Duncan has two problems.
The first problem is his new teammate. Brent is blue eyes and spiky hair and words that don’t stop coming. He makes their teammates laugh easily and he’s only been here for two months but he’s already being begged to come celebrate a win or sulk over a loss downtown. Brent is six-feet-three-inches of what’s not to like, and, accordingly, everyone likes him.
The second problem is that he won’t go away.
Duncan doesn’t have to even look up to know who just took the seat next to him on the bus.
“Some game, huh?” Brent says, and Duncan shrugs a shoulder.
“Yeah.” It felt more like a slaughter than a real game. Duncan still hasn’t figured out which losses are the most frustrating – when they’re all playing terribly, or games like tonight, when all everyone can talk about is how well he and Brent played together, even though no one else could keep up. Duncan doesn’t really know what to say – does he ever, though, with Brent? – and when he glances over, Brent’s blue eyes are fixed on him, and that just… makes him forget things. “You played real well, though.”
“Really?” Brent’s eyes light up. Duncan nods, looks away.
Admittedly, he has three problems. The third also has to do with Brent. It’s also the real, actual problem, because being in love with Brent is stupid, and Duncan knows it.
Not long after, they’re walking into the hotel, hurrying out of the rain that’s been pouring down for hours now.
“I hate Dallas weather,” Duncan remarks as they cross the lobby, and, okay, maybe it is kind of nice to always be with someone, be able to talk about stupid stuff like this. “The thunderstorms are annoying.”
“The what?” Brent’s voice is a little faint. Duncan glances over, but Brent’s busy pressing the elevator button a hundred times.
“Thunderstorms?” Duncan repeats.
“Huh. Wouldn’t’ve pegged Dallas for it.” Brent doesn’t say anything else as they go up to their room.
“Goin’ out with everyone?” Duncan asks as he opens the door. Brent shrugs.
“Naah. Tired as hell. You?”
“Same.” Duncan sits on the bed closest to the window, and Brent sprawls out on the other, grabbing the TV remote off the nightstand. They watch some weird sci-fi movie until nearly twelve-thirty, turning the volume up progressively higher to combat the sound of the storm outside. The thunderstorm doesn’t really start until all the lights are out and Duncan’s been asleep for nearly half an hour.
The sound of it wakes him up, roaring booming that can’t be ignored, coupled with flashes of light that leak through the drawn curtains. This is why Duncan hates Dallas weather; it’s nearly impossible to sleep, with the amount of noise and light thunderstorms produce. He groans and turns away from the window, about to try and fall back asleep when he notices something. Brent’s still awake, which is weird; he’s the type that can fall asleep in two minutes flat and sleep until morning without ever being disturbed. He’s definitely awake, though, curled up under the blankets, his back to Duncan. The thing that alarms Duncan is the small sound he can hear in between claps of thunder; it sounds alarmingly like whimpering.
“Seabs?” he whispers before he can stop himself. Brent tenses. “Brent, what’s goin’ on?”
“Nothing,” Brent replies, but his voice shakes.
“’s nothing,” Brent insists, but he’s interrupted by a particularly aggressive peal of thunder and lightning, and he makes a sort of choked sobbing noise. This is all Duncan needs to hear; he slips out of bed, sits on the side of Brent’s.
“You’re afraid of thunderstorms, huh?” he asks softly. Brent keeps his face buried in his pillow, but nods.
“Please don’t tell anyone,” he whispers, “please, don’t.”
“I wouldn’t,” Duncan assures, rubbing a hand over Brent’s shoulder. Brent relaxes a little, until lightning lights up the room again, and he curls into a tighter ball, shivering.
“It’s so-” Brent starts, falls quiet. “I hate it,” he finishes weakly, sounds on the verge of tears. Duncan can’t take watching him tremble anymore, and slides under the covers so he can scoot up next to Brent, wrap an arm around him. Brent makes a little whimpering sound, turns around so he can bury his face in Duncan’s chest. Duncan holds him tight, can feel Brent still shaking. “When I was little, I saw lightning hit a tree outside my house,” Brent says, voice muffled, “and now, I just- it’s stupid, but- but-”
“It’s not,” Duncan murmurs, “don’t worry. You’re okay.”
Brent eventually falls asleep in his arms, face buried in Duncan’s chest and arms tight around him. He keeps curled in close even as he sleeps, and Duncan doesn’t try to move him; it broke his heart, the way Brent whimpered in fear of something so much bigger than him, and this, Brent sleeping peacefully in his arms, mends him again, because he can do this for Brent, he can make something terrifying a little more bearable.
Duncan wakes up to find Brent nuzzling closer to him, warm and heavy on his chest. Brent probably won’t be thrilled to find himself like this when he wakes up, so Duncan tries to move, even though he really, really doesn’t want to. Brent wakes up when Duncan’s trying to scoot out from under him; he makes a decidedly unhappy sound, and Duncan freezes, waits for Brent to jolt backwards and frown at his own stupidity.
Brent doesn’t. He pulls on Duncan’s shirt like he’s irritated with Duncan for moving, follows Duncan to where he’d moved and falls back asleep on top of him.
Okay. Duncan isn’t quite sure what to do now. He doesn’t want to move, not really, but Brent’s just making it worse and worse for himself here.
Except when Brent wakes up, he just acts like everything is normal. He calls dibs on the first shower, climbs out of bed, and starts talking about breakfast, leaving Duncan to just stare at him.
Now, Duncan has four problems.
Four turns into five that night. They fly from Dallas to Colorado, head to the hotel. Everything seemed normal, as far as Duncan could tell; Brent sat next to him on the plane and tried to talk him into watching a really bad movie and Duncan ended up giving in like he always does and when they headed up to their room, Brent got distracted by Kaner grabbing his bag and running and Duncan got back to their room first while Brent went sprinting off after Kaner.
Duncan gets into bed, checks his email on his phone while he waits for Brent to get back. The door eventually opens, and Brent tosses his bag onto the floor triumphantly.
“That little brat,” he says cheerfully.
“Is he still alive?” Duncan asks, doesn’t look back over his shoulder at Brent, studying an email that says something he ordered has been shipped. He doesn’t remember ordering anything – did he?
“Well, after I left him, he said something about changing Sharpie’s room service order, so we’ll see in the morning.” Brent finishes getting dressed, turns off the light. Duncan frowns down at his phone for a moment longer before he remembers that he ordered a Blackhawks baby jersey for Sharpie’s daughter’s birthday, and on second glance, it definitely says that right on the email.
He nearly flinches when he feels the mattress dip, but it’s just Brent; Duncan sets his phone on the nightstand, scoots back under the covers, and freezes, thoughts rewinding. It’s Brent getting into bed with him, crawling over onto his side of the bed and lying down like he does this every night. Duncan leans up on one elbow, looking down at Brent.
“They have storms here a lot,” Brent yawns. They’re in Colorado and admittedly, Duncan remembers some freak thunderstorms last time he was in Denver, but nothing like Dallas. He’s not about to complain, though, because Brent is curled up against his chest, and Duncan would be stupid to protest that. He just lies back down, wraps an arm around Brent, and accepts problem number five for what it is.
Duncan could deal with five problems. He could count them on one hand, so it was fairly manageable. They go for the morning skate and then head back to the hotel, even though it’s gorgeous outside and the only thing that keeps Duncan from ditching the game entirely and staying outside is the knowledge that if he did it, there’d be a chain reaction, and the Avalanche would show up to find themselves without a team to play against. Doubtlessly they’d have at least two opponents – Jonny, who would die before missing a game, and Kaner, who would have been dragged along by default. And as amusing as it would be to watch the Avalanche take on Jonny and Kaner, Duncan does the responsible thing and goes back to the hotel.
He’s nearly asleep before the door opens again; he’d kind of thought Brent had disappeared to go outside, always so tempted by sunshine. Brent takes off his shoes, jacket and jeans quietly, probably thinks Duncan’s asleep. Duncan’s about to say something when Brent crawls onto his bed, and he decides against it. Brent scoots in close to him, pressed up against his side like he’d like to be closer. Duncan resists for about ten seconds before he shifts onto his side and pulls Brent back against his chest.
“Heard it might rain,” Brent mumbles sleepily. Duncan thinks of the clear blue sky outside, and falls asleep with Brent in his arms, problem number six unavoidable.
They’re back at home the next night, their road trip finished with two wins added to their names. That night, Duncan lies awake for three hours before he figures out why he can’t sleep. In two nights – just two – he got used to sleeping next to Brent. Which is stupid, because it was only twice – three, if he counts the pregame nap Brent decided to take with him – and now he’s awake at two AM because he suddenly can’t sleep without Brent sleeping on top of him. No matter how big the hotel bed was, both times, Brent slept sprawled across him, using Duncan’s chest as his pillow because the ten pillows on the bed just weren’t good enough, apparently, and now Duncan feels sort of unbalanced without Brent sleeping on him.
So, problem number seven.
Duncan spends their off day and practice the day after that trying to think of what to say. By the time him and Brent are walking to the parking lot afterwards, he still hasn’t thought of anything, but he stops Brent outside the lot anyways.
“I need to talk to you,” he says, and Brent smiles, then he sort of studies Duncan’s face and looks suddenly worried.
“I’m sorry,” he blurts out. Duncan stares.
“I haven’t said anything yet,” he says, “and I don’t think that would have come up anyways. Except from me, probably.”
“Oh. Well, um. Go ahead, then,” Brent says, going kind of scarlet. Duncan still doesn’t know what to say, though, so he goes with the first thing that comes to mind.
“I haven’t been able to sleep,” he says, and it’s not a great opening, but it’s true. Last night was the same as the one after the roadtrip, spent almost entirely sleepless, because suddenly he can’t sleep without Brent, who is apparently the fastest-forming habit Duncan’s ever had. “Because- I guess I got used to you. Also, it doesn’t thunderstorm in Colorado this time of year.”
“You never know,” Brent says defensively, then gets a curious look on his face. “Wait, you can’t sleep without me?”
“Can I sleep at your house tonight, then?”
“Maybe we should address the entire situation first?” Duncan suggests, and Brent’s shoulders slump a little.
“Oh. Right,” he says quietly, blue eyes less bright than usual. He looks so worried that Duncan kind of can’t help what he says next.
“I really liked it,” he says, “the whole thing, being in bed with you. That’s the problem. I have – have a thing for you. Since – I guess practically since we met. So it’s – you know?”
“Yeah,” Brent says, smiles, but apparently he doesn’t get it, because then he’d known that this isn’t something Duncan’s happy about- unless – “I like how sleeping with you every night didn’t tip you off to how I’m really into you.”
“I- it – you?” Duncan kind of can’t form a sentence, so he takes a breath and starts again, “I’m never sleeping without you again,” he says. Brent grins.
“Good,” he says, and then he’s kissing Duncan, pulling him in close and kissing him hard, like he’s been waiting to do that for a really long time.
Just like that, Duncan’s seven problems are gone, replaced by number-seven-wearing Brent, who causes a hundred little problems a day, from taking up all the room in bed to eating the last of the bread to forgetting to lock the door, but Duncan loves him more for all the problems he’s around to cause, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.