Jamie celebrated not making the playoffs by catching a raging head cold about ten minutes after the buzzer sounded on their last game. It sucked, but not any more than anything else in his life. He supposed he should’ve been happy about winning the Art Ross, but the truth was that all he could think was that it should’ve been Tyler. It would’ve been Tyler, if he hadn’t had his legs taken out from under him by that asshole in Florida and missed all those games. Tyler had smiled and said all the right things when Jamie won, but Jamie could see him thinking it: This should’ve been his year.
And it hadn’t been enough, anyway. However well Jamie had played, it hadn’t been enough.
Whatever. It was April, and Jamie was looking at five months without hockey. If he wanted to spend the first week of it under a pile of blankets on his sofa, blowing his nose and mainlining old seasons of Duck Dynasty, he could fucking do just that. Not that he’d wanted to get sick, but the rest of it wasn’t so bad, and Jamie probably wouldn’t have let himself do it if he hadn’t been sick as a dog.
Speaking of dogs. Jamie glanced down at his phone, where a pic of Tyler and Cash winked back at him from the text message conversation he’d been not-having for the last half hour, since Tyler had texted to ask if he was feeling any better. Not really, Jamie had responded, and hoped that’d be the end of it. In addition to giving him the perfect excuse to sit around feeling sorry for himself, the cold had been the perfect excuse to avoid Tyler.
But Tyler, it seemed, was pretty much done being avoided. want me 2 come over and bring soup? he’d sent.
It’d been thirty minutes, and Jamie still hadn’t responded. On the one hand - yes. Yes, he wanted Tyler to bring him soup and make him take a shower and snuggle him while mocking his choice in TV. Jamie wanted all of that. He just didn’t deserve it. And as much as he did deserve the conversation he knew was coming, about the team and Jamie’s leadership and how disappointed Tyler was to miss out on the postseason for the first time in his career - that, he really didn’t want.
The Bruins hadn’t made it either, Jamie thought viciously.
He was too tired to deal with this. He dropped the phone and let his head fall to rest against the couch cushions, staring at glassily at the TV.
He kind of dozed off, and so when he woke to the sound of dog nails clicking on hardwood, he thought he was dreaming. But the cold nose shoved in his face was real enough. “Urgh,” he said, pushing Marshall’s face away before he could get a good lick in. “The hell?”
“Sorry, sorry,” Tyler said, sounding more amused than sorry. He pulled Marshall away from the sofa and herded both him and Cash over to the sliding glass door that led into the backyard. He had to pull the curtains back in order to open the door. The dogs tumbled outside and he shut it behind them. But he left the curtains open, spilling watery, gray daylight into the living room.
“What’re you doing here?” Jamie asked, sitting up and rubbing a hand over his face.
Tyler held up a plastic grocery store bag. “Soup. Also, checking up on you.”
“Thanks,” Jamie muttered. “I’m okay. But I’m probably still contagious. I don’t want to get you sick.”
Tyler snorted. “So I won’t miss another game?” he said from the kitchen. “Newsflash, Jamie.”
Jamie winced. He’d kind of expected them to talk around it for a while first, but then again, Tyler Seguin didn’t really do subtle.
He was still trying to figure out how he should respond when Tyler brought a bowl of soup, still steaming, over to the sofa, along with a spoon and a glass of orange juice. He must’ve bought the orange juice, too, Jamie thought, because he’d run out this morning. Jamie saw Tyler take in the pile of used tissues next to the sofa at a glance and flushed, embarrassed. But the look Tyler gave him was more worried than grossed out.
He handed Jamie the bowl, and Jamie had no choice but to sit up and take it. Tyler shoved aside a bunch of the blankets on the sofa so he could sit. “So, Jordie was right,” he said. “You really are just sitting in the dark like a sad sack.”
Jamie bristled. “I’m sick.” Tyler looked unimpressed, and Jamie sighed, poking at his soup and eating a piece of carrot. “Jordie called you?”
“No, actually, I called him,” Tyler said. “Since you weren’t answering your phone in any form.”
Jamie glanced guiltily at his phone. “I answered. I answered your text this morning.”
“Two words, Jamie,” Tyler said, frowning. “Two words are what I’ve gotten from you since we cleaned out our lockers.”
Jamie looked away. “I didn’t really want to talk.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said, but he didn’t offer to take the dogs and go, like Jamie half-hoped, half-dreaded he would. Instead he just sat there, watching Jamie, until Jamie started eating his soup just to have something to do with his hands.
“Good?” Tyler finally asked.
“Yeah, good,” Jamie said. It was, too, full of vegetables and egg noodles and big chunks of chicken. It warmed him all the way down. And then it sat in the pit of his stomach like a rock. “You really don’t have to do this, though. I’m fine, I’ve been fine, and I realize this is probably the last thing you want to be doing.”
Tyler didn’t say anything. Jamie forced himself to look up, then suppressed a wince. Tyler was staring at him. “The last thing I want to be doing,” he repeated flatly.
“Taking care of me, I mean,” Jamie said. “You don’t have to. I don’t need to be taken care of.”
Tyler’s face just kind of shut down. “Right,” he said, and stood up. Jamie braced himself. This was it. He probably wouldn’t say outright that he was pissed at Jamie for winning the Art Ross when it should’ve been his, but that would be there, underneath it all. And he definitely would tell Jamie how disappointed he was in the team, in Jamie’s leadership. None of it was anything more than Jamie had been telling himself for days now, but it was going to feel so much worse coming from Tyler.
But Tyler didn’t say a word. He went into the kitchen, and Jamie listened to the sound of him cleaning up, presumably, putting the soup in the fridge and tossing a couple things in the dishwasher. Then he came back out and stood awkwardly by the door. “I’m gonna go,” he said. “Since you don’t need me.”
“Ty, wait,” Jamie said.
“That’s all I’ve been doing,” Tyler said, halfway out the door and not looking at him. “For two days I waited for you to call me.”
“I was sick,” Jamie said desperately.
“Yeah, and I’m the one you’re supposed to call!” Tyler snapped. “When you’re sick, when you’re sad, when you want to spend three days in bed watching shitty reality TV. I’m the one you’re supposed to call. I know you’re mad, but you can’t just freeze me out.”
Jamie blinked. “Ty,” he said, bewildered, but Tyler was already out the door, collecting the dogs from the yard and herding them out the back gate.
Jamie sighed, letting his head fall back to rest against the sofa. None of that made any sense to him. Tyler being mad at him would’ve made sense. Tyler thinking Jamie would be mad made zero sense. And now - well, if Tyler somehow hadn’t been mad when he’d come in, Jamie thought he definitely had been by the time he left.
Tyler hadn’t touched him, he realized. Not once. Tyler was an incredibly tactile person. Usually he was all over Jamie; he’d been like that even when they’d been just friends. But today he’d kept his hands to himself.
i think i fucked things up w tyler, he texted Jordie.
more than u were already?
Jamie scowled at his phone. why didn’t u SAY SOMETHING?
bc i knew you’d get there eventually.
Jamie rolled his eyes. Older brothers were the worst, and Jordie was ten times as bad now that he was thinking about putting a ring on it. Like that meant he knew something. Only, okay, maybe he kind of did, since Jessica hadn’t yet smothered him in his sleep. so now what?
use ur words bro.
Jamie sighed. Words. Not his strong suit.
also t’s a romantic, Jordie added after a few seconds.
Jamie made a face. Romantic was not the first word that came to mind when he thought about Tyler. He didn’t think Tyler actually was a romantic in any kind of traditional sense. Showing up with a bunch of flowers and some chocolate wasn’t going to get Jamie very far, and he knew it. But he got ridiculously touched any time Jamie did the smallest thing for him or the dogs, and he bent over backwards to be there for Jamie in turn.
help, he sent to Jordie.
nope, Jordie replied.
Great. Jamie sat for a few minutes, glaring at the TV, his phone, the dreary Dallas day that he could see through the curtains Tyler had left open. Clearly nothing was going to change by him just sitting on his sofa. Sitting in the dark like a sad sack, Tyler had said.
He groaned and dragged himself off the sofa and down the hall to the shower. He stood under the spray for five minutes, trying to make himself feel more capable of being a functional adult. The results were marginal at best, but he did feel a little better after washing his hair. He shaved, trying not to think about the playoff beard he could’ve been growing right then if things had turned out differently, and then he forced himself to get dressed. It was just jeans and a sweatshirt, but it was more than he’d managed since locker cleanout.
The whole effort left him lightheaded and woozy from being upright for so long. He wanted to just crash for a couple hours, but he had the feeling he shouldn’t let this go that long. But he also wasn’t sure about his ability to drive safely, even just the couple of blocks to Tyler’s place. His ears felt all weird, stopped up, and he was kind of dizzy. He was pretty sure the cough syrup he’d taken earlier had cautioned against operating heavy machinery.
Fine. So he’d walk. It wasn’t far, and it’d probably be good to get some fresh air.
It was colder than he’d thought it be outside. The weather had definitely taken a spring-like turn in the last couple of weeks, but this felt like a step back toward winter. It was even kind of drizzling, though not really raining.
He probably should’ve dried his hair, Jamie thought glumly. His mom would’ve had stern words about going out in this kind of weather with wet hair when he was already sick.
All in all, he was pretty glad to see Tyler’s house come into view. The wooziness was worse and he was starting to kind of shiver. All he really wanted was to spend the rest of the afternoon under a blanket with the dogs and Tyler sprawled all over him. He knew he and Tyler were going to have to sort their shit out in order to get there, and Jamie probably owed him an apology or five, but that suddenly seemed a lot less daunting than it had back at his house. For one thing, he was pretty sure he looked pathetic enough that Tyler wasn’t going to refuse to let him in.
He was so busy imagining what it’d be like to get inside and get warm that he didn’t realize at first what was wrong. Then it hit him.
Tyler’s car wasn’t there.
Jamie groaned. And of course he’d walked out of his house without his phone or the key he had to Tyler’s house. Seriously, fuck his life.
He knocked anyway, even though he knew it was stupid. No one answered, but he also didn’t hear the dogs running to investigate. That meant that wherever Tyler had gone, he’d taken Marshall and Cash with him.
Jamie thought about turning around and going back to his house, but the whole sitting down thing was starting to feel imperative. If Tyler’d taken the dogs, he’d probably just gone to the dog park, and he’d be back in less than an hour, especially since the weather was kind of crap. Jamie could wait it out on the porch.
Sitting on the porch at least got him out of the drizzle. He ended up slumped against the railing, almost dozing. It wasn’t comfortable, but he was fucking tired.
He ended up running through games from the last year in his head. They hadn’t ended up so far out of the running that they couldn’t have made it, and there were a couple games - if the bounces had gone their way, they might’ve won them. But they hadn’t. Or if Tyler hadn’t gotten hurt - but they’d been in trouble before then, out of a playoff spot and struggling to get back. That might not’ve made a difference.
Fuck, Jamie hated this.
A car door slammed, and Jamie jumped, opening his eyes. “Jamie?” Tyler said, staring at him from beside his car. “What the hell? Why are you sitting on the porch? Why aren’t you wearing a jacket? Dude, is your hair wet?”
“Um,” Jamie said. Tyler let the dogs out of the back of the car and they made a beeline for Jamie and the house. “I kind of left my house in a hurry, and then you weren’t here.”
Tyler sighed. “I took the dogs to the park.”
“I figured,” Jamie said. He shrugged. “I knew you’d be back at some point. But, uh, can I come in? I’m kind of cold.”
“No shit,” Tyler said. “And yeah, of course you can come in.” He even offered Jamie a hand up, which he took gratefully. He got a little lightheaded once he was up; Tyler must’ve sensed it, because he kept a solid grip on Jamie’s hand until he was sure he was steady on his feet. Then he let it drop and let them all into the house.
The house was warm, thank God. Jamie let Tyler shove him toward the living room while he went into the kitchen. “Coffee or tea?” he called.
Jamie wavered. On the one hand, he didn’t think he really needed the caffeine. He really wanted to be awake for this conversation, but if all went well, he was hoping to pass out on this couch this afternoon for a couple of hours. “Tea,” he finally decided, before dropped down onto the sofa. Cash immediately wandered over for head rubs, and Jamie gratefully obliged. By the time Tyler came in with the tea, Cash was on the sofa, half-sprawled across Jamie’s lap, back leg kicking sporadically from puppy joy as Jamie rubbed his belly.
Tyler paused briefly before handing Jamie his tea. “That’s just dirty pool.”
“What?” Jamie said, glancing up to take his tea from Jamie.
“You know I’m weak to the way you treat my dogs.”
Jamie had known that, but he hadn’t really been thinking about it. Cash was soft and warm and definitely, in no way, mad at him about last season, so it’d been a no-brainer. Jamie didn’t know what to say, so he buried the fingers of his free hand in the fur on the back of Cash’s neck.
Tyler didn’t say anything either, so the silence stretched. Jamie took a couple sips of tea, and then set the mug aside. “So, I, um, I’m sorry,” Jamie finally said. “About the way the season ended, not making the playoffs and the Art Ross. I didn’t mean to not talk to you, I didn’t want to talk about it yet.”
Tyler frowned. “You’re sorry about the Art Ross?”
Jamie shrugged. “It should’ve been yours. And when you missed that last game, I thought -”
“Oh,” Tyler said quietly. He sighed. “No, fuck, no, Jamie. I’m really glad you won the Art Ross. And yeah, I’m pissed about missing the playoffs, but that wasn’t your fault.” He was quiet. Marshall wandered in from the kitchen and put his head on Tyler’s knee, eyeing Cash a little jealously. Tyler scratched him behind the ears. “I actually thought you were mad at me about that last game, that’s why I stayed away as long as I did.”
“Oh,” Jamie said. He had been mad when he’d first found out; mad and kind of worried, because that was the Tyler Seguin that’d played for Boston, the guy who got healthy-scratched for dumbass reasons, not the Tyler Seguin he’d had on his line for the last two years. But he’d kind of understood, too. “You’ve never had to finish out the regular season without the postseason to look forward to before.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “It kind of fucked with my head.” Jamie nodded. “But it was still dumb and selfish and it won’t happen again.”
“I believe you,” Jamie said.
They were both quiet for a little while. Jamie stopped petting Cash long enough to pick up his mug of tea and drink some, wondering if they were out of the woods. But Tyler was still at the other end of the couch, not sprawled out and mostly covering Jamie, which was where he preferred to be. “I should have called you,” Jamie finally said with a sigh. “I didn’t want you to feel obligated to come over and take care of me, and if you were mad, I didn’t want to know.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “I thought you were pissed, and then Jordie said you were sick.” He shoved his toes under Jamie’s thigh and smiled. “So in conclusion, we kind of suck at this.”
“That’s definitely what Jordie would say,” Jamie agreed. “I dunno, though. We figured it out.”
“Eventually,” Tyler said with a flash of his usual grin. Jamie smiled back, reflexively. He’d missed Tyler’s smile. It hadn’t been around very much the last few weeks, as they’d watched any hope they had of making the playoffs finally slip away for good. “You want to stay?”
Jamie sighed, letting himself slump back into the arm of the sofa. “I really do.”
“Good,” Tyler said, and wrapped his hand around the bare skin of Jamie’s ankle. Jamie sighed again, relaxing even further, and Tyler smiled. “You know, this couch folds out.”
“Yeah?” Jamie said, cracking one eye open.
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “I think it’s even got clean sheets on it. You’re gonna have to get off it, though, for me to pull it out.”
“Mean,” Jamie complained, but he let Tyler pull him up and push him into an armchair. He slumped lazily, watching as Tyler pulled the couch out, gently pushing Cash and Marshall out of the way when they tried to help. It turned out the couch wasn’t made up at all, much less with clean sheets, and Tyler disappeared down the hall toward his linen closet, grumbling at himself. He came back with an armful of sheets and pillows from his bed.
It had felt kind of good to sit alone in his house for couple of days, Jamie thought, sulking where no one could see him. He was sorry that he’d hurt Tyler, but he wasn’t sure that he hadn’t kind of needed it. But this was better, Jamie decided, as he crawled under Tyler’s comforter with him. The dogs jumped up with them, both them ignoring Tyler’s decidedly half-hearted orders to get down, and penned them in. Tyler wouldn’t let him watch Duck Dynasty because “that shit’ll rot your brain, Jamie, seriously,” but he did put on Iron Chef, which was a reasonable substitute. He let Jamie curl up with his head on his shoulder, too, legs tangled together.
“Good?” Tyler murmured after a few minutes.
Jamie was half asleep already, but he stirred just enough to take Tyler’s hand in his. “Yeah,” he mumbled.
It wasn’t the playoffs, but it would do.