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“I’m sure at least one of the bridesmaids will be single,” his mom suggests in what Tyler is sure she thinks is a helpful voice.

It’s not helpful. Tyler has never had any trouble meeting people, has never enjoyed being set up, and as much as he loves her, in no universe would he enjoy being set up by his mother, of all people. “Mom,” he implores her.

“Well!” she huffs. There’s a pause, then her voice takes on a gentler tone. “I know, you don’t want help from your mom, but—if you would just put yourself out there more. You’re a charming, handsome, wonderful young man, not to mention wealthy. There’s no reason at all for you to be going to weddings alone.”

Tyler doesn’t really have a good answer to that. She’s not wrong, especially not about his better attributes, but—he’s got hockey to focus on. There’ll be plenty of time for relationships and shit later.

If he says that, though, she’ll just sigh at him, so he tries something else. “I’m not looking to meet anybody right now, Mom. I don’t have any new marks,” he reminds her, as if he doesn’t tell her every time a new one appears. He’s got a lot of soulmarks—more than most guys in the locker room, that’s for sure—but all of his have been platonic so far, and he’s met most of them.

She sighs at him anyway. “Well, of course you don’t with that attitude. If you were looking, maybe a new one would come in because you made the choice to open yourself to love.”

“Why can’t I be open to love with somebody whose mark I already have?” says Tyler before he can stop himself. He doesn’t mean anything by it—he hasn’t even been hooking up, lately—but it’s a valid possibility, he thinks, and it seems like the thing that’s most likely to get her to stop talking about this.

It works perfectly. Almost too perfectly, because she says, “But the only…” and then she trails off and is quiet for several seconds. Finally, she says, “Oh, sweetheart, do you mean—”

There’s a noise that sounds suspiciously like she’s sniffling, and Tyler immediately goes into panic mode. “Mom, no, I—”

But she’s talking over him. “I knew it, I didn’t want to push you two, but a mother always knows—why did you think you had to hide this from us? Oh Tyler, you know we always told you, whoever’s mark you bear, as long as they make you happy, we’ll be happy for you, did you really think we would—?”

Tyler has absolutely no idea what’s going on. “Mom, what are you—”

“And it’s clear as day that Jamie’s always made you happy, right from the start. Tyler, sweetie, I’m so happy for you! How did the two of you—no, no, you know what? You have to bring him, no excuses, I don’t care why you weren’t planning on it, you are now, or I’ll fly to Texas myself and get the two of you on a plane. You know we all love him, and we’ll want to hear the whole story over the weekend, okay?”

Somehow, from that stupid comment, Tyler is pretty sure his mom’s gotten the idea that he’s dating Jamie. He really doesn’t understand how she ended up here—sure, she’s been not-so-subtly hinting at this ever since she found out that the mark of a dog silhouette over Tyler’s heart was Jamie’s, but…

And now she just sounds so happy. Tyler can’t bring himself to ruin that and set her back on the blind date train of thought. He sighs. “Okay, Mom.”

Good. I’ll let Katie know you’re bringing a plus-one. Love you, honey, and see you soon.”

“Love you too, Mom.” Tyler hangs up and buries his face in his hands. What the hell is he going to tell Jamie?

Tyler doesn’t have all that much time to think it over—he can’t really avoid telling Jamie that he inadvertently signed him up to be his boyfriend at a family wedding when said wedding is the upcoming Sunday.

He heads over to Jamie’s early for the carpool to practice so that he can ask him about it, even though he’s still at a loss as to how to explain. He and Jamie have never had any sort of romantic relationship, despite their marks being the largest and closest to their hearts that either of them have. It’s a bit odd to have a platonic soulmark like that, Tyler knows, but they’re best friends who brought back an entire franchise together. Crosby and Malkin probably have their soulmarks on each other’s hearts too.

So, really, Tyler gets why his mom (and almost everyone else who knows about their marks) thinks there’s something more between him and Jamie. Just because having large platonic soulmarks makes sense to them doesn’t mean it makes sense to other people. Maybe this is a good thing—if they have a fake relationship that doesn’t work out, people might shut up. Tyler’s sure that Jamie’s heard some of the same things from his family; maybe he can sell the idea to him that way.

Jamie is sitting on the couch in the living room when Tyler lets himself in, and Tyler throws himself unceremoniously down in the armchair across from him. “So,” he says, “good news! I figured out how to get people to stop nagging us about how we should stop ignoring our soulmarks and kiss already like we live in a Disney movie or something.”

“Uh,” Jamie says, “sorry, what?”

“I was talking to my mom, right, and she was going on about how I need to find someone to settle down with or whatever. There was all this stuff about opening myself to love so I could get a new soulmark or something, and I was like what if I don’t want a new one, y’know?” Tyler laughs nervously. “So, uh, then she, like, assumed that that was because I have yours? And that we’re together? But that’s totally fine, because if you come with me to my cousin’s wedding and then we break up after, she can’t say anything about our soulmarks being romantic! And neither can anyone else!”

Jamie stares at him for a long moment, blinking slowly. “You…what?”

“Told her I’d bring you to the wedding and tell everyone the story of how we realized we’re in love?” Tyler repeats. “It’s in Florida. This weekend. Uh, I hope you don’t have plans?”

“But we’re not…in love,” Jamie says, like he’s checking to make sure it’s still true.

“No, we’d have to pretend,” Tyler says. “Just for the weekend, though, it won’t be that hard. And then we can have a big dramatic breakup.”

“Why?”

This strikes Tyler as a strange question. “…because we’re not actually, y’know, dating? You’ll probably want to date people you’re actually interested in eventually, and remember, I said—”

“No,” Jamie interrupts. “Why did you tell her that?”

Tyler sighs and rubs the back of his neck, giving Jamie a sheepish look. “I told you, man, she was on my back about finding a relationship or whatever, and then she just assumed, I dunno.”

Jamie gives Tyler a look that makes him feel like he’s a puzzle Jamie’s trying to figure out. He’s about to move on to plan B (B for straight-up begging)—anything to break this awful silence—when Jordie walks into the room. Both Tyler and Jamie jump slightly in surprise, and Jordie stops short.

“Whoa, what’s going on in here?” he asks, looking between them warily.

“Tyler told his mom that he and I are dating,” Jamie says.

“He what?” Jordie turns to stare at Tyler, eyes wide and disbelieving.

“That’s totally not what happened!” Tyler protests.

Jordie looks skeptical. “Then what did happen?”

“I was trying to get her off my back about settling down, and she got the wrong idea…and I didn’t correct her.”

“Can’t you just correct her now?” Jordie asks.

Tyler makes a face. “No, she’ll just go right back to wanting to set me up with someone, and I really don’t want that.” He looks at Jamie beseechingly. “Besides, she sounded so happy. She loves you. Will you please do this for me?”

Jamie is avoiding eye contact with Tyler. Tyler considers turning on the puppy dog eyes, then wonders why Jamie’s being so weird about this, anyway. He knows it’s not an ordinary favour, but if Jamie had asked him, he would have said yes right away. He would have chirped Jamie a lot for it, but he wouldn’t be reluctant to do it.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Jordie says at the same time as Jamie says, “Yeah, okay.”

“Really?” Tyler asks Jamie.

“Yeah,” Jamie says, glaring at Jordie as if daring him to argue. “I’ll be your fake boyfriend.”

Tyler waits, but Jordie doesn’t say anything. Tyler has no idea why they’re both being so weird about this, but fuck, he’s so relieved that Jamie isn’t telling him no. “Thank you so much, Jamie, I could kiss you,” he says. “We’ll have fun, you’ll see.”

“I’m sure,” Jamie says, lips twitching up at the corners the slightest bit, like he’s not quite sure he should be smiling.

“We will,” Tyler insists. “If nothing else, there’s an open bar at the reception.”

Jamie laughs, but Jordie still looks vaguely pissed off. “We’re going to be late if we don’t get a move on,” he tells them before turning and walking out.

Tyler glances Jamie, fully ready to exchange a what’s up with him? look, but Jamie is already following Jordie. Tyler frowns and hurries after them.

Tyler takes his time in the shower after practice, spending enough time washing his hair that he figures everyone else will have left already and Jamie and Jordie will be annoyed that he made them wait. He’s heading back into the dressing room, scrubbing a towel over his head, when he hears Jordie’s voice. Tyler stops short at his frustrated tone and listens.

“You’re gonna regret this wedding business,” Jordie is saying. “You might not have your best interests in mind, but I do.”

“I’m telling you it’s fine, Jordie,” Jamie says, clearly annoyed.

“And I’m telling you it’s not,” Jordie replies. “Seriously, don’t do this. It won’t end well.” There’s a significant silence in which Tyler imagines Jamie giving Jordie the most disbelieving of looks, because that’s certainly what Tyler is doing, and then Jordie adds, “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

Tyler can’t help but be a little upset by that. Why would Jordie think that Tyler would ever hurt Jamie? Tyler has Jordie’s mark of Darth Vader’s mask on his ribs, two inches tall, and that’s pretty damn significant. He thought they were bros, but bros don’t suggest that their bro is going to be such a shitty fake boyfriend that the other person gets hurt.

“I’m not going to,” Jamie says, and at least Jamie is a good bro. Tyler resolves to be the sweetest, most considerate fake boyfriend possible so that Jamie can come back and tell Jordie that he had a great time. Then Tyler can—well, not laugh in Jordie’s face, because then they would know he was eavesdropping, but, like, Tyler will know.

Tyler stalks into the dressing room before he can hear any more, doing his level best to be as loud as possible. “Hey, guys,” he says, grinning as he takes in the remnants of frustration on Jordie’s face and the—does Jamie look resigned? Well, he won’t be resigned when Tyler starts being the best damn fake boyfriend the world has ever seen. “Sorry I took so long, I’ll be ready in a few.”

“I’ll be in the car,” Jordie says, already halfway out of the dressing room.

Tyler expects Jamie to stick around, maybe tell Tyler about how weird Jordie is being, but he just finishes putting on his shoes and leaves as well. Tyler feels like he must be missing something.

Jordie continues to be weird about the whole thing—and distinctly standoffish—up until they leave, but at least Jamie seems to have gotten over whatever’s bothering him. Or he’s decided to ignore it. It’s difficult to say, but the end result is Jamie being normal, and Tyler appreciates that because, between his mom punctuating all her texts with heart-eyed emojis and Jordie being a dick, his week is not very fun.

The night before they leave, Jamie sends Tyler so many texts asking what he needs to pack, and then asking what specific things to pack (blue striped shirt or red shirt or ?), that Tyler finally just walks over and sprawls on Jamie’s bed to make judgments from there.

“Jesus Christ, not a black shirt, what the hell, we’re going to be in Florida,” Tyler drawls.

Jamie rolls his eyes and puts the shirt back in his closet. “You’re not even being helpful, you’re just vetoing everything,” he complains. But then he starts putting his most boring game day suit in his travel garment bag, and that is such a grievous offense that Tyler actually stands up off the bed to take it out of his hands.

No,” says Tyler emphatically. Jamie looks somewhere between amused and indignant, which is a normal look for him, so Tyler hip-checks him out of the way and digs around in his closet.

It takes him a minute, and unzipping four different garment bags, but then he finds it—a textured grey suit Jamie’s only worn once. “This one,” says Tyler emphatically. “You should wear it more often. Like, fuck, your ass in these pants. When you got this, I wanted to go tip your tailor myself.”

He picks out a white shirt and a royal blue tie, adds them to the garment bag with the suit, then proudly says, “There.” Only then does Tyler turn around to notice that Jamie is blushing furiously, and it’s possible he went over the line a little bit with that last comment. Whoops.

Normally Tyler is better about that sort of thing. He’s sort of—he has difficulty, sometimes, with his closest friends, distinguishing between when his feelings are platonic and romantic. He exists in kind of a vague ‘I’d be down if you were down, but I’m not so down that I’m gonna make it weird’ state towards most of them. Which works out great most of the time, it’s just that occasionally Tyler forgets that there’s a line he shouldn’t be crossing.

But it’s fine. He’ll just play it off like he always does. He gives Jamie a coy smile, looking up at him through his lashes, and says, “See? I’m the best fake boyfriend ever, and we haven’t even started yet. Helping you show off your assets, showering you with praise…this is gonna be a piece of cake, Benny.”

Jamie shakes his head a little, like he's coming out of a daze. “Uh-huh,” he says drily, but his voice sounds a little hoarse. Tyler hopes he isn’t getting sick or something.

Their flight to Orlando leaves just before 7, which means Tyler gets the pleasure of dragging Jamie to the airport. He’s just never going to be functional before 9 a.m., and not before 10 unless somebody puts coffee in his hand and tells him to drink it. It actually is a pleasure for Tyler, because he finds it sort of hilarious that accommodating, polite Jamie wakes up as a zombie every day.

Because Jamie’s doing him a favour, and because their fake relationship starts today and Tyler is still planning on being the best fake boyfriend ever, he has the coffee ready when he wakes Jamie up. Jamie is still non-verbal, but offers a grimace that was probably supposed to be a smile. Tyler also arranged for the cab the night before and everything. He is on top of this.

Once they get to the airport, autopilot sets in for both of them. They usually fly on a private plane, but the process is almost the same. Present ID, find the precheck line, load bags onto the conveyor belt, walk through the metal detector, find gate. Jamie mindlessly follows Tyler through all of this, and he doesn’t actually wake up until they’re sitting down on the plane.

Tyler has enough experience with zombie Jamie that he can see the moment when it happens; a light goes on behind Jamie’s eyes and his posture shifts. “Sweet, now I don’t have to do your seatbelt for you,” Tyler jokes, buckling his own. “Welcome back to the world of the living, Jamison.”

“Thanks,” says Jamie, a little sheepishly, like Tyler hasn’t told him a thousand times he doesn’t mind steering Jamie around when they have to go places early. He glances around the plane like he’s seeing it for the first time, which he sort of is, and then buckles his seatbelt too.

Tyler shrugs it off, like always, and then, with a flirtatious smile, reaches for Jamie’s hand so he can lace their fingers together. Jamie’s hand goes rigid for just a second, and then relaxes. It’s a little sweaty. Tyler doesn’t mind. “So…we should probably figure out what our epic love story is so we’ve got it straight when everybody makes us repeat it a thousand times,” says Tyler.

Jamie nods, but doesn’t offer up any suggestions. Tyler takes this as licence to get as ridiculous as possible. “How about, after practice, I made sure we were the last two on the ice and got down on one knee at center ice and asked you to go out with me? Or what if one of us hired a skywriter to proclaim our love?”

“There’s no way that wouldn’t have ended up on Twitter,” Jamie points out, but he’s laughing, which was Tyler’s main intention.

“Fine, just shoot me down,” Tyler teases, squeezing Jamie’s hand to show he doesn’t mean it. He’s always liked holding hands; it’s sappy and sort of dumb, but then, so is he. “What if you baked me a cake, with like a note inside, in some plastic ball or whatever, like you get in those machines? Except I started choking on it, so you had to save my life first.”

Jamie’s really laughing now, free hand over his mouth to keep from causing a scene on the plane. “You would, too,” he says through his giggles.

Tyler nods emphatically. “Dude, right? I’d be like ‘Thanks, man!’ and just dig in, not looking for any secret notes or whatever, and then hilarious disaster. Well. Funny once you made sure I wasn’t dying, anyway.”

There’s a pause, then, as Tyler stretches his mind for more crazy ideas to make Jamie laugh. But it’s Jamie who speaks first. “What if…” Jamie starts. He’s studying the back of the seat in front of him very intently. “What if, like, I had feelings for you for a while, and then I finally got up the courage to say something about it, and you were like, ‘Okay, sure!’ and then it worked out better than either of us thought it would?”

He got all quiet about it, and Tyler doesn’t know why. There’s nothing in that to be ashamed of—yeah, it’s not funny, but it’s definitely the most plausible-sounding solution yet, even if Tyler was kind of looking forward to telling his sisters about his Heimlich Romance. He’d never shoot Jamie down when he sounds like this, though. Instead, he squeezes his hand again. “Sounds perfect, man. Everybody’ll buy that.”

“Yeah,” says Jamie with a quiet laugh. Tyler can’t imagine what he’s laughing at. There’s another weird silence, but then Jamie reaches for the Skymall and spreads it out between them. “Let’s pick something really weird to buy for Val,” he suggests, and they waste the rest of the flight like that, flipping through the pages and laughing.

Their flight gets them to Orlando with plenty of time to spare before the rehearsal dinner, which is good, because as they’re trying to find a cab, Tyler realizes that he completely forgot to get a gift for his cousin.

“There’s probably still some stuff left on her registry,” says Jamie, acting all smart. Tyler rolls his eyes. As if Jamie knows the first thing about weddings.

“Yeah, my mom said something about a list…” Tyler wracks his brain for details, but comes up empty. “I don’t, like, know what stores or how to find it or anything, though.”

Jamie sighs, the long one that means he’s disappointed with Tyler’s entire existence. Tyler, as usual, responds with a winning grin. “It’s cool, we can just go to one of those fancy home stores and put a bunch of random shit in a pretty basket.” Jamie looks skeptical, so Tyler adds, “Katie’s been my cousin her whole life. She knows not to expect better by now.”

After a quick trip to the hotel to drop off their bags, then another cab ride, the gift they end up with isn’t that bad. Sure, there is a lot of random stuff in that basket that neither Tyler nor Jamie could identify the purpose of, but Tyler is pretty proud of himself for managing to find bird and dagger cookie cutters. As they’re taking price tags off stuff and ‘artfully’ arranging it, Tyler makes sure they’re on top.

Jamie gives him a weird look at the choice of shapes, which gives Tyler the opportunity to brag. “Katie and Audrey’s soulmarks.”

The correct response to that, in Tyler’s mind, is praise, because look how thoughtful and sincere he can be in his gift-giving. Jamie is Jamie, though, so he rolls his eyes and says, “You’re such a sap, Segs.”

Tyler huffs at him and rolls his eyes right back. Katie will appreciate it, he’s sure. “So?”

“So nothing, I’m just saying.”

“Dude, only one of us cried at Click, and it was not me.”

“Fuck you, the scene where he runs out of the hospital to see his family one last time is really sad!” Jamie’s flushing, he’s always so easy to chirp.

He gets this look in his eye after a second, though, that means he’s got what he considers a great reply up his sleeve. “And anyway…three words, Ty.” Jamie pauses, presumably for dramatic effect. Tyler waits.

“Marley. And. Me.”

Just like every time someone brings up that fucking movie, Tyler can instantly feel tears pricking at the corner of his eyes, and he’s across the Gulf of Mexico from his dogs so he can’t even go hug them and make himself feel better. “God damn it, Jamie!” he spits out, voice way more choked than it has any right to be. Fuck Jamie anyway, it would be weird to not cry over that movie, it’s the worst.

Jamie’s laughing, but it’s not unkind. He throws an arm around Tyler’s shoulders and reels him in for a brief hug, which he knows always makes Tyler feel better. Part of Tyler doesn’t want to feel better; it would serve Jamie right if he started crying in the middle of this damn mall and made Jamie feel super guilty, but, like. They have to go convince his entire family that they’re dating in a couple hours, so there’s not really time for that.

As he’s composing himself with his face tucked into Jamie’s soft shirt, it occurs to Tyler that convincing them might be even easier than he had expected.

They get caught in traffic on the way back to the hotel, so they barely have time to shower and change clothes before the rehearsal dinner. It’s hardly the lazy afternoon Tyler had envisioned when he booked the early flights. He was imagining a bad pay-per-view movie and room service food, but instead he has only the vaguest impression of what their room even looks like and isn’t at all sure what number it is, so hopefully Jamie’s got that part covered.

The wedding party is big enough that they’re not the only ones arriving when they do. When they’re sitting at the curbside, Jamie moves to get out of the cab, but Tyler has a better idea. “Wait,” he says. He pays the cab driver, gets out, and goes around to open Jamie’s door for him. Jamie rolls his eyes, but allows Tyler to completely unnecessarily help him out, and then to guide him inside with his hand on the small of Jamie’s back.

“Pushing it already?” Jamie says quietly.

Tyler grins. “You haven’t seen the half of it, Benny. I’m gonna treat you so nice you won’t ever wanna leave,” he says as he pulls away to open the door for Jamie.

He pulls Jamie’s chair out for him, too, once they find their assigned table. The way Jamie’s looking at him would be read as a smile by almost anyone else, but Tyler knows that eyebrow tilt; it’s his favourite. It means Jamie thinks he’s being ridiculous, but he’s totally along for the ride.

They’ve been seated with Jason, who identifies himself as a friend of Katie’s from university, his girlfriend Emily, and Audrey’s sister, Amber. All of them clearly know who Tyler and Jamie are even beyond the family connection, although Tyler is pretty sure Audrey’s family is from Edmonton, so that might not work in their favor, what with the whole (sadly historical) playoff rivalry thing.

There’s not time for much more small talk than that before dinner is served. Tyler hadn’t realized just how close they’d cut it, but he’s glad they weren’t late, because his mom would have murdered him—and speaking of which, he’s glad she’s seated halfway across the room with her back to them and the door. He loves his mom, and he knows he’s going to have to get that part of the weekend over with eventually, but it’s nice to be able to put it off for now while he and Jamie work out the kinks in their little charade.

The conversation stays light, safe, and pretty bland until about halfway through dinner, when Amber sets down her fork, leans in, and says quietly, “I don’t mean to be rude, but…I had no idea that the two of you were, well.”

Tyler’s sort of taken aback by this, because they hadn’t even been dropping hints or doing anything romantic aside from Tyler pulling out Jamie’s chair, but then he realizes that he passed Jamie half of his roll, because Jamie always refuses to take the second roll he secretly wants, but he will eat half of Tyler’s. Also, Jamie picked all the mushrooms out of his pasta and put them on Tyler’s plate, and Tyler just ate them. To top it off in the most damning way possible, neither of them discussed this at all as they were doing it. In retrospect it looks so coupley, Tyler’s almost proud of his subconscious.

Yeah. This is way easier than he had been expecting, and he hadn’t been expecting it to be hard.

Still, Amber’s got the right idea—or, the wrong one, but the one they want her to have. Instead of giving her a straight answer, Tyler looks at Jamie with a soft smile, only to find Jamie already smiling at him in a similar way. Damn, they’re so good at this. It’s exactly the same kind of natural chemistry and unspoken communication they have on the ice—working together towards a common goal, kicking ass, taking names, and having a lot of fun along the way.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tyler sees Emily putting her hand over her mouth, everything about her expression suggesting that she’s trying to physically hold in an ‘awwwww.’

Jamie picks it up then. He looks away from Tyler and his smile goes sort of sheepish, like he’s been caught out. “It’s sort of an open secret, you know? The team knows, and our families, but we’re keeping it out of the public eye for now, focusing on hockey.”

It’s a perfect, canned captain’s non-answer, the type Jamie was so bad at when he first got the job, but he’s improved by leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. Tyler’s proud of Jamie, and his face probably shows it, which is only helping sell this more.

“Right, of course,” says Amber. “Don’t worry, I’m sure everyone here will keep it hush-hush.”

Tyler gives her a bright, appreciative grin, and he can practically see the hearts in her eyes.

He kind of thinks she’s going to drop it after that, move on to safer small-talk topics, but apparently she’s a little nosy, because instead she says, “If you don’t mind me asking…how did the two of you figure it out? Was it love at first sight of each other’s marks in the locker room?”

The honest answer to that is ‘not quite’. Tyler remembers stripping off on the second or third day of training camp, while chatting with Jordie, only for Jordie to make a hilarious noise and drag Tyler over to Jamie. Jamie went white as a sheet and immediately pulled off his own shirt so they could compare.

At the time, Tyler had heard some off-colour jokes about Jamie having a star mark over his heart, like he was soulbonded to the team or something, but there are so many different shapes and colours of stars that Tyler never even considered it would be his. Jamie wasn’t nearly famous enough for somebody to leak a photo of it, either—only, like, movie stars and Sidney Crosby got their privacy invaded like that. But once Jamie took his shirt off, there was no doubt: plain as day, it was Tyler’s green nautical star, right over Jamie’s heart and almost the size of his palm.

That’s moderately romantic as is, Tyler supposes, but he knows he can spin it to sound even better. He smiles at her, glances around as if to make sure nobody not at their table is listening, and then leans in. Amber mirrors him, and so do Emily and Jason. Even Jamie does, which is stupid because Jamie knows what the true story is here. “Uh, you know, honestly?” He laughs, scratches the back of his neck. “We have each other’s marks, y’know, pretty big and in important spots, but…We kind of convinced ourselves it was platonic at first?”

The table laughs at them, but it’s not unkind. Tyler goes on, “I mean, we’re hockey players, everything comes back to the game—we were just like, ‘Sweet, this means we’re definitely meant to bring the Stars to glory together.’”

“And how did you come to your senses?” Amber prompts.

Tyler thinks of what actually happened: Jamie looking so scared at the sight of his own lab silhouette, Jordie shielding them from the rest of the team. Jamie’s mark was the biggest one Tyler had, but—Tyler had met almost all of the people whose marks he wore, and the size and location had all just correlated with how good of bros they ended up being. He figured—still figures, in fact—that he just didn’t have his true soulmate’s mark yet. There was plenty of space pretty close to his and Jamie’s hearts. Tyler barely knew Jamie but already would’ve been up for dating him, just to see—but Jamie looked so freaked out, Tyler didn’t even consider pushing the issue. Instead, he jumped into a spiel about how they were obviously gonna be best friends, and did Jamie know that his mark had inspired Tyler to buy his dog, Marshall, and did Jamie want to see pictures—well, too bad, because Tyler was going to show him anyway.

He’s never regretted it. How could he? Tyler was right; Jamie is his best friend.

Tyler tells Amber (and the rest of their table) the story Jamie came up with on the plane. They all eat it up, but Emily seems to find it particularly cute, so Tyler transfers his attention to her. “So Emily, what’s your craziest mark story?”

He’s expecting her to talk about Jason—couples usually talk about each other when he asks this question—but instead she launches into the tale of the pink shell on her right foot and the motivational speaker she met in Cabo, of all places. It’s not hard for Tyler to look interested, because he is—it’s his go-to question for a reason. It gives people a chance to talk about themselves, it’s not likely to offend because it doesn’t reference specific marks, and the answers are always fascinating.

By the time she finishes telling the story, the whole table is laughing again and the waiters are clearing away their plates. Tyler sits back in his chair just in time to notice Jamie smiling at him, more fondly than usual. Jamie looks away at once, caught, but Tyler elbows him in the side and, when Jamie looks back, quirks up the left side of his mouth and winks.

They don’t run into Tyler’s immediate family until the meal itself is over and they’re on to the appetizer-style desserts and small talk part of the evening. Cassidy is the quickest. She comes over to high five Jamie, then fuck up Tyler’s hair and call him a shithead, so Tyler returns both favours. It’s how they say they’ve missed each other; it’s how they’ve said it for years.

Candace is in the wedding party, so she thinks she’s obligated to be more well-behaved—that, and these days she always acts like she’s above horsing around when they’re in public, but Tyler knows just how dirty she fights, so she’s not fooling him. She doesn’t try, either; she steps on his foot on purpose on her way to ignore him in the process of greeting Jamie.

Tyler doesn’t even attempt to push his way into the conversation, because he knows Candace will pretend not to hear him and Jamie will play along because he thinks it’s funny. Instead, he pulls out his phone and scrolls through Twitter aimlessly, his attention completely focused on their conversation.

“So I hear you’re making an honest man out of my brother,” she says. It doesn’t sound skeptical, like Tyler was dreading, or even protective like he thought she might sound if he ever brought anybody home. Instead, Candace sounds, like…approving or something. Happy, even.

Jamie snickers. “I don’t know if I’d go that far, but.” Tyler doesn’t have to be looking at Jamie to know what he’s doing; in his mind’s eye he can perfectly see Jamie ducking his head, a little bashful, shrugging one shoulder and smiling at nothing like an idiot. Or he should look like an idiot. On Jamie, combined with the other gestures, the smile looks almost sweet. It’s gross how he gets away with that shit.

Candace laughs too, but it’s not her polite fake laugh, it’s her real one. “Let me guess, you made the first move? I mean, don’t deny Mom the pleasure of relaying the entire story to me later like I couldn’t just ask you myself, but there’s no way that idiot figured his shit out first.”

Tyler wishes he could cheer out loud without giving everything away. Candace even arrived at the exact scenario Jamie came up with. They’ve totally got this—if she believes it, everybody will.

Jamie doesn’t say anything, but Tyler assumes he nods or something, because Candace goes on like she got an answer. “Uh huh, called it, called it years ago.” There’s a pause, and then she continues, “Don’t tell Tyler I said this,” like he’s not right there, “but I’m really happy for you two. You’re good for each other. God knows nobody else can handle him.” Tyler doesn’t want to look up and let on that he’s listening (even though both she and Jamie totally know he is), so he’s stuck with just analyzing her tone, but she sounds really sincere.

Fuck. It’s just now hitting Tyler, how his family might actually be invested in who he’s dating beyond simple nosiness, and that this act might like…actually hurt people.

Too late now, though.

It all comes to a head when Tyler’s mom finally makes her way over to them. She’s already beaming, her cheeks flushed the way they always get when she’s been drinking. “Ty,” she says warmly, then immediately wraps Tyler up in a huge hug. He hugs her back, just as tight and lingering—he misses her, okay, he’ll take the chirps, because he’s a momma’s boy through and through. Texting or even FaceTiming aren’t the same thing as getting to hug your mom.

Jamie doesn’t look like he’s going to chirp him, though. He doesn’t, normally, not about stuff that he knows is actually important to Tyler, because Jamie is the best bro.

And speaking of Jamie, once Tyler’s mom pulls away, she immediately turns to him. “Oh, Jamie, I’m so glad you’re here,” she says. Her voice is even warmer than it was when she greeted Tyler, maybe even borderline emotional. She reaches out to cup Jamie’s face in both her hands and just looks at him for a second, still smiling like he just told her he cured cancer, and then wraps her arms around him, too.

Seeing his mom hugging Jamie makes something twist in Tyler’s gut, not unpleasantly. It’s not like she’s never hugged him before; she’s always liked him, but this is a whole other level.

When she pulls away, her eyes look suspiciously bright. “I just—I’m sorry, I’m probably going to get emotional and embarrass Ty, but…” She pauses, looks like she’s swallowing a lump in her throat, and continues. “I just think it’s important that you know, Jamie, just how grateful we all are that our Tyler’s found somebody like you. He’s sounded so much happier since he went to Dallas, and I know you’re a big reason for that. You’re—I haven’t grilled Tyler on all the details yet, so I’m not sure how new this is, but—you know we consider you a part of our family already—”

Then she stops herself because she actually does start crying. It looks like happy tears, though. Tyler’s never seen his mom this happy. He’s also never felt so guilty in his life. He’s the worst son in the entire world.

He also owes Jamie so, so, so much for putting up with all this. He wouldn’t be surprised if Jamie started freaking out (Tyler is definitely freaking out), but Jamie just—he’s just Jamie, solid and reassuring like he always is, and he hugs her again and lets her cry on his shoulder like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Maybe it is, for Jamie. Tyler wishes he knew what it was like to be that kind of person.

Tyler makes eye contact with Jamie over his mom’s head. He’s expecting Jamie to look sheepish, or guilty, or panicked, or hell, even amused—but what he gets is totally indecipherable. It throws him. It’s been over a year since he learned how to predict how Jamie was going to react to stuff with about 95 percent accuracy. The guy’s usually an open book, to Tyler anyway, but ever since he suggested this fake boyfriend thing, it’s like he’s turned the page, and Jamie is suddenly in a different language.

After that emotional conversation, the rest of the rehearsal dinner goes by quickly. Tyler’s dad comes over to say hi and shake Jamie’s hand, but he’s not nearly so susceptible to tears, so they’re spared that, at least. Tyler’s feeling a little subdued, the guilt weighing on him, and Jamie’s not very social at the best of times, so they make their excuses fairly early and head back to the hotel.

From the way Jamie is staring at the lone bed in their hotel room, Tyler is pretty sure that in their rush earlier he hadn’t fully registered what it meant. Tyler definitely hadn’t noticed, that’s for sure.

“Uh,” Tyler says, “my mom booked the room, so…”

“Right,” Jamie says slowly. “Of course.”

“Hey,” Tyler says with a laugh, “there’s even champagne.” He picks the bottle up off the table and waves it at Jamie. “Because a little bubbly is what brings the real romance, right?”

Jamie laughs, but it sounds forced. “Right,” he agrees.

Tyler puts the champagne back down and clears his throat. “Well, um…I’m gonna get ready for bed. I can sleep in the chair or something if—”

“No,” Jamie interrupts. “Don’t be stupid, the bed’s big enough for us both.”

Tyler feels distinctly uncomfortable. Jamie is looking at him intently, an expression Tyler can’t parse on his face. Tyler shrugs it off. “Okay, dude, no problem.”

They change and brush their teeth in silence. Tyler’s been conditioned through years of locker rooms to not look at other dudes in various states of undress, but he happens to glance over at Jamie as he’s digging around for his pyjama shirt, and then he just...lets himself look for a second. At Jamie, because he’s good looking and Tyler’s not dead, but also at the marks scattered across his torso, and at Tyler’s star, biggest by far and right over his heart. Maybe it’s fucked up, but Tyler feels kind of proud that his mark is that big on a guy as genuinely good as Jamie is.

There’s an awkward moment where they both go for the same side of the bed, but Tyler quickly concedes to Jamie. When they’re both under the covers, Jamie reaches over and turns off the lamp. Tyler can feel the bed move as Jamie shifts around in the dark, then settle when Jamie does. Tyler stares up into the dark. For all he’d wanted to go to bed so they couldn’t be awkward anymore, he’s not entirely tired yet.

He rolls over onto his side and fluffs up his pillow. He closes his eyes, then opens them again. He keeps thinking about his mom crying on Jamie’s shoulder. “My mom is going to be really sad when we break up,” he realizes.

Jamie doesn’t respond for a long moment, and then Tyler sees the vague outline of him turning his head toward Tyler. “Yeah,” Jamie says. “She, um…was happy.”

They both know just how much of an understatement that is. Tyler sighs. “I didn’t mean for that to happen,” he murmurs, almost to himself. And then, because it’s true and he feels like it needs to be said, he adds, “Sorry for dragging you into this.”

“No,” Jamie says, “I’m happy to be here, really.”

Tyler is glad for the dark hiding his stupid grin at that. “Thanks.”

Jamie doesn’t say anything, but a moment later Tyler feels him patting Tyler’s hip over the covers. A moment after that, he’s turning so that’s he’s not facing Tyler anymore. Tyler follows suit. This time when he closes his eyes, Jamie warm at his back, he manages to drift to sleep.

The benefit of going straight to bed after the rehearsal dinner is that they have plenty of time to get an excellent night’s sleep. Tyler even wakes up before his alarm the next morning, well-rested and already pumped up for what is essentially going to be a day-long party.

Jamie will, of course, be dead to the world for at least another hour. Tyler leaves him to it and takes advantage of the hotel gym to do a quick morning workout, then showers. Jamie is still asleep after that, so Tyler decides to return to his plan to be the best fake boyfriend ever. As much as he tries, Tyler can’t fully push his guilt out of his mind, and making sure Jamie has a good time is the least he can do. He takes the tray from under the coffee maker down to the continental breakfast and makes plates for himself and Jamie, then brings them up to the room.

He regrets not filming himself waking Jamie by holding the coffee near his nose as soon as he does it. The internet would have loved to see that.

They don’t talk much because they don’t need to. Tyler gets ready first while Jamie eats breakfast in bed (yeah, Tyler’s the best) and half-watches some local news. By the time Tyler’s done, Jamie’s coherent enough to drag himself into the shower. He takes longer than usual, long enough that Tyler’s bored of the same news stories and starting to get suspicious about what Jamie’s up to.

“Jamie?” he calls out. “Are you doing something stupid to your hair?”

There’s no answer, which is an answer in itself. Tyler lets himself into the bathroom without knocking. He and Jamie are hockey players; they gave up on any pretense of modesty a long time ago.

Just as he suspected, Jamie is leaning over the sink, putting way too much gel in his hair and slicking it back or something, which is a complete waste of a good haircut.

“No,” Tyler announces.

Jamie frowns at him in the mirror. “What do you mean, no,” he grumbles.

Tyler rolls his eyes. “I mean, your hair didn’t do anything to deserve what you’re doing to it right now. Stick your head under the sink, wash that out, and let me do it.”

“Like you’re one to talk. You don’t have great hair either.”

Tyler raises an eyebrow and waits.

Jamie sighs. “Fine, whatever,” he says finally, and does what Tyler told him to do.

Once Jamie’s done rinsing his hair out and toweling it dry, Tyler hops up on the counter so he can see what he’s doing a little better. He tugs Jamie a little closer, until he realizes Jamie is basically standing between his legs, and also not looking at him. Maybe this is a little awkward. But Tyler’s going to power through, for Jamie’s own good.

It’s a simple process, really, even though what he’s doing for Jamie is nothing like what works on his own hair. Tyler knows what looks good, okay. He combs a deep side part into Jamie’s hair, then snags the hotel blow dryer off the wall and uses it to train the part into Jamie’s hair. Once he’s satisfied, he puts the blow dryer up, pops the comb in his mouth, and squirts a small dollop of gel into his hand.

“There’s no way that’s gonna be enough. I have really thick hair,” says Jamie, as Tyler rubs his hands together to spread the gel out.

Tyler kicks him in the kidney, but gently. “You always put too much crap in your hair and then it goes, like—” He can’t think of the right word, so he just makes a sound like something deflating and flops his wrists down.

Jamie is looking at him now, his eyes crinkled up as he laughs at Tyler’s description. “Like—” he says, then imitates the noise and the hand gesture, and Tyler kicks him again.

“Yeah, like that. Shut up,” Tyler says, still talking around the comb in his mouth. He gets his hands in Jamie’s hair then, distributing the gel through it and finger combing it into place. He firmly does not think about how soft it is.

It turns out Jamie was kind of right; Tyler does end up needing a bit more gel, but still not nearly as much as Jamie was using before. Once he’s mostly satisfied, he leans over to rinse his hands off, then combs through it, because it looks all fifties career man with the comb tracks in it.

Tyler puts the comb down, then leans back to study his work, his hand on Jamie’s chin so he can tilt his head around and inspect it from different angles. “All right, much better,” Tyler declares, then pushes Jamie back by the shoulders so he can jump down off the counter.

Jamie checks out Tyler’s work in the mirror, frowning approvingly at it. He raises a hand, like he’s going to ‘fix’ something, but lowers it immediately when he sees the look Tyler’s giving him. “Uh, thanks, Seggy,” he says instead.

“You’re welcome,” says Tyler breezily. “Get dressed already, or we’re gonna be late, and I’ll tell everyone it was because you didn’t want to get out of bed.”

The wedding is so picturesque that Tyler suspects they’ve actually stepped into Pinterest. There are white folding chairs in tidy rows leading up to a gazebo, which is dressed with dreamy-looking white gauze and verdant ribbons. The programs on the chairs are fine ivory paper printed in elegant kelly green script. Still, it doesn’t hit Tyler until the attendants start coming up the aisle—and then he frantically grabs at Jamie’s hand and tugs him down to whisper in his ear.

Jamie,” he says, “their wedding colours are fucking victory green and white.”

Jamie doubles over at once, turning his face into Tyler’s shoulder to muffle the sound of his laughter. Tyler keeps hold of his hand and pats Jamie’s back with his free one. Probably best to sell this as an emotional moment, Tyler figures. Candace gives them the eye as she passes, but then, she knows them.

It doesn’t take more than a couple seconds for Jamie to compose himself, but when he does, he tries to pull his hand away. Tyler doesn’t let go, though, and Jamie gives up pretty quickly. It’s selfish, but the actual ceremony is the part of weddings when Tyler has always wished he had someone with him, and now he does, even if it is fake.

The ringbearer and flower girl are next, and they are appropriately tiny and precious. Idly, Tyler thinks that when he gets married, he totally wants his dogs to do this part. They’re good dogs; they can be trusted to walk in a straight line if somebody at the end has a treat to slip them.

Then the music changes, and everybody turns to look. Bucking tradition, Katie and Audrey walk down the aisle together, hand in hand. They both look beautiful: Katie is resplendent in (victory) green, her short hair swept into an artful updo, while Audrey’s red curls fall down her back and the bird mark that represents Katie peeks out over the neckline of her white princess gown.

Tyler feels a little choked up already, and this isn’t even the emotional part. He distracts himself by tugging Jamie down again and whispering, “We totally should have worn our jerseys. Would’ve fit right in.”

“Shut up, you freak,” Jamie admonishes, but he squeezes Tyler’s hand as he says it.

The officiant is a family friend of Audrey’s, and she regales everyone with the story of how she hired Katie as her newest protegé and knew within two weeks that they needed to meet. “They’re the sharpest, fiercest, most brilliant young women I know—and they both have hearts of gold. You two truly deserve each other, and I am so happy to have played the smallest part in bringing you together,” she says.

Tyler and Jamie still haven’t let go of each other’s hands; they don’t as Katie accepts the microphone and takes a deep breath. “Okay, so, there’s this—there’s this really cheesy and emotional Bright Eyes song called First Day Of My Life, right, and it’s this love story about how the singer’s whole life started again when he met his lover. And then the music video is all these couples listening to the song and reacting, and there’s this one couple, who goof around and pantomime driving when the song references it and so on, and like—at the end, they’re laughing together and behind the girl’s back, the guy points at her and mouths, ‘I love this girl!’”

She stops for a second to clear her throat, and then with a smile, continues, “And when I saw that video, my first thought at that part was, that’s us. Any time the two of us are in a room, we’re doing something stupid and laughing about it, together. Audrey, I don’t know how I manage to get a girl as cool as you to laugh at my jokes, but I promise to keep making an idiot out of myself for the rest of my life as long as it keeps working. And to, you know, cherish and love and hold and protect and all that, but I kind of think the laughing is the most important part.”

Katie seems to be doing pretty well with her goal, because Audrey is laughing—crying at the same time, just like Katie is, but laughing. They embrace so fiercely it feels like they can’t not, Audrey laying her head right over Katie’s heart. Tyler blinks rapidly at the sky to keep himself from crying in public. It’s not going well.

After a few seconds, the brides compose themselves and Audrey accepts the mic. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to follow that,” she says, then wipes her tears away with her wrist. “Katie, you do make me laugh, all the time, and even more than that—you make me feel so lucky. At least once a day you do something that makes me think, ‘What have I done to deserve a girl like this?’ I have no idea what could be enough to earn me somebody who’s so smart, and so kind, and who knows every freaking lyric on Beyoncé’s eponymous album—but whatever it is, I’m so grateful. It’s been amazing to be your girlfriend, and I can’t think of anything better than getting to be your wife, so we can continue to kick the shit out of life together, only with a piece of paper to prove we really like each other.”

Audrey gets a big laugh for that, from Katie and the audience, and she grins even wider. “I love you, girl. I already said I like it, so…let’s put a ring on it.” They’re both laughing, even as Katie protests that that’s not even on that album, but by this point, Tyler is…

Well, weddings always sort of reach into the gooey center of his heart that he hides by behaving like as much of a bro as possible, but this particular set of vows sounds so much like what he could hear himself saying one day that fighting the tears is just fruitless. He’s trying to think about how he can covertly wipe them away, maybe explain the red eyes and runny nose as a sudden attack of hay fever, when suddenly he hears a loud sniffle from his left.

Tyler looks at Jamie. His vision is a little blurry, but it’s obvious that Jamie’s not any better off than he is. Jamie looks back at him, a little embarrassed until he notices the state Tyler’s in, and then he starts laughing quietly.

“You never get to tease me about being a sap again,” Tyler says accusingly.

Jamie’s smile widens enough to make his cheeks dimple. Tyler feels even more aware than usual of how stupidly adorable Jamie can be. “I’ve still got way more ammo than you,” Jamie points out, gently elbowing Tyler in the side.

Tyler sniffs and rubs at his eyes with the back of his hand. “Fine, then. Truce. This never leaves Florida.”

“Swear on my C,” says Jamie solemnly, like the giant dork he is. Tyler hopes he never figures out how to be cool.

 

The ceremony’s over not long after that; there’s the exchanging of rings, the obligatory “you may now both kiss the bride” moment, and a lot of cheering when they walk back down the aisle. Tyler hugs both Katie and Audrey hard when it’s their turn in the reception line and hopes it isn’t obvious he was crying. From the way Audrey smirks at him, he thinks she probably noticed. Whatever, though.

The dinner and dancing portion of the event is also outside, but in a different part of the estate. It’s just as picturesque as the rest of the wedding—strands of bare lightbulbs hang overhead, and the tables are dressed with green tablecloths and big bouquets of white flowers. There are also tiny gold bottles of champagne with their names and table numbers on them, which Tyler thinks is way better than a stupid card. Tyler and Jamie find themselves seated with Tyler’s parents and Cassidy.

Cassidy kicks Tyler under the table the minute they sit down. “Nice waterworks, tough guy,” she teases, miming overdramatic tears.

“Cassidy, don’t make fun of your brother for having feelings,” says their mom in the long-suffering tone perfected by mothers everywhere. Cassidy apologizes with a perfectly innocent smile, but then kicks Tyler at least three more times.

The laughter to Tyler’s left suggests Jamie didn’t miss a bit of that. Tyler feels obligated to stick up for his birth order. “Baby siblings, God. I feel so sorry for Jordie and Jenny right now.”

By the time most people have finished eating, the sun has nearly set. They make a big show of turning on the strings of lights overhead and along the edges of the dance floor, and Tyler has to admit that it’s worth the hype—it’s so beautiful he has to hide his sharp intake of breath by coughing. Jamie pats his back and rolls his eyes at him like he knows exactly what happened.

That’s also the time that the wedding party rolls out the time-honoured reception game of making the newlyweds kiss. Bailey, Katie’s maid of honour, is going around to each table and having a couple draw an activity out of a hat; if performed successfully, Katie and Audrey have to kiss. Tyler watches his aunt and uncle name one team from each of the big four North American professional sports, the flower girl act out the brides’ soulmarks, and Audrey’s grandparents give a piece of marital advice.

It’s all fun and games, watching Katie and Audrey flush as more and more of their lipstick wears off—at least, until Bailey comes over to their table. Rather than offering the hat to Tyler’s parents, she extends it to Jamie. He selects a slip of paper and hands it to her so she can read it out into the microphone.

“Demonstrate a kiss for the brides, and they’ll copy it,” Bailey reads, and everyone oohs.

Tyler’s stomach drops. He was sure they wouldn’t have to go this far in their little charade, would be able to get away with hand-holding, smiles, and innuendo—but if this were real, he knows he’d be totally shameless about something like this.

He can’t force it on Jamie, though. He looks at Jamie only to find that Jamie is already looking at him, expression inscrutable. Tyler raises his eyebrows and quirks up the corner of his mouth—he’s happy to make up a lame excuse and defer to his parents—but after a second, Jamie shrugs and says just loud enough for Tyler to hear, “Why not?”

Why not. Tyler can think of a lot of reasons, personally, but if Jamie’s up for it…

Tyler grins his brightest media smile and pulls Jamie up by his hand. The whole point of this is to make it ridiculous and over the top, so he drops Jamie’s hand, wraps his arms around Jamie’s waist, and says, “D’you trust me, Chubbs?”

“Of course,” says Jamie instantly.

That makes Tyler’s devilish grin a lot more genuine. “Then follow my play,” he says, and leans forward. Jamie goes with it, leaning back, his hands coming up to hold Tyler’s lapels. Tyler dips him as far as he thinks they can reasonably bend without falling over.

Then he plants one on him. The dip is enough to make everybody clap and cheer, so they get away with a pretty chaste, closed-mouth kiss. It only lasts for a few seconds, just long enough for Tyler to get a sense of how soft Jamie’s lips are, before he breaks it, grins at Jamie again, and pulls them back into a standing position.

He takes a bow, then, because eating up attention is as natural to him as breathing.

Jamie inclines his head to accept his portion of the applause, and then they take their seats so everybody can watch Katie dip Audrey (much further and more impressively, but with a pretty good imitation of Tyler’s grin at the end). While everybody’s eyes are on the brides, Tyler takes the opportunity to check in with Jamie by elbowing him in the arm and smiling inquisitively at him. Jamie’s still blushing, but he rolls his eyes and jostles Tyler back, so. Could’ve gone much worse.

Katie and Audrey take the floor for their first dance with huge smiles. They clearly practiced it, the first minute or so of the song is all careful choreography involving a lot of twirls that make them both giggle every time, like they have an inside joke. Eventually they settle into just swaying, foreheads pressed together. Tyler has to look away then.

“Come on, you two,” Tyler’s mom says when the DJ announces that all the lovers out there are welcome to join Katie and Audrey on the dance floor. She’s already pulling Tyler’s dad to his feet. She must see that Tyler wants to protest, because she shakes her head. “Don’t try to make excuses.”

“Best listen to your mother,” Tyler’s dad says, giving a clearly dramatized world-weary sigh.

Tyler looks at Jamie. “How about it?” he asks, offering a hand. He leans in closer and adds, quietly, “She’ll probably leave us alone later if we do.”

Jamie smiles, slightly crooked, and nods as he takes Tyler’s hand. He lets Tyler pull him to his feet and lead him onto the dance floor. There’s some confusion about what to do with their arms, both of them putting a hand on the other’s waist at first, and then Tyler snickers and puts his arms around Jamie’s neck. Jamie flushes slightly and moves his free hand onto Tyler’s waist.

Jamie’s obvious discomfort starts to make Tyler feel self-conscious as well. They’re standing awkwardly far apart, shuffling their feet slightly along to the music. There’s nowhere to look except at each other, and staring into each other’s eyes gets intense quickly. The whole thing feels strangely fragile—Tyler is suddenly afraid that one wrong move will somehow ruin everything, though he’s not quite sure what there is to ruin.

“What, are we leaving room for Jesus?” Jamie asks. Tyler is so caught off guard that he immediately cracks up. Jamie grins, clearly proud of his joke.

“You’re such a loser,” Tyler tells Jamie.

“Look who’s talking,” Jamie shoots back, and Tyler beams. All of a sudden it’s the easiest thing in the world to just sway together and laugh. They’re both relaxed now, standing a normal distance apart—they’re not grinding, but they’re not behaving like thirteen-year-olds at their first school dance, either. There’s none of the pressure Tyler associates with dancing. This is just him and Jamie, being dumb together. Tyler can’t help but remember Katie’s vows.

The song is over all too soon, in Tyler’s opinion. He would have gladly stayed for the next one if Jamie didn’t immediately step away and start heading back to their table. Tyler considers asking him to dance again, but he kind of thinks he’s asked enough of Jamie for one weekend.

After a few songs, there’s a break in the dancing for Katie and Audrey to cut the cake. They do it together, hands overlapping on the knife, both of them smiling for all the people taking pictures. Then Katie takes a glob of icing and smears it on Audrey’s cheek, and it devolves into an out-and-out icing war.

Tyler and Jamie are watching from the edge of the crowd. “Aw,” Jamie says into Tyler’s ear. “S’cute.”

Tyler smirks. “As cute as sitting on the same side of the table at dinner?”

It takes a second, but Tyler can see the moment Jamie realizes what he’s talking about. “I thought I deleted that Vine,” Jamie says.

“The Internet never forgets,” Tyler says wisely.

Jamie snorts and rolls his eyes, then looks consideringly back at Katie and Audrey. They both now have icing in their hair and are giggling madly. “They’re cuter, probably,” he says. He wrinkles his nose in a way that Tyler finds pretty cute itself.

Even with Katie and Audrey’s food fight, there’s plenty of cake left to actually eat. The catering staff take over cutting the rest of it up and then bring pieces around to the tables.

“Hey,” Tyler says, picking up part of his cake and holding it out to Jamie. “Open wide, sweet stuff.”

Jamie goes along with it, opening his mouth so Tyler can feed him the cake. He intentionally gets the icing all over Jamie’s nose just because he knows it’ll make Jamie laugh. He’s not disappointed.

“God, you really can’t aim,” Jamie says. He goes to wipe his face with a napkin, but Tyler bats him away and does it for him. Jamie lets him, a patient expression on his face. “Good going,” he says quietly. “This’ll really sell it.”

Tyler crushes the napkin in surprise, his heart dropping. He hadn’t meant any of that as something to play up the boyfriend thing, and it hurts that Jamie took it that way, instead of as Tyler teasing him like usual.

Although, it’s his own fault that they’re even in this situation. “Yeah,” he mutters, reaching for his champagne glass. He drinks half of it in one go, but it doesn’t help the dryness in his throat.

The partying begins in earnest after the cake is served. Tyler makes a circuit of the dance floor with his champagne glass in one hand and Jamie’s hand in the other, talking and sometimes dancing with everybody he recognizes and some people he doesn’t. In no time at all, he collects a group of people hanging around him, chatting and laughing. It’s something that happens at every party Tyler attends without fail, even though he never sets out to do it.

Jamie bears it all with a grace Tyler admires, since he knows it doesn’t come naturally to him. He’s engaging in as much of the conversation as Tyler is, turning on the charm and filling any awkward silences with a perfectly-timed deadpan joke. Eventually, though, Tyler can see Jamie’s shoulders start to slump and hear his replies getting shorter, and he can tell it’s starting to be too much.

“Jamie and I are gonna get more champagne,” Tyler announces. A few people nod, but the conversation continues easily as Tyler gently tugs Jamie away.

Tyler makes a show of walking toward the champagne table, but at the last moment he veers off and out of the lit area. Jamie follows, eyebrows raised in question, until they’re close to the edge of the lake. It’s not too far from the party, but it’s enough that the noise fades into the background. Tyler drops Jamie’s hand so that he can sit down on the grass, then pats the ground next to him.

Jamie sits. They’re quiet for a moment, both of them looking out at the lake, and then Jamie says, “If you want them to think we’re making out, we’d better get out of sight.”

Tyler turns to look at him incredulously. “Uh…no, that’s not—you looked stressed, so I made something up to get you out of there.”

Jamie sighs and looks away. “Of course you did,” he says, sounding defeated.

Tyler frowns. “Was I wrong? We can go back?”

“No,” Jamie says at once. “You weren’t wrong.”

“Okay…” Tyler says uncertainly, but Jamie doesn’t clarify or even really look at Tyler. Tyler can see him picking at the grass in the dim light. He decides he’d better just shut up and let Jamie have the peace and quiet Tyler brought him out here for in the first place.

Of course, he wouldn’t have needed to do that if he hadn’t dragged Jamie here as his date. He keeps thinking about how reluctant Jamie had been to agree at first. He still doesn’t know why, and now it feels like Jamie keeps throwing the fake boyfriends thing in his face. Sure, a lot of Tyler's over-the-top doting the past couple days has been because of it, but when it's just them dicking around or Tyler knowing Jamie well enough to get him out of an uncomfortable situation…that's not pretending. It hurts that Jamie thinks it is.

“Sorry,” Jamie says suddenly, breaking the silence and surprising Tyler.

“Dude, whatever,” Tyler says, bumping his shoulder against Jamie’s. “Nothing to apologize for.”

Jamie smiles slightly and reaches for Tyler’s hand, threading their fingers together. Tyler stares at their hands for a moment, then at Jamie. He looks as content and unreadable as ever.

“Ready to go back?” Tyler asks. He can’t imagine why else Jamie would be taking his hand.

“Sure,” Jamie agrees easily.

They stop holding hands in order to get up, and Tyler goes to take it back before abruptly stopping himself. There’s no real reason they need to hold hands; there’s nobody sober to convince anymore. Jamie looks at him strangely and takes his hand again, easy as that.

Huh, Tyler thinks. That’s interesting. Maybe Jamie likes holding hands just as much as Tyler does.

Jamie and Tyler take a cab back to their hotel sometime after the parents and small children are gone but before the real partiers look like they’re ready to go to bed. Tyler is smashed from all the champagne he drank and shots he did, and he lets Jamie support his weight all the way up to their room.

“Your tie is crooked,” he notes when they’re in the elevator. His head is leaning against Jamie’s shoulder, so he has a good view of it. He tugs at the tie, trying to get it straight.

Jamie sighs and grabs Tyler’s hand to make him stop. “Yeah, because you were fucking with it,” he says.

“I was?” Tyler honestly doesn’t remember that. “When?”

Jamie sighs again instead of answering, and the elevator doors open on their floor. Jamie hauls Tyler down the hallway, and Tyler drapes himself over Jamie’s back while he fumbles with the key. Jamie is warm and comfortable, and Tyler closes his eyes. He could probably fall asleep like this.

“Uh-uh, no,” Jamie says, shrugging Tyler off and guiding him into the room. “On the bed before you fall asleep.”

“Spoilsport,” Tyler says, even as he flops down onto the bed. He tries to kick off his shoes, but that doesn’t work so well, so he has to sit up to loosen the laces. He takes off his suit jacket, and from there it makes sense to just strip down to his underwear before lying back down. Sometime during this process, Jamie disappeared, probably to the bathroom. Tyler frowns. “Jamieeeee,” he whines loudly.

Jamie sticks his head out of the bathroom, his toothbrush in his mouth. “What?” he says around it.

“Stop being boring and get over here,” Tyler demands.

“Hold your horses,” Jamie says, rolling his eyes and going back into the bathroom.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me, Jamison!” Tyler yells after him.

Jamie comes back out after a minute, toothbrush gone and well-worn pyjamas on. He looks especially cuddly, and Tyler makes grabby hands at him.

“I’ll roll my eyes at you if I want,” Jamie tells him.

“Whatever, just get in the bed,” Tyler says. Jamie does, fucking finally, and Tyler wastes no time plastering himself against Jamie’s side, one leg thrown over Jamie’s. “Mmmm, warm,” he mumbles. He has the feeling that this is a little weird, but he can’t remember why that would be.

He doesn’t realize just how stiff Jamie was until he relaxes. He puts a cautious hand in Tyler’s hair, and Tyler leans into it encouragingly, tilting his head up so that—

His face is level with Jamie’s, and Jamie is looking straight at him. Tyler stares back, feeling caught in Jamie’s eyes. Have they always been so…big? And, like…warm? This is…shit, Tyler should stop looking, but Jamie isn’t stopping, so.

“Your eyes kinda look like cow eyes,” Tyler says, and then he immediately bursts into laughter.

“What?!” Jamie squawks indignantly, which only makes Tyler laugh harder. He presses his forehead against Jamie’s chest so he can’t see him anymore in an attempt to control himself that completely fails. He can’t stop giggling. “You’re an idiot,” Jamie tells him.

Tyler looks up at him and moos in response. Jamie’s horrified face sends Tyler into hysterics all over again. Eventually Jamie starts laughing too, probably at Tyler, but his chuckles are so nice that Tyler doesn’t even care.

“You know what,” Tyler says when he’s mostly recovered, “we should cuddle like this all the time.” He snuggles in closer to Jamie just because he can. “You’re the best cuddler, Jamie, you know that? No. Wait. Jamie. You know what. You’re just the best.” He prods Jamie’s chest with his finger to emphasize his point. “You’re the best.”

Jamie doesn’t say anything, and Tyler, drunk and warm and emotional, can’t seem to make himself stop talking. “I hope a mark comes in for you that’s better than mine even though I don’t wanna share you, because you’re the fuckin’ best, like, I hope you’re getting this. You’re the best, and you deserve the best, so. I hope you get it someday.”

He waits, but Jamie is silent for a long time. Tyler closes his eyes because his eyelids are starting to be too heavy. He’s starting to drift off when he hears Jamie say, very softly, “But you’re the best.” At least, he thinks he hears it. He’s asleep so fast after that he’s not sure if it was real or if he just really wanted it to be.

When Tyler drifts off to sleep, he’s warm and comfortable and happy, but only one of the three is true when he wakes up. In fact, he’s more than warm—he’s way too hot, with Jamie half on top of him and none of the covers kicked off like he usually does in his sleep. Also, his head is pounding and he feels a little nauseous, which is because he’s really fucking hungover.

He wants to get up and go to the bathroom, splash cold water on his face, and maybe consider throwing up, but Jamie is heavy and God knows it’s a process trying to get him to wake up on the best of mornings. Tyler can feel himself getting irritable, and considering his day is going to consist of flying hungover and tired, going to practice hungover and tired, and then a nap that will probably throw off his sleep schedule…it’s just not looking good.

“Jamie,” Tyler groans, voice hoarse with sleep. There’s no reaction to that. Tyler shoves at him, but Jamie is really on top of him, and he’s not a lightweight guy. Maybe Tyler could wriggle out, but he kind of wants to wake Jamie up so that he doesn’t have to suffer alone. “Jamie,” he tries again, louder and more insistent.

Still nothing. Tyler wrenches an arm free and jabs Jamie in the ribs, but Jamie just makes a displeased noise and doesn’t move. At that point, he stops playing (relatively) nice and starts tickling Jamie instead.

Jamie curls away from him so fast, Tyler has to turn his head to avoid getting punched in the face. That would’ve been fun to explain at practice. Once Jamie moves, he’s…not awake, like Tyler wanted, but he is out of Tyler’s way, so small victories.

Tyler feels less sick, but no less grumpy, after a cool shower and a few large glasses of water. His mood is not helped by Jamie still being a useless lump in bed. Normally he finds that charming, or least funny, but today it just seems childish and annoying.

That means Tyler gets to feel justified in being childish and annoying about waking Jamie up. He fills up a glass of water in the bathroom and unceremoniously throws it in Jamie’s face.

Fuck,” Jamie swears, sitting straight up. He wipes his face off with the hem of his T-shirt as Tyler laughs. “Really, Tyler?”

“It was time to wake up, babe,” says Tyler unapologetically. Jamie looks a little irritated now, too, and misery loves company.

It’s tense in the room. Tyler kind of wants to take out his shitty mood on Jamie, but he knows that Jamie is really unsatisfying to get angry with. He’ll drop the gloves on the ice, no problem, but off the ice, Jamie just kind of absorbs whatever is hurled at him.

But knowing that doesn’t mean Tyler can stop himself. He’s doing a bad job of packing, throwing things in his suitcase with way too much force. He can hear Jamie making disapproving noises behind him, and suddenly he’s seeing red. “I’m a fucking adult, I didn’t ask you what you thought about how I was packing my own god damned suitcase,” he snaps.

Jamie says nothing. Tyler doesn’t look up because he can picture the vaguely wounded face he knows Jamie’s making, but even seeing it in his mind’s eye just makes him madder.

He finds Jamie’s dress shoes on the side of the closet where Tyler’s things are, and that’s stupidly infuriating as well. “Why the fuck are these over here,” Tyler grouses, and then turns around to throw them at Jamie’s suitcase. Or Jamie. Whichever.

In doing so, he has to look at Jamie to aim, and yep, that’s that dumb face with his huge eyes looking all sad. Tyler throws a shoe at him to make it go away. It works: Jamie looks briefly shocked, then he ducks, and then he raises an eyebrow, as if to say, Really?

Tyler stops and lowers the other shoe slowly. He and Jamie stare at each other for a long moment. Then, at the same time, they both burst out laughing.

“I can’t believe you threw a shoe at me,” says Jamie in between giggles.

Tyler collapses onto the end of the bed, then crawls over to Jamie so he can pummel him really gently. “Listen, I’m hungover as fuck, okay, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”

“You threw a shoe at me,” Jamie repeats. He’s still laughing, his face all scrunched up and adorable. “I’m gonna tell everyone. I’m gonna tell Twitter.”

“Nooooo,” Tyler whines, trying to grab at Jamie’s hands, but Jamie’s arms are longer and he holds his phone out of Tyler’s reach long enough to type out a tweet: ‘Seggy just threw a shoe at me, how’s ur morning going?’

They drop by Tyler’s parents’ room to say goodbye before they head out. Tyler hugs his mom as Jamie shakes hands with his dad, and then they switch. Tyler notices that his mom is whispering something into Jamie’s ear as she hugs him, which is worrisome. Although Tyler needles him in the cab to the airport, Jamie won’t tell Tyler what she said, just that it was ‘sweet’.

It’s just as routine and straightforward to get through the airport in Orlando as it was in Dallas. Tyler springs for the in-flight Wi-Fi this time because even though it’s a short flight, he needs something to keep him occupied or he’ll fall asleep and then be groggy at practice.

He’s scrolling down Facebook on his iPad when he finds an album of photos from Katie and Audrey’s wedding. Tyler taps on it, idly looking for pictures of him and Jamie. He hasn’t been tagged in any yet, which is good.

Jamie had put in his earbuds and zoned out when they got on the plane, but he must notice the setting of the pictures out of the corner of his eye, because he lays his head on Tyler’s shoulder and joins him in studying the iPad screen.

The album is pretty big, but Tyler only has to flip through about twenty or so pictures before he finds one of them. It’s from the reception, when they were chatting on the perimeter of the dance floor. You can’t tell that they’re holding hands, but you can see Jamie smiling at whoever he’s talking to and Tyler smiling at Jamie, expression soft. The picture makes Tyler feel strangely vulnerable; he braces himself for a chirp, but Jamie just tugs out one earbud and says, “We look pretty fuckin’ cute, eh?”

Tyler relaxes. It’s a bit confusing, honestly, because he was kind of starting to feel sad that they’d have to leave all the sweet, boyfriend-y stuff in Florida, but here Jamie is with his head on Tyler’s shoulder, being nice to him. This feels like more than just friendly behaviour, but Tyler and Jamie have always been sort of weird about each other, and they’ve caught their fair share of shit for it. Tyler doesn't know if this is the kind of weird that's their normal, or if it's just plain weird.

By the time they get to practice, Tyler’s figured out that the plane ride was sort of a last hoorah. Once they’re in the locker room, they’re definitely back to normal—fist bumps and shoving and screwing around, but no soft smiles, no touches lasting longer than a few fleeting seconds, and definitely no hand-holding.

It sucks, basically.

Plus, Jordie keeps giving them suspicious looks. Tyler still hasn’t forgotten how emphatically Jordie tried to talk Jamie out of the whole thing. Jamie does smile and say he had a good time when Jordie asks, but instead of feeling smug, Tyler sort of thinks Jordie had the right idea. Now that he’s had a taste of what it might be like to be Jamie’s boyfriend, Tyler’s surprised by how much he misses it, how much he wishes he could have it all the time.

When they’re standing around on the ice at the end of the day, listening to Lindy offer some encouragement and strategies for tomorrow’s game, Tyler notices Jamie reaching for his hand. Jamie catches himself at the last second and pulls away, which is probably for the best. If he’d gone for it, Tyler might’ve been reckless enough to not let him go.

Tyler thinks maybe he’ll stop wanting to have that closeness with Jamie when he settles back into a routine, but he’s quickly proven wrong. If anything, it gets worse. He keeps catching himself looking at Jamie for too long. He still has to actively stop himself from reaching for Jamie’s hand if they’re standing near each other.

It’s strange, because it’s not like Tyler’s been pining for Jamie. He just got used to having somebody to be that close with, and that small taste has left him wanting more. It’s not like he needs to be close with Jamie specifically.

He decides to go out to a bar and see if he can play the scene, maybe find someone he really hits it off with. He’s a bit out of practice with picking up in general, and a lot out of practice with worrying about making an impression that’ll last longer than a night, so he sticks around the bar at first, nursing a beer and casing out the crowd.

It doesn’t take too long before he spots a guy checking him out. He’s tall, dark haired, and broad, and Tyler immediately thinks that he looks a little like Jamie. He shoves that thought away and goes over to the guy.

“Hey,” he says. He hesitates; he’d been thinking about using his favourite polar bear icebreaker joke, but now he’s thinking about Jamie doubled over laughing at it years ago. The point of this is to stop thinking about Jamie so much, so he switches tacks. “Can I buy you a drink?”

The guy accepts (of course, Tyler’s still got it), and Tyler learns that his name is Rick, he’s a Facilities Engineer at Texas Instruments (Tyler has no idea what that is, but it sounds boring—he tells Rick it sounds important, because it’s probably that, too), and he has a dog. Tyler jumps on that fact right away. Any dude with a dog can’t be that bad.

Rick listens patiently to Tyler going on about his dogs and coos appropriately at the pictures Tyler shows him, so Tyler feels totally secure in trading numbers with him. He’s nice enough, good looking, and has no idea who Tyler is, so why not?

He goes home feeling pretty good about his first few steps into the romance department. He certainly feels like he’s ‘open to love’, as his mother would say. Tyler checks for new marks and doesn’t find any, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Honestly, Tyler’s less concerned by his lack of new marks than he is by the way Jamie seems to be avoiding him. Since they got back from the wedding, Jamie has been ‘busy’ after practice, replying to Tyler’s texts with one-word answers, and barely even fucking around with him in warmups. Tyler knows he can be oblivious sometimes, but even he can take a hint this anvil-sized.

He manages to catch Jordie in the locker room before practice one day. Jamie is already out on the ice, having just brushed Tyler's attempt at conversation off. "Why is Jamie avoiding me?" he asks, unable to keep a whine from creeping into his voice.

Jordie gives Tyler what may be the most judgmental look he’s ever received in his life. It would be more impressive if it weren’t so terrifying. "Were you born this stupid or dropped as a child?"

Tyler huffs. "That's both rude and unhelpful."

"Not here to fix your problems, dude. Plus, if there are sides here—you may be my bro, but he’s my actual brother," Jordie says. "Figure it out your damn self."

Tyler supposes that's fair, but he doesn't have to be happy about it. He could've used a leg-up.

He keeps checking for a new soulmark over the next couple weeks, after calling Rick and going out with him a couple times. Nothing shows up, but Tyler tries not to worry about it. It’s not like the dates are going badly; they’re actually pretty nice.

Eventually, after getting home from their fourth date and taking off his shirt to once again find absolutely nothing different about his torso, Tyler realizes that that’s all they are: nice. He has an okay time, Rick is a good guy and a decent kisser, but there’s absolutely nothing remarkable about him. Tyler is suddenly, painfully aware of just how much he’s been comparing Rick to Jamie this whole time, and even worse, of how badly Rick has been losing.

It’s not fair, maybe, to compare Rick to Jamie, Tyler’s best friend and platonic soulmate, but then—shouldn’t it be? Isn’t that the point of having that person whose mark is closest to your heart?

Rick never laughs at Tyler’s jokes. That’s the thing that gets to Tyler the most. On more than one occasion, he’s been forced to explain the joke and deal with Rick smiling at him and telling him it was funny. Tyler knows he’s funny. He’s not looking to be told, he’s looking to have someone laugh with him, and Jamie has never, ever let him down there.

Tyler rests his forehead against his bathroom mirror, defeated. He touches Jamie’s lab mark and wishes that it could come to life and tell him what it’s supposed to mean. What’s the point of soulmarks when they’re not actually useful for figuring out your feelings?

Then again, the fact that he’s questioning it is telling in its own right. He’s pretty sure that if Jamie’s mark could talk, he knows exactly what he would want it to say. Now it’s just a question of what he’s going to do about it.

The first thing he does—the next day, even though he wanted to do it immediately—is call Rick to tell him he’s had a good time, but he doesn’t think they should keep seeing each other. The next thing he does is go out and buy a boombox, because if he’s gonna do this, he’s gonna do it right. (He’s also pretty sure that if he just shows up at Jamie’s house and knocks, Jamie will pretend not to be home. If Tyler is armed with the tools to make a scene, however…)

Jamie opens the front door before Tyler can even turn the boombox on. “Jesus Christ, do you want to be on the news?” he demands. “Get in here.” He opens the door wider and gestures impatiently.

Tyler grins and then proceeds to trip over Jamie’s front step, narrowly avoiding dropping the boombox. “Whoops,” he says, laughing nervously.

Jamie shakes his head. “What is wrong with you?”

“Uh,” Tyler says, going inside and placing the boombox safely on the floor, “do you want that list in alphabetical or chronological order?”

Jamie laughs. Tyler beams, utterly gratified. “Seriously, though,” Jamie says, the laughter abruptly gone from his voice. “What are you doing here?”

It’s a loaded question. Once Jamie shuts the door behind them, his expression makes it clear that he wishes that either he or Tyler were literally anywhere else. It’s painfully apparent that this is precisely what he’s been trying to avoid for the past couple of weeks.

Tyler swallows nervously. It’s long past time for both of them to face the music. Here goes nothing. “Look,” he starts, “I don’t want this to, like, make shit awkward, but really I might have already done that by being way into the fake boyfriend thing, so. I just gotta lay this on the line and then we’ll work it out, okay?”

“Of course we will,” Jamie says, putting a reassuring hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “Our marks wouldn’t be where they are if we couldn’t.” He looks a little apprehensive, but much less uncomfortable than he did a second ago. Tyler knows that’s because he can tell Tyler is freaking out, and he’s decided that’s more important.

Jamie sounds completely steady and sure of himself—of them, really, and Tyler feels a rush of gratitude. As always, Jamie is exactly what he needed. “Okay,” he says. “So, when we got back from Florida…I missed you, and I thought it was maybe just that I missed being with somebody? So I tried to date this guy, but I just kept comparing him to you, and you won every time, because, um.”

He struggles for words and comes up empty. Jamie is staring at him, and it’s starting to be too much. “You’re just the best,” Tyler says finally, “and I want you. If you’re avoiding me because you already figured that out and it’s awkward because you don’t feel the same, then that’s fine, and I’ll deal with it, but I just had to, like, let you know that I’m an option.”

Jamie just looks at him for a moment, like he’s making sure Tyler’s done, and then he nods so minutely that Tyler’s barely sure he saw it. “Okay,” he says.

“Okay?” Tyler asks.

“Okay, I choose you,” Jamie says.

“You—”

“In fact,” Jamie says, “I chose you a long time ago. So. You know.”

“Oh,” Tyler says. He can’t stop smiling, but that’s okay, because Jamie is smiling back at him. “We’re pretty dumb, eh?”

“Pretty fucking dumb,” Jamie agrees.

After all that important and emotionally exhausting discussion, it seems like the easiest thing in the world for Tyler to let Jamie pull him in by the arm so that they can kiss. It feels like a foregone conclusion, like all that struggle and confusion was just leading up to this. Jamie’s lips are just as soft as Tyler remembers, but they don’t keep this kiss chaste at all. Tyler would gladly stand here kissing Jamie forever.

It was worth it, Tyler thinks as they break apart. “So when you say you chose me a long time ago…how long are we talking?”

Tyler,” Jamie huffs.

“What!” Tyler protests, grinning. “I just want to know how long we could’ve been doing this.”

“How about we just do it now and make up for lost time instead of worrying,” Jamie suggests.

Tyler purses his lips, pretending to consider it. “Yeah, fine,” he says. “We’ll go with your play, Captain.”

He kisses the annoyed groan right out of Jamie’s mouth.