Adam thinks Neil is the funniest, wittiest guy he knows. And, okay, Neil's cloaked himself in enough irony and natural cynicism that he can mock his way through anything. So Adam's got a point. It's one of Neil's deep dark secrets, actually, along with kinda having a giant gay mancrush on Ed Norton: he's spent his whole life becoming the funniest guy he could be so that people wouldn't compare him to Adam.
Only Adam's trumped that one forever now, so now Neil has 2 choices left: a) pretend like he's not related or b) make wittily deprecating jokes about his brother's newfound fame and fortune and how it has (or hasn't) changed his life. So far, a) isn't really getting him anywhere on dates, since he mostly spends the dates panicking about how to keep the girl from finding out his brother is Adam Lambert, and not so much actually paying attention to her. And b) is mostly just an irony wrapped in a sarcasm wrapped in a brown paper bag of cynicism.
See, the thing is, even though Neil snarks about how people who think internet fame changes things are morons, internet fame kinda... well, it kinda does change everything. It's not so much that things change for Neil specifically, but in between their whole family being stalked by the paps and Adam having to hire a private driver to run erratic circles around LA for half an hour before he can meet them for dinner, and random strangers hitting up Neil's blog fifty times a day to tell him that his brother's a giant flamer and/or the Messiah Himself, it's like every last thing about his life has become coated in this extra-gooey layer of surreality.
People who found his website before he yanked his contact info start passing it around, and pretty soon hot chicks are emailing him topless photos that say "pass this on to Adam."
Adam laughs it off, but he's already had to turn off his own email because of all the porn he's getting from fans. "Sure, turn it off," Neil says. "That way they'll just send it to me. I've got no problem with that."
"If you actually start texting me pictures of naked women with my name written on their boobs," says Adam, "I will never let you step foot inside the Idol Mansion."
"Dude," says Neil.
"Which means you won't be able to blog about how unimpressed you are with my little lapdance of luxury," Adam adds.
"That's where you're wrong, I can blog about that anyway," says Neil, but Adam laughs, and Neil decides that the least he can do for his superstar brother is filter the naked fan photos out, if not by gender, then at least by levels of hotness.
Since before the contest even started, Neil's been convinced that his brother's going to win; he's been planning to move to New York for over a year, but when Adam made it to Hollywood Week in early fall, the first thing Neil did was mark his calendar for June, because no way is he going to be three time zones away when his brother becomes the next American Idol.
There's a part of him, though, that thinks it's all in his head, that surely Adam can't be as good as Neil's always thought he was. He's so wary, at first, that he's completely projecting Adam's popularity that it takes a while for it to really sink in: that the entire world freaking agrees with him.
And then it's kinda like, holy shit, his brother's going to be the next American Idol.
Adam swears that if he has anybody to beat besides himself, then it's going to be Kris Allen, his roommate in the Idol Mansion. Neil writes that off as Adam being nice; the guy can't even get the studio cameras to notice him, how's he supposed to get thirty million people to do it?
Then he says as much to Adam and Adam snaps that Kris is the best musician here.
"Not better than you," says Neil.
"No, yeah," says Adam. "He's totally better than me."
Which is such a load of crap that it makes Neil pay attention. And, well. Kris Allen plays like ten instruments and does his own arranging. Which is not half bad. And actually kind of brilliant. And enough to land him into the top 8 right there with Adam.
So then Neil sort of grudgingly, half-jokingly-but-real, in that overly protective brotherly way, has to resent Kris Allen for blocking Adam's clear path to victory. (Unlike Gokey, whom he resents just because it's fun. "He's not that bad, really," says Adam plaintively. "Bullshit," says Neil. "No, really, he's mostly pretty nice," says Adam, and then there's a pause before he says a little tiredly, "I've met worse." And Neil wishes he were the older brother so he could say something protective, like, "Just say the word and I'll kick his ass," without it sounding all weird.
Instead he calls Kris Allen an Obstruction of Justice, and Adam gets pissy and snaps that they're not competing and Kris is an amazing guy and Adam hopes he makes it to the finals, and whatever, Neil's ruining his zen, and hangs up.
Just for that, Neil sends him a lolcat that says IM ON UR ROOF, SEEKIN PROOF.)
The truth is, Adam's gotten closer to Kris in the weeks they've been rooming together than he has to most of his exes, and it's starting to weird Neil out. Neil gets texts from Adam at least once a day that start with Kris just said or Kris thinksKris's mom wants to know if you like toffee im telling her you do ok</i>. Apparently their parents are all hanging out now, and Kris's wife treats Adam like a member of the family, and Adam's introduced them all to Drake (and how surreal is it that some hick from Arkansas met Adam’s boyfriend before Neil did).
It wouldn't be the first time their parents have gone all freaky about bonding with other showbiz parents - their mom used to throw giant cast parties for Adam's theatre groups in high school and use them as an excuse to hang out with all the other parents drinking margaritas. But Adam's never been into family bonding much. Certainly not with his own family, even if he and Neil have both made an effort since Thanksgiving; and definitely not with anyone else's.
But now he's, like, practically a second son to these people and has nothing bad to say about the guy himself, even though he's a born-again bible-quoting cross-wearer, and Neil doesn't want to stereotype, but (quite literally) Jesus.
Neil can't quite shake it, the buzz that something is off, that the whole thing is just too... happy. Like, white-bread, born-again, hippy-level happy.
Neil's a hipster. He doesn't have the fucking software for this.
Dude, he texts Adam. Don't we usually avoid the churchies?
no way our moms are total bffs now is the response.
it's all a ploy to hook you up with the gay brother, Neil texts back, hitting 'Send' with relish.
Adam texts back - and seriously, what do they do in that stupid mansion, Adam freaking lives on his cell phone - idk kris says you're the hot one, maybe ploy is for you.
Yeah, so, Neil loves his brother and all, but he mostly hates the Allens.
Once when he calls Adam, he gets Kris instead. "Oh, hey," says a quiet, slightly reedy voice Neil only recognizes from television, which is just odd. "Is this Neil? Adam's in the bathroom, he told me not to let it go to voice mail or he'd kick my ass."
And it doesn't really sound much like the missionary boy Neil was expecting, which is probably why Neil only gets as far as, "Uh," before Kris is off again.
"Actually, I think he's waiting to hear from the hot waiter we had today. He told me he didn't slip him his phone number but I think he's lying."
"Is that Neil?" Adam yells in the background. "Oh, my god, Kris, don't listen to a word he tells you."
"You should listen to every word I tell you," says Neil.
"About Adam? Oh, boy. I don't think I have that long."
And then Adam apparently tacklegrips him and he drops the phone altogether and Adam doesn't bother texting back.
The whole thing is enough of a stretch that one night, when it's just late enough and Adam just exhausted enough for Neil to risk it, he asks: "Seriously, dude, are you into this guy?"
There's a moment of total silence before Adam says, sounding genuinely shocked, "What? Oh my god, no. You mean Kris? No, no, no way." He hasn't really babbled since they were kids, Neil thinks. "Did you not see that picture I sent you of Katy? God, they're adorable, you don't actually think I'd go there, do you?"
"Hey," Neil says. "Remember that time you decided you were in love with Ricky Martin? I swore then I'd always protect you from yourself."
"I was fifteen," says Adam. "You could have me for a sashay."
"And now?" says Neil, even though they both know Adam will still fall for Any guy who looks at him sideways.
Adam laughs, but it's a little ragged. The protective urge does rise up then, fierce and not without a bit of regret.
"Now it takes a little bit more," Adam says softly.
Neil has gotten into fistfights with his brother, walked in on his brother in all kinds of positions he never wants to think about again, cried himself to sleep against his brother's broad shoulder, and told his brother he never wanted to speak to him again. Oh, and once he sort of threw a frozen turkey at him.
Through all that, if he's learned one thing about Adam, it's when to leave him alone.
When Adam and Kris both make top 8, their families fly out and everyone insists on meeting everybody. They all go out to eat at some swank restaurant that's impossible to get into, but they all get swept inside like they're rock stars with their own fucking entourage, and one more piece of Neil's life shifts out of place, because that joke about riding on your famous brother's coattails only works as long as your brother's not actually famous.
They do a full-on meet-and-greet in the lobby while the hostesses spontaneously try to find seating for eighteen people. Kris says, "Neil!" like he just knows who Neil is, of course, and hugs him like they're old friends, one of those warm full-body hugs that he only gets from Adam and his mom. Neil never knows how to hug short people (dude is tiny) so before he can do more than register mild embarrassment, Kris steps back and says with a sheepish smile, "sorry, I think Adam and I both got the hugging genes."
"Neil got the aloof and unavailable gene," Adam says, hugging him from behind. Neil tries to look vaguely put-upon, but that lasts for all of two seconds before Katy Allen, who's both shorter and perkier than Kris, something Neil hadn't actually considered possible, bounds up and grabs his hand.
"Oh my goodness," she says, the living embodiment of every Southern belle stereotype ever, "I saw you across the room and I said to Kris’s mom, that's got to be Neil Lambert because he's the only one here who looks like he'd throw a turkey at Adam."
"Hey, thanks, man," says Neil, trying to squirm away and elbow his brother.
"It wasn't me!" Adam says, squealing like the fey, fey lad he is and shoving Kris in between them.
"Hey, hey," says Kris, holding out his hands. "I don't think I want to get between you two at dinner."
"Wow," Neil says, "so many things I could do with that sentence," just as Adam says, "Oh my god, don't even go there," and Kris adds, "Only not like that."
There's this moment where they all just look awkwardly at each other and at Katy, who says, "Don't look at me, I should be so lucky," and then they're all just gone.
And somewhere in between gasps of laughter is when Neil realizes that the only one who's being a stereotypical asshole here is him, and the Allens aren't just nice, they're awesome, and maybe he can actually lighten up around these people instead of being a dick.
Right, he thinks; no being a dick to Adam's new adopted family, even when they're really really begging for it.
Which is the moment someone behind him booms, "Y'all need to keep it down, you're disturbing the other customers," and Neil immediately amends his vow to, "except when they're really, really begging for it."
Neil turns around and says the first thing he can think of, which is, "Who called the brute squad?"
"Not the brute squad," says the guy, easily turning the last word into two syllables. "Cheerleading squad."
"Cheerleading," repeats Neil, still staring at the bulk of him - he's not huge, but he's built up and down, and his face looks like it's been chiseled out of the granite left over from his shoulders and his neck. He nods at Neil without a hint of irony.
"Oh, Lord," says Katy. "Now we'll never get you all to calm down."
"Oh my god, Daniel? You're Daniel, right?" Adam shoves past Neil with a high-voltage grin, arms already open.
Daniel grins wide but holds out his hand for a handshake instead of a hug. It's ... somehow the most manly gesture Neil's ever seen, and the floofiest. He's like the Brawny guy. If the Brawny guy were a repressed gay cheerleader. Oh, so repressed.
Adam just takes his hand and grins at him. Daniel sort of pumps his hand a lot and grins back. Adam exclaims, "Oh my god, you're huge! Kris is so tiny and you're like - you're like Mr. Clean!"
"Brawny guy," says Neil, unnecessarily.
"Hey," says Kris, rubbing Adam's shoulder. "I kept trying to tell you there were tall people in Arkansas."
"Well how am I supposed to know if they only export you and Katy," says Adam, slinging his arm around Kris. Next to Adam, Kris looks even more like he's about twelve years old. Neil keeps trying to see the same shine in him that he sees whenever he looks at Adam. Maybe it's the kind that rubs off on your hands but doesn't show up for hours. It hasn't shown up yet as far as Neil's concerned.
Kris laughs. "I don't think the world's ready for Danny," he says.
"Really?" says Adam, grinning wickedly at Daniel - Danny. It would be flirting in any other circumstance, but Daniel just keeps pumping Adam's hand, then puts his other hand on top and just sort of presses onto Adam's, which is a move Neil associates with priests and rabbis. Daniel wants to be a pastor, he remembers. He's kind of weirded out that he even knows that about some guy from Arkansas he's never met.
If Daniel's affected by the Lambert Mating Call, you'd never know it to look at him. But then he sort of stumbles over his words and suddenly goes all-out fanboy on Adam. "It is so good to meet you, man," he says, and then goes off about how Adam's the best on the show besides Kris, how they all made sure to vote for him, too, how "Mad World" was his favorite and he's watched it like ten times. Neil thinks that he's seeing some sort of microcosm of gay identity at work here: the world's first openly gay American Idol (because of course he will be) who's an open book without saying it, and a born-again right-wing Christian cheerleader who's an open book without knowing it.
It's just one more absurdity on top of a giant, ever-growing pile of them. He's exhausted thirty seconds into Daniel's spiel. Adam just smiles like he's heard it all before and says, "Well, you know, I'm glad you got to come tonight because you get to meet my brother--" he extricates himself from Daniel's grasp and presents Neil. "He taught me 'Mad World' a few years back."
Daniel looks back over at Neil like he’s forgotten he was there, even though Neil is still standing right next to his brother. He and Adam are nearly the same height, but of course Adam's wearing boots that put him an inch or two taller than everybody else except Daniel.
"Hi," Neil says. "I'm Neil." Daniel shakes his hand. Gigantic grip, ridiculously soft palm, Neil thinks. "So, cheerleading squad."
"I know, I know," says Daniel. "People make jokes about it all the time. But I just like getting people excited, I like to pump people up, you know?"
Neil consciously does not smirk, does not exchange glances with Adam. "Oh, sure," he says. "Well. I don't know from personal experience."
"Neil makes people antisocial," Adam grins. Neil punches him in the arm.
"I hear you play piano," Daniel says, and again with the short words getting the extra-syllable treatment. Neil smiles and tells him about teaching Adam the Gary Jules version of "Mad World" over one winter break. It was nice.
He'd been tinkering around with the Steinway upright that had sat in their parlor his whole life. Neither he or Adam had ever played it much, but their mom had insisted on both of them learning piano so that when they were old, she said, they'd be able to play Shabbat hymns for her. Adam came and listened for a while, and then just started silently singing along. Then their parents drifted into the room and sat silently on the sofa, just watching the two of them, and even though Neil had burned with embarrassment, he'd been proud of the way they'd sounded together. It was a completely depressing song, but somehow that had stayed one of Neil's happiest, sappiest moments.
That had been before last year; before they got lost on the way to the fucking Safeway to buy cranberry sauce, and Adam screamed at him to stop being such a douche, that he was sick of Neil taking his jealousy out on him instead of just admitting it so they could deal with it and move on.
They made up at Hanukkah, but the four weeks in between were ugly and bitter. They've been treading lightly ever since.
Maybe some of that's showing in his face; by the time he finishes, Daniel's studying him carefully. You wouldn't think it at first glance but he wears a naturally serious expression, like when he's not smiling his face folds into itself.
"So see, it's not all about violence with poultry at the Lambert household," Neil ends with a weak grin.
"I love that movie," is all Daniel says. "Donnie Darko."
"Wouldn't think it'd be your style," says Neil.
Daniel lifts an eyebrow. "Why not?"
"It's not really very..." Christian, he thinks. "Peppy," he says.
Daniel shrugs. “I like it,” he says.
“Yeah,” says Neil, “me too,” and then, thank god, the hostess finally returns and leads them all away.
At dinner, Adam and Daniel are the loud ones. Kris and Neil don't do much talking. Neil throws in snarky comments about Adam, and Kris is gentle and self-deprecating about himself. Daniel is full of anecdotes and laughter, but they're mostly about his brother. Neil finds himself watching Daniel across the table, studying the language of his face and his body. It's like he's still in cheerleader mode.
Neil doesn't think he's ever been that animated about anything in his life.
"You'd make a great schoolteacher," he says, before he even realizes he's speaking out loud. It‘s just loud enough, even, to cut across the other conversations so that everyone hears him.
“Oh Neil, I’m so glad you said that,” Kim Allen says from the other end of the table. Daniel throws Neil a weirdly longsuffering look that Neil doesn’t understand until Kim goes off about how she’s been telling Daniel he ought to be a schoolteacher since he was in high school. “He used to be on the debate team and I tell you he could talk anyone’s ear off. He’d be perfect as a high school English teacher.”
English, Neil thinks. Gay, gay, gay.
“You like literature, man?” he asks. “Our dad was a professional poet for a while - sort of.” Adam snorts. Their dad is talking with Daniel’s dad at the other end of the table about fly-fishing, even though their dad’s never been fly-fishing in his life. But then, their dad is crazy.
“I used to write poetry,” Daniel says. “I won a few local contests, but,” he laughs, “it’s not like there’s a lot of competition for poet laureates in Conway.” His face cracks open into a grin. “I got nothing on Adam, though.”
Their dad finally looks up and says, “I gave Adam the gift!” to much laughter, because everyone knows about Adam’s poetry.
“You should make Daniel read you some of his stuff,” The Allen’s dad says. “I don’t get it, but it sounds real smart. He and Kris used to write songs together - Kris would do the music and Daniel would put in the words.”
“Dad,” Daniel says, and now he really does sound longsuffering. Neil knows just how he feels. Any second his mom is going to chime in with a story of how Neil and Adam used to do duets in the parlor, and what a shame Neil never kept up piano, he was so good. And then Neil will have to explain how he doesn’t really perform in public the way Adam does, and he’ll get to watch everyone else fill in the cracks and work the rest out for themselves: how during the years Adam's been busy working his ass off at his quote-unquote career, Neil's basically putzed around doing fuck-all. And while Adam’s attempts to find himself or whatever have led him here, Neil’s attempts to find himself have led him around in circles.
It's kind-of eerie, he realizes, how much alike he and Daniel are. They’re the Other Brothers That Could But Didn't. They’re also musical, also good at singing, and also, let's face it, not half-bad-looking. It’s just that he and Daniel aren't enough of all those things for any one of them to stick, let alone to make them America's next Idol. It’s like Adam’s made out of fairy dust and glitter, Kris is kind of twinkly, and Daniel and Neil are less sparkly and more like vaguely in need of spit-polish.
Neil has mercy on him. “Hey, man, if cheerleading’s your thing you should stick with it. Do what you love. The world‘s got plenty of people who can teach. What we really need are more people who can do a double backflip.”
Daniel blinks and then laughs. It’s sharp and short, like he’s surprised Neil’s said something funny.
“Daniel does teach cheerleading. Juniors and high school teams,” Kris says.
“Girls or boys?” Neil can’t help asking.
Daniel gives him a blank look that Neil almost feels guilty about, which is when Adam cuts in smoothly, “Neil teaches American History and political science.”
“Used to,” Neil corrects. “Used to teach.”
“Why’d you quit?” Daniel asks. His face has folded itself back into that solemn creaseless stare.
Neil shrugs. “Got an internship in Washington for a while. Thought it’d be good for me, wound up hating it. Came back here.” He stops, then, because Daniel’s looking at him like he’s expecting more, adds, “I may be starting back up in the fall. Teaching, I mean.”
“You should,” Daniel says. “Kids are great.”
“I got no problem with the kids,” Neil says, digging into his hamburger ($34, only in LA, man) as an excuse to keep from unleashing a long diatribe about the American educational system. “It was everything else you have to put up with. It’s rough.”
“Yeah,” Daniel says. “But worth it, maybe.” He takes a bite of his dinner and chews thoughtfully. “You get to teach kids to think outside the box, question what’s around them. Especially teaching history - I bet that’s cool.”
“I guess,” Neil says. “You get to debunk a lot of stereotypes, misconceptions - sometimes it’s tough, sometimes it’s just fun.”
“I hated history in school,” Adam says. “Neil‘s big on honoring your roots, understanding your past, all that jazz.”
(EDITED TO CUT OUT RLY EMBARRASSING PART I NEVER MEANT FOR ANYONE TO SEE ugh life)
Adam says, “Oh my god, I know, right? People always talk about how much pressure women are under to look certain ways, but I honestly think men are under at least as much if not more to act ‘masculine‘ or whatever.”
“Well, some of us have never had a problem,” Neil says.
“Oh, please, like you didn‘t see that Hulk movie four times so you could ogle Edward Norton‘s biceps,” Adam says.
Neil‘s laugh unfortunately is a bit gigglish. “That’s different,” he says. “What Ed and I have is special.”
Across the table, Daniel chokes and Neil throws an exaggerated wink at him that Adam thankfully doesn’t see.
“Has anyone ever told you what lovely boys you have?” Katy asks their mom.
“I tried to send them back but the stork had a policy of no returns and no exchanges,” she deadpans.
“Do you get flack very often?” Kris asks Adam, looking at him seriously. “For anything - you know, I mean other than the usual Gokey stuff.” The way his lips tighten when he says that decides it for Neil. He likes the guy. He kinda likes them all. Dammit.
"In Hollywood, are you kidding?“ Adam says. “God, nobody knows what to do with me. They want to put gay men in this little Ryan Seacrest box - sorry mom, I know you’re in love with him, but that man’s as gay as a daisy in May. They don’t want you to be out unless you have the decency to act straight. It‘s bullshit.”
“We think you’re fantastic exactly the way you are, Adam,” Katy says. “Don’t ever let anyone make you think you need to change.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Adam says, batting his eyes at her, because sometimes he is unreal, he really is, “I figure anyone who wants me to change is insecure with who they are.” He looks back over at Daniel. “I mean, you probably get that, being a male cheerleader and all. There’s probably not a lot of, um, wiggle room to be yourself.”
Daniel’s eyes widen, as if he’s not sure how to feel about having his situation compared to Adam‘s. But after a moment he only says, “All I care about is having a good time. There’s always jokes and rumors, but you just write those off and keep doing what you do.”
“Exactly,” says Adam. “The worst is like, now that I'm on tv or whatever, and everyone knows me as that gay guy from Idol, it's like straight men feel like they have permission to hit on me because it's allowed or something. Like it's okay because I can be the exception to their rule, and obviously I'll just be thrilled to bag a straight guy, right? It's like they think they can use me to deal with their issues. I'm not your magical mouth, okay? I'm not going to give you a blowjob and set you free."
There’s a bit of a shocked silence, before Kris says, “Just how magical are we talking, here?” Katy laughs and punches him in the arm, and Adam punches him too, and Neil reaches over to ruffle his brother’s hair.
Daniel falls silent. Neil doesn’t know why, but he feels kind of duty-bound as the fellow other brother to make them both comfortable.
“So do you love cheerleading?” he starts, just as Daniel says, “So, you play piano?”
They grin at each other. Daniel’s is a little sheepish. “Yeah,” Neil says. “I play a little.”
“Me too,” says Daniel. “I play a little piano, a little guitar. Can‘t let Kris think he has all the talent in our family.”
“Adam was born with his ego,” Neil says. Adam elbows him sharply and just keeps right on talking to Katy. Daniel’s grin gets bigger.
Daniel talks a lot, but more about Kris than himself: how he’s been helping Kris choose his songs and work out how to perform them, how he’s been trying to get Kris to audition for Idol for years. Neil has to be direct to find out much at all about him: that he likes cheerleading but isn’t sure it’s what he was meant to do; that he likes all kinds of music but likes blues and jazz better than pop and country; that he doesn’t have a girlfriend but does have a black lab named Rimmer.
Neil almost chokes. “Rimmer?“ and then, because he’s duty-bound to ask, “You mean, like. Ace?”
Daniel’s face lights up like a sky split by a firecracker. “Yeah! You know that show?”
The rest of dinner is cake.
Daniel and Neil basically rehash every episode of Red Dwarf ever, and then Neil just starts tossing out random British comedy just to see if he‘ll bite. Which he does because Daniel Allen is a surprise geek. By the time the checks arrive, they’ve covered most of Neil’s life in BBC trivia, from Fawlty Towers to Black Adder, everything from Mighty Boosh to Father Ted. Daniel’s doing his best, “I do not believe it!” in this horrible Southern-British prude voice, which is the most hilarious thing Neil’s ever heard in his life, when Kim Allen calls for everyone’s attention and Neil remembers where he is.
The Allens, being the most awesome non-Lambert family in the universe, are planning a giant post-Idol cookout sometime in the month between the end of the season and the start of the tour in July, probably right after Kris’s birthday. Kris gets to come home for a week before the tour, and they’re inviting all the Lamberts to come stay with them for all or part of it.
“Oh my god, it’ll be like a giant sleepover at Kris and Katy‘s!” squeals Adam, whose arms are long enough to reach around and hug them both.
“I don‘t know if you realize what you‘re asking,” says Neil’s mom. “The last time Eber and I stayed in the same place for longer than a day or two he shorted out the fusebox.”
“It wasn’t me!” says their dad. “It was those goddamn space heaters, and if you hadn’t been such an ice princess we wouldn’t even have needed them!”
Their mom sticks her tongue out at their dad by way of a reply, and the Allens just sort of ’aww’ at them, because the Allens don’t know that Neil’s parents are insane. Or maybe they do, but they’re just insane enough themselves not to care. They are pretty epic. They all vote for Adam right along with Kris every week. The Lamberts are all voting for Kris, too. Well, Neil’s not, because he wants his brother to win, not lose to the only other hot guy in the competition.
“And you have to come, too, Neil,” Katy says, leaning past Kris, who’s totally feeling up Adam like it’s no big deal to keep your hand on your gay bff’s thigh while your wife is right there. It’d be kinda awesome and laidback and maybe even a little hot, if Neil wasn’t already worried about Adam getting his heart broken or some stupid shit. He wonders if Kris has any clue, or if he’s the kind of guy who just wouldn’t let a thing like sexual confusion stop him from getting in a little groping. Neil maybe sort of envies him. It’s like he just… feels what he feels and it’s no big deal.
Neil thinks sometimes he makes a big deal out of everything except the things that matter.
“Neil?” Katy says, and he realizes he’s totally zoned out with all of them staring at him.
“Don’t let him give you any shit,” says Adam. “He’s my brother, he’ll come.”
“Hey,” says Daniel, “let me know in advance so I can burn them off and we can totally mainline whatever series you want while you‘re there.”
“Dude,” says Neil, “awesome,” in the same moment Kim chirps, “So, Neil, Adam says you like toffee?”
And that’s how Neil ends up, fresh from meeting the Allens, with a two-pound bag of Gulf Shores saltwater taffy and Daniel Allen’s phone number.
“So what do you think, gay or just unfortunately estrogen-endowed?” Neil says on the ride back to the hotel. He could really get used to being driven everywhere in limos.
“I’ve already told you he’s totally straight, why do you think continuing to ask is going to change anything,” Adam says absently. He‘s turned toward the window, looking at his nails. Neil thwaps his arm.
“Excuse me, Mr. Obvious, I meant Daniel, not Kris.”
Adam rolls his eyes. “I just had to sit through three hours of you baiting that poor man, which he was very gracious about by the way, and that’s not enough for you? Just drop it before it actually gets awkward and I have to explain to Kris why my baby brother is projecting his own repression onto random members of his family.”
“So he is,” says Neil.
“God, what is with you?” Adam says. “This is the part of the rom-com where Lizzy’s all obsessed with Mr. Darcy even though she acts like she hates him.”
“Dude,” says Neil, because come on, “since when do you not want to play ‘spot the closet case’?”
“Uh, dude,” says Adam with exaggerated disgust, “since I’m rooming with the potential closet case’s brother?”
“Really, because sometimes you make it sound like you’re rooming with the closet case,” Neil snaps.
Adam snorts. “Believe me, honey, if there was anything queer about that stallion I’d trot it right out of that stall and ride it like it owed me money.”
“Okay, what have we said, about the unwanted images?”
“Just trying to lead by example, baby brother.”
“Please,” says Neil, “lead on. Between the hallucinogens and the body paint, I think I‘m really starting to figure some things out.”
Adam laughs and kisses him on the head. Neil dutifully squirms away, and then they tussle like ten-year-olds until they pull into the hotel courtyard.
“So you think he’s gay, right?” Neil can’t resist adding as he hops out.
“Oh my god, that’s it, from now on you are banned from talking to me til after performance night each week,” says Adam, shooing him away. “I’m serious, you’re fucking with my vibe.”
“Great, call you tomorrow,” says Neil.
“Oh, fine, whatever,” says Adam with a grin.
Daniel Allen is like, nowhere. He leaves no trace on the internet, which is crazy, because Neil’s never met anyone who leaves no trace on the internet. The best he can come up with is some blurry group photos from the Central Arkansas cheerleading website. He thinks one of the male coaches for some of the junior girls’ squad is Daniel, but he’s not really sure.
When he gets nowhere, he tries googling poetry contests in Arkansas, and when that doesn’t work, he gives up and just calls the guy.
“Hey, you’ve reached Daniel,” says Daniel Allen’s voice mail. “I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave a message, and have a great day in Christ!”
“Jesus,” says Neil out loud, and then the beep catches him in mid-disgust and there’s a stupid pause while he figures out what the hell he wants to say.
“Hey, so, I met you Friday night,” he says to Daniel Allen’s voice mail. “Your mom gave me saltwater taffy. From Gulf Shores, Alabama. Even though you’re from Arkansas. Which I actually think doesn’t even touch the gulf, which is sort of cheating. Oh, and this is Neil, Adam’s brother. Adam Lambert. You know him because of that show on tv. I’ll think of the name of it in a minute. Uh, tell your mom thanks for the taffy, by the way.
“So, anyway, I wanted to say hi. And also, like, if we’re really going to come out there to visit you guys - I’d say ’ya’ll’ but it’d sound really fake, like it just sounded when I just said that, actually - we’re going to have a Who marathon. And yes, I mean the doctor, not the band, and yes, between my dad and I we have all original series on dvd-r, because my dad’s insane and I have no life except for egging my superstar brother on to glory.
Uh, so, yeah. Later. Oh, and when we do this thing, we do it right. I’m talking dalek impressions. Bad Wolf jokes. The works. Resistance is futile. Lambert out.”
He hangs up the phone, and then stares at it.
A second later, he calls back and adds, “Oh, and I think you should actually send me some of your poetry. Or your song lyrics or something. I’ll trade you yours for some of Adam’s. Believe me, you want to say yes.”
Half an hour later Neil gets a text back.
Original Who is the best you can come up with?
Fine, Neil shoots back. Avengers plus your choice if Kris wins, mine if Adam wins.
Two seconds later his phone rings. "Uh, hi?" he says.
"Deal," says Daniel without preamble. "We text our bets on three."
"Dude, it's a friendly bet, not a frat ritual," says Neil, but he's typing it out anyway.
"It's a competition, roll with it," says Daniel, and Neil can't help the snort of laughter that escapes him.
"Were you born this way or did you hop out of a motivational workbook?" he says.
"I told you, I just like getting into the spirit," Daniel says without sounding offended, and Neil isn't sure whether he even knows he's being mocked. "Okay, on three."
"Okay, okay," Neil says. "Geez," and on 'three' he hits send. Adam wins: Farscape plus you share your poetry
A moment later, he gets back:
Kris wins: Farscape plus you play piano.
Neil grins. "You total cheat," he says, "Farscape's not even British, man."
"You didn't say anything about--" Daniel begins, and then he must get Neil's text, because there's a long pause, and then a startled laugh. "Wicked," he says. "Jim Henson it is."
"You've never even been on the internet, have you," Neil blurts.
"Only on Youtube," Daniel says. "Well, and sometimes I hang around Homestar and JibJab."
"Of course you do," Neil says. "I'm hanging up now."
Daniel laughs again. "What, before you tarnish your hipster cred?" he says. "Were you born this way or were you written into an indie movie?"
"Snappy," says Neil. "Nice try, keep it up and maybe you'll say something witty by 2010."
"Yeah, keep it up, puppet lover," says Daniel.
"Oh, I can," says Neil, voice dropping automatically, and then he thinks, oh fuck, and blurts, "Uh, but not like - right, yeah, bye," and hangs up with Daniel laughing his ass off.
The thing is - the thing is.
Neil owns every Vin Diesel movie ever. All of them.
Neil’s got nearly every movie Bruce Willis has ever made since entering the buffed-out Demi Moore phase of his career.
Neil can’t sing the lyrics to a single song by R.E.M. but he can pinpoint Michael Stipe in a crowd on a foggy day.
The thing is.
Neil kind of has a type.
The night after Kris sings “Falling Slowly,” Neil calls Adam from the airport before his plane leaves. He’s done this ritual every week: the quick flight down, 2 weeknights in the studio, one day of recovery, and then back up just in time to get a headstart on the weekend shift at his job. It’s starting to wear on him, but he’s been using it as an excuse to blow off packing, and basically anything else having to do with moving.
Adam’s upstairs in the frilly pink bedroom he shares with Kris. The place has thinned out a little, and it sounds empty. Adam’s playing Kris’s performance in the background, tinny on his laptop but still marvelous, and Neil swears he’s been crying a little. It’s that kind of a song, or else it would be if Neil could stand to have a brother who cries over his straight roommate, which he absolutely can’t, so he greets him with, "So what do you think about bisexuality? Do you really think everybody's bisexual?"
"That depends," says Adam, switching the song off.
"On whether someone is interested in being bisexual with me."
"Thanks, man, you've been a great help."
"Is my baby brother feeling a bit bi-curious?"
"I'm just thinking. Aloud. On the phone."
"Well,” says Adam, “If you want my advice, my girl Madonna said it best: every man should have another guy's cock in his mouth at least once."
"You met her once, dude. Once. Get over it."
"Saul only met God once," says Adam, "but once was all it took for him to have some kind of cosmic hallucinatory revelation. Kinda like Burning Man, actually." There's a pause while Neil actually takes the phone away from his ear in order to stare at it. When he puts it back, Adam says a little doubtfully, "That's what Kris said, anyway. But he also said he thinks Paul was gay so I'm not even sure if he was trying to draw some kind of comparison there or what."
"Dude," says Neil, "Can we stay on point without talking about your little Allen obsession?"
"The point being your little Allen obsession?"
"What? No. What? No! I don't have a crush!"
"Oh, please," says Adam. Neil says, “Fuck you," and hangs up.
Then he obsesses for the two hour flight up the coast over what it would be like to have another guy's cock in his mouth. Fucking Madonna.
"Oh, hi!" says Adam, and his whole face lights up in a way Neil hasn't seen since - well, since the last time he saw Adam and Kris together. A moment later Adam says, "How's Katy?" and walks into the living room, and Neil feels a little weird watching him go.
Half an hour later, after he's done helping their mom with the dishes, he pokes his head in. Adam's sitting stretched out in their dad's recliner, speaking softly into the phone. There's a strange, sad smile on Adam's face.
It looks relaxed and a little intimate, and with a jolt of recognition, Neil realizes what this is.
This was Neil, age thirteen, talking to his first crush, when neither one of them wanted to hang up the phone.
This was Neil, age twenty-three, on the phone with Daniel two days ago. Oh, he thinks. Oh.
He turns around and walks outside. He doesn't know how long it is before Adam comes outside to join him.
"Did you just now hang up?" Neil asks without looking at him.
"Yeah." Adam sits down beside him and the porch swing wobbles as he settles in. Neil scoots over.
"Dude," he says.
"I know," says Adam. "I know."
Neil looks over at him. Since Adam was a teenager, since before he first started wearing nail polish, he's never let anything rattle him. He wears deliberate calm like makeup. Now, though, he's pulled his feet up onto the edge of the swing, clutching his knees and staring hard at nothing.
"Does he know?" says Neil.
"Oh, god," says Adam with a gust of forced laughter. "I don't know. I think so. I hope not."
Neil tries to think of something to say that doesn't have the words "married" or "straight" in it.
Adam says roughly, "I would never try to pull him away from Katy."
"Do you think you could?" asks Neil.
"Oh my god," says Adam, "don’t ask me that. I can‘t even think about it," and then he laughs again, less forced this time because there are tears in it.
Neil leans over and tugs Adam's head down to rest against his shoulder. Adam doesn't cry hard; he just sort of vibrates softly against Neil and sniffles a lot. Then he starts laughing again, which kills Neil, because here they are, the freaking rockstar who came out on the cover of Rolling Stone, and Neil the loser with no direction, who secretly hates his brother's fame and hates himself more, and here they both are losing their shit over a couple of, wait for it, straight guys. Who are maybe not so straight, although that detail will never, ever matter because church boys from Arkansas aren‘t ever anything but straight.
But what’re you gonna call it? The Aristocrats, Neil thinks.
"I think I need to tell you something," he says aloud.
"What is it, baby brother," says Adam, muffled against Neil's shirt sleeve. He sniffles once and shifts away, but still keeps his arm around Neil's shoulder, warm and ridiculously comforting.
"I," Neil starts. "I think -"
He stops. This shouldn't be so hard for him. If everything he tries to live by is true, if everything he believes about his own brother is true - and it is - then saying this out loud should not be hard.
He takes a deep breath. "I think I might be bi.”
“Woah,” says Adam. “Woah. That’s not what I thought you were going to say.”
"What? What’d you think I was gonna say?”
"I thought you were going to tell me that you’re - never mind,” Adam says. “Go on.”
“It’s just. Lately I’ve been thinking about… things,” Neil ends lamely, unsure where to go with this. “With… someone.”
"Wait a minute," says Adam. "Is this about you and Daniel?"
Neil lets all the air out in frustration. Adam stares at him. "Oh my god," he says. "Oh my god!"
"I didn't even - "
"You don't have to say anything, look at your face," says Adam. "Oh my god."
Neil covers his face with his hands.
"Oh my god," says Adam again.
"Dude!" says Neil.
"Sorry!" says Adam. "It's just -" he bursts out laughing. "Sorry, okay, sorry, I'll be serious." He straightens up and clears his throat and says sincerely, "I have to ask you, because I always ask when guys talk to me about sexual confusion."
"You have guys who talk to you about sexual confusion?" Neil asks.
"Please, I'm a gay man," says Adam. "People think they can talk to me about anything related to sex and I'll impart wisdom to them like I'm the Flaming Buddha."
"Okay," says Neil. "The amount of TMI in this conversation is charting whole new levels, but go ahead, ask whatever."
"Are you sure this isn't just you getting over-involved because of the whole 'is he or isn't he' thing?"
Neil snorts. "There is no 'is he or isn't he.'"
“It’s not that simple,” Adam says. “There are straight men who have perfectly fabulous sex lives with women even though you’d write them off as queer in a second.”
“Yeah, but you don‘t--” Neil says, and then stops. Why is this so hard? He’s been sharing sex stories with Adam ever since he lost his virginity. He’s heard about every bad date Adam’s ever been on, every crush he’s ever had on a guy. He’s never been ashamed of his brother. And yet he can barely get the words out now.
Adam puts his arm around Neil’s shoulder.
“I think we’ve been flirting,” Neil blurts. “Like a lot.”
“Well, duh,” Adam says. “I thought you were just being all…” he waves a hand vaguely. “You know. Metro.”
“Danny’s probably never even ridden the metro,” Neil says.
“Danny?“ Adam echoes, then squeaks, “Oh my god, you’re totally into him.”
“This was a terrible idea,” Neil says.
“Oh my god,” says Adam, and then he starts giggling. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with you.” Neil punches his arm and Adam wraps his own around Neil in a smothering hug. “Have you said anything to him yet?”
“What, like, ‘Hey, Allen, you know how everyone knows you’re gay but you? What‘s up with that?’ For some reason I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
“I meant something more like ‘Want to go for drinks?’ but that line could work too,” Adam says with an eyeroll.
“What is there to say?” Neil says. “I mean. He’s in Arkansas.”
“Yeah,” says Adam. “But, I mean. You guys talk all the time, you have a great relationship.”
Neil laughs. “Okay, sure,” he says.
“I mean it. The one thing though, and Neil, I’m serious here – you need to be sure about this.”
“Duh,” says Neil. Adam shakes his head.
“No, I mean you need to be sure this isn’t just some kind of phase. Because if you really do go after it and later you change your mind, you could seriously fuck Daniel up. You don’t even know if he’s out. If he’s still trying to work through it and he gets hurt right away…”
“You think I haven’t already thought about that?” says Neil. Adam purses his lips and looks away. “I mean, it’s not like this has been a cakewalk for me, or anything.”
“It’s easier for you,” says Adam, “and you know it. But Daniel…”
There aren’t really words for what Daniel is, so Neil lets that go. “I’ll be careful,” is all he says.
“You better be,” says Adam, “because if you hurt Kris’s family I’ll help him beat you up.”
“Great. Thanks for the loyalty, bro.”
“God,” says Adam, “I seriously don’t believe I’m having this conversation. You know, I think the two of you could have something.”
“Please shut up,” says Neil.
“I mean it. He’s a great guy. If you can just drag him out of the closet, you couldn’t do better.” Adam leans back on the porch swing. “And hey, at least this way one of us gets our hot country boy.”
“About that,” says Neil.
“Forget it,” says Adam.
“No, I just mean,” Neil says. “I know how much it sucks. And I’m sorry.”
Adam sighs and finally says, “I have a boyfriend who’s totally into me. And I have an amazing best friend in Kris, and Katy, and we have the whole Allen family, and you have Daniel, and I wouldn‘t give any of that up for anything.”
Yeah, you would, Neil thinks. That’s how it works. But all he says, because Adam is wearing the lie all over his face, is, “Okay.”
He squeezes Adam’s hand, and the two of them fall silent for a moment. The night is thick and hot around them, dry and harsh as only the air in L.A. can be. Neil’s not gonna miss this place, he thinks. Except he sort of already does.
“Hey, so," says Adam. "I never said thank you."
"You didn't have to put off your move. You did. You waited til June and you can't tell me it wasn't because of Idol."
"Yeah, well," says Neil. He doesn't know how to say that he hasn't even started to pack yet; that every time he gets close he winds up driving to the beach and walking the shore for hours, trying to figure out what he wants. Trying to figure out how to say goodbye.
"You really did think I'd make it all the way, didn't you," says Adam softly.
Neil turns and looks at his brother. No makeup or hair crap at the moment, but he's still just as glamorous.
"I've known you’d make it since you were thirteen," says Neil. "You skipped out on your own bar mitzvah to go see Cher. If you can't have anything you want, then as far as I'm concerned, there is no God."
Adam grins at him. "Anything, maybe," he says, then adds with a sigh, "just not anyone."
Neil squeezes his hand again. "Do you think God puts people like them in our lives to test us?" Neil asks.
"I think," says Adam, "God put people like the Allens in our lives to bring us love."
"So what do we do now?"
"I don't know. We go to Arkansas."
Neil accidentally leaves his ipod at home, which is just fucking great.
Arkansas is green. It’s the greenest place Neil’s ever been to in his life, and that includes Napa Valley and the hemp conventions his ex-girlfriend used to drag him to. Neil’s always thought of the deep South (and truthfully, he’s not even sure if this is South enough to be considered “deep,” but it’ll do) as being dark and overgrown and mossy. But here it’s open and sunny and brilliant, light everywhere and the whole world drenched in the blue of the sky and a vast ocean of greenery. Green hills, green fields, green highways - even the sunlight is green. It leaves Neil feeling a little raw. He’s used to the rich deep hues of Northern California, where everything is perfectly cultivated and deliberately beautiful. Here things just are. The sky is thin and bright, cloudless like someone scraped it clean; the earth looks a little rough for wear. Trees are everywhere - Neil’s definitely not used to trees. And there are whole valleys covered in -
“What is that?”
“Kudzu,” Daniel grins. “Imported from Japan as a way to prevent soil erosion, took over the whole dang planet.”
“Oh my god,” says Neil. “You didn’t tell me you lived in the jungle.” He ducks as a wasp divebombs him out of nowhere.
“Those’re just dirt daubers,” says Daniel equitably, politely ignoring the way Neil is flailing around. “They won’t hurt you.”
“And you know this how?” Neil snaps.
“Blue tail,” says Daniel. “They won’t sting. See?” And he reaches up and just pulls one out of the air, cupping his hand around it, and Neil’s never seen a grown man actually grab wasps.
“Hey, man, careful,” he says. “You could be wrong.” Daniel just laughs at him and opens his palm. The wasp is just sitting there. And it's blue.
“It’s the red tails you gotta worry about,” says Daniel, releasing it back into the air. “Those and yellowjackets.”
“Right,” says Neil.
“Just look for the tails and you’ll be fine.” Daniel dusts a hand over the back of Neil’s jacket. Neil eyes him.
“So why didn’t you warn me about the jungle again?” he says, and Daniel’s eyes go wide and bright blue before he laughs.
"You think I don't know what people say?"
"Yeah, but - what if they're right? Can't you even for one second imagine that?"
"Why are you so interested?"
"I just - I'm never wrong about this. I knew my brother was gay before he did."
"You're going to all this trouble to upset my entire life just so you can be right about something?"
"No - I just -"
"What about you, Neil? When did you know about yourself?"
"You've been staring at me ever since you got here, it's not that hard to figure out."
"And I noticed you noticed."
"You're dodging the point."
"I'm not dodging anything. I'm here, I can take it. Lay it on."
"I think you want me."
"I think you want to kiss me. Right now."
"Do you want to kiss me right now?"
"It doesn't matter what I want, Neil. God's will for my life is to - "
"Oh, come off the God's will crap," Neil bursts out. "You can't follow God's will if you're denying who God made you."
"God didn't make us perfect," says Daniel. "We have lots of desires and cravings that aren't good for us."
"This isn't about desire," snaps Neil. This is a routine he knows, at least, he thinks bitterly. "This is about coming to terms with who you are. Nothing in God's plan will ever lead you to deny that."
"Then why is it," says Daniel shakily, "that everything in my heart tells me that this is wrong?"
"That's not your heart," Neil says. "It's a lifetime of being told things about yourself that aren't true. It's fear."
"You've been straight your whole life," says Daniel. "How is it you can just - decide to not be that anymore?"
"Are you kidding? I've been freaking out about this for a month. I've been crying on Adam's shoulder like I'm back in ninth grade and Tye Kennison dumped me over email because she said I was boring."
"You're never boring," says Daniel reflexively.
"Neil," says Danny softly. "What if the whole reason Kris got this far, what if the whole reason he and Adam became friends, was to bring our families together, so that Adam could see God's love through Kris?"
"Dude," says Neil. "Adam is God's love. He and Kris are walking examples of what God's love looks like. Together."
Daniel stares at him. "There's a lot that I have trouble accepting about God's will," he says uncertainly.
on this trip, God could reveal his plan for your life?"
"What if," says Neil, gathering his courage, "God's plan for my life includes this?"
And he leans in and kisses Daniel, firm and slow on his broad, warm mouth.
After the service is over, there's a general tumult around Adam and Kris. Everyone's completely nice, which Neil expected because, hey, Kris is standing right next to Adam, and what could any of them say in front of him? But every time someone begins to speak it fills him with a twinge of fear for his brother, and he marvels, again, at Adam's ability to just throw himself headlong into the deep end like this, right into the path of the people who can hurt him the most.
And really, Kris is maybe directly responsible for Adam's comfort level out here. Neil watches the two of them together, how close they are, how they lean into each other and clutch each other's shoulders and smile and laugh and nudge each other's sides for no reason. Closer than brothers, he thinks. Closer than Neil and Adam will ever be, and maybe Kris and Danny too. The knowledge burns his throat for a long moment.
Over to the side, the tight-lipped woman from the front row is muttering to Pastor Shatswell, and Neil hears the words "inappropriate" and "sinful state." He tries to crane his head to hear more without being too obvious about it. Paster Shatswell (he will never get over that name) takes the lady's hand and squeezes it and Neil's reminded abruptly of the night he met Danny for the first time. He can't hear what the pastor is saying, but when she turns away, the women looks even grimmer and more dissatisfied than ever.
Neil grins at her when she walks past.
“Hey, so,” Kris says. “You and my brother, huh.”
Oh god, Neil thinks, and manages a raspy, “Yeah, guess so.”
“Cool,” is all Kris says. Then he clears his throat and looks awkward, and Neil just stands there holding his plate of cole slaw and baked beans and sausage and three kinds of fried chicken, cold macaroni, two deviled eggs, peach cobbler, and something that looks like a marshmallow salad, because what is he going to say to the new American Idol about having slept with and maybe kind-of wanting to date his newly unrepressed brother?
Then Kris adds, “I’m glad, you know, that he can, uh, be himself. I mean, that he can discover that side of himself with someone who cares about him.” He glances over at Neil, who realizes with a start that by someone who cares, he means Neil. And maybe this whole coming-out process is a big deal. He feels kind of, well, a little proud and a little amazed, that Danny would choose him to be a part of that. And then he thinks that maybe, hey, it’s his coming-out party too.
Kris says, softly, “I mean. I’m already married and in love. So, you know, it’s not an option for me, exploring that part of myself.” He cuts his glance sideways, and Neil nods, and wonders if this is some kind of coded message he’s supposed to relay to Adam, or if this is just Kris’s way of apologizing for being straight, or admitting he knows what he can‘t have, or what the fuck. Neil is seriously not cut out for this kind of male bonding.
“Hey, no, I get it, man,” he says. “I’m new at this whole thing, too.” He coughs. “Plus, you know, Katie’s hot.”
Kris laughs. “Uh, thanks?” And then he adds, too casually for it to be anything but deliberate, “She’ll tell you she’s not as hot as Adam, but then nobody’s as hot as Adam.”
“I don’t know, people say the new American Idol‘s kind of cute, but I don‘t really see it,” Neil says, and Kris rolls his eyes and grins.
“You know our families are, like, married now, right,” he says.
“Dude,” Neil says, and laughs. “Yeah. I know.”
“If you and Danny… if you, you know--” and really it’s just as well that Kris just gestures vaguely, because Neil doesn’t know what “you know” implies either and feels kinda weird thinking about it -- “it could be really, really great. Or really, really awkward. We’re all still getting used to the idea of Danny being out. He still hasn’t really said anything yet.”
“Oh,” Neil says. “Oh, hey, I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to pressure him.”
“If I thought you were, I’d probably be cussing you out or something,” Kris says sheepishly, and god, this family is something else. Neil basically loves them. Every single one of them.
“Hey, man,“ he says. “Just so long as you don’t go and break up with Adam over it, I’m cool.”
Kris does a double-take, and then beams one of his sunny all-over smiles at Neil and says, “That’s never going to happen,” and Neil can’t help it; he beams back.
“So, you know, just, uh. Be patient with him,” Kris finishes.
“Not a problem,” Neil says. “Way I see it, we’ve got nothing but time.”
(and then they're all in-laws forever and ever <3)