Title: Split Screen Sadness
Rating: PG-15 for language and sexual references
Pairing: Kradam (Kris/Adam)
Genre: slash, angst
Summary: A scene-by-scene retelling of the events leading to Adam's tears and the emptiness behind Kris's eyes.
Warning: open-ended (and thus is not entirely happy)
Disclaimer: This totally never happened. I own squat.
TL; DR A/N: Yeah, I've really gotten into John Mayer's music recently for no apparent reason. This is very experimental (read: weird) for me; I'm trying out a different narrative from what I'm used to. It's more, er...directorial? Might be annoying, but I hope it doesn't scare you off, heh. Story is obviously based on "Split Screen Sadness" by John Mayer, and the story flow is inspired by a scene in the film version of Bret Easton Ellis' The Rules of Attraction.
Wow, my first RPS. RPS had always been one of those things where I'm like, I enjoy reading it but I'm not actually gonna make one. So, uh, yeah. I blame the song. And the boys.
"'All you need is love' is a lie, 'cause we had a love but we still said goodbye. Now we're tired, battered fighters, and it stings when it nobody's fault, because there's nothing to blame."
- John Mayer, "Split Screen Sadness"
There is a split screen. A black border separates the two sides.
It's morning, in both settings. Left side of the screen: Sunlight illuminates Adam's room, though a heavy comforter shields him from it. Squint and you'll see quivering along the line of the comforter. Adam's covered up to his nose; you can see his eyes are reddish. There are visible damp spots on the sheets where his tears have fallen.
Right side of the screen: Sunlight also pours into Kris's kitchen through the window. He's cooking breakfast, one of those "good ol' Southern breakfast" ones, before his wife wakes up. He wears that red apron with his name on it. His expression is indiscernible, though perhaps if you hit pause and zoom in you'll see how empty it really is.
You'll soon find out how it got to that point. They got there pretty much the same way.
They were both happy, not too long ago. Actually, they were happy most of the time. Hit rewind, you'll see. If you listen closely you may hear bits of random dialogue -- "Luckiest girl in the world" -- "How far do you want" -- "It's okay to cry" -- "Nothing's gonna happen" -- "Like that's ever stopped you." Your finger may slip away from the rewind button a few times, at certain interesting scenes. One has Adam and Allison at the left side on the frame. They're on the couch, giggling and occasionally sneaking glances at Kris in the distance. The right side of the split screen shows a close up of Kris, engrossed in a novel, headphones on, oblivious to their conversation.
There's another, the two men in their shared bedroom. Kris is lying on his back, chatting up his wife on the phone. Adam's on the bed across the room, using his laptop while pretending not to listen in. He has his gaze focused on the laptop, so he misses the number of times Kris sneaks a glance at him.
Several long conversations in various parts of the mansion, and shared moments on the stage. There's a lot of blushing, because Kris liked to hug an awful lot and Adam couldn't help getting slightly pinker whenever it happened. The freckles didn't help. In another scene, Adam excuses himself to go to the restroom after some awkward eye contact with Kris. He retouches the smudged points of his eyeliner, and stares at his reflection. The corners of his lips curl up, a little. Look at the right side of the screen and you'll see Kris, making small talk with Kara, but peering over every once in a while at the restroom door, rather impatiently.
You don't have to rewind any further, you're not going to miss much. Oh, here's a good one. Don't mind the left side, Adam's just downstairs eating cereal and watching TV with Matt and Danny. Kris is standing at the balcony outside the bedroom, one arm around Katy, who's visiting for the day. He's got a vaguely bored expression on his face, though he's still happy she's there. It's just that the whole thing's just gotten kind of...routine. He's telling her about his new temporary housemates, the comic relief Matt and Danny provide, Anoop's astuteness, Allison's unflappable cheer, and then the conversation turns to Adam, and he's really got nothing but nice things to say about him. The term "best friend" comes up in the dialogue at some point. He smiles, and there's a bit of a twinkle in his eye when he says Adam's name. Katy's focused on the view below, so she doesn't catch it.
Now, if you'll look to the left side of the split screen, Adam's ascending the staircase, iPod in hand. He's grinning like he's got something he wants to share with Kris. He opens the door, we pan to Kris and Katy standing close together. Adam maintains a happy expression, but it's diminished. He quietly closes the door and goes back downstairs.
Katy's teasing Kris about being close with Megan, although you can see in her face that she's not the least bit suspicious of anything. Still, Kris assures her that Megan's just a friend and she's not his type, anyway. They giggle when he reveals that she's been spending a lot of time with Matt, lately.
The more interesting moments have music involved, somehow. Adam's just emerged from the shower, and he sees Kris at the foot of the bed with his guitar, singing a melancholy Wilco song about "You, you were the lonely one." Adam stops in his tracks for a minute just to watch him. There's another one, where Kris has agreed to play the piano accompaniment for Adam's "Mad World" while they wait for Allison to finish practicing with Ricky Minor. Slow zoom in to Kris, whose gaze constantly flickers between the sheet music and Adam. He catches Kris's eye, grins a little. Kris nods and grins back, embarrassed.
You might notice an interesting progression. Kris is usually a touchy-feely guy, not standoffish in any way. Yet, while his friendship with Adam grows closer with each week, the physical contact seems to lessen. When he does touch Adam, like a pat on the back or a hug, he always gets this self-conscious look before he does it.
When Adam's ex-boyfriend Brad comes over one morning, they're kissing on his bed (they'd gotten to that point where sex didn't mean anything anymore) and Brad hints at wanting a tryst right there and then in the bedroom. Adam hesitates, then shakes his head, leading Brad to the shower instead. By all accounts, Adam does seem to enjoy it when Brad's on his knees, but as he tilts his head back and lets the hot water pound down on him, he looks a little dead behind the eyes. Meanwhile, Kris is downstairs playing bowling with the girls and Danny.
Later on, the two of them are on their way out for dinner, when they run into Kris in the hallway. Adam introduces them. Kris's winsome smile isn't lost on Brad; neither is the quick flush in Adam's cheeks.
Once they're in Brad's car, he teases Adam relentlessly.
"...But he's married."
"Like that's gonna stop you," Brad retorts with a devious grin. "Bitch, please."
"Nothing's gonna happen, Cheeks, I do follow a moral code."
"Except when it's more convenient not to."
Adam just makes a face at him.
Kris is still in the hallway, looking contemplative. He heads upstairs.
One evening, Adam's sound asleep while Kris is sitting up on his bed, eyes on him, mouth opening like he wants to say something, but decides against it. He can't sleep, though, so he heads out to the balcony to contemplate while watching the moonlight reflected in the pool below.
His movements have disturbed Adam's sleep, however, and it's not too long before Adam joins him on the balcony. "You okay?"
Adam's voice knocks the wind out of Kris. He pales as he looks sideways to Adam, clearly the last person he wanted to see at that particular moment of conflict. "Uh, yeah, just thinking about stuff."
"At this hour?"
"It was keeping me up."
Adam bumps his hip against Kris's. "So, what's eating at you?"
"I, uh..." As wind brushes brown hair across his eyes, Kris stares right up at him. Any trace of a smile left on his face has faded away. Once Adam thinks he understands what this means, his jovial grin vanishes, too.
His startled yelp is muffled by Kris's lips on his.
Kris cups Adam's face in his hands and pushes himself up against his body. I don't think it'd be fair to either of them if I attempted to describe their feelings for you, because a visual can only tell you so much, but I am certain that Kris is making most of the moves here. Adam soon grows receptive to it, though. He closes his eyes; he's silent as he deepens the kiss, tangling his fingers in with Kris's.
When Adam's fingertips brush over his wedding ring, Kris recoils. "I, uh, I really shouldn't --"
He's a little surprised when Adam responds with, "You're right." Adam takes his hands off of him and holds them up at chest level as a form of surrender. "I shouldn't, either."
At a loss for anything sensitive or appropriate to say, Kris rushes out through the sliding door, mumbling an apology as he goes. He stops at the bottom of the stairs, catching his breath and staring, terrified, into the darkness.
He ends up sleeping on the couch, and even then, not really sleeping at all.
Adam stays on the balcony for a while, bringing his hand up to his lips only once, then goes to bed.
The whole morning passes without them ever encountering each other. The bathroom door is ajar; Adam's inside, retouching his nails by the sink. Sensing some movement, he glances up at the mirror to see Kris standing at the doorway.
He can barely make eye contact with Adam. "Um, hi."
"Hi," Adam says, cautiously, unsmilingly.
"I just wanted to apologize about last night. It was careless of me. Not that I regret it or anything," Kris adds quickly, "I don't. But, uh. I'm not really free to do any of that kind of stuff with anyone, you know? And you don't deserve to be dragged into my mess."
"No, I get it." He allows a tentative smile. "It's cool, Kris. We're okay."
"Good," Kris sighs, relieved. "But, well, now you know about how I feel -- I mean -- 'cause I really do, it's just that I can't do anything about it."
Adam's more bemused than anything right now. "...Sure."
"I can't control my feelings, but I can control what I do about them."
"I'm aware of that adage."
"Just wanted to make that totally clear. Last night wasn't plain old nothing to me, Adam."
"And I don't want to lose --"
"We can pretend that nothing happened, alright? Still friends." Adam's cheeriness is rehearsed, like this scenario was all too familiar to him.
It makes Kris feel a little guilty, but he'll take what he can. "Still friends. Awesome. That's all I needed." He sighs in relief, grins goofily and bounds out the room.
That is essentially what happens. They go back to being friends, and are good enough at acting like nothing happened that nobody else in the house suspects anything. They never hug anymore -- Kris tried, once, but it got awkward.
Can you fast-forward through this part? Not that it's not important, but I hate watching this. You'll get the gist anyway, just watching the haze of scenes at quadruple the speed: Kris and Danny in the middle of the stage, a camera zooms in on Seacrest, there's a sendoff dinner which isn't as festive as the ones that preceded it because now it's down to Kris, Danny and Adam.
Okay, press play here. Right side of the screen has Kris laying neatly folded clothes into an open suitcase on the bed. Left side has Adam sitting on his own bed, trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears. He wipes one away with his fist before it threatens to fall.
"I hate that this is happening."
"It's cool," Kris insists, turning to face him. "It was bound to happen eventually. I think I did way better than I expected."
"This all happens to you and yet somehow it's me who ends up crying," Adam says, laughing through his tears. "I'm so utterly gay right now."
"Hey, it's okay to cry. I'm glad."
"It means you're gonna miss me." The smile on Kris's face is both dorky and a little shy.
Adam rushes forward, crumpling in Kris's arms. They stay that way until the tears stop coming. He edges back, a little. Gray eyes meet brown ones. Lips collide.
They're not too sure who made the first move, but you can see here that they both went for it about the same time. It's less urgent and desperate than on that one night. More...tentative. Gradual.
This time it's Adam who pulls away. "Are you sure?" he asks breathlessly.
Kris slides off his wedding ring and leaves it on a chair. "We only have one night left. I want this." He pulls off his shirt, keeping his eyes squarely on Adam, who is speechless as he stares. Kris leans up to kiss him again, harder this time, unbuttoning Adam's shirt along the way. And for once, the black border dividing the screen fades, and it's just the two of them in the same space.
He pulls Adam towards the bed, reclining as Adam straddles him. He looks nervous.
"How far do you want this to go?" Adam whispers, leaning forward.
Kris reaches down to unzip his jeans. "We only have one night left," he repeats more firmly.
Which, not really, they still had the tour, but perhaps Kris meant that by the time the tour started they could comfortably go back to pretending that nothing ever happened between them.
As he works Kris's jeans down over his hips, Adam drinks in the sight of him: the expanse of milky, unmarred skin; pillowy lips parted slightly; the deep brown eyes that had earned him the nickname "Puppy" at the mansion, now looking up at him, half-lidded, pleading. Like a carnal angel. Adam bends down to run his tongue over Kris's angular jaw, then trails kisses all the way down his chest.
We'll pan away to the empty side of the room at this point, and fade it to black for a while. I think you know what's about to happen. There's a limit to what we will invade.
Alright, here. The lights are now off, and they're on the bed, basking in the afterglow, limbs entangled. Adam's on his back, Kris's slight, pale body is sprawled out on top of him. He nuzzles Adam's chest, giggling.
"What's so funny?"
Kris looks up at him, resting his chin on Adam's chest and ruffling his hair. "I can't remember the last time I was this...happy." Almost instantly, that joyous expression turns melancholy. "If only I could stay like this."
This time, the smile Adam puts on is equally plaintive. "I think we're better off not going there."
"You have someone waiting for you back home. And at least this way, we won't get sick of each other in a year, split up acrimoniously and never see each other again. Breakups suck, you know. Not to mention the whole shitstorm that this would stir up in the press."
"You're right, it's better this way." He shifts upward to give Adam one last, lingering kiss. "But I'm really glad this happened."
"Me too. You have no idea."
The sun hasn't even risen yet the following morning when Kris wakes up. Making sure that Adam's sound asleep, he rolls off of the bed and heads to the telephone to call the car service that the show provided for them. After that, he picks his clothes up off of the floor, and his ring from the chair he left it on. We can see from the watch he straps on his wrist that it's a little after 6 a.m. now.
The black divider reappears when Kris exits the room, duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
He takes a quick shower when he gets home, then takes some ingredients out of the fridge knowing that Katy usually wakes up at around ten.
On the left side of the screen you'll see that Adam wakes up right about now. He looks to either side of the bed, realizing he's alone. And even though no one's around to see him, he still tries to mask his disappointment with a flippant shrug and a blank expression. He pointedly avoids looking in the mirror when he goes to take a shower.
Kris sees the two matching aprons hanging on the side of the refrigerator. He takes the one with his name on it and slips it on, looking a little guilty as he thumbs the text embroidered on it.
Adam's drying his hair with a towel as he leaves the bathroom, and his gaze falls on the bed for the first time since he left it. Empty. It's all that's left after everything was said and done. He sits gingerly at the edge of it. We don't know what he's thinking, but clearly he's going through the effects of the aftermath. He wasn't used, by any means, and it's doubtful he actually feels that way. But this is someone who had something wonderful happen to him, just the one time, and now it hits him that he couldn't ever experience it again. Maybe he can feel a little bit used.
He bites his lip. You can tell he's trying to stop the tears from coming. Kris gave no more and no less than what he expected, or what he was supposed to expect. But it hurts, regardless. It's like knowing heartbreak was coming at him like a freight train, and letting it happen anyway.
"God damn it," he hisses as the first tear comes down. Figuring he might as well get it over with quickly, Adam caves in and buries himself under the comforter. He's still unwilling to let it devolve into loud, ungraceful sobbing. The tears roll quietly, the sobs are restrained.
Maybe he just feels lonely.
It's still better than a real, messy breakup, though.
I know you're tempted to fast-forward to the concert tour to see how it all pans out, but I'm gonna stop you right here. You can figure it out on your own. Do they go back to the "succumb to their desires, then pretend it didn't happen the next day" cycle? Maybe. Do they just never speak of it again, and go back to being friends? Possibly. Perhaps their erstwhile friendship is wrecked and they're reduced to being nothing more than civil around each other, while the other contestants speculate on what their big fight was about. Could they maybe one day profess their love, realize they're meant to be, and stay together against all odds? That's not likely, but who knows.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. What does count is that they now know how they feel about each other, and despite the tears and guilt that came as a result of this one night, there is no regret. (We should hope not, anyway.)
Katy trudges sleepily into her kitchen, letting out a squeal of excitement when she sees her husband there. She jumps into his arms, they're laughing and kissing and it's like no time has passed between them at all. It feels just like home. Kris glances briefly at the telephone, but it doesn't ring.
There's a knock on Adam's door. Adam peers up from the comforter to see Danny and his familiar spectacles in the doorway.
"They need us in the studio in five min -- whoa. You okay, Adam?"
He takes in a deep breath. "Don't worry about it. I'll be fine."
"You must really miss him, huh?"
Adam nods, because yeah, he does, but probably not in the way Danny is thinking.
Danny smiles sympathetically. "I'll wait downstairs for you, okay?"
"No problem. Thanks, Danny."
"And if you wanna talk, I'm always here."
"I appreciate that."
As the door closes, Adam wonders if maybe Danny does understand. For all of his klutzy naivety, Danny was surprisingly perceptive when it came to the things that really mattered. Still, even if he knew, Adam couldn't discuss this thing openly with him, as much as he would have liked to take Danny up on that offer. This matter was just between him and Kris, and Adam was determined to shove this memory and the stray feelings that came with it into the back corners of his mind. It wasn't worth wasting any time over.
Adam gets out of bed and heads back into the bathroom to do his makeup. He sits by the dresser, squares his shoulders, looks into the mirror and produces a camera-ready smile.
Kris and Katy are sitting across each other at the breakfast table, still giddy about finally getting to spend time together again. With her mouth half-full, she starts chattering away about various funny things that happened while he was away, random people approaching her on the street, her young niece's excitement at seeing Kris on TV every week, that sort of thing. He just sits back and listens, nodding and laughing when appropriate. That telephone still does not ring.
And it probably shouldn't.
"...I mean, this all made me realize that I'm the luckiest girl in the world."
"Hell yeah, you are. I'm crazy hot." He's quick to dodge the spoonful of mashed potato that's flung at him.
His smile is nowhere near what it was last night, but it's still sincere. This is the life he's set up for himself, and it's a pretty good one.
He's not happy, but he's really okay, and he's willing to settle for okay.
Fade to black.