Jamie was just so busy trying to figure out if you’re supposed to get a Christmas gift for the teammate you’ve been secretly sleeping with, but definitely not dating, for the last month that he didn’t consider he was supposed to get one for the team secret santa.
Jamie stays on the pitch after everyone one day after training. He’s just having trouble with his left cross and wants to work it out. It’s been harder for him lately, trying to balance doing right by the team and still showing off how good he is.
He’s mostly been welcomed back and most of the team is good with him now. It was pretty easy after the protest to let them know he was serious, and it even feels like he and Sam might be on the way to becoming friends.
He gets to a point where he can’t really do anything else today and makes his way back through to the showers. He’s pretty sure everyone is gone, but he gets back to the locker room with a towel around his waist and his hair stuck to his forehead in a way he absolutely wouldn’t want anyone to see and Colin is sitting there, texting quietly.
Colin jumps, tossing his phone in the air but managing to catch it before it slams into the ground. “Jesus Christ, Tartt. You scared the fuck out of me. I thought everyone was gone.”
“Well, I wasn’t so…” Jamie goes over to his locker and starts pulling his stuff out. He can feel Colin watching him. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, sorry.” Colin shakes his head. “Getting out of your way.” He grabs his bag and jacket, and Jamie feels like he’s lingering.
“Colin,” Jamie says, spinning to look at him. “Are we good? Look, I know all that shit I said about you being a worm - “
“What? No, that’s fine. I mean, it was embarrassing as fuck, and I’m glad you’re fucking sorry, but no. We’re okay.”
“Good.” Jamie nods. He’s just getting dressed when he notices Colin is lingering. He’s just kind of there. It’s not really making Jamie uncomfortable, but it’s a bit strange. “Are you sure you’re good?”
“Yes, no. Maybe.” Colin scrunches his face up. “I’m leaving now. See you, Jamie.”
“Wait.” Jamie tugs on his jumper. “I’m being a good teammate now, yeah? Keyword mates?” He gestures down his body. “So please, feel free to treat me as such.”
“Just someone I’m talking to. It’s a bit of a weird situation.”
“Well, if there’s feelings involved I’m a bit shit, but try me.”
“Okay.” Colin looks just a bit uneasy, but Jamie just presses on. He’s trying really hard to prove he can do this. If there’s one thing Jamie knows how to do it’s work hard to achieve a goal. Making friends has to be the same as anything else. “Well, it’s a bit - the person is kind of.” Colin groans. “Fuck, okay, you have to swear to fucking Christ you won’t tell a soul what I’m about to say.”
“The person is a lad, and he’s a bit uncomfortable with going out with someone who isn’t out and will probably not be out for a long long time.”
“Is that all? Colin, I won’t say anything. I know I’ve been a prick in the past, but I’m not a fucking monster.” He pauses. “Anyway, that’s shit, not of you, of him. He shouldn’t pressure you to do anything you don’t want to do, and if he does fuck him.” It seems easy enough for Jamie. He’s not great at relationships, but he knows they should be fun and make you happy, not fuck you up.
“It’s that easy, huh?”
“It’s easy for you to say. Kind of hard to find someone who enjoys being hidden.”
“Just gotta find the right person then, innit?” Jamie smiles. He’s sure that’s the right thing to say. It sounds like the right thing to say.
Colin snorts, just a little quiet laugh. “You really believe that, don’t you, Tartt?”
“I really do, Colin.”
A couple of weeks later they’re traveling up to Sheffield for an away. Usually Jamie ends up in the back of the bus on his own, but when he’s passing by Colin there’s an empty seat, so he drops down into it.
Colin just looks over at him with a quiet stare.
“Was this seat saved?”
“No, just. You don’t usually sit with me.”
“We’re mates now.” Jamie shrugs. “What are you doing?” Jamie peers over his arm to see his phone.
“Chatting.” He glances at Jamie sideways. “That’s rude, you know.”
“Are you on Bantr?” He whispers it in a way that almost can’t even be considered a whisper. “Guess it didn’t go well with - “
“Jamie will you shut up?”
“Oh right, sorry.” He drums his fingers on his thigh. “Any potential ‘suitors’.” He uses air quotes. “Maybe I can help.”
“Jamie, I do not need your help deciding who to message on dating apps.” Colin puts his phone away and looks over at him. “You definitely have better friends than me on the team, so what is happening here? Is this like - are you trying to prove you’re not - “ he looks around and then drops his voice lower “ - homophobic because I don’t think you are. You don’t have to - “
“Shut up.” Jamie flicks him on the shoulder. “No, I just thought you might need someone to talk to so I am offering my services.”
“Offering you ser- you are so fucking weird. I think I prefer the old Jamie. He was a twat, but he wasn’t this fucking annoying.”
Jamie grins. “I don’t believe you, Hughes.”
Colin just snorts to himself, and Jamie counts it as a win. “We’re roomies by the way. I bribed Kitman.” They’re not in the Premiership anymore, which means worse hotels and having to share; it’s kind of shit, to be honest. Colin just looks at him with completely dead eyes, as if he would rather have any other member of the team as his roommate.
“What the fuck did you bribe him with?”
“Money, obviously.” Jamie rolls his eyes.
“You’re so annoying.”
“Alright, I’m leaving you alone. I won’t say a word the rest of the trip I promise.” Colin laughs like he doesn’t believe Jamie could possibly do that. Jamie spends the whole trip trying to prove him wrong, and by the last hour Jamie is starting to feel like it may have been a trick.
Ted still insists on having a team get together the night before the away match, and tonight for some reason they’re watching fucking Titanic. Jamie would rather eat his own hand than do that but Lasso always makes it mandatory.
He sits towards the back, hoping that he can get away with sneaking a look at his phone now and then or maybe going to sleep if the mood strikes.
It’s about half way through the movie when Colin drops down beside him. Jamie glances sideways. He’s not forgiven Colin for forcing him to go three fucking hours without saying anything before.
“I’ve decided to give in to whatever the fuck it is you’re doing,” Colin says.
“I’m just being friends.” Jamie looks at him trying to convey with his face how obvious that should be. “Why are you so fucking paranoid.”
Bumbercatch turns his head and glares at them while Isaac shh-es them. Jamie fucking hates team movie night. It’s so fucking hard to sit still for hours at a time. How anyone can do it is beyond him.
Colin drops his voice lower than a whisper. “I’ve literally never told a teammate that I date blokes before. That’s all. I keep waiting for you to tell everyone or like, I don’t know. Just be fucking shit about it.”
“I told you, I’m not - “
“I don’t think you’re homophobic or anything. I just fucking think it’s probably weird to - “
Isaac gets up, walks over, smacks them both on the back of the head, and then goes back to his seat.
Jamie never finds out what Colin was going to say.
After the movie everyone makes their way upstairs to their rooms. Jamie kicks off his shoes and flops down on his chosen bed.
“It’s really fucking freaking me out that you’re not being weird about sharing a room with me.”
“Oh fuck off, Colin. You’re making a way bigger deal about this than I am. So what, you fuck men? It’s fine.” Jamie pushes up onto his elbows. “You know, you’re wound really fucking tightly.”
“Gee, I wonder why.” Colin sits on the other bed. “It’s fucking football, Jamie. And I know it’s getting better, but it’s still - “
“Yeah, I guess.” He tilts his head to look at Colin. “Anyway, did you find anything on Bantr?”
“I’ve never gone out with a man.”
“No shit, Jamie.”
“Not opposed to it though. I don’t really mind, you know. Fit is fit.” Jamie looks over at Colin, who is just staring at him like he just admitted to committing a bank robbery. “What?”
“It’s that easy for you?”
“No. It’s not like I just go around telling everyone, but I know about you. So I’m offering my own thing. Is that not how this is supposed to work?”
“You’re so fucking weird.” Colin rolls his eyes. “Everything’s always so fucking easy for you.”
Jamie thinks there are a lot of things that aren’t easy for him, but he’s certainly not going to talk about any of that with fucking Colin.
“You need to lighten up, Colin. What you probably need is get fucking laid.”
“Yes, Jamie. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
“You’re not trying very fucking hard, Hughes. Is this why you never get laid?”
“Wait are you-”
“Offering my services?” Jamie pushes off his bed and drops down onto his knees beside Colin’s. “That, my new friend, is exactly what I’m doing.”
They don’t talk much after that.
They win at Sheffield on a goal that passes from Colin to Jamie, right into the back of the net. Jamie doesn’t sit next to Colin on the way home, but he does smirk at Colin as he walks past on his way to his usual spot in the back.
Jamie isn’t sure if Colin is actively avoiding him, or if it’s just that they’re busy. Jamie has some branding stuff to do this week that Keeley had arranged, so even when he’s not training he’s taking photos and chatting with the sponsor. Branding has become very important, and no one has said anything but the team knows there’s a chance the transfer window in January could be really fucking rough. They need money where they can get it.
It’s been a couple of weeks since Sheffield, and they have a home against Swansea the day after tomorrow.
Jamie’s staying a little late after practice for some extra work and when he goes to leave the pitch, Colin is standing at the tunnel opening watching him.
“Are you busy?”
“Are you talking to me again?” Jamie raises an eyebrow. “Because you weren-”
Colin moves in to kiss him, and Jamie leans into it. It’s easy and nice
“So, are you busy?”
“No, I’m not busy.”
“Good, go get a shower, you smell. Then you can follow me to mine.”
After that it just kind of starts happening.
Neither one of them really tries to talk about it, but the sex is really fucking good. It’s been a while since Jamie’s been with someone enough times that he gets the chance to learn what really makes them tick or what he can do to really drag it out in a way that truly makes them fall apart.
And Colin is learning all of the right buttons to push on Jamie too.
They’re not dating or anything. They don’t really talk about it at all. Sometimes they have sex and then one of them buys dinner but it’s usually just a take away of some kind and they definitely don’t talk about the sex part.
No, it’s just really like having a mate that also knows what gets you off. Colin is fit and he’s fun and it’s just sex.
That’s why a couple of days before Christmas he’s standing in Keeley’s office, biting his lip, trying to figure out how to say what he wants to say.
“It’s just, I have this friend - “
“Jamie, do you need Sharon? I’ve told you I don’t get paid to listen to your problems.”
“No. This isn’t that kind of problem, Keeley.” He sits in the chair in front of her desk. “So there’s this person that I’m - I mean, I don’t think we’re dating.”
“You don’t think you’re dating.”
“We’re having sex pretty regularly, but we don’t really talk about it, but it’s, like, Christmas in a few days and I don’t know if we’re supposed to do gifts or, like, spend the day together, or like, Keeley you know how shit I am at this from experience.”
“Yeah, you were pretty shit at it, Jamie.” She smiles at him. “But you were shit at a lot of things back then that you’ve gotten alright at now, like being a friend. Talk to him.”
“How did you - “
“Jamie, I know you better than you think, and I have my ways.” Jamie screws up his face, trying to think if she could possibly know who. “I saw you and Colin drive in together the other day. Don’t worry, I was here early working on something; no one else saw. For the record, you seem happy lately.”
“Yeah.” He pauses. “I don’t have to ask you not to say anything? Like I don’t really care, but Colin - ”
“Jamie, I can keep a secret. We’re friends, yeah? Don’t worry.”
“Not even Roy. Especially,” he turns to look at the giant poster of Roy on her wall, “especially not Roy.”
Keeley just laughs in response.
They have training on Christmas Eve for most of the day, opting for a shorter session tomorrow so that everyone can have at least some of their Christmas to themselves. Higgins is having this thing at his house for the lads who don’t have families in the country or in general, but Jamie still hasn’t spoken with the team about everything with him and his dad. He definitely won’t be attending. If Colin is busy, he’ll probably just hang out in his backyard doing some self-training.
He tries not to think about how sad that is.
Everyone is filtering out for the day, but Jamie hangs back to talk to Colin. He wants to at least find out what Colin is doing. Even if they can just spend the day making out and not talking about anything, it’s probably better than just being alone.
Jamie isn’t sure when he started caring about being on his own, and he’s honestly not sure he likes it much.
Colin starts to leave, and Jamie catches up with him. “Hughes, wait up!” He catches his stride. “Hey.”
“Jamie.” There are still a couple of people around but most of them are out of earshot.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“I was thinking about going to the team dinner. You? Is everyone up in Manchester?” It's usually not really awkward with Colin, but then, they usually don’t talk about anything.
“Yeah, yeah they are.” They stop when they walk up to Colin’s car. It’s a really fucking nice car. “I was just - “ In Jamie’s head this was a conversation about whether or not they’re supposed to hang out, but it suddenly hits him that, really, he just kind of wants to spend Christmas day with Colin. “Do you want to hang out at mine? I can’t cook some fancy dinner or anything, but - “
“I - “ Colin pauses for just a brief moment, and Jamie thinks he’s going to say no. “Yeah, that sounds good. We can do that.”
“Cool.” Jamie’s not really sure why talking is hard for him. That’s one of the only things besides football he’s good at. He might not say the right words, but he knows how to talk.
“Do you want to - “ Colin gestures at his car.
“Not tonight.” Jamie has to go find a gift now. He’s still not sure if they’re supposed to do that but it feels like a strange thing to ask. “Tomorrow though, yeah. Tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow. See you, Jamie.”
“Yeah, See ya.”
That’s when Jamie finds himself overwhelmed in a shopping center on Christmas Eve with absolutely no fucking idea where to even being to look for a gift for his friend who is someone he has sex with and is probably-maybe-absolutely not his boyfriend.
He looks at really expensive places first, but nothing really seems appropriate. It’s all either too much or just seems like not the right thing. Jamie doesn’t even know what he’s thinking about because he just needs to get something. Or maybe he doesn’t. He’s not sure either way.
He goes to every shop in the center, and it’s been hours for something he’s not even sure matters. He might be making a complete arse of himself by even trying to find something.
And then he sees the perfect thing.
He hadn’t even thought about the team exchange and didn’t consider that he had to bring something. How the fuck is he supposed to know? He’s never even been invited to a secret santa before. He’s really thankful that Lasso and the others helped him out because he needs people to understand how hard he’s still trying to do all the right things.
Sometimes he just doesn’t really know what the right things are.
Colin is a really good example of that. Is he going to crush whatever is happening between them if he oversteps some secret boundary? He just doesn’t fucking know.
He’s gone straight home after training, and Colin is coming around behind him. Jamie doesn’t know how to make anything fancy or nice; he’s just a passable enough cook for someone who lives alone and mostly tries to eat healthy during the season.
He opts for take away. The food makes it there just before Colin, and it’s not embarrassing at all that Colin pulls in as the driver is leaving because it’s not like Jamie was planning to pretend he cooked or anything. He doesn’t even take the food out of the take away containers.
“Hey.” Jamie steps aside to let Colin in. He’s thankful Colin is carrying a little bag because it makes him feel less stupid for getting him a gift, even if that gift is stupid anyway.
“Hey.” Colin shrugs off his coat. He’s been here a load of times, and Jamie’s not sure what’s making it different this time. Maybe spending Christmas together is a bigger deal than Jamie had even realized.
They eat in relative silence, and it’s starting to make Jamie feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t like silence at the best of times.
“Merry Christmas,” Jamie says, putting down his fork. It feels awkward even to him. They’ve been sitting here for half an hour.
Colin just laughs to himself. “Merry Christmas, Jamie.” He drums his fingers on the table. “This is fucking weird. It’s okay; you can say it.”
“It’s not that weird.” Jamie mumbles it out because he knows it is that weird. “You didn’t have to come.”
“I wanted to come. Don’t do that.” Colin rolls his eyes. “It’s all this shit we’re trying to avoid talking about that’s making it weird.” Colin kicks at Jamie’s ankles. “Why did you invite me over here?”
“Because I didn’t want to spend Christmas alone,” Jamie says. But then he rethinks back over the last couple of months and the last couple of days and the last half hour. “Because I wanted to spend Christmas with you.”
“Yeah,” Colin says. “Yeah, me too.” He reaches for the bag he brought over. “It’s kind of dumb. I just thought, like - “ He shrugs.
“Hang on.” Jamie steps into the other room and comes out with his own bag. It’s just a small red bag with some tissue stuffed in because Jamie is shit at all of this. At least Colin got a bag with a tree on it. “Here.”
They open them at the same time. Jamie starts laughing because the sheer ridiculousness of what’s happening is just too much for him. There’s a box inside and when he opens the box it’s a key to Colin’s flat. The funny part is -
“I fucking hate you.” Colin pulls his gift out of the bag. It’s a key to Jamie’s place but it’s on the end of a keychain with a fucking worm on it. “I hate you so much.”
“I don’t think you do.” Jamie grins a little. “I think you’re into it.”
“Ugh, despite myself, yes.” Colin goes a bit serious. “I can’t believe we’re like this.”
“I spent this whole week trying to decide if I should even get you anything. We never talked, so I didn’t know if you’ve been seeing other people or like - “
“Jamie, I deleted my dating apps, like, a month ago, you fucking idiot.”
“I just, like, it was fun. It was easy. That’s hard to find sometimes when you’re a gay footballer. I didn’t want to fuck it up by bringing feelings into it, if this was just, like, a bit of fun for you. That would have been okay too because you’re really fucking fit and this might be the best sex I’ve never had - “
“Shut up, fucker. The point is, I like you, despite myself. I would really like it if we could stop pretending this is just sex and we don’t genuinely like each other.”
“Colin - “ Jamie is shit at this part. He fucking loves talking, but he never knows what to say when it’s important. He just leans over and kisses him. “The feeling is definitely mutual.”
“Good because I would be really fucking embarassed if you’d thrown my key back in my face.” Colin sighs. “I’m really fucking tired of talking. Can we just go to bed now? Spending Christmas day having sex with my fit boyfriend just seems like a really fucking good idea.”
“Is that what I am?” Jamie grins.
“Not for long if you don’t hurry up and take your clothes off.”
Jamie laughs and takes off running. “Bet I can beat you to the bedroom.” He’s halfway to the stairs before Colin even takes off after him.
“I fucking hate you, Tartt!”
Jamie really thinks he’s going to like this whole boyfriend thing.