Tyler wakes up with the feeling that he did something dumb last night.
He’s not sure what it was. It definitely involved drinking, though. Like, drinking a lot. And, um, falling asleep on the floor? And—wow, okay, sitting up was a bad idea.
There was totally something else, though. They were talking about the trade, the thing Tyler still can’t handle thinking about, and there was some kind of joke about it. And then—and then Brownie tossed him his phone, and Tyler was laughing a lot, and it seemed like a good idea to—
Oh no. Oh, fuck, no. He definitely didn’t do that. Did he?
He sweeps his hand around on the floor until it lands on his phone. He brings it to his face, and he’s going to turn the screen on, but he doesn’t even need to, because there are alerts coming in, like, right now. Tyler squints at them, but they’re really bright, and he’s having trouble breathing, because, because—
Because he came out on Twitter last night.
“Brownie,” he says. And then, louder, “Brownie!”
Something moves down by his feet. Under his feet, actually. Brownie lifts his head off the floor. “Wha?”
“The thing,” Tyler says. “The—oh my God, Brownie, the tweet. Last night. Do you remember?”
It was a joke. Well, okay, it wasn’t totally a joke. But he wanted it to be a joke: wanted to be joking about why Boston had traded him. Blackie was the one who said it, and it sounded so funny, and they all repeated it, and then Tyler typed it out, really carefully because he was so drunk, and Brownie checked the spelling, and Tyler remembers being so proud of himself for getting it right.
“Oh my God,” Brownie says, and scrambles up. “Shit. Shit. You have to delete it.”
“It’s too late. Everyone already saw it,” Tyler says. “They…”
Brownie’s eyes are really wide. “Oh my God,” he says again. “Oh my God. What are they saying?” He crawls across the floor and sits next to Tyler, who’s sitting up now, cradling his phone in his hands.
“I don’t know. I don’t even know. It’s just, like, so many alerts.” The screen keeps lighting up. Tyler’s hands are shaking, and he pushes the phone at Brownie, who puts in the passcode.
“Oh shit,” Brownie says, because it opens to the last thing Tyler was on, to his twitter app, and there’s the tweet with a scary number of retweets below it.
Only steers and queers in Texas, and I’m not a cow.
Tyler puts his head down on his knees.
“Wow, look at all these retweets,” Brownie says, scrolling.
They know now. It already, like—it already lost him Boston, that one dumb night, Z walking in at the wrong time, and now it’s gonna follow him to Dallas, and they’re all gonna know, too.
But not just Dallas. The whole country. Everyone. He—
He needs to throw up.
Tyler throws up in an empty bag of chips while Brownie keeps reading stuff on his phone. Tyler should probably go brush his teeth after, but, like, it’s Brownie, so instead he crawls back over to him and curls up on the ground. He’s kind of shaking still, and Brownie puts a hand on his back and that helps.
“We have to do something,” Tyler whispers. His throat is sore from throwing up. They could, like, lie about it. Pretend, like, a cat walked across the screen—or—it was a joke. Yeah. Maybe queers means something different in Texas. Like, um…yeah, okay, that’s super dumb because queers obviously means what it means and everyone’s gonna know and there’s no way out and Tyler just wants to die.
“Tyler,” Brownie says. His voice is strange. “I don’t think they get it.”
“What do you mean,” Tyler mumbles. It’s not, like, a joke-joke. There’s nothing to get.
“They, like…” Brownie’s frowning down at the phone screen. “I don’t think they know you came out.”
Tyler stares at him for a moment, then scrambles to sit up. Brownie tilts the phone towards him, and there’s a headline on the screen: NHL’s Tyler Seguin in another homophobic Twitter incident.
“They’re all like that,” Brownie says. “They think you’re, like, gay-bashing or something.”
Tyler clutches the phone. “But…”
“I know,” Brownie says. “Like, I thought it was obvious, but.”
Tyler scrolls down. There are a bunch of articles, and none of them are nice, but none of them are about him being gay. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Whatever,” Brownie says. “This is a good thing, right? If they think you’re just homophobic or whatever.”
“Right,” Tyler says vaguely. His head is pounding hard, and he wants to lie down again. He doesn’t understand anything.
But they don’t know about him. That’s the important thing. Somehow, he came out on the internet, and no one figured it out.
Jim Nill is not happy. “You’re reflecting on the Stars as an organization now,” he says over the phone later that day.
“I know,” Tyler says miserably. His head is pounding a little less, but he still hasn’t had much to eat, and he feels queasy. He kind of wants to ask: Did you not get it? Like, is everyone pretending to miss the point, or do they actually…
“We can’t have this kind of opinion coming from our players,” Jim says. “We have gay fans, you know.”
And gay players, Tyler wants to say, and he can feel a hysterical giggle threatening to burst out. He draws his knees up to his chest and leans against the cushions of the ratty couch in the Cape Cod house they rented for the party. “Um, yes, sir,” he says. “I’m very sorry.”
“We’ll need a game plan,” Jim says, and he talks about that for a while. The tweet has already been deleted, but obviously that won’t do anything. It turns out they want Tyler to deny it: say that his phone was hacked. Then they want him to shut down his Twitter account. Tyler doesn’t argue.
“And then we’re going to expect to see some changes,” Jim says before he hangs up. “We’re excited to have you on our team, but it’s not going to work out unless you can demonstrate a more professional level of behavior.”
Tyler leans his head against the couch cushion and squeezes his eyes shut. He wishes people would stop saying this stuff to him. He knows.
He expects the guys in Dallas to be kind of cold to him after the mess he made during the summer, but the Benn brothers are actually really nice.
Jamie does pull him aside and have a talk after he’s been there about a week, though. “We try to have a really accepting locker room,” he says. “No slurs, nothing like that.”
“Good,” Tyler says, because honestly, he’s had enough of being called a faggot to last him a lifetime. But then he realizes that Jamie’s giving him a pointed look, that Jamie thinks he’d be the one using the slurs.
“Um, right,” Tyler says. He can feel himself flushing, because Jamie is really nice and has been really nice to Tyler and Tyler doesn’t want him thinking bad things about him. “Yeah, no, I wouldn’t. I won’t.”
“Good,” Jamie says, and smiles at him, and gets Tyler to set the table for dinner in Jamie and Jordie’s kitchen, and it really does seem to be good.
Except that the next week, when the three of them are working out and Tyler’s trying not to stare at Jamie’s muscles, because that would be really obvious, Jordie says, “Hey, I was gonna give Megan a call about dinner tonight, since we couldn’t go to their wedding.”
Tyler doesn’t know who Megan is, but Jamie says, “Oh,” really quickly. “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Aren’t they really busy right now?”
“I don’t think so,” Jordie says. “They got back from the honeymoon last month, and it seemed like they were—”
“I’m just not sure we should have them over right now,” Jamie says, and his voice is really weird, and when Tyler looks up Jamie’s looking at him, like—
Tyler drops his eyes to the free weights in his hands and tries to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach. Jamie probably doesn’t want to invite them over when he knows Tyler’s going to be hanging around. He bets Jamie and Jordie have classy friends, not like Tyler at all. It’s not a big deal; he just—he thought they were getting along so well. Maybe he should clear out for an evening, let them do their thing.
“Okay,” Jordie says, sounding confused, “but you’re gonna have to explain it to them. I know she and Katie are—”
“We’ll talk about it later,” Jamie says, trampling the end of Jordie’s sentence, but Tyler’s head snaps up anyway. She and Katie, like…
And then he really does feel sick, because he gets why Jamie doesn’t want to have them over while Tyler’s around.
I’m not homophobic, he wants to say. But he can’t, because they saw the tweet. If he tried to explain it he’d have to explain himself, and he knows they wouldn’t be okay with that. It’s one thing to be friends with a lesbian couple; it’s another to have a gay guy in your locker room. He learned that in Boston.
It sucks, though, and not just because Jamie doesn’t trust him around his friends. It would have been cool to meet some gay people in Dallas. Tyler never gets to do that kind of thing.
He tries to be extra nice around Jamie after that, to maybe subtly convince him that Tyler’s not as bad as he thinks. It’s not hard: Jamie’s, like, the easiest to be nice to. And he doesn’t seem to mind Tyler hanging around when they’re off the ice, so maybe he’s not really mad about stuff.
The whole thing would be easier to deal with if Tyler didn’t keep finding himself wanting to kiss him. But he’s pretty used to that, after being on hockey teams his whole life. And hanging out with Jamie is worth it.
“You could pick up, if you want,” Jamie says a few weeks into the season, when a group of them are out in a bar and Tyler’s been sitting at a table with Jamie for most of the night. (He looks really good with a bottle against his lips, okay?) “I know there was—I mean, I know there was some trouble in Boston. But you don’t have to sit with the boring guys all night.”
Tyler rolls his eyes and elbows him in the side. “I’m not with the boring guys.”
Jamie ducks his head and smiles a little, mouth twitching. “Sure, but,” he mumbles. “Just saying. You can pick up, if you want to.”
Tyler thinks about it. He’s done that a lot over the years: picked up girls because it’s what guys do, because dancing is fun and he couldn’t do it with the people he wanted to. He always made sure his teammates got a glimpse of him sliding a hand around the girl’s waist and leading her out the door. But he thinks about doing it now and he just feels tired. He doesn’t want to walk away from Jamie to do that; he doesn’t want to have to perform for him.
“Nah,” he says, “I like it here,” and Jamie goes a little pink, and Tyler’s stomach gets fluttery and he thinks maybe they really are good, now.
But the next week, they go to lunch at one of Jamie’s favorite restaurants, and it turns out Tyler’s wrong.
The lunch starts out well enough. There’s last night’s win against the Flames to dissect, and Jamie’s right about these burgers being the best fucking things Tyler’s ever put in his mouth, so they’re having a great time when a smiling guy walks up to their table.
Fan, Tyler thinks right away, but the guy puts his hand out and says, “Jamie! Haven’t seen you in a while,” and Jamie grins and shakes his hand and says, “Hey, Lou,” so Tyler was wrong.
Lou owns the restaurant, it turns out, and he wants to know how his favorite customer likes the burger today. “I think this is the best one yet,” Jamie says with that ridiculous earnestness of his, and Lou laughs and says Jamie has to repeat this to someone named Brian, and Jamie goes pale as he leaves the table.
“Fuck, Tyler, you have to promise not to say anything,” Jamie whispers while Lou’s off fetching Brian, and Tyler’s face must be showing how confused he is, because Jamie goes on, “I know they’re not, like, your type of person or anything, but, just, they’re really god guys, so please don’t say anything that might—okay?”
Tyler barely has time to go, “Huh?” because he really has no idea what Jamie’s talking about, before Lou shows up again with another guy, this one in chef’s whites.
“Lou says you like the new burger,” the new guy says, and Jamie grins, and anyone who hadn’t spend as much time watching Jamie over the last few months as Tyler has probably wouldn’t be able to tell he’s nervous.
“Like an angel made of meat,” Jamie says, and the guy who’s probably Brian laughs. Lou slips and arm around his waist, and—oh.
Tyler’s burger is suddenly churning around in his stomach. He doesn’t meet Jamie’s eyes, but he does try to smile as big as he can for Brian and Lou when they shake his hand and ask him what he thinks.
“I feel bad for anyone who’s never eaten here,” he says and kind of means it, and they all chat for another minute, and then Brian and Lou have to go back into the kitchen and it’s quiet at the table.
Tyler still has a few bites of burger left. He’s not sure he wants them.
“I’m sorry,” Jamie says quietly. “I know you probably wouldn’t say anything, I just—didn’t want you to be caught by surprise.”
Tyler clears his throat. It takes a couple of tries. “You know that I don’t, like, hate gay people or anything, right?”
“I know,” Jamie says. He sounds really eager to be believed. “It’s just that sometimes you say things, and I know you don’t mean them, but they can come across really—yeah.”
“I wasn’t gay-bashing,” Tyler says. “In that tweet.”
Jamie looks at him, and Tyler feels dizzy, because he didn’t mean to say that. Well, he did, but only because he can’t take Jamie thinking like this about him anymore. It’s been months, and Jamie’s one of his best friends, and Tyler’s so tired of it.
“It was pretty offensive,” Jamie says hesitantly, like he doesn’t want to start a fight. “What you said.”
“No, but.” Tyler screws his face up. He shouldn’t say any more, he knows he shouldn’t, but it’s Jamie, and he still thinks— “It was about me,” Tyler says in a low voice, and his heart rate, like, doubles as soon as the words come out. “I’m the queer.”
There’s a moment where Jamie’s silent. Tyler darts a glance at him, and his mouth has fallen open. “You—”
“It was a joke,” Tyler says desperately. “My friends and I were drunk and joking around and I didn’t think about how everyone would read it and know about me.” Fuck, he shouldn’t have said anything. “Please don’t, I don’t know, hate me, and please don’t tell the team, I just—”
“What? No,” Jamie says. “I wouldn’t tell, or hate, or—fuck, Tyler, you should know I wouldn’t.” He laughs a little, looks down, rubs the back of his neck. “I’m, um. Well, me too.”
“You too, what?” Tyler asks.
Jamie gives another laugh and looks up at him through his lashes. “Well, I’m not a cow, am I?”
Tyler stares at him for a second. “You—really? Jamie! Fucking hell, what?”
“Sh,” Jamie says, but he’s grinning, too. His eyes are, fuck, they’re really pretty.
“Oh my God.” Tyler’s laughing a little, and then before he can think better of it, “Does this mean you’d want to, like—I mean—”
“Yes,” Jamie says fervently, and then he goes a fiery red.
Tyler’s stunned for a minute, staring at that color on his cheeks. Then, “Thank fuck,” he says, and Jamie’s throwing a handful of bills on the table and they’re both hurrying out of there, bumping into each other as they go, Tyler giggling and Jamie catching it from him and both of them a giggling mess by the time Tyler presses Jamie against a seat in the car and kisses him.
“There aren’t that many paparazzi in Dallas, right?” Tyler mumbles as he presses hot kisses to Jamie’s mouth. Jamie groans and grabs his hair and pulls him in for more.
Jamie does make them go home before they do anything else. But then, he’s always been better about his public image than Tyler has.
“I don’t get how people didn’t figure it out,” Tyler says later, when they’re pressed together in Tyler’s bed and their breathing is evening out.
“Hm?” Jamie’s face is kind of dumb after he’s just come. Tyler loves it a lot.
“That I was coming out.” Tyler traces patterns on Jamie’s bicep. “Like, I thought I was screwed for sure.”
“People are dumb,” Jamie says sagely, and Tyler giggles at him for that piece of brilliant insight.
“So how long before they realize we’re banging, do you think?” Tyler asks.
“I don’t know.” Jamie’s eyes brighten. “It depends on how much evidence we leave them.” And Tyler shrieks as Jamie rolls him over and fastens his mouth onto his neck.
It takes four years for people to figure it out, actually, and when they do, it’s because of a tweet.
This one is a picture. It’s a pretty typical Texas picture, a day at the rodeo, except that in the foreground is a pair of men in Stars jerseys, and they’re kissing.
It’s posted by Tyler’s twitter account, and the caption reads, Steers and queers, right, @jamiebenn14?
This time, no one misunderstands them.