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Think of Home When the Waves and the Going Get Tough

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No player worth a damn ever wishes for the off-season to arrive quickly. Brad sure hadn't, would never wish for that, but it did anyways. At 9:22 on a Monday evening, the final buzzer sounded on the season.

Brad hadn't wished for the offseason to arrive so quickly, but if he were truly honest with himself, there was a small part that was relieved that it did. There had been a quiet tension he'd been carrying ever since the trade, an uneasy feeling of not belonging, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He stood in front of his stall after the game, in the few quiet minutes before the press descended, and read the text on his phone.

i'm sorry.

Somebody walked by, clapped him on the shoulder, and Brad nodded, instinctively, not even sure who it had been. He tapped out a quick reply and hit send as the reporters started filing in.

don't be. i'll be home soon.

---

They didn't have anything planned, nothing more than a "See you soon" when Brad had left Tampa. So Brad wasn't sure what to expect when he showed up at Vinny's a few days later, duffle bag in hand. But Vinny just looked curious when he opened the door, looking from the bag to Brad. "Wanna go out on the boat with me?"

Vinny looked at the bag again. "For how long?"

"I don't know. A week?"

It was eight in the morning, but already warm enough that Brad could feel the sweat bead up along the back of his neck. He shifted his weight, adjusted his grip on the bag. Vinny was silent for a moment, then nodded. "Gimme a minute to grab some stuff."

---

During the season, there was little time for thoughts of anything outside of hockey. Every thought, every idea circled back to the game. In the offseason, though, Brad's mind could wander else. Often - especially while out at sea, like now, waves lapping gently at the boat - he thought about what his life might have been without hockey. Would he still be back home on the island, fishing like his dad, like every guy he grew up with? Would his off-season instead be the frozen winter months, sitting in front of a fire and dreaming of the sea?

He could feel Vinny at his back, a warmth different from that of the sun, more intimate, more true. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," Brad said, neck craning back so he could look at Vinny. "Just thinking."

Vinny flicked him in the head, grinning at the annoyed look Brad shot him. "Careful there, Richie. Don't want to strain yourself in the off-season."

Brad flipped him off, but couldn't keep the smile from his face. "Don't make me throw you overboard."

"Like you could." He sidestepped Brad's swat, then sat next to him. Vinny was shirtless, skin glowing gold in the sun, a sheen of sweat overlaying his muscles. He smelled like the sea.

If Brad didn't have hockey, would he have sat at home during those long winter months, watching a player he had never met named Vincent Lecavalier? The thought was like being hit with a snapshot: a sharp quick pain that leaves you breathless, followed by an ache that won't go away.

"I'm glad," he said suddenly. Vinny's brow furrowed, and he tilted his head.

"Glad for what?"

"That I'm here. That we're here. Maybe even a little glad about…about getting knocked out."

"What?" Vinny laughed, hesitantly. "Why would you say that? Nobody wants that. Nobody's ever happy when it happens."

Brad shrugged, staring out at the water. The Gulf was so different from the waters he grew up with. Calm and clear and warm, comforting in a way he had never felt from the Atlantic. He looked back at Vinny, mouth quirked up sheepishly. "It didn't feel right." He didn't add without you.

He didn't need to. Vinny rolled his eyes. "Idiot," he said, smile betraying his amusement as he kissed Brad. Soft and closed-lipped, but Brad shifted, pressed closer and Vinny's mouth opened under his.

He tasted like the sea.

"C'mon," Brad said, getting to his feet and pulling Vinny with him. "Below deck."

"Aye aye, Captain," Vinny said, lips curved in amusement.

It had only been a few months, but it felt like a lifetime to Brad, the last time he had seen Vinny like this, sprawled out on a bed and kicking off his shorts. Brad stripped quickly to join him, sliding up Vinny's body just to taste his mouth again.

They kissed until they were both out of breath, Vinny's hips rolling up insistently. Brad didn't waste any time. He grabbed the lube from the bedside table, slicking his fingers quickly. Vinny watched him, eyes dark, and when Brad moved to kneel between his legs, Vinny spread them wide, hands hooked under his knees.

They had been doing this for so long that Brad didn't need to look to line his fingers up, but he did anyways, watching as they slid into Vinny, twisting just enough to make Vinny shudder. Watched as he drew them back out, slow enough that Vinny squirmed and demanded, "Hurry up."

"You never had any kind of patience," Brad said. He added a third finger, and Vinny's retort was lost in a moan, back arching, ass pushing down on Brad's fingers, body rolling like the waves with the movement of Brad's hand.

"I'm about to lose all patience with you," he finally said, glaring.

Brad just smiled and drew his fingers out. Before Vinny could lodge a complaint, he ducked down, hooked one of Vinny's legs over his shoulder, then pressed in.

Years that they had been doing this, but it never felt old to Brad, never felt routine. Vinny was tight around him, welcoming heat, and Brad braced himself on his free arm, the other hand holding tight to Vinny's thigh, and drove in. He watched Vinny - always watched Vinny, the flush of his skin, the press of his teeth into his bottom lip, the curl of his fingers in the sheets, around his own cock. Brad leaned in, felt Vinny's full-body shiver as he thrust deeper, harder.

Too soon, Brad could it spiraling to an end. He dropped his head, watching, always watching, as he buried himself in Vinny's body, hips straining to go further. He batted Vinny's hand away from his cock, Brad's hand curling around it instead, the skin hot and velvet under his fingertips. "Brad," Vinny said, hushed and wanting, and Brad didn't tease him, jerked him off quickly, squeezing until the last drops fell across his stomach. Only then did Brad let go, falling into the sensation of Vinny's orgasm, letting it wrap around him until he came.

Afterward, as the night fell and they sat on the deck together, Vinny asked him, "Were you serious? About what you said earlier?"

Brad didn't answer right away. He looked out at the water, reflected starlight dancing on the waves. He felt a peace he usually only knew on the ice, sitting on his boat, Vinny by his side. He said, "What do you think about staying out here, on the boat? Saying goodbye to it all and retiring, maybe sail around the world."

Vinny's hand was warm on Brad's thigh, comforting. "Sounds nice, but…I can't see either one of us really wanting that."

He didn't add not yet. He didn't have to. Brad nodded, and covered Vinny's hand with his own.