"Hey, thanks for coming with me," Adam tells Kris as they get ready to leave. "I'm sure the kids are really gonna appreciate it."
Kris shrugs. "You asked. Just don't complain when I steal all your thunder, loser."
Adam laughs as they step off the plane, pulling down his sunglasses to protect against the harsh Texas sun. They're greeted by a small group of people gathered around a black limo, who introduce themselves as Lucy Rodell, the town mayor, Buddy Garrity, President of the Booster Club -- Adam isn't entirely sure what that means, but shakes his hand politely -- and "Tami Taylor, President of Dillon High, it is such an honor to meet you gentlemen."
Adam meets Kris's amused gaze for a second, but Principal Taylor sounds like she honestly thinks of them as gentlemen, and it's kind of sweet. Adam smiles back at her. "It's an honor to meet you too. I looked you guys up online, and you're doing great work at the school." Taylor blushes a little and thanks him as she shakes his hand, and moves on to Kris.
"Yeah, what he said," Kris says. He pauses. "Okay, I didn't look you up online, but I've heard good things about Dillon High. You won State last year, right?"
"We sure did," Buddy Garrity answers proudly. "All because of this lady's husband, Coach Taylor, man took the Panthers all the way up to--"
"Buddy," Principal Taylor says sweetly. "All due respect, we're not here to talk about football."
"What? Oh, right," Buddy says, letting out a weak chuckle. "Of course, we're here about the arts, the new choir, uh, theater..."
"Glee Club," Taylor corrects.
"Right, Glee Club." Buddy wipes his sweating forehead with a handkerchief. "Although if you boys want to come to one of the team's practices, see how hard the boys work, I'm sure you'll want to donate--"
"Buddy," Taylor says, and this time there's definitely a note of steel behind her smile. It's enough to make Buddy shut up, in any case, at least until they're in the limo on their way to Dillon and Buddy tries to be helpful by informing Adam that the mayor is also "one of them", and at Adam's confusion, clarifies, "You know, one of the gays," and Tami Taylor looks horrified and Kris starts snickering into his hand, and Adam's just glad Mayor Rodell is riding in a different car.
The main street of Dillon is decorated in red, white and blue, which makes Adam feel like he's running for office or something, and also some blue and yellow streamers and balloons, which are pretty enough for school colors, he guesses. They drive straight to the school, where they have a short press conference for a few local papers and TV channels. Adam does his best not to yawn through the questions -- he's very excited about his upcoming album, the tour was hard work but a lot of fun and he misses hanging out with the other Idols, Kris is a great guy who deserved to win and Adam is just glad to have gotten exposure on the show, he's really moved by the fact that so many fans chose to donate to DonorsChoose.org, which is an amazing project and the reason he's here, and let's give a round of applause for Principal Taylor who pushed the project so hard on her part. Kris, of course, gets the exact same questions, and repeats Adam's answers with a great deal of charm, ending with, "I'm really happy to be here, and looking forward to... seeing Adam perform for you guys."
"Thanks, Kris," Adam laughs, and turns to the press, pointing at Kris. "He's really only here for moral support."
"I'm his biggest fan," Kris explains gravely. "I'm a Glambert."
They wrap up the press conference with a photo op, and then Principal Taylor takes them up to the teachers' lounge where they can rest up a bit. There are drinks and snacks, and the walls are lined with nothing but group photos of the football team, which makes Adam's heart hurt a little.
"Goooo Panthers," Kris murmurs, gaze trailing the line of photos that are dated back yearly to 1976. "Rah rah rah."
"You can so do better than that," Adam says, uncapping a bottle of water.
Kris smirks at him. "Oh, Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind hey Mickey--" Kris claps his hands, with this snarky little hip wiggle-- "Hey Mickey."
"You come from a line of cheerleaders, and the best you can do is quote Bring It On at me?"
"Hey, don't mock it." Kris grins, settling into one of the uncomfortable school couches. "It's quality cinema."
"Oh, for sure." Adam takes a sip of water. "I should bubbletweet you shaking your ass like that and sell it for money."
Kris lifts an eyebrow. "Dude, I don't think that's how bubbletweeting works, but if it is you'll have to split the cash."
About fifteen minutes later there's a knock at the door, which means their free time is up. It's the President of the Student Body and a girl from the school newspaper who are there for an interview. Tyra's fierce and a little flirty and pretty kickass for an eighteen-year-old, and Julie blushes and stutters and is absolutely adorable.
"So what's your favorite thing about Texas?" Tyra asks them, leaning forward a little.
"Hmm." Adam thinks for a moment. "I think I would have to say the boots."
"What, not Dubya?" Tyra asks dryly. "I'm shocked."
"Tyra," Julie says with embarrassment, but Adam laughs.
"No, it's okay. Definitely the boots, though. Everyone here has great taste in boots, like, leather, and snake skin, and -- I think I spotted alligator? -- and there was this woman wearing flashy yellow boots with pink spurs at the airport, it was awesome. Stop me before I get carried away."
"I think that ship sailed with the pink spurs, Adam," Kris points out, and Adam rolls his eyes at him and asks, "Tell me, Kris Allen, what is your favorite thing about Texas?"
"Mmm..." Kris makes one of his looking-to-the-heavens, seeking-proof expressions. "Mike Sarver."
Adam and Julie aww together, and she blushes and scribbles down the answer.
"Wasn't Mike Sarver the guy who almost started a civil war in Dillon?" Tyra asks Julie.
Julie nods, and explains to Adam and Kris, "Some people wanted to vote for him on the show because he was from Texas, right? But he also played on the Jasper High football team, and they beat the Panthers in the playoffs in like 1999 or something, so some people wouldn't be caught dead voting for him."
"Naturally," Adam says.
"It was rough. Dillon has a long memory for football grudges," Julie says in an apologetic tone.
"Dillon is made of idiots," Tyra clarifies, and Adam kind of really likes this girl.
"All right," Julie says, "We have a list of questions about football, but I think we'll just skip over that, and, um, move on to stuff that really matters?"
"I approve of this comment," Kris answers, and they move on to a series of fun questions about education and the charity and which musical characters Adam would marry, kiss or kill -- very PG, he notes with amusement -- and the obligatory Kradam questions, but even those are cute, like what is his favorite tweet from Kris -- "Definitely the one about the plums. That's what he gets for not sharing."
"Okay, last question," Julie says regretfully a few minutes later. "What fan reactions do you like getting, or would you like to get?"
"Uh, I guess, thank you notes?" Kris says, brows furrowed together. "I dunno. I mean, it's cool knowing I made someone's day better, but like, I'm just grateful people out there listen to my music, and however they express that, I like everything. Even the weird stuff. Bring it on." He gives them a little thumbs up. "Adam?"
"Well you know, Janet Jackson said something in an interview recently -- she said people come up to her and thank her for their children, they say their kids were conceived listening to her music. That's pretty sick, I think. It would be cool if someone said that to me."
"Really?" Kris asks, lips curving up.
"Uh huh," Adam says, grinning. "It's pretty awesome, isn't it?"
"Ooookay then. Katy and I'll get right on that."
"Whoa, there," Adam says, as Kris cracks up beside him. "Can this even go in a school newspaper? Is that too much?"
"We'll make it work," Tyra assures them, standing.
"All right, you guys, thank you so much for your time," Julie says, standing up too. "Um, can we like -- uh, do you mind--"
"Can we get a hug or something?" Tyra asks sweetly, and Julie says, "I was going to ask for a photo -- but, uh, hugging's cool," she amends when Kris spreads his arms.
Julie produces a camera and takes a photo of Tyra with the two of them, and then Tyra does the same for Julie. "All right, y'all say cheese," she says, snapping the photo, and then her eyes widen at something behind them. "Oh Jesus Christ--" she starts, and Adam turns around just in time to catch a flash of blond hair outside the window, followed by an oof and the sound of a muffled crash. Tyra stalks over to the window, yelling, "Landry, what in the hell do you think you're doing?"
Julie claps her hand to her mouth, looking like she's both horrified and suppressing laughter. The kid outside answers something Adam can't quite make, and Tyra snaps back, "For God's sake, one of them's married and one of them's gay, they're not gonna hit on us -- shouldn't you be in practice right now anyway? Honestly, Landry--"
"I think you guys should go now," Julie says quickly, still looking a little mortified. "Um, my mom's waiting outside to take you to I think sound check? Not that I got this job out of nepotism -- um, I was on the school paper before she became Principal. I think I'll shut up now, oh my god."
Adam gives her another one-armed hug before they leave because she really is adorable and obviously a little flustered, and then Principal Taylor takes them out to the football field, where the stage is located on one of the end zones, and the band's already setting up. The football team -- the Panthers, Adam reminds himself -- are doing some kind of drill, running back and forth across the far end of the field, heads turning and slowing their pace when they notice Kris and Adam being led up the stage. The coach waves at Principal Taylor a little distractedly, and then shouts at the kids, "Come on, keep movin'! Keep movin'!" and the kids speed up again.
"God," Adam mutters as they cross the field. "High school football is just..." He shudders, thinking about the few practices he was forced to go to in junior high. Kris gives him a small nudge with his elbow, one of those just-to-show-I'm-there gestures, which makes Adam smile, and Principal Taylor looks at him sympathetically.
"Don't get me wrong," she says, her eyes warm, "football is doing great things for these kids, but thanks to you, we're going to give students other viable options to develop themselves artistically and socially without having to sell their souls to the golden idol that football is in this town. Really, I just can't tell you how much this donation means to us -- I wrestle with the budget every which way I can, but it's hard scrapping up enough to give the kids anything extra -- anything that isn't this, at least," she gestures out at the field ruefully. "Thank you."
"The money didn't even come from me," he reminds her, "I'm just the messenger."
"You inspired all those people to donate to a great cause. And you came all the way out here."
"Your school won the raffle," Adam points out, "it wasn't anything I did--"
"Kris, Kris!" Kris pipes up in this high-pitched voice. "Will you stop deflecting credit and start acting like a winner already? Sheesh!"
Adam stares at him. "Was that supposed to be an imitation of me?"
Kris looks back innocently. "Surely not."
"Anyway, that comparison would make no sense," Kris says, mounting the steps to the stage, "seeing as I actually am a winner, and you... are not." Kris makes a show of shrugging mock-helplessly, all QED.
"You," Adam says, climbing up after him, "are absolutely hilarious."
Sound check is quick and easy, and goes without a hitch other than one of the football jocks running close to the stage, very possibly half-drunk, yelling, "Lambert, you're fucking crazy!" Adam looks up from adjusting his earpiece wires to see the boy, whose hands are both flung above his head with rock 'n' roll devil horns. "You should do Ring of Fire, it'll knock 'em dead! Woohoo!"
"Riggins, get your ass back here!" the coach shouts, and Riggins grins and jogs back to practice, immediately starting to run more laps. Adam exchanges a look with Kris, who shrugs and suggests, "I think it was a compliment?"
It's about half an hour later when they're ready to start. The sun's still beating down on them but at least there's a little bit of wind, and the sky is blue and gorgeous -- it's true what they say about Texas having bigger skies. It looks like the entire school and maybe half the town -- hell, maybe more -- are sitting on the bleachers, and Adam hates stereotyping but he wonders how many of these people actually like him as a person or an artist, and how many are just there because he's famous -- or, more likely, because of Kris.
Not that it matters, he thinks, brushing the thought away. Mayor Rodell says a few words, and then Principal Taylor does, and Buddy Garrity, for some reason that Adam still cannot fathom. Adam follows -- no prepared speech, just some words about school and expressing yourself and finding your place in life, the same things he's already said in a million interviews but wishes someone had reassured him of earlier in his own youth.
Then Adam introduces "A good friend of mine, who came all the way down here because he misses the South and because he knows you guys are great fans and was in a good mood when I asked -- your American Idol, Kris Allen!"
Kris bounces up on stage in his light brown plaid shirt -- one of them, at least, Adam's given up on counting -- greets the crowd to wild cheering, plays a chord or two on his guitar, and then gives Adam a sidelong, playful look, which, no fucking way, Adam thinks, not even trying to suppress his grin. But Kris does, breaking into No Boundries -- an appropriately inspirational song for teen audiences that Adam had bet fifty bucks Kris wouldn't perform because honestly, but whatever, it appears Kris Allen is not above selling his artistic integrity for the price of fifty bucks and the opportunity to mess with Adam.
Kris gets a decent amount of cheers, considering the song, Adam thinks with a smirk. Adam follows up with Mad World and the acoustic Starlight, because he'd figured he'd take it easy on Dillon. About halfway through, though, his eyes fall on the middle right section of the field, where it looks like a group of jocks -- he's not even sure if they're students in the school, they look older -- are pushing around a weird looking kid. In the middle of Adam's fucking set. The boy can't be over fifteen, with floppy black hair and pale skin and the people around either aren't noticing it or they don't care.
It takes Adam less than a second to decide he's going to add another number to his show, and a minute later he's belting out Ring of Fire, not really giving a shit about the hypothetical sensibilities of the Dillon, Texas crowd, and the haters are welcome to the left. He's figures it's impressive enough even without the lights and the smoke and the sitar, because when he's done, the stadium appears to be shocked into silence. He's actually pretty sure that if it were just a little later in the evening there would literally be crickets chirping. Which is kind of amusing, really, and he's about to invite Kris back onstage for their family friendly finale when a kid in a football uniform -- number 33, Riggins, the afternoon heckler -- starts an honest to god slow clap.
Adam blinks, because that... really wasn't the reaction he was expecting. But Riggins is clapping and whooping like crazy, and the rest of the football team follow him with what looks like genuine enthusiasm, and pretty soon it's -- well, it's not even like the response No Boundries got not half an hour earlier -- but it's decent, and Adam wasn't really expecting to win this one anyway. He glances to the side of the stage. Principal Taylor is clapping politely, if a bit hesitantly. Buddy Whoever the Fuck Garrity looks a little shellshocked. And the assholes who'd been pushing the kid around are staring at the stage with... hilariously confused expressions.
Adam smirks at them. "Thank you," he breathes into the mike, allowing himself one last, indulgent little hip-thrust, which causes one of them to jump, and then he invites Kris back up onstage for their final song. Kris trots back onstage with his guitar, rolls his eyes at Adam with bemusement to let Adam know what he thinks about Adam's impromptu deviation from the plan, and then launches into the opening riff and vocals of one of the few songs they'd managed to compromise on for a duet. "You say you want a revolution, well, you know." He grins at Adam. "We all wanna change the world."
All right, so it's a good song, and Adam's glad Kris had talked him into singing it together. The crowd certainly seems to think so, because everybody's standing by the end of it, and Adam actually cracks up in the middle of the last "Don't you know it's gonne be" when a mysterious blue and yellow bra gets thrown onstage and my, he thinks, it's almost better than the Mt. Carmel streaker.
"Thank you Dillon!" he says when they're done, giving a short wave to the audience, "You guys rock, good luck to the new club, and remember to keep dreaming." That earns him a few more claps.
Kris slings his guitar back around his back, waves as well, and adds, "Bye, guys. Go Panthers."
And apparently the crowd had been holding back, because at the sound of their team's name the crowd's volume explodes by about ten, and thank god he hadn't removed his earplugs yet. He and Kris exchange a wry look -- you really can't win them all, at least not with just singing -- and when they're climbing down the stage, Kris says, "Well, I told you I'd upstage you."
"Allen," Adam starts, but forgoes wit in favor of giving Kris the finger.
Kris looks pleased with himself. "Thank you, Kris, for coming to Texas with me and helping my charity efforts be more awesome and for being a really good friend."
Adam rolls his eyes, as the sound guys begin unwiring them. "Thank you, Kris, for being really bored and for wanting to check out my fancy new jet and to sing John Lennon with me."
"Lennon/McCartney, technically," Kris corrects, giving his guitar to a stagehand.
"Don't you mean Lenartney? McCartnon?"
"Pohn," Kris suggests. "Doesn't sound as awesome as Kradam, though."
"No," Adam agrees. "Probably not."
The sound guys release them and start packing up, and it's the football coach -- Coach Taylor -- who, for some reason, ushers them back to the parking lot. Adam only realizes why when he notices the way all the kids part like water when they see the coach's stern glare, all of them keeping a safe distance away, Kris and Adam safely enclosed within his bubble of intimidation. They go through the coach's offices and out the other side of the school, to the parking lot where Principal Taylor's waiting by their limo. There are still a few kids and parents milling around, and even though Adam's starting to be pressed for time -- he has a late appointment in LA tonight, and an early recording session tomorrow -- he stops to speak with them for a couple of minutes. "It's fine," he assures Coach Taylor, to stop him from glaring at the fans and blocking Adam like he was a... football or something.
He and Kris sign a few photos and T-shirts and caps. A tall blond kid -- Adam's pretty sure it's the same guy who'd been stalking the window in the teachers' lounge -- asks Kris to sign his guitar. Apparently he's thinking about auditioning for Idol next year, and already has a band. "We're called Crucifictorious," the kid is saying, with really cute totally fake nonchalance.
Kris lifts his eyebrows at the name. "Neat," he says appreciatively, signing the guitar.
"We thought, like," the boy continues, "that maybe if you had time to listen to our demo--"
"Lance, don't harass the guy," Coach Taylor cuts in. "Come on."
"Right, sure," the boy says in a rush, and pushes the CD into Kris's hands anyway, before backing away. Kris looks lost for a moment and then does what he always does with small flat gifts he has nowhere to put -- sticks them down the back of his jeans.
Adam sees this from the corner of is eye and smirks, but finds himself more preoccupied by the little old lady who's dragged her grandson out to meet him. "Mr. Lambert," she tells him, and Adam lets her pat his cheek because really, how can he not, "You are a marvelous, kind, beautiful boy, and I absolutely love you. Never change. Matthew," she says sharply, and her grandson straightens up. "You need to learn from this man."
"Grandma, you know I don't sing," Matthew says, giving Adam an apologetic look.
"Oh, you don't need to sing. You need to learn how to to dress and move to make a girl feel good in her lady parts like this man does."
Matthews eyes widen, and Adam laughs, clasping both of the woman's hands in his. "Thank you, I'm very flattered. Matthew looks like a good boy though, I'm sure he's okay."
Matthew's grandmother looks utterly charmed, and replies, "We'll just have to ask Julie about that."
"Oh my god," Matthew groans, his face beet-red. "I'm sorry, Mr -- uh, Lambert -- come on, Grandma, we have to go," he says, putting his arm around her waist to guide her away.
Adam doesn't even have to fake a smile. "It was nice meeting you both," he says, still able to hear the woman lecturing her grandson as they walk away, "I'm perfectly serious, Matthew. The last man who made me feel that tingly was your grandfather..."
Kris sidles up to him, and whistles low. "Well, we always knew we had different fanbases."
"Not really," Adam replies. "The fact that they want to sleep with me doesn't mean they don't still want to adopt you."
Kris blinks. "That's not creepy at all."
"All right," Coach Taylor says, when the area's mostly clear. He reaches out to shake both their hands in turn, and takes off his sunglasses, revealing crinkles at the corners of his eyes. Suddenly he looks a lot friendlier. "It was a real good show," he says, chewing a wad of gum and putting his hands on his hips. "You boys have a safe flight home. Thanks for coming."
"Thank you," Principal Taylor repeats. "Honestly, we appreciate it so much. Both of you."
The Taylors -- a really sweet couple, Adam reflects -- wave them away, and the ride back to the airport feels shorter somehow than the other way around. "It's hard to imagine, growing up in a place like that," Kris says, leaning back against the leather seats. Adam gives him a pointed look. "What?" he says defensively. "I'm from Little Rock, not Hicksville. We're a big city."
"Sure. You're, like, the Metropolis of the south."
"Hey, you know what, we got both Clintons," Kris states. "Suck on that, San Diego."
Adam snorts. "Haven't you heard? San Diego's got Adam Lambert."
Kris pauses for a moment. "Damn, I think you win," he admits, crooking smile.
"Tweet it, bitch," Adam says with a little tilt of his chin, and almost chokes on his water when a half minute later he gets a text alert on his iPhone, saying: @krisallen4real @adamlambert is not a complete loser.
"You know you're going to get threats on your life now, right?" he asks when he's recovered. The implication that Adam Lambert could be even partially a loser is dangerous.
"I'll charge you for my bodyguards."
Kris shifts uncomfortably, and then produces the CD he'd gotten from the blond kid from behind his back, and leans back again. "So, you wanna listen to your next American Idol--" he scans the back of the CD-- "Landry Clark?"
"Why not?" Kris hands him the CD so Adam can insert it into the player. "Landry Clark. It's a good name, I can see that happening. You can pass him along all of your wisdom. Like how to deal with Minnie Mouse when she gets flirty."
"Ah, David Cook taught me that one."
"Really? Do tell."
Kris makes a face. "Idol winner secret, sorry."
Adam laughs, and keeps smiling as they banter back and forth, eventually boarding the plane, but not forgetting the CD in the car.
The heavy metal Christian rock potentially-Idol-winning sounds of Crucifictorious follow them all the way out of Texas.