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Camaraderie and sense of belonging

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Jamie gets Tyler’s number through a friend of a friend of a hook-up one summer in Vancouver. They’re standing outside at a barbecue. Most people have been driven inside by an unsurprisingly unseasonable rain cloud; Jamie and the friend of the friend of the hook-up are tucked under the eaves of the patio so the friend of the friend of the hook-up can have a smoke. Jamie is watching the guy’s mouth around the cigarette, not particularly subtly, and complaining about getting laid during the season.

“I wouldn’t have thought Dallas would be that hard,” the guy says.

“It’s not,” admits Jamie, “But I’m not out and it’s hard to find discreet people who don’t want strings attached, you know? I’m not interested in dating, but it’s always the same faces at the bars. I feel like I have to learn shit about dudes that I’m not really into just to get my dick wet.”

“I know what you mean,” the guy says, pointedly, and Jamie laughs. He steps a little closer and puts one hand on the wall behind the guy’s head; the guy tilts his head back a little, blows smoke off to the side and meets Jamie’s eyes.

“Wanna come back to my place, smoke up and fuck?” Jamie says.

“Dunno, dude. Do you know my name?”

“Not a clue,” Jamie says.

The guy laughs. “What an offer.” He looks Jamie up and down. “Yeah, why not?”

Later that night, as Jamie lies on his bed watching the guy zip up his jeans, the guy pulls his phone out of his back pocket and starts scrolling through it.

“Hey,” he says, “I know this guy who just moved to Dallas last year. He’s an escort – really discreet. And hot,” he adds. “You should take his number.”

“Uh,” Jamie says. “An escort? That seems kind of ... sleazy. Not to mention risky.”

The guy rolls his eyes at him. “You still don’t know my name, so sleazy isn’t a deal-breaker,” he points out. “And this guy is the definition of easy. You wanted no strings, right?”

“I guess. What’s his name?”

“Tyler.” The guy scrabbles around on Jamie’s nightstand table for a pen and a piece of paper, then scrawls the number down. “Give him a call. Or don’t. But trust me, you’d like him.”

Jamie shrugs. He says, belatedly, “Do you need a ride somewhere? Should I call you a cab?”

The guy looks at Jamie, who’s pretty fucked out, sprawled on the bed with his dick softening against his thigh. Jamie twitches a little, but lets him look. Eventually, the guy shrugs. “Don’t bother,” he says. “I like long walks in the rain. This was fun, though.” He half-asses a salute at Jamie, who returns it lazily. “See you around, Jamie.”

“Yeah. See ya, bud.”

Jamie listens to his front door shut, then rolls over and picks the piece of paper up from the nightstand. He goes to crumple it, unfolds it, crumples it again, sighs, and gets up to dig around in his jeans for his phone. He enters the number under “Tyler in Dallas”, drops his phone on the nightstand, and heads down to the kitchen to find something to eat.

*

Jamie really wasn’t going to call Tyler, but he gets back to Dallas in a sticky fall heatwave, the kind of weather that makes most people want to sit by a river, lake or swimming pool and do as little as possible. It makes Jamie want to fuck, for reasons he’s never been able to articulate, but the effort of hitting a bar and trying to discreetly pick someone up seems insurmountable in the heat.

He’s scrolling through his phone aimlessly when he hits “Tyler in Dallas”. It takes him a second, but eventually he remembers the conversation with the friend of the friend of the hook-up and figures out who “Tyler in Dallas” is.

Jamie tosses his phone in the air a couple of times. On the one hand, he doesn’t know who the hell this guy is and his major recommendation comes from a guy whose name Jamie still isn’t sure on. On the other hand, sex. “Fuck it,” he says eventually, and texts, is this Tyler?

He gets a beer out of the fridge and turns the TV on. He still hasn’t found anything watchable when his phone buzzes.

yeah this is tyler. whos this?

This is Jamie. My friend gave me your number. Jamie makes a face at his phone, and hits send. How do you ask a guy if he’s interested in getting fucked for money?

hi Jamie. are you looking for a date?

Oh. Like that. Um, yeah, Jamie texts, and stalls out. A minute later, though, his phone buzzes with an incoming call. “Tyler in Dallas.” Ugh. With trepidation, he swipes to answer, and says, “Hello?”

“Hi, Jamie,” says a voice in his ear. It’s an okay voice, Jamie guesses – a young-sounding guy. “This is Tyler. I know calling sucks, but it’s usually easier to arrange details and shit over the phone. When were you thinking about meeting?”

“Tonight, I guess,” Jamie says. “Or whenever. My schedule’s pretty clear at the moment.”

“Mine is too. Lucky you. What kind of service are you after tonight, Jamie?”

“Uh,” Jamie says. “I guess fucking?”

“Mmhmm, that sounds fun,” Tyler says. “How about in a couple of hours?”

That’s kind of soon, but honestly, now that Jamie’s talking to Tyler, he’s getting far more into the idea of getting laid today. “Yeah, that’s good.”

“Okay, Jamie, that sounds cool. You can meet me at 4 in the bar at the Marriott – do you know it?”

“I can GPS it,” Jamie says. “Uh, I don’t really – should I bring cash?”

Tyler laughs, kind of warmly. “Your first time paying for it? You can send me the money over the internet if you want, but most clients don’t want those kinds of charges on their cards, you know? I charge $200 an hour, so think about what you want and bring cash up front. I’ll text you a picture so you can find me, okay?”

“Sure,” Jamie says. “I’ll see you soon, Tyler.”

“Looking forward to it, bud,” Tyler says, and Jamie ends the call. His phone beeps almost right away with the promised picture. It features a shirtless guy, one arm tucked behind his head, smiling at the camera. The guy – Tyler, Jamie guesses – is pretty fucking hot, built as hell with a great smile. He looks pretty much the definition of easy.

“Huh,” Jamie says, tipping his head back against the couch cushions and looking at the ceiling. He takes a swallow of his beer and tries to decide how sleazy he feels. Not that sleazy, he decides, and gets his ass off his couch to look for his wallet.

*
Jamie gets to the hotel pretty much on time, after detouring to find an ATM. He glances down at himself as he gets out of the car – a reasonable pair of jeans and a t-shirt, so he probably won’t get kicked out of the hotel bar. He wouldn’t dress like this for a date – but he guesses he doesn’t exactly have to worry about impressing Tyler.

He sees Tyler right away when he gets to the bar. He’s in a booth with a beer, sitting twisted so he can keep an eye on the door as well as the big screen showing sports highlights. Jamie meets his eyes, and he supposes Tyler’s done this a lot because Tyler’s attention is away from the TV and on Jamie right away. Jamie can feel himself start to blush as Tyler zooms in on him and cracks a slow smile.

Jamie crams his hands in his pockets and heads over. “Tyler?”

“You must be Jamie.” Tyler’s still smiling. He’s just as good-looking in person. “Take a seat, Jamie.”

When Jamie does, Tyler passes him a second beer, popping the top off on the way. “So you know I’m not drugging you,” he says with a wink, and Jamie startles.

“Hadn’t occurred to me,” he says.

Tyler shrugs. “Tell me about yourself, Jamie.”

Jamie makes a face. “I kind of thought the point of a hooker was that I wouldn’t have to work for it.”

“You don’t,” Tyler says, pleasantly. “I do like to get a sense that the guys I’m having sex with for money aren’t serial killers, though, so drink your beer and make small talk and we can get going.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Jamie says.

“Thanks for the validation, buddy. So, if you don’t want to talk about yourself, let’s talk about why you’re visiting me. It’s obviously not because you’re bad-looking,” Tyler says, giving Jamie another glance up and down that makes Jamie’s cheeks burn again. It’s probably just a line Tyler uses with all his – dates? johns? clients?, but it sounds sincere.

“Uh,” Jamie says, “I guess I’m basically kind of lazy about most things – not my job,” he adds. “But, you know, I work weird hours and it’s a lot of effort to meet people and maintain relationships, plus it’s hard to meet guys in a discreet kind of way.”

Tyler lips at his bottle in a distracting kind of way. “You’re not out? That’s a pretty common reason guys visit sex workers.”

“I’m out,” Jamie says defensively, “I’m out to my family and te – my coworkers and shit. I’m not one of those married guys who keeps cheating on his wife because he’s too afraid to come out. But discretion is important to me.” He’s not sure how much to say – he’s been told Tyler’s discreet, but he doesn’t exactly want to hand a hooker he just met all the ammo he needs to make Jamie’s career pretty difficult for a while.

“It is to me, too.” Tyler straightens a bit in his seat and looks a bit more serious. “I guarantee privacy for my clients, Jamie. You don’t have to worry about that.” He’s giving Jamie a significant look, and Jamie just kind of nods at him. He’s grateful, but he’s not totally sure he believes Tyler. It’s not like he’s that famous in Dallas that it would be such a scoop, but still.

“Yeah, well,” Jamie says. “To be honest, you were a bit of a spur of the moment decision. Not sure I’m going to like it.”

Tyler sits back in the booth, slinging an arm along the back, and favours Jamie with a long, slow smile. “Pretty sure you will,” he says.

*

They make a little more small talk until Jamie finishes his beer, during which time Jamie tries to avoid sharing too much about himself or learning too much about Tyler. (He mostly fails. Tyler is from Ontario. He has two dogs and a couple of sisters, who are the reason why Tyler moved away from Toronto to pursue his career in sex work.)

When they’re done, Tyler slides out of the booth and jerks his head. “Let’s go, eh,” he says, and Jamie follows Tyler out of the bar, into the elevator and up to a room.

There’s an awkward moment when Tyler asks for cash up-front and Jamie thinks he’s going to feel skeevy, but when the money is taken care of being with Tyler feels pretty much like a regular hook-up. Until Tyler wraps his arms around Jamie’s neck and kisses him, and then it still feels like a regular hook-up but with a super-hot guy who’s amazing at kissing. Jamie starts walking Tyler backwards towards the bed, and Tyler goes over easily when he’s pushed, flinging himself backwards onto the bed and spreading his legs in a way that Jamie finds to be frankly provocative.

“Still down to fuck?” Tyler asks.

“Yup,” Jamie says, eyeing him up and down.

“Cool,” Tyler says, easily. “You want to fuck me, or you want me to fuck you?”

“I want to fuck you, obviously,” Jamie says, peeling his shirt off. “Do people really pay you to do it the other way around?”

“You better believe it, baby,” Tyler says, wriggling around on the bed to get undressed, and, as Jamie looks at him on the bed, he can believe it. He redoubles his effort with his belt and drops his pants just as Tyler shimmies out of his own, and Jamie stares a bit, because why not? He’s paying, after all. Tyler is muscled – and Jamie knows from muscled; he’s a professional athlete, but even by his standards, Tyler has an impressive body – and has tattoos all over his arms. Jamie suspects they’d be pretty embarrassing close up, but they look amazing from this angle. He’s not shy, either, tucking his hands behind his head and stretching out when he notices Jamie’s looking.

“Like what you see?”

“You obviously know what you look like,” Jamie says, kneeing his way onto the bed. He gets himself above Tyler and leans down to kiss him again, sliding a hand from his waist up to his chest. Tyler makes an agreeable noise and suddenly they’re flipped over, Jamie on his back with Tyler straddling him and rocking down onto Jamie’s dick, which is rapidly taking an interest.

“You should ride me,” Jamie suggests, getting his hands on Tyler’s ass and squeezing. “Like, soon.”

“Know what you want, eh?” He tilts himself half off Jamie to grab condoms and lube from the nightstand, then straightens up. “You want to do this, or shall I?”

Jamie takes the condom off him, and says, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to watch.”

Tyler flashes him a big grin. “I don’t mind at all.”

Jamie watches, mesmerised, as Tyler flicks the cap off the lube and warms it a little before reaching behind his back and fingering himself open. The view is … inspiring. Jamie can’t see much from his angle but it’s enough to keep it interesting, and Tyler is making a lot of probably-fake-but-still-pretty-hot sex noises. And it might not be totally fake, since Tyler’s dick is hard and hot when Jamie reaches down to touch it.

Tyler moans into it, but smacks Jamie’s hand off. “Get busy with that,” he says, indicating the condom, and Jamie blinks and rips the package open. He rolls it down his dick, and Tyler says, “Okay, ready?”

“Jesus, that was fast,” Jamie says.

“I’m a professional,” Tyler says, and then he’s up on his knees and sliding down Jamie’s dick. Jamie matches him groan for groan. Fuck, this was a good idea.

It’s still light out. They didn’t draw the curtains, and sunlight is coming right through the window onto the bed, lighting Tyler up all along one side and heating the room. Jamie can feel sweat break out on his forehead as Tyler starts to ride him, and he manages to gasp out, “Slowly.”

Tyler meets his eyes for a second and nods, and then he’s throwing his head back, exposing his neck to the sunlight, and moving exquisitely slowly on Jamie’s dick.

Jamie manages to drag it out for a little while. He relishes the feeling of sweating into the sheets, the slick on Tyler’s hips and lower back when he gropes him, the sweat darkening Tyler’s hair and sliding down his cheeks to drip onto Jamie, and Tyler hot around him. But sooner than he’d really like his hips are jerking up and he’s coming hard, hips coming right off the mattress and pumping hard into Tyler.

Tyler clenches down and works him through it, gently, and then eases off and flops down on the bed next to Jamie, running a hand through his hair as he comes down. Jamie gasps for a while, deals with the condom and then rolls over, running a hand down Tyler’s side until he gets to his dick, which hasn’t flagged. He fists Tyler’s dick and then jerks him a couple of times. “This okay?” he asks, belatedly.

“The customer’s always right,” Tyler says. He gasps and his hips pump for a second, and he says, “Particularly when the customer’s jerking me off.”

Jamie grins, and jerks Tyler off easily. He gets him right up to the edge and then backs off a little, enjoying Tyler cussing him out, and then gets back to work until Tyler spills all over his hand and wrist. After he comes, Tyler flops on his back for a minute before doing a crunch to sit up with a grunt.

“Show-off,” Jamie says idly, and Tyler looks back down at him and grins.

“Yeah, baby,” he says, and fumbles around on the nightstand for a packet of wipes. He uses it to clean Jamie’s wrist off, and says, “You can stay until you can move enough to get in the shower. Don’t waste the afterglow, but I have another client in a few hours.” Tyler gets off the bed to find the remote and flicks the TV on. ESPN; Jamie can’t say he’s surprised, but he’s also pretty grateful for ESPN’s lack of hockey coverage right now.

Jamie zones out for a bit to sports coverage and then sits up a little in bed to heckle the Bears, who are losing embarrassingly in the preseason, until he can drag himself off the bed to get into the shower. When he comes back out, doing up his jeans, Tyler’s still lying there naked, and Jamie takes a second to admire him in the dwindling sunlight before digging his wallet out of his pocket. He glances at his watch and is pretty shocked to see that it’s been three hours since he and Tyler came up to the room; he digs in his wallet for an extra couple of hundred bucks. Tyler glances over and says, “Thanks, man.”

“Thank you,” Jamie says. “This was great, actually.”

“We appreciate your custom,” Tyler says, in a joking singsong, and then breaks into laughter. “That was great, man. Text me any time.”

“I will,” Jamie says, and as he wanders out of the hotel room he’s surprised to find that he means it. He doesn’t feel sleazy at all.

*
After the sex high wears off Jamie still doesn’t feel weird about it, so the next week, when Jordie’s back in town and clearly planning a night in with his girlfriend, Jamie texts Tyler and asks if he’s free that night. Again, Tyler texts back pretty quickly. He’s free – Jamie kind of wonders how successful he can be if he’s free at that short notice – but he wants Jamie to come to his place, and texts him an address about a twenty-minute drive from Jamie’s place. Jamie shrugs. Sure, he texts. What time?

7:30, Tyler texts back. Don’t arrive before 7.

Okay … Jamie guesses Tyler must have an earlier client or something. He wonders idly if that makes him feel weird but, even thinking about it, he still doesn’t. He’s sure something will feel weird eventually, though, if he keeps seeing Tyler.

When Jamie arrives that night at 7:25, he pulls up at a pretty regular-looking suburban house. Actually it’s kind of bigger than Jamie was expecting, and the detached garage at the front has two storeys, with an exterior staircase winding down one side. Tyler is sitting at the top in the last rays of sunlight, drinking a beer. He waves at Jamie.

Jamie waves back, climbing out of his car and heading over. He gets to the bottom of the stairs, and Tyler says, “Hey, man. Come on up,” levering himself off the stairs and heading in through the open door.

Jamie follows him through into a curtained room. It’s surprisingly spacious, and Jamie can tell that if the curtains were open the room would be full of light, but there’s not much to it. There’s a sink and a few shelves, and a door to one side that Jamie guesses leads through to a bathroom, and there’s a Murphy bed, although the kind that looks like someone might have paid a reasonable amount of money for it. The curtains are white, and there’s a painting on one wall – big slashes of colour, the kind of thing Jamie doesn’t really get.

Tyler leans around Jamie to close the door, and then waves his hand around. “Welcome, I guess,” he says. “Want a beer?”

“Nah,” Jamie says. “I could go for a bj, though.”

Tyler laughs. His whole face crinkles up, and Jamie’s reminded of how good-looking he really is. “Okay,” Tyler says, “I think I can handle that.” He gets up in Jamie’s personal space, sliding a hand down to cup Jamie’s dick through his jeans. “You want it here, or on the bed?”

Jamie bites his lip. He had been planning on the bed, but the idea of Tyler on his knees is really appealing. “Here’s good,” he says, and watches as Tyler slides down his body.

*

Later, after Tyler has apparently tried to suck Jamie’s brain out through his dick and nearly succeeded, Jamie staggers over to the bed to flop flat on his back and stare at the ceiling, panting. As his brain slowly comes back online, he looks around. The room’s really kind of boring. “You live here?” he asks after a while.

Tyler, who’s sitting up against the headboard texting and looking unconcerned, says, “Yeah, I have a room up at the house.”

“This isn’t yours?”

Tyler snorts. “Yeah, right. If I lived here there’d be a lot more dirty socks on the floor and dog hair on the furnishings. Nah, one of my roomies is a massage therapist and we use this room as a studio. He did the decorating.”

“A massage therapist?” Jamie puts as much sarcasm as he can into it, and Tyler kicks his shoulder.

“Seriously,” he says. “An actual massage therapist. It works out great. We have a calendar on the fridge for scheduling. Plus when we have emergency guests or whatever I can make house calls and he can use the living room. And it means the neighbours are used to people coming and going. That’s why you couldn’t come earlier than seven, he had a client.”

“Oh, I kind of thought you did.”

Tyler grins down at him. “Not today,” he says cheerfully. “You seem pretty relaxed about it, though.”

Jamie, still flat on his back, shrugs. “Doesn’t really bother me,” he says. “I wouldn’t get mad about my trainer working with another guy, right?”

“A lot of my clients like to pretend they’re my one and only,” Tyler says. “I try to screen them out early now because they tend to be the ones who become problems.”

Jamie twists onto his belly to look at Tyler, who’s looking a little sheepish. “You wanted me to think you were seeing someone else,” he says accusingly, and Tyler shrugs and starts blushing. It’s pretty cute.

“Sure,” he says. “But now I know you’re not a possessive asshole, so it worked out.”

Jamie gets up on his knees and gets his hands around Tyler’s ankles, then yanks Tyler down the bed until he’s on his back beneath Jamie. “That was very manipulative,” he says, mock-severely. “I think you should be punished. With my dick.”

Tyler cracks up under him. “Oh, no,” he says. “Not your dick!” He’s spreading his legs around Jamie’s hips, though, and looking very comfortable.

Jamie glances at the time. It’s 8:30. “You’ve got time, right?”

“Baby, I’ve got all night for you,” Tyler says.

*

As training camp and preseason bullshit starts heating up, Jamie gets into a pattern of seeing Tyler a couple of times a week. They fuck – Jamie fucks Tyler, or Tyler blows him, or sometimes they’re even creative – and then nap and watch sports TV and shoot the shit until Jamie can go again. It’s the most relaxing sex of Jamie’s life, and ludicrously convenient. They often fuck at weird hours, like in the middle of the afternoon when, in the regular season, he’d usually be taking a pre-game nap. He texts Tyler once at 2 in the morning when Jordie’s at his girlfriend’s and Jamie’s feeling needy, and Tyler shows up at Jamie’s place 15 minutes later and tells him he was in the neighbourhood.

“Don’t you ever sleep?” Jamie asks as he flicks Tyler’s fly open.

“Sure,” Tyler says, gasping. “From four in the morning till 10 most days. And I nap. Don’t worry, I didn’t get out of bed for you.”

“I’m not worried,” Jamie lies, but he kind of is; Tyler probably has to say yes to most jobs if he wants to make rent.

“Jamie,” Tyler says. “Focus,” and he shoves his hips up a little. Jamie goes back to stroking, and Tyler says, “Seriously, I’ll turn you down if it’s a bad time for me. I’m not living hand to mouth here.”

True to his word, when Jamie texts the day before the preseason opens to make a date for that evening, Tyler tells Jamie he can’t make it. Jamie calls him, and when Tyler picks up he says, “Jamie, I’ve got a client tonight. I really can’t make it. I could see you tomorrow?”

Jamie chews his lip, wondering whether he can sneak a visit to Tyler in when he would usually be getting his pre-game nap in. It’s probably not the best way to start the season, though, and he’s pretty sure Jordie would notice. “The day after?” he says. “Maybe around 12?”

Tyler pauses. “I’m free then, but I’ve got a client that morning. I probably won’t be able to get it up.”

“Uh, is that…” Jamie trails off.

“Well –” Tyler breaks off. “I do see some clients on top of each other like that but, you know, some people don’t like it, and you usually – well –”

Jamie fills the gap in. “I usually get you off.”

“Right,” says Tyler. “Some people prefer to. So – I don’t mind seeing you then, the work would be great actually because I just had to take Marshall to the vet and my credit card is killing me, but it’s up to you.”

Jamie opens his mouth, and then Jordie bangs on his door. “Let’s go, Chubbs,” he yells through the door. “Get your hand off your dick, practice time!”

Jamie puts his hand over his phone long enough to shout, “Hold the fuck on.” Without thinking about it too hard he says to Tyler, “Day after tomorrow at 12. I’ll see you then.”

“See you then,” Tyler agrees, sounding dubious, and Jamie hangs up and is off the bed and out of his bedroom in time to shove Jordie ahead of him and out the door.

*

They win their first preseason game. Jamie knows it’s basically meaningless – half of the Preds roster was guys who will be nowhere near the NHL when games start counting – but everyone’s pumped, especially their own slate of potential rookies, so they’re out late anyway. The late night means that Jamie ends up staggering into the shower, out, and over to Tyler’s place without thinking about anything much until he’s pretty much there. He takes the steps up to the room above the garage a little more slowly. He’d meant to think seriously about canceling, but now that he’s here he can acknowledge that he doesn’t want to – he wants to fuck Tyler and not worry about it. They’re about to go on the road for a week anyway, for games half of which Jamie probably won’t even play in, and he won’t get to see Tyler or probably get laid at all, so. He knocks.

Tyler swings the door open. His hair is wet, but he otherwise looks pretty much how he usually does – shorts, a tank top that displays his sleeves and a relaxed grin.

“Hey, buddy,” Tyler says, and Jamie says,

“Hey.” He walks into the room and kicks the door shut behind him, then gets his hands on Tyler’s hips and starts walking him back towards the bed. “How are you?”

“I’m good, man,” Tyler says. “How are you? Feeling frisky?”

“Frisky?” Jamie says. They’ve reached the bed, and he gets his hands on the hem of Tyler’s tank top and peels it up and over his head, then fumbles for his belt. Tyler matches him on Jamie’s own pants. “Frisky sounds like my grandmother talking about having sex.”

Tyler makes a face. “Let’s not talk about grandmothers in bed, shall we? Keep the personal out of the workplace.”

Jamie laughs. “I work with my brother,” he says, tipping Tyler, who is finally naked, onto the bed. “Personal is pretty much everywhere.”

Tyler gives him an even more disgusted face. “No family talk,” he orders, and wriggles up the bed to grab lube and a condom from under the pillow. He offers the condom to Jamie, who goes for the lube instead.

“Can I?” he asks, sliding a hand under Tyler’s ass and hitching one leg up.

“Sure,” Tyler says agreeably. He fumbles above himself for a pillow and hands that to Jamie, who shoves it under Tyler’s hips and then squeezes lube onto his fingers.

Tyler murmurs and twists a little at the first touch, and Jamie says, “Sorry, sorry.” He starts with one finger and works his way up to two slowly, and Tyler sighs, tipping his head back. He’s still soft, and Jamie says, uncertainly, “Is this okay?”

“Hmm?” Tyler says, getting his elbows under him and tipping up to meet Jamie’s eyes. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not painful?” Jamie scissors his fingers gently, and Tyler sighs again, easy.

“It’s doesn’t hurt,” he says. “It’s like getting fucked after you’ve already come, or whatever. It’s not going to get me off, but it’s not a bad feeling. It’s nice, even.”

“Hmm.” Jamie adds another finger. “Did whoever you were seeing this morning fuck you?”

“No.” Tyler says. “Oh, yeah, there. He blew me, and then I sucked him off, and then he blew me again. It’s his favourite thing. He’s pretty vanilla.”

“Just like me, huh?” Jamie drags his fingers out slowly and goes for the condom.

“I wouldn’t call you vanilla,” Tyler says, and makes a noise as Jamie slides in.

“I’m pretty conventional,” Jamie says, as he starts to move. “Sucking, fucking, that kind of thing.”

“I guess,” Tyler says. “You’re not boring, though.”

“Thanks, I think,” Jamie says, and gets busy.

Later, Tyler says, “It was definitely a compliment.”

“Hm?”

“Not boring.” Tyler rolls on his side to look at Jamie. “Believe me. I’m a hooker. I know from boring in bed.”

“Maybe we’re just compatibly boring,” Jamie says, sleepily.

“Maybe,” Tyler says. “Hey, don’t fall asleep, huh?”

“You know I’m good for it,” Jamie says. He’s napped on Tyler’s bed before; Tyler usually just laughs at him for wasting his money, but it’s worth it to Jamie.

“Yeah, yeah, but Davy has a massage client in here at 2 so I have to put the bed away, and I have a volunteer shift at the clinic later on.”

“The clinic?”

“The sex workers’ collective runs a sexual health clinic a couple of times a week and I’m supposed to be there today. Up you get.”

Jamie straightens up and starts fishing around on the floor for his clothes. “There’s a sex workers’ collective?”

“Sure,” Tyler says. “You know, free condoms, sexual health clinic, crisis line, advocacy with the cops, that kind of thing. Sometimes I put people up here for a while if they need a place to stay.”

“I didn’t know you could do that for something that wasn’t legal.”

Tyler shrugs. “I don’t know how the legal stuff works. I go for the support – it’s a kinda dangerous job if you’re alone, you know? You gotta have a community.”

Jamie nods, slowly, and does up his shoes. “I never really thought about that. You think it should be legal?”

“Duh,” Tyler says. “I really like my job. It doesn’t hurt anyone, I’m good at it and I make great money. But it would be nice to be able to get benefits or apply to be here legally, you know?”

“Yeah,” Jamie says. “Makes sense.”

Tyler shrugs. “Doesn’t really matter, I guess. I’m okay right now. But I’ll be dead if we’re not out of here soon, because Davy-boy will kill me, so come on.”

Jamie, now fully dressed, stands, and Tyler strips the sheets off the bed and shoves them into a laundry basket in the corner. Jamie gets cash out of his wallet and hands it to Tyler, who folds it up and shoves it in his back pocket.

“You need a ride?” Jamie says, abruptly. It’s far sooner after sex than he usually leaves, and between that and the conversation he feels vaguely off-balance, like the easy-going bro Tyler usually appears to be – the kind that would fit in perfectly in any hockey locker room – has revealed a completely different side. He doesn’t want to be weird about it, though. It makes sense that Tyler would care about this stuff, this stuff Jamie’s never even considered in the months he’s been seeing Tyler, and Jamie doesn’t want to come across as insensitive or whatever.

Tyler slugs him in the arm. “Nah, man, I’ve got a car downstairs. You get out of here. Have a nice trip.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Jamie says, and is halfway home before he realises that he never told Tyler he was going anywhere.

*

The realisation that Tyler must know who he is and what he does for a living bothers Jamie a bit on the road trip, but after the first game he puts it out of his head. If Tyler was going to screw him – in less pleasant ways than the ways he currently does – he’s had plenty of material and opportunity already. And it’s not like it’s that unexpected, really. Tyler is Canadian, he’s a sports fan, and while Jamie doesn’t kid himself that he’s a superstar, he’s not obscure, either. So it was inevitable, he tells himself, but he still doesn’t see Tyler again for the rest of the preseason. He gets a text before the season starts – it just says, want to meet up this week?, the kind of thing Tyler’s sent him before when he’s negotiating his schedule with his roommates – but he doesn’t reply.

The season starts okay. They win their home opener, but then they lose three games in a row and Jamie’s going out of his mind. He tries to pick up in town one night, but the sex is lacklustre and if Jamie’s honest, he misses Tyler. He misses his stupid grin and his tats and he definitely misses his blowjobs, so he calls Tyler on a rare and probably undeserved off-day.

“Hi, Jamie,” Tyler says, when he picks up.

“Hi.” Jamie feels awkward. “I – sorry I haven’t called for, like, a while.”

“It’s okay,” Tyler says. “I’m always free for you, Jamie. You want to hang out?”

“Yeah. Is today good?”

“Uh-huh. This afternoon?”

“Yeah,” Jamie says. “Uh, thanks. Around 2?”

“See you then,” Tyler says, and hangs up.

Jamie puts his phone in his pocket slowly. Tyler didn’t sound mad, exactly, but Jamie’s used to him being a little more chatty. On the other hand, he’s not really sure what Tyler could be mad about. Unless he was depending on Jamie’s money. But Tyler’s always given Jamie the impression that he doesn’t depend on Jamie, so he’s not sure that can be it either.

Whatever. He can find out about it this afternoon.

*

Jamie gets to Tyler’s right on 2 pm. Tyler’s waiting for him outside again, in flip-flops but conceding to the Dallas fall in jeans and a sweater. He looks as gorgeous as always but Jamie, looking up at him, thinks he looks tired; still, he smiles when he sees Jamie, and gets up to go in.

Jamie joins him inside, and skips most of their usual preliminaries to get his arms around Tyler and start kissing him. Tyler stiffens a little, then relaxes into it; it’s not their first kiss, they’ve kissed – often, even – during sex, but less often before it. Jamie’s suddenly in the mood for it, though, wants it badly enough that they stand there making out for ages, and keep making out when they’re undressed and on the bed. Jamie ends up on top, as usual, Tyler alternately hard and soft beneath him, but eventually he flips off to lie on his back, breathing fast. He’s hard, and he wants it, but he wants –

“Hey,” he says, and coughs to clear his throat when his voice cracks. “Can you fuck me?”

 

Tyler sits up and looks at him. “Is that what you want today?” he asks, and Jamie nods.

“Yes,” he says, definitely. “Yeah. Please.”

Tyler nods, then leans over and kisses him, soothingly. “Hey, whatever you want, right?” he says. “Have you ever done this before, Jamie?”

 

“Once,” Jamie says. “It was a long time ago, though.”

“Did you like it?”

Jamie nods, and then shakes his head, and then nods again. “Sort of.”

Tyler frowns, but reaches under the pillow for condoms and lube anyway. “Why don’t we take it really slowly, okay? You tell me how it feels and if you want to stop.”

“Obviously,” Jamie snaps. “I’m not a baby. It’ll be fine.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s the relaxed attitude you really need,” Tyler says, drily. “Okay, buddy. Sit tight.”

Tyler wriggles down Jamie’s body until he’s resting snug between Jamie’s legs. He licks up Jamie’s cock and sucks it for a second until Jamie stirs himself to get a hand in Tyler’s hair and pull him off.

“Seriously,” Jamie says. “I want you to fuck me.”

“Seriously,” Tyler says back, “that’ll be easier if you relax and let me handle it. Okay?”

Jamie meets his eyes. Tyler looks amused, but serious, so Jamie nods and lets himself lie back on the pillows. Tyler slicks lube onto his fingers and goes back to mouthing the tip of Jamie’s dick; then he goes down, quickly, and works a finger in.

It goes on like that for a while, until Tyler has worked Jamie loose and trembling, sucking his dick and pulling off every time Jamie gets close, twisting his fingers on Jamie’s prostate until Jamie cries out. “Please, Tyler,” he says. “Please, I want to come with you in me. Please fuck me.”

Tyler pulls off. He looks down at Jamie with a strange expression. Then his brow clears, and he pats Jamie’s thigh. “Okay, buddy, hang on,” he says, ripping a condom open. He gets it on as fast as Jamie’s ever seen, which Jamie supposes makes sense, but still not fast enough for Jamie’s tastes, and then he’s sliding in fast and Jamie’s gasping and clinging to Tyler as heat ripples up his spine.

Tyler pauses when he gets in, and Jamie clutches at his shoulders. “It’s okay, you can – please,” and Jamie, who knows he’s never the most articulate of guys, feels wordless when Tyler starts fucking him in earnest; speechless and blissed out.

And far too close to coming; which he does, soon, although not as soon as he might have expected, managing to hold it off long enough for Tyler to be sweating on to him and panting hard. Then Tyler reaches down and grabs Jamie’s dick with his expert, professional hands, and it’s all over: Jamie comes convulsively, back bowed.

When Jamie comes back to earth, still shaking, Tyler is grabbing the condom at the base of his dick and sliding out; he’s still hard, and Jamie says, urgently, “Hey, keep going – keep – I want you to come in me.” Tyler meets his eyes and must be convinced, because he slides back in in a hurry and it’s not long after that before he’s shaking above Jamie and collapsing down onto his chest.

Jamie gets his hand in Tyler’s hair and strokes it, briefly, but can’t do much more before he falls easily asleep.

*

When he wakes up, Tyler’s standing next to him with a washcloth; he offers it to Jamie, who takes it and uses it to clean up the worst of the mess. Tyler dumps the washcloth in the bathroom and returns, still naked, to sit on the edge of the bed. He’s facing away from Jamie, who reaches out and runs a hand down his spine.

“Hey,” Jamie says. It seems ridiculous to ask, now, but he does anyway: “Are you mad at me?”

Tyler twists to look at him. “What? No.” He smiles, but Jamie’s not convinced.

“Just,” Jamie says, “I know I didn’t call you for a while, and – the money –” he stumbles over it. There’s no good way to ask if someone you’re paying for sex ran out of money because you didn’t call them for a couple of weeks, he discovers.

“It’s not the money,” Tyler says. “Seriously. It’s not you, okay? It’s been a long week, that’s all. But it’s good to see you.” He meets Jamie’s eyes, doesn’t try to fake him out; after a while, Jamie nods.

He turns his gaze back to the ceiling, and says, “I didn’t know that you knew who I was. I mean, what I do for a living. That’s why I didn’t call. I guess I was freaking out a bit.”

“I get that.” Tyler is quiet, and looks serious when Jamie drags his eyes away from the ceiling. “Jamie, you know I would never tell anyone, right? I didn’t even mean to tell you I knew. I know that the culture there is – it would be difficult. And the media – I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“I know,” Jamie says, surprised to find that he means it. “I know you wouldn’t. I’m not worried any more.”

“Good,” Tyler says. He sounds like he really means it. “Because, you know, I don’t need your money, but I like your money.”

Jamie laughs and smacks him on the thigh. Tyler cracks up; suddenly they’re both laughing, hard, like the tension in the room is melting away.

Then a phone goes, on the other side of the room. It’s not Tyler’s usual ringtone and he’s never answered the phone when Jamie’s around before, but Tyler bolts upright and is over picking it up before it’s had a chance to ring twice. It’s a cheap flip phone, the kind you can barely use for anything but texts and calls; Tyler’s frowning when he answers it.

“This is Tyler,” he says. “Yes, I’m free. Yes. Where? Okay.” He picks up a piece of paper and a pen lying on one of the shelves. “447 – okay. Yeah, I can be there within half an hour. Yeah, no problem. I’ll call her as soon as I’m in a cab – five minutes. Bye.” He hangs up and starts yanking clothes on and cussing.

“What’s wrong?” Jamie asks.

“That was the crisis line,” Tyler says, grimly. “Someone had a john get nasty and she needs someone to take her to the hospital. And my fucking car’s in the fucking shop, of course.”

“I can take you,” Jamie says, right away.

“No, it’s okay,” Tyler says, though he looks tempted. “You should get back.”

“Seriously,” Jamie says. “I want to help, whatever I can do.”

“It’s not a good idea,” Tyler says. “It’s better not to have a bunch of strangers there, especially a big guy she doesn’t know, you know? I know her, but she’s got no reason to trust you.”

“Right,” Jamie says. It makes sense but he doesn’t like it; doesn’t like the idea of Tyler getting in a cab as Jamie’s driving back to his place with nowhere to be. He isn’t sure why he cares since it’s not like it’s his responsibility, but – “Take my car,” he says, abruptly. “I can get a cab.”

“What? No,” Tyler says. “You can’t lend me your car.”

“Yes, I can,” Jamie says, impatiently. “You can drive, right?”

“Yeah,” Tyler says, looking insulted. “I’m a great driver. But I can’t afford to replace your ridiculous millionaire car.”

“Take it anyway, don’t crash it, drop it back at my place when you’re done,” Jamie says. “You know where I live.”

Tyler looks conflicted. Jamie says, “You may as well give in. I’m pretty stubborn.”

Tyler hisses through his teeth, and then says, “Fine. Thank you. That will really help.”

Jamie works his car key off his key ring and hands it over, digging his phone out of his pocket to load up Uber. Tyler gets his shoes on and heads for the door. “Do you mind locking up?” he says. “Just pull the door behind you, it’s on a deadbolt.”

“Sure,” Jamie says. “I hope she’s okay.”

“I hope so too,” says Tyler, and then he’s gone.

Jamie takes his time getting ready, waiting for the car to arrive. He leaves cash on one of the shelves and strips the sheets off the bed, putting them in the laundry bag Tyler always uses, folds the bed away; then he realises how weird it is to be here without Tyler, and heads outside to wait.

Tyler texts him at one that morning, dropping off his car; Jamie comes to the door in his boxers to get his key back. Tyler looks exhausted, twice as tired as he did when Jamie first saw him that afternoon. But he manages a smile for Jamie, and says, “Thanks. Seriously.”

“Any time,” Jamie says, meaning it. “Is she gonna be okay?”

“Yeah, I think so. I’ve seen it before, it happens all the time, so.”

“Fuck,” Jamie says, and Tyler nods.

“Yeah, well,” he says. “This is what happens when you can’t go to the cops. Hey, I’ll let you sleep. But I’ll see you around, right?”

“Definitely,” Jamie says. “Soon.”

Tyler smiles briefly, lifts one hand in a wave and then heads back down the corridor. Jamie closes his door and goes back to bed, feeling sombre.

*

They go on an extended road trip a few weeks later and end up in a bar somewhere on a no-travel night. If pressed, Jamie could possibly come up with the city, but he’s several beers in and nobody’s pressing him, so he decides that he’s somewhere in the Midwest and it doesn’t really matter.

Absorbed in a serious contemplation of whether or not he can figure out where he is by the cheap beers on tap, he nearly spills his beer when Jordie comes up behind him, claps a hand on his shoulder hard, and shouts, “Baby bro!” into his ear. Jamie is cussing him out before he turns around.

“You’re not happy to see me, Chubbs,” Jordie says. He’s sloppy drunk and beaming, enough that Jamie ends up grinning back at him, because they won yesterday and yeah, he’s in a good mood.

“I’m happy to see you, Jordie,” Jamie says. “What’s up?”

“What’s up,” Jordie says, with the profound seriousness of the extremely drunk, “is that you have to get laid, Jamie. It’s been a very long time.

Jamie sighs, and drains his beer bottle. “It really hasn’t, bro.”

Jordie narrows his eyes. “It’s been a long time. Unless you’ve been seeing someone in Dallas,” he adds, with exaggerated cunning. “But you wouldn’t do that all season and not tell your big brother about it, would you?”

“Fuck off,” Jamie says.

“You’re an NHL star, Jamie. Get some.”

“Okay, buddy, whatever you say,” Jamie says. “Let me buy you a drink, eh?” He leans forward and waves to the bartender, then points at the empty bottle in his hand and raises two fingers. The bartender gives him a nod, an up-and-down look and a wink. Jamie sighs inwardly, and starts mentally counting down.

“Hey!” Jordie says. “You should ask him when he gets off. And see if he’ll get you off. Get it?”

Five seconds. Predictable. “Yes, I get it. No, I’m not going to ask him that.”

“Why not?” Jordie looks genuinely bemused.

“Because we have to be back at the hotel in like an hour and he probably doesn’t get off till well after that,” Jamie says. It’s an excuse, and Jordie won’t buy it for long, so he claps Jordie on the shoulder and squeezes through the crowd to the bar, handing his card to the bartender and mouthing “thank you”. Jamie checks him out as he turns away and bends over to run his card; he’s cute, the kind of guy Jamie’s gone for plenty of times, and for a second he asks himself the same question Jordie asked: why doesn’t he want to tap that? Or at least hit on him a bit, maybe find someone else to go home with for a few hours.

The guy hands him a couple of bottles and his card, and Jamie smiles at him as he slips his card in his pocket before taking the bottles. The guy grins back; he really is cute. But other than a vague aesthetic appreciation, Jamie’s not into him. He lets the smile cool to something friendly, and pulls away.

Jordie’s standing there watching him, and Jamie hands him both beers. “I’m going back to the hotel,” he says. “Try not to pass out in a gutter somewhere, okay?”

“You okay, bud?” Jordie’s watching him closely, and Jamie shrugs.

“Yeah. Just not feeling the late night. See you back there.”

Jordie grabs him in a backslapping hug, and Jamie winces as beer spills down his shirt. “I love you, baby bro,” Jordie says, pulling away. “And I am absolutely going to figure out what’s going on.”

“You’re such a sloppy drunk,” Jamie says. “Good night, Jordie.”

“You’re sloppy,” Jordie retorts, but he lets Jamie go. Jamie worms his way across the dance floor; he glances back, and Jordie’s watching him. Jamie waves, pointedly, and Jordie waves back and turns away.

When he gets outside Jamie shoves his hands in his coat. It’s not warm, but it’s not too bad, and the hotel’s nearby; he starts walking, pulling out his phone.

Jamie starts scrolling through his contacts. On impulse, he texts Tyler. Working tonight? He hits send before he really thinks about it, then shakes his head and puts his phone away; of course Tyler is working.

He resolutely doesn’t check his phone until he’s back in his room; no point, anyway. When he’s emptying his pockets onto the nightstand, though, his phone buzzes.

He picks it up. Tyler. I was, the text says. Just got done. Thought you were in minny tonight.

Jamie looks out the window. Oh, yeah. St Paul. I am. Just kinda bored. Everyone on the team’s out but I wasn’t really feeling it.

Tyler texts back right away. Jamie opens it, and blushes. Tyler’s attached a picture; nothing explicit, just his face, barely lit. But his lips are red and bruised and his eyes are heavy-lidded; Jamie’s seen that face often enough to know he’s been sucking dick.

Hot, Jamie texts back right away. Busy night?

Not bad. Not inspiring, though. Turnabout is fair play …

Jamie blinks a bit and then puts it together. Oh. He looks around the room quickly, then flings himself onto the bed. He holds the phone low enough to get a good view of his face and chest, then sends it to Tyler.

Hi, Tyler texts. You look tired. He follows up with another picture – himself shirtless, this time, on a bed Jamie doesn’t recognise and with a jolt realises must be Tyler’s own. He looks tired, too; they’ve both, Jamie guesses, had a long day.

Not too tired, Jamie sends, and then wonders if it’s corny. But his phone buzzes again right away and oh, look, it’s Tyler’s dick, half-hard in one of Tyler’s hands, enough of his arm in the frame that Jamie can nearly read some of Tyler’s shitty tattoos. The effect is shockingly hot; Tyler looks vulnerable and hot as hell, and Jamie’s dick gets hard pretty much right away.

After a second he realises he’s just staring at the picture rubbing himself through his pants. He texts back fuck and yanks his pants down, trying to get an even vaguely sexy angle on his dick. He’s not sure he succeeds but he’s also too turned on to care, so he snaps and hits send before really thinking about it.

nice. The text is accompanied by a picture of Tyler fisting his dick, the head just visible and slightly slick. Jamie’s mouth waters looking at it, and he strokes faster, fast enough that he’s coming before he really realises he’s that turned on.

He’s sort of embarrassed to admit how fast he came but he texts Tyler another picture anyway, his dick getting softer and his messy fist.

you really were bored, says Tyler’s next text. It comes a few minutes later, and it’s accompanied by a photo of Tyler’s come-splattered belly.

Jamie bites his lip, and then sends a picture of that to Tyler – just his face, probably looking as dumb as all heck, fucked-out and sleepy. I want to suck your dick when I get back, he texts.

hurry home, Tyler texts back, and follows up with a good night.

night. Jamie drops his phone on the nightstand and rolls over, dragging the covers over himself and sinking quickly into sleep.

*

They get back to Dallas a few days later and end up playing three games in four days; Jamie’s exhausted by the end of it, but they get one of their CBA-mandated days off the next day. He arranges an early-afternoon date with Tyler and crashes out right after the last game.

He takes advantage of the chance to sleep in and spends what’s left of the morning fucking around on the XBox shooting the shit with Jordie. They order lunch in, and then Jamie grabs his phone and starts to head out. Jordie’s standing in front of the door, though, just leaning against it looking deceptively mild.

“Heading out?” Jordie says.

“Yeah,” Jamie says. “Meeting up with a friend.”

“A friend? Girl friend? Boy friend? Sex friend?”

Jamie looks at him. Jordie doesn’t look much in the mood to fuck around, so Jamie says, “Some of those, definitely.”

“Am I ever going to meet this sex friend you’ve been seeing for the entire fucking season?”

Jamie shrugs. “Eh,” he says. “Probably not. You’re kind of embarrassing. Also, it’s not really like that.”

“Which is why you haven’t been hooking up with anyone else and have become Boring Couple Jamie again? Without the other half, obviously.”

Jamie sighs. If Tyler’s dick wasn’t on the other side of the door, dealing with Jordie really would not be worth it. “Can we deal with this later? I really have to go.”

Jordie theatrically steps aside from the door and gestures at it. “Be my guest,” he says.

“Great,” Jamie says, pushing past. He wonders what the hell he’s going to tell Jordie. Maybe he can ask Tyler.

*

Tyler’s not outside when Jamie arrives, so he heads up the steps and knocks on the door. Tyler doesn’t answer, and peeking through the window Jamie sees that nobody’s there. He frowns, and pulls his phone out of his pocket. No text. He shrugs, and is trotting down the steps to get back in his car to wait when there’s a flurry of barking from behind him and Tyler yells, “Jamie! Wait.”

Jamie turns, and a big black dog leaps up at him and tries to wash his face.

“Marshall!” Tyler sounds harassed. “Marshall, down!”

The dog – Marshall, Jamie guesses – immediately hunkers down, panting and tail wagging, and Jamie crouches down to offer him a hand to sniff and then pet at his ears. “Hi,” Jamie says. “Look at you!” Marshall barks, and Jamie grins. “He’s gorgeous,” he says, turning to look for the first time at Tyler, who’s standing a couple feet away barefoot in jeans and a t-shirt and carrying – oh. Carrying a toddler.

“I’m so, so sorry,” Tyler says. “I was just about to text you. One of my roommates had to rush off and I got called in on last-minute childcare duty. He should be back in half an hour but, well –” He gestures at the kid in his arms. “She’s kind of incompatible with the job.”

“Uh, yeah,” Jamie says.

“I’m really sorry,” Tyler says. “I can give you a rain check, or if you want to come back in half an hour. Or you can come in and watch cartoons with us,” he adds. He’s obviously joking, but … it sounds kind of great, if Jamie’s honest.

“That sounds good,” he says.

Tyler blinks, obviously taken aback, and Jamie says, quickly, “I mean, if you want me to go, I can go … drive around for a bit. That’s fine.”

Tyler recovers his balance, though, and says, “No, hey, come in. The more the merrier.” He leads Jamie across the lawn and up to the house he’s never been inside. It’s warm and bright inside and looks almost shockingly like a family home, with kids’ toys spread from one end of the open-plan living room and kitchen to the other. Tyler gestures around quickly. “Kitchen, bathroom’s there, this is the living room, that door’s Jackie’s room, I’m upstairs and so are this one and her dad. This is Millie, by the way.”

“Millie?”

“For Amelia,” Tyler says. “Not Millicent. I would have had to disown Davy if he’d gone for Millicent.”

“Well, yeah,” agrees Jamie. “Hi, Millie. I’m Jamie.”

She stares back at him severely.

“Millie is not chatty today,” Tyler says. “Don’t feel snubbed. She just has days when everyone’s awful, don’t you, buddy?”

Millie makes an affirmative noise, and Tyler bounces her up and down gently. “Totally get it, babe,” he says.

“You do?” Jamie says, sceptically, and Tyler laughs.

“I’m usually pretty into people,” he admits, “but even I have days. Anyway, come on, monster. Do you still want to watch Thomas?”

Millie nods wildly. “Tank!” she says.

“Tank,” agrees Tyler, picking his way across the toy-festooned lounge to crash out on the couch. He leans forward to put Millie on a blanket in front of the TV, then digs around in the couch cushions until he triumphantly pulls out a remote. He points it at the DVD player, stabs a few buttons, and then sighs as the vaguely familiar theme song begins playing.

Jamie, standing with his hands stuck in his pockets, feels a little out of place until Tyler twists around and beckons him on to the couch. “Don’t just stand there looming,” Tyler says. “Sit down.”

Jamie does, cautiously, next to Tyler, and Tyler sighs and flops over onto his shoulder.

“What a day,” Tyler mumbles. “Up early for a client, late for you and now I have to watch Thomas the Tank Engine.” He sits up straight and fixes Jamie with slightly crazed eyes. “Thomas the Tank Engine is a terrible show,” he informs Jamie. “Everyone is awful. But Millie loves trains. God, she loves trains.”

Jamie laughs. “It can’t be that bad,” he says. “I think I liked trains when I was that age, too.”

“I only ever liked hockey,” Tyler admits, collapsing back on the couch. “I don’t really have the train gene, I guess.”

“You like hockey?” Jamie says.

“I’m Canadian,” Tyler says, and laughs. “Also, I played when I was a kid. Right through junior.”

“Seriously?” Jamie twists to look at him. “Why’d you quit?”

“I still play in a beer league, actually,” Tyler says. “But I cracked a wrist. Really badly. Fucked with my shot.” He breaks out into one of his amused-with-himself grins, and says, “I coulda been a contender, Jamie.”

Jamie laughs. “I bet,” he says, and he kind of does. He can see it. Tyler’s tall, strong, dedicated to his job. He can imagine him as a hockey player, cracking wise in the locker room.

Jamie hesitates for a bit. “Is Millie your boyfriend’s kid?” he asks, eventually. It’s not quite the question he means to ask, but – he’s curious. Just one more thing he guesses he’s never really thought about: do sex workers date? Have kids? Parent? He’s heard enough about Marshall to know Tyler loves his dog, but he thought he would have heard about a stepkid.

Tyler cracks up. “Davy? My boyfriend? No! Oh, god. No. Davy’s a bro,” he assures Jamie, “a great one, but for one thing he’s straight, and for another thing – just – no. Definitely not.”

“Okay,” Jamie says, obscurely reassured.

“Don’t worry,” Tyler adds, “I’m not going to start dating someone who’d want me to quit, anyway. I’m not going to suddenly close up shop.”

“I wasn’t worried about that,” Jamie says, immediately. “You love your job nearly as much as I love mine.”

Tyler grins at him. “You get me,” he says, fondly. “I don’t always love it, but … yeah. It’s good. It suits me. I guess I’ll find something else to do eventually, but for right now I like it.”

They sit in companionable silence for the next twenty minutes, until a tall black guy comes rushing in. “I’m here, I’m here,” he announces, and heads over to scoop Millie up.

“Daddy,” she yells. “Thomas!”

“Oh my god, Thomas, I didn’t realise,” the guy – Davy – says, rolling his eyes behind Millie’s back at Tyler. “Definitely can’t interrupt Thomas.” He swings her back down to the ground and heads over to the couch. “I’m Davy,” he says, offering Jamie a hand.

“Jamie,” Jamie says, shaking.

“Jamie’s a client,” Tyler says.

Davy raises his eyebrows. “We don’t meet many of Tyler’s clients,” he says to Jamie. “Never, actually.”

“Sorry,” Jamie begins, feeling suddenly awkward. Tyler opens his mouth to say something, but Davy shrugs and drops Jamie’s hand.

“You wouldn’t be here if he thought you were dangerous, I guess,” he says, and heads into the kitchen. “I owe you big, Ty, by the way.”

“Do you ever,” agreed Tyler, standing. “You can start tonight by taking my turn making dinner so I can go out and keep my appointment with Jamie.”

“Saving us all from one of your meals barely seems like a favour,” Davy says, smiling, but he nods.

Tyler offers Jamie a hand and pulls him up off the couch, and then jerks his head towards the door. Jamie follows him out.

They get out to the room above the garage and Jamie’s still feeling sort of awkward. He looks around the familiar space, trying to get himself back into the place he’d been before he’d arrived today.

Tyler heads over to the bed, which is out and ready, and sits down on it, looking at Jamie. “Hey,” he says. “Thanks for, you know. Not being a dick about that.”

“No problem,” Jamie says, immediately. Silence resumes.

Tyler coughs after a while, and says, “Was there something you had in mind for today?”

“Oh,” Jamie says, remembering. “Yeah. Can you take your clothes off?”

“Sure,” Tyler says, agreeably, and does so, climbing back on the bed. He’s still an awfully pretty picture, spread out naked.

Jamie’s not used to it yet, the flex of muscle under tattooed skin, or Tyler’s unselfconscious nakedness. “Can you get yourself hard?” He watches, mesmerised, as Tyler wraps his hand around his dick, getting the technicolour, daylight, full-length version of the story he’d gotten in snaps and texts that night a few days ago. Tyler shifts on the bed, and sighs. He runs a thumb over the head of his dick and oh, yeah, that’s what Jamie was after. He kneels his way onto the bed and bends down, getting his mouth right where he’d imagined it being, sucking gently at the head.

Above him, Tyler gasps. “This is your big plan for today?” he says.

“Part of it,” Jamie pulls off long enough to say, and then sucks Tyler back down, replacing Tyler’s hand with his own and using his other hand to pin Tyler’s wrist to the mattress. Tyler writhes a little, and Jamie grins, going deeper.

He keeps that going for a minute or two, then pulls off to fumble for lube. He slicks up a couple of fingers and starts fingering Tyler gently, more focused on prostate stimulation than stretching him out. “Hey, tell me when you’re about to come,” Jamie says, and goes back down.

Tyler is hot and heavy in his mouth. Jamie’s done this before, with Tyler, even, but he can’t remember ever liking it and wanting it as much as he wants it now, wants to taste the salt-skin of Tyler’s dick, wants to feel him thrust against the back of his throat and make Jamie choke a little. He’s disappointed when it only takes another minute or so for Tyler to say, “Okay, okay, I’m gonna,” but pulls off to jerk and finger Tyler through it.

Tyler bucks a little, says “Fuck,” and comes all over his chest and arms. It’s fucking inspiring, and Jamie suddenly becomes very aware of his own dick, which is urgently expressing a desire to do exactly the same thing. He grabs it with lube-slick fingers, and Tyler, beneath him, reaches up to tangle a lazy hand with his own and jerk him off.

Between Tyler in front of him looking, as usual, like porn and the wet slick of their joined hands it takes hardly any time at all for Jamie to come all over Tyler. It hits him hard, like a rocket at the base of his spine, and he can’t stay upright, barely managing to direct himself to collapse next to Tyler rather than on him.

They lie there for a minute, panting, and then Tyler twists his neck and says, “That was different.”

Jamie makes a long, low moan, stretches out to twist his back, and says, “Those pictures the other night were kind of in my head.”

“Hm.” Tyler looks pleased with himself, and Jamie shoves him a little.

“No need to look so cocky,” Jamie says.

“You know me,” Tyler says, looking even more pleased with himself, “I’m always cocky.” He thrusts his hips suggestively, and Jamie groans.

“Shut up,” he says, “I’m trying to sleep here,” and does, for an hour, stretched out beside Tyler.

When he wakes up, he’s surprised to see Tyler still on the bed with him, asleep as well. Tyler’s never slept around him before; Jamie suspects a disinclination to nap around strangers is pretty much in his job description. He’s cleaner than he was; he probably got up and made his usual use of the washcloth, and then, Jamie guesses, he must have come back to bed.

He looks kind of dorky asleep, a thread of drool running down his cheek into his pillow, and Jamie entertains himself laughing at Tyler for a minute before gently shaking him awake.

Tyler sighs and stretches, eyes still closed, and snuggles towards Jamie, wrapping an arm around him. It’s nice, and Jamie is briefly tempted to go back to sleep, but it’s team dinner night.

“Hey,” he says, nudging at Tyler again.

Tyler’s eyes crack open, and he smiles sleepily at Jamie. “Hey,” he says, fairly sweetly, and then he wakes up a little more and springs away from Jamie. “Sorry,” he says, turning his face away.

“It’s okay,” Jamie says, surprised. It’s not like he’s going to freak out about Tyler cuddling him in his sleep, for crying out loud. It’s hardly the most intimate thing they’ve done. “I just have to head home.”

“Oh, sure,” Tyler says, rolling off the bed and to his feet. He starts collecting his clothes, still not looking at Jamie, and says, “Just leave the cash over there,” waving a hand.

“Sure,” Jamie says, digging in the pocket of his jeans. “Uh, thanks,” he says, standing in the door.

Tyler looks at him then, briefly, with a flash of a smile that is somehow not as exuberant as his usual. “Thank you,” he says. “I’ll see you around, Jamie.”

“Yeah,” Jamie says, unsettled, and leaves.

*

He spends the next couple of days avoiding being at home alone with Jordie for any reason other than sleeping, inviting Val over to play on the XBox and hanging out on Loui’s couch letting him give captaincy tips until his wife starts eyeing him sceptically.

He can’t avoid Jordie forever, though, and eventually Jordie traps him in the kitchen where he’s putting a couple of sandwiches together.

“So,” Jordie says, “talk to me about the guy.”

Jamie sighs and put the knife down. “He’s a guy.”

“Obviously,” Jordie says. “Is he nice, what does he do, when I meet him …”

“He is, you don’t, and it’s really not like that,” Jamie says. “It’s not a relationship. We just, you know, have sex. It’s low-key.”

Jordie looks at him dubiously. “That sounds great and all, Jamie, but you’re seeing him like twice a week at this point. You’re sneaking away from clubs to call him and you’re not having sex with other people. You obviously like him a lot. How casual can it be?”

“Casual,” Jamie says firmly. He ducks his head. Jordie’s right, of course. Tyler’s great. Jamie likes him a lot. The sex is fantastic, he’s fun and funny, it’s the best relationship Jamie’s ever had – but it’s not a relationship at all; it’s Tyler’s job.

Of course, there’s pretty much no way he can explain that to Jordie. “I can’t explain it,” Jamie says after a while.

“He’s not on the team, is he?” Jordie says after a while. “Or in the organisation?”

“No!” Jamie’s horrified at the idea. “Definitely not. No way. I promise.”

“Good,” Jordie says, obviously relieved. “Because, you know, that ended really badly last time.”

“I remember,” Jamie says, sourly. “I’m not doing that again.”

“Okay,” Jordie says, reluctant but reassured. “Just, you know, tell me if I need to beat anyone up.”

Jamie makes a face, thinking about Tyler at his door, tired because he’d had to take a friend to the ER; thinking about Tyler carefully not falling asleep next to him. “That won’t be necessary,” he says, and he sounds serious enough that Jordie lets him alone.

*

It’s a while before Jamie has time to text Tyler again, but a week later he manages it again. It takes Tyler, completely uncharacteristically, a couple of days to text back; Jamie frowns when he gets it. It’s just a time, no stupid joke or flirty tag-on. It’s completely unlike Tyler.

He’s wary when he trots up the steps at Tyler’s the next day, and Tyler looks serious when he lets him in.

“Hey,” Jamie says, catching at his sleeve. “What’s up?”

Tyler tries to smile and doesn’t succeed, leaving Jamie really worried.

“Seriously,” Jamie says, “Is there anything I can do?”

Tyler makes a face, and says, “Actually, yeah.” He indicated the bed, and says, “Want to sit down?”

“No – okay,” Jamie says, trying to remember that he’s kind of a big dude and Tyler looks tense. He sits.

Tyler nods, says “Okay,” and takes a big breath in. He meets Jamie’s eyes. “Jamie, I’m really sorry, but I have to stop seeing you.”

Jamie doesn’t really know what’s happening. “What?” he says, uncertainly. “I – wait, Tyler, what’s the problem? Maybe we can work it out. I don’t want to stop seeing you.”

Tyler nods again, looking unhappy. “I can give you a referral to a guy I think you’d really like. He’s really good, Jamie, you’ll like him, but I’m unable to see you in a professional capacity at the moment.”

“No, I don’t want a referral!” Jamie says, explosively, then takes a deep breath and tries to calm down. “If you don’t want – okay, but – why? I thought things were really good.” He takes a deep breath. “I really like you. I would miss you.”

Tyler looks miserable. “I’m going to miss you too,” he says. “That’s the problem.” His shoulders, stiffened, slump, and he comes over to sit next to Jamie, looking at his hands. “I like you, Jamie,” he says to his knees. “And I’ve learned in the past that it’s a really bad idea to fall for clients. I end up getting hurt. I’m trying to head that off.”

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Jamie says, but Tyler says,

“I don’t want you to pay to have sex with me any more,” and well, that’s sort of it, isn’t it? There’s nowhere for Jamie to go from there. He nods, slowly.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay. I’ll just – I’ll just go, then.”

Tyler nods. “I think that’s a good idea,” he says, and Jamie goes for the door. He turns around when he opens the door. Tyler isn’t looking at him. He’s sitting on the bed, looking somehow small. Jamie turns and leaves.

*

He gets in his car and drives, vaguely in the direction of home but not really. He’s stewing, going over the conversation in his head, trying to figure out what just happened. This thing with Tyler was supposed to be easy, uncomplicated, and up until now it has been. He can’t figure out what’s happened, what he’s done.

He’s nearly home when he thinks he’s figured it out, and nearly runs a red light trying to turn his car around.

*

When he gets back to Tyler’s, Jamie pounds up the stairs to knock on the door. There’s no answer; he angles to peer in one of the windows, and it’s empty again. He races back down the stairs and around to the house, knocking, thinking, please be home. Please be home.

There’s a flurry of barks and the door swings open, but it’s a woman he doesn’t know, looking exhausted in a bathrobe and using one hand to hold Marshall back. “Who are you?” she says, impatiently.

“I’m Jamie,” he says. “Is Tyler home?”

“Oh,” she says, and moves to block the door, bringing it to nearly closed. “He doesn’t want to see you, Jamie. Back off.”

Jamie takes a few steps back, holding his hands up, trying to look non-threatening. “I don’t want to make him see me,” he says, immediately, “I just – can you tell him I want to talk to him? If he’s okay with it. I’ll go away if he doesn’t.”

She frowns at him. “I don’t think so,” she says.

Jamie feels his shoulders slump. “Okay,” he says, and turns away. The door shuts behind him as he walks away – but it opens again.

Tyler says, from behind him, “What do you want, Jamie?”

Jamie turns around, barely hopeful. “Hey,” he says, and stops for a second. Tyler’s standing with his back to the door. He looks tired and maybe like he’s been crying; Jamie’s belly clenches, and he has to take another breath and resettle himself. He says, “Tyler, I really like you. I’d like to date you.”

Tyler frowns and opens his mouth, and Jamie says, “I don’t mean sex dates that I pay for. I mean I want to take you out for dinner and introduce you to my brother and I want to go skating with you, and I want you to buy me dinner and I want to meet your friends and I want to be able to fall asleep next to you instead of just with you in the room.”

Tyler ducks his head, then looks back up. “Jamie,” he says, gently. “I’m a hooker.”

“Does that mean you can’t date?”

Tyler makes an impatient sound. “No, it means I can’t date a guy in the NHL. Can you imagine if it got out? And I can’t afford to quit, Jamie. I don’t want to live off you. I like my life, I like my friends.”

“I don’t want you to quit either,” Jamie says. “I just want to see you. The other stuff, we can work it out. Whatever happens happens, it doesn’t matter to me.”

“What would you even tell your family?” Tyler says. “Your friends?”

“Whatever you want,” Jamie says. “Whatever. I don’t care.” Tyler looks uncertain, and Jamie says, “If you don’t want to – I’ll go away. You don’t have to worry about that. But if you want to, can we just give it a try?”

Tyler looks at him, steadily, and Jamie looks back. He tries to put what he’s feeling on his face.
He doesn’t know if he succeeds, but after a while Tyler nods, and swings the door open behind him. “Okay,” he says, and heads inside.

“Okay?” Jamie says, disbelievingly.

“Okay.” Tyler sticks his head back around the door. “So come in, Jamie,” he says. “You can meet some more of my family.”

FIN