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untouchable (burning brighter than the sun)

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i.

 

          Keeley is the first person he tells because he wants to, not just because it’s in his medical file that he’s on testosterone. He got top surgery as soon as his doctor gave the okay, and his dad honestly doesn’t give a shit as long as he’s good at football — which, he fucking is. So he doesn’t really see a point in letting anybody else know. Getting sent to Richmond is a fucking nightmare, and it’s difficult because the showers don’t have stalls separating everyone like they did back in Man City. So he either stays back until everyone’s gone before showering, or he simply showers at home — let the others think he thinks he’s too good to shower with them, it’s better that way. 

 

          So, it’s fine for a while. He showers at home, he plays football, he fights with Roy fucking Kent, — and isn’t that a dream and a nightmare all wrapped in one — and nobody ever says anything about the scars on his chest. It’s good. It’s great even. He doesn’t like playing for Richmond, but he’s fine. 

 

          And then he meets Keeley Jones. 

 

          He’s never been in such a committed relationship before. He’s had sex once or twice, but it’s always been with strangers, and he usually never speaks to them again. But Keeley is different — she likes him, even though he’s a fucking prick — and he finds himself enjoying the time they spend together. They don’t have sex, not at first, because he’s fucking terrified, and also because Keeley doesn’t push him. He’s fingered her and eaten her out a few times, but she never pushes when she suggests returning the favour and he says he’s good. ( Also, for some reason, every time the boys tease her about how good he is in bed, she always hypes him like he’s the best sex she’s ever had — he doesn’t show it often, but he’s so fucking grateful for her ). Eventually, though, things do need to be addressed, and a few months into their relationship, Keeley finally starts the conversation.

 

          He’s not big on talking. Especially when it involves feelings. Whether it’s some deep rooted part of him that whispers he’s not a real man if he talks about things as stupid as feelings, or if it’s just because he’s not used to somebody actually caring about him, he doesn’t know. But he’s tense when Keeley sits him down and asks if he’s actually interested in sex, or if he’s just doing it for her benefit. It’s sweet, in the grand scheme of things, that she keeps reminding him that they don’t have to have sex to be in a relationship. But it’s too much talking, and too many feelings, and before Jamie can think too much about it, he grabs Keeley’s hand and shoves it down his pants. 

 

          It’s quiet for a moment. Jamie isn’t even sure he’s breathing, and Keeley’s surprise is written clearly across her face. Just when he’s beginning to regret his decision — what the fuck was he even thinking — Keeley smirks and begins to rub him slowly with her fingers. He lets out a surprised gasp that melts into a pleased hum, and he can’t stop the grin that takes over his face as Keeley turns to straddle him. There’s no more talking after that. 

 

          She still wants to be with him, still uses his correct pronouns, and still brags to everybody about what a good shag he is — only this time, he’s pretty sure it’s not for show. 





——





ii.

 

          Jamie doesn’t know what the fuck Ms. Welton was thinking when she hired Ted Lasso, but he’s glad he’s not the only one. For once, it’s not just him “behaving like a child” when it comes to this man all of sudden showing up and deciding he knows how to coach football. The fucking gaffer didn’t even know what half the words they used meant, and don’t even get Jamie started on that fucking never ending optimism. There is no fucking way that somebody can be that god damn happy about everything in the world — it’s unnatural. But it’s whatever. He ignores Coach Lasso, he ignores Coach Beard, and he continues to play exactly as he did before. He messes around with Colin and Isaac, he fucks with Nate Shelley, and pisses Roy off even more. 

 

          But he can feel Lasso’s eyes on him more often than not, and he knows the gaffer’s read his goddamn medical file, so if he’s gonna be an arsehole about it, Jamie would just rather him get on with it already. It does happen eventually though, and when Lasso calls him into his office after training that day, he tries to ignore his rapidly beating heart. He brushes off Colin and Isaac’s teasing as he makes his way to the coaches office, and he tries not to feel too suffocated as Lasso closes the door and sits down at his desk. He’s just watching Jamie, not saying anything, and at this point Jamie would rather one of Lasso’s weird fucking stories about Kansas over the damming silence. 

 

          “Er, what did you want to speak about, Coach?” He’s too nervous to sound cocky and confident, but he makes sure he’s standing up to his full height, and he keeps his hands behind his back so Lasso won’t see him fidgeting. 

 

          Lasso leans forward, his chin resting on his hands, and that’s when Jamie notices his file on Lasso’s desk. “Well, Jamie, I was just taking a little looksie at your file here, makin’ sure I knew all the basics like allergies and what not, but uh. Well, I figured you’d prefer to tell me in person, rather than me just making assumptions about you based on a piece of paper.”

 

          He wants to be pissed. He wants to laugh mockingly at Lasso, make some snide remarks and storm out like the child he is, but he can’t. Because this is — this is the best any coach has ever handled the situation before, and Jamie hates that it’s Lasso because he’s supposed to hate this man for showing up like he did.

 

          “Right,” he says, rocking back on his feet slightly. “You saw I take testosterone, yeah?” At Lasso’s nod, Jaime lets out a small breath, bringing his hands forward to fiddle with his jacket. “Erm, yeah, I’m trans, so that’s what that’s for — but you don’t gotta worry about it, yeah Coach, ‘cause it don’t affect the way I play or anything, like.” 

 

          Lasso is smiling softly now, and Jamie wants to fucking hate him, but in the moment he can’t. Maybe tomorrow he’ll go back to acting like a brat, but for now he’s just standing quietly in Lasso’s office, and feeling like a small child that’s either about to be praised or scolded by his teacher. 

 

          “Thank you for telling me, Jamie, that couldn’t have been easy,” Lasso says, and Jamie does scoff at that and roll his eyes. “I hope you can trust me, and let me know if there’s anything that you need down the line to make you more comfortable.” 

 

          Jamie coughs awkwardly. “Thanks, Coach, but I’m good, yeah.”

 

          Lasso nods, his smile back full force, and Jamie wants to hate it so much, so he just turns and leaves. He tells Keeley about it that night, and she says she’s happy for him, and instead of thinking about it too much beyond that, they have sex instead. 

 

          ( And yes, when Lasso brings out that stupid fucking suggestion box, he writes ‘fuck off, wanker’ because he’s petty. But he also writes about there being no stalls in the showers, not really expecting much out of it. He doesn’t know how the fuck Lasso does it so quickly, but a few weeks after the suggestion box, Jamie arrives to find the locker room abuzz, everyone talking about the random addition of the dividers in the showers. Jamie purposefully does not look at Lasso, and he still waits until most of the locker room is empty after training that day, but he peeks into the showers to find that it’s true. And despite the fact that he can still hear some stragglers hanging around, Jamie goes to the last stall in the room and takes a shower. It’s feels fucking awesome ). 





——





iii.

 

          He doesn’t even mean to tell Roy fucking Kent, the fucking old prick. He doesn’t plan to get along with or talk to him in a civil manner at all , but fucking Lasso keeps insisting on them bonding or whatever. He’s adamant on continuing to fight with the old geezer, and Roy — for once — seems to be on the same page as him. But then they’re standing by the bar and Jamie’s admitting that he used to have a poster of Roy Kent up on his wall as a kid, and he doesn’t know why he keeps talking, but he does. He barely pauses as he continues with his story, mentioning how people used to make fun of him as a kid, they always told him he was stupid, that a girl wasn’t allowed to play professional football. ( Which is bullshit, on so many levels, never mind the fact that he had been talking about playing on the men's team — for obvious reasons ). 

 

          They don’t speak to each other for the rest of the night, but then Roy is approaching him after most people have left the gala — after Keeley breaks up with him, because he’s an arsehole and he can never keep anything good in his life for too long — and he looks almost constipated.

 

          “The fuck do you want?” 

 

          Roy growls, but seems to take a deep breath, as if they’re about to have another mature conversation. “Does anyone else know?”

 

          And Jamie really has no idea what the fuck he’s talking about. “What?”

 

          “Does anyone else fucking know? That you’re trans?” Roy grunts, looking pained to be having to talk to Jamie without yelling for the second time that night.

 

          Jamie’s honestly too tired to really care about the conversation at this point, and Roy might be an old prick, but he really doesn’t think the man would do anything horrible with the information. “Just Keeley and Coach Lasso — possibly Coach Beard,” he says. “I don’t have to tell you to keep it to yourself, yeah?”

 

          Now Roy looks pissed. “I’m not a fucking monster, Tartt.”

 

          “Yeah, whatever, Kent,” Jamie says, punching him lightly in the shoulder as he walks past him. “Night, old man.”

 

          They don’t talk about it again. 





——





iv.

 

          He plans to tell Colin and Isaac. He also plans to apologise to them, because even though they’re probably his only real friends on this team, he’s still been an arsehole to them. So, yeah, he has a whole script that Keeley helped him write up — because even though he’s a prick, and he hurt her, they’re still friends — and he’s nervous, but he’s ready. He’s finally going to come out to people that he’s not sleeping with, people that are just his friends and don’t need to know for various other reasons. He plans for it to happen after the curse bonfire, because he shared a part of himself that he never imagined himself sharing with his team, and he feels confident and happy

 

          And then Ted fucking Lasso sends him back to Man City. 

 

          It shouldn’t hurt. He knows that nobody actually ever cares about him, and if they ever do, it can only last so long. He shouldn’t be upset, but he is. The thing is, he felt safe with Richmond, he felt safe with that fucking gaffer. Somebody who — even though Jamie had been nothing but rude to him — had treated him like he meant something. And just when he thinks he’s finally making a breakthrough, when he’s actually starting to get his shit together, he gets sent away. 

 

          And isn’t it funny, that the majority of his time spent with Richmond he had wanted to go back to Man City, but now that he’s actually going back, he fucking hates it. But it’s fine. He deals with it. He deals with his old man, he deals with the homophobic and transphobic comments his teammates make — none of them try anything, but that doesn’t stop them from talking — and he deals with his feelings about leaving Richmond by not dealing with them. So yeah, he has a blast. He plays fucking great, he gets Richmond relegated, he injures Roy enough that the man retires, and he joins that stupid fucking reality tv show. He does it to piss off his dad, and he’s uncomfortable the whole time, but everyone had to sign a bunch of NDA’s that ensured they wouldn’t leak him being trans to the press, so it’s whatever. He’s living his best life. He gets voted off Lust Conquers All , sells his house and buys the cutest fucking flat he could find in London — the complete opposite of what people would expect Jamie Tartt to buy — gets rejected by Ted Lasso and Richmond, becomes friends with his 80 year old neighbor, and then gets welcomed back to Richmond, once again. ( Well, welcomed is a strong word, but he’s back, and it feels good ). 

 

          Except, everybody hates him. Which is fair for the most part, but some of these guys also acted like pricks along with him, so a part of him is a bit miffed when they get pissed at him, as if they weren’t bullying Nate when he asked them to. But, it’s fine. Because he’s trying, he’s actually fucking trying this time, and even if it backfires on him again and again, he won’t stop. Richmond is where he wants to be, so he’ll make it work. And if in the end, everyone hates him and his only friend is Dani — because, come on, it’s Dani — then it’ll be fine. He’s a good player, he’s a fucking great player, and now he’s also a team player. So long as they can work together and win on the pitch, Jamie will simply wallow in self pity alone when nobody wants anything to do with him off of it. 

 

          But then the Dubai Air protest happens, and he stands by Sam — by his teammates. Not because he wants to get in their good graces, but because it’s the right thing to do, and he’s working on being a better person, so of course he does it. 

 

          Things shift after that. They accept him, welcome him, as a part of the team. He’s their friend now. He hangs out with them after training, he jumps on Sam’s back whenever they’re celebrating and nobody gives him a dirty look, he starts messing around with Colin and Isaac again. They don’t go back to the way they were, of course not, what they did to Nate was shit — it’s more like little harmless pranks that they play on the team, on their friends . ( Like putting salt in Jan Maas’ tea and watching, horrified, as he drinks the whole thing anyway ). It’s fun, he’s happy again — and then he finds the crumpled up script he and Keeley wrote when he was going to come out to Colin and Isaac, and he remembers that he never got the chance to actually go through with it. He throws it out, writes a new one, and then messages them asking if they want to see his new place after training the next day. 

 

          They make a pit stop on the way home — Jamie is driving, because there is no way he’s letting Colin kill them all when he’s just finally gotten them back — because Isaac says he wants to cook, and Colin suggests buying some fancy wine as a housewarming gift, and Jamie just lets them do their thing. 

 

          “Damn, that is not what I expected, bruv,” Isaac says as soon as they arrive at his place.

 

          “That was kind of the point, yeah,” he shrugs awkwardly, feeling stupid for feeling self conscious over a flat. “Nobody’s gonna look for me here.”

 

          Colin claps him on the back. “You’re a fucking genius.” 

 

          The night goes well. It goes really well, and by the end of it they’re all sprawled across Jamie’s living room, slightly tipsy on whatever fancy shit Colin bought, and watching Moana because it’s fucking good. Maybe it’s the wine, or maybe it’s just because of how comfortable he feels, but Jamie disregards the entire script he had planned out as he watches on, content, as Colin and Isaac hum along to the music. He’s half hanging off the couch, a fluffy pillow held in his arms, and he just feels so warm and happy, that he doesn’t even think before saying it. 

 

          “I’m trans.”

 

          Colin and Isaac stop humming immediately and both turn to face him at the same time. Colin falls out of the arm chair, and it would probably be a lot funnier if Jamie wasn’t holding his breath, waiting for their reactions. 

 

          Isaac nods, looking intensely pleased, and Jamie feels himself relax a bit. “Thanks for trusting us with that, bruv.”

 

          “Is that why you got them scars?” Colin asks before Jamie can respond to Isaac. 

 

          Jamie lets out a small laugh at the bluntness of a tipsy Colin — he could rival Jan Maas’ bluntness if drunk enough. “Er, yeah, they’re from top surgery, y’know, to remove me–” he gestures at his chest, hoping they’ll understand. 

 

          “Did it hurt?” Colin asks.

 

          Isaac knocks him upside the head. “Course it hurt, you fuckwit, don’t ask stupid questions.”

 

          It’s such a Colin and Isaac way to respond to the situation that Jamie can’t help the slightly hysterical laughter that bubbles up from inside him. The others follow quickly, and that pressure that was in his chest is completely gone. They don’t talk about it directly the next day, but Isaac offers him a firm nod from across the locker room, and Colin is more touchy than usual throughout the day. It’s makes him feel happy and safe, and he fucking dominates during training that day that not even Roy can find anything to yell at him about. 





——





v.

 

          Things have been weird since the game at Man City — since his dad fucking humiliated him in front of his team, and Jamie fell apart in Roy fucking Kent’s arms. It’s not like things are different , Roy doesn’t treat him any differently than before — thank fuck — but it’s still humiliating. The whole team had stood there while his dad belittled him and insulted their playing. Jamie doesn’t know if anybody was close enough to hear his dad ranting about him not being fit enough to play because of what he had going on downstairs, but he prays to any god that’s out there that none of them heard that. If they did, nobody says anything about it, and Jamie really hopes it’ll stay that way. 

 

          After the match, Colin and Isaac go home with him, just in case his dad manages to find out where he lives. ( He doesn’t have Jamie’s new address, and hopefully it’ll stay that way ). Neither of them say anything as Jamie curls up on the couch, refusing to make eye contact or speak with them. Isaac simply switches on the telly, and Colin sits down and wraps an arm around him, pulling Jamie’s head down into his lap so he can stretch out across the couch. The next time he shows up to training, the locker room chatter dims, but before he can think too much of it, Dani is pulling him into a hug and apologising for not stepping in earlier. After that, they don’t talk about it again, but Jamie can feel their eyes on him — watching, waiting for something to happen. 

 

          Jamie elects to ignore it, even though he can feel the oncoming conversation that’s going to happen. Only, it doesn’t, because Rebecca’s dad dies, and they all go to the funeral. And Jamie fucks himself up even more by telling Keeley he still loves her. He’s not in love with her, not the way he used to be — their relationship wasn’t good for them in the grand scheme of things, but he’s so fucking lucky she’s still in his life — but articulating his feelings into words is hard, so he fucks it up. He leaves when he notices Roy coming over, he sits with Dani on the bus and they discuss the pros and cons of dress shoes — Dani only lists cons — and he goes home and curls up in bed and pretends the day didn’t happen. But it did happen, and he can’t get it out of his head, so he apologises to Roy — he thinks he’s forgiven, he honestly can’t tell — and then he’s not thinking about it, because they have a game to win. And they do! Well, it’s a draw, but they’re back in the Premier League, and it’s cause for a celebration big enough to shove all of his negativity to the back of his brain.

 

          The break is good. It’s a welcome one, in all honesty, and for once Jamie is spending it with people that care about him as much as he cares about them. He spends a lot of time with Colin — when the other man isn’t visiting his family in Wales — and the times that his mates are with family members, Jamie spends either cat sitting, babysitting — because he has a new neighbor, and she’s a single mum with two kids — or annoying Keeley ( which by extension, means annoying Roy ). It gets lonely sometimes, when everyone is visiting family or busy with something or other, but it’s probably one of the best off seasons he’s ever had. 

 

          So, of course, when they start training again, everything has to go to shit. Because Jamie can’t be content with his life for more than a few months, can he? 

 

          They have a new doctor — not a therapist, though Dr. Sharon had given Jaime some recommendations before she left, so he should probably look into those. It’s not a big deal, she’s just there for basic check ups, physical therapy, and the like. It shouldn’t be a big deal — she just wants to meet with each player individually, double check some things, Jamie doesn’t know, he isn’t really paying attention when Ted explains it.

 

          He isn’t expecting much when he goes in for his own check up, is mainly worried about what he’s going to do with Erica and Jackson — his neighbors kids — this weekend, so he doesn’t pay too much attention to Dr. Drake as she checks over his vitals. Of course, this is where everything starts to go wrong.

 

          “Okay, everything looks perfect, Mr. Tartt,” she says, mostly to herself, as she goes over his file. “Just wanted to double check, it says here you take testosterone — do you administer that yourself, or do you come in for that?”

 

          “Nah, I do that meself,” he says, pushing up off the medical table. “Don’t feel comfortable doin’ it ‘round others.” 

 

          “And this hasn’t interfered with your playing so far, has it?”

 

          This gets Jamie’s attention. “No,” he says slowly, frowning. “I got top surgery years ago, and I’ve been takin’ testosterone since I was a teenager, it don’t affect me playing at all.”

 

          It honestly feels like the air in the room drops. The easy going and lighthearted attitude that has taken over the atmosphere has changed into the feeling that Jamie used to get whenever his father showed up after a game. 

 

          “Ah,” Dr. Drake’s tone is stilted now, and Jamie looks up to find her frowning. “So you take testosterone as…”

 

          “Hormone treatment,” he says carefully. “Is there a problem with it, Doctor?”

 

          There is very clearly a problem with it, what with the way Drake’s entire body language has changed, but he’s never been good with confronting authority figures, so he simply watches and waits for whatever’s going to come next. 

 

          “No, no problem,” Drake mutters to herself. “I just wasn’t aware of people like… you being allowed to play.”

 

          The thing is, despite his father’s many comments about him not being fit to play on the men’s team when he’s angry, Jamie hasn’t experienced too much transphobia since leaving Man City. Nobody that he didn’t tell himself officially knows — his scars are edited out in photoshoots that he attends, and he has the reputation of a famous straight white man, who sleeps around a lot and is praised for it. He knows that transphobic people exist, it’s just really fucking disorientating to be facing it so obviously in a place that he’s come to think of as his home.

 

          Jamie takes a slow and deliberate breath. “I can assure you, Doctor, that I’m just as capable as the rest of my teammates.” 

 

          “Are you, though?” Her tone sounds mocking, and Jamie wants to run and hide. “You’re bound to slip up at some point — after all, a woman playing such an aggressive game with a bunch of men, well. There’s bound to be some accidents.”

 

          Jamie can’t hold back his small flinch. “I’m not a woman, Doctor, I’m a man just like everyone else on the team.”

 

          “Right, of course,” Drake says, though she doesn’t sound at all like she agrees with him. “Well, that’ll be all, Ms. Tartt – ” he flinches again. “I suppose I’ll see you around, yeah?”

 

          He doesn’t bother answering, just leaves her office with angry tears building up behind his eyes. He won’t fucking cry in front of her, he won’t give her the satisfaction. He doesn’t know where he’s going or what he’s doing — he doesn’t even realise he’s crying — until he forcefully runs into someone and sends them sprawling across the ground. 

 

          “Shit,” Jamie mutters, wiping away a few tears before recognising Will sprawled across the floor. “Fuck, sorry ‘bout that, mate.”

 

          He helps a nervous Will off the floor, gathering up the boxes that were also sent flying, and is content to continue on his way — probably to the pitch so he can angrily kick some balls until he doesn’t feel like crying anymore — but Will stops him. 

 

          “Jamie,” he sounds hesitant, and Jamie hates how timid Will is around him sometimes, because he promised himself he would never subject Will to the same things he did to Nate. “Are – are you alright?” 

 

          “Yeah, ‘m fine,” the answer is automatic, even though he can feel the tears clinging to his eyelashes. 

 

          Will doesn’t look convinced, which — yeah, okay. “It’s just, well, you’re cryin’ and I know we don’t talk a lot, but. Uhm. You helped me when Nate was bullyin’ me, so I just thought — well, I just wanted to check in, yeah.” 

 

          His face is growing warmer, and the lump in throat bigger, because fuck! What did he do to deserve such fucking kindness from the people in this club. He can feel the tears building again, and he aggressively wipes any stray ones away before pulling Will into the closest room to them — coincidentally, it’s the boot room. ( The same room that Jamie had found Will crying in one night after he stayed late — the same room he’d tried to comfort the younger boy, and promised he’d talk to Nate about cooling the fuck down. It just makes him want to cry more ). 

 

          “This is fucking stupid,” Jamie mutters heatedly to himself. “I’m sorry, you’ve probably got shit to do, and I’m just distractin’ you.”

 

          “No, it’s okay!” Will reassures him. “I want to help.” 

 

          After a moment of silence, Jamie lets out a weary sigh. “It’s the new doctor, yeah?”

 

          “What’d she do?” 

 

          Jamie pauses again — because, yeah, he trusts Will, and he wants to believe that he’ll be okay with him being trans, but. He can’t really trust anyone can he? Dr. Drake seemed nice enough until it had come out, and that could happen with anybody. Just because the people he’s told so far have been supportive, doesn’t mean that everyone will be. But Will looks so earnest and willing to help, that Jamie thinks, fuck it. It’s already a shitty enough day, who the fuck cares if it gets worse from here. He’s got Colin, Isaac, Keeley, Ted, and possibly Roy on his side, so he’ll get through it. ( Maybe ). 

 

          “She was fine,” Jamie says from where he’s hiding his face behind his hands. “Everything was going fucking great — until she found out I was trans.”

 

          “Oh,” Will whispers, and Jamie lets the silence hang between them as he waits for the inevitable negative reaction. “Well, you have to tell Coach Lasso, then.”

 

          “What?”

 

          Will’s practically vibrating in his seat when Jamie glances up — he looks determined, and maybe even a little bit angry. It’s fucking confusing. “Coach Lasso — if you tell him, then he can talk to Ms. Welton about getting rid of her.” 

 

          “But, it’s–” Jamie sighs, dropping his head back into his hands. “I’m me, and yeah I’m fucking amazing at football, but. Why would anybody do that for me?” 

 

          “Because you’re a part of the team.” Will says it so simply, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and Jamie needs to take another moment so he doesn’t start breaking down again, because what the fuck? “You deserve to feel comfortable and happy.”

 

          He’s not going to cry, he’s not.

 

          ( They do tell Ted later that day, and Jamie asks Will to come with him because he’s a fucking coward, but it’s okay. Because Will — the little shit — was right, and Ted takes it straight to Rebecca, who is quick to assure Jamie that they won’t tolerate people like that in the workplace. It’s fucking ridiculous, the way that everyone at Richmond actually seems to care about him, how safe they make him feel, but Jamie’s not going to complain. He doesn’t know how long it’ll last, but he’s going to hold onto this safe space for as long as he can — he knows it’ll just make it hurt even more when it inevitably comes crashing down, but Jamie can’t bring himself to let go just yet ). 





——





+1

 

          It turns out, Jamie was right — because he’s always fucking right — and that not everything good can stay in his life for long. 

 

          He’s eating breakfast when he comes across the article — the article revealing all his fucking secrets to the world. It’s The Sun, because of fucking course it is, and they don’t hold back. An anonymous source who had worked on a photoshoot with Jamie once reached out to them. It’s not like it’s just an article about Jamie being a prick — there’s been a few like that, but usually people ignore it — because it can’t be something simple like that. No, the source also has to mention the scars on his chest, and specify multiple times that they’re from top surgery that trans men or non-binary people tend to get. The Sun had the fucking audacity to reach out to his father, who gladly confirmed what the anonymous source was implying, and one of his old coaches from Man City was just as happy to put in his own two cents as well.

 

          It is, in short, a fucking nightmare. 

 

          He hears some shouting beginning to rise outside, and he glances out his window to find that the press already have his building surrounded, because of course they do. He’d had a good amount of time alone in this flat, but people were bound to find him eventually, he just wishes that they wouldn’t be so inconsiderate of the fact that he has neighbors. ( Despite the circumstances, he does smile slightly when he notices Betsey — his 82-year-old neighbor — yelling at a couple of photographers ). 

 

          Jamie’s in the middle of debating whether or not he should bother going into training today, when he gets a call from Ted.

 

          “Coach,” he answers, relieved to find that his voice sounds steady. 

 

          “Heya, Jamie,” Ted says, sounding chipper as always. “Just thought I’d check in, see how ya holdin’ up with – everything.”

 

          He sighs, collapsing on the couch as he tries to block out the shouting from outside. “Everything’s great, yeah. Just been outed by some no name photographer, paps have me flat surrounded, and twitter’s debatin’ whether or not I’m allowed to continue playin’ on the men’s team. So yeah — everything’s great, Coach.” 

 

          “Right,” Ted mutters, all chipperness gone from his tone. “Sorry this had to happen to ya, Jamie, you don’t deserve it.”

 

          “It was bound to come out eventually.”

 

          “Don’t make it right,” Ted reassures him. “Listen, you don’t have to come into practice today if you don’t want to.”

 

          He sits up immediately at that. “No, fuck, please I need a fucking distraction, Coach.”

 

          “Well, look, I can send Roy down to getcha — he can fend off the press with his menacing glare.”

 

          Jamie snorts at the mental image. “That’d be good, Coach, thank you.” 

 

          “Hey, listen,” Ted says, sounding earnest. “Just like I said when I first called you into my office — anything you need, just ask, and I’ll help. I promise.”

 

          Fuck. Roy’s gonna be here any fucking minute to pick him up and he does not need to be crying over Ted fucking Lasso. “Thanks, Coach.” 

 

          Ten minutes later, Roy is in his flat grumbling about packing a bag because there’s no fucking way he’s staying here while the press are so hellbent on harassing him. “You’ll stay with me and Keeley, yeah.”

 

          “You sure you can handle that, grandad?” Jamie teases — because he needs this dynamic, he needs things to not completely change just because the press are arseholes.

 

          Roy rolls his eyes. “I have an eight year old niece, I know how to handle children.”

 

          “Oh, fuck off.”

 

          Roy offers up a rare grin before snatching Jamie’s duffel bag from him. “All right, you got all your shit?”

 

          Jamie nods, his mood souring at the reminder that he has to walk through a sea of reporters that want nothing more than to dig into his personal life. 

 

          “Let’s fucking go, then,” Roy grunts, and Jamie follows behind as they head for the door. 

 

          It’s…surprisingly funny, watching Roy shove his way through all the reporters, all the while yelling ‘no’ at them and glaring anyone who doesn’t listen into submission. Anyone who still refuses to listen gets their camera shoved away — and in one case, broken on the ground — so they’re able to get away relatively unscathed. Jamie is sure photos of him leaving his flat, with this head down, and hiding behind Roy Kent will be online soon, but he can’t really find in himself to care. Colin and Isaac will probably confiscate his phone so he has nothing to obsessively read through, and he’ll distract himself with training for as long as he can — anything to push this as far out of his mind as possible. 

 

          By the time they reach the club, the locker room is subsequently full, and Jamie cringes at the way that everyone slowly goes silent at his entrance. He loves being the center of attention, practically thrives on it, but this kind of attention is the kind that makes him want to crawl into a hole and never come out again. But Roy is there, glaring menacingly at everyone as he makes his way to the coaches office, and Colin and Isaac are by his side almost immediately, so it could be worse. Before anyone can say anything, though, Ted is exiting the offices and gains the attention of everyone.

 

          “Well,” he says, hands on his hips like he’s some mum about to have a serious talk with her kids. “I know what I’d like to say about the situation, and not a lot of those words are the kind of language my mother would approve of — but first; Jamie,” this brings the attention back to him, and he gladly leans into Colin’s arm as it’s wrapped around him. “Would you like to say anything?”

 

          Isaac pats him on the back encouragingly, and he takes a deep breath as he steps forward slightly. “Er, I just want to say that I’m sorry you had to find out this way, yeah, and I hope that it doesn’t change anything,” he pauses, offering a slightly forced grin. “Don’t matter what I got goin’ on down there, though, I can still score goals for us, yeah?” 

 

          This earns small chuckles throughout the room, and some of the tension seeps away slightly.

 

          “And if any of you have a fucking problem with this, you can deal with me, got it?” Isaac threatens loudly, Colin nodding along with him. 

 

          Dani is the first to step forward, and Jamie’s really hoping he won’t be losing any friends today, but he especially hopes he won’t be losing Dani. “Jamie Tartt, I am sorry this decision was taken away from you,” he says, coming forward and placing his hands on Jamie’s shoulders. “But I will support you until the end of time, yes?” 

 

          Jamie offers up a small smile, fighting back the heat growing behind his eyes. “Football is life, yeah mate?”

 

          “Football is life,” Dani nods before pulling Jamie into a crushing hug. 

 

          The others are quick to follow, and soon Jamie finds himself being crushed on every side by his teammates — it’s a fuckton of support that he never could have dreamed of ever receiving, so he can’t help the few tears that escape as he laughs shakily at the way that Isaac keeps threatening people under his breath while simultaneously crushing his lungs in a hug. Colin’s hand never leaves his shoulder, no matter how much they get jostled around, and Jamie smiles as he meets his coach's eyes over the many bodies of his teammates.

 

          There are other things to deal with later, like the press conference addressing everything, and the fact that Jamie might not be as safe at matches anymore because football is full of cishet men who can’t fathom the idea of anybody being different. There’s lots to address, lots to talk about, but for now Jamie leans into his teammates embrace and just lets his mind go fuzzy and blank with the thought of home.