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There is a crack in everything (that's how the light gets in.)

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January 2012.

They're backstage, during the draft, everyone chatting away happily, waiting for their name to be called. Most of the vets are sitting together — it's their one weekend of the year when they get to see one another and pretend to be great friends; of course, some of them actually are…

Tyler sits off to the side near Jamie Benn. It's the first time either of them makes it to the All-Star Game and Tyler jokes that sitting together is the equivalent of sitting at the kiddy table for Christmas dinner. Jamie seems to think this is hilarious. They get plenty of time to talk together, as they don't get drafted until the very end.

Later on, after the TV cameras have been turned off, the guys finally get to relax some and share a drink together. For whatever reason, Jamie sticks to Tyler like a magnet. Jamie is a bit shy and dorky, but Tyler doesn't really mind — besides, he knows the secret to turning guys like that into fun ones. They're all legal at this casino, anyway; Gatineau is cool that way.

It works a lot better than Tyler expected, even, because just an hour later, they're sprawled on top of Jamie's bed, making out like a couple of teenagers. It's worked almost too well, in fact, and Tyler is starting to have second thoughts about this.

"Oh man, this is a mistake, isn't it?" Tyler asks, moving away.

"Um?" Jamie blinks at him, confused. "Mistake? Oh. If you say so, I guess?" He looks really conflicted for a moment, then asks, "So, uh, does that mean we should stop, then?"

Tyler gives him a loopy smile. "Maybe later," he says, leaning in for another kiss.

 

April 2012.

Getting eliminated by the Caps in the first round really fucking blows. Losing in overtime of game seven, against Washington — who barely squeaked in the playoffs! — feels like the worst thing in the world right now, and Tyler is pissed off at the entire universe. He wants to punch and kick, and break things.

He ends up at Marchy's place, late that night. Neither of them seem to want this season, these playoffs, to be over. Venting frustrations helps a lot. What also helps is beer, and Marchy has plenty of that in his fridge. Beer is wonderful when everything else in the world seems to be going completely wrong.

Somewhere between beer and commiseration, kissing happens. Kissing, which leads to a blow job, and Tyler's mind is…well…blown. It isn't his first, but hot damn if it ain't the best he's ever had.

"We need to do this more often," Marchy says. He wipes his mouth, then takes a long swig from his beer.

"I'll drink to that," Tyler chuckles.

"Seriously, bro, if I'd known you were into guys, I would have tried my luck a long time ago."

"You're serious?"

"Hell yeah," Marchy laughs. "Dude, we could have been fucking since…like Foxwoods or something. We should have been, if you ask me."

Tyler's jaw drops a little. "But that's like, two years ago."

"Which means we've got a long time to make up for," says Marchy with an impish smile. "Unless you have anything better planned for this summer?"

"Remind me to clear my calendar in the morning," Tyler laughs.

"Hear, hear," says Marchy, downing the last of his beer.

 

January 2013.

Tyler sits in a booth in a little pub, his burger and fries untouched. He's on his second beer. Or is that his third? He's not sure anymore… He's not legally allowed to drink in Boston quite yet, but a Stanley Cup ring opens doors and bends rules like nothing else in this town.

The lockout is finally over, and Tyler landed in Boston just a little over two hours ago. He was so glad to be back, so looking forward to finally see Marchy again and to have actual, real sex together again, as opposed to the Skype kind.

Just a little over two hours ago, Tyler was happy. But that seems like a lifetime ago now.

A very surprised Brad had opened the door. "Oh, hey, you're back already?"

"Fucking finally," Tyler had said, a huge grin on his face.

And then, all of a sudden, from further inside the house had come a female voice. "Who is it?"

Brad had looked over his shoulder and answered, "No one. Just a teammate."

Tyler had felt like he'd been punched. No one? What kind of answer…? The last thing he was supposed to be — especially to Brad — was no one!

He'd been trying to put this into words and ask what was going on, when a tall, busty blonde had walked up behind Brad. She looked vaguely familiar…

"Hi! You're Tyler, right?" she'd said with a wide smile. "Brad talks about you all the time. Why don't you come in?"

"Oh, uh, no thanks," Tyler had replied, the words coming out of his mouth as if it had had a mind of its own. "I was just— uh... I need to get back." A deep breath later, he'd asked, "Would you mind giving us a moment?"

"Sure, of course." And just like that the blonde had disappeared into the living room.

"She's, uh, your—?" Tyler had begun, unable to make himself say the word that had been on his mind. He'd had a sinking feeling that she'd turn out to be exactly that…

"Girlfriend," had said Brad, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. He hadn't even seemed the bit embarrassed about any of this.

"So, uh... when were you planning on telling me you'd hooked up with someone while I was away?"

"Why are you making a big deal out of this? What goes on between me and her has nothing to do with what you and I have been doing together."

"I see… And how long has this been going on?"

Brad had shrugged, like this really didn't matter at all. "A while," he'd said. "What difference does it make?"

Tyler had bitten the inside of his cheek to keep himself from shouting. He couldn't make a scene in public — not about this — he couldn't afford something like that. "How long have you been fucking the both of us behind our backs?" he had asked again, in a low, furious tone.

"All along."

Tyler can't believe he's been used. Used, by the one person he'd never expected it from; the one person, besides his family and his buddies in Toronto, who meant the most to him.

It's going to require several more beers to dull the hurt he feels inside.

 

March 2013.

Tyler has tried — he's tried so hard — to act like everything is normal and okay, but he's been failing miserably. And he's so tired of trying; so tired of everyone telling him to straighten up and get with the program. He doesn't know how he'll make it to the end of the season without losing his damn mind.

Every time he catches even the quickest glimpse of Marchy, smiling as if he doesn't have a care in the world, Tyler feels like he's being stabbed. It makes him want to punch the smile right off his face. He won't, of course, because then he'd have to explain why he's acting this way… and he's got more than enough to deal with right now without adding on the stress of a coming out.

So he's tried to keep his head in the game, to compartmentalize somehow, but being forced to act normal around Brad, when it hurts so fucking much, is the hardest damned thing he's ever had to do. It's affecting his game in the worst ways, and beer only seems to make things worse anymore.

 

June 2013.

The Blackhawks have won. Came back from behind to take the Cup away like thieves.

Tyler is pissed off — a lot of it is directed at himself. If he'd been just a little more there, then perhaps the Bruins could have won?

It's too late to do anything about it now, though. Except perhaps have another beer. And then another. And one more after that. Yes, definitely one more.

Then he'll go back to Toronto for the summer, and maybe when he comes back next season, he'll be done feeling sorry for himself, and it won't matter anymore that he's forced to play with the asshole who broke his heart.

 

July 2013.

Tyler is a little buzzed from the vodka he'd been drinking, when the plane touches down in Dallas. He's greeted at the airport by a couple of the Stars' PR people.

"Welcome to Dallas," says the taller of the two guys. "How does it feel to be a Star?"

It's one of the lamest puns he's ever heard, but it makes Tyler chuckle anyway. "Ask me again once the paparazzi show up," he replies. His smile is loopy, but it's the most genuine one he's had on his face in months.

It pisses him off to no end that he's the one who got traded out of Boston, that he ends up the victim — again! But at the same time, he feels like the hugest weight has been lifted off his shoulders. Finally. He's gotten a second chance somehow. And this time there won't be any clusterfucks.

~

At the end of the month, when Team Canada announces its roster for the orientation camp, in preparation for the Sochi Olympics, Tyler isn't that surprised to see he didn't make it. He's had a shitty season, and even worse playoffs. Besides, they all think of him as a problem child now… What does surprise him though, is to see that Brad Marchand somehow got himself invited to this camp.

Tyler's life is so fucking unfair, it's not even funny.

 

September 2013.

The first day of his first training camp in Dallas, Tyler walks into a dressing room filled with guys he doesn't really know, rookies that probably won't stick around long enough for him to learn their names, and at least one guy whom he knows genuinely resents him. The animated chatter dies down a little as he makes his way further into the room, all eyes turning in his direction. Judging him, no doubt. There's only one smiling face in the group.

Tyler doesn't feel welcome at all, not that he really expected to. To them, he's the screw up the Bruins no longer wanted, and the Stars somehow got stuck with. And as he walks towards his new stall, Tyler tries to convince himself that it doesn't really matter whether they love him or hate him; he's not here to make friends, he's just here to play hockey.

He's slipping his jersey on, when someone pats him on the shoulder. "It's real nice to have you here, man. Welcome!"

Tyler turns to face Jamie Benn, immediately giving him a dubious look. "Sure, and you probably expect me to believe that you won't miss Eriksson at all?"

Jamie frowns at him. "The two aren't mutually exclusive, you know…"

"Whatever," Tyler snorts.

~

Stepping out on the ice the second day is the first time Tyler actually feels normal in months, like he's complete again, for the first time since…oh, he doesn't even remember when. The only place he truly feels real is on the ice, with a stick in his hands, making a run at a goalie. And it's finally fun to play again. The rest isn't really important, it's just time to waste between games; though that too has gotten better since the move to Dallas.

~

When one of the guys suggests they should go out for a couple of beers, after the first pre-season game, Tyler is the first to reply with a "hell, yeah!" He scored a goal, earned an assist and got named third star of the game, and he feels he totally deserves to be rewarded for that. Besides, what good is it being legal in all 50 states if you can't take advantage of it?

Tyler is on his third beer, and getting friendly with a cute little waitress — he's really not into her that way, but she's the handsy type and Tyler enjoys the touches and caresses a lot — when he notices Bennie shaking his head at him like some sort of warning. It's exactly the kind of thing he'd expect from, say, Jonny Toews. Apparently getting a 'C' on your jersey turns guys into killjoys.

~

Throughout the pre-season, Tyler often ends up sitting in a bar, sampling all kinds of local beer and flirting shamelessly with anyone and everyone he deems worthy of his attention. It won't lead to anything, of course; he's staying the hell away from that for now. He just likes to have fun, and he likes to have it with fun people. Every time that Bennie's around, he keeps shooting Tyler disappointed glances and shaking his head at him.

"Since when does a 'C' give you the right to judge, huh?" Tyler sneers at his newly minted captain, when he decides he's has more than enough of this.

"I'm not judging," says Jamie. "But don't you think you should cool it a little with the drinking and the flirting? You don't want to get into trouble again, do you?"

"You know, you were a lot more fun at the All-Star Game," Tyler replies in an annoyed tone. He clearly remembers a version of Jamie who didn't mind drinking and flirting at all. Captaincy definitely changes guys.

Jamie shrugs. "If you say so."

Tyler eyes him suspiciously a moment, but eventually decides against enquiring whether Jamie remembers that week-end or not. It doesn't really matter either way; it's probably best not to remind him if he doesn't. It was a drunken mistake anyway, wasn't it? Ultimately, Tyler just rolls his eyes and leaves. Whatever.

 

October 2013.

There's a team dinner on their first road trip, the night before the game in Winnipeg. Tyler ends up sitting across from Jamie, who doesn't once give him a displeased look, even though Tyler has been drinking beer all evening. It bugs him how nice Jamie is to him tonight, in fact. It bugs him because damn…he could really like this guy, and he's not supposed to. Bad enough he remembers exactly how well Jamie kisses; stupid All-Star Game.

~

The Stars get back home late one night, after having been butchered by the Ducks and the Kings successively. They've won only 2 games in regulation so far this season; there's only one team in the West with a record worse than theirs. Practice the next morning is absolutely brutal. A few times throughout, Tyler notices Jamie very obviously frowning at him. He can't figure out why exactly.

The moment practice ends, Tyler lets himself drop down to the ice near the penalty bench, absolutely exhausted. He's guzzling down Gatorade when Jamie skates over.

"You really shouldn't do that," Jamie tells him.

Tyler looks up, confused. "Which part?" he asks. "Sitting on the ice or drinking Gatorade?"

"No, no, I mean..." Jamie begins, then looking embarrassed adds, "those faces you keep making at me."

"Faces? What faces?" Tyler is even more confused.

Jamie sighs. "Oh, come on, don't play dumb with me. I know what it looks like when you're hitting on someone, and practice really isn't the place for it, Segs." He's using his captainy tone, but he looks mightily uncomfortable.

Tyler blinks at him. "Uh, okay, sure," is all he can come up with for an answer.

"You really need to start taking things more seriously, or you'll end up getting yourself traded again."

"As if you'd care," Tyler mutters, mostly to himself.

Jamie's eyebrows shoot up at that. "You're such a dumbass," he says as he skates away.

Tyler drinks the rest of his Gatorade before heading back to the room. He's not sure what to make of the fact Bennie thought he'd been hitting on him. He wouldn't. Not now that they're teammates; he's learned his lesson.

 

November 2013.

Tyler is a little bit nervous about going back to Boston. He's glad it's happening so soon in the season though, then it'll be over with and he can stop worrying about playing there for the first time. It's not so much playing there that's the problem of course; the hockey part he can handle just fine.

They get into the city on a Sunday night, and while most of Tyler's new teammates go out for a late dinner together, he stays in and orders room service instead. He's not hiding, he's just...he's just being a reasonable adult, and avoiding distractions, that's all. Isn't that what Jamie's been trying to get him to do, anyway? Tyler is absolutely capable of following advice; especially when it suits him.

Sitting in the visitors' dressing room at TD Garden the next day before morning practice is very strange. It's like being in room you know so well, but after all the furniture has been changed and the decoration re-done. Familiar, but at the same time, completely different. Tyler is too lost in his thoughts to notice that most of his teammates are already out on the ice, while he's still sitting there with less than half his gear on.

He's so out of it that when his phone starts buzzing, he answers it automatically. Without checking who's calling first, or any thought given to the fact that he'll be late if he takes this call. He regrets it the second he hears Looch's voice on the other end. Tyler doesn't want to talk to him, but he's too polite — or too dumb, probably — to hang up in his face. Instead, he spends the next couple of minutes trying to convince his former teammate that, yes, he does remember the pub on Friend street, and sure he can meet him there at three. Apparently, Tyler isn't very convincing at all.

"You know, a little enthusiasm wouldn't kill you," Milan tells him.

Tyler sighs. "Look, I said I'd be there, what more do you want from me?"

He doesn't get to hear Milan's answer on the other end, because someone's just grabbed the phone out of his hand. Someone, of course, who turns out to be Jamie.

"Hey, douchebag?" Jamie barks into Tyler's cell, "he said he'd be there, so he'll be there, okay?" Then he hangs up and tosses Tyler his phone back. Almost immediately he starts shouting at Tyler, "If you're not out on the ice in sixty seconds, you'll be officially late for practice, so hurry the fuck up, will you?"

Tyler blinks up at Jamie, conflicted and confused. He's really pissed off at him for barging into a private conversation, except that this is exactly the type of authority that Tyler finds attractive. And dammit, he's been trying not to think of Jamie that way. Tyler shakes the thoughts out of his head and rushes to put on his gear.

As Jamie walks out of the room, he stops and looks over his shoulder. "You know," he begins in a much softer tone, "if you need someone to talk to about stuff, I'm there…"

Stunned, Tyler utters a quick "Thank you." He pulls his jersey over his head and a moment later runs out of the dressing room, making it onto the ice with just a couple of seconds to spare.

Later that afternoon, when he walks into the bar where some of his former teammates are waiting for him, Tyler catches a glimpse of Marchy sitting there with them. He immediately turns around and leaves. The last person in the universe Tyler wants to see is Brad Marchand, so screw them all, he's going back to his hotel.

For a moment he debates taking Bennie up on his offer, but in the end Tyler calls a buddy back home instead. It's probably smarter that way.

 

December 2013.

There's a team Christmas party and though there are more single guys on this team than there were in Boston, Tyler still feels completely out of place. Most of his teammates have families, something Tyler will likely never have. At this point, he's not even sure he ever wants to have a boyfriend again, anyway. He doesn't really envy his teammates — not exactly — it's just that events like this intensify the feeling of being different from everyone else.

Tyler is sitting a little out of the way, sipping a beer and watching as some of the kids run after one another, when Jamie comes by, pulls up a chair and sits next to him.

"Hey Segs, you doing okay?" he asks. Concern is obvious on his face.

"Yeah, sure, of course," says Tyler. He forces a smile on his lips. "Great party," he adds, lifting his glass in salute.

Jamie chuckles a little. "You don't have to pretend, you know," he says, "I'm not a huge fan of these big family things either…"

Tyler shrugs. "I just feel a little alone, I guess. It doesn't matter." He looks away and takes a long swig from his beer. He's not even sure why he's admitting to this exactly.

"Hey, speaking of…" Jamie starts, but apparently seems to think twice about whatever he was going to say.

"What?"

"Well, I was just thinking… I don't know if you were planning on staying in Texas for Christmas? But if you don't already have plans, you could come over to my place. Beats being all alone for the holidays, you know?"

"Yeah, sure, I could do that," says Tyler, a smile tugging at his lips. This is the kind of thing that's to be expected from a team captain, he supposes, but it is nice anyway. "What were you planning?"

"Dinner on Christmas Eve? Just show up whenever you feel like. You know where I live…" Jamie chuckles. "It won't be anything real elaborate, mind you. But I promise there won't be any kids there. Just us single guys."

"Sounds great, man," says Tyler. "Looking forward to it." He's smiling widely now.

~

It's a little after 5:30 when Tyler shows up to Jamie's apartment on the 24th. He's brought a bottle of wine, because it's Christmas and it's the proper thing to do, but it feels strange somehow, and he wishes he'd brought a six-pack of beer instead.

It feels even more awkward when Tyler realizes that he's the only guest for dinner. It's literally just him and Jamie; even Jordie isn't around.

"You mean we're the only two losers without a date tonight?" Tyler asks.

"Uh, maybe?" says Jamie, looking a little bit embarrassed. "I don't actually know, to be honest."

"Wait a minute, so… You only invited me?" Tyler gets incredibly annoyed when it hits him what's going on exactly. "Were you feeling sorry for me, what? I don't want your pity!"

Jamie's eyes have gone wide. "No, no," he says, but Tyler isn't listening and his on his way out. "C'mon man, don't leave! At least let me explain."

"Explain what? That you thought it was your duty as captain to make sure I didn't feel like a complete reject?"

Jamie grabs Tyler's wrist and forces him to turn and face him. "That's not it, Segs, I swear. The truth is, I didn't want to be alone here tonight, okay? I mean, I could have spent the evening with Jordie and his girlfriend, but it sucks being the third wheel, so I said no. I was feeling sorry for myself, all right? Not you."

"Oh."

"Yeah, well…" says Jamie with a shrug. "You don't have to stay if you'd rather not, but I'd really appreciate it if you decided to hang around for dinner."

"Are you sure you want to spend Christmas Eve with a loser like me?" Tyler asks in a small voice. He feels really stupid, blowing up at Jamie like that.

"Well, I did invite you, didn't I?" says Jamie in a chuckle.

~

"Want another beer?" Jamie offers later during the evening, while they're playing video games.

"Another?" Tyler replies, surprised. "You do realize this is my third one, right?" he points to the mostly empty bottle sitting on the coffee table in front of him.

"So?"

"So, what happened to the guy who keeps telling me I should slow it down a little or I'm gonna get into trouble?"

Jamie chuckles. "I gave him the night off," he replies. "It's Christmas, man. And besides, what sort of trouble could you possibly get into, hanging out with me tonight? D'you want another or not?"

For a moment, Tyler is tempted to say yes. But it occurs to him that he could most certainly get into trouble, hanging out all alone with Bennie… In fact, he can clearly remember the last time they'd been having a drink, alone together. It was the first night of the All-Star weekend, and they'd ended up making out together like a couple of teenagers. And right now, Tyler isn't sure he trusts himself not to try that again.

"Nah, you know, I should probably head home, it's getting late," he eventually says, getting up from the couch.

"It's not even midnight," Jamie counters, "and you live in this building!"

"And here I thought you'd be proud of me being so reasonable for once," Tyler laughs.

"Well sure, but…" Jamie shrugs. "Hang on, before you leave, I've got something for you." He heads away towards his bedroom, returning a minute later, and hands Tyler something that resembles a business card.

Tyler takes it and looks it over. It's got nothing but a name and phone number. A guy's name. In the most gorgeous of typecases. "What's this?" he asks. "Are you trying to set me up on a blind date?"

"What? Why would I do that?" Jamie looks genuinely surprised. His expression quickly turns to mild embarrassment. "He's, uh… he's a tattoo artist. Here, in Dallas. You know, in case you were thinking about getting some new ink, now that you're with a new team and all?" He sighs. "Never mind, it was a stupid idea."

"No, no, it's not stupid at all." Tyler cocks his head to the side, checking out the artwork on Jamie's arm. "You've got some really nice ones, you know," he says, unconsciously reaching to touch. He stops cold, the tips of his fingers just inches away from Jamie's skin, and awkwardly shoves his hand into his pocket. Yeah, it's definitely time he leaves, or he's going to end up making a really huge mistake.

 

January 2014.

There's a small New Year's Eve celebration after the game, which extends several hours into the New Year. Everyone's in a very festive mood — they've beaten the Kings, and they're this close to being back in the playoffs race.

Tyler isn't the least bit sorry to see 2013 go. He's has an absolutely shitty year. He's thankful for the fact that things have started to get a little better recently, though. He's got his head screwed on right again, and he's been able to focus on what's important. He no longer even feels the need to drink away the bad memories.

Pevs walks by, holding a bottle of champagne. "Fill her up?" he offers, motioning to Tyler's half-empty glass.

"Oh, no," says Tyler, covering the top of the glass with his palm. "I've got ginger ale in there."

"Seriously? You?" Pevs chuckles. Some of the other guys standing around them laugh a little too. "Wow, man, you've really grown up."

"I'm trying," Tyler admits with a shrug.

There's some more laughter, then Pevs walks off to fill someone else's glass, and the guys around disperse a little.

"Let 'em laugh all they want," Jamie tells Tyler, throwing an arm around his neck. "You're doing the right thing. Besides, 'grown up' is a pretty good look on you, actually"

"Uh, thanks…" says Tyler, staring at his glass to hide the embarrassment.

When he looks up again, Jamie is staring at him with a serious expression, his face just inches away. Tyler swallows hard. Fuck. He's going to be in a world of trouble if he doesn't move away — now. His stomach is not supposed to do somersaults like this, especially when he's sober.

"I'm going home, bro."

~

Tyler is somehow blindsided into giving Jamie a ride home, and the first few minutes of the drive there are spent in awkward silence.

"What happened to you, man?" Jamie asks, all of a sudden.

"Nothing," Tyler replies, "it's just like a New Year's resolution. You know, drink a little less and all?"

Jamie shakes his head. "No, I meant… Look, it's probably none of my business, but… Something happened to you back in Boston, didn't it?"

"Oh. That."

"You don't have to tell me, if—"

"He was an asshole," Tyler cuts in.

"Mmm," says Jamie absently, frowning at the dashboard. "Someone you were involved with? And he hurt you?"

"Yeah…"

"I'll break his jaw," Jamie mumbles, his hands in tight fists on his lap.

Tyler laughs. "No you won't," he says. "Dude, you're really drunk. Besides, he's not worth the effort, and it really doesn't matter anymore." And it's true, he realizes, it doesn't matter at all anymore. He laughs again, before finally adding, "Then again, if you felt like ramming him into the boards next time we play them, I sure as heck won't stop you."

~

They're playing the Bruins tonight, but Tyler doesn't feel anxious about it. He doesn't really feel anything at all, actually. It's just a game, and they're just another opponent — no different than any of the others. It's nice to finally feel that way.

He's walking back toward the dressing room, from one of the corridors nearby where he'd been tossing a soccer ball around with a few of his teammates. As he reaches for the door handle, he notices a shadow on the side of the entrance. A shadow that suddenly turns into Brad Marchand.

"The fuck are you doing here?" says Tyler angrily, moving a step back for each one Brad takes towards him.

"Can we talk for a minute?"

"I don't have a damn thing to say to you," Tyler tells him.

Brad lifts his hands up in surrender. "I just want to apologize."

"Fuck you, Marchy!"

"Come on, bro, just give me a chance to say I'm sorry," Brad pleads.

Just then, Jamie shows up, insinuating himself between them, getting right in Brad's face. "He said no, so stop bothering him."

"The hell do you think you are?" says Brad, turning his nose up at Jamie.

Jamie snorts. "Captain of the Dallas Stars is who the hell I am," he says. "You see Tyler here? Well, he's one of us, and we take care of our own, so if you want to get to him, you're going to have to go through us first."

There's a chorus of "yeah, yeah," coming from the group standing behind Tyler.

Tyler places a hand on Jamie's shoulder, hoping to prevent him from doing something stupid. "Don't," he warns. "I told you, he's not worth it."

Jamie looks at him, an expression of surprise on his face. Tyler ignores it and turning toward Brad, says, "You'd better leave if you know what's good for you."

"Fine, fine, I'm going, I'm going," says Brad, shaking his head. He mumbles something as he leaves, but Tyler only catches a "fuck." He doesn't care to know what it was about anyhow.

Their teammates start disappearing into the dressing room one after the other, and soon Tyler is left standing there with Jamie.

"So he's—?" Jamie begins, tilting his head in the direction Brad left in.

"He's nothing but an asshole," says Tyler. "And, you know, you really didn't have to do that…"

"Of course I did," Jamie replies, "It's what we do here, man, we stick up for one another. Besides, I like you. We— we all like you."

Tyler grins at him. "Yeah, I think it's starting to sink in." He pulls open the door to the dressing room, then as an afterthought, says, "Promise me you're not going to do anything you'll regret tonight during the game?"

"I'll try," says Jamie with a curt nod. "But you know… You could be with someone so much better than that."

"No shit, Sherlock," Tyler laughs, going into the dressing room.

He stops dead in his tracks a moment later, as Jamie's last few words suddenly click together in his head, like puzzle pieces assembling to create an image.

Oh.

~

It's late when they finally get to Minnesota. Or very early, rather… Tyler's not sure what angle he should be looking at this in. Either way, it's been a long night — he could have done without the loss to the Bruins, or the long flight he spent the entirety of pointlessly trying to analyze everything that Jamie's ever said to him. Tyler is absolutely spent when he makes it up to his room; physically, and emotionally. And yet…

And yet, there's something inside that's screaming for him to talk things out with Jamie. It could wait until morning for sure — it's no more urgent now than it was six hours ago, and besides, who says he can't just ignore this epiphany he's had? It's not as though Jamie's been blunt or even that obvious about anything. But Tyler knows there's no way he'll sleep until he can put this all to rest.

So he pulls on a pair of sweats and a Stars t-shirt he's still not convinced he looks any good in, and walks out of his room. Jamie's room is three doors over to the left. Tyler takes a deep breath, then forces his feet to move and his legs to walk, and before he knows it, he's standing in front of the door marked 726. He knocks and waits, hoping Jamie isn't sleeping yet. Tyler doesn't know what he'll do if he has to go back to his room and ponder over this all night. He'll probably lose his mind…

But the door opens a moment later.

"Hey Segs, what's up?" Jamie asks, then lifts a hand up to hide a yawn with.

"I woke you, didn't I?" says Tyler, feeling suddenly very awkward.

"No, no, it's fine." Jamie motions of him to enter.

Tyler takes a few careful steps inside the room, looking around as if he expects to find someone else here. He feels terribly guilty when he notices that Jamie's bed is unmade. "Seriously, if you were sleeping, I should really let you. I didn't mean to wake you, man. I'll come back in the morning."

"I told you, it's fine," Jamie insists. "I was just reading a book." He points to the nightstand, where sure enough, there's a tablet sitting there with its screen still lit. "Is something the matter?"

"Not really… I mean, not exactly," Tyler begins, scratching at his temple. How's he supposed to start this conversation, anyway? "I, uh, I just think maybe we should talk."

"Okay…" Jamie replies, dragging the word out. "What about?"

Tyler clears his throat, then looks for a place to sit. He finally opts for the edge of the dresser, leaning back against it. "About that thing you said before."

Jaime frowns a little. "What thing? I said a lot of things, Segs…"

"Um, you know, when you, uh… this afternoon, after the thing with Marchy?" Tyler takes a deep breath, then finally spits out, "You said liked me and then you said I could be with someone much better and I think maybe you meant you?" He's pretty sure this makes no sense whatsoever, but only because he's not sure what just came out of his mouth.

"Oh, that." Jamie sighs as he sits heavily on his bed. "Look, uh, if that's a problem, you can ignore all of it, pretend I never said anything. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

Tyler blinks at him, surprised at the reaction. He's expected a confession of some sort, maybe, but not this. And it occurs to him that ignoring it is the last thing he wants to do, and that he's just been fighting against himself to keep something from happening, not because he doesn't want it, but because he's afraid it'll turn out badly. Like last time. Except Tyler doesn't know anyone who's more different from Marchy than Jamie is, and this just now… this is undeniable proof of it.

"That's what you meant though, wasn't it?" Tyler finally asks. "That someone better you were talking about was you?"

Jamie shrugs, and looking stubbornly at the floor, says, "Yeah."

"So, you actually like me?"

"Well, yeah," says Jamie in a nervous chuckle. "I don't usually kiss guys I don't like."

"Right, but that was, like… two years ago?"

"Yes, and I still like you now." Jamie sighs. "It's kind of hard to turn that off. You're, uh… you're a pretty awesome guy."

Tyler looks away, feeling a little embarrassed. "But wasn't it a mistake back then, though? In Ottawa?"

"Well, that's what you said," Jamie replies. "I guess I just agreed for lack of an argument. I was kind of drunk, if you remember. And young. And stupid…" He chuckles humorlessly.

"You know, in hindsight, I probably wasn't all that smart at the time, either."

"Look, Segs," Jamie begins, then runs a hand through his hair and gets up. He comes to stand before Tyler, and finally goes on, "Look, I don't know what went on in Boston, and you don't have to tell me, either, but whatever it was…? Tyler, believe me when I say I would never do anything to hurt you like that."

"I know you wouldn't," says Tyler with a small smile. "But what if— what if this is a mistake? I've made so many over the last few years, I don't think I can tell anymore."

"Then trust me," Jamie tells him. "Just trust me."

Tyler nods slowly. "Okay," he says in a whisper, then leans in for a kiss.

And maybe once upon a time he'd thought this was some sort of a mistake, but tonight, that's the last thing in the world it feels like.

 

February 2014.

It's the first time they've been alone together since Jamie's gotten back from Sochi. They're lying on the sofa in a mess of tangled limbs, and paying absolutely no attention the the TV that's really only on to provide them with some light.

"How was it really like, over there?" Tyler asks, breaking from a kiss to catch his breath a little.

"In Sochi? I was really nice. I wish you'd been there to see it."

"Aww, did you miss me?" Tyler teases.

Jamie shrugs a little. "Well, yeah… Quite a bit, actually."

"You know for a big, strong guy, you're such a sap," says Tyler in a chuckle.

"Yeah, so?" Jamie laughs too. "Is that like a deal breaker, and you're going to break up with me?"

"Nah, I think I like it a lot." And Tyler leans in for another kiss.

 

>End.