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the best part of going to sleep is waking up to better things (like you)

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Zach’s still up when Ryan goes to bed. He’s sitting on the couch, with a bottle of beer in front of him, staring at nothing. Ryan’s tired; Ryan’s hurt; Ryan needs to go to bed. He doesn’t want to dwell on this series. Everyone handles defeat in different ways. Ryan still needs to go to bed.

Before he goes upstairs, he says goodnight. He rests his hand on Zach’s shoulder, and Zach puts his own hand on top. Ryan doesn’t have anything to say, but he wants to have something to offer Zach. “Get some sleep, yeah?”

Zach should come and lie in bed next to him. That would be nice, as much as anything feels nice right now. But that’s not where Zach is right now, and Ryan isn’t going to hurry him along, that wouldn’t help.

Zach nods, presses his lips against Ryan’s wrist. He seems tired. Or maybe Ryan’s so tired he can’t imagine anything else someone might be.

He goes upstairs, and gets in bed. That’s the nice thing about losing at home — going to sleep in his own bed without a plane ride first. It’s better to win, but after a loss it’s better to end in your own bed, sleeping next to someone you love.

Zach’s just downstairs. He’ll come up soon enough. Ryan falls asleep thinking about how Zach will be next to him when he wakes up.

Ryan wakes up to early morning light, and Zach isn’t next to him. The whole past week has seemed like a bad dream that isn’t quite over. He glances at the clock. It’s five in the morning, Zach hasn’t come to bed, and Ryan is still so tired. But not so tired that he won’t stomp downstairs and haul Zach to where he belongs — in their bed, next to him.

Zach’s on the couch, one empty bottle on the coffee table. He’s still wearing his suit pants and dress shirt. Ryan had watched as he picked at the knot in his tie on the car ride home. He’s still wearing his leather belt, and his dress socks. His head is resting on his shoulder, and Cal is asleep on his feet. He’s all twisted up in a way that can’t be comfortable.

During the season Zach’s really good at getting enough rest, and getting good rest, and not falling asleep in ways that will leave him sore or stiff in the morning. During the season he’s really good at doing what he can to make his hockey better, not worse. Their season is over now.

Losing one game — four games — any number of games — is not a good reason to not come to bed. They didn’t come to Minnesota to win hockey games, or to lose hockey games — they came here to fall asleep next to each other.

If Ryan was in a better mood he’d be nice, he’d nudge Zach awake gently, get him on his feet, get him undressed, and get him in bed. But they just got swept, and Ryan’s not happy with that either. One of the few good things in his life was the idea that Zach would be there when he woke up, but instead Zach’s acting like a fucking mess and not coming up to bed. Ryan isn’t feeling nice. He’s still so tired.

He claps, loudly, which startles Cal. The dog, suddenly wide awake, sits up, jumps onto the floor, in a clatter of claws against hardwood.

Zach rolls over, but doesn’t really wake. Ryan sighs. He can’t decide if the scruff makes Zach look older or younger, but he’s still attractive. It’s hopeless.

He reaches down to shake Zach’s shoulder. Zach mumbles something and tries to shake him off.

“Time to go to bed,” Ryan says. Past time really, but there’s nothing to do about that now.

Zach turns over and blinks at him, sleepy eyes that Ryan’s bad at being mad at.

“But what if I don’t want to?” Zach asks.

“Whattaya want to do instead?”

“Have won the fucking game.”

Ryan shakes his head. He wants to laugh, but it isn’t really funny — it’s just… Zach. “You know I love you, and I wish we’d won too, but right now all you can do is go to bed, you fucking weirdo.”

Zach sits up properly, puts his feet on the floor, leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees. Ryan wants to sit down next to him, but then they’ll never get upstairs. They’ll sink into the couch, and the sun will come up for real, and the dogs will demand their breakfast, and one of them will put the coffee on out of habit. They don’t have to be anywhere today. Exit interviews aren’t going to be until next week.

Ryan really wants to get at least three more hours of sleep, maybe more. There’s no reason why they couldn’t sleep until noon, except for stubborn bodies that have gotten used to early morning practices.

Ryan holds his hand out. “Come to bed.”

Zach looks up from the floor, looks him straight in the eye. He looks so damn tired. He looks like he needs a good sleep. Zach sighs, but puts his hand in Ryan’s, and lets himself get hauled up to his feet. They hold hands as they walk up the stairs and down the hall to their bedroom.

Ryan lets go to help Zach get undressed. He undoes Zach’s belt, and the buttons on his shirt. Clearly Zach can’t manage on his own. He strips Zach down to his boxers and drags him into bed.

It’s spring, but they still have all of their winter blankets out, heavy on top of them now. Ryan should have closed the curtains better when he was up, but he’s tired enough that the light filtering in won’t make a difference. Now that Zach’s in bed where he belongs, Ryan feels like he could sleep for a year. They could wake up in the fall, with another chance at winning, a brand new year.

But he’d miss his summer farming. Days on the lake, mornings where they stay in bed to have more sex, having all the windows open cause it’s warm but not hot enough for air conditioning. More days to fall asleep next to Zach, and wake up next to Zach. All good things.

Right now he just needs to sleep. Zach’s solid and warm next to him, his breathing already evening out. They’re both so tired. This season has been a nightmare in a lot of ways, but now it’s over. Next year they’ll get to try again, and hopefully do better. It will all seem better when they wake up.