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To: bluegreen118@gmail.com
From: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

Date: March 7 at 10:32 AM
Subject: Coffee?

Blue,

I know what you’re thinking. I can see your face right now. (Or, what I’d imagine your face looks like. I have a feeling you have a great deadpan expression.) But I’m serious. I really want to met you. I love our emails so much - honestly, they’re the highlight of my day most of the time - but I really, really think this could be something more. So, will you meet me for coffee before spring break? I want to know who you are.

Love,
Jacques

Bram was in his British Literature lecture when the email showed up on his laptop. His eyes shot right across the lecture hall to where Simon Spier was sitting. Simon never wrote to him in class. Before class, or after class, or at the very early hours of the morning, sure. But never while he was in class, and never while they were in class together. Not that Simon knew when he was in class with Blue.

He looked so casual, too. There was nothing on his expression that suggested he’d just sent a message basically asking someone out. Bram didn’t know how he did it.

They’d been messaging since a few weeks after the start of the winter term, after Simon posted his email anonymously to one of their school boards, along with a message about just breaking up with his high school boyfriend and needing a friend. Consoling quickly became getting to know each other, and getting to know each other slowly became flirty messages and long winded philosophical discussions.

Bram was a little in love.

This wasn’t the first time that Simon - Jacques - suggested that they meet in person. Simon often jokingly asked who he really was, what he was doing, or if he’d like to meet up for lunch or for coffee. Bram always gave him the same excuse of not being ready, which Simon usually shrugged off with an easy subject change.

The message today wasn’t anything like the other times. This was honest and single minded; Simon wanted to meet. Simon wanted to know who he was, and wanted Blue to know him.

Bram just didn’t know how to tell him he already knew.

Looking back, it wasn’t one defining moment that gave Simon away as Jacques. It was a lot of small, arbitrary clues that all added up to Simon Spier. It was the fact that Jacques was looking for a friend, and Simon came back from their holiday break freshly single. It was Jacques’ page long daydream about a whole world made of Oreos, followed by Simon ripping open an individual pack of them in the campus cafeteria. Jacques’ suggestion to binge watch the entire Harry Potter series as their “first date”, followed by an argument over homework about what house Leah’s girlfriend would be in.

It wasn’t just the literal things, though. It was the way Simon talked and the way Jacques wrote. He was always keen on making Bram laugh, and he always knew just what to say whenever Bram went to him with a problem. Sometimes they talked about strange wikipedia articles and their weird families, and sometimes they talked about how it felt to grow up gay in Georgia or about the guessing game of coming out to every new person you meet.

Bram didn’t know how to tell him, after all this time, that he knew who Jacques was much, much longer than he’d been letting on.

Thankfully, he was saved from having to answer Simon’s email when Garrett dropped into the desk next to him.

“Dude, I am going to fail this essay.”

Bram quickly closed his laptop. “Why?”

“Didn’t you hear what Professor Wise just said?” Bram didn’t, so he waited for Garrett to elaborate. “I already needed three more pages on this Comedy of Errors essay, and now he says our source page doesn’t count. I’m going to fail this class.”

“You’re not going to fail,” Bram said. “I’ve been done with mine for a while. We can go to the library after practice and I’ll help you figure it out.”

Garrett grinned. “You’re the best.”

Through the rest of his classes that day, Bram couldn’t bring himself to reply to Simon’s email. He waited until he was in the confines of his dorm room after practice, when Garrett was out getting food, to pull his laptop up. He wrote out his apology, and filled it with what he hoped would sound like heartfelt reasons. With a deep breath, he hit send. He needed to use his week away from Simon to figure out just how to navigate the Blue situation.

Bram grabbed his phone. He had a text from Garrett texted saying he’d meet him in the library, so he packed up his laptop and left the dorms.

When Bram got to the library, Garrett was not alone at his table, and he was not working on his paper. He was balancing on the back legs of the library chair, chatting away with Nick and his entire group of friends. Garrett’s hands were held up like a football field goal, and Nick flicked a wadded up piece of paper towards it. Leah was typing on her computer, and Abby’s head was on Leah’s shoulder.

Simon was staring at his phone.

Bram froze. If he’d have known that Simon was sitting in the library surrounded by people, he would have waited to send him what basically amounted to a rejection until later.

The thud of Garrett dropping his chair down on all of its legs jarred Bram out of his stupor. “Thank Jesus, I thought you were going to ditch me.” Before the attention was entirely on him, Bram took the empty seat next to Garrett. He shoved his laptop in front of Bram. “Fix it.”

Bram pushed it back. “You picked a hard piece to analyze for six pages. Just talk about puns or something.”

Garrett groaned. “I picked it because it was short, this was supposed to be easy.” He let his head fall back. “Can’t it just be spring break?”

“Why, so we can go back to Shady Creek and sit at Waffle House for a week?” Leah asked.

“I’d rather sit at WaHo than think about Shakespeare.”

“Oh, fuck.”

Leah and Garrett both stopped mid-bicker and turned to Simon. Bram looked up to see his phone drop to the table with an echoing thud.

“Oh my god, did your Gmail boyfriend finally answer?” Abby lunged for his phone, but Simon beat her to it, snatching it off the table. Bram felt his own cheeks burn. Thankfully, no one was looking at him.

“One, no, and he isn’t…that.” Simon set his phone down again, screen lit with notifications. He covered his eyes. Before the lock screen could even fade, another two popped up.

“What do your parents want?” Leah asked, peering over to his screen. Another notification. “Parents and Nora.”

“And Alice,” Abby added.

Simon peeked out between his fingers. “I… kind of told my parents I was seeing someone earlier. And then… now they are insisting on meeting him.”

“Oh my god, did Gmail boyfriend say yes?” Abby asked with a happy squeal.

“No, he definitely didn’t,” Simon said a little miserably. Bram looked down to his hands. How could he tell Simon now?

“So, just tell your parents you broke up,” Nick offered.

“You don’t even understand how much I can’t do that,” Simon said. “They have been so ridiculous since Cal and I broke up over Christmas, I thought that maybe they’d relax if I said I was seeing someone else. I thought-” His sentence trailed off and picked up his phone.

“Why don’t you just see if your not-Gmail-boyfriend wants to be your boyfriend? From the way you talk about him, he basically is already,” Abby said.

Simon shot a nervous looking glance to their end of the table. Bram could tell he was embarrassed about Abby talking so casually about his, quote, Gmail boyfriend. Ever since Simon let it slip that he’d been emailing back and forth with a boy on campus, Abby and Leah started calling Blue Simon’s Gmail Boyfriend. It never failed to make Bram blush.

“Yeah, that’s not going to work,” Simon said. The bitterness in his tone didn’t go unnoticed.

“Well, why don’t you just find someone on Craigslist to fake it for a day?” Abby suggested. “They can meet him and then you guys can ‘break up’ when spring break is over.” She used her fingers to put air quotes around break up.

Simon laughed at that. “Leah has been sending you way too much fanfiction.”

Leah reached in front of her and closed her laptop. “She has a good point. Why don’t you just introduce them to someone. That way you have time to figure out what’s going on with Gmail boy.”

“You’re both insane. Like, individually insane, but as a couple it just multiplies. Where would I even find someone that would, one, want to be my fake boyfriend, two, would want to spend their spring break in Shady Creek, Georgia, and three -” He paused. “I don’t have a three right now, but there is still no way that would even begin to work.”

“Why don’t you just tell them you and Nick finally got together?” Leah suggested. “Didn’t they ban him from your bedroom after you came out to them?”

Simon turned and looked at Nick. “No.”

“Agreed,” Nick said, “But know that I totally would if you needed me to.”

“Appreciate that,” Simon said. “Still no.”

Leah and Abby were quiet as they actually sat and contemplated fake sutors for Simon. Bram wanted to disappear. He was just there to help Garrett with his essay, but he was worried that if he said something or made any sudden movements, they’d zero in on him.

While Leah and Abby whispered between themselves, Bram watched Simon reach for his phone as subtly as he could. Sighing, he scrolled through his notifications. Guilt sat in Bram’s stomach like a dull and steady ache. Simon probably told his parents he was seeing someone under the assumption that Blue would accept his offer to meet.

“What about Greenfeld?”

At the halfway point between kicking Garrett’s shin under the table, and running out of the library to hide for the rest of his college career, Bram found himself staring across the table at Simon, speechless.

“Doesn’t your family live in Savannah?” Simon asked. He looked away from Bram to Garrett. “I don’t want him to have to drive three hours to pretend to be my boyfriend.”

He didn’t say no.

“He can say he’s staying with me,” Garrett said. “His parents love me, they’d say yes.”

“They tolerate you,” Bram said. He looked back to Simon. His cheeks were the most endearing shade of pink. Bram knew his own were probably similarly colored.

“Would your parents let you skip seeing them over break to stay at Garrett’s?” Abby asked him.

Simon still wasn’t saying no. Bram twisted his fingers in his lap. “Uh-” If he was being honest, his parents would probably be okay if he was staying at a boyfriend’s. They were constantly asking about cute boys at his school in the overly-invested parent sort of way. “I think so. Is…” God, he was really going to do this. “Is that something that you’d be okay with, Simon?”

It was officially the most words he’d ever spoken to Simon all at once.

“Seriously? You'd actually sacrifice seeing your family over spring break to pretend to be my boyfriend in front of my overly invested family?” Simon looked so hopeful. He’d already let him down as Blue, he couldn’t do it as Bram too.

“Yeah, sure, I could.”

*

The days after went by in a blur. Between convincing his mom and dad to let him stay with Garrett over spring break, finishing up all of his pre-break assignments, and soccer, he hardly had time to see Simon.

On the night before they were to carpool to Shady Creek with Nick, Leah, and Abby there was a soft knock on his and Garrett’s door. Garrett answered it.

“What is up, Spier? Here to get in some action with your fake boo?”

Bram shot up from his bed and crossed the room in two strides. “Weren’t you just leaving?” He gave Garrett a pointed look.

“No?”

“Yeah, you’re leaving,” Bram said, shoving him out the door. Garrett mumbled something about being lucky he had an unlimited cafe card, before stalking of.

“Hey, sorry about him, he’s - sorry. Come in.” Bram stepped aside so Simon could come through.

“Thanks.” Simon was grinning from the exchange with Garrett. He took a moment to look around their dorm. “I’m going to take a guess that this one is yours,” he said, pointing to Bram’s side of the room. It was significantly cleaner han Garrett’s.

Bram chuckled softly. “You can sit if you want.” He nodded to his bed, ignoring the heat rising in his cheeks. Simon didn’t seem to catch the implication, or was ignoring it. Bram sat at his desk chair.

“How’d the rest of your classes go?” Simon asked after a moment. Before Bram could answer, Simon started talking again. “Sorry, I’m trying to not make this weird and that was like the most small-talkish question ever.”

Bram smiled. “At least you didn’t mention the weather.”

Simon laughed and it made Bram’s heart race. He loved the sound of Simon’s easy laughter. “I kind of realized that you and I don’t really talk all that much. I mean, I know Garrett from high school, but we weren’t really that close. And then I started thinking about those fanfictions where they ask how we met and we each give a different answer-” Simon trailed off, making a vague gesture.

Them not talking was definitely Bram’s doing. All through his life he had a way of freezing up around boys he thought were cute. The habit never really went away.

“We should probably stick as close to the truth as possible, to be safe,” Bram suggested. “We met at my - Nick’s - soccer tryouts.” He grinned. “Wait, sorry, soccer auditions.”

Simon threw his head back and laughed. “Oh my freaking god, I can’t believe you remember that. Theater nerd for life right here.” His smile was infectious. “Okay, we met at your soccer tryouts - my parents will love that story, by the way - when did we start dating?”

Bram thought for a moment. He thought about his email address. He had to try. “My birthday is in January, right before MLK day. We could tell them we started talking after my party. We can say we kept it a secret to make sure it was serious, and that you were over your ex, before going public?”

Simon made an impressed face. “I am totally coming to you every time I need to lie to my parents.” He shot Bram a coy grin. Bram pulled at a string on his jeans, willing the heat in his cheeks to calm. Simon didn’t catch the birthday comment.

“Speaking of going public,” Simon said, “Do you think we should change our Facebook statuses?” He leaned over to tug his phone out of his pocket.

Feigning casual, Bram shrugged. “We can if you think that’ll help.” He’d probably get a tirade of messages from his parents and family. God, and Starr would flip if he didn’t tell her first.

“I think we can probably do without that announcement,” Simon mused. Bram watched him drag his finger from the top of the screen down, refreshing the page over and over.

“Everything okay?” Bram asked.

Simon looked up and shut his screen off. “Yeah, sorry.” He gave Bram an obviously fake smile. The guilt in Bram’s stomach lurched. He’d been so caught up in getting ready for spring break and worrying about Simon that he hadn’t emailed Jacques since rejecting his offer to meet.

“So um, I guess I’ll tell you a little bit about my family? Like, stuff that I’d warn a boyfriend about.” Simon went on to tell him about his dad that thought he was a hipster, his overbearing mother, and about both of his sisters.

Of course, Bram already knew everything Simon was telling him from their emails, but he nodded along and smiled to Simon’s story anyway.

“My older sister Alice won’t be there. She’s visiting with her boyfriend’s family for break. Nora will, but she pretty much just sits in her room and steals Leah from me, so you don’t have to worry about her.” Nora must be the sister that was in a band with Leah in high school. “My parents will probably insist on separating us, so you’ll most likely stay in Alice’s room.

“Um, Leah, Abby and Nick will probably visit a bunch, and Garrett is obviously invited, too, so it shouldn’t be too painfully awkward just hanging out with my parents.” Bram nodded at that.

Simon paused for a few moments. “Have I given you a most ridiculously sincere thank you yet? Seriously, this is like… I can’t even tell you how much this is going to get them off my back about Cal.”

Cal. Back when he was a crush out of reach, Simon was in a long distance relationship with his high school boyfriend, Cal. Bram thought he’d never have a chance until Simon’s Facebook went from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ over the past winter break. When Bram saw the message on their school’s online community board, he was drawn to it for just that reason.

“Also,” Simon said. Bram looked up from picking at the tear in his jeans. Simon’s cheeks were flushed, but he was smiling to himself. “I know Leah keeps making those jokes about fanfictions, but I’m… I’m kind of talking to a guy right now? So like, I promise I won’t do that thing where I get super weird and attached and mistake faking it for the real thing.”

The real thing. Bram’s face was on fire, an electric jolt of shame coursing through him. Simon didn’t want the real thing with him. He wanted it with the perfectly edited, completely anonymous version of him that lived in his emails.

If Simon noticed Bram’s lack of words for the rest of the night, he did a good job ignoring it. Garrett came back while Simon told him about Shady Creek, and Garrett joined in until Simon decided to call it a night.

As soon as Bram closed the door, Garrett spoke. “I know I wasn’t here for most of it, but Jesus Christ that was painful. Are you going to tell him?”

Bram bit his lip. Garrett played up the dumb jock role people usually gave him, but he was always so observant. “Tell him what?”

“You really want me to say it?”

Bram sighed. “No. I just… I need to figure some stuff out this week.”

“Okay,” Garrett said. “Well my parents live in Simon’s neighborhood; if something happens you can always come crash with me. My dad never locks his liquor cabinet.”

While Garrett snored that night, Bram sat awake crafting an explanation to Jacques about how he wasn’t ready for him to know who he was. He told him how he was worried about losing their emails if he figured out his identity, and he just couldn’t risk it yet.

There was so much more truth in his message than Simon would ever know.

The following morning, Bram woke with enough time to do a few loads of laundry before the rest of their friends were ready. While he was shoving clothes that he hoped screamed ‘boyfriend material’ into his bag, he got a text from Simon that they were all down by Leah’s car.

He didn’t respond to Blue’s email.

The mechanics of riding from their school to Shady Creek in Leah’s car were unfortunately lost on him until Bram and got to the student lot to meet the rest of the group. As Leah’s girlfriend, Abby had shotgun dibsed, which meant that he, Nick and Simon were left to cram into the back seat together. Garrett wasn’t leaving until the following day, so Bram couldn’t just stay back and wait.

“Come on boys, pretend you like each other. It’ll be practice for this week,” Abby said from the front seat. She was turned around and grinning widely.

“I’ll take the middle,” Simon said after he dumped his backpack in the trunk. “Since you’re giving up your spring break I’ll give up circulation in my legs.”

“You could always sit on your boyfriend’s lap,” Abby offered sweetly.

“Oh my god, not this again,” Simon groaned. Bram wanted to know where Simon was getting again from. Had Abby already teased Simon about this when he wasn’t there?

All of his thoughts came to a screeching halt once he climbed into Leah’s car and realized there was no way that they’d be able to sit next to each other without touching. In the rear view mirror, Bram saw Simon’s eyes flick down to where Bram’s knee bumped into his as he slid in.

“Sorry,” Bram said softly.

“Totally okay,” Simon said. His eyes met Bram’s. He gave him a soft smile. “We should probably get used to it.”

If Bram thought that the constant touch of Simon’s knee against his knee would be the worst part of the drive, he was sorely mistaken. Teamed up and without a working radio, Leah and Abby took it upon themselves to bombard Simon and Bram with relationship questions and advice. He and Simon had the basics down, but when Leah asked Bram about Simon’s experience coming out, he couldn’t exactly tell him he knew from their secret emails that Simon had been outed in their junior year. He looked to Simon.

“It’s a great story,” Simon said, completely deadpan.

“Really?” Bram asked. From what Jacques told him, the experience was pretty traumatizing.

He exhaled sharply. “No. I got outed.”

He went on to tell the story of how some boy found out he was gay and blackmailed him with the information because of a crush. “And then when Leah and Abby started dating and he realized he didn’t have a chance, he let our whole school know my sexual orientation.” Bram wanted to apologize, or hug him, or something, but all he could do was nod and look to his hands.

The car was quiet after that, until Abby turned in her seat to face them. “You two should kiss.”

Bram froze. Luckily, Simon reacted enough for both of them. His indignant sputter made Abby roll her eyes.

“Seriously, Simon? You’re going to have to do it eventually. Do it now so it isn’t weird later.” Her eyes flicked to Bram, before going right back to Simon. “You’re acting like kissing Bram would be a punishment. He’s cute.”

“Bram is ridiculously cute, but I’m not kissing him in front of you.” To Bram’s horror, Simon twisted in the seat to face him. “I’m sorry. Abby is having way too much fun with this. We probably won’t even have to kiss. My parents aren’t going to like, force us under the mistletoe or something.”

He tried to tell Simon it was okay, that he was one hundred percent okay with whatever they needed to do, but all he managed was a nod. After Simon turned away, Bram exhaled slowly.

For the rest of the ride to Shady Creek, all Bram could think about was Simon calling him cute.

They got to Shady Creek a few hours later, and Leah dropped Bram and Simon off right after Nick. While they got out and Simon stretched, Bram looked around. His neighborhood was… nice. There were two cars in the driveway of the Spier’s house and another in the open garage, and every lawn on the street was perfectly green and perfectly cut.

“This yours?” Simon asked, holding Bram’s suitcase to him.

“Yeah, thanks,” Bram said. He took a steadying breath as Simon said goodbye to Leah and Abby. Abby called out an overly sweet, “Good luck, boys!” while Leah backed out of the driveway. When Simon nodded to him, cheeks pink from Abby’s comment, they both started walking towards the front door.

“Okay, here goes,” Simon said. “Last chance to back out.”

“Garrett doesn’t get in town until tomorrow, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go,” Bram said, grinning when Simon’s eyes shot to his.

Simon rolled his eyes. “My parents are going to love you.” He busied himself digging out his keys, and Bram watched him fidget with the lanyard they were on. His nervousness made Bram even more nauseated than the car ride managed. Simon looked up.

“Is it okay if we hold hands?”

“Oh! Yes. Good idea.” Bram wiped his hand on his shirt and offered it to Simon. After he twisted the front door open, Simon shoved his keys back in his pocket and slowly laced his fingers through Bram’s.

Bram took a small, shaky breath. It was a bittersweet feeling. A part of him was screaming that he was finally, finally holding Simon’s hand, but the part of him that knew it was just for pretend was sending all sorts of warning signs. He couldn’t let himself think there was anything behind the gesture before he figured out how to tell Simon about Blue. If Simon didn’t hate him for withholding the truth, then he could worry about the way Simon’s hand seemed to grip his tighter as he took a deep breath.

“Mom? Dad? We’re here!” Simon called as they stepped into the house. Bram looked around. It was just as nice inside as it was on the outside. There were dog toys in a basket in the corner of the room and a pile of shoes by the front door. Everywhere he looked he saw pictures of the family and things that made the house look lived in.

There was a thud across the room, followed by the click of nails on the hardwood floor. Simon’s fingers slipped from his as a golden retriever - Simon’s dog, his brain supplied - came barreling over to them.

“Bieber!” Simon chimed happily. As the dog skidded to a stop at Simon’s feet, Simon knelt down and hugged him.

“Is your dog’s name Bieber?” Bram asked, the words tumbling out in disbelief before he could help it.

Simon looked up from where he was kneeling. He was grinning. “Alice named him.”

At the sound of his name, Bieber abandoned Simon and greeted Bram. He knelt down and scratched behind Bieber’s ears, and laughed when Bieber scooted in to try and lick his face.

“So.” Bram looked up towards the sound of a man’s voice. At the foot of the staircase stood a man with Simon’s jawline and a woman with his hair. “You’re the boy my son has been hiding from us for the past few months.” The man had his thumbs through his belt loops and a furrow creased his eyebrows. Bram stood up.

“Um-”

“Seriously, dad? You’re not even a little bit intimidating.” Still, Simon shifted towards him.

“This is all just very sudden, Simon.” His mom and dad walked towards them. “We don’t even know his name.”

“It’s Bram,” Simon said. He took another step closer and wrapped his hand around Bram’s bicep. The touch sent heat through his whole body. “Which I said in my text yesterday. Right after begging you both not to be weird and obsessed. You clearly didn’t read either.”

Simon bickered with his parents a little more, but Bram could tell there was a certain fondness coming from them every time one of them spoke. Eventually, Simon’s parents shook his hand and said they were glad to be meeting the mysterious Bram. When Simon’s parents invited them to sit and visit, Simon slid his fingers into Bram’s again. It had a way of anchoring Bram that surprised him. They moved to the loveseat in the living room and answered all of the questions they prepared for and more, and Simon held onto his hand the whole time. His parents got a kick out of their exaggerated retelling of Simon’s auditions slip up, and smiled at Simon’s made up story of how they got closer over Bram’s birthday.

“Is Nora here?” Simon asked when his dad went to grab drinks. “She’s been weirdly quiet.” He looked up to the ceiling.

“No, she left a few minutes before you got here,” his mom said.

“Weird,” Simon replied. He turned to Bram. “Nora is like a hermit.”

“Simon,” his mother warned, with little heat. His dad came back and Bram graciously accepted the glass of sweet tea.

A yawn escaped Simon, and he brought his free hand up to cover his mouth. “I think Bram and I are going to go up to my room for a bit. It was a long drive, and I want to show him around. I think we’re going to meet up with Nick later.”

Simon’s parents exchanged a look, before turning back to him. “Your father and I would like to discuss sleeping arrangements before you do.”

Simon’s sigh was completely believable. “Oh my God, Mom, I’m nineteen, and so is Bram. It’s not like he’s not staying the night in my dorm.” Simon squeezed his hand. Bram didn’t even have to fake the color on his cheeks.

“Well, that’s fine, Simon, but we would feel better if Bram stayed in Alice’s room while you two are here.”

Bram cleared his throat. “It’s okay, Simon. I don’t mind.”

Simon gave his parents an exaggerated eye roll. “Fine. Am I allowed to show him where Alice’s room is without supervision?”

Before Simon’s parents could comment, Simon pulled Bram towards the staircase. He gave them both an apologetic glance before letting Simon guide him towards his room.

As soon as they were inside Simon’s childhood bedroom, Simon shut the door behind them.

“Holy freaking God, I can’t believe that worked,” Simon said, crossing the room in large strides. He flopped onto his bed face first. Bram looked at the posters on the walls and the bits of paper and clutter everywhere. There was an empty Oreo package on his desk. It all screamed Simon. His bed creaked as he rolled over. “You were amazing. Holy shit. They ate that story up.”

Bram grinned. “You really played up the separate bedrooms exasperation, too.”

A coy smile twisted on Simon’s face. “I guess we make a good team.”

If there was an appropriate response to that, Bram couldn’t find it.

Nick ended up having plans, and Leah and Abby were spending time with Leah’s mom, so Simon and Bram stayed at the Spier’s house that night. Simon showed him to Alice's room and to where the bathroom was, and they spent more time socializing in the living room with Simon’s parents. Even in the moments where they escaped to Simon’s room and Bram wasn’t pretending to be Simon’s boyfriend, he still had to pretend that he wasn’t falling for Simon even more with every second that passed.

After an awkward affair of a dinner with even more pestering conversations about his major and personal life, Bram sat through a few episodes of The Bachelorette with Simon’s family. Simon insisted was a totally normal thing, and Bram pretended his nerves about Simon leaning into him to ‘cuddle’ was just apprehension about the show. Every part of him that Simon touched left a burning feeling in its wake.

Nora came home after the first episode and dropped right on the couch with Simon’s parents. Except for her long hair pulled up on the top of her head, she looked just like Simon. Simon teased her about taking care of his car until he could bring it to school the following year, and Nora asked Bram how he put up with her brother.

At the end of the night, Bram found himself lying awake and staring at the ceiling of Alice’s room when he and Simon finally went to separate rooms.

As exhausting as the day felt, His emotions were too muddled for his mind to relax. He didn’t really know what to expect would come of this. Did he think Simon would spend enough time holding his hand for show and start to reciprocate his feelings?

His phone lit up on the table next to him, pulling him from his spiral. Thinking it was probably Garrett asking about plans the following day, Bram blinked in surprise when he saw a new email from Jacques. Simon was awake. Simon was thinking about Blue . He typed in his passcode with one hand and used his other to sit up in the bed.

To: bluegreen118@gmail.com
From:hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

Date: March 15 at 12:43 AM
Subject: Re: Coffee?

Blue,

Sorry it took me a while to respond to this. It took some time for me to understand, but I do. And I’m sorry for putting that kind of pressure on you. Sometimes I get ahead of my feelings a little bit too much.

I hope you’re having an excellent spring break. I can’t really tell you too many details, but mine has been interesting, to say the least. Do you ever have a day where so much happens that you should just fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but then end up staying awake for hours just replaying every little thing? It’s kind of like that.

I get not being ready to meet up, but what about texting? Not that I don't love our emails, but I kind of love the idea of talking to you on another platform.

Let me know,

J

Simon’s phone number was in a postscript.

Bram tapped his screen to write a reply. He stared at the flashing cursor, begging his mind to come up with an excuse that wouldn’t hurt Simon even more. He had to say no; if he gave Simon his number, Simon’s phone would show him Bram’s contact information as soon as he typed it in.

He let his phone fall onto his chest, the light illuminating the room around him in a pale shade of blue. As the LED faded, first dulled and then completely, his mind spun with irrational ideas. Part of him - the same part that did things like accept being Simon Spier’s fake boyfriend - was telling him to get up and go to Simon. To tell him everything. The other part, much louder and rational, searched his brain for a solution.

His phone lit up again, and when Bram looked this time, it wasn’t an email, but a text.

From Simon.

Are you awake?

Bram unlocked his phone and stared at the message. Simon was texting him. After several heavy thuds from his heart and several quickly abandoned ideas of how to respond, Bram typed a reply.

I can’t stop thinking about Alfie not getting a rose. Because he knew it would make Simon smile, Bram added a heartbreak emoji.

Three dots appeared instantly, and then a reply.

He was robbed!!!!

Bram bit his lip, smiling. Another reply appeared right after.

Really though, I wanted to say thank you. Again. My parents are like, ultimate parental horror show and they freaking loved you.

Bram stared at the reply. He stared at the word love, written just for him from Simon. Now more than ever, he wanted to go to Simon. He had no idea what to say to that message. Simon was two doors and ten paces away from him, and had no idea what the words of his message were doing to him.

He waited long enough that he wondered if Simon was asleep before replying.

You don’t have to keep thanking me, but you’re welcome.

The next morning, Bram was greeted with a knock on Alice’s door as he was going over some of his notes for a Brit Lit lecture from a few months prior.

“Hey,” Simon said as he twisted the door open with Bram’s permission. “I just got a text from Leah, we’re going to go get breakfast at WaHo.” He tilted his head and a small quiver of a smile threatened to break through. “Are you studying?”

“Finals are coming up,” Bram said automatically, shutting his notebook and putting it away. When he looked back up, Simon’s expression hadn’t changed. Bram would almost call it fond.

Simon didn’t say anything about the texts from the previous night. Bram wondered if dreamed them, but the dark circles under Simon’s eyes said differently. He still hadn’t replied to Jacques’ email.

Realizing Simon was waiting for an answer, Bram nodded. “Are your parents here?”

“At work, thankfully. I already stole the keys from Nora,” he said, dangling a keychain in front of him. Simon waited in the doorway while Bram packed up his textbooks and slid his shoes on. He could feel Simon’s curious gaze on him the whole time; it felt like he was answering a question in a lecture and all of the eyes in his class were on him.

For the whole ride to Waffle House, Bram looked around Shady Creek as Simon pointed out different parts of his town, randomly stopping his train of thought to change the song. They passed by Garrett’s house and Bram pulled out his phone to text him their plans - Garrett’s truck was in the driveway. Simon pointed out his old high school and the street where Leah lived.

When Simon pulled into the Waffle House parking lot, he pulled his phone out of his pocket. If Bram wasn’t looking right at him, he would have missed the small, sad flinch, before Simon schooled his expression back to a smile. “Leah and Abby have a table.”

Bram followed Simon into the restaurant, sticking as close as he possibly could. The space by the door was full of people waiting for a table. Simon weaved through the people and looked around until he saw Leah and Abby. “Over there,” he said as he led the way to the girls’ table.

“Hey!” Simon said to them both when they got to the table. “It’s crazy in here!”

“I think a lot of people are home for spring break,” Abby said. She and Leah were on the same side of the booth, so close that their shoulders were touching.

Simon stood back so Bram could get into the booth first, and then slid in right next to him. Since they weren’t under the watchful eyes of Simon’s parents, he left a comfortable distance between them. Bram was grateful for it.

“Soooo,” Abby said, stretching out the ‘O’ for several seconds. Her eyes were bright and mischievous.

“I think I’m getting waffles,” Simon announced to the table, setting his menu down in an exaggerated fashion.

“Oh my god, Simon,” Abby said. “We are dying over here.”

“Literally,” Leah said. “We tried to call several times last night.”

Abby shot Leah a look that Bram couldn’t translate, before turning right back to Simon. “Did they buy it? Did Nora buy it? What did they think? Did they make you guys sleep in separate rooms?”

“Jesus, Abby,” Simon hissed. “Let’s just announce it to all of WaHo.”

Abby rolled her eyes. “It’s so busy in here no one can hear us.”

A flustered looking waitress came up to their table and took their orders, as well as Simon and Bram’s drink orders. When she left, Abby picked up her phone. “Where the heck is Nick? He hasn’t answered any of my messages since yesterday.” Bram was glad that it seemed like she was moving on from the topic of he and Simon.

“Right here.” Bram looked up and saw Nick and Garrett standing over their table. There was a little chorus of joy from their table to greet them.

“I couldn’t find anywhere to park,” Garrett said. He looked right to Bram as he slid in the booth next to Abby. He raised an eyebrow, silently asking if things were okay. Bram gave him a small nod. Nick sat next to Simon and held out his fist for Simon to bump. Now that Simon was closer to him in the booth, Bram could feel the same coil of anxiety twisting in his stomach. He put his hands under the table and twisted his fingers in his lap.

When their waitress came back again and realized there were more people at the table, she barely contained her exasperation with a curt, “Drinks, boys?” to Nick and Garrett.

Bram felt Simon’s shoulder against his. In a tone soft enough so only Bram could hear, Simon whispered, “I’m sorry about Abby.”

Simon’s hands were in his lap too, so Bram slid his hand over until his knuckle bumped into the back of Simon’s hand. “It’s fine, I know she’s not serious.” When Simon’s eyes met his, they were wide and full of question. Bram was afraid of what they were asking, so he slid his hand away.

When he looked away to anywhere but Simon, Bram saw a boy walking up to their table. He tensed; the boy looked so familiar, but Bram couldn’t figure out why.

“Oh my god, Cal!” Abby pushed at Garrett’s arm until he got out of the booth, and she flung herself at the boy to give him a giant hug.

Cal.

That was why he was familiar. This was the boy that broke up with Simon over winter break.

“Hey everyone,” Cal said when Abby finally let go. “I was wondering if any of you would be back for spring break.” His eyes flicked to Simon, and before a surge of jealousy could rampage through him, they moved right to Bram. “This must be the guy.”

He felt Simon’s shoulders tense at the same time his did.

“He - What guy?” Simon choked out.

Cal’s smile was polite, if a little confused. “Your mom’s Facebook post last night.” Spots of color appeared on Cal’s cheeks. “I didn’t know you were seeing anyone.”

“Her what?” Simon’s shoulder bumped into Bram’s in his haste to pull out his phone.

Cal looked behind him, where a girl with perfectly straight blonde hair had just called his name. “I have to go, it was really good to see you - all of you!” with a quick wave, Cal caught up with the girl and left the restaurant.

Next to him, Simon’s elbow bumped into his. He turned his phone screen enough so Bram could see.

Emily Spier is watching The Bachelorette - with Jack Spier and Simon Spier . Typed next to Simon’s name was and The New Boyfriend!

It had fifty likes, including Cal Price, Alice Spier, and Abby Suso.

“You’re Facebook friends with my mom?” Simon asked Abby.

“She added all of us,” Nick answered for her. “In high school.”

Simon pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses. “Oh my god this can’t be happening.” He looked up and turned to Nick. “Can I get out?”

Nick slid from the booth and Simon did the same. He walked towards the back of the restaurant where a restroom sign was hanging from the ceiling. Nick didn’t sit.

“I’ll go talk to him,” Nick told them all. He nodded to Bram before following Simon to the bathroom.

The waitress came and dropped off their food while Simon and Nick were gone. Bram wasn’t feeling very hungry. The sight of Simon’s dismayed expression at the thought of their ‘relationship’ making it to Facebook kept replaying in his head. Simon and Nick came back a short while later; if they did talk about anything, it must have been very brief. Simon also didn’t seem very hungry, only picking at his waffles that he’d been excited about when they got there.

They didn’t linger at Waffle House after everyone was done eating. Nick and Garrett filled the table’s silence with anecdotes about their days hanging out at the restaurant in high school, but it was obvious that seeing Cal left a strange feeling over most of the table.

The car ride home from Waffle House was quiet. Simon’s playlist this time was more mellow; Bram recognized the song he got his email address from almost immediately. It was a soft, somewhat sad song by Elliott Smith.

Bram could tell that Simon was still thinking about the run in with Cal. He wished he could think of something, anything to say to Simon to make Simon feel better.

At the Spier’s house, Simon shut off the car and didn’t move. Bram stayed put. Both of the Spier’s cars were in the driveway. “I can’t believe my mom posted about us on Facebook. Like I can, because she’s my mom, but I can’t even.”

“Are you…” Bram paused to find the right words. He longed for the anonymity of emailing where he could write with confidence. “Are you upset that Cal thinks you’re seeing someone else?”

“That’s the thing. I’m not.” Simon squeezed the steering wheel. “I thought that seeing him after all these months would make me, I don’t know, realize I was still in love with him. But I think it made me realize I’m really over him.”

Bram bit his lip. “Are you upset about someone else seeing it?”

At that, Simon finally looked at him. “I don’t know. Maybe?” He didn’t elaborate, and he looked grateful that Bram didn’t ask him to. That familiar sink of guilt hit him. Simon didn’t want Blue to know about them. He was competing with himself and losing on one end, and having to push Simon away on the other.

As they walked up the driveway and to the house, Simon caught up to him and touched his arm.

“Bram? Is everything okay?”

Bram opened his mouth to answer, but before he could, the front door to the Spier house flung open. “Simon!” A girl with wood-blonde hair launched herself towards Simon.

“Alice?” Simon stared at the girl when she broke off the hug. “What are you doing here? I thought you were visiting Theo’s family.”

“We were, but we decided to make a trip here to surprise everyone!” Alice said. She was beaming at Simon, but her eyes flicked to Bram. “We couldn’t miss the chance to meet the new boyfriend.”

Before Simon could respond, Alice punched him in the arm. “Since when do you date someone without telling me?”

“Ow!” Simon said, rubbing his arm. “What the hell, Alice? You kept Theo a secret from us for months!”

“So are you going to introduce me now?” Alice asked. Simon rolled his eyes at her, and made awkward introductions. When Bram held out his hand to shake hers, Alice held out her arms for a hug. Simon laughed as Bram accepted it.

“He’s adorable,” Alice said, turning back to Simon. “Are mom and dad actually making him stay in my room?”

Simon did an excellent job faking an eye roll and faking an annoyed tone. “Of course they are.”

Alice hemmed. She linked an arm through Simon’s. “Let’s fix that.” As she started walking, pulling Simon with her, Simon held out his hand for Bram to take.

Alice and Theo’s presence completely changed the dynamic at the Spier house. Where the previous night in front of the television was relaxed and quiet, everything seemed to be turned up when Alice was there. She waited until they were all settled in the living room later that evening to bring up the sleeping situation.

“I can’t believe you put Simon and his college boyfriend in separate rooms. I thought you were liberals.”

Bram felt Simon squeeze his hand. They were on the smaller loveseat together, and Alice and Theo sat next to Simon’s parents on the couch. They spent more time that day holding hands than they did apart. Even at dinner, Simon slid his hand to Bram’s knee and laced their fingers together under the table.

“Alice,” Simon’s mom gave her a warning tone, but Alice ignored it.

“Seriously,” Alice said flippiantly. She turned to him and Simon. “I’m taking my room back tonight. Sorry, we are. I know you didn’t offer to spend your break with this insane family just to be put in separate rooms.”

After a beat, Bram realized she was actually waiting for a response from him. He cleared his throat. “It’s really okay, I’m just happy to be here with Simon. I don’t care where I sleep.” Bram turned and offered Simon a smile, to which he was met with a surprised expression. His smile faltered. He wondered if it was too much, or if there was too much honesty in the words he was saying.

Alice snorted. She looked at their parents. “He doesn’t mean that.”

Next to him, Simon was uncharacteristically quiet. When the conversation finally shifted away from them, Bram slid his free hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He held it where Simon couldn’t see, and wrote out a text.

Is your sister always this invested in getting boys in your room?

He felt Simon’s phone buzz where their thighs were pressed together. Simon let his fingers fall from Bram’s while he dug his phone out. He coughed to cover a laugh when he read the message, and put his phone back into his pocket without replying. He turned to Bram a few palpable seconds later.

“I’ll be right back,” he whispered, leaning in close enough that Bram could feel Simon’s breath on his cheek. It was just for show. Bram nodded, unable to find the words to answer him.

Bram sat with Simon’s parents through the end of the episode and into the next, staring at the hallway where Simon disappeared to. When Simon finally came back, he stopped in front of the couch where Bram was sitting.

“I think Bram and I are going to go upstairs,” Simon said, looking down to him. Bram looked to the couch. He could tell that Simon’s parents wanted to say something. Alice was grinning like Christmas had come early, and Theo was hiding a smile of his own. His cheeks burned as Simon stood and held out his hand to help Bram up. Bram took it, and let Simon pull him all the way to the staircase and up the stairs.

On the top level, Simon didn’t let go of Bram’s hand until they were in front of Simon’s room. Bram’s heart was racing.

“Do you need any help getting your stuff from Alice’s room?” Simon asked with an apologetic smile. Bram shook his head. “Cool,” Simon said. “I’ll be-” he gestured behind him and took a step into his room. Bram crossed the hall to Alice’s room and pushed the door shut behind him.

He closed his eyes and exhaled a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. Before he opened his eyes, he took another few long, steadying breaths of air. He could do this. This was what he signed up for. He could sleep in a bed with Simon. It didn’t mean anything.

While he was done packing up all of his things, Bram sat on Alice’s bed. He pulled out his phone. Garrett said he could stay with him if things got to be too much. He thought about texting Garrett now and asking for his advice, though he knew exactly what Garrett would say.

He had to tell Simon the truth.

When he clicked his home screen, he blinked in surprise when he saw a new email from Simon. The notification was time stamped from twenty minutes prior. He still hadn’t replied to Jacques’ message about a phone number, too wrapped up in the Simon right in front of him to think about their emails. Bram typed his passcode with shaking fingers, and clicked the Gmail app.

To: bluegreen118@gmail.com
From: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

Date: March 16 at 8:17 PM
Subject: Us.

Blue,

I know you still haven’t responded to my last message, but I just needed to say something. About us.

These past few months have helped me more than I could ever explain. I was a wreck when I came back to school from my breakup, and emailing you helped me feel like I could get back out there more than you know.

That’s why this message is so hard for me. I want to get out there and meet people, but it seems like you’re not ready. Which is okay! And whenever you are ready, god, please let me know because that coffee offer stands forever, okay?

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I met someone. Someone unexpected. And I wouldn’t feel right trying to pursue that without letting you know, because if it isn’t obvious, I do have feelings for you, too. But it seems like you might not be in the same place, which is still okay!

I don’t want to lose you, but I feel like I need to take a step back and figure out my feelings. I hope you understand.

-Jacques

When Bram got to the bottom of the email, his eyes were wet.

Simon wanted to be with someone else. Simon didn’t want Blue anymore.

Bram rubbed at his eyes and read the message again. Someone unexpected. His heart felt like it was sinking into his stomach. Just because Simon told Bram that seeing Cal made him realize he was over him didn’t mean that was actually true.

There was a knock on the door, making him jump.

“Bram?” It was Alice.

He cleared his throat. “One second!” He cringed when his voice cracked. He grabbed his phone and his bag and opened the door. “Sorry, you’re all good. Thanks for letting me use your room.”

She smiled softly. It was different than any of the ones she gave to anyone downstairs.

“You are just so adorable,” she said. “You make my brother really happy too.”

Bram couldn’t help the surprised, “Really?” that escaped before he thought better of it.

“Oh my god, yeah,” Alice said “He was so upset when… you know.” She made a vague hand gesture. “He lights up so much when you’re around him.”

Bram was sure the embarrassment that flared up in his cheeks would easily be mistaken for something happier. Simon was a great actor, and Bram fell for it.

After wishing Alice a good night, Bram crossed the hall to Simon’s room. He took another deep, steadying breath before knocking.

“It’s me,” he said softly. Simon called for him to come in, so Bram twisted the handle. Simon was sitting on his bed with his phone in his hand.

“Hey.” Simon was smiling, but as soon as he looked at Bram, it faltered. “What’s wrong? Did Alice say something?”

“No, no.” He had to tell him. “Simon-”

“I think I have feelings for you.”

Bram felt his lips part in surprise.

Simon’s smile grew again. It was soft and warm and pleasant, like the slow bloom of a flower. “And you can tell me if I’m totally, completely reading this wrong, but I kind of think you might like me too? And if I’m not reading this wrong-”

“I’m Blue.”

Simon blinked. “What?”

“The emails? Since the start of term? They’re from me.”

Simon’s eyes were wide, and the smile that grew so slowly and softly faded in an instant. “It’s… you? You’re…” His voice sounded like it was going to break.

“I should have told you.” Wetness threatened his eyes again. “I should have told you when I figured out it was you, but I was so scared of losing what we had.”

A storm twisted in Simon’s eyes. The grey that he loved so much darkened. “Why didn’t you? Was it-” his voice broke, so he whispered. “Was this all a joke?” Simon stood and let his phone fall to his bed.

“No! Simon, no.” Bram took a step forward and Simon flinched. He froze. “Simon, everything I’ve ever said in my emails was true. Once I put together that Jacques was you, I panicked. I... thought you wouldn’t feel the same if you knew it was me.”

“Is that why you never wanted to meet with me?” Simon asked softly. “You thought I wouldn’t want Blue to be you?” Bram nodded weakly. “Okay, well that’s fucking insane.”

Bram frowned. “What?”

“Are you kidding? You’re like… this super cute soccer player and also somehow super smart and shy and like… you’re nice enough to deal with my insane family and you’re funny in a way that always surprises me.” Simon’s smile finally broke again. “Yeah, no, you’re good.”

Laughter bubbled out of him. “For the record,” Bram said, “You’re good too.”

Simon lit up again. “Does this mean we’re totally like every fanfiction ever?”

“Almost,” Bram said. He’d been holding Simon’s hand almost constantly, but now he was aching to reach out and touch him. He took a step closer to Simon, and touched his fingers to his cheek. Simon’s eyes met his, and Bram watched them flutter closed as he leaned in and kissed him.

Fire ignited in his chest as soon as their lips met. He wrapped his free hand around Simon’s waist and pulled him closer. Simon’s hands moved to the back of his neck. Nothing about this moment could ever be faked. It was a match struck and tossed onto gasoline.

Bram stepped forward while Simon stepped back. He kissed Simon like he dreamed of doing so many times, over so many sleepless emails pouring his feelings onto the page. He kissed him like it was breathing. He felt when Simon’s knees bumped into the back of his bed. When he smiled against Simon’s lips, Simon smiled back. They broke apart, but not before Bram chased Simon’s mouth just to kiss him once more.

“I’m going to venture a guess that I don’t need to find that air mattress?” Simon asked. The corners of his eyes crinkled from his smile.

Bram kissed him in response. Simon laughed against his mouth, before returning it. He dropped down onto his bed and pulled Bram with him. And then Bram kissed him again. He dragged his hand up Simon’s side and into his hair, moved his mouth along Simon’s jaw and down his neck. Simon made a noise that Bram could feel, low and soft and throaty. His parents were downstairs, so Bram moved to bury the noise with his mouth. He kissed Simon and moved against him until the feeling was too much. When he pulled back, Simon whined.

Bram pressed a chaste kiss to Simon’s lips. “Let’s pause until we get back to school,” he whispered.

Simon groaned, but nodded. They shifted so they were lying on their sides facing each other. Simon’s legs were twisted with his.

“I do have one question,” Simon said after a few moments of silence. “When you found out Jacques was me, were you happy?”

Bram brought his hand to Simon’s cheek. It was warm, just like the rest of him. They were still on top of Simon’s blankets. “You have no idea,” Bram said. “I must have spent a week panicking every time someone said your name. I think I went a whole month where I didn’t say anything to you at all. I thought I was so obvious.”

Simon shook his head. “I had no idea.” He smiled. “Okay I lied, one more question.”

“Go for it.” Bram didn’t want to hide anything from Simon.

“Now that I know, will you please go for coffee with me? The shop on campus makes the best Oreo cappuccinos on the freaking planet. And like, as an actual date, not a fake one.”

Bram leaned over and kissed the grin off of Simon’s face. “Only if you be my boyfriend,” Bram said. The words surprised him, but when he saw Simon’s smile, he couldn’t help but match it. “My actual boyfriend, not a fake one.”

Simon’s laughter filled the room. “Now we’re definitely like a fanfiction.”

*

I called it.

We all called it, Abby.

Seriously? You both guessed that Bram was Gmail Boyfriend?

Well, no, but that just makes the plot even better.

I knew.

Garrett, you don’t count, you live with Bram.

Can we focus here? I think the point is that next time, someone needs to tell me when a cute soccer player slash grammar nerd has a crush on me.

Oh god, he’s blushing. I can’t even.

Next time?

You know what I mean.

Are you two sitting next to each other and texting each other in the group chat right now?

I’m pretty sure I’ve read this happen to Harry and Draco at least a hundred times.

I thought Harry married Ginny?

Oh. Nick. Sweetie, no.

Not that this conversation hasn’t been great, but I’m going to put my phone down and kiss my boyfriend now.