fantasies), but knowing he was here, for a few minutes the old daydreams had blossomed in his head and it had seemed like the sky was the limit, it had seemed like at least, at least he'd get to say hello, shake hands, something. Lance might tell him he'd enjoyed the show, enjoyed his performance. Something. Instead he'd cut out half-way through the first number.

What with the headrush from the performance high and the queasy feeling in his belly, Adam needed a drink. Danielle leapt to hug him, though she wrinkled her nose a bit—what did she expect when he was in leather under those lights? And there was Brad, unexpectedly smirking at him from the bar and waving what looked like a vodka martini with Adam's name on it. He fought his way through, smiling his thanks at the comments he got from other customers en route, grabbed his drink and downed it fast.

By the time his second drink arrived, the rest of the band and the usual crowd had got to the bar, an exuberant cluster all calling for the bartender's attention at once. There was a lot of back-patting and hugging and shouting, but they calmed down eventually, and someone—possibly Tommy, Adam wasn't sure—asked him if he thought Lance Bass would have been impressed.

"Oh, who gives a shit," Adam said, loudly. He did not care, he would not care. He certainly wouldn't let anyone guess that he might have cared. "He doesn't know anything about music anyway. He's just a talentless has-been, he hasn't done anything for years, and he only got into that show on his looks. Sure couldn't act. So why should we care if some C-List celebrity liked us or not? We killed it tonight!"

Danielle, staring past him, looked as though she had a wasp on her tongue.

"Hi," said a horribly familiar bass voice from behind Adam's left elbow. "I just wanted to say, great show. You're an amazing singer."

Adam couldn't even turn around. Monte stepped into the breach, shook hands with Lance Bass and said the requisite thank yous on behalf of the group. Adam just stood, frozen.

He could see in everyone's faces when Lance Bass went away. "I guess there's no chance he didn't hear that?" he said.

"None at all," said Monte.

"Who cares?" Tommy said breezily. "Like you said, he's a has-been. Doesn't matter if he heard you."

Only it did, Adam thought. It really did. "Nah," he said, flinging his arm over Tommy's shoulders. "Of course it doesn't." He could have had his stupid daydreams come true, at least the plausible ones, if only he hadn't been such a prick.

He got very, very drunk. When he threw up on the way home, nobody knew why.

* * *

"Good morning, Lisa!" Lance said.

"Hi, boss!"

"Do me a favor?"

"Sure, what do you need?"

"I need flowers sent to my cousin Lainey, in Clinton. Here's the address—"

"Oh, did she have the baby?"

"That's right. Boy, uh, eight pounds, three ounces, they're calling him Farrell." He handed over his credit card. "Lots of love and congratulations, you know the drill."

"No problem. Your meeting with Johnny's been moved up to nine thirty, everything's on your desk."

"You're a star. Joey in yet?"

"I haven't seen him, want me to find out?"

"Nah, I'll call him."

He went into his office and settled down to check his email, prioritize his day, and re-read the file on the Jason Friday project for the meeting with Johnny. Made-for-TV movies weren't usually Lance's thing, but he was stuck being the resident expert on stuff that was supposed to appeal to the prime 15-24 market, and Johnny wanted him to sort out a couple of script problems and sit in on the auditions. The stupid thing was all but cast, and the bit parts weren't going to be a problem, they just had to find the singer. Someone unknown but plausible as a talent being pushed by the actual hero, didn't need to be able to act but singing ability would be useful and they might even release a single off the soundtrack if it went well. Nice little opportunity for someone.

Lance glanced down the list of candidates, and stopped.

Okay, there's a coincidence, he thought.

Adam Lambert certainly had star quality. He'd been unbelievable last night, with that voice which just went up and up and out and sideways and wherever, and that fine long-legged body strutting and writhing on the stage like he was having sex with the audience, which from the size of the bulge in his leather trousers he practically was, Lance thought, grinning to himself. He'd been kinda pissed to have to go outside to take the phone call, but it wasn't the kind of news he wanted to miss. Em had not been too pleased with him for deserting her, but there was such a crush around the bar, it was next to impossible to shove his way back to their table. He had been happy enough standing in the crowd, feeling their responses. Guy certainly knew how to work an audience.

Pity he was a jerk.

Lance was used to jerks. He met them all the time. Too many people assumed that because he'd been in one of the nation's top teen TV series a few years ago, he must be an imbecile. People who liked to make it clear that they weren't impressed by him—whether he'd even tried to impress them or not. Lance did like to impress people, but not by reminding them of his famous years. He liked to impress them by being damn good at his job, which he was. Hell, he'd gotten his first story credit when he was eighteen, and had earned his producing credit on the show for the last two seasons. He knew what he was doing. But there was always some jerk like Adam Lambert who'd call him talentless and a has-been so they could feel superior.

Whatever. Didn't matter if Lambert was a jerk, they weren't auditioning his personality.

Thinking about it, he might be exactly what the movie needed. Assuming the charisma came across on the small screen, he'd be a totally plausible star-in-the-making. Script might need a bit of reworking, though—Serena and Marty would kill him, but it wouldn't hurt them to spend a bit more time on it, bring in a more leather-oriented feel, maybe. Right now the singer character was a bit bland. Yes, Adam Lambert could work, definitely.

Lance wouldn't object to having the chance to show Adam Lambert that he was damn good at his job, either.

Joey bounced into his office just as Lance was thinking of heading out to lunch—Joey was real good at doing that, and at cajoling Lance into going for burgers instead of salad or sushi. Ten minutes later they were settled in a booth in Joey's favorite burger restaurant and Joey was explaining that he'd figured it out, exactly what they needed for the show.

"You remember how they had that bar in Ally McBeal, right? And the green demon in Angel who listened to people sing karaoke and knew what they were thinking?"

"You know I didn't watch that science fiction stuff," Lance reminded him with a straight face. Joey's forehead creased with the effort of not reminding Lance, yet again, that Angel was not a science fiction show, which restraint meant that Joey was really excited about his idea. "All right, tell me what you got."

"We talked about needing a counterbalance to the big problem every episode, yeah? So we need a bartender. Someone people tell their troubles to, only this bartender doesn't just listen, he—or she, haven't decided yet—actually gives them answers. Like, an agony aunt."

"A what?"

"You know, like Dear Abby or Emily Post. You never heard them called agony aunts? Except ours should be maybe more like Dan Savage than Emily Post."

Lance thought about it. He liked the idea… "It's going to be a bit limiting, though, isn't it? I mean, if we move the dilemma into the bar every week, isn't that going to get stale real fast?"

"Well, I thought we could really make the bartender into a character, you know? And it doesn't need to be the leads going into the bar, they might sometimes but it can be the clients, or the secretary, or family when they come visit, or—there's all sorts of ways we can play this. And once we have the character really established we could have him or her be the problem, one week, like, be kidnapped or something, so that Ace and Mickey have to—"

"Wait, hold up, we have to sell it first!"

"I know, but the bartender fits into the structure perfectly, I don't know why we didn't get it before. Also it's a regular set, we can fit all kinds of scenes into the bar if we have a regular set."

Lance considered. Yes, he could definitely see the potential. They could play with the idea, sometimes it'd be C-plot, just a bit of filler, sometimes it'd be part of the B-plot, once in a while they could sneak it into the A-plot and if the audience was already used to it being a sideline, that'd be a neat twist, keep it fresh. "We could use the bar as a practical reason to get the music in—maybe have a jukebox."

Joey considered. "Is it getting a bit clichéd, having music? Walking through the rain looking sad while some emo singer wails in the background?"

"Maybe, but it works. Hey, they can do it on House, we can do it too. Especially if we have one of the characters go up to the jukebox at the end of the episode and hit whatever it is for the playoff. And you know I get half my story ideas from songs. More than half. And you can say things in music that you can't say in the script."

"All right. So, bartender, jukebox, okay?"

"Okay. Did you work the agony aunt bartender into the outline yet?"

They had their heads down over the script when the burgers arrived. "You know," Lance said, "it'd be way more practical to have salad. We could eat that with a fork and not get grease on the pages."

"You just wanna keep slim and beautiful," Joey said, and took a cheerful bite.

"It's all right for you," Lance said, slightly wistful. "You already found somebody who loves you. Besides, men are way more demanding than women. I have to keep in shape."

* * *

Lance tried not to yawn through the auditions. He and Joey had been up till two last night working on the script for their pet pilot, rejigging the proposal, poking at every detail. Lance really wanted this. Or, well, this or the other show, the one he was working on with Doug, but if they got that one Doug would be the show runner, whereas this one was his baby. He was ready to be the guy in charge.

Right now, he must concentrate on this movie. Write his little notes on a dozen bland and boring candidates, even though they were wasting everyone's time. Lance was already more than half in love with the idea of casting Adam Lambert to bring a little pizzazz into the story, and nobody so far had made him change his mind. But he had to give them all a fair chance.

Willing himself not to display any particular emotion, Lance kept his face bland when it was Lambert's turn to be ushered into the room. And wow, what a contrast. This was not the slinky, painted creature in feathers and leather who'd glittered under the club's spotlights. He was wearing a suit, button-down shirt and tie. Shoes with a bit too much personality, maybe, but his hair was neat and his earrings restrained. Interesting. Versatility. That was good.

Lambert handed his music to Kevin Antunes, who'd been roped into this—seriously, Johnny must have something on everybody in the business, he was incredible at getting people involved in his projects—and produced, to Lance's astonishment, a near-perfect rendition of Tracks of my Tears, then Born to be Wild for his up-tempo piece. A brief scene reading—there wasn't much dialog for the role, but Lance read in the lead's lines and Adam handled it well. Then questions—yes, he had done quite a bit of performing, his only television experience was extras but he'd done clubs and theater, yes, musical theater, mostly chorus but some understudy work and a couple principal roles. Lance scrawled 'range of experience' on his notepad. Surely everyone could see this guy was the one they needed?

There were only two more on the list, a forgettable guy who was more ego than talent, and then a cute kid who brought along his guitar and sang—Lance had to admit, this was genius—an acoustic version of Heartless and then a Beatles number. He was actually pretty good, and being able to play guitar didn't hurt his chances, except for the obvious fact that Adam Lambert had nailed this one already.

Except, he hadn't.

"A little too much musical theater," Johnny said, which pissed Lance off because he knew exactly what Johnny meant by that, and, "Not quite the image we're looking for," and "We need somebody wholesome, all-American." Karen and Bruno agreed, and Lance found to his astonishment that they were seriously going for the cute kid with the guitar instead. Kris Allen. Who was, okay, certainly the best of the rest, but—all his notes for revitalizing the script could just go straight in the recycling, Lance thought. They were going with bland. In all fairness, Allen was going to appeal to the young teens demographic, and he did have something going on, he might just manage to break out of the puppet characterization they had written so far, but, hell. At least Lance wouldn't have to get into the rewrite, just when his precious pilot was—


The most perfect idea burst into his brain like a supernova.

Lance couldn't wait to get out of there and call Joey.

* * *

"Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. No, fine, I'll talk to you soon. 'Bye now." Adam disconnected, and flopped onto his ratty couch.

"You didn't get it," Brad stated.

"No. I mean, I knew I wasn't going to get it the instant I saw Lance Bass was one of the audition panel. After what I said, no way was he going to cast me."

"So we're assuming Lance Bass is a petty, vindictive bitch, are we?"

"No!" Adam said, indignantly. "But if you heard somebody mouthing off about you like I did, would you want to give him a job?"

"No, but then, I am a petty, vindictive bitch." Brad crunched a large bite out of his apple. Adam's apple, actually, the last one in the bowl. "I'm very good at it. You, on the other hand, suck at it, so don't behave like one."

"I'm not! Seriously, how do you get from me not blaming him to me being a bitch?"

Brad looked at him pityingly. "You're just a teensy bit obsessed with this, aren't you?"

"Not at all," Adam said with dignity. "Only it was so fucking stupid to say what I said, and the fact he actually heard me probably means he's going to remember my name in the worst way, and he does have connections. He's a television producer. I don't exactly know what kind because producer can mean, like, anything, but he's in the industry and I'm not."

"I think you should stop worrying," Brad said. "This one was just bad timing. It's not like he's going to remember you for long, and he probably won't be so petty and vindictive that he'd stop other people giving you work. Anyhow, there's nothing you can do about it."

Which was true. Adam had thought about it. He'd quite seriously considered writing a letter of apology, or even sending a fruit basket or something, except he didn't have enough spare cash to send a gift that a millionaire ex-superstar would even notice, and besides, he hadn't been able to figure out any kind of message that didn't sound like he was an ass-kisser as well as a jerk. He was just going to have to forget the whole thing, if he could, and learn from it.

"And we all know what you learn from this, don't we?"

Adam scowled. Brad could be so fucking supercilious.

"Not to mouth off about people who could be good for your career," Brad said, and flicked the apple core towards the trash. "Hey, you want consolation sex? I have twenty minutes."

* * *

"Will you please sit down?" Joey said. "Geez, you're making me exhausted just looking at you."

"Nah, things to do, people to see," Lance said.

Joey huffed. "Ever since we got the go-ahead you've been manic. Did you even sleep yet?"

"Eh, sleep is for the weak. There is a lot to get done, you know."

"You should get another assistant. Or give Lisa more to do. Of—"

"Lisa's doing plenty. Incidentally, if we get the series, I think we should make her an AP. She can do more."

"Agreed. But—"

"So what are you doing in my office, anyhow? This is the Executive Producer's office. You can't be Executive Producer, it's the best job ever and I'm keeping it. You have your own job, Mr Supervising Producer. Shouldn't you be working on the script?"

"Yes," said Joey, and there was a hint of exasperation coloring his ever-so-patient voice. "I should be working on the script, that's why I need to talk with you. Would you please sit down for five minutes?"

Lance sat, but jiggled his knees, just to make a point. "So, what's up?"

"See, I think we maybe made a bad call with the bartender. I know we got the pilot okayed on the basis of this script, but it was kind of a rush decision, and I think we need to revisit."

Lance frowned. "What's the problem?"

"Look, I like the idea of having the bartender sing in every show, I do. And getting JC on board to write some songs for us was genius. But you know, I just don't see how it's going to work. Plus, we haven't cast the part yet, and—"

"You're right. Damn, I knew there was something I forgot," Lance said, grinning at him. "We should get right on that."

"We should go back to the original concept and get an actor and a jukebox. It's not such a big deal. You have to get someone on the music rights either way."

"I still like the singing bartender. I think it ties everything together way better than a jukebox. Plus, it has more potential. We can't include JC's original material if we have a jukebox, and I think it'll be a selling point."

"Yeah, sure, but—"

"I will sort out the audition. You'll see."

Joey looked at him warily. "You mean, you have someone in mind?"

"I actually have."

"Man or woman? I mean, I can work with either, but it'd be good to know."

"It's a guy. Though he should be an equal opportunities flirt, if you know what I mean."

"Women, men, potted plants...."

"Yeah. Kinda like you," Lance said, and waited for the snort of indignation, which came, right on cue. Joey totally flirted with everyone, and he knew it.

"So you found a guy who can act, everything from serious, concerned problem page counselor stroke therapist to omnisexual flirt, and looks cute on TV, and can sing whatever kind of song we need to make the story work?"

"Yep," said Lance. At least, he wasn't certain about the acting part because the Jason Friday audition hadn't been all that demanding, but, he told himself, someone who could be that versatile with his image ought to be able to cope with the acting.

"Tell me this is not some guy you wanna sleep with," Joey said.

"God, no. Well, I would, but he's…" No, Lance thought, he couldn't announce to Joey that the guy was a jerk, that'd be an awful way to start a professional relationship. Joey was honor bound to be on Lance's side, if it came to it, and Lance didn't really need that. He needed his cast and writers to be a team, and he had no reason to suppose Adam Lambert was a jerk to everyone. Just to sometime teen TV stars, maybe, and if that was the problem, Joey would find it out soon enough. "Anyhow, I wouldn't give someone a job just so I could sleep with him."

"Because that would be a terrible idea."

"Because I don't need to," Lance said, and smiled. "I really don't." Joey muttered something Lance was pretty sure wasn't polite. "You're just jealous because Kelly has you locked down and you can't run a casting couch like a big, old-fashioned movie mogul."

"Just get the guy in to audition," Joey said. "And I have a veto, remember, so if I think you're just falling for a pretty face and he can't do the job, I will say so."

"Of course you will, wouldn't expect anything less. I should get JC along for it, too. But you'll like him, you'll see. Hundred bucks says you will."

"What? You want me to tell you you're right and give you money?"

"Oh, okay, uh—if I'm right, I'll give you the hundred bucks, if you don't think he's up to it, you have to pay me. Deal?"

"Deal," Joey said, suspiciously, but he shook on it. Lance wasn't worried. He knew he was right about this one. It'd be worth putting up a grand to get Joey to admit it, but Joey was a wuss and never bet more than small change.

* * *

Adam sat on the ostentatiously comfortable leather couch opposite the receptionist's desk and did his best to be cool, calm and collected. Which of the other people waiting here were his rivals for the part? He couldn't tell, but some of them must be.

It seemed like he had a real shot at this one. His agent had been guardedly excited about it. The production company had called her, not the other way around, which meant someone there had remembered him from something else they'd seen him do and thought he was a possibility for this role.

And it was such a peach of a role, such a great character. Even with just the one scene they'd sent him he could see the potential in it, and it'd be so much fun to play. He wanted it, he really wanted it. A chance to sing on national television, every week—if it got turned into a series, if they kept him on after the pilot, if he got the part in the first place. Too many ifs. Wasn't he supposed to be less nervous when he had a real chance?

He hoped they'd let him sing first. He was more nervous about the acting. What if his interpretation wasn't what they were looking for? Would they ask him to do a re-read, or just dismiss him? Should he stick with the black button-down shirt he was wearing, or take it off and go with the purple-spattered black T-shirt underneath?

There was no way he could answer his own questions, so he might as well do something useful. Forcing himself to concentrate, Adam mentally started running through his lines again. He wasn't very far into the scene when a plump, cheerful young woman approached him and said, "Adam Lambert?"

He stood, and she introduced herself as Lisa Delcampo and told him to come with her to the audition room. Lisa chattered inconsequentially as she led him to the elevator and along a couple of corridors.

"Do you happen to know if they want something kinda formal or a more relaxed look?" Adam asked. "I was wondering whether to take my shirt off."

"I don't think you're supposed to be topless," she said, and gave him a quick once-over with her eyes. "Although I could maybe make a case for it."

Adam laughed. "No, no, I have a T-shirt underneath. You don't want my blinding white flesh on display, trust me."

"Leave the shirt on, then if they want to see a different look, they'll ask. I'll make sure they ask. I'm sitting in on your audition," she told him. "It's my first one where I'm actually, you know, where I get to say what I think, because my boss says if we get the series I'll be an Associate Producer, which is so great! I love my boss. Here you go." She opened a door and he followed her through.

Adam blinked as he took in the array of people here to watch him. Then he recalibrated, and nearly whimpered.

"This is our chief writer, Joey Fatone," Lisa announced, and Adam shook hands with Joey Fatone, who had the same huge, friendly grin he'd had as a teen idol on Synchronicity. Lisa took a seat at the end of the table, and it was Joey who introduced the others: Jonathan Frakes (Neil would be so jealous, he'd been an avid Trekkie when he was a kid), who'd be directing the pilot; Wendy Thorlakson, Anthony Giordano and Melinda Bell, all Producers, unspecified; and Kevin Antunes, Director of Music.

"I think we met already," Adam said. "At the Jason Friday audition?"

"That's right. You sang the Smokey Robinson song, I remember you. And this is JC Chasez, he'll be our Consulting Music Director, or our Visiting Songwriter, or something."

JC was still absolutely gorgeous, Adam thought, a bit dazed. Good thing he didn't have a crush on him anymore, he'd probably screw this up. He smiled instead, as JC said,

"I don't think they figured out what to call me yet. I'm going to be writing songs for the show, that is, provided they get signed up to make the series."

"Did you get a chance to do your warm-up? Are you ready to sing?" Kevin Antunes asked.

"Yes, I'm ready." Adam had a good feeling about this. Was Kevin his inside man? He handed over his sheet music and Kevin moved to the keyboard.

From what Adam could tell from the script and character sheet he'd been sent, Chance the bartender was a nosy, well-intentioned guy who gave the main characters good advice, and who would sing something that reflected their problems, or maybe the solutions. At least, that's how he thought it would work if they got to make the series. He was just auditioning for the pilot, nothing else mattered right now.

But Mad World was the kind of song that would really work with the people-have-problems deal, and he could put his heart and soul into it, and he did.

There was a brief silence after he finished, then Joey Fatone asked about Adam's previous experience, and he explained about the band, and the musical theater stuff going right back to grade school, and they asked him to do another song, so he took off the button-down shirt and did Black or White, and they seemed to like that one, too. Then he had to do the scene at the bar. Then he had to do it again, only really earnest and gentle and serious, then again really camp, then again like he was flirting with the camera—they had the camera right in his face, which freaked him a little bit, but if he was going to be on TV he'd have to get used to it, right?—and one final time with a little bit of everything all thrown into the same few lines, and Jonathan Frakes fine-tuning the balance.

After that, JC went across to the keyboard and asked him to sing a few scales, and was very complimentary about his range, and handed him a song to sight-read. After he sang it through they spent a while working on details. Adam was vaguely aware of the other producers murmuring to one another, but fuck, he was working on a song with JC Chasez, so he didn't pay them much heed. After he sang the song again, JC beamed up at him with that adorable crinkly-eyed smile and said it sounded great, and Adam felt like someone had just given him a gold medal. JC! Liked him! Liked his singing!

Joey asked him a couple of questions about availability after that, and said thank you, they'd let him know, and he was done.

His agent called two hours later.

"I thought it went well," Adam said. "I know I sang the shit out of those songs, and they got me to do the scene over and over, and I really thought I nailed it, but who knows. And they asked me so many questions about what I'd done, and what I thought of the character, and oh, God, it's so perfect for me. I guess I just have to wait until they auditioned everyone."

"Not really," Cecile said. "You got it."

"I—I got it? Really? Oh, my God!" Yes! Yes!

"Congratulations, babe. Great work. They're going to send the contract over, and the complete script, and confirm dates, but I thought you'd want to know right away. I'll call you as soon as it gets here and you can come in and sign." A few more pleasantries, and they were done.

Adam felt almost giddy. He fell back onto the couch and punched the air. "I got it!" He laughed. Wow. Now, he could start feeling nervous about whether the show would be picked up.

Tonight, though, he needed to celebrate. Who was he going to call first?

* * *

After that things seemed to happen incredibly quickly. He got the contract, which he signed. He got the script, which he read, and it filled him with happiness. He loved his scenes, he loved his character, but he also loved the story, the relationship between the two leads, the set-up with their family, the whole dynamic.

He went into the studio to meet with the Wardrobe people, and was seized by a fierce, maternal woman called Aileen, who measured every bit of him that could be measured—well, almost every bit—and then began draping him with shirts and scarves in shades of blue and green.

"Purple!" she announced, suddenly, and, "Peacock!" and there was a whole lot more draping. Adam loved it. They discussed which shades brought out his eyes and what worked with his skin tone and did he like Hawaiian shirts ("Hate them!" "Oh, me too!") and was he going to keep that blue streak in his hair and did she think they'd want him to wear nail polish.

"This was so much fun," Adam said as he was leaving. "I love the peacock theme, you're brilliant." It gave him a great new insight into his character. Chance was a little bit vain, loved showing off in his bright colors. Bars had mirrors, didn't they, so he could preen just a little bit. He really thought that would work. God, he was so excited about this!

Then the Hair and Makeup people, which was just as much fun in a different way, and they talked about brands and styles and they took photos of him in a bunch of different looks, and by the time he got to leave he was on quite a high.

* * *

"You look like a little kid on Christmas. No, wait, you look like you did in that Fourth of July ep we did with all the pyro."

Lance tried to tamp his smile down a notch. He was excited, he couldn't help it. "This is cool, though, right? Our very own show. Today we get to see if our cast really works together. Aren't you excited?"

"Sure," Joey said. "I love it when a script comes alive. It's not exactly doing that until they start filming, though."

"No, but. It's exciting. Hey, Jonathan! Good to see you." Lance shook hands with their director and asked—he couldn't help himself—if there was anything he needed for the prep that he hadn't already gotten, and Jonathan reassured him—again—that everything was fine. Lance didn't want to miss anything. He wanted this to be the best-prepared pilot in the history of television. Or something.

The cast and crew members started arriving a few minutes later and he was kept busy greeting them all and being encouraging. He was delighted to see Gina and Jemarco stroll in together, and Gina pause to straighten Jem's collar. It looked like she was getting into big-sister mode with him already. They'd been great together in the tests, and if that chemistry came across in their scenes it'd go a long way to making this work. Lance greeted them.

"You know, it's really unfair you cast my kid brother so much prettier than me," Gina told him in mock reproach.

Lance laughed. "Sorry about that." He coudn't deny it. Jem, twenty-two but looked nineteen, was part Black, part Asian, with limpid dark eyes, lashes Lance envied, flawless skin and bone structure that would keep him beautiful all his life. He was fresh out of Juilliard and had minimal TV experience, just a couple of walk-ons, but he was smart and learned fast, and their New York casting agent had to been very impressed with what she'd seen of his work. It was a gamble casting someone so new, but Lance had faith that Jem would acquire the skills he needed, and meanwhile his being pretty would carry him over his mistakes. If they got picked up. Mustn't forget that.

"Anyhow, you're gorgeous, girl," Jem was telling Gina. "You got a memorable face."

"He's not wrong," Lance said. Gina was handsome in an off-beat, very Italian way, with her long, serious face and aristocratic nose. She was the most experienced of their regular cast with a number of guest roles under her belt. Lance was amazed nobody else had grabbed her for a series lead, but television was desperately cruel to women and Gina was twenty-four and not a size zero. "Go on inside, Jonathan's here already."

Everybody seemed to turn up at once, after that, and Lance didn't have time to greet them all. Lisa informed him they were all in, so he took his place at the head of the long table and called for everyone to sit down. "Hi, everybody, and welcome back. It's great to see you all again. For those of you who don't remember me, I'm Lance Bass, I'm the Executive Producer, which means if anything goes wrong, it's basically my fault." He paused to grin, and people giggled nervously. "The idea for this afternoon is that you all get to know one another a little bit, and everyone gets to experience the story before we take it all to pieces and put it together again. I think we have all the ingredients for a great show, so right now, I'm going to turn it over to Jonathan, 'cause he's in charge from here on out."

Jonathan said a few words about the story, about the characters, and about how he planned to put everything together, then had everyone around the table introduce themselves. Some of the actors sounded terrified. A lot of them were new at this, they'd made a point of casting unknowns for the younger roles. Then they got into the read through.

After a few minutes Lance let himself relax and just enjoy the story. There were a couple of phrases which seemed a little more stilted out loud than they'd been on the page, and he made occasional notes when anything occurred to him, but mostly, he enjoyed it. His cast was gelling nicely, and everybody seemed to understand what they were doing. Way better than he'd known what he was doing when he got thrown into Synchronicity. God, he'd spent the first season terrified, expecting to be fired any second, and working like crazy to keep up with the other guys who all knew what they were doing and seemed to be able to learn their dialog in five minutes and hit their marks every time. Well, he'd caught on, and his actors would, too.

If they got picked up. If they got picked up.

Jonathan didn't let "Chance" sing his song during the scene, because there was dialog over a lot of it, but at the end he asked Adam to sing them out, and after he finished everyone whooped and cheered, not just because Adam did a great job with it but also, Lance thought, because they were really happy with what they'd all done.

He was happy with it, too.

* * *

"After the read-through we had drinks and nibbles and time to mingle," Adam explained. "It was really nice. I never went to a read-through before, I don't know if they usually do that but obviously they wouldn't invite the extras anyhow. It was cool meeting the other actors, they seem like a great bunch. And the writers, and some of the crew, even. There was a camera guy I got talking to, he said it was cool getting to hear the whole script before shooting started, mostly they just get their set-ups for each scene and don't get to make sense of it until the show is aired. And he said he didn't watch shows he'd worked on, most of the time."

Danielle nodded encouragingly, as a good friend should, and Adam obligingly told her about the other actors, about the story of the pilot, and about his shooting schedule. What he did not tell her was the way his belly had tightened up when had Lance Bass walked into the room and introduced himself as the Executive Producer. Or the way Adam had kept a wary eye on Lance during the socializing, and contrived not to be in any group Lance looked like getting close to, and said cheerful goodbyes to Jonathan and Gina and Melinda and got himself out of there before the Executive Producer could find a chance to talk to him.

Adam didn't think he'd be able to talk to Lance Bass until he'd managed to find a way to apologize for the stupid things he'd said at the club… and there was no way he could do that in front of other people, and he couldn't figure out a way to even bring it up that didn't sound like he was trying to make himself seem special. And until—unless—he could apologize he was stuck with this niggling fear that maybe he shouldn't have got this role, that someone was going to take him aside and say, sorry, we don't think you're a good fit, we brought somebody else in.

It didn't happen, though. He recorded the song with JC (who turned from a sweetheart into a holy terror with a relentless ear for detail) producing him, and got his scenes done, and even though he was bewildered at first and didn't really have a clue what he was doing, he listened to every word of advice and managed to get it right enough to please Jonathan. It was Paul, who played Gina's dad, Jem's foster-father, who gave Adam the best advice. "You've done theater, haven't you, kid," he said, while they waited for some set changes. "You're still doing theater acting."

"Musical theater. But I thought there was only acting acting," Adam said, humbly. If he'd known he would be here one day, maybe he wouldn't have dropped out of acting school. Nah, who was he kidding.

Paul looked at him kindly, his face so familiar from decades of character roles. "You've learned to radiate your emotions so they hit the back of the balcony," he said. "If you were in a tiny, experimental piece with an audience of twenty people crammed into the back room of some bar, you'd have to play it smaller."

Adam thought about it. "I never really did that kind of thing," he said, ruefully. He'd have loved to do a weird modern play but he'd never been cast in one. "When I worked on cruise ships the rooms were small, but it was big, showy material."

"Now you have a camera up in your face, you have to learn to keep the emotion inside your skin instead of sending it out. Try to keep everything right there under the surface, so the camera can see it but it doesn't, hmm, shout out."

He'd watched Paul very carefully during their next scene, trying to understand how it was done, and apparently just watching had been what Jonathan wanted, and the advice had really helped. He was going to learn so much from this.

He really, really wanted the show to be picked up.

* * *

Adam was expecting the call, but he wasn't expecting it to be Lance Bass who called.

"I have good news and bad news," Lance said.

Adam's stomach lurched. He knew. Good news, the show's been picked up. Bad news, we're dropping you.

"Yeah, bad news is, NBC passed on the show. Good news is, TNT picked us up."

It took a moment to sink in. "We—we got picked up? The show's happening?"

"Hell, yeah!"

"I—wow. That's fantastic."


"Is there a but?" Adam said, bracing himself.

"No, only you sounded like you have reservations."

"I thought, uh, I thought. You were dropping me."

"What? God, no, why would you think that?"

"I thought, I mean, you weren't at my audition, and I…" Now that he was saying it out loud it sounded really stupid.

"Okay, this is just actor paranoia, right? I know, massive insecurity, it goes with the job. I did see your audition, I watched it on the video feed. I already knew I wanted you for the part, we were just looking for any reason why we couldn't cast you."


"Trust me, I'm the show runner. If I didn't want you on the show, you wouldn't be on the show. I admit, I did have some doubts. I kind of had an idea you were a jerk. But, everyone I talked to said you were a sweetheart and great to work with, so," Lance paused, and there was a wry note in his voice when he continued, "I'm guessing you're only a jerk to ex-teenage television stars who got lucky, right?"

"Oh, God," Adam said. "I am so, so sorry about that." What a relief to have an opening at last. "I was—God, I was an idiot and you're right, I was a real jerk."

"Don't worry about it."

"Thank you. I didn't even mean it—I was just really disappointed. We knew you were in the house and I wanted to impress you only I saw that you left half-way through the first number."

Lance laughed. "Eh, it's fine. I don't take that stuff personally."

"I just want you to know I didn't mean it, any of it."

"Forget it, it's okay."

"No, but I was so rude, and what I said—"

"Seriously, forget it. Man, next thing you'll be telling me you were a huge Synchronicity fan, and I'm pretty sure you were the coolest guy in high school and that wasn't exactly our demographic so you'll just sound like an ass-kisser."

"Er. Mmm." Wrong on every count, Adam thought, except maybe about wanting to kiss Lance's ass, which could be fun, but it didn't seem like the time to say so. "Well, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. I love the part, and I am so glad the show got picked up. I think it's going to be great."

"Yeah, me too. At least, I hope it's going to be great, I have so many ideas, and now we're with TNT we should get to make most of them. I am so stoked about this show, I never got to run a project of my own before and we are going to have such a good time." Lance chuckled. He had a very sexy laugh, all deep and warm and—"Did you mean to say that out loud?"

"…not really," Adam said.

Lance laughed again. Still sexy. "Okay, then. I have a few more calls to make, 'cause this is the fun part of being the boss, so—you'll be getting your shooting schedule soon, but we need you to spend some time with JC before we start filming so he can get some work done on the songs."

"Awesome," Adam said, and wrote down the details with a shaking hand.

After getting on the phone to everyone he could think of who would shriek with delight when he told them the great news, Adam was about to shower, dress in his finest and head out to meet the gang when he got another call, this time from JC. Lance had told him Adam performed in a club, and he wanted to come and see the band.

So Adam told him when they were next performing, and gave him the address, and warned him to be ready to come right up on stage with them, and JC laughed and said he'd be up for that, and by the time Adam closed his cell and collapsed onto his bed, he felt as if he could fly.

"How is my life so awesome?" he asked the ceiling. "Seriously, how so fucking awesome?"

* * *

"I don't want you to expect—I mean, I'm only going to be onscreen for, like, two seconds," Adam warned.

His friends looked up at him from the couch and floor, then went back to their conversations. There were seven people in his tiny studio apartment, making enough noise for twenty. Two bottles of cold champagne were sited strategically at either end of the couch, but Cass wouldn't let anyone open them until after the big moment. Although if they carried on like this they weren't even going to hear it…

"Just get down here," Brad ordered, moving an inch sideways and patting the scant space between himself and Danielle. Adam checked his watch. Seven minutes, according to Lisa's list. He squeezed onto the couch and spread his arms over their shoulders. "Who has the remote? Let's have the sound up."

It didn't make a lot of difference—with this lot in the room, the conversation covered the sounds from the television. Adam hoped nobody else could hear how loudly his heart was beating. Any minute now he would be on television for the first time. Being an extra didn't count—not an extra who might, maybe, have been visible during that scene in the club, and even if he was nobody knew his name. But the very first airing of the Family Business trailer was due in the very next commercial break.

He hoped Lisa's list of transmission times was right. He hoped there hadn't been a last-minute change he hadn't heard about. He hoped, most fervently, that the little moments he had in the trailer had not been cut out. It wasn't his show, it was Gina and Jem's show, he was just the bartender, but it was a big deal for him, a really big deal, and—

The final theme music came on, and Brad shushed everyone authoritatively. They waited in breathless silence until—there it was. There he was, actually on TV and looking pretty good in his peacock shirt, and there was a cheer from everyone that drowned out the last few seconds of the trailer, and someone popped open a bottle of champagne and everyone kissed Adam and the volume in the room about trebled. Whew! The big moment was over, and he hadn't been cut out of the trailer or anything, and it looked so good, and—yeah, he thought, actor paranoia just like Lance had said, but he'd had too many chances that had fizzled out into nothing to be able to take this one for granted.

"We have to do this again when they show the first episode," Danielle said excitedly.

"Tuesday night, that's a great time slot," Alisan chimed in. "It seems like they're going to give your show a real chance to make it."

"That boy with the eyelashes, oh, my God," Danielle said. "He's the most beautiful thing I ever saw."

"Hey!" said Brad.

"Well, he doesn't have ridiculous facial hair," she retorted. "And his eyelashes, I swear, they're going to have a fan club all on their own." She had a point, Adam thought. Jem was going to be a big hit with the viewers, he was sure of it. And Brad's artistically carved beard was just silly.

"I suppose," Brad allowed, generously, "he is pretty. Too pretty to be straight. Tell me he's not straight."

"I haven't asked," Adam said. "But he is."

"Really?" They spoke together, but while Brad was cynical, Danielle sounded pleased.

"And he's going to be tripping over groupies any second," Adam predicted, grinning. "If the reaction of the women on the set is anything to go by."

"And the women in this very apartment, apparently," said Brad, but he allowed Alisan to pour him some more champagne anyway. "I suppose we can look forward to you getting a whole lot more action too, once you're rich and famous."

Adam stuck his tongue out, while Danielle and Alisan combined to defend his honor, which was sweet of them. "Actually," he found himself saying, "there's someone, uh, someone in the production company I'm… well, he's interesting."

This grabbed everyone's attention. Tommy loudly disavowed any intention of listening to details of Adam's big gay crush, but the general consensus was that this was to be explored. Adam noted that Tommy seemed to be listening anyway. Hah. There was a lot of demand for details, which Adam promptly made up. He had no intention of revealing that his high school crush, of all things, was still in force, so he based most of his description on Anthony Giordano instead. As he'd expected, this meant intense discussion, and a mixture of opinions on whether it was wise to date somebody at work—particularly when Adam rashly confirmed that Anthony had been present at his audition.

"You don't want people to say you only got the job because he wanted to fuck you," Tommy stated.

"Like anyone would think that!" Danielle was noisily indignant at the suggestion. "You only have to hear Adam sing to know he deserves his big break!"

"Oh, because truth is what matters!" Brad said. "People in the entertainment industry live for gossip. Besides, it's more competitive than the Olympics. If they can find something to tear someone down with, that's what will happen."

"I think Brad has a point," Cassidy said, quietly. "Be careful, Adam. Don't be in a hurry to start anything. There's plenty of men around who don't have any influence over whether you get work or not, you'd be way better off with one of them. Besides, what happens if you hook up with the guy and it doesn't work out? Could he get you fired?"

Anthony couldn't, but Lance could. "I don't think he'd do that," Adam said, and it sounded kinda feeble even to his own ears. "I don't think he's, uh, vindictive." After all, Lance hired him in spite of—everything—Lance was a decent person.

"You never can tell," Brad said, darkly. "You should probably stay clear, at least for a while."

"Yeah," said Alisan. "When you've established yourself, when you can point to the audience and say, you can't fire me, they won't like it, you can take risks. Right now, it's not worth it."

"Right," Brad said. "You have a real job and a regular paycheck. You can get sex anywhere."

Yeah, Adam thought, but he could not get Lance Bass anywhere. And Lance Bass would be more than just sex. He was, he was… he was Adam's boss, and they were right, it was a bad idea for all kinds of reasons. Adam would have to keep telling himself that.

* * *

Lance was incredibly busy. He had so much to get together, organizing the finances and the staff and the sets, working on the story ideas with Joey and the writers, checking budgets and scheduling with the production team, liaising with the network, and in his not-copious spare time, thinking up ideas for publicity. He loved his life! He had great people working for him, and stories to tell, and the TNT executives had been really positive about the pilot and their pitch for the series—plus they'd backed it up with a great time slot. Now, his team just had to make the best possible show they could and hope the audiences loved it, too.

It was always weird being back in the rhythm of shooting a television series, after all these years, but being in a completely different role. Joey was already nagging him to make an appearance, and he might do that, as much as anything to get it over with because it was inevitably going to happen. Him, and Joey, and JC, and Chris, too, if he could drag Chris away from Orlando. Justin, of course, wouldn't be on the show in their first season, but if they got renewed, if they were a success, Lance had high hopes that they'd get Justin to guest in their second year. That'd be a ratings winner.

Meanwhile, his hand-picked stars were doing great. Jem and Gina had such a fabulous onscreen relationship, it was as though they'd known each other all their lives. Lance had stopped worrying about whether Jem's lack of television experience was going to matter—the kid was born to it. Gina was living up to everything they'd expected of her, and the early publicity she was doing was going over very well with the audience that mattered. Michela, playing Carla, had startled everyone with the instant chemistry between her and Mark-the-foxy-Fedex-guy in the first of their new episodes. That was a storyline that was going to have to go somewhere, and Lance kept jotting down notes on the possibilities, much to Joey's annoyance.

And Adam was also working out just great. JC was enchanted with his amazing, endless voice. He'd watched Adam's band's performance and ever since had been badgering Lance to get a proper band onto the show so that they could have Adam strut through something more dynamic than the piano-accompanied ballads he'd started out with. They'd revamped the bar set to include a stage, and the fourth new episode would see the Adam singing Born to be Wild. That week's foster-sister had been switched from would-be comedian to would-be guitarist weeks ago, and "Thessaly's band" was probably going to make a few more appearances in the weeks to come—one of the many advantages of a set-up that involved a huge family of sometime foster kids, they always had a reason to come and see Mama and Papa Manetti. 'C was talking to some outside songwriters, too, trying to persuade them they wanted to write for this guy. And after talking to the TNT executives, Lance had decided to increase Adam's prominence in the trailers, and Adam had shot some close-ups of his "Wanna tell me about it" line just this week.

Lance had had had a bit of inspiration on the publicity front, too. He'd better head over to the set and tell his singing bartender about it.

Lance stuck his head into the makeup trailer just as Katya was putting the last touches to Adam's pretty, pretty eyes. "Hi—got a moment?"

"Sure, come on in. At least, I can listen, I don't think Katya's going to let me talk."

"Damn right," she said, cheerfully.

Lance came inside and perched himself against the far shelf. "I need you to do an extra publicity gig," he said, "but I wasn't sure about your schedule with the band. Do you perform Mondays?"

"Not usually," Adam said, but Katya glared and he stilled.

"The seventeenth. Radio show, starting at ten pm. Don't worry about replying, I'll just tell you." It was always best to work around his people, if he could, and anyway, Adam's makeup had to be done—no sense interrupting the process and making him late. "I don't know if you listen to Manic FM, but they have a regular call-in slot Monday nights where people send in their problems and listeners call with suggestions. Well, since Joey actually conceived your character as a problem page guru who gets to provide alcohol as well as advice, I thought it'd be good publicity for you to go in and answer problems. They get celebrity guests in sometimes."

"Cool," Adam said.

"You'll be available? You'll have to let him answer this one, babe."

"Yeah, no problem. I'll tell the guys I'm not available to rehearse on the seventeenth."

"Okay, then. I'll get out of your way." Lance dropped his hand onto Adam's shoulder for a moment, then left.

As he was on his way towards today's set, Lance noticed a familiar figure a little way ahead of him. "Hey! Jesse! Wait up."

Jesse turned around and smiled. Yeah, he was still cute, but Lance realized with relief that he wasn't feeling any pangs, not anymore. "Hi, babe. How are you?"

"I'm great, really great. Actually, I'm really nervous. You do know this is my first speaking part?"

"Everyone has to start somewhere," Lance said, with what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "You'll be fine."

"It was so great of you to—thank you for this, seriously."

"Hey, 'Cute Guy in Blue T-shirt', it had your name on it. I mean, it's not much, but it's a start."

Jesse grinned. "I'll try not to let you down. Uh, am I going in the right direction? I'm supposed to be on the bar set? I don't want to be late."

"You're fine, Adam's not out of makeup yet. Come on, I'll walk with you." He took Jesse along to the set, introduced him to the director, and gave him a hug before heading back to his office. Yeah, Jesse was basically a sweetheart, it hadn't really been his fault he couldn't stick it out with Lance for the long haul. If Lance had had the courage to come out back then, maybe things would have been different. But a gay guy on a major teen-focused television series had seemed like a step too far, at the time.

His feelings then had given him the tiny seed of the idea that had grown into his very own series, had grown into Family Business, and he wasn't going to waste any time regretting things he'd had good reasons for not doing, back then. Right here, right now, everything was running incredibly smoothly. Until part-way through shooting the fifth episode (they were going to run the pilot as season opener, after a couple of re-shot scenes and a slight re-edit), Lance got a phone call that sent chills down his spine.

* * *

"So it's still a great job?" Danielle asked, accepting another vodka cocktail.

"It is, it really is. I love it," Adam said, and slid back onto the couch next to her. "I swear, I've learned more about acting since I got this gig than every other job combined. Plus, working with JC is amazing, he's incredibly supportive and he keeps pushing for me to do more. Last week, they brought in a band, and I got more scenes than usual, too, because the band was part of the A-plot."

"But mostly you get to work one or two days a week?" Brad said. "I could go for that."

"Well, sure, but you know, I have to learn my dialog and prep my song, and record it before we shoot the scene, so it's not that light. I'm usually only on set one or two days per episode, though. Plus I've been doing publicity, mostly radio stuff with JC, promoting the new music."

"I like a job that leaves you time to stay up past midnight with your friends."

"Jealous much?"

"Oh, hell, yes, I'm jealous! It sounds perfect."

"It almost is. Except I don't get to see a lot of the other regulars. In the pilot we had scenes together, where I—Chance, my character—told them to do what they wanted to do and see if they could make a living at it. But since then, my stuff's been with guest stars, which means I miss out on some of the fun. I hear a lot about what Jem and Michela get up to on set. Sounds like they have a lot of laughs, especially when we have Paul in as well—not that they aren't professional, but, you know. There was this one time, Gina admitted to liking Peeps—"

"Peeps are the devil!" Brad and Danielle chimed in together.

"She knows that, now," Adam said, grinning. "Jem put Peeps all over her trailer, in her shoes, in her coat pocket, her hairbrush, everywhere. And apparently, they were shooting on the office set and he hid them there, too, and at the end of the take she had a whole handful of them, and she threw them at him. Jem told me it was the take they used, but I'm not sure if that's true."

"It doesn't sound true," Brad observed.

"No… but Gina is an incredible actor. She corpses like the rest of us, sometimes, but she can keep a straight face through all kinds of stuff. Oh, like, there's a family photo on the wall, and one time, someone substituted in a picture of a gorilla family. She didn't miss a beat. Gina's adorable. And Monday, I get to work with her again."

"Is she the secretary or the—"

"No, she's the lead, Michela's the secretary. Well, not secretary, the… the office admin person. Carla. Secretary sounds like steno and typing and guarding the boss's door, and her character's more about charming the mailman and organizing stuff and fighting with the hot delivery guy. Gina's Ace, the big sister who does the computer stuff and the puzzles."

"I can't wait to see you on TV for real," Danielle said. "How long is it till they air the first episode? We're going to have the greatest watch party known to man."

"I'm not sure. Not for weeks yet. It's kind of a crazy schedule. Honestly, I'm not sure what day of the week it is sometimes. It's mostly a six-day shoot, so nothing ever happens on the same day as last week."

His phone rang, and everyone startled. Doubtfully, Adam picked it up and checked the number on the screen. Lance Bass? Calling at—he checked his watch—almost one in the morning? What the hell?

He'd better answer. "Er, hello?"

"Hey, Adam, it's Lance Bass. Look, I'm sorry to call so late, we have an emergency. I need you to come into the studio tomorrow. Are you ready to do your scene?"

"I, yes, sure." Never had he been so glad to have gotten into the habit of working on his lines as soon as he saw the script. "I was supposed to be recording the song tomorrow afternoon, is that still happening?"

"Yeah, absolutely. But we have to do some rescheduling, and you're the easiest to rearrange."

"What happened?"

"Jem had an accident. He's in the hospital."

"Oh, my God. Is he—is he going to be okay?"

"He's all banged up, he broke his leg and fractured a couple ribs."


"No kidding. He'll be fine, but it's going to take a while. Okay, I have more calls to make, so I'll see you tomorrow morning. Usual call time."

Adam closed his phone very slowly.

"What happened? Bad news?" Danielle asked.

"Guys, you're gonna have to leave. I'm working tomorrow morning. Emergency reschedule. I need to put in some time on the script before I turn in."

"So, what happened?" Brad said, more pointedly.

"Oh, God. One of our leads is in the hospital. Sounds like he won't be back for—" How long did it take for a broken leg to heal? "For a while."

"Crap," said Brad. "So what happens to the show?"

"Poor guy," said Danielle at the same time. "Is he ill? Is he going to be okay? Wait, is it that cute one with the eyelashes?"

"Yeah, that's the one," Adam said. He was so grateful to her for focusing him back where he ought to be focused—on Jem, who was the real sufferer in this situation. "He broke his leg."

"So he's not going to be back in action for… well, I don't know, a month? Two months? Six months?" Brad said, sounding properly alarmed. "It's not like you can disguise a broken leg. What happens to the show if one of the leads is out?"

"I don't know," Adam said. "I really don't know."

After twenty minutes convincing himself he did know his lines, Adam forced himself into bed and lay staring at darkness, wondering when he might be able to get to sleep. What was going to happen? What did you do when one of the leads was injured? Would they be able to postpone everything until Jem was better? Would they re-cast and start again from the beginning? Adam didn't much like that idea, besides, it didn't seem plausible the company would just junk the pilot and the four episodes they'd already shot. The money involved would be ridiculous.

Or… or would it be canceled? Did TV companies care if someone broke his leg, or did they just care about filling their airtime?

Shit. Shit. He'd never get another break like this one. If Family Business was canceled, that was Adam's television career down the drain. Oh, god, was he a completely evil person for thinking about his career when Jem was in the hospital?

It took an extreme effort of will to force his gloomy thoughts out of his mind, concentrate on being calm and settle down to sleep.

* * *

Joey and Lisa waylaid Adam as he left the makeup trailer and escorted him onto the bar set, where Gina was already waiting. They hugged, and she managed a wan smile.

"How is he? Is there any more news?" she asked Joey.

"Lance should be here soon, he'll tell us if there are any developments."

"What happened, do we know? Was he in his car?" Adam asked.

"He stepped out to get a latte and some moron hit him on the crosswalk," Lisa said. She didn't look as though she'd had any sleep at all—which she probably hadn't, Adam realized. Probably nobody on the production side got any sleep last night. "Here. Script revisions."

"Uh. Wow," Adam said, taking the pale green pages.

"We're rewriting the story so we can use the broken leg," Joey said. He looked a bit haggard, too. "Jem's going to be in a cast for a while, there's no sense trying to pretend around it so we'll use it in the show, but it means Ace will have to do a lot of the action we originally gave Mickey, which'll change your scene together… totally. Sorry about that."

"Unless you can learn your lines miraculously fast, you may be improvising a bit," said a new voice. It was Agnes, the director, who hugged them both briefly. "I understand Joey and Lance were working on the script all night."

"My boss, the insomniac," Joey said. "Lance and me, we figured out the basics last night, got the stories integrated. We're turning it into a two-parter," he explained, mostly to Adam, it looked like, "and we have to use only the characters we'd already planned on using for this episode and the next one, because we have the actors lined up, and all the same sets and locations. Yeah," he nodded, and he really did look haggard, "quite a challenge. I got the team onto it first thing, but all we have right now is your scene together, plus there's the music. So, you're up. JC's coming in later this morning."

"He is? I thought morning was mostly theoretical for JC," Adam said.

Joey grinned. "True, but Lance can be very persuasive. He knows where the bodies are buried."

"Well, I sure hope he knows where next week's director buried the bodies," Agnes said. "If this is going to be a two-parter, we absolutely have to get together and work things out, and he hasn't answered any of Melinda's messages yet."

"Good morning, everybody," said Lance, looking a bit rumpled but bright-eyed and surprisingly cheerful for someone whose show was on the brink of disaster. There was the obligatory round of hugs, and he forestalled the questions. "Before you ask, Jem's basically okay, he had a good night once they set his leg and gave him the tasty drugs. Best thing we can do for him is get the rewrites done and reassure him he still has a job."

"Did you see him this morning?" Gina asked.

"I took his mom to the hospital, her flight from Honolulu got in just before six."

Gina looked surprised. "You picked her up yourself?" Executive producers didn't usually do chauffeur duty, Adam supposed.

Lance shrugged. "Had nothing better to do. Joey went to sleep on me, the wimp, and there was nobody left on the call list who I could usefully speak to at that time of day."

"Hey, I'm an old man now, I need my rest," Joey said. "We should leave these guys to get on with their work. I need to see how my team are doing, and Lisa needs to organize a donut run or there'll be a mutiny."

Agnes put a hand on Lance's arm. "You need to get hold of your episode six director. We have got to co-ordinate on this now that it's going to be a two parter, especially if we're going to defer the Mickey scenes into late next week."

"Yeah, about that. Prep's going to be insane, with the rewrites, but I was wondering if you could stay for the whole thing? You're scheduled to do another ep with us late in the season, if he's available to swap, would you be willing to go with that?"

"Oh, God," she said, running a hand through her short brown hair. "I'd love to, but it's going to be nine parts inspiration and not enough time for the perspiration part."

"I'll take that, if you can do it," Lance replied instantly.

"If Mike Hollis is willing to trade, then yes," she said. "You're going to owe me the biggest favor." Lance grinned, and offered his hand to shake on it. "Go on, then, go do your job and let me do mine."

"About that," Lance said, "I had a thought in the car coming over. I think Chance should teach Ace how to flirt. After she tries to sweet-talk the first guy and gets blown off, Joe, you know the scene? Right after that."

"Oh, man," said Joey. "You mean we have to write another new scene for these two to shoot before lunch? I knew I should have run away to sea."

"Um," Adam said, "could we maybe… improv that? I mean… would it help?"

"It wouldn't take any longer than learning lines," Gina said.

Agnes got a faraway look in her eyes. "And we could, yes, I think, yes, we film it all in tight close up, get as much coverage as we can…. Okay, guys. You two go through your new script for the first scene together while I have a talk with the DP."

That first scene was at least half improvised, given the newness of the script, and it seemed to work okay. And the flirting scene would turn out to be one of the best parts of the episode, once the cuts from what felt like a thousand tiny takes had been pieced together into a frantic montage. Adam found he was basing a lot of Chance's flirting advice on things he'd seen Brad doing—there was a surprising amount of Brad in Chance, he hoped it wouldn't be too obvious when the show started airing, or Brad would be unbearable—and Gina had such a firm handle on her character that they were able to make it funny, frustrating and poignant by turns. It was really enjoyable, once he got over his worries about improvising. Best of all, they were done in time for lunch, so Gina went off to the hospital to cheer up Jem with news of how things were going, and Adam found himself eating his salad along with JC and Lance, who were looking through JC's workbook and frowning over each of the songs.

"We're going to need a different kind of song for the first half of the two-parter," Lance explained. "You Ruined Me is perfect for the overall theme, we'll keep it for the end of the second half, but we need something different than what JC had for next week to use in part one, something frantic, something about how people rush around and how hard it is to connect, for the end of part one when Ace is trying to get the information out of everyone while Mickey's stuck in the hospital."

"I don't have anything like that," JC said, mournfully. "When it was Mickey charming his way through the city, the feel was totally different. And anyway, the song wasn't going to be about that stuff then."

"We'll just have to use someone else's song, like last week," Lance said. "We always did plan on having a few numbers that you didn't write, 'C."

"Sure," said JC, frowning, "but there was a good scripted reason for using a cover song last week. I feel like I'm letting you down on this one."

"You'd only be doing that if you didn't help get something recorded," Lance said, briskly. "So come on, get that music-encyclopedia brain of yours online and find something for Adam to sing."

"What do you have in mind?" Adam asked.

"That's the problem," said JC. "We don't."

"If you know of anything," Lance said, "anything that might work? We could use some ideas."

With those amazing green eyes turned to him so hopefully, Adam really, really wanted to be the one to save the day with a miraculous idea. "Well," he said, cautiously, "there is a song that sounds like it'd fit, but it's, uh, from a musical." He sang a few lines. "Another hundred people just got off of the train, And came up through the ground, While another hundred people just got off of the bus And are looking around… I don't know it properly, but it's definitely about people rushing around, and making connections. It's from Company, I remember it from high school. I know it's not the usual vibe for this show."

"YouTube," said Lance, and picked up his laptop from the chair beside him. Moments later the three of them were listening to Pamela Myers sing, and nodding, and smiling.

"God," said Lance, "that's perfect. I could kiss you."

"Feel free!" Adam was, maybe, a little giddy from the breathless morning he'd had.

Lance didn't kiss him. He just smirked, and said, "I'll talk to Agnes," snatched up his laptop and bounded off.

"Come on," JC said. "We need to get to the studio and record this stuff. He can kiss you later."

Adam had already been working on You Ruined Me, but this new one was a tough song to sing, so many words tumbling over themselves to fill each line of music and no time to breathe between them. But, it worked, and once Adam was confident he knew how to sing it, he found he adored the song. Real diva stuff. Cam, who seemed to be getting the regular gig as both his offscreen accompanist and the bar's resident pianist, was delighted with the challenge of the rippling score. By the time Lance and Agnes arrived they could give a creditable performance, and Adam knew from the way Agnes' face went blank that she was envisioning how it would fit into the show. He finished singing, she smiled, and Lance raised both thumbs in triumphant approval, high-fived Adam, and disappeared off to do the next thing.

"I think Lance runs on rocket fuel," Adam said, after they'd gone.

"Yeah," said JC. "He likes a challenge. He gets bored when things are easy."

"Things seem to be pretty interesting right now."

"Lance will deal. Joey's the one I feel sorry for," said JC. "The writers had so much material all prepped and done, and now they're going to have to re-work everything to incorporate Jem's injuries. And Lance is going to be throwing more ideas at them all the time, because he does that. And the characters will change from what they thought they were writing."

Lance was pretty amazing, Adam thought. He'd kept things under control today, and last night, and somehow everyone had faith that with him in charge this was going to work out. He didn't think JC wanted to know his thoughts, though, so he just said, "No wonder Joey wants us bubble-wrapped."

He was absolutely exhausted by the time they'd shot his musical numbers. He handed over his costume and sank onto the nearest chair. Thank God it was Friday and he could sleep in tomorrow.

A brief touch on the shoulder. It was Lance. "I just wanted to say, you did a great job today. Thank you."

Adam summoned up a smile. "It's been quite an experience. Is—is it going to be okay? I mean, do you really think you'll be able to keep the show going?"

"I think so." Lance pulled up a little stool opposite him, and patted him on the knee as he sat down. "We got a couple extra days out of the network, we'll need to give Agnes some more time, since she doesn't have a working script yet. Agnes is a star, seriously, she's amazing. Thank God it happened this week, with her in as director."

"And Jem will be able to do some filming next week?"

"Poor kid. I sent Katya from makeup over to the hospital to take pictures of him while the bruises are spectacular." He paused. "Does that make me a bad person?"

Adam laughed and shook his head. "Probably. I don't know. Did he mind?"

"He's going to be desperate to make it up to us when he gets back on set. I'll have to make sure we get a really interesting Mickey episode for when he's up to full strength again. Also, we should pull something, some kind of practical joke that'll make him feel like he's not being handled with kid gloves all the time. We have to make sure he knows he's still part of the team. But I think this may be good for the show, you know? It gives the rest of the ensemble a chance to do a bit more, and it's really going to bring more depth to the characters. And everyone's being so great about this—Elena's coming in for a day with Jem, she wasn't booked but she agreed to do it because we really need Momma Manetti to show up at the hospital."

"I guess people pull together when there's a disaster."

"Yeah, the writing team won't be getting a lot of rest this weekend. We'll have the revised script and schedule couriered out as soon as possible. You'll probably have a couple more scenes to shoot next week, but you should have time to prepare for them. You got a lot thrown at you today."

"It was good, though. I mean. The improv stuff with Gina was amazing. I love that woman."

"Yeah, get in line!" Lance got to his feet. "Get some rest over the weekend. There'll be a lot to do next week." He bent, and to Adam's astonishment kissed him firmly on the lips, said, "Seriously, good work today," and made his exit.

All in all, a kind of amazing day.

* * *

Gina called on Saturday to tell Adam if he wanted to visit the hospital the best time would be three thirty that afternoon. She was co-ordinating visitors to make sure Jem didn't get overwhelmed.

Jem was scarily bruised but trying very hard to be cheerful, and already a great favorite with the nursing staff, one of whom had practically threatened Adam with death if he so much as thought about hugging her patient, and all of whom had already promised to watch the show and tell their friends about it. So he bumped fists, and offered the hug to Jem's mother instead. She was remarkably serene considering the situation.

Adam offered to explain what he knew of the script changes so far, but Jem was ahead of him. "Lance came by earlier," he said. "He brought a copy of the outline Joey and the team are working to. Then he went off to see where he could get a couple days on a hospital set somewhere. He said there's so many medical dramas there'd be something sitting around empty."

"I'd have thought that was more Melinda's territory," Adam said, "booking sets and scheduling."

"Yeah, probably, but Lance knows, like, everyone, and if they don't owe him a favor he just charms them into doing one anyway."

"He's a good boy," Jem's mother said. "He called me right off when this fool boy of mine got himself into a scrap with a car, and he called whenever he had news, right through the night while I was in the air."

Adam was puzzled. "I thought he and Joey were working on script revisions on Thursday night."

"He was here, with his laptop and his cell," Jem said. "He's my emergency contact number, so when I was brought in here they called him and he came right over. It was nice having someone on my side who knew what was happening. And could deal with the insurance details. I was kind of out of it."

"You look like you're awake right now. Are they giving you enough painkillers?"

"The leg's not too bad, now it's properly set and I can keep it elevated. It's the heavy breathing that really gets to me, with the ribs being all, you know. But I want to get back on my feet, so I'm going to do everything to make this work." Jem looked tired as well as banged up, but his determination was obvious.

Adam didn't stay long, because Elena arrived after fifteen minutes, and he left the two moms, real mom and screen mom, bonding over the foolishness of male children who didn't look both ways when they crossed the street.

The courier showed up around nine on Saturday evening with three more scenes for Adam, so he spent Sunday lolling about the house in pajama pants and learning his lines. He was getting an increasingly good feeling about the way the enforced changes were working out, because from what he could tell, the revised script was kicking ass.

* * *

Monday went great. The two scenes with their guest star weren't too scarily rewritten, and caused no problems. Adam had a little time after lunch before he was wanted for that new scene with Gina, and thought he might drop by the writers' room to say they were doing a great job, since a little encouragement never did anyone any harm. They made a fuss of him, possibly because he arrived with pastries.

"If you see Lance on your way out, could you tell him we could use a few minutes," Joey said as Adam was on his way out.

There was no sign of Lance, but Adam figured he'd be sure to check on the writing sooner or later, and decided not to worry about it. He should probably not invest too much in that kiss. Lance probably just meant—no, he wasn't going to think about it anymore. He couldn't.

He and Gina got through their scene together in record time. They'd established a real rapport with all the improvisation, and the dialog just clicked. Agnes was delighted, and whisked Gina away to the office set at once.

Oddly reluctant to leave, Adam smiled around at his set. His bar. It wasn't flash, it was a nice, homey place, a bit kitschy here and there but comfortable. Also, nicely co-ordinated with his totally fabulous peacock-themed costumes. Cosy booths, dark blue leatherette—

Okay, so he found Lance.

Fast asleep along the booth's bench seat. Flat on his back with his tie crooked —he must have had meetings today—and his shirt a little bit untucked, he looked as innocent as the tv teenager with the big eyes and the carefully spiked hair. Unbelievably cute.

It seemed a pity to wake him, but he wouldn't want to be caught sleeping on the job. Adam didn't need to have spent much time around Lance to have figured that out. He should definitely wake him. And it seemed like a perfect opportunity to… Before he could talk himself out of it, Adam bent over and kissed him gently on the lips.

So much for fairytales. Lance didn't stir. Adam wasn't sure whether to feel disappointed or relieved—sure, Lance might have woken up and kept right on with the kissing. Then again, he might have been just a bit horrified. On balance, randomly kissing someone while they were asleep was a bad idea, he decided, so it was just as well Lance had not woken up.

"Is there someone—oh, hi, Adam." It was Lisa, with her clipboard and a slight frown. "Have you seen Lance?"

Adam pointed, and she hurried over. "Oh, my. You know what, we should let him sleep. I know he was up all night Thursday and he can't have had more than an hour or two a night since then. Every morning he has these lists of everything that has to be done, and he's been giving Joey notes on the scripts, and he'll kill himself trying to cover it all if we let him. So he should sleep. Everybody knows what to do."

They edged quietly towards the door. "Won't he be cranky when he wakes up?" Adam suggested. "It can't be comfortable, lying on that bench seat."

Lisa thought for a moment. "I'll wake him at four-thirty," she decided. "And I'll get Joey to make him go home to sleep. He won't listen to anyone else."

As they made their way out of Chance's Bar, Adam did his best casual inquiry voice and asked, "Does Lance have time for a personal life? I mean, he already seemed kinda busy before all this came up."

Lisa looked at him. "When you say, personal life, do you mean, is he seeing someone?"

"No, no, I just—he—if there's someone at home who's going to be surprised that he didn't show up…"

"He isn't seeing anyone."

"Ah." Adam had been pretty sure that was the case. Although, "There was a guy on last week's show, I saw them hugging, so I thought maybe—"

"Oh, you must mean Jesse. He's a sweetheart. They used to be a thing, him and Lance, and he's trying to get into acting, and Lance is always ready to do a friend a favor, so."

"Right," Adam said. "I wondered. So it's—they're not dating anymore, then?"

"No, no, that was years ago. But I think he was the first guy Lance really—anyway, it's over now." She looked at him narrowly. "Are you interested?"

"I—no! Not that he wasn't cute, but no."

"I meant, are you interested in Lance? You are, aren't you! Has he said anything to you? Do you think he—"

"There's nothing going on, I swear. I mean. Yes, I think Lance is—but I don't think he—" Because gorgeous ex-TV-superstars-turned-executive-producers were obviously going to be interested in small-time actors with negligible experience and bad skin. In Adam's remarkably persistent fantasies, that was true, but in the real world, Adam didn't think it was very likely. Lance could have anyone. He didn't need to date a person who was only going to be famous because—well, because of Lance.

"Oh, you're just his type, tall, good looking, great smile. No, you're better than his type, 'cause you actually have talent. Mostly they just think they have, and Lance doesn't notice until after he broke up with them that they really don't."

"Meow!" Adam said, appreciatively, and Lisa giggled.

"You should go for it. Ask him out."

"Do you think so?" It wasn't like Adam hadn't been thinking about it, well, daydreaming about it. And just last Friday, Lance had kissed him. So maybe it wasn't such an impossible idea.

"Definitely! You'd be just what he needs. That is, you would if you're looking for an actual relationship. If you just want sex, then—not that Lance couldn't do with getting laid, but he does tend to fall in love, you know? And he deserves someone. He deserves a good guy."

"There's no guarantees," Adam pointed out. "I'm not talking about a one-night stand, but there's no guarantee we'd work out."

Lisa shrugged. "Nobody expects a guarantee. If you don't go into it for what you can get, and you don't screw him over, that's fair." She beamed up at him. "Oh, this is great! You two would be so cute together!"

"You know, if he wants to date me, he could ask me out already."

She gestured dismissively with her clipboard. "He has some stupid hangups. I'll work on it. Trust me." She grinned in a way that made Adam feel ever so slightly nervous, and bounced away.

"Thanks for the pep talk," he called.

* * *

Lance was still a little bit disgruntled about being left asleep on one of the sets while everyone got on with the show without him. It wasn't that he didn't trust his people. He did. They were good, all of them, or he wouldn't have picked them. He knew he was being unreasonable. He tried very hard not to let it show. He knew a couple of hours of very badly needed sleep weren't anything to be ashamed of, and he knew there was nothing he'd wanted done in those two hours that hadn't been done.

It was just… this was his show. His baby. If he wasn't on top of things, every minute, if something went wrong because he wasn't—it was his show.

But he knew he had to get over it.

It helped that he was still incredibly busy. The writers were doing amazing work on the revisions he and Joey had agreed, and in consequence there were production meetings on the revised episodes, there were unsettled directors to be mollified, there were budgets to be re-examined, oh, there was no shortage of work. He couldn't complain about that, for sure.

It had been a mistake, kissing Adam like that. Not that it was a proper—it wasn't as though he'd—there was no reason why Adam would think he meant anything by it. He hoped. It had been completely inappropriate, though, because Adam Lambert worked for him. He could not get involved with someone who worked for him. He'd already been there, done that, had his heart broken. Not again. It didn't matter that Adam was temptation incarnate, Lance was not going to get involved with someone who worked for him, for everyone's sake. It wasn't only that he couldn't trust the motives of someone who'd sleep with the boss, or that other people in the production couldn't trust him to be uninfluenced, either. But even if they were all totally cool, it'd get out into the wider community and Adam's reputation would suffer. There'd always be a question mark—did he just get the job because he fucked the show runner?

Not fair. Lance was not going to put Adam in that situation. Not that he should assume Adam even wanted—he had no cause to think—anyway, it wasn't going to happen so he had to stop thinking about it.

It helped that he was incredibly busy.

* * *

"I have to keep reminding myself I'm back on set," Jem said ruefully from his hospital bed, between takes.

"I thought you were going to bribe Joey to write you a hot nurse," Gina told him fondly. "Since you're doing all your scenes lying down."

"I'm just hoping my physical therapist on the show is kinder than the one in the hospital," he said. "Prepare for me to be seriously cranky once I get this cast off and start the exercises."

"Okay, guys, let's try that again, with Mickey a bit more exasperated this time, please," Agnes called. "You're tired, you're in pain, you're getting pissed at Ace for not wanting to get on with the job."

"And I thought they hired me to act," Jem muttered.

They'd done their best to keep Jem's workload to a minimum, but he was one of the leads and they couldn't just consign him to the hospital and forget about him, he had to be a part of the action somehow. So for this episode they had planned a bunch of shots of Mickey in bed frowning over the laptop, as well as being reproached by Mama Manetti, and some great scenes of Mickey encouraging Ace to get out there and charm information out of people.

Lance wasn't the only person who'd wanted to be there when Jem got back. It felt like everyone in the cast had taken the time to drop by and say hi, and when the first scene was complete there was a round of enthusiastic applause. "All right, people," Lance called. "Let's let them get on with it now, thanks everyone."

As the crowd began to disperse, a voice beside him said, "You know, I feel bad about this."

Lance realized that even with all those people gathered, he'd managed to fit himself next to Adam again. He should stop doing that. "Bad about what?"

"You know, with Jem being injured."

"Unless you were driving the car that hit him, I don't see that you have anything to feel bad about. Oh, wouldn't that make a great plot for… never mind." Although… yeah, he'd have to think about that one. He'd better talk to Joey. Who was right there, so—"Hey, Joe!"

"No, no, God, no," Adam was saying. "It's just, I came out of this with some great scenes, I feel sorta guilty."

"Guilty about what?" said Joey.

"Doesn't matter," Adam said. "That was a good call, incorporating the broken leg into the script."

"Not that we had a lot of options," Lance said. "And this way, he gets to do his scenes in bed, at least this week."

"Yeah," said Joey, "and I get to learn more than I ever thought I'd need to know about how they treat broken legs these days. We have to figure out in advance what stage Jem'll be at so we can write the script, then he lives through it, then we shoot it after. We have charts. So long as he makes a textbook recovery, we'll be fine. We have him in the wheelchair for next week's scenes."

"TNT is changing the schedule, starting the run earlier, giving us a mid-season break," Lance said. "It gives him longer to recover before we shoot the second part of the season, and it'll give the writing team and pre-production a chance to get their balance back." He was trying very hard not to show how worried he was about this. It wasn't that it was unusual to have a break—he'd been surprised as well as delighted when they'd originally planned to run the show straight through, but this change of plans would give the network the perfect opportunity to cancel his precious show after only half a season, and with an injured star and quite a lot of rewrites to get through, things were already a bit more expensive than they'd bargained for. But he was determined not to spread pessimism through the ranks, and was going for the positive angle. And it was true, the extra time would give Jem the chance to get back to full strength.

"I have a feeling a lot of the viewers are going to like seeing Mickey all bruised and brave," Adam said. "I was a bit worried, though, seeing him banged up like that, until I remembered you sent Katya along to take photos."

"Yeah, the real bruises are looking a lot less dramatic now."

Joey was still muttering about charts.

"Anyhow," Lance said, "you really don't need to feel guilty. I mean, you did get some great scenes, but I think the show is one hundred percent better because we had this to deal with. Sure, it's been a hell of a thing, and we're not out of the woods yet, and the writers are all walking around like the living dead—"

"Braaaaaiiiins," intoned Joey, and an extra just ahead of them jumped about a foot in the air and scuttled away.

"—not to mention I've had three directors screaming at me about screwing with their prep time," Lance went on, trying not to laugh, "but we've gotten a way better characterization for Ace, and we'll do the same for Mickey now he knows he isn't immortal. And yeah, we got to use Chance in more interesting ways, and Carla too. Seriously, I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but I think we made it through."

"We should remember it next time we try to write a show together," said Joey. "Not that I'm ever in my life going to write another show with this slavedriver, but throwing a totally random catastrophe into the mix, it makes things interesting."

Adam grinned. "Well, I think you did a great job—I mean, you're still doing a great job." He waved and headed off in the direction of Wardrobe. Lance tried not to watch him go. Adam had an exceptionally fine ass.

"Speaking of random catastrophes," Joey said, "tell me I did not see the name I thought I saw on the list for episode nine. Tell me you are not letting that asshole onto our set. Tell me you did not lose your mind!"

Lance considered pretending ignorance, but it wasn't going to fly. "The director likes him for the part. And you gotta admit—"

"You lost your mind. You lost your fucking mind! You cannot tell me you want him here!"

"No, not really, but you know Jesse came in for episode four, so—"

"So it's only fair to hire the other asshole who jerked you around, too." Joey stopped, frowning. "You know, it's okay not to be nice to everybody. Sometimes, people ought to get what's coming to them."

"It's not a big deal, Joey. It's really not." Lance sighed. "Look, okay, I was going to do something about it, but then this thing with Jem came up and we hardly had time to breathe and I just—it didn't seem important enough to make time for and I erased it from my list. There's way more significant stuff to worry about. So let it go, will you? I have to go read through a load of problems for the radio show with Adam next Monday."

"Well, don't let them give you any script ideas! We've got enough lined up for another whole season," Joey said. "And we're never using that director again!"

Lance was okay with that.

* * *

Adam was a bit taken aback to discover Lance already seated in the car that arrived to take him to Manic FM.

"Oh, Bonnie and I go way back," Lance said. "I called her up and said she should use you on the show. I know it's maybe a bit early, promo wise, but I honestly wasn't expecting her to find us a spot so soon. And she wouldn't put you on the show unless I did it, too. She had me record a couple of idents." He flashed a sheepish smile, but Adam didn't see a problem with it.

"No point using me to get people listening, when nobody even heard of me yet," Adam said. "Although, you know what, somebody asked me for an autograph just this week! Said she saw the new trailer and was I the guy who did the 'wanna tell me about it' line! My first autograph!"

Lance grinned at him. He had such a pretty smile. "Enjoy it while it's new. Once the show starts airing, you'll find being recognizable has its down side."

"When do we find out if they're going to renew?"

Lance laughed. "First we have to make it through the season. Lots of shows get canceled before they even finish out the first season."

Adam groaned. More stuff to worry about.

"Yeah. I guess we have to hope we make an impact in those first half-dozen shows. I think we will. Then they decide if they want to keep us on the air for the full seventeen episodes, which we should know by the time we're shooting number fourteen or thereabouts, and after that, they tell us when they tell us, I guess."

"Man, I'm glad I'm not a producer. And I thought going to auditions was nerve-racking!"

"Don't worry about it. Just keep doing what you're doing. I don't worry about things I can't change, I just try to make sure everything's as good as I can make it, and hey, I'd be doing that anyhow."

"I don't know how you can get your head around it all," Adam said.

"I love it," Lance said, surprised.

"You don't miss acting?"

"Nah, not really. Anyway, I do a bit, here and there. Joey talked me into an appearance on the show, episode eleven, I think, or maybe twelve, I can't remember which. In theory, it should be good for ratings." He laughed. "I hope it is, 'cause that'd be embarrassing, if nobody cares. And that reminds me, I wanted to get Joey to do an appearance, get him to play a villainous uncle or something, and he keeps blowing me off, the rat." He fished out his cellphone and typed a note to himself. "My life—just one problem after another. Best job in the world."

"Well," said Adam, "speaking of problems, I listened to the Manic FM show last week, and some of the stuff they read out—it's okay to get explicit, right?"

"Judging from the problems they mostly get, I'd say it's required," Lance replied, grinning. "Which is all right for you, because you have no shame, but I'm probably going to spend most of my time blushing and hiding under the desk. I'd bet any money Bonnie's saved some really juicy ones for us."

Adam laughed. "I bet you look really cute when you blush," he said, and Lance eyed him reproachfully. But he was obviously trying not to laugh. Adam grinned. He was looking forward to this.

Bonnie looked just like she sounded on the radio, a big, cheerful, African American woman with very shrewd eyes. She greeted Lance with a hug, told him it had been way too long, then looked Adam up and down and whistled appreciatively.

They went into the studio and Bonnie explained the set-up and handed them some papers with a few of the write-in problems so they could think up some answers before they got going. "We'll probably open it up to callers as well, it depends how you two manage."

Headphones, mikes, this sort of set-up was getting fairly familiar to Adam now from his radio spots with JC. This show would be a bit different—mostly because it was two hours long—but Adam was fairly confident he could at least find something to say for most of these. He jotted down a few notes on the pages.

And they were live, and Bonnie was introducing them, making a big deal of Lance and then presenting Adam as a future television star who had a little expertise in solving problems on the soon-to-be-aired show, Family Business, on TNT.

So Lance talked a little bit about the show, and then Adam talked a little bit about his character, and then, the moment of truth.

"Time to get to our first problem, and this one's a little bit unusual. We have an email from Janine, who says, I'm pregnant, and taking good care of myself, but I have this one craving. I have to have Cheetos! I have just one small bag every day, I asked my doctor, and she says I'm not doing the baby any harm, but my husband and my mom and my best friend seem to think I spend my whole life lazing around eating junk food, and they always seem to find me right after I finish the bag and have that tell-tale orange dust all over my fingers. How can I get them off my back? Well, Janine, I don't know if our two guests have any tips for a pregnant lady, but let's see. Adam?"

"Eat them with chopsticks," Adam said.

There was a moment of awed silence. "That is perfect!" Bonnie exclaimed. "You hear that, Janine? Don't get into it with the husband, just keep your fingers clean."

"That's why we let him improvise," Lance said. "He's pretty smart." They high-fived behind Bonnie's back as she picked up the next problem, which turned out to be a kid who was having trouble scheduling his weekly activities. Lance was good for that one, so they were on a roll. Then Lance, deeply apologetic, had to duck out to take a call, so Adam dealt with the next problem, sent in by a man whose kid sister was talking about leaving her job to go spend six months in Europe on some bizarre project that, he said, was going to wreck her promising career. He was trying to find a way to persuade her not to go.

"The thing is," Adam said, "you can't make the decision for her. It's definitely going to bite you in the ass one day. Sooner or later, she'll find out, and she'll resent you for taking the decision away from her. In your email, you say, aren't I supposed to stop her doing something stupid? I'm her big brother, I've always taken care of her. But, see, it's not your life, it's hers. You say she's going to jump off a cliff, and maybe she is, but what if half-way down she learns to fly? If she does fail, your job is to be there for her after, and not say I told you so. So tell her what you think the problems are. Make sure she has all the facts. But it has to be her call."

Lance slid back into his seat in time to endorse this. "If you stop her, if you frighten her with scare stories and don't let her step off the conventional path," he said, "she could miss out on the best thing to ever happen to her. My parents didn't want me to quit high school and join a television series, but they told me it had to be my choice, and it turned out great."

"Exactly," said Bonnie. "And it has to be your sister's call, not yours. You can't make other people's decisions for them."

During the commercials, Bonnie smiled at them. "You did good with this one," she told Lance. "Cute and smart. We'll get a bit more explicit after the break. I have a caller for you."

The caller was a nineteen-year-old called David who was planning on sleeping with his boyfriend but hadn't ever had sex before and wanted some tips on how to be good in bed. Lance windmilled in Adam's direction, looking horrified.

"Oh, boy. Well, David, listen up," Adam said, confidently. "You know, the way I see it, you've already got a big advantage here. You can practice on your own. Right? I mean, gay guys, and lesbians, we have all the equipment right there at home, so you can test it out, find out what feels good, you know. And I don't just mean varying speed and grip, I mean explore your own body. You probably have sensitive spots you never thought of, and your boyfriend won't have the same ones but it should give you some ideas. And, you know, put a finger inside your ass, that way you'll know what it feels like to put a finger in there, and you'll know how it feels to have a finger in there, right? Two fingers, even three. Toys, if you have them. And lots of lube. Always. First rule of gay sex, you can never have too much lube. Well, actually, you can, but that just means you have funny stories you can only tell your friends when you're all really drunk."

Bonnie, chuckling, interrupted. "We're all assuming that you know the deal with safe sex, right, David? Condoms, condoms, condoms. And anyone who wants to do it without a condom is just the kind of guy you shouldn't do it with at all, because that's just sleazy."

Yeah, we had the talk, said their caller.

Lance leaned in to the microphone. "I wanted to say, David, congratulations on finding someone who cares about you and you care about, and not just grabbing the first available body. Sex is way better with someone who matters. But, you know, your worries about not being any good at sex, I think you need to look at that a different way."

Er, okay, the caller said. I'm not exactly sure what you mean.

"Well, David, you're all nervous because you haven't had sex before and you don't want to disappoint your boyfriend—let's call him Jonathan," Lance said. "But, David, remember this: you know, and Jonathan knows, that you haven't done this before. You're neither of you expecting you to be an expert. "

No, that's why I—

"Your guy Jonathan's under way more pressure, because he's the one who has had sex before. He's probably worried that he won't be able to make your first time really special, he's probably scared that he really isn't that great at sex and he's going to disappoint you. I mean, you said he's just a couple of years older than you, so just how much experience is he gonna have?"

I never thought of it like that, said David.

"You know, that's a very good point," said Bonnie. "So, Lance, Adam, what do you advise?"

"Jump his bones," Adam said, promptly. "Seriously. You're going over to his place, right?"

Yeah, for dinner first.

"You know, a romantic evening with the big seduction planned for the end, that's just giving poor Jonathan hours to worry himself into all kinds of performance anxiety. So how about instead, when you show up at his place, forget about dinner, just take the initiative. Back him up to the wall or onto the couch and kiss him until he's kissing you back, then kiss some more, because making out is always good, right? Then just slide down and give him a blowjob. Nothing relaxes a guy like a blowjob, trust me."

"And do you have any tips on how to give a great blowjob? I think David wants some advice on technique," Bonnie said.

Yes, please! said their caller.

"Can I come in on this one?" Lance said, to Adam's surprise. "See, David, there actually isn't any one technique that's going to make you instantly good in bed. There really isn't. I mean, we'd all like to know that secret, right? But you can get to be good at all kinds of sex if you just remember that the most important person in the bed is not you."

"And that's true for everybody, by the way, gay, straight, whatever," said Bonnie.

"Absolutely. The deal is, you have to concentrate on figuring out the exact things that turn your partner on," Lance said. "Sometimes you get lucky and your partner is a talker. He'll tell you exactly what he's feeling, if it's good, if it's amazing, just an inch to the left, please don't stop, you know the kind of thing. But sometimes you get someone who doesn't say anything at all, so you have to work harder. Like, notice if he, uh, goes tense, or the way he moves his body towards you or away from you, or the way he breathes. And it'll take you a while, because you don't just have to notice his reactions, you have to learn what the signs mean. But I promise you, if you really pay attention to what Jonathan likes, you'll turn out to be good in bed—with Jonathan. And that's what matters, right?"

"Plus," said Adam, "lots of enthusiasm. Make sure he knows you really, really want him. That'll do it."

"Okay, some great advice there from both our guests, Adam Lambert and Lance Bass. David, you get to practice on your own first, then have a great time with your boyfriend. Come back and tell us how it went, you hear? You don't have to include the details, but we're not gonna object if you do!" Bonnie cut to another commercial, and beamed.

They dealt with all kinds of problems, from manscaping to safewords, from a girl whose boyfriend was way more interested in her shoes than she thought was reasonable, to a complicated and disturbing account of an obviously abusive relationship, to how to make the best coffee (which turned out to be the most controversial one of the night, as the three of them had totally different opinions). Adam was quite disappointed when they got to the end of the show, and signed off with a reminder to everyone to watch Family Business, starting eight days from now.

"That was great, guys, really great," Bonnie said after the hand-off. "You should do this again, maybe after your show starts airing we can have you back?"

"That sounds like a plan," Lance said. "Seriously, this was good. Thanks for having us on the show."

"It was a lot of fun," Adam agreed. "Except for the woman with the scary boyfriend. I hope we helped."

"You never know. Sometimes we do. I get letters back from people, once in a while, saying thanks for the advice. Mostly I think they just need to hear somebody else tell them what they already know they need to do."

"Come for a drink with us," Lance suggested. "It's been too long since we had the chance to catch up."

"I would, but," she sighed, "my poor husband's gonna think I ran off with my producer if I don't get home before one thirty. Next time, for sure."

So Lance hugged her again, and Adam hugged her too, and they said goodbye to her producer, who was delighted with how the show had gone and said he would be in touch with Melinda to schedule a repeat appearance.

"Want a drink?" Lance said as they went down the stairs. "There's a nice place just around the corner."

Right there, the butterflies in Adam's stomach started fluttering again.

* * *

Lance ushered Adam into a booth, and a waiter appeared at once to take their order. Lance fiddled with the coaster for a moment, obviously not ready to meet Adam's eyes. "I feel kind of—I didn't mean to set you up for this, but I didn't think… You do realize you just outed yourself, right?" he said.

Adam stared at him. "Outed myself? I am out. I mean, I wasn't in."

"Sure, but being out to people you know isn't like being out to… to the audience."

"I guess not. Um. Does it matter?"

"It's fine, if you're fine with it. I mean, we're making a show about how everyone can be family, whoever they are and whatever they look like," Lance said. "It'd be kind of ridiculous to start making a fuss about having a gay man in the cast. Besides, I'm the last person to do that, obviously. It's just, well. You don't always know how people will react."

"I didn't mean to cause any problems," Adam said. "Will it be a problem? Will the network people be unhappy? I mean, I am gay. I never even thought about hiding it."

"No," Lance said, firmly. "It won't be a problem. Hey, you never know, it could turn out to be an asset. I mean, when I came out I got some incredible mail from fans, I think they love me more now than back when I was on the show. You'll be visible, and that's a good thing. And the kind of people who'll hate you for it wouldn't get to be Chance fans anyway."

Their drinks arrived, and Lance dropped a couple of bills on the waiter's tray. "Cheers," he said. "To a successful show that runs for years." They clinked glasses.

"With many totally fabulous songs for me to sing," Adam added. "Do you really have more fans now than you did on the show?" More fans, for being openly gay? It sounded too good to be true.

"Maybe not more, but better ones," said Lance. "Some of the letters that came in after that People magazine article damn near made me cry. Just… incredible. Like, twelve year old kids deciding to come out to their families because they could point to me and say, look, he's gay too." He ducked his head for a moment, then looked up and grinned wickedly. Adam's belly tightened. "I'm thinking of telling my friend Chris he should come out. He's always complaining about his dismal love life."

"Writer Chris, or accounts Chris?" Adam asked, thinking of Family Business staffers.

"No, no, I meant Chris Kirkpatrick."

"Chris Kirkpatrick is gay? Seriously?"

"No, no! God, no. Totally straight. But you would not believe how many women flirt with me since I came out. I have no idea why that happens." I have, Adam thought. "When Chris comes to LA I'm gonna make him so jealous."

"Do you see him often?"

"No, not enough, but he's going to be on the show. I twisted his arm real hard."

"He is!" Adam was delighted. "That's awesome! He was my very first crush. Well, if you don't count Miss Henshaw. She was my teacher in second grade."

"You had a crush on Chris? Interesting."

"Oh, he was all, with the hair, and he never cared what anybody said. I thought that was cool," Adam said, wistfully. "I wanted to be like that. Not that I would have worn those braids, but I wished I could not care what other people said about me." He wondered, for a moment, whether it was really stupid to let his teenage hangups out for Lance to see, but hell. He wasn't going to pretend to be someone else, not even for Lance.

"Chris always was the coolest person I ever met," Lance said. "Although… I would have expected you to be the coolest kid in high school, at least."

Adam shook his head. "I was so not cool in high school. I was fat, I was a natural redhead and covered in stupid freckles, and I was a drama geek. Plus I was gay, even though I didn't tell anyone back then. It's a wonder I got out alive."

"I have a hard time imagining you as a redhead. The black really suits you. And freckles aren't so bad. I have freckles."

Adam leaned towards him, narrowing his eyes. "You have a tiny sprinkle of cute little freckles over your nose." He stroked Lance's nose with one finger, and Lance's eyes crossed, but he didn't draw back. "Those don't count."

"Everybody else's freckles are cute, huh? Is that why you always have makeup on?"

"Mostly, yeah. You don't want to see me without my makeup, trust me."

"I would not put money on it," Lance said, unexpectedly. "But I totally understand how it feels to be insecure about your appearance. Hell, I had to stand next to Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez for years." He shrugged.

"No, no, what you mean is, they had to stand next to you!" Lance blinked at him in surprise. Adam hurriedly changed the subject. "So what's Chris Kirkpatrick doing nowadays?" he asked. "I don't remember seeing him in anything lately."

"He does experimental theater in tiny venues in Orlando, Florida," Lance said, "and he does theater workshops with children. He loves it. He's always been amazing with kids, and he doesn't give a shit about being famous."

"Cool. Uh, will I get to do scenes with him?"

Lance laughed. "Yeah, you will."

"I love my life," Adam declared, drained his glass, and beamed.

"JC hasn't stopped talking about your gig."

Adam felt his own grin stretch even wider, he couldn't help it. "It was an incredible night. Fantastic, jamming with such a great singer. I wish we could have gone on for hours."

"I wish I could have seen it," Lance said. "JC's always been amazing on stage, and the two of you up there singing All Day Long I Dream About Sex must have been a hell of a thing. Anyway, he wants to bring your band in for the season finale," Lance said. "With a big number you can blow the roof off with—he's working with a couple of other songwriters, I won't tell you who they are but I think you'll be pleased. Joey's talking about maybe bringing in more guest bands and singers next season. Assuming we get a next season, that is."

"Unknowns or famous ones?" Adam said, eagerly.

"I'm trying not to count too many chickens," Lance said, grinning. "It'll depend on our audience figures, mostly. Once we get the demographics I'll try floating it with TNT. If they think it'll sell ad space, we have a chance."

"So meanwhile we pray to the gods of television?"

"Yeah, that's about right."

Adam's smile suddenly didn't seem to fit his face properly. "Uh, actually, there was something I wanted to ask you about." He didn't want to kill the mood, they were getting along so well, but he had to do this.

"Sure," Lance said, sounding suddenly wary, "go ahead."

"Well, it's, I want to do someone a favor, only I'm not sure if it's—I guess I should ask Joey, but I don't want to put him on the spot if it's something I shouldn't be asking, so I thought maybe you could tell me if it'd be okay." He paused, and Lance nodded encouragingly. "It's my brother. He wants to be a writer, and he's interested in television, so I just wondered if he could maybe spend a day on set, to see what happens on a TV show? Maybe have a chance to talk to Joey or someone else from the writing team about putting a script together, if they have time."

"Absolutely, go ahead. Joey won't mind. Ask the director, too, because sometimes they don't like having people hanging around on set. And make sure you let Lisa know what day he's coming in."

"Cool. Thanks. Wow, that's a relief! I didn't want to make Joey uncomfortable, only I feel like, I'm so lucky being able to do what I'm doing, and if I can maybe help Neil do what he wants to do…"

"You are allowed to ask for favors," Lance said, gently, and his hand reached over and covered Adam's hand. Nearly covered, because Lance's hand was smaller. "Everyone does it. Getting your brother on set, that's not exactly a diva move."

"What else could I possibly ask for? I have this great job, and I can already see my role's getting bigger and better, plus I get to work with JC and sing every week, and I didn't even ask for any of it, it's just happening. Seriously, I wake up some mornings wondering if I didn't really wake up at all, if this is still a dream."

"It does feel like that, I guess," Lance said, and he didn't take his hand away, and they talked about Synchronicity for a while, and it was just possible Adam gave away a bit more than he'd ever meant to about how much of a fan he was, back in high school, but Lance just laughed and seemed to think it was cute. In fact, from the way Lance kept looking at him, Adam was fairly certain Lance thought Adam was… well, cute would do. Better than cute. Lance had such beautiful eyes, that incredible light green, hard to read; but Adam's gaze kept slipping down to his mouth, to the way his tongue licked traces of his drink from his pretty lips.

"I was honestly wondering if I'd ever make it," Adam said. "I guess I don't fit into expectations very well, whenever I'd get an audition I'd get all, you know, and then it never came to anything."

"I wanted to cast you in the Jason Friday movie," Lance said. "But they wanted someone less, uh, expectation-challenging."

"Is that code for 'less gay'?"

Lance shrugged ruefully. "Johnny Wright is a brilliant producer, but, you know."

Adam smiled, remembering his assumptions and hoping he wasn't blushing. "Things worked out better for me than getting some movie of the week would have done, so I guess it's lucky they picked Kris Allen instead. Did you see it? I thought he was really good."

"I actually realized I wanted you for our singing bartender right after that audition," Lance said. "Had to talk Joey into having live music instead of a jukebox, but it's going to make our show stand out. Everyone does music, but nobody else has you singing it and JC writing it."

Adam laughed. He couldn't help it—he'd been so completely wrong, back then, completely wrong about Lance, it was almost ridiculous. Then he remembered something, and sobered. "Well, shit."

Lance raised an enquiring eyebrow.

"I just—it's just—" Adam took a deep breath, and recaptured Lance's hand. "See, if we get together, people could point at us and say I got this gig because I'm sleeping with the producer and I lured you into it with my amazing sexual wiles," he said in a rush. Talk about burning bridges.

Lance looked at him for a long, long moment. "You're that good in bed?"

"Absolutely," Adam said, and held Lance's gaze. Three seconds later, he broke, and laughed. "Honestly, I have no idea. How good would I have to be to get a job like this?"

Lance put his head in his hands, and shook. "Oh, Adam Lambert. You are just… I did not see that coming."

"Yeah." After all that sensible advice he'd been dishing out on Bonnie's show, he was letting his heart overrule his head. "Guess I should have asked the problem page gurus first, huh?"

"You're the one with the answers," Lance said, and his other hand crept across the table to that their fingertips touched. "I wasn't going to even ask, because it wouldn't be fair, except when you said earlier, when you said to that guy with the sister that you can't make the big decisions for someone else, I thought maybe that's what I was doing, making the call without asking how you felt about it. Also I'm kind of scared, because I've been burned already, but here you are wondering if you have the right to ask for something that's totally fine, I know you're not going to start demanding that I give you anything you don't already deserve. God, I've been spending too much time with JC, listen to me babbling." He took a deep breath. "How do you feel about dating your boss?"

"I think it would be awesome," Adam said. He didn't dare smile, he might never be able to stop.

"Yeah, well, so do I," said Lance. "Only, you have to think very carefully about this. There's too many issues, and if you weren't so—if I didn't want—I wouldn't even think about it. There goes your reputation, because some people will say you only got the job because you're fucking the show runner, that's going to happen."

"These will be deeply stupid people who don't know either of us, right?"

"Of course," said Lance, trying to frown at him, "but mud sticks. And other people in the cast could, well, they might think you were getting special treatment, it could destroy the atmosphere. And probably other stuff too that I haven't thought of. We can't just—we can't just get involved without thinking about the consequences. It's your career, Adam, you're ready to be a big star and I don't want to ruin that for you just because you—because I want—I guess what I'm trying to say is, we shouldn't do this. We shouldn't even think about it. Too much can go wrong."

"And yet, here we are, thinking about it."

"Yeah, well, I've seen how you move your hips on stage," Lance said, wryly. "Kinda difficult not to think about what else you might do with them."

"And I just tonight learned that you're incredibly attentive in bed," said Adam. "I'd like very much to experience that for myself." The butterflies were dancing a triumphant flamenco in his stomach.

"Fuck," Lance said. "I thought you'd be sensible about this. I was counting on it!"

"Boy, were you wrong! Lance, listen. I get what you're saying. I do. But… if we cared that much what other people say about us, we'd both be deep, deep in the closet, wouldn't we?" Lance's mouth opened, but apparently he couldn't find an argument for that one. "I know it's a risk. I've been thinking about you a lot, and I'm not an idiot, I know there are all kinds of sensible reasons not to do this. But I—I—" I want you, he thought, and could have shouted it for all the world to hear, or at least, all the bar. Instead he lowered his voice almost to a whisper. "I'd really like to try. Also," he added, carefully, "there's no reason other people would have to know about it, is there? We keep it out of the studio, it's nobody's business but ours."

Lance looked at him and nodded slowly. "I always say, it's the chances you don't take that you regret most."

"Is that a yes?"

"I think we should take this somewhere more private," Lance said, "before I lose all self-control."

"Now that," said Adam, "sounds like my kind of plan."

* * *

Eight days later, and there was quite a crowd in Lance's sitting room, jostling for the best position in front of his huge TV. Everyone had a drink, there were snacks… Lance went back out to the kitchen to get the miniature pizzas out of the oven, they'd be ready any second now.

"Big night tonight," said Joey from the doorway.

"Oh yeah. Looking forward to it?"

"I love seeing a script come alive," Joey said, leaning on the counter to watch as Lance slid his little pizza squares onto a platter. "And getting the audience reactions, that's going to be interesting. You know, finding out if they see what we see."

"God, I hope they do," Lance said. He felt almost fizzy with excitement and apprehension. This had to go well. Had to.

"I meant to say," Joey added, casually, "good call on the singing bartender. Adam's doing great, and it really works."

"I'd love to claim the credit, but you were the one who thought up the role in the first place."

"And you found Adam Lambert," Joey said.

"Yeah, I'm pretty proud of that."

"He asked me if his brother could come in, did he tell you?"

"Yes, we talked about it after we did Bonnie's show," Lance replied smoothly. "Did he come in yet—the brother, I mean?"

"Yesterday. I thought he'd get most out of it if he came in while we were breaking a story," Joey said. "Smart kid. I told him to show me a spec script, and I think he has promise."

"Cool," said Lance, distracted by his oven timer going off belatedly.

"You know, Adam really is a nice guy."

"I—yes?" Lance was startled. He'd grown so used to Adam being, well, adorable, that he'd forgotten his initial doubts—and hey, he hadn't ever told Joey his early suspicions that Adam was a jerk, so what was Joey even talking about? Of course Adam was a nice guy! As well as being the sexiest man on the planet, of course.

"It's about time you had someone in your life who won't fuck you over."

Lance stared. "What?"

"Adam," Joey said. "He's cute, he's a sweetheart, and he's interested. What the hell is stopping you?"

Lance put the platter down. "Are you playing matchmaker? First Lisa, now you—seriously, what the hell?" Lisa had been quiet on the subject of Lance's love-life lately, which was good because he sure as hell wasn't going to give her details, but Lance had not expected Joey, of all people, to stick his nose in.

"Hey, you guys! It's time!" It was Melinda, briefly appearing in the doorway. She disappeared back to the television room, and Lance picked up the pizza platter.

"We'll talk about this soon," Joey said, and it might have been a promise but it sounded more like a warning. Lance scowled at him and led the way back to the other room, where everyone was hushed, waiting for the announcement of Family Business. There was a huge cheer, and it was on.

Lance had seen the show before, of course he had. He and Joey had worked on the re-cut of the pilot, and he'd seen this version with the refreshed scenes, but it felt different with so many others watching, most of whom hadn't seen it in its entirety, even though they worked on the show. Wendy and Melinda were highly excited—they did the pre-production work, but although they always saw the scripts well in advance they never really got to see what happened to them until they were aired.

A storm of conversation broke out in the first commercial break, and it sounded like the friends who weren't involved with the show were liking it so far. Lance offered more drinks and poured himself a large one. He deserved this! Then he forgot to drink it as he got caught up in the story, Ace and Mickey using their separate skills to track down the missing foster-sister, Carla's practical help and cynical commentary, Adam's camp and cheerful advice, the whole delightful, perfectly constructed set-up for their series.

As the final notes of Adam's song came to an end and the Happy Place logo filled the screen, the room erupted with applause and, Lance was sure, genuine appreciation. One of the knots in his stomach seemed to untwist itself—at least his friends liked the show. That was the first hurdle. After this came the audience numbers, and what kind of fan mail would come in, and how the figures stacked up against everything else…

"I'm surprised you're not at the office, or at least on the phone finding out whether we got an audience," Joey said in his ear.

"I thought about it," Lance admitted. "But I wanted, just for tonight, to enjoy the show, to enjoy what we made. It's really good, Joe, it really is."

"It really is," Joey said, and tugged him into a fierce hug, the first of many, as everyone wanted to tell him how much they liked the show, and congratulate him.

The party went on for quite a while, but it was still Tuesday when the last of the guests went home. Most of them were working tomorrow—quite a lot of them were working for Lance tomorrow. No Adam, though. He was in his own place tonight, watching the show with his own friends. And he had an early call, so he wouldn't be up for a late night even after a viewing party.

Although, Lance thought, maybe a friendly, late-night phone call…

* * *

Adam had thought life was pretty busy when they were shooting the first few episodes. He'd been on set one or two days a week, he'd spend a while learning his lines, he'd work a day or two with JC on the current song. Then they'd added in publicity, and of course with the chaos caused by Jem's accident everything had gotten a little more frantic for a while, with Adam, Gina and Michela, and Paul and Elena too, taking on more of the appearances to give Jem more time to rest. But now that the production schedule was more or less back under control, the show was finally on air and he had fans to deal with. Fans! There was the show's official website, with its weekly Problem Spot—yeah, so it was obvious, there had to be a Wanna Tell Me About It? on the website, and he'd asked to have input. There was the fan mail—he couldn't answer it all, but he was amazed and gratified by the letters (he suspected there was a sorting process that meant he didn't get to see those other letters, the ones that called him hateful names, he was sure they existed but he was glad not to have to take notice). There was the increasing likelihood of being spotted when he went out shopping, or when he was sitting having coffee somewhere, or at a club. He wondered if he'd ever get used to being told he was wonderful, and asked for an autograph, or a photo, or a hug. Or all three.

Plus, to his great excitement, JC had indeed found some songwriters who wanted to work with Adam. It wasn't that JC's songs weren't good enough, but sometimes JC's creative muse went a little bit astray. They'd had quite an argument about that Some Girls number, which in the end had been nixed because Joey, Lance and the director agreed it didn't really work with the script. There was that batshit one about the pregnant girlfriend, which Adam secretly loved but which even JC had had to admit did not belong on Family Business. And sometimes the songs were just too raunchy for the show, even if they were fucking perfect for the band's club set.

He did, though, have the chance to work with Alisan on what he liked to think of as a self-empowerment anthem, and they had a lot of fun with it. JC was pleased with the song, and was taking it to Lance once they'd managed to get a respectable version recorded. There was also Kara DioGuardi, who seemed very keen to work with Adam and JC. It just took a little longer, because Adam and JC had settled into a great working relationship and they had to find a new balance with Kara in the mix, but they had the beginnings of something called Strut, which Adam knew was going to be fabulous. Adam kept walking through it in his head, picturing his outfit, his moves, the atmosphere in the bar. It was already pencilled in for late in the season, most probably the final episode.

If only they got to make the end of the season, Adam thought, remembering what Lance had said. First they had to make it all the way to the end without being canceled, then they had to get renewed so he could sing more great songs next year and keep working with these amazing people. The cast really felt like family, now, they got along so well. Jem wouldn't be fully mobile again for weeks yet, which sucked for him but was an ongoing challenge for the writers. Everyone on set was discovering a lot about the difficulties of getting around in a wheelchair, and Jem kept throwing ideas at the writers based on his own experiences. Joey would probably be bald by the time Jem was on his feet again, but a surprising number of those daily frustrations were making their way onto the screen, and Adam thought it was brilliant.

Thinking of Joey, Adam decided to drop in and thank him and the rest of the team for giving Neil such a great introduction to the art of TV writing. Neil had been remarkably enthusiastic, and grateful too, which was a bit unnerving coming from his cynical kid brother.

"He did enjoy the part where he had to promise not to tell me anything about what was in the script," Adam admitted to Joey, who grinned.

"Ah, that sort of sibling relationship. Me and Steve are a bit like that—my older brother," he explained.

"Yeah. Well, sometimes," Adam agreed with a rueful smile. "Anyhow, thanks again. I really appreciate it."

"Oh, Adam, wait up! There's something—stay here for a sec, you'll like this."

Puzzled, Adam stayed where he was.

"Lance is coming over," Joey said, his eyes sparkling. "Trust me, you don't wanna miss this."

Adam was just about to ask for clarification when the door opened and Lance strode through, closely followed by Lisa, who was speaking.

"—never known you go anywhere without your cell, so I thought I'd better bring it right over," she said, and handed the cell over to Lance.

"Huh. Thanks, Giggles. I don't know how I came to leave that behind. Oh, hi, Adam. Joey tells me your brother's visit went well."

"Yeah, I just came over to say thanks, Neil was really happy about it," Adam explained.

It's amazing, just an inch to the left, please don't stop…

Adam stared. Lance's eyes grew huge.

"What the fuck?" Lance said.

Joey gave a great snort of laughter, and Lisa began to giggle.

The sound of Lance's voice seemed to be coming from Lance's pocket. It's amazing, just an inch—he fumbled for his cell, grabbed it—to the left—dropped it—please don't stop, It's amazing—and eventually, his face the color of beetroot, managed to answer it. Adam gaped at Lisa and Joey, who were helpless already, and his own laugh bubbled up into his throat. Nobly, he stifled it, and managed not to grin too widely as Lance conducted a very disjointed conversation.

"I'm going to have to call you back," Lance snapped into the phone, and cut the connection. He shot Joey and Lisa the filthiest look—they had totally caught him with that one, totally—and glared as they laughed and laughed. "You—you—I'm gonna—snakes! Snakes in your cars! Vengeance! Snakes!"

Joey howled and smote the table. Lisa was turning purple. Adam had to clamp his jaws shut so that the laughter in his throat didn't leak out at the edges.

It's amazing, just an inch to the left, please don't stop…

"Oh, fuck!" Lance said, grabbed his cell and fled the scene. Adam burst out laughing and didn't stop until his stomach hurt.

"Lisa, that was brilliant," Joey said, once he could speak again. "His face!"

"We're in trouble now," she agreed, not looking at all repentant.

"Yeah, he's going to be gunning for revenge, " said Joey, but he didn't look too worried. "Man, that was beautiful. Lisa, you are a treasure beyond price. I wish we'd had a camera in here."

"I am going to remember his face for a long, long time," she said.

"You two are bad, bad people," Adam said, "but that was hilarious. I have to go now, I'm due back on set in ten minutes," waved, and got himself out of there. He thought he heard, as he walked along the corridor, Joey's voice saying something like, "We're going to have to do something about those two." Better not to know, he decided, and hurried away.

* * *

The only thing wrong with his life was the way the people around him kept prodding him to make a move on Lance Bass. Lisa was getting quite insistent, and Gina had taken to making encouraging noises about what a sweetheart Lance was. Even Jem seemed to be interested! Adam would have thought Jem had enough to think about without interesting himself in Adam's love life, but apparently not. In some ways it was funny, but if Adam's love life hadn't actually been very much more than satisfactory right now, it might just have driven him out of his mind.

Right now, they were shooting episode nine, and it was easy not to think about Lance, or at least it probably was easy for other people, because Lance was nowhere to be seen. It was odd. Lance liked to visit the set at the beginning of every shoot, he'd chat with the director, say hi to the guest stars, watch a couple of scenes as they were rolling, he was always interested in the details. He didn't always turn up when Adam was working, in fact, thinking about it, he'd been around Adam's scenes a lot less lately. But Gina had noticed his absence too, and said it felt weird not to have the boss dropping in. Adam had quite a bit to do in this episode, more than usual, and he could not help wondering whether it was his presence that was causing Lance's absence. Whether it was that or something else, there was a weirdness, a not-rightness when the boss didn't come around, and he didn't like it.

He was waiting around for them to finish the scene between Jem and 'Square Jawed Hunk' when he looked over at the doorway, stared, and sprinted silently into the corridor.

"Hey!" he called. "What are you doing here?"

His brother turned around, and looked pointedly at the tray of steaming coffees he was carrying. "Walking the dog," he said, deadpan.

"No, I mean, but—I didn't know you were coming in again!"

Neil smirked. "I'm interning," he said. "Until the end of the week. I was here all last week, too. Joey said if I didn't mind doing the scut work I could sit in on all the script meetings. I got a couple of lines in the last one."

"Lines? What?"

"Can't tell you about it," Neil said, looking even smugger than usual. "Not until you get the scripts. Look, these will get cold, I have to get back up there."

Adam stared after his kid brother, amazed. Interning here. Wow. Wow!

He was still a bit stunned when he and JC met up next day, and then JC gave him some news which had him speechless with joy.

* * *

"Hi, Adam—nice to see you over here," Lisa greeted him as he stepped into the lobby of the Happy Place production office. She was wearing a jaunty selection of buttons on her black blouse—a pink Breast Cancer ribbon and a red AIDs one, a Mickey Mouse pin, a small Yin Yang button in black and white, a little diamanté L, and a bright green button with 'TEAM LAMBASS' in purple. Adam decided not to ask.

"Hey," he said. "I was wondering if Lance might be free?"

"Lemme check," she said, and ushered him into a small, cluttered office. He stood politely—all the chairs were covered with papers—while she consulted her computer and announced that yes, Lance was free right now, then he had a lunch, then a meeting at three o'clock.

"Should I have called?" he asked. "Only, I haven't seen him over at the studio all week, so…"

"No problem, go right on up. Top floor. Lance won't mind."

So Adam went back to the lobby and up the stairs, up again, up again and—oh. He stepped out onto the broad, flat roof, and grinned in delight at the sight of Lance in the middle, under a gigantic parasol, with his laptop and phone on the desk in front of him. "Er, hi—do you have a minute?"

"Adam! Sure, come on in."

Adam stared about him. "Your office is on the roof," he said.

"Except when it's raining," Lance said, smiling. "Or when there's a heatwave. Look—stand over there, to your right a bit, now turn around, you can see the sea." Adam looked. "Okay, you may have to squint a bit. Oh, excuse me."

While Lance dealt with his phone call, Adam stared around at the view of the city. It might not be the best view from anywhere ever, but it sure wasn't bad.

"Well, damn," Lance said. "Wendy just blew me off. I sense a conspiracy in progress—who told you to come up?"

"Lisa," Adam said, grinning.

"I will bet cash she called Wendy to tell her to cancel lunch so I'd invite you to join me instead."

"Whoa, no bet! But it wouldn't be kind to disappoint her, not when she made such an effort, right?"

Lance considered. "You wanna grab some lunch?"

"I would be delighted, boss." Adam grinned at Lance's reproving look. "It's a bit exposed up here, how about we take a few minutes in the stairwell to say hello properly?"

"I do believe I can fit that into my busy schedule."

Barely twenty minutes later Adam found himself seated in a discreet corner of a snug little tapas bar he hadn't even known was here, just a three-minute walk from the office. They ordered a selection and the waiter brought cerveza and water. Adam wasn't due on set today, but Lance preferred to keep a clear head when he was meeting with the studio execs in the afternoon—which was apparently his three o'clock.

"So, what brought you to my office today?" Lance asked.

"Actually—I just wanted to thank you," Adam said. "Which will take, like, a minute, so now I feel like I'm here under false pretenses!"

"I'd have had to eat all on my own like a complete loser, or else take Lisa somewhere, and you know how she can talk," Lance said with a grin. "But thank me for what? What did I do?"

"First of all, I get to make an album, proper studio recordings of the best of our songs from this season. That's so fantastic, I can't even tell you how happy that makes me. Plus, you hired my brother!"

"I did?" Lance looked so honestly puzzled that Adam began to wonder quite seriously whether Neil had been pulling his leg, just appearing randomly in the vicinity of the writers' offices to mess with Adam's head.

"Neil? He starts next week, starts getting paid, I mean. He's been interning for a while, which I did not even know, but I think it's amazing that you gave him a job."

"Hold up a second. I didn't give your brother a job. I mean, I knew we took on an intern because Joey told me, and he said he wanted to hire the guy because he looked like he might have something, but seriously, not my doing. Thank Joey."

"Oh. Really?" Adam was surprised. He'd assumed all the hiring decisions went through Lance.

"Joey's in charge of the writing team. We talked about who we wanted working on the show, right back when we started, but it's up to him now if he wants to hire and fire anybody. I think it's great your brother got the job, but don't give me the credit. And the album thing was totally JC's idea. He practically salivates over your voice." Lance paused, and his eyebrows twitched.

"Er, ew?" said Adam, and they both burst out laughing.

"Yeah, not quite sure why I said that. But you know, he thinks the sun shines out of your, uh, throat, and he's talking about all kinds of stuff for next season. If we get a next season." Adam chimed in with the automatic disclaimer. "And, you know, I'm pretty sure the network will be happy about it, because it's great publicity for—for next season."

"If we get a next season. Do you—have they said—do you have any idea how things are going? Do you think we'll be renewed? Seriously, I love this job so much."

The waiter interrupted them with an array of dishes which looked and smelled too tempting for words, so it was a few moments before Adam got his answer. "It's looking good so far. Four episodes, and the audience figures are pretty healthy, we're doing very well in the younger brackets… actually, I'm waiting to see the reaction to next week. It's the one where Mickey gets injured. I'm hoping the drama of it all and the unexpectedness and the way we re-slanted everything will really work for the audience, but it could be they won't like it, could be they wanted to see the characters go on in the roles we established for them at the beginning. Well, like we intended. I'm not saying I don't love how things have developed, though that's probably my ADD talking, and it's not like we had any choice anyway, but there's no knowing how it's going to play. And if it doesn't go well, we'll probably be off the air before we get to finish shooting."

"I had to ask," Adam said, fatalistically. "There's nothing we can do about it but wait and see." His own fans would be delighted, he thought, seeing Chance get more airtime and more to do, but on the other hand, Jem got the lion's share of the fan mail and maybe his fans wouldn't be happy.

"You know what? You'll probably get a chance to talk to viewers yourself. You're doing Bonnie's problem show again. I'm sure there'll be questions about the show."

"Oh, right, the broken leg episode is Tuesday, and I'm on Bonnie's show the Monday after—no, wait, two weeks after… but aren't you doing the show with me?"

"Nah. I have a meeting, but you don't need me along. You'll do just fine. Besides, it's way better publicity for you to be there on your own: you're the one on the screen, people still associate me with Synchronicity way more than with producing, and Synchronicity doesn't need publicity. I still get fan mail from the reruns."

"I guess," Adam said. "It's a pity, 'cause I thought we made a great team."

Lance smiled at him. "If you want a drink, after," he said, "it's just possible I may be awake."

"You'd better be," said Adam. "You know how raunchy those problems can be. Think how hot and bothered I'll get."

"Think how I'll be lying on the bed naked while I listen to you talking about sex."

Adam's jaw dropped. "Are you—are you gonna be—"

Lance raised both eyebrows and did a passable impersonation of a completely innocent person, a person who would never lie on a bed masturbating while his lover was miles away in a radio studio.

Adam blinked hard to clear the images from his head. Not that it worked, but he decided to go back to the actual subject. "But you think listeners will ask me about Jem? What—how much should I say?"

"Tell the truth," Lance replied, acknowledging his victory with a tiny smirk. "It won't be that big of a secret by then, because I'm certain we'll have Jem up somewhere answering questions for himself, plus Joey's going to be doing a thing with Kathy Griffin and he's definitely going to talk about the show because if he doesn't he knows I'll kill him. Which he deserves anyway." Lance's cheeks pinked up a little.

Adam couldn't help grinning, and he couldn't, he really could not stop himself saying, "I know I told you how much I covet that ringtone." Lance glowered at him. "Don't worry, you'd never hear it. But damn, that was funny."

"Hah," said Lance. "I'm still plotting how to pay them back for that. My revenge will be slow and terrible."

Adam snickered. "Does that happen a lot? You play practical jokes on each other, I mean?"

"Oh, sure. We had all kinds of ridiculous stuff going on during Synchronicity. JC was such an easy mark… Justin, too. But there's rules. Nothing that does real damage, no innocent bystanders harmed, that kind of thing. Plus you lose points for repeating stuff. The ringtone was a good one."

"I look forward to witnessing your revenge," Adam said, mock-formally. "Er, you know, you could probably enlist Neil. He's basically evil, so if you need help…"

Lance laughed. "In that case, I'm glad he's on the team."

"From what he's said—and he doesn't tell me a whole lot, because he's my younger brother and thinks it's his life's mission to bug the hell out of me—I think he's really impressed with the writing team. Me too, actually. I think you found a whole new level when everything had to be reworked."

"I may be crazy," Lance said, and hesitated, "Could be I'm deluding myself, but I still think Jem being injured might be the best thing that could have happened to the show. This time next week I may have changed my mind. We'll know when we get the audience figures. I hope it's true for Jem's sake as much as anything. He feels like he let everyone else down."

Adam considered. "He did feel like that, at the beginning," he said, "but I think he's got past it."

"Good. Of course, if the show tanks after Tuesday, he's going to feel like shit and I don't know if there's anything we can do about that." He shook his head. "It's not gonna tank. Here, did you try the asparagus? The meatballs? Look, back to the music side of things, JC has some great ideas for how to use you. And he has a lot of contacts in the music industry. If the show doesn't make it there's a good chance you could get a recording contract anyway, if that's the way you want to go. Or, well, at least you've been a regular on a series, it gets you so much visibility with casting."

"There won't be another role like Chance," Adam said. Hell, Chance had been created for Adam to play—where was he ever going to find that again? "And, I don't know, it feels like we have such a great team. I guess it always feels like a family, when you're doing a show together."

"No, sometimes it can feel like a prison sentence! Synchronicity was my first experience, and it was great, the five of us just clicked in the most incredible way, and we had so much fun with it. I assumed all shows were like that until I started working in production and found out that most of the time, actors are, well, drama queens and there's conflict and cliques and rivalries and all kinds of nonsense. I didn't want my own show to be like that, but I don't think you can plan that family feeling, it happens, or it doesn't. It was, actually," Lance looked up at him sideways, "my biggest worry when it came to casting you, but you charmed everybody so thoroughly at the audition they none of them saw a problem."

"One day I may even tell you why I said that stuff," Adam said, remembering his outburst at the club. "But not today. There's something else I wanted to ask you. I, um, I was wondering why you didn't show up on set this week. I hope it wasn't because of me."

"Because of you? No! Why would it be because of you?"

"I wondered if you thought I'd, I don't know, give us away. I won't. We agreed to keep things quiet, and I'm not going to, to out our relationship before we're ready."

"I know that, Adam. If I thought for one second you would, this would not be happening. I'm sorry, I guess I should have explained, but it's kind of embarrassing." Lance made a face. "It's because my ex is guesting this week, and I did not want to be around him. Also I'm kinda pissed at the director for picking him. I'm keeping a close watch on the dailies, though."

"You hired your ex, but you don't wanna even see him—okay, that's, I dunno, beyond the call of niceness? Or something?"

"Yeah, Joey's been on my case about it," Lance said, glumly. "I was going to not let it pass, because, you know, why the hell should I? But then all the business with Jem came up and I postponed a lot of the prep and, yeah. It seemed a bit petty to insist on someone else, especially when the director had to wait around for a decision, so I just let it go through. But I'm planning on being vindictive next season, if we get a next… we won't be using Frank as director again. It's funny, I brought him in because he worked on Synchronicity and I thought he'd do a good job, but he has to know about me and Rick, and I think he had some kind of hidden agenda, and I'm not dealing with that kind of crap."

"We're talking about 'Square Jawed Hunk', right?"

"Yeah. Although Joey calls him the Asshole, which is," Lance paused, "also accurate."

Adam laughed delightedly. "I am so glad you aren't always nice about people," he said. "I was beginning to think you had no flaws, and that's kinda scary."

Lance rolled his eyes. "I used to keep a vengeance list," he said. "All the people who deserved a whole heap of shit to be thrown at them, you know? Then I realized life's way better if you just let stuff go. And don't deal with people who give you crap. Unfortunately, a lot of them have the money, so you can't avoid them."

"And work for the network, I'm guessing?"

"True, although right now we've been lucky. Patrick and Leona are good people. Patrick's eldest kid was a Synchronicity fan, so Joey and I sent her some stuff and she came to see us a few weeks ago, did the tour. See, I'm not above a bit of judicious bribery, either, never hurts to have someone's kid on your side. And Leona genuinely gets the show, so I think she's willing to fight for it if we need her to. Ultimately it all depends on the numbers, and she can't do anything if we tank with the viewers."

"Then here's to Jem and his broken leg bringing us luck," Adam said, raising his glass.

* * *

Lance trotted downstairs in response to the doorbell's unexpected summons. Even at two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, he was never surprised when something from work arrived at his house—

—except for right now, when the bright, cynical eyes that confronted him weren't due to be on this side of the country for two days. Lance gaped, and Chris laughed and stepped in for a bear hug.

"Wow! It's good to see you. You're looking great! You know, I would have sent a car for you—"

"Treated me like a big star, you mean." Chris, of course, didn't sound impressed. "I still remember how to get a cab. I'm crashing at Joey's tonight, but I thought I should see how life is for the big bad boss before I show up on set. You got beer?"

"Come on in." This might be a problem… but you could never plan for Chris Kirkpatrick. He should have guessed, Lance thought resignedly. "Did you eat already?"

"Oh, don't tell me you're too cheap to feed me now!" Chris said, following Lance toward the kitchen. "What happened to that Mississippi heritage? Diane would be—Oh! A-hah!"

"Oh my God!" said Adam, wide-eyed. "You're Chris Kirkpatrick!" At least today Adam was dressed, perfectly respectable in jeans and black T-shirt, even if his hair was still wet from the shower and his feet were bare.

"No kidding," said Chris, and held out a hand. "And you're Adam, the guy Joey tells me Lance doesn't want to get with. How's that working out for you?"

"Yeah," said Lance. "You want some eggs?"

"Uh huh," said Chris, rubbing his hands and following Lance towards the kitchen.

"Also, take no notice of Kirkpatrick," Lance added over his shoulder. "He's evil."

"Actually, I kinda like that in a man," Adam said, and Chris laughed, and the two of them sat down at the breakfast bar while Lance bustled about and produced coffee, omelettes and toast. By the time he set their plates in front of them, Adam and Chris seemed to have bonded and were talking at high speed and high volume about television production schedules, rock music and improvisation—Lance could not fathom the connections between these things but the guys seemed to be enjoying themselves.

"So, show's looking good," Chris said, which gave Lance the opportunity to beam with pride and say it was going great, and to expand upon how fantastic the reactions had been to last week's episode, how Jem's fan mail had literally doubled, how the TV commentary sites were practically cheerleading for them, and how he thought the audience ratings were going to go for the second half of the two-parter.

"Our episode's the first one after your break, right?" Chris said.

"That's right, we wanted to have something special to make sure the audience comes back."

"That's me, something special," Chris confirmed. "Thanks for asking me to play the bad guy, by the way, I love the script. I see Joey's working out as head writer."

"Yeah, he swears he's never going to work with me again," Lance said, and grinned. "Mind, though, he could have warned me you were coming!"

"Oh, he didn't know," Chris said, unconcerned. "I plan on showing up at his place around dinner time. Think he'll throw me out?"

"No, but Kelly might, if you get Briahna all hyper again like last time. I suppose I could find you somewhere to sleep, if that happens."

"I'm thinking I have information that might, you know, make it worth your while to be nice to me," Chris said.

Lance and Adam looked at one another. "Is he blackmailing you?" Adam asked.

"I told you he was evil."

"Mmm, that's kinda hot," Adam said, grinning.

"Right, and he was your first crush and all. No, wait, second crush. His first grade teacher," he explained, as Chris cocked his head inquisitively.

"Second grade!" Adam protested.

"Interesting," Chris said. "I'd have bet on JC, personally."

"JC was my third. Crush," Adam admitted.

"Oh, my God. Okay, I need that beer now," said Lance, repressing a grin at the thought of teenage Adam daydreaming about pretty, pretty JC. Lance had grown-up Adam, and no need to daydream.

They sat outside by the pool, reminiscing about Synchronicity and catching up on one another's lives. Lance pondered, briefly, enlisting Chris to help him get his revenge on Joey, but decided that was way too dangerous a strategy, Chris was just as likely to perpetrate something appalling against both of them, and then fly home to Florida before they could get him back.

After a couple of hours, Adam headed back to his own place to work on his lines for this week. As Lance returned to the poolside, Chris smirked at him. "So, nobody knows about this, huh?"

"There's all kinds of reasons why we shouldn't even be together right now," Lance said. "You can figure it out. It's just—he's—"

"Oh, spare me your big gay love story," Chris said, not unkindly. "Eh, I like his style. I won't give you away. Watching Joey play the yenta is way too much fun."

"It's not just Joey. Lisa's been on my case for weeks. She set up this whole campaign, they have buttons and everything. I asked her what 'TEAM LAMBASS' meant, not that I didn't figure it out for myself but I wanted to see her squirm, and she came up with some totally lame story about a charity fundraiser, so I bought one. Half the production staff have them now."

Chris cackled. "Good to see they have the right amount of reverence for the boss," he said.

"They're a great bunch. The cast, too. I think you'll enjoy yourself on set."

"You too—if you can remember how to act. How long has it been?"

"I'll be fine. It's just the one scene."

"Are you scared of getting back in front of the cameras?"

"No, no, I'm fine with it. But producing's my thing nowadays, it really is."

Chris gave him one of those piercing looks that meant he was really thinking about something and wasn't going to give away what it was. "Good."

"Although," said Lance, "if you wouldn't mind going over my scene with me, since you're here…"

"You couldn't have done that with Adam?"

"We, hm, kept getting distracted," Lance said.

* * *

"And this is Adam Lambert, he plays Chance, you have a couple of scenes with him," Joey said with a flourish.

"Hi!" Adam said.

"Nice to meet you," said Chris Kirkpatrick, without a hint of a suggestion that this wasn't their first encounter.

"Adam," Joey said in a conspiratorial tone, "we need a moment." The two of them drew Adam aside, and proceeded to explain that it was important, traditional, and entirely necessary to give Lance a hard time on set while he recorded his scene. "Since you're the one he's working with, that means it's down to you," Joey said. "Make him fumble it, make him laugh, whatever."

"Yeah, everyone's going to be watching the big boss," said Chris, "so it's not an opportunity to be missed."

"Uh, really? I mean—I don't want to piss him off," said Adam, dubiously. It didn't seem like very supportive boyfriendly behavior—not, of course, that he could say that, at least not to Joey. "And I get the impression he's already planning to get you back for that thing with the cellphone, are you sure you wanna escalate?"

"Just getting my revenge in first," Joey said.

"Do I want to be involved in this?" Adam muttered. "Is the director okay with it?"

"Lindsay's cool," Joey assured him. "It's just a tiny little scene, and it's the last one of the day. And it's not a big deal. You saw what Gina did to Jem two weeks ago?"

Adam couldn't help but snicker at the memory. It had been a group effort, a complete set-up with a fake extra scene involving a new male nurse, who had inspected Jem's cast then proceeded to go into a magnificent stripper routine, ending up in a tiny posing pouch with three Peeps peeking from the top. Jem had been crying with laughter by the time he was offered a Peep. And, Adam thought, it had gone a long way to making him feel better, to know that Gina wasn't going to hold back on the retaliation just because of his injuries. Lance had been there, applauding with the rest of them.

"I don't want to throw him off, though," he said. "I mean, he hasn't done any onscreen stuff for a while."

"Lance can do it just fine," Chris said. "I showed up at his place Sunday afternoon and we went over it. And he knows how to hit his marks, and everything. So messing with him isn't going to, like, put a huge dent in the production budget."

"It's traditional," Joey said. "He'd be disappointed if we didn't."

Adam looked at them in turn, two faces bright with mischief. "I'll do my best," he said. "You realize he'll probably kill me."

"Nah," Joey said, "you're safe. Chance is a big hit with the viewers. And you do know he likes you, right?"

"So people keep saying," Adam said, dryly.

"You'll be fine," said Chris, sounding bored with this line of conversation. "Just don't say anything that'll give it away."

Adam mimed zipping his lip, and noted to himself that Chris Kirkpatrick had very expressive eyes.

"Come on then, lemme take you over to Wardrobe, make sure you're all set for Wednesday," Joey said, and hauled Chris away. Adam had the scene with Carla and Mark-the foxy-Fedex-guy (now credited as Mark, but the early handle stuck) in his bar, and he didn't have a lot to do in that one, the two of them would provide plenty of fireworks. He grinned. Working with Michela was a hoot.

* * *

Wednesday was the first day shooting the new episode, and Lance's scene as 'Uptight Lawyer' was scheduled for that afternoon. Adam was quite surprised not to see him on set during the morning, to give Chris a formal welcome, at least. Producer stuff, he supposed, there was usually some kind of analysis the morning after an episode aired. Adam had a busy morning, too, quite a long scene with Jem, Michela and Chris; Chance didn't have a lot to do, but the director wanted plenty of coverage of the crackling tensions between Mickey and Carla and Ethan, whom they'd all dubbed 'the Wicked Uncle'.

There was a subtle air of expectation on the set as they cleared and re-dressed for the little scene with Chance and 'Uptight Lawyer'. Jem parked his wheelchair next to the director's spot, and Michela showed no signs of leaving either. When Gina showed up alongside Joey and half his writing team (mercifully there was no sign of Neil in the group), and Lisa and Wendy casually happened to arrive two minutes later, Adam felt his nervous butterflies ramp right up. He'd been looking forward to this, but he stupidly hadn't anticipated the audience. Of course they were all going to want to watch.

"Don't worry," Chris had sidled up to him. "Lance really concentrates, he won't notice us all watching, at least not for the first take."

And then Lance came in, and Adam realized that his problem was not going to be ignoring the watchers behind the cameras, it was going to be not bursting out laughing. He hadn't even thought about how Lance was going to look as 'Uptight Lawyer', but his normally spiky hair was slicked down into a severe corporate style, he wore wire-rimmed glasses and a pinstriped suit, and he looked as though his collar and tie were choking him.

Adam clenched his jaw on the giggles that wanted to erupt, and forced himself to listen as director Lindsay had a quick word, and then it was action, and Uptight Lawyer walked up to his bar and tapped impatiently. Adam looked him up and down, shook his head and said, "Man, you so need to get laid."

Lance's mouth flopped open and he floundered. "I—I—what? I thought—did we change—" Then he registered the snickering crowd. "Oh. Right. Okay, go on, laugh." He shook his head ruefully and turned back towards Adam.

"Seriously, that suit," Adam said apologetically, and tried to control his face. "Sorry about that."

"Okay, guys, let's try this again," called the director.

Second take, more or less the same as the first, except that Lance wasn't quite so thrown and Adam was on the verge of laughing aloud.

Third take, Lance managed to get his request for a drink out before Adam burst into giggles and told him to get laid. "I'm sorry," Adam spluttered, as they re-set, "I just—the tie, my God." It was navy blue with discreet red dots, and this somehow struck Adam as ridiculously funny.

A couple more takes, and it was beginning to feel a bit like Lucy and Charlie Brown and the football, but everyone in the studio was finding it really hard to stay quiet, and Adam just had to keep pushing.

Next take, Lance strode up to the bar, grabbed Adam firmly by the shirt front, looked right into his eyes, and in his darkest, deepest voice said, "Wanna fuck?"

The studio erupted. Adam cracked up completely, and clung to his bar to keep himself upright as he laughed himself silly. Lance, as the end-of-season gag reel would reveal, stood there looking calm and superior and ever so slightly smug.

"All right everybody, show's over," the director called, and Adam had to go back to makeup to have his eyes re-done. He heard a vengeful bass cry of "Kirkpatrick!" as he left the scene, and ran to the trailer.

The place was cleared by the time he got back, and although Lance's eyes promised retribution Adam was fairly confident it would be the fun kind, so he wasn't worried. And the first take went perfectly, though the director asked for a couple more anyway. The close-up coverage went equally quickly, and they were done for the day.

"Forgive me?" Adam said as the two of them walked back to makeup to be cleaned off.

"I know who put you up to it," Lance said. "But you're gonna have to make it up to me anyway."

"I'll think of something," Adam promised.

"Oh, by the way, you missed the big announcement," Lance said casually. "I'll be sending out a memo, but since practically everybody seemed to be on set—seriously, you are so going to pay for that—I gave them the good news. We're confirmed for the rest of the season. Audience figures for episode six were really good. So getting Chris out here wasn't a waste of money, which is just as well. Party at my place on Saturday, everyone's invited."

"I guess I should bring someone? As, um, camouflage?"

"Yeah," Lance said, sounding a bit reluctant. "I guess."

"My ex would love to see your house, and he's great at parties, he'll flirt with everyone. And he won't expect anything from me after. Except, oh my God, he'll probably want a part on the show."

"Get him to flirt with Joey," Lance said, grinning wickedly, "and I might just feel like rewarding him."

"Did I tell you how much I like your dark side?" Adam said, as they paused outside the makeup trailer. "If we were somewhere else, I could kiss you."

"I can wait," said Lance, opened the door and waved Adam through. "I so need to get laid, remember?"

* * *

"You're late," Lance said, severely, as Adam let himself into the kitchen on Sunday afternoon. "The work's already done."

"Don't tell me you didn't have a service in to clean up the party, because I won't believe you," Adam said. "Place looks too good to have been tidied by a person with the kind of hangover you must have this morning."

Lance grinned. "Nah, I'm good," he said. "And the refrigerator is full of leftovers, so you can have as much smoked salmon as you can eat. Later."

Adam smiled. "Yeah, first things first." They met in the center of the kitchen and wrapped one another into a firm embrace as they kissed, slowly, taking their time. Adam's tongue slid across the silk-wet, sensitive inner surface of Lance's lips, and there was that gorgeous sound, that deep, hungry rumble that he so loved to hear. Lance's hands slipped under Adam's T-shirt, warm on his waist, his thumbs stroking lightly.

"Great party," Adam murmured to Lance's lightly stubbled cheek. Too many people crowded into the space available, plenty of delicious food, and apparently infinite vodka cocktails. Everyone in any way connected with the show had been there—Adam met several people he'd never seen before in his life, including Leona from the network, the casting agent, two editors, an adorably shy gay guy from accounting at A Happy Place, and Neil's new girlfriend Sandie, who worked in the props department. And, to his great delight, Justin Timberlake, in between movies right now, who charmed everyone within radius and could be heard, in the wee small hours, loudly demanding a guest spot on the show next season. Adam very much hoped Leona had still been around to catch that. Adam had not left until almost four in the morning, along with the hardened party-going core of the Family Business cast and crew, but by then the five Synchronicity guys had settled in together, the bond between them obvious to everyone, and Adam had no doubt they'd talked the night out. "Missed you last night," he said.

"Me too," Lance said. "We just don't get together much these days, not all five of us, with Chris in Florida and Justin on location as often as not. Chris went to stay at J's place, so makeup will have a hell of a time with him tomorrow."

"I'd have liked to hide in a corner and just listen to you guys, but I had to get Brad home."

"I hope your pixie enjoyed himself."

Adam snickered. Brad, quivering with curiosity which he'd tried to cover with a veneer of world-weariness, had stayed at Adam's side long enough to be introduced to Gina, to Melinda and to Paul, then launched himself into the crowd and had, by all accounts, a whale of a time. "I think he actually did flirt with everybody. He definitely flirted with Joey, because I saw them. I'm pretty sure Joey was flirting back."

Lance laughed. "Joey is such a tart. Luckily for the rest of us, his wife keeps him under control." His hands were inching higher. Adam shivered, and bent to nip at Lance's mouth again, and his hands smoothed down over Lance's spectacular ass in its soft, snug jeans. Adam loved this. He loved the way they fit together, loved the way they could stand hip to hip, groin to groin, hard against one another, and just talk, letting the arousal build. Soon they'd go upstairs and take off their clothes and have mindblowing sex, but there was no hurry, they had so much time.

Not like that first night, stumbling out of the car and into Adam's apartment, practically ripping one another's clothes open, they hadn't done more than get inside, and Adam had pressed Lance up against his front door and they'd jerked one another off right there, frantic, rough, messy, and unbelievably good. And after they got their breath back, they'd staggered to his bedroom for more, and sweet, easy-going Lance had turned out to be honey-gorgeous all over, just as attentive as advertised, and—to Adam's delight—the bossiest bottom in the world, and as perfectly insatiable as Adam could wish. Adam thought of it now, of being buried deep in Lance's ass, and he rubbed closer and sucked on Lance's neck. Lance very nearly purred when he did that.

"You know, there were an awful lot of people sporting TEAM LAMBASS buttons last night," Adam said. "I don't think they were entirely serious, most of them, but it does feel like they'd be mostly pleased for us if they knew we were together."

"I thought about telling Joey I'm firing you," Lance said.

Adam froze. "Uh…"

"Hey, I'm not gonna fire you, Adam, I'm certainly not that stupid."

Adam breathed. He hadn't really thought Lance would fire him, but it was a bit of a shock to hear the words.

Lance went on: "Because of all the pestering I'm getting from him and Lisa, and those stupid buttons, and—I thought maybe I could get some traction with telling him I have to fire you so that we can start dating. But then I thought, nah, Joey knows I'm not that stupid, I doubt I could pull it off. I seem to be losing my edge with the practical jokes," Lance went on, ruefully. "Just don't have time to think up anything really good, I guess. Someone keeps distracting me." His hips pushed urgently against Adam's. "So maybe we should just let people know we're together. Though I kinda like it being just us, you know?"

"I do know. We don't have to say anything. We could just not hide."

"Have sex in the makeup trailer again, you mean?"

"I'm definitely not going to say no," Adam said. It had been terrific. The instant Katya had finished with them and headed home, Lance had removed the pinstriped suit, since it would not do to get come on his costume. Him stark naked, Adam still clothed in Chance's purple shirt and black leather pants. It seemed Lance had a teeny, tiny kink for being naked while Adam was dressed, a teeny, tiny kink of which Adam entirely approved. Lance also had an admirably practical habit of carrying condoms wherever he went. "But we can just… just not hide."

"No more of the oh-so-carefully phrased denials?"

"No more avoiding me on set? You know you do."

"Only because whenever I see you I want to take off all my clothes and beg you to fuck me. It might not be appropriate," Lance said.

Adam laughed helplessly. "I guess that could be distracting."

"I wouldn't want us to be unprofessional," Lance said. "I guess we can figure things out. Meanwhile, now that you're here, what's it to be? Smoked salmon or sex?"

"Interesting choice," said Adam, taking Lance firmly by the hand, turning him around and propelling him towards the stairs. "I figure I can have both, so long as I take them in the right order."

"So long as you do that," Lance agreed.

* * *

Adam peeled off the condom, dumped it in the trash, flopped down next to Lance and did his best to breathe. Lance seemed to be melting into the mattress, boneless and utterly relaxed. Adam stroked one hand along Lance's hip and thigh. He didn't think he'd ever get tired of how it felt. "You are so…" beautiful, he wanted to say, but it didn't seem like enough, it didn't seem to say what he wanted. "Have you—" he started again. "Have you ever had your fantasies come true?"

Lance leaned up on one elbow and looked at him earnestly. "If there's something you want that I'm not giving you, we can always—"

"No, no, that's not what I—of course, I mean, there's always, we can try, I'm sure we can think of some—but that's not what I meant."

"Yeah, so now tell me what flashed into your mind right then," Lance said. "Come on, I know it was there."

"Well," said Adam, "you could try not giving me instructions. I mean, it's hot and I love hearing you talk, but you could let me take charge, just for a change."

"But I know what I like," said Lance.

"Babe, my entire apartment building knows what you like." Lance gave him a reproving stare. "I certainly know what you like, and I know how to give it to you. Maybe I should just gag you and tie you… to the… bed…"

They stared at one another in silence.

"Okay, I don't have the strength right now," Adam admitted with regret. No way was he going to get hard again for, well, at least an hour. "Plus, the handcuffs are in my apartment." Lance glanced meaningfully towards the drawers of his bedside table. Adam investigated, and laughed. "Oh, now that's just wrong. All these weeks and you never told me you like to be handcuffed!"

"I'm pretty sure we'd have gotten to it."

"Oh, yeah."

"You should probably eat first."

"There's really not much chance of me fainting from hunger while I have you handcuffed to the bed." It was very easy to be singleminded when naked Lance was stretched out in front of him. Adam was fairly sure nothing as trivial as wanting a snack would distract him.

"Added to the reduced blood flow to the brain, it's gotta be a risk," Lance said, nodding wisely. "I mean, I'm kinda surprised you remember how to use your words when you're hard."

Adam's mouth dropped open. "Was that the most convoluted compliment on the size of my cock that I have ever heard in my life?" He pounced, fingers poised to tickle, and Lance's deep chuckles eventually turned into pleas for mercy and then languid, careful kisses.

"So what were you going to say?" Lance asked eventually.


"About fantasies coming true?"

"Ah," Adam said. He tugged and adjusted until Lance was snuggled against his side. "That. Well. Like I told you, when I was a teenager, I was kind of a Synchronicity fan."

"I knew it," Lance said, but he didn't sound as though he minded. "Justin was your, wait a minute, your fourth crush, and now you got to meet him. Glad I could help."

"No, no, I was never, okay, his mouth, but, no. Don't laugh!"

"Blowjob lips!"

"Oh, totally. But it wasn't him I had the crush on. It was—you just, middle of the third season, suddenly you were just—I used to imagine that we'd meet up, somehow, and maybe get to be friends, and maybe I'd get to be on the show and act with you, and…"


"Honking great big crush. Lots of fantasies. Ow! Don't do that, you can't just poke people. You Southern boys are supposed to be polite."


"And stop using the porn voice, it's cheating. Yeah, I used to masturbate thinking about you."

"Now that," Lance said, sitting up part-way and staring into Adam's eyes, "I want to see. I want to watch."

Adam blinked. "Handcuffs first," he said.

"Deal." Lance nodded, and let himself back down onto the bed. "It's funny, I thought my life was exciting before you came into it, but compared to now…. Don't—don't go anywhere."

"Not going anywhere," Adam said. He rolled over to pin Lance to the mattress, and looked him in the eyes. "My life seems to be perfect just as it is."

Lance considered. "Mine too… so long as they renew us for another season." He smiled.

"Don't worry," said Adam. "This show will run and run."


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