It's not that Mike gets it, not really.
He's slept with enough people that he understands that what turns his crank doesn't necessarily turn the crank of everyone else (and vice versa). The thing is, he's spent more time sleeping with Jeff than he has anyone else, and that means that Jeff's shit kind of starts becoming Mike's shit. It piles up and and up and up until it threatens to spill over, like a trash can that needs to be emptied.
Not that Mike minds, exactly, that that Jeff likes it when Mike says mean things to him in bed. It's just that Mike doesn't get it.
He's watched enough porn that he practically has a script of things he can say. Mike just figured that the shit people say in porn is like the Viagra the actors are all popping and the fake tits -- one of the things that are everywhere and that most people roll their eyes at, but no one actually really likes.
The first time was during rookie year, after a brutal loss at home. Jeff was edgy and restless the whole trip back, fiddling with the zipper of his coat, tapping his fingers against the car's windowsill, glancing at Mike out of the corners of his eyes.
As soon as Mike had the apartment door locked behind him, Jeff pulled him in and said, "C'mon, yeah, please," against Mike's lips, dug his fingers into Mike's arms. He had that look on his face, the one he would get when he really wanted to get fucked.
And Mike, still pissed off from the loss, said, "Slow down, man. You don't have to be such a slut for it."
He hadn't thought much about it at the time, just running his mouth the way he did when he played, throwing out shit in every direction and seeing what stuck.
Jeff, on the other hand, had frozen up. He ducked his head, and even in the dim hallway light, Mike could see the blush that was chasing its way across Jeff's face, down his neck. Mike licked his lips. Jeff swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing.
"Sorry," Mike said. He pulled back, unsure.
"Don't--" Jeff said, and his voice wasn't quite hoarse, but it wasn't quite clear either. "You should-- again."
"What, call you a slut?" Mike asked.
Another swallow. A nod. The protruding bulge of Jeff's cock in his suit slacks, already obscene, twitched at Mike's words.
"You are a slut," Mike said. He watched as the blush deepened. "Look how desperate you are already, and I haven't even touched your cock yet."
Jeff whimpered. His eyes had taken on that sheen, the one Mike associated with good sex, the kind that left the both of them sore and giddy and ridiculous before practice the next day.
Saying the words didn't really do anything for Mike. He chirped on the ice, because that's what people did. Try to goad the other team into making stupid mistakes. Fuck with their heads.
Maybe it wasn't so different from what Jeff wanted after all.
The fact that it was working for Jeff was working for Mike more than anything else. And he was twenty at the time, so not really in a position to question any of it. He dragged Jeff into the bedroom, fucked him on his hands and knees, called him a slut a few more times, watched as Jeff came all over the sheets without Mike even jerking him off.
Afterwards, Mike asked, "So is this a thing?"
Jeff, who was the sort of person who fell asleep right after his orgasms, just shrugged, which was both quintessentially Jeff and entirely unhelpful.
It was a thing.
Not an every time sort of thing. Sometimes, Jeff just wanted Mike to shut the fuck up, kissed Mike's mouth quiet, rolled his giant body on top of Mike's and fucked him slow and even, listening as Mike dissolved into wordless grunts and moans. Sometimes it was just quick and frantic in a hotel room, hands on each other's dicks, chasing orgasms before they had to be suited up and on the bus, ready for their next game.
But it was still a thing.
When Mike had been given the 'C', Jeff had used it as an excuse to give Mike a celebratory blowjob. Not that he'd ever needed an excuse before. It was the sweetest feeling in the entire world, getting that letter in front of all of Wachovia, soaking in all of the energy, the adulation. They were both high with it. High on life, yeah, but even better than that, high on hockey.
Jeff pushed Mike back onto the couch, wedged himself between Mike's knees, barely even bothered to get Mike's pants and boxers out of the way before getting his mouth on Mike's dick.
"Fuck," Mike said, his head falling back. "God, look at you, being a good cocksucker."
Jeff must have heard it a million times on the ice, same as all the rest of them, but this time, he made this needy noise, closed his eyes, tried to suck Mike's dick down the back of his throat. "Yeah," Mike said. "You're fucking gagging for it, aren't you?"
And okay, Mike had both given and received blowjobs before, but that had to be the first time he ever experienced someone literally try to choke themselves on a cock. Repeatedly. Until Jeff's eyes started to tear up from the coughing and repeated triggering of his gag reflex. Until his mouth was slick, shiny and red, and he kept making these amazing desperate moans with what little air he could get.
When Mike was close to coming, he let Jeff know with a tug of his hair, because he was a douchebag, but he wasn't a douchebag, and neither of them were big fans of a surprise mouthful of semen.
But instead of pulling off, like he usually did, Jeff stayed put, and when Mike came, he tried to swallow as much of it down as he could. He couldn't quite get all of it. Some of it leaked out, dripping onto his lips and chin.
"Jesus fuck, Carts," Mike said, watching as Jeff licked his lips. "You really liked that, eh? I bet you'd get on your knees for the whole team if you could. Maybe I'd be nice, let you tell yourself it's just because your captain told you to, but we'd both know the truth, wouldn't we? We know how much you need it all the time." He tightened his fingers in Jeff's hair. And it wasn't so much the idea of the thing itself so much as it was the idea that Jeff would do it Mike asked him to, that Jeff would want to.
Jeff let out this broken whimper and pressed his forehead against Mike's thigh. His breathing came fast and rough, ragged, like they'd just been doing hill sprints for an hour.
Mike said, "Just let everyone have a turn with your pretty mouth in the locker room before a game. Probably would improve team morale."
Jeff just groaned at that, reached down, palmed himself through his slacks and came in his pants.
There was also that time, just after Jeff was traded to LA, when Jeff moved into the guest bedroom but spent most of his time sleeping in Mike's bed. They didn't talk about what Jeff got up to in Columbus, because they never talked about that.
Mike was pretty sure Jeff hadn't slept with anyone who had figured out his thing, because it was-- it was just something about the way Jeff was. It was impossible to think of Jeff as clingy, since he was the least demanding person in existence. But he was around more often, just-- taking up the same space Mike was.
That particular night, Mike was digging his teeth into Jeff's shoulder, feeling his broad back tense and release, twitching, involuntary, just from what Mike was doing to him.
After one particularly good full-body shiver, Jeff grit out, "Richie-- you should-- say something."
Mike hummed against his shoulder blade.
"Richie," Jeff said. His voice had taken on an edge of a whine, the kind it only got when he was either in the middle of sex or recently injured.
"What?" Mike asked. He licked over the bite mark, a vivid red on Jeff's pale skin.
"Just-- could you--" Jeff said. "Just talk."
And okay, if it was going to be like that. Maybe Jeff was always going to be crap at asking for things, but Mike didn't have to be crap at giving them to him. "Been awhile since someone reminded you what a filthy slut you are, eh?" Mike said.
Jeff groaned underneath him, face buried into the pillows.
"Since Philly, was it?" Mike asked. He pressed a hand against Jeff's shoulder, holding him down, felt the muscles jump against his touch. "That long and maybe you forgot."
The back of Jeff's neck started to flush pink, and if Mike looked, he was sure Jeff's cheeks would be a bright tomato red.
"But you need the reminders, don't you? Practically crawled into my bed and begged for them."
"Yeah," Jeff mumbled. Mike bit the back of his neck, thrust his hips down, felt Jeff squirm beneath him, panting ragged and wet into Mike's pillowcase.
"And here you are, getting what you want and still desperate for more," Mike said.
Jeff didn't have anything to say to that, mostly because he was too busy grinding his hips into the mattress and coming all over Mike's sheets.
So yeah, maybe Mike still doesn't get it, but it's obviously a thing that Jeff likes, and it's a thing that Jeff doesn't get from anyone else. Maybe it's not a surprise when Jeff shows up at Mike's hotel room door after Mike's called back up from Manch, grinning that half grin he wears when he knows he's going to get laid.
"Hey," he says.
"Hey," Mike says, stepping aside to let him in.
Jeff kisses him, tilting his head down as Mike tilts his head up. "Missed you," he says against Mike's lips. "Missed this."
Mike closes his eyes, breathes in, breathes out. This is-- this should be easy. He can give Jeff what he wants. He always could before. Even when he can't get anything on the ice to work, he can at least do that. And it's not exactly like he's going to turn down uncomplicated sex with a willing partner. He clears his throat. "Get on the bed," he says. He gives Jeff's shoulder a little bit of a shove.
Jeff sprawls out on the bed, grinning up at Mike like they're eighteen all over again, young and stupid and with the entirety of their careers ahead of them. Mike strips off his tie, his jacket, his shirt, before straddling Jeff's lap.
They make out for a little while, and it's as easy as it's always been, like no time has passed at all. Like Mike didn't get put on waivers and wasn't sent down to the fucking AHL.
At some point they get flipped around, and Jeff crawls down Mike's body, yanking off Mike's belt and pulling open Mike's fly. He pauses for a moment, looking up at Mike with round eyes. "Say something?" he asks.
Mike takes a deep breath. He could play dumb, pretend like he doesn't know what Jeff's talking about. But he does. He does know what Jeff's talking about. "Say what?" he says, the words burning in his throat. "Tell you how fucking sad it is that you're desperate for the dick of a second-rate player?" He stares at the ceiling. He doesn't want to see what Jeff's face looks like right now. "Tell you that-- fuck-- that you're fucking slumming it, you're such a slut for it. There's plenty of rentboys in LA who will let you suck them off for fifty bucks, maybe when you get home, you should drive down to--"
He's so caught up in his tirade that he doesn't notice that Jeff isn't where he was a moment ago, his weight no longer resting on Mike's legs. He's crawling up the bed, resting his head on the pillows next to Mike.
"What?" Mike snarls, because it's not like Jeff's picky or anything.
"Not that," Jeff says. He watches Mike with intent, like Mike is supposed to understand what the fuck he means by that. "I don't want it to be like that."
"Well, Carts, we don't always get what we want," Mike says. All the things he wanted, all the things he had, and they're just gone, out of reach. He turns onto his side so that he can stare at the shitty hotel wall art, some sort of pleasant forest scene with mountains and rivers and no personality whatsoever.
He doesn't startle when Jeff wraps his arm around his waist, but it's a close thing. "Whatever. I don't care," Jeff says. "Just-- not like that." He tucks his head into the crook of Mike's neck. His body is so warm, a furnace radiating an almost smothering sort of heat.
Mike half-heartedly tries to shrug him off. Jeff holds fast.
"Really did miss you," Jeff says.
Mike snorts. "You missed someone who was willing to indulge your weird fucking kinks," he says. It's probably the first time they've ever mentioned it when they weren't already fucking.
Jeff doesn't respond immediately. Mike can feel his breath with every rise and fall of his chest against Mike's back. "Yeah," Jeff says, "but I still missed you."
Mike bites his bottom lip. The sting of pain helps. Not enough, but it does help. "Me-- me too," he says eventually.
Jeff presses a kiss against Mike's neck, and he doesn't say another word, and he doesn't ask for anything else. That's good, because Mike doesn't have anything else to give him.
He can feel himself relaxing by degrees, sleep starting to take him. Jeff doesn't let go, doesn't leave so that he can settle into the other bed, and like so many other things about Jeff, it's completely baffling.
So maybe Mike still doesn't understand what Jeff gets out of it, but maybe that's okay. Maybe he doesn't need to.