More than anything, Chris was angry. He generally considered himself to be a well-rounded, mild-mannered person; however, he was absolutely furious with himself, because holy fuck, couldn't he do anything right?
He liked to think he was a man who took really good care of himself. Mostly because he did. When he was on the Habs he did enjoy going out and partying for hours with Max and Carey, but he had grounded himself somewhat since becoming a Canuck. If you wanted to make it on the team, that was what you had to do — fight for your spot in the line-up. He toughened up all summer, and defined the abs he had become so famous for. So, like he said, he took great care of himself.
And yet, that did not stop him from getting a staph infection. He was clean and healthy, and before the infection, his immune system was great. Then, not only had he got an infection in his foot and hand, but he fell apart because of a bad reaction to his antibiotics. It was infuriating, and did not make any fucking sense. Why had his immune system decided to take a rain check right when he was on a roll?
He was mostly angry that he could not be there for the team. Yes, they beat Chicago, and that was fantastic, but even then, they were not playing to their fullest and they needed Chris to be working. He just wasn't.
His teammates were great about it, of course. The first time he fell ill, even Ryan had been nice to him, and that was an experience he would never forget. The second time, Mase came over about forty times. Plus, immediately following the Chicago game, when he collapsed in the fucking locker-room in front of everyone, Max had driven him to the doctor, driven him home, and half-carried him to his room.
So yeah, they were being great. The Canucks were a fantastic team, and they were pretty much the best support system he could hope for, but that did not change the fact that he should not have been down in the first place. On top of it all, he went down just before a long, important roadtrip. The fact that the team really just faked their way through the five games, stealing eight of ten possible points, probably would not have been much different if he had been there, but he wanted to have at least been able to try. He was so angry.
It was hell, watching your team lose to the Flames on the television in your apartment. The Flames. The Red Wings game, yeah, sure, they were the Wings, but the Flames? There was absolutely no excuse, and he was stuck there, almost crying because he could do nothing.
Then again, his melodrama was likely a product of the new medication, and not his actual emotions. The principle was the same — the Canucks roadtrip gameplay had almost made him cry and he could do nothing but sit in his apartment and watch Lu and Schneids hold things together.
He was watching highlights (of which there were practically none from the Canucks game, go figure) and being unnecessarily emotional over them. The Habs killed Toronto, Carey with the shutout, and that made Chris happy. Which, on medication, meant fucking elated. Meanwhile, the Hawks had lost six straight, and Chris wasn't sure whether to laugh (because, you know, Chicago), or cry because it was actually really sad and not fair at all because they were better than that.
The point was that it was ten-thirty at night and he had nothing to do but get emotional over every highlight that came on the television. He wondered if his life had hit rock bottom at the ripe young age of twenty-eight. It certainly seemed like it. He felt shitty and he had lost ten fucking pounds, and really, he was having both the funnest season of his life and the worst all at the same time.
He barely heard the doorbell ring over the sound of his self-pity. He groaned because that meant he would need to get up. He felt well enough to get up, he just really didn't want to. It was late and he was annoyed.
He hoped it wasn't the lady from next door, because yes, she was hot and she was really good at baking, but the only person Chris wanted his cock in was Max, and even that was not on his mind. He did not think he had the energy to have sex. Not that it would have mattered, anyway, because Max was engaged. Oh well.
He decided that if it was important, they would call him. If it was Coach, well, Chris would probably get hollered at through the door. Yet, his phone did not ring, and there was no further noise coming from behind the door that Chris could hear.
He shrugged, then turned back to the television. Sportsnet was back covering the five million goals by the Habs, and he smiled a little when he noticed that Carey got an assist. They would need to hang out the next time the Canucks played them. You know, unless his body decided to relapse and fuck his life up some more.
Chris froze when he realised that although the mysterious doorbell ringer had fallen silent for a moment, it was only temporary. There was the sound of metal jangling and a hand on his doorknob, and it was starting to freak Chris out. No one had a spare key. Not his parents, Max, Coach, Kes — no one. Which meant that someone was breaking into his house, and that was just fantastic.
He turned off the television and hauled himself off the couch. He did not want to fight, because despite feeling better, he was not really the pinnacle of physical health at the moment. He wanted to put his energy into getting back to the ice. He scanned the area for some sort of weapon, then grabbed the nearest hockey stick.
This was horrible. He was home, alone, still recovering from one hell of a sick leave, trying to defend himself from an intruder with a hockey stick. On top of it all, since he had been alone for so long, he had not really bothered dressing properly. Or really at all. In other words, he was trying to defend himself wielding a hockey stick, wearing only his favourite pair of black boxers. Fantastic.
In the delirious high the moment was giving him, Chris wondered if the penalty he would get for this high-stick would be a double minor or a game misconduct. It would probably go to review, and he might even get Shanabanned. Then he remembered that he was at home, and there were really no penalties that he could receive. But wouldn't it make the coolest headline? Chris Higgins, 2 for assault. Or something. He did not research Canadian assault and battery laws in his spare time. He was poised, ready for the attack, when the door swung open.
It was a good thing he looked before he charged, because it would have been a very difficult injury to explain to Coach. He did not think that, "Well, the reason Max is in the hospital with a broken face is because I thought he was a burglar and attacked him with my hockey stick," would cut it. It wouldn't cut anything except Max.
He did start to swing, stick blade aimed right at Max's face, but caught himself halfway through. Max was also ducking, which might have saved him, but they did not need to find out.
"Max!" he exclaimed, partly apologising as he dropped the stick, and partially questioning. Had Max learnt how to pick locks? Had Chris left his door unlocked? Because, like he said, no one had a key and this was damn freaky.
"What the fuck, Chris! Are you trying to kill me?" Max said.
He should have sounded angry, but instead he was smiling. Oh, yeah, because nearly being killed by a teammate was totally an amusing experience. Maybe that was why people hated him so much — instead of getting angry, he laughed his ass off. Having never really been on the other side of it, Chris could not say that was the reason with any level of certainty, but it was a damn good guess. Why had no one killed him yet?
He gets punched in the face, he laughs at you, insults your manhood, and makes a job about your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother. He gets his face cut open, he laughs and asks if you were taught to fight by your grandmother. Chris was pretty sure that those instances alone would be enough to get people to hate his best friend. He was like the Avery of the Canucks. Granted, Avery was definitely worse, but the principle of their characters remained the same — they were fucking annoying.
Right. Back to the present circumstances. "Are you trying to kill me? How the hell did you get in?" he demanded.
Max eyed him strangely, and Chris sighed. Was his question lost in translation? Because that sometimes happened with Max, and yeah, Chris could speak a tiny bit of French, but he doubted he could translate it in a way that would make any more sense to him. Comment est-ce que…yeah, no, he wasn't going to try.
"Through the door?" he said, although it sounded more like a question.
Chris glared, because whether Max was being a douche or being serious, it was really annoying. Not really wanting to look threatening, he picked the hockey stick up and leaned it against the wall, the blood still pounding in his ears. That was a little more excitement than his body was quite ready more. When Boother tied the game he had screamed so much that he fell on the floor, and that was too much for him. Trying to fend off non-existent burglars send him into a relapse.
He sighed and sat back down on the couch, feeling slightly ill again. He probably should not have stood up so quickly. He didn't have a fever (he had checked ten minutes ago), but he was beginning to feel like it again. He needed to stop exerting himself.
He heard his door close, and seconds later, Max was leaning over him, looking worried. Chris groaned, passing it off as a reaction to Max's irritatingly caring gesture. Really, it was because Max was really close to him all of the sudden.
"I took the spare key in your wallet after visiting l'hôpital, remember?" he asked.
Now that Chris thought about it, he did vaguely remember something along those lines happening. It certainly explained many things. For example, how Max got into his place with no apparent lock-picking tools on his person, and how AV got in his place the morning before the team left for Detroit. He had phoned to say he was coming over, so Chris had just assumed he left the door open for him.
It also answered the question that he ignored a week ago when going through his wallet, looking for his Starbucks card. He had wondered, for an instant, where he had put his spare key, before deciding that it was probably somewhere in his room, and that he would find it later.
Plus, now that he actually thought about it instead of blindly attempting to murder Max, he did sort of remember it. He was on a bit of fresh medication to bring the fever down, and it had made him a little woozy. It had actually felt sort of like he was drunk. He remembered Max convincing AV to 'let him handle it', and Chris also remembered not quite liking being referred to as 'it', but he was a little busy being useless at the time and really could not debate it.
Max manhandled him home (which, if he had not been so woozy, might have caused a serious problem in his pants that no amount of translation error could explain), deposited him on his bed, gave him a hug, and said something about his wallet. Chris had just assumed he was putting the prescription back into his wallet, because he did find it there the next morning.
"Sort of," he admitted as it came back to him. It answered one question, but he still had yet to ask what was in the bag Max brought with him.
'Sort of', apparently, was too vague for Max, because he just looked for concerned…and now his hands were all over Chris's bare skin, checking him for a fever and feeling around his ribs to gauge the weight loss. Fantastic. His sex drive wasn't what it would normally be, but Max's hands were still on him everywhere and it was sort of killing him. He groaned, managing to make it sound annoyed and not turned on. He thought so, at least. He had been sick for a while and had not had the opportunity to sound turned on.
"You have lost too much weight, mon cher. It is not healthy," Max scolded, like it was Chris' fault. He glared and swatted his hands away. The endearment did not help.
"I noticed. But neither was the team's play on the roadtrip," Chris said, because yeah, they won a lot, but only barely.
Max looked unaffected by the jibe, merely nodding in a way that said, I know, I know. We're working on it. Chris' heart sank. He wanted to be working on it too. He knew he would be back soon, not the next game, but maybe the game after, but soon was really not soon enough.
"Nice goal in Minnesota, though," Chris said, and that got a smile out of Max.
"Merci. Have you eaten, yet?" he asked. Chris did not like being babied, but he was tired, so he just nodded. He had some pasta that Andrea had sent over the other day. He had glared at it, wishing he had someone at home who could cook for him. Looking back, that made him sound a little crazy, but he was really just lonely.
"Yeah, at around five," Chris said, noting the fact that Max was heading for the kitchen anyway, taking the mysterious bag with him. Why bother asking?
Now, Chris wanted to be worried, because he had never seen Max cook before and certainly did not want to be an experiment, but could not bring himself to be. It was…nice. Like his own, personal Andrea. Except, you know, a Canadian, male, obnoxious, hockey player that probably could not cook anything more advance than scrambled eggs. He thought that there was a point in there, but he could not really bother to find it.
If Max was really making him something, he would at least try to eat it, even if it tasted like crap. He would make the excuse that he wasn't feeling well enough to eat anymore. The truth was, he was sort of hungry, and would not object to food. He had already had an entire fucking container of Häagan Dazs and the pasta, but he was a bored hockey player. Food would fill the gap nicely. Besides, Coach had really ordered him to eat well and frequently, taking plenty of desserts, so who was he to argue?
Also, it was actually nearly eleven, which meant he had not had food in six hours. That was a perfectly acceptable timeframe. He liked to rationalise the excessive carb/fat/sugar intake by coming up with little statistics, similar to how hockey commentators pulled useless stats out of their asses to make the losing team feel better about a potential comeback and the winning team feel better about their lead.
"I wish you were there when we were in Nashville. Alex's shootout goal était complètement phénoménale. Burr's also, but it could not compare," Max said, choosing to keep a steady stream of chatter as he started cooking whatever it was he was cooking. Chris was not complaining. He wasn't tired at all, but the voice was soothing.
"Coach should put him in more often," Chris agreed, content to sit on the couch as the temporary ill feeling from the excitement waned.
"Coach should put me in, non? Remember mon but décisif contre les…Senators, I think? J'était parfait," he bragged, and Chris rolled his eyes.
He sort of loved it when Max switched rapidly between French and English during their conversations. Not to confuse Chris, but to force him into learning. He knew all the French words in the last two sentences, and he was very proud of himself. Even if not in the literal sense, being around Max seemed to rub off on him.
There was a considerable amount of banging coming from the kitchen, and if Chris used the room for anything other than Gatorade, alcohol, KD, leftover take-out, and microwave popcorn, he would probably be concerned. As it was, he chose to worry about it at a later date, once he was up and running again. He had faith in Max, but one had to be wary when allowing a person with an unknown level of culinary skill into their kitchen.
"…et, bien sûr, Juice était fantastique. As-tu vu le jeu contre Colorado?" he asked, over the noise.
He thought he heard water running, and for the first time, wondered what Max could possibly be making. It was eleven o'clock at night, right after a tough loss in Calgary, of all places, and following a long roadtrip — Max had to be absolutely exhausted. And yet, he chose to visit Chris. Not only to check in on him, apparently, but to also cook for him. The gesture was so sweet that Chris was a little emotional again. Fucking pills.
Right, back to the question. He deciphered the sentence easily, as it was very simple French, and rolled his eyes. Yes, Juice had been great, but they should not have been losing to Colorado in the first place.
"Great goal, but the game blew," Chris called back, smiling when Max's only response was a laugh. The water turned off, and Chris identified the sound of a saucepan being placed on the stove. Soup, maybe?
"A win is a win. I wish it was different, but…it will get better. When you are back," he added, and Chris could practically hear the wink in his voice. Chris rolled his eyes, but yeah, he hoped that he could help somewhat. They were winning, but it just didn't feel right.
They carried on like this for a full half-hour. Max babbling in Franglais, and Chris making snide remarks ever so often. It was…nice. He had been stuck, alone, watching subpar play for what felt like forever. He had been visited by Andrea, Katie, and his neighbour twice, but other than that, he was all alone. It had been terribly boring to watch television all day. He was pretty certain he saw Mean Girls at least three times. He had started to say the lines with the characters it halfway through his last viewing of it before he realised that he should not have been doing that. It was so not fetch.
The conversation jumped from the games, to locker-room shenanigans with ease as Max cooked/baked/microwaved/did whatever the hell he was doing in the kitchen. Chris laughed when he talked about Alex gushing over Weber and tried not to blush when he made about forty references to things he believed (with no proof whatsoever) that Mase and Burr got up to in their hotel room. It was nice. He'd missed talking with Max, although he would never say it out-loud unless very, very drunk.
At the end of the thirty minutes, there was a triumphant sound from the kitchen that worried Chris and made him grin in equal measure. He heard the distinct sound of cupboards opening, and deduced that Max was searching for a plate or bowl.
"So you reorganised your kitchen cupboards, but haven't done your laundry since we left?" Max asked, annoyed. He let out another triumphant sound upon locating the dinnerware, which was in the left-hand cupboard above the stove. Obviously.
"I was bored and I hate laundry," was his excuse. He really did hate laundry, and it was jut easier to do it all at once. Granted, it had gotten a little out of hand. He had nearly run out of clothing before his bad reaction to the medicine, and had not really needed any since.
Max tutted, and Chris looked over his shoulder towards the entrance to the kitchen. A drawer opened, closed, and a second later, Max was walking back into the living room, gingerly carrying a bowl of something that looked like a chowder? Strange. He must have made it from scratch, because no one, except maybe Kes, could possibly take that long to open a can and heat up soup.
He placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch, having the sense to slide the nearest magazine under it. Chris leaned forward as Max shoved a spoon into his right hand. Huh. Corn chowder, with potatoes, bacon, onions, and, of course, corn. It felt a little surreal.
"I didn't know you could cook," Chris said. He still didn't think he could, but whatever happened, he would have a few spoonfuls, feign fullness, and smile.
"I can do everything, mon cher. J'suis parfait," Max said, smiling, and if Chris had not mastered the art of self-control over years of dealing with the man, he probably would have kissed it right off his face. He was stronger than that.
"You wish," he snapped back.
Max was standing over him, watching for a reaction, waiting, which meant that he had no choice but to have some while being closely scrutinised. He apologised mentally in advance, because he did not really want to offend Max, but his first reaction would be whatever it would be. He dipped his spoon into the creamy soup (which, admitted, looked delicious), and raised it to his lips.
…And holy fuck was it good. Like, really, really good. It was better than his mom's chowder, it was better than Andrea's pasta, and it was better than his neighbour's cookies. Maybe Max was perfect. Maybe AV should put him on the first line, promote him to official caterer of the Vancouver Canucks, and play him every shootout. He looked up in amazement, and only got a smug grin back.
Max nodded, pleased, and walked around the coffee table. Chris slid over to give him room to sit down, but his efforts were wasted. He had more than half of the couch to flop down on, yet Max chose to sit right next to Chris. Seriously, right next to him. If he was any closer, he would have been on top of Chris, and then even his self-control would shatter. He continued to eat the delicious soup, trying not to show his joy. That would have been difficult to explain.
Max was pressed against him from his knee to hip, and most of the way up his side. He had abandoned his shoes sometime between nearly being attacked and serving dinner, and he had hooked his ankle around Chris' own. He leaned in closer, and although it wasn't particularly cold to begin with, they shared their warmth.
Most people would have found it odd, but they were close. It was hard not to be when you knew each other for the longest time, often playing together and always rooming together. Hell, there were days that they never left each other. For example, their one o'clock game against the Sharks. Max had stayed over in Chris' guest room (which was really just Lappy's room, because he never had guests) after a slighty-too-late night of video games, they left for an early-morning practise, napped together (not together, fuck you, near each other in the same building), skated together pregame, went out for dinner together, then drinks, then home again.
The point was that when you were as close as they were, cuddling on the couch was not really a big deal. It still made something unmentionable stir low in Chris' belly, but he was just used to it.
It wasn't even awkward, really. Max slung one arm behind Chris' back and pulled him even closer, while Chris continued to eat. Most people would have needed some background noise from the television, but they did not. Besides, watching the Canucks lose again would likely put a damper on the happy mood.
"This is really good," Chris said, smiling.
"Bien sûr. I made it," Max said, which made him laugh. Had he never leaned how to take a compliment without sounding like an ass? Probably not, but Chris really wasn't much better. His laughter practically endorsed the behaviour.
"I missed you," Max said, out of the blue, and Chris' heart seized up a little. He sounded as sincere as he could while still half-joking. It was like he could not be honest without making a joke out of it, but Chris was used to that. He still expressed himself better than most people.
He really wanted to say I missed you too, but fuck, that sounded so corny and desperate. Instead, he smiled over at Max and bumped their shoulders together. Yes. That was considerably less gay and considerably more bro-ish of him.
Sounding non-bro-ish did not bother Max at all, which really was nothing new. He saw no problem with announcing to the entire team that Chris was a cover-hog after they got a king instead of two queens that time in Toronto. He also thought that telling them that Chris has a birthmark in the shape of Québec on his right butt-cheek was perfectly normal. When they gave him a strange look, he assured them that he saw it when they were showering together.
…Again, the point was that Max did not care what people thought, and while that was certainly admirable, it drove Chris crazy. He wanted to hog the covers with Max in his bed, and he wanted to shower with Max not only to save time. Sometimes he just said things that made Chris' stomach lurch and heart flutter. Did he realise that maybe Chris did not want to hear about how missed he was?
"J'suis sérieux. J'ai mal dormi," Max insisted, and Chris actually stopped eating the soup (which was a fucking chore, by the way, because it was like his mouth was orgasming every time he tasted it) to listen.
"How is my illness at all connected to your sleep deprivation?" he asked incredulously.
Max narrowed his eyes at him, like he often did when Chris used large words that he only understood because he had been laughed at for not knowing them the first time around. His annoyance was temporary, as he quickly reverted to the strangely serious tone he had been sporting.
"I was worrying about you. If we were playing at home, I could see you, but no. Mais, ce n'est pas la plus grande problème. I fall asleep to your breathing on the road," he explained.
Chris' chest tightened again. Fuck. Max really needed to stop saying things like that. It made Chris' heart hurt and head spin, and made him think that maybe Max was in love with him. Which was stupid, of course, because he was fucking engaged. If he loved Chris, he would not be engaged to anyone but him. They could do that up here. God bless Canada.
He wanted to mock him, but the truth was that he loved it. Max needed him there on the road. At home, he had a white noise machine, Chris had seen it. Without him on the road, there was nothing to break the silence. Not to mention that he was trying his hardest not to react by jumping Max, because they were conversing and that would probably be counterproductive. And stupid. One cannot forget stupid. Instead, he turned back to his soup, and filled his mouth with a few more spoonfuls. It was a delicious distraction.
"I even went to Burr's room once. I was going to ask if I could share a bed with one of them, even if they would laugh at me. When I went in, though, there was only one bed. C'est normale, mais un petit peu embarrassant pour moi. I forgot they shared. I did not want to interrupt their fun," he said, dropping an exaggerated wink, which may or may not have caused Chris to choke on the chowder a little.
Max patted his back somewhat unsympathetically. He glared, but continued to stuff his face with the soup, because it was fucking perfect. Chris paused. He still wasn't sure if the whole 'sharing a bed' thing was true or not. He had seen the interview in which it was brought up, and it was impossible to tell. Juice could easily have made it up entirely, with Kes just going along with it because they were bros.
Then again, given the opportunity, Mase never actually denied that such a thing occurred behind closed doors. This meant either that they did not share a bed, but he simply could not bring himself to care what other people thought, or that they did share a bed, and he had hoped no one noticed the fact that he did not dismiss it. Chris had noticed, but had yet to investigate it.
You would have to excuse him for not trusting Max, Juice, or Kes. They did not exactly have a sparkling record of honesty. Hell, he probably would not have believed it if Burr told him. Unless he saw it for himself or Mase confided in him, he would never completely believe what he heard. That being said, given how close the two of them were, it was wholly possible. He simply was too smart to believe something without solid proof being presented.
He scraped the last little bit of chowder out of the bowl, sated yet desperate for more. He was actually full, but it was delicious. Either he ate more and threw up, or waited until morning to see if there were any leftovers. Being the logical person that he was (although going against his baser instincts) he set the bowl down and leaned back against Max's arm.
"That was really, really good," he said, smiling at Max. He must have lost the rest of his adjectives because he was relatively certain he had already said that.
He did not have a long speech to give on how much he missed Max, because Chris would end up outing himself, but he hoped he managed to convey it through his body language. Max probably understood. He always did.
Max smiled back, ridiculously happy. It made Chris blush, because really, was his approval of the dish that important? Obviously so, because Max scooted impossibly closer to him, and slung his left arm around Chris' shoulders instead of behind his back. He shoved at Chris' head until he gave in and rested it on Max's shoulder.
If Kes had chosen that moment to walk in (because he was pretty certain Max had not bothered to lock the door and Kes was honestly a bit of a bitch), he would have taken pictures and stuck them all around the locker-room, because that was the sort of thing he did. But fuck him, this was the sort of thing they did. It did not mean anything sexual, especially because Max was engaged and Chris was too smart to go any further.
Still, as Max pulled the throw blanket Chris had fallen asleep under earlier over both of their lower bodies, he could not help but to nuzzle into Max's neck a little. He was warm and friendly and he had come over after a hard game at eleven at night to make Chris corn chowder. It was ridiculous. Chris had no idea if he was stuck in another timezone, or how many hours of sleep he had gotten the previous night, but Max had to be completely drained. Yet, he still wanted to check in on Chris.
Hell, it was nearly midnight, and Max had not left. They had practise at ten the next morning, and Chris knew how he was if he did not get enough sleep. At least if he stayed over, they could go to the practise together. Coach had told him to come to practise if he was feeling better, and he really, really was. He just needed to get back into action.
For now, however, he was content to cuddle. He wondered if Max intended on falling asleep as they were, or if it was just temporary. Despite how comfortable he was, this would probably not be too good for either of their backs. He considered complaining, but decided that he would not risk Max leaving the second Chris suggested sleeping in actual (separate) beds.
Max's left hand, which had been dangling just over Chris' shoulder, twisted itself gently into his hair. If Chris was, again, less adept at controlling his own reactions, he might have mewled, or made a similarly embarrassing noise. He may have cuddled closer, but if anyone asked, it was just because he was cold. It had nothing to do with how great it felt to have Max's fingers rubbing across his scalp. Did he do this with his fiancée? Was her hair short or long? Which hair did he prefer? Why her? Why not him? Max had known him forever, and it wasn't about sex, it was about emotions and how could she possibly —
Okay, Chris thought, giving himself a mental slap that rung in his ears, you are being an asshole. He is getting married and not to you. End of story.
And yet, he couldn't shrug the feeling that something wasn't quite right. Max was in his apartment at midnight. He came over and cooked for him, and then stayed to cuddle with him. He was with Chris, when he could have been home making love to her, lamenting their loss. It was none of his business; however, a boy could dream. And God, was he dreaming.
"Chris," Max said quietly, his fingers still carding through Chris' hair.
He wondered if he should pretend he was asleep, so that Max would not leave in fear of waking him. Did that reek of desperation? He thought so. He was desperate, he simply was not ready to openly admit it. Besides, he reminded himself, the second he thinks I am falling asleep, he will probably put me to bed and go home to fuck/cuddle/act in love with his fiancée. Hyperbolic dejection filled him. He would normally have been disappointed, but the medication seemed to elevate it. He sighed.
"Yeah?" he asked, surprised to hear that he really did sound sleepy. Had he been falling asleep?
"Puis-je t'embrasser?" was the whispered question, and it really did take every ounce of self-control Chris possessed and more to stop himself from jolting in pure, unadulterated, shock.
His French was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He had picked up words and phrases along the way — he had lived in Montréal. He knew hockey, food, and clothing terms, basic verbs, and profanity, along with anything else he heard from Max, Burr, or Lu. He may not have been able to crank out a perfect sentence, but he understood enough to sit rather comfortably in a room with Max prattling in French, being able to pick out the gist of any conversation based on the words he knew.
The first part was a little tricky. It might have been the strange inversion of 'je peux'. He could only guess, but that was his best — can I. The second part he heard very, very clearly. Chris was not certain, and was becoming even less so by the second, but he thought that 'embrasser' was the verb for 'to kiss'.
…Or was it to hug? That would make more sense. Or was it something else entirely? That would make even more sense, because since when did Max ask to hug him? He was already sprawled all over Chris. Still, he did not want to say yes to a hug and have Max walk out or call Coach or something.
"English, Max," he said, cursing his voice when it cracked a little. He was considerably more awake because of his mental mistranslation, and it was beginning to throw him off. He pulled his head from Max's shoulder to look him in the eye, pleading a little.
Max was staring right back at him. His fingers finally stopped moving across Chris' scalp, and he had no idea how great it really felt until it was over. The look on Max's face was nearly sceptical, as if he believe that Chris knew what he said and was just being annoying or a 'prissy American bitch', as Max had said the last time he pretended to not understand the question.
The difference was that this time, he really didn't know the question. Even if he had known the meaning at one point or another, his mind had contorted it, leaving him confused and ludicrously optimistic. Max did not want to kiss him, and if he wanted to hug him, he would have already done so.
"Can I kiss you?" he asked, his voice soft, yet still sceptical —
And no, Chris wasn't thinking about that at all. He did not hear the soft tone, he did not hear the scepticism; hell, he barely heard the words themselves. He really just saw Max's lips move around the phrase 'kiss you'. His ears seemed to have stopped working. Come to think of it, so had nearly everything else. He hadn't blinked, he had not moved, he had not breathed, and if he wasn't still alive, he would have sworn his heart was still.
Max surveyed his face with a worried, albeit hopeful, crease in his forehead. He was looking for something, and Chris was pretty certain that there could not have been anything but shock there. How the fuck was he supposed to react?
He wanted to jump Max's fucking bones. He wanted to kiss him and never stop. He couldn't — it didn't make sense. Why would Max want him? Granted, he had been asking why Max wouldn't want him earlier, but now that it was a valid possibility, he realised it made no sense. If Max wanted him, he could have had him years ago. Instead he went and met someone else and fell in love with them.
Whatever Max was looking for in his face, he must have found, because suddenly he was leaning in towards Chris. He finally unfroze, gasping for air and comprehension in the same breath. He did not want to stop Max, but fuckfuckfuck he was engaged, and Chris wanted him, but not like this.
"Fuck, Max, s-stop," Chris said quickly. He immediately realised that he probably could have phrased it better, because hurt and dejection suddenly flooded the man's face. He pulled back quickly, and the hand in Chris' hair retracted. His posture was rigid and he looked like he was ready to flee, as he tossed the blanket from his lap.
Chris pulled the blanket back over them and forced Max's hand back into his hair, holding it there until Max stopped struggling and conceded. As Chris let go, Max's hands worried with his hair, the tension heavy in the room. If his head wasn't spinning so much, Chris might have been able to do this a lot better.
"Désolé. J'suis stupide. Désolé," Max whispered, sounding genuinely ashamed. He closed his eyes and tipped his head back against the couch.
Chris opened his mouth several times, trying to find words. Max just continued fidgeting with his hair, his grip getting rougher as the tension in the room grew. He looked pained and Chris felt pained, and it really was one big mess that he needed to fix. He could not let him think that he didn't want him.
Or maybe he could. If Max wanted him, yet was still engaged, then maybe it was better to let him think that he wanted nothing like that from him. It would make the next couple months really awkward, but at least then Max would be able to move on. Chris would not, but he was in a rather self-sacrificing mood. Besides, simply knowing that Max wanted him (which really had not kicked in entirely, yet) meant everything to him.
"Look, Max, you're engaged," he explained, although not really stating that he would have kissed him otherwise.
Max's eyes opened, and his head snapped up, looking at Chris with something entirely new and hopeful in his eyes. Had he given himself away? No. He had spoken in an almost perfect monotone. He had measured it out very carefully before actually saying anything.
"If I wasn't would you kiss me?" he asked, and Chris had not really planned far enough ahead to handle a question like this.
"Does it matter?" Chris asked, again forcing himself to sound monotonous.
He deserved a motherfucking Guinness. Not the beer, obviously. The world record. He must have broken something. Since he first met Max in 2005 in that one game they played together, he had wanted him. He was fucking gorgeous. Everyone wanted him. Hell, Carey had once told him (granted, they were rather drunk and jerking each other off at the time) that he would pay his entire year's salary to fuck Max.
Of course, this was insulting, because he was fuck buddies with Chris at the time and he wasn't making any money off of it. He only let it slide because Carey couldn't remember saying it, and he agreed. Not to mention that he was so hungover he had nearly missed the game they had later in the day, so really, Carey's fantasies were irrelevant to him.
Chris and Max played together more the next season, and they started hanging out, and he stopped just wanting to jump him because he was fucking gorgeous. He wanted to just be around him all the time. He wanted to play on his line, assist on all his goals, go out to dinner with him every night — he was completely infatuated.
Then he was traded to the Rangers, and one would think that would curb his desire (you know, being around someone like King all the time), but he just wanted him more every time they played against each other. Then the Ducks, and yeah, nothing really changed there.
And then, he was traded to the Canucks. That was awesome in itself, but having not paid much attention to the trades (he was hungover again, okay?), he had no idea that they had acquired Max until he arrived at Rogers' Arena the evening of deadline day, to meet his new team.
When he saw Max on the other side of the locker-room, already wearing a Canucks jersey, he was thrown. Instead of being all shy and nervous about meeting his new teammates, he flung himself across the room and hugged Max so hard that they fell, knocking over Kes, Juice, and Mase. He was pretty certain he had kissed him a little bit around the ear area, but he was thrilled.
Of course, then he had to apologise about forty times because Kes is fucking terrifying sometimes, and he really did not mean to knock him on his ass.
The point was that he was the epitome of self-control, and he deserved a fucking award for putting up with Max all those years. And now, Max had tried to kiss him and he really did not know how much longer he was going to be able to hold out.
"Ouais. Please, Chris, tell me. Would you?" he begged.
Against his better judgement (and his plan), he sighed, and admitted, "Yeah, I would."
He legitimately believed Max would try to kiss him again, and that he would not be able to resist this time. He was emotional and this was a little too much for him, because Max made him soup and wanted to kiss him. He would have bet on a second attempt at a kiss. If he had, well, he would be dead broke. Max was laughing his fucking ass off, for some reason.
His head was tipped back against the couch again, although this time he was not sounding upset. Rather, it sounded like he was about to start chirping Chris. That would have been really annoying, because he had not chirped Max when he tried to kiss him. Chris might have punched the man, seriously.
"I'm not engaged, Chris. I have never been engaged," he said, still laughing.
Okay. Now he was just confused. Maybe it would make more sense if he was not on new medication? Maybe it was perfectly logical to be engaged, except not engaged. Yes, that made perfect sense. The medication was not that strong; he knew that nothing was making sense.
"We were in Montréal — Kes shoved you into the locker-room and forced you to tell everyone. I remember being fucking pissed that you didn't tell me before Ryan," Chris explained, trying to keep his voice level.
Max just laughed harder, and started shaking his head. Chris would actually have punched him. He was going to, but suddenly the hand that was in his hair brushed across his face, tugging at his lips playfully, then locked back into his hair with renewed tenderness. You would have to excuse him for suddenly finding punching the man nigh impossible.
"It's not what you think, mon cher. Before the game in the Habs' dressing room, Carey was trying to get me to go clubbing with him after the game.. He would not take no for an answer. So I told him I was engaged à toi. He was yelling about me not telling him things. Ryan overheard, and asked what we were talking about. Carey told him I was engaged. Mais, j'suis pas!"
Oh. Well. Even in his melodramatic emotional state with Max stroking his hair, he understood that. There were quite a few questions unanswered — why engaged? Why engaged to Chris? Why was Ryan anywhere near the Canadiens' dressing room? Why did he just not tell them later that it was all a lie?
"So, you are not engaged?" was the only question he asked, however, because he needed to be sure. He was pretty certain he knew what this meant.
Max smiled. "So now you have to kiss me."
Chris furrowed his eyebrows, because he was pretty certain that was from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which was on twice since he was confined to his apartment), but really could not be bothered to care. It hit him — he could kiss Max. Max wanted to kiss him. Certain things, people wished for, without any illusions that their wishes would be fulfilled outside of their dreams. Chris had been somewhat content without just dreaming about Max. But now? Max made him soup, wanted to kiss him, and he could kiss back.
He had been waiting forever and he was not going to miss the chance now that he had it in his hands. Both of his hands went around Max's neck, and he pulled him in, pressing his lips right up against the self-satisfied smirk.
The first kiss was soft, just a brush against Max's lips. Upon discovering that he was corporeal, Chris grinned against his mouth and kissed harder. It was more than he had possibly imagined. The fingers in his hair tightened, pulling him in closer, and Chris was so close that he could smell Max's soap beneath the light layer of cologne.
Chris licked across his lips, and they opened immediately, welcoming him in. He grabbed Max's face and kissed him deeply, desperately, and with nearly no finesse, but Max just pulled him closer, kissing back just as sloppily. They were not getting any points for style, that was for certain. If they were being graded, they probably would not pass. Chris was a Yale graduate, so that was really unacceptable, but they would at least get an A for effort. He would take it.
He pulled away, and instantly wished he hadn't, because Max's mouth followed his and that desperation was enough to make his head spin. Chris shook himself. There was a reason he had pulled away. He shoved the blanket off of them, only shivering a little when his legs were exposed to the relatively cold air. Max was staring at him, a cross between curious and amused.
He ignored him, throwing his left leg over Max's lap, so that he was bracketing the man with his knees. He got raised eyebrows in response, and Chris realised that he probably would have been satisfied with just kissing him forever. That was impossible, of course, because he need to work and eat and other basic things, but it was a nice thought.
"Better angle," he said. He sounded breathless and that was just ridiculous, but he couldn't be brought to care. He was on top of Max, when only an hour or so ago he had been on the verge of tears over their loss and the Hawks' loss and the Habs' win.
He leaned over and kissed Max again, his hands around his neck. He pressed against every bone and his tongue swept past every corner of his mouth. He only knew it wasn't a dream, because his dreams had never felt so amazing. Max's hands were on his bare waist and his fingers were tickling along his sides as they kissed.
Their style had improved minutely, but as Chris pulled away for the second time, a string of saliva still trickled down his chin. And okay, that was a little gross, but Max didn't seem to care, considering that he licked across Chris' chin and jaw.
He had thought earlier that his sex drive was not completely functional. Apparently, when you put him in a room with a completley-willing-Max, his libido was suddenly resuscitated. He groaned as Max continued to mouth across his jaw. It was a little too much for him to handle all at once, but that did not stop Chris from pulling Max's shirt over his head; he was perfectly fine with his body but he did not like being the only person nearly naked.
Max did not protest, even pulling away from his jaw to help him, which was uncharacteristically thoughtful of him. And yeah, maybe Max did not have Chris' abs (no-one had Chris' abs, regardless of what Kes said), but the hard muscle under soft skin was everything beneath his fingertips.
He did not kiss him for a moment, instead pressing against his smooth skin, brushing against the partially-healed bruise on the left side of his ribs. Was that from his fight with Clusterfuck, or from a heavy hit? He pressed lightly over it, less surprised than anyone else would have been when Max's gasp was more from pleasure than pain. He pressed once more to hear the sound again, then scraped his fingernails over the mottled skin. It was an ugly bruise but the sounds Max made were enough to make them gorgeous.
The hands on his waist tightened as he prodded the bruise again, and the groan that broke through Max's lips did not quite seem earthly. His fingertips were likely leaving little bruises in revenge for the pain/pleasure combination Chris was torturing him with, but he did not care.
This time, when Max pulled him in violently enough that their teeth clacked together (and it fucking hurt), any semblance of order their kissing had developed vanished. It was messy and desperate again, with too much saliva and too much tongue and not nearly enough skill. If it wasn't the best kiss he had ever had, then Chris did not know what was.
He felt his erection (okay, fuck you, he knew it didn't take much, but this was Max and he had years of desire backlogged) pressing against the cloth of his boxers, and Max's jeans were really not doing much to hide his own. So when he rutted against Max, he had no qualms about doing so.
Apparently, however, Max did. "Non, mon cher, not tonight" he said, separating them somewhat and shoving Chris gently off of him and onto the couch.
Once again, the endearment did not help. If he had chanted it while they were fucking awkwardly on Chris' couch, he probably would have liked it very much. Instead, however, it was attached to 'non' and Max was pushing him away. This was really fucking annoying and had too many mixed messages for his liking.
"Vraiment? Pourquoi?" he demanded, because Max seemed to understand tone better in French. Plus, although he would never admit it, it had been sort of involuntary. It seemed that he associated annoyance with Max and French.
"T'es malade. The team needs you back and healthy. We will have sex when you are better," he said, smiling as if his consideration of his condition was supposed to make Chris swoon or something. It didn't. He was just annoyed.
"Do you have any idea how long I've wanted this? I don't care that I'm sick!" he said.
That obviously wasn't going to work for Max, because he frowned at him. Great. He had obviously been out of the dating scene for too long if his desperation was no longer somewhat enticing. He would strip himself bare and lie on top of Max if it would change his mind. He would pretty much do anything at that point.
Seconds earlier, they had been kissing like the world was ending, and now Max was all frowny and disapproving. One of them was older and it most certainly was not Max, so there was no reason for him to be looking at Chris like he was a petulant child who did not want to share or something like that.
"You should have said something. Mais, ce n'est pas la problème. You have to get better first. Then we can do anything. Hockey first," Max said, his gaze unwavering and his tone firm.
Chris sighed as his resolve crumbled. Max was right. He was stupid and annoying and he had let Chris take off his fucking shirt, but he was still right. It would have been outright irresponsible of him to neglect his well-being in favour of a subpar sexual experience that should have been saved for a less-rushed day wherein it could have been amazing. Besides, he was almost ready to come back, and if he pulled his back out from trying to have sex on his couch with Max, Coach would be greatly displeased.
No, really, how would he have explained that? 'I pulled my back while helping my friend move' sounded nearly as bad as 'I pulled my back while trying to fuck Max into my couch, which retrospectively was probably not a good idea, because it is not particularly large and I am not as flexible as I thought I was'. Coach would not have believed the first, and the second was probably not what he wanted to hear.
"Fine," he said, blushing a little as he realised that he still sounded rather petulant. Max just smiled at him.
Then, he stood up, and Chris' heart sank for no real reason. He didn't want Max to leave, and that was just stupid, because Max had his own home and probably liked his own bed better than Chris' guest-room. He forced a smile, getting ready to say goodbye, when Max held out his hand.
When Chris did not react immediately, he rolled his eyes and grabbed him by the arm, pulling him off the couch faster than Chris' legs could really support him. He did not let him fall, but it was still a little embarrassing. Max leaned over to pick up the blanket that had been abandoned in the heat of the moment, and tugged both it and Chris towards the master bedroom.
Chris raised his eyebrows, even though Max could not see him. "I thought you said we weren't going to do anything?" he asked, trying not to sound hopeful and failing.
He could almost hear Max rolling his eyes as he shoved Chris lightly towards the washroom, making a motion that may have resembled the brushing of teeth in some very strange world, and yet Chris understood it anyway. Despite not getting an answer, Chris shrugged and brushed his teeth, deciding that of Max suddenly wanted to change his mind, injury or not, Chris would not object.
When he reentered his room, the lights were off. The sparse moonlight streaming through the window told him that Max was wearing nothing but his boxers. He liked where this was going so far. He crossed the room in three strides, ready to kiss Max again, but his advances were answered with a laugh, and a firm hand shoving him onto the bed.
"Slut. Have you never just slept next to someone?" he asked.
Chris had not, unless you counted collapsing in the same bed as Carey on occasion when they were too drunk to get it up. He was pretty certain that did not count. He just held his tongue, sliding across the bed to give Max space to slip beneath the covers. Refusing to compromise this time, Chris pressed his chest along Max's back and curled around him. If they were doing this, he was the big fucking spoon and no amount of money and/or begging would make him change his mind.
Of course, Max did not seem to mind. Quite the contrary — he actually snuggled backwards into Chris, grabbing one of his hands to lay a kiss on it. Chris' head spun a little, because this was fucking romantic and he had never done romantic. When he was fucking around with Carey, they were usually drunk off their asses or too horny to give a shit. When he slept around more, in New York, Anaheim, or Montréal, it was more of a wham-bam-thank-you-man sort of deal. He had no idea how to do romantic. He wasn't going to say that his heart did not…flutter a bit when Max's lips brushed over the skin of his hand; he just was not sure how to handle it or reciprocate it.
"N'inquiète pas. You are too nervous. Just sleep, Chris," Max mumbled, already half-asleep.
Chris glared a little, then growled in his ear, "This time next week I will be fucking you into a hotel mattress."
It was a great possibility, because they would win against the Leafs and jet off to Edmonton, and Chris sure as hell would be back in the line-up by then. He had renewed motivation. If Coach wondered why his recovery had been so drastic in the recent days, he would not mention the precise reason, but he would be remiss to ignore the fact that it was really Max who had…encouraged him to do so.
Max smiled where his lips were still brushing Chris' hands. "I look forward to it, mon cher."
For once, the endearment did help, and Chris was smiling long after he fell asleep.