Taylor is pretty sure he heard the roar of the crowd before he could consciously register the puck hitting the back of the net, before he’d seen it stretch the twine out in what must have been slow-motion. He’s pretty sure he’d had his back pressed against the ice with about nine hundred pounds of padded beefcake on him before he’d even realized he’d scored.
The whole scene is kind of a blur.
An overtime gold medal game winner. Against the States- as if it could be more poetic. Among other things, his time in Saskatchewan helped him realize a hatred for the US- the nation that stole a championship from him, the country that taught him how to lose.
He knows what he was meant to be feeling at that moment, what he wishes he was feeling. What he should have been feeling. Pride. Elation. Ecstasy. He was the hero. The scorer of the Golden Goal. So why was the assist the only thing going through his mind?
He knows Jordan passed him the puck. If he thinks back, he knows that Jordan’s eyes were the last thing he saw before he hit the ice, wide with excitement, a scream of victory erupting from his open mouth. There was only one person he wanted to share the moment with- and finding him was the only thing on his mind.
He’d rolled out of the pile and made it to his knees, barely getting to his feet before finding himself on his back again, tackled to the ice by all 5 feet of his favourite linemate.
Jordan was on top of him and smiling at him and screaming, “Hallsy! You did it!” and that was the best feeling in the world, but for all the wrong reasons, and Taylor can’t help but think, now…
When did this, when did Jordan become more important than hockey?
“Hey, Taylor,” and there he is, shuffling over to Taylor, effectively snapping him out of his reverie, his gap-toothed grin wide and inviting, “when are you heading down to Calgary? All the boys should go out before we get too deep into training.”
Jordan’s giving him this hopeful look, bright and happy as he takes a few deep hauls from his water bottle. He looks like the kind of kid who’s on top of the world from having just won a World Championship, and is looking forward to spending the summer with his friends. Basically, he looks about the opposite as Taylor feels.
“I don’t know, man…” he says after a moment, turning back towards his stall to continue untaping his sticks, “I was kind of thinking I’d skip Calgary this year.”
He glances up just in time to see Jordan’s face fall into a frown. His heart breaks a little with even the idea that he’d be the one to make Jordan unhappy, but he knows this is for the best. He can’t keep doing this to himself. He’s angry at himself, again. Even the subtlest nuances of Jordan’s happiness pull his heart out of chest. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right.
“What do you mean skip Calgary? You can’t just skip Calgary, dude. We’ve been planning this for literally a whole year. Why the fuck would you skip Calgary?” Jordan’s obviously upset that Taylor’s ruined his plans.
“It’s just Calgary,” Taylor mutters, mostly to himself.
Jordan seems to frown a little harder, if that’s something a person can do. “What’s your deal, man? What are you doing instead and why’m I only hearing about this now?” Jordan’s bearing down on him now and he’s about as terrified as any other player who’s ever gone one-on-one with Jordan Eberle.
“I dunno,” Taylor says evasively. He hasn’t exactly thought it out much to this point in time, “Sam said something about checking out his Total Package thing. Also I thought I might go look at the Biosteel centre and stuff. Gotta keep my options open, uh, training wise, you know how it is.”
Jordan doesn’t look convinced. “Seriously? You can’t come hang out with the boys for two weeks? When are you even going to start training? I mean, the playoffs haven’t even ended yet man. Take some time off at least.”
Taylor can feel his excuses wearing thin. “Yea, well, you know. They’re really more your friends than my friends. I want to see my friends from Windsor. I mean like, at least Colt plays for us, right? Not all of us get to play on the same team as our best friends, you know.”
Jordan looks a little shocked at first, but he covers it quickly and backs off. “Ok, well. Whatever. Um. Well I’ll probably see you later anyway,” he says shortly before spinning on his heel and retreating to the other side of the locker room.
Taylor sends a quick text to Sam as he leaves the building.
To: Gags [19:08:03]
mind if come hang with u in london
Taylor always loved playing with Jordan the best. They were like magic together, poetry in motion. Jordan was by far- no disrespect to Henny and Nemo and Nuge and Gags and whoever- his favourite linemate of all time. Ever.
Taylor had been watching the Sedin twins play for a lot of years now and had always marveled at the way they played, like they always knew where the other guy was on the ice without looking. He thought for sure that it must just be a twin thing because he’d definitely never experienced anything like that. Not until Edmonton. Not until Jordan.
He’d played with Jordan a handful of times before, but chemistry like that doesn’t happen over half a dozen games on foreign soil or an unfamiliar rink. Sometime during his rookie year though, it’s like it was an almost audible click.
That season ends too quickly for both of them. Taylor had never been injured before and what he’d learned from that experience was that there was nothing he hated more than being on the shelf. But things had definitely changed. This was the start of something. Things were going to be different.
The year after that, though.
Taylor’s second year is a bit of a whirlwind. He knows he’s playing well because he checks the stats on NHL.com just about every night, (he maybe clicks on the name Seguin, Tyler once or twice, but not every day, not after every game, because he’s Over It) but it’s nothing compared to what Jordan was doing. He was on another level. Transcendent. The Nuge makes them better players and better people, that much is obvious. This kid pushes them in a way that he knows they had never accomplished when they were rookies.
The game against the Capitals at the beginning of the season will always stick out in his memory. Their game against them in his rookie year ended in disaster, a 5-0 shelling that he watches from home with his booted leg propped up on the coffee table. He won’t forget that one, either.
This one was their time for revenge. To show what six, seven months could do. To tell Ovechkin where he could sit while watching their time.
It’s maybe one of the most memorable goals of his career so far. The puck comes to him cross-crease and suddenly he’s got an empty net. He hammers it in before Vokoun even reacts.
He’s seen the video. He knows Jordan doesn’t look for him until after the puck has already left his stick.
He remembers his reflexive celly before figuring out what just happened and turning around to find Jordan. Jordan’s skating towards him with this stupid I-Can’t-Believe-It look on his face and Taylor points at him, shaking his hand wildly, saying “That was all you,” and he could do this forever.
Jordan breaks out into a wide smile, just for him- “It was you, too,”- and his knees nearly buckle.
Taylor feels a little weird boarding the plane to Toronto. By himself, that is. It’s been a long time since he got on a plane to do anything other than play hockey, without an entire circus of people. Without Jordan, his mind supplies helpfully, and it has really got to stop doing that.
He knows that this is a childish way of dealing with his problems. He knows that he’s running away. But at this point, he doesn’t know what else he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t know how to deal with feeling this way about a friend. A teammate.
It started innocently enough. He was the new kid in town and Jordan was the only guy he knew and he was pretty awesome. And then they were living together, and playing together, and basically spending every waking minute of the day by each other’s side. And he never got tired of it. He didn’t ever want to do anything without Jordan.
As it progressed, he’d realized it wasn’t normal. The way he felt. Like all of his emotions were dependent on this other person, like he could only be happy if Jordan allowed it. The heart can trick you into a lot of things- like the glimmer of hope that this person might feel the same way, or the belief that his smile is only for you. He’s embarrassed now at how long it took him to realize that Jordan could never feel the same way he did.
Jordan isn’t- well, and he isn’t sure he is, even, either, he just- sometimes… and they’re teammates. They’re friends. He’s pretty sure there’s no rulebook for it but he can admit to himself that it’s a bad idea. If anyone ever found out... He can imagine the shitshow. Even if the guys had no problem with jokingly telling him (often, and without prompting) that they’d be supportive of it. This is still the NHL. Even the most liberal of players have cracked a gay joke at someone else’s expense.
He knew something was wrong when he’d keep catching himself breaking the cardinal rule of locker rooms, his eyes wandering too far before he’d bite down hard on his lip, willing his eyes way, to focus. His way of dealing with that was to just… ignore it. Like everything else in his life. Habits start from a young age, apparently. He wasn’t a robot, he had urges, and sometimes he even gave into them, but he’d only ever been really concerned with one thing. It’s probably why he ended up where he is now, in the NHL, living his dream. All he cared about was hockey. Being the best. Winning.
He’d tried to ignore it. But it went too far. It was so far beyond something he could ignore when Jordan began to come before hockey. The only constant in his entire life to this point was that hockey came first. That never changed. That’s how he got here. And now, with that up in the air? Taylor’s a different person. He doesn’t know who he is. And it scares him.
It mostly scares him that he doesn’t care. It scares him that if he had to pick, he’s not even sure what he’d choose. The fact that it’s even questionable, that scares him. The fact that, in his heart, he truly does know which he’d choose, and the fact that it’s got a goofy smile and sleepy eyes? That’s what scares him the most.
Right now, he doesn’t know how to deal with this. So he has to get away. Away from Jordan, because it’s fucking with his head. The best option is not dealing with it. Taylor’s developed a bit of a reputation for being both stupid and reckless, but he’s a lot smarter than people think. He knows when to give up.
He stares out the small window of the plane into the clouds outside and wonders when life got this complicated.
Taylor jolts awake, shaking the fog out of his head as he reaches up to rub at his eyes. He blinks a smirking Ryan Jones into vision, hovering there with his stupid flipcam out, focused on him. Them, he corrects, as he registers a shift of weight on his left shoulder. He turns his head to look down at the mess of hair that could only belong to one person.
“Fuck off, Jonesy,” he mumbles, lifting a hand to flip him off, careful not to jostle Jordan.
“Dammit Hallsy,” Ryan lowers the camera, frowning now, “there’s no way they’re gonna put that on the website now.”
“Good,” he says, checking his watch before Jordan starts to stir beside him. “Hey,” he smiles as Jordan’s eyes appear from under his eyelids. “Sorry for waking you up.”
“What’s going on?” Jordan says through a yawn, stretching his neck out.
“Nothing. Jonesy is an asshole.” He nudges Jordan a bit with his shoulder. “Go back to sleep. There’s still a couple hours left.”
“Ok,” Jordan agrees with no hesitation before settling back down onto Taylor’s shoulder. “Wake me up if anything changes on the Jonesy front.”
“Will do,” Taylor says with a soft smile, watching as Jordan’s eyes fall shut again. When he looks back up, Jonesy is still there, looking at him curiously, having watched the entire interaction between the two boys. He takes a seat across the aisle from Taylor, still looking at him with the same expression of intrigue. Taylor turns his head to look back at him, knitting his brow.
“What’s up with you?” He says quietly, not wanting to wake his friend.
“What’s up with you?” Jonesy replies smartly, “What’s up with this?” He continues, waving his finger between his teammates.
“Hey man, when you get two goals and an apple against one of the league’s best, you might get to sleep on the plane, too,” Taylor says, rolling his eyes.
“Not that, idiot,” Jonesy exaggeratedly rolls his eyes back. “Is there something going on here? With you guys? Actually? I’ll keep it quiet, you can trust me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Taylor says quickly. “And I wouldn’t trust you to keep a chair quiet. Go away.”
“I don’t know what you’re even implying,” Jonesy says, narrowing his eyes comically. “But fine. Keep your secrets!” And he leaves, probably to go torment Petey. Taylor is thankful for it.
He didn’t lie. There isn’t anything going on between him and Jordan. But recently, with every passing day he feels himself maybe wishing that there was. He hasn’t quite identified the feeling yet. But when he wakes up, the first person he thinks of his Jordan. When something good happens, the first person he wants to tell is Jordan. When something bad happens, the only person he wants to see is Jordan. That’s gotta mean something.
He looks down at the older boy, sleeping peacefully against his arm. Jordan’s his best friend, and he’d do anything for him, and he wants him to be happy. And sometimes, maybe, he wants to kiss him, too.
He’s not sure why that doesn’t feel more wrong.
“Maybe I just enjoy your company,” Taylor scoffs. “He’s not my boyfriend,” he adds a beat later, internally cringing as he realizes how bitter that sounded.
“Are you serious? I thought for sure the two of you were shacked up, the way you look at each other,” and the way he says it tells Taylor that he’s not even ribbing him, that he means it. He turns around to face Taylor when they reach the kitchen and he hopes the conversation is over, but the way Sam is looking at him says differently.
No, Taylor thinks, the way I look at him.
“It’s not like that,” Taylor says when it becomes clear that Sam isn’t going to drop the subject, if the expectant look on his face and the way he’s standing there with his arms crossed is any indication. “He’s my best friend,” he adds belatedly, because that’s still true.
Sam raises his eyebrows and shakes his head a little. “Well, maybe it should be like that.” He turns to open the fridge and tosses a Gatorade at Taylor’s head. “And for the record, John and I were best friends for like, six years before we got our act together.”
Taylor stares at him dumbly for a moment, until, “Oh,” he finally puts the pieces together that Sam is talking about John Tavares and also that Sam kinda just came out to him. Taylor looks down at his feet awkwardly.
“Hey man, I’m sorry, the gay-dar must be off,” Sam says, self-deprecatingly, trying to lighten the moment. “Just, I can trust you, right? You’re one of my best friends, I don’t want it to be weird.”
Taylor looks up, then, and he’s not that dumb- or cruel- and he can tell that Sam is flailing pretty hard, on the inside, at least.
“No, um,” he says, “I uh-” and apparently he is that dumb, and Sam is that cruel, because he can’t talk and Sam seems to think it’s funny. “I am,” he admits, “I think. A little.”
Sam’s face softens a little. “And Ebs?” he coaxes.
Taylor sighs. “He’s not like that.”
“Hm,” Sam replies, simply, and it seems that he’ll put Taylors out of his misery, for now. “Do you want to go check out the gym?”
“Yea, sure,” Taylor says, gratefully taking the out. He takes a drink of his Gatorade and turns to go back the way they came, but Sam’s hand reaches out to grab his arm before he can get too far.
“Listen, Hallsy,” Sam says, his grey eyes full of empathy, “if you ever need to talk- to either of us-” he smiles a bit at that, and Taylor blushes, because apparently everyone knows how much he’d looked up to John, “We’re here for you. Ok?”
“Sure,” Taylor says, genuinely grateful but also genuinely uncomfortable, “thanks, man.”
Sam just smiles and releases his arm, patting him on the shoulder before brushing past him to go out to the truck.
They two of them do keep scoring, even when they’re apart, but Taylor can’t help but think that maybe they’d score even more if they were kept together. No offense to Hemmer- he’s brilliant, obviously, when his mitts are going, but there’s something so effortless about playing with Ebs and Nuge. At the same time- as wrong as it feels- it’s kind of rewarding that coach believes in him enough to think that he can get it done without the other guys. And besides, he seems to be the only one really concerned about it, so he keeps his mouth shut, because he’s been working on that, too.
Doesn’t keep him from thinking about how much he misses playing with them, especially when he’s watching their shifts together from the bench. 40 seconds on the powerplay here and there- it’s just not the same. He’s afraid of losing the chemistry.
He doesn’t remember the exact game, or even the team it was against. Knowing that time of year, it was probably a loss, but, he can’t be sure- Jordan and Ryan dominated a lot of teams on a lot of nights, with or without Taylor.
So, no. He doesn’t remember the date. But he remembers the goal- to the last detail. He’s watched it on Youtube about a hundred times.
It’s a seemingly harmless play, really. Nuge chips the puck in and Ebs chases after it, and Taylor is with about 90% of the league here when he belatedly realizes that maybe there is no such thing as a harmless play when those two are on the ice. Everyone is watching Jordan in the corner, and, suddenly- Ryan’s out in front of the net, and the puck’s gone clear across the ice, under the stick of one defender and through the legs of another, before he’s able to slam it into the back of the net- from one knee, just like Taylor would do.
He thinks it’s probably one of the best passes he’s ever seen- half the guys on the bench are yelling the same thing.
He watches from the sidelines as Ebs skates over to hug and congratulate Ryan, and he’s got that look on his face like…
Yea, kinda like the one he usually gives Taylor.
That’s when he realizes it for the first time. Just how deep he’s gotten. There’s a pain in Taylor’s chest and he’s pretty sure it’s not from the last 90 second shift he took, and this is all wrong.
From: Maggie [14:31:29]
what do u want
To: Maggie [14:31:56]
who says i want something???
From: Maggie [14:33:19]
y else do u text me
To: Maggie [14:33:48]
maybe i just miss u?
From: Maggie [14:35:03]
what do u want asshole
To: Maggie [14:35:40]
maybe i should have texted landie
From: Maggie [14:36:09]
landie also says u r an asshole
From: Ebs [14:36:30]
To: Maggie [14:36:51]
u both suck
From: Maggie [14:37:29]
just tell me what u want hallsy we r very busy ppl
To: Maggie [14:37:46]
i want my friends to be nice to me for once
From: Maggie [14:38:19]
maybe u should text ebby then we dont like u
From: Ebs [14:41:21]
From: Maggie [14:45:22]
hallsy where did u go? i was joking
From: Maggie [14:47:28]
u r being a icke skönhet!!!
From: Landie [14:50:11]
maggie is sorry for being a dick
From: Ebs [14:50:31]
where are u???
From: Landie [14:50:45]
he is right though you dont usually text unless something is wrong so talk to us
From: Maggie [14:50:49]
From: Landie [14:51:30]
at least talk to me
From: Landie [14:51:44]
are you ok? i heard you are not in calgary
Incoming Call: Ebs [14:52:15]
From: Maggie [14:52:37]
dont make me call ebby i will do it
(1) New Voicemail: Ebs [14:52:58]
To: Maggie [14:53:12]
ok please dont call him
To: Landie [14:53:28]
ya im ok im in london right now with sam
From: Landie [14:53:51]
did something happen with jordan?
From: Maggie [14:53:09]
whoa is this a serious talk
To: Landie [14:54:26]
From: Landie [14:55:01]
what do you mean? did you guys have a fight?
To: Maggie [14:55:18]
im just gonna talk to landie ok he can tell u later
To: Landie [14:55:32]
no i just need to take some time away and think and clear my head
From: Maggie [14:55:58]
ok im sorry i didnt no it was a real problem hope ur ok xo
From: Landie [14:56:31]
so this problem is a jordan problem and u need to not talk to jordan about it?
To: Maggie [14:56:39]
xo? are u serious
To: Landie [14:56:57]
ya i guess
From: Maggie [14:57:18]
no i am swedish xoxoxoxo
From: Maggie [14:57:30]
I love yoooooou xoxoxoxo
To: Maggie [14:58:03]
omg go away
From: Landie [14:58:31]
can i ask you a question
To: Landie [14:58:59]
From: Landie [14:59:38]
are you in love with him?
From: Landie [15:08:12]
(1) New Voicemail: Ebs [14:52:58]
“First unheard message: Hey Hallsy, it’s me… just checking in, haven’t heard from you in like a week and it’s freaking me out a little. You’re probably working out or something so I won’t leave too long a message. Just… call me back? I was thinking maybe- Message erased.”
He’s going to Saskatchewan with guys he’d watched on TV the year before, some guys he’d seen play in the NHL even, a couple months ago, and some guys he’s only heard of in passing. Some guys he’s played with before, too, like Ebs and Teubert and Schenner and obviously Henny and Nemo and Elly are there with him too. Even though he’s still a little nervous, even though he’s the youngest, a rookie all over again, he feels like he belongs here.
The last practice before the exhibition series begins, he stays on the ice a little longer to play a bit of keepaway with Eberle, marveling at his display of stickhandling, commenting loudly on his sick dangles- even from his ass at one point.
Eberle laughs and flips the puck to him, high in the air, nearly touching the jumbotron before it comes back down for Taylor to catch on the blade of his stick, and Taylor juggles it a bit before slapping it out of the air, back to Jordan.
They fool around for a bit, and Taylor feels good- He knows the politics of paying dues, having always been the youngest guy on the team, and he’s played on teams with Jordan before a couple of times but that was before he was a National Fucking Hero, and it’s just a relief to him to not have to worry about that kind of thing with Jordan, who treats him like an old friend instead of an annoying kid.
“Hey,” Jordan says, offhand, as Taylor finally gets the puck off him and toe-drags the puck to his backhand to shelf into the empty net, “keep that up and maybe we’ll be playing together again next year.”
Taylor blushes a little and he knows what Ebs means, because he’s a hockey fan, he’s seen the standings. The Oilers have been slipping lower and lower, at the bottom of the conference already now, and he sees a flash of himself pulling blue and orange over his head and passing the puck to Jordan for the next ten years and that doesn’t sound so bad at all. He shakes the image out of his head with a laugh, remembering not to get ahead of himself, just like Mr. Orr says.
“Like you’d be on my line, buddy.”
Taylor frowns at his phone. Since when does Colt call him? He’s barely talked to anyone but his parents since he left Sam back in London- with the promise of coming back for dinner with him and Tavares- and that was three days ago, so he’s game for conversation with just about anyone at this point. He shrugs a little and answers it, taking the stairs to the basement two at a time.
“You’ve got some explaining to do, son.”
“Wow, I missed you too, Tubes,” Taylor deadpans, “it’s good to hear your voice. The family’s great, thanks for asking, I-”
“Cut the shit, Hall.”
Contrary to the norm, there is a distinct lack of humour in Colt’s voice. Taylor’s brow furrows and he flops down on the worn couch that’s been in the basement of his parents’ house since they’d moved to Kingston when he was a kid. Another thing that hasn’t changed since he was a kid- it’s summer in Southeast Ontario and it’s always cooler underground.
“Whoa man, what’s goin’ on?”
“Why’s my boy callin’ me instead of you?”
“Uh,” Taylor says eloquently. He might be smarter than people think he is, but that doesn’t make Colten Teubert make any more sense even on a good day. “What?”
“Don’t be a shit, Hallsy. I’m trying to be a good bro.”
“Well, as much as I appreciate that, I really don’t-”
“Not to you, asshole. Ebs.”
“Jordan? What happened? Is he okay?” Taylor winces a little. He’s never been good as masking fear. Or panic. Or anything, really.
“Finally catching up, eh? So answer the fucking question. Why. Is my boy. Calling me. Instead of you.”
“Jordan called you? What did he say?”
“Yea, Jordan called me, because I’m his friend.” Taylor’s really glad this conversation isn’t happening face to face. Sure, Colt’s a pretty goofy guy. But he’s only really been around him when Jordan’s there and from what he understands, Colten’s got a bit of a reputation for being a loose cannon and Jordan’s pretty much the only thing that’s ever held him back. There’s a pause. “The thing about a good friend is they usually answer the fucking phone when you call. So what reason would Ebs have to call me instead of you when he wants to know how you’re doing? It’s weird ‘cause I told him he should just pick up the phone and ask you himself. Funny story- he said he did, but you didn’t answer. Must be your phone, I said, but here we are. You answered the phone for me, Hallsy, of all people, so enlighten me. I’m in White Rock, not Calgary. That’s a whole other province but it’s actually easy enough to get a hold of me, so I’ll ask you again; Why the fuck is he asking me and not you?”
“Is he…” Taylor replies after a pause, knowing full well that his continued evasion of the question is going to get him into trouble, “Is he doing ok?”
“Have you been listening to me? I think you’re missing the point of this conversation, dipshit. Why the fuck don’t you ask him yourself?”
“It’s…” Taylor runs a hand down his face, leaning his head onto the back of the couch. “It’s a little more complicated than you think.”
“I don’t see how it could be any more complicated than a) you’re an asshole and b) he doesn’t deserve this. What are you ignoring him for? He thinks you’re pissed at him. Is that true?”
Taylor sits up straight. That hadn’t been the point of this. “No, not at all.”
“So tell me what’s going on here. I still haven’t found a reason to defend you. God knows why, but you know you’re special to him, right? The two of you, that’s not how he’s like with other people. You just sick of him or something? Don’t like being around him? Think you’re too good for him? If that’s the case, then fuck you. Because that kid deserves sainthood for even hanging out with two shitstains like us.”
“That’s not it,” Taylor says, sighing exasperatedly. “That’s not it, Tubes. It’s actually… it’s…” He hesitates. Sam and sort-of Anton (and by extension, probably, Tavares and Maggie) are still the only people who know. “It’s kind of the opposite of that.”
“What, you think you’re not worthy of his friendship? ‘Cause, you know, I’d actually have to agree with that, especially with-”
“Uh, no, um. Not that part.” He doesn’t really want to say it. He hope Colt gets it soon.
“What, you like him too much? Because I don’t see how-” Colten cuts himself off. “Oh.”
Taylor’s quiet for a minute, letting Colten process the information. “Yea. Oh.” He’s not that worried about how Colt’s gonna react, because he isn’t that kind of guy, but. It’s not exactly primetime.
“Jesus, Hallsy,” Colt says after a while, and Taylor can tell by his voice that he isn’t mad anymore. “You really gotta talk to him.”
“I just… I can’t, Colt. What am I supposed to say?”
“Believe me, it’ll be better if you talk to him. I know it’s gonna be really hard for you, but I just. I think you need to talk to him.”
Taylor doesn’t say anything and closes his eyes, leaning forward on his knees. He gets the feeling that Colt isn’t finished, confirmed by the heavy sigh that breaks the silence.
“Listen, Taylor. You’re my friend. My teammate. By definition, I would do anything for you. But listen closely. Jordan is my best friend. Jordan is my family. If you fuck with him, I will ruin your fucking life. So get your shit together,” Taylor knows he means every word of it, “and talk to him.”
Maybe it’s because his emotions are up and down all day, from the nerves and excitement to the frustration and resignation to being so close to defeat, to the elation and hope after watching Eberle tie the game in the final minute like has become his M.O., like it’s his job. His heart nearly beats out of his chest, and it feels like his whole body, his brain, his heart, his lungs, they’re all vibrating inside of him and they have another chance, their victory is so close he can taste it.
Maybe it’s because he’s never lost before.
Losing the Gold is by far the worst feeling he’s ever experienced. Like he’s winded and nauseous and empty all at once, with this sting that just won’t fade, not even after downing half a dozen or so of the beers Patrice bought, like a good captain. Nothing has ever even come close.
Brayden’s lips aren’t quite as big as his, and they aren’t sticky from lipgloss like any of the girls he’s kissed before, but they’re soft and there and it feels good. Taylor’s already decided that he likes it well before Brayden starts pushing him off. He holds Taylor off at arm’s length, but he isn’t hitting him like a sober Taylor probably would have expected. He doesn’t look disgusted at all, actually, just a little sad, but Taylor’s a lot drunk, so he doesn’t really know what to think about that at this point. He’s never actually seen Brayden sad, before. All they’ve ever done together is win.
Brayden stares at him for a minute, his eyes wide and blue and searching for something on Taylor’s face, his mouth curled into a frown, but eventually he just sighs and pulls Taylor into a hug. Taylor wipes his eyes on Brayden’s shoulder because, hey, he’s crying.
“Everything is going to be okay, Hallsy,” and Taylor isn’t sure if he’s talking about the kiss or losing the game, and he isn’t sure if he believes him, either. But Brayden holds him, and the music is loud, and he’s really tired.
He’s still crying, a little, when Ryan takes him up to their room. He just falls asleep and tries to forget.
Elly had texted him the day before, explaining his plans to hang out in Windsor for couple weeks, and since he was in the general area, why not come see the boys and maybe work out a bit? Taylor jumped at the invitation and was on his way by dawn.
He pulls into the parking lot of the WFCU Centre after the six hour drive and smiles a little bit as he pulls his keys from the ignition and steps out of his truck to stretch. He hesitates just a second to take it in- it’s been a long time since he’s been back, and he doesn’t want to be that guy who peaked in high school, but, The Glory Years? They were pretty awesome.
He walks in to the training area, bag thrown over his shoulder, to find Elly in Spits workout shorts and a worn Team Canada t-shirt, fighting with a Gatorade vending machine. He steps around his former teammate to throw a solid check to the left side of the evil box, hearing a satisfying clank as the elusive bottle drops down.
Ryan looks up at him, surprised for a second before breaking out into a wide grin. “Thanks, Hallsy.”
“I had a feeling you’ve been lost without me. How long has it been, man?” Taylor laughs, giving the machine another solid smack with his palm. “It’s the same one that was here two years ago. The red one always sticks.”
“Not all of us have weird elephant memories like you, Bucky,” Ryan replies, giving Taylor a push.
Taylor gives it right back, laughing. “Your mom’s an elephant and she likes my teeth, Shortbus.”
They jostle for a bit and Taylor has him pinned within twenty seconds, because some things really never do change.
“Ok, ok, you win, ‘Roid Rage,” Ryan’s still giggling as Taylor helps him up. “It’s good to see you,” he says with a grin as he throws his arms around Taylor, hugging him tightly.
“You too, man,” Taylor replies, exhaling into Ryan’s hair as he returns the embrace. Ryan was maybe his closest confidant for a lot of years and it feel a little weird and a lot wrong that he’s been keeping a secret from him. Taylor had a lot of close friends in Junior, but probably none he trusted as much as Ryan Ellis.
“Hey,” Ryan asks, furrowing his brow as he pulls back to study Taylor’s face, and he knows. “What’s wrong? Something’s not right with you.”
You’re right about that, Taylor thinks.
“Yea. I kinda need to talk to you about something.”
Ryan just nods and cocks his head a little, prompting Taylor to follow him towards the back of the gym. He leads them right into Boughner’s office, where he half-launches himself into the office chair behind the desk, propping his feet up on the desk immediately.
“Always wanted to do this,” Ryan admits as Taylor shuts the door. “How do I look?”
“Like a little kid on ‘Bring Your Son to Work Day’,” Taylor laughs, sitting down in a chair in front of the desk. “So, you wanted to see me, Coach?” he says with mock seriousness.
Ryan drops his feet and leans forward on the desk. “Yea, Tay.” He drops the smile, a look of concern crossing his face. “Why aren’t you in Calgary, man?”
Taylor sighs and slouches down in his chair. “I really wish people would stop asking me that,” he mumbles, fiddling with a loose thread on the hem of his t-shirt.
“Well, it’s a good question,” Ryan sits back, spinning a little in the chair, surveying Taylor’s face before continuing. “Is it Ebs?”
Taylor’s fingers slip off the thread and hang there awkwardly before settling on his leg. “Maybe,” he replies, and he feels a little like a kid getting called to the principal’s office. “Ry, I- I think- I might… I think I might be… I just have all these feelings. About Jordan. I…” he trails off, averting Ryan’s imploring eyes, but it’s still the closest he’s ever come to saying it.
“I know, Taylor,” Ryan tells him after a moment, a sympathetic quirk to his soft smile. “I’ve known for a while. About you… About that, I mean.”
Taylor looks up abruptly. “How?” He asks, half-thinking that if Elly knew for so long, he wouldn’t have minded getting the memo.
“I was in Saskatchewan that year, too,” Ryan says simply, and Taylor just sighs, because that probably says enough.
“I’ve always been pretty obvious, huh,” and hey, he should look into getting some new shoelaces, because his are looking pretty haggard.
“Subtlety isn’t really one of your strong suits, Hallsy.” Ryan sighs deeply. “You know you could have talked to me about this.”
“Yea,” Taylor says, because he does. “I spent too long trying to convince myself it wasn’t happening, I think.”
“And now, I finally realized how stupid and pathetic I am, and I’m getting over it,” Taylor says firmly, tossing a paper clip from the desk to the garbage can.
“You’re not pathetic, Hallsy, why would you think that?” Ryan just looks sad now, and Taylor feels pretty horrible, himself.
“Having this fuckin’ unrequited… having these feelings… it’s just. I let it get so far and now I’m in so deep that I… He’s all I fucking think about, Elly, I can’t focus and it’s driving me crazy. I should’ve just addressed it and realized it was hopeless before it got this far, and none of this would have happened, and I’d be in Calgary with him instead of not talking to my best friend!” He finishes the tirade by slamming his fist down on the desk, but Ryan doesn’t flinch. Taylor knows that Elly’s used to his outbursts by now.
Ryan’s quiet for a minute, opening and closing his mouth every so often like he’s debating whether or not there’s something he should say. He must decide, because eventually words come out.
“Jordan called me, you know.”
“Yea, he called Tubes, too,” Taylor shrugs. “And me, for that matter.”
“Yea, well, we… talked. And I think… Maybe you need to talk to him,” Ryan says carefully.
“I really don’t know what everyone expects me to say to him, or if he’ll even talk to me,” Taylor replies, frowning. He can’t help but feel like a fuck-up.
“Listen,” Ryan says, fiddling with a pen on Bob’s desk, scribbling in the margins of some game notes. “If you haven’t talked to Ebs about any of this, how do you know that it’s hopeless?”
Taylor looks at him in disbelief. “Are you serious? Because it’s Ebs. It feels like I’ve spent every day of my life with him at this point. I think I know him pretty well.”
“Do you think he knows about this, then?”
Taylor has nothing to say to that.
“That’s what I thought. I just think that maybe you’re looking at things the wrong way. You guys are different with each other. It’s not that much of a stretch.” Ryan throws the pen at him. “You just really need to talk to him. He’s worried about you, and I am too.”
Taylor nods, slowly, staring up at the calendar at the wall, which he knows for a fact has been there since his rookie year. He looks back to Ryan after a minute, hit by a thought.
“Wait,” he says, narrowing his eyes a little, “what exactly did he say to you?”
“Hey man, I’m not about to sell out my friends. I’m trustworthy,” Ryan says, raising his hands defensively. “All I’m gonna say is that you need to talk to him. Even if you don’t say shit, I can tell you miss him, ok, and this isn’t doing you any favours.”
Taylor bites down on his lip and nods. “You’re probably right.”
“I’m always right,” Ryan says, standing up. “Now let’s go work out, Fatty.”
The second thing he notices is, oh, he probably isn't going to make it home for Christmas this year.
It doesn't affect him much at that point, in fact, it's the last time the thought crosses his mind until December, when the boys are starting to get excited and Ladi is poking him harshly with his stick during practice, telling him that he wouldn't mind getting a couple apples for Christmas so score a fucking goal. As is his way. Taylor's only 85% sure that he's joking.
Jordan's been buzzing around the apartment for a few days now- he loves Christmas, as Taylor is quite familiar with at this point, because this is technically already their third Christmas together. World Juniors is kind of a blur, but part of the reason that the friendships that come out of it are so strong are the shared holidays of Christmas and New Year’s, as a team, as a family. There are a lot of things about that tournament that he'd rather forget- but the sleepy faces of his teammates, the brothers he never had, on Christmas morning, lighting up with the realization that Hockey Canada had provided them with loads of presents and the excitement and noise level as they tore into their gifts, it's one of his favourite memories.
Jordan isn't really different this year. He'd set up the tree one day while Taylor was at an optional, and he was hardly surprised when he learned what Jordan had opted-out for. Jordan's got a close family, all four of the Eberle kids close enough in age that they grew up together, and enthusiastic and loud parents to hold everything together. Taylor loves his parents, but family was a different thing in the Hall/Strba household, quieter and more abstract. Christmas is big for the Eberles, full of quirky traditions and bright memories. Taylor isn't at all jealous. But regardless of the differences, he'd still rather be with his family on the holidays, even if it's just a couple days.
He tells Jordan as much one day over the counter in their apartment and Jordan just stares at him blankly, like he's short-circuited.
"Uh, Jordan?" he says, waving his hand around in front of his roommates face. "Don't worry dude, I'm not going to burn the place down while you're gone."
"Why don't you come home with me?" Jordan asks, and it's Taylor's turn to stare. "To Calgary? There's plenty of room- well, actually, we'll probably have to share a room, but- there's enough food, anyway, and my mom practically treats you like a fifth kid already."
"Oh, no Ebs, I dunno, I don't wanna intrude on your family thing-" Taylor says, dismissing what he figures is a nothing more than a polite offer.
"Hallsy," Jordan says sternly, "you're my best friend. You are family."
Christmas with the Eberles is everything he'd imagined. Matching pajamas (they'd even provided a pair for him), a raucous and competitive game of Apples to Apples (a team event that he and Jordan lose horribly), an entire table filled with food (he didn't even know turkeys could get that big), thoughtful gifts (Jordan's uncle gives him a Taylor Hall puzzle and everyone thinks it's hilarious- Taylor doesn't get what's so funny about that, 'cause it's an awesome present), and sleeping on Jordan's floor (because the old man's hips need the bed.)
Taylor looks over at Jordan sleeping in the passenger seat while they're making the drive back up to Edmonton, and decides then that he maybe has a new favourite Christmas memory.
He’s meeting Sam and John at some restaurant in London that he’s never heard of, but Sam tells him that it’s pretty quiet, the food is good, and no one ever bothers the players that hang out there- which, as they both can attest to, is not that common in Edmonton. If he has to see one more creeper shot of the back of his head on twitter, he’s going to snap, and that wouldn’t go over so well with the front office.
He’s a little more nervous than he’d anticipated that he’d be. Sam’s one of his best friends and it’s not like he’s never met John, or idolizes him or anything. It’s really because, well. Sam might be the first gay person he’s ever known. The first other gay person, which he’s trying to get better at admitting to. This is the first time he will be sitting down at a table in a situation where everyone already knows, and it’s kind of scary. He thought maybe he’d gotten past the part in his life where he’d keep finding himself in unfamiliar situations when he was a rookie.
He enters the restaurant and after a quick scan of his surroundings he see Sam flagging him down from a more secluded area at the back. Taylor waves acknowledgement and heads towards the table, smiling at the hostess as he passes.
Sam’s slouched back in his chair, looking happy and relaxed, smiling up at him, easy. John stands to shake his hand and he takes it, unable to control his blush when Sam starts laughing.
“Good to see you again, Taylor,” John says, sitting down, throwing a glare in Sam’s direction before smacking him lightly on the back of the head, which only makes Sam laugh harder. “Stop being a douchebag, Sam.”
He only has time to roll his eyes fondly in Taylor’s direction, as if to say “you know how it is”, before the waitress is there to take their drink orders. Taylor and Sam opt for beer and John waves her off, insisting that water will be fine. “Someone’s gotta make sure this one gets home,” he says, jabbing a thumb in Sam’s direction and flashing a grin. She giggles a little and scurries off, and Taylor can’t help but think that this guy’s charisma is a little underrated. John launches in to the obligatory hockey-players-playing-catch-up small talk. Saw you had a good season, how are things going over there, that one goal you scored was sick, and so on and so forth. Sam interjects with a snarky comment every so often, and by the time their food arrives a half hour later, the conversation is flowing and this is way, way easier than Taylor thought it would be.
All night he watches the way the two men in front of him interact. Maybe he only notices because he’s looking for it, but the way they are together, it’s just so… obvious. It’s effortless, too, the way Sam leans over and picks the mushrooms out of John’s pasta while he’s telling a story from his second season. The way John drinks from Sam’s water when he’s finished his own. The way Sam’s arm rests across the back of John’s chair and how John’s hand is almost surely resting on Sam’s knee. There’s absolutely nothing strange about it at all, and Taylor is feeling lighter by the minute.
John is halfway through a story about Bails, a Gatorade bottle, and a tampered stick, and Sam’s resting his chin on one hand, staring lovingly at his boyfriend like he’s heard this story before but he wouldn’t mind listening to it a thousand times over again because of who is telling it.
“What did you mean when you said me and Jordan look at each other different?” Taylor blurts out before he can help himself, feeling his neck flush at the amused look Sam gives him.
John just smiles and leans over to kiss Sam on the cheek before excusing himself, almost surely faking a phone call. Sam doesn’t react, just continues to look at Taylor, and they definitely practiced this scenario in the car on the way here or something.
“Sorry,” Taylor mumbles, “I just. I don’t know. I know how I look at him ‘cause I think it’s like how you look at John and I’ve never seen you look at anyone else that way. But Jordan doesn’t have a special look for me, I know that. I’ve seen him give the same looks to anybody after they score a goal, like Nuge, or even you.”
Sam smiles gently and folds up his napkin, putting it over his plate. “Hallsy, I wasn’t talking about how you guys look at each other on the ice, or even the way you look at each other when you talk to each other. It’s how he looks at you when you’re not looking at him. How you look at him when he’s talking to someone else. Do you get what I mean?”
Taylor stays silent, contemplating Sam’s words.
“What I’m trying to say is that it’s written all over your face when you’re apart. Or his when you get hurt. Or either of you just when you think that the other guy won’t notice. The way you look at each other says that you can’t live without each other,” Sam tells him, leaning towards him over the table. “And it isn’t just you. Believe me. I want to see you guys happy, Hallsy, I wouldn’t lie to you about this. It isn’t just you.”
There’s about a thousand feelings punching Taylor in the face and Sam is looking at him like he’s talking to a 6 year-old, like he just doesn’t understand how Taylor doesn’t get it. And maybe Taylor is starting to, because he’s pretty sure he’s in love with Jordan and he thinks he might be ok with saying it.
He acknowledges Sam with a small nod and a quirk of his mouth before pulling out his phone, sending a quick text to Anton.
To: Landie [19:48:11]
I think you were right
He looks up to see John sitting back down at the table, instinctively curling their fingers together on the table. The smile on his face says he knows exactly what Sam and Taylor just talked about, but, John knows Ebs and knows Taylor pretty well now too, and if they’re as obvious as Sam says, he knows already anyway.
“How do you do it?” Taylor asks finally, because being in the NHL and having any kind of relationship, let alone a boyfriend can’t be easy to maintain, but Sam and John seem to be doing just fine.
“It’s hard,” John says with a sigh, looking over at Sam, but when he looks up at Taylor, there’s a wide smile on his face.
“But it’s worth it,” Sam finishes with a matching smile, leaning into John.
And that’s all Taylor really needs to hear.
From: Landie [19:51:23]
I know. Talk to him.
From: Maggie [19:51:56]
Taylor drives down along the edge of the valley, overlooking the river, and backs into their favourite parking spot- it’s about a five minute walk from the shop, but it has maybe the best view in the entire city. It’s a gorgeous day, mid-October and winter hasn’t hit yet, so Edmonton is actually getting a taste of Fall, and the trees in the River Valley are lit up with the firework shots of colour, red and yellow and orange, a last hurrah before the first heavy snowfall.
They talk while they walk, about everything and nothing-
“Hey, did you see Ennis’ goal last night?”
“Yea, I texted him, he says he just blacked out.”
-and it’s as easy as anything else they do together. The boys tease them relentlessly about the time they spend together, but honestly? Taylor doesn’t ever get sick of hanging out with Ebs, and Ebs never says anything about it either, so why mess with it?
Taylor flips some change to the homeless guy outside the door and they walk in, still chattering aimlessly. They make small talk with the girl who scoops their ice cream- the usual for Ebs, caramel praline for Taylor- and Ebs waves him off when he goes to pay. “It’s my turn, anyway. You got dinner last night.” On principle, Taylor doesn’t turn down free ice cream, so there’s no argument from him. The girl wishes them good luck on the season and Taylor winks at her as they’re leaving. Ebs rolls his eyes and laughs and shoulder-checks him into the doorframe.
Taylor chases him half-way back to the truck.
When they get there, Taylor drops down the door of his truck bed and they climb in, hanging their legs off the edge.
They eat their ice cream in comfortable silence, and when Taylor looks over to Jordan, he sees Jordan looking at him already, smiling. He’s finished eating his own ice cream and is watching Taylor, quiet and patient.
Taylor blushes a little under the scrutiny but smiles back, showing all his teeth, and Jordan turns away, averting his eyes like he’s been caught, looking down to his old shoes. He flicks some dirt off the toe of one with his other foot, and he’s still smiling.
Taylor tosses the napkin from his cone over his shoulder into the bed of the truck with the rest of his collection of garbage, and knocks their knees together gently, nudging Ebs with his shoulder, too. Jordan looks up at him and lets out a little laugh.
“C’mon,” Jordan says as he rolls his eyes, pushing Taylor down off the edge of the truck. “We gotta meet Maggie for dinner soon.”
Taylor brushes the crumbs off his jeans and pulls his unsuspecting companion down by the wrists, nearly sending him to the ground. Jordan swipes at him, and he laughs all the way to the driver’s seat.
He plans out about eleven speeches by the time he hits Toronto and seventeen by the time he makes it home. Most of them start with Ebby, I really care about you, and at least two of them end in we should bang, but they’re all basically just variations of the same thing, so he figures that even if he doesn’t have an exact script, he pretty much knows what he wants to say.
He probably thinks of every scenario, too, but tries not to think too much of the best ones. The point is mostly just for Ebs to know, because this is fucking him up and fucking Jordan up and it isn’t fair that he has to keep this to himself. If it brings them closer together emotionally or, well, biblically, that’s the bonus. If it doesn’t, if it goes entirely wrong…
Well. Taylor’s trying not to think about that, either.
His parents are out when he gets home, but he lets himself in and heads straight down to the basement to escape the sticky humidity. He flops down on the couch, reaching to pull his phone out of his pocket to check twitter. Only one tweet on his timeline catches his eye.
Jordan Eberle @ebs_14
dont even know what im doing right now.
19m ago via Twitter for iPhone
You and me both, Ebby, he thinks.
He takes a deep breath to collect himself and begins to scroll through his contacts, selecting Ebs from the list. He hovers his thumb over the “Call” button, trying to keep his heart beat steady. Now or never. Finally, he hits it decisively.
He tries to remember all of the words he’d planned in the truck as the phone starts to ring but he’s drawing a blank. He’s never been this nervous in his entire life, not for the Gold Medal Game at the World Juniors, or his first NHL game, or any hockey game. And, again- Jordan continues to give him new feelings to experience.
The phone rings, and rings, and rings, until finally-
“Hey, this is Jordan- leave a message.”
Taylor fumbles his phone a little and presses the “End Call” button before he leaves a creepy breathing voicemail. He stares blankly at his phone for a minute, as if it’s about to tell him what to do next, or like Jordan’s about to call him back, but it stays motionless, blank, and inanimate. Obviously Jordan has his phone on him. It’s almost as glaringly obvious that he’s ignoring Taylor’s call.
Taylor slumps against the couch, frowning, because he can’t help but think of what Tubes had said to him when they’d talked- friends answer friends’ phone calls.
This wasn’t in any of Taylor’s plans.
Even though he’s known since November that this day was coming, he’s still nervous as hell for his first surgery. He’d tried not to think about it all year, but it had gotten harder and harder to ignore, especially now, because he’s sitting in a hospital bed watching shitty TV in an unfamiliar city that doesn’t even have an NHL team. And, well, it sucks. And he kind of wants his mom.
The boys don’t have a game that day, but he knows after watching the game in LA the night before that practice today is going to be horrible. But it doesn’t matter- There’s nothing in the world he wants more than to be there. Bag skate is better than no skate, and it doesn’t look like any kind of skate is in his near future.
Whits- who knew way too much about getting surgery and recuperating from it- had e-mailed him a bunch of funny links and videos to look at, and they’ve been keeping him busy while he waits. He’s texted Ebs a handful of times, because if there’s anyone he wants there with him that isn’t his mom, it’s probably his best friend and pseudo comfort blanket, but Jordan hasn’t replied.
Taylor doesn’t blame him, or anything, he’s being kind of needy which is a total non-beauty move, and he knows it’s just the nerves making it seem like it’s been longer than it really has been. He’d driven Jordan to the airport a couple days before. Ebs had given him a sympathetic smile at the gate as he clamped his hand down on Taylor’s good shoulder- like he’s been so good to do all season- and wished him luck, saying that he’d keep him updated on, well, everything. He’d texted him from Cali a few times, but after the game the night before, he gets why Jordan hasn’t been as dedicated to keeping Taylor in the loop. He does. He just, you know. Needs his best friend right now.
He glances at his phone- not to see if he’d somehow missed a text from Jordan or anything, only to check the time, that’s all- and sees the numbers flick to 2:00 PM. Right on schedule, the surgeon comes in and tells him that they’re ready for him. He nods solemnly and texts his mom, and then Jordan just once more, and it’s go-time.
He wakes up about three hours later and he’s groggy as fuck. He can’t feel any pain, but, he can’t actually feel much of anything, really. A nurse comes in to check on him and he isn’t sure what she’s even doing, but it doesn’t take long, and when she leaves, she tells him to press the button on the side table if he needs anything. He looks over to inspect the side table to see his phone sitting there, too.
He gropes for it with his good arm and pulls it to him, squinting a little at the screen. There are four texts, one of what appears to be broken English from his technology-stunted mother, and three from Jordan.
From: Ebs [15:38:11]
sorry my phone died!!
From: Ebs [15:38:49]
i think ur in surgery right now. hope ur doing ok :). call when u can?
From: Ebs [15:39:27]
miss u out there
Taylor smiles sleepily and types out a reply.
To: Ebs [17:13:55]
leau moaws u roop
From: Ebs [17:14:21]
go to sleep u non
So Taylor does.
He wished he’d figured it out earlier- it’s not like he didn’t have enough people spelling it out for him, but he’s never been a particularly quick study. But, he knows now. He’s finally realized how he feels about Jordan, and at this point he’s fully ready to admit it- except now he’s fucked everything up. Ebs is… was… whatever. Ebs is his best friend. And now he’s probably never going to talk to him again.
The doorbell rings, and he doesn’t even move to acknowledge it. His parents aren’t home and he’s only been there for 6 hours, it’s definitely not for him. They can go fuck themselves for interrupting his sulking.
It rings again, twice in quick succession, and Taylor buries his face in the couch cushion, willing whatever door-to-door asshole it is to go away, half-wondering if he left the TV on upstairs to indicate someone was home. His phone starts to buzz, interrupting his thought process, and he scrambles for it like some kind of spaz. It’s not Jordan, though.
Incoming Call: Tubes [13:28:12]
Taylor considers throwing it, but he answers it anyway. Friends answer friends’ phone calls.
“What do you want?”
“Figured your shit out yet?”
Taylor sighs heavily and rolls over to face the back of the couch. “Well, yea, actually. I think so, but. He won’t talk to me. Just like I figured.”
“Huh, is that so,” Colt replies without a hint of inquiry in his tone. “Are you home?”
“Like my parents’ house?” Taylor furrows his brow, scratching at the line of his scar- a nervous habit that didn’t fade quite as well as the scar itself. Colt is being weird. Weirder than usual. “Uh, yea. I got back to Kingston this morning.”
The doorbell rings again, just as Colt turns on the Captain Voice. “So answer the fucking door, asshole!”
Taylor jolts out of his position and stumbles to the staircase, buzzing from the vertigo. “What the fuck Colt!” He whines as he gets up the stairs, heading towards the door. “Are you at my fucking house?” Why the hell would Colt not tell him he was gonna be in Kingston? Actually, why the hell would Tubes be in Kingston at all?
The doorbell rings once more in response and Taylor pulls it open a little violently. But it’s not Colt standing on his doorstep.
“Now tell me again how he won’t talk to you?”
The line goes dead, but Taylor’s too stunned to have said anything in parting, anyway.
Jordan’s holding his phone in one hand. Taylor glances down at it and can just make out that he’s been texting Tubes. Then he looks back up at his best friend who is standing on his doorstep.
“Um, hi,” Jordan says awkwardly, shifting his weight back and forth like he’s on the starting line at Rexall.
“You didn’t answer your phone,” Taylor blurts, because apparently that’s the most important thing to deal with right now.
“I was driving,” Jordan replies, simply, catching his lip between his teeth as he averts his eyes, looking like he’s trying to find anywhere to rest them that isn’t Taylor.
Taylor frowns. “From where?” Because, again, priorities.
“Um, Ottawa. I got in like two hours ago.” He runs his hand over his hair, longer than Taylor remembers it, and it hasn’t been that long- “Listen, can I come in? I… We need to talk.”
“I didn’t think you were ever going to talk to me again."
Jordan finally looks up to meet Taylor’s eyes, and Taylor feels like his heart is about to be forcibly expelled from his chest. Jordan looks exhausted, and sad, and a little hurt, and Taylor feels about as horrible as he ever has.
“Taylor, you’re my best friend,” he stresses, like Taylor’s been missing the point the whole time, and maybe he has. “I could never-”
“I’m in love with you.”
And Jordan just… stares at him. His eyes are about as wide as Taylor thinks they’re ever going to get, but his mouth is set in a firm line, unmoving. Taylor can’t tell what he’s thinking at all.
And this was Taylor’s worst fear.
He’d tried not to get his hopes up. The way all their friends were talking, he was pretty sure they were all pointing him in the same direction, but, the thing is- Taylor’s never been particularly quick on the draw. What if he’d read it all the wrong way? I mean, to a man, each of them had said “talk to him”, not “confess your love for him”, and certainly not like that. What if they’d all just been concerned for their friendship? Team dynamic?
“I- Ebby… Jordan, I…” Taylor shuffles a little in the doorway, carding his hand through his hair, long for the summer. “I didn’t want to tell you- not like this. I wanted… I couldn’t keep- You’re my best friend and I- Jordan, I’m sorry- I wish- ”
Jordan is small, but he’s strong and stocky and he has Taylor off-guard and pinned against the door before Taylor can form a full sentence. He’s glad for this- some kind of reaction, at least. He’d rather Jordan hit him than do nothing at all. Jordan’s got Taylor’s collar clutched in both hands, and Taylor closes his eyes, just bracing himself for the hit.
But it doesn’t come.
He opens his eyes again, tentatively, and see Jordan looking up at Taylor with his pure, beautiful blue eyes, and Taylor has to focus, dammit- and it’s the same look as before, but he’s starting to get what it means, now, because he’s seen it on the face of just about every person he’s talked to in the last three weeks. It’s not anger- or even annoyance. It’s just. It’s just like everyone’s been waiting for Taylor to figure something out. And he’s been right on the edge of it.
“Hallsy- Taylor,” Jordan finally says, exasperated, “I just flew across the country for you.”
He pulls Taylor down by the collar and crushes their lips together. It’s needy and desperate and a little bit violent- Taylor can feel Jordan’s teeth scrape against his lower lip as he finally clues in and gets a death-grip on the other boy’s hips, pulling him in and pressing their bodies together tightly. Jordan’s tongue slips past the barrier of his lips and his hands move from his shirt collar to his chest, up his neck and into his hair, to his shoulders, everywhere, and Taylor feels like he just won the cup.
Jordan tears himself away- but only barely, only to breathe- standing on his tip toes, his lips hovering just out of Taylor’s reach. Taylor’s suddenly aware of the birds in the trees, the wind blowing the dust in circles on the pavement, and the sun reflecting off of individual blades of grass- Not to mention Jordan’s body lined up against his, the hand in his hair, and the fact that they’re still standing against his open front door, in the middle of the day. Jordan looks up at him through eyelashes and leans forward again to touch his lips to Taylor’s, just so Taylor can feel them move against his when he speaks.
“I’m in love with you too, you fucking moron.”
And Taylor? He finally gets the point.
Later, while Jordan sleeps, Taylor sends a quick message to Colt.
To: Tubes [15:36:23]
figured my shit out
He attaches a picture of Jordan facing away from him in the bed, the sun coming through the blinds to cast shadows across the bare expanse of skin. He looks beautiful.
A few minutes later, a text comes back, and Taylor can only laugh.
From: Tubes [15:39:11]
ur still not good enough for him and they will never find ur body if u hurt him!!! :)
The smiley is actually more terrifying than comforting, but Taylor is too content to care.