“How did he know?” Cyrus asked the moment Lee left. He glanced around, glad to find that the cafeteria had already emptied out. “Did you tell him?”
“No,” Hayden replied, shoving more food in his mouth. “When would I have told him? I’ve been with you the whole time.”
“Right, right,” Cyrus said, distracted. “Well, what do we do?”
“What do we do about what?” Hayden asked, not seeming to care that Lee knew. “I kind of assumed we’d tell him anyway. It went kind of backwards, but that’s okay.”
“Oh, we were going to tell him?”
“Yeah?” Hayden answered, turning unsure. “I just thought since he stuck by me before, he’d probably do it again. He told me once that he had a cousin who was bi, so he’s pretty okay with it.”
Cyrus nodded. “Okay.”
Now Hayden was looking at him funny. “Did you not want to tell him?”
“No, I did,” Cyrus assured him. “Hell, I want to tell everybody. It’s just that that might not be such a great idea. I don’t want to make more trouble for you.”
“For me?” Hayden frowned, then shrugged. “If Lee’s okay with it, it’s not like I can really lose any more friends, right? Only this time, you’d be with me in ostracism officially, not just out of sympathy or whatever. I just thought that maybe we’d want to keep it secret for a while to avoid all the comments and stuff.”
“Comments, right…” This was all so new to Cyrus. He had never imagined that he’d have to deal with coming out of the closet one day; it seemed like that stuff only happened in books, not to him.
“It’ll be like the old people at the park, only like ten times worse. Teenage boys are dicks,” Hayden said, running a hand down his face and pinching his eyes shut. “I need coffee. Be right back.”
Cyrus nodded, still withdrawn deep into his thoughts. Ten times worse. Cyrus didn’t want to admit how much that rude comment had hurt him at the park. It didn’t seem like much, but some part of it had clung to him, no matter how hard he tried to shake it off. “Maybe we shouldn’t tell everyone just yet,” Cyrus said when Hayden returned. “What do you think?”
“I’m of the ‘screw it’ attitude at the moment, so I’ll do whatever you prefer,” Hayden replied. He took a long sip of coffee and already seemed to perk up. “If you want me to run through the halls with a banner that says ‘I love Cyrus,’ I’d probably do it right now.”
“Jeez, if you’re so okay with it, why’d it take me so long to learn you were gay?” Cyrus asked, exasperated.
Hayden shrugged. “I figured it was better to keep it on the down low and stay friends with you than to have you get creeped out and push me away.”
“Aw,” Cyrus teased.
“Shut up.” Hayden scowled. “Not enough caffeine in me for that.”
Cyrus grinned, then a thought struck him. “Did I ever explain why I stopped talking to you for a while a month or so ago?”
“No,” Hayden replied, looking up through a few stray strands of light hair. He pushed away his empty plate and wrapped his hands around his coffee mug. “I thought you didn’t like me anymore. That was kind of a sucky time.”
Cyrus rubbed the back of his neck, his expression turning sheepish. “Yeah, sorry about that. It was the opposite, actually. I liked you so much that it scared me, and I thought I’d be safer just separating myself from you and hoping the feelings died at the same time.” He cracked a smile. “I guess that didn’t work, huh?”
“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” Hayden grinned. His eyes held no resentment, only a quiet sort of gratification.
“Now that we’re back,” Cyrus began, changing the subject a little bit,“what are we going to do about Clay?”
Hayden’s face darkened a shade. “Nothing.”
“Nothing?” Cyrus repeated, his eyebrows raising in a valiant attempt to reach his hairline. “Hayden, he completely ruined you! He’s the reason you’ve lost half your friends.”
“He’s also the reason we’re together,” Hayden pointed out.
“Well, yeah, but you have to admit that the way he went about it was completely out of line.”
“Agreed. Though everything he said was, in fact, the truth,” Hayden said, looking down. “It might not have been ideally expressed, but still.”
Cyrus shook his head. “Please tell me you aren’t believing that you deserve this.” Hayden’s silence was his answer. “Hayden. None of this was in your control. Seriously. If the other idiots at this school can’t see past their own shallowness, then they don’t deserve to be called your friend, okay?”
Hayden stared resolutely at his coffee cup. “If that’s true, then you deserve so much more than just being my friend. You’ve been nothing but accepting,” he said, looking up. “You’re the best friend I could ever ask for.”
Cyrus’s anger completely faded. Nodding, he replied, “I do deserve more than just being your friend. I’m also your boyfriend.”
A slow grin spread across Hayden’s face. “You know, I’m really liking the sound of that.”
“Me too,” Cyrus admitted, taking Hayden’s hand when he offered it over the table. He realized that Hayden had smoothly steered the conversation away from Clay, but he didn’t push it. It was clear that Hayden didn’t want to talk any more about it at the moment. “Well, should we go corner Lee and find out what gave us away?”
“Sounds like fun.” Hayden smiled, and Cyrus wondered whether it wouldn’t be worth thousands of mean comments just for the chance to tell the world how he felt when he saw Hayden smile. The problem was, he couldn’t describe the feeling. Happy certainly didn’t cut it. Content? Thrilled? Euphoric? Cyrus wondered if there would ever be enough words to describe it. Maybe he didn’t want to. As it was, that smile, that feeling, was all his. Did he really want to share it?
Cyrus smiled to himself. No. No, he didn’t.
They finally managed to get Lee alone by unceremoniously barging to his dorm room and hoping he was the one actually inside. By some stroke of luck, that worked. “Woah, guys. Knock next time?”
“Shouldn’t leave your door unlocked,” Cyrus said with a shrug.
“Are you hiding from us?” Hayden asked, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.
“No?” Lee replied, his dark brows pulling together. “I just got off the phone with my mom.”
“Oh,” Hayden said. He looked around. “Where’s Rich? I don’t see him around much.”
“He spends nearly every waking moment in the theater building,” Lee said, flopping down on the couch. “Took a liking to stage crew or something.” He waited until they sat down before asking, "So, are we going to get to why you’re really here?”
“Sure. How’d you know about us?” Cyrus asked without pause.
“Yes, really,” Lee responded, looking indignant.
“Okay, what am I thinking about right now, then?” Hayden asked, just like every other person who ever tried to test an alleged psychic.
Lee pretended to think. “Cyrus.”
“Wrong,” Hayden said.
“Hey,” Cyrus protested, pulling a mock offended face.
Hayden shot him a sideways grin. “What? Do you really think you’re important enough to top a half mammoth, half elephant with a heavy metal obsession and the unfortunate name of Gerard?”
Cyrus blinked at him. “Well, I can’t argue with that.”
“See?” Lee said, reminding them that he was still there. “This is what clued me in. You guys talk to each other and you’re, like, in your own little world. I’m sorry, but there’s no way that’s platonic.”
“It could be,” Cyrus said. “That can’t have been all you were going on.”
“Well, there was also the fact that I was there when you realized Hayden was planning to leave. Your face, man - it was an open book. You kind of forgot I was there when you did that whole pleading thing with your mom, and you were gone in fifteen minutes.” Lee looked at Hayden. “Don’t get me wrong, I love you in a purely platonic way, but I’m not sure I’d hop on a private plane and chase you to North Carolina, you know?”
Cyrus thought for a second. “Fair enough.”
“Hang on, ‘pleading’ thing?” Hayden chimed in. He looked over at Cyrus. “When you said you begged your mom, I didn't realize you, like, actually begged. Or that there was a witness.”
“I- yeah.” Cyrus blushed a bit.
“It was really touching,” Lee said, a smile playing at his lips.
“Yeah? What’d he say?” Hayden leaned forward with interest, shooting a glance at Cyrus. His eyes sparkled with equal parts mischief and fondness, and Cyrus crossed his arms, scowling.
Lee thought for a moment. “Something like, ‘I need this more than anything ever, take me there this very second,’” he misquoted. “Only less like a demanding child.”
Cyrus blushed a lot. “I did not say that.”
Hayden clearly found this very amusing. “Oh, yeah? What did you say, then?”
Hesitant, Cyrus answered, “I said something about how getting to North Carolina right away was more important to me than anything.”
“That’s literally what I just said,” Lee commented.
“It was not.”
“Stop fighting, you two,” Hayden said without authority. “Both renditions are equally sweet.”
Lee made gagging noises, and Hayden rolled his eyes. “Come on, Cyrus. We’re clearly not wanted here.”
“I didn’t say that,” Lee protested defensively. “You can stay if you want, I don’t care.”
“I get the feeling you’ll change your mind when we start making out.”
“When we what?” Cyrus echoed.
Before Hayden could respond, Lee pointed at the door. “Yep. Out.”
Grinning, Hayden led the way out.
Neither Cyrus nor Hayden was very hungry after their late breakfast, so they skipped lunch in favor of laying side by side on Hayden’s bed and listening to Boston’s Third Stage. Though he was facing the ceiling, Cyrus could see Hayden toying with a stray thread on the sleeve of Cyrus’s gray t-shirt. He was about to offer to get scissors and cut it off, but then he realized that he didn’t actually mind. He let him continue and said something else. “So, we never came to a decision.”
“About whether or not to tell everyone,” Cyrus replied.
Hayden made a face. “Ugh, the great coming-out-of-the-closet decision. Do we do it? Do we not?” With every question, he tipped his head the other way. “Are we gay? Are we confused?” he said. Hayden rolled his eyes, then shot Cyrus a sidelong glance. “You know people are going to say that.”
“Not if we don’t tell anyone,” Cyrus said, raising a brow.
Hayden looked a bit surprised as he shifted to lay on his side and face Cyrus. “Oh? I thought you were all for telling everyone. I can handle it.”
“Eventually, sure,” Cyrus said. “I mean, I’m so used to being on the outside of things that the ostracism wouldn’t even faze me. I just thought that, for a bit, I could… You know, I could keep you all to myself.” He smiled as a blush crept up his cheeks.
Hayden grinned. “I’m not sure what you mean, but I’m entirely on board with that.”
Feeling the need to explain, Cyrus clarified, “I just don’t want anyone looking at you the way I look at you, you know? As an option.”
Cyrus was going to continue, but then Hayden commented, “You’re hot when you get possessive.”
They didn’t talk for a while after that, but that wasn’t to say they didn’t keep busy.