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Simon wouldn't have said anything.  He was content enough to let it go without saying anything.  

But Bram had brought it up and then Simon had gotten drunk, and, well.  Things had gotten out of hand, safe to say.

It was March now.  Almost April.  Garrett was throwing a party for some reason and he was promising it to be ''the best fucking thing since Betty fucking White invited sliced bread".  

He had definitely gotten confused when Leah told him about Betty White being older than sliced bread.  Bram had said it was the stress of graduating, and the party was born out of this stress too.  

"Don't worry about him," Bram said.  "He needs this party to relive some of the pressure.  I'll make sure he's ok."

Garrett had been planning the party for weeks now, and they had all been roped in to helping him.

Two weeks before the party, Bram was dropping Simon home from Waffle House.  They had been talking about nothing really, the differences between frozen yoghurt and ice and which was undoubtedly the best (Simon said ice cream; Bram was undecided), when Bram brought it up.

He was pulling onto Simon's street and their banter had died down.  Simon was staring out the window, absentmindedly tracing patterns in the glass.

"Simon, there's something I've been meaning to ask you..." Bram trailed off.  He seemed hesitant to ask, so Simon smiled at him.

"Yeah? You can ask me anything and I'll tell you, as long as it's not about Nick's bar mitzvah because I can't explain that to you ever."

Bram's nose scrunched up in amusement and he smiled at Simon quickly.  "Ok, thats not what I was talking about but I'm going to ask Nick about that now." 

They pulled up outside Simon's house and sat for a moment.  Simon waited for Bram to say something and tried not to let the dread make his stomach heavy.

"What is it?"

"When you were outed, why did your friends stop talking to you?  I know it's not because they're homophobic because I'm pretty sure Nick tried to drunkenly give me tips on how to get laid a few weeks ago."

Simon laughed but it was a hollow laugh.  He had been hoping to avoid this conversation.  Bram knew about Martin; Simon had told him about a month after they started dating when Bram and Martin had been paired up for a group project together.  Bram had been saying Martin wasn't that bad and Simon knew that wasn't true at all.

But this hadn't been brought up before.  He had been hoping it never would be brought up again and they could just avoid it altogether.  If it got brought up, Simon knew he would only get annoyed thinking about it and it was so close to graduation, that he didn't want to ruin their friendship by bringing up something that happened months ago.

But it was Bram asking and Bram was so sweet and lovely to Simon.  Knowing him, Bram had probably been thinking about it for weeks now and was trying to find the right time to ask.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, Si," Bram said softly.

And he didn't.  Bram would drop it and never bring it up again if Simon didnt want to talk about it.  But now he did want to talk about it.  Because thinking about it, it didn't seem fair what happened and Simon needs to know if he's overreacting or if what they did wasn't ok.

He sighed heavily and clicked open his seatbelt.  "You wanna come inside?  I'll tell you over Oreos."

Twenty minutes later, they were sitring cross-legged on Simon's bed, a pack of Oreos between them.  Simon's dad had been downstairs and distracted them when he asked Bram about the upcoming basketball game.  Simon had zoned out and played around on his phone.  

Now though, they were alone - just Bram, Simon and a half open door.  Ok, maybe it wasn't half open and the tiny difference between closed and slightly open was something Simon and his mom were going to argue about later, but whatever.

"Um, you were going to tell me?"

So Simon did.  He started from the start, when Martin first blackmailed Simon.  Bram already knew about that but he listened patiently anyway, reacting appropriately.

When Simon finished, Bram was quiet.  Simon was used to this, him enthusiastically telling a story, Bram quietly listening.  He was nervous to hear what Bram had to say though.  

''I don't want to make a big deal out of it or anything.  It happened ages ago and I don't want to bring it up again, especially with graduation coming up -"

"It only happened a couple of months ago, Si," Bram interrupted.  He took Simon's hands and held them tightly.  "They shouldn't have done that and you know it."

"But-"

"But nothing.  They're your friends, Simon.  They should have been there for you.  I can understand why Abby was angry but Leah and Nick? And they didn't apologise either.  They left you alone when you needed them the most and acted like the whole world was against them.  I'm sorry if it's hard to hear that because they're you're friends and they're mine too, but they shouldn't have done that."

Simon got cross then.  Sure they did that thing but they're his friends and they didn't really mean harm by it.  Bram couldn't just sit there and insult them?

"I don't think you understand, Bram.  They were upset and it was my fault.  It's behind us now, so I don't get why you had to bring it up -"

"I was just asking!"

"Well you shouldn't have."

"You didn't have to tell me."

"So it's my fault then?"

"You sure seem to think so and that's the problem."

"There was no problem until you started prying," Simon said, viciously.  "Why can't you just stay out of it?  It's none of your business."

He shouldn't have said that.  Bram flinched slightly, hurt written in the shape of his lips and the colour of his eyes.

"I was just trying to help, Simon.''

"I don't need your help."

Bram wouldn't look at him.  He stood up abruptly and grabbed his bag off the floor, slinging it over his shoulder.  

"I should go."

"Bram..." 

"I'll see you tomorrow."  He walked to the door and then stopped, turning to face Simon.  "I was only trying to help, Simon.  You're my boyfriend.  I care about you.  Obviously, I want what's best for you.  You don't need to lash out."

Then he was gone and Simon was left feeling completely miserable.  He heard Bram's car start and back out of the driveway.  The empty packet of Oreos lay on the bed, the crumbs disappearing under the shifting sheets when Simon stood up.  

God he was an idiot. 

 

*

 

Simon didn't really sleep that night.  He was thinking too much, about his fight with Bram, about what Bram said, about his possible (definite) upcoming fight with his friends.

In school that morning, Simon went to find Bram to apologise.  He was at his locker and he looked grumpy.  Simon leaned against the lockers beside Bram.

"Hey," he said softly.

"Hi."  It was short and clipped. 

"Look, I'm sorry.  You were right and I shouldn't have said those things."

Bram sighed and stopped angrily tidying out his already immaculately clean locker.  He finally looked at Simon and smiled gently.

"I'm sorry too.  I shouldn't have pushed you to tell me -"

"You didn't! I was overreacting -"

"Don't be silly, you were right -"

"No, you were -"

"I think we should end this before it even starts," Bram chuckles.  Simon smiled. 

"I really am sorry though, Bram.  I overreacted and you were right.  So, I'm going to talk to them about it."

"You are?!"  It was comical, the way Bram's eyes widened and his jaw dropped.  

"Um, yeah?"

"Sorry, I just didn't think you actually would."

"Thanks for the boost of confidence."

Bram rolled his eyes.  "You were pretty adamant about it yesterday."

"Yeah, yeah," Simon brushed it off.  "We've put that behind us now, remember?"

"Yeah."  They smiled at each other and if they were straight, Simon would have leaned in and kissed Bram so fiercely, the group of girls giggling and 'discretely' staring at them would have gotten good value for the show.

(Maybe he should begin charging people who stare at them...they would make a lot of money).

The bell rang and broke them out of their reverie.

''I'll see you at lunch?"

"Yeah, I'll see you then," Simon grinned, distracted by Bram's eyes.

Now all he needed to do was find a good time to confront his friends. 

Perfect.

 

*

 

Two weeks later and Simon still hadn't brought it up with his friends.  He had had plenty of opportunities but had been too much of a chicken to do it every time.

It was stressing him out.  That's probably why he got so drunk at Garrett's party.  

Here's the thing: Simon doesn't drink; not often anyway.  So when he does drink the odd time, he gets really drunk really fast.

An hour into Garrett's rager of a party (it turned out to be just as good as promised), Simon was completely twisted.

He was dancing with Abby.  The drink in his hand sloshed across his chest and wrist but he didn't care.  Abby was shouting along to the song but she kept mixing up the words, which...was the funniest thing ever.  

Simon couldn't remember why he was angry.  He was angry with Abby but it just seemed very irrelevant right now.

Abby said something to him and he didn't hear it.  He looked at her, confused.  She leaned in and shouted in his ear. 

"You wanna get a drink?  I'm gonna get one!"

They stumbled into the kitchen, Abby gripping Simon's arm.  The kitchen was loud, but a different kind of loud from the living room. Instead of blaring music and drunken shouts, there was beer pong, and rowdy laughter and the sound of cans clinking and falling.

There was also Bram, beautiful, beautiful Bram, leaning against a counter, a red solo cup held close to his lips.  (Nick and Garrett were there too but they didn't have pretty eyes like Bram so Simon didn't care).  Nick said something to him and he laughed.  It was quiet and clear and music to Simon's ears.

He ignored the counter with the drink and the excited roar from the beer pong table.  He tugged on Abby's arm and said, "Bram is here!  He's much better than alcohol, Abby!  Let's go!"

He dragged her to their friends, but she stopped complaining when she saw Nick.  The boys greeted them enthusiastically, all either a bit tipsy (Bram) or sloppily drunk (Nick and Garrett).  

Simon slung his arm around Bram's shoulders and leaned into him, smiling broadly.  Bram squeezed Simon's hip with his free hand and then rested it loosely there.  Simon, using all of his liquid courage, kissed the corner of Bram's mouth.  He had been aiming for his cheek but he was a little bit unsteady on his feet.  Bram smiled brightly at him and squeezed his hip again.

"Hey hey hey, you guys listen.  We're having an important debate here about what Disney princess Garrett would be and we need your input," Nick said, waving his hand at them.  

Simon rolled his eyes and Abby stuck her tongue out at him.  She was leaning into Nick's side the way Simon was leaning into Bram's.  

"Obviously, Rapunzel," Bram said.  

''Excuse me, I am a Snow White," Garrett said, outraged.  

"As if," Bram scoffed.

Simon zoned out of the argument that followed shortly after and looked around at his friends.  Leah had found them five minutes into the debate and was actively riling up Garrett and Nick.  Abby was laughing and occasionally chiming in.

He really couldn't remember why he had been so angry at them.  Bram knew though.  Obviously.  Bram knew everything about Simon.

He poked Bram's cheek to get his attention.  "Hey there, Mr Blue Sir."

"Well hey," Bram grinned.

It really was such a pretty smile.

"Why am I annoyed again?"

Bram laughed.  "Si, I have no idea why you're annoyed."

"But you do," he whined.  "You know everything."

Bram laughed again and, God, Simon was in love.

It came to him slowly throughout the course of the night.  

He remembered why he was annoyed when Abby started talking about something and then quickly back-tracked.  

When Simon asked her about it, she blushed and mumbled, "Simon it's nothing.  Just something Nick, Leah and I were talking about after Christmas."

'After Christmas' was code for 'That Time Simon's Friends Got Angry At Him For Being Blackmailed.'

But no one ever said that aloud.

It sobered Simon up pretty quickly so he just took more shots until he was more inebriated than before.

By the end of the night, Simon was angry again.  Except this time he had good reason (sorry, Bram).  Conversations from After Christmas had been brought up two more times and someone had joked about Martin not being that bad.

Simon was pissed - both drunk and angry.

At around two the party started clearing out.  Garrett had offered for Simon and his friends to stay at his after the party, and they were all in the kitchen, standing around having one last drink when Simon finally lost it.

Garrett and Bram were rounding up the last stragglers.  Leah, Nick and Abby were laughing about something that Simon didn't understand because they wouldn't tell him and he was just so fed up.

"It was like that time after Christmas when Nick -"

"What time?" Simon interrupted Abby.  The others continued giggling but turned their drunken focus on him.  "Was this before or after you decided you wouldn't apologise for ditching me after I was outed?"

The room went very quiet despite the persistent, pumping music still playing in the background.

 "What are you talking about Simon?" Nick said, and from his tone of voice, Simon could tell it had bothered them that he had brought it up at all.

"I'm talking about how my best friends abandoned me, for no apparent reason, when I needed them the most."

"We told you why, Simon.  Can't we just leave it alone?"  Leah said.

"Yeah and I get where Abby is coming from.  Obviously, it was wrong of me to try and pawn you off on Martin but I had no other choice.  And you two had no solid reason at all to be angry at me.  How was I to know that you liked me, Leah?  Abby and Nick, you guys ended up together anyways.  But it's all still my fault, right?

You guys have never once blamed Martin for it all, you've only blamed me.  Martin was the reason it took you a few extra months to get together, and the reason why I tried to set Nick and Leah up together.  

You don't know what it's like to have someone blackmailing you about something you can't even admit to yourself.  And then what?  You all decided you didn't need to apologise?  I said sorry.  I knew what I had done was wrong and I shouldn't have done it.  

But you guys left me alone.  You completely abandoned me.  You didn't even try to stop those assholes in the cafeteria.  It was like our friendship meant nothing.  

And I'm sorry about what I did, really I am.  I wish things could have gone differently.  But what you did really hurt me.  And I'm not ready to forget about it and "let it go" like nothing happened at all.  I hate trying to pretend like nothing happened because you act like nothing did and that isn't fair to me."

"Simon, come on.  Don't you think you're overreacting a little bit?  It happened months ago," Nick said.

At some stage, Bram and Garrett had come into the kitchen.  Simon hadn't noticed them.  Leah and Abby still said nothing.

He couldn't believe this.  Maybe it was just Nick being drunk and heterosexual but Simon didn't care anymore.  He turned on his heel and left the room.

He walked straight out of the house and sat on the porch and tried not to cry.  He buried his face in his hands and took slow deep breaths.  

It didn't work.  The world was spinning and he was too dizzy and drunk to make sense of things.  He didn't want to stay here.  He wanted to go home.

"Hey," Bram said softly beside him.  He slipped his arm around Simon's shoulders and pulled him against his side, rubbing Simon's arm slowly.

"Bram, that was a disaster.  I'm a gay disaster, why did you let me do this."

Bram laughed quietly.  "If I remember correctly - and I am quite drunk so I might not remember correctly - I left the room and came back ten minutes later to find you going off on them.  I don't think I could have or would have stopped you if I wad there anyways."

Simon out his head on Bram's shoulder and breathed in his familiar scent.  His hands were shaking and he felt weird and pokey, like he always did after confrontations.

"I just wanna go home."

"I'm too drunk to bring you home."

"God, why are you so responsible?"

Bram giggled and then Simon giggled too, and then they were both drunkenly giggling.

"I'm gonna call my mom," Simon said.  He fumbled with his phone and squinted at the screen.  It was very bright. 

''I'll do it," Bram mumbled.  He took the phone out of Simon's hands and almost dropped it.  "S'okay, I got it."

Simon played with Bram's free hand while he waited.  Bram sounded very smart and professional on the phone.  Part of Simon knew they both sounded absolutely wasted but the other part of Simon was a horny teenager who liked the sound of his boyfriend's voice.

The horny teenager part overcame the other part and they were making out as soon as Bram put the phone down.  

Bram slid his hands into Simon's hair and kissed him hard.  Simon loved kissing Bram.  It was sweet and soft and gentle and fast and hard and electric all at the same time.  He loved the feel of Bram's lips under his lips and his skin under his hands.

It was so much better kissing Bram than it was kissing one of his old girlfriends.

Bram pulled back after a few minutes, both of them breathing heavy.  Simon chased his lips but Bram pushed his face away.  He nipped Bram's palm and pouted at him when Bram yelped and pulled his hand away.

"Kinky," Bram said, with and exaggerated wink.  "But we should probably talk about the thing."

"What thing?"

Bram looked at him.  "The thing in there."  He jerked his head towards the house.  "You know, where you just gave out to your friends."

"Right, yes, of course!  That thing."  Simon had completely forgot about it, distracted by Bram's lips.  "Yeah.  There's not much to talk about.  I said what I had to say and it's up to them to do what they want with that.  I don't want them to ignore it but I don't want them to ignore me either, so I don't know.  I'll give them the weekend to think it over."

Bram was staring at his lips.  "That was so sexy."

Simon laughed.  "What, me saying what I had to say?"

"Yes," Bram said.  He kissed Simon's laughter away and left him breathless all over again.

Bram pulled away abruptly.  "I think I might be sick."

''Ew, get away from me."  

Thats how Simon's mom found them - Bram with his head between his knees and Simon rubbing his back.

"Is he ok?"

"He's fine, just a little dizzy," Simon said.

"Hi Mrs Spier," Bram croaked.  He smiled wobbly at her.  

Simon's mom frowned.  "Are you sure you're ok, Bram?  I can drop you home too."

"His mom isn't home; she's away for the weekend," Simon said.

''You can come home with us then," she said.  ''I'm not going to leave you here now."

Bram protested quietly that she really didn't have to but he gave up after his mom looked at him sternly.

Garrett had come out to them about five minutes before Simon's mom arrived.  He had brought out their bags and left them quickly after to avoid Simon's mom seeing him piss drunk.

It was a quick trip to the car, grabbing their bags and trying not to stumble too much.  Simon could tell his mother wasn't pleased with him but she was still letting Bram stay over, so she must not be too mad.

She definitely wasn't mad.  When they tested the house, she let Bram stay in Simon's room, on the small couch/bed that Leah normally slept on, albeit the door was left open.

Bram fell asleep pretty quickly, mumbling drunken good night's to Simon, his hand resting on the bottom of Simon's bed like he tried to hold his hand but fell asleep.

Simon fell asleep soon after to the sound of Bram's soft snores and the whirling thoughts of his friends in his head.

*

"Simon."

"Eughhhh," Simon grunted.  Someone was shaking his leg.  Why where they shaking his leg?  It was too early for that.  He briefly thought it might be a serial killer but then didn't feel like moving.  If it was a murderer, they could take him now.  His head was pounding and his stomach was sick.  

"Simon," they hissed again.

"Eughhhh," he groaned louder.  "What?" His voice was muffled by the pillows.

"Simon, wake up.  I can smell pancakes," and that was Bram whispering and pulling his ankle.  Of course.

"Ugh, just go eat them and leave me alone," Simon grumbled.  He loved his boyfriend, he really did, but it was too early for this.

"I can't just go downstairs and eat them by myself, Si!"

"Uh, yes you can.  No one will care."

"Simon," he pleaded, and Simon understood that feeling of being in someone else's house when you're hungry, even if you're really close to the person and that family. 

"Fine," he groaned.  He stretched his arm out and fumbled for his phone on the bedside table.  He squinted at the screen.  It was 9:49 am.  He had two messages from Leah and one missed call from his mom.

It was too early to deal with this.

He sat up and scrubbed his eyes.  Bram was sitting at the end of the bed, looking worse for wear but like he had been up for ages.

"How long have you been awake?" Simon asked.

"Since 8:30?  I can't really sleep in late at someone else's house."

"Even when you're hungover?"

''Especially when I'm hungover.  What if I am going to be sick and then I throw up on the carpet because I wasn't awake in time to get to the bathroom?  I would die Simon."

"That's oddly specific."  He threw off the the covers and stretched.

"So," Bram trailed off.  Simon was shuffling around, plugging his phone in and getting a warm lair of socks.  "Any word from your friends?"

Simon sighed.  "I've some texts from them but I don't feel like opening them right now."

"Garrett said we don't have to help clean up his house.  The four of them is enough."

Simon groaned.  "I had completely forgotten about that and now I feel bad."

"Don't worry about that, Si.  Garrett doesn't mind.  I'll get an earful on Monday about leaving his house to stay at yours though.  He's going to be looking for some spicy details even though I feel asleep straight away," Bram said, rolling his eyes.

"Still better than the earful I'll be getting or the lack of earful?  That didn't make sense, but I'm tired, gay and hungover so let's eat pancakes and forget about straight people right now."

Bram laughed.  "That's a gay mood."

*

Monday came quicker than Simon would have hoped.  

Bram and Simon had spent Saturday morning in the Waffle House when Nora's pancakes weren't up to her standard and a frustrated Nora threw them away.  

They sat at the table for ages, laughing and talking quietly, too hungover for noise but too proud to admit that the bright lights were killing them.  After a while, they lazily meandered back to Simon's house.  

Simon's parents weren't too pressed about last night.  They were just happy Bram or Simon hadn't tried to drive and no one threw up so everything was ok.

Bram eventually had to go home.  He was supposed to be staying at Garrett's and wanted to get there early enough as an apology for bailing on him.

That left Simon alone with his thoughts for the rest of the day.  He didn't hear from his friends, aside from the two texts from Leah, which were just meant for her mom.  

Come Monday morning, Simon was an anxious ball of nerves.  He wanted things to work out between him and his friends.  He had so little time left with them that he had ignored those thoughts but now that he had brought the issue to light, Simon didn't know what was going to happen.

He avoided his friends all morning.  

He didn't mean to - he just didn't want to throw down with them in middle of a crowded hallway between classes.  They water talk to him though.  Nick kept trying to catch his eye in the hallway, and both Abby and Leah followed him out of classrooms but the rowdy crowd swallowed him up before they got the chance to say anything.

Lunch came quickly enough.  He wasn't sure what to do.

"We can skip lunch today and go somewhere?" Bram suggested. 

Simon sighed and shook his head.  "No, I think they want to talk to me.  I may as well just get it over with.  There's no point waiting around to see if they want to be friends with me anymore."

"Of course they do, Simon.  You're just being dramatic," Bram said.

Simon didn't think so.

Leah, Abby, Nick and Garrett were already at the table, talking quiety when they arrived. They stopped talking abruptly and shared looks.  The silence was awkward and stiff.

Abby sighed.  "Look, Simon, we've thought about it and we're sorry.  We were angry and dumb and we didn't think about how you were feeling.  We didnt know it would hurt you that much -"

"Of course it would,'Simon interjected.

Abby sighed again.  "We know that know.  What we did was dumb and stupid and completely out of line.  You're our friend Simon.  We never meant to hurt you.  And we will never ever do something like that again.  You don't have to forgive us because I know it's not enough to just say sorry, but we really are.  Just, please for hate us forever."

"Yeah, Simon.  I'm sorry," Nick said.

"Me too," Leah said softly.  "You didn't know ad it was dumb of me to get so angry about it."

"And I shouldn't have acted like that, Si," Nick said.

"Thanks," Simon said quietly.

Bram squeezed Simon's knee under the table. 

"And we're really sorry about the lunch thing.  We should have done something," Nick said.

"Its fine-"

"No it isn't and we're just really sorry.  We should have thought about you more."

"I mean, we don't even know how it all happened in the first place," Abby said.

"God that's a long story," Simon groaned.

"You end up hating Martin very much in the end," Bram said conspiratorly.

"Uh, and we never even found out how you guys got together?  Like we know there were emails but?  That's all we know!" Abby said.

Bram and Simon looked at each other and smiled.  Simon blushed and looked away.

"I suppose I should tell you since it's been months," Simon said and launched into the story from the very start.

And it wasn't perfect.  Things between them were awkward for a few more days.  But it got better and his friends got better, and they learned.  

They didn't ignore the After Christmas stage and they explained things to Simon that happened then.  They constantly apologised about it for the next few days until Simon hsd to tell them to stop.  The next time someone hurled slurs at Simon down the hall, Nick reported them to the office and Abby and Leah turned everyone they could think of against them.

It wasn't perfect but it was a start.  Simon finally felt satisfied about something he hadn't realised was making him unhappy.  

And it was nice to know that his friends had his back.  It was nice to know that they had learned and grown from what they had done.  It was nice to know that Simon could trust them not to do something stupid like that again.

Simon looked around the table at his friends and smiled.

Yeah.  It was nice to have friends who cared.