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Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon

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“Fucking fuck fuck," Tyler says as the plus sign shows up on the stick. He's in a hotel room in fucking Calgary, and Jaime hasn't met his eyes in three weeks, and they play the fucking Flames tonight. And he's apparently got a bun in the oven. Perfect.

It’s not like this is a total shock; these things happen sometimes, kind of a once-in-a-blue-moon sort of deal. He just never knew he had the gene. And, fuck, the only time he’s gone at it without a condom had been....fuck.

Tyler throws himself on the bed, shivering in that holy-shit-panic way that he had felt when Chiarelli called him into his office. He can’t be pregnant. Professional hockey players with million dollar contracts who are the face of a franchise don’t get knocked up. Especially not by their captain.

Fuck, his captain. What the fuck does he tell Jamie, who had gone all stiff (and not in a good way) the morning after that night they had drunk way too much, and had gotten dressed silently while Tyler had pretended to be still asleep, and who had walked out the door with just, “Don’t be late for practice,” like he totally knew Tyler had been faking it.

And it totally has to be Jamie’s, cause Tyler’s gotten pretty good at this whole, “no glove, no love” business after a near-miss incident back in Boston, but he knows that he and Jamie hadn’t used a condom--they had both been so sloppy drunk, and Tyler had been so thrilled, that it hadn’t even come up. And after that night, Tyler had waited, for any kind of hint or sign that this would be more than a one night stand, and there hadn’t been anyone else.

And then he’d started getting nauseous in the mornings, his body just feeling off somehow. Tyler had complained to a friend, who had joked, “Dude, sounds like you’re pregnant or something. My sister felt the same way when she got knocked up. Wouldn’t that be hilarious?”

Tyler had laughed, shrugging it off, until he had passed the pregnancy tests in the drugstore aisle and had thought... what the hell?

It’s not so hilarious now.

He takes out his phone, hovering over Jamie’s name, and wonders how one is supposed to tell their captain and one-night stand that one is apparently among the one-in-ten thousand dudes who can get preggers, and yeah, mazel fucking tov.

Deciding to make the mature, grown-up decision, Tyler calls the wisest man he knows.

“Fuck off, it’s in the middle of my nap, man.” Brownie sounds irritated and sleep-rough, but Tyler doesn’t have time for his shit.

“I’m pregnant.”

“Fuck you, I’m going back to bed.”

“Fucking serious, man. I am legit knocked up.”

Tyler can sense Brownie’s skepticism over the phone. “I don’t understand--did you get someone pregnant?”

“No, you dipshit, I’m pregnant. Like in nine months, there’s gonna be a mini Segs crawling around this place.”

“Five months,” Brownie corrects, still sounding asleep. “Didn’t you pay attention in health? Dudes do five months and--” He pauses, and Tyler figures the news has just caught up to him. “Holy shit. Holy shit! Are you fucking for real?”

“Of course I’m fucking for real, I just took the test!” At the sound of Brownie’s choked-off cough, Tyler feels his panic begin to ratchet up again.

“I thought that shit was like, super rare?”

“Well, I guess I’m super fucking blessed,” Tyler snarks back.

“Dude, who’d you fuck?” Brownie sounds completely awake now, and Tyler hears the sounds of him shuffling around.

“None of your business,” he snaps, because he knows, instinctively, it would fuck things up even worse if anyone knew. Not that things weren’t fucked up already.

And fuck, fuck, fuck, he’s just got his career back on track, and he’s playing the best hockey of his life, and he’s a total stud. This would ruin everything, and Jamie would blame him for ruining his career too, for bringing him into this. Jamie’s one of the more private guys Tyler knows--he hates talking to the press, and almost never picks up when the team’s at the bar. Jamie, who obviously regretted everything in the light of day, would hate the media shitstorm this thing would create if anyone else knew.

"Like, what the fuck, Brownie. Like, really?"

"Calm down."

"How the fuck am I supposed to calm down oh my god where the fuck is it even gonna come out--oh my god, oh my god--"

"Tyler, you're having a panic attack."

"It's gonna be like Alien, only with my ass, oh my god, oh my god--"

“Segs, shut up.” And Brownie sounds serious right now, more so than the time Tyler had sat him down and told him he liked guys and Brownie had told them they would always be bros.

So Tyler shuts up.

“You’re going to take a deep breath and figure out what your next step is. Call the team doctor, get this shit confirmed, then, I don’t know, call your agent or your GM? Cause this thing happens fast for dudes--you, you’re going to get huge.” Brownie starts to snicker. “Oh my god, you’re going to be the size of a whale.”

“Fuck you, man.” Tyler’s only known for fifteen minutes, but his mind shifts to a few months from now. If Brownie’s right, and it is five months for guys, then he’s going to be showing pretty soon. His flat stomach, the pride of his conditioning, distorted and swollen, and this thing inside of him that Tyler can’t even wrap his head around. Would the organization even let him play? They wouldn’t. It’s not like an injury that Tyler can just skate through.  

“Can I… you know… get rid of it?”  

Brownie’s silent, and they’re both good Canadian boys, not particularly religious, but the concept had never really entered their heads. Tyler knows that if Julie ever got pregnant, Brownie would marry her without a second thought, probably would be thrilled out of his goddamn mind.

But if Tyler saw the doctor, and got it done soon, while it was still the size of a tadpole or something… no one would have to know. Jamie would never have to know.

“I dunno, man. I mean, theoretically you should be able to, right?”

“Yeah.” Tyler breaths in a sigh of relief. Okay, he can get this thing handled. He’s twenty-two years old, for christ's sake. He totally has his shit together.

---

After an uneventful shutout of the Flames, Tyler opts to hang back and take his time getting his gear off rather than run off to whatever unlucky bar in Calgary gets to host the team. Jamie shuffles out with his brother, but not before shooting Tyler a look, half-skeptical, half-suspicious.

When the team’s completely gone, he heads down to where their team physician sets up shop during away games and delivers the news as stoically as he can.

Dr. Andrews’ eyebrows shoot up, and stay there for a good minute.

“Well, this is certainly unusual.”

No duh, Tyler wants to say, but doesn’t, only shrugs his shoulders. Dr. Andrews still seems skeptical but draws blood anyway, promising an answer by the time they’re back in Dallas.

“In the meantime, if you are pregnant, it would be extremely ill-advised to keep playing. Someone in your condition is at risk for bodily trauma even with light checking.”

Tyler hangs his head, but asks, “Doc, if it’s real, and I am… you know… could I fix it somehow?”

“You mean terminate the pregnancy?” Andrews sounds impassive, and Tyler can’t tell if he disapproves or not.

“Yeah. With my career and all...”

Andrews lets him trail off before fixing him with a serious look. “Tyler, I don’t know how much you know about this situation, but male pregnancy is extremely rare. It’s rare because our bodies evolved away from the type of internal environment that easily supports life, like the female womb. Those who are positive for the gene often find that their bodies have difficulty sustaining fetal development, which is why gestation takes fewer months than female bodies. However...” Tyler’s stomach drops as Andrews pauses and rubs the place where his glasses create divots on the sides of his nose. “However, the procedure necessary to terminate a male pregnancy, no matter how early it is, is incredibly invasive, necessitating several incisions to highly delicate areas. Such a procedure is possible, but the risks are high, much higher than when the fetus is fully developed and it’s possible to carry out a C-section. At worst, you could suffer from cardiac arrest or internal damage. At the least, you’d be out for at least four to six weeks healing.”

Tyler hears him speak through what seems like a tunnel, echoey and indistinct. Four to six weeks during the middle of the season doesn’t sound like the worst thing, but people would have to know. The media would be salivating to know why he was out. And as for the worst-case scenario...

“So you’re saying I have to keep it,” Tyler says numbly.

“I’m saying you will have to carefully consider all of your options. The safest and healthiest option for you would be to carry the fetus to full term, at which point we would arrange the C-section to safely deliver the baby.”

Tyler suddenly feels grateful that it’s not coming out of his ass, like he originally thought, and a bubble of hysterical laughter erupts from his mouth.

“Oh shit.” He says shakily, and Andrews nods in sympathy.

“Oh shit, indeed. Listen, take a deep breath and head back to the hotel. We’ll have the final result for you in a few days, at which point if it is positive, it’s in your best interest to inform management about this situation.”

Tyler nods and heads out, hitching a ride with some of the equipment guys back to the hotel.

Later that night, when he’s cried a little bit and watched some of The Bachelor, he calls up Brownie, who answers the phone with an expectant, “Well?”

“The doctor says removing it would be worse than just... letting it happen, I guess.”

“So you’re going to keep it.”

“I really don’t have a choice, Brownie,” Tyler mumbles into the dark of his lonely fucking hotel room in Calgary. The gaping space in his room doesn’t make him wonder what Jaime’s doing now. He doesn’t think about Jamie at the bar, drinking cheap Canadian beer and being too choose to pick up, not thinking about how health issues are going to mess up the four to six months of his career because he’s not having a fucking baby.

As if reading Tyler’s mind, Brownie follows up with, “You gonna tell me who the dad is?”

Tyler considers it for a moment, before whispering, as though someone might overhear, “You can’t tell anyone, not even Julie.”

“I know, I know. It’s our secret, man.”

Tyler whispers, “Jamie.”

Benn?”

“Yeah, fuckface, Jamie fucking Benn.”

Brownie whistles, “Jeez, you sure know how to pick ‘em. And you’re not going to tell him?”

“No,” Tyler says resolutely.

“I mean, dude, Jamie’s a pretty good guy. He’d stand by you and shit, he’d probably buy every stuffed animal in Dallas for your kid. I mean, the guy really digs you.”

“Yeah, I know we’re buddies and all--”

“No, Segs, he really likes you. Like: likes you-likes you. Dude turns all bambi-eyes whenever you have an interview together. And he’s always texting you to hang out and get dinner. Date stuff.”

And Tyler doesn’t want to think about Jamie’s bambi eyes, or his weird little smile whenever Tyler does something awesome on the ice, or the way he had breathed Tyler’s name into his neck as he had made that final, perfect, tight thrust inside him that night.

The thing between them had been fragile even before they hooked up, mostly too-long pats on the back, and exuberant cellies, and Jamie’s silently vocal look whenever Tyler left the bar with someone. Dallas is a big enough place, and unlike Boston, Tyler barely gets recognized anymore. Meeting guys still takes some finesse, but it’s probably the worst-kept secret on the team that he likes the D.

“Tyler,” he says, and Brownie shuts up, cause Tyler only ever uses his first name when they’re being really serious. “He can’t know. If he finds out, the team will find out too, and then everyone will know it’s his. But he can’t know. He... It meant nothing to him. He deserves to find someone he really wants to have a kid with, and that’s not me.”

“Jeez, man, play the martyr, will you.”

“It’s only five months, and then, I don’t know, my family can take care of it, or I’ll hire a nanny or something. The kid’ll have plenty of people around and won’t even notice he’s missing another parent.”

“Yeah, sure, because that happens all the time.”

Tyler doesn’t reply, and the silence stretches until, “If you need it, I’ll be your baby daddy.” Brownie tells him solemnly.

"Thanks, bro," Tyler replies, feeling a lump in his chest. Brownie’s support makes him feel not as awful about the situation.

Tyler gets official confirmation two days later and spends a good afternoon sitting on his couch, staring at his phone, dreading both calls and wondering which he should get over with first.

He settles on the lesser of two evils and waits with unsteady breaths as his mom picks up. Breaking the news to her goes as expected, with shouts and lots of crying.

“We had no idea, baby! We opted out of genetic testing because it seemed so unlikely, I mean--wow!” His mom seems strappedfor words, and Tyler doesn’t know if she feels excited or embarrassed or even guilty. Tyler hears his dad muttering to himself beside her, similarly in shock.

“Who... who were you with?”

Tyler swallows, “He’s not important, Mom.”

“Of course he’s important,” his dad yells into the phone. “He’s the... he’s the father of your child!”

“He doesn’t know, and he’s not going to, okay? This is my problem, and I’m going to take responsibility for it myself.”

“Oh, baby,” his mom croons into the phone, and Tyler feels himself crumble a little bit, folding into himself on the couch. “You’re so young; you don’t know the first thing about having a child.”

“Yeah, well, did you guys when you had me?” Tyler shoots back, and there’s a strained silence on the other line.

His dad’s voice sounds gruff, but slightly more sympathetic when he replies, “Going through something like this alone... your mother and I just want you to be happy and healthy.”

“Do you want us to come down?” his mother asks, and Tyler can just picture her twisting around for her bag.

“No, Mom, not just yet. Let me handle things down here first, but then, maybe when I’m farther along.” Jeez, just saying the words makes Tyler want to puke, which, he already did that today. Having read through the bajillion of pamphlets left by the doctor, he has a pretty rough guestimate that he’s almost halfway through the first stage of his pregnancy, and the nausea will probably continue for another couple of weeks before he really starts to show.

“You know you won’t be alone in this,” his mom says, sounding firm. Tyler feels a lump in his throat, nodding even though they can’t see it.

“Yeah,” he croaks out, and then promises to break the news to his sisters.

After speaking to Candace and Cassidy, which takes twice as long, and with even more tears and demands to know who the other father is. Tyler’s exhausted and burnt out. And hungry, and kind of horny, weirdly enough.

Shoving that last feeling down, he calls to make an appointment with Nill, Andrews and the rest of the upper office before dialing his agents.

Larinov and Pulver, unsurprisingly, are shocked and a little bit pissed.

“You had no idea you were gene-positive?” Ian demands, and doesn’t let Tyler finish before continuing, “We’ve never had a case like this before. Listen, don’t talk to anyone, don’t even move. I’m flying down to meet with your GM immediately. You’re under contract with this organization, and they can’t touch that.”

Tyler hadn’t thought they would. But there’s no maternity leave clause (or, he guesses, paternity leave) in the paperwork, since this kind of thing happens so rarely, so he honestly doesn’t know what’s going to happen. If they did try to ship him out he could probably make the argument that he should receive the same treatment he’d get if he were injured, which would be being put on IR.

His answer comes the next day at a closed-door meeting with the head honchos.

Tyler’s starting to get tired of all the gobsmacked expressions but he lets Doctor Andrews take over the medical discussions, and everyone agrees that they’ll need to send out a press release as soon as possible.

“Tyler,” Nill begins, looking more beleaguered than a GM normally does, “can you tell us who the other father is?”

Tyler looks down at his hands for a moment before telling the group that he knows who the father is, but that he’s not part of the equation.

“Mr. Seguin.” It’s one of the PR people, a pleasant blonde lady who stares at him like he’s a new species of plant. “Handling your image through this is going to be an incredibly delicate process. We understand that this is a delicate situation. But having all of the information would allow this organization to better protect you and your child. Shaping the narrative of this story is going to take some finesse.”   

“The father doesn’t matter,” Tyler insists, and continues to insist for another hour before everyone seems to give up, for the time being.

“Well, fuck me,” Ruff says to no one, and Tyler nods  because, his fucking sentiments exactly. “Tyler, we’re going to have to put you on IR for the rest of the season. There’s no way you’ll be back in time for the playoffs.”

Tyler feels something dark settle inside his stomach, making a home beside where this unnamed, unwelcome thing is growing.

After three more hours, including what felt like fifteen mandatory hydration breaks, Tyler is set free with his instructions. Feeling like a man about to go back to war after narrowly winning the first one, he makes his way down to the locker room. The sounds of the guys hooting and laughing after an invigorating optional skate echoing up the hallway.

He gets some weird looks when he steps inside, but moments later Ruff steps in behind him and whistles loudly. When the room falls completely silent, Tyler is nudged forward by Ruff and opens his mouth to deliver the news, eyes trained on the Stars logo on the carpet.

---

You could hear a pin drop, Tyler thinks wryly, looking upon a room full of hockey players with their jaws hanging loose. The silence is broken by Rousell, who exclaims, “What ze fuck,” and the rest of the team takes that as their cue to start their barrage of questions.

Tyler’s not sure he even answers any of their questions, since the guys all start shouting over each other, filling in the blanks with half-remembered facts from their high school health class.

“Does it come out of your ass?” Eakin demands, sounding panicked, and a wave of groans is answer enough.

After the initial round,  the questions start turning to awkward congratulations, with Pevs leading the charge with a huge hug. “The Bs are going to flip, man,” He laughs, slapping Tyler on the back and moving away so another guy can have his turn.

“Who’s the dad?” Jordie asks when it’s his turn, his eyes darting to the corner of the room where Jamie lingers.

“No one,” Tyler mutters to him, “just some guy,” and chances a look at Jamie, who unexpectedly meets his eyes, his face set in an unreadable look.

After a moment of apparent hesitation, Jamie makes his way over to Tyler, clasping his shoulder and shaking his hand. “I guess congratulations are in order,” he tells Tyler, who nods silently, feeling awkward about Jamie touching him so casually after weeks of avoidance.

“I’m sure you’ll be a great dad,” Jamie continues, and Tyler wants to tell him, so, so bad. But the rest of the team are there, and Tyler’s about to go give a press conference. So he pulls away and manages a grin, saying, “I’ll be around, you know--gotta keep my figure looking fine.” He poses a little for the guys, who laugh and make awful jokes about his tits getting big, which, fuck them, it’s like no one paid attention in health class. Guys don’t grow tits, or get milk. It’s one of the reasons why male pregnancy is so rare. They have formula these days.

The memory of Jamie’s impassive face follows Tyler through the next few hours, as he practically tastes the collective jizz of a dozen reporters when he shares the news. Immediately, his iPhone starts chirping at him, and Tyler just knows those texts, emails and google alerts won’t die down for the next several months.

 ---

When Tyler remembers that night, which he tries not to, he remembers the look on Jamie’s face, flushed with the heat of the bar and lips wet with vodka. Remembers the way Tyler playfully knocks off Jamie’s cap, sinking his hands into sweat-soaked hair--a little gross, but kind of hot. The soft, hooded look in Jamie’s eyes when he leans forward and whispers, “Wanna go somewhere, Segs?”

And of course Tyler says yes. It’s practically instinct for him to say yes to guys who look like Jamie, who move like him on the ice, who smile with their eyes. Especially at him. In no world does Tyler say no to Jamie, who leads him outside, stumbling and giggling slightly, hailing the nearest cab to their hotel. It’s not as late as it could be, and the rest of the guys are still out, so they go to Jamie’s room.

Jamie pushes him down on the bed, straddling him and holding Tyler’s hands over his head. It’s hot, so fucking hot to see Jamie look this intense, the way he looks in the middle of a scrum, furiously focused on the puck.

“You want it?” It’s spoken like a genuine question, and if Tyler had the ability or desire to move his hands, they would probably gesture wildly at their bodies, glued together, and Tyler’s obvious erection, and be like, no freaking duh.

Instead, he sighs out, “Yes,” and watches as Jamie’s eyes darken, the grip on his wrists tightening to the edge of pleasurepain, and Tyler goes limp.

Jamie grinds against him, messy and uncoordinated, panting noisily, and it shouldn’t be as hot as it is, but Tyler’s skin feels like its on fire, his head spinning with a mix of vodka and lust, tinged with an erotic sense of relief, because fucking finally.

They don’t use a condom-- “It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine,” Tyler insists, and Jamie looks confused and kind of dumb, but in a really attractive way, before groaning and repeating, “Segs, Segs,” while he scrambles for some lotion on the night table.

They’re both way too drunk to do this the right way, so it burns a little (a lot), but Tyler kind of digs it. His body arches, meeting Jamie’s tentative, and then determined, thrusts, keening as a stroke of luck enables Jamie to nail his prostate. Jamie seems to get with the program and lifts himself up on his arms, snapping his hips in a punishing rhythm.

“Oh, god, you’re so hot,” Jamie blurts, looking stunned.

“I’m so happy,” Tyler hears himself saying, “So fucking happy, Jamie,” and Jamie’s choked off, “Oh, god, me too” is so much more than Tyler had expected, practically forcing his orgasm. Jamie follows swiftly behind, stamina be damned.

After Jamie pulls out, Tyler can feel his come trickling out of his ass. Jamie bends down, pressing a thumb against the sensitive ring of muscle, smearing the wetness around. It makes Tyler feel oddly vulnerable, the hazy knowledge that he’s never done it like this before, but he’s kind of glad it’s Jamie who gets to see him like this, relaxed and fucked out, with the evidence of their activity a testament to how much they both wanted it. And about fucking time, too.

Tyler reaches out and stretches, feeling the pleasant burn of a body well-used, and grins stupidly down at Jamie, who’s eyes are still riveted to Tyler’s ass, face red of exertion and vodka.

“You’re so beautiful, Segs.”

Tyler, feeling shy and a little off-kilter, just smiles before remarking, unthinkingly, “That’s what they all say.”

Jamie’s face seems to twist oddly, and he’s silent for a moment before gently closing Tyler’s legs and replying, “I’m sure they do.” He gets up and heads to the bathroom, returning shortly with a damp washcloth to wipe the both of them down.

It’s so considerate, and so typically Jamie, that Tyler forgets about his earlier words, reaching forward and bringing Jamie’s face close for a kiss, wet and a little sloppy.

“That was so good. I had no idea you...”

“I what?”

Jamie tugs on a tiny curl of hair above his brow when Tyler doesn’t answer immediately, but Tyler is fucked out and almost asleep, mumbling, “No idea you’d be up for this.”

Jamie’s silent, and Tyler takes his non-reply for agreement, reaching out with grabby hands for his warm body, and pulling it against him. He falls asleep like this, curled up into his captain, breathing easy.

The next morning, Jamie leaves him with only a reminder about practice. The startling indifference of it all, his voice without warmth, shocks Tyler awake, just in time to see him close the door.

Jamie proceeds to keep him at arm’s length, obviously regretting their night together, obviously trying to maintain some sort of impartiality in their interactions. The warmth, the looks, the smiles are all gone.

It’s confusing, and hurtful, and the thought of telling Jamie about the baby makes him feels an awful, guilty rend in his stomach. Jamie had been so loose that night, so eager, but that had been the alcohol talking. And that’s what Tyler’s avoided thinking about, if a sober Jamie would want Tyler in the same way, if he would even look at him the same way. Tyler knows guys who’ve knocked up girls they were hooking up with ‘cause they were both drunk and stupid. That night, it had seemed liberating that they were both drinking, like the alcohol removed the final barrier of hesitancy between them, making things seem clear for the first time.

The worst thing, the absolutely worst thing Tyler can imagine is telling Jamie and Jamie not caring at all.

--- 

It’s almost stupid to say that the news travels fast; by the time the press conference is over and he’s puked up his breakfast, his phone is practically on fire with how often it’s buzzing. Tyler takes a deep breath, drinks a bottle and a half of gatorade, and commences with the replies. He deletes all the unimportant texts, mostly interview requests and bros from high school who merely text ??!!??. This one guy, Tyler thinks his name was Chase, calls him outright, sounding panicked and asking, “Is it mine?”

“What?” he asks, dumbfounded, because he hooked up with this guy six months ago, “Dude, read a fucking book.” He hangs up, because he has no time to deal with fools, and braces himself to make a call he know will be painful.

"Okay, so whose ass do I need to kick?" Looch sounds pretty calm when he answers the phone, so Tyler can pretty well guess he's already heard the news. "Seriously, man, Zee’s gonna demolish this schmuck, so you better give it up now."

“Would you believe me if I said it was Brownie?”

"Please. Brownie loves you and him both too much to touch your dick. Look, I'm really excited for this baby. I've already told Val she's gonna have a baby cousin, d'you know how happy she is? She talked about her new baby cousin all day. And I talked about his other dad. And how I'm gonna break his face."

"You're telling this to Val? She's three."

"I'm telling it to you, and you're twenty-two: whoever this cocksucker is, I'm gonna break his face. And I'm bringing my boys, and they're gonna break his face. I don't know what that fucking prissy ass Dallas puts in its prissy ass fucking water, but real men don't make babies and then fuck off like they didn't make babies, okay. That's not cool. He's going down."

"It's okay. Brownie said that he'll be my baby daddy. And I like Brownie a lot. He's my guy. It's gonna be okay."

"I like Brownie a lot, too. But Brownie has a girl, and it's not right for you to tangle that up and you know it.” Looch pauses.  “You don't have to tell me who it is, anyway. I know people. I've got ways."

"Come on," Tyler groans.

"Can I be his godfather?"

"Obviously Brownie is the godfather. And the Baby Daddy."

"Well, I'll be his godmother then. It's not like anyone else is offering."

Tyler nods to himself. That's true.

--- 

It’s ironic that an ultrasound appointment falls the day after the Stars lose phenomenally to the Blackhawks. Tyler had watched from the pressbox, fists clenched, wishing that he could be down there with his team, supporting them. Instead, he felt gassy and pissed off the whole night, and had debated whether it was even worth it to visit the locker room after the game. What would the guys think, seeing their top scorer standing on the sidelines, perfectly healthy, if in the family way?

Kaner had visited him after the game, catching him as he hesitated in the hallway. Looking awkward and trying to suppress the flush of victory, Kaner had smiled, shrugging his shoulders and telling him, “If you need some parenting advice, I basically raised my sisters, and they turned out pretty well.”

“Kaner, your mom had to come with you to Switzerland to do your laundry,” Tyler points out, amused.

Kaner harrumphs, waving his hand, “She did yours too, bro. You’ve got some shit to catch up on.”

And yeah, Tyler should probably figure out laundry, and cooking something other than chicken or steak, and maybe buy a car seat.

He hangs his head in exaggerated exhaustion, mostly for Kaner’s benefit, who smiles that huge, dopey smile that Tyler had admired more than once when they played together. He reaches out and gives Tyler a quick hug, telling him, “You’ll be alright, Segs.”

Damm the hormones. Tyler looks up, feeling grateful, and catches sight of Jamie hovering at the end of the hallway, watching the two of them embrace. He breaks away from Kaner abruptly, who turns to see what Tyler’s looking at and waves. Jamie nods back, shoots an unreadable look at Tyler, and walks away.

Tyler feels like he should say something, explain, but he doesn’t know who he should be saying it to.

Kane raises his eyebrows, and asks, “Is that...?”

“Shut up,” Tyler mumbles, suddenly too tired to confirm or deny. Kaner thankfully seems to get it, wishes him luck, and heads back to his team.

After an eventful evening snuggling with Marshall, who seems to sense what’s up and is extra cuddly, Tyler resigns himself the next morning to getting a look at what’s going on inside of him. The team’s arranged an OB-GYN to monitor the pregnancy, and a couple of the guys had suggested they accompany him, but Tyler’s in no mood to talk to anyone if he doesn’t have to.

He answers the doctor’s questions about his diet, health and exercise, and then waits as they set up the machine. When they get an image, Tyler has to squint, because what the hell?

“I don’t see anything,” he tells his doctor, who nods sagely.

“Men do have an accelerated gestation period, but it’s still pretty early in the pregnancy for the fetus to have formed more fully. That”--she gestures to a blob on the screen--“is the fetus. You’ll come back in a couple of weeks, and we’ll see more development. Soon, you’ll get to see arms, legs, feet, a head--the whole shebang.”

Tyler looks at the blob, little bigger than the size of a peanut. That’s what’s costing him his career, his body, and his relationship with Jamie. He can’t reconcile the idea of a baby, pink and squirming and alive, with this things floating around in him. But he dutifully takes the picture they print out for him, promises to take more vitamins, and schedules some pregnancy classes for later in his development--he’ll drag Brownie to a couple of them, he figures.

He snaps a pic of the ultrasound to send to Brownie and his family, who all reply back with tear-heavy emojis and exclamation points. His mom’s I’ll be down in a few weeks makes him feel somewhat better. Knowing that his teammates were similarly interested in being kept in the loop, he sends the pic to them as well.

Pevs, Roussie, and Lets all text him back immediately with variations of duuuuude, whereas Cole and Gonch type out enthusiastic support. Jordie tells him, I can’t see it! and then, minutes later, sorry, Jamie stole my phone cause he forgot his. Looked at the pic foreeever, says its v cute.

Tyler doesn’t think about that Jamie thinks. Or he doesn’t want to think about what Jamie thinks. He suddenly has a craving for peanuts.

---

Deadspin, unsurprisingly, seems to think Tyler’s pregnancy is the best news since Manti Te’o, and gleefully covers every detail they know and make up about the events surrounding it. There’s a poll as to whether Tyler got knocked up in Dallas or on a trip to Boston.

The guys on ESPN even take a break from their lofty coverage of anything but hockey to discuss the situation, calling this “unprecedented in the modern history of the sport,” and citing one other instance, a Habs goalie back in the ‘50s, as a comparison. They don’t say it outright, but the implication is clear: there goes Tyler Seguin’s career. An injury is one thing, but a pregnancy is unilaterally determined to be insurmountable.

There’s also plenty of speculation as to the other father’s identity. Tyler begins to take a perverse kind of glee in denying the PR people any more information.

The team’s supportive and rallies to have him attend practice and skate around for a bit, pressuring him to continue his exercise under the careful watch of Dr. Andrews.

Jamie hovers, Tyler notices, during these moments. He never approaches Tyler directly but always seems to linger on the periphery, surreptitiously watching as Tyler stretches and starts his rounds on the elliptical. He makes a startled move, looking pained and hesitant, when Tyler tries the weights, then comes up to him and grasps the bar above him.

“Do you think that’s the best idea?” he asks calmly. Tyler, a little embarrassed at his worry and angry that it’s taken him weeks to initiate conversation, shrugs him off.

“The doctor says it’s okay as long as I take it easy.”

Jamie frowns, considering the weight, and pulls it out of Tyler’s hands, reaching down to select a lighter one and raising an eyebrow at Tyler in challenge.

Tyler’s anger, warring now with a kind of pleasant thrum he always seems to feel when he has Jamie’s undivided attention, asserts itself, making him snap, “I’m pregnant, not a fucking invalid.”

Jamie freezes, glancing down at Tyler’s belly, which hasn’t really changed yet, still encased in his form-fitting underarmor. He swallows, nonplussed, before regarding Tyler.

“I know you’re pregnant. You don’t have to prove anything to us, you know. You’re still on the team as long as you’re here.”

Tyler doesn’t say anything, because he’s too busy trying not to cry, which the doctors warned him would happen. He blames it on the hormones, and not on the fact that Jamie’s acknowledged, accepted, and encouraged him in one breath.

It doesn’t make up for the fact that Jamie still left that morning, or that he’s only here when Tyler’s at his weakest, or that Jamie has no idea that their night together had far more unintended results than regret. Or the fact that Jamie thinks he has the right to tell Tyler that he can’t lift weights.

But it’s a start.

--- 

Tyler’s far along enough that he shouldn’t be getting sick anymore, and has instead graduated to headaches, foot aches, and backaches. He’s not quiet about how much this process sucks.

“I’m hideous!” he complains to Roussell, who nods the way borderline-cute-in-a-jock-way dudes nod when confronted with a superior specimen of manhood.

Tyler’s not getting much help from that end, so he extends a plea to Eakin, who isn’t much help either, looking blank-faced. Jamie’s just looking at him, not reacting at all, and Tyler can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that Jamie doesn’t say anything.

He turns his attention back to his chicken wings. They’re at the BBQ joint the team likes to visit on their day off, when they let themselves eat a little less responsibly. Tyler has no compunctions about stuffing his face during these times, adding extra blue cheese to his plate.

Across from him, Jamie  frowns at Tyler’s meal. For all of Tyler’s complaining, it’s Jamie who’s been the antsy one lately, always noting if Tyler’s not eating enough vegetables, or flinching whenever Tyler does anything too strenuous. Tyler tells himself that he’s just being a considerate friend. He refuses to think about the alternative.

“It’s mother-hen syndrome,” Jordie had explained, as if he weren’t the older sibling.

But Tyler’s not so sure it is, and it unnerves him, the fact that Jamie’s been showing more than usual interest in his pregnancy, asking him questions about Lamaze classes or vigorously debating whether one cup of coffee a day is acceptable. He’s been catching him staring more often too, and not at his face; Jamie looks instead at the curve of his stomach, the way it pulls almost obscenely at every shirt Tyler owns, even the larger ones he caved in and bought after Marchy had seen a pic on the web and had texted him about his bodacious bod.

Tyler honestly can’t tell what he’s thinking, whether Jamie feels entitled because he’s his captain, or if something still lingers there, a remnant from their night together. Either way, Tyler feels torn between being annoyed at Jamie’s presumption and reassured by his attention.

“Chicken wings are fine,” he reminds Jamie, who hasn’t stopped frowning at his plate. Jamie purses his lips and shrugs, aiming for nonchalant, and says, “I read in a magazine that the hot sauce they put on those can sometimes irritate the digestive system.”

Tyler swallows, because he can picture Jamie settled on the couch, cap placed backwards on his head and wearing one of those shirts with the ripped up collars, reading a baby magazine. It’s really hot. Like, bubbling in his stomach hot. Oh, wait, that’s definitely something else happening in his stomach.

“Shit,” he says, because the nausea’s supposed to be over, but he claps a hand over his mouth and pushes his way past Eakin, rushing to the restroom just in time to puke into the nearest toilet.

Eugh, Tyler thinks, regretting everything. He can’t get up yet, knowing that these things come in waves. He resists resting his head on what must be nice, cool porcelain, because, double eugh.

He hears the door to the bathroom open, and then a tentative knock on the stall door.  

“Segs, you okay?” It’s Jamie, the absolute last person Tyler wants to see right now, when he feels this weak and disgusting.

He groans, hoping that’s answer enough, and upchucks once more. He’s hoping the ick factor will send Jamie away, but he hears a thump and turns to see Jamie sitting down on the bathroom floor, his back to the door of the stall. Tyler can see the top of his boxers poking up from his jeans and strangely wants to reach out and touch them.

“What are you doing?” he asks, sounding hoarse.

He hears Jamie sigh, and then there’s a rustling noise. A packet of saltines and a small bottle of ginger ale slide under the door.

“It’ll settle your stomach,” Jamie tells him, and Tyler snorts derisively.

“Yeah, if I had a stomach bug and not a freaking human being growing inside of me.”

“Just drink it,” Jamie says firmly, and Tyler obeys, hoping Jamie will be satisfied and leave him to his misery.  

They’re silent for a few moments while Tyler’s stomach settles. He’s wondering if he should be the one to break the awkwardness, when Jamie starts talking.

“Have you thought about who’s going to take care of it when you’re on away trips?”

“Um, I guess I’d hire a nanny to look after it, or maybe my mom would fly down for a few days. She said she didn’t mind.”

“What about the father?” It’s the first time Jamie’s brought it up, and Tyler’s body seems to freeze all over, because Jamie’s recent attitude, his pushiness and hovering--it terrifies him to think that Jamie knows, or suspects, but isn’t saying anything.

It hurts, too, because why wouldn’t Jamie say something if he knew? Tyler thinks maybe that’s just the way Jamie is, to care about Tyler’s problems, even if they’re not his own. It’s that quality that had first caused Tyler to notice him differently: Jamie taking him under his wing when he had arrived in Dallas, making him feel at home almost immediately.

Even if Jamie doesn’t think the kid is his, he’s still trying be the best friend to Tyler that he can be. It makes him ache, because Jamie would be such a good dad, and Tyler thinks he should have the chance to be that with someone he chooses, instead of being saddled with someone like Tyler who can’t even deal with the changes in his life, who isn’t as strong or self-assured.

He tries to cover his nerves and sound as casual as possible, replying, “The father’s not in the picture.”

“Have you even told him?” Jamie’s voice sounds a little sharp, and what the hell is happening?

“He doesn’t need to know. It doesn’t change anything.”

“It changes everything, Tyler.” It’s weird to hear Jamie use his name after months of Segs, and it puts Tyler on the defensive.

“Trust me when I say he wouldn’t want to be involved.”

“How do you know if you haven’t told him?”

“Shut up. Just shut up,” Tyler hisses, feeling frustrated and sick in more ways than one.

“I know--I know there are guys in your life. I mean, everyone knows you pick up a lot, but we never knew if there was anyone serious.” Jamie’s trying to use his Captain voice, which three months ago would have gotten Tyler hot like nothing else, but now just makes him feel worthless and horrible.

“It wasn’t serious! It wasn’t serious at all to him!” He clutches at his stomach, where he’s felt the skin shifting over the last couple of weeks, firming up as it’s swelled.

Now Jamie sounds angry, the way he sounds when a ref makes a bad call, or some goon tries to make trouble for his boys. “Look, I don’t know who this guy is, but if he’s not standing by your side, he’s piece of shit.”

“He’s not,” Tyler tries.

“He sure sounds like it, Tyler. This isn’t something you can do on your own. You deserve someone who’s going to be there with you every step of the way.”

Jamie pauses, obviously waiting for a reply, but Tyler can’t give him one. He can’t say anything at all, and flushes the toilet instead.

Jamie tosses Tyler another packet of saltines, and tells him, in a hard voice, “We’ll take you home when you’re ready.” He’s not petty enough to slam the door behind him, but the noise it makes as it closes speaks loudly enough.

Tyler looks down, cradling the crackers and thinking about just telling him. Just to see Jamie smile, maybe, to feel his arms around him again.

Tyler’s no longer scared that Jamie wouldn’t care, but that he would care for all the wrong reasons.

---

The thing is, Tyler’s definitely starting to show. Being scratched from the lineup means many hours in the press box moodily snacking and watching passes that should be going to him, shots that he would totally nail, and cellies that he wants to get all up in. None of his lululemon tops fit anymore, which makes this situation doubly awful.

"Gonna get fat," Gonch remarks as Tyler stuffs another muffin in his face.

"Shut the fuck up, I'm eating for two," he snarls and reaches for the croissant. Gonch is stuck with him in the press box, nursing a sore knee. “I get better, you get baby,” he had joked poorly to Tyler earlier in the evening. Tyler had tossed a grape at his face in reply.

The WAGS want to discuss every last detail with him, too.

“I had a cousin who had the gene,”  Ksenia tells him, holding back a smile while Tyler definitely does not try and check his waistline out in the reflection of the press box window. “It’s certainly an adjustment, but you’ll be back to playing in no time.” She thankfully doesn’t ask who the father is; no one does outright anymore, although he gets enough Google alerts to know it’s a topic oft discussed in the blogs and forums. Tyler’s loaded enough that he could just hire a nanny to look after the baby while he’s playing, and the father would never have to be a part of the kid’s life.

He doesn’t look at the ice when he tells her, “That’s the plan.” He sees Nill looking at him out of the corner of his eye and hopes to god that him playing is still everyone’s plan.

---

A few weeks later, Brownie flies in for the weekend and lets himself in while Tyler’s reading up on how to introduce a baby to one’s dog. Marshall has been extra protective of him lately, snarling whenever a stranger comes near them while they walk in the park and constantly sniffing at his belly when they’re on the sofa. Tyler’s hoping that love and protection extends to whatever mini version of himself and Jamie arrives in less than two months.

He and Brownie play Call of Duty for a couple of hours, pausing only to let Pevs in and order a pizza. Tyler no longer feels shame or guilt at scarfing down five slices of extra large and takes glee in letting everyone else watch him.

Afterwards, Brownie tries to convince Tyler to take “sexy pregnancy pics, like, whats-her-name, Demi Moore!”

“Ugh, that’s awful,” Tyler tells him. “I don’t want to be objectified.”

“It's art, you non," Pevs shouts from the kitchen, where he's scarfing down Tyler's specially-ordered gourmet preggo pickles from that fancy-ass shop by Pike Park.

Brownie nods like that was his intention the whole time, and Tyler sighs, stripping off his shirt, hands automatically cupping the large swell. He might as well have something to show his kid. And it’s been a while, a long while, since Tyler’s felt even remotely sexy. He misses it, a little.

Brownie smiles in encouragement, “Work it, Segs!” He takes the pictures, instructing Tyler to strike some poses, arms over his head and face tilted back, “Like you’re in the shower, and you’ve got a nice groove going with the hot water and some tunes in the background.”

Tyler snorts, but obliges, remarking, "Man, am I glad I got all my tattoos on my arms--’cause if I went for a hip piece, that shit would be blown out."

The hockey gods must have a warped sense of humor, because not three days after the mock photoshoot, he gets a call from PR.

“We’re still getting a ton of requests every day for interviews. Whether you like it or not, you’re the first male athlete to become pregnant in quite some time. There’s obviously a lot of curiosity surrounding that.” It’s the lady from the initial meeting, who has until now respected Tyler’s need for complete media avoidance.

Tyler can Google his name if he wants to know just how curious people are. His body, once a source of pride and envy, has been turned against him. He’s torn between feeling protective of his condition and somewhat sickened by what an anomaly he is. Addressing the people who call him unnatural, or who hold him up as a poster child or Male Pregnancy Awareness and Acceptance, is not his idea of a good day.

And how can he defend against the claim that, had be been a little more careful, a little more responsible, he wouldn’t be in this situation? That he’d be out there, pushing his team into the playoffs like he promised Dallas when he arrived, bruised and bleeding on the inside from Boston, rather than stuck in his house, stuck in a body that’s changing and growing unfamiliar every single day?

But if Tyler’s still going to have a career after this, if he’s ever supposed to open his mouth in a media scrum after a game, he needs to start the conversation on his terms. So he agrees to meet with Kathryn Tappen, which he can admit is due in part to her gender.

He’s counting on the sympathy points, but Kathryn doesn’t oblige.

She asks about his plans for the child, carefully skirting around the issue of the kid’s other parent; Tyler’s forced to answer that he hasn’t thought so far into the future. He feels a little embarrassed about his lack of preparation, and changes the subject, talking about his family, how supportive they’ve been, and the team as well. He makes sure he credits the Dallas Stars organization for their enthusiasm and encouragement--he makes a joke about the baby jersey they’re planning on sending him.

“You know that the spotlight’s on you, especially in this sport. Do you see yourself as a role model for aspiring male athletes who are positive for the pregnancy gene--trying to have it all?”

Tyler wants to laugh. He’s not a single mom trying to support her family while struggling to climb up the business ladder. He’s a millionaire, an athlete, a man, whose life will probably never be as difficult as the media’s trying to spin this.

The things he wants, they’re selfish things. He wants Jamie’s eyes on him, he wants to win a Stanley Cup, he wants to stop being the center of attention, yet he wants to to be recognized, to be admired on his terms.

He tries to imagine a guy out there, positive, like he is, who wants to play hockey but craves giving someone else a family, rather than being given one. Does he look at Tyler and see something positive, something worthwhile? Tyler had never considered actually wanting this from the start, or planning for this with someone.

His situation doesn’t end with him giving birth. This is the calm before the storm. He’ll be responsible for another life, a life wholly dependant on him for happiness, health and safety. It wasn’t something he chose, that he’s now powerless to change, but he can’t ignore it. He has to step forward and meet the challenge.

And Tyler’s always risen to the occasion, even when it terrifies him more than anything he’s ever faced.

So he answers, “What happened to me… was not something I expected or planned on. But I wouldn’t be a role model if I denied it or refused to be responsible about it. This is my life now, and I’m incredibly lucky to have people in my life who love me and support me, and that’s something I plan to teach my kid… and I hope that’s something people can recognize.”

Kathryn nods, smiling slightly. Tyler wonders what she thinks of him and why he even cares.

Tyler doesn’t know how he feels, because the things he said are only truths in one sense of the word. He knows them to be good and right, but he feels miles away from the guy he was several months ago. He still kind of misses the Tyler who hooked up and nursed a stupidly huge crush on Jamie Benn and worried about nothing beyond the minutes he would play or keeping up his point streak.

It’s sobering to think he’ll never be that guy again.

The interview ends, he thinks, on a high note. He gets the nod of approval from the PR lady and heads back to his apartment, his body aching.

When he wakes from his nap, it’s evening, and Tyler lingers in the fog of a once-restful sleep and considers never getting up. Jamie will have seen the interview.

He wonders if Jamie thinks about that night. He wonders if maybe Jamie disliked the Tyler-that-was a little bit, and that’s why he acted so weird afterward.

He thinks about telling him, but then again he thinks about telling Jamie every minute of every day. He thinks about telling him, honestly, that he once thought coming to Dallas was the worst thing that had ever happened to him, that leaving behind a city that he loved, a team he had fought with and won with, all because he was twenty-one and stupid and maybe not tough enough was the limit of what he thought he could endure.

He thinks about telling Jamie, I remember when I met you, and you were kind and understanding and took me out to dinner and paid for my steak and I was so stupidly grateful.

He had been coming off of that insane Twitter debacle, and the worst part is, he was so drunk he honestly can’t remember if it was him who tweeted or his asshole friends. But he does remember the media shitstorm, and the fact that they were using him to teach rookies what not to do. And all throughout it, Jamie had been there, being a buddy at practice, playing on his line, and taking him out to movies and dinners to distract him.

He remembers texting him, Let’s prove them wrong. And they had, together, proven everyone wrong. And they had proven to each other what it meant to be partners, to push each other further, to challenge each other every night.

And Jamie was funny and sensitive and looked at Tyler like he was the only person that mattered.

He can admit it, in the muted darkness of his bedroom, how much it had hurt to be denied Jamie after that night. He had gotten so accustomed to it, taken for granted every look and smile, like they were his to pluck. When he followed Jamie to his hotel room, that night, it had been so easy, like this was the natural next step.

But what had it been like for Jamie to have Tyler? What kind of step, if any, did he think they were taking? Tyler thinks his avoidance was answer enough, although now he can’t be sure.

They had gone shopping the other day--just a fun outing with a couple of the guys. Dallas is so big, and hockey so small, but Tyler’s baby belly is like a homing beacon. The places where they can usually chill with relative anonymity are now full of eyes that watch, wonder and judge.  Tyler does his best to ignore it now. They had meandered downtown a bit, until Jordie had spotted the baby boutique and and wiggled his eyebrows.

Five grown hockey players trooping into Chez Bébé would have been comical on any other occasion, had Tyler not been mortified out of his mind.

“We don’t know what the sex is yet,” he protested as Valeri held up a onesie in bright pink.

He shrugged, declaring, “Is cute. We buy.”

“Nah man, we got to think about this kid’s brain!” Jordie led them over to the toy section, where some pricy French-looking games promised to kick-start a baby's intellectual development.

“Psh, Seguins are natural savants, this kid will be head of the chess club and hockey captain.”

That got some dubious laughter and Eaks cracked, “I’m sure Seg’s kid will get his smarts from his other dad.”

Jamie, who had been idly sifting through baby shoes nearby, stiffened, and Tyler, sick with the sudden thought that maybe he knew, snapped, “It’s my fucking kid, alright?” 

Shocked silence met his statement.

Cody backed up, replying, “Yeah, we know it’s your kid, Segs. Take it easy.”

Tyler just wanted to get the fuck out of that store, but Jamie held them up, taking a number of onesies in a bunch of colors up to the counter.

Tyler followed him, asking, “What are you doing? I don’t need all of those.”

Jamie looked down at him, frowning. “Babies grow out of their clothes really quick, especially in the first few months.”

“I knew that,” Tyler protested, because of course he had. He’s read all the fucking books. He’s had nothing but time to read the fucking books.

“Yeah, so let me do this for you.” Jamie paid the bewildered sales girl and shoved the bag of onesies into Tyler’s chest, gently, before pausing and taking the bag from him again, walking out of the store with it.

Tyler, following, called, “Are you seriously holding my bag for me?”

Jamie nodded, but let Tyler fume for a bit. Tyler’s not a delicate flower, and he’d been a little upset by Jamie’s controlling attitude. But then again, he was also kind of pleased by it. Hormones keep fucking him over. The rest of the guys awkwardly pretend not to notice, except for Jordie, who keeps shooting weird, pensive looks between the two. Walking around in public was getting awkward now, and Tyler’s henley left nothing to the imagination. He was used to stares, but generally from adoring fans, not so much curious onlookers. His pregnancy sometimes felt like a spectacle, like a fucking three-ring circus.

Jamie of course noticed Tyler’s discomfort, and slowed up so they walked side by side, a little set back from the rest of the group. He took in Tyler’s folded arms and pursed mouth and said softly, “Don’t mind those people.”

“I look like a freak of nature,” Tyler hissed, wishing he had thought to bring a jacket.

“No.” It was firm and a little bit angry, and Tyler twisted to see Jamie’s face looking upset and earnest at the same time. “What’s happening to you… it’s unique and… it’s great. It’s really great. Don’t be ashamed of your body. You look great.”

Tyler had blushed from his head to his toes, because seriously? And then he had frowned because, mixed messages much?

He suddenly wondered if Jamie liked pregnant-Tyler more than happy hook-up Tyler. If he was willing to talk to Tyler, and be his friend again, because there was no possible way they could repeat the incident. If Tyler was somehow safely “off-limits” now, and Jamie could come out of his self-imposed exile from their friendship.

It figured. The only time Jamie had wanted Tyler was when they were both drunk to the gills and Tyler was basically panting for it. He certainly wouldn’t want Tyler now, swollen belly, swollen feet and practically about to poop out another human being. If there had ever been a window, then he had taken his shot and missed. Or maybe he’d been aiming at the wrong thing all along.

So now Tyler’s here, in bed, full of feelings and and a baby.

His phone buzzes, and Tyler checks it. And fuck his life, it’s Jamie, texting to say he saw the interview. It had aired earlier that day, and Tyler hadn’t watched it. He doesn’t want to see what his face looks like, or his body. Jamie, however, texts  I thought it was so brave, and it was really great, Segs, I’m really proud of you.

Tyler considers tossing the phone across the room and settles for jabbing the off button, getting up and  making the biggest bowl of pasta he’s ever seen, and eating it slowly while marathoning Scandal on Netflix. Olivia Pope ain’t got shit on him.

---

Tyler’s not prepared for his latest ultrasound, when he sees a distinct baby-looking shape on the monitor, all tiny nose and scrunched up fists. “It even has fingernails,” the doctor tells him, which, ew.

Tyler looks down at his distended belly, which already shows some stretch marks. He tries to calculate how long it’ll take to get back into playing shape; the amount of conditioning he’ll need to do is insane. Then he thinks, what’s the baby going to do while he’s exercising? Tyler wonders if he can just bring a crib into the gym, or maybe get one of those strollers that you can run with.

It’s a baby-baby, he knows now, not a peanut, and not a mistake he made three months ago. The doctor tells him the baby can even dream now, which blows his mind.

His mom, who came with him, is weeping with joy in the corner. They’ve spent the last two weeks on a shopping frenzy, because Tyler refuses to have a baby shower. Instead, the guys show up sometimes with stuff. Gonch brought over a bunch of baby toys and books that his daughters loved. Jamie had bought a mobile with shooting stars and planets to hang over the crib.

“Cause, you know, we’re the Stars...” He had awkwardly explained, as Tyler had tried valiantly to suppress to stupid, dumb feeling of elation in his chest. He had chosen instead to reach out and give Jamie the quickest and most platonic of hugs, catching a whiff of Axe body spray that had nearly sent him careening into the past.

“Would you like to know the sex?” asks the doctor and Tyler thinks, why not.

It’s a boy.

It’s a boy, and it’s gonna look a bit like him and a bit like Jamie. He’s going to wear little baby skates and grow up in the Texas heat and crave the Canadian winters, like Tyler does, and he’s going to hold his hand and call him Dad.

Hands shaking, he takes the ultrasound photo and gazes at it, trying to make out familiar features on the rounded head, but he looks like a not-quite-there-yet baby, like everything Tyler knows and nothing he knows.

He texts Brownie and gets an instantaneous reply: you have to name him Tyler Jr omg omg xoxoxoxoxo

His mom calls one sister, he calls the other, and they all cry over the speakerphone. “I’m gonna be an aunt,” Cassidy wails, and Cassidy says, “You cannot name him Tyler Jr.”

“I’ll name him whatever I want, he’s my kid,” Tyler shoots back, smiling uncontrollably, and suddenly he needs more people to know. He needs everyone to know.

He races to the AA arena, bursting into the locker room just as morning practice ends.

Tyler holds the image above his head like Rafiki and proclaims, “It’s a boy!”

The room erupts, everyone patting him on the shoulder and congratulating him and demanding to see the ultrasound.

Like last time, Jamie hovers in the background. Tyler’s not sure if it’s out of courtesy, or if he honestly doesn’t feel welcome to come over and see. Tyler knows that Jamie’s been probing at the boundaries of their friendship, perhaps trying to mend the rip he had caused in the aftermath of their hook up. It’s just been throwing him off, the Jamie who holds his bags and asks after his diet and the Jamie who acts like cool buddy, like he doesn’t want to step too far into Tyler’s mess. Tyler’s not sure what he thinks about either of them, but he recognizes that Jamie’s been trying, in his own way, to be supportive, and he’s thankful for it. He’s thankful for anything that isn’t avoidance and the emotionless way Jamie had said his name the morning after. And Tyler wants to give him something, wants to let him know that it counts, even if it confuses and sometimes saddens him too.

So he pushes through the throng and approaches Jamie, holding up the picture and asking, “What do you think? Cute, huh?”

Jamie looks a little surprised, but then squints down at the image for a long time before looking back up at Tyler. His eyes are kind of glassy, and he says, “Wow. He’s beautiful, Segs.”

“Thank you.” It’s sincere, Tyler thinks, the way he feels about Jamie. How fundamentally good he is, how much he cares for the people around him. The way he’s shown, throughout this process, what it means to be a friend. It’s Tyler’s fault for wanting more, for wanting to tell him so bad that sometimes he wakes up from a dream where Jamie does know, and it’s so perfect and visceral that he’s torn between curling back up in bed or rushing for the bathroom to pee.

---

Tyler sighs and settles back on the couch after a satisfying trip to the bathroom. The little fucker keeps leaning on his bladder, and it’s like he needs to pee every second of the day.

He eagerly surveys the extra large cheese pizza and two-liter bottle of ginger ale when his cell phone rings. Which is unusual, because no one who knows how to text calls him.

It’s Whits, which is weird. Whits isn’t the casual chat kind of guy, usually keeping to himself unless he’s out on the ice and being a total beast.

Even stranger, he asks to come over.

It’s almost eight, and the Stars have the night off. Ray’s a huge family guy, with three kids and a lovely wife, so Tyler’s surprised that he wants to leave them at all.

When he arrives, Tyle immediately knows something is up. Whits looks exhausted, older in a way he hasn’t ever looked to Tyler, who sees him on the ice as something approaching a god.

“Can I come in?” he asks, and Tyler hurriedly shows him to the couch. Whits stares at his stomach, where his shirt has ridden up a little bit. Suddenly feeling a bit shy, Tyler sits on the chair next to him and covers himself up with a blanket.

He watches Ray swallow, the lines in his face stark against the glow of the muted tv. It takes a few moments for him to speak, and when he does, it sounds somber, way too serious. “I’m going to tell you something I’ve only told one other person.”

Tyler sits up, frowning and feeling something not unlike dread creeping up his back.

“When I first started out playing in the league, I got pregnant.”

Tyler rears back, stunned, and the confession seems to similarly stun Whits, who inhales sharply, as though the words had been ripped from his chest.

“I was a stupid kid and I fooled around with some guy I knew in Juniors, and we didn’t go in for testing back then. Honestly, it all kind of seemed like science fiction. By the time I got to the pros, your career was everything. You didn’t fuck up, and if you did, no one heard about it. So I get knocked up and I freaked the fuck out because no one could know. I never even told the guy I did it with.”

“What happened?” Tyler asks, although he thinks he knows the answer.

“I lost it,” Whits says simply, folding his arms across his chest in an unconscious movement. “I tried ignoring it, and when ignoring it wouldn’t work, I tried playing through it. And you know how the NHL was back then. Brutal. I got checked every goddamn night in ways that Shanahan would lose his shit over today, so of course I lost it. I’m grateful that I only needed minor surgery--most of the work was already done.”

Tyler shakes his head softly. “So your coaches, your teammates...?”

Whits shrugs, moving his jaw around a bit before speaking. “It was need-to-know. After that they sent me to Germany to play for a year. I guess they meant for me to get away from the situation and get my head back together. Funny thing is, I was so happy I lost it that I played my ass off to get back to the U.S., so I could get back on the team.”

Tyler thinks about what he should say, or what Whits means for him to think by telling him this.

Giving him a rueful smile, Whits tells him, “I’m not trying to make you feel guilty or anything, because I know how these things happen. What I am saying is… We don’t get a lot of chances in our lives for the things that mean something beyond hockey. We’re brought up thinking this is it, and we’re sent away when we’re young to live with other guys, practically no contact with the outside world… We begin to view our family members as either chauffeurs or cheerleaders, and we think everyone around is a fan of a world that’s, I don’t know, partially inside our own heads.”

“I didn’t recognize the opportunity I had been given until it was too late. I was blinded by the glory of it, being signed to a NHL team, playing in San Jose… It was a different time back then. Not as bad as it could’ve been, or once was, but not an environment where a twenty-year-old hockey player can get knocked up and still maintain his contract, or even his dignity.”

This is probably the most Whits has ever said to Tyler, and it’s almost unbearably intimate. He licks his lips, shifting a bit so his back doesn’t ache as much.

Whits shifts his weight a bit as well, as if mirroring Tyler, then looks directly at him. “What I’m saying is that things are different for you now. You have a chance that I never did. I know this wasn’t something you wanted. But take it from an old vet who’s been lucky enough to get a second chance: having a child changes you, fundamentally. You may not even recognize the man you once were. But this kid is going to be a clean slate for you, a chance to be the person you always wanted to be, not just on the ice, as an athlete, but as a human. The way you love your kid, the way you care for it, will shape yourself and the people around you. It’s a beautiful gift.”

Tyler knows his face is wet, but can’t move his hands from where they’re clenched amongst the blanket. He can’t look Whits in the eye, can only whisper, “I don’t fucking deserve it.”

He hears Whits get up, feels a warm hand, a father’s hand, on his shoulder. “Of course you deserve it, you idiot. Now be worthy of it.”

Tyler looks up to see Whits smiling down at him, suddenly looking ten years younger than the man who had walked through his door not fifteen minutes ago.

“We’ll be here for you every step of the way. Never forget that.” Whits gathers his coat and his keys, leaving Tyler alone in his chair by the cooling pizza. Opening the door, Whits turns to toss out, “And, for Christ’s sake, tell Bennie he’s the dad. The poor kid is going nuts, wondering.”

Later that night, Tyler’s in the shower when he feels the baby kick for the first time. Putting down the loofah, he rests a hand against the lower curve of his stomach and waits, until… again, a firm poke, as if his son is saying, “Yeah, asshole, I’m here.”

Tyler doesn’t know how long he cries.

In less than two months, he’s going to have a kid; maybe one with his smile and jawline, maybe with Jamie’s big eyes--

No. He can’t think about that. But he does let the warm water wash away his tears and considers that the future might not be as lonely as he once thought.

---

Tyler’s still pretty adamant that he’s not going to have a baby shower, but he’s not going to object to a baby bar crawl.

About a dozen of his teammates do their duty in showering Tyler with condoms when he walks through the door. They’re at one of their favorite hangouts near Victory Park, and it’s a beautiful May evening. Tyler’s four months pregnant and feeling like there is literally an inflatable beach ball made of lead strapped to his body. He grins and accepts their cheers at the expectant father, but is less amused when they order virgin cocktail after virgin cocktail.

“Is funny cause so not virgin!” Roussell crows, and Tyler hits him with one of those cutesy little drink umbrellas. The sugar rush seems to do the trick though, and Tyler eagerly succumbs to the mood of the night, although he misses whipped cream vodka so bad, man. So bad.

He even tries to dance at the third place they visit, but it’s comically awful how bad he’s gotten now that his center of gravity is off--he feels like he’s going to tip over every time he sways. The guys don’t let him fall, and instead make it a competition into who can grind up against him the worst, garbling along to Lorde and Rihanna.

Tyler laughs so hard he thinks he’s going to pee his pants, but then Jamie takes his place in the grind-line, steadying Tyler’s hips a bit and teasingly positioning himself so Tyler’s spooning up against him, belly poking into Jamie’s back. The guys hoot and fall over each other, having each had an actual boozy cocktail for every one of his cranberry spritzers.

“Having fun?” Jamie shouts to Tyler, trying to be heard over the noise of the club, and Tyler nods, letting his hands rest on Jamie’s hips, swaying side by side. The last time Jamie looked so playful, acted so free with his body was...

Tyler straightens up, and Jamie, instead of taking the cue to let someone else have their grind, turns to face Tyler, looking strangely sober for a guy who's had three Alabama Slammers.

“You look good, Segs,” he breathes out, leaning forward into Tyler’s space, and Tyler can almost close his eyes and make believe he’s back, months ago, in this same position, sans the bun in the oven. He doesn’t care that they’re in public, or that cell phones could be snapping pics. It’s dark and crowded, and Tyler wants to sink into the moment, forget everything else.

“I bet you say that to all the boys.” He aims for joking, but Jamie shakes his head.

“Only for you Segs.”

Tyler’s growing confused, can’t figure Jamie out anymore, and abruptly feels overwhelmed with the desire to demand why Jamie talks to him like this, why he says things that are designed to make him feel dizzy and hopeful and bereft all at once. They can’t pretend nothing happened, Tyler knows, because the proof is literally between them. And he’s suddenly so sick of lying and deceit and Jamie constantly being one step out of his reach that he opens his mouth to say something--

When his bladder suddenly feels like it’s being stomped on.

“Shit, shit,” Tyler blurts, sees Jamie try to shake himself out of the fog of alcohol, and says, “Don’t go away, I need to tell you something, but I have to pee so bad.”

Jamie waves him on and Tyler rushes to the men’s room, using his pregnant stomach like a cleaver to cut through the crowds.

As he’s washing his hands, the restroom door opens and he hears, “Hey, can I talk to you?”

It’s Jordie, looking awkward but determined. Tyler nods, feeling a little impatient, ‘cause Jamie’s out there and doesn’t know he’s a father yet, and totally should. It feels like the pieces are finally falling where they need to go.

Then Jordie blurts, “Tell me the truth. Is Jamie the dad?”

For a moment, a brief, brief moment, Tyler considers what’ll happen if he says no, leaving it at that, knowing that Jordie will accept it and take it back to Jamie, who will accept it as well. And when he has this baby, they’ll be like fond cousins, coming by every so often to hang out and play, lobbing interested queries about the kid’s health in the locker room, coming to birthdays or maybe offering to babysit. But that’ll be it. The night Tyler and Jamie had, the many nights after that Tyler wishes they had, it’ll all fade into a dream. And, who knows, Tyler might meet someone who digs single dads, and they’ll be happy raising a family together. And Tyler will win another Stanley Cup, show Boston who they gave up, what his real worth is. It’s not a horrible future, not the worst scenario he can think of.

But at the end of the day, the answer is so fucking simple Tyler feels like a moron for trying to escape it.

“Yes,” he says, and Jordie stares and stares and swallows before nodding.

“If you weren’t pregnant with my brother’s kid I’d fucking punch you in the face, you asshole.”

Tyler nods, accepting the justice of the statement.

“Seriously, man, Jamie’s fucking torn up about this shit. He doesn’t know if it’s his, and you’re not saying anything about the father, and he thinks it’s ‘cause you’re ashamed it’s him.”

“No!” Tyler feels the word burst out of him, “Not because of that--I mean, I was ashamed. I didn’t want to screw up his life, and after we… I thought he thought it was a mistake.”

Jordie throws his hands up and makes a long, frustrated noise. “You guys are the biggest pair of idiots ever. My baby brother is not going to make a move unless you says it’s okay. He’s a fucking gentleman.”

“So you mean...” Tyler says, disbelieving but a little bit hopeful.

“Yeah, you non, my brother is fucking head over heels for your fat ass. He’d probably fucking cream his shorts if he knew the kid was his.”

Tyler’s out of there before Jordie can finish, searching desperately in the club for Jamie. He spots some of the Stars over by the bar, challenging each other to do shots against Valeri, who wears his Russian heritage like a fucking badge of honor. No Jamie. 

As he whips his head around, half-frantically, he wonders how he could have been so stupid. Jamie’s cautious looks, the fact that he had continued to carry saltines, just in case Tyler was feeling nauseous,  the fucking stars mobile. And then there had been that time that Pevs had printed out the half-nude photo of Tyler that Brownie had taken, cradling the swell of his stomach, and had passed it around the locker room, declaring, “Look at this classy motherfucker.” Tyler had been a bit embarrassed, preparing himself for the chirping, but Jamie had snatched the photo right out of Rousell’s hands, before it could get to anyone else, and had given them all a dark look that had made Tyler shiver with delight.

Before he had handed the picture back to Tyler, he had stared at it for a long moment, his face turning red, and Tyler had felt a weird erotic thrill at the thought that Jamie might think he looked good, maybe even sexy. He had quickly brushed it off, taking the picture back and hastily tearing it up, before forcing Pevs to rub his feet. And then one time after that, Jamie had offered to rub Tyler’s feet, after a game had gone into OT and Tyler had been practically jumping up and down in the press box with every deke and shot.

Tyler hadn’t wanted to see it. Hadn’t wanted to admit to himself that having this kid without Jamie would be unbearable. Hadn’t wanted to own up to his own culpability in depriving someone he loved of the chance of meeting someone he knew they would both love, fiercely and together.

When he finds Jamie, he’s passed out and slung over Gonch’s shoulder. Tyler feels himself hold in a scream of frustration, wanting to smack Jamie awake so he can hear the news.

“Get Bennie to bed, too much fun tonight.” Gonch tells him, leaning over, pecking Tyler on the forehead, and reciting something in Russian that Tyler supposes is an equivalent to Congrats. He watches, heart sinking in despair as Jamie is carried out of the bar. Jordie follows along, turning to face Tyler with an unreadable look. Tyler doesn’t know if brotherly solidarity is going to win out over Jordie letting him tell Jamie at his own speed. He supposes he’ll find out soon.

Suddenly he’s not so much in the mood to party.

---

Tyler is woken up around noon by the consistent and irritating sound of knocking. Feeling a mix of dread and a queer kind of excitement, he opens the door to find Jamie, standing and looking hungover in Tyler’s hallway.

Tyler nods and lets him in, watching Jamie take in the baby-proofing he and his mom did last weekend and the pile of parenting books people keep gifting him piled up on the coffee table. Looch had Skyped to help them prepare the house, stating, “That deer head on your wall has gotta go, bro, that shit’ll scare babies,” which, fuck Looch, the deer stays.

Also, Tyler misses coffee. Maybe even more than vodka. But most of all, he misses Jamie.

Jamie, who has the look of a man who’s been smacked in the face with a hockey stick. Tyler assumes this means Jordie didn’t wait to break the news.

“It’s mine,” Jamie says, quietly, like it’s a question.

Tyler nods, feeling upset and strangely relieved that Jordie spilled the beans. As much has he had prepared himself, rehearsing what he would say over and over, now that it’s out of his hands, it feels good. Tyler’s also suddenly, unbearably charmed by Jamie’s cute, uncertain face.  

“It’s mine,” he keeps repeating, blankly. “It’s mine. It’s mine?”

Ah, there’s the anger.

“Yes, it’s yours. We didn’t use a condom, remember?” 

“I’m the father.”

“Well of course you're the fucking father," Tyler spits, and Jaime takes a hurried step back, arms raised. "How much of a slut do you think I am, you asshole!"

Jamie’s face looks thunderous, but underneath still a bit shellshocked. “You lied to me. This whole time, you kept me in the dark and let me think it was some other guy, some absolute scum who wasn’t man enough to stand with you.”

“I’m sorry! I wished I had told you every day. But you didn’t stand by methat morning, you left. And who d'you even think I am? D'you think I just take it from--you're such an asshole, oh my god, I can't believe I have your baby in my body, oh my god."

Jamie, flushed, replies, “You said--you said, you wanted to know what it would be like, with me. That’s why you took me home.”

“I didn’t take you home! You took me to a hotel, Jamie!” Tyler shoots back, wishing desperately he was at some level of drunk to handle this conversation. It’s also a shame that he won’t be able to get drunk after this conversation, either.

“Yeah, but you took all those guys to your home. And I wanted to be taken to your home, too. And I”--Jamie elongates the sound--“told you you were beautiful.” He hisses the last word, like it’s going to ruin his manly image. “And you said, That’s what they all say!”  

Tyler realizes he’s reciting verbatim the conversation they had while fucking and asks, incredulously, “How do you even fucking remember that? You were so wasted!”

You were the wasted one, Segs. You were the one who was like, fra-la-la, it’s all cool!”

“You fucking tool, you knew I had the most obvious crush on you. You could see it from space!”

“Are you fucking with me? You flirted with me all the time, like it was nothing. You flirt with everyone!”

“Yeah, dumbass, that’s just how I am. You were the one who just left the next day--you didn’t even say good morning, you fucking prick, and now, now I’m fucking pregnant!”

“And I’m the father!”

“Yes!”

“Good!”

Tyler rears back. The two of them are panting harshly and Tyler feels like he’s just run a marathon and his body is not happy with him. “I need to sit down,” he states, and it’s like Jamie snaps into action, scurrying around the living room and gathering pillows to support Tyler’s back as he sinks down into the sofa. Jamie rushes into the kitchen and brings back a glass of water and a banana. He watches Tyler eat it.

Swallowing the last of his drink, Tyler says, “I was so unsure, after that night. I thought you regretted it.”

“No, no. The opposite really.” Jamie hesitates, looking down at the floor, like all the steam has been released from him. “I thought you regretted it.”

“Seriously?”

Jamie looks up, his gaze pleading. “I thought… All those people you went home with. I was so stupidly jealous over them, that they got your attention. I thought you liked me as a friend and were maybe curious or something.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“Tyler, you give so much of yourself to everyone. I never knew if what I got was special, and when you got pregnant, and didn’t tell me, I assumed...”

“You assumed it was someone else’s.” Because how can Tyler honestly defend against that? He had made the choice to leave Jamie in the dark, to let him think it was some random guy, or even, god forbid, Kaner. They’re both colossal idiots, Tyler realizes.

“There weren’t as many guys as you think,” Tyler tells him, “and none of them mattered the way you matter. You are special to me. So special. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. It could only be yours, Jamie. There’s no one else I would want to have it with. I just hope,” he swallows and takes a deep breath, “I just hope you feel the same way.”  

Jamie looks at Tyler like no one’s ever looked at him before. “Yes. Yes, of course I do too. Jeez, I mean...” He pauses and runs his hand through his hair, blowing out air in a huff. “I was an asshole, to treat you like I did. It meant something to me, that night. It meant a lot to me, actually.”

“You mean it? Are you serious about this?”

“Yeah,” Jamie grins ruefully, “That’s why I wimped out that morning. It was so difficult to get my head around. Tyler, I don’t think you get what it was like before you came here--being a big fish in a pond that no one even cares about. We lost our captain, the city didn’t give a fuck if we were in the playoffs or not… and then you got here and you lit this place up.”

“That’s bullshit,” Tyler tells him, feeling a bit angry, and a bit frustrated that he can’t be completely furious at Jamie, because he sort of understands things now. “You’re a motherfucking Olympian, Jamie.”

“But you’re the superstar. You’re the one they come to watch. You’re the one I watch, when I’m out there. It just didn’t compute, that you wanted me.”

“Well I do.” ‘Cause what else can Tyler say? He feels himself move forward, sees the resolution bloom in Jamie’s eyes as he swoops in to gather Tyler up in a hug that he feels down to his bones.

The baby kicks, startling both of them.

“Holy crap,” Jamie breathes, eyes wide, looking down at the swell of Tyler’s stomach. “Can I touch?”

“Fuck yeah, man, it’s your kid too.” Tyler feels a bit shy saying it though.

Instead of going straight for his tummy, Jamie reaches his hand up instead to feel against Tyler’s cheek, tracing the line of his jaw. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you were alone for so much of this, and that I was too much of a dick to stand by your side.”

“Nah, man, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner.” Tyler leans into the caress, feeling like he could purr, and welcomes Jamie’s other hand on the firm skin housing their kid. Their kid. The one they made together.

---

Brownie comes to stay at the beginning of the summer, his season done. Same for Jamie and Tyler--the Stars missed the Wild Card slot by a point, which makes for a mix of frustration and guilt inside of Tyler. It feels good that Brownie’s here. Most days, it’s the three of them, plus Marshall. Jamie seems to accept that Brownie’s going to be the best motherfucking godfather ever.

Jamie makes a point to tell Tyler that no one holds him responsible for their success or failures. “It’s a team sport, not Tyler Seguin and his band of monkeys.”

“You are so lame,” Tyler tosses back, thrusting a swollen foot in Jamie’s direction to rub.

Jamie had arrived that day bearing a pint-sized Seguin jersey. “Compliments of the Stars,” he said, beaming as Tyler had stared at the tiny piece of clothing, imaging a wriggling little body wearing it. Jamie had also sheepishly presented Tyler with a similarly-sized Benn jersey, “‘cause, you know, he may want to root for a real star,” Jamie had delivered, straight faced.

--- 

Tyler wakes up three days before The Big Day with a six foot four hockey player plastered against his back, and a hand resting protectively across the swell of his belly. Jamie’s warm breath wafts against the back of his neck, and a quick glance at the clock confirms that neither of them has to be anywhere for another couple of hours. Tyler debates waking Jamie up for some tender loving, which has the potential to backfire, as his bladder reigns supreme these days. But Jamie had been so awesome the night before, pressing kisses against his stomach while jacking Tyler off and muttering things about how much he’s loved, how this kid will be the luckiest S.O.B. ever, ‘cause their daddies are going to be so good, and Tyler could have wept, and probably did weep. He’s been doing that a lot lately.

He nudges his ass up against Jamie’s morning wood, feeling it twitch in interest. Jamie gives a muffled groan into Tyler’s hair.

“I thought pregnant people got all horny at the beginning, not near the end.”

“Well I guess I’m just special,” Tyler replies smugly, guiding Jamie’s hand lower, skimming his belly and finding his cock. Jamie obligingly starts to tug, setting up a pleasant Tuesday morning rhythm as Tyler arches his back, letting his ass bump against Jamie’s own hard-on.

When he comes, it’s with a rush--wait, it’s too much of a rush. His lower stomach starts to cramp up, and Tyler suddenly is gripped with a feeling of ohshitohshitohshit as Jamie looks bewilderedly up at him, mouth open but with no sound emerging.

They stare at each other for a moment, in shocked realization before Tyler throws back his head and yells, “BROWNIE, YOU’RE ABOUT TO BE AN UNCLE!”

Tyler hears a crash from down the hall and a reply, “OH MY FUCKING GOD, I’M NOT READY! WHERE’S YOUR FUCKING HOSPITAL BAG, SEGS?”

The hospital bag, which contains the standard toiletries, music, change of clothes and snacks, also contains, at Tyler’s express insistence, his old school gameboy advance so he can play Pokemon Silver, one of those cool pillows you buy at the airport (for Jamie, who’s not setting one foot out of the hospital room--if Tyler has to suffer, so does he), and a framed photo of all the Bruins.

The trip to the hospital is a blur, with Jamie stone-faced in front and Brownie trying to coach Tyler through his breathing in the backseat. (“‘Cause I had to sit through all of those stupid Lamaze classes, Segs, I know my shit.”)

As soon as they get to the hospital, a flurry of nurses descends on Tyler, getting him locked and loaded into his gurney and presenting him to his OB-GYN, who looks harried but competent.

“Well it looks like the little guy’s eager to get out of there.”

Tyler’s still cramping up, feeling something moving inside of him and knowing that there’s literally nowhere for it to go. He’s scared, holds tightly to Jamie’s hand. Jamie leans down, staring Tyler in the eyes. “I love you,” he says, kissing him swiftly but sweetly. “You’re going to be fine, Tyler. You’re going to be just fine.”

They wheel him away, and Tyler’s so caught up in the drama of it all he almost forgets to respond. He turns to shout back, “Love you too, babe!”

He’s obviously out for the next bit, but when he finally awakens, groggy and sore, it’s to find Jamie standing over him, looking gleeful and terrified, holding in his arms a writhing pink mass. Tyler blinks and the haze in his vision disappears. It’s definitely a baby Jamie’s holding, and Tyler knows, without a doubt, that it’s his.

Jamie beams, tear marks on his face, and hands the baby to Tyler, who remembers his lessons and cradles it, supporting the neck. He’s got big blue eyes and some dark curly hair and he’s perfect. He’s so perfect.

“What are we naming him?” Jamie asks, looking every bit the proud father.

“Shit, I mean, um, I don’t think I thought too much about it?” Oops.

Jamie laughs and shrugs, kisses Tyler on the forehead, and then kisses their son on the forehead. The baby looks around, considering his new world, opening his pink mouth in an adorable yawn.

“Let’s name him Jr,” Tyler decides, waiting for the question.

“Wait, like Tyler Jr.?”

“Nah.” Tyler gives Jamie a shit-eating grin. “I’m thinking Marshall Jr.”

“You want to name him after your dog?”

“Like Indiana Jones,” Tyler jokes, “but, I mean, I like the name, and Marshall absolutely used to be my favorite thing ever, until you guys of course.”

Jamie sighs, but Tyler knows he’s won. Like anyone’s going to argue with the hockey player who just gave birth.

They let Brownie in next, and Tyler holds the baby up proudly. Brownie takes one look at him and promptly bursts into tears.

“He’s b-beautifuuul,” he wails, reaching out with grabby fingers for Marshall Jr., who scrunches his face up and begins to wail even louder.

Jamie looks on, his face as exhausted and glowing as Tyler’s probably is. They lock eyes for a long moment, Jamie smiling serenely at Tyler, who feels so fucking happy at this moment, and jokingly thanks the lord that Jamie has a pretty shitty alcohol tolerance, or else they’d never be here. They’d probably still be dancing around each other, Tyler reaching for something that Jamie wasn’t sure was his to give.

The moment is broken by a series of frantic steps pounding down the hallway, Jordie bursting through the door with half the Stars behind him.

“I’m an Uncle!” he shouts, then winces when five people “shhh” at him. He and Jamie do a series of manly, bro back-slaps, and the rest of their teammates shuffle in, looking bewilderedly at the baby, before offering their own congratulations. Whits is the last to enter the room, giving Marshall a soft look, before turning to Tyler.

“He’s beautiful,” he tells him quietly.

“Thank you,” Tyler replies serenely, locating his kid amongst the gaggle of overgrown hockey players who handle him like he’s the finest china, like he’s the most precious thing they’ve ever seen. This is family, Tyler decides, watching as Pevs hands Marshall off to Whits, who cradles him carefully, reverently, passing an enormous hand over his adorable black curls.

“Good fucking lord, the kid has your weird bambi eyes, Bennie.” It doesn’t matter which of his lameass teammates said that. Marshall Jr. is the fucking shit.

And later, after everyone’s left, and it’s just the three of them, Jamie doesn’t take his eyes away from Tyler’s; he’s smiling that dopey, little grin that turns Tyler to fucking goo. One giant hand rests protectively on Jr.’s head. The kid is dead to the world, snoring away and drooling all over Tyler’s hospital dress.

His parents and his sister will be there in the next couple of hours, and they’ll have

to start the round of weeping and congratulations all over again; but for now, having felt the love of his teammates and closest friends, Tyler suddenly can’t wait to watch Marshall grow up in this town, with these people; can’t wait for the first skate, the first tiny hockey stick, the first peewee team, the first win. Jamie will be there every step of the way, and Tyler makes a promise to himself that he’ll win the Cup again, for their son, for the life they’re making here together, for each other. And for the future.

They’ve agreed to tell the organization after the baby’s born. The world can freak out then, and they’ll stand as an united front. It’s a new age, and it’s theirs to claim. There will be other playoffs, and other Stanley Cup battles. Tyler can take a step outside of it now, finally recognizing what he’s been missing this whole time.