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Secrets and Honesty

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“I still don’t get why I had to drive you to the airport to pick up Andrew,” Kevin complained. “This is your car. You’ve got a driver’s license. It’s even got your actual legal name on it. I am not needed here.”

“Sorry, I thought you were also looking forward to seeing him,” said Neil, raising an eyebrow.

“I mean, sure, but it’s not like this is my only chance. He’s staying at our house.”

“Mhmm,” Neil agreed.

“So why am I here?” Kevin asked.

“You could’ve said no when I asked you,” Neil reminded him.

“That doesn’t answer my question,” said Kevin.

“No, it doesn’t, does it?” said Neil.

Kevin sighed heavily. “Do you even have a reason, or do you just enjoy making my life more difficult?”

“Yes.”

“Which one?”

Neil just shrugged. He did have a reason, but he wasn’t planning to tell Kevin yet. He’d figure it out soon enough. Meanwhile, Neil was just looking forward to seeing Andrew. While Neil and Kevin both played for the Denver Hawks, Andrew had been drafted by the Pittsburgh Dragons. They were hoping Andrew would be able to transfer soon – the Hawks’ goalie had been talking about retiring soon, and both Kevin and Neil had been mentioning the prospect to their coach – but for now, they would just have to settle for calls, texts, and visits like this one during breaks in their exy schedules.

Neil’s phone started to buzz. Andrew. “Hey,” he answered, putting the phone on speaker so Kevin could hear, too.

“Airplanes suck.”

“Bad flight?”

Neil could practically hear Andrew’s shrug. “All flights are bad.”

“At least you’re here now,” said Neil. “Where are we picking you up? Arrivals?”

“Departures,” corrected Andrew. “It’s less crowded.”

Kevin nodded and took the appropriate exit. “Sounds good,” said Neil. “Be there in a minute.”

“I’ll be outside,” said Andrew. “Kevin’s with you?”

“Yep, I’m here,” said Kevin. “He won’t tell me why, though.”

“Good,” said Andrew, and he hung up the phone.

“Why do I put up with either of you?” asked Kevin flatly.

“Beats me,” said Neil with a shrug. “We’ve been pretty universally told that we’re impossible.”

“That’s an understatement,” muttered Kevin, turning into the departures area. “Do you see him?”

Neil scanned the travelers. “Not yet.” A little further along the curb, he spotted the familiar blonde hair and armbands. “There, just before the green bus.”

“Sweet,” said Kevin, pulling over in front of Andrew and popping the back hatch of the car open. Andrew tossed his duffle into the car and then went around to get into the backseat, behind Neil. “Hey, dude,” said Kevin, reaching over his shoulder to give Andrew a fist bump as he pulled back out into traffic. “Glad you made it.”

“Beats dying in a fiery plane crash,” said Andrew.

Kevin snorted. “By a lot, hopefully.” He glanced at Neil and then made eye contact with Andrew in the rearview mirror. “So, are you going to tell me why I’m here?”

“You live here,” Andrew answered promptly.

Kevin rolled his eyes. “I meant here in the car with you two right now.”

Neil turned around in his seat to look at Andrew and grinned. “Ready to tell him?”

Andrew’s eyes sparkled, and Neil took a moment to just appreciate being able to see him, in person, close enough to touch. “Let’s make him wait a little longer.”

“So there is a reason you made me drive,” said Kevin.

“Yep,” said Andrew. “Take the next exit.”

Kevin frowned. “That’s not our exit.”

“It is today. Take it,” said Andrew.

“Am I being kidnapped?”

Neil turned back towards Kevin. “I’ve been kidnapped. It was nothing like this.”

“That was years ago,” said Kevin, exiting the interstate. “Besides, I don’t think every kidnapping is the same. This could just be a particularly friendly one.”

“Technically, I think this would be more of a carjacking,” said Andrew from the backseat. “I’d pull out a knife to make it more authentic, but the TSA makes it hard to travel with weapons.”

“Finally, something positive coming out of this conversation,” said Kevin.

“Turn left at the light,” said Andrew.

“Seriously, where are we going?”

“Stop asking questions,” said Andrew. “Just drive.”

“You’re good at this,” said Neil over his shoulder. “See, you don’t even need knives for an effective carjacking.”

“In what universe is that a useful skill?” asked Kevin.

“You never know,” said Neil.

“Take the next right,” said Andrew.

Kevin flicked the turn signal. “You know, if I were just some random stranger, I probably wouldn’t be so accommodating to your directions.”

“Good thing you’re not a random stranger, then,” said Andrew. “See? Maybe that’s why we brought you along.”

“Neil would also be able to take direction if he were driving,” said Kevin.

Andrew snorted. “You know that’s not true. You’ve tried to give Neil direction before.” Neil sputtered in protest, but Andrew ignored him. “Besides, Neil knows where we’re going. Turn left at the stop sign.”

“You know, I could also know where we’re going, if you’d just tell me,” said Kevin. “Why are we downtown? Are we going to a museum?"

“No,” said Andrew. “Turn left again.”

Could we go to a museum?” asked Kevin. “I’ve been trying to get Neil to go to the history museum with me for, like, two years now, and he keeps putting it off because he says he thinks you’d like it.”

“I do think Andrew would like it,” lied Neil. Andrew met his eyes in the rearview mirror and raised a brow. Neil shrugged, and Andrew rolled his eyes.

“Find somewhere to park,” said Andrew. “We’re here.”

Kevin glanced out the driver’s side window. “Why are we at the courthouse?”

“We have an appointment,” said Andrew. “Park the car.”

Kevin pulled into one of the street parking spots and frowned at Andrew. “What did you do?”

“My plane landed less than an hour ago,” said Andrew. “I have not yet had time to commit a crime in the state of Colorado.”

Kevin turned to face Neil. “What did you do?”

“I’m with you, like, all the time,” said Neil. “You would definitely know if I’d gotten arrested.”

“Did you witness something?” Kevin asked. “Or – what else do they do at a courthouse?”

“Come on, Day,” said Andrew, getting out of the car. “We’re going to be late.”

“For what?” asked Kevin, exasperated. Neil just smiled and shrugged, following Andrew out of the car. Andrew was already halfway across the street, heading towards the courthouse steps without looking back, and Neil hurried after him. “Wait up, I’m coming,” called Kevin. With his longer stride, he caught up with Neil in no time.

Andrew had already reached the top of the steps. He paused at the doors and waited for them. “Ready?” he asked Neil.

Neil grinned. “Yes.”

“Ready for what?” asked Kevin. They ignored him and went inside.

The security checkpoint made Neil uncomfortable – he didn’t like being unarmed around men with guns, and the fact that they were sheriff’s deputies didn’t make him feel any better about it – but Andrew was a steadying presence, watching carefully the entire time. It also helped that the deputies barely glanced at them as they went through the metal detector.

Andrew brushed against his side as he picked up his wallet from the conveyer belt and started to head further into the courthouse. “I missed you.”

Neil smiled at him. “I missed you, too.” Part of his brain had already started the countdown to Andrew’s flight back to Pittsburgh – four days, three and a half hours. He longed for a day when Andrew wouldn’t have to leave again. “I think there’s a good chance Stevens will retire at the end of this year,” he said. “Kevin and I have been talking to Coach Herrera, and –”

“Shut up,” said Andrew. “We are not talking about exy right now.”

“I’m not talking about exy,” Neil argued. “I’m talking about you maybe being able to move to Denver with us.”

Andrew pressed his lips together. “Later.” He stopped in front of a door with a sign reading Office of the Clerk and Recorder. “Should be through here.”

“Can you tell me what we’re doing here yet?” asked Kevin.

Andrew ignored him and led the way through the door. A receptionist looked up at them. “How can I help you today?”

“We’re here for a marriage license,” said Andrew calmly.

Kevin’s jaw dropped. “A what?”

The receptionist glanced at Kevin apprehensively. “And who will be getting married?”

Andrew gestured towards Neil. “The two of us. Andrew Minyard and Neil Josten.” Neil gave a little wave and tried to make sure his expression was the exact opposite of whatever Kevin was doing.

The receptionist visibly relaxed once it was clear that neither of the people getting married was the guy looking like he’d just shown up to a surprise party he’d explicitly said he didn’t want. “Okay, great. Let me call Rhonda, and she’ll help you with the paperwork in just a minute.”

Andrew nodded and took a step back from the receptionist’s desk, looking around the room. Kevin grabbed his and Neil’s arms and pulled them over to him. “You’re getting married?”

“Yep,” said Andrew.

“When?”

“Today,” said Neil. “We’ve got an appointment with a judge in –” he checked his watch – “fifteen minutes.”

Why?”

“Tax purposes,” said Andrew.

“Seriously?” asked Kevin.

Neil shrugged and nodded. “Do you have any idea how many legal benefits there are to being married? It’s ridiculous.” It was true enough – when he and Andrew had started looking into it, they had been frankly shocked by the number of perks that came from making their relationship legally binding. Plus, it just made sense. They knew this was a forever thing. At the end of the day, deciding to fill out the paperwork had been easy.

“Who else knows?” Kevin whispered urgently.

“Besides the three of us?” Andrew asked. “The receptionist, and probably Rhonda by now. And the judge knows we’re coming. Maybe his secretary.”

Kevin looked sharply at Neil. “Do – do they know?” he asked in French.

“No,” Neil answered in English. “It’s none of their business. That’s not part of the deal. Besides, Jean and Jeremy got married year before last, and it didn’t cause any issues.”

“But they still cleared it ahead of time,” Kevin argued, still in French.

Neil rolled his eyes and switched into French. “What do you want me to do, call him up and invite him to the wedding?” Kevin’s grip on his arm was still tight. “We’ve thought this through. It’s going to be fine.”

“Ah, yes, because you’re always very credible when you say you’re fine,” said Kevin.

“It is, though,” Neil argued. He glanced at Andrew, and then looked back at Kevin. “Trust me. I wouldn’t do this if I thought I was putting him at risk.”

Kevin studied him for a second and then softened. “Okay,” he said, switching back to English. “You’re both sure about this?”

“Yes,” said Neil without hesitation.

“Yes,” Andrew agreed.

Kevin smiled – a slow, genuine smile that spread across his face. “Then I’m happy for you.” He paused. “Thanks for inviting me.”

“It’s bad luck to drive yourself to your own wedding,” said Andrew.

“I don’t think that’s a thing,” said Kevin.

Neil shrugged. “Could be.”

Kevin sighed. “You two are perfect for each other.”

“We are, aren’t we?” said Neil happily.

“Mr. Minyard and Mr. Josten?” A tall woman in a dark blue dress – presumably, Rhonda – leaned into the waiting area. “Follow me.”

All three of them trailed down the hallway after her. There were only two visitors’ chairs at her desk. Neil and Andrew sat, and Kevin leaned against the wall behind them. Rhonda looked over at him. “I can grab another chair from next door if you’d like,” she said.

“I’m good, thank you,” said Kevin, flashing a smile.

“All right,” said Rhonda, settling down into her chair on the other side of the desk. She looked at Neil and Andrew. “Can I please see your identification?”

It was surprisingly easy to get through the paperwork. Neil was inherently uncomfortable in government buildings showing his ID and giving out personal information, but Rhonda treated the process as so incredibly routine that he almost didn’t mind. In just a few minutes, the forms were complete and they had handed over their payment.

“Okay, you’re all set. Remember, the license is valid for 35 days, and then you’ll need to return it here in 63 days for recording,” said Rhonda with a smile. “So, when’s the big day?”

Andrew checked his watch. “In about five minutes.”

Rhonda’s eyes widened in surprise, but she didn’t comment. “Well, then, I don’t want to keep you! Who’s the judge on duty today? Garcia?”

Neil glanced at Andrew, who nodded. “That’s the one.”

“He’s great,” said Rhonda. “Do you know where you’re going? Up the stairs, and then he’ll be the third door on the right.”

“Thanks,” said Neil, standing up. “How late are you open? Can we just drop this back off on our way out?”

“Sure,” she said. “We’re here until five. You can just leave it with Shelby at the front desk, and she’ll make sure it gets filed.”

Neil looked at Andrew. “We should be done by then, right?”

“It’s 3:55.”

A courthouse wedding couldn’t take longer than an hour, could it? The whole point of this was to be simple and fast. “Cool. Yeah, we’ll be back before then,” said Neil. He smiled at Andrew. “Let’s go.”

It didn’t take them long to find the judge’s office, especially with Rhonda’s directions. His secretary looked them up and down. “Arraignments were this morning. If you missed your court date, you’ll need to get in touch with your attorney.”

“We’ve got an appointment,” said Andrew. “Minyard and Josten.”

“Oh,” she said, raising her eyebrows. “My apologies. Most couples coming in for marriage ceremonies dress up a bit . . . more.”

Neil glanced down at his clothes. He was wearing a grey button-down shirt and a nice pair of jeans – one Allison had helped him pick out last time he had visited her in New York.  He looked over at Andrew, who admittedly looked somewhat more casual, but he’d come straight from the airport. Who wanted to dress up for a flight?

Kevin clapped them on the back. “What you see is what you get with these two,” he said, flashing his best press smile at the secretary. “Is Judge Garcia ready for them?”

She smiled back at him, all judgment gone from her face. It really wasn’t fair how easily Kevin could turn on the charm. “Yes, of course. Right this way,” she said, standing up and leading them through the door behind her. “Judge, your four o’clock is here.”

Judge Garcia looked up from his desk and smiled at them. “Ah, Neil Josten and Andrew Minyard, I presume? And I see you’ve brought a friend,” he said. “Are we waiting for anyone else?”

“Nope,” said Andrew.

“All right, then,” said Judge Garcia. He held out his hand. “License?” Neil handed the paperwork over to him without a word. The judge scanned the form and nodded. “Looks good. Okay, we’ll say a few words and then get this signed and finalized. Sound good?”

Neil looked at Andrew, who gave a small nod. “Yeah,” said Neil, “sounds good.”

“Great,” said the judge. “Do you have your vows?’

Neil frowned. “Are we supposed to?” he asked. “I thought –” he glanced at Andrew, who looked equally confused, and then back at the judge. “I thought you kind of told us what to say for that part.”

“You two are the worst,” said Kevin. “Have you ever been to a wedding before?”

“Yes, several, and you were there for all of them,” Neil reminded him. “And they were all super long. I thought we were skipping all that stuff by doing this at the courthouse.”

Judge Garcia laughed. “We can do it that way, too. It’s pretty common for couples who get married here to write their own vows or do something else to make the ceremony a little more personal, but we can just use the standard vows if you’d prefer. It doesn’t take much to make the ceremony legal!”

“Standard’s good,” said Andrew, and Neil nodded in agreement.

“All right. Colorado’s pretty straightforward – we just need a declaration of intent. So, Neil, we’ll start with you. Do you, Neil, take this man, Andrew, to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

A little thrill passed through his stomach, and he smiled. “Yes.”

“You’re supposed to say ‘I do,’” Kevin muttered.

Oops. That did ring a bell. “Uh, I do.”

“‘Yes’ works, too,” said Judge Garcia. He turned to Andrew. “And do you, Andrew, take this man, Neil, to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

Andrew shot Kevin a look and then focused his attention back on Neil. His expression was soft and open. “Yes.”

“With the power vested in my by the state of Colorado, I now pronounce you married,” said Judge Garcia. “You may kiss.” Neil and Andrew stared at him without moving. They may be married, but that didn’t mean they’d developed a sudden interest in making out in front of strangers. "You don’t have to, though,” the judge continued. “We can just go ahead and get the paperwork signed if you’d prefer.”

Andrew nodded. “Sounds good.”

Judge Garcia signed on the officiants’ line and showed Neil and Andrew where to add their own signatures. “Colorado doesn’t require a witness,” he said, looking at Kevin, “but there’s a line for one to sign the certificate, if you’d like.”

Kevin brightened. “Oh. That would be –” he looked at Neil and Andrew. “I mean, whatever y’all want me to do. Either way’s good with me.”

Andrew rolled his eyes. “Go on, sign it,” said Andrew. “Solidify your role in all this.”

Kevin flipped him off, but he was still smiling as he took the pen from the judge. Neil watched him sign, feeling warm inside. Kevin was their best friend; just as they hadn’t entertained the idea of having a bigger wedding or inviting anyone else, they’d never considered leaving Kevin at home. It was right for him to be there.

“Okay, you’re all set,” said Judge Garcia. “You’ve got 63 days to return this to the Office of the Clerk and Recorder, but it probably makes the most sense for you to just drop it off on the way out. Unless you’re having second thoughts!” he added with a laugh. “If you don’t bring it to the clerk’s office on time, you won’t be legally married.”

“We’ll turn it in on the way out,” said Neil.

Andrew took the papers from the judge. “Ready?” he asked.

Neil nodded. He looked at Kevin and held out his hand. “Keys?”

“Oh, so now you can suddenly drive again?” Kevin asked, but he handed them over.

“I can go get the car while you turn in the paperwork,” Neil said to Andrew.

Andrew shrugged and started for the door. Neil followed.

“Wait,” said Kevin, “which one of you am I supposed to go with?”

“Go with whichever one of us you would’ve stood for if we’d had a normal ceremony with full wedding parties,” said Andrew.

“Rude,” said Kevin. “I should go with Neil out of spite.”

“Spite is a great motivator,” Neil agreed. “But you should go with Andrew. Make sure he actually gets this filed correctly so I don’t have to find out ten years from now that we were never actually married, after all.”

Andrew rolled his eyes, but he looked at Neil fondly. “I told you to stay. I meant it.”

Neil pressed against him for just a second as they walked. “Good.”

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Andrew veered off towards the clerk’s office with Kevin, and Neil went straight towards the exit. “You’ll pull around to the steps?” Andrew called over his shoulder.

“Yep,” said Neil. “See you soon.” His steps were light as he walked back past the security checkpoint and out to the car. It took a minute to adjust the seat and mirrors. He needed to stop letting Kevin drive; it was annoying to be so directly reminded that Kevin was nearly a foot taller than Neil. By the time he’d gotten everything adjusted correctly and figured out how to drive to the steps of the courthouse, Andrew and Kevin were walking out the doors. Andrew climbed into the front seat, and Kevin slid into the back.

“So, are you going to do anything special to celebrate?” Kevin asked.

Neil looked at Andrew, who shrugged. “We can get takeout from that Thai place you like?” he suggested.

Andrew nodded. “Do you want me to put in an order now so we can pick it up on the way home, or should we wait until a little later?”

Neil looked at the clock. It was only 4:30. And the Thai place was close to his and Kevin’s house, so it wouldn’t be too much trouble to go back out to pick it up. “Maybe a little later?”

“Works for me,” said Andrew.

“That’s it?” asked Kevin. “You don’t want to make a reservation somewhere?”

“Why?” asked Neil. “I’d rather be at home.”

Andrew hummed in agreement. “Plus, Kevin, it’ll be weirder for you to third-wheel our wedding night if we’re out in public.”

Kevin made a face. “You could go out by yourselves,” he said. “I am not going to third-wheel your wedding night.”

“Your loss,” Andrew said with a shrug.

By the time they were eating their Thai food a few hours later, Kevin had apparently gotten over his aversion to third-wheeling their wedding night. “So, when are you planning on telling the others?” Kevin asked. “Not that I’m not enjoying being the only one in the loop, but I would pay actual money to witness Nicky’s reaction when you let him know you got married and he missed it.”

“He didn’t miss it,” Neil objected. “There was nothing to miss. We just filled out some paperwork.”

Andrew was looking at Kevin with interest. “How much? For the right price, I’ll call him now.”

“We could put something in the group chat,” Neil suggested. “We could just, like, tell them and then turn our phones off.”

Kevin snorted. “They’ll be happy for you, you know,” he said. “Why do you have such an aversion to sharing joy?”

Neil wrinkled his nose. “They’ll be all . . . emotional about it.”

Kevin raised an eyebrow. “Are you not?”

Neil looked at Andrew, who stared back and raised an eyebrow, too, matching Kevin’s expression. He took a moment to just enjoy looking at Andrew. At his husband. Against all odds, they had gotten to keep this, and now, the government officially agreed. Something warm settled in his core, and he smiled a little without really thinking about it. “It’s not that I’m not feeling any emotions,” he said finally, turning back to Kevin. “But I’m not emotional.”

Andrew seemed pleased with this response. “Same,” he said with a nod.

Kevin rolled his eyes. “I’m going to ask my therapist for advice on how to make friends who have normal reactions to major life events.”

“Like you’d know what a normal emotional reaction is,” said Neil. “Besides, you’ve got Jeremy for that. He has normal reactions to stuff, probably. Right?” Come to think of it, Neil didn’t really know what a normal reaction looked like, either, but Jeremy seemed pretty well-adjusted overall, and Neil didn’t know of any major trauma in his background, so he thought it was a fair assumption.

Kevin shrugged. “Maybe. As you just pointed out, I wouldn’t know.”

“If it’s any consolation, I don’t think we really know, either,” Neil offered.

“Speak for yourself,” said Andrew. “I know exactly what a normal emotional reaction looks like.”

“So you just choose not to partake?” asked Neil.

“Exactly. See, Neil gets it.”

Kevin’s phone buzzed with a notification, and he leaned over to check it. He frowned and picked it up to look more closely at whatever it was telling him. “What have the two of you done now?”

Neil looked at Andrew, who shrugged. “Nothing?” Neil guessed hopefully.

“Not according to this google alert I just got,” said Kevin.

“Wait, you’re tracking us? Without telling us?” asked Neil, mildly offended.

“I’ve told you now,” said Kevin dismissively. “Anyway, someone needs to keep track of the two of you, since you’re clearly not doing it yourselves. Do either of you even know your publicist’s name?”

“Taylor,” said Andrew immediately. He caught Neil’s blank look and rolled his eyes. “And Neil’s is Jennice.”

Kevin ignored him. “The alert went off for both of you, which is never a good sign,” he said, unlocking his phone and starting to read. “According to this article, you’re – oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Neil tensed up. “What?”

“Apparently, there was someone with a camera outside the courthouse,” Kevin said. “There’s a picture of us going in, and another of us going out.”

“Oh,” Neil said, frowning. “That’s – so, they know?” It was fine if they did, really. He and Andrew weren’t actively planning to tell anyone, but there was no real need to keep it secret, either. It was kind of the way they’d treated their entire relationship. They’d been together for years – their entire careers – and they hadn’t exactly kept it hidden. They were just private people. It was hardly their fault if the public couldn’t pick up on a relationship if the people involved weren’t hanging all over each other in front of the cameras.

He had hoped to tell their family before it was published for the world to see. But he was mostly upset that someone had been close enough to take a picture of him – of Andrew – without him noticing. He was getting soft, easily distracted. He needed to work on that.

Kevin was still skimming the article. “I don’t think they know that you’re –” he cut off abruptly, reread a sentence, and started laughing. “No, they definitely don’t know you’re married.”

“That’s good, then, isn’t it?” said Neil. He looked at Andrew, who had taken out his own phone to look up whatever Kevin was reading. Neil’s phone was in his pocket. Probably. It didn’t really matter; he was pretty sure it was dead anyway. “Well, is someone going to fill me in?”

“They don’t know we’re married,” said Andrew, “because they think we were there for a court date.”

It took Neil a second to catch up to the context. “Like, for a crime?”

“Don’t act so scandalized,” said Kevin. “Both of you have committed many crimes.”

“Yeah, but I never got caught!” Neil protested. He scooted closer to Andrew to try to read over his shoulder. “What do they think we did?”

“They don’t know,” said Andrew, “but apparently it involves one of us attacking the other. Their money’s on me being the aggressor.”

Neil felt a pulse of anger. “That’s stupid,” he said. “You would never.”

“I have, as you put it, gotten caught before,” Andrew pointed out, unbothered. He kept scrolling through the article.

“Looks like he put the photos on Twitter first,” said Kevin. “He’s – god, there’s a hashtag.”

Andrew switched over to the app. “We’re trending,” he said, sounding mildly impressed. “#MinyardJostenRivalry. They’re using it to compile all the evidence they’ve got showing that this courthouse showdown was the inevitable result of years of building tension.”

“You really do look like you hate each other in a lot of these photos,” said Kevin. “Including the ones from the courthouse today. Did you realize that you didn’t walk in or out of the building together?”

“Why aren’t you getting dragged into this?” Neil asked, glaring at Kevin. “You were there today, too. Why isn’t it the Minyard-Josten-Day Rivalry?”

Kevin flashed his best press smile. “I’m just the beloved teammate and friend who was there for moral support and possibly to keep you from killing each other.”

“Couldn’t they have at least tried to come up with something plausible?” asked Andrew.

Kevin flipped him off. “Everything I just said is literally true.”

Andrew looked to Neil for support, but Neil just shrugged. “He’s not wrong.”

“Bullshit. I want a divorce.”

“It’s only been a few hours. Pretty sure you can just get an annulment,” said Kevin.

“Now, that’s an idea,” said Andrew. He looked back at Neil. “See? Kevin knows how to be helpful.”

“Wait, so now you’re calling Kevin helpful, but you want to divorce me because I said he wasn’t wrong?” Neil asked indignantly.

“Not a divorce,” Andrew corrected, “an annulment.” He glanced down at his phone, which had started to buzz, grimaced, and turned it facedown. “Hey, Kevin, Nicky’s about to call you.”

“How do you –” Kevin started, and then his phone started buzzing. Kevin sighed. “You know, you could’ve just answered.”

“But this is more fun,” said Andrew, leaning back on the sofa. His shoulder pressed lightly against Neil’s, and Neil leaned into him just a little. It was nice, being in the same place again, even if it was just for a few days.

While Neil was focused on soaking in every bit of Andrew’s presence next to him, Kevin had answered his phone and put it on speaker. “Hey, Nicky. We’re all here. I don’t know why Andrew rejected your call.”

“Yes he does,” Andrew said to the phone. “I literally just told him.”

“You just said ‘this is more fun.’ That’s not a reason.”

“It is a reason,” said Neil. “It doesn’t stop being a reason just because you don’t think it’s a good one.”

Andrew nodded. “Well said. The annulment’s off.”

“The annulment?” said Nicky. “What annulment? What are you annulling?”

“We’re not annulling anything. Weren’t you paying attention?” Andrew asked.

“Did you get married?” Nicky’s volume had increase to the point where Kevin was holding the phone at arm’s length.

Andrew’s phone started to buzz with another phone call. He declined it. “Hey Kevin, Allison might call in a second. You should conference her in.”

“I am not your answering service,” said Kevin.

“Clearly,” said Andrew. “If you were, you’d be getting these calls first, and I wouldn’t have to waste time rejecting them.” Andrew’s phone started to buzz again. Neil saw Renee’s name show up on the caller ID. “Oh. Never mind, Allison’s probably not going to call you.” He answered the phone, but he didn’t put it on speaker. “Yes?”

“Wait, I want to talk to Renee and Allison,” said Nicky through Kevin’s phone. “What are you saying? You’d better not tell Renee before you tell me!”

“Who says we have anything to tell anybody?” said Andrew, but he put the phone on speaker and held it out in the general vicinity of Kevin’s.

“This is stupid,” said Allison through Andrew’s phone. “We are not going to talk through two separate phones. Kevin, I’m calling you so you can conference us in.”

Kevin started to protest, but his phone was already buzzing, and Andrew had already hung up on Renee.

“Are the others on yet?” asked Allison as soon as Kevin connected her. “And has anyone heard Neil’s voice yet? Maybe one of them did commit a crime.”

“I don’t get why everyone thinks we would get caught,” said Neil, mildly offended.

“Oh, good, you’re alive!” said Allison. “So why were you at the courthouse this afternoon?”

Neil sighed and looked at Andrew. “Should we add anyone else to the call before we say anything?” He didn’t want to directly ask if they should include Aaron – not in front of everyone – but Andrew understood the unspoken question.

After a minute, Andrew sighed. “Nicky, get Aaron on the line.”

Aaron doesn’t know yet?” asked Nicky.

“No one knows,” said Andrew. “We haven’t even told you there’s something to know.”

“I just want to know if I’m going to be able to get Minyard-Josten Rivalry merch,” said Allison. “Obviously, hashtag Team Josten.” Renee made a disapproving noise in the background. “We might need some ‘house divided’ swag over here.”

“Oh em gee, I would absolute buy that,” said Nicky.

“Nicky. Aaron. Call him,” Andrew interrupted, rolling his eyes.

“Right! Don’t say a word until I’m back!” said Nicky.

“Can one of you call Matt and Dan?” asked Neil. Now that the rest of the Foxes were going to be on the phone, it felt wrong to share any news without them, too. Matt was one of his best friends, and he’d played for the Dragons with Andrew for a couple of seasons before transferring to Carolina. He and Dan were just as much their family as the rest of them.

“On it!” said Renee, and the line went blissfully quiet.

“I still think this should all be happening on one of your phones,” Kevin grumbled, but he didn’t look genuinely annoyed.

“You know, I’m starting to think you didn’t want to be included in this,” said Andrew. “Next time, we’ll leave you at home.”

“Next time?” Kevin asked, raising an eyebrow.

Before Andrew could answer, Aaron’s voice came through the phone speaker. “Is someone dead?”

“Lots of people are dead,” said Andrew. “It’s a pretty common occurrence. Didn’t they cover that in med school?”

“I’m just getting off of a twelve hour shift at the hospital, and it’s, like, midnight in Germany, so this had better be something important,” said Aaron.

“Wait, is something actually wrong?” asked Matt; apparently Renee and Allison had rejoined with Matt and Dan. “Because I was just going to ask where I could get a Team Josten beanie, but if you need a lawyer or something, my mom’s got like six really good ones on speed dial.”

“Et tu, Brute?” asked Andrew. “Boyd, we were literally on the same team.”

“Sorry, Minyard, not anymore. Besides, Neil was my bro first.”

“You’ve known me longer.”

“You know, that could be part of the problem,” Allison mused.

“For the love of god, can someone please explain what the fuck this call is about?” asked Aaron, sounding truly exhausted. Neil looked at Andrew, silently asking if he wanted to explain, but Andrew just pulled out his phone and started working on something.

Allison spoke up instead. “Wait, have you not seen the hashtag?” She didn’t wait for a response before launching into an explanation. “Okay, so, some paparazzi dude got some photos of Andrew and Neil going into a Denver courthouse, but, like, separately from each other. Andrew was walking in alone, and Neil was walking in with Kevin, and then Neil left alone and Kevin left with Andrew. Which begs the question – is Kevin Team Minyard or Team Josten? It looks like he’s trying to play both sides here. So, Day, which team are you playing for?”

“I am begging you to leave me out of this,” said Kevin, sounding strangely strained.

“Whatever, I’ll get it out of you later,” Allison continued. “Anyway, they published the photos with some article speculating about why Neil and Andrew were at the courthouse, and the prevailing theory was that, like, one of them attacked the other at some point and they’re either suing each other or testifying against each other in a criminal matter or something, and then someone started the hashtag ‘MinyardJostenRivalry’ and it’s been trending on twitter for like an hour. So now we’ve come to the source to find out why they were actually at the courthouse and whose side we should be on.”

“That’s one of the perks,” Neil said to Kevin. “We won’t have to testify against each other.”

“Wait, you got married?!” shrieked Dan. Andrew flicked Neil’s head, but he looked content.

“Oops,” said Neil. “Uh, yeah.

Everyone started talking at once, and Kevin threw his phone at Neil, who caught it on reflex. The sound of the overlapping voices really was obnoxious. Neil looked for a way to turn the sound off. Or at least make it quieter. He finally figured out where the speaker was and pushed it down against the couch cushion. Finally, they quieted down enough for Neil to pick out individual comments.

“So you’re actually married?” Aaron.

“Yes.”

“Did you plan it?” Dan.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you let me plan it?” Allison.

Neil looked at Andrew, who shrugged without looking up from his phone. It wasn’t a particularly helpful reaction. “Uh, sorry?”

“Why weren’t any of us invited?” Nicky.

“We invited Kevin,” said Neil, realizing too late that this might not be viewed as a good thing.

“Why would you invite Kevin and not your own cousin?” said Nicky. “Or your own brother!”

Andrew still showed no signs of speaking, so Neil answered again. “Kevin was already here.”

“Wow, thanks,” said Kevin, rolling his eyes. “You really know how to make someone feel special.”

“We could’ve left you at home,” said Andrew, still messing with his phone. Neil leaned over to try to look, but Andrew angled his screen and pushed Neil’s face away.

“Is it bad that I’m actually a little disappointed to hear that the Minyard-Josten Rivalry was completely fabricated? Because I was actually looking forward to that merch,” said Allison.

“Check twitter,” said Andrew, putting his phone down.

“Why, what did you –” Allison gasped. “Oh my god, did you set this up while we were talking just now? I’m almost impressed.”

Theoretically, Neil could take his own phone out and check twitter, but he still wasn’t sure if his phone had any charge left. Or if he remembered how to log into twitter. It would be easier for Andrew to just show him. He looked at Andrew expectantly, but Andrew shook his head. “Look it up yourself, Josten.”

“Ooh, sounds like the honeymoon phase is already over,” said Nicky. “Hold on, Neil, I’ll text it to you.”

A second later, Neil’s phone buzzed with a message from Nicky – so it wasn’t dead – linking to Andrew’s tweet.

@andrew.minyard: Be on the right side of history. Preorder #TeamMinyard beanies here

The tweet linked to a black beanie embroidered with “Team Minyard” in red block letters on the front. Neil looked at Andrew. “Did you seriously design this just now?”

Andrew looked pleased with himself. “Hey, Boyd, I’ve got that beanie you wanted.”

“I already ordered one,” said Matt.

“Hey,” said Neil, “I thought you were Team Josten!”

“Sorry, dude,” Matt said. “It’s a sweet beanie.”

“Don’t worry, Neil, I’ll help you design some stuff,” said Allison. “We are not letting him win this.”

“Thanks?” said Neil.

“Hold on,” said Renee. “Does this mean you aren’t going to tell people why you were really at the courthouse?”

“Nope,” said Andrew.

“Wait, you mean we can’t tell people you’re married?” asked Nicky. “But I want to celebrate you!”

“Celebrate us privately,” Andrew suggested.

“But you didn’t even invite us to the wedding,” Nicky complained. “Can’t you at least let me tweet about how happy I am for y’all?”

“We said no,” said Neil firmly. “It’s not anybody else’s business.”

“Okay, well, whether you like it or not, people are definitely going to be talking about you two for a while,” said Allison. “Especially now that Andrew’s commented on the alleged rivalry. Like, reporters are going to be asking you about it.”

Neil made a face – he hadn’t thought about that – but then he saw the glint in Andrew’s eye. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Could be interesting to keep the rivalry going,” said Andrew. “See what happens.”

Neil thought about it, then slowly grinned. “Okay. Yeah. We can definitely have some fun with this.”