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Of course the moment Jared decides he’s going to have to talk to Bryce, their schedules make that stupidly hard, that when Bryce is free Jared isn’t, and vice versa. Thankfully they’re both in Calgary, because it’s definitely something that needs to be in person, but the way things are right now, they can maybe squeeze out an hour, and Jared doesn’t want to do it if there isn’t, like, time to do it properly.

Friday after school is basically the first opportunity he gets, and it’s going to have to do, because Bryce leaves town Saturday morning, and if Jared sits on this until Bryce gets back he’s probably going to stew. Jared’s got to be home for dinner, because it’s a game day tomorrow, but that gives a few hours, and if Bryce throws him out or something —

God, Jared, stop being dramatic, it’s just a conversation.

Jared gets kind of sidetracked, because like, Bryce kisses him when he comes in, and then Jared has to kiss him back, obviously, and that inevitably leads to making out on the couch, and then Bryce suggests the bed, and it’s — hey, everyone’s generally in a good mood after sex, all filled with endorphins, so obviously they should do that, right?

Jared insists on getting dressed after, though, because he feels like clothes are a good thing for serious conversations. Bryce pouts when Jared pulls his jeans up, but sulkily follows suit, and they land back on the couch, Jared’s feet in Bryce’s lap.

“Hey,” Jared says, when Bryce grabs the remote. “Wait a sec, can we talk about something?”

“Sure,” Bryce says, but warily, more of an ‘if you insist’.

“So like,” Jared says. “About me meeting your team.”

He can see Bryce tense, every muscle going tight, alert.

“I’m not like, suggesting we do that or anything,” Jared says quickly. “I just like — kind of want to talk about where you are, here? Like. About people knowing about us. And that was kind of something we talked about before, so I thought —”

Jared should have practiced this, probably, because that’s all coming out terribly. He can barely understand what he’s saying himself, so he has zero faith Bryce does.

“I thought we talked about this already,” Bryce says.

“I mean,” Jared says. “Not really? Like, we fought about it, but—”

“We made up,” Bryce says. “Like, forever ago. I thought we were okay. I mean, are we okay? Is there —”

“We’re good,” Jared says. “But like—”

“So why are we talking about it again?” Bryce asks, in a voice perilously close to whining.

“Because people knowing about us clearly makes you uncomfortable?” Jared says.

“Kind of a reason not to talk about it,” Bryce says.

“Uh, yeah, if you want it to turn into an argument later, sure,” Jared says. “By all means.”

“I don’t want to fight right now,” Bryce says, and that one, that one is whining. Jesus Christ, Bryce. “We barely get to see each other, can we just—”

“This isn’t a fight, it’s like, a conversation,” Jared says.

“It feels like a fight,” Bryce mumbles.

“It’s not,” Jared says. “I’m not like, mad, I just — I want to know where you’re at, and it’s kind of hard to when you don’t talk about it.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Bryce says.

“Okay, but I do, and like, seriously, it’s not an argument or anything,” Jared says. “I just don’t know where you’re at for like, now, or in the future, and if you don’t talk to me about it I can’t, and that makes me nervous.”

“Just,” Bryce says. “Can we not right now?”

“Why’s now any different than any other time?” Jared asks.

“Because you’re going to get mad,” Bryce says. “And I leave town tomorrow, and I don’t want it to be like last time with you not talking to me or anything while I’m gone.”

“You don’t know I’m going to get mad,” Jared says, though he kind of is getting mad the more Bryce tries to dodge, like, actually fucking talking about it. Like, fuck, they could probably be halfway through this already if Bryce wasn’t so intent on saying ‘let’s not talk about it’ in every permutation he can think of, like maybe he’ll unlock the magic one that’ll get Jared to back off. And he would back off, except he knows, he just knows if he does, it’s going to blow up in both of their faces later.

“I don’t want anyone to know, okay?” Bryce says, then, “And now you’re mad.”

“About you or us?” Jared asks, voice pointedly even, because fuck Bryce for assuming.

“I dunno,” Bryce says. “They’re basically like, the same thing. Me being with you kind of makes it obvious I’m not straight.”

“People know already, though,” Jared says.

“I mean,” Bryce says. “Not really.”

“My parents,” Jared points out. “Erin, your mom, Raf—”

“And I fucking hate that Rafael knows,” Bryce snaps.

“Whoa,” Jared says. “Okay. Good.”

Good?” Bryce says.

“Like, it’s not good, obviously,” Jared says. “But at least you’re finally like, telling me how you feel about this. Are you okay with my parents knowing about you?”

“I mean, they’re your parents,” Bryce says. “And they wouldn’t, like, tell anyone, right? You said they wouldn’t.”

“No,” Jared says. “Erin either, they kind of drilled her on privacy when I came out. And like — Raf wouldn’t either.”

“You don’t know that,” Bryce says.

“Does he really seem like the kind of guy who would?” Jared asks. “Seriously?”

Bryce shrugs kind of sulkily.

“Okay, so like, where are we at right now?” Jared asks. “You don’t want people to know about us, but like, you’re okay with me telling my teammates I’m gay or that I have a boyfriend as long as I don’t mention it’s you. Basically that?”

“I mean, haven’t you?” Bryce says. “I thought—”

“Like, Chaz knows I have a boyfriend,” Jared says. “A couple guys that don’t play for us anymore know I’m gay. That’s it.”

“Seriously?” Bryce says. “I thought like, all the guys knew.”

“I’m kind of sticking to people I’m pretty sure will be cool with it right now,” Jared says. “And won’t, like, go spreading it around.”

“Right now,” Bryce says.

“I mean, yeah,” Jared says, shrugs. “Dunno if it’s going to stay that way.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bryce asks.

“Like, if I wanted to tell the media I’m gay or that I’ve got a boyfriend,” Jared says. “not naming you or anything, how would you feel about that?”

“Fuck,” Bryce says. “Seriously, you—”

“I mean, not now,” Jared says. “No way right now, but what if I want to come out later? Like, years down the line?”

“Okay, then why are we even talking about this?” Bryce asks. “You keep talking about shit that’s way in the future—”

“Yeah,” Jared says. “Because I kind of hope you’re still my boyfriend when it does come up as an option for me.”

Bryce exhales. “Yeah,” he says. “I mean. Me too, but I get that it’s like — I get that it might be something later and like, for sure we should talk about it then, but if it might not even happen, I don’t get talking about it now.”

“Because I’m pretty sure it’s a dealbreaker,” Jared says, voice coming out a little shakier than he means it to. “And I kind of want to know before I’m like — I don’t want to find out months or years down the line when I’m even more invested in this.”

Bryce is quiet. “So what, if I don’t come out you’re going to what, break up with me?” he asks finally. “Is that what you’re saying right now?”

“It’s not about you coming out,” Jared says. “It’s about like, me being in the closet, and I’m not cool with that, okay? I’m not willing to like, pretend I’m straight when I’m not and that I don’t have a boyfriend when I do.”

“I’m not asking you to,” Bryce says. “When have I asked you to? Your family knows, you’ve told teammates you have a boyfriend, Rafael knows about us—”

“Which you fucking hate,” Jared says.

“I fucking knew you’d be mad!” Bryce says.

“I’m not mad!” Jared says. “I’m just trying to have a fucking conversation with you and you’re acting like I’m—”

“Like you’re what?” Bryce says. “Threatening to break up with me if I’m not suddenly cool with everyone knowing about us?”

“I didn’t say that!” Jared says. “When did I fucking say that?”

“You started this whole thing asking about meeting my team,” Bryce says. “C’mon, like that isn’t what you’re angling for?”

“Wow,” Jared says. “Now I’m ‘angling’ for something for having like, the audacity to have a conversation about our possible future.”

“That you started by asking about meeting my team!” Bryce says. “Which you know I’m not cool with.”

“It’s like you’re fucking ashamed of me,” Jared says.

“Oh come on,” Bryce says. “You know this isn’t about you.”

“Just me being a guy,” Jared says.

“Look,” Bryce says. “I straight up told you it’s cool if you tell people you’re gay and you have a boyfriend, so how is it fair if you won’t do the same thing with me?”

“I didn’t say you had to,” Jared says. “Seriously, Bryce, stop putting words in my mouth.”

“Then what is this fucking about?” Bryce yells. “Why was it so fucking important to make me feel like shit about not being as okay about it as you if you don’t want me to act exactly like you?”

“I—” Jared says, then mumbles, “I didn’t mean to make you feel like shit.”

If someone said that to Jared he’d probably end up responding with some snide ass, ‘well, you failed’ or something, but Bryce just says, “I know you didn’t.” Jared cannot fucking believe Bryce Marcus is the bigger person in their relationship. Well, he can, honestly, but that is not something he would have guessed when they started dating.

“Apparently I’m saying everything wrong today,” Jared says.

“Media usually says that about me,” Bryce says, and Jared hates hates hates the small self-deprecating smile on his face.

“The media’s a bunch of idiots,” Jared says, and Bryce’s smile changes a little, becomes something it doesn’t hurt to look at as much, even though Jared hates how tentative it is. “Sorry. For like. Saying everything wrong. You obviously don’t have to tell anyone you don’t want to, I just — I needed to talk about this? And not have you, like…change the subject or something. Because I can’t really talk about this with anyone else, and it’s just—”

“If you really — I don’t want to lose you, so—” Bryce says.

“No,” Jared says. “Like. Whatever you’re going to say. I don’t want to push you into something, I just — I kind of need you to like, let me know where you are with things? Because I feel like I’m kind of walking around blindfolded, here.”

“Sorry,” Bryce mumbles. “I guess it’s like — words don’t like, come easy to me like they do to you. I dunno what to say.”

“Dude,” Jared says. “I have like, no brain-to-mouth filter, it’s not a good thing. Like, I pretty much just shit the bed with this entire conversation.”

Bryce snorts, drops his hand to curl around Jared’s ankle.

“We’re okay, right?” Bryce asks. “I don’t want to leave town with you mad at me.”

“I’m not,” Jared says, and then when Bryce gives him a doubtful look, “Seriously, we’re good, babe.”

“Babe?” Bryce says.

“No brain-to-mouth filter,” Jared says quickly. “Apparently continuing to shit the—”

Bryce leans over to kiss him, which seems to be the only thing that successfully shuts Jared up. Well, maybe not the only thing, but it’s definitely Jared’s favourite.

“I dunno when I’ll be ready,” Bryce says, forehead pressed against Jared’s. “Like, to tell anyone else. And I dunno if I could ever do the whole media thing or whatever. But if I am, you’ll know first, okay?”

“Sounds good,” Jared says. “Honey. Darling. Sugar.”

“I’m not going to forget you called me babe because you called me other things too,” Bryce says, on one of those uncannily observant kicks, apparently, and Jared curses him for that. “I like sugar, though.”

“I am not calling you sugar,” Jared says. “No way.”

“I mean, I could call you sugar,” Bryce says, and he deserves every blow from the throw pillow Jared grabs to whack him with for even suggesting it.