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Liam felt alright living in Bryce's tiny apartment. He'd never thought he'd be living with another man past college, but here he is, rooming with no other man than Bryce Hansen. Though, it was only until Liam could get back on his feet in the real world. He'd been sleeping in Bryce's walk-in closet for around a month, and it slowly became what the two could consider Liam's bedroom. He was surprised Bryce actually let him stay, but he wasn't going to ask. He was just glad Bryce didn't… hate him anymore. Was hate quite the word? Was it more so annoyance? Liam doesn't like to think Bryce ever hated him. It really hurt being shut out and scolded at their first reunion. 

But Bryce had warmed up to him. There was significantly less arguing, and Bryce sometimes even joked around with Liam. Liam makes a guess that that was due to less discussion about ONE. That damned competition was just a trigger for Bryce from the very beginning. The two had hardly spoken about it since it ended, typically only bringing it up to discuss their friends Ame and Charlotte, who all still kept in touch despite their distance. 

Liam had made a pot of macaroni and was currently having dinner. It was 7:12 PM, around the time Bryce typically got home. Liam had set another bowl across from himself, where it sat on the table and awaited Bryce's return. This was the two's nightly routine. In the mornings, they held this same procedure but in reverse. Bryce was always the one making breakfast.

Liam didn't work as often as the other. When Liam did work, he always got home earlier than Bryce. Though Liam doesn't quite enjoy his new job, missing his old one far, far too much. He hopes that when he returns to San Francisco, through some miracle, they'll hire him again.

Liam heard the front door open, and popped his head up. "Bryce!" Liam smiled, eyes fixated on the door, searching for his roommate.

Now, when Bryce usually came home, he was a bit tired. That was normal. Bryce would usually head in to eat with Liam, then shower and do whatever until bed. Today, Bryce looked miserable. Liam knew Fridays were Bryce's busy days, but Bryce had never come home this bad.

Bryce's hair was frazzled and sweat stains coated his uniform. His face was also scrunched up in distress. Bryce heaved, bent over with one hand clinging to the doorknob.

"B…yrce?"

Bryce hadn't even looked up. He stood quietly, immediately hurrying himself to the bathroom.

Liam frowned, looking away from the ajar door and down at his half-eaten mac and cheese. Was Bryce alright? Maybe he should check on him.

"Liam"

Liam looked over to the counter. The laptop was open, speaking to him in a whisper-tone text-to-speech voice. 

"What?"

"is bryce alright?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out…" Liam stood up, heading towards the front door and shutting it. "I'm gonna try knocking on the bathroom door."

"good luck with that lol"

Liam stood outside the bathroom door. He could hear a bit of rustling and the clatter of plastic bottles bonking together from inside. 

Liam knocked, and at an instant, the rustling quieted. "Bryce?"

Nothing. Nothing for a moment until the sound of water rushing alerted Liam as to what Bryce was doing.

Liam frowned, stepping away from the door and back into the kitchen. He looked to Texty, who hadn't noticed his presence. Either that or Texty simply didn't care, as they were watching a video on YouTube. 

Liam sighed. The macaroni is already cold enough. 

Though, Liam had a better idea. Bryce had a comfort food. Liam had seen him eating it almost every time he was upset. Perhaps Liam could prepare it for him. If he did, surely Bryce would feel better, right?

Bryce had repeatedly claimed that Liam was a bad chef, but Bryce's comfort food was oatmeal. Oatmeal couldn't be that hard to make, right? You just… boil something and put it in the other thing. 

Okay. Maybe Liam didn't quite know how. He's not an oatmeal kind of guy.

But… how exactly did Bryce prefer it? Milk or water? Did he add any extra sugar? Most importantly, what was his favorite flavor? Liam never thought he'd be overthinking oatmeal, of all things.

Liam cleaned up his mess first and wrapped up the leftover macaroni. Liam used to never really eat leftovers before ONE, but now that he was all the way in Bridgeport and couldn't pick up another good job straight away, he had to savor a lot of the groceries. 

"Texty," said Liam, leaning against the counter. 

The text box paused their video. "what?"

"Weird question. Do you know how Bryce likes his oatmeal?"

"um. yeah, actually, lol. he made me keep it in my notes"

"Can I see?"

Texty didn't say anything, only opening up the notes app. It was… full of recipes. Liam knew Bryce was good at cooking, but did Bryce take cooking as a hobby?

Texty pulled up the notes for how Bryce makes his oatmeal.

Seemed simple.

Liam got to work on making Bryce's homemade oatmeal recipe. Liam smiled to himself, thinking more about Bryce. Bryce must've been practicing cooking for all these years, huh? He would make a good chef. Maybe he could even ask Bryce to help him with a few recipes sometime. The thought of him and Bryce cooking together gave him butterflies. It was so… domestic.

He brushed off his feelings about that.

Liam could hear the sound of a door opening. Lowering the heat on the stove, He walked towards the bathroom entrance. Bryce stood there dressed in a tank top and pajama shorts, still half-wet, his expression screaming, 'leave me the fuck alone.'

"Bryce?"

"What?" Bryce replied, though he began walking away mid-conversation.

Liam followed. "I'm making you something to eat."

"I don't feel like eating."

"C'mon. I already started it, and you have to eat something. Please, Bryce?"

Bryce stopped walking, and so did Liam.

"Fine. Just keep in mind that I'm extremely fucking tired."

"That's alright," Liam said, grabbing Bryce by the wrist and urging him to the kitchen table. 

Bryce sat down, head in his hands.

Liam quickly finished what he started, pouring the contents of the pot into a bowl. He set the hot bowl in front of Bryce using oven mitts before pulling over a chair and sitting next to his friend.

"You made me oatmeal?" Bryce asked. Bryce often spoke words through a tone that could typically be conveyed as rude, but Liam understood that that wasn't always Bryce's intention.

"Yeah. I've seen you eat it whenever you're stressed."

"You're very observative." Bryce stared down at the oats, and he did for a long while. Sitting. Staring. Almost drifting off.

"Are you alright? Do you need me to–"

Bryce popped his head back up. "I would rather you kick me down a flight of stairs than have you feed me."

"Okay, okay I–"

Bryce picked up the spoon, tiredly scooping the oats and bringing them to his mouth. Liam waited for Bryce's reaction, bouncing his leg anxiously, hoping he didn't somehow manage to fuck up oatmeal, of all things.

"How'd you know?" asked Bryce.

"Hm?"

"How'd you know my secret oatmeal recipe?"

"Secret… oatmeal recipe?" Liam couldn't help it. He immediately burst into a fit of giggles after repeating such an unusual phrase. He quickly slapped a hand over his own mouth.

Bryce looked over to Liam, and Liam could see just a small smile.

Liam settled down, though he couldn't stop grinning like an idiot. "I got it off of Texty. I saw you had a lot of recipes in there. Do you like cooking?"

Bryce turned his head back towards the oats. He said, "I guess," and then didn't elaborate. 

"You alright?"

"Mhm." Bryce was sort of… drowsy. Liam watched as Bryce's head lowered for a moment before he jerked it back up again.

"...Here," Liam whispered, scooting his chair closer to his friend so that Bryce could rest his head on Liam's shoulder. Surprisingly, it worked. Bryce actually put his head on Liam's shoulder. The man didn't even hesitate. Liam had to hold his breath because his stomach felt fuzzy and disoriented. 

Bryce was quiet, the only sound emit being the clink of the spoon against the bowl as a result of Bryce's shambolic, sleepy motor skills. As Bryce continued to messily spoon soggy grains into his mouth, Liam set a hand on Bryce's back. Liam paused, making sure this was okay, before gently rubbing circles using his palm. 

Either Bryce didn't care or was too tired to do anything about it. The only response Liam got to it was a muffled hum. Liam sat there until Bryce became too weak to even move, which is when he ushered Bryce to his bed. 

Bryce laid down immediately, and Liam stayed sitting by the bedside. Liam had other things to do, but caring for Bryce gave him somewhat of a fluttery feeling. Liam smiled. Bryce had fallen asleep before he could even get settled in. Liam tucked Bryce into bed, sitting there a moment longer. Liam felt attached and didn't really want to leave Bryce's side. So Liam sat there, fighting himself from like, giving Bryce a goodnight kiss or something.

What?

Liam feels his face grow hot, clenching his fists in his lap. That's gay.

Liam decided to remove himself from the situation. Did that really just happen? Did he really just think that way about one of his best friends?

Liam felt uncomfortable with himself. He quickly went to Texty, tapping on one of the keys to get the textbox's attention. 

"what?"

"Can we… type about this instead?" Liam asked. “I’m too embarrassed to talk out loud.” 

Texty pulled up a notes app, and words began popping up on the screen.

 

      okay. what? | 

 

      i keep having unwanted thoughts about bryce 

 

       what kind of thoughts |

 

      like wanting to 

 

Liam paused over the keyboard, sheepish. 

 

      wanting to what? kiss him? its kind of obvious you

      have a crush on him lol |

 

 

"I don't-! I don't have a crush on him!" Liam sputtered out loud, quickly covering his mouth. His face began to grow hot again. He took a moment to recollect himself before moving his hands back onto the keyboard.

 

 

      okay. I did think that. but i dont know. Ive never felt

      this way about another guy before. 

 

      i can see everything you guys do through my webcam.

      youre so touchy with him its almost gross. but i think

      bryce likes it lol |

 

      he likes it?

 

      yeah. its really funny actually watching the way he

     reacts. he gets really stiff and has to force himself to

     keep his composure everytime you get in his space.

     you should tell him how you feel lol. i kind of want to

     see things progress | 

 

      i don't know about that. i didnt even know i liked boys

      until right now

 

      are you sure about that? i have those photos of you

      and that nail guy backed up into my hard drive |

 

      owen? what does he have to do with this

 

      youre literally blushing in half those photos. lol. ^-^ |

 

Liam slams the laptop shut in the same horrified manner a 14-year-old boy caught watching obscenities by his mother would.  

Liam stood in thought for a moment. Was he gay this entire time without even knowing? How was that even possible? Liam always thought that he simply hadn't met the right woman yet. Guess there's an... explanation... for that now. God– this would change a lot of things. What if Bryce thought it was weird? Or became uneasy around him? What if he kicked him out?

Liam sighed, turning away from Texty and leaning back against the kitchen counter. Should he really tell Bryce how he feels? If Bryce doesn't like him back, that will be really embarrassing. Was Bryce even gay? Bi, even? Liam worried about ruining his relationship with the other man but would Bryce really hate him after everything they went through together?

Liam took to cleaning up the kitchen to clear his mind.

 

-✨ - 

 

Liam sat down with a pencil and paper in hand. He was going to write it out in a note. Was it cheesy? Maybe. But better than an in-person confession.

What the hell was he supposed to write? 'Hi Bryce, I have gay feelings for you' or 'Hey man, I just wanted to know if you wanted to like kiss romantically or something.'

Liam was a good five seconds away from violently slamming his head onto the table. It was getting pretty late, but he wanted to do this before Bryce woke up. He felt like if he waited, he would eventually blow up with all the tension.

Liam decided that it couldn't hurt to simply… ask Bryce on a date? Yeah. It seemed casual and not overly cheesy enough.

Liam got to writing. 

 

-✨ -

 

Liam was nervous when he woke up and smelt breakfast cooking. He felt glued in place, not wanting to move. Hell, he didn't even want to breathe.

He stood up. Shit. Shitshitshit. Liam fidgeted with the sleeves of his pajamas. He looked down, catching an eye full of his scarring. Almost his entire right hand and arm were covered in burnt, pinkish flesh. Liam grimaces. Though, it was healing. That was good. Perhaps it would hardly be noticeable in a few months.

Liam rolled his sleeve down.

Bryce had a matching scar on his left hand, didn't he? Shit–

Liam sucked in a breath. Having matching scars doesn't mean anything. Not a thing. Yet here Liam was, getting flustered at the thought of him and Bryce having something so unique and special that they shared.

He hopes his scar never fades.

Liam finally decided to suck it up, heading into the kitchen. Things seemed as usual: The sizzling of the stove, the sweet aroma of breakfast permeating the kitchen, and Bryce wearing his kitchen apron over his pajamas. (Liam thought of maybe buying Bryce some nicer sleepwear the next time he was out. A tank top and shorts can't be too warm or comfortable). Liam was about to ask Bryce what he was cooking but noticed something different. Bryce had his hair down. Liam had never seen the other man with his hair down before, as Bryce always sported a short man bun at the top of his head. 

"What's with the hair?" asked Liam, though it had come out a bit more mean-sounding than wanted.

"Oh. I couldn't find my hair tie this morning. I know I have a spare somewhere, though."

Liam didn't think much of it. He opened his mouth to speak again and–

Wait. He remembered something.

Last night, while putting the note down on Bryce's dresser, Liam felt something fall at his feet. He hadn't looked for it though, because his heart was slamming against his chest and his palms were slippery and sweaty.

Suddenly, Bryce turned around, and the tension began to scream in Liam's ears. Liam froze in place like a deer in headlights. Why was his heart beating so fast? Everything was normal. Nothing abnormal was even happening. Bryce hadn't even mentioned the note. What if Bryce hadn't even read it? Nono– he had to have. If Liam put the note over where his hair tie usually was, then Bryce had to have looked there! Liam wanted to pull strands of hair out of his head. Why isn't Bryce saying anything about it then? 

"Are you… okay?" Bryce asked, setting down a plate of eggs and bacon in front of Liam. Bryce sat beside Liam, which was unusual. Bryce always sat across from Liam. 

"Yeah," Liam sighed, clenching the fabric of his pajama shirt so tightly that he could feel his nails digging into his palm. 

"Thanks for… helping me out last night, by the way." Bryce had a plate of food in front of him, a much smaller portion than Liam's, but still enough. Bryce began twirling the egg yolk at the tip of his fork absentmindedly.

"Oh! Of course, Bryce! You're my friend, after all." God. Liam was shaking. Breathe, Liam. Breathe. 

Liam took a deep breath, taking some food into his mouth. Should he bring it up? Nonono. If Bryce wasn't saying anything yet, there must be a reason.

The morning routine occurred the same as always. The two had their morning chat, Bryce did the dishes, and Liam sat on the couch as Bryce got ready for work. Liam sighed, tracing his scars over with his eyes. Was Bryce really just… pretending like nothing happened? Liam thinks that's worse than rejecting him to his face. Liam just wants closure at this point– Though perhaps Bryce simply needed more time to think? Ugh. Why must Bryce torture him? 

Liam heard the jingle of those car keys, the same keys from that day. Funny how a set of car keys became memorabilia to Liam. Hell, Bryce would've thrown them away if Liam didn't plead with him not to. Liam couldn't watch Bryce throw something like that away. Bryce may not like thinking about the events of ONE, but Liam likes that it's something to remember his triumph.

"I'll see ya, Liam."

"Bye, Bry–"

Before Liam couldn't finish his sentence, Bryce approached him, leaned down, and gave him a peck on the cheek.

And the guy didn't even say anything as he left either! He just left Liam sitting there, discombobulated and red like a cherry. Once the shock wore off, Liam grabbed at his chest, feeling his heart skip a beat and his stomach overflow with a warm, gooey feeling. He flopped backward on the couch, twisting onto his side before rolling onto his stomach. Liam shoved his face into the soft fabric and screamed as loud as he could into the cushions.

God. He's never had a boyfriend before. He's never had Bryce as a boyfriend before.

Liam rolled onto his back, staring at the popcorn ceiling of their shitty, shared apartment.

Guess this meant yes to the date…?