Tyler flops down on the couch and Jamie lifts his arms, letting him stretch out and settle his legs across Jamie’s lap. His fingers curl around Tyler’s ankle, squeezing once. Tyler gets his shoulders comfortable against the arm of the couch and nods, and Jamie unpauses the movie.
In the armchair, Jordie raises his eyebrows and huffs a laugh.
“God, you two are so married.”
Tyler says, “He hasn’t even asked me yet.”
Jamie snorts and turns up the volume on the TV.
The room is buzzing, the guys all hopped up on a big comeback win. Tyler can’t stop grinning, cheeks warm as he looks around the room, removing his gear piece by piece without even thinking about what he’s doing.
Jamie appears in his peripheral vision, and then there’s a plastic bottle shaking in his face, viscous pink liquid sloshing inside. It’s Tyler’s favorite protein shake, the strawberry kind, and Tyler snatches at it, downing it in almost one go. He can feel the quivers in his muscles smoothing out, and he grins up at Jamie in thanks. Jamie grins back, takes the empty bottle out of Tyler’s hands and pitches it at the garbage can.
“God,” Fidds says from across the room. “You two are so married.”
Jamie says, “Nah. We’re still deciding where to have the ceremony.”
“I want a beach wedding,” Tyler says, and a few guys laughs. He grins around the room, and when his eyes land on Jamie, Jamie is grinning too.
“You know how I hate the heat. I’ll sweat through my suit,” Jamie says, and someone throws a wadded up ball of sock tape at him.
“You’d do that anywhere, Chubbs,” Brenden chirps, and there’s another round of laughter.
Jamie just shrugs, still grinning, and ducks out of his shoulder pads.
They’ve become regulars at a newer steakhouse in Uptown that draws a younger crowd. It’s a laid back kind of place, and Tyler likes that he doesn’t need to keep his tie on. Jamie does for some reason, even though he hates things that constrict around his neck. He looks extra uncomfortable now, shoulders shifting under his checked shirt and eyebrows furrowed.
Tyler reaches over and tucks his finger into the knot, tugging until it loosens up. He thumbs open the top button for good measure, because he’s proud of his one-handed skills, and is immediately gratified when Jamie slumps in his seat with a relieved sigh.
Kevin is gaping at them from across the table, a forkful of sauteed mushrooms halfway to his mouth. Tyler leans back in his chair and shrugs, waiting for it.
“God,” Kevin says, when he’s gathered himself. “You two are so married.”
They’ve covered a lot of details for their fake wedding in this long-running joke, so Tyler tries to think of something that is still undecided. Locations and outfits have been covered pretty thoroughly. Wedding party hasn’t been finalized but the only argument Tyler can see happening there is his bros from back home fighting over who gets to be his best man.
“We’re still working out some details,” Tyler says when nothing comes to mind. “So not yet.”
“Yeah,” Jamie says, and taps his left ring finger. “Tyler wants us to get tattoos instead of rings.”
Tyler widens his eyes in Jamie’s direction. That’s a good one. And realistic, too. Tyler would want tattoo rings. He would maybe want a real wedding band too, if he ever gets married in reality, something solid and heavy to sit at the base of his finger when he’s not playing. But he’d also want something there while he’s geared up, constant proof that he belongs to somebody.
He’s rubbing the spot a ring would sit without noticing it, still staring wide-eyed at Jamie. Jamie tilts his head, face soft in the dim light of the restaurant, and Tyler shakes out his hands, blinking.
“You sure you don’t want some gaudy, flashy monstrosity of a ring?” Fidds is asking, tapping the face of Tyler’s watch with a smirk.
“This isn’t gaudy,” Tyler says, affronted, snatching his wrist off the table.
“Does Jamie want emeralds in his ring?” Kevin asks, getting into the swing of the joke. “Victory green?”
Jamie snorts. “I’d like a different kind of ring to represent the team,” he says.
Tyler reaches out and curves his hand over Jamie’s shoulder, serious now.
“We’ll get one of those for sure,” he says, and Jamie relaxes again.
“What’s your song?” Cody asks, when they’re suiting up for practice and Tyler is getting his earbuds in. Normally he doesn’t mind the playlists that the guys put together, but Freddie had just sent him some new music and he wants to be in his own head for a while.
“Uh, what?” Tyler asks, and looks down at his phone. He gestures with his earbud, “Like, on here?”
“No,” Cody says, and flicks his hand between Tyler and Jamie. “Like for your first dance.”
Tyler almost drops his earbuds. He looks around, wondering if he missed the first part of the joke. No one is looking at them expectantly, in fact no one is really paying attention to them at all. Tyler can’t think of anything he or Jamie may have done to prompt it anyway. Jamie is looking up at Cody from under his eyelashes, fingers still on his skate laces.
“Uh,” Tyler says, totally thrown. Cody looks so serious, and Tyler has no idea what is going on.
Thankfully Jamie sits up then, reaching out to tap his knuckles on Tyler’s thigh. “We’re not gonna have one, Eaks. Too awkward.”
Cody looks insulted, like not having a first dance at their joke wedding is the worst thing he’s ever heard of. “You have to,” he says, and Jamie shakes his head.
“I don’t want people watching me dance. Slow dancing is weird enough without an audience.”
Tyler honestly can’t picture Jamie slow dancing. He’s seen him dance, but he’s always goofing off, purposely dancing like a dork, jumping and flailing and laughing. He claims to hate dancing, says he has two left feet. Not that slow dancing requires skill, it's mostly swaying and shuffling.
Now that Tyler thinks about it, he’s willing to bet that Jamie would actually be great at slow dancing. He’s got the kind of build that girls like to press up against, big and broad and tall. He makes them feel safe, cared for. Tyler can almost imagine it, Jamie holding some tiny blonde close to his chest, thick arms wrapped around her back.
Something twists in his stomach, and he stretches his shoulders back, trying to dislodge it with an arch of his spine. The feeling stays, making him feel sour and wrong, and he tries to keep up with the tone of the conversation, get back into the joke.
“Don’t worry, Eaks,” Tyler says, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “By the end of the night Jamie’ll be drunk and begging the DJ to play all of those awful 80s power ballads he loves so much, and I’ll get him to dance.”
Cody looks appeased, but Tyler still feels off. Jamie doesn’t even protest that “power ballads are awesome” like he usually does, he just smiles over at Tyler and goes back to lacing his skates.
Tyler reaches up for his pads and starts buckling them on. He’s still thinking about Jamie slow dancing, only now he’s got his arms around Tyler, Tyler’s cheek pressed to Jamie’s shoulder, and they’re swaying along to “Heaven.”
His stomach stays twisted.
The joke officially isn’t funny anymore.
Half of the guys seem to believe Tyler and Jamie really are getting married, and even Tyler’s head is all mixed up about it. He’s started imagining more than just slow dancing.
He can see the beach, a rocky thing in British Columbia, their compromise. Water and some semblance of sand for Tyler, slightly cooler weather for Jamie. They’d both be in vests, shirt sleeves rolled up, no tie for Jamie. Tyler’s sisters and Jamie’s sister would be in matching grey dresses, charcoal grey, same as the groomsmen’s vests.
Jamie would make Jordie shave.
At the reception their dads would hold court at the bar, trying to outdo each other with stories, surrounded by raucous laughter, plying people with shots. The moms would cry, and then run the dance floor.
At the end of the night Jamie and Tyler would slow dance to one of Jamie’s cheesy hair metal songs, the ones he’s always strumming on his guitar or singing along to in the car.
Tyler hates that they’ve worked out all of these details, that the joke has gone so far, but most of all he hates that it isn’t a joke for him anymore.
“Tongue or no tongue?”
Tyler’s head jerks up, and he fumbles the stick tape. He curses as it twists in his hands, sticking to itself. He’ll have to pick it all off and start over.
“What?” Tyler asks, and Goose has a sly look on his face, arms folded over his chest.
“Your ‘now pronounce you groom and groom’ or whatever kiss. Tongue or no tongue?”
Someone in the room says “Jesus, Dills.” Tyler can’t think of a single thing to say.
“Can’t we keep some things to ourselves?” Jamie asks, grinning over at Tyler. Tyler tries to grin back, but he can feel it turn into a grimace, and his face goes hot. His ears are literally burning. He hates that he blushes so easily. Jamie’s grin slips, and he scoots a little closer on the bench, head tilted.
“I definitely do not want to know the answer to that question,” Jordie says, and the guys move on, the chatter in the room increasing in volume until it almost drowns out Horcoff’s iPod. Jamie is still looking at Tyler, and Tyler can’t get the tape to lay straight on his stick.
“What’s up?” Jamie asks, quiet and close, and Tyler sighs.
“Nothing, just.” He shrugs. “Don’t you think the joke is getting kind of old?”
He glances over, fingers sticky with tape and his stomach twisting. Jamie’s shoulders are tense, hunched up near his ears. Some of his hair is flopping over his forehead, which is creased, his mouth pulled down in a frown. Tyler wants to push his fingers into Jamie’s hair, slick it back into place, but even more than that he wants to kiss the frown off his face.
“I guess,” Jamie says, and scoots away, still frowning.
They’re off in practice, passes not connecting, and Tyler feels a hollow in his chest like something vital is missing. It makes him irritable, checking people into the boards harder than a non-gameday skate warrants. Cody gives him a look after one particularly rough hit, and Tyler flinches.
“Sorry,” he says, gloves creaking around his stick. Cody nods and skates off, getting back into position for the drill.
“Alright there Seggy?” Brenden calls, skating by. Tyler nods and squares his shoulders and gets back to business.
After practice Jamie is quiet, stripping down methodically, more space between him and Tyler than usual. Tyler hates it, and he wants to make it right, so when he sees Jamie struggling to unpeel his sock tape, nails too blunt to get the edges up, Tyler leans over and picks at it until it starts to come undone.
Jamie looks up, startled, and Tyler smiles, and someone calls out, “God, you two are so married.” Jamie tilts his head again, like he’s waiting.
Tyler leans back in his stall and starts unbuckling his pads. “Nah, not yet. You guys have to help me convince him to let Marshall be the ringbearer.”
Jamie laughs, loud and sudden, but Tyler’s stomach stays twisted.
The knock shouldn’t surprise Tyler at all, but his heart starts hammering anyway. Marshall’s nails click on the floor and he barks, a happy bark, meaning he knows who’s at the door. Tyler does too, before he even pulls it open to see Jamie on the other side.
“Hey,” Tyler says, and lets Jamie in. He goes to his knees immediately, letting Marshall jump all over him and lick his face. Jamie’s still scratching behind Marshall’s ears when he looks up and pins Tyler with a solemn stare.
“The joke’s been going all year, why is it suddenly upsetting you?”
Tyler considers lying, or brushing it off, but he and Jamie have always talked things out, honestly, and he doesn’t want to taint that. The thought of telling the truth though; it makes him feel sick with nerves, adrenaline dumping into his system in a cold rush.
He also has no idea how to explain himself, thoughts tangling up in his head and words stuck behind a thick lump in his throat.
“It stopped being funny,” is how he starts, because that’s true without telling too much. And maybe Jamie won’t wonder why.
“Is it like,” Jamie says, and tucks his fingers under Marshall’s collar, ruffling the fur there. “Was it the kiss thing? Did that, did it freak you out?”
Tyler wants to say yes, because it did, but probably not in the way Jamie is thinking. But no isn’t the truth either. He goes with, “kind of,” and Jamie’s mouth gets tight.
“It’s not because I’m homophobic or whatever,” Tyler says, and presses his shoulders back against the wall to brace himself. “I’ve kissed guys. I’m pretty,” he makes a hand gesture, searching for a word. “Open.”
Jamie nods, not looking at Tyler anymore. Tyler wonders if that will freak Jamie out. Being cool with it is different in abstract than when the guy you’ve been planning a fake wedding with tells you he’s into guys.
“So is it just because it’s me then?”
Tyler breathes out heavily, rubs his sweaty palms on his thighs. “Yeah,” he says, and waits for the fallout.
Jamie looks up and he looks, he looks sad, and fuck. That makes the twist in Tyler’s stomach go so tight he feels ill with it.
“That sucks. Because I liked the idea of kissing you.”
That - that is not at all what Tyler was expecting. He was waiting to be let down, to get the “just friends” speech, made more devastating by Jamie’s sad eyes and soft voice. He has no idea how to react to Jamie -
“You,” Tyler says, and shakes his head. “Sorry, you what?”
“I like you,” Jamie says. “I’m sorry, I should’ve stopped the guys a long time ago, I didn’t know it was bothering you and it was just.” He rakes his hand through his hair and Tyler’s brain still hasn’t caught up but he wants to touch so badly his fingers actually tingle.
“It was nice, you know, imagining.”
“Imagining us getting married?” Tyler asks, the first thing he comes up with, because that’s crazy, they haven’t even kissed yet.
Yet. Tyler blinks.
Jamie’s face is getting red, and he ducks his head. “Us being together.”
His thought processes are definitely still muddled, but enough synapses are firing to send him to the floor, kneeling next to Jamie and reaching out for him. Tyler skims his hand over Jamie’s shoulder, up his neck, gets his thumb under Jamie’s chin and presses.
“Jamie,” Tyler says. “Jamie. Shit. That’s why it freaked me out. Because I wanted it to be real and I didn’t think you did.”
“Oh.” Jamie’s smile spreads slowly over his face and then he’s laughing. “Really?”
“Yeah. I mean, not getting married in BC, obviously that’s ridiculous, my entire family is on the other side of the country - “
Jamie cuts him off with a kiss. It’s an awkward angle, Marshall squished between them and Tyler’s knees aching on the hardwood floor. But Jamie’s mouth is plush and warm and Tyler doesn’t want to stop.
“We should get up,” Jamie says, pulling back just enough to breathe. Tyler slides his fingers into the hair at the back of Jamie’s head and tugs.
“Or we should go lie down,” he says, and he feels Jamie smile against his mouth.
“Maybe I’m saving myself for marriage,” Jamie says, and Tyler pulls his hair harder, until Jamie tips his head back far enough for Tyler to focus on his face.
“Marry me then,” Tyler say, and Jamie laughs. Tyler’s stomach is still twisting, but now it’s a warm coil of want heating him up, and he presses the pads of his fingers against Jamie’s scalp.
“Take me out first,” Jamie says.
Tyler sighs, because he’s been wanting to climb Jamie like a tree for weeks, and now that he knows he can it feels imperative. But he can wait if that’s what Jamie wants.
“How easy do you think I am?” Jamie says, and then laughs when Tyler groans. “Three. Three dates. You can wait for three dates.”
“God, you two are so married,” Jordie says, when he comes home to find them watching Netflix, cuddled up under a blanket. Jamie tips his head back against the cushions, his hand curled around Tyler’s.
“Nah,” he says, “but we are dating.”
It’s quiet for a beat, and Tyler wants to look back, see Jordie’s face, but he’s too nervous. Then Jordie laughs.
“Finally admitting it, eh?” He comes around to plop down next to Tyler. He’s smiling, easy as anything, and Tyler feels dumb for being worried.
“No, finally doing it.” Tyler grins when the double entendre makes Jordie grimace.
“You’re gross,” he says, and then shakes his head. “You honestly weren’t before?”
“Honestly,” Jamie says. “This is only date number three.”
“Speaking of which,” Tyler says, and squeezes Jamie’s hand under the blanket.
“Oh, don’t dude, you’ll traumatize him,” Jamie says, but that doesn’t stop Tyler from leering at Jordie, who recoils and then shoves his finger into Tyler’s chest.
“Absolutely not. You have an apartment and it is downstairs. Jesus, gross, get the fuck out of here.”
“But our movie,” Jamie says.
“I don’t care, finish it down there, please leave so I can bleach everything including my brain.”
“We haven’t even done anything yet,” Jamie grumbles, but he throws the blanket off anyway.
“Yet. Oh god. Seriously get out before I punch you.” Jordie pushes at Tyler’s shoulder, but he’s grinning. Tyler goes.
Marshall is waiting when they get to Tyler’s apartment, dancing around their feet and snuffling.
“I should take him out quick,” Tyler says, and Jamie makes for the couch.
“I’ll find our place in the movie.”
“Seriously?” Jamie turns around, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Tyler rolls his eyes. “Honestly. If you’re not naked and waiting in my bed when I get back up here I’m going to be seriously pissed.”
“Oh,” Jamie says, and goes adorably red. “Uh, yeah, I can do that.”
Tyler grins, and clips on Marshall’s leash, and leaves Jamie blushing furiously in his living room.
The lights are off when Tyler gets back, and he fills Marshall’s food bowl to distract him, feeling his way down the hallway and closing his bedroom door behind him. Jamie is in bed, under the covers, Tyler’s grey sheets pooled over his waist. His skin looks smooth and soft in the moonlight shining in Tyler’s windows, and his eyes are glinting.
“Are you actually naked under there?” Tyler asks, and reaches back to get a fistful of his tee shirt, pulling it up over his head. Jamie is nodding when Tyler’s head is free of fabric, and he’s staring at Tyler’s chest. Tyler flexes a little, showing off, and he can see the wet shine of Jamie’s tongue when he licks his lips.
He takes his time unzipping his jeans, shimmying them and his boxer briefs off his hips and down his thighs. He’s getting hard already; he’s always like being watched. And being watched by Jamie is something new and exciting. Jamie’s fingers are clenching and unclenching restlessly in the sheets, and as soon as Tyler gets a knee on the bed Jamie is reaching for him.
Tyler lets his weight fall solidly on Jamie’s chest, the feel of their bare skin touching electric. Jamie is so broad, thickly muscled, and Tyler loves the feel of him underneath him. He pushes his fingers into Jamie’s hair, slicking it back and then gripping it in his fist, getting Jamie’s head tilted just right so Tyler can kiss him.
Jamie tastes like the beer they’d been drinking in his apartment, and his tongue is hot when it slides into Tyler’s mouth. Tyler sucks on it, making Jamie groan, and shoves at the sheets with his free hand. He skims over Jamie’s dick in the process, and Jamie breaks away from Tyler to hiss through his teeth.
He’s so hard, and already wet at the tip, and Tyler rubs his fingertips over the head, mouth open over the hinge of Jamie’s jaw.
“I really want you to fuck me,” he says, words muffled by Jamie’s stubble, and Jamie nods, scraping over Tyler’s lips. “But I can’t wait tonight, is that okay?”
“Is that,” Jamie gasps, and Tyler tightens his fingers, twists his wrist. “Is that a serious question? You’ve got your hand on my dick, I’m not going to stop you.”
Tyler laughs, and then sets his teeth into the skin behind Jamie’s ear. Jamie makes great noises, and he’s so responsive. It’s making Tyler crazy, achingly hard against Jamie’s hip. He shifts over, their damp skin sticking, and lines himself up with Jamie, opening the circle of his fingers until he get them both in hand.
“Fuck,” Jamie says, and his voice is raw, shivering up Tyler’s spine.
“I am not going to last like this,” Tyler says, not embarrassed at all. He feels like he’s been waiting forever, and they’ll have more opportunities to take their time.
“Thank god.” Jamie’s thrusting up into Tyler’s hand, panting breaths making his chest heave under Tyler’s. “I’m so close already.”
Hearing that in Jamie’s soft, throaty voice sends Tyler right over the edge, and he presses his forehead into Jamie’s shoulder as he comes, spine bowing and fingers going tight around them. The slide of their skin gets slicker, and Jamie reaches up to cup the back of Tyler’s head, holding him there while he goes totally still and then shudders, spilling over Tyler’s hand.
Tyler’s got just enough energy to reach for the tissues on his nightstand, swiping the worst of the mess off Jamie’s stomach and his own hand, and then he tugs the covers up over them, settling in against Jamie’s chest. He makes a good pillow, skin warm and damp under Tyler’s cheek, and he feels Jamie press a kiss to his hair right before he drifts off to sleep.
It’s not the last time they’ll hear it, but it’s definitely the most important. They’ve just shared their “you may now kiss the groom” kiss (no tongue), and they’re walking back down the makeshift aisle, the rocky sand slipping under Tyler’s bare feet. When they’re at the back of the crowd, their wedding party pressing up against their backs and the rest of their gathered friends and family still applauding, Jordie reaches over and hooks his elbows around their necks.
“God, you two are so married.”
It’s not the last time they’ll hear it, but it’s the first time it’s real and true.