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Changing the Rules of the Game

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The guys mostly make fun of him now because it's easier than smothering him to death with all of their deep feelings of remorse and he-is-as-fragile-as-a-Ming-vase attention. (That is what week one and two of recovering from a concussion subjects him to.)

The second week after getting a concussion, Tazer conversationally tells Seabs, “If you ask me one more time how I'm feeling, I will kick your face in.” The entire room goes quiet, almost hilariously so, but Tazer isn't in the mood to find things funny at all. (And he picks on Seabs because Seabs knows him, for better or for worse. Knows all of Tazer's tells and won't mind the fact that he got singled out too much.)

Kaner eventually throws his nasty towel at Tazer's head and says, “Fucking drama queen. No more cookies for you,” and the room kind of shakes off the silence and breathes. The guys start talking again and Tazer leaves to let them get changed.

As soon as he exits the room, Tazer even ignores how Shawsy squeaks out a startled, “Oh god, Kaner. You threw a towel at his head! What were you thinking?!”

It's mean and he knows it, but it doesn't stop him from thinking how delicate Shawsy would find him with a fist in the face.

Briefly acting like an asshole serves its intended purpose, though, because the guys stop treating him like an invalid. It's one step forward in a series of many steps ahead.

*

Tazer has never read Dante's Inferno, but he remembers his mom telling him about it – the hellish intricacies of purgatory, heaven, and the many levels of hell. Tazer forgets exactly how many levels of hell exist in that book, but what he does know is that being out with a concussion is like going on a never-ending roller coaster ride through all the levels. There are nightmares when he is awake and when he sleeps.

It fucking destroys him and twists his insides into knots, thinking that there is no coming back from this. Not like before.

Kaner texts him, i can hear your defeatist bs all the way from my place.

Kaner texts him, cry more.

Kaner texts him, you fucking did it on purpose, you fucking douchebag.

None of his texts make any sense and Tazer tries not to get too mad because he doesn't want to get another confusing headache. There are times when he can't tell the difference between a concussion headache, and the normal kind.

Tazer texts back, You are the worst person in the world, and ignores the quick reply.

*

It takes a couple of days, but his symptoms start lessening and Tazer finally feels like his head is clear and he is slowly resurfacing from underneath deep waters. It's as if he is just starting to breathe freely again, after three weeks of torture. The feeling is sweet enough to make him want to share it with the guys in some small way.

Thankfully, he doesn't have to wait long to deliver the good news, because once the doctors are done checking him over, he goes into the locker room with the rest of the guys and starts changing into his gear. Sharpy lets out a piercing 'whoop!' of celebration, and when everyone else starts buzzing with excitement over it, Tazer looks up from where he's tying his laces and grins at them.

Kaner obnoxiously moans out something too low for Tazer to catch, but the next second he's being tapped on the head and Tazer glances up to find Kaner standing before him, arms crossed.

“So I bet you're dying to hear that it's good to have your ugly mug back around these parts,” Kaner says, eyes narrowed and biting at the inside of his cheek.

Tazer nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders and casually says, “Eh, I wouldn't mind it.” His lips tug up into a helpless smile, and he can't control it, not now.

Kaner's eyes kind of bug out and he snorts out a laugh. “Yeah, your ego needs some major boosting, you poor baby.”

The guys aren't paying them attention (at least Tazer doesn't think they are), he realizes somewhat belatedly. Tazer leans back in his stall and mimics Kaner, crossing his arms. “So, are you here to stroke my ego or not?” It takes all the effort in the world not to bang his head back against the wall when Kaner's smile turns disturbingly sleazy. Tazer's insides seize up, and he thinks, too easy, just as Kaner cackles.

Kaner flicks him on the nose and says, “Not in a million years, you dork,” and heads out.

Tazer lets out the breath he is holding and sinks back against the wall, his chin turned down, and unable to fight the small smile still tugging at his lips.

He can't believe that Kaner made him blush. Fucking fuck.

*

The night following the Blues game, Tazer is roused off the couch by persistent knocking. He sleepily checks his phone – and is immediately blinded by the light – to see what time it is, and groans. It's after midnight and Tazer fell asleep on his couch and the knocking won't stop.

He grumpily stumbles towards his front door and yanks it open. He’s already feeling the familiar sensation of being righteously pissed off because he knows that there are very few people that would be knocking on his door at one a.m.

It bums him out a little when he opens the door and Kaner storms inside, looking completely sober. (He's wearing a Team USA hoodie and sweats, and looks like he just rolled out of bed.) Like, what's his excuse going to be, since he's not drunk and being annoying because of it. His face is also devoid of blotchy redness, so no one died.

“You're sober. What do you want,” Tazer croaks out as he shuffles after Kaner into his living room. Kaner flicks one of the hallway lights on and Tazer is blinded all over again. Wonderful. He pushes Kaner pointedly towards the couch and his frown deepens when Kaner just willingly flops down.

Tazer awkwardly remains just standing there, hoping that Kaner will quickly enlighten him with whatever it is that's bugging him. Kaner simply lets out a deflated sigh and slumps into the couch, his expression looking dire. Tazer shakes his head in confusion and is really nervous, all of sudden. He kicks at Kaner's foot halfheartedly and Kaner's foot just twitches, before he closes his eyes.

A beat later, Kaner cracks his eyes open and softly says, “I can't sleep.” Tazer freezes, feeling embarrassed for some inexplicable reason, and glances down at his own feet. (There's a hole in his sock.) “It's been forever since all the pressure of winning and failing has been on me. I've forgotten what that feels like because of you.” He sees Kaner's hand coming at him, feels him tug at his hand, and the next thing he knows, he's sitting next to Kaner, almost in a daze.

Their shoulders and thighs are touching, and Tazer doesn't fight to break free from where Kaner's fingers are still wrapped around his left wrist. The heat from his hand grounds him and helps him fight off the blankness that is creeping in inside his head.

Tazer turns his hand until his palm is faced upwards (Kaner's fingers jerk almost as if to still him, stop him from pulling away), and then Kaner's hand slides down until their palms kiss. Some part of Tazer's mind is screaming in nonsensical alarm, and he tries as hard as he can to ignore it. They both slouch down further in the couch and huddle closer, and Tazer is dimly aware of the fact that their gazes are locked down at their joined hands. They stay that way for a few minutes.

Some time later, he hears Kaner lick his lips and swallow, before he says, “You doing better, right?” He sounds afraid, unsure, and Tazer squeezes his hand because he doesn't know what else to do.

“Yeah, I'm doing better,” he whispers, heart beating in his throat.

“Yeah, you're probably ready to go, right. You're just giving me my own time in the spotlight before you steal it away again, asshole,” Kaner says, with faux-bravado.

Tazer chuckles and mentally braces himself for impact before says, “I'm proud of you, you know. I know I don't say it,” he feels Kaner stiffen next to him, “but I – You're doing really well, Kaner.” Tazer bites his bottom lip until the rush of the words stops feeling so suffocating and is jerked out of the moment when Kaner snatches his hand back to punch him in the shoulder. There is a dull, pinkish color rising in Kaner's cheeks, and he mutters an embarrassed, “Thanks,” and almost leaps off the couch like his ass is on fire.

Tazer glares at him and blurts out, “You're such an asshole. I can't even believe it,” before he can stop himself from acting like he's a kid. He's fine, everything is fine.

Kaner's smile is a pleased, crooked – mocking – little thing, and he quickly quips back, “Takes one to know one.” He starts walking backwards towards the front door and Tazer calmly gets up from the couch and stalks after him. Kaner says, “So, I'll see you tomorrow at practice?”

Tazer smirks and slowly crowds him in. “There is no practice tomorrow morning.” Kaner recoils and rolls his eyes. Tazer feels bad for all of two seconds, but this is something that Kaner and he do. They've always done this. If Kaner wants it to stop, all he has to do is say it, mean it. Tazer doesn't even know what it is, or who started it, but neither of them back down. It's like a drug that is always steadily pumping into their system; sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Sometimes it's too much.

“Back off, asshole. I'm leaving. We're cool.” Kaner leans against the door and Tazer brings up an arm and rests it right where his head is.

“I'm not doing anything. You can leave.” Tazer's smirk widens when his hand drops down to Kaner's shoulder and Kaner almost flattens himself against the door. Tazer can't help himself, but Kaner is smirking ruefully up at him.

“I would, but you're acting like more of a freak than usual,” he distractedly murmurs just as he boldly runs a hand down Tazer's chest, in a slow caress. Tazer tries not to jump back, but it shows, and Kaner's smile twists into something else as runs his hand back up and rubs a thumb up Tazer's sternum. He's acting like he's won.

Tazer glares down at him and stops smiling, his fingers digging into Kaner's shoulder, going up to squeeze the back of Kaner’s neck. It's a game, Tazer thinks, as Kaner's hand warmly trails down to where Tazer's t-shirt ends (his abs jump under Kaner's curious touch and Tazer feels cheated, like he's been betrayed), and his mouth mindlessly opens up on an intake of air. A game.

(Their heads are almost touching. There is no more space between them and Tazer doesn't know at which point he finally succumbed and pressed himself closer to Kaner. All he hears is the quiet surrounding them, pointedly contradicting with the loud thumping of his heartbeat; drumming loudly in his ears, his throat, his head. A full-body stampede.)

Kaner whispers, “Let me go.”

“You can go,” Tazer immediately breathes out, his forehead bumping against Kaner's, his eyes closing.

The feel of dry lips pressing against his jerks him back to reality like he's been electrocuted. Tazer is frozen for two seconds, but then jerks away before he is even consciously aware of it. He gapes at Kaner in stunned disbelief.

The look on Kaner's face is unreadable as he licks his lips and runs a hand through his hair. He cracks his neck loudly and throws up his hoodie, casting his face in shadows. With a small smile, he says, “Get some sleep, slacker,” and leaves.

The moment their lips touched, Tazer's head had fully cleared. He stares dumbly at the door, the constant buzzing settling slowly back inside his skull almost as though it never left.

*

The summer they won the cup, right after the cup parade (that very same night), Tazer and Kaner had sex with each other for the very first time. They were so drunk that neither of them could recall exactly what happened that night, since everything about their drunken hook-up had a blurred, glossy sheen to it. Which was obviously for the best.

Tazer remembers waking up in the morning sprawled all over Kaner, in Kaner’s bed (with dried come flaking grossly on his stomach and thigh), and feeling sick for all the reasons in the world. The monster hangover was just the tip of the iceberg.

He’d stumbled out of bed, then he’d stumbled out the front door.

Neither of them win that time, and they never mention it.

*

There is no single word available in Tazer's vocabulary fit to describe the feeling he gets when he wakes up one morning with the distinct sensation of being transplanted back to three weeks ago.

In a bid not to fuck up his hands by tearing his bathroom apart in anger, Tazer grips the sink until his fingers hurt and turn white. Until his breathing stops filling up the bathroom with shaky inhalations.

(The anger always leaves him winded and exhausted, and it never lasts for more than a few minutes at a time. He wishes that he was the kind of person that was generally happy-go-lucky and endlessly positive, because it would be especially comforting to be that mindlessly upbeat, right now. Tazer is simply focusing on making his concussion go away; daring it to hang around and test Tazer's patience, and it's clearly a fucked up way of going about it, Tazer realizes.)

The dull throbbing in his head is sickly familiar, and it is with a bone-deep weariness that he dials Q's number and says with all the steadiness he can muster, “I had a setback this morning. I'm not coming to practice.”

Q immediately says, “Fuck, Jon, you know how it goes. Don't worry, kid. Just take it easy and let us know when things change.” Tazer is suddenly blinking rapidly at his sunny floor to ceiling windows like they hold the key to unlocking ancient medical secrets and discreetly clears his throat. “Yeah, thanks,” he replies on autopilot, before he disconnects and throws his phone down on the couch. He appreciates how Q didn't even bat an eyelash at it. That feels like a very important bit of information, for whatever reason.

An hour later, he starts getting texts from some of the guys that are either ridiculously lame and upbeat, or asking him if he thought it was really wise to get drunk and secretly nurse a hangover while he's laid up. It hurts something deep down in his soul when he texts them back different variations of, i'm fine, just a minor setback, because radio silence is the only thing he really wants to maintain until he's back out there and skating again.

He doesn't want them focusing on him too much, because that's not their issue to deal with. Tazer will take care of himself until he's cleared to go. They need to focus on not sucking and winning games in the meanwhile. At least Kaner finally figured that out.

There is nothing that needs to be urgently done, so he just putters around his place and cleans up minor messes. It feels like a life sentence, and Tazer hates it. Above all, though, he hates the fact that he's still not sure if he'd do it all over again – play knowingly with a concussion (possibly make it worse); risk his health and career that way. Tazer gets the feeling that that's why Kaner sometimes gets so unexpectedly mad at him, why he yells until he's hoarse. Until Tazer feels bad for making him feel that way.

Almost as though Kaner's ears are ringing with secret telepathic skills, Tazer's phone goes off. He rolls his eyes when the screen flashes with Kaner's name and face (with his cap on backwards and sticking out his tongue). Ignorance rarely ever works, so Tazer isn't surprised when Kaner calls a second time. He'll probably call forever, Tazer figures, so he picks up and sighs out, “What do you want, Kaner.”

It's impossible, but Tazer can almost feel Kaner's smile coming from the other end. Clearly a concussion is the least of his problems. “Nothing, baby. Just calling to check up on my most favorite person in the the entire world. That's you, by the way.”

Tazer frowns. “Did you get into trouble? Do you need me to bail you out?”

“Ha-ha, that's funny, asshole. I am the best fucking adult in the world.” Tazer hears muffled noises of cars honking, then Kaner says, “I'm coming over. Do you need me to pick up anything for you? I know that you're holed up in your place and crying into your pillow like a little girl. So. Anything?”

“Yeah, go fuck yourself.” Tazer waits a beat, actually thinks about the contents of his fridge, then sullenly admits, “Actually, I could use a few things. Just the essentials.” The emptiness of his fridge mocks him when he quickly checks, so he hastily adds, “And pick up some lunch.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kaner grumbles and hangs up on him.

Tazer chews on his lower lip and wonders if he is doing the right thing. He should have told Kaner not to come over. It just complicates things.

The truth is, he is ignoring that half-assed kiss as much as he can. It was a mistake, it was stupid. They go too far sometimes, but that's how they roll. It's either ill-advised wrestling matches or getting the other to flinch and pull back by getting too close.

The only problem is, he is sure that when Kaner kissed him, all of his pain had stopped. It was gone. He had felt whole, he had felt normal. The surety of what had occurred in that moment is something that Tazer doesn't question, because that two second respite was the sweetest thing he had felt since getting concussed. He hadn't hurt for the first time in three weeks. Even that closeness with Kaner had made him feel good, for whatever reason.

Tazer knows he's going to be doing something stupid to get it back. It's all too clear in his mind. Kaner and he have been skating circles around each other for years, and what will push him to finally give in is the fact that it might help him heal faster. Get better quicker. It's so fucked up that Tazer wants to badly call Kaner and tell him to not come over. Because another thing he is totally sure about is the fact that there was nothing in Kaner's face that night besides this resigned, i-made-a-mistake downcast look. Whatever this is, it only works for Tazer.

Fuck.

*

When Tazer was playing in his second year in the NHL, he made a risk/reward list in his head. If he fucked around with Kaner, would the potential fall-out be worth it?

Was it worth it?

Logic had won out and he mentally put a stop to those thoughts and boxed it away. It would irreversibly complicate things, and he liked Kaner too much as a friend to risk that.

He's still not sure what ultimately made him hold back – the fact that he couldn't trust Kaner to not fuck up, or the fact that he couldn't trust himself.

*

It is going to be one of the worst things that Tazer has knowingly ever done in his life, but he needs to get back out there. Hockey is what he's great at, and this slow, rotten death can't be the end of it. It's all he knows, and he's the captain. The team needs him. He needs the team. Kaner would do the same thing if their situations were reversed.

Also, it can't go that badly, Tazer figures. They are both attracted to each other and they both like to have sex. It should be a win-win scenario if Tazer doesn't lose sight of the main goal. Get better and get back to normal.

The day he actually makes his mind up and empathically decides it's for the best, Tazer wakes up with a headache so strong that he has to clutch the toilet bowl weakly for a few minutes till the sensation passes. The cool porcelain of the toilet feels good against his forehead, and it helps him concentrate on breathing through it until it abates to a dull throbbing. It's like experiencing the mother of all hangovers only without getting to do all the fun stuff that comes before it. Kaner would probably cry all the time if he ever got a concussion.

Tazer grits his teeth and spits out the sour taste of almost-bile into the toilet. By the time he staggers upright and splashes cold water on his face, a vague plan is set in motion.

He yanks on his clothes with a new determination and has a quick breakfast. Popping painkillers are an essential part of breakfast, these days, and Tazer wholeheartedly hates relying on them to get through the mornings. Once the pills kick in and he feels like he can function as normally as possible, Tazer heads over to Kaner's place. He has zero bright ideas about how to proceed with his “fucking Kaner plan” once he gets there, but winging it is something that he's always been good at.

The sun's death rays are piercing and make Tazer exaggeratedly squint from even behind his sunglasses. He throws up a little prayer once he parks his car and heads up to Kaner's floor. The team had a short practice today, so Kaner should have gotten back an hour ago.

It takes an entire minute for Kaner to come and open the door, and during that minute Tazer has worked himself up to extreme levels of anxiety and shame. By the time the door opens and Tazer steps inside, Tazer feels like collapsing from sheer relief. Kaner is home. Kaner has a spoon in his mouth, a chocolate cup pudding in one hand, and his iPhone held up to his face with the other. Tazer glances at the screen and snorts when he spots that Kaner is playing that “Draw Something” game that everyone on the team is so obsessed with.

(The guys won't play with Tazer anymore because he sucks at drawing and they say it gives them legit headaches trying to decipher his chicken scratches. Tazer thinks they're all quitters, anyway, and doesn't care. That much.)

Tazer clucks his tongue and pityingly says, “That's a dragon, Kaner.” Kaner's eyebrows shoot up his face and he quickly taps it out one-handed before he puts his phone down and goes back to his pudding.

Kaner says, “Hey,” and his teeth are all brown and slimy. Tazer grimaces and Kaner beams widely at him. He honestly cannot believe that Kaner is some sort of miracle cure and healer. The universe has a funny sense of humor, at least. For a burning second, Tazer wants to spill it to Kaner and have him laugh about it, but he kind of doubts that Kaner would find it all that funny. He'd probably get the team doctors to check Tazer over for other kinds of brain damage and that would be that.

“What's up? Are you here to cry on my shoulder and let me comfort you? 'Cause I would, if that's what you need. I do have a soft side.”

“Crying all the time doesn't mean you have a soft side, no matter what your sisters tell you,” Tazer dryly says. He lightly pushes Kaner's shoulder and goes to sit on the couch. There is a game paused on the screen, but Tazer doesn't want to play any video games and risk his symptoms getting worse.

As soon as Tazer sits down, his mind goes completely blank. What he's about to do is considered sabotage of the highest order, and he'll be doing it to Pat. Kaner, for all of his bullshit and carefully constructed careless attitude, doesn't deserve to be used like that. Tazer knows that it's ten times worse that he understands what a douchebag move it is, but will do it anyway. He doesn't know if there is any going back from this, but he blindly hopes for the best. Kaner likes to have sex. It shouldn't be a problem.

He spies Kaner texting someone with a crooked smile on his face, looking like he's holding back laughter. Okay. So before Tazer jumps in with both feet, he's just going to reaffirm one more time that there is something stupidly and truly magical about kissing Kaner.

Tazer is snapped out of his trance by Kaner actually snapping his fingers in his face. “Wow, he lives,” Kaner says sarcastically and Tazer has to crush the urge to run, tensing up unconsciously, fight or flight making his knees slightly jitter with repressed adrenalin.

Tazer takes in a deep breath, internally composes himself, and inelegantly blurts out, “We need to have sex.” Shit, that's not how it was supposed to go. Oh god.

Kaner's mouth drops open in surprise and his cell phone clatters to the floor from his hands. He quickly picks it up, his face mutating into a shocked, stormy combination of confusion directed sharply at Tazer, and tonelessly says, “It's too early to drink, but...” And trails off as he rigidly heads to the kitchen.

Great. That went great. Tazer lets out a groan and slaps himself on the forehead, his body scrunching in and hunching up in a tight ball of misery, before he jumps off the couch and hesitantly goes looking for Kaner. He gets the sinking feeling that it's not going to get any easier from here.

Tazer has never felt this level of desperation outside of the rink, outside of a game. He hopes that Kaner doesn't make him talk about it at length before he gets on board, because Tazer can feel himself slowly start to shudder and close up. If he's going to be faced with rejection (he's almost sure he won't be), he wants to know it fast so he can go back to wanting to set the world on fire. This tentative – and perhaps unrealistic – hope is hard to deal with, it's draining. The agony is way worse now that he knows that there might be another way, despite how fucking impossible it may be.

Tazer doesn't recognize himself like this. It's messing with his head badly.

At the entranceway to the kitchen, Tazer pauses there to critically run his fingers through his hair and a hand down his chest, smoothing out his white, worn t-shirt (it's stretchy and loose at the collar, just a little). It's his lucky t-shirt and it has worked wonders in the past in some seriously hopeless encounters with hot girls.

He might have also called his ex and outright asked her if she thought he looked particularly good in certain clothes. After she told him to fuck off and die in a fire (it hadn't ended well, basically), she sighed in resignation and told him to wear his dark blue jeans and the shirt in question. The only thing Tazer added to the combo were the black sneakers he'd bought at the mall, once Kaner had stopped making semi-orgasmic noises of approval at them. It's sad that he follows Kaner's fashion advice, but from the two of them, Kaner looks less horrible when he dresses up, so Tazer can't complain. Too much.

He purposely makes noise when he walks inside and shuffles to one of the chairs encircling the island. Kaner continues to ignore him for about thirty more seconds, then he turns to face Tazer, looking for all the world like Tazer banged his mom and Kaner walked in on them right in the middle of it. (He's got a beer protectively clutched in his hand. Half of it is already gone.) It's maybe a little much.

“Oh, great, this is really happening. I'm so lucky.”

“Uh, yeah,” Tazer says, and shifts around uncomfortably.

“So. You want us to fuck around. Have sex. Why do you want to have sex with me? Are you high? Are you drunk?” Kaner starts off grilling him with squinting, accusatory eyes but towards the end he only looks hopeful.

Tazer shakes his head and bites his lip. “No, it's – I just think we should stop playing around. And, uh, you know.” He shrugs his shoulders and falls silent.

Kaner blinks at him with zero understanding in his face and takes another sip of beer. Tazer follows the motion and sighs. He's kind of itching to either storm out or yell some sense into Kaner.

“So, you're not some evil ghost thing possessing Jonathan Toews and making him act weirder than usual.” Tazer frowns and shakes his head.

“Yeah, you do Constipation Face too well, so.”

“Right.”

A beat later. “What about my girlfriend?”

“You don't have a girlfriend right now!”

“That's not the point! But, uh...”

“Yeah?”

Kaner stiffly shrugs his shoulders and declares with finality, “I don't think it'd work.”

Tazer feels like he got slapped with a jockstrap. “What? You don't know the mechanics of gay sex?”

The beer gets drained in six seconds flat, and Kaner's glare is now fixed firmly on him again. “I know how gay sex works. I've fooled around some, and I'm not stupid, Johnny. It's just that,” Kaner takes in a deep breath and quickly rushes out, “I don't know if I'm attracted to you like that.”

That's it. This is going to work. Tazer eyes the way Kaner immediately closes himself off, and gets up from the stool.

“C'mon, Kaner. Really?” He approaches slowly – he's got one chance at this. He'll never have the nerve to do it again.

There's anger coloring Kaner's cheeks when he backs away and says, “Yeah, really.” He crosses his arms resolutely and leans against the counter, and it looks like a dare, now. Tazer knows this, too.

When he's two feet away from Kaner, he innocently reaches out to smooth his hand carefully down Kaner's arm, his elbow, to play with the material of his henley. Blue looks good on him.

Tazer tries not to look directly into Kaner's eyes, but the hard set of his mouth is being coaxed into an 'oh' of confusion. “Why?” Kaner asks, and Tazer replies, somewhat desperately, “Please, Pat. Just one kiss, and if you don't feel it, then. It's fine. Good. Just one.”

Kaner bites his bottom lip and finally looks up at him, and Tazer presses, adds softly, “Don't be a pussy,” and Kaner basically surges forward and drags Tazer's head down to kiss him.

Got it.

*

The kiss is addictive. Tazer cups Kaner's jaw and tilts his face up to get more, to lick his way inside; to find the source, to feel it, to keep it. (The electric warmth courses through his veins again and soothes the pain in his head, his body. Tazer briefly feels queasy for an entirely different reason unrelated to the concussion, but he quickly ignores that, too.) Finally, Kaner fully comes to life and groans low in his throat and actually participates. Instead of just standing there and acting like he's a mannequin. He kisses Tazer like they're already fucking; licking inside Tazer's mouth with a surety that is heady, pulling lightly at Tazer's bottom lip before he comes back in with softer, fleeting kisses. Tazer's glad that Kaner can do something else with his mouth, beside talk out of his ass all the time.

Kaner drags his mouth away and murmurs, “You look ridiculous,” and bites a stinging trail of kisses from Tazer's collarbones all the way back to his mouth, hovering his spit-slicked lips over Tazer's. “This doesn't mean anything,” he whispers lowly, while his hands run up and down Tazer's sides almost of their own accord, it seems.

Tazer grins down at him in obvious relief, and bends to kiss Kaner on the forehead, on the nose, on both cheeks, and sucks a wet kiss to the corner of Kaner's mouth with too much spit, which makes Kaner thump him on the side to quit it. “Uh, stop slobbering, you freak.” He wipes at the side of his mouth with his sleeve and glares.

He angles Kaner's face up, and says, somewhat triumphantly and with too much glee, “See, you should have trusted me. I am never wrong.” Kaner doesn't respond to that, and Tazer allows it when Kaner thumps him on the chest and breaks free. Kaner coolly picks up his cell phone from the counter and calmly walks back to the living room. Tazer feels like celebrating.

They end up making out on Kaner's couch on and off throughout the next hour, and the only time the guilt kicks in is when Tazer goes home, and the pain comes back to life with a vengeance, a couple of hours later.

There is no ignoring any of it when he's alone.

*

Sharpy corners him on his way out of the medical staff's office the next day, and stares at him.

Tazer says, “Hey,” somewhat nervously. Kaner wouldn't tell anyone. Not even Sharpy.

After a few awkward beats that make Tazer want to die, Sharpy announces, “You are looking good, Toes.” His smile is threat-free and real. Tazer musters up a small smile of his own and says, “Thanks.”

In the morning, Tazer woke up feeling like shit, so he grabbed coffee and went to pick up Kaner for practice. He hung around until Kaner got dressed, and then he casually leaned in and kissed Kaner good morning.

The expression on Kaner's face was a funny one, but Tazer paid it no attention, as he sighed in relief and dragged Kaner in for a more thorough second kiss.

Kaner made it to practice ten minutes late.

*

The playoffs are less than a month away, and the familiar itch of the race awakens a nostalgic thrum of anticipation in Tazer. He can feel it and breathe it in already, more so than before because he has been practicing with the team again for the past few days. Getting into game shape is challenging and exhausting, but Tazer grimaces through the burn, through the slight feeling of wrongness in his head.

The guys fly off to Nashville early in the morning, while Tazer stays behind to skate and practice on his own with some of the trainers. Even though it kills Tazer not to be going on the road with the team yet, it’s probably for the best.

Last night, Kaner had gone out early with his band of rookies (Sharpy has started telling everyone to call Kaner “nanny” all the time), but then had stumbled his way into Tazer's apartment, more tired than drunk. Tazer had gone to sleep feeling vaguely dirty after Kaner had left, and woken up once during the night, not being able to recall what he’d been dreaming. It hadn’t felt good.  

(Tazer thought Kaner would go home to pack after hanging out with his fawning group of admirers, but he's taken aback when Kaner grabs him by the hips in an attempt to spin him around and give him a heart attack. Tazer drops his toothbrush in the sink and glowers over his shoulder, not budging. “Smooth,” Tazer says dryly, and Kaner slickly replies with, “You know it, baby.” He continues to smirk – looking way too proud of himself – and hugs Tazer like that for a minute, and Tazer rests his hands over Kaner's. It feels good, and Tazer kind of hopes it wouldn't. Trying to will away the guilt kicking at his ribcage with steel-toed boots seems like a hopeless waste of his time at this point, though.

He spins around and pins Kaner to the sink; he kisses him quickly, hurriedly, as he works Kaner's jeans open and yanks them down his thighs, along with his smiley face boxers. The second he drops to his knees Kaner lets out a wounded sound and flails between trying to grab at Tazer's shoulders or resting a spasming hand on top of his head; almost curving in on himself when Tazer drops a kiss to his belly and digs his fingers into Kaner's hips. “Aren't these your lucky boxers? I remember you saying that,” Tazer murmurs against the thin skin of Kaner's groin, and blows lightly over Kaner's cock. Kaner must have been half-hard all night. It's still going to be some work, but Tazer wants to do it. Needs to do it.

He starts sucking kisses to Kaner's navel, his chest; he leaves red, wet trails, his teeth catching at skin and making Kaner gasp. Kaner tries to pull Tazer’s head back, but gives up and pleads, “Come on. Don't tease,” and Tazer agrees with him by dropping a kiss to the head of Kaner's cock, dipping his tongue to curl around it. Kaner shakes like he just got zapped, and Tazer has to throw an arm against his hips to make him hold still. In retaliation, Kaner fists a hand in Tazer's hair and when Tazer lazily drags his tongue up and down the underside of his cock, Tazer can feel Kaner's groan washing through him like a tidal wave.

He starts pumping Kaner to full hardness with the precome gathered at the tip, then wastes no more time and sucks him in. He lets Kaner fuck into his mouth in little jerks once Tazer relaxes his jaw enough for it to be okay, and Kaner doesn't hold back – he immediately starts to sound like he's dying. Tazer presses down on his own erection with the heel of his hand and chokes a little when Kaner gets too enthusiastic. It's messy and fucking obscene, and Tazer gets off on it, all the same.

Tazer tries to brace himself for it when Kaner's thrusts start stuttering and losing rhythm, and the hard clench of fingers in his hair is all he gets as Kaner mumbles out a nonsensical apology or warning and comes in Tazer's mouth with a high whine. Tazer gags and swallows a little out of sheer surprise, then backs off and works him through it with his hand until Kaner's shaking subsides. Tazer spits the rest in the toilet and gets up on numb, tingling legs.

Kaner slumps against the sink like he's boneless, the dopey smile on his face making him look entirely too goofy. He pushes Kaner to the side and rinses out his mouth with water, then washes his hand and chin. Kaner hesitates for a second, but then he leans into him and asks, “Do you want me to take care of that?” He pointedly eyes Tazer's bulge, and Tazer kind of internally grimaces.

He drops a chaste kiss to Kaner’s lips and croaks, “No, I'm fine. Go home and pack. You leave in a few hours.”

He can't look Kaner in the eyes, nudges him out of the bathroom, and doesn't relax until he hears the front door click shut.

When he goes to bed, still turned on and restless, he gives up and jerks himself off with quick, efficient strokes and muffles his shaky groan in his pillow when he comes. He wipes himself off with a dirty t-shirt and collapses down, limply spread-eagled on his bed.

He falls asleep with numb, bruised lips and a bitter taste stuck in the back of his throat, but... He physically feels fine, and that's the trade-off, he guesses.)

*

The day before the team has to leave for a game, Kaner drags Tazer out to the movies, to watch Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill fail at being two undercover cops at a high school. It sounds cheesy and dumb, but Kaner steers him out of his condo by tugging on his shirt and jacket sleeve, all the way out of his building. Tazer kind of rolls his eyes a lot and sighs in the car, but he's doing it just for show, just to be an asshole, and Kaner is grinning at him and dismissing his behavior like he knows.

Tazer doesn't take his hands out of his pockets when they get to the theater. “Hey, you wanted my company. You pay.” He smiles with all his teeth, and motions for Kaner to step forward by pushing him ahead with a closed fist to the shoulder.

“Ugh, you're such a jerk. Cheapass.” Tazer grunts noncommittally and admires the various movie posters splashed all over the walls.

Kaner elbows and pushes him aside so he can pay the girl at the counter, who is eyeing them like she recognizes them. She has a nice smile. Tazer drops his chin and furtively pulls his baseball cap down lower on his head. Kaner's is on backwards. Like, what's the point of going incognito, if he's going to do everything in his power to stand out like a Christmas tree?

Sometimes Tazer wants to tell Kaner that he is purposely doing everything wrong in his life, but doesn't. That wouldn't be totally true. Kaner's kind of an okay hockey player.

Kaner says, “Two tickets for the 6:45 showing of Jump Street, please,” and whips out his wallet.

“Oh, sure!” She says shrilly, and Tazer has to hold back the urge to roll his eyes and bites the inside of his cheek, agitatedly moving from side to side on his feet as they wait for the tickets. God, seriously. Kaner's entire existence is such a lie.

They make their way inside and Kaner gets in line to buy himself some snacks at the concession stand. Tazer hates snacking at the movies because it's addictive in a totally nasty, guilt-inducing way. It's one of his weaknesses, and for a crazy second, Tazer finds himself wondering if that's the purpose of coming to watch the movie. Have Tazer embarrass himself and Kaner laugh himself sick.

Tazer squares his jaw and orders a small popcorn and water, totally ignoring everything else. Just the smell of the pretzels and hotdogs and nachos is enough to make him clutch at the counter while the guy gets him his order.

Kaner is chewing popcorn with his mouth open and observing Tazer's inner struggle with absolute fascination. Like this is Animal Planet or something. “Oh yeah,” Kaner mumbles around a mouthful, looking entirely too pleased. “Look at you, you poor thing.” Tazer glares and flips him the bird. When he grabs his things, Kaner loudly whispers, “Kryyyptonite,” in Tazer's ear, then cackles like an idiot when Tazer tries to kick him in the shin and misses. It's kind of a miracle that Kaner is going to be munching on nachos, a medium popcorn, Milk Duds, and Twizzlers, and live to tell the tale tomorrow. Oh, plus a large Coke.

When Kaner starts drizzling oil and ranch powder on his popcorn like it's a fad fast going out of style, Tazer grimaces and settles a hand on his stomach in sympathy.

So, since Tazer is such a caring person (it's the bro thing to do, honestly), he deftly snatches the Milk Duds and plops it in his own tray. Kaner's eyebrows shoot up into his hairline. “Dude, seriously?”

“Seriously. It's clearly for your own good.”

Kaner snorts. “Right, for my own good.”

“Exactly. You're like a kid. I'm here for you.”

The theater is half full, and they both sit in the back, Kaner taking up another seat next to him so he can throw his junk down on it.

It takes a few minutes for the last stragglers to stroll in, and then, thankfully, the previews kick up. Tazer yawns and makes himself comfortable by slouching in his seat. Kaner whispers urgently to him, just as the movie starts, “Dude, don't even front. If you sleep through this, I will break your dick.”

Tazer's bites down on his lip to muffle his amusement, and Kaner beams at him like crazed a five-year-old.

(The amount of times that Kaner spit-takes and sprays Coke on the seat in front of them during the movie is staggering. Tazer is totally grossed out and embarrassed at first, but after the third time, with Kaner clutching weakly to his forearm as he shakes with silent laughter, Tazer doesn't mind so much.)

Surprisingly enough, it's a good, funny movie. Kaner fake-gasps and shakes Tazer's shoulders like a goof when Tazer tells him that.

Channing Tatum's face bothers Tazer on a good day, but the movie was about dudes being friends and whatever, and Tazer likes movies that are centered around strong bonds between buddies. “But not in a gay way,” he clarifies to Kaner in the car, and doesn't have to look at Kaner to know that he thinks that Tazer is full of shit.

“How about you don't talk and we enjoy this moment, huh? Thanks, that would be great,” Kaner says bluntly, and starts rapidly texting on his phone.

It was fun. Tazer tries to focus on that and nothing else as Kaner comes up to his condo after, his open palm warm on Tazer's back, guiding him to his bedroom.

*

The doctors are so glad that he's finally turned the corner, they don't bother with any formalities and clear him for contact, for traveling with the team on the road. Tazer thinks that he's definitely at ninety percent, at least, so he agrees with their decision with a firm nod.

Some of the guys go easy on him during practice, though, and Tazer has to stop himself from going around and skating into them just to rile them up. It would be pretty stupid. But he has been feeling like he's probably missing something, something important, ever since he sleepily watched Kaner tumble out of his bed the night before to go back to his place.

There's this odd, strained finality humming under his skin, and he doesn't know what it means. (After talking to Bowman when the news of being cleared for contact spreads to upper management, Tazer drags Kaner to an unused office space to kiss him breathless, to clutch at him. He doesn't feel any different afterwards, though.)

During the plane ride, Tazer forcefully smirks and laughs when the guys joke about his miraculous recovery and how he must have sold his soul to the devil.

Seabs jokes, “His methods are secret and clearly unorthodox. Look at the way he's clammed up.”

“Very funny, asshole. My methods are perfectly normal,” Tazer grumps, and whips out his phone, pretending to scroll and look totally busy.

“So you do have methods, eh, Toes?” Sharpy asks, and Tazer throws their in-flight itinerary at his head.

Because of their joking and prodding (it's harmless, Tazer knows that, but it sucks), he takes his lunch to the table mostly occupied by rookies and automatically sits down next to Kaner. While they're eating, he remembers a perverted joke OD told him on the plane so he throws an arm around Kaner's chair and leans close to tell him the joke. Kaner's face immediately turns to him and he's already got a grin tugging at his mouth before Tazer has even gotten to the good parts. Maybe it's in preparation, Tazer figures.

OD knows the most filthiest and funniest jokes, seeing as how he is ancient and basically old enough to be Tazer's dad. When he delivers the punchline and Kaner dutifully snickers out a laugh, Tazer notices Hayes sneaking looks at them from across the table. He just looks thoughtful and kind of surprised, but Tazer snatches his arm back and straightens up, before he digs into his food again.

It's fucking dumb, and there's nothing even happening, but Tazer can feel the tell-tale signs of a flush working up to his face, as Hayes continues stealing glances at him as they eat. When Tazer finishes eating, he pushes his plate away, leans back in his chair and crosses his arms, stonily and unwaveringly focusing all of his attention on Hayes. Hayes twitches and ignores it, but a few minutes later he jumps up and away from them. Tazer smirks a little.

He actually startles when Kaner pinches him in the side, because he had been staring off distantly into the space Hayes had been sitting a minute ago.

Kaner tuts and shakes his head. “Don't scare the rookies too much, sideshow. I've been grooming them into becoming my trusted little minions, and you're ruining all of my hard work.”

Tazer snorts and fiddles with the tablecloth, looking down at his hands. “I think the giant is nursing a crush on you. Poor misguided kid.”

“Hey, fuck you,” Kaner says sweetly, his dimples out in full display, and steals a piece of grilled chicken from Tazer's plate.

*

In the hotel room Tazer quickly changes out of his suit and puts on his sweats. He can sense Kaner puttering around the room and mumbling to himself, but Tazer is only aware of it very distantly. His mind is racing with thoughts that are too terrible to focus on, and they are eating away at him like little insects.

It kills him that he doesn't have control over this thing, no matter how hard he tries. Doing things the way he usually does, handling tough situations the way usually handles them, means fuck-all in this case. No matter how he looks at it, he's always the bad guy. Tazer has never been the bad guy in his life, because he is too busy doing more important shit with his time.

(Tazer is healed. Everything is as it should be. There is no mistaking this feeling of wholeness. He doesn't know what he should do, at this point, to make it easier on Kaner. To soften the blow for the both of them later on.)

He turns to Google and the weirdos on the internet to find out more information about healers in general. Google fails him spectacularly. Okay, fine, it is kind of helpful, but he has to pull up strange websites to read about first-hand encounters of people who supposedly have been healed by their partners. There are a few of them out there, but Tazer has to fight back from gagging when he scrolls to a story about a lady trying to bring her husband from out of a coma by giving him a blowjob.

It makes him want to take a shower and scrub his body and mind clear, but just then Kaner comes out of the bathroom – badly rapping like the white boy he is – and dressed casually, with a baseball cap sitting backwards on his head. Tazer drops his iPad down onto his chest screen-first.

Kaner eyes Tazer critically, with his hands on his hips. “Bestiality? Really, Tazer?” Tazer pretends to mock-puke on the bed covers and throws a pillow at Kaner's head. Kaner laughs and dodges the second and third pillow that Tazer grabs from his bed and throws at him. Tazer's kind of impressed.

He flips his iPad back and casually closes the browsers, but is thrown for a loop when Kaner jump-straddles him and Tazer has to grab him by the hips to make him hold still.

“What?” Tazer asks with all the annoyance in the world.

Kaner peers down at his face seriously, and Tazer grimaces and holds his breath. The next second Kaner leans forward and frames Tazer's face with his hands, and Tazer grabs him by the wrists, squeezing, thinking about throwing him off like he deserves. Kaner doesn't give him the chance to dump his ass on the floor, because he sneaks in a quick kiss that freezes Tazer and makes him lock up.

The joking is pushed aside just like that, because when Kaner pulls back up, he looks as serious as a heart attack. He clears his throat, and asks, “You'd tell me if something was wrong, right? Like, I mean – if it's something bad. Something serious.” Tazer's mouth goes dry, and he has to swallow once before he quietly replies with a strained, “Yeah, of course.”

That seems to be good enough for Kaner, because he rubs a thumb lightly over Tazer's bottom lip and climbs off of him. Tazer melts into the bed and wants to die.

Kaner throws over his shoulder, “I'm heading out with my homies. If you feel like joining us at any point, text me.”

“Fine,” Tazer says, and groans loudly when the door clicks shut.

*

Tazer wakes up that morning to Kaner acting a little weird around him. More alert. A little reserved. Tazer files it away and jumps into the shower. When he heads out, Kaner is dressed to head down for practice and Tazer stops to pull him in for a kiss before they go. It's simple. It's routine.

Kaner stares at him for a few seconds, ducks his head, and looks at where Tazer's fingers are lightly wrapped around his wrist. Tazer thinks he did something wrong and is about to back away when Kaner leans up for a kiss. It's soft, tentative in a way they haven't been for a week and a half. Since the beginning. Tazer noses Kaner's cheek almost in unspoken apology and lets his hand drop a minute later, suddenly itching with the need to pull away. He tries to locate his shoes in the mess that is their room, but some strange feeling forces him to keep an eye on Kaner as he sits down on the bed and flexes his fingers. Wraps a hand around his left wrist and presses in, massages. Kaner's face is closed off.

“Hey, your wrist still giving you trouble?”

Kaner says, “Yeah, it's been messing with me the entire year,” his voice low and unsure. He's scrutinizing his splayed hand like he's some sort of palm reader. Like it's life or death information he's extracting from every branching line in his skin.

Not knowing what to say, Tazer picks up Kaner's wallet and hands it to him. They leave the room without saying anything to each other and Tazer lets the silence hang around. Lets it fill his head with white noise.

During practice, Tazer skates and shoots and hits and gets hit. He's smiling so wide that his cheeks hurt, and is feeling good enough to engage in an ill-advised light saber battle with Shawsy. The guys laugh and get out of their way. “Welcome back, King Dork,” Sharpy says with a small smile.

Their sticks are really poor substitutes for light sabers, but it's fun. It means a lot. Even when Shawsy accidentally catches him on the wrist with a vicious swipe of his stick and gives Tazer a raised, shallow, one inch cut. He waves away Shawsy's apology, even though it stings. Whatever.

Kaner stays glued to Sharpy's side throughout practice, throughout dinner, and basically tells Tazer, “See you when I see you,” when he heads down to the locker room, two hours before game-time against the Stars.

(Seabs told him two weeks ago that Kaner was fucking magic, he was fucking electric. Kaner would get so serious and zoned in during game days, that it was almost as though Tazer was always with them in some way. Tazer had sneered and shaken his head in disbelief.

To say that he is kind of now desperately wishing that acting like this is a part of Kaner's new, more mature routine, would be the mother of all understatements.)

Tazer bites the inside of his cheek, and thinks, shit. There's no way Kaner knows, absolutely no way, but – shit. There is honestly no preparing for it, though, so he runs a weary hand down his face, and dresses up in his suit. He's going to watch them play from one of the boxes. He's at least going to watch his guys win.

*

When they land back in Chicago, Kaner continues to ignore Tazer. At this point, Tazer would probably be more surprised if Kaner suddenly stopped freezing him out. Usually after a win, Kaner is an excited ball of energy, zooming around and glomming onto unsuspecting teammates, velcro-like. It seems as though, for now, he has decided on sticking close to his rookie clique and Sharpy. (Sharpy is the only constant in Kaner's group of friends. Always.) Tazer doesn't think that it's only his imagination, how Shawsy and Hayes throw wary, disappointed glances at him. It isn't their business, either way.

Q tells him that if he thinks he is ready for it, Tazer has the green light to play in the next game. The kind of thrill that piece of news brings settles heavily and bittersweetly in his bones, and he hates it. This is exactly how this was supposed to go all along. Q claps him on the back and dryly says, “Whoa, now. Don't bowl me over in your enthusiasm,” and Tazer chuckles tightly and tells him that he's fine. That everything is great and that he's ready. He's been ready for days.

The relief hits him later, on his way home. His hands shake a little as he drives, and he tells himself not to be stupid, not to be stupid over something that was obvious since the beginning. It's just that, he kind of didn't expect for more than one thing to become inevitable and obvious since he put the plan into motion – and it pisses him off.

By the time he gets home, he's comfortably floating on an empty cloud of non-emotion. The last two weeks feel like a blur. It's almost as though that bottled time is already being rewritten inside his head as something else, maybe being replaced with a less accurate version of the events.

Despite how hard he tries not to, he checks his cell phone a few times for texts from Kaner as he channel surfs. He's got ten texts and none of them are from Kaner. He doesn't reply to anyone's texts and sinks deeper into the cushions, tugging the blanket draped on the couch over himself. He rubs his thumb over the soft material, and zones out.

Kaner had helped him pick the blanket out when, one night (two years ago), in a fit of restlessness, they'd gone to Ikea to spruce up their respective places, feeling like clueless tools. Kaner had made him buy a whole bunch of stuff that is either still packed away, or thrown around his apartment in a half-assed manner.

(Tazer eyes the lava lamp with extreme distrust. “Uh, why do I need this, again?”

Kaner shakes his head in disappointment and pushes it against Tazer's chest. “Because it's awesome? I mean, really. Look at it.”

“I am. I'm pretty sure this was considered 'awesome' in the seventies, or something. That's a lifetime ago, Kaner.” Tazer puts it down on a shelf and scowls when Kaner immediately picks it up again.

“You need to bring some color to your place. Trust me. It's depressing as fuck,” Kaner says matter-of-factly, as he checks out a bedazzled purple lamp. Just as he moves to inspect it closer, Tazer steps in front of him and tries to reason with him. “If I get the lava lamp, you step away from this thing. Promise me.”

Kaner's mouth twitches, but he doesn't smile. “I don't know, man, this thing is pretty sweet. It definitely makes a statement.” He purses his lips in concentration. “It's an attention grabber and a conversation starter, for sure.”

Tazer lets the horror show on his face as he resignedly takes the lava lamp back. “All teenage girls probably think that it's pretty sweet, yeah.”

Kaner doesn't give up, though. “Like, imagine you have people over, and they're boring as fuck, and suddenly your eye catches this beauty. All of a sudden it's like, hey! How about my awesome lamp, huh? Then you're on a roll,” he says feelingly, with a hand gesturing wildly at the lamp in question, eyes conveying zero bullshit.

“Please, Kaner. Please. Don't make me have a nervous breakdown at Ikea.” Tazer lightly hip-checks Kaner out of that section, and Kaner lets him, finally grinning in that smug way of his.)

Tazer huffs out a breath and goes to heat himself some dinner. Afterwards, full and uneasy, he trudges to his room and snags his laptop, depositing it in his lap. It makes him feel dirty and guilty, but he pulls up some porn and settles in. It's a pretty half-hearted attempt and nothing really hooks him in, so half an hour later, he slams his laptop shut and goes to his go-to fantasies. If his go-to fantasies have turned into him fucking Kaner in all sorts of ways (maybe even getting fucked, if he's feeling particularly desperate), then it's just. It's one of those things.

It's horrible, but he comes embarrassingly fast when he imagines Kaner on his knees, begging for Tazer to fuck him harder, faster, to never stop. He thinks about kissing Kaner's shoulder blades, sucking kisses down his back, fucking into tight, clenching heat, and he's gone.

It's that easy.

*

It's really fucking late, Tazer thinks, when he hears banging on his door. He's tired and furious and he has a sick sense of déjà vu clouding up his head.

The second he opens the door, Kaner storms inside like some sort of human hurricane. Kaner is furious, Kaner is unreal. His face looks small and white and pinched. Like he knows. Something. Like he knows, and maybe he does. A little voice inside Tazer's head shouts: denydenydenyRUN.

After a few seconds of hesitation, where everything seems suspended, pinned down to this moment, stuck looping back to this scene, Kaner jerks forward to dig his fingers into Tazer's shoulder and neck, to roughly tug him into a sad imitation of a kiss. It fucking hurts, and it's supposed to, Tazer realizes, so he doesn't fight it that much. It's nothing like a kiss.

When Kaner rips his mouth away and grips Tazer's hand in his (his breath coming out dizzyingly fast), cradles his wrist gently between his hands, Tazer gets it, suddenly. They both mutely watch the cut on Tazer's wrist heal itself (the one he got from playing around with Shawsy), Kaner not even blinking once.

The reality of the situation snaps into clear, bright focus and Tazer yanks his hand back, dropping it to his side like it's weighed down with something far heavier than muscle and skin. His breathing is loud in his own ears, so loud.

Tazer stumbles, can't stand to look at Kaner. He sags against the wall, feeling unsteady. “How did you find out?”

Kaner jerkily shrugs his shoulders (it looks painful), and he hoarsely says, “That night I got back. You were asleep. You didn't clear your history. I was curious.”

Of course. Tazer thumps the wall at his sides with closed fists, and manages to say through gritted teeth, “What the fuck, Pat. It's – you shouldn't have done that!”

Kaner deflates suddenly and sits down on the floor, sitting loosely cross-legged. “It made so much sense. You were desperate. Then you were constantly acting like a tweaker. I mean, wow.” He runs a hand tiredly down his face, and Tazer feels like sitting down in front of him and letting him know, letting him in, because it's terrifying, otherwise.

It's terrifying that Kaner's hands are shaking and he put it there, he made it happen. Tazer bites down on his bottom lip, fighting for control; his entire face feels like one giant puzzle, pieces shaking out of place, into disarray.

Tazer sinks down to the floor, too, hugging his knees to his chest. “It wasn't supposed to go like this. I fucked up. I was trying to pull back before you got hurt...” he whispers, drained out.

Kaner's gaze snaps to his, looking furious again. “Oh, you're such a fucking martyr. You're such a gentleman. Such – so much sacrificing, huh? Fucking around with me so you can heal fast?” His mouth twists into an ugly sneer just as his hands sharply slap down on his own thighs, the gun-shot sound ringing in the silence. “That must have been horrible, unbearable.”

Tazer shakes his head, speechless. “You know that's not how it is... how it was. You know it, Kaner. Pat, come on,” Tazer says plaintively.

“I don't know any of that! You stupid, lying asshole.” Kaner explodes up to his feet and starts pacing. “You probably thought it was hilarious.”

Tazer immediately replies with, “I didn't. I don't – I didn't.”

Kaner suddenly crouches down in front of Tazer and grabs a fistful of Tazer's t-shirt, reeling him in, face set in tight lines. “Was it worth it?”

Tazer looks into his slitted eyes and feels cold. “I don't know,” he says honestly, and is unprepared when Kaner's forehead drops down to rest on his own closed fist, his hand clenching and unclenching in Tazer's shirt.

“It's just that... I'm fucking crazy about you, and you're just fucking crazy,” he says brokenly, his blank, wide eyes finally meeting Tazer's, hand letting go. When he gets up slowly and heads for the door, Tazer follows him helplessly.

Tazer puts a tentative hand on Kaner's back, and Kaner tiredly says, “You should have told me. I would have done it either way,” and Tazer lets him go, lets the door close with a final thud.

He spends more than an hour at the gym in his building, coming close to puking on three occasions.

He doesn't sleep for the rest of the night.

*

Everything goes as planned the next day. They all practice, Q tells them that Tazer is playing against the Sharks, and the guys cheer. Seabs, Duncs, and Sharpy all frown a lot and look lost. They look back and forth from Kaner, to him, and seem undecided. Seabs looks like he wants to kick his ass, Duncs doesn't look like anything, and Sharpy just sighs really loudly and shakes his head.

The rookies, on the other hand, are all united in wanting to cut off Tazer's dick and staple it to his forehead, it seems. Tazer usually is all about team unity, but not in cases like this.

Q says, “Hey, Jon, you're back with the two Patricks. Try to keep up with them, eh?” Q's smiling and really fucking pleased and Tazer wants to go, wants to be gone.

He catches Kaner staring at his wrist one time, as Tazer is loosening his skates, but by the end of the day, Tazer thinks he imagined it.

*

Kaner says, “We're still going to be road roommates. I don't want to mess it up by changing things around while everything is going so well for the team,” as he passes by Tazer to head out of the locker room. It's just the two of them.

Tazer swallows once, before he quietly says, “Yeah, that's fine.”

Kaner curtly nods at his reply and leaves. Tazer drops his head in his hands and breathes deeply, praying for something so far out of his reach.

*

They don't speak to one another unless they have to, and even though the guys prod and poke them to make up and move on, they give up eventually. They keep on winning, and Tazer keeps on getting back to top form, with only a week to go in the season. Kaner doesn't click with him on the ice, and after two games, when it does, in fact, appear as though Tazer isn't meshing well with him and Sharpy, Tazer gets kicked to Shawsy's and Hossa's line. It works, and Tazer finally relaxes, at least a little.

In hotel rooms, when it's just the two of them, they are so fucking polite to each other. Tazer is always apologizing (either with words or actions), always relinquishing, always trying to do what's right.

Tazer breaks his cell phone and cracks the screen of his iPad, when Kaner goes to hang out in Shawsy's room, one night on the road.

Kaner doesn't say anything about it when he gets back later (Tazer's iPhone is on the nightstand, along with his iPad), doesn't act like anything at all.

*

It's the night before their first playoff game against Detroit, and Tazer can't sleep.

The very thought of waking Kaner up due to his constant shifting has him rooted in bed, not making any unnecessary movements, even if he is uncomfortable. It is almost unfathomable that Kaner is sleeping right now, when Tazer knows that he has to be a nervous wreck, as well.

Tazer's elbow has been itching for the past half hour, and every time he reaches his hand to scratch at the spot, he looks across to where Kaner is sleeping, his head turned away from Tazer. It's a habit – he's super aware of Kaner, these days.

Tazer is seriously considering going to the bathroom to jerk off, to see if that will help him, when he hears Kaner mumble in his sleep. Tazer holds his breath, almost feeling guilty, as the sound of rustling sheets increases and is accompanied by the thump of feet hitting the floor. Kaner gets up and goes to the bathroom in a zombie style shuffle. He makes a lot of noise, Tazer blankly notes, like that's a new piece of information. It means that he really had been asleep and practically dead to the world while Tazer is experiencing a minor mental meltdown.

The bed sheets feel like they are glued to him, so he turns to his side and faces the plainly decorated window curtains of the hotel room. He ignores his iPod poking him in the arm, doesn't dig it out. Basically, Tazer is going to count sheep (or find his fucking zen, whatever), and he is going to be successful.

When he reaches a promising level of mental blankness, he makes out the sound of Kaner stumbling back into bed – but a few seconds later, he is moving again. Tazer is curious, but his back is turned. He doesn't have to wonder for long, though, because just then, he feels his mattress dip and someone settle in beside him. It is as though some essential thing in Tazer's mind presses the pause button, and he freezes. Breathing is overrated.

“Hey,” a groggy voice whispers, just as a warm hand settles on his shoulder. Tazer lets out the breath he is holding in in dismay and turns to his back, making out the lines of Kaner's face in little light.

Kaner's smile is small and sleepy, and he says in a hushed voice, “You should try getting some sleep.” Tazer has to close his eyes for a few seconds to get his shit together. Kaner doesn't look like he hates him right now. Tazer doesn't know what to do with a Kaner who doesn't hate his guts.

Tazer tiredly raises his eyebrow and his mouth stretches into a thin smile. “Why didn't I think of that?”

“You shouldn't be worrying. We'll do fine. We've got this,” Kaner softly utters as he actually moves around in Tazer's small, small bed to find a comfortable spot. He even pulls Tazer's comforter over himself. Tazer continues staring at him like he's a ghost.

“Are you sure?” Tazer asks roughly, grimacing as his voice cracks somewhere in the middle of it.

“Sleeping,” Kaner mutters, and just like that, he is out like a light. Tazer inhales a little unsteadily, and wonders if he should go sleep in the other one, since their bodies are now touching from shoulder to hip in the cramped hotel bed.

The memories come to life and slither around in Tazer's head like they've just been awoken; as if the sound of Tazer's heart beating double-time in terror is their wake-up call.

It's hard to pretend. Tazer shifts around until his head is almost resting on Kaner's shoulder, and somehow drifts off to sleep.

*

Kaner doesn't act any differently the next day, but when they win the first game and the entire team erupts onto the ice to congratulate one another, Kaner almost knocks him over by jumping into his arms.

The grin on his face is the brightest thing Tazer has seen for weeks, and Tazer will take that.

He'll take every little, single thing.

*

It figures that the second game would be much harder, and it is. Tazer is fine with it, he relishes it, but when Kronwall slew-foots Kaner illegally, and Kaner goes down with a grimace, clutching at his ankle, Tazer sees red.

He jumps on Kronwall and knocks him down to the ice, only dimly aware of the fact that there are more than a few fights happening around him. The rage lasts all the way until he gets kicked off the ice during the last few minutes of the first period (the refs yank him up and point him to the visitor's tunnel), when he sees the trainers help Kaner to the medical room to take a look at his ankle. Then he deflates and drops his face into his hands, and thinks, fuck. Fuck. They can't lose Kaner.

He quickly pulls up a mask of i-know-what-the-fuck-i'm-doing as the guys trail in once the period ends, stick-tapping him on the skates. Tazer grimaces and heaves himself up from his stall to deliver a rallying speech. It's short, to the point, and filled with a lot of swear words. They've all been here before. At one point, Tazer says, “Fuck them and their elitist bullshit. We are the new generation. Fuck anyone who thinks otherwise,” and a few of the rookies holler and hoot. Tazer manages to throw a small, pinched smile their way, and prepares for the second period.

It isn't enough for this game, though. They go out in the second period, in the third period, and take stupid penalties. The referees seem to find their self-sabotage hilarious, because they also get called for some bullshit penalties that are complete fabrication. Tazer screams himself hoarse, completely disgusted with everything, and his mood doesn't get any better when he gets back to their hotel room, and Kaner is already there; with his ankle wrapped up, and a huge bag of ice covering his entire foot.

Tazer says, “Fuck. That was a circus. What the fuck was that? What the fuck did we just do?” He doesn't remember that they aren't talking to each other, and when it hits him freshly, his jaw clenches painfully (it never stops feeling like a gut-punch), and he turns around to kick his shoes off. He undresses and redresses into his sweats quickly, entirely focused on the task.

Kaner sighs. “That was disgusting. That was bullshit. I can't... The trainers said that it doesn't look good.” Tazer spins around to gape. “They're going to take another look at it tomorrow in Chicago,” Kaner delivers with a small, unhappy frown. “This sucks so bad.”

Tazer shakes his head in disbelief, and wants to go find Kronwall and beat his face in. He's so fucking dirty all the time. If he doesn't get suspended, Tazer will personally call Shanahan and ream him a new one. Tazer runs a hand down the back of his neck and collapses down on Kaner's bed. This is hopeless.

“I've got an idea,” Kaner says, a minute later.

Tazer stares straight ahead, not bothering to turn around. “Hmm?”

Kaner clears his throat and shifts around in bed. “What if the weird healing thing is a two-way street?”

Tazer frowns and looks down at his lap, pulling at the loose threads of the comforter. “You tried that. It didn't work.” He adds, “Or else your wrist would be all better by now.”

Kaner makes a frustrated noise in the back of his throat and says, “Yeah, but. It's happened once, right? Who says it can't happen again?”

Tazer shifts around on the bed and faces him, sitting cross-legged. “I don't think I have that kind of a thing in me, Kaner,” he says helplessly. Kaner raises an eyebrow and leans back against the pillows. “You think I knew that I am some sort of freak who can heal people? By fucking around with them? Fuck, Johnny, that's bullshit.”

Tazer shrugs his shoulders and stares at the gigantic ice bag. “I don't know what to tell you, Pat.”

The bed shifts again and Tazer glances up at Kaner inching forward (he's trying to move closer to Tazer while keeping the bag in place). Kaner's eyes narrow into slits and his jaw is set stubbornly. “Fair's fair. I know what we're going to do. You're going to spend a moment and think about how much you want to heal me. About how happy you'll fucking be that I didn't fuck up my ankle horribly. Then, while calling up the weird healing mojo in your giant head, you are going to kiss me. Because it's fair.”

The air gets sucked out of Tazer's lungs, but he crosses his arms protectively over his chest and nods. “Deal. But don't blame me if it doesn't work.”

The grin on Kaner's face is small, but real. “Oh, trust me. It's gonna work. It's in everyone's best interest that it works, especially yours.” Kaner snaps his fingers impatiently and says, “Hurry up and do it. Visualize all of the healing powers of the earth being sucked into your gigantic frame, then lay one on me.” Tazer just stares at him uncomprehendingly. Kaner kicks him with his uninjured foot and Tazer grabs his ankle automatically. He absentmindedly presses his thumb over the bump of Kaner's heel, and Kaner pulls back his foot like he got burned, his face closing off again, giving Tazer nothing. “Come on,” he says softly, and Tazer drops his head and tries.

He's scared out of his mind that he won't be able to do it. This one thing that means more to Tazer than he can explain. This time, when his hand drops back down to rest on Kaner's ankle (almost instinctually), loosely encircle it and press in, Kaner doesn't shake him off. It's the craziest thing he's ever done, but with the way the last few weeks have unfolded, Tazer is willing, so he hunches in on himself.

He breathes in through his mouth, and thinks about being able to heal; being able to mend broken bones, pull together broken skin, smooth out muscles and spasms and give. It shifts into thinking about Kaner smiling at him like Tazer actually means something; Kaner laughing, Kaner failing, Kaner helping, KanerKanerKaner. When he finally takes his hand off Kaner's ankle, it feels like his palm is burning, and Tazer's eyes pop open and his head whips up to stare at Kaner in utter disbelief. Tazer's entire body is thrumming and humming with something that is now familiar. That weird alien energy racing through his blood, looking for an outlet.

(Tazer will remember, weeks later, the way Kaner had knelt down in front of him in his stall – Tazer bent over clearly in pain and hunched in on himself – Kaner's hand placed warmly on top of Tazer's hung head. Tazer hadn't wanted his sympathy, not that day, but the hand on his head had felt good. It had been the only thing that had felt good the first week of dealing with his concussion.)

Tazer falls forward and shuffles to his hands and knees. Somehow he's still careful, still sorry, because even though he knows that he's done it, he's got it, Kaner has to gently pull his head down for a kiss, his eyes momentarily wide and not hiding.

It's incredibly terrifying, and it's insane, but Tazer imagines Kaner sucking that power into his body, and hums almost serenely into Kaner's open mouth. They've always done things their own way. This is just one more way that they are different.

He drags his lips to the corner of Kaner's mouth and sucks a light, wet kiss there - grinning at the indignant sound of protest that it receives – and then he gets tugged back to Kaner's smiling mouth. Kaner's stupid smile, ruining Tazer's life forever.

They lazily make out like that; Kaner's hand sweeping up and down Tazer's back, clutching at the back of his neck, groaning into Tazer's mouth when their hips brush on accident. On purpose.

Tazer loses track of time, and falls asleep next to Kaner. Exhausted, but happy.

(In the morning, on his way to the bathroom, Tazer steps on a bag of water that vengefully explodes all over his feet and on the carpet. He stands there, with his hands on his hips, wanting to set fire to something with his mind, and tries to futilely block out the sound of Kaner laughing himself sick.

“Oh god, you're amazing.”

Tazer stares down at the mess like he's grimly observing the wreckages of a bomb going off. “Fuck off.”

“Throw a towel on it, loser,” Kaner supplies with the utmost wisdom. Tazer pins him with a glare but does it, anyway. He'll just have to leave a big tip.

As he's placing the towel down – a big one for the spill, and a tiny one for himself – and then toweling off his legs, Kaner pats him on the ass in consolation, as he continues to comfortably hang back in bed and snicker.

“Take your hands off my ass, you creep.”

“No,” Kaner shoots back, and slaps his ass.)

*

Safe to say, the doctors are hugely surprised when Kaner has a miraculous recovery two days later, and is declared to be in a good enough condition to play in the third game. Kaner tells the guys it's only a bruise with a happy, embarrassed shoulder shrug, and gets slapped on the back and called a pussy, much to Tazer's amusement.

Tazer grumps out with a smile, “Ugh, dude. This is terrible. Stop smiling. They'll know something's up,” as he drives them home.

Kaner says, robotically, “I am okay. What a relief. Thank Jesus and all the other important godly dudes for blessing me with this great miracle.” Tazer punches him on the arm and bites down on a laugh.

Like, sure. They practically made out every spare minute that they had, but it's worth it. (They even sixty-nined, because Kaner wanted to be very thorough with the entire approach.) Kaner says that his ankle is back to a hundred percent (his wrist is better, too), and that's all that matters.

It doesn't explain why Kaner keeps on hanging around, or why he lets Tazer snatch short, hard kisses from him whenever they're alone, but Tazer is done with wondering and planning.

It's so much easier to see how it unfolds. Less stressful, for sure.

*

They win the first round against Detroit and then lose in the second round in seven games. They lose to the Canucks in seven games. There aren't many words out there to describe the levels of rage and unhappiness Tazer is wrapped up in.

He tries to tune out the euphoria and taunting of the fans as they make their way out of Rogers Arena, as they head back to their hotel with their shoulders slumped. Their hotel, which is, unsurprisingly, surrounded by jeering Canucks fans. In the elevator, Tazer mutters, “I hope they burn down their city again,” and is met with surprised glances. Duncs says, “That's kind of mean, Tazer,” and Tazer shrugs his shoulders and says, “Look at the all the fucks that I give.” Then, a beat later: “Cut me some slack.”

There isn't much to say or do that hasn't already been said or done in one way or another, so Tazer tells his guys that he'll be seeing them later (when they land in Chicago), and lets Chicago media throw him in the fire pit. It's an exercise in testing Tazer's patience, but he's steady enough. He also tries not let his surprise show too much when Kaner is with him every step of the way, obviously handling the scrutiny far better than Tazer. Kaner says, “We'll get 'em next time,” with a fierce glint in his eyes, and the media soaks it in like it's sunlight.

Once they are done with the media, they both jump into their separate cars and leave. Tazer pretends that he isn't basically counting on Kaner to follow him home.

He remains sitting in his car and waits in front of his building when he gets home. He waits for ten minutes, and then he waits for half an hour. Finally, he starts his car back up and goes to Kaner's place.

Tazer is burned out. Tazer, for one of the few times in his life, wants to let loose. It only makes sense that he drags Kaner along to embarrass himself. Misery likes company and all that.

The elevator ride is spent dumbly looking at his reflection in shiny titanium. It's a pitiful reflection that stares back at him. He heaves in a big breath of air and changes track, tries to settle his nerves. It's strange, that after all these weeks and everything he has done with Kaner... The nerves still won't settle.

At the last second, instead of banging on Kaner's door, he pushes open the unlocked door and quietly steps inside.

Further into Kaner's place the noise of the shower can be heard, so Tazer goes back to the living room, lies down on the couch, and waits. Just when his eyes fall shut, sleep slowly luring him in, Kaner's loud “Jesus!” snaps him out of it.

There's a towel slung around Kaner's shoulders. He's glaring. “I thought you were a burglar, man.”

Tazer carefully looks up at Kaner's upside down face and snorts. “A burglar that takes naps during a job? At the homes he's going to rob? That's new.” Kaner says, “Whatever. The lights were off,” even though that's totally a lie. Tazer smiles into his shoulder and doesn't want to get up.

“So, what are you doing here.” Kaner uncaps his water bottle and takes a drink, standing in front of Tazer, eyeing him curiously.

Tazer shifts to his side and prods the couch pillow under his head. It's a sad excuse of a pillow. “I thought we could go out. Get drunk.” He holds up a hand to cover his mouth as a yawn breaks free. “You know, do your thing,” he finishes lamely.

There is a definite possibility that Kaner is laughing at him. Tazer doesn't care. “Oh yeah, you look like you are ready to let loose, my friend. You'll close down all the bars tonight.” He bites his bottom lip as he looks down at Tazer, probably mocking and contemplating Tazer's entire existence in his head. Tazer is sleepy, Tazer is good. He just stares right back.

“Okay!” Kaner claps his hands together and is set in motion. He disappears again and comes back with take-out menus. Tazer waves his hand airily and says, “Whatever you want.”

Kaner declares, “We're having Chinese,” and then orders it over the phone. He knows what Tazer likes, so Tazer closes his eyes and drifts, listening to the sound of Kaner's voice rising and dropping, rising and dropping.

When their food comes, Kaner nudges him awake. They eat, drink beer, and watch movies they've already seen before, Kaner not settling on any one channel. Tazer grabs the remote from Kaner mid-chew and jams it in his side of the couch with too much force, out of sheer frustration. Kaner doesn't twitch. It's an obvious tactic, Kaner pretending not to care. Tazer waits him out.

Fifteen minutes later, when Angelina Jolie is busy teaching this dude how to curve the bullet, Kaner strikes. Tazer cusses at him and tries to yank the remote back, but his years of being an older brother to three sisters has taught Kaner a few tricks. Tazer sullenly says, “Unlike some people, I was actually watching a movie.” Kaner is crowing in victory inside his head, Tazer can tell, so he ignores him.

Three hours later, Kaner mumbles, “Come on, you party animal. It's bedtime,” as he starts tickling the sole of Tazer's foot with a chopstick. Tazer sits up ramrod straight and squints at Kaner like he's been betrayed. Being ticklish is the worst fucking thing, especially when there are people like Kaner out there in the world.

Tazer stands up and stretches, a yawn breaking free again with a jaw-popping intensity. “I'm going to sleep in your guestroom. I've had a few beers,” Tazer sleepily says, running a hand down his face and trudging toward Kaner's guest bedroom. As he's about to push the door open, Tazer feels a hand tug at his wrist, and looks over his shoulder at Kaner. Kaner looks awake. How is that even possible.

“C'mon, not there,” Kaner softly says, and Tazer blinks at him in confusion, but follows Kaner to his bedroom.

He follows all of Kaner's cues. When Kaner lies down on his side to face him, Tazer copies. When Kaner cups his face, and leans forward to kiss him, softly lick his way inside his mouth and taste, Tazer lets him, and groans into the kiss. In the dark, Tazer lets Kaner unhurriedly drag their mouths together, over and over again, and learn each other in all the ways they didn't in the past. Tazer rubs a thumb over Kaner's nipple, and swallows his thready moan.

They fall asleep trading sleepy kisses, and it's almost funny, in a way, that Tazer was ever nervous about this at all.

It's the most obvious thing in the world.

*

The morning brings with it a calm easiness that is entirely welcome. Tazer cuddles deeper in his pillow and rubs at the warm spot Kaner left next to him. He tumbles out of bed and goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth and splash cold water on his face (he uses Kaner's toothbrush with total smugness), immediately feeling more human and alert after it.

The place is empty, but Tazer doesn't worry. The coffee is happily burbling in its pot, so he pours himself a cup and breathes the smell in like an addict, before he takes his first sip. Kaner doesn't like coffee.

Tazer leans on the counter and drinks his coffee, his mind not racing for the first time in weeks. When he hears the front door unlock, he hides his smile by bringing the cup up to his face. It's just ten shades of embarrassing, and Tazer thinks he should, like, get points for at least admitting that to himself.

Kaner charges into the kitchen with two McDonalds bags clutched in his hand, brimming with triumph. He looks entirely too cheerful for ass o'clock in the morning, Tazer notes sourly. Kaner flicks him on the arm and drops the bags on the counter. “We will feast like kings,” Kaner says cornily, and Tazer huffs out a laugh in his next sip.

“We will get heart attacks at a young age, you mean.”

“I mean, shut your mouth and eat, you ungrateful dick,” Kaner says around a small smile, and Tazer sighs super loudly and concedes. Tazer grabs a breakfast sandwich and digs in. He's hungry, and it's technically the offseason now for them. (Fine, he'll do some extra time at the gym. Whatever. It's a compromise.)

Kaner drinks coffee and inhales three breakfast sandwiches, and Tazer tuts sadly at him as he finishes his second. When Kaner eyes a fourth sandwich with entirely too much interest, Tazer snags it away and starts eating that one, too. He frowns at Kaner as he chews.

Tazer swallows around a mouthful and chastises Kaner by saying, “I'm doing this for you, you know.”

Kaner sips his coffee and grins. “Yeah, I know.” Tazer feels his face flush and concentrates on finishing up the sausage, egg and biscuit sandwich without fainting. It's terrifying how much extra gym time he is going to be putting in, if this is how they're going to be doing things from now on.

Tazer slumps back and belches loudly when he's done, feeling the pleasant sensations of a food coma creeping in on him. “I think I'm going to die,” he states matter-of-factly, with his hands resting on top of his stomach.

“You're all class. Also, you're not going to die.” Kaner rinses their mugs and throws the wrappers in the trash.

“No, you're wrong. I feel death creeping in.”

Kaner taps a finger against his chin and says, “How about we do each other the favor of burning some of these calories by fucking. I mean, if you're not too busy walking towards the white light.”

Tazer's mouth clicks shut. “I could get behind that. It serves a dual purpose. That's good.”

“Dual purpose, right,” Kaner agrees, and tugs Tazer back to his bedroom. Tazer grumbles, though, halfheartedly. “McDonalds, really? I’m not that cheap.”

Kaner reels him in for a kiss, and murmurs against his lips, “Oh, I know. You’re totally high-maintenance and are probably the most stressful fuck in the world.”

“Fuck you.” Tazer angles Kaner’s face up and digs his thumbs under Kaner’s jaw. “You’re still crazy about me.” Kaner narrows his eyes in a challenge and swallows, his jaw clenching, his hands going up to wrap around Tazer’s wrists. Tazer rubs his thumbs lightly along Kaner’s jaw, and bends down to place fleeting kisses on Kaner’s face. Kaner lets him play around for a few seconds while he holds still, but then breaks free and spins Tazer around and then trips him down onto his bed. There is more flailing involved than any kind of grace. Tazer lands star-fished.

“Smooth, buddy.” Tazer folds his arms behind his head and watches Kaner quickly take off his shirt, his jeans. His back rippling as he bends down to take off his socks. Tazer tenses and has to close his eyes for a quick second. There’s no going back from this if they fuck things up again. No amount of pretending can salvage their friendship from this point on. Tazer doesn't plan to fuck up.

Kaner spins around and looks totally annoyed. “Seriously. Stop fronting and get naked,” he motions to Tazer with an impatient handwave. Tazer eyes the condom and lotion in Kaner's hands with a raise of his eyebrows.

“You’re in a rush. Do you have someone else scheduled after me?” Tazer jokes as he unzips his jeans.

“No. I just want to get your dick in me while I’m still young.” The air around them kind of pops and sizzles for a few seconds, and Tazer has to look up to see it; to see the way Kaner is looking at him, his teeth working on his bottom lip like it has personally offended him.

Tazer is about to say something corny and cheesy, but he bites back on it at the last second (thank god), and sits up. He pulls his t-shirt over his head and feels an extra pair of hands tug it the rest of the way off. Kaner tugs his jeans the rest of the way off, too, then sits astride Tazer’s hips. Tazer feels the heat start to lazily work its way into his blood, and even though it’s obvious with Kaner sitting in his lap, he cups Kaner through his boxers and gently squeezes. Kaner’s forehead thumps to Tazer’s shoulder and Kaner moans.

“So, fast first, and then...” The flush blooming on Kaner’s collarbones arrests his attention and he puts his mouth there and kisses, lightly sucks.

Kaner rocks into his lap and says through gritted teeth, “You do know the mechanics of gay sex, right?” And Tazer bites him. Kaner jerks forward and whines low in his throat, and hisses, “Asshole. That hurt.”

“You deserved it,” Tazer says, and draws Kaner in for an urgent kiss. Kaner wraps his arms around Tazer's neck and greedily starts tongue-fucking Tazer like it's going out of style. Tazer lets the onslaught continue for a few minutes (it's too much tongue and spit, but fuck showing off), then cups Kaner's ass cheeks in his hands and squeezes. They both fall out of the kiss with a wet popping sound and simply moan into each other's mouths. He keeps on squeezing and kneading the firm flesh of Kaner's ass, and when Kaner says, “C'mon, we've done all of this before,” and gets up from Tazer's lap only to collapse on his back, his fingers digging into Tazer's shoulders to pull him over, Tazer is only too happy to allow it.

Kaner purses his lips and smacks his hand in the center of Tazer's chest, stopping him from swooping down for a kiss. His other hand cups Tazer's face and a thumb urgently presses against Tazer’s ear, holds him still. Tazer frowns in confusion and opens his mouth to say something, but Kaner beats him to the punch, and blurts out, “Boxers off. Dicks in asses. Think you can handle that?”

Tazer snorts in surprise and turns his head to lick the palm of Kaner's hand, much to Kaner's apparent disgust. It's obvious that Kaner is into it, though, because his hand drops down to his chest, and he rubs his palm over his nipple, his warm eyes trailing down Tazer's body like laser beams.

Tazer shimmies out of his boxers with more difficulty than he'd care to admit, but it's Kaner's fault. Kaner won't stop staring at him, and Tazer has to roughly grab at Kaner's boxers and work them down, too, the inside of his wrist catching at Kaner's cock in a slow, dragging caress. The way that Kaner shudders and whispers, “I hate you. So much,” is the headiest thing in the world.

This isn't going to last long at all, Tazer reaffirms, and drags his chest up Kaner's body – ignoring the way Kaner's hands settle on his hips and squeeze – to grab the condom and lotion dropped near Kaner's head. “Lotion?” Tazer asks, and Kaner says, “It'll do,” his voice sounding rougher.

He casually slaps Kaner's knees apart as he settles between his legs again, and promptly latches onto Kaner's ankle in alarm – fighting not to lose his balance and fall backwards – when Kaner tries to push him off the bed, with his foot planted firmly in the middle of Tazer's chest.

Kaner is fucking ridiculous, and Tazer smirks and condescendingly says, “You're doing sex wrong, Kaner. I didn't think it was possible, but you're full of surprises.” It's easy enough to ignore the bent knee knocking into his side in retaliation.

Kaner sweetly says, “Just making sure that you're all here,” and lets his legs fall open again. Tazer blinks a few times and completely forgets what they are talking about. It's a cruel trick, and Kaner is all about cruel tricks. He fumbles for the lotion and spills some onto his fingers. He rubs his hand up and down the inside of Kaner's thigh in reassurance (he doesn't know who he is reassuring, exactly), and works a finger into Kaner's body. Kaner twitches and sucks his stomach in, but slowly loosens up a little. By the time Tazer is working two fingers in, Kaner is breathing with more ease. Tazer doesn't want this to be a scarring experience for either of them, despite the massive case of blue balls.

A few minutes later, still stretching out Kaner intently with only two fingers, Kaner groans out, “Holy shit, it looks like you’re trying to solve a geometry problem. You suck at this.”

Tazer slaps his thigh in agitation and can't help himself, so he asks, “Why geometry?”

“Because everyone sucks at geometry and it's a taught by evil people,” Kaner says with surprising vehemence (so, Kaner hates math, got it), and adds, “Shapes are for losers,” just as Tazer works a third finger inside, and his voice shakes out towards the end. Kaner bites back a moan and digs his heels into the mattress. A pleased smirk works its way onto Tazer's face and he bends forward to suck a biting hickey right on the inside of where Kaner's thigh meets his groin, and presses his grin to Kaner's skin when a hand flies to his head and hangs on.

Kaner groans, “I'm ready, let's do this,” and starts to rock onto Tazer's fingers sort of mindlessly. Tazer can't hold back the embarrassing sound working its way up his throat and pulls out to rip the condom wrapper open.

When he finally rolls the condom on and works his way inside Kaner with small, little thrusts, his breath punching out of his lungs once he fully settles in, it's indescribable. Kaner is burning up and tight and Tazer doesn't know where they end and where they begin. Kaner bites out, “Move, c'mon, move,” and Tazer is helpless. They start off slowly, but pretty soon they are both gasping and holding on, as Tazer speeds up and fucks into Kaner with short, hard thrusts. Kaner rolls his hips to meet his thrusts, and Tazer can't stop focusing on where he's sliding in and out of Kaner, at the way Kaner's dick bobs against his own stomach with the movement, leaving a trail of pre-come on his skin.

It's brutal and Tazer feels his release coiling in his belly and down his spine before he's even ready for it, so he falls forward on his hands, breaks their fast-paced rhythm, and nudges Kaner into a desperate kiss. When he picks up his thrusts again and Kaner's legs wrap around his hips, dig into his back and egg him on, they pant into each other's mouths and hang on.

Tazer is the first to come. He shakily moans out, “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” and works his way through his climax (Kaner is whispering, “Yeah, baby. Fuck me, fucking come for me,” in an endless jumble of words), kissing any bit of Kaner's skin he can reach. Kaner's cock is hotly pressed against his stomach when Tazer loses control of his limbs and finally drops down next to him (pulling out with a little wince), and Tazer is feeling amazing, he's feeling like he's a king. (Except when he has to pull off the condom with a grimace, but whatever.)

The heavy sensation in his limbs is tough to shake off, but the dazed look in Kaner's face is everything, so he flops down between Kaner's thighs and sucks him in, without any warning, and works what he can't with his hand, quickly jerking Kaner off. Their lack of coordination is hilarious, but Tazer makes it work.

Kaner cries out, “Fuuuuuck,” and sloppily thrusts into Tazers mouth a couple of times and seizes up, coming in Tazer's mouth. Tazer swallows what he can and slumps down, his forehead resting on Kaner's belly. They pant quietly and rest, their bodies sticking with heat where they touch. Tazer then flops on his back and breathes.

A few minutes later, Kaner hums out contentedly, “That wasn't horrible.”

Tazer doesn't bother to reply, and merely lies there, with his eyes closed, with their shoulders touching.

“I mean, we could use some practice. Some of the bits in-between were clearly amateur work.”

Tazer sighs loudly and knocks his ankle against Kaner's. “Shut up.”

The feel of Kaner's fingers tracing down his arm isn't distracting at all. “We have room to improve. I guess that's a good thing.”

Tazer shakes his head back and forth on the pillow, and finally opens his eyes to glare. “If you keep talking, there won't even be a round two.” Kaner innocently lifts his head and kisses Tazer's shoulder.

“I mean, I guess I can shut up.”

“Good.”

“But you have to make me.” It sounds like he's talking about the weather, he sounds so calm.

“Oh my god, way to ruin a moment,” Tazer grumps out, as he lifts himself out of the bed and beelines for the bathroom.

“Oh man, we were having a moment?” Kaner crows, and the sound of his laughter doesn't get muffled all that much when Tazer closes the bathroom door.

He catches himself smiling in the bathroom mirror and doesn't bother to hide it, to stop.

It's no use hiding anything from Kaner, anyway. He's just too fucking persistent.

Kaner shouts through the door, “Don't bother taking a shower! Unless you are looking for some shower sex!”

Tazer chokes back a laugh, splashes water on his face. When he goes back out, he jumps down onto Kaner, and they start, all over again.

Since they are both perfectionists and all.





~End