"I'm going to tell them, Chris." He means it, even if the thought still makes him nervous and there's a part of him that worries it'll all go badly. "I love you. It's been almost four months. I can't keep hiding you from them."
Chris nods against his chest, snuggled into his usual post-coitus spot against Adam's side.
"Tell them when you're ready. Not before."
"I'm ready," he says, trying to sound as convincing as he can. "I said I wanted to wait and do it in person, and this'll be in person."
"I'm going to miss you," Chris says instead, his arms tightening around Adam's side, and his heart is suddenly in his throat.
"We'll talk on the phone. Every week. And you can call whenever you need."
"I know. But it's not going to be the same."
He tries not to focus on that part. "Maybe I can swing a visit over to you. If that's... if that's okay with you. It would have to only be a weekend, since I'm going to have classes basically every week, but it would still be nice."
"It would," Chris agrees, but the statement sounds incomplete. Adam wonders if Chris would be offering to visit him, instead, if things were different.
If his family knew.
Adam shakes off the thought and kisses Chris' head again. "We should probably get cleaned up and ready for bed, though. Lots of flying tomorrow."
The airport isn't the place to do it, he thinks, as he walks out into the waiting area and into his mother's arms. His dad slaps his shoulder warmly, and his sister stands off to the side, smiling at him.
"How was the flight?"
He releases his mom and grabs his suitcase again.
"It was fine. I read most of the way, like usual."
"What, some light reading like Gray's Anatomy?"
"Ha ha. I missed you too, Emily."
She pulls him into a hug and ruffles his hair in the way she knows he hates, that leaves it a mess afterward that he has to use an actual comb to fix.
He tries anyway, when they break, smoothing his hair down with his hands despite knowing it won't stick.
"Let's go get your bags."
He waits for the right opportunity, but whenever one does come up, he always chickens out. He talks to Chris about it, late at night when he's the most confident that no one is going walk in on him or overhear.
"There's no right way to come out, Adam."
"I know, but I'm not used to being so... bad at things."
"You're not being bad at things. This is hard. It took me years to come to terms with myself."
"You didn't have a boyfriend waiting for you to tell your parents."
"I'm not waiting for anything. I want you to do this on your own terms, on your own time."
"It's not fair to you."
"This isn't about me. I want you to tell them when you're ready."
"That can be true even while it's unfair to you."
Chris is quiet for a bit. "Please don't worry about me. Don't rush into anything because you think you owe it to me. I would... feel worse, if you did."
"I love you," Adam says instead, hoping that Chris understands how much he wants to make things okay, but how terrified he still is about it.
"I love you, too."
The months tick by, and Adam would almost forget about that nagging fear and sense of obligation in the back of his mind if it wasn't for their weekly calls.
He feels bad about not having made a visit. He uses the excuse that his classes were extremely busy, and then as the summer nears its end that they would be seeing each other in only a few weeks anyway. But really, he's afraid of trying to figure out how to pass off such a trip to his parents.
He's still not sure he deserves how patient and understanding Chris is with all of this.
The day after his last day of summer classes, after sleeping in for once and waking up after lunch, he walks into the kitchen to see his mom and sister mixing what looks like cookie dough while his dad reads the newspaper at the kitchen table.
"Adam! Come help me mix this dough. Your sister is doing more tasting than mixing, and at this rate, we're not going to have any left for cookies."
He smiles, grabbing an apron from the hook on the wall. He's missed this. "You shouldn't eat raw cookie dough, Em. It could have salmonella."
She makes a face and deliberately takes another scoop, dropping it into her mouth. "Okay, mister medical school. Just because you don't like to have fun doesn't mean the rest of us can't."
His mom pulls the bowl away. "In this case, it does, because you're supposed to be mixing the dough."
Adam takes the bowl from her and looks into it. "It doesn't even have chocolate chips yet. It's not even entirely mixed, yet. You're basically eating scoops of flour and sugar and egg and butter."
"I don't see the problem with that."
He shakes his head affectionately, takes the beater from his mother, and mixes as his sister tells them about her lifeguard shift earlier that day.
"...but he was really cute, so I almost felt bad kicking him out."
"Your job is to enforce the rules, honey. If he had glass, and was raising a fuss about it, you're supposed to kick him out."
"Yeah, but he was cute," she says again, as if physical attractiveness was an excuse for anything.
"Adam? You have to move the beater around, honey."
His mom's voice snaps him back to reality, and he realizes he's been staring off into space. He fumbles an apology and continues mixing as his mother throws in the chocolate chips.
"He's probably thinking about medieval rituals for curing botulism or something."
"Actually, now I'm curious about that..." She makes another face and throws a chocolate chip at him.
"Your hair is getting long, honey." He tries to shake his mom off as she tugs at the hair draped across his forehead. The memory of Chris' hand running through it as he kisses him comes to his mind, unbidden, and he jerks away with more force than necessary, bringing the mixer with him and ejecting some chocolate chips and batter from the bowl and onto the counter.
"Sorry." He's breathing heavily, and this was not how he'd expecting his afternoon to go. His mom looks at him with concern.
"Adam? Is everything okay?"
This would be a good time. They're all in the same room. Compared to a delinquent who brings glass bottles to the pool, Chris would already start off with elevated footing.
Instead, he turns off the mixer. "Yeah, sorry. I think this mixed, now. I'm just going to go read, for a bit."
His mom nods and thankfully doesn't pry futher as he removes the apron and returns to his room.
He feels better by dinner, and the lingering sweet smell of freshly-baked cookies doesn't hurt, either.
He's cutting into the pork chop when his sister speaks.
"So, Adam. Are you going to tell us about her?"
"Emily. Drop it." His mom's voice is firm in the way it is when she wants to leave no room for argument, but his breath is caught in his throat now, and he drops the knife onto his plate with a clatter.
"The As are really feeling the loss of Frank Thomas this year," his dad offers, and he should seize on the change in subject, but he really needs to do this. Besides, he knows nothing about baseball, anyway.
"There's no girl." It's technically the truth, and it's easier, at least.
"So that affectionate staring-off-into-the-distance look you get when I start talking about cute guys at the pool or the cute guy at Starbucks is just a coincidence?"
"Emily. Drop it." He's not sure he's ever heard that tone before.
"Fine! Sorry that I just want to be happy for you!" She picks up her knife and starts slicing her chop with more force than necessary, shaking the table with every movement.
"So... they're having..."
"There's no girl," he says again, his hand gripping the fork so tightly that he knows it'll leave a mark later. He squeezes his eyes shut. "Because there's..."
He can't get the word out. He can't do this.
He almost jumps at the feeling of his mom's hand on his arm. "Adam. Honey. It's okay. You can tell us anything."
"Is it Carlos?" his dad asks. Adam's eyes open in surprise, and he can't help but let out a laugh. He should have expected that.
"No. It's... it's definitely not Carlos."
"Because we would be completely supportive, dear." His mom's squeezing his arm now, not enough to hurt, but firmly enough that he wonders if she actually means it, or if she's just trying to calm him down.
"No, it's..." He struggles to say Chris' name. "I'm bisexual," he tries instead, because that's somehow easier.
He stares down at his plate, not wanting to see the look on their faces. It's not technically the truth, because he still doesn't really find any guys other than Chris physically attractive, but he really doesn't want to explain demisexuality and sapiosexuality to his parents at the moment.
"Oh my god I'm so jealous!" his sister squeals, and he definitely hadn't been expecting that. "You just, like, doubled your dating pool! Come to my shift with me tomorrow and we can stare at all the cute guys together."
"You're sure, Adam?" He knows his dad doesn't mean anything by it, but it still hurts.
"Sorry. I just want to make sure you know that your mother and I love you, regardless. It's okay if you're gay."
He shakes his head, feeling somehow reassured by that. "No. I... I'm still attracted to women." Primarily, he wants to add, but doesn't, because it would just complicate the conversation in a way he doesn't need, right now.
His mom's grip loosens a bit, and he feels like he can breathe again. "I'm sorry if you felt like we were pressuring you, honey. I'm glad you were able to tell us."
He nods, trying to work up the courage for the next part. "And there... there is someone." The room is silent, and he's glad for that, at least. He's not sure he'd have the courage to continue if it wasn't. "I'm... dating my roommate, Chris."
He squeezes his eyes shut again, trying to push out the worry that his parents could still react badly. After all, it's one thing to admit in the abstract that he likes guys (or, at least, guy), but something else entirely for it to suddenly have a concrete manifestation.
"From what you've told us about him, he sounds like a very nice man," his mom says, and he dares to look at her, now. She's smiling at him, happy but tinged with a bit of regret, and he doesn't want to think about why, right now.
His dad is smiling too, only happiness on his face, but his sister seems to be staring at him with her mouth open.
"Oh my god. You love him."
"What?" He tries to pretend he doesn't know what she's talking about, even though he knows it must be apparent on his face, now.
"You were never like this with Nicole. The way you were staring off into space when I was mentioning guys. You were thinking about him. You love him."
"I loved Nicole. We were together for over a year." It's technically true, but even as he says it, he realizes that this is different.
"You're not denying it." She's teasing now, a grin making its way onto her face, and he blushes. "Oh my god tell me all about him. How long have you been dating?"
"Maybe we should let Adam eat his dinner, Emily." His mom pats his arm and releases it, and he finds he actually misses the reassuring feeling of her hand.
She continues cutting her chop, with less force, this time. "He can talk while he eats. Tell us about him."
"Talking while eating isn't a good idea. It's one of the leading causes of choking."
She laughs, and they're back, and things are okay again. He just came out to his parents, and his sister, and the world didn't stop turning.
"Yeah, like you don't practice the heimlich maneuver for fun, and wouldn't jump at the opportunity to demonstrate it for us."
"Okay, but the self-heimlich is different, and this table isn't at the right height for me."
"Well, maybe you should stop being so tall, then."
"Kids. Eat your supper."
He does tell them about Chris, at least a little, through dinner and even after the cookies are gone and the coffee is cold. It's easier now, and he finds that he really does want them to know.
A knock on his open door grabs his attention, and he looks up from his book to see his dad standing in the doorway.
"Mind if I come in?"
Adam shakes his head and sets the book on his nightstand. His father sits on the edge of the bed, pointedly not looking at him. The silence stretches, and he wonders if he should say something.
"I'm sorry if either I or your mother came across badly, earlier."
"You didn't. I know you were... surprised."
His dad does look at him now. "Surprised, but only because we felt like we should have seen it. Not because of you, Adam. We love you. Nothing will ever change that."
He nods, fighting the tears in his eyes. "I know. Thank you."
"And." He clears his throat, and Adam isn't sure he's going to like what's coming up next. "I don't know how this works, but even though neither you or Chris can get pregnant..."
His cheeks are red and his ears are burning. "Dad. I... I know."
"...you can still contract a number of STDs, many of which can..."
"Dad. I know all of this."
"Right. Sorry. Of course you do."
"We're using condoms." He should be more embarassed by the admission that they're having sex, but right now, he just wants to finish the conversation. "We're monogamous. We both got tested."
He seems satisfied at this, and pats Adam's hand before standing.
"I'm happy for you, Adam. And I'm glad you felt like you could tell us."
He walks toward the door. "I love you, dad." He stops at that, which isn't surprising, because Adam never does this. Then he turns, and smiles.
"I love you, too."
And as Adam settles back into bed and grabs his book again, a tear falls down his cheek. Things had turned out better than he'd expected, really.
He can't wait to call Chris tomorrow.