Lance and Adam

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

Wanna Tell Me About It?

Extended Version

This story was originally written in 2012, and is basically set then or thenabouts. I thought then that there would be a sequel, but it became clear to me that a sequel was the wrong choice: the story simply wasn't finished. So I have done a rewrite and extension. The original version is still available here.
Big thanks to Brandywine for cheerleading and beta help, and to Frausorge for a splendidly nitpicking beta.

It wasn't much of a dressing room, but at least there was a good-sized mirror over the cluttered table, and enough light 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 Lance Bass—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 reached 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 Greville James." He handed over his credit card. "Lots of love and congratulations, you know the drill."

"No problem. Your meeting with Johnny Wright'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 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." Joey had a wife, a kid, and two devoted dogs. Lance envied him all these things. "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, Wonderland, that he was working on with Doug Campion, 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, ready to run his own production company and his own show. Plus, Wonderland, while very cool, was kind of dark, and Lance really wanted to do something warm-hearted and light. His pet pilot was lovable. He wanted it, he really wanted it.

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 pizazz 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 on 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, 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 from 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. Well, give her more to do for the actual show first, to see how she works out, but she'll be fine."

"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 opportunity 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, including passing canine traffic, and he knew it.

"So you found a guy who can act, everything from serious, concerned problem page counselor slash 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. And the bartender wasn't carrying the show, after all.

"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 brunette 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 a 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, with JC Chasez reading in the customer's lines, and how was that for an intimidating audition? 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 Carvello and Jemarco Jones 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 couldn'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, the camera loved him, and their New York casting agent had been very impressed with what she'd seen of his stage 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 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 gotten 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 just 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 to check out how you came across on camera. 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, Adam was going to say, but it came to him in a flash of realization that Lance didn't leave, he was still there at the end to say he'd liked Adam's singing.

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. 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 crowd 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, possibly, 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 tripled. 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 sculpted 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. 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 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, and even now, looking back, he couldn't say he'd been wrong. A part of him regretted the choice, for the sake of all those gay teenagers who hadn't had someone like him to watch. But he'd never really had any doubt that he'd have been off the show in a heartbeat, so.

Now, it was different. 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. They were shooting the fourth episode—they were going to run the pilot as season opener, after a couple of re-shot scenes and a slight re-edit—and the cast were meshing together as though they'd been on this show for years, exactly the family feeling he'd hoped to achieve, and things were going so well.

He should have known better than to relax. Part-way through shooting the fifth episode, 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 late 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, shit, 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 five-thirty."

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? What with trying to defer Jem's scenes as long as possible, it's going to be a hell of a schedule. You're booked to do another ep with us late in the season, if Mike Hollis is 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 two days later 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 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 man," 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.

* * *

Friday 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 flashy, 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. Cozy 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, however tempting, was a bad idea, 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 and props departments to be mollified, there were budgets to be re-examined, and for some reason the network had decided that he had to touch base with Leona the liaison exec every five minutes, oh, there was no shortage of work. The weekend was cancelled, not that that was anything new.

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, 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 his hospital 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, crew and writing team had taken the time to drop by and say hi—even Leona from TNT showed up to say how pleased they all were—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'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 Leona, their studio liaison, was firmly on-side now, and Lance was cautiously prepared to trust her. Besides, he was determined not to spread pessimism through the ranks.

"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'll make 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 eight. 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 Frank Morton as 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's 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 twelve, thirteen, 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 ten, I think, or maybe eleven, I can't remember which. So long as I show up on set when I'm supposed to. 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 nice, gentle lead-in for you guys. 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.

"Well," Adam began, wondering what to say that was not in fact a guide to 'how to give Adam Lambert a blowjob', which would be revealing just a bit more than he really wanted to reveal. To the radio audience, anyway.

"Can I come in on this one?" Lance said, to Adam's surprise. "See, David, there actually isn't any one technique—I mean, don't be tentative, and don't be brutal unless he asks nicely, and no teeth unless you get it in writing, but there's really no 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, 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, "along the way, 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.

The next caller after the break had a problem Adam had no idea how to deal with, a neighbor whose dog was chained up in the back yard and barked all day. He was about to say it sounded hellish and had she told the owners, when Lance broke in.

"It sounds like the dog is lonely, and maybe neglected, would you say?" Their caller agreed that the dog seemed to have a kinda miserable life, and she didn't know that it even got taken for walks. Lance sounded real indignant about this, and ended up with a suggestion that she call Animal Care and report the situation. After the call ended, he and Bonnie talked about pets for a bit—Adam didn't have anything to contribute, he'd never owned a pet—and how the animal's welfare was every bit as important as the owner's feelings. More, maybe, since the dog couldn't ask for help.

"I've wanted to get a dog for a while," Lance said. "I had one, back when I was on Synchronicity, little guy called Jackson. He was great. My parents gave him to me for my sixteenth birthday. But I had time to spend with him back then, and now, I really don't. And it's not fair to leave a dog alone all day, they're social animals, they need company."

"I hope JoAnne can get some help for that dog next door," Bonnie said, and moved them along to the next question.

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?" 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."

"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 do, 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. Sometimes it sucks being the showrunner, too many meetings. I'm only sorry we can't bring in some of the material you sing with your band. It'd probably be great for ratings, but the studio executives would have collective heart failure if we really let you loose. Anyway, JC wants to bring Thessaly's 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 perfectly-proportioned 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. Four 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 so 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 you're right, 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 living 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?"

"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.

"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 to stick his nose in. His best friend was all in favor of love and romance and such, but some hilariously (in retrospect) bad attempts at matchmaking had convinced him, or so Lance had thought, to keep out of other people's sex lives.

"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 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, there'd be nothing wrong with 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, and still be able to go out with his friends every Friday night. 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, just like Jem didn't get to see the letters calling him foul things because of his skin color, and Gina didn't get to see the creepy ones telling her what they wanted to do to her. He'd talked to Lisa about it, once, and made up his mind not to think about it after that. There was enough shit in the world without making a point of wading through it. But there was also 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.

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, all the attention might just have driven him out of his mind.

Right now, they were shooting episode eight, 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 fat purple letters which Adam decided to pretend he hadn't noticed.

"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's with the buttons?" Adam said.

"Er… context?"


"Ah. Yeah, sometimes she comes in wearing nineteen different buttons, it's a thing."

"I meant the, uh—"

"Ah. Those buttons." Lance shook his head. "I'm thinking conspiracy. Also, Joey."

"They are about you and me, right?"

"Oh yeah. Not that I asked, but they are. I'm not sure if they're supposed to be supportive or to make me blush, but Joey's fingerprints are all over them. He does that." Lance rolled his eyes. "He gets ideas for pranks and he never does the work himself, he gets his minions, or actually in this case my minion, to do the work. Like with that phone thing."

And he was, Adam noticed with amusement, blushing just a little bit right now. "Lisa is definitely your minion," he agreed, blandly.

"Yeah, don't tell her I said that."

"So we're ignoring the buttons?"

"Lord, yes. It'll definitely bug Joey more if we don't even notice them." He smirked. "Anyway, what brought you to my office today?"

"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, 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 which'll probably run long, and besides, 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. I mean, between us we covered everything that got thrown at us. I'd never have been able to answer that question about the neighbor's dog like you did, the one that barked all day long."

"I hope she got that put right," Lance said, frowning. "Sounded like neglect to me, and that's just wrong. I hate to think of any dog being badly treated. And so many of them are, you should see—well, no, it's not pleasant."

Adam made interrogative noises, and Lance explained that he had volunteered at a rescue center before Family Business got going, back when he had time, it satisfied his need for some canine company once in a while, and some of the dogs that got brought in were heartbreaking.

"So why don't you get one of your own? You sound like you'd give a dog a great home, and you have that huge yard."

"I'm just not there enough of the time. It wouldn't be fair. You have to be able to look after a pet." But he looked so wistful. Adam filed the vague thought that flitted through his mind, and vowed to investigate it when he had the chance.

"Well, so long as I get questions about sex, shoes and shopping, I'll be fine," he said.

"Don't worry, Bonnie will have your back."

"Bonnie's great! Say, weren't you supposed to take her out after the show? Catch up?"

"Another time. She won't mind. What I ought to do is take her to lunch sometime, and catch up properly." Lance got his phone out and made a note. "Better than a late-night drink, she really does have a husband to go home to. But," he continued, "if you want a drink, after, 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 jerking off 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, if you need help you could probably enlist Neil. He's basically evil, so.…"

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 moved 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 calamari? 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 casting him when there's, like, a million other clean-cut, all-American hero types he could have picked. 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. I think you met Leona—Patrick's the group VP. His 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. But for right now, for the meeting this afternoon, I have good numbers. Really strong in the 15-34 age group, which is great for us."

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

* * *

"Well, damn," Lance said, as he and Wendy got into the elevator after the meeting at TNT.

"Yeah. I really liked Leona," Wendy said. "She's actually a nice person. So often the network people aren't."

"Usually they're sharks or weasels. Patrick's a shark, really, though he's a basking shark rather than a Great White, plus he's on our side. But I don't think Leona is either kind. Which makes it kind of amazing that she got the promotion."

"What are the chances of the network finding someone just as simpatico for our next liaison?"

Lance sighed. "Tiny," he said. "There's always something, isn't there."

"I thought that's what you liked about this job?" Wendy said, teasing, and he couldn't deny it. Having a succession of different problems to overcome was just what he liked.

They stepped out and walked through the lobby and into the street.

"It is… but I want to keep this show on the air so I can keep doing it. I knew Leona would fight for us. I mean, sure, she deserves the promotion. And maybe we'll get to work together again someday. But…."

"I know. What if the next person doesn't love Family Business like she did?" Wendy understood, of course she did. She knew exactly how Lance felt, because she felt the same way. They'd both put in a lot of effort to make sure they got along with their network rep, and now they'd be starting again. "At least she isn't moving for a little while," Wendy went on. Maybe we'll get the go-ahead for the rest of the season before she leaves. We'll have her in our corner for that meeting, if it happens soon."

"It'll be fine," Lance said. "Probably. It'll be fine."

"We'll have to be really nice to the replacement."

"Yeah. Organize a charm offensive!"

"Well, that, you can do," she said, grinning at him.

* * *

Lance trotted downstairs in response to the doorbell's unexpected summons. Even at just after one 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.

"Yes, yes, I am," 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. He'd been about to throw a salad together for lunch, but he knew better than to offer Chris a giant bowl of leaves. "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 bacon, omelets and toast. With, as a concession to proper California living (and the life of a television actor), a giant bowl of salad in the middle of the table. 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 (and included so many consolatory chocolates and soft toys they'd had to establish a line to the nearest children's hospital), 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 is 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 been there himself, for a while, a fact he did not intend to reveal. Anyway, Lance had grownup Adam now, 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. TEAM LAMBASS in green and purple. 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 two scenes."

"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. Joey was wearing a TEAM LAMBASS button.

"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 up 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 wicked eyes.

"Come on then, lemme take you over to Wardrobe, make sure you're all set for Tuesday," Joey said, and hauled Chris away. This was Adam's final scene for episode 9, 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—the two of them would provide plenty of fireworks. He grinned. Working with Michela was a hoot, and Seamus was a sweetheart.

* * *

Tuesday 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. 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, just stood there looking 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—and by the way, 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 four were really good, and the focus group's reaction to next week's was stellar. So getting Chris out here wasn't a waste of money, which is just as well. Party at my place 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 need to get laid, remember?"

* * *

It was weird taking a cab up the hill to Lance's fabulous house instead of driving himself, but Adam would never be fit to drive home again after one of Lance's legendary parties, and in the interests of keeping things quiet, he almost certainly wouldn't get to stay the night.

Beside him, Brad wriggled in his seat, thoroughly over-excited at the prospect of meeting everyone involved with the show. Adam's friends had formed a regular viewing party, and every week Brad, Danielle and Alisan would dissect the episode, determine which were the best parts—these mostly seemed to involve Mickey looking pretty—his friends were so shallow—and make predictions about where things might be going. Danielle would probably never forgive him for inviting Brad to the party and not her… he might have to get her on set for a day, before they wrapped for the season. She'd probably revert to teenage fangirlhood if he introduced her to Joey, which would be hilarious.

"So who'm I gonna meet at this party?" Brad said, fidgeting in his seat

"Everybody, I guess," Adam said. "At least, Lance invited everybody from the cast and production team, and most people are definitely going to show up."

"What about other people? I mean, I'm not going to embarrass you by begging for a role on Family Business, but it wouldn't hurt to impress a casting agent or two. Once they see me, they'll recognize just how awesome I am, for sure."

"For sure," Adam said, grinning. "You be your usual fabulous self, except don't get too outrageous, make sure everybody remembers you for good reasons. If we ever hear about someone casting pixies, you'll be first on the list."

"Hey! I can do butch! Okay, no, I can't do butch, but I'm versatile. I could totally play a nurse or a jewel thief or, or a plumber."

"I'm sure I've seen movies with plumbers that look like you," Adam said, and Brad snorted. He'd probably seen them too. "You should make nice to Neil, now he's on the writing staff."

"You know Neil hates it when I flirt with him."

True, which was mostly why Brad did it. "Not quite what I had in mind," Adam said, trying not to laugh. "But you could be just regular nice to him. Aside from anything else, it'll drive him crazy trying to figure out what you're up to. See, something I didn't realize until I got this job," he went on, "was how much it matters that you get along with people. Lance told me that was his biggest worry about hiring me, that I'd be a jerk, because nobody wants to work with a jerk, not unless he's someone who's famous already and they know he'll bring in an audience."

"Why would he think you were a jerk?" Brad said, bristling. "Oh, no, right, I remember. You actually were a jerk. You're lucky he gave you a chance at all, after that."

"He does that," Adam said. "He gave me a chance in spite of what I said about him—"

"He heard you sing, Adam. It wasn't a philanthropic gesture."

"Yeah, but—not just me. He had his evil ex on the show even though his ex was a dick to him. He's a genuinely nice guy, and he's a really good boss."

"Sounds like a saint." Brad faked a mighty yawn.

"He's not boring—he's just—" It was time to tell Brad about the scene with Uptight Lawyer, and Adam found himself giggling as he remembered it. Brad didn't seem impressed. "You probably had to be there," Adam admitted. "But you know. Being nice to people doesn't mean he's a pushover. Being nice to people you don't like is part of the deal."

"You wouldn't catch me hiring skanky ex-boyfriends if I was running the show."

"Well, he's not going to do it again," Adam said, slightly irritated. "I just meant, he gives people second chances."

"I just need a first chance." Brad sighed. "Is your crush going to be there?"


"That Anthony guy. Or are you over him?"

Adam winced. He'd forgotten that little story about being interested in Anthony, who would certainly be there tonight, and who was not, as Brad would know at once, anywhere near Adam's type—or even the tiniest bit gay. And there was no relying on Brad not to drop hints, especially after the first couple of vodka cocktails. "Um. I was actually—it wasn't Anthony, I just used his name to, um."

"Adam Lambert! You lied! You lied to your friends!"

"I plead self-defence. But it's not relevant any more, I'm over it." He could feel Brad's gimlet stare directed at him, but he kept his eyes firmly forward. "You guys were right, it would have been a bad idea." It still was, except for the part where being with Lance was the best idea ever. "Some of my other crushes are going to be there, but you don't have to worry about them either, I got over them years ago." Shit, he forgot he never admitted to being a Synchronicity fan. "And you have to meet Gina, you'll love her," he added hurriedly. "Just don't be too outrageous, and have a great time. Oh, and, if you want to flirt with Joey, make sure I'm somewhere I can watch, okay?"

Brad was undoubtedly about to deconstruct this rapid-fire collection of stupidities, but they were at Lance's house now, "Oh, my God, I think I'm in love," he breathed ecstatically as the taxi slid through the gates.

"It's something, isn't it," Adam agreed. It was a spectacular house. Giant columns flanking the front door, a long white frontage like a Disney hotel, palm trees…

"He wouldn't notice if I just quietly moved in, right? I wouldn't be in the way. This place is fucking huge!"

Huge, and absolutely packed with people. In the first twenty minutes Adam introduced Brad to Gina, Melinda, JC and Paul as they fought their way towards the bar. After that, Brad plunged gaily onward into the throng, flirting to devastating effect with everyone in his path, and Adam settled himself on a stool to talk to Paul for a while. It did wonders for his ego, because Paul instantly told Adam how much he'd grown as an actor since that conversation they'd had during the pilot.

It seemed like everyone in any way connected with the show was at the party, not just the cast and production team but most of the crew as well, and the writing team, and a handful of directors, including Agnes and Jonathan, both expressing great delight at how well the show had turned out. Jem was parked on what might easily have been a throne, from which he held court all night. Leona from the network was here; she introduced herself to Adam and told him Chance was her favorite and she was gonna keep watching the show even though she wasn't involved anymore. Adam met several people he had never seen before in his life, including the casting agent, two editors, an adorably shy gay guy from accounting at A Happy Place who turned out to be the Chris who'd advised him over the phone, and someone called Sandie from Props, who introduced herself expectantly, and in response to Adam's rather blank hello explained that she was Neil's new girlfriend. Adam made a mental note to call Mom: he'd get so many points for telling her about Neil's love life before Neil did. Hah. After about an hour and a half, Neil himself materialized beside Adam to exchange a few cynical words, from which it was clear he was having the time of his life working with the writing team.

The evening passed in a blur of excited conversations, hugs, dancing, food, and vodka cocktails, until to Adam's astonishment he was hauled out of a gaggle by Joey's large hand, and introduced to Justin Timberlake. Justin Timberlake! In between movies right now, and here, holding out a large hand for Adam to shake and radiating charm in all directions.

"Good to meet you, Adam. I love your character."

"Nnnnghuh, thanks! Me, too. I mean, these guys write us such great scripts." Jesus, he sounded like a teenager.

"I meant to ask, is Chance based on Lance?" said Justin Timberlake. Justin Timberlake!

"On Lance?" Adam was completely thrown by that one.

"Lance was always the guy who knew all the gossip, he was always doing stuff, making things happen, you know?" Justin Timberlake (!) had an arm slung over Joey's shoulder. "Plus, the name. I mean, Lance, Chance, c'mon."

"Not even close, J, seriously." Joey was laughing and shaking his head.

"You sure? Well, okay, but I think it works, you know. And Adam here does a great job with the character. Underneath all the back talk and the campiness you can feel there's a good heart. That's nice work, man."

"Yeah, we save the evil stuff for Chris to play. You, too, if you wanna come work for scale," Joey said. "We could probably fit you in."

Adam didn't really register any more of the conversation. Justin Timberlake (!) thought he was doing nice work! He hoped his smile muscles would recover before he had to get back on set.

A couple of hours later, Justin Timberlake could be heard loudly demanding a guest spot on the show next season. Adam very much hoped Leona from the network had still been around to catch that. Then he thought, wait, what did she mean about not being involved anymore? He'd have to ask Lance about it.

Adam and Brad stayed until about four in the morning, along with the hardened party-going core of the Family Business people, but by then the five Synchronicity guys had settled in together, the bond between them obvious, and Adam had no doubt they'd talk the rest of the night through. There was a great deal of hugging, and everybody piled into cabs, and Brad sighed in profound satisfaction and snuggled up to Adam's chest, and recapitulated the entire evening all the way home. Adam didn't really listen. He was remembering how hot Lance had looked in that ridiculous flowered shirt, and how beautiful Lance's smile was, and what a great host he was, and what Adam was planning to do to him tomorrow—later today—when all the guests were out of the way. But Brad was so happy and cuddlesome, it was nice.

* * *

"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 after 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. "Missed you last night, though."

"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. He won't want to bother with sleep, it'll be all-night beer and video games."

"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. "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 disgraceful. 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, 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 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. So it maybe doesn't matter so much that you're the big boss."

Lance hmphed. "I still need my vengeance on Lisa for the phone thing," he muttered. "I just can't think of anything good enough."

"'Fraid I can't help you. I have no idea what you could do."

"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 again. 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. Somebody keeps distracting me." His hips pushed urgently against Adam's. "I keep thinking of stuff that's way more fun than vengeance."

"Like, having sex in the makeup trailer?"

"Spectacular sex," Lance corrected.

"Any time you want a repeat," Adam said, and kissed Lance again. It had been terrific. The instant Katya had finished with them and headed home, Lance had removed the pinstriped suit. 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. "I guess there's a thrill to keeping us secret. I hadn't exactly expected that." Adam had thought it would be uncomfortable. Instead, he seemed to be developing a teeny, tiny kink of his own, for dancing on the edge of discovery.

"That's why I have to avoid you on set," Lance said. "Nothing personal, it's just that whenever I see you I want to take off all my clothes and beg you to fuck me. It might not be appropriate."

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

"I wouldn't want us to be unprofessional," Lance said. "Although the end of season gag reel could be worth millions if we got caught."

"That would probably be bad."

"No, no, it'd do my image so much good. No more Mr. Such A Nice Boy. But… you'd be getting offers from the porn studios, and I need you in my show. Okay, cancel the gag reel."

Adam sniggered. "The world will never know."

"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, skin like sun-warmed apricots. 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 to do, 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." It wasn't true, his apartment had great soundproofing, but Lance gave him a reproving stare anyway. "I certainly know what you like, and I know how to give it to you. You know, maybe if I blindfolded you so you don't know what's going to happen…. or would I have to tie you up and gag you? Because you know, that's fine and all, but I like the blindfold idea better." Lance's sex voice was way too hot to be muffled. He leaned closer. "There you'd be, not knowing where I'm gonna touch you next, just waiting."

"Hmm." Lance's ears were pink. It looked like the idea had hit home. "We could do the tying up thing as well, maybe. I'm not sure I wanna be gagged, but blindfolded would. Uh."

"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.

"You should probably eat first."

"There's really not much chance of me fainting from hunger while I have you tied to the bed and helpless." 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.

Adam eyed him with deep suspicion. Then 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 so—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 innocent teenage 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 swallowed. "Blindfold 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. Oh, my God!"


"Nothing. I just got the best idea… at least. Well. If it works out. I need to think it through. Hmm."

"It must be one hell of an idea if it beats watching you masturbate," Adam murmured.

"Hey, I get to watch you first. That's the deal."

"All in good time. First, food. Then, I get to tether you to the bed and have my wicked way with you. We can figure out the rest after."

"In that case," said Lance, hauling himself out of bed, "let's eat."

Lance had an artificial fireplace in his den, so they were sitting on the couch, finishing their smoked salmon and toast and staring at the fake flames while waiting for the urge for more sex to overcome the urge to loaf, when it occurred to Adam that maybe this was a moment that would be enhanced by having a dog lying on the floor by the fire. Or—possibly, he wasn't sure about this—lying on the couch with them with its head, maybe, on Lance's legs. At any rate, this felt like a dog moment, so he decided to go with it.

"I've been thinking," he said, "about your dog problem."

"I don't actually have a dog problem," Lance said, mildly.

"You do. You don't have one. That's the problem."

"Well, sure, I mean, I'd love to have my own dog, but it's just not practical right now. I have such long days, and okay, I have a big yard, but a dog left on its own is going to be bored and miserable, and I guess I could send it to doggy daycare, but what's the point in having a dog if I don't get to spend time with it?"

"Ah," Adam said, trying his best to sound wise. "But see, I have a solution."

Lance looked at him. "Do not say get a cat. I mean, cats are cool, but it's not the same."

"I'm not going to tell you to get a cat. Give me some credit!"

"No, okay. Sorry. So, what's your solution?"

"See, you're the boss. So, be the boss! Declare the office a dog-friendly zone. Bring your dog to work! It'd get loads of attention that way."

Lance sat upright. "You know, that… you really are a great agony aunt, you know?" Adam made a face, but Lance seemed to mean it as a compliment, so, okay. "That actually could work. And if other people wanted to bring their dogs in, the dogs could socialize and that'd be good for them. We might have to designate a dog zone, I guess. Hmm. I might have to give up my office, we'd have to put up a better fence around the roof…. I'll put Lisa on it. It'll keep her busy. She can figure out, like, what the people need and what the dogs might need and where they should be allowed to go. No dogs in the meeting rooms, maybe."

"Yeah, and keep them away from people with allergies, or phobias."

"And don't let Lisa feed it treats," Lance added. "Adam, you are brilliant. Thank you." There was a very pleasing interlude. Kissing Lance was always amazing. "And, uh, you'll have to come with me to choose it, because, I mean. Um. I've been thinking about asking if you'd, if you'd like, I actually think it's too soon to ask but just to put it out there, would you be interested in moving in with me?"

Adam, delighted and horrified, stared at him.

"It's okay," Lance said, gently. "Like I said, I know you aren't looking for that right now. I'm not even sure that I am, not yet. But, you know, I want that to be, I want that to be where we're going." He paused, but Adam hadn't found the words, and just looked at him helplessly. Lance smiled. "And anyhow, even if you don't live here, you will be spending quite a lot of time here, and you need to be friends with the dog that's living here and he needs to be delighted to see you. It's actually amazing, having a dog, because it thinks you're the most wonderful person in the whole world. Totally unconditional love. And don't tell me that's what we have, because if I did something douchey you would call me out in a second, and I'd want you to. But a dog loves you no matter what, and that's, it's, I don't know how to put it, exactly, but it's good for the soul."

"That's, I—" Adam had no idea where he was going with that, because he'd never really thought about having a dog's unconditional devotion, and it did sound kinda wonderful when Lance said it. "Yeah, it sounds like I need to be friends with your dog. Um. What kind do you want?"

Lance grinned. "Any kind. Hm. A big one, not an anklebiter. Doesn't matter, really, so long as it's a rescue. Rescue dogs are the best. They know how much it matters to have a home, and they have so much love to give. We should figure out a time we can visit the shelter together. And I'll get someone in here to check the place out. Not that there'll be a problem, there's plenty of room." Out came the phone, for a note on the calendar. "And, Adam? Thanks."

"Thank you," Adam said. "For making the I'm not ready to move in yet conversation so easy."

"I knew it wasn't time," Lance said, wryly. "It's cool."

It was definitely something to think about, but right now, he had plans to blindfold Lance and surprise him with things. Ice cubes, and silk, and a hairbrush… he hadn't planned for this so the stuff he had in his own bedroom wasn't available, he'd have to improvise. It was going to be fun..

Adam did think about what Lance had said, quite a lot, when he got back to his own apartment. He loved this apartment. It was so him, and paid for with his own money from his wonderful, fabulous job as a television actor. It didn't compare to Lance's place for spaciousness or splendor, but it was all his. He wasn't ready to move out, to move their relationship on to that level, not… not yet.

But he would be.

* * *

Lance sighed. He should have known. It was a law of Nature, or something, whenever things are going perfectly, something has to go wrong. Well. He reconsidered. Maybe not wrong. It might work out fine. It might work out okay. But Leona had been awesome for them, and although she—obviously—deserved the promotion, he really wished it hadn't come for another six months. Not until his precious show was secure.

As secure as it ever got, with TV.

So he'd invited the new guy to come over and meet everybody. And here he was, friendly and jovial and smiling and somehow managing to set Lance's teeth on edge. He didn't know what—it was just—the guy was so fucking earnest and so deeply sincere it all felt like an act, and Lance knew he was probably being unfair because some people really were that earnest, but… eh. Wendy, pleading pressure of work, ducked out early, the rat, leaving Lance to deal with charming the studio exec all alone. He fixed a smile on his own face and introduced Danny Gokey to his actors.

And maybe it was just Lance being hypersensitive because Adam was Adam and they had their secret to keep and he was more sensitive to everything relating to Adam, but he was sure there was something in the way Gokey shook Adam's hand that was less, was a bit, was… just off, somehow.

He'd been planning to have Danny Gokey sit in on a scene between Adam, Gina and that week's secondary guest, but changed his mind, reviewed the day ahead, and smoothly invited him to come and meet the writing team. He was duly introduced and, as good luck would have it, the team were brainstorming ideas for season two—assuming there was a season two—and Joey was happy to have a studio guy in on that. It seemed like all kinds of chaos. Lance knew, because he knew how Joey liked to work, that the apparent chaos would bring up plenty of useful material and that the free-form nature of it all, and Joey's encouragement of even the craziest notions, was a great environment in which to make sure their show stayed fresh, exciting and surprising for its audience. He didn't think Danny Gokey would see that, and he'd have preferred to keep him out of there, but, needs must. Gokey couldn't actually do any harm, he was pretty sure. Not at this stage.

He hurried back to his office to call Nerice, who was directing this week's episode, and let her know of the change in arrangements.

There was a note on his desk to call Wilson Jones, who was listed to direct episode 15, so right after he spoke to Nerice's assistant he called Wilson and found that his day had gotten more complicated still. Wilson was full of apologies and genuinely good reasons, but what it boiled down to was, he wasn't going to be able to shoot the episode after all. So now there was a scramble to find someone. Lance flicked through his contacts and gave Lisa a list of names to check for availability while he was out taking the studio guy to lunch. "If anyone has any suggestions, we're open to new names," he added, and she hurried off to get started.

When Lance collected both his chief writer and their new studio guy, he got the distinct impression Joey wasn't quite so happy any longer. Well, tough. If Lance had to make nice with the guy, Joey could do it too. Charm offensive, Lance told himself. Charm offensive.

Danny Gokey, it seemed, loved Michela's character, Carla, the office manager, and thought they ought to make more of her tantalizing almost-romance with Mark-the-foxy-Fedex-guy. He was wrong, of course, that romance was tantalizing precisely because the audience only got to see moments of it. And Danny also thought it would be better for the scripts if the shows spent less time at Chance's bar and more time with the foster-parents.

"I mentioned it to Joey and the team," he said, earnest as ever, "because really, the foster parents are way more important than the bartender. They're the foundations of the family, after all. They should have more to do next season."

"It's partly a budget issue," Lance pointed out. People from the network were usually concerned with budgets, and this guy damned well ought to be. "Paul and Elena are expensive, and we only have them contracted for six shows a season. When we have them in, we give them quite a bit to do, but we can't afford them every week. But Chance is a regular, and the bar is a standing set."

"Besides, the audience loves Chance," Joey said. He obviously hadn't gotten the same vibe from Danny that Lance had. Or maybe he had decided to ignore it? "He gets great feedback, you know? And his scenes give us the chance to lighten up the atmosphere. Plus we have plans to play with the format a bit."

"But he isn't part of the family," Danny said. "The parents, they're the unsung heroes, we should make more of them. I mean, don't you think?"

"But we don't always have something for them to do," Joey said with a hint of exasperation. "There's no drama in a scene where Mama Manetti gives Mickey a hug and reminds him to get a haircut, and sometimes that's all there'd be."

"No, no, I'm sure the writing team can do better than that," Danny said with an ingratiating smile. He wasn't wrong, Lance thought, but there was something about him that made Lance want to say, oh, they aren't that good. He stifled the impulse.

"You can have Papa and Mama Manetti give out the good advice instead of the bartender," Danny went on. "After all, the show is called Family Business. Mickey and Ace would definitely consult their parents. You don't want to dilute that family feeling."

"We actually think of family in broader terms than that," Lance said, trying to keep his smile going. "Chance is part of the broader family. As is Michela." That might not be such a firm argument, he remembered, considering what would happen at the end of the season, but never mind.

"And Family Business really only refers to the brother and sister team," Joey said. "With, like, a reference to the idea of the Mafia, except that's exactly what they aren't. Just Italian."

"Okay," Danny said. Lance was pretty sure he wasn't convinced. Dear God, let the network guy stay out of the details. Leona had supported them, and understood what it was they were trying to do. This guy would break what was best about the show if he could. It was obvious that at the very least, Danny wasn't going to be willing to fight for them if they needed him to, not unless they took out the non-traditional aspects of 'family', and Lance was not going to do that. It occurred to him to wonder why Danny wasn't giving him the same don't-dirty-my-hands wariness as he was giving Adam. Could it be Gokey had forgotten Lance was gay? He didn't seem like the type to forget—could he, possibly, not know? There had been loads of publicity, way back when, but maybe Gokey just hadn't… eh, he didn't care.

After lunch and back at the studio, Lance carefully ignored Joey's covert grimaces and ushered Gokey to the set. "They're filming a scene with Michela and Seamus, that's Carla and Mark-the-foxy-Fedex-guy, I thought you might like to watch? I don't know how many TV sets you've visited, but we're very proud of ours."

Gokey seemed to enjoy watching the scene with Michela, and after it was wrapped, appeared to be trying to flirt with her. He was too inept and she far too cynical for that to go anywhere, but Seamus joined in the conversation, and Lance, relieved that he had managed to protect Adam from something that might have been awkward, stepped back to have a few words with the director.

"Sorry to spring this on you—last minute change of plan."

"No problem, Lance, really. I know how it is with the studio people. What happened to Leona?" Nerice asked.

"Promoted, unfortunately away from us. I mean, she deserved it, but." Nerice made a sympathetic face. "This guy seems a bit… I'm not sure he gets the show, you know? But he'll probably be fine."

Nerice's face blanked. "I hope so. But, um. I heard from Leighanne, Doug Campion's assistant, you remember her? I was working on Wonderland six weeks ago, and she told me about the new studio guy she met, she got a vibe she didn't care for."

"Leighanne's pretty easy going," Lance said. If she hadn't liked Gokey either…

"She is. So. Well. Be careful around him. It seems like someone in the hierarchy thinks the sun shines out his ass."

It had all been going so well.

Lance ushered Gokey out of the building and explained that he had to go find a director for episode 15, hoped Danny had enjoyed his day, looked forward to a good collaboration, all the requisite guff, and made tracks for his office.

To his great annoyance, Danny Gokey called two hours later. As if the afternoon hadn't been frustrating enough—Lisa had drawn a blank on all Lance's first choices, not that he was surprised they were already busy, but it was annoying, and Lance was not doing any better now he was calling up other options.

"Hey, Lance, you know, I wanted to thank you again for showing me around, and I think I may be able to help you with your problem, with the director who blew you off." Not quite the right phrasing for a guy who'd cancelled because his pregnant-with-twins wife had been scheduled for an early Caesarian, but Lance couldn't be bothered to argue. "I got a name for you. Frank Morton is free. I think he'd be a great fit for your show."

If he weren't a complete dick, and if we hadn't promised ourselves never to use him again, sure, Lance thought, but did not say. Summoning up the last of his depleted charm reserve, he thanked Danny for his help and said he would put Frank on the list.

It was as well for his blood pressure that his next call was from JC, who had heard the news that Wilson would not be directing the show he was to appear in, and was anxious to know what was happening. Lance explained briefly that they were having problems, told JC about Gokey's unwanted advice, added that he would put Frank's name on a very short list and then put the list in the shredder, but that he hadn't yet found anyone to take on the job and did JC have any ideas? As the words left his mouth, Lance realised he must be getting desperate, asking JC. JC didn't really do industry contacts, except for his music.

But JC astonished him. "Had you thought of Wade Robson? You remember, he was the tall, skinny kid who showed up towards the end of season four as 2nd AD? I hear he's done a lot of work as 1st AD, but he's looking to move up and direct, and that show he was supposed to be working on never got off the ground."

"Wade Robson, yeah. I remember him. You think he'd be worth a shot?"

"I think so. He worked his ass off on Synchronicity, and I think he's got something. Can't hurt to give him a try."

Unsurprisingly, JC did not have a contact number for Wade Robson, but Lisa was brilliant at tracking people down. Before twenty minutes had passed, Lance had not only spoken to Wade, he had signed him up to direct their penultimate episode. Lisa was tasked with getting the news to Wendy and Melinda, and sending Wade the script. It was a good one, and Lance really hoped giving it to a newcomer was going to be the right call, but Wade had impressed him on the phone. JC would be happy to have helped out, too. JC was to play a desperate musician whose work had been stolen, and he was going to end up playing piano in Chance's bar and then duetting with Adam at the end of the show. Lance was very much looking forward to that. Meanwhile, Mickey was going to come up hard against someone he couldn't charm, Ace was more and more involved with a couple of younger foster siblings who were getting into difficulties, and Carla was edging towards saying yes to Mark-the-foxy-Fedex-guy's advances. Definitely too good to give to Frank Fucking Morton.

Take that, Gokey, Lance thought, and decided it was time to head home. And, of course, the phone rang again.

A very familiar voice greeted him. "Justin?" he said, surprised.

"Hey, man." They exchanged ritual greetings and news of each other's mothers' health for a while, then Justin said: "Sorry, I don't have time for a long talk, I just got some script changes, but I just wanted to let you know, that stuff I said at your party, which was great, by the way, you have a great team there, but I definitely meant it. I should be on the show next season. And I'll do it for scale, 'cause I know Chris will be on my case if I don't. But, uh, you'll have to book me, wait a sec, lemme check the dates." There was a sound of paper rustling—did Justin have an actual calendar? on paper? Lance thought, incredulously—and Justin came back to him with dates and his agent's phone number. "Will that work?"

"Absolutely," Lance said, writing them down. He'd make damn sure they worked.

"So you can tell your girl Leona, if you need any extra weight on the scale. She was cool. And I know how it is with a TV network."

"It'll definitely help, J. Thanks. I mean it. Though it won't be Leona, we have this new guy now."

"And you don't like him much."

"Shit, is it that obvious? No, not much. He, I don't know. I just don't think he—anyway, I guess we're stuck with him."

"What's the problem?"

"Well," Lance thought about it. Justin had been less than enthusiastic about Lance's own coming-out process, although to be fair, he had gotten with the program. It was probably just J not wanting to admit he had not been in the know. "I think he might be homophobic. He's trying to get us to use Chance less, he doesn't get the show, he has no understanding of what we're trying to do, plus I don't think he listens to the reasons, the network reasons, you know, budget and stuff, for not doing that. It feels like there has to be an agenda."

"That sucks." Justin paused. "You know what? You should put me in the bar, then. Hey, maybe I could sing? Not one of JC's songs, though."

Lance grinned. Justin adored JC, but was extremely wary of his lyrics. "Thanks, J. I'll get on to Joey about it. We'll figure something out. And having you booked for next season will definitely be useful if the numbers start loosening."

"Yes, it will. Write me something good, man! Chris said he had a blast when he did your show. Isn't he coming back again soon?"

"Yeah, he's in on the final episode of the season. We'll be shooting around six weeks from now."

"Damn," Justin said, "I'll be on location in Europe. It was fun, seeing all you guys again. We should get together more often."

"We really should. Disadvantage of growing up, I guess, we're all so busy."

* * *

Hey, you busy?

"Hi, Brad. What's up?"

Nothing, just thought I'd say hi, assuming you're alone right now and not in the middle of a steamy episode with your secret lover.

No, that was last night, Adam thought, and his lips curled involuntarily into a smile. Lance, watching him. Putting on a show for those intent green eyes. He'd never be able to masturbate alone again without imagining Lance there, watching him, breathing fast, those suppressed noises. Adam couldn't believe he'd never thought of trying it with an audience before—it was so incredibly hot. Incredibly hot.

He wasn't going to mention it to Brad. "I'm home," he said, mildly.


"And on my computer. Just checking some stuff, nothing special."

Ah, Brad said, attempting to sound wise and, in Adam's opinion, failing badly. Porn.

"Not porn. I'm actually looking up," he paused, but what the heck, "how to be a good dog owner."

What? You're getting a dog?

"No, but someone from the show is planning to. I thought I'd look into it."

It's your secret lover, isn't it?

"My secret lover? Seriously?"

Bitch, we all know you have one. Apparently a dog person, which I guess is a good sign. Unless he wants one that'll fit in his man-purse.

Adam sighed. "I'm not going to tell you anything about him." Adam had known all the guys suspected he was seeing someone, even though he'd been very careful not to let them know who. Juicy gossip like that had a way of escaping, and he was not going to screw this up by being careless.

You're being irritatingly secretive about him, Brad complained.

"Only because you like knowing everyone's business." He'd have liked to be able to tell his guys about Lance, but it could wait. Until, well, until he and Lance went public and… moved in together? Adam had been thinking about that quite a lot. "And right now, I don't want people knowing my business."

Brad was quiet—again, unexpected, because Adam was already braced to withstand a barrage of questions. But it seemed like Brad was thinking things through.

It's the guy from work, he stated. And he's important.

Brad had always been pretty damn smart where Adam was concerned. He hadn't fallen for all that guff about Anthony and how Adam wasn't interested in him any more. "I—yeah."

So long as he deserves you.

"Deserves me? He—I'm the one who doesn't, he's incredible. He's the best—Brad, I'm sorry, I can't really talk about things right now. I did meet him at work, and it wouldn't be a great idea to, we don't want to go public until we're ready. If it were anyone else I'd have told you, I'd have wanted to show off and shout about him, but we agreed. For now. I'm not some dirty little secret, I promise."

There was a breathful pause as Brad processed this. I want to be the first to know, he said at last.

"Can't guarantee first, but I'll do my best."

Don't let him get a hideous slobbering Rottweiler or a bulldog because ew. Or one of those weird ones that's all skin folds.

"That would be bad." Adam grinned to himself. Brad couldn't help pushing, just a little bit, but he'd been surprisingly good with accepting the situation. He'd always had Adam's best interests at heart. Adam had missed him. The weekly viewing parties (when his shooting schedule didn't get in the way) were fun but not quite the same. "Hey, d'you wanna get dinner? My treat. But I have to be done by ten thirty, I'm doing the radio show again tonight."

* * *

"You know, we probably should get out of the habit of showering together," Lance said. "It's exhausting."

"Is that a complaint? Seriously, are you complaining about my blowjobs now?"

"We were supposed to be getting clean," Lance said, primly.

"And my asshole really, really needed to be cleaned," Adam said.

"It never hurts to be thorough. Or are you the one complaining now?"

Adam made a dismissive noise. "I was kinda thinking we might get downstairs for some food, but I don't think I actually have the strength to move right now."

Lance looked extremely smug. So cute. Adam summoned up the energy to kiss his nose, then subsided back onto the pillows.

"We had some catching up to do," Lance reminded him. "Haven't seen you since Sunday."

"We missed you at the studio."

"Busy day today. Last night's numbers came in, and there was a lot to do! Audience surveys, and such. The episode where Jem got injured went over really, really well last week and we wanted to see if they'd hold. And it looks like the momentum is building."

"Quite a lot of the callers mentioned it, Monday night," Adam said. It had been fun doing the radio show with Bonnie again. There had been a gratifying amount of enthusiasm for the show, and a couple of the callers had even called him Chance.

"I meant to say, I thought you did great."

"It was fun. Not quite as much fun as having you there as my agony aunt sidekick, but Bonnie's fabulous. She says you owe her a drink, by the way."

"We'll have to take her out for lunch sometime. She has the most amazing stories, most of which are not fit to broadcast."

"Now I'm really curious! I mean, considering what she does get to put on the air!"

"I am so glad I was not there for the BDSM question," Lance said, grinning. "I have no clue how to deal with that stuff, but I thought you did great. All the stuff about consent, and working things out carefully, and being trustworthy. Did you—is that something—you've never asked for—"

"Not exactly my scene, but I know a lot of people who—and I did have a boyfriend once who liked the D/s thing, so I had to learn. Goes beyond what I'm looking for, really, but you know, when you have someone you want to please, you try, even if it means doing things that don't really turn you on. Sometimes the other guy's turn-on is enough."

"I know what you mean, except for never having been anywhere near it," Lance said, somewhat ruefully. He was a little bit overawed by Adam's experience sometimes, Adam knew. Though there was no reason for Lance to feel inadequate, not at all.

"I actually used one of your answers from before," Adam admitted. "Did you hear the guy who wanted advice on how to propose?"

Lance laughed. "I did. I could practically see your expression, too, while you answered."

"Well!" Adam said, remembering his outrage and how much of an effort it had taken him not to mock the caller. "I mean, if you've been dating someone for three years and you don't know what kind of proposal she'd appreciate, then obviously asking a complete stranger who never even met her is the best way to get the answer. I mean, seriously! But I remembered what you said to that sweet little gay boy who wanted to be good in bed with his boyfriend, and went with that, really. Don't do a generic proposal because "girls like that", do one that your particular girl will like—you just have to pay attention."

"That was my advice? I thought that was you, being all wise!" Lance laughed. "Isn't it ridiculous—the poor straight guys have to figure out a grand theatrical presentation and jewelry!"

"Well, when you put it like that, it makes sense he'd call in to ask a fabulous gay man for advice." Adam was beginning to realize that his advice, while sound, had not been as sympathetic as it might have been. If he were to propose to Lance, now, he'd have no idea what to do. Would Lance want a big public declaration, or the traditional down-on-one-knee in a fancy restaurant, or would he prefer a casual, wanna get hitched? Not that he was going to propose to Lance, no way, Adam felt not the slightest need to get married to anybody, but knowing that he didn't know enough about Lance was, well, unsettling. Adam was going to have to pay more attention.

"Are you ready to eat now?" Lance was obviously not worrying about it.


As they sat in the kitchen munching on cold chicken and pasta salad, Lance said, "So, if you're not busy Friday morning, would you be interested in coming to the shelter with me?"

Adam looked at him in surprise. "The dog shelter? You're ready to get a dog?"

"Yeah, that's what we were doing Tuesday. Mostly Lisa, she worked out the insurance issues and surveyed everyone in the building and sorted out practicalities and what the rules would be, and the upshot is, dogs are welcome in A Happy Place and we set up a, like, a doggy day care on the roof for people to take them at lunchtime and so on, since there isn't a park anywhere handy for walks. We had someone in to put up tall perspex panels all around the roof. Means I have to move back down to my indoor office, but it's okay. It was kinda distracting up there, I kept looking at the view. So, I wanna go find my dog. And like I said before, you need to get along as well. I mean, I hope you're planning on spending a lot of time here."

"I am. And, yeah, I'm not scheduled for Friday. Which I guess you already knew. I would love to come find your dog with you."

* * *

"Hey, Boss!" Gina greeted Lance as he arrived on Thursday morning to watch the filming for a while. They were just starting work on episode twelve, with the end of the season coming up fast.

"Lance! Hi! " Adam said. He was polishing the mirror behind his bar, getting in character.

"Don't mind me," Lance told them benignly. "I just thought I'd drop by to see how things are going. All good?"

"Apart from the fact that I hate that mirror there," Gina said, smiling at Adam. "I keep seeing myself in every scene, it's so distracting."

"Whereas I," Adam said, in full Chance mode, "like to check my hair as I pour. Got to stay perfect." He smirked, and turned back towards his mirror to preen, then said, "Oh my god!" and spun around.

"Hi, guys," said Jem, who had just walked onto the set.

"Hey sweetie—oh my god!" Gina almost shrieked, and flung her arms around her 'kid brother'. "Oh my god! You're—no more crutches? Are you properly recovered? How do you feel?"

"I feel fine. It's good to be back on my feet. And I actually have prop crutches for the scene, over there." He waved, vaguely. "Plus I'm hoping to spend a little time on the bar stool. Don't think I'm up to doing my own stunts yet."

"Wash your mouth out with soap," Lance advised, taking his turn hugging Jem. "No stunts for you! Don't even think about it!"

Jem smiled wryly. "I'm not gonna argue. It'll take me a while to be sure of myself, anyway. My legs are like noodles, I need some serious gym work. But next season, right?"

"If we get a next season," Adam and Gina chorused in unison.

"Come on, we have to get a next season, don't we? I get so much fan mail, people out there love this show."

"Numbers are looking good," Lance conceded. "I can't push right now, because we used up a lot of slack getting the extra time and the hiatus after episode nine. Also our new network rep, eh, he might not fight for us. But the audience reactions to the two-parter where you broke your leg were great, so you can stop feeling guilty, if you still are! I'm hopeful. I just—there's no guarantees in this business. I'll tell you as soon as I can, I really will, but it ain't there yet."

At that point, the director finished his conversation with the DP and came towards them.

"How about a little party tonight?" Lance suggested. "Celebrate you being back on your feet? Or will you just want to go home and rest?"

Jem grinned. He was seriously pretty, Lance thought, he really was. "A party sounds great. Long as it doesn't go too late. I'm called tomorrow morning."

"I get to sleep in tomorrow," Adam said, cheerfully. "Not called again until Tuesday!"

"Since it's Thursday, the party won't go too late, I promise. I'll get Lisa to call everybody. See you all later!" Lance waved, and headed out to the amazing Danish bakery which was so temptingly almost on the direct route. He fished out his phone to talk to Lisa first. She could get started on letting people know, while he went up to talk to the writers.

The writing team were throwing ideas at the first whiteboard when Lance arrived with his box of pastries. The atmosphere in the writers' room seemed even more loose and relaxed than usual, but that didn't surprise him. Given the uncertainty about whether they were getting a Season Two, he couldn't really expect them to be totally sharp and focused. At least they were working on possibilities. He and Joey had discussed the probable arc for the next season and he was very happy with things so far. Everyone would snap back into shape when—if—when they got confirmed. Surely they would get confirmed.

Eventually, Joey called a halt to the freeform session and decided it was time for a Starbucks run. As they all wrote down their orders, Lance said a few words about what a great job they were doing, and handed over the pastries, advising them to wait until the coffee had been achieved before they devoured them. Casually, he held open the door for Adam's brother, who as the newest member of the team was still on coffee duty, and walked with him towards the front doors. And along the road to the coffee shop.

By the time he returned to his own office, Lance was well pleased with himself. His team was doing great work, and his righteous vengeance upon Joey and Lisa would be wonderful to behold. If, if, they got a season two. If they didn't, he'd be way too depressed for pranks.

"I got the phone tree going for the party," Lisa greeted him outside his office. "Sounds like most of the team will be there. How do you feel about holding it in Chance's bar? It seems like a great place for a party, and we can make sure it stops in good time for the cleanup."

"Inspired!" he said, and grinned at her affectionately.

"Do you want me to contact the usual caterers or—?"

"You know what, let's go with something different this time. Jem loves Mexican food, doesn't he—see if you can get someone to deliver a buffet." He gave her a budget and was about to go through the door when she called out to him.

"Justin Timberlake called!"

Justin called? Again? He was honored indeed, Lance thought, but he scrolled through his contacts right away. "Hey, J. You called?"

Hi, Lance. Listen, you know that asshole at the network, the guy you don't like? The new guy?

"All too well. What about him?"

If you wanna get rid of him, there's a guy at Trinity Broadcasting Network you should talk with. I hear they're looking for some fresh blood, and maybe your asshole would fit better there. You got a pen? Justin gave him a name and contact number, wished him luck, and hung up.

Lance stared at the notepad, then dialed. The call went well. Justin's name opened a lot of conversations.

Now, he'd have to keep his fingers crossed and hope that it would work.

* * *

Last night's party to celebrate Jem's recovery had ended at a decorous eleven o'clock, so Adam was not particularly surprised that Lance bounded out of bed bright and early on Friday morning, all eagerness for their trip to the shelter. Even though visitors were not admitted before ten.

They were on the doorstep at ten o'clock.

Lance had obviously called ahead to book his visit, and they were greeted by a friendly, freckled woman in jeans who introduced herself as Kate and said she hoped she'd be able to help Lance to find the right dog, and what kind of a dog did he have in mind?

"Not a collie!" Adam blurted.

"Er, uh?" said Lance, gaping at him in astonishment.

"Well, I did some research, and the site said collies need attention all the time, you have to take them out for runs and teach them tricks and keep them occupied or they, like, demolish your entire house, and you don't have time."

Kate nodded, smiling. "Your friend's right, if you don't have a lot of time, you definitely don't need a collie. They're very smart, but they do need to be kept busy, and that's not right for a lot of people. There's some other breeds, too, that would have the same kind of issue. Not that we have a lot of purebreds here, of course. But, what do you want your dog to be like, Lance? Any ideas?"

Lance looked thoughtful. "Friendly, for sure. Happy to see people, but happy to lie down next to us—to me—and chill. I mean, I wanna spend time playing with my dog, but Adam's right, I can't get a dog that needs attention all the time. I guess that probably means, not a puppy, because training might be a bit confusing for him. I'm going to take him in to the office with me, so he's going to have to be cool with, like, lying down on the mat, for some of the day. And a people per—uh, dog."

"Any preferences as to breed, or size? Boy or girl?"

"I assumed a boy. I mean, I've been thinking of it as him," Lance admitted. "And, not a tiny little dog. But not a Great Dane. Or, I mean, I guess i wouldn't mind a Great Dane, but probably not that big!"

"And not too hairy!" Adam suggested.

"It says in your notes you have a big yard," Kate said, "so it'll have room to play." Adam was impressed at the organization here. Lance had mentioned having his home inspected for suitability, but Adam hadn't thought about it carrying through to this stage. "Okay, we know our dogs here, so you've definitely come to the right place. I can introduce you to a few potentials. Come on, then."

They followed her to a row of cages. Dogs lined up eagerly at the bars, wagging their tails and making hopeful noises, and Kate began to tell Lance about each one he showed an interest in. Adam decided to leave this part of the business to Lance. He didn't want to interfere, and he wasn't sure how a person went about picking out a dog. He'd hang back and watch. He tried, from a respectful distance, to figure out which of the dogs might be the right one for Lance, but found he didn't have any idea how to judge.

"Yeah, let's try this fella," Lance said, and there was the sound of unlocking. Adam looked up to see Kate putting a leash onto a sturdy brown animal which had its paws enthusiastically on Lance's midriff, but Kate said "Down!" sternly, and it subsided to the floor, plumed tail batting back and forth as if it was motorized. Lance looked enchanted.

"Come on, Adam," Lance called, so Adam abandoned his position. "We're going to the square to take a walk together."

"Hi!" Adam said, and "Woah!" as he caught the front paws of Lance's excited new friend as it reared up to greet him.

"Down!" said Lance, and, "Sit!" and the dog sat. Lance looked pleased and rather surprised. Adam hid his grin.

"That seems like a good start," Adam remarked, "I mean, if he obeys you."

"Hershey's a great dog," Kate told them. "He's got a few commands, he's not, you know, highly trained or anything, we don't have the time, but he's such a friendly dog. He likes to play, but he also thinks he's a lap dog. He will absolutely try to sit on your couch."

They opened the gate into the green square, and Lance moved forwards with the dog—Hershey—at his heels.

"What kind of dog is he?" Adam asked, feeling he might as well do something useful.

"Ahaha," Kate said. "Well. We're pretty sure he's half Golden Retriever. See the tail, and the shape of the head? But the other half is all mutt. Could be anything. There's a service you can get, if you want to know what's in a dog's history, genetic testing. Of course, it doesn't really matter, because what really matters is the dog's personality, but if you want details of how to find out, I can get them for you when we go back to the office."

That might be a fun gift for Lance, if he was interested, Adam thought. "They seem to be having a good time," he said. Lance was offering the dog a toy to tug, and they were enjoying a strenuous battle. Kate went forward and took the leash off, and gave Lance a rubber ring to throw, which was retrieved enthusiastically, although Hershey didn't seem to want to actually give it back, and was making little feints, shaking his head, teasing, making Lance run after him.

Lance was obviously having the time of his life.

After a little while, Lance managed to summon the dog to him and reattach the leash. The two of them were sporting, bizarrely, identical grins. "I think this is the one," he announced. "But you should check him out, Adam."

"I think he's—eep!—checking me out," Adam said, but laughing, and he bent down to give the cheerful brown beast a thorough petting, encouraged by Lance and Kate to be quite firm. "You are a fun guy, aren't you, Hershey!" Hershey took the opportunity to apply his large tongue to Adam's cheek, which was surprisingly gratifying considering the amount of saliva involved. He was starting to get what Lance meant by it being good for the soul to have a dog's love.

It turned out the shelter insisted on getting each animal inspected by the veterinarian before it could be taken away, so they were going to have to come back tomorrow.

"It's fine. I need to go shopping," Lance said. "I didn't want to buy stuff before I knew what kind of dog would be using it."

"We have a small shop," Kate said, "toys, collars, food bowls, stuff like that, for fundraising. But you'll need to go to one of the big stores for things like a crate and a car restraint, maybe an outdoor doghouse, if you want one. And food, of course. You'll get his stats tomorrow after he's checked out, so you'll know his weight and how much food to give him. And I'll give you a leaflet about the kind of thing to buy."

"I, uh, I brought a T-shirt," Lance said, "so I could leave it here with him for tonight?"

Kate beamed. "That's great. Let's get him back to his cage, you can give it to him there, and we'll finish up in the office." So they did, then went to the office, filled out paperwork, picked out an abundance of toys ("It's not like I can't afford to give him a choice," Lance said) and a collar and leash, and Lance wrote a very generous check. Then they went shopping, took a pile of dog necessities back to Lance's place, and had very happy sex. Then they had lunch, and Lance put his show runner hat back on and went to the office. Adam got out his computer and spent the afternoon doing homework on the new songs. He was spending the day with JC tomorrow, as JC had been working on some new music for Adam's album and wanted to try things out. It was probably good that Lance would get a day just for himself and Hershey to get used to each other.

* * *

"What time will you be back? Lance asked, as he pulled on his jeans.

Adam, still in bed, because JC was not a morning person and showing up before eleven on a Saturday would be downright cruel, thought about it for a moment. "I guess, when I can't sing anymore," he said. "It'll give you lots of time to bond with your new dog."

Lance laughed. "I am so pumped about this." He came around the bed and kissed Adam firmly on the lips. "If you hadn't suggested making the office dog-friendly I never would have thought of it. Thank you."

He looked so happy. It was adorable. Adam hoped it would work out, having a dog in the house. He thought probably it would, and it'd be fun to see how everyone at A Happy Place reacted to Hershey. He hadn't exactly expected Lance to go for a mutt instead of a purebred, but he could definitely see the appeal in a cheerful, hyper-friendly animal with a plumed tail. He even felt a twinge of envy, but it wasn't practical for him to get a dog, not in his apartment. He didn't even want one, he'd never have even thought of it if Lance hadn't been so keen. Making friends with Hershey would be plenty.

"Are you going to change his name?"

"I thought about it, but I don't think so. It's a cute name, and it suits him." Hershey's kisses, Adam thought, and immediately made plans to present Lance with a huge bag of them next Valentine's Day. Hershey's chocolate was gross, but it was too perfect not to do it. A moment later he thought, Lance will have Hershey give a bag of them to everyone in A Happy Place. Of course.

That evening, there was excited barking as he braked to a halt on Lance's driveway. Adam hoped Hershey wasn't going to forbid him the house! But, no, he was greeted by an excited brown blur with a plumed tail in high speed motion. Adam allowed himself to be thoroughly sniffed, and applied the firm petting he'd been taught yesterday. Eventually, Hershey calmed down and allowed him inside to greet Lance, who was practically glowing with delight.

"Can you still speak?"

"Huh? Oh, yes, he let me out before my throat was completely demolished," Adam said, grinning.

"Good time?"

"Fabulous. He liked my ideas, we got a lot of work done, and I am so looking forward to recording in the season break." If we get another season, he thought automatically. "The album is going to be a blast."

"I assume you'll be including a few numbers from the show?"

"Absolutely, I mean, that's the way in, and I do want it to sell. But plenty of new material, stuff that's about me rather than Chance. And how was your day?"

Lance smiled. "Awesome."

Adam got to experience some new dog owner fun on Sunday, lazing about in the yard with intervals of playing fetch. Lance had already begun to teach Hershey to shake hands, and explained perfectly seriously that it would help him settle in at the office. The dog seemed content to lie in his crate while they had lunch, but when they came back downstairs after a very satisfactory session in bed, Hershey was lying blissfully on the couch. He lifted his head and wagged his tail slightly as they entered, but made no move to get down.

Lance looked at his dog, and made a resigned face. "I think I'm gonna get a couch blanket," he said. "I wonder if they make Hershey-themed ones?"

"You are never going to get an unthemed gift again, you know that, right?"

* * *

Hershey was a great distraction at the office on Monday, where he met and approved practically everyone who worked in A Happy Place. Lisa was first, of course, and fell for him completely. After Wendy, Melinda and Rob from Accounts—all three of them sporting green and purple buttons—had come by on somewhat specious grounds and shaken hands with Lance's new partner, Lance decided there was no point waiting for his entire staff to figure out excuses to talk to him, and took Hershey on a grand tour of the office. It went well. Lisa had provided some Dogs Yay! stickers for those who would like to meet dogs, and it seemed like a lot of his staff had put them on their desks or their office doors. His dog's newfound ability to shake hands got a good deal of positive reinforcement.

The fun (and slight apprehensiveness) of bringing Hershey to the office was, Lance admitted to himself, a useful distraction. It kept his mind more or less away from the problem of Danny Gokey, and whether the ploy with Justin's contact at TBN was going to come through. He could not call. If Gokey was going to be poached by TBN, Lance definitely did not need to establish a closer relationship with him. If Gokey was staying, then for the sake of his precious show … well, if he must, he must, but it could wait.

He was not intending to go over to the studio this week. Episode 12 was a Chance-lite episode, and Adam would be spending quite a bit of extra time at JC's place—not that Adam was the reason Lance spent time with his cast and crew. No, it was enough to introduce his dog to the office—Hershey was doing brilliantly, but his life was quite full enough of change without springing yet another new environment on him. Perhaps he should get another crate to keep at the office, in case of meetings… Lance made a note of the idea, feeling slightly guilty that he hadn't already considered it. What if his dog was overwhelmed by all the new people? Hershey seemed to enjoy meeting new people, but he ought to have a safe space to retreat to, just in case.

By Thursday, Hershey was no longer the only dog at the office. There was also a little wire-haired dachshund, and she and Hershey made friends at once. They made a comical pair chasing around the rooftop together at lunchtime.

* * *

There were a lot of jokes about Episode 13 starting filming on a Friday, even at the office—it was probably worse on set, Lance thought. Actors were a superstitious bunch. Adam was filming again today, but Lance hadn't intended to go over there until he got a call from the network. Hershey… would have to spend a little while in his crate, Lance decided, though Lisa would have been happy to have him sit by her while Lance was out.

"Hey, boss, didn't think you'd be over here this week!"

"Jem—how's it going? I hope they aren't working you too hard."

"It's great! It's a relief to be able to get about easily at long last. But we should definitely keep the accessibility stuff in mind, you know? Maybe next season," Jem paused, "maybe we could get more guests in with disabilities? We could have a new foster-brother or sister."

"It's not a bad idea," Lance said. He and Joey had already talked about possibilities, because Jem's difficulties with the wheelchair and crutches had provided them with a lot of interesting script ideas already. He was actually looking into possible actors with Down's Syndrome, but that was going to be complicated if it happened at all, and damn it, he needed to know if his show was to continue! And now Danny Gokey wanted to meet him here and have another little chat with the actors. Lance very much hoped the guy knew better than to interrupt the careful time-scheduling of scenes. A six-day shoot didn't allow for much slack, and chatting with nuisance network executives was not his idea of a good or productive time.

And here his network executive was, with his irritating earnestness and his big, friendly smile. Lance offered up the usual pleasantries, and encouraged Gina and Jem, who were waiting for a lighting change to finish setting up—Adam was still in Makeup—to come over and join them.

"So, is this just a friendly visit, or is there something you need to talk to me about?" Lance said, and his stomach lurched as he thought, what if he's come to give us the news about next season? Good or… bad?

"This actually is my last visit here," Danny said, smiling that smile that really shouldn't be irritating but somehow, just was. Lance got his stomach under control and made sure he had his suitably surprised face in place before asking what was up.

"I've been offered a job with Trinity Broadcasting Network, they're looking to expand on their music programming. Obviously, I would have liked to work with your show for longer, but I can't pass up this opportunity."

"No-one would want you to do that," Lance said with perfect sincerity, shook him by the hand and congratulated him. After that, he was happy to give his ex-network contact the chance to say goodbye to anyone Danny wanted to speak to. Michela was not called today, nor Seamus, which obviously was a disappointment, but Lance kept his expression well schooled and did not convey his glee. He escorted Danny out, and called Lisa. "Giggles! I want you to send Justin the biggest damn fruit basket known to man! My personal account, not the business one." Then he went back to his set, where two anxious actors were waiting for him.

"Did he say who's replacing him?" Gina asked.

"Uh. No."

"Only, if they aren't bringing in someone else as our liaison, does that mean—does it mean they aren't renewing us for next season?" Her face and Jem's were identically worried.

Seriously, Lance thought, he was out of the room for all of five minutes, and his actors had devised an entire scenario of badness. He couldn't very well explain that his quiet behind-the-scenes work had brought this about, as he certainly didn't want to risk anyone at the network finding out. "I'm sure they'll have someone—I mean, this is a bit sudden, isn't it, Danny leaving. Since he's moving to another network he probably had to clear his desk as soon as he put in his resignation. I expect it'll take a little while for the network to bring somebody else in. They probably just got blindsided."

"It's just… we love this show," Jem said.

"Me, too. Look, I'm sure it's not—it's likely they won't be ready to give us confirmation for at least a couple more weeks, these things are always held hostage by the numbers guys. You know how it is, they want to test everything and cover all the bases, and we still have half the season left to air, plus a couple reruns after next week. They'll almost certainly want to wait to see how the audience holds up when we come back with episode ten. Don't worry about it, seriously."

"Yeah, that's not happening," Gina said, but she looked a little bit reassured. "It's just, we're so close to finishing filming, it feels like we ought to know by now."

"I know how you feel. I will talk to Patrick," Lance promised.

He did talk to Patrick, who was able to spare him a few minutes that very afternoon. It didn't exactly help Lance to announce to his cast that things were settled for next season. Instead, it gave him something new to worry about.

He called Wendy as soon as he got back to his office, and after Hershey's rapturous welcome. "You wanna come in here for a few minutes?"

Wendy had to be welcomed too, but Hershey was happy to settle on the floor with his head on Lance's foot. Grinning, Wendy poured them both coffee.

"What I'm going to tell you cannot, absolutely cannot leave this room," Lance said. "I shouldn't even be telling you, because Patrick was downright scary about not letting it get out, but you and I need to be at least thinking ahead, plus if I don't tell somebody I might burst." It was going to be so, so hard not to tell Adam, not to let out even a hint. He had to tell someone, and Wendy was his oldest producing colleague. He trusted her.

"Did he say we're confirmed for next season?"

"Not exactly. Well. Yes. He—from what he said, it's pretty certain that we'll be picked up for another season. But it's not official yet, because apparently they're considering upgrading us to a twenty-two week season. Do not scream!"

Wendy clenched both fists and took a deep breath. "Okay. Not screaming. What are our chances?"

"Don't know. Patrick doesn't know. He said there are four—or maybe four other—shows being considered, because something's being cancelled, I don't even know what, I mean, I have some guesses but he wouldn't give me any names. There's a high-level discussion about what kind of demographic they want to go for with the longer season. He told me he shouldn't be telling me any of this." And, Lance remembered very clearly, he told me not to spend even thirty seconds trying to persuade him to go with my precious show. He knows what he needs to know, he doesn't need a snow job and he doesn't want one. No timewasting. "But we can't plan for it yet, because if the top guys at TNT find out we're planning for it, they'll know Patrick let it slip, and he'll be in deep shit, maybe even gone, which is the last thing we want."

"And anyway, we may not get it. I wonder what else is in contention?"

"Doesn't matter, really," Lance said. "I mean, it sounds like we can be sure of another season, so we just keep on with the advance planning like we were, keep the writing room working on the arc and possible plots, maybe work a little harder on trying to find an actor with Downs, and looking for the Flies for Chance's bar." Adam would be so pleased to have his own sidekicks! Wendy had called them Barflies at that first meeting, but it was Joey's abbreviation that had stuck. "All that. If we get the longer season, we'll definitely need them, but we have a strong case anyway, and you've done the figures. But we can't actually let anyone know for certain because what if… well. Like I say, we can't risk Patrick's job."

"Also, if the top network people thought we were, I don't know, taking things for granted, they might just—eh." She huffed. "There's always a power play going on in the stratosphere, isn't there."

"It's frustrating," Lance said. "I mean, in so many ways it would have been easier just to get renewed on the same terms. If it wasn't for this other thing, they might have told us already. Well." As he'd told his cast earlier, they'd want to see the audience numbers after their brief hiatus. "I bumped into Doug Campion while I was there, he told me Wonderland just got renewed."

"The show you'd have been working on if Family Business hadn't gotten picked up," Wendy said.

"Promise me you can keep this secret. I mean, better than I can. Promise me!"

Wendy smiled back. "Scout's honor."

"So," he said, "while we're talking secrets, I have this plan…"

* * *

"Come on, let's go play in the yard," Lance suggested with enthusiasm. "Come on, Hershey!"

The three of them went out into the sunshine, and Hershey pounced at once upon the red rubber ring he'd left lying on the grass. He brought it to Lance, there was a struggle, and eventually, Lance raised it high and sent it skimming across the yard. Hershey gave chase, picked up the ring and brought it back, but just as Lance had wrested it from the dog, his phone rang.

"Wade? Hi. What can I do for you?"

Adam took pity on him, and removed the somewhat… juicy ring from Lance's spare hand, and threw it for Hershey to retrieve.

"Just one second, let me get into my office, I'll pull the script up. Be right there," Lance said. "Sorry, work thing, gotta deal with this. Can you—?"

"I will keep Hershey occupied," Adam said, and waved Lance away. Hershey looked momentarily bereft, but soon brought his ring to Adam for tug-of-war and throwing and retrieving. After a couple of rounds of this, Adam decided to move around the yard, and that developed into hiding while Hershey chased after his toy, and teasing him with the ring before throwing it again.

"I wonder if I could teach you to jump over stuff," Adam said, and the chocolate dog grinned at him, so he found some bits and pieces and a long stick and set up a jump. Hershey looked at this new arrangement, and promptly brought the stick to Adam for more tug-of-war. Right. Adam replaced the stick and stepped over it encouragingly, but Hershey just barked and looked at him like he was an idiot. After a few more tries, Adam began to realize he had, as it were, bitten off more than he could chew.

But he still liked the idea of teaching Hershey something, if he could. There was still no sign of Lance, so he went into the kitchen for a handful of small treats, and when he came back, Hershey was lying down on the grass. "Now, there's a good place to start," Adam said. "Lie down, Hershey! Good boy!"

It took Adam a while to get Hershey to see things his way, but the dog was pretty smart—at least, it seemed like it to Adam, although what did he know? At any rate, when Lance eventually emerged from the house, and naturally had to be greeted as though he had been circumnavigating the earth, Adam was able to say "Lie down!" and have their dog do as he was told. With a little encouragement and a following wind. Adam was extremely pleased with himself, and so was the dog, who came to both of them to be told what a very good boy he was.

"It's about time for lunch," Lance said. "Sorry I took so long. Wade sends his apologies for disturbing my Saturday, but I think he's kinda nervous about directing for us. No, not nervous, exactly, he seems very self-assured, but he's determined to be the best director ever and he wanted to be sure he was getting the details right. He's our director for the JC episode, and JC was the one who suggested him, and I got the impression he really, really wants JC to be pleased with him. He worked with us on Synchronicity, not that I remember him particularly but 'C does, and it's possible there may have been a little bit of a man-crush going on, or maybe old-fashioned hero worship… He wanted me to talk through my vision for the show, and what storylines are going to carry through, and, well, that kind of thing. Plus I gave him some tips about handling the cast and crew, and I called Melinda to get her to talk to him about anything he was worried about in the way of props and sets and whatever. I didn't realize how much time went by."

"No problem. Me and Hershey have been bonding, haven't we—yes, you are a good dog, you are! Mind you," Adam said, straightening up, "I think I'm about done! We should spend the afternoon lying on the couch."

"I expect Hershey will be quite happy to do that," Lance said, and it proved to be so. After lunch, Hershey insinuated himself onto the couch and laid his head on Lance's thigh, presenting all the appearance of a dog that was not planning on moving any time soon, so they watched TV for a while and then extricated themselves from the dog who had mysteriously managed to get himself right across Lance's lap, with his head now pillowed on Adam's thigh.

"I draw the line at inviting him into bed with us," Adam said, firmly. "But I don't think you're getting him off that couch."

Lance made a helpless gesture, but Adam could tell he was still too starry-eyed in love with Hershey to care about fighting over the couch. Besides, they had better things to do right now.

* * *

"Do you have—is that dog hair on your T-shirt?"

Adam jumped, and recoiled defensively. "Maybe."

"Ahah!" said Brad, leaping onto the couch for a closer confrontation. "It's his dog, isn't it! He got one, and that's where you spent the weekend!"

Adam did his best to look dignified, but his friends were having none of that. There was a general clamor to be told more. "Look, yes, okay. There's this guy I've been seeing, he's awesome, and he just got a dog." It took him some time to explain about his secret lover, though Brad was surprisingly helpful in supplying bits of information. "And yes, I did spend the weekend at his place, and I guess I brought some dog hair home with me." Even though I didn't actually wear this T-shirt at Lance's house, Adam thought, baffled. Apparently dog hair had magical qualities.

"Don't change the subject," Alisan said, severely. "How long have you been seeing this guy?"

It was surprisingly difficult to count up how long he and Lance had been together, Adam found. Being in a show was quite confusing. It turned out they'd only been seeing one another for a couple of months, which explained some things but still seemed weird because it felt like they'd been together for years. That might be because life on a television show jumbled a person's idea of time, but Adam didn't think it was that. It was so comfortable, being with Lance, not that there weren't fireworks because there were, but they were also friends. He tried to explain. "I haven't actually had that with anyone before. With us—" he looked at Brad, "we were lovers and it was amazing, but we didn't get to be friends until we stopped being lovers. Sometimes, I never got to be friends with a guy at all. But with—with him, it's all working at the same time. It feels really good."

There was, inevitably, a general discussion of whether being friends with a lover was a good thing or just ridiculously boring and domestic, and Adam retired from the conversation with relief. It was short-lived anyway, because tonight was Tuesday and everybody was here to watch episode eight with him. He loved these watch parties, getting the instant response of an enthusiastic audience. They were always pleased with Chance's scenes, generally the only complaint was if he didn't have enough screen time in an episode, but they were his friends, they were obligated to love him. The real fun was in seeing how everyone reacted to everything else happening in the show, because it was clear that these characters had become real to Adam's friends. More real than they were to Adam himself. Adam found himself watching the work, watching Jem and Gina and the other actors, but his friends were excited to see the progress of Mickey's recovery, Ace's struggles to cover for her foster brother and get the work done, they were delighted by the little glimpses of Carla and Mark-the-foxy-Fedex-guy, and of course they were keen to hear what Chance was going to sing that week. After the show, they'd dissect the plot and speculate on the show's future, which was always fun because Adam was several weeks ahead and primly refused to give them any hints.

He realized as the episode began—this was the one with Square Jawed Hunk. Lance had kept away from the set while they filmed that one, he remembered. Could he, Adam wondered, introduce into the conversation the possibility that the actor was a douche? Without giving away too much about his own private life?

"Oh, it's that guy," someone said, probably Cass. "Performative gay." This obviously meant something, at least to Brad and LP.

"Wasn't he a model? I'm sure I've seen him in swim trunks," Alisan said.

"Oh, yeah," Brad said, "he was in Dante's Cove. Everyone was in swim trunks in that show. He did have great thighs."

"If he was in Dante's Cove," Adam said, "he'd have had to have great thighs, it's on the casting sheet. Didn't need to be able to act, though."

"Bitch," Brad said, charmed, and Danielle said "Meow!" then hushed everybody because the ad break was coming to an end.

Adam's attention wandered somewhat as they watched the show. He hadn't had so much to do that week, though he had sung Strut for it and had no doubt his friends would appreciate that song. He had done an internet search on Lance's sometime boyfriend after Lance had mentioned the relationship, and wasn't impressed, though he could understand why the relationship had given Lance the support to come out at that time. You wasted the best thing you ever had, he silently told the figure on the screen. That other ex of Lance's, way back at the beginning of the season, had been much cuter. And now, Adam thought, Lance is mine, all mine!

Conversation in the next ad break was all about Mickey, tooling around in his wheelchair and being frustrated at so many turns. Square Jawed Hunk, it turned out, was kind of a douche in the script, too, patronizing Ace and refusing to listen to what she'd found out until Mickey delivered it from behind a desk. It was all a bit clunky, though, and the general consensus was that it wasn't quite up to standard. "I wonder how much of that was the direction," Adam said, not really knowing where he was going with this. He remembered Frank… what was his name? Frank Morton as being one of those technical directors, always looking for exciting new camera angles but not very helpful to the actors. "I like the directors who have a good handle on the characters."

"Isn't that the actors' job?" Alisan asked.

"Well, sure, but. Huh. Sometimes it's just really useful if the director can give you, um." He wasn't sure how to express it, but he loved it when a director had a fresh angle on his own character, even if it was something he disagreed with. The good directors were willing to listen, when an actor disagreed. The great ones managed to be right, he suspected.

"Have you had a favorite director?"

"I'm not sure. Agnes, maybe, Agnes was amazing. There was so much energy—that was when Jem broke his leg and we had to do some improv and the script got rewritten, but everybody went into a higher gear for that." But as he thought about it, his favorite directors had been the ones who weren't straight white guys—except for Jonathan, of course, who had been so brilliant with him back at the beginning. But as for the others, Frank Morton wasn't anywhere near as good as Nerice, or Joel, or Dipak. It was interesting… he'd have to talk to Lance about it. Lance, who had probably hired these people for exactly the reasons Adam was finding they worked. Lance was pretty damn smart.

The verdict on Strut was everything Adam had hoped for. The room filled with cheers as the final chord crashed out, and onscreen, Mickey in his chair flung his arms up in triumph.

Adam refilled everybody's drinks, and settled in for the post-show discussion.

"You need a bigger couch," Brad complained.

"You have got to be kidding me. You and Alisan have the world's tiniest asses."

"Hey!" Danielle called from between them. "You calling me a fat ass?"

"We are squeezed in here," Brad said, with dignity. "And Tommy's on the floor." Tommy made an uncomplimentary comment about being bruised by other people's bony butts. "This couch is too small. You have plenty of room here, get a bigger couch!"

"Yeah, you're a rich TV star now!" Tommy chimed in.

"If we get picked up for another season," Adam said, "I will—I will consider getting a bigger couch." Lance's TV room had two couches, he thought, and they were both huge and sublimely comfortable.

"What do you mean? Are you saying there might not be any more of this show?"

"We don't know yet."

"When do you find out?" Everybody wanted to know this one.

Adam shrugged helplessly. "I'm sorry, I don't know. I guess… when the network decides the numbers are working. I don't know when they decide. You should all write in and tell them how much you love the show."

"But isn't it doing well? I thought you said it was doing well."

"The numbers were good for the show where Mickey got injured," Adam reiterated, patiently, "and as far as I know, they're holding up. Maybe they'll be down a bit after tonight, though. I think we're all agreed that one wasn't as good."

"Networks suck," LP contributed from his chair in the corner.

"Ignore him, he's still bitter about Firefly," said Brad, and a thrill of horror ran through Adam, because if LP had had enough beer he was likely to go on a prolonged rant about his beloved show being cancelled, and nobody needed that. Fortunately, Cam brought the conversation back to Family Business, and speculated about what Ace had learned from her interactions with Square Jawed Hunk.

Adam had to throw them out in good time. He was called early on Wednesday. Besides, it was good policy to get plenty of sleep when he was here at the apartment, since nights at Lance's place tended to be a lot more energetic. He had a brief vision of his friends piling onto one of Lance's couches, himself, Lance and Hershey on the other, for the weekly viewing party. How would they get along? Some of his friends might be a bit intimidated by the size of Lance's house, at least to begin with, but Lance seemed to be able to get along with just about anybody. They'd be comfortable soon enough.

Something to think about.

* * *

He had to cancel the following week's viewing party.

Adam had been looking forward to that Tuesday's shoot, as he was scheduled to be on location, a real rarity for Chance, whose scenes were almost always in his bar. This episode included a Pride parade, or at least the set-up for one: Mickey and Ace were trying to get hold of somebody particular in that colorful crowd, and ran into Chance who was dispensing drinks, feathers and flirtation. It should have been so much fun, but it turned into a complete nightmare, overran by hours, and he had to call Brad during a re-set and beg him to tell everybody not to show up that evening.

After a thoroughly frustrating day's work, he found himself driving to Lance's place instead of his own apartment. He was greeted by a rapturous brown dog and a calmer, but still delighted, lover. Though Lance frowned and started muttering about overtime and budgets and there not being time to get the finances back under control by the end of the season and he shouldn't have let them talk him out of using the backlot, which blighted things for a few minutes. Hershey did a fine job of comforting them both, though. It really was good for the soul, this unconditional doggy love.

Mercifully Adam was not called until the afternoon on Wednesday, and he was still in bed when Lance went to work, growling about production costs. He'd taken Hershey with him, of course, so Adam settled down to a leisurely breakfast on his own. Then he texted his people to apologize for missing them on Tuesday night. Brad called right back to find out what filming on location was like. "Not glamorous," Adam assured him. "It was just a park." Brad was a bit daunted, but could not be repressed for long, and after a few snarky comments on Adam's secret lover, because he could not leave the topic alone, he went off to an audition of his own.

Danielle was most disappointed on Adam's behalf that he had a chance to be on location and it turned out to be in a park. He agreed. "Next time, I'm holding out for Tahiti," he said. "But you'll like the storyline."

Is this the one with JC in it?

"No, that's next week.

I am so looking forward to that one! JC! Adam had forgotten she was a Synchronicity fan. Mind, I still haven't forgiven you for taking Brad to that party instead of me. I wanna meet JC! And Joey! She wasn't serious, exactly, but she wasn't entirely joking either, he could tell. The teenage fangirl was still in there. It might be possible to get her on set to watch the song being filmed, he thought. She'd be ecstatic, and it would be hilarious. He'd best check, before offering it and having to take it back.

I wouldn't have been able to make it anyway, Cam told him. I was arguing with my landlord, he's such a bastard. He found out Alex had been staying over with me and started making a hell of a fuss about rent, and it all got a bit heated. We want to find somewhere a bit bigger, but you know what apartment-hunting is like.

Adam had many evil landlords and crappy apartments in his past, and sympathized.

Eh, we'll find somewhere. He can't throw me out, there's nothing on the lease about not being allowed visitors, fuck it. Never mind about that now. Tell me about JC's song—you're doing Build My World, aren't you? I love that song. I was so pleased when I got the music, but Kevin told me I'm not going to be in the show, he just sent me the music in case there's a last-minute change. The director isn't expecting to use me. Do you know if JC's going to play guitar, or something?

"We're doing it with piano, but I'm pretty sure JC's going to be playing."

Ah, she said, philosophically. I thought it might go like that. I'll ask if I can be on set, in the bar with a glass of something with fruit in it, and an umbrella. That'd make sense, right? The viewers know I play piano in Chance's bar. I hoped maybe JC would want to be out front with a mike, but, eh. She sounded disappointed but resigned. How's it going, in rehearsal? You enjoying it?

"Sure," Adam said. "Not that I have much to do. JC's singing the melody. It's part of his story, so."

Don't worry, you'll be back in the spotlight for episode sixteen, Cam said, and he could hear laughter brimming in her voice. Didn't you and JC sing together a while back, with your band?

"We did! It was amazing! We can't do All Day Long I Dream About Sex on the show, which is a pity, because I bet the audience would love it!"

Maybe do it at the wrap party? Oh, no, I guess the band won't be there. We get Thessaly's band back next week, so I'm out of it, definitely. But I will be there for the party. Do you think we'll know if we're coming back for next season by then?

Adam wasn't touching that last question. He was sick of it. Lance must be practically out of his mind. "Thessaly's band might know the song," Adam said, eagerly. He should get in touch with them about it—maybe they could learn it for the party? It would be such a blast to sing it again, and he was sure his cast-mates would adore it.

I was wondering if you might be able to use me on the album? How's that going? Is it fun working with JC on your own stuff?

"It is amazing," Adam said. "And we do have some ballads, and I will talk to him about using you. We didn't finalize the arrangements yet, but there's a couple which I think are going to need serious keyboards." And he told her about the fabulous songs he and JC were creating together, and commiserated with her about the douchey landlord, until his alarm went off and he had to get himself over to the studio for the afternoon's shoot. "I will see you on Friday for the recording," he told her.

* * *

"Danielle is going to owe me for the rest of her life," Adam said, proudly.

Lance was chopping a mountain of vegetables for stir fry. "Did you call her with the good news yet?"

"Not yet. I thought I'd tell her Monday, since it's a holiday." Adam carefully eased the cork from a bottle of Pinot. "She'll want to meet you, but you'll have to be producer-nice to her, not boyfriend-nice. She was a fan, back in the day, so she probably won't even be able to speak when she comes in, which will be hilarious. And if Joey shows up, well."

"I am so looking forward to seeing you and JC sing together next Friday. Even though you're just singing backup." Lance's expression was bland, but Adam knew better, and carefully did not rise to that particular bait.

"I'm definitely gonna have JC sing on my album," he said as he poured the wine. "No, Hershey, dogs don't like wine. Go ask Lance for a snack."

"Traitor," Lance said, grinning. "You won't like these either, Hershey. See? Yellow bell peppers are not what dogs li—oh, I cannot believe you. You did not eat that." Hershey was apparently eager for more. "I think we're gonna need a No Dogs In The Kitchen rule."

"Good luck with that. Have you actually found anything he doesn't like to eat?"

"Uh. No."

"Well, it'll save on cleanup bills," Adam said, cheerfully, and passed him a glass.

"The cast is gonna enjoy it," Lance said, reverting to the earlier topic. "You want a red piece? You do? Ridiculous dog."

"I know we have Mickey and Ace in the bar for the scene, and everyone shows up for my songs if they can," Adam said. "It's great to have that kind of support. But I think we all enjoy being at work every day. Every day we're not working in a parking lot, anyway."

"I'm really happy with the way the cast is working out. It's what I hoped we'd achieve. I think it transfers across into the on-screen story, if everyone likes one another off-set. At least, I don't know if you can always tell, because there are so many stories about shows where all the actors hate each other, even the ones who have on-screen romances, and the shows seem to work just fine, but. Well. It makes working together so much more fun."

"It must suck, having to kiss someone you don't even get along with," Adam said, "but maybe sometimes the antagonism translates as smoldering passion? I mean, audiences always seem to think that characters who don't like each other have to be secretly in love—remember those letters Gina got saying her character should get with Square Jawed Hunk."

"Whatever story you tell, someone will miss the point," Lance said, wryly. Gina had been highly indignant over those letters. Lance could still hear her voice rising into outrage: "But he's a misogynistic douche!" and Jem's mocking laughter.

Lance doled out mighty portions of stir fry, and Hershey's big brown eyes began to plead for shrimp.

* * *

Adam, like the rest of cast and crew, had the holiday off, but Lance said producers didn't have unions and he was going in to the office, so Adam had invited the usual gang to come over to his apartment for a meal. He put in a huge order for Chinese takeout—spending time with Lance had gotten him eating healthy most of the time, but Adam was not a cook. He barely knew one end of a saucepan from the other. It'd probably be really good for him, living with Lance. Healthy meals every day. Provided Hershey didn't get to them first, of course.

His friends were loudly appreciative, noisy and enthusiastic as usual, but Adam felt oddly detached. Maybe he was missing being at work with his new television family. No, that didn't seem right. Half the time he didn't work Mondays anyway. And he loved these people, his friends, who'd been with him for so long and always on his side. There was just, it felt a little, there was like a tiny itch somewhere at the edge of his mind, because Lance wasn't there. He wanted very much to have Lance meet them all, meet them properly. He'd met Brad, and Cam—where was Cam today, anyway?

"Apartment hunting," LP said, succinctly. There was a round of sympathetic murmuring.

His friends were good people. Lance would like them all, Adam was sure, although—he imagined Lance, all wholesome in his jeans and sage green T-shirt, sitting amidst the black leather, makeup, ink and riotous color that characterized his friend group. Lance would look out of place for, oh, for twenty minutes or so, but after that he'd be firmly embedded, talking about… talking about music with LP or dogs with Cass, just being his own honest, smart and slightly sarcastic self, and they'd all see that he was what had been missing in Adam's life. He could talk to Alisan about opportunities in production and to Danielle about being a teenage television star, and— "That reminds me," Adam announced. "Danielle, if you aren't busy Friday, or, actually if you are busy, you need to get yourself not-busy, because I have a day pass for you to visit the studio. We're filming JC's duet with Chance."

There was a shriek of rapture, and he staggered back under the weight of a hyper-excited friend to the chest. "Oh my god! You are the best! Oh my god ohmygod! Will Joey be there?"

"Probably," Adam said. With JC actually in the building, he was confident Joey would show up at some point. "I'll make sure you get to meet him."

Danielle didn't really calm down for the rest of the day, she was practically vibrating with excitement and nerves. She and Alisan settled into a corner to discuss the proper clothes to wear for this momentous occasion, and Adam let everyone else know that he was assuming the regular watch party tomorrow would be off, because it was a re-run. There was general agreement that it was not necessary to get together to watch a re-run, even if it was the awesome episode where Mickey got injured.

"Also, I'll probably be working late. Yeah, we have a new director, I mean, he hasn't directed before, so we might overrun, and I don't want to have to cancel at the last minute."

Adam was wrong about the new director. Wade Robson turned out to be an extremely cute, blond, string bean of a guy, very focused, very prepared, and betraying not a hint that this was his first directing job. Lance showed up after lunch, and Adam conveyed his approval of the new guy.

"I'm glad he's working out. JC'll be pleased, too," Lance said.

"That's right, he was JC's idea, wasn't he," Adam remembered. "Well, everyone felt totally secure this morning. Honestly, I think we all forgot it's his first time."

"Speaking of JC, I think I'll go check on how he's doing. He was looking forward to being on set today. He said when he's here, the atmosphere reminds him of how it was back on Synchronicity, everybody pulling together. He can tell me how great my people are, stroke my ego a bit."

Adam laughed. Then the lighting was done and it was back to work.

* * *

The set was definitely buzzing when Lance got to the studio on Friday afternoon. There was a crowd of extras filling Chance's bar, and several people had shown up to watch the afternoon's work. He spotted Michela at once and went to say hi.

"Yeah, I like to be here when Adam does his song," she said, "and with JC as well, I mean, who's going to miss that?"

"Not many, apparently." There were definitely more people here than usual. Some of his producers, some of the writers, all keeping out of the way, and his brand new director was perfectly calm, in the middle of the bar set and giving out instructions to the extras and having a discussion with JC and Adam. They were doing the music live, which didn't happen every week because it was so much easier to pre-record it. A live shoot was risky. "If they can capture this atmosphere on film, it'll be brilliant," he said. "Of course, with my producer hat on, I'm just hoping it's not going to take hours to film." JC had really, really wanted to sing it live, and Adam had been all in favor, and Wade Robson had been excited about it, possibly because he didn't quite realize what he might be letting himself in for. Though he had been an AD for a few years, he ought to have a good idea. Could be Wade wanted to impress the production team—certainly getting this done right would be a big plus against his name.

"One take!" Michela said, and grinned.

"As a fan of JC's singing, and Adam's singing, I kinda hope they have to do it more than once," Lance admitted, and grinned.

"Let me introduce you to Adam's friend, Danielle," Michela said, and took him over to a pretty brunette who was gazing at—well, probably at JC, Lance thought, and he shook hands with her and asked if she was having a good day. She was making a visible effort not to fangirl at him, so he chatted about the fun of producing the show and how great Adam was and how wonderful it was to have JC creating so much music for them, until she was comfortable enough to tell him a bit about herself.

After a few minutes the director called for quiet and they did a walk-through. Yes, Wade had things well under control.

"Looking good." Joey's voice, in Lance's ear.

"I thought you wouldn't want to miss this."

"JC and Adam singing together, that's a ratings winner if ever there was."

"Damn right," Lance said, and beckoned Danielle over to be introduced to Joey Fatone, who, naturally, flirted with her. She'd probably stop smiling by, oh, Wednesday next week, he thought. Maybe Thursday.

There was another call for quiet, and the first take went ahead.

It was magic. In the rushes, and the editing, and the eventual show, somehow it managed to capture the audience's hushed delight as well as JC's perfect sincerity and Adam's concentration as he added in the embellishments to the song. Nobody was going to doubt that the applause was genuine.

They did re-set, of course they did, and worked through the scene a couple more times, but they had it. And there was coverage to be shot, particularly of Ace and Mickey, and there were a couple of tiny scenes to be filmed, then the extras were dismissed and the end of the shooting day arrived on schedule. As a producer, Lance was delighted. At this rate, they'd claw back some of the budget overrun from episode 14's disastrous park shoot.

* * *

It felt weird, Adam thought, not having a watch party on a Tuesday evening, but this was the rerun of episode six and they'd agreed not to bother with reruns. The evening would probably have been full of Danielle's reactions, anyway, and although Adam was delighted to have made her so happy, he was too used to Lance and Joey and JC being colleagues and friends (and more) to see them as distant objects of fannish adoration any longer, so it was a little weird hearing her talk about them in those terms. She'd managed to stay in adult mode last Friday evening as the three ex-Synchronicity guys had drawn a large coterie along to the nearest bar, but he'd bet cash she had been squealing with delight to anyone who'd listen to her ever since. He grinned. It was nice to make someone's dreams come true.

His life was amazing, nowadays.

But tonight, he felt… twitchy. Lance actually had a couple of meetings this evening, and Adam hoped very much indeed that these were the meetings that would confirm the show was being renewed, but they meant he was stuck here in his own apartment instead of lying on Lance's couch and snuggling with Lance. And Hershey. Who was definitely nosing out a space for himself in Adam's heart that Adam hadn't known was there. He'd never have discovered it if he hadn't been with Lance. Who had a big house with a yard, space for a dog to run and play.

It wasn't like this place was small. Hell, Adam had shared apartments less than half the size of this one and been well content. There was nothing wrong with this place. Okay, he couldn't have a dog here, but that hadn't been a factor when he was apartment hunting. He'd loved it the moment he saw it.

Lance's place was bigger. And it had Lance in it.

"I'm not ready to move in with Lance," Adam told himself, and settled down to study his script for the season finale, which would start shooting on Thursday.

* * *

Lance escorted Joey down to the set for the beginning of Thursday's shooting, and they had a private talk with Jonathan Frakes, back as director to bookend the first season. Jonathan—who had been conned into wearing a LAMBASS button, Lance noted with disapproval—was a bit surprised, but Lance assured him that none of the cast had that scene in their scripts, they didn't want to risk it leaking out in advance.

"We want to surprise the audience," Joey explained, "and sometimes this stuff gets out."

So they took Michela to the set for Carla's office, which was already being lit and prepped for the scene with this week's B-story client. Jonathan explained what she needed to do for some extra coverage that was needed, and they shot the scene a couple of times: Carla holding a small piece of paper, looking at it expressionlessly, then putting it through the shredder. A few moments later their secondary guest star arrived and Lance turned to greet her and welcome her to the show.

"When do they shoot the scene with Paul?" Joey asked, after Lance had handed his guest star over to Jonathan.

"Wednesday, I think."

"Do you think Michela will put it together?"

"Yes," Lance said. "She's not stupid. She gets a scene with Papa Manetti where he asks her to find his long-lost illegitimate daughter and hands over the details on a piece of paper, she's going to remember doing this little extra scene where she shreds a piece of significant paper. I'll, hmm. I'll have a word with her. It's okay that she'll know. We just want to keep it as quiet as possible."

"If we don't get another season," Joey said, "the viewers will never know what it's all about. Has Patrick said anything? I can't believe they're keeping us waiting so long. We're shooting the finale!"

"I guess the numbers have taken longer than expected to come in," Lance said, keeping a thread of worry in his voice. "They weren't intending to put reruns in the middle of the season, plus we had to adjust the budget to cover the disruption when Jem was injured."

"They ought to have figured it out by now," Joey grumbled. "Fuck it, I want to keep working on this show! We have so many great storylines."

"Patience, grasshopper," Lance intoned, and Joey scowled.

* * *

"You were working with Paul today, weren't you?" Lance asked, as Adam fought his way free of their chocolate dog's greeting on Friday evening. "How'd it go?"

"It was excellent! Paul's such an incredible actor, and he's so generous, not just on camera but he'll help anybody who's struggling with a scene, and he has so much experience. Paul's great. He, uh. He told me I'd really grown all through the season. I mean, he said that a while back, too, but he was talking about the Pride scene, and the stuff with JC, he'd spoken to other people about them because, you know, he wasn't there for the JC episode and he was still interested in what I'd done."

"Breathe, Adam."

Adam grinned at him. "Sorry, getting carried away there. But, you know. I have a lot of respect for Paul. I mean, I know I've improved, but it means so much to hear it from somebody who really knows."

Lance hugged him. "He's absolutely right. You've grown a lot as an actor this season. I didn't tell you before because I thought it would mean more if you heard it from somebody else, from Jonathan, maybe, or, you know, any of the other actors you work with. Not the guy who's in love with you. I'm kinda biased."

"I accept praise from all directions," Adam told him. "Even sneaky guys who say things like that." He pressed Lance against the wall. "And I don't know why you think it would mean less coming from you. You're the most important person in the world. I love you. So. Flattery will get you everywhere."

Lance couldn't control his smile. "You have anywhere in particular in mind?"

"I was thinking," Adam said, "of throwing you down onto that awesome rug and having my wicked way with you, but I have a feeling Hershey would try to join in."

"I think you're right. I knew there would have to be a down side to owning a dog. There are some places you really don't want a cold nose."

"Let's go upstairs."

They ate dinner peacefully, having put Hershey out in the yard. Adam was still very much on a high from all the recognition, and it was good to see.

"I'm so glad Neil got to work on the show too," he said. "It just feels good to have been able to get him a foot in the door, you know?"

"Joey is very pleased with him."

"I was sure he'd be good at writing," Adam said. "He's very smart. Actually, he has been surprisingly human, lately," Adam said. "Maybe it's his girlfriend's influence. Maybe he's just growing up. Which would be kinda weird."

"Maybe he's enjoying his job," Lance suggested, "and doesn't have much opportunity to give you a hard time. They don't get much slack, in the writers' room."

Adam considered. "Could be."

"I've, uh, enlisted him in my vengeance."

"Vengeance? What vengeance?"

"Hah!" Lance said, eagerly. "I have a grand plan. It's going to take some doing, but I think I can pull it off. I'm setting up a fake meeting over at TNT. Doug's going to bring in some of his actors from Wonderland to make like studio executives, and I was thinking of asking Leona to join in—I don't think I'll ask Patrick, but she'll probably do it. The plan is to get Joey and Lisa over there all set up for a meeting, and someone in the meeting will tell them we're cancelled. And Neil is going to film the reaction. I talked to him a while back, after you said he was basically evil and would be a good ally."

"A meeting at TNT?"

"It won't actually be in their building, there's a hotel around the side and they have meeting rooms for hire and a side entrance. I'm pretty sure I can fudge that. I'll ask Doug if his PA can be in on it. Joey doesn't know her. If she meets us in Reception she can take us to the room. And we'll have to have a sign on the door, I'll get on that."

"And, uh, what are you going to do with the video?"

"Show it at the wrap party, of course! Not that I can do any of this unless we get confirmation we're getting another season, because if we get canceled it wouldn't be funny, but I'm reasonably confident. Vengeance will be mine!"

"Vengeance for what?" Adam asked.

Lance looked at him in surprise. "For the prank with my phone. And the LAMBASS buttons. And that thing you guys perpetrated when I came on the show for that bar scene. I know who put you up to that!"

"Well, but," Adam began, not quite sure what it was that felt wrong. "But, those were… I mean, it sounds like you're going to a lot of trouble, and expense, probably, if you're talking about booking meeting rooms and such, and doesn't it feel a bit like a sledgehammer, when Joey's were, well, really simple?"

"Sure, but he'll appreciate it. Afterwards, I mean. He'll appreciate all the trouble."

Adam wasn't convinced.

"Do you not think it's a good set-up?"

"Honestly, it seems a bit… mean," Adam said. "When Lisa and Joey did that thing on your phone, I know there was a bit of a set-up, they had to make the ring tone and Lisa sneaked your phone so she could put it on there—and, you know, I have no clue how she managed that because I'd have said you'd need to surgically remove that thing from your pants—but there was just the two of them and me to see it, not a big public Thing. And I know everybody was watching the Uptight Lawyer scene but that wasn't so much a prank as, as inevitable. I mean, the big boss is on the set, there's going to be something."

Lance looked thoughtful. "I, hmm. I see what you mean. I guess I… got a bit carried away with the idea once I got into it."

"I could be wrong. I know you guys like to prank each other."

"No, you're right. It does feel like overkill." He frowned. "And maybe it's not fair to involve the show like that, when it's something that matters so much to all of us. Joey would probably be really upset, and I want to make him blush, not make him, well, cry."

"Would he cry?"

"He's a great big sentimental softie," Lance said, affectionately. "Thinking about it, yeah, he probably would. Not actually in the meeting room, but… and Lisa, too. God. I'd feel terrible. I'll let Doug know it's off. And Neil, too." He kissed Adam lightly on the lips. "Thank you. For calling me on it."

"That's my job, babe. You have Hershey for uncritical approval."

Lance laughed. "I do. Speaking of which, I should let him back inside."

* * *

Chris showed up on Lance's doorstep late on Sunday afternoon. "You got a dog!" were the first words out of his mouth, as Hershey made his presence known. "Oh my god. Hello! Hello, you gorgeous thing—yes, yes, my chin is very tasty, what's your name?"

"Down, Hershey," Lance said, and his dog's front paws went back to the floor. It was always gratifying, and still a little bit surprising, when Hershey obeyed. "Come on in, Chris. Is that all you brought?"

Chris had a hand-luggage sized backpack. He looked pityingly at Lance. "Seriously? I'm only here a week."

Lance tried to imagine Adam fitting enough clothes for a week into something that small, and stifled a giggle. On reflection, he didn't think he could pack that light himself. "Come on in."

"Hershey, what a great name. How long have you had him?"

Lance explained about going to the shelter, and began to tell Chris about all the amazing things Hershey had done since moving in, how he was practically the office manager at A Happy Place now, and—did Chris want a beer?

Chris gave him a pitying look, which Lance correctly interpreted as 'of course', so they went into the kitchen and Lance pointed to the beer fridge. Adam showed up a moment later, saying he thought he heard a car. "Come on, Hershey, I was literally just upstairs." Lance could tell he was enjoying being made a fuss of. Adam had definitely learned to like being a dog owner, even if he wouldn't actually admit to being one. "Hey, Chris, good to see you. I thought you were picking him up from the airport?"

"Yeah, two hours from now," Lance said, as Chris and Adam exchanged a brief hug.

"Eh, there was an earlier flight," Chris said, unconcerned. "I thought I texted you? Oh, wait, I forgot, it's on airplane mode. Sorry."

"Did you eat?"

"Not really," Chris said, with a grimace. Airline food, Lance supposed.

"I will get dinner started. It's spaghetti. Adam, you wanna put a salad together?"

As Lance and Adam went through the familiar kitchen choreography, Chris sat at the breakfast bar with his beer, and asked them about progress on Adam's album, and about the show, and whether they'd booked Justin on for next year, and when was Joey going to appear, the lazy bum, and how was JC holding up? "I hear he made you sing live to camera last week."

"It was great!" Adam said. "So much more atmosphere than when I pre-record, which is every other week. We've pre-recorded this week's song, too, which is such a shame because singing with Thessaly's band is so much fun."

"Jonathan was horrified when I told him Wade had done the number live," Lance said, smiling. "I get the feeling that if we'd had a more experienced director on set that week, it probably wouldn't have happened. But, you know, he made it work."

"You should get him back for—if we get a next season," Adam said, catching himself half-way through that sentence. "I'm sorry, I just have to keep telling myself it isn't a sure thing yet. I really want a next season."

"You don't have the numbers yet?" Chris asked.

"I'm… reasonably confident," Lance said. He didn't dare say more, even to Adam.

"Well, you have an album coming out soon," Chris said. "And with a full season's work under your belt, if you have to get a new acting gig, you have a resume now."

Adam didn't look very happy at the thought.

"Ah, you'll be fine. Lance always has a project going on. I'm guessing he'll manage to fit you in." Now, was that Chris fitting in a sly joke about their relationship? Sly, understated jokes weren't usually Chris's style, but—and now Adam was protesting that Chance was the best role ever and he knew there was so much more the character could do, if they got the time. The conversation shifted to what it meant to have to dance to a network's tune, even a smart network like TNT which really didn't interfere that much, and how Chris loved what he was working on out in Florida, with nobody to tell him what to do.

With the spaghetti and salad bowls emptied, Lance presented Chris with a specially-ordered piece of cheesecake, and refrained from looking longingly at it. Chris smirked at them both and dug in with exaggerated relish. "See, this is why I'm here. You know how to feed a hungry man. JC won't let me have any carbs. I'm gonna shift over to his place midweek, Wednesday, probably—it's time we got caught up properly. But I want to watch the show with you guys first. It's the one I'm in, right?"

"Yes," Lance said, slightly disappointed but also, if he was honest with himself, just a little bit relieved, that Chris wouldn't be here for the whole week. "You're staying for the wrap party, I hope?"

Chris cocked his head. "Not sure. I mean, I'm just a guest star. Wrap party's all about the core group."

"If the numbers look good after Tuesday night, we'll probably want you back as a recurring character."

"Cool!" Adam broke in. "Er, provided you'll do it. I mean, it was a lot of fun having you on set, and the Wicked Uncle is a great character."

Chris grinned around a mouthful of cheesecake, and swallowed. "Yeah, I could be up for that. Long as you keep Joey turning out the good stuff. Huh. I'm gonna have to have words with him. And JC."

"Oh?" Lance was startled.

"Not telling me about you two. This cozy domesticity you have going on. How long have you been living together?"

"Living… no, we're not, we don't—"

"I don't live here!" Adam's tone was a bit sharper than Lance expected. And he looked—what was that, panic, in his eyes? Lance clenched down on a suddenly uneasy stomach.

"Nobody's been keeping secrets," he said, as casually as he could manage. "We aren't living together, and this is still not, uh, information available to the public. Our relationship," he clarified.

"Seriously?" Chris said. "But you have a dog, and everything."

"Lance has a dog," Adam said. "Hershey loves everyone." Hershey, hearing his name mentioned, proved the point by making imploring noises from the other side of the door. Adam got up, and let him in, and there was an affectionate scene followed by some pointed investigation of the interesting scents offered by dinner remnants. Chris, typically, offered a thumbful of cheesecake, and became Hershey's new hero.

"Yep," Lance said. "He loves everyone, particularly if they give him food." He and Adam were doing their best not to feed Hershey from their own meals, but Chris was a law unto himself.

"So not much of a guard dog. A burglar could give him a bone and clean the place out," Chris suggested.

"If somebody tries to burgle the house he'll probably keep them here until the police arrive because he won't let them stop petting him," Adam said.

"True," Lance said, and launched into a story about Hershey holding court at A Happy Place, and Chris, for once in his life being tactful, willingly went along with it and asked for more doggy stories. And, having been a dog owner more or less all his adult life, provided plenty of stories of his own.

After a while, Adam stood up and announced that, as he had an early call, he'd head back to his own place, and would see Chris on set.

In the wake of Adam's departure, Chris looked at Lance, and actually looking chastened. "I, uh. I really did think he'd moved in."

"Well, he hasn't. Please don't tell people we're—we need to pick our own time for the big reveal, you know?"

"I don't get why you didn't tell everybody already. Why the secrecy?"

"Because of work. Because of, oh, you know. I'm the boss, I got him onto the show, plus we don't want the rest of the cast to feel like there's favoritism."

Chris looked deeply unimpressed. "Seems like you've been doing just fine so far. You don't have a workplace rule about not dating co-workers."

"Well, no, we don't, but—"

"Because I know of at least two relationships, and I'm just a visitor."

"What? You do? Who?"

Chris looked at him pityingly. "Do you care?"

Lance thought. "No," he admitted.

"Though I thought you would have known. You always know the gossip."

"I think maybe I haven't been paying attention," Lance said. "Too busy with other things. Not that it's any of my business if my staff are dating, so long as they do their jobs."

"Yep," Chris said, as though he'd made a point, which maybe he had. "Everybody on set is professional, so nobody cares there either."

"Yeah, but. I'm the showrunner. And I don't wanna do anything to harm Adam's reputation."

Chris rolled his eyes in the most annoying way he could manage. "You guys are overthinking this. Everybody's wearing those ugly buttons. They'd be cool with it. What I can't believe is, you've seriously managed to keep things secret, all this time? Nobody found out? Except me, I mean."

"You remember how sometimes, I was the best actor out of all of us?"

"Huh," Chris said, thoughtfully. Remembering, no doubt, the many occasions when Lance's ability to lie like an angel had done them all a favor. "So. Uh. I guess I drove him out. Sorry to put a crimp in your sex life."

"Hah," Lance said. "Don't even think of telling me you weren't trying to be insulting, with the 'cozy domesticity' thing." Chris looked shifty. "You know damn well how belittling it sounded, and I know you, don't forget. But you don't need to worry about my sex life, we'll be just fine. Like I told you, Adam doesn't actually live here."

What he did not tell Chris was that Adam did not have an early call tomorrow. Lance kept track of Adam's schedule. He wasn't working tomorrow at all.

* * *

Cosy domesticity.

Adam went to bed with the hideous words ringing in his head.

That wasn't him! That was not who he was. He wasn't interested in domesticity, he wanted to go out and have a good time and—and cosy, that was the most horrifying thought. Just because he knew his way around Lance's kitchen, just because they snuggled on the couch together with Hershey blissfully across their laps, that did not add up to cosy domesticity. He was not cosy. He was cool. He was, he was leather and eyeliner and dancing in sweaty clubs and staggering home in time for breakfast. Then not having breakfast. He was not domestic.

Being in love with Lance didn't change who he was. Even if he didn't do much of the staying out all night any more.

Cosy domesticity.

Just. Horrifying.

* * *

Lance took Chris along to the studio on Monday, where he found an enthusiastic welcome on the set. Lance stayed to watch the conspiracy scene with Seamus, which went very well. Chris made such a great villain, and Joey's team had really gone to town with this episode. Mark-the-foxy-Fedex-guy had asked Carla out to dinner in last week's show, and she'd break up with him in this one after the shenanigans with Chris's Wicked Uncle character were exposed, but Lance had assured Seamus that there was a redemption arc waiting for him next season—assuming there was a next season, of course.

* * *

Adam wished he had been called on Monday, it would have given him something else to think about. As it was, those doom-laden words kept going round and round his head. He worked on his songs, he worked on his lines, but cosy domesticity kept interrupting.

Lying between his luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets that night, Adam couldn't sleep. Cosy domesticity. Healthy salads. A few outfits hanging in Lance's closet. Half his collection of sex toys in Lance's bedside cabinet. Amazing sex. That wasn't cosy, that was wild, erotic, explosive.

Hershey, greeting him at the door with a wild wagging tail and a grin. Dog hairs on his T-shirts. Domesticity? Was that what it was?

Lance. His beautiful green eyes. His quietly wicked sense of humor. Tidying Adam's discarded socks and underwear into the laundry basket before he got into bed. That wasn't exactly wild, spontaneous—but, Lance watching him masturbate, rimming him in the shower. How could anybody think they were cosy? But… he had settled down. Hadn't been dancing in a while. Hadn't been blown in a club bathroom in—he couldn't remember how long, and it would be so easy now, people knew who he was, he had plenty of offers but he had steak at home. Who was it said that? Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?

He fought the pillow again, and tried to get the words out of his mind. Katya was going to have trouble with him in the morning.

* * *

As anticipated, Katya scolded him for those puffy eyes and made him sit with cold pads before she'd get started on his makeup. Lying there, Adam tried not to think about… that, and mentally went through his lines again. It was almost second nature these days, learning the lines at once, working out what was happening in the scene and how Chance was moving through it. Knowing the words so well they'd come naturally. So well they weren't much of a distraction when he had something else to think about.

He was going to have to snap out of this. This was the finale, he had to be at the top of his game.

I will think about it later, he promised himself. I'll get lunch, go up into the hills or to the beach, somewhere I can think about it properly.

Meanwhile, use it. Put the distraction into the scene, be not quite as sweet and concerned as he'd meant to be, play with the bitchy side of Chance, see if it works. And it did work, and Jem was piqued and fought back, and Jonathan was very pleased with the way it all played and said so.

Then it was time to get cleaned up, and afterwards, Adam grabbed a couple of salad rolls and a bottle of Evian from the craft services table and headed out to his car. Beach? Hills? A park, maybe? Somewhere with no people, nobody to recognize him and ask for his autograph, nobody to interrupt his thoughts.

But as he drove, he found that the doom-laden phrase rolling around inside his head was no longer so terrible. It didn't fit him, it didn't fit his life, it didn't fit his relationship with Lance, even while it sorta did, because he liked making dinner with Lance, he liked sharing a warm, smiling dog across their laps, he liked—no, he loved waking up with Lance right there, all kinds of beautiful and full of irritating morning bounciness, definitely his worst fault, but sometimes Adam would wake up to a blow job, and if that wasn't the best way to get the morning started, well what the hell was? It wasn't cosy, it was, it was comfortable… not quite that, either… it was right. His life fitted him. He didn't need to go out and look for excitement, it was right there waiting for him. And that didn't mean he had to give up being who he was, didn't mean he couldn't go out clubbing or stay up till dawn chilling with his friends, because he could still do all those things. He just didn't need the frantic excitement any more, because there was this deep something, this contentment, and everything else was just the icing on the cake.

He wasn't entirely surprised when he halted the car and found he was outside the animal shelter. He parked, sat in the car for several minutes just thinking, and then went inside.

"Hi, I'm sorry, I don't have an appointment, but, uh, is it possible for me to come in and meet a few dogs today?"

The receptionist smiled. "I'll see if there's anyone who can take you through," she said, so he sat down and started leafing through an elderly gossip magazine. One of these days, there could be photos of him and Lance in the crammed pages.

He'd been offered coffee twice before anything changed, but eventually a middle-aged woman in jeans came up to the desk.

"This is Martina," the receptionist told him. "She can talk to you about our processes, and show you some dogs."

Adam introduced himself, and Martina led him through to a tiny little office.

"I should explain," he began, oddly nervous. "My—my partner adopted a dog from here just a few weeks ago, his house was inspected and everything, and I'm going to be moving in there, uh," I should probably have told Lance that before I told anyone else, he thought. He plowed on. "I'm totally a convert to having a dog, and I thought maybe it would be good to have two dogs, you know, one each."

Martina's eyebrows were up by the time he'd finished, but she nodded. "So, the home has been inspected already and you know the procedure for adopting a dog. Good. You'll probably want to bring your partner and the other dog with you, to make sure everyone's happy and compatible."

"I didn't think of that," Adam said, mentally kicking himself. "But this is, sorta, preliminary, because I—my partner, Lance, he bonded with his dog right away, and I don't know quite what I'm looking for so I thought, maybe if I come and take a look, meet a few dogs…" He gave her a pleading smile. Hopefully she wouldn't think he was completely out of his mind. "I did do some research before we came the first time."

"So you have some ideas about what you want, or what you don't want?"

"Yes," Adam said. "Not a dog that needs loads of attention, like a collie…" he went through basically the same spiel that he and Lance had gone through on their first visit. "Hershey's great, he's so friendly, he kinda fit right in."

"Oh! You adopted Hershey! That dog was such a character," Martina said, sounding delighted. "He was friends with all the other dogs in here, we exercise them in groups, you know, so they can get plenty of socialization and play. We have a group in the square right now, maybe we should start there." She led him through to the open area, bounded by fence, where half a dozen dogs were hurtling joyfully about while a young guy in the center threw toys and kept an eye on things. Three of the dogs came over to greet these new people—possibly they already knew Martina and were actually coming to greet her, Adam told himself, but he petted the dogs and said nice things to them. How was he supposed to recognize the right dog? Would he get some kind of feeling about the right one, or… how could he possibly choose? He was an idiot, he shouldn't even be here, he should have talked to Lance first. He couldn't just turn up with a dog and say, we're moving in now! What had he been thinking?

After a while, Martina suggested they move along to the cages, and he followed her along the familiar row. Several of the cages were empty, presumably those were the dogs in the square. There was a little white dog with brown spots, yapping for attention and wagging its tiny tail, but Adam thought of Hershey's sturdy size and decided no, not a little dog. More like the same size as Lance's dog. There was a black one about the right size lying in the next cage, but it showed no interest in him. A couple more, and he was beginning to realize that this wasn't going to be easy.

"You don't necessarily find the right dog on your first visit," Martina said. "Your partner was lucky. It can take a while. Though it depends how picky you are." She sounded doubtful. Possibly she had noticed Adam's diva tendencies and was wondering if he'd want a fancy show dog. Had he been displaying his diva tendencies? Maybe he had, showing up without an appointment.

There was an elegant brown dog in the next cage, a little darker in color than Hershey, not quite as broad in the shoulders, and it got up eagerly and came towards the bars. Adam crouched, interested. "Hello. You're a handsome one, aren't you." He offered a hand and was duly sniffed.

"This is Ellie. She's new here."

"Oh my god, what happened to her back?" There was a strange line of disrupted hair, almost like the dog had a zipper along the middle of its—her—back. Was it some kind of scar?

"That's her ridge." Seeing Adam's blankness, Martina went on. "We know exactly what kind of dog she is, which is unusual here, because we get a lot of mutts and you just can't tell—anyway, she's half Rhodesian Ridgeback and half Chocolate Labrador. Pedigree on both sides, but, well. The Ridgeback breeder was furious, apparently." Adam looked inquiring. "The good breeders only get a certain number of litters from each bitch, and this was a total washout, commercially speaking."

"I never heard of a Ridgeback," Adam said. "So that mark on her back, it's normal?"

"It's actually half-sized. Pure-breds have a long line from shoulders to hips, but this little ridge must be a result of having only half the genes. And of course she gets her color from dad."

"Right." Adam sought desperately for some intelligent questions. "How old is she? Did she come from the breeder?"

"Oh, she's about a year old. She was adopted before but the family—" Martina stopped abruptly. "There were circumstances… they couldn't look after a dog any longer. I think they were good owners, it wasn't their fault."

"She's gorgeous," Adam said, thoughtfully. He stroked the pretty head that was nosing at him through the bars. Her ears were like velvet, and her tail was swaying steadily.

"She's quite a lady," Martina said, "being pure-bred on both sides. A Chocolate Ridgeback, you might say."

That was the moment Adam fell completely in love. A Chocolate Ridgeback! "Don't you have beautiful eyes! Like the best whisky, yes, you do. Is she, is she good with other dogs? Is she friendly?" She seemed pretty friendly.

"She's been very well behaved here, and the family were heartbroken to have to give her up. Ellie was heartbroken too, when she got here, but it looks like you made quite the hit with her. From her breeding, she'll probably be very loyal, and we haven't had any problems with her here. What do you think? Is she the right dog?"

"I—I think so. Yes. But I guess I need to bring Lance and Hershey in to meet her first." He tried to think whether Lance had any gaps in his schedule this week, but the details of Lance's schedule were on his laptop back at the apartment, and, knowing Lance, he'd be chasing every detail to make sure the season finale was as perfect as it could be. Anyhow, it would probably be sensible—sane!—to talk to Lance before springing a whole new dog on him. Not to mention, a live-in boyfriend. Lance was not going to object to either, Adam knew, Lance would be ecstatic, but it was only fair. "Could we maybe come on the weekend? Or I could call to make an appointment? Can I, can I put a reservation on her? Is that something you do?" He did not want someone else waltzing in and taking this beautiful girl before he got the chance to adopt her.

"Let's go back to the office."

Adam said a reluctant goodbye to Ellie, steeled himself against her reproachful whining, and followed Martina back to the office, where he filled in a reservation form. I didn't bring a T-shirt, he thought, remembering how Lance had given Hershey something with his own scent on it. Was he going to be a terrible pet owner?

Lance was a great pet owner. It'd be okay.

* * *

Adam checked Lance's schedule when he got back to his apartment, and was annoyed to realize that Lance was going to be busy with meetings this afternoon, and Adam wouldn't have a chance to get to speak to him before—damn, before all his people turned up at the apartment for tonight's watch party. They were eager to get back into the routine of watching 'Adam's' show, now the reruns were done. He'd have to get snacks out and order pizza and make sure there was plenty of ice. Ah, yes, and it was the first episode with Chris playing the villain, it was a good one. Lance too—Adam remembered the scene with 'Uptight Lawyer' and his lips curved into a helpless smile. Lance was adorable.

Also, Chris would be at Lance's place this evening. So. Okay, not the best time to make the big announcement, declaration, whatever it was. He couldn't just show up and say hey, I'm ready to move in, not while Chris was there. Adam was getting to recognize certain things about Chris, and he did not, he decided, want the moment to be complicated by some full-on, merciless teasing. It was going to have to wait until tomorrow. Hadn't Chris said he was staying with JC from Wednesday?

That was probably best, anyway. It'd give him time for his head to catch up to his heart. He was practically dizzy with his own turnaround and a little alone time to process would be good for him.

By the time the gang arrived, Adam's head was all caught up, and he found he was serenely calm. He withstood Brad's inevitable prodding about The Secret Lover, and assured Danielle yet again that he was glad she had had a good time last week. Everyone enjoyed the show, and he was pleased to be able to tell them that Chris Kirkpatrick was going to be back for the season finale, though he carefully did not catch Danielle's eye. She'd be wanting to meet him as well, and Adam didn't think he could arrange that.

It wasn't until everyone was leaving that he had the next brainwave, though when it hit Adam could not believe he had not thought of it sooner. "Cam," he called, "you got a minute?"

She was incredulous with delight when he offered her and Alex the apartment. "Don't say anything just yet, because I have to clear it with my boyfriend, I didn't actually tell him I'm ready to move in with him yet, but he'll be fine with it. I'll confirm things with you in a couple of days."

He'd swear her feet weren't touching the ground as she left.

* * *

The regular Wednesday morning meeting at the studio brought Lance, at long last, the answer he wanted. Yes, Family Business would have another season. He was a little bit disappointed, though he took care not to let a flicker of it show on his face, that they weren't going to be upped to the full twenty-two, but ultimately, his show was confirmed, and that was fantastic news.

He was also introduced to a tall, pleasant guy called Matt Giraud, who'd be their new network liaison for the new season, and who set himself firmly in Lance's good books by introducing himself as a big fan of the show, and saying how much he looked forward to seeing what Chance and JC's character Vincent did together, which he had heard about already.

"I'm just finding my feet here, but I'm really excited to work on this show," he said.

"You should come down to the studio and see the cast at work," Lance suggested. "If you come over Friday afternoon, you can stay for the wrap party, get to know everyone a little bit."

"I understand you're hoping to have Justin Timberlake appear next season?"

"That's right. He's given me dates already, so the writing team has been playing with some ideas. Obviously having Chris Kirkpatrick on the show worked out well for us, as you've seen from last night's numbers, and we have him returning for the finale that's currently shooting. I think you'll be pleased," Lance addressed the meeting generally, "with the directions we've been exploring, but before I can give the writers the full go-ahead, we need to agree on the budget. You all have a copy of my proposal, are there any details I can clarify?"

Budgets were serious business, but it seemed that the numbers, and maybe the prospect of Justin Timberlake, were nudging the network towards generosity. Lance got what he wanted.

"Perhaps we should have asked for more," Wendy said, as they went for a celebratory coffee afterwards.

"Maybe, but I think we pitched it right. We did get that extra when Jem was injured, and we proved to them we could stick to it and pull in the audience numbers they want. Honestly, I was a bit worried about the overrun on episode 14, but we'll end the season on budget so it wouldn't have been a big deal if they did bring it up. So, we get the Flies next season, we'll start them off with a six-show contract and see if they work out. Adam will be delighted, his very own sidekicks!"

"So when are you going to tell everyone?" Wendy asked.

"I can't think of a better time than the wrap party," Lance said. "Two more days won't make a material difference to any of the work that needs doing., and it'll be the most fun to announce it then, plus, everybody will be there."

"It will cost you a fortune in champagne."

He grinned at her.

* * *

Lance was very nearly late to the studio that afternoon. He needed to get to Michela before she did the scene with Paul where he gave her the name of his missing daughter, the one he wanted Ace and Mickey to locate. But he got there in time, and was able to tell her to keep quiet about the secret extra scene she'd shot last week.

"Interesting," she said. "Do you want to give me some insight into why I'm shredding it instead of being helpful? Oh, hey, Joey."

"You told her already?" Joey said.

"No, but I think we should. Actors need to know this stuff."

"Okay." Joey took Michela by the arm and drew her even further aside, then looked furtively about to make quite sure nobody was listening. He was such a ham. "Carla is the missing daughter," he whispered.

Michela's eyes went round with surprise and a moment later, delight. "Oh, that is… wow! And Carla knows. Is that why I—she took the job?"

"Probably," Lance said. "We hadn't actually figured it out back then, but I don't think it contradicts anything. Do not tell anybody!"

"No, no, absolutely. This is so cool! Oh, wow. I'm gonna just—" she gestured towards her trailer, and sprinted towards it. Going to re-check her lines, see how it felt to read them with this new information.

"We should probably have told her last Thursday," Lance muttered, suddenly guilty.

"She'll be fine," Joey said. "And it's not like we want her to drop dark hints or anything."

The director called it for the scene on the bar set, and the crew began to reset. "We should leave them to it," Lance said. "Jonathan knows what he's doing." And he wasn't sure he wanted to meet up with Chris and Adam right now, having no idea how that would go. A prudent retreat sounded appealing. Cowardly. Whatever. He headed off towards the writing room with Joey.

"I cannot believe the network hasn't confirmed us yet," Joey said with considerable feeling. "How the hell are we supposed to prep for another season? I mean… they wouldn't be so completely stupid as to cancel us, would they?"

"I don't think so," Lance said, taking care not to allow his inner jubilation to show. "But you never can tell. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make a final decision until all the episodes have aired. We'll have to scramble, if they make us wait that long, but you and your team have things well in hand."

"It's just ridiculous," Joey muttered. "This is a great show, and the numbers are good. If we—when we get renewed, I'm buying Jem a drink. His accident turned out so well for us."

"If we get renewed."

Joey snorted, and stomped off.

* * *

"Hey, babe."

Fighting his way past his enthusiastic dog, Lance smiled up at Adam. "Wasn't sure if you'd be here tonight," he said, and smiled even more as Adam's arms slid around his waist.

"Mmm," Adam said, and kissed him, so there was no more talking for a while. "I'm sorry about Sunday," he said, eventually.

"Chris Kirkpatrick is a force of nature," Lance said. "If anyone ever learned how to get him under control, they'd probably be ruling the world by now. Uh, how did your scenes go today?"

"Fine, absolutely fine. And I think," Adam said cautiously, "that he apologized to me. It was kinda hard to be sure."

Lance laughed.

"Not that he needed to. I mean, it's not like him noticing we're in love is a bad thing."

"No, true. But—"

"I think I just panicked. You know. Not used to seeing myself like… like—"

"Cosy domesticity," Lance said, wryly. "Me either. It sounds like Mr. Rogers sweaters and fruit cake."

"Definitely not us," Adam agreed. "Anyway, I guess I just got scared. I'm sorry."

"It's fine, Adam."

Adam smiled at him, oddly shy, and bent down to summon Hershey closer for a loving skritch behind the ears. "Good boy! You were right, you know, about having a dog being good for the soul. We never had pets in my family, growing up, so I never thought about it."

"I'm glad you feel that way." Lance rejoiced in Adam's pleasure at being greeted by their dog, and when they played with him in the yard, even that time Hershey had unexpectedly joined them in the pool.

"I mean, he's your dog, but I totally get it."

"He's ours, really," Lance said. "Or, well, he's more mine because I'm the one who feeds him. Trust me, give him dinner a few times, you'll see!" He wanted very much to say, move in with me and he'll definitely be yours and mine equally, but that wouldn't be fair. Adam knew where he stood, it was up to him to make the decision in his own time. Things were great as they were, and Lance could wait.

"Here, Hershey. Can you give this to your dad? Come on, take—that's a good boy, now go to Daddy." What the heck was Adam up to? Hershey was staring up in puzzlement, with a white paper thing in his mouth.

Maybe it was time to intervene. "Here, boy, come on!" Their dog looked at both of them in turn, apparently decided that Lance was being less weird than Adam right now, and trotted over to where he was sitting on the couch. "Give it to—thank you! Good boy. Ooh, nice. A letter covered in dog spit."

"Ah," Adam said. "Possibly didn't think that one through." He definitely looked nervous. What was going on with him?

With some difficulty, Lance extracted a folded sheet from the soggy envelope. Dear Dad, please can Adam move in with us? He read it again, and felt a surge of joy. "Adam! Really? Really?" Adam was there to meet him as he stood up, and Hershey bounced cheerfully around them as they hugged. "Down, boy!"

"Him or me?" Adam said, slyly, grinning at him now.

"You really want to move in? You're really ready?"

"I want to move in. I'm ready. I'm not called until two on Friday, so I thought, I can pack up the rest of my stuff in the morning. I'm going to let Cam and Alex rent the apartment, so all the furniture can stay there."

"F-Friday?" What?

Adam's face fell into an expression of ludicrous dismay. "Did I—I mean, you said you want me to move in—do you not—"

"Hey, hey. Yes. Of course it's fine. It's wonderful! I just, I, um, I assumed it would take a while and that we'd do some preparatory—I was planning on getting the guest room next to the master renovated into a bathroom and a walk-in closet. I was going to be all subtle about it, honest. I thought, you know, his and his bathrooms would be cool."

Adam was breathing again, always a good sign. "His and his bathrooms… I do like the sound of that."

"And you are going to need way more closet space than there is right now."

"Definitely! I already filled half the space in your walk-in, and that's just a few bits and pieces."

Lance didn't quite agree with that assessment—Adam's clothes already in residence were definitely more than 'a few bits and pieces', but that closet was huge. Still. Adam had a lot of clothes. "Move in with me. We can share until we get the alterations done."

"That's the plan," Adam said.

"You really are ready. Wow. Okay, I'm not gonna get all teary." Adam! Moving in! He pulled Adam close again for a long kiss, trying to say all the happy things he couldn't find the words for. They kissed for so long that Hershey sneaked onto the couch and made himself comfortable.

"Uh. There's a PS," Adam said, eventually.

"What?" Adam nodded towards the note. Lance retrieved the sticky sheet from the rug. "A PS?" He turned it over, and read, Do you think we could get another dog? "Oh, wow!"

"I know it's a bit much," Adam said, "but it's your own fault for having so much fun with Hershey. Um. They said at the shelter that having two dogs is great, because they entertain each other and keep each other company when you have to be away. And with filming coming to an end, I get to be at home while the new one settles in. So, um. If you, if you think it would be okay, we should take Hershey to the shelter so you can meet."

Lance's mind was so full of I get Adam, I get Adam AND another dog, I win! that he didn't even reply, but Adam seemed to get the gist of his feelings. Then he caught up. "Wait, you went to the shelter already?"

"I sorta had an epiphany," Adam said. "And I just ended up there and I think I found my dog. If you and Hershey agree."

"Okay! That's—wow! Two dogs! What kind of dog did you pick? Tell me about him."

"Her," Adam corrected, and they sat down on the part of the couch not occupied by Hershey, who took up a surprising amount of surface. "She's a Chocolate Ridgeback." This had to be explained, because Lance had never heard of such a breed, but Adam seemed pretty enraptured. Lance hoped the Chocolate Ridgeback would be pleased with him, and would get along with Hershey, because it sounded like Adam would be really upset if it didn't work out.

"What's her name?"

"Ghirardelli," Adam said, proudly, and Lance burst out laughing.

As they were lying in bed that night, sated and warm, Lance said, "You know, I think we could make better use of Friday morning."

"Better use—oh, better than bringing my stuff over?"

"We could go to the shelter. I wanna meet your chocolate dog, and if she and Hershey get along, we can collect her Saturday. They'll want the veterinarian to inspect her before we can bring her home, but we can do everything else, get her a crate and a comfy bed and stuff."

"Perfect," Adam said. "I'll call them first thing tomorrow and set it up. You'll love Ellie—Ghirardelli's too long for everyday, we'll call her Ellie— she's a real beauty. I guess the only problem might be if she and Hershey don't gel. But they will," he said, with determination. "We'll have our two chocolate dogs and my album and my new closet. All I need is for the show to be renewed for another season."

Lance shifted in the bed and looked down at Adam in the soft lamp light. "About that. Can you keep a secret?"

* * *

Lisa, bright and cheerful, was wearing her full array of buttons again today. Lance observed the hideous green and purple LAMBASS badge and thought, it's about time we got rid of those.

"Come on, Hershey, into the office," he said, and as the door closed, leapt to his computer. Was Chris scheduled today? Thursday, Thursday—this afternoon. Good.

An hour later (Chris was not an early riser unless he had to be), Lance called cheerfully to Lisa that he was just taking Hershey outside for twenty minutes. As soon as they had rounded the block, he had his phone out and was talking to Chris.

* * *

"I really don't know how I got through the day without Lisa guessing something was going on," Lance admitted, as he fixed dinner the following evening. "Every time she came in the room I had to stop smiling."

"I know what you mean," Adam agreed. "I got lucky, though, because Jem and Gina were really on fire today, and it kind infected everyone on set. You'll be really happy with what we did. Everyone was grinning by the end of the day. I guess lots of conflict in the script makes for a lot of fun. And Chris is a lunatic, it is great having him around. You have to get him back next season. You know, I almost said, if we get a next season, it's become such a habit."

"We had a great audience response to episode ten, where we introduced his character. I'm pretty sure we'll be bringing him back. If we feature him in the same episode as Justin…" Lance got a faraway look, probably envisioning the ratings, Adam thought. "But I have to be careful not to make too much of the Synchronicity connections. Family Business can stand on its own feet."

"So you won't be pulling Joey in?"

"Probably not. I mean, if the guys write a character he'd be perfect for, I guess, but we won't be looking to do that. He's doing such a great job with the writing team."

"Neil loves it there. He didn't tell me, he told Dad. But once in a while we meet in the corridor or the commissary and I can tell he's really happy. As am I, by the way."

"Glad to hear it." Adam loved that smile.

"So long as Ellie and Hershey are willing to be friends." Because if they weren't, now that he had his lovely chocolate dog so firmly in his head, Adam didn't quite know what he'd do.

"They'll be fine," Lance said, reassuringly.

* * *

They were fine.

Ghirardelli the Chocolate Ridgeback greeted Adam eagerly, and, supervised by Martha, he took her from the cage to the square where Lance was waiting with Hershey. The two dogs nosed at one another cautiously. Ellie did not seem inclined to permit too many liberties… but then Hershey yipped invitingly and raced across the square, and Ellie gave chase. In a few moments the two of them were playing, and Adam found himself smiling with delight and relief.

Lance called Hershey to heel, and Ghirardelli followed, permitting Lance to offer her his hand and to stroke her elegant head and back, and even nosed at him when he seemed like he might stop. Adam got to his knees and she squirmed around to make a fuss of him. "Looks like we're good," he said, and if he couldn't quite control his voice, well, nobody mentioned it.

His chocolate dog barked reproachfully when he led her back to her cage, but he offered her a fluffy squeaker sheep toy he'd had next to his skin since he got dressed that morning, and she took it with a distinct grumble but lay down to worry at it anyway. So they made the necessary arrangements to collect her tomorrow, signed forms and checks, and went to the pet store. Lance mocked, gently, the vivid Barbie pink collar and lead Adam chose, but they would look fabulous against her chocolate brown pelt. Lance had to admit that this was so.

They went to Lance's pla—they went home, dropped off the great pile of doggy stuff, and Adam took himself off to the studio for the afternoon's filming.

Adam was the only one in the makeup trailer, as the others had already been on set all morning, but Jem's makeup girl popped her head around the door and had hurried words with Katya.

"Problem?" he asked, as Katya began on his eyeliner.

"No, no, it's nothing."

There was something, he could tell. Some gossip going around, maybe, though he didn't see why Katya would not want to share. However. Adam had too much news bubbling in his own brain to care much about some random gossip, so he relaxed and ran through his lines again. He really needed to get back in character, because Chance was having a hard time in this scene.

There was definitely something odd happening, he thought, as he strolled to his precious bar set. One of the props girls put up her hand to her chest as he passed, and he thought he saw another drop something into the nearest trash can. And they looked weirdly furtive about it, and it felt as though they were hiding something from him, specifically. He asked Gina about it between takes, but she had the best poker face he'd ever met and he couldn't get a thing from her expression. Lisa, however, was much easier. She was running around talking to people—unusual, as she spent most of her assistant-producing time in the office—and when Adam cornered her, she looked so guilty he had no difficulty persuading her to spill.

"It's the buttons," she said, looking stricken. "We wanted, we thought maybe, you and Lance would make a great couple, which is why we—but Joey heard from Chris that, um, Lance has a boyfriend, so, uh." She opened her hand to reveal half a dozen of those ridiculous LAMBASS buttons that had been spreading like purple and green weeds through the cast and crew. "We didn't want to make you feel bad. Or him. Or, um. It's inappropriate."

Adam clenched his jaw to suppress the giggle that was rising in his throat. "Good," he said, stiffly, and walked away. Oh, Lance, you fucking genius, he thought, because Lance had to be behind this. Chris had promised not to give them away, and Adam was certain Chris would keep his promise, so Lance must be behind this, and it was just perfect. Give Joey—and Lisa—enough time to tell everyone involved with the production to get rid of their buttons because Lambass wasn't going to happen, and then… ah. Of course.

"Should be a great party," he said aloud.

* * *

Lance got to the restaurant early, partly to make a few extra arrangements, but mostly to make sure Hershey was comfortably settled, with his crate tucked next to an end booth in case he wanted to retreat. Wendy's PA, who had organized things, was happy to see him and delighted when he told her she'd done a great job. The place was decorated with Family Business photos and punny props, there were snacks heaped on every table, and bottled water, there was a special menu which referenced the show, and there was even a special cocktail devised for the occasion, which Lance tried and found very good.

The writing staff were the first to arrive, spilling through the door in their party finery. His Happy Place people arrived mere moments afterward, and Lance was pleased to see the different groups flow together and start chatting right away. It got the party atmosphere up and running, so that when his actors had gotten out of makeup, and the techs had taken care of their equipment, and the various offscreen personnel had sorted out their own domains and had a chance to get ready, they'd arrive to find there was fun happening.

By nine o'clock pretty well everybody was there, eating, drinking, talking, and apparently having a great time.

"So what happens at a wrap party?" Sandie asked. She was crammed in to the booth opposite Adam, between Neil and Seamus. "I've never been to one before."

"I haven't either," Adam said, and felt surprised. He seemed to have been part of this show, this team, for so long, and his life had changed so much. But after all it was his first real television role. "I'm guessing they'll show the gag reel, I'm looking forward to that." Uptight Lawyer, and the Peeps gag Gina had pulled, and so many hilarious moments with Michela and Jem.

"Are you going to sing? Did you get the band to learn it?" said Cam, eagerly.

"I did! We're definitely planning on doing that. JC's on board with it. All Day Long I Dream About Sex," he explained. "Should be awesome." He was onto his second cocktail already—they were so good! but he would space them out with orange juice or water, at least until he was done with singing—and a waitress came up at that moment and presented him with what turned out to be the best burger of his life, and a sublime side of sweet potato fries, because the season was over and he could relax a bit. "I think we might just sing some other numbers too."

There was general approval around the booth, muffled a bit as everyone was eating.

"We had a pop quiz," Neil volunteered, "in the writers' room, before we came over here. Best line you've written this year, favorite line anyone's written, that kind of thing."

Before Adam could follow up on that, there was a tinging sound and an expectant hush began to creep over the partygoers.

"Is that Lance Bass?" Kevin, one of the set-building guys, asked. Sandie nodded enthusiastically. Adam still hadn't made contact with Lance this evening. He had greeted and been greeted by Hershey, but Hershey was having the time of his life making friends with everybody, and if he'd maybe been a little more pleased to see Adam than the others, nobody had noticed. Hershey had retreated into his crate now, and Adam had a feeling he had been presented with a bone.

In the middle of the room, somebody handed Lance a microphone. "Okay, hi, everyone," he began. "I'm hoping you all know who I am—Lance Bass, showrunner and head of A Happy Place. I want to take just a few minutes to say some things, so, uh, settle in."

Ah, Adam thought. The Announcement. He leaned back to listen, with the pot of sweet potato fries in one hand.

"First off, can I say, please don't give my dog any more snacks! Hershey is a grand master at begging and making you think he's starving to death. Seriously, I think he's been to Juilliard. It's all lies, trust me! I know for sure he's been going around everybody asking for a bite of whatever you have, we actually haven't discovered anything he won't eat, and if he eats any more tonight he's gonna throw up in the car on the way home. So shake hands with him, or make a fuss of him, because he likes getting pets almost as much as he likes getting food. Thanks."

"Did you meet Hershey yet?" Sandie asked. Adam nodded. "That dog is awesome. So friendly!" Adam grinned.

Lance went on, thanking everyone for their contributions to the show and saying how proud he was of what they had made together. He did not mention anyone by name, but asked different groups to stand to be recognized—the actors, the writers, the set decorators and makeup people, the camera crews, the editors, and the producers and admins. Every group got its share of applause—the crowd was pretty mellow by now, and feeling happy and generous.

"Okay," Lance was saying, "So. I can't read out the list of people who did an awesome job, it's basically all of you and I hope you all know it already. There is just one person I want to have stand up, and that is Lisa Delcampo. Where is Lisa?"

There was a small eruption at a table near the bar, and Lisa, blushing, stood up.

"Lisa has been my assistant for quite a few years now, and this year she took on extra responsibilities as an Associate Producer. Plus she even found time to play matchmaker," he added, pointedly. Adam laughed in surprise, and the people in the booth with him looked at one another. Sandie, he decided, looked a shade guilty. She'd probably had a button. Had Neil worn one? Adam couldn't remember. Probably not.

"I'm not looking forward to training a new assistant," Lance said, and there were a few gasps, and Lisa looked confounded. "But Lisa's too good to waste on running around after me any longer, so she's going to be running around looking after all of you as a full, credited Producer next season."

There was a burst of applause and then, suddenly, everyone caught up and there was wild screaming, whooping, thumping on tables, an enormous amount of noise. Lance stood there grinning, and let the excitement wear down for a few minutes. "That's right, we've been renewed. Family Business is coming back for another season, and I know it's going to be even better next year." More cheering. "The bar staff are lining up the champagne, so, everybody, enjoy!"

The bar staff, augmented by at least three of the waitstaff, promptly delivered a volley of champagne pops. There was another cheer and a surge for the bar, and a hubbub of delighted noise.

Lance was hugging Lisa. Adam smirked to himself. Just a little moment of vengeance, he thought, making her wonder what was going on.

"Oh, just one more thing," Lance said into the microphone. "Joey Fatone? Where is Joey?"

Joey hailed him from one of the side tables. Lance gave him the wickedest smile, licked his index finger and drew a coup mark in the air. "I gotcha!"

There was a buzz of noise. Chris Kirkpatrick was laughing fit to bust, but everybody else looked intrigued. Although most people were more interested in getting to the champagne. Which seemed like an excellent plan. Adam stood up, squeezed out of the booth and fought his way to the bar. He picked up two glasses, and made his way slowly towards Lance, who was already surrounded by delighted people wanting hugs or handshakes. Joey, looking baffled and suspicious as well as delighted, was among them. Chris, Adam noted, was still at his table, whispering behind his hand to JC.

"Hey, boss," he said, proffering a champagne flute.

"Why, thank you, Mr. Lambert," Lance said, grinning at him.

They looked at one another, and Lance's eyebrows lifted. Adam put the champagne glasses down on the nearby table, shrugged and opened his arms, Lance stepped in, and they melted together into a kiss. Adam could feel Lance's belly quaking with suppressed laughter, and held him closer. There were gasps, and whoops, and whistles, and applause, and they kept kissing because hell, nothing was better than kissing Lance, at least nothing they could do in a restaurant full of people, but eventually someone called "Get a room!" and the two of them broke apart. Not very far apart.

"By the way," Lance announced, "Adam just moved in with me this week."

Above the laughter, the applause, and the high-volume conversations, Adam turned to Joey Fatone, licked his index finger, drew a mark in the air, and laughed. "Yeah," he said into Lance's mike. "This show will run and run."


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